Linda Condon by
A black bang was, but not ultimately, the most notable feature of
her uncommon personality—straight and severe and dense across her
clear pale brow and eyes. Her eyes were the last thing to remember and
wonder about; in shade blue, they had a velvet richness, a poignant
intensity of lovely color, that surprised the heart. Aside from that
she was slim, perhaps ten years old, and graver than gay.
Her mother was gay for them both, and, therefore, for the entire
family. No father was in evidence; he was dead and never spoken of,
and Linda was the only child. Linda's dresses, those significant
trivialities, plainly showed two tendencies—the gaiety of her mother
and her own always formal gravity. If Linda appeared at dinner, in the
massive Renaissance materialism of the hotel dining-room, with a
preposterous magenta hair-ribbon on her shapely head, her mother had
succeeded in expressing her sense of the appropriately decorative;
while if Linda wore an unornamented but equally "unsuitable" frock of
dark velvet, she, in her turn, had been vindicated.
Again, but far more rarely, the child's selection was evident on
the woman. As a rule Mrs. Condon garbed her flamboyant body in large
and expensive patterns or extremely tailored suits; and of the two,
the evening satins and powdered arms barely retaining an admissible
line, and the suits, the latter were the most, well—spectacular.
She was not dark in color but brightly golden; a gold, it must be
said in all honesty, her own, a metallic gold crisply and solidly
marcelled; with hazel-brown eyes, and a mouth which, set against her
daughter's deep-blue gaze, was her particular attraction. It was
rouged to a nicety, the under lip a little full and never quite
against the upper. If Linda's effect was cool and remote, Mrs. Condon,
thanks to her mouth, was reassuringly imminent. She was, too,
friendly; she talked to women—in her not over-frequent
opportunities—in a rapid warm inaccurate confession of almost
everything they desired to hear. The women, of course, were
continually hampered by the unfortunate fact that the questions
nearest their hearts, or curiosity, were entirely inadmissible.
Viewed objectively, they all, with the exception of Linda, seemed
alike; but that might have been due to their common impressive
The Boscombe, in its way, was as lavish as Mrs. Condon's dresses.
The main place of congregation, for instance, was a great space of
white marble columns, Turkey-red carpet and growing palms. It was
lighted at night indirectly by alabaster bowls hanging on gilded
chains—a soft bright flood of radiance falling on the seated or
slowly promenading women with bare shoulders.
Usually they were going with a restrained sharp eagerness toward
the dining-room or leaving it in a more languid flushed repletion.
There were, among them, men; but somehow the men never seemed to be of
the least account. It was a women's paradise. The glow from above
always emphasized the gowns, the gowns like orchids and tea-roses and
the leaves of magnolias. It sparkled in the red and green and crystal
jewels like exotic dew scattered over the exotic human flowers. Very
occasionally there was a complacent or irritable masculine utterance,
and then it was immediately lost in the dominant feminine sibilance.
Other children than Linda sped in the manner of brilliant fretful
tops literally on the elaborate outskirts of the throng; but they were
as different from her as she was from the elders. Indeed Linda
resembled the latter, rather than her proper age, remarkably. She had
an air of responsibility, sometimes expressed in a troubled frown, and
again by the way she hurried sedately through drifting figures toward
a definite purpose and end.
Usually it was in the service of one of her mother's small
innumerable requests or necessities; if the latter were sitting with a
gentleman on the open hotel promenade that overlooked the sea and
needed a heavier wrap, Linda returned immediately with a furred cloak
on her arm; if the elder, going out after dinner, had brought down the
wrong gloves, Linda knew the exact wanted pair in the long perfumed
box; while countless trifles were needed from the convenient
The latter was a place of white mosaic floor and glittering glass,
with a marble counter heaped with vivid fruit and silver-covered bowls
of sirups and creams with chopped nuts. Linda often found time to stop
here for a delectable glass of assorted sweet compounds. She was on
terms of intimacy with the colored man in a crisp linen coat who
presided over the refreshments, and he invariably gave her an extra
spoonful of the marron paste she preferred. When at lunch, it might
be, she cared for very little, her mother would complain absently:
"You must stop eating those sickening mixtures. They'd ruin any
skin." At this she invariably found the diminutive mirror in the bag
on her lap and glanced at her own slightly improved color. The burden
of the feminine conversations in which Mrs. Condon was privileged to
join, Linda discovered, was directed toward these overwhelming
considerations of appearance. And their importance, communicated to
her, resulted in a struggle between the desire to preserve her skin
from ruin and the seductions of marron paste and maple chocolates.
Now, with an uncomfortable sense of impending disaster, she would
hastily consume one or the other; again, supported by a beginning
self-imposed inflexibility, she would turn steadily away from
In the end the latter triumphed; and her normal appetite, always
moderate, was unimpaired.
This spirit of resolution, it sometimes happened, was a cause of
humorous dismay to her mother. "I declare, Linda," she would observe
with an air of helplessness, "you make me feel like the giddy one and
as if you were mama. It's the way you look, so disapproving. I have to
remind myself you're only—just how old are you? I keep forgetting."
Linda would inform her exactly and the other sigh:
"The years slip around disgustingly. It seems only yesterday I was
at my first party." Usually, in spite of Linda's eagerness to hear of
that time when her mother was a girl, the elder would stop abruptly.
On rare occasions solitary facts emerged from the recalled existence
of a small town in the country. There were such details as buggy
riding and prayer-meetings and excursions to a Boiling Springs where
the dancing-floor, open among the trees, was splendid. At these
memories Mrs. Condon had been known to cry.
But she would recover shortly. Her emotions were like that—easily
roused, highly colored and soon forgotten. She forgot, Linda realized
leniently, a great deal. It wasn't safe to rely on her promises.
However, if she neglected a particular desire of Linda's, she
continually brought back unexpected gifts of candy, boxes of silk
stockings, or lovely half-wilted flowers.
The flowers, they discovered, although they stayed fresh for a long
while pinned to Linda's slim waist, died almost at once if worn by her
mother. "It's my warm nature, I am certain," the latter proclaimed to
her daughter; "while you are a little refrigerator. I must say it's
wonderful how you keep your clothes the same. Neat as a pin." Somehow,
with this commendation, she managed to include a slight
uncomplimentary impatience. Linda didn't specially want to resemble a
pin, a disagreeable object with a sharp point. She considered this in
the long periods when, partly by preference, she was alone.
Seated, perhaps, in the elaborate marble and deep red of the
Boscombe's reception-rooms, isolated in the brilliant expensive
throng, she would speculate over what passed in the light of her own
special problems. But nothing, really, came out to her satisfaction.
There was, notably, no one she might ask. Her mother, approached
seriously, declared that Linda gave her the creeps; while others made
it plain that it was their duty to repress the forwardness inevitable
from the scandalous neglect of her upbringing.
They, the women of the Boscombe, glancing at their finger-nails
stained and buffed to a shining pale vermilion, lightly rubbing their
rings on the dry palm of a hand, wondered pessimistically within
Linda's hearing what could come out of such an association. That term,
she vaguely gathered, referred to her mother. The latter evidently
interested them tremendously; because, she explained, they had no
affairs of their own to attend to. This was perfectly clear to Linda
until Mrs. Condon further characterized them as "busy."
The women, stopped by conventions from really satisfactory
investigation at the source, drew her on occasion into a laboriously
light inquisition. How long would Linda and her mama stay at the
Had they closed their apartment? Where was it? Hadn't Mrs. Condon
mentioned Cleveland? Wasn't Linda lonely with her mama out so
much—they even said late—in rolling chairs? Had she ever seen Mr.
Jasper before his arrival last week?
No, of course she hadn't.
Here they exchanged skeptical glances beneath relentlessly pulled
eyebrows. He was really very nice, Mr. Jasper. Linda in a
matter-of-fact voice replied that he had given her a twenty-dollar
gold piece. Mr. Jasper was very generous. But perhaps he had rewarded
her for being a good little girl and not—not bothering or hanging
about. "Why should he?"
was Linda's just perceptibly impatient response. Then they told her
to be quiet because they wanted to listen to the music.
This consisted in studying, through suspended glasses in chased
platinum, a discreet programme. At the end of a selection they either
applauded condescendingly or told each other that they hadn't cared
for that last—really too peculiar. Whichever happened, the leader of
the small orchestra, an extravagant Italian with a supple waist,
turned and bowed repeatedly with a grimacing smile. The music, usually
Viennese, was muted and emotional; its strains blended perfectly with
the floating scents of the women and the faintly perceptible pungent
odors of dinner.
Every little while a specially insinuating melody became,
apparently, tangled in the women's breathing, and their breasts,
cunningly traced and caressed in tulle, would be disturbed.
Mrs. Condon applauded more vigorously than was sanctioned by the
others' necessity for elegance; the frank clapping of her pink palms
never failed to betray a battery of affected and significant surprise
in eyes like polished cold agates. Linda, seated beside her parent,
could be seen to lay a hand, narrow and blanched and marked by an
emerald, on the elder's knee. Her pale fine lips moved rapidly with
the shadow of trouble beneath the intense black bang.
"I wish you wouldn't do it so loudly, mother," was what she
The jealously guarded truth was that, by her daughter at least, Mrs.
Condon was adored. Linda observed that she was not like an ordinary
mother, but more nearly resembled a youthful companion. Mrs. Condon's
gaiety was as genuine as her fair hair. Not kept for formal occasion,
it got out of bed with her, remained through the considerable
difficulties of dressing with no maid but Linda, and if the other were
not asleep called a cheerful or funny good night.
Their rooms were separated by a bath, but Linda was scarcely ever
in her own—her mother's lovely things, acting like a magnet,
constantly drew her to their arrangement in the drawers. When the
laundry came up, crisp and fragile webs heaped on the bed, Linda laid
it away in a sort of ritual. Even with these publicly invisible
garments a difference of choice existed between the two: Mrs. Condon's
preference was for insertions, and Linda's for shadow embroidery and
fine shell edges. Mrs. Condon, shaking into position a foam of ribbon
and lace, would say with her gurgle of amusement, "I want to be ready
when I fall down; if I followed your advice they'd take me for a nun."
This brought out Linda's low clear laugh, the expression of her
extreme happiness. It sounded, for an instant, like a chime of small
silver bells; then died away, leaving the faintest perceptible flush
on her healthy pallor. At other times her mother's humor made her
vaguely uncomfortable, usually after wine or other drinks that left
the elder's breath thick and oppressive. Linda failed completely to
grasp the allusions of this wit but a sharp uneasiness always
responded like the lingering stale memory of a bad dream.
Once, at the Boscombe, her mother had been too silly for words: she
had giggled and embraced her sweet little girl, torn an expensive veil
to shreds and dropped a French model hat into the tub. After a
distressing sickness she had gone to sleep fully dressed, and Linda,
unable to move or wake her, had sat long beyond dinner into the night,
fearful of the entrance of the chambermaid.
The next day Mrs. Condon had been humble with remorse. Men, she
said, were too beastly for description. This was not an unusual
Linda observed that she was always condemning men in general and
dressing for them in particular. She offered Linda endless advice in
an abstracted manner:
"They're all liars, Lin, and stingy about everything but their
Women are different but men are all alike. You get sick to death of
Never bother them when they are smoking a cigar; cigarettes don't
matter. Leave the cigarette-smokers alone, anyhow; they're not as
dependable as the others. A man with a good cigar—you must know the
good from the bad—is usually discreet. I ought to bring you up
different, but, Lord, life's too short. Besides, you will learn more
useful things right with mama, whose eyes are open, than anywhere
"Powder my back, darling; I can't reach. If I'm a little late
to-night go to sleep like a duck. You think Mr. Jasper's nice, don't
you? So does mother. But you mustn't let him give you any more money.
It'll make him conceited."
Linda wondered what she meant by the last phrase. How could it
make Mr. Jasper conceited to give her a gold piece? However, she
decided that she had better not ask.
It was like that with a great many of her mother's mysterious
remarks—Linda had an instinctive feeling of drawing away. The other
kissed her warmly and left a print of vivid red on her cheek.
She examined the mark in the mirror when her mother had gone; it
was, she decided, the kiss made visible. Then she laid away the things
scattered about the room by Mrs. Condon's hasty dressing. Her own
belongings were always in precise order.
A sudden hesitation seized her at the thought of going down to the
crowd at the music. The women made her uncomfortable. It wasn't what
they said, but the way they said it; and the endless questions wearied
her. She was, as well, continually bothered by her inability to
impress upon them how splendid her mother was. Some of them she was
certain did not appreciate her. Mrs. Condon at once admitted and was
entertained by this, but it disturbed Linda. However, she understood
the reason—when any nice men came along they always liked her mother
best. This made the women mad.
The world, she gathered, was a place where women played a game of
men with each other.
It was very difficult, she couldn't comprehend the rules or reason;
and Linda was afraid that she would be unsuccessful and never have the
perfect time her mother wanted for her. In the first place, she was
too thin, and then she knew that she could never talk like her
Perhaps when she had had some wine it would be different.
She decided, after all, to go down to the assemblage; and, by one
of the white marble pillars, Mrs. Randall captured her. "Why, here's
Linda—all alone," Mrs. Randall said. "Mama out again?" Linda replied
stoutly, "She has a dreadful lot of invitations."
Mrs. Randall, who wore much brighter clothes than her mother, was
called by the latter an old buzzard. She was very old, Linda could
see, with perfectly useless staring patches of paint on her wrinkled
cheeks, and eyes that look as though they might come right out of her
head. Her frizzled hair supported a dead false twist with a glittering
diamond pin, and her soft cold hands were loaded with jewels. She
frightened Linda, really, although she could not say why. Mrs. Randall
was a great deal like the witch in a fairy-story, but that wasn't it.
Linda hadn't the belief in witches necessary for dread. It might be
her scratching voice; or the way she turned her head, without any chin
at all, like a turtle; or her dresses, which led you to expect a
person very different from an old buzzard.
"Of course she does," said Mrs. Randall, "any number of
invitations, and why shouldn't she? Your mother is very pleasant, to
be sure." She nodded wisely to the woman beside her, Miss Skillern.
Miss Skillern was short and broad and, in the evening, always wore
curled ostrich plumes on tightly filled gray puffs. She reminded Linda
of a wadded chair. Mrs. Randall, after the other's slight stiff
"Your mama would never be lonely, not she. All I wonder is she
doesn't get married again—with that blondine of hers. Wouldn't you
rather have one papa than, in a way of speaking, a different one at
Linda, completely at a loss for answer, studied Mrs. Randall with
her direct deep blue gaze. Miss Skillern again inclined her plumes.
With the rest of her immobile she was surprisingly like one of those
fat china figures with a nodding head. Linda was assaulted by the
familiar bewildered feeling of not understanding what was said and, at
the same time, passionately resenting it from an inner sensitive
recognition of something wrong.
"How could I have that?" she finally asked.
"How?" repeated Miss Skillern, breathing loudly.
"Yes, how?" Mrs. Randall echoed. "You can ask your mama. You
really can. And you may say that, as a matter of fact, the question
came from us," she included her companion.
"From you," Miss Skillern exactly corrected her.
"Indeed," the other cried heatedly, "from me! I think not. Didn't
you ask? Answer me that, if you please. I heard you with my own ears
say, 'How?' While now, before my face, you try to deny it." It was
plain to Linda that Miss Skillern was totally unmoved by the charge.
She moved her lorgnette up, gazing stolidly at the musical programme.
she said again, after a little. Mrs. Randall suddenly regained her
"If the ladies of this hotel are afraid to face that creature
I—I—am not. I'll tell her in a minute what a respectable person
thinks of her goings-on. More than that, I shall complain to Mr.
Rennert. 'Mr. Rennert,' I'll say, 'either she leaves or me. Choose as
you will. The reputation of your hotel—'" she spluttered and paused.
"Proof," Miss Skillern pronounced judicially; "proof. We know, but
that's not proof."
"He has a wife," Mrs. Randall replied in a shrill whisper; "a wife
who is an invalid. Mrs. Zoock, she who had St. Vitus' dance and left
yesterday, heard it direct. George A. Jasper, woolen mills in
Frankford, Pennsylvania. Mr. Rennert would thank me for that
They had forgotten Linda. She stood rigid and cold—they were
blaming her mother for going out in a rolling chair with Mr. Jasper
because he was married. But her mother didn't know that; probably Mr.
Jasper had not given it a thought. She was at the point of making this
clear, when it seemed to her that it might be better to say that her
mother knew everything there was about Mr. Jasper's wife; she could
even add that they were all friends.
Linda would have to tell her mother the second she came in, and
then, of course, she'd stop going with Mr. Jasper. Men, she thought in
the elder's phrase, were too beastly for words.
"After all," Mrs. Randall was addressing her again, "you needn't
say anything at all to your mama. It might make her so cross that
she'd spank you."
"Mother never spanks me," Linda replied with dignity.
"If you were my little girl," said Miss Skillern, with rolling
lips, "I'd put you over my knee with your skirts up and paddle you."
Never, Linda thought, had she heard anything worse; she was
profoundly shocked. The vision of Miss Skillern performing such an
operation as she had described cut its horror on her mind. There was a
sinking at her heart and a misty threat of tears.
To avert this she walked slowly away. It was hardly past nine
o'clock; her mother wouldn't be back for a long while, and she was too
restless and unhappy to sit quietly above. Instead, she continued down
to the floor where there were various games in the corridor leading to
the billiard-room. The hall was dull, no one was clicking the balls
about the green tables, and a solitary sick-looking man, with inky
shadows under fixed eyes, was smoking a cigarette in a chair across
from the cigar-stand.
He looked over a thick magazine in a chocolate cover, his gaze
arrested by her irresolute passage. "Hello, Bellina," he said.
She stopped. "Linda," she corrected him, "Linda Condon." Obeying a
sudden impulse, she dropped, with a sigh, into a place beside him.
"You're bored," he went on, the magazine put away. "So am I, but
my term is short."
She wondered, principally, what he was doing, among so many women,
at the Boscombe. He was different from Mr. Jasper, or the other men
with fat stomachs, the old men with dragging feet. It embarrassed her
to meet his gaze, it was so—so investigating. She guessed he was by
the sea because he felt as badly as he looked. He asked surprisingly:
"Why are you here?"
"On the account of my mother," she explained. "But it doesn't
matter much where I am. Places are all alike," she continued
"We're mostly at hotels—Florida in winter and Lake George in
This is kind of between."
"Oh!" he said; and she was sure, from that short single
exclamation, he understood everything.
"Like all true beauty," he added, "it's plain that you are
"I don't like the seashore," she went on easily; "I'd rather be in
a garden with piles of flowers and a big hedge."
"Have you ever lived in a garden-close?"
"No," she admitted; "it's just an idea. I told mother but she
laughed at me and said a roof-garden was her choice."
"Some day you'll have the place you describe," he assured her. "It
is written all over you. I would like to see you, Bellina, in a space
of emerald sod and geraniums." She decided to accept without further
protest his name for her. "You are right, too, about the hedge—the
highest and thickest in creation. I should recommend a pseudo-classic
house, Georgian, rather small, a white faeade against the grass. A
Jacobean dining-room, dark certainly, the French windows open on
dipping candle flames. You'd wear white, with your hair low and the
midnight bang as it is now."
"That would be awfully nice," Linda replied vaguely. She sighed.
"But a very light drawing-room!" he cried. "White panels and arches
and Canton-blue rugs—the brothers Adam. A fluted mantel, McIntires,
and a brass hod. Curiously enough, I always see you in the evening...
at the piano. I'm not so bored, now." Little flames of red burned in
either thin cheek. "What nonsense!" Suddenly he was tired. "This is a
practical and earnest world," his voice grew thin and hurt her. "Yet
beauty is relentless. You'll have your garden, but I shouldn't be
surprised at difficulties first."
"It won't be so hard to get," she declared confidently. "I mean to
choose the right man. Mother says that's the answer. Women, she says,
won't use their senses."
Linda began to think this was a most unpleasant monosyllable.
"So that's the lay! Has she succeeded?"
"She has a splendid time. She's out tonight with Mr. Jasper in a
rolling chair, and he has loads and loads of money. It makes all the
other women cross."
"Here you are, then, till she gets back?"
"There's no one else."
"But, as a parent, infinitely preferable to the righteous," he
murmured. "And you—"
"I think mother's perfect," she answered simply.
He shook his head. "You won't succeed at it, though. Your mother,
for example, isn't dark."
"The loveliest gold hair," she said ecstatically. "She's much much
prettier than I'll ever be."
"Prettier, yes. The trouble is, you are lovely, magical. You will
stay for a lifetime in the memory. The merest touch of you will be
more potent than any duty or fidelity. A man's only salvation will be
Although she didn't understand a word of this, Linda liked to hear
him; he was talking as though she were grown up, and in response to
the flattery she was magnetic and eager.
"One time," he said, "very long ago, beauty was worshiped. Men,
you see, know better now. They want their dollar's worth. The world
was absolutely different then—there were deep adventurous forests
with holy chapels in the green combe for an orison, and hermits rising
to Paradise on the Te Deum Laudamus of the angels and archangels.
There were black castles and, in the broad meadows, silk tents with
ivory pegs and poles of gold.
The enchantments were as thick as shadows under the trees: perhaps
the loveliest of women riding a snow white mule, with a saddle cloth
of red samite, or, wrapped in her shining hair, on a leopard with
yellow eyes, lured you to a pavilion, scattered with rushes and
flowers and magical herbs, and a shameful end. Or a silver doe would
weep, begging you to pierce her with your sword, and, when you did,
there knelt the daughter of the King of Wales.
"But I started to tell you about the worship of beauty. Plato
started it although Cardinal Pietro Bembo was responsible for the
creed. He lived in Italy, in an age like a lily. It developed mostly
at Florence in the Platonic Academy of Cosomo and Pico della
Mirandola. Love was the supreme force, and its greatest expression a
desire beyond the body."
He gazed at Linda with a quizzical light in his eyes deep in
"Love," he said again, and then paused. "One set of words will do
as well as another. You will understand, or not, with something far
different from intellectual comprehension. The endless service of
Of course, a woman—but never the animal; the spirit always. Born
in the spirit, served in the spirit, ending in the spirit. A direct
contradiction, you see, to nature and common sense, frugality and the
sacred symbol of the dollar.
"It wouldn't please your Mr. Jasper, with his heaps and heaps of
money. Mr. Jasper would consider himself sold. But Novalis, not so
very long ago, understood.... A dead girl more real than all earth.
You mustn't suppose it to be mere mysticism."
Linda said, "Very well, I won't."
He nodded. "No one could call Michelangelo hysterical. Sometime in
the history of man, of a salt solution, this divinity has touched
Touched them hopefully, and perhaps gone—banished by the other
destination. Or I can comprehend nature killing it relentlessly, since
it didn't lead to propagation. Then, too, as much as was useful was
turned into a dogma for politics and priests.
"You saw in the rushlight a woman against the arras; there was a
humming of viola d'amore from the musicians' balcony; she smiled at
you, lingering, and then vanished with a whisper of brocade de Lyons
on a sanded floor. Nothing else but a soft white glove, eternally
fragrant, in your habergeon, an eternally fragrant memory; the dim
vision in stone street and coppice; a word, a message, it might be,
sent across the world of steel at death. And then, in the last flicker
of vision, the arras and the clear insistent strings, the whispering
brocade de Lyons on the landing.
"The philosophy of it," he said in a different tone, "is exact,
even a scientific truth. But men have been more concerned with turning
lead into gold; naturally the spirit has been neglected. The science
of love has been incredibly soiled:
"The old gesture toward the stars, the bridge of perfection, the
escape from the fatality of flesh. Yet it was a service of the body
made incredibly lovely in actuality and still never to be grasped.
Never to be won. It ought to be clear to you that realized it would
diminish into quite a different thing "'La figlia della sua mente,
His voice grew so faint that Linda could scarcely distinguish
articulate sounds. All that he said, without meaning for her, stirred
her heart. She was used to elder enigmas of speech; her normal
response was instinctively emotional, and nothing detracted from the
gravity of her attention.
"Not in pious men," he continued, more uncertain; "nor in
seminaries of virtue. They have their reward. But in men whose
bitterness of longing grew out of hideous fault. The distinction of
beauty—not a payment for prayers or chastity. The distinction of
love... above chests of linen and a banker's talent and patents of
nobility... Divine need. Idiotic.
But what else, what better, offers?"
He was, she saw, terribly sick. His hands were clenched and his
entire being strained and rigid, as though he were trying to do
something tremendously difficult. At last, with infinite pain, he
"I must get away," he articulated.
Linda was surprised at the effort necessary for this slight
accomplishment when he had said the most bewildering things with
complete ease. Well, the elevators were right in front of him. He rose
slowly, and, with Linda standing at his side, dug a sharp hand into
her shoulder. It hurt, but instinctively she bore it and, moving
forward, partly supported him. She pressed the bell that signaled for
the elevator and it almost immediately sank into view. "Hurry," he
said harshly to the colored operator in a green uniform; and quite
suddenly, leaving a sense of profound mystery, he disappeared.
Linda decided that he had told her a rather stupid fairy story. She
was too old for such ridiculous things as ladies in their shining hair
on a leopard. She remembered clearly seeing one of the latter at a
zoological garden. It had yellow eyes, but no one would care to ride
on it. Her mother, she was certain, knew more about love than any man.
His words faded quickly from her memory, but a confused rich sense
stirred her heart, a feeling such as she experienced after an
unusually happy day:
white gloves and music and Mr. Jasper displeased.
A clock chimed ten, and she proceeded to her mother's room, where
she must wait up with her information about Mr. Jasper's wife. She was
furious at him for a carelessness that had brought her mother such
unfavorable criticism. Everything had been put away before going down,
and there was nothing for her to do. The time dragged tediously. The
bands of the traveling-clock in purple leather on the dressing-table
moved deliberately around to eleven. A ringing of ice in one of the
metal pitchers carried by the bell boys sounded from the corridor.
There was the faint wail of a baby.
Suddenly and acutely Linda was lonely—a new kind of loneliness
that had nothing to do with the fact that she was by herself. It was a
strange cold unhappiness, pressing over her like a cloud and, at the
same time, it was nothing at all. That is, there was no reason for it.
The room was brightly lighted and, anyhow, she wasn't afraid of
"things." She thought that at any minute she must cry like that baby.
After a little she felt better; rather the unhappiness changed to
wanting. What she wanted was a puzzle; but nothing else would satisfy
her. It might be a necklace of little pearls, but it wasn't. It might
be—. Now it was twelve o'clock.
Dear, dear, why didn't she come back!
Music, awfully faint, and a whisper, like a dress, across the
floor. Her emotion changed again, to an extraordinary delight, a glow
like that which filled her at the expression of her adoration for her
mother, but infinitely greater. She was seated, and she lifted her
head with her eyes closed and hands clasped. The clock pointed to one
and her parent came into the room. "Linda," she exclaimed crossly,
"whatever are you doing up? A bad little girl. I told you to be asleep
hours before this."
"There is something you had to know right away," Linda informed
her solemnly. "I only just heard it from Mrs. Randall and Miss
Her mother's flushed face hardened. "Mr. Jasper is married," Linda
Mrs. Condon dropped with an angry flounce into a chair. Her broad
scarf of sealskin slipped from one shoulder. Her hat was crooked and
her hair disarranged. "So that's it," she said bitterly; "and they
went to you.
The dam' old foxes. They went to you, nothing more than a child."
Linda put in, "They didn't mean to; it just sort of came out. I
knew you'd stop as soon as you heard. Wasn't it horrid of him?"
"And this," Mrs. Condon declared, "is what I get for being,
"I said to-night, 'George,' I said, 'go right back home. It's the
only thing. They have a right to you.' I told him that only to-night.
And, 'No, I must consider my little Linda.' If I had held up my
finger," she held up a finger to show the smallness of the act
necessary, "where would we have all been?
"But this is what I get. You might think the world would notice a
woman's best efforts. No, they all try to crowd her and see her slip.
If they don't watch out I'll skid, all right, and with some one they
least expect. I have opportunities."
Linda realized with a sense of confusion that her mother had known
of Mr. Jasper's marriage all the while. But she had nobly tried to
save him from something; just what Linda couldn't make out. The
other's breath was heavy with drinking.
"You go to bed, Lin," she continued; "and thank you for taking care
of mama. I hope to goodness you'll learn from all this—pick out what
you want and make for it. Don't bother with the antique frumps, the
disappointed old tabbies. Have your fun. There's nothing else. If you
like a man, be on the level with him—give and take. Men are not
saints and we're better for it; we don't live in a heaven. You've got
a sweet little figure. Always remember mama telling you that the most
expensive corsets are the cheapest in the end."
Linda undressed slowly and methodically, her mother's words
ringing in her head. Always remember—but of course she would have
the nicest things possible.... A keepsake and faint music. She
thought, privately, that she was too thin; she'd rather be her mother,
with shoulders like bunches of smooth pink roses. In bed, just as she
was falling asleep, a sound disturbed her from the corridor above—the
slow tramping of heavy feet, like a number of men carefully bearing an
awkward object. She listened with suspended breath while they passed.
The footfalls seemed to pound on her heart. Slowly slowly they
went, unnatural and measured. They were gone now, but she still heard
The crushing of her mother into bed followed with a deep sigh. The
long fall of a wave on the shore was audible. Two things contended in
her stilled brain—the mysterious feeling of desire and her mother's
They were separate and fought, yet they were strangely
In the morning Mrs. Condon, with a very late breakfast-tray in bed,
had regained her usual cheerful manner. "The truth is," she told
Linda, "I'm glad that Jasper man has gone. He had no idea of
discretion; tired of them anyhow." Linda radiated happiness. This was
the mother she loved above all others. Her mind turned a little to the
man who had talked to her the night before. She wondered if he were
better. His thin blanched face, his eyes gleaming uncomfortably in
smudges, recurred to her. Perhaps he'd be down by the cigar-stand
again. She went, presently, to see, but the row of chairs was empty.
However, the neglected thick brown-covered magazine was still on
the ledge by which he had been sitting. There was a name on it, and
while, ordinarily, she couldn't read handwriting, this was so clear
and regular, but minutely small, that she was able to spell it
It disappointed her not to find him; at lunch she observed nearly
every one present, but still he was lost. He wasn't listening to the
music after dinner, nor below. A deep sense of disappointment grew
within her. Linda wanted to see him, hear him talk; at times a sharp
hurt in the shoulder he had grasped brought him back vividly. The next
day it was the same, and finally, diffidently, she approached the
hotel desk. A clerk she knew, Mr. Fiske, was rapidly sorting mail, and
she waited politely until he had finished.
"Well?" he asked.
"I found this down-stairs," she said, giving him the magazine.
"Perhaps he'll want it." Mr. Fiske looked at the written name, and
then glanced sharply at her. "No," he told her brusquely, "he won't
He turned away with the magazine and left Linda standing
She wanted to ask if Mr. Welles were still at the Boscombe; if the
latter didn't want the magazine she'd love to have it. Linda couldn't
But the clerk went into the treasurer's office and she was forced
to move away.
Later, lingering inexplicably about the spot where she had heard so
many bewildering words, a very different man spoke to her. He, Linda
observed, was smoking a cigar, a good one, she was certain. He was
smallish and had a short bristling mustache and head partly bald. His
shoes were very shiny and altogether he had a look of prosperity.
"Hello, cutie!" he cried, capturing her arm. She responded
listlessly. The other produced a crisp dollar bill. "Do you see the
chocolates in that case?" he said, indicating the cigar-stand. "Well,
get the best. If they cost more, let me know. Our financial rating is
number one." Linda answered that she didn't think she cared for any.
"All right," the man agreed; "sink the note in the First National
Ladies Bank, if you know where that is."
He engineered her unwillingly onto a knee. "How's papa?" he
demanded. "I suppose he will be here Saturday to take his family
through the stores?"
She replied with dignity, "There is only my mother and me."
At this information he exclaimed "Ah!" and touched his mustache
with a diminutive gold-backed brush from a leather case. "That's more
than I have," he confided to her; "there is only myself. Isn't that
You must be sorry for the lonely old boy."
She wasn't. Probably he, too, had a wife somewhere; men were
beastly. "I guess your mother wants a little company at times
Linda, straining away from him, replied, "Oh, dear, no; there are
just packs of gentlemen whenever she likes. But she is tired of them
all." She escaped and he settled his waistcoat.
"You mustn't run away," he admonished her; "nice children don't.
Your mother didn't bring you up like that, I'm sure. She wouldn't
Linda hesitated, plainly conveying the fact that, if she were to
wait, he would have to say something really important.
"Just you two," he deliberated; "Miss and Mrs. Jones."
"Not at all," Linda asserted shortly; "our name is Condon."
"I wonder if you'd tell her this," he went on: "a gentleman's here
by himself named Bardwell, who has seen her and admires her a whole
Tell her he's no young sprig but he likes a good time all the
Dependable, too. Remember that, cutie. And he wouldn't presume if
he had a short pocket. He knows class when he sees it."
"It won't do any good," Linda assured him in her gravest manner.
"She said only this morning she was sick of them."
"That was before dinner," he replied cheerfully. "Things look
different later in the day. You do what I tell you."
All this Linda dutifully repeated. Her mother was at the
dressing-table, rubbing cream into her cheeks, and she paused,
surveying her reflection in the mirror. "He was smoking a big cigar,"
The other laughed. "What a sharp little thing you are!" she
exclaimed. "A body ought to be careful what they tell you." She wiped
off the cream and rubbed a soft pinkish powder into her skin.
"He saw me, did he?" she apparently addressed the glass. "Admired
me a whole lot. Was he nice, Linda?" she turned. "Were his clothes
You must point him out to me to night. But do it carefully,
darling. No one should notice. Your mother isn't on the shelf yet; she
can hold her own, even in the Boscombe, against the whole barnyard."
Linda, at the entrance to the dining-room, whispered, "There he
But immediately Mr. Bardwell was smiling and speaking to them.
"I had a delightful conversation with your little girl to-day," he
told Mrs. Condon; "such a pretty child and well brought up."
"And good, too," her mother replied; "not a minute's trouble. The
common sense of the grown; you'd never believe it."
"Why shouldn't I?" he protested gallantly. "Every reason to." Mrs.
Condon blushed becomingly.
"She had to make up for a lot," she sighed.
An hour or more after dinner Mrs. Randall stopped Linda in the hall
beyond the music. "Mama out?" she inquired brightly. "I thought Mr.
Jasper left this morning?"
Linda told her that Mr. Jasper had gone; she added nothing else.
"I must look at the register," Mrs. Randall continued; "I really
Obeying an uncontrollable impulse Linda half cried, "I'd like to
see you riding on a leopard!" A flood of misery enveloped her, and she
hurried up to the silence of her mother's deserted room.
It was on her fourteenth birthday that Linda noticed a decided change
in her mother; a change, unfortunately, that most of all affected the
celebrated good humors. In the first place Mrs. Condon spent an
increasingly large part of the day before the mirror of her
dressing-table, but without any proportionate pleasure; or, if there
was a proportion kept, it exhibited the negative result of a growing
annoyance. "God knows why they all show at once," she exclaimed
discontentedly, seated—as customary—before the eminently truthful
reflection of a newly discovered set of lines. "I'm not old enough to
begin to look like a hag."
"Oh, mother," Linda protested, shocked, "you mustn't say such
horrid things about yourself. Why, you're perfectly lovely, and you
don't seem a speck older than you did years ago."
The other, biting her full underlip at the unwelcome fact in turn
biting a full lower lip back at her, made no reply. Linda lingered for
a moment at her mother's ruffled pink shoulders; then, with a sigh,
she turned to the reception-room of their small suite at the Hotel
Gontram. It was a somber chamber furnished in red plush, with a
complication of shades and gray-white net curtains at long windows and
a deep green carpet.
There was a fireplace, with a grate, supported by varnished oak
pillars and elaborate mantel and glass, a glittering reddish
center-table with a great many small odd shelves below, a desk with
sheaves of hotel writing paper and the telephone.
The Gontram was entirely different from the hotels at the lakes or
seashore or in the South. It was a solid part of a short block west of
Fifth Avenue in the middle of the city. Sherry's filled a corner with
its massive stone bulk and glimpses of dining-rooms with glittering
chandeliers and solemn gaiety, then impressive clubs and wide
entrances under heavy glass and metal, tall porters in splendid
livery, succeeded each other to the Hotel Gontram and the dull thunder
of the elevated trains beyond.
The revolving door, through which Linda sedately permitted herself
to be moved, opened into a high space of numerous columns and
benches, writing-desks and palms. At the back was the white room
where, usually alone, she had breakfast, while the dining-room,
discreetly lighted, was at the left. It was more interesting here
than, for example, at the Boscombe; people were always coming in or
going, and there were quantities of men. She watched them arriving
with shoals of leather bags in the brisk care of the bellboys,
disappear into the elevator, and, if it was evening, come down in
dinner coats with vivid silk scarfs folded over their white shirts.
The women were perpetually in street clothes or muffled in satin
wraps; Linda only regarded them when they were exceptional. Usually
she was intent on the men. It often happened that they returned her
frank gaze with a smile, or stopped to converse with her. Sometimes it
was an actor with a face dryly pink like a woman's from make-up; they
were familiar and pinched her cheeks, calling her endearing names in
conscious echoing voices as if they were quite hollow within. Then
there were simply business men, who never appeared to take off their
derby hats, and spoke to her of their little girls at home. She was
entirely at ease with the latter—so many of her mother's friends were
similar—and critically valued the details of their dress, the
cigar-cases with or without gold corners, the watch-chains with
jeweled insignia, the cuff links and embroidered handkerchiefs.
If her mother approached while Linda was so engaged the elder
would linger with a faint smile, at which, now, the girl was conscious
of a growing impatience. She'd rise with dignity and, if possible,
escape with her parent from florid courtesies. This sense of annoyance
oppressed her, too, in the dining-room, where her mother, a cocktail
in her hand, would engage in long cheerful discussions with the
captains or waiters. Other women, Linda observed, spoke with complete
indifference and their attention on the carte de jour. Of course it
was much more friendly to be interested in the servants' affairs—they
told her mother about their wives and the number of their children,
the difficulties of bringing both ends together, and served her with
the promptest care; but instinctively Linda avoided any but the most
She had to insist, as well, on paying the tips; for Mrs. Condon,
her sympathies engaged, was quite apt to leave on the table a
five-dollar bill or an indiscriminate heap of silver. "You are a
regular little Jew," she would reply lightly to Linda's protests.
This, the latter thought, was unfair; for the only Jew she knew, Mr.
Moses Feldt, an acquaintance of their present period in New York, was
quite the most generous person she knew. "Certainly you don't take
after your mama."
After she said this she always paused with tight lips. It was
charged with the assumption that, while Linda didn't resemble her, she
did very much a mysterious and unfavorably regarded personage. Her
father, probably. More and more Linda wondered about him. He was dead,
she knew, but that, she began to see, was no reason for the positive
prohibition to mention him at all. Perhaps he had done something
dreadful, with money, and had disgraced them all. Yet she was
convinced that this was not so, She had heard a great many
uncomplimentary words applied to husbands, most of which she had been
unable to comprehend; and she speculated blankly on them in her
mother's connection. On the whole the women agreed that they were
remarkably stupid and transparent, they protested that they understood
and guided every move husbands made; and this surely gave her father
no opportunity for independent crime.
She was held from questioning not so much by her mother's
commandÐat times she calmly and successfully ignored that—as from its
unfortunate effect on the elder.
Mrs. Condon would burn with a generalized anger that sank to a
despondency fortified by the brandy flask. Straining embraces and
tears, painful to support, would follow, or more unbearable silliness.
The old difficulties with giggling or sympathetic chambermaids—Linda
couldn't decide which was worse—then confronted her with the
necessity for rigid lies, misery, and the procuring of sums of money
from the bag in the top drawer. Altogether, and specially with the
fresh difficulties of her mother's unaccountable irritation and
apprehensions, things were frightfully complicated.
It was late afternoon in November, and the electric lights were on;
however, they were lighted when they rose, whenever they were in the
rooms, for it was always gloomy if not positively dark; the bedroom
looked into a deep exterior well and the windows of the other chamber
opened on an uncompromising blank wall. Yet Linda, now widely learned
in such settings, rather liked her present situation. They had
occupied the same suite before, for one thing; and going back into it
had given her a sense of familiarity in so much that always shifted.
Linda, personally, had changed very little; she was taller than
four years before, but not a great deal; she was, perhaps, more
graceful—her movements had become less sudden—more assured, the
rapidly maturing qualities of her mind made visible; and she had
gained a surprising repose.
Now, for example, she sat in a huge chair cushioned with black
leather and thought, with a frowning brow, of her mother. It was clear
that the latter was obviously worried about—to put it frankly—her
Her figure, she repeatedly asserted, could be reasoned with; she
had always been reconciled to a certain jolly stoutness, but her face,
the lines that appeared about her eyes overnight, fairly drove her to
hot indiscreet tears. She had been to see about it, Linda knew; and
returned from numerous beauty-parlors marvelously rejuvenated—for the
She had been painted, enameled, vibrated, massaged; she had had
electric treatment, rays and tissue builders; and once she had been
baked. To-day the toilet table would be loaded with milkweed, cerates
and vanishing cream; tomorrow they would all be swept away, given to
delighted chambermaids, while Mrs. Condon declared that, when all was
said, cold water and a rough towel was nature's way.
This afternoon, apparently everything, including hope, had failed.
She was as cross as cross. From the manner in which she spoke it might
have been Linda's fault. The worst of it was that even the latter saw
that nothing could be done. Her mother was growing—well, a little
tired in appearance. Swift tears gathered in Linda's eyes. She hadn't
been quite truthful in that reassuring speech of hers. She set herself
to the examination of various older women with whom she had more or
less lately come in contact. How had they regarded and met the loss of
whatever good looks they had possessed?
It was terribly mixed up, but, as she thought about it, it seemed
to her that the world of women was divided into two entirely different
groups, the ones men liked, and who had such splendid parties; and the
ones who sat together and gossiped in sharp lowered voices. She hoped
passionately that her mother would not become one of the latter for a
long long while. But eventually it seemed that there was no escape
from the circle of brilliantly dressed creatures with ruined faces who
congregated in the hotels and whispered and nodded in company until
they went severally to bed.
The great difference between one and the other, of course, was the
favor of men. Their world revolved about that overwhelming fact. Her
mother had informed her of this on a hundred occasions and in
countless ways; but more by her actions, her present wretchedness,
than by speech. It was perfectly clear to Linda that nothing else
mattered. She was even beginning, in a vague way, to think of it in
connection with herself; but still most of her preoccupation was in
her mother. She decided gravely that a great deal, yet, could be done.
For instance, lunch to-day:
Her mother had given her a birthday celebration at Henri's, the
famous confectioner but a door or two from their hotel; and at the
end, when a plate of the most amazing and delightful little cakes had
been set on the table, the elder had eaten more than half. Afterwards
she had sworn ruefully at her lack of character, begging Linda—in a
momentary return of former happy companionship—never to let her make
such a silly pig of herself again. Then she got so tired, Linda
continued her mental deliberations; if she could only rest, go away
from cities and resorts for a number of months, the lines in turn
would soon vanish.
The elder moved impatiently, with a fretful exclamation, in the
inner room; from outside came the subdued dull ceaseless clamor of New
York. Formerly it had frightened Linda; but her dread had become a
wordless excitement at the thought of so much just beyond the windows;
her hands grew cold and her heart suddenly pounded, destroying the
vicarious image of her mother.
"I wish now I'd been different," Mrs. Condon said, standing in the
door. Her dress was not yet on, but her underthings were fully as
elaborate and shimmering as any gown could hope to be. "And above
everything else, I am sorry for the kind of mother you've had." This
was so unexpected, the other's voice was so unhappy, that Linda was
startled. She hurried across the room and laid a slim palm on her
mother's full bare arm. "Don't say that," Linda begged, distressed;
"you've been the best in the world."
"You know nothing about it," the elder returned, momentarily
seated, her hands clasped on her full silken lap. "But perhaps it's
not too late. You ought to go to a good school, where you'd learn
everything, but principally what a bad thoughtless mama you have."
"I shouldn't stay a second in a place where they said that," Linda
declared. A new apprehension touched her. "You're not really thinking
of sending me away!" she cried. "Why, you simply could not get along.
You know you couldn't! The maids never do up your dresses right;
and you'd be so lonely in the mornings you would nearly die."
"That's true," Mrs. Condon admitted wearily. "I would expire; but I
was thinking of you—you're only beginning life; and the start you'll
get with me is all wrong. Or, anyway, most people think so."
"They are only jealous."
"Will you go into the closet, darling, and pour out a teeny little
sip from my flask; mama feels a thousand years old this evening."
Returning with the silver cup of the flask half full of pale
pungent brandy Linda could scarcely keep the tears from spilling over
She had never before felt so sad. Her mother hastily drank, the
stinging odor was transferred to her lips; and there was a palpable
recovery of her customary spirit.
"I don't know what gets over me," she asserted. "I'm certain, from
what I've heard of them, that you wouldn't be a bit better off in one
of those fashionable schools for girls. Women, young and older, were
never meant to be a lot together in one place. It's unnatural. They
don't like each other, ever, and it's all hypocritical and nasty. You
will get more from life, yes, and me. I'm honest, too honest for my
own good, if the truth was known."
She rose and unconsciously strayed to the mirror over the mantel
where she examined her countenance in absorbed detail.
"My skin is getting soft like putty," she remarked aloud to
"The thing is, I've had my time and don't want to pay for it.
Blondes go quicker than dark women; you ought to last a long while,
Linda." Mrs. Condon had turned, and her tone was again almost
complaining, almost ill-natured. Linda considered this information
with a troubled face. It was quite clear that it made her mother
cross. "I've seen men stop and look at you right now, too, and you
nothing more than a slip fourteen years old. Of course, when I was
fifteen I had a proposal; but I was very forward; and somehow you're
different—so dam' serious."
She couldn't help it, Linda thought, if she was serious; she really
had a great deal to think about, their income among other things. If
she didn't watch it, pay the bills every three months when it arrived,
her mother would never have a dollar in the gold mesh bag. Then,
lately, the dresses the elder threatened to buy were often impossible;
Linda learned this from the comments she heard after the wearing of
evening affairs sent home against her earnest protests. They were,
other women more discreetly gowned had agreed, ridiculous.
Linda calmly realized that in this her judgment was superior to her
mother's. In other ways, too, she felt she was really the elder; and
her dismay at the possibility of going away to school had been mostly
made up of the realization of how much her mother's well-being was
dependent on her.
Mrs. Condon, finishing her dressing in the bedroom, at times called
out various injunctions, general or immediate. "Tell them to have a
taxi at the door for seven sharp. Have you talked to that little girl
in the black velvet?" Linda hadn't and made a mental note to avoid her
more pointedly in the future. "Get out mother's carriage boots from
the hall closet; no, the others—you know I don't wear the black with
coral stockings. They come off and the fur sticks to my legs. It will
be very gay to-night; I hope to heaven Ross doesn't take too much
again." Linda well remembered that the last time Ross had taken too
much her mother's Directoire wrap had been completely torn in half.
"There, it is all nonsense about my fading; I look as well as I ever
Mrs. Condon stood before her daughter like a large flame pink tulle
flower. Her bright gold hair was constrained by black gauze knotted
behind, her bare shoulders were like powdered rosy marble and the
floating skirts gathered in a hand showed marvelously small satin-tied
carriage boots. Indeed Linda's exclamation of delight was entirely
She had never seen her mother more radiant, The cunningly applied
rouge, the enhanced brilliancy of her long-lashed eyes, had perfectly
the illusion of unspent beauty.
"Do stay down-stairs after dinner and play," the elder begged. "And
if you want to go to the theatre, ask Mr. Bendix, at the desk, to send
you with that chauffeur we have had so much. I positively forbid your
leaving the hotel else. It's a comfort after all, that you are
serious. Kiss mama—"
However, she descended with her mother in the elevator; there was a
more public caress; and the captain in the Chinese dining-room placed
Linda at a small table against the wall. There she had clams—she
adored iced clams—creamed shrimps and oysters with potatoes bordure,
alligator-pear salad and a beautiful charlotte cream with black
After this she sedately instructed the captain what to sign on the
back of the dinner check—Linda Condon, room five hundred and
seven—placed thirty-five cents beside the finger-bowl for the waiter,
and made her way out to the news stand and the talkative girl who had
it in charge.
Exhausting the possibilities of gossip, and deciding not to go out
to the theatre—in spite of the news girl's exciting description of a
play called "The New Sin" he was walking irresolutely through the high
gilded and marble assemblage space when, unfortunately, she was
captured by Mr. Moses Feldt.
He led her to a high-backed lounge against the wall, where, seated on
its extreme edge, he gazed silently at her with an expression of
sentimental concern. Mr. Moses Feldt was a short round man, bald but
for a fluffy rim of pale hair, and with the palest imaginable eyes in
a countenance perpetually flushed by the physical necessity of
accommodating his rotundity to awkward edges and conditions. As usual
he was dressed with the nicest care—a band of white linen laid in the
opening of his waistcoat, his scarf ornamented by a pear-shaped pearl
on a diamond finished stem; his cloth-topped varnished black shoes
glistened, while his short fat fingers clasped a prodigious unlighted
At last, in a tone exactly suited to his gaze, he exclaimed:
"So that naughty mama has gone out again and deserted Moses and
her little Linda!" In what way her mother had deserted Mr. Feldt she
failed to understand. Of course he wanted to marry them—the
comprehensive phrase was his own—but that didn't include him in
whatever they did. Principally it made a joke for their private
entertainment. Mrs. Condon would mimic his eager manner, "Stella, let
me take you both home where you'll have the best in the land." And,
"Ladies like you ought to have a loving protection." Linda would laugh
in her cool bell-like manner, and her mother add a satirical comment
on the chance any Moses Feldt had of marrying her.
Linda at once found him ridiculous and a being who forced a
slighting warmth of liking. His appearance was preposterous, the ready
emotion often too foolish for words; but underneath there was a—a
goodness, a mysterious quality that stirred her heart to recognition.
Certain rare things in life and experience affected her like that
memory of an old happiness. She could never say what they might be,
they came at the oddest times and by the most extraordinary means; but
at their occurrence she would thrill for a moment as if in response to
a sound of music.
It was, for example, absurd that Mr. Moses Feldt, who was a Jew,
should make her feel like that, but he did. And all the while that she
was disagreeable to him, or mocking him behind his back, she was as
uncomfortable and "horrid" as possible. While this fact, of course,
only served to make her horrider still. At present she adopted the
manner of a patience that nothing could quite exhaust; she was polite
and formal, relentlessly correct in position.
Mr. Moses Feldt, the cigar in his grasp, pressed a hand to the
probable region of his heart. "You don't know how I think of you," he
protested, tears in his eyes; "just the idea of you exposed to
anything at all in hotels keeps me awake nights. Now it's a drunk, or
a fresh feller on the elevator, or—"
"It's nice of you," Linda said, "but you needn't worry. No one
would dare to bother us. No one ever has."
"You wouldn't know it if they did," he replied despondently, "at
your age. And then your mother is so trustful and pleasant. Take those
parties where she is so much—roof frolics and cocoanut groves and
submarine cafes; they don't come to any good. Rowdy." Linda studied
him coldly; if he criticized them further she would leave. He mopped a
shining brow with a large colorful silk handkerchief. "It throws me
into a sweat," he admitted.
"Really, Mr. Feldt, you mustn't bother," she told him in one of her
few impulses of friendliness. "You see, we are very experienced." He
nodded without visible happiness at this truth. "I'm a jackass!" he
"Judith tells me that all the time. If you could only see my
daughters," he continued with a new vigor; "such lovely girls as they
are. One dark like you and the other fair as a daisy. Judith and
Pansy. And my home that darling mama made before she died." The
handkerchief was again in evidence.
"Women and girls are funny. I can't get you there and not for
nothing will Judith make a step. It may be pride but it seems to me
such nonsense. I guess I'm old-fashioned and love's old-fashioned.
Homes have gone out of style with the rest. It's all these restaurants
and roofs now, yes, and studios. I tell the girls to stay away from
them and from artists and so on. I don't encourage them at the
apartment—a big lump of a feller with platinum bracelets on his
wrists. What kind of a man would that be! I'd like to know who'd buy
goods from him.
"Sometimes, I'm sorry I got a lot of money, but it made mama happy.
When she laid there at the last sick and couldn't live, I said,
'Oh, if you only won't leave me I'll give you gold to eat.'" He was so
moved, his face so red, that Linda grew acutely embarrassed. People
were looking at them. She rose stiffly but, in spite of her effort to
escape him, he caught both her hands in his:
"You say I'm an old idiot like Judith," he begged. This Linda
declined to do. And, "Ask your mother if you won't come to dinner with
the girls and me, cozy and at home just once."
"I'm afraid it will do no good," she admitted; "but I'll try." She
realized that he was about to kiss her and moved quickly back. "I am
almost afraid of you," he told her; "you're so distant and elegant.
Judith and Pansy would get on with you first rate. I'll telephone
tomorrow, in the afternoon. If the last flowers I sent you came I
never heard of it."
She thanked him appropriately for the roses and stood, erect and
impersonal, as a man in the hotel livery helped him into a coat. Mr.
Moses Feldt waved the still unlighted cigar at her and disappeared
through the rotating door to the street.
She gave a half-affected sigh of relief. Couldn't he see that her
mother would never marry him. At the same time the strange thrill
touched her; the sense of his absurdity vanished and she no longer
remembered him perched like a painted rubber ball on the edge of the
In the somber red plush and varnished wood of the reception-room
of their suite he seemed again charming. Perhaps it was because he,
too, adored her mother. That wasn't the reason. The familiar rare joy
lingered. It seemed now as though she were to capture and understand
it... there was the vibration of music; and then, as always, she felt
at once sad and brave. But, in spite of her old effort to the
contrary, the feeling died away. Some day it would be clear to her; in
the meanwhile Mr. Moses Feldt became once more only ridiculous.
In the morning she was dressed and had returned from breakfast before
her mother stirred. The latter moved sharply, brought an arm up over
her head, and swore. It was a long while before she got up or spoke
again, and Linda never remembered her in a worse temper. When,
finally, she came into the room where the breakfast-tray was laid,
Linda was inexpressibly shocked—all that her mother had dreaded about
her appearance had come disastrously true. Her face was hung with
shadows like smudges of dirt and her eyes were netted with lines.
Examining the dishes with distaste she told Linda that positively
she could slap her for letting them bring up orange-juice. "How often
must I explain to you that it freezes my fingers." Linda replied that
she had repeated this in the breakfast-room and perhaps they had the
wrong order. Neither her mother nor she said anything more until Mrs.
Condon had finished her coffee and started a second cigarette. Then
Linda related something of Mr. Moses Feldt's call on the evening
before. "He cried right into his handkerchief," she said, "until I
thought I should sink."
Mrs. Condon eyed her daughter speculatively. "Now if you were only
four years older," she declared, "it would be a good thing. He was
simply born to be a husband." Horror filled Linda at the other's
implication. "Yes," the elder insisted; "you couldn't do better;
except, perhaps, for those girls of his. But then you'd have no
trouble making them miserable. It's time to talk to you seriously
about marriage." The smoke from the cigarette eddied in a gray veil
across her unrefreshed face.
"You're old for your age, Linda; your life has made you that; and,
like I said last night, it is rather better than not. Well, for you
marriage, and soon as possible, is the proper thing. Mind, I have
never said a word against it; only what suits one doesn't suit
another. Where it wouldn't be anything more than an old ladies' home
to me you need it early and plenty. You are too intense. That doesn't
go in the world. Men don't like it. They want their pleasure and
comfort without strings tied to them; the intensity has to be theirs.
"What you must get through your head is that love—whatever it
is—and marriage are two different things, and if you are going to be
successful they must be kept separate. You can't do anything with a
man if you love him; but then you can't do anything with him if he
doesn't love you. That's the whole thing in a breath. I am not crying
down love, either; only I don't want you to think it is the bread and
butter while it's nothing more than those little sweet cakes at
"Now any girl who marries a poor man or for love—they are the
same thing—is a fool and deserves what she gets. No one thanks her
for it, him least of all; because if she does love him it is only to
make them miserable. She's always at him—where did he go and why did
he stay so long, and no matter what he says she knows it's a lie. More
times than not she's right, too. I can't tell you too often—men don't
want to be loved, they like to be flattered and flattered and then
You'd never believe how childish they are.
"Make them think they're it and don't give too much—that's the
secret. Above all else don't be easy on them. Don't say 'all right,
darling, next spring will do as well for a new suit.' Get it then and
let him worry about paying for it, if worry he must. If they don't
give it to you some one smarter will wear it. But I started to talk
about getting married.
"Choose a Moses Feldt, who will always be grateful to you, and keep
him at it. They are so easy to land it's a kind of shame, too. Perhaps
I am telling you this too soon, but I don't want any mistakes. Well,
pick out your Moses—and mama will help you there and suddenly, at the
right time, show him that you can be affectionate; surprise him with
it and you so staid and particular generally. Don't overdo it, promise
more than you ever give—
"In the closet, dearie, just a little. That's a good girl. Mama's
She rose, the silver cup of the flask in her hand, and moved
inevitably to the mirror. "My hair's a sight," she remarked; "all
strings. I believe I'll get a permanent wave. They say it lasts for
six months or more, till the ends grow out. Makes a lot of it, too,
and holds the front together. If you've ever had dye in your hair, I
hear, it will break off like grass."
Linda pondered over what she had been told of love and marriage;
on the whole the exposition had been unsatisfactory. The latter she
was able to grasp, but her mother had admitted an inability exactly to
fix love. One fact, apparently, was clear—it was a nuisance and a
hindrance to happiness, or rather to success. Love upset things. Still
she had the strongest objection possible to living forever with a man
like Mr. Moses Feldt. At once all that she had hoped for from life
grew flat and uninteresting. She had no doubt of her mother's
correctness and wisdom; the world was like that; she must make the
best of it.
There was some telephoning, inquiries, and she heard the elder make
an appointment with a hair-dresser for three that afternoon. She
wondered what it would be like to have your hair permanently waved
and hoped that she would see it done. This, too, she realized, was a
part of the necessity of always considering men—they liked your hair
to be wavy. Hers was as straight and stupid as possible. She, in turn,
examined herself in a mirror: the black bang fell exactly to her
eyebrows, her face had no color other than the carnation of her lips
and her deep blue eyes.
She moved away and critically studied her figure; inches and inches
too thin, she decided. Undoubtedly her mother was right, and she must
marry at the first opportunity if she could find a man, a rich man,
who was willing.
Her thoughts returned vaguely to the mystery, the nuisance, of
Surely she had heard something before, immensely important, about
it, and totally different from all her mother had said. Her mind was
filled with the fantastic image of a forest, of dangers, and a fat
china figure with curled plumes, a nodding head, that brushed her with
fear and disgust. A shuddering panic took possession of her, flashes
burned before her eyes, and she ran gasping to the perfumed soft
reassurances of her mother.
In a recurrence of her surprising concern of the day before Mrs.
Condon declined to leave her dearest Linda alone; and, their arms
caught together in a surging affection, they walked down Fifth Avenue
toward the hairdresser's. There was a diffused gray sparkle of
sunlight—it was early for the throngs—through which they passed
rapidly to the accompaniment of a rapid eager chatter. Linda wore a
deep smooth camel's hair cape, over which her intense black hair
poured like ink, and her face was shaded by a dipping green velvet
hat. Her mother, in one of the tightly cut suits she affected, had
never been more like a perfect companion.
They saw, in the window of a store for men, a set of violent purple
wool underwear, and barely escaped hysterics at the thought of Mr.
Moses Feldt in such a garb. They giggled idiotically at the spectacle
of a countryman fearfully making the sharp descent from the top of a
lurching omnibus. And then, when they had reached the place of Mrs.
Condon's appointment, stopped at the show of elaborately waved hair on
wax heads and chose which, probably, would resemble the elder and
which, in a very short while now, Linda.
There was an impressive interior, furnished in gray panels and
silvery wood; and the young woman at the desk was more surprisingly
waved than anything they had yet seen. M. Joseph would be ready almost
immediately; and in the meanwhile Mrs. Condon could lay aside her
things in preparation for the hair to be washed. She did this while
Linda followed every movement with the deepest interest.
At the back of the long room was a succession of small alcoves,
each with an important-looking chair and mirror and shelves, a white
basin, water-taps and rubber tubes. Settled in comfort, Mrs. Condon's
hair was spread out in a bright metal tray fastened to the back of the
chair, and the attendant, a moist tired girl in a careless waist,
sprayed the short thick gold-colored strands.
"My," she observed, "what some wouldn't give for your shade!
Never been touched, I can see, either. A lady comes in with real
Titian, but yours is more select. It positively is. Lillian Russell."
While she talked her hands sped with incredible rapidity and skill.
"The gentlemen don't notice it; of course not; oh, no! There was a
girl here, a true blonde, but she didn't stay long—her own car, yes,
indeed. Married her right out of the establishment. There wasn't any
nonsense to her.
"So this is your little girl! I'd never have believed it. Not that
she hasn't a great deal of style, a great deal—almost, you might say,
like an Egyptian. In the movies last night; her all over. It's a type
that will need studying. Bertha Kalich. But for me—"
Already, Linda saw, this part of the operation was done. The girl
wheeled into position a case that had a fan and ring of blue
flickering flames, and a cupped tube through which hot air was poured
over her mother's head. M. Joseph strutted in, a small carefully
dressed man with a diminutive pointed gray beard and formal curled
mustache. He spoke with what Linda supposed was a French accent, and
his manners, at least to them, were beautiful. But because the girl
had not put out the blue flames quickly enough he turned to her with a
voice of quivering rage.
It was so unexpected, in the middle of his bowing and smooth
assurances, that Linda was startled, and had to think about him all
The result of this was a surprising dislike; she hated, even, to
see him touch her mother, as he unnecessarily did in directing them
into the enclosure for the permanent wave.
The place itself filled her with the faint horror of instruments
and the unknown. Above the chair where Mrs. Condon now sat there was a
circle in the ceiling like the base of a chandelier and hanging down
from it on twisted green wires were a great number of the strangest
things imaginable: they were as thick as her wrist, but round, longer
and hollow, white china inside and covered with brown wrapping. The
wires of each, she discovered, led over a little wheel and down again
to a swinging clock-like weight. In addition to this there were
strange depressing handles on the wall by a dial with a jiggling
needle and clearly marked numbers.
The skill of the girl who had washed her mother's hair, however,
was slight compared with M. Joseph's dexterity. The comb flashed in
his white narrow hands; in no time at all every knot was urged out
into a shining smoothness. "Just the front?" he inquired. Not waiting
for Mrs. Condon's reply, he detached a strand from the mass over her
brow, impaled it on a hairpin, while he picked up what might have been
a thick steel knitting-needle with one end fastened in the middle of a
silver quarter. The latter, it developed, had a hole in it, through
which he drew the strand of hair, and then wrapped it with an angry
tightness about the long projection.
At this exact moment a new girl, but tired and moist, appeared,
took a bank of white threads from a dressing table, and tied that
separate lock firmly. This, Linda counted, was repeated fifteen times;
and when it was accomplished she was unable to repress a nervous
laughter. Really, her mother looked too queer for words: the long
rigid projections stood out all over her head like—like a huge
pincushion; no, it was a porcupine.
Mrs. Condon smiled in uncertain recognition of her daughter's
Then Linda's attention followed M. Joseph to a table against a
partition, where he secured a white cotton strip from a film of them
soaking in a shallow tray, took up some white powder on the blade of a
dessert knife and transferred it to the strip. This he wrapped and
wrapped about the hair fastened on a spindle, tied it in turn, and
dragged down one of the brown objects on wires, which, to Linda's
great astonishment, fitted precisely over the cotton-bound hair.
Again, fifteen times, M. Joseph did this, fastening each connection
with the turn of a screw. When so much was accomplished her mother's
hair, it seemed, had grown fast to the ceiling in a tangle of green
ends. It was the most terrifying spectacle Linda had ever witnessed.
Obscure thoughts of torture, of criminals executed by electricity,
froze her in a set apprehension.
The hair-dresser stepped over to the dials on the wall, and, with a
sharp comprehensive glance at his apparatus, moved a handle as far as
it would go. Nothing immediately happened, and Linda gave a relaxing
sigh of relief. M. Joseph, however, became full of a painful
He brought into view an unsuspected tube, with a cone of paper at its
end, and bent over her mother, directing a stream of cold air against
her head. "How do you feel?" he asked, with, Linda noticed, a
startling loss of his first accent. Mrs. Condon so far felt well
enough. Then, before Linda's startled gaze, every single one of the
fifteen imprisoning tubes began to steam with an extraordinary vigor;
not only did they steam, like teapots, but drops of water formed and
slowly slid over her mother's f ace. If the process appeared weird at
the beginning, now it was utterly fantastic.
The little white vapor spurts played about Mrs. Condon's dripping
countenance; they increased rather than diminished; actually it
resembled a wrecked locomotive she had once seen. "How are you?" M.
Joseph demanded nervously. "Is it hot anywhere?" With a sudden gesture
she replied in a shaking voice, "Here."
Instantly he was holding the paper cone with its cold air against
her scalp, and the heat was subdued. He glanced nervously at his
watch, and Mrs. Condon managed to ask, "How long?"
Dangerous as the whole proceeding seemed nothing really happened,
and Linda's fears gradually faded into a mere curiosity and interest.
A curtain hung across the door to the rest of the establishment, but
it had been brushed partly aside; and she could see, in the
compartment they had vacated, another man bending with waving irons
over the liberated mass of a woman's hair. He was very much like M.
Joseph, but he was younger and had only a dark scrap of mustache. As
he caught up the hair with a quick double twist he leaned very close
to the woman's face, whispering with an expression that never changed,
an expression like that of the wax heads in the show-case. He bent so
low that Linda was certain their cheeks had touched. She pondered at
length over this, gazing now at the man beyond and now at M. Joseph
flitting with the cold-air tube about her mother; wondering if, when
she grew older, she would like a hair-dresser's cheek against hers.
Linda decided not. The idea didn't shock her, the woman in the other
space plainly liked it; still she decided she wouldn't. A different
kind of man, she told herself, would be nicer.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a sharp, unpleasant odor the odor
of scorched hair; and she was absolutely rigid with horror at an
agonized cry from her mother.
"It's burning me terribly," the latter cried. "Oh, I can't stand
M. Joseph, as white as plaster, rushed to the wall and reversed the
handle, and Mrs. Condon started from the chair, her face now streaming
with actual tears; but before she could escape the man threw himself
on her shoulders.
"You mustn't move," he whispered desperately, "you'll tear your
hair out. I tell you no harm's been done. Everything is all right.
Please please don't cry like that. It will ruin my business. There are
others in the establishment. Stop!" he shook her viciously.
Linda had risen, terrorized; and Mrs. Condon, with waving plucking
hands, was sobbing an appeal to be released. "My head, my head," she
repeated. "I assure you"—the man motioned to a pallid girl to hold
her in the chair. With a towel to protect his hand he undid a screw,
lifted off the cap and untwisted the cotton from a bound lock of hair;
releasing it, in turn, from the spindle it fell forward in a complete
corkscrew over Mrs. Condon's face.
"Do you see!" he demanded. "Perfect. I give you my word they'll all
be like that. The cursed heat ran up on me," he added in a swift aside
to his assistant. "Has Mrs. Bellows gone? Who's still in the place?
Here, loose that binding... thank God, that one is all right, too."
Together they unfastened most of the connections, and a growing
fringe of long remarkable curls marked Mrs. Condon's pain-drawn and
dabbled face. Linda sobbed uncontrollably; but perhaps, after all,
nothing frightful had happened. Her poor mother! Then fear again
tightened about her heart at the perturbed expression that overtook
the hair-dresser. He was trying in vain to remove one of the caps. She
caught enigmatic words—"the borax, crystallized... solid. It would
take a plumber... have to go."
The connection was immovable. Even in her suffering Mrs. Condon
implored M. Joseph to save her hair. Nothing, however, could be done;
he admitted it with pale lips. The thing might be chiseled off; in the
end he tried to force a release and the strand, with a renewal of Mrs.
Condon's agony—now, in the interest of her appearance, heroically
withstood—snapped short in the container.
Rapidly recovering her vigor, she launched on a tirade against M.
Joseph and his permanent waving establishment Linda had never
before heard her mother talk in such a loud brutal manner, nor use
such heated unpleasant words, and the girl was flooded with a wretched
shame. Still another lock, it was revealed, had been ruined, and
crumbled to mere dust in its owner's fingers.
"The law will provide for you," she promised.
"Your hair was dyed," the proprietor returned vindictively. "The
girl who washed it will testify. Every one is warned against the
permanent if their hair has been colored. So it was at your own risk."
"My head's never been touched with dye," Mrs. Condon shrilly
answered. "You lying little ape. And well does that young woman know
it. She complimented me herself on a true blonde." The girl had, too,
right before Linda.
"You ought to be thrashed out of the city."
"Your money will be given back to you," M. Joseph told her.
Outside they found a taxi, and sped back to their hotel. Above,
Mrs. Condon removed her hat; and, before the uncompromising mirror,
studied her wrecked hair—a frizzled vacancy was directly over her
left brow—and haggard face. When she finally turned to Linda, her
manner, her words, were solemn.
"I'm middle-aged," she said.
A dreary silence enveloped them sitting in the dark reception-room
while Mrs. Condon restlessly shredded unlighted cigarettes on the
She had made no effort to repair the damages to her appearance, and
when the telephone bell sharply sounded, she reached out in a slovenly
negligence of manner. Linda could hear a blurred articulation and her
mother answering listlessly. The latter at last said: "Very well, at
seven then; you'll stop for us." She hung up the receiver, stared
blankly at Linda, and then went off into a harsh mirth. "Oh, my God!"
she cried; "the old ladies' home!"
With her mother away on a wedding trip with Mr. Moses Feldt, Linda
was suddenly projected into the companionship of his two daughters.
One, as he had said, was light, but a different fairness from Mrs.
Condon's richly thick, like honey; while Judith, the elder, who must
have been twenty, was dark in skin, in everything but her eyes, which
were a contrasting ashen-violet. She spoke at once of Linda's flawless
"A magnolia," she said, in a deliberate dark voice; "you are quite
a gorgeous child. Do you mind my saying that your clothes are rather
quaint? They aren't inevitable, and yours ought to be that."
They were at lunch in the Feldt dining-room, an interior of heavy
ornately carved black wood, panels of Chinese embroidery in imperial
yellow, and a neutral mauve carpet. The effect, with glittering
iridescent pyramids of glass, massive frosted repousse silver,
burnished gold-plate and a wide table decoration of orchids and fern,
was tropical and intense. It was evident to Linda that the Feldts were
very rich indeed.
The entire apartment resembled the dining-room, while the building
itself filled a whole city block, with a garden and fountains like an
elaborate public square. Linda, however, wasn't particularly impressed
by such show; she saw that Judith and Pansy had expected that of her;
but she was determined not to exhibit a surprise that would imply any
changes in her mother's and her condition. In addition, Linda calmly
took such surroundings for granted. Her primary conception of possible
existence was elegance; its necessity had so entered into her being
that it had departed from her consciousness.
"I must take you to Lorice," Judith continued; "she will know
better than any one else what you ought to have. You seem terribly
pure—at first. But you're not a snowdrop; oh, no-something very rare
in a conservatory. Much better style than your mother."
"I hope you won't mind Judith," Pansy put in; "she's always like
that." A silence followed in which they industriously dipped the
leaves of mammoth artichokes into a buttery sauce.
Linda, as customary, said very little, she listened with patient
care to the others and endeavored to arrive at conclusions. She liked
Pansy, who was as warm and simple as her father. Judith was harder to
She was absorbed in color and music, and declared that ugliness
gave her a headache at once. Altogether, Linda decided, she was rather
silly, especially about men; and at times her emotions would rise
beyond control until she wept in a thin hysterical gasping.
The room where, mostly, they sat was small, but with a high
ceiling, and hung in black, with pagoda-like vermilion chairs. The
light, in the evening, was subdued; and Pansy and Judith, in extremely
clinging vivid dresses, the former's hair piled high in an amber mass
and Judith's drawn severely across her ears, were lovely. Linda
thought of the tropical butterflies of the river Amazon, of orchids
like those always on the dining-room table. A miniature grand piano
stood against the drapery, and Judith often played. Linda learned to
recognize some of the composers. Pansy liked best the modem waltzes;
Judith insisted that Richard Strauss was incomparable; but Linda
developed an overwhelming preference for Gluck. The older girl
insisted that this was an affectation; for a while she tried to
confuse Linda's knowledge; but finally, playing the airs of "Orpheus
and Eurydice," she admitted that the latter was sincere.
"They sound so cool," Linda said in a clear and decided manner.
There was a man with them, and he shook his head in a mock
sadness. "So young and yet so formal. If, with the rest, you had
Judith's temperament, you would be the most irresistible creature
alive. For see, my dear child, as it is you stir neither tenderness
nor desire; you are remote and perfect, and faintly wistful. I can't
imagine being human or even comfortable with you about. Then, too, you
have too much wisdom."
"She is frightful," Pansy agreed; "she's never upset nor her hair a
sight; and, above all else, Linda won't tell you a thing."
"Some day," Judith informed them from the rippling whisper of the
piano, "she will be magnificently loved."
"Certainly," the man continued; "but what will Linda, Linda Condon,
give in return?"
"It's a mistake to give much," Linda said evenly.
"No, no, no!" Judith cried. "Give everything; spend every feeling,
"You are remarkable, of course; almost no women have the courage
of their emotions." His name was Reynold Chase, a long thin grave
young man in a dinner coat, who wrote brilliant and successful
"Yet Linda isn't parsimonious." He turned to her. "Just what are
What do you think of love?"
"I haven't thought about it much," she replied slowly. "I'm not
sure that I know what it means. At least it hasn't anything to do with
"Ah!" he interrupted her.
Her usually orderly mind grew confused; it eddied as though with
the sound of the piano. "It is not marriage," she vaguely repeated her
mother's instruction. Reynold Chase supported her.
"That destroys it," he asserted. "This love is as different as
possible from the ignominious impulse eternally tying the young into
knots. It's anti-social."
"How stupid you are, Reynold," Pansy protested. "If you want to use
those complicated words take Judith into the drawing-room. I'm sure
Linda is dizzy, too."
The latter's mental confusion lingered; she had a strong sense of
having heard Reynold Chase say these strange things long before.
Judith left the piano, sat beside him, and he lightly kissed her. A
new dislike of Judith Feldt deepened in Linda's being. She had no
reason for it, but suddenly she felt absolutely opposed to her. The
manner in which Judith rested against the man by her was very
distasteful. It offended Linda inexplicably; she wanted to draw into
an infinity of distance from all contact with men and life.
She didn't even want to make one of those marriages that had
nothing to do with love, but was only a sensible arrangement for the
securing of gowns and velvet hangings and the luxury of enclosed
automobiles. Suddenly she felt lonely, and hoped that her mother would
come back soon.
But when her mother, now Mrs. Moses Feldt, did return, Linda was
conscious of a keen disappointment. Somehow she never actually came
back. It wasn't only that, after so many years together, she occupied
a room with another than Linda, but her manner was changed; it had
lost all freedom of heart and speech. The new Mrs. Feldt was heavily
polite to her husband's daughters; Linda saw that she liked Pansy, but
Judith made her uncomfortable. She expressed this in an isolated
return of the old confidences:
"That girl," she said sharply, "likes petting. She can talk all
night about her soul and beauty, and play the piano till her fingers
drop off, but I—I—know. You can't fool me where they are concerned.
I can recognize an unhealthy sign. I never believed in going to all
those concerts and kidding yourself into a fever. I may have shown
myself a time, but you mark my word—I was honest compared to Judith
Don't you be impressed with all her art talk and the books she
reads. I was looking into one yesterday, and it made me blush; you can
believe it or not, it takes some book for that!"
At the same time she treated Judith with a studious sweetness. Mr.
Moses Feldt—Linda always thought of him as that—was a miracle of
kindly cheerfulness. He made his wife and her daughter, and his own
girls, an unbroken succession of elaborate and costly presents.
"What's it for if not to spend on those you love?" he would remark,
bringing a small jeweler's box wrapped in creamy-pink paper from his
pocket. "You can't take it with you. I wasn't born with it—mama and I
were as poor as any—you'll forgive me, Stella, I know, for speaking
of her. I got enough heart to love you both. 'Oh, mama!' I said, and
she dying, 'if you only won't go, I'll give you gold to eat.'"
Curiously, as Linda grew older, the consciousness of her stepfather
as an absurd fat little man dwindled; she lost all sense of his actual
person; and, as the influence of her mother slipped from her life, the
mental conception of Mr. Moses Feldt deepened. She thought about him a
great deal and very seriously; the things he said, the warm impact of
his being, vibrated in her memory. He had the effect on her of the
music of Christopher Gluck—the effect of a pure fine chord.
Pansy she now thought of with a faint contempt: she was rapidly
growing thick-waisted and heavy, and she was engaged to a dull young
man not rich enough to be interesting. They sat about in frank
embraces and indulged in a sentimental speech that united Judith and
Linda in common oppression.
There were, not infrequently, gatherings of the Feldts at dinner, a
noisy good-tempered uproar of a great many voices speaking at once;
extraordinary quantities of superlative jewels and dresses of
superfine textures; but the latter, Linda thought, were too vivid in
pattern or color for the short full maternal figures they often
adorned. But no one, it seemed, considered himself ageing or even, in
spite of the most positive indications, aged. The wives with faded but
fashionable hair and animated eyes in spent faces talked with vigorous
raillery about the "boys," who, it might have happened, had gone in a
small masculine company to a fervid musical show the evening before.
While they, in their turn, thick like their brother or cousin Moses,
with time-wasted hair and countenances marked with the shrewdness in
the service of which the greater part of their lives had vanished, had
their little jokes about the "girls" and the younger and handsomer
beaux who threatened their happiness.
At times the topic of business crept into the lighter discussion,
and, in an instant, the gaiety evaporated and left expressionless men
and quick sharp sentences steely with decision, or indirect and
imperturbably blank. A memorandum book and a gold pencil would appear
for an enigmatic note, after which the cheerfulness slowly revived.
The daughters resembled Judith or the slower placidity of Pansy;
while there was still another sort, more vigorous in being, who
consciously discussed riding academies, the bridle-paths of Central
Park, and the international tennis. Their dress held a greater
restraint than the elders; though Linda recognized that it was no less
lavish; and their feminine trifles, the morocco beauty-cases and
powder-boxes, the shoulder-pins, their slipper and garter buckles were
extravagant in exquisite metals and workings.
They arrived in limousines with dove-colored upholstery and crystal
vases of maidenhair fern and moss-roses; and often, in such a car,
Linda went to the theatre with Judith or Pansy and some cousins.
Usually it was a matinee, where their seats were the best procurable,
directly at the stage; and they sat in a sleek expensive row eating
black chocolates from painted boxes ruffled in rose silk. The
audience, composed mostly of their own world, followed the exotic
fortunes of the plays with a complete discrimination in every possible
emotional display and crisis.
Lithe actresses in a revealing severity of attire, like spoiled
nuns with carmine lips, suffering in ingenuous problems of the
passions, agonized in shuddering tones; or else they went to concerts
to hear young violinists, slender, with intense faces and dramatic
hair, play concertos that irritated Linda with little shivers of
Sometimes they had lunch in a restaurant of Circassian walnut and
velvet carpets, with cocktails, and eggs elaborate with truffles and
French pastry. Then, afterward, they would stop at a confectioner's,
or at a cafe where there was dancing, for tea. They all danced in a
perfection of slow graceful abandon, with youths who, it seemed to
Linda, did nothing else.
She accepted her part in this existence as inevitable, yet she was
persistently aware of a feeling of strangeness, of essential
difference from it. She was unable to lose a sense of looking on, as
if morning, noon and night she were at another long play. Linda
regarded it—as she did so much else—with neither enthusiasm nor
marked annoyance. Probably it would continue without change through
her entire life. All that was necessary, and easily obtained, was a
sufficient amount of money.
Her manner, Pansy specially complained, was not intimate and
inviting; in her room Linda usually closed the door; the frank
community of the sisters was distasteful to her. She demanded an
extraordinary amount of personal privacy. Linda never consulted
Judith's opinion about her clothes, nor exchanged the more significant
aspects of feeling.
Alone in a bed-chamber furnished in silvery Hungarian ash, her bed
a pale quilted luxury with Madeira linen crusted in monograms, without
head or foot boards, and a dressing table noticeably bare, she would
deliberately and delicately prepare for the night.
While Judith's morning bath steamed with the softness and odor of
lavender crystals, Linda slipped into water almost cold. This, with
her clear muslins and heavy black silk stockings, her narrow
unornamented slippers, represented the perfection of niceness.
There were others than Pansy, however, who commented on what they
called her superiority—the young men who appeared in the evening. A
number of them, cousins of the Feldt dinner parties or more casual,
tried to engage her sympathies in their persons and prospects. It was
a society of early maturity. But, without apparent effort, she
discouraged them, principally by her serene lack of interest. It was a
fundamental part of her understanding of things that younger men were
unprofitable; she liked far better the contemporaries of Moses Feldt.
Reynold Chase had ceased his visits, but his place had been taken
by another and still another emotionally gifted man. The present one
was dark and imperturbable: they knew little of him beyond the facts
that he had been a long while in the Orient, that his manner and
French were unsurpassed, and that practically every considerable
creative talent in New York was entertained in his rooms.
Judith had been to one of his parties; and, the following morning
in bed, she told Pansy and Linda the most remarkable things.
"It would never do for Pansy," she concluded; "but I must get
Markue to ask you sometime, Linda. How old are you now? Well, that's
practically sixteen, and you are very grown up. You would be quite
sensational, in one of your plain white frocks, in his apartment.
You'd have to promise not to tell your mother, though. She thinks I'm
leading you astray now—the old dear. Does she think I am blind. I met
a man last week, a friend of father's, who used to know her. Of course
he wouldn't say anything, men are such idiots about that—like
ostriches with their pasts buried and all the feathers sticking
out—but there was a champagne expression in his smile."
Linda wondered, later, if she'd care to go to a party of Markue's.
There was a great deal of drinking at such affairs; and though she
rather liked cordials, creme de the and Grand Marnier, even stronger
things flavored with limes and an occasional frigid cocktail, she
disliked—from a slight experience—men affected by drink. Judith had
called her a constitutional prude; this, she understood, was a term of
reproach and she wondered if, applied to her, it were just.
Usually it meant a religious person or one fussy about the edge of
her skirt; neither of which she ever considered. She didn't like to
sit in a corner and be hugged—even that she could now assert with a
degree of knowledge but it wasn't because she was shocked. Nothing,
she told herself gravely, shocked her; only certain acts and moments
annoyed her excessively. It was as if her mind were a crisp dress with
ribbons which she hated to have mussed or disarranged.
Linda didn't take the trouble to explain this. Now that her mother
had withdrawn from her into a perpetual and uncomfortable politeness
she confided in no one. She would have been at a loss to put her
complicated sensations and thoughts into words. Mr. Moses Feldt, the
only one to whom she could possibly talk intimately, would be upset by
her feelings. He would give her a hug and the next day bring up a new
present from his pocket.
Her clothes, with the entire support of Lorice, were all delicate
in fabric, mostly white with black sashes, and plainly ruffled. She
detested the gray crepe de Chine from which Judith's undergarments
were made and the colored embroidery of Pansy's; while she ignored
scented toilet-waters and extracts. Markue, in finally asking her to a
party at his rooms, said that there she would resemble an Athenian
marble, of the unpainted epoch, in the ballet of Scheherazade.
There's nothing special to say about Markue's parties," Judith,
dressing, told Linda. "You will simply have to take what comes your
way. There is always some one serious at them, if you insist, as
usual, on dignity." She stood slim and seductive, like a perverse
pierrot, before the oppressive depths of a black mirror. Linda had
finished her preparations for the evening. There was no departure from
her customary blanched exactness. She studied her reflection across
Judith's shoulder; her intense blue eyes, under the level blot of her
bang, were grave on the delicate pallor of her face.
In the taxi, slipping rapidly down-town, Linda was conscious of a
slight unusual disturbance of her indifference. This had nothing to do
with whether or not she'd be a success; her own social demands were so
small that any considerable recognition of her was unimportant. Her
present feeling came from the fact that to-night, practically, she was
making her first grown-up appearance in the world, the world from
which she must select the materials of her happiness and success.
To-night she would have an opportunity to put into being all
that—no matter how firmly held—until now had been but convictions.
Her interest was not in whom or what she might meet, but in
Judith, smoking a cigarette in a mist of silver fox, was plainly
excited. "I like Markue awfully," she admitted.
"Does he care for you?" Linda asked.
"That," said Judith, "I can't make out—if he likes me or if it's
just anonymous woman. I wish it were the first, Linda." Her voice was
shadowed; suddenly, in spite of her youth and exhilaration, she seemed
haggard and spent. Linda recognized this in a cold scrutiny. Privately
she decided that the other was a fool—she didn't watch her complexion
The motor turned west in the low Forties and stopped before a high
narrow stone faeade with a massive griffon-guarded door. Judith led
the way directly into the elevator and designated Markue's floor. It
was at the top of the building, where he met them with his
impenetrable courtesy and took them into a bare room evidently planned
for a studio.
There were an empty easel, the high blank dusty expanse of the
skylight, and chairs with the somber hats and coats of men and women's
wraps like the glistening shed skins of brilliant snakes.
They turned through the hall to an interior more remarkable than
anything Linda could have imagined; it seemed to her very high,
without windows and peaked like a tent. Draperies of intricate Eastern
color hung in long folds. There were no chairs, but low broad divans
about the walls, a thick carpet with inlaid stands in the center laden
with boxes of cigarettes, sugared exotic sweets and smoking incense.
It was so dim and full of thick scent, the shut effect was so
complete, that for a moment Linda felt painfully oppressed; it seemed
impossible to breathe in the wavering bluish atmosphere.
Markue, who had appeared sufficiently familiar outside, now had a
strange portentous air; the gleams of his quick black eyes, the dusky
tone of his cheeks, his impassive grace, startled her.
New York was utterly removed: the taxi that had brought Judith and
her, the swirling traffic of Columbus Circle and smooth undulations of
Fifth Avenue, were lost with a different life. She saw, however, the
open door to another room full of clear light, and her self-possession
rapidly returned. Judith—as she had threatened—at once deserted her;
and Linda found an inconspicuous corner of a divan.
There were, perhaps, twenty people in the two rooms, and each one
engaged her attention. A coffee-colored woman was sitting beyond her,
clad in loose red draperies to which were sewed shining patterns of
what she thought was gold. Markue was introducing Judith, and the
seated figure smiled pleasantly with a flash of beautiful teeth and
the supple gesture of a raised brown palm. That, Linda decided, was
the way she shook hands. Two dark-skinned men, one in conventional
evening dress, were with her; they had small fine features and hair
like carved ebony.
Linda had never before been at an affair with what she was forced
to call colored people; instinctively she was antagonistic and
superior. She turned to a solemn masculine presence with a ruffled
shirt and high black stock; he was talking in a resonant voice and
with dramatic gestures to a woman with a white face and low-drawn
hair. Linda was fascinated by the latter, dressed in a soft clinging
dull garnet. It wasn't her clothes, although they were remarkable,
that held her attention, but the woman's mouth. Apparently, it had no
corners. Like a little band of crimson rubber, or a ring of vivid
flame, it shifted and changed in the oddest shapes. It was an unhappy
mouth, and made her think of pain; but perhaps not so much that as
hunger... not for food, Linda was certain.
What did she want?
There was a light appealing laugh from another seated on the floor
in a floating black dinner dress with lovely ankles in delicate
Spanish lace stockings; her head was thrown back for the whisper of a
heavy man with ashen hair, a heavenly scarf and half-emptied glass.
Her bare shoulders, Linda saw, were as white as her own, as white
but more sloping. The other's hair, though, was the loveliest red
possible. The entire woman, relaxed and laughing in the perfumery and
swimming shadows, was irresistible. A man with a huge nose and blank
eyes, his hands disfigured with extraordinary rings, momentarily
engaged her. Then, at the moment when she saw an inviting and
correctly conventional youth, he crossed and sat at her side.
"Quite a show," he said in the manner she had expected and
approved. The glow of his cigarette wavered over firmly cut lips.
"We've just come to New York," he continued. "I don't know any one
here but Markue, do you?" Linda explained her own limitations. "The
Victory's fine and familiar."
She followed his gaze to where a winged statue with flying drapery
was set on a stand. She had seen it before, but without interest. Now
it held her attention. It wasn't a large cast, not over three feet
high, but suddenly Linda thought that it was the biggest thing in the
room; it seemed to expand as she watched it.
Beside the Victory, in a glass case with an enclosed concealed
light, was a statue, greenish gray, a few inches tall, with a sneering
placidity of expression as notable as the sweep of the other white
fragment. "That's Chinese," her companion decided; "it looks as old as
lust." There was the stir of new arrivals—a towering heavy man with a
slight woman in emerald satin. "There's Pleydon, the sculptor," the
youth told her animatedly. "I've seen him at the exhibitions. It must
be Susanna Noda, the Russian singer, with him. He's a tremendous
Linda watched Pleydon as he met Markue in the middle of the room.
He was dressed carelessly, improperly for the evening; but she
forgave that as the result of indifference. The informal flannels and
soft collar, too, suited the largeness of his being and gestures.
There was a murmur of meeting, Susanna Noda smiled appealingly; and
then, as Pleydon found a place on a divan, she at once contentedly sat
on his lap. Watching her, Linda thought of a brilliant parrot; but
that was only the effect of her color; for her face, with a tilted
nose and wide golden eyes, generous warm lips, was charming. She
lighted a cigarette, turned her graceful back on the room and company,
and chatted in French to the composed sculptor.
Linda divined that he was the most impressive figure she had
encountered; the quality of his indifference was beautiful and could
only have come in the security of being a "tremendous swell." That
phrase described all for which she had cared most. It included
everything that her mother had indicated as desirable and a lot that
she, Linda, had added. Money, certainly, was an absolute necessity;
but there were other things now that vaguely she desired. She tried to
decide what they were.
Only the old inner confusion resulted, the emotion that might have
been born in music; however, it was sharper than usual, and bred a new
dissatisfaction with the easier accomplishments. Really it was very
disturbing, for the pressure of her entire experience, all she had
been told, could be exactly weighed and held. The term luxury, too,
was revealing; it covered everything—except her present unformed
There were still newcomers, and Linda was aware of a sudden
constraint. A woman volubly French had appeared with a long
pinkish-white dog in a blanket, and the three Arabians—she had
learned that much—had risen with a concerted expression of surprise
and displeasure. Their anxiety, though, was no more dramatic than that
of the dog's proprietor. The gesture of her hands and lifted eyebrows
were keenly expressive of her impatience with any one who couldn't
accept, with her, her dog.
"Markue ought to have it out," some one murmured. "Dogs, to high
caste Mohammedans, are unclean animals." Another added, "Worse than
that, if it should touch them, they would have to make the pilgrimage
Without any knowledge of the situation of Mecca, Linda yet realized
that it must be a very long journey to result from the mere touch of a
dog. She didn't wonder at the restrained excitement of the "colored"
people. The situation was reduced to a sub-acid argument between
the Frenchwoman and the Begum; Madame couldn't exist without her
"p'tit." The Oriental lady could not breathe a common air with the
The former managed a qualified triumph—the "p'tit" was caged with
a chair in a corner, and the episode, for the moment, dropped.
Soon, however, Linda saw that the dog had wriggled out of
It made a cautious progress to where the candy stood on a low stand
and ran an appreciative tongue over the exposed sweet surfaces.
Rapidly a sugared fig was snapped up. Linda held her breath; no one
had noticed the animal yet—perhaps it would reach one of the
objectors and she would have the thrill of witnessing the departure
But, as always, nothing so romantic occurred; the dog was
discovered, and the Mohammedans, with a hurried politeness, made
their salaams. Instead, a man with a quizzical scrutiny through
glasses that made him resemble an owl, stopped before her.
"'Here we go 'round the mulberry-bush,'" he chanted. "Hello, Kate
Greenaway. Have you had a drink?"
"Yes, thank you," she replied sedately.
"It was something with gin," she particularized, "and too sweet."
He took the place beside her and solemnly recited a great many nursery
rhymes. On the whole she liked him, deciding that he was very wicked.
Soon he was holding her hand in both of his. "I know you're not
he proceeded. "Verlaine wrote you—'Les Ingenus':
"'From which the sudden gleam of whiteness shed Met in our eyes a
frolic welcoming.' "What if I'd kiss you?"
"Nothing," she returned coldly.
"You're remarkable!" he exclaimed with enthusiasm. "If you are not
already one of the celebrated beauties you're about to be. As cool as
a fish! Look—Pleydon is going to rise and spill little Russia. Have
you heard her sing Scriabine?" Linda ignored him in a sharp return of
her interest in the big carelessly-dressed man. He put Susanna Noda
aside and moved to the dim middle of the room. His features, Linda
saw, were rugged and pronounced; he was very strong.
For a moment he stood gazing at the Winged Victory, his brow
gathered into a frown, while he made a caressing gesture with his
whole hand. Then he swung about and, from the heavy shadows of his
face, he looked down at her. He was still for a disconcerting length
of time, but through which Linda steadily met his interrogation. Then
he bent over and seriously removed the man beside her.
"Adieu, Louis," he said.
The weight of Pleydon's body depressed the entire divan. "An
ordinary man," he told her, "would ask how the devil you got here.
Then he would take you to your home with some carefully chosen
words for whatever parents you had. But I can see that all this is
needless. You are an extremely immaculate person.
"That isn't necessarily admirable," he added.
"I don't believe I am admirable at all," Linda replied.
"How old are you?" he demanded abruptly.
She told him.
"Age doesn't exist for some women, they are eternal," he continued.
"You see, I call you a woman, but you are not, and neither are you
a child. You are Art—Art the deathless," his gaze strayed back to the
As she, too, looked at it, it seemed to Linda that the cast filled
all the room with a swirl of great white wings and heroic robes. In an
instant the incense and the dark colors, the uncertain pallid faces
and bare shoulders, were swept away into a space through which she was
dizzily borne. The illusion was so overpowering that involuntarily she
caught at the heavy arm by her.
"Why did you do that?" he asked quickly, with a frowning regard.
Linda replied easily and directly. "It seemed as if it were
carrying me with it," she specified; "on and on and on, without ever
stopping. I felt as if I were up among the stars." She paused, leaning
forward, and gazed at the statue. Even now she was certain that she
saw a slight flutter of its draperies. "It is beautiful, isn't it? I
think it's the first thing I ever noticed like that. You know what I
mean the first thing that hadn't a real use."
"But it has," he returned. "Do you think it is nothing to be swept
into heaven? I suppose by 'real' you mean oatmeal and scented soap.
Women usually do. But no one, it appears, has any conception of the
practical side of great art. You might try to remember that it is
simply permanence given to beauty. It's like an amber in which
beautiful and fragile things are kept forever in a lovely glow. That
is all, and it is enough.
"When I said that you were Art I didn't mean that you were
skilfully painted and dressed, but that there was a quality in you
which recalled all the charming women who had ever lived to draw men
out of the mud—something, probably, of which you are entirely
unconscious, and certainly beyond your control. You have it in a
remarkable degree. It doesn't belong to husbands but to those who
create 'Homer's children.' "That's a dark saying of Plato's, and it
means that the Alcestis is greater than any momentary offspring of the
Linda admitted seriously, "Of course, I don't understand, yet it
seems quite familiar—"
"Don't, for Heaven's sake, repeat the old cant about
he interrupted, "and sitting together, smeared with antimony, on a
roof of Babylon."
She hadn't intended to, she assured him. "Tell me about yourself,"
he directed. It was as natural to talk with him as it was, with
others, to keep still. Her frank speech flowed on and on, supported by
the realization of his attention.
"There really isn't much, besides hotels, all different; but you'd
be surprised how alike they were, too. I mean the things to eat, and
the people. I never realized how tired I was of them until mother
married Mr. Moses Feldt. The children were simply dreadful, the
children and the women; the men weren't much better." She said this in
a tone of surprise, and he nodded. "I can see now—I am supposed to be
too old for my age, and it was the hotels. You learn a great deal."
"Do you like Mr. Moses Feldt?"
"Enormously; he is terribly sweet. I intend to marry a man just
like him. Or, at least, he was the second kind I decided on: the first
only had money, then I chose one with money who was kind, but now I
don't know. It's very funny: kindness makes me impatient. I'm
perfectly sure I'll never care for babies, they are so mussy. I don't
read, and I can't stand being—well, loved.
"Mother went to a great many parties; every one liked her and she
liked every one back; so it was easy for her. I used to long for the
time when I'd wear a lovely cloak and go out in a little shut motor
with a man with pearls; but now that's gone. They want to kiss you so
much. I wish that satisfied me. Why doesn't it? Is there anything the
matter with me, do you think? I've been told that I haven't any
As he laughed at her she noticed how absurdly small a cigarette
seemed in his broad powerful hand. "What has happened to you is this,"
he explained: "a combination of special circumstances has helped
you in every way to be what, individually, you were. As a rule,
children are brought up in a house of lies, like taking a fine naked
body and binding it into hideous rigid clothes. You escaped the
damnation of cheap ready-cut morals and education. Your mother ought
to have a superb monument—the perfect parent. Of course you haven't a
'heart.' From the standpoint of nature and society you're as depraved
as possible. You are worse than any one else here—than all of them
Curiously, she thought, this didn't disturb her, which proved at
once that he was right. Linda regarded herself with interest as a
supremely reprehensible person, perhaps a vampire. The latter, though,
was a rather stout woman who, dressed in frightful lingerie, occupied
couches with her arms caught about the neck of a man bending over her.
Every detail of this was distasteful.
What was she?
Her attention wandered to the squat Chinese god in the glass case.
It was clear that he hadn't stirred for ages. A difficult thought
partly formed in her mind—the Chinese was the god of this room, of
Markue's party, of the women seated in the dim light on the floor and
the divans; the low gurgle of their laughter, the dusky whiteness of
their shoulders in the upcoiling incense, the smothered gleams of
their hair, with the whispering men, were the world of the
She explained this haltingly to Pleydon, who listened with a
flattering interest. "I expect you're laughing at me inside," she
"And the other, the Greek Victory," he added, "is the goddess of
the other world, of the spirit. It's quaint a heathen woman should be
Linda discovered that she liked Pleydon enormously. She continued
daringly that he might be the sort of man she wanted to marry. But he
wouldn't be easy to manage; probably he could not be managed at all.
Her mother had always insisted upon the presence of that
possibility in any candidate for matrimony. And, until now, Linda's
philosophy had been in accord with her. But suddenly she entertained
the idea of losing herself completely in—in love.
A struggle was set up within her: on one hand was everything that
she had been, all her experience, all advice, and her innate
detachment; on the other an obscure delicious thrill. Perhaps this was
what she now wanted. Linda wondered if she could try it—just a
little, let herself go experimentally. She glanced swiftly at Pleydon,
and his bulk, his heavy features, the sullen mouth, appalled her.
Men usually filled her with an unaccountable shrinking into her
remotest self. Pleydon was different; her liking for him had destroyed
a large part of her reserve; but a surety of instinct told her that
she couldn't experiment there. It was characteristic that a lesser
challenge left her cold. She had better marry as she had planned.
Susanna Noda came up petulantly and sank in a brilliant graceful
swirl at his feet. Her golden eyes, half shut, studied Linda intently.
"I am fatigued," she complained; "you know how weary I get when you
ignore me." He gazed down at her untouched. "I have left Lao-tze for
Greece," he replied. She found this stupid and said so. "Has he been
no more amusing than this?" she asked Linda. "But then, you are a
child, it all intrigues you. You listen with the flattery of your blue
eyes and mouth, both open."
"Don't be rude, Susanna," Pleydon commanded. "You are so feminine
that you are foolish. I'm not the stupid one—look again at our
'child.' Tell me what you see."
"I see Siberia," she said finally. "I see the snow that seems so
pure while it is as blank and cold as death. You are right, Dodge. I
was the dull one. This girl will be immensely loved; perhaps by you. A
calamity, I promise you. Men are pigs," she turned again to Linda;
"no—imbeciles, for only idiots destroy the beauty that is given to
them. They take your reputation with a smile, they take your heart
with iron fingers; your beauty they waste like a drunken Russian with
"Susanna, like all spendthrifts, is amazed by poverty."
Even in the gloom Linda could see the pallor spreading over the
other's face; she was glad that Susanna Noda spoke in Russian.
However, with a violent effort, she subdued her bitterness. "Go into
she cried. "I always thought you were capable of the last folly of
marriage. If you do it will spoil everything. You are not great, you
know, not really great, not in the first rank. You've only the
slightest chance of that, too much money. You were never in the gutter
as I was—"
"Chateaubriand," he interrupted, "Dante, Velasquez."
"No, not spiritually!" she cried again. "What do you know of the
inferno! Married, you will get fat." Pleydon turned lightly to Linda:
"As a supreme favor do not, when I ask you, marry me."
This, for Linda, was horribly embarrassing. However, she gravely
promised. The Russian lighted a cigarette; almost she was serene
Linda said, "Fatness is awful, isn't it?"
Pleydon replied, "Death should be the penalty. If women aren't
lovely—" he waved away every other consideration.
"And if men have fingers like carrots—" Susanna mimicked him.
Judith, flushed, her hair loosened, approached. "Linda," she
demanded, "do you remember when we ordered the taxi? Was it two or
Markue, at her shoulder, begged her not to consider home.
"I'm going almost immediately," Pleydon said, "and taking your
Linda." His height and determined manner scattered all objections.
Linda, at the entrance to the apartment, found to her great
surprise—in place of the motor she had expected—a small graceful
single-horse victoria, the driver buttoned into a sealskin rug. Deep
in furs, beside Pleydon, she was remarkably comfortable, and she was
soothed by the rhythmic beat of the hoofs, the even progress through
the crystal night of Fifth Avenue.
Her companion flooded his being with the frozen air. They had, it
seemed, lost all desire to talk. The memory of Markue's party lingered
like the last vanishing odor of his incense; there was a confused
vision of the murmurous room against the lighted exterior where the
drinks sparkled on a table. Linda made up her mind that she would not
go to another. Then she wondered if she'd see Pleydon again. The
Russian singer had been too silly for words.
It suddenly occurred to her that the man now with her had taken
Susanna Noda, and that he had left her planted. He had preferred
driving her, Linda Condon, home. He wasn't very enthusiastic about it,
though; his face was gloomy.
"The truth is," he remarked at last, "that Susanna is right—I am
not in the first rank. But that was all nonsense about the necessity
of the gutter—sentimental lies."
Linda was not interested in this, but it left her free to explore
her own emotions. The night had been eventful because it had shaken
all the foundation of what she intended. That single momentary
delicious thrill had been enough to threaten the entire rest. At the
same time her native contempt of the other women, of Judith with her
tumbled hair, persisted.
Was there no other way to capture such happiness? Was it all
hopelessly messy with drinks and unpleasant familiarity?
What did Pleydon mean by spirit? Surely there must be more kinds of
love than one—he had intimated that. She gathered that "Homer's
children," those airs of Gluck that she liked so well, were works of
art, sculpture, such as he did. Yet she had never thought of them as
important, important as oatmeal or delicate soap. She made up her mind
to ask him about it, when she saw that they had reached the Eighties;
she was almost home.
"I am going away to-morrow," he told her, "for the winter, to South
America. When I come back we'll see each other. If you should change
address send me a line to the Harvard Club." The carriage had stopped
before the great arched entrance to the apartment-house, towering in
its entire block. He got out and lifted her to the pavement as if she
had been no more than a flower in his hands. Then he walked with her
into the darkness of the garden.
The fountains were cased in boards; the hedged borders, the bushes
and grass, were dead. High above them on the dark wall a window was
bright. Linda's heart began to pound loudly, she was trembling... from
the cold. There was a faint sound in the air—the elevated trains, or
stirring wings? It was nothing, then, to be lifted into heaven. There
was the door to the hall and elevator. She turned, to thank Dodge
Pleydon for all his goodness to her, when he lifted her—was it toward
heaven?—and kissed her mouth.
She was still in his arms, with her eyes closed. "Linda Condon?" he
said, in a tone of inquiry.
At the same breath in which she realized a kiss was of no
importance a sharp icy pain cut at her heart. It hurt her so that she
gasped. Then, and this was strange, she realized that—as a kiss—it
hadn't annoyed her.
Suddenly she felt that it wasn't just that, but something far more,
a part of all her inner longing. He had put her down and was looking
away, a face in shadow with an ugly protruding lip.
She saw him that way in her dreams—in the court under the massive
somber walls, with a troubled frown over his eyes. It seemed to her
that, reaching up, she smoothed it away as they stood together in a
darkness with the fountains, the hedges, dead, the world with never a
sound sleeping in the prison of winter.
Linda thought about Dodge Pleydon on a warm evening of the following
May. At four o'clock, in a hotel, Pansy had been married; and the
entire Feldt connection had risen to a greater height of clamorous
cheer than ever before. Extravagant unseasonable dishes, wines and
banked flowers were lavishly mingled with sentimental speeches,
healths and tears. Linda had been acutely restless, impatient of all
the loud good humor and stupid compliments. The sense of her isolation
from their life was unbearably keen. She would have a very different
wedding with a man in no particular like Pansy's.
After dinner—an occasion, with Pansy absent, where Mr. Moses
Feldt's tears persisted in flowing—she had strayed into the formal
chamber across from the dining-room and leaned out of a window,
gazing into the darkening court. Directly below was where Pleydon had
kissed her. She often re-examined her feelings about that; but only to
find that they had dissolved into an indefinite sense of the
Not alone had it failed to shock her—she hadn't even been
Linda thought still further about kissing, with the discovery that
if, while it was happening, she was conscious of the kiss, it was a
failure; successful, it carried her as far as possible from the
Pleydon, of course, had not written to her; he had intimated
nothing to the contrary, only asking her to let him know, at the
Harvard Club, if she changed address. That wasn't necessary, and now,
probably, he was back from South America. Where, except by accident,
might she see him?
Markue, with his parties, had dropped from Judith's world, his
place taken by a serious older dealer in Dutch masters with an
impressive gallery just off Fifth Avenue.
That she would see him Linda was convinced; this feeling absorbed
any desire; it was no good wanting it or not wanting it; consequently
she was undisturbed. She considered him gravely and in detail. Had
there been any more Susanna Nodas in his stay south? She had heard
somewhere that the women of Argentine were irresistible. Her life had
taught her nothing if not the fact that a number of women figured in
every man's history. It was deplorable but couldn't be avoided; and
whether or not it continued after marriage depended on the cunning of
Now, however, Linda felt weary already at the prospect of a married
life that rested on the constant play of her ingenuity. A great many
things that, but a little before, she had willingly accepted, seemed
to her probably not less necessary but distinctly tiresome. Linda
began to think that she couldn't really bother; the results weren't
She slept in a composed order until the sun was well up. It was
warmer than yesterday; and, going to an afternoon concert with Judith,
she decided to walk. Linda strolled, in a short severe jacket and
skirt, a black straw hat turned back with a cockade and a crisp
flushed mass of sweet peas at her waist. The occasion, as it sometimes
happened, found her in no mood for music. The warmth of the sunlight,
the open city windows and beginning sounds of summer, had enveloped
her in a mood in which the jangling sentimentality of a street organ
was more potent than the legato of banked violins.
She was relieved when the concert was over, but lingered at her
seat until the crowd had surged by; it made Linda furious to be shoved
or indiscriminately touched. Judith had gone ahead, when Linda was
conscious of the scrutiny of a pale well-dressed woman of middle age.
It became evident that the other was debating whether or not to speak;
clearly such an action was distasteful to her; and Linda had turned
away before a restrained voice addressed her:
"You will have to forgive me if I ask your name... because of a
certain resemblance. Seeing you I—I couldn't let you go."
"Linda Condon," she replied.
The elder, Linda saw, grew even paler. She put out a gloved hand.
"Then I was right," she said in a slightly unsteady voice. "But
perhaps, when I explain, you will think it even stranger, inexcusable.
My dear child, I am your father's sister."
Linda was invaded by a surprise equally made up of interest and
resentment. The first was her own and the second largely borrowed
from her mother. Besides, why had her father's family never made the
slightest effort to see her.
This evidently had simultaneously occurred to the other.
"Of course," she added, quite properly, "we can't undertake family
questions here. I shouldn't blame you a bit, either, if you went
directly away. I had to speak, to risk that, because you were so
unmistakably a Lowrie. It is not a common appearance. We—I—" she
floundered for a painful moment; then she gathered herself with a
"Seeing you has affected me tremendously, changed everything. I
have nothing to say in our defense, you must understand that. I am
certain, too, that my sister will feel the same—we live together in
Philadelphia. I hope you will give me your address and let us write to
you. Elouise will join with me absolutely."
Linda told her evenly where she lived, and then allowed Miss Lowrie
to precede her toward the entrance. She said nothing of this to
Judith, nor, momentarily, to her mother. She wanted to consider it
undisturbed by a flood of talk and blame. It was evident to her that
the Lowries had behaved very badly, but just how she couldn't make
out. She recalled her father's sister—her aunt—minutely, forced to
the realization that she was a person of entire superiority. Here, she
suddenly saw, had been the cause of all their difficulties—the
Lowries hadn't approved of the marriage, they had objected to her
Five years ago she would have been incensed at this; but now,
essentially, she was without personal indignation. She wanted, for
herself, to discover as much as possible about her father and his
A need independent of maternal influences stirred her. Linda was
reassured by the fact that her father had been gently born; while she
realized that she had always taken this for granted. Her mother must
know nothing about the meeting with Miss Lowrie until the latter had
That was Friday and the letter came the following Tuesday. Linda,
alone at the breakfast-table, instantly aware of the source of the
square envelope addressed in a delicate regular writing, opened it and
read in an unusual mental disturbance:
"My dear Linda, I hope you will not consider it peculiar for me to
call you this, for nothing else seems possible. Meeting you in that
abrupt manner upset me, as you must have noticed. Of course I knew of
you, and even now I can not go into our long unhappy affair, but until
I saw you, and so remarkably like the Lowries, I did not realize how
wicked Elouise and I had been. But I am obliged to add only where you
were concerned. We have no desire to be ambiguous in that.
However, I am writing to say that we should love to have you visit
us here. It is possible under the circumstances that your mother will
not wish you to come. Yet I know the Lowries, a very independent and
decided family, and although it is my last intention to be the cause
of difficulty with your mother, still I hope it may be arranged.
In closing I must add how happy I was at the evidence of your
But that, I now see, was a certainty. You will have to forgive us
for a large measure of blindness.
Affectionately, Amelia Vigne Lowrie."
Almost instantaneously Linda was aware that she would visit the
Lowries. She liked the letter extremely, as well as all that she
remembered of its sender. At the same time she prepared for a scene
with her mother, different from those of the past—with the recourse
to the brandy flask—but no less unpleasant. They had very little to
say to each other now; and, when she went into her mother's room with
an evident definite purpose, the latter showed a constrained surprise,
a palpable annoyance that her daughter had found her at the daily
renovation of her worn face.
Linda said directly "I met Miss Lowrie, father's sister, at a concert
last week, and this morning I had a letter asking me to stay with them
Mrs. Feldt's face suddenly had no need for the color she held
poised on a cloth. Her voice, sharp at the beginning, rose to a shrill
"I wonder at the brass of her speaking to you at all let alone
writing here. Just you give me the letter and I'll shut her up. The
idea! I hope you were cool to her, the way they treated us. Stay with
them—I guess not!"
"But I thought of going," Linda replied. "It's only natural. After
all, you must see that he was my father."
"A pretty father he was, too good for the girl he married. It's my
fault I didn't tell you long ago, but I just couldn't abide the
mention of him. He deserted me, no, us, cold, without a word—walked
out of the door one noon, taking his hat as quiet as natural, and
never came back. I never saw him again nor heard except through
lawyers. That was the kind of heart he had, and his sisters are worse.
I hadn't a decent speech of any kind out of them. The Lowries," she
managed to inject a surprising amount of contempt into her
pronouncement of that name.
"What it was all about you nor any sensible person would never
"The house smelled a little of boiled cabbage. That's why he left
me, and you expected in a matter of a few months. He said in his dam'
frigid way that it had become quite impossible and took down his hat."
"There must have been more," Linda protested, suppressing a mad
desire to laugh.
"Not an inch," her mother asserted. "Nothing, after a little,
suited him. He'd sit up like a poker, just as I've seen you, with his
lips tight together in the Lowrie manner. It didn't please him no
matter what you'd do. He wouldn't blow out at you like a Christian and
I never knew where I was at. I'd come down in a matinee, the prettiest
I could buy, and then see he didn't like it. He would expect you to be
dressed in the morning like it was afternoon and you going out. And as
for loosening your corsets for a little comfort about the house, you
might as well have slapped him direct.
"That wasn't the worst, though; but his going away without as much
as a flicker of his hand; and with me like I was. Nobody on earth but
would blame him for that. I only got what was allowed me after we had
changed back to my old name, me and you. He never asked one single
question about you nor tried to see or serve you a scrap. For all he
knew, at a place called Santa Margharita in Italy, you might have been
She was unable, Linda recognized, to defend him in any way; he had
acted frightfully. She acknowledged this logically with her power of
reason, but somehow it didn't touch her as it had her mother, and as,
evidently, the latter expected. She was absorbed in the vision of her
father sitting, in the Lowrie manner, rigid as a poker; she saw him
quietly take up his hat and go away forever. Linda understood his
process completely; she was capable of doing precisely the same thing.
Whatever was the matter with her—in the heartlessness so often
laid to her account—had been equally true of her father.
"You ought to know what to say to them," Mrs. Moses Feldt cried,
"or I'll do it for you! If only I had seen her she would have heard a
thing or two not easy forgotten."
Linda's determination to go to Philadelphia had not been shaken,
and she made a vain effort to explain her attitude. "Of course, it was
horrid for you," she said. "I can understand how you'd never never
forgive him. But I am different, and, I expect, not at all nice. It's
very possible, since he was my father, that we are alike. I wish you
had told me this before—it explains so much and would have made
things easier for me. I am afraid I must see them."
She was aware of the bitterness and enmity that stiffened her
mother into an unaccustomed adequate scorn:
"I might have expected nothing better of you, and me watching it
coming all these years. You can go or stay. I had my life in spite of
the both of you, as gay as I pleased and a good husband just the same.
I don't care if I never see you again, and if it wasn't for the fuss
it would make I'd take care I didn't. You'll have your father's money
now I'm married; I wonder you stay around here at all with your airs
of being better than the rest. God's truth is you ain't near as good,
even if I did bring you into the world."
"I am willing to agree with you," Linda answered. "No one could be
sweeter than the Feldts. I sha'n't do nearly as well. But that isn't
it, really. People don't choose themselves; I'm certain father didn't
at that lonely Italian place. If you weren't happy laced in the
morning it wasn't your fault. You see, I am trying to excuse myself,
and that isn't any good, either."
"Unnatural," Mrs. Moses Feldt pronounced. And Linda, weary and
depressed, allowed her the last word.
Nothing further during the subsequent brief exchange of notes between
Miss Lowrie and Linda was said of the latter's intention to visit her
father's family. Mrs. Feldt, however, whose attitude toward Linda had
been negatively polite, now displayed an animosity carefully hidden
from her husband but evident to the two girls. The elder never
neglected an opportunity to emphasize Linda's selfishness or make her
personality seem ridiculous. But this Linda ignored from her wide
sense of the inconsequence of most things.
Yet she was relieved when, finally, she had actually left New York.
She looked forward with an unusual hopeful curiosity to the
Lowries. To her surprise their house—miles, it appeared, from the
center of the city—was directly on a paved street with electric cars,
unpretentious stores and very humble dwellings nearby. Back from the
thoroughfare, however, there were spacious green lawns. The street
itself, she saw at once, was old—a highway of gray stone with low
aged stone faeades, steep eaves and blackened chimney-pots reaching,
dusty with years, into the farther hilly country.
A gable of the Lowrie house, with a dignified white door, a
fanlight of faintly iridescent glass and polished brasses, faced the
brick sidewalk, while to the left there was a high board fence and an
entrance with a small grille open on a somber reach of garden. A maid
in a stiff white cap answered the fall of the knocker; she took
Linda's bag; and, in a hall that impressed her by its bareness, Linda
was greeted by the Miss Lowrie she had seen.
Her aunt was composed, but there was a perceptible flush on her
cheeks, and she said in a rapid voice, after a conventional welcome,
"You must meet Elouise at once, before you go up to your room."
Elouise Lowrie was older than Amelia, but she, too, was slender and
erect, with black hair startling in its density on her wasted
Linda noticed a fine ruby on a crooked finger and beautiful rose
point lace. "It was good of you," the elder proceeded, "to come and
see two old women. I don't know whether we have more to say or to keep
still about. But I, for one, am going to avoid explanations. You are
here, a fool could see that you were Bartram's girl, and that is
enough for a Lowrie."
The room was nearly as bare as the hall: in place of the deep
carpets of the Feldts' the floor, of dark uneven oak boards, was
merely waxed and covered by a rough-looking oval rug. The walls were
paneled in white, with white ruffled curtains at small windows; and
the furniture, the dull mahogany ranged against the immaculate paint,
the rocking-chairs of high slatted walnut and rush bottoms, the
slender formality of tables with fluted legs, was dignified but
austere. There were some portraits in heavy old gilt—men with florid
faces and tied hair, and the delicate replicas of high-breasted women
There was, plainly, an air of the exceptional in Amelia Lowrie's
conduction of Linda to her room. She waited at the door while the
other moved forward to the center of a chamber empty of all the luxury
Linda had grown to demand. There was a bed with tall graceful posts
supporting a canopy like a frosting of sugar, a solemn set of drawers
with a diminutive framed mirror in which she could barely see her
shoulders, a small unenclosed brass clock with long exposed weights,
and two uninviting painted wooden chairs. This was not, although very
nearly, all. Linda's attention was attracted by a framed and
long-faded photograph of a young man, bareheaded, with a loosely
knotted scarf, a striped blazer and white flannels. His face was thin
and sensitive, his lips level, and his eyes gazed with a steady
questioning at the observer.
"That was Bartram," Amelia Lowrie told her; "your father. This was
She went down almost immediately and left Linda, in a maze of dim
emotions, seated on one of the uncomfortable painted chairs. Her
This was his room; nothing, she realized, had been disturbed. The
mirror had held the vaguely unsteady reflection of his face; he had
slept under the arched canopy of the bed. She rose and went to a
window from which he, too, had looked.
Below her was the garden shut in on its front by the high fence.
There was a magnolia-tree, now covered with thick smooth white
flowers, and, at the back, low-massed rhododendron with fragile
lavender blossoms on a dark glossy foliage. But the space was mainly
green and shadowed in tone; while beyond were other gardens, other
emerald lawns and magnolia trees, an ordered succession of
tranquillity with separate brick or stone or white dwellings in the
lengthening afternoon shadows of vivid maples.
It was as different as possible from all that Linda had known, from
the elaborate hotels and gigantic apartment houses, the tropical
interiors, of her New York life. She unpacked her bag, putting her
gold toilet things on the chest of drawers, precisely arranging in a
shallow closet what clothes she had brought, and then, changing, went
down to the Lowries.
They surveyed her with eminent approval at a dinner-table lighted
only with candles, beside long windows open on a dusk with a glimmer
of fireflies. Suddenly Linda felt amazingly at ease; it seemed to her
that she had sat here before, with the night flowing gently in over
the candle flames. The conversation, she discovered, never strayed far
from the concerns and importance of the Lowrie blood. "My grandmother,
Natalie Vigne," Elouise informed her, "came with her father to
Philadelphia from France, in eighteen hundred and one, at the
invitation of Stephen Girard, who was French as well. She married
Hallet Lowrie whose mother was a Bartram.
"That, my dear, explains our black hair and good figgers. There
never was a lumpy Lowrie. Well, Hallet built this house, or rather
enlarged it, for his wife; and it has never been out of the family.
Our nephew, Arnaud Hallet—Arnaud was old Vigne's name—owns it now.
Isaac Hallet, you may recall, was suspected of being a Tory; at any
rate his brother's descendants, Fanny Rodwell is the only one left,
The placid conversation ran on unchanged throughout dinner and the
evening. Linda was relieved by the absence of any questioning; indeed
nothing contemporary, she realized, was held to be significant. "I
thought Arnaud would be in to-night," Elouise Lowrie said; "he knew
Linda was expected." No one, however, appeared; and Linda went up
early to her room. There, too, were only candles, a pale wavering
illumination in which the past, her father, were extraordinarily
nearby. A sense of pride was communicated to her by so much that time
had been unable to shake. The bed was steeped in the magic of serene
Arnaud Hallet appeared for dinner the evening after Linda's arrival;
a quiet man with his youth lost, slightly stooped shoulders, crumpled
shoes and a green cloth bag. But he had a memorable voice and an easy
distinction of manner; in addition to these she discovered, at the
table, a lighter amusing sense of the absurd. She watched him—as he
poured the sherry from a decanter with a silver label hung on a
chain—with a feeling of mild approbation. On the whole he was nice
but uninteresting. What a different man from Pleydon!
The days passed in a pleasant deliberation, with Arnaud Hallet
constantly about the house or garden, while Linda's thoughts
continually returned to the sculptor. He was clearer than the
actuality of her mother and the Feldts or the recreated image of her
father, At times she was thrilled by the familiar obscure sense of
music, of longing slowly translated into happiness.
Then more actual problems would envelop her in doubt. Mostly she
was confused—in her cool material necessity for understanding—by the
temper of her feeling for Dodge Pleydon. Linda wondered if this were
love. Perhaps, when she saw him again, she'd be able to decide. Then
she remembered promising to let him know if she changed her address.
It was possible that already he had called at the Feldts', or written,
and that her mother had refused to inform him where she had gone.
Linda had been at the Lowries' two weeks now, but they were
acutely distressed when she suggested that her visit was unreasonably
prolonged. "My dear," they protested together, "we hoped you'd stay
the summer. Bartram's girl! Unless, of course, it is dull with us.
Something brighter must be arranged. No doubt we have only thought
of our own pleasure in having you."
Linda replied honestly that she enjoyed being with them extremely.
Her mother's dislike, the heavy luxury of the Feldt apartment, held
little attraction for her. Then, too, losing the sense of the bareness
of the house Hallet Lowrie had built for his French wife, she began to
find it surprisingly appealing.
Her mind returned to her promise to Pleydon. She told herself that
probably he had forgotten her existence, but she had a strong
unreasoning conviction that this was not so. It seemed the most
natural thing in the world to write him and, almost before she was
aware of the intention, she had put "Dear Mr. Pleydon" at the head of
a sheet of note paper.
I promised to let you know in the spring when you came back from
South America where I was. I did not think I would have to do it, but
here I am in Philadelphia with my father's sisters. I do not know just
how long for, but a month anyhow. It is very quiet, but charming. I
have the room that was my father's when he was young, and look out of
the window like he must have. If you should come to Philadelphia my
aunts ask me to say that they would be glad to have you for dinner.
This is how you get here....
Very sincerely, LINDA CONDON.
She walked to a street crossing, where she dropped the envelope
into a letter-box on a lamppost, and returned to find Arnaud Hallet
waiting for her. He said:
"Everyone agrees I'm serious, but actually you are worse than the
Assembly." They went through the dining room to the garden, and sat
on the stone step of a deep window. It was quite late, perhaps eleven
o'clock, and the fireflies, slowly rising into the night, had
Linda was cool and remote and grave, silently repeating and
weighing the phrases of her letter to Pleydon.
She realized that Arnaud Hallet was coming to like her a very great
deal; but she gave this only the slightest attention. She liked him,
really, and that dismissed him from serious consideration. Anyhow, in
spite of the perfection of his manner, Arnaud's careless dress
displeased her: his shoes and the shoulders of his coat were
perpetually dusty, and his hair, growing scant, was always ruffled.
Linda understood that he was highly intellectual, and frequently
contributed historical and,genealogical papers to societies and
bulletins, but compared with Dodge Pleydon's brilliant personality and
reputation, Pleydon surrounded by the Susanna Nodas of life, Arnaud
was as dingy as his shoes.
She wondered idly when the latter would actually try to love her.
He was holding her hand and it might well be to-night. Linda decided
that he would do it delicately; and when, almost immediately, he
kissed her, she was undisturbed. No, surprisingly, it had been quite
pleasant. He hadn't mussed her ribbons, nor her spirit, a particle. In
addition he did not at once become impossible and urgently
sentimental; there was even a shade of amusement on his heavy face.
"You appear to take a lot for granted," he complained.
"I'd been wondering when it would happen," she admitted coolly.
"It always does, then?"
"Usually I stop it," she continued. "I don't believe I'll ever like
being kissed. Can you tell me why? No one ever has; they all think
they can bring me around to it."
"And to them," he added.
"But they end by being furious at me. I've been sworn at—and
called dreadful names. Sometimes they're only silly. One cried; I
hated that the most."
"Do you mean that you were sorry for him?"
"Oh, dear, no. Why should I be? He looked so odious all smeared
Arnaud Hallet returned promptly: "Linda, you're a little beast." To
counteract his rude speech he kissed her again. "This," he said with
less security, "threatens to become a habit. I thought, at forty-five,
that I was safely by the island of sirens, but I'll be on the rocks
before I know it."
She laughed with the cool remoteness of running water.
"I wonder you haven't been murdered," he proceeded, "in a moonless
garden by an elderly lawyer. Do you ever think of the lyric day when,
preceded by a flock of bridesmaids and other flowery pagan truck,
you'll meet justice?"
"Marriage?" she asked. "But of course. I have everything perfectly
"Then, my dear Linda, describe him."
"Very straight," she said, "with beautiful polished shoes and
"You ought to have no trouble finding that. Any number of my
friends have one—to open the door and take your things. I might
arrange a very satisfactory introduction for everybody concerned—a
steady man well on his way to preside over the pantry and table."
"You're not as funny as usual," Linda decided critically. "That,
too, disturbs me," he replied. "It looks even more unpromising for the
In her room Linda thought, momentarily, of Arnaud Hallet; whatever
might have been serious in her attitude toward him dissolved by the
lightness of his speech. Dodge Pleydon appealed irresistibly to her
deepest feelings. Now her mental confusion was at least clear in that
she knew what troubled her. It was not new, it extended even to times
before Pleydon had entered her life—the difficulties presented by the
In her mind it was divided into two or three widely different
aspects, phases which she was unable to reconcile. Her mother, in the
beginning, had informed her that love was a nuisance. to be happy, a
man must love you without any corresponding return; this was necessary
to his complete management, the securing of the greatest possible
amount of new clothes. It was as far as love should be allowed to
But that reality, with a complete expression in shopping, was
distant from the immaterial and delicate emotions that in her
responded to Pleydon.
Linda had been familiar with the materials, the processes, of what,
she had been assured, was veritable love since early childhood. Her
mother's dressing, the irritable hours of fittings and at her mirror,
the paint she put on her cheeks, the crimping of her hair were for the
favor of men. These struggles had absorbed the elder, all the women
Linda had encountered, to the exclusion of everything else. This, it
seemed, must, from its overwhelming predominance, be the greatest
thing in life.
There was nothing mysterious about it. You did certain things
intelligently, if you had the figure to do them with, for a practical
The latter, carefully controlled, like an essence of which a drop
was delightful and more positively stifling, was as real as the
methods of approach. Oatmeal or scented soap! The force of example and
association combined to bathe such developments in the sanest light
possible, and Linda had every intention of the successful grasping of
an easy and necessary luxury. She had, until—vaguely—now, been
entirely willing to accept the unescapable conditions of love used as
a means or the element of pleasure at parties. Now, however, the
unexpected element of Dodge Pleydon disturbed her philosophy.
Suddenly all the lacing and painting and crimping, the pretense and
lies and carefully planned accidental effects, filled her with revolt.
The insinuations of women, the bareness of their revelations, her
mother returning unsteady and mussed from a dinner, were unutterably
disgusting. Even to think of them hurt her fundamentally: so much of
what she was, of what she had determined, had been destroyed by an
emotion apparently as slight as echoed music.
Here was the real mystery and for which nothing in her experience
had prepared her. She began to see why it was called a nuisance—if
this were love—and wondered if she had better not suppress it at
once. It wouldn't be suppressed. Her thoughts continually came back to
Pleydon, and the warmth, the disturbing thrill, always resulted. It
led her away from herself, from Linda Condon; a sufficiently strange
A concern for Dodge Pleydon, little schemes for his happiness and
well-being, put aside her clothes and complexion and her future.
Until the present her acts had been the result of deliberation. She
had been impressed by the necessity for planning with care; but, in
the cool gloom of the covered bed, a sharp joy held her at the
possibility of flinging caution away. Yet she couldn't quite, no
matter how much she desired it, lose herself. Linda was glad that
Pleydon was rich; and there were, she remembered, moments for
As usual these problems, multiplying toward night, were fewer in
the bright flood of morning. She laughed at the memory of Arnaud
Hallet's humor; and then, it was late afternoon, the maid told her
that Pleydon was in the drawing room. Her appearance satisfactory she
was able to see him at once. To her great pleasure neither Pleydon nor
his clothes had changed. He was dressed in light gray flannels; a big
easy man with a crushing palm, large features and an expression of
"Linda," he said, "what a splendid place to find you. So much
better than Markue's." He was, she realized, very glad to see her, and
dropped at once, as if they had been uninterruptedly together, into
"My work has been going badly," he proceeded; "or rather not at
all. I made a rather decent fountain at Newport; but—remember what
Susanna said?—it's not in the first rank. A happy balance and strong
enough conception; yet it is like a Cellini ewer done in granite. The
truth is, too much interests me; an artist ought to be the victim of a
monomania. I'm a normal animal." He studied her contentedly:
"How lovely you are. I came over—in an automobile at last because
I was certain you couldn't exist as I remembered you. But you could
and do. Lovely Linda! And what a gem of a letter. It might have been
copied from 'The Perfect Correspondent for Young Females.' You're not
going to lose me again. When I was a little boy I had a passion for
She smiled at him with half-closed eyes and the conviction that,
with Pleydon, she could easily be different. He leaned forward and his
voice startled her with the impression that he had read her mind:
"If you could care for any one a lifetime would be short to get
Look, you have never been out of my thoughts—or within my reach.
It seems a myth that I kissed you; impossible... Linda."
"But you did," she told him, gaining happiness from the mere
assurance. They were alone in the drawing-room, and he rose, sweeping
her up into his arms. Yet the expected joy evaded her desire and the
sudden determination to lose utterly her reserve. It was evident that
he as well was conscious of this, for he released her and stood
frowning, his protruding lower lip uglier than ever.
"A lifetime would be nothing," he said again; "or it might be
everything wasted. Which are you—all soul and spirit, or none?"
"I don't know," she replied, in her bitter disappointment, her
heart pinched by the pain she remembered. There was the stir of skirts
at the door; Linda turned with a sense of relief to Amelia Lowrie.
However, dinner progressed very well indeed. "Then your aunt," Elouise
said to Pleydon, "was Carrie Dodge. I recall her perfectly." That
established, the Lowrie women talked with a gracious freedom,
exploring the furthermost infiltrations of blood and marriages.
Linda was again serene. She watched Pleydon with an extraordinary
formless conviction—each of them was a part of the other's life;
while in some way marriage and love were now hopelessly confused. It
was beyond effort or planning. That was all she could grasp, but she
was contented. Sometimes when he talked he made the familiar
descriptive gesture with his hand, as if he were shaping the form of
his speech: a sculptor's gesture, Linda realized.
Later they wandered into the garden, a dark enclosure with the long
ivy-covered faeade of the house broken by the lighted spaces of
windows. Beyond the fence at regular intervals an electric car passed
with an increasing and diminishing clangor. The white petals of the
magnolia-tree had fallen and been wheeled away; the blossoms of the
rhododendron were dead on their stems. It was, Linda felt, a very old
garden that had known many momentary emotions and lives.
Dodge Pleydon, standing before her, put his hands on her shoulders.
"Would I have any success?" he asked. "Do you think you'd care for
She smiled confidently up at his intent face. "Oh, yes." Yet she
hoped that he would not kiss her—just then. The delicacy of her
longing and need were far removed from material expressions. This, of
course, meant marriage; but marriage was money, comfort, the cold
thing her mother had impressed on her. Love, her love, was a mistake
here. But in a little it would all come straight and she would
understand. She no longer had confidence in her mother's wisdom.
In spite of her shrinking, of a half articulate appeal, he crushed
her against his face. Whatever that had filled her with hope, she
thought, was being torn from her. A sickening aversion over which she
had no control made her stark in his arms. The memories of the painted
coarse satiety of women and the sly hard men for which they schemed,
the loose discussions of calculated advances and sordid surrenders,
flooded her with a loathing for what she passionately needed to be
Yet deep within her, surprising in its vitality, a fragile ardor
persisted. If she could explain, not only might he understand, but be
able to make her own longing clear and secure. But all she managed to
say was, "If you kiss me again I think it will kill me." Even that
failed to stop him. "You were never alive," he asserted. "I'll put
some feeling into you.
It has been done before with marble."
Linda, unresponsive, suffered inordinately.
Again on her feet she saw that Pleydon was angry, his face grim. He
seemed changed, threatening and unfamiliar; it was exactly as if, in
place of Dodge Pleydon, a secretive impersonal ugliness stood
disclosed before her. He said harshly:
"When will you marry me?"
It was what, above all else, she had wanted; and Linda realized
that to marry him was still the crown of whatever happiness she could
imagine. But her horror of the past recreated by his beating down of
her gossamer-like aspiration, the vision of him flushed and ruthless,
an image of indiscriminate nameless man, made it impossible for her to
reply. An abandon of shrinking fear numbed her heart and lips.
"You won't get rid of me as you do the others about you," he
continued. "This time you made a mistake. I haven't any pride that you
can insult; but I have all that you—with your character—require. I
have more money even than you can want." She cried despairingly:
"It isn't that now! I had forgotten everything to do with money and
depended on you to take me away from it always."
"When will you marry me?"
In a flash of blinding perception, leaving her as dazed as though
it had been a physical actuality, she realized that marrying him had
become an impossibility. At the barest thought of it the dread again
closed about her like ice. She tried, with all the force of old
valuations, with even an effort to summon back the vanquished thrill,
to give herself to him. But a quality overpowering and instinctive,
the response of her incalculable injury, made any contact with him
hateful. It was utterly beyond her power to explain. A greater mystery
still partly unfolded—whatever she had hoped from Pleydon belonged to
the special emotion that had possessed her since earliest childhood.
In the immediate tragedy of her helplessness, with Dodge Pleydon
impatient for an assurance, she paused involuntarily to wonder about
that hidden imperative sense. There was a broken mental fantasy of—of
a leopard bearing a woman in shining hair. This was succeeded by a
bright thrust of happiness and, all about her, a surging like the
imagined beat of the wings of the Victory in Markue's room. Almost
Pleydon had explained everything, almost he was everything; and then
the other, putting him aside, had swept her back into the misery of
doubt and loneliness.
"I can't marry you," she said in a flat and dragged voice. He
"I don't know." She recognized his utter right to the temper that
mastered him. For a moment Linda thought Pleydon would shake her.
"You feel that way now," he declared; "and perhaps next month; but
you will change; in the end I'll have you."
"No," she told him, with a certainty from a source outside her
consciousness. "It has been spoiled."
He replied, "Time will discover which of us is right. I'm almost
willing to stay away till you send for me. But that would only make
you more stubborn. What a strong little devil you are, Linda. I have
no doubt I'd do better to marry a human being. Then I think we both
forget how young you are—you can't pretend to be definite yet."
He captured her hands; too exhausted for any resentment or feeling
she made no effort to evade him. "I'll never say good-bye to you."
His voice had the absolute quality of her own conviction. To her
amazement her cheeks were suddenly wet with tears. "I want to go
now," she said unsteadily; "and—and thank you."
His old easy formality returned as he made his departure. In reply
to Pleydon's demand she told him listlessly that she would be here
for, perhaps, a week longer. Then he'd see her, he continued, in New
York, at the Feldts'.
In her room all emotion faded. Pleydon had said that she was still
young; but she was sure she could never, in experience or feeling, be
older. She became sorry for herself; or rather for the illusions, the
Linda, of a few hours ago. She examined her features in the limited
uncertain mirror—strong sensations, she knew, were a charge on the
appearance—but she was unable to find any difference in her regular
pallor. Then, mechanically conducting her careful preparations for the
night, her propitiation of the only omnipotence she knew, she put out
the candles of her May.
What welcome Linda met in New York came from Mr. Moses Feldt, who
embraced her warmly enough, but with an air slightly ill at ease. He
begged her to kiss her mama, who was sometimes hurt by Linda's
coldness. She made no reply, and found the same influence and evidence
of the power of suggestion in Judith. "We thought maybe you wouldn't
care to come back here," the latter said pointedly, over her shoulder,
while she was directing the packing of a trunk. The Feldts were
preparing for their summer stay at the sea.
Her mother's room resembled one of the sales of obvious and
expensive attire conducted in the lower salons of pleasure hotels.
There were airy piles of chiffon and satin, inappropriate hats and the
inevitable confections of silk and lace. "It's not necessary to ask if
you were right at home with your father's family," Mrs. Condon
observed with an assumed casual inattention. "I can see you sitting
with those old women as dry and false as any. No one saved me in the
clacking, I'm sure."
"We didn't speak of you," Linda replied. She studied, unsparing,
the loose flesh of the elder's ravaged countenance. Her mother, she
recognized, hated her, both because she was like Bartram Lowrie and
still young, with everything unspent that the other valued and had
In support of herself Mrs. Feldt asserted again that she had
"lived," with stacks of friends and flowers, lavish parties and
"You may be smarter than I was," she went on, "but what good it
does you who can say? And if you expect to get something for nothing
you're fooled before you start." She shook out the airy breadths of a
vivid echo of past daring. "From the way you act a person might think
you were pretty, but you are too thin and pulled out. I've heard your
looks called peculiar, and that was, in a manner of speaking, polite.
You're not even stylish any more—the line is full again and not
suitable for bony shoulders and no bust." She still cherished a
complacency in her amplitude.
Linda turned away unmoved. Of all the world, she thought, only
Dodge Pleydon had the power actually to hurt her. She knew that she
would see him soon again and that again he would ask her to marry him.
She considered, momentarily, the possibility of saying yes; and
instantly the dread born with him in the Lowrie garden swept over her.
Linda told herself that he was the only man for whom she could ever
deeply care; that—for every conceivable reason such a marriage was
perfect. But the shrinking from its implications grew too painful for
Her mother's bitterness increased hourly; she no longer hid her
feelings from her husband and Judith; and dinner, accompanied by her
elaborate sarcasm, was a difficult period in which, plainly, Mr. Moses
Feldt suffered most and Linda was the least concerned. This condition,
she admitted silently, couldn't go on indefinitely; it was too vulgar
if for no other reason. And she determined to ask the Lowries for
another and more extended invitation.
Pleydon came, as she had expected, and they sat in the small
reception-room with the high ceiling and dark velvet hangings, the
piano at which, long ago it now seemed, Judith had played the airs of
Gluck for her. He said little, but remained for a long while spread
over the divan and watching her—in a formal chair—discontentedly. He
rose suddenly and stood above her, a domineering bulk obliterating
nearly everything else. In response to his demand she said, pale and
composed, that she was not "reasonable"; she omitted the "yet"
included in his question.
Pleydon frowned. However, then, he insisted no further.
When he had gone Linda was as spent as though there had been a
fresh brutal scene; and the following day she was enveloped in an
unrelieved depression. Her mother mocked her silence as another
evidence of ridiculous pretentiousness. Mr. Moses Feldt regarded her
with a furtive concerned kindliness; while Judith followed her with
countless small irritating complaints. It was the last day at the
apartment before their departure for the summer. Linda was insuperably
tired. She had gone to her room almost directly after dinner, and when
a maid came to her door with a card, she exclaimed, before looking at
it, that she was not in. It was, however, Arnaud Hallet; and, with a
surprise tempered by a faint interest, she told the servant that she
would see him.
There was, Linda observed at once, absolutely no difference in
Arnaud's clothing, no effort to make himself presentable for New York
or her. In a way, it amused her—it was so characteristic of his
forgetfulness, and it made him seem doubly familiar. He waved a hand
toward the luxury of the interior. "This," he declared, "is downright
impressive, and lifted, I'm sure, out of a novel of Ouida's.
"You will remember," he continued, "complaining about my sense of
humor one evening; and that, at the time, I warned you it might grow
worse. It has. I am afraid, where you are concerned, that it has
absolutely vanished. My dear, you'll recognize this as a proposal. I
thought my mind was made up, after forty, not to marry; and I
specially tried not to bring you into it. You were too young, I felt.
I doubted if I could make you happy, and did everything possible,
exhausted all the arguments, but it was no good.
"Linda, dear, I adore you."
She was glad, without the slightest answering emotion, that Arnaud,
well—liked her. At the same time all her wisdom declared that she
couldn't marry him; and, with the unsparing frankness of youth and her
individual detachment, she told him exactly why.
"I need a great deal of money," she proceeded, "because I am
frightfully extravagant. All I have is expensive; I hate cheap
things—even what satisfies most rich girls. Why, just my satin
slippers cost hundreds of dollars and I'll pay unlimited amounts for a
little fulling of lace or some rare flowers. You'd call it wicked, but
I can't help it—it's me.
"I've always intended to marry a man with a hundred thousand
dollars a year. Of course, that's a lot—do you hate me for telling
you?—but I wouldn't think of any one with less than fifty—"
Arnaud Hallet interrupted quietly, "I have that."
Linda gazed incredulously at his neglected shoes, the wrinkles of
his inconsiderable coat and unstudied scarf. She saw that, actually,
he had spoken apologetically of his possessions; and a stinging shame
spread through her at the possibility that she had seemed common to an
infinitely finer delicacy than hers.
Most of these circumstances Linda Hallet quietly recalled sitting with
her husband in the house that had been occupied by the Lowries'. A
letter from Pleydon had taken her into a past seven years gone by;
while ordinarily her memory was indistinct; ordinarily she was fully
occupied by the difficulties, or rather compromises, of the present.
But, in the tranquil open glow of a Franklin stove and the withdrawn
intentness of Arnaud reading, her mind had returned to the distressed
period of her wedding.
Elouise Lowrie—Amelia was dead—sunk in a stupor of extreme old
age, her bloodless hands folded in an irreproachable black surah silk
lap, sat beyond the stove; and Lowrie, Linda's elder child, five and a
half, together with his sister Vigne, had been long asleep above.
Linda was privately relieved by this: her children presented enormous
The boy, already at a model school, appalled her inadequate
preparations by his flashes of perceptive intelligence; while she was
frankly abashed at the delicate rosy perfection of her daughter.
The present letter was the third she had received from Dodge
Pleydon, whom she had not seen since her marriage. At first he had
been enraged at the wrong, he had every reason to feel, she had done
Then his anger had dissolved into a meager correspondence of
outward and obvious facts. There was so much that she had been unable
to explain. He had always been impatient, even contemptuous, of the
emotion that made her surrender to him unthinkable—Linda realized
now that it had been the strongest impulse of her life—and, of
course, she had never accounted for the practically unbalanced enmity
of her mother.
The latter had deepened to an incredible degree, so much so that
Mr. Moses Feldt, though he had never taken an actual part in it—such
bitterness was entirely outside his generous sentimentality—had
become acutely uncomfortable in his own home, imploring Linda, with
ready tears, to be kinder to her mama. Judith, too, had grown cutting,
jealous of Linda's serenity of youth, as her appearance showed the
effect of her wasting emotions. Things quite extraordinary had
happened: once Linda's skin had been almost seriously affected by an
irritation that immediately followed the trace of her powder puff; and
at several times she had had clumsily composed anonymous notes of a
most distressing nature.
She had wondered, calmly enough, which of the two bitter women
were responsible, and decided that it was her mother. At this the
situation at the Feldts', increasingly strained, had become an
impossibility. Arnaud Hallet, after his first visit, had soon
There was no more mention of his money; but every time he saw her
he asked her again, in his special manner—a formality flavored by a
slight diffident humor—to marry him. Arnaud's proposals had
alternated with Pleydon's utterly different demand.
Linda remembered agonized evenings when, in a return of his brutal
manner of the unforgettable night in the Lowrie garden, he tried to
force a recognition of his passion. It had left her cold, exhausted,
the victim of a mingled disappointment at her failure to respond with
a hatred of all essential existence. At last, on a particularly trying
occasion, she had desperately agreed to marry him.
The aversion of her mother, becoming really dangerous, had finally
appalled her; and a headache weighed on her with a leaden pain. Dodge,
too, had been unusually considerate; he talked about the future—tied
up, he asserted, in her—of his work; and suddenly, at the signal of
her rare tears, Linda agreed to a wedding.
In the middle of the night she had wakened oppressed by a dread
resulting in an uncontrollable chill. She thought first that her
mother was bending a malignant face over her; and then realized that
her feeling was caused by her promise to Dodge Pleydon. It had grown
worse instead of vanishing, waves of nameless shrinking swept over
her; and in the morning, further harrowed by the actualities of being,
she had sent a telegram to Arnaud Hallet—to Arnaud's kindness and
affection, his detachment not unlike her own.
They were married immediately; and through the ceremony and the
succeeding days she had been almost entirely absorbed in a sensation
of escape. At the death of Amelia Lowrie, soon after, Arnaud had
suggested a temporary period in the house she remembered with
pleasure; and, making small alterations with the months and years,
they had tacitly agreed to remain.
Linda often wondered, walking about the lower floor, why it seemed
so familiar to her: she would stand in the dining room, with its
ceiling of darkened beams, and gaze absentminded through the long
windows at the close-cut walled greenery without. The formal
drawing-room, at the right of the street entrance, equally held her a
cool interior with slatted wooden blinds, a white mantelpiece with
delicately reeded supports and a bas-relief of Minerva on the center
panel, a polished brass scuttle for cannel-coal and chairs with wide
severely fretted backs upholstered in old pale damask.
The house seemed familiar, but she could never grow accustomed to
the undeniable facts of her husband, the children and her completely
changed atmosphere. She admitted to herself that her principal feeling
in connection with Lowrie and Vigne was embarrassment. Here she always
condemned herself as an indifferent, perhaps unnatural, mother. She
couldn't help it. In the same sense she must be an unsatisfactory
Linda was unable to shake off the conviction that it was like a
play in which she had no more than a spectator's part.
This was her old disability, the result of her habit of sitting, as
a child, apart from the concerns and stir of living. She made every
possible effort to overcome it, to surrender to her new conditions;
but, if nothing else, an instinctive shyness prevented. It went back
further, even, she thought, than her own experience, and she recalled
all she had heard and reconstructed of her father—a man shut in on
himself who had, one day, without a word walked out of the door and
left his wife, never to return.
These realizations, however, did little to clarify her vision; she
was continually trying to adjust her being to circumstances that
persistently remained a little distant and blurred.
In appearance, anyhow, Linda told herself with a measure of
reassurance, she was practically unchanged. She still, with the
support of Arnaud, disregarding current fashion, wore her hair in a
straight bang across her brow and blue gaze. She was as slender as
formerly, but more gracefully round, in spite of the faint
characteristic stiffness that was the result of her mental hesitation.
Her clothes, too, had hardly varied—she wore, whenever possible,
white lawns ruffled about the throat and hem, with broad soft black
sashes, while her more formal dresses were sheaths of dull
unornamented satin extravagant in the perfection of their simplicity.
Arnaud Hallet stirred, sharply closing his book. He had
changed—except for a palpable settling down of grayness—as little as
Linda. For a while she had tried to bring about an improvement in his
appearance, and he had met her expressed wish whenever he remembered
it; but this was not often. In the morning a servant polished his
shoes, brushed and ironed his suits; yet by evening, somehow, he
managed to look as though he hadn't been attended to for days. She
would have liked him to change for dinner; other men of his connection
did, it was a part of his inheritance. Arnaud, however, in his slight
scoffing disparagement, declined individually to annoy himself. He
was, she learned, enormously absorbed in his historical studies and
"Did you enjoy it?" she asked politely of his reading. "Extremely,"
he replied. "The American Impressions of Tyrone Power, the English
actor, through eighteen thirty-three and four. His account of a
European packet with its hand-bells and Saratoga water and breakfast
of spitchcock is inimitable. I'd like to have sat at Cato's then, with
a julep or hail-storm, and watched the trotting races."
Elouise Lowrie rose unsteadily, confused with dozing; but almost
immediately she gathered herself into a relentless propriety and a
"What has been running through that mysterious mind of yours?"
"I had a letter from Dodge," she told him simply; "and I was
thinking a little about the past." He exhibited the nice unstrained
interest of his admirable personality. "Is he still in France?" he
queried. "Pleydon should be a strong man; I am sure we are both
conscious of a little disappointment in him." She said: "I'll read you
his letter, it's on the table.
"'You will see, my dear Linda, that I have not moved from the Rue
de Penthievre, although I have given up the place at Etretat, and I am
not going to renew the lease here. Rodin insists, and I am coming to
agree with him, that I ought to be in America. But the serious
attitude here toward art, how impossible that word has been made, is
charming. And you will be glad to know that I have had some success in
the French good opinion. A marble, Cotton Mather, that I cut from the
stone, has been bought for the Luxembourg.
"'I can hear you both exclaim at the subject, but it is very
representative of me now. I am tired of mythological naiads in a
constant state of pursuit. Get Hallet to tell you something about
Mather. What a somber flame! I have a part Puritan ancestry, as any
Lowrie will inform you. Well, I shall be back in a few months, very
serious, and a politician—a sculptor has to be that if he means to
land any public monuments in America.
"'I hope to see you."' The letter ended abruptly, with the
"Are you happy, Linda?" Arnaud Hallet asked unexpectedly after a
short silence. So abruptly interrogated she was unable to respond.
"What I mean is," he explained, "do you think you would have been
happier married to him? I knew, certainly, that it was the closest
possible thing between us." Now, however, she was able to satisfy him:
"I couldn't marry Dodge."
"Is it possible to tell me why?"
"He hurt me very much once. I tried to marry him, I tried to forget
it, but it was useless. I was dreadfully unhappy, in a great many
"So you sent for me," he put in as she paused reflectively. "I
didn't hurt you, at any rate." It seemed to her that his tone was
"You have never hurt me, Arnaud," she assured him, conscious of the
inadequacy of her words. "You were everything I wanted."
"Except for my hats," he said in a brief flash of his saving humor.
"It would be better for me, perhaps, if I could hurt you. That ability
comes dangerously close to a constant of love. You mustn't think I am
complaining. I haven't the slightest reason in the face of your
devastating honesty. I didn't distress you and I had the necessary
minimum—the fifty thousand." His manner was so even, so devoid of
sting, that she could smile at the expression of her material
ambitions. "I realize exactly your feeling for myself, but what
puzzles me is your attitude toward the children."
"I don't understand it either," she admitted, "except that I am
quite afraid of them. They are so different from all my own childhood;
often they are too much for me. Then I dread the time when they will
discover how stupid and uneducated I am at bottom. I'm sure you
already ask questions before them to amuse yourself at my doubt. What
shall I do, Arnaud, when they are really at school and bring home
"Retreat behind your dignity as a parent," he advised. "They are
certain to display their knowledge and ask you to bound things or name
the capital of Louisiana." She cried, "Oh, but I know that, it's New
Orleans!" She saw at once, from his entertained expression, that she
was wrong again, and became conscious of a faint flush of annoyance.
"It will be even worse," she continued, "when Vigne looks to me for
advice; I mean when she is older and has lovers."
"She won't seriously; they never do. She'll tell you when it's all
Lowrie will depend more on you. I may have my fun about the capital
of Louisiana, Linda, but I have the greatest confidence in your
God knows what an unhappy experience your childhood was, but it has
given you a superb worldly balance."
"I suppose you're saying that I am cold," she told him. "It must be
true, because it is repeated by every one. Yet, at times, I used to he
very different—you'd never imagine what a romantic thrill or strange
ideas were inside of me. Like a memory of a deep woods, and—and the
loveliest adventure. Often I would hear music as clearly as possible,
and it made me want I don't know what terrifically."
"An early experience," he replied. Suddenly she saw that he was
tired, his face was lined and dejected. "You read too much," Linda
declared. He said: "But only out of the printed book." She wondered
vainly what he meant. As he stood before the glimmering coals, in the
room saturated in repose, she wished that she might give him more; she
wanted to spend herself in a riot of feeling on Arnaud and their
What a detestable character she had! Her desire, her efforts, were
He went about putting up the windows and closing the outside
shutters, a confirmed habit. Linda rose with her invariable sense of
separation, the feeling that, bound on a journey with a hidden
destination, she was only temporarily in a place of little importance.
It was like being always in her hat and jacket. Arnaud shook down the
grate; then he gazed over the room; it was all, she was sure, as it
had been a century ago, as it should be—all except herself.
Yet her marriage had realized in almost every particular what she
had—so much younger—planned. The early suggestion, becoming through
constant reiteration a part of her knowledge, had been followed and
accomplished; and, as well, her later needs were served. Linda told
herself that, in a world where a very great deal was muddled, she had
been unusually fortunate. And this made her angry at her pervading
lack of interest in whatever she had obtained.
Other women, she observed, obviously less fortunate than she, were
volubly and warmly absorbed in any number of engagements and
pleasures; she continually heard them, Arnaud's connections—the whole
superior society, eternally and vigorously discussing servants and
bridge, family and cotillions, indiscretions and charities. These
seemed enough for them; their lives were filled, satisfied,
Linda, for the most part, had but little to do.
Her servants, managed with remote exactness, gave no trouble; she
had an excellent woman for the children; her dress presented no new
points of anxiety nor departure... she was, in short, Arnaud admitted,
perfectly efficient. She disposed of such details mechanically, almost
impatiently, and was contemptuous, no envious, of the women whose
demands they contented.
At the dinners, the balls, to which Arnaud's sense of obligation
both to family and her took them against his inclination, it was the
same—everyone, it appeared to Linda, was flushed with an intentness
she could not share. Men, she found, some of them extremely pleasant,
still made adroit and reassuring efforts for her favor; the air here,
she discovered, was even freer than the bravado of her earlier
This love-making didn't disturb her—it was, ultimately, the men
who were fretted—indeed, she had rather hoped that it would bring her
the relief she lacked.
But again the observations and speculation of her mature childhood,
what she had heard revealed in the most skillful feminine dissections,
had cleared her understanding to a point that made the advances of
hopeful men quite entertainingly obvious. Their method was appallingly
similar and monotonous. She liked, rather than not, the younger ones,
whose confidence that their passion was something new on earth at
times refreshed her; but the navigated materialism of greater
experience finally became distasteful. She discussed this sharply with
"You simply can't help believing that most women are complete
"You haven't said much more for men."
"The whole thing is too silly! Why is it, Arnaud? It ought to be
impressive and sweep you off your feet, up—"
"Instead of merely behind some rented palms," he added. "But I
must say, Linda, that you are not a very highly qualified judge of
sentiment." He pronounced this equably, but she was conscious of the
presence of an injury in his voice. She was a little weary at being
eternally condemned for what she couldn't help. Any failure was as
much Arnaud Hallet's as hers; he had had his opportunity, all that for
which he had implored her. Her thoughts returned to Dodge Pleydon.
April was well advanced, and he had written that he'd be back and
see them in the spring. Linda listened to her heart but it was
unhastened by a beat. She would be very glad to have him at hand, in
her life again, of course.
Then the direction of her mind veered—what did he still think of
her? Probably he had altogether recovered from his love for her. It
had been a warm day, and Arnaud had opened a window; but now she was
aware of a cold air on her shoulder and she asked him abruptly to
lower the sash. Linda remembered, with a lingering sense of triumph,
the Susanna Noda whom Dodge had left at a party for her. There had
been a great many Susannas in his life; the reason for this was the
absence of any overwhelming single influence. It might be that now—he
had written of the change in the subjects of his work—such a guide
had come into his existence. She hoped she had. Yet, in view of the
announced silliness of women, she didn't want him to be cheaply
He was an extremely human man.
But she, Linda, it seemed, was an inhuman woman. The days ran into
weeks that added another month to spring; a June advanced sultry with
heat; and, suddenly as usual, a maid at the door of her room announced
Pleydon. It was five o'clock in the afternoon, she had to dress, and
she sent him a message that he mustn't expect her in a hurry. She
paused in her deliberate preparations for a long thoughtful gaze into
a mirror; there was not yet a shadow on her face, the trace of a line
at her eyes.
The sharp smooth turning and absolute whiteness of her bare
shoulders were flawless.
At first it appeared to Linda that he, too, had not changed. They
were in the library opening into the dining-room, a space shut against
the sun by the Venetian blinds, and faintly scented by a bowl of early
tea roses. He appeared the same—large and informally clad in gray
flannels, with aggressive features and sensitive strong hands. He was
quiet but plainly happy to be with her again and sat leaning forward
on his knees, watching her intently as she chose a seat.
Then it slowly dawned on her that he had changed, yes tragically.
Pleydon, in every way, was years older. His voice, less arbitrary,
had new depths of questioning, his mouth was more repressed, his face
notably sparer of flesh. He was immediately aware of the result of her
scrutiny. "I have been working like a fool," he explained. "A breath
of sickness, too, four years ago in Soochow. One of the damnable
Asiatic fevers that a European is supposed to be immune from. You are
a miracle, Linda. How long has it been—nearly eight years; you have
two children and Arnaud Hallet and yet you are the girl I met at
Markue's. I wanted to see you different, just a little, a trace of
something that should have happened to you. It hasn't. You're the most
remarkable mother alive."
"If I am," she returned, "it is not as a success, or at least for
Lowrie and Vigne are healthy, and happy enough; but I can't lose
myself in them, Dodge; I can't lose myself at all."
He was quiet at this, the smoke of his cigarette climbing bluely in
a space with the aqueous stillness of a lake's depths. "The same," he
went on after a long pause; "nothing has touched you. I ought to be
relieved but, do you know, it frightens me. You are relentless. You
have no right, at the same time, to be beautiful. I have seen a great
many celebrated women at their best moments, but you are lovelier than
any. It isn't a simple affair of proportion and features—I wish I
could hold it in a phrase, the turn of a chisel. I can't. It's
deathless romance in a bang cut blackly across heavenly blue." He was
silent again, and Linda glad that he still found her attractive. She
discovered that the misery his presence once caused her had entirely
vanished, its place taken by an eager interest in his affairs, a
lightness of spirit at the realization that, while his love for her
might have grown calm, no other woman possessed it.
At the dinner-table she listened—cool and fresh, Arnaud complained,
in spite of the heat—to the talk of the two men. By her side Elouise
Lowrie occasionally repeated, in a voice like the faint jangle of an
old thin piano, the facts of a family connection or a commendation of
the Dodges. Arnaud really knew a surprising lot, and his conversation
with Pleydon was strung with terms completely unintelligible to her.
It developed, finally, into an argument over the treatment of the
acanthus motive in rococo ornament. France was summoned against Spain;
the architectural degrading of Italy deplored.... It amazed her that
any one could remember so much.
Linda without a conscious reason suddenly stopped the investigation
of her feeling for Pleydon. Even in the privacy of her thoughts an
added obscurity kept her from the customary clear reasoning. After
dinner, out in the close gloom of the garden, she watched the flicker
of the cigarettes. There was thunder, so distant and vague that for a
long while Linda thought she was deceived. She had a keen rushing
sensation of the strangeness of her situation here—Linda Hallet. The
night was like a dream from which she would stir, sigh, to find
herself back again in the past waiting for the return of her mother
from one of her late parties.
But it was Arnaud who moved and, accompanying Elouise Lowrie, went
into the house for his interminable reading. Pleydon's voice began in
a low remembering tone:
"What a fantastic place the Feldt apartment was, with that
smothered room where you said you would marry me. You must have got
hold of Hallet in the devil of a hurry. I've often tried to understand
what happened; why, all the time, you were upset—why, why, why?"
"In a way it was because a ridiculous hairdresser burned out some
of my mother's front wave," she explained.
"Of course," he replied derisively, "nothing could be plainer."
She agreed calmly. "It was very plain. If you want me to try to
tell you don't interrupt. It isn't a happy memory, and I am only doing
it because I was so rotten to you.
"Yes, I can see now that it was the hairdresser and a hundred other
things exactly the same. My mother, all the women we knew, did
nothing but lace and paint and frizzle for men. I used to think it was
a game they played and wonder where the fun was. There were even hints
about that and later they particularized and it made me as sick as
possible. The men, too, were odious; mostly fat and bald; and after a
while, when they pinched or kissed me, I wanted to die.
"That was all I knew about love, I had never heard of any
other—men away from their families for what they called a good time
and women plotting and planning to give it to them or not give it to
them. Then mother, after her looks were spoiled, married Mr. Moses
Feldt, and I met Judith, who only existed for men and men's rooms and
told me worse things, I'm sure, than mother ever dreamed; and, on top
of that, I met you and you kissed me.
"But it was different from any other; it didn't shock me, and it
brought back a thrill I have always had. I wanted, then, to love you,
and have you ask me to marry you, more than anything else in the
world. I was sure, if you would only be patient, that I could change
what had hurt me into a beautiful feeling. I couldn't tell you because
I didn't understand myself." She stopped, and Pleydon repeated,
bitterly and slow:
"Fat old bald men; and I was one with them destroying your
exquisite hope." She heard the creak of the basket chair as he leaned
forward, his face masked in darkness. "Perhaps you think I haven't
"You will never know what love is unless I can manage somehow to
make you understand how much I love you. Hallet will have to endure
your hearing it. This doesn't belong to him; it has not touched the
Every one, more or less, talks about love; but not one in a
thousand, not one in a million, has such an experience. If they did it
would tear the world into shreds. It would tear them as it has me. I
realize the other, the common thing—who experimented more! This has
nothing to do with it. A boy lost in the idealism of his first worship
has a faint reflection. Listen:
"I can always, with a wish, see you standing before me. You
yourself—the folds of your sash, the sharp narrow print of your
slippers on the pavement or the matting or the rug, the ruffles about
I have the feeling of you near me with your breathing disturbing
the delicacy of your breast. There is the odor and shimmer of your
hair... your lips move... but without a sound.
"This vision is more real than reality, than an opera-house full of
people or the Place VendŽme; and it, you, is all I care for, all I
think about, all I want. I find quiet places and stay there for hours,
with you; or, if that isn't possible, I turn into a blind man, a dead
man warm again at the bare thought of your face. Listen:
"I've been in shining heaven with you. I have been melted to
nothing and made over again, in you, good. We have been walking
together in a new world with rapture instead of air to breathe. A slow
walk through dark trees—God knows why—like pines. And every time I
think of you it is exactly as though I could never die, as though you
had burned all the corruption out of me and I was made of silver fire.
"Nothing else is of any importance, now or afterward, you are now
and the hereafter. I see people and people and hear words and words,
and I forget them the moment they have gone, the second they are
But I haven't lost an inflection of your voice. When I work in clay
or stone I model and cut you into every surface and fold. I see you
looking back at me out of marble and bronze. And here, in this garden,
you tried to give me more—"
The infinitely removed thunder was like the continued echo of his
voice. There was a stirring of the leaves above her head; and the
light that had shone against the house in Elouise Lowrie's window was
suddenly extinguished. All that she felt was weariness and a confused
dejection, the weight of an insuperable disappointment. She could say
nothing. Words, even Pleydon's, seemed to her vain. The solid fact of
Arnaud, of what Dodge, more than seven years before, had robbed her,
put everything else aside, crushed it.
She realized that she would never get from life what supremely
repaid the suffering of other women, made up for them the failure of
practically every vision. She was sorry for herself, yes, and for
Dodge Pleydon. Yet he had his figures in metal and stone; his sense of
the importance of his work had increased enormously; and, well, there
were Lowrie and Vigne; it would be difficult, every one agreed, to
find better or handsomer children. But they seemed no more than
shadows or colored mist. This terrified her—what a hopelessly
deficient woman she must be! But even in the profundity of her
depression the old vibration of nameless joy reached her heart.
In the morning there was a telegram from Judith Feldt, saying that
her mother was dangerously sick, and she had lunch on the train for
New York. The apartment seemed stuffy; there was a trace of dinginess,
neglect, about the black velvet rugs and hangings. Her mother, she
found, had pneumonia; there was practically no chance of her
Linda sat for a short while by the elder's bed, intent upon a
totally strange woman, darkly flushed and ravished in an agonizing
difficulty of breathing. Linda had a remembered vision of her
gold-haired and gay in floating chiffons, and suddenly life seemed
shockingly brief. A serious-visaged clergyman entered the room as she
left and she heard the rich soothing murmur of a confident phrase.
The Stella Condon who had become Mrs. Moses Feldt had had little
time for the support of the church; although Linda recalled that she
had uniformly spoken well of its offices. To condemn Christianity, she
had asserted, was to invite bad luck. She treated this in exactly the
way she regarded walking under ladders or spilling salt or putting on
a stocking wrong. Linda, however, had disregarded these possibilities
of disaster and, with them, religion.
A great many people, she noticed, talked at length about it; women
in their best wraps and with expensive little prayer books left the
hotels for various Sunday morning services, and ministers came in
later for tea. All this, she understood, was in preparation for
heaven, where everybody, who was not in hell, was to be forever the
same and yet radiantly different. It seemed very vague and far away to
Linda, and, since there was such a number of immediate problems for
her to consider, she had easily ignored the future. When now, with her
mother dying, it was thrust most uncomfortably before her.
She half remembered sentences, admonitions, of the godly—a woman
had once told her that dancing and low gowns were hateful in the sight
of God, some one else that playing-cards were an instrument of the
devil. Pleasure, she had gathered, was considered wrong, and she
instinctively put these opinions, together with a great deal else,
aside as envious.
That expressed her whole experience. She had never keenly
associated the thought of death with herself before, and she was
unutterably revolted by the impending destruction of her fine body,
the delicate care of which formed her main preoccupation in life. Age
was supremely distasteful, but this other... she shuddered.
Linda wanted desperately to preserve the whiteness of her skin, the
flexible black distinction of her hair, yes—her beauty. Here, again,
with other women the vicarious immortality of children would be
But not for her. She was in the room that had been hers before
marriage, with her infinite preparations for the night at an end; and,
her hair loose across the blanched severity of her attire, her
delicately full arms bare, she clasped her cold hands in stabbing
She would do anything, anything, to escape that repulsive fatality
to her lavished care. It was only to be accomplished by being good;
and goodness was in the charge of the minister. She saw clearly and at
once her difficulty—how could she go to a solemn man in a clerical
vest and admit that she was solely concerned by the impending loss of
The promised splendor of heaven, in itself, failed to move her—it
threatened to be monotonous; and she was honest in her recognition
that charity, the ugliness of poverty, repelled her. Linda was certain
that she could never change in these particulars; she could only
A surprising multiplication of such pretense occurred to her in
people regarded as impressively religious. She had seen men like
that—she vaguely thought of the name Jasper—going off with her
mother in cabs to dinners that must have been "godless." She wondered
if this mere attitude, the public show, were enough. And an
instinctive response told her that it was not. If all she had been
informed about the future were true she decided that her mother's
chance was no worse than that of any false display of virtue.
She, Linda, could do nothing.
The funeral ceremony with its set form—so inappropriate to her
mother's qualities—was even more remote from Linda's sympathies than
was common in her encounters. But Mr. Moses Feldt's grief appeared to
her actual and affecting. He invested every one with the purity of his
She left New York at the first possible moment with the feeling
that she was definitely older. The realization, she discovered,
happened in that way—ordinarily giving the flight of time no
consideration it was brought back to her at intervals of varying
length. As she aged they would grow shorter.
The result of this experience was an added sense of failure; she
tried more than ever to overcome her indifference, get a greater
happiness from her surroundings and activity. Linda cultivated an
attention to Lowrie and Vigne. They responded charmingly but her
shyness with them persisted in the face of her inalienable right to
their full possession.
She insisted, too, on going about vigorously in spite of Arnaud's
humorous groans and protests. She forced herself to talk more to the
men attracted to her, and assumed, with disconcerting ease, an air of
sympathetic interest. But, unfortunately, this brought on her a rapid
increase of the lovemaking that she found so fatiguing.
She studied her husband thoughtfully through the evenings at home,
before the Franklin stove, or, in summer, in the secluded garden.
Absolutely nothing was wrong with him; he had, after several
deaths, inherited even more money; and, in his deprecating manner
where it was concerned, devoted it to her wishes. Except for books,
and the clothes she was forced to remind him to get, he had no
personal expenses. In addition to the money he never offended her, his
relationships and manner were conducted with an inborn nice formality
that preserved her highest self-opinion.
Yet she was never able to escape from the limitations of a calm
admiration; she couldn't lose herself, disregard herself in a flood of
generous emotion. When, desperately, she tried, he, too, was
perceptibly ill at ease. Usually he was undisturbed, but once, when
she stood beside him with her coffee cup at dinner, he disastrously
lost his equanimity.
Tensely putting the cup away he caught her with straining hands.
"Oh, Linda," he cried, "is it true that you love me! Do you really
belong to us—to Vigne and Lowrie and me? I can't stand it if you
won't... some day."
She backed away into the opening of a window, against the night,
from the justice of his desire; and she was cold with self-detestation
as her fingers touched the glass. Linda tried to speak, to lie; but,
miserably still, she was unable to deceive him. The animation, the
fervor of his longing, swiftly perished. His arms dropped to his side.
An unbearable constraint deepened with the silence in the room, and
later he lightly said:
"You mustn't trifle with my ancient heart, Linda, folly and age—"
The only other quantity in her life was Dodge Pleydon. He wrote her
again, perhaps three months after the explanation of his love; but his
letter was devoted wholly to his work, and so technical that she had
to ask Arnaud to interpret it. He added:
"That is the mind of an impressive man. He has developed
enormously—curious, so late in life. Pleydon must be fully as old as
myself. It's clear that he has dropped his women. I saw a photograph
of the Cotton Mather reproduced in a weekly, and it was as gaunt as a
Puritan Sunday. Brimmed with power. Why don't we see him oftener?
Write and say I'd like to contradict him again about the Eastlake
He made no further reference to Pleydon then, and Linda failed to
write as Arnaud suggested. Though she wasn't disturbed at the
possibility of a continuation of his admissions of love she was weary
of the thought of its uselessness. Linda was, she told herself, damned
by practicability. Her husband used the familiar term of reproach,
She didn't in the least want to be. Circumstance, she had a
feeling, had forced it upon her.
Arnaud, however, who had met Dodge Pleydon in Philadelphia,
brought him home. Linda saw with a strange constriction of the heart
that Pleydon's hair was definitely gray. He had had a recurrence of
the fever contracted in Soochow. The men at once entered on another
discussion which she was unable to follow; but it was clear that her
husband now listened with an increasing surrender of opinion to the
sculptor. Pleydon, it was true, was correspondingly more impatient
with minds that disagreed with his. He was at once thinner and bigger,
his face deeply lined; but his eyes had a steady vital intensity
difficult to encounter.
She considered him in detail as the talk left dinner, the glasses
and candles spent. He drank, from a tall tumbler with a single piece
of ice, the special whisky Arnaud kept. He had been neglecting
himself, too—there were traces of clay about his finger-nails, and he
ate hurriedly and insufficiently. When she had an opportunity, Linda
decided, she would speak to him about these necessary trifles. Then,
she had no chance; and it was not until the following winter, at a
Thursday afternoon concert during the yearly exhibition of the Academy
of Fine Arts, that she could gently complain.
It was gloomy, with a promise of snow outside; and the great space
of the stairway to the galleries was filled with shadow and the
strains of Armide echoing from the orchestra playing at the railing
above the entrance. Pleydon, together with a great many others, had
spread an overcoat on the masonry of the steps, and they were seated
in the obscurity of the balustrade.
"You look as though you hadn't had enough to eat," she observed.
"You used to be almost thick but now you are a thing of terrifying
grimness. You look like a monk. I wonder why you're like a monk,
"Linda Condon," he replied.
"That can't be it now; I haven't been Linda Condon for years, but
Mrs. Arnaud Hallet. It's very pretty, of course, and I'd like to think
you could keep a young love alive so long. Experience makes me doubt
anything of the sort; but then I was always skeptical."
"You have never been anyone else," he asserted positively. "You
were born Linda Condon and you'll die that, except for some
extraordinary accident. I can't imagine what it would be—a miracle
like quaker-ladies in the Antarctic."
"It sounds uncomplimentary, and I'm sick of being compared with
polar places. What are quaker-ladies?"
"Fragile little flowers in the spring meadows."
"I'd rather listen to the music than you,"
"That is why loving you is so eternal, why it doesn't fluctuate
like a human emotion. You can't exhaust it and rest before a new tide
sweeps back; the timeless ecstasy of a worship of God... breeding
She failed to understand and turned a troubled gaze to his bitter
repression. "I don't like to make you unhappy, Dodge," she said in a
low tone. "What can I do? I am a horrid disappointment to all of you,
but most to myself. I can't go over it again."
"Beauty has nothing to do with happiness," he declared harshly. He
rose, without consulting her wishes; and Linda followed him as he
proceeded above, irresistibly drawn to the bronze he was showing in
It was the head and part of the shoulders of a very old woman,
infinitely worn, starved by want and spent in brutal labor. There was
a thin wisp of hair pinned in a meager knot on her skull; her bones
were mercilessly indicated, barely covered with drum-like skin; her
mouth was stamped with timid humility; while her eyes peered weakly
from their sunken depths.
"Well?" he demanded, interrogating her in the interest of his work.
"I—I suppose it's perfectly done," she replied, at a loss for a
satisfactory appreciation. "It's true, certainly. But isn't it more
unpleasant than necessary?" Pleydon smiled patiently. "Beauty," he
said, with his mobile gesture. "Pity, Katharsis the wringing out of
The helpless feeling of her overwhelming ignorance returned. She
was like a woman held beyond the closed door of treasure. "Come over
here." He unceremoniously led her to the modeling of a ruffled grouse,
faithful in every diversified feather. Linda thought it admirable,
really amazing; but he dismissed it with a passionate energy. "The
dull figuriste!" he exclaimed. "Daguerre. Once I could have done that,
yes, and been entertained by its adroitness and insolence—before you
made me. Do you suppose I was able then to understand the sheer tragic
fortitude to live of a scrubwoman! The head you thought
unpleasant—haven't you seen her going home in the March slush of a
city? Did you notice the gaps in her shoes, the ragged shawl about a
body twisted with forty, fifty, sixty years of wet stone floors and
Did you wonder what she had for supper?"
"No, Dodge, I didn't. They always make me wretched."
"Well, to realize all that, to feel the degradation of her nature,
to lie, sick with exhaustion, on the broken slats of her bed under a
ravelled-out travesty of a quilt, and get up morning after morning in
an iron winter dark—to experience that in your spirit and put it into
durable metal, hard stone—is to hold beauty in your hands."
Her interest in his speech was mingled with the knowledge that, in
order to dress comfortably for dinner, she must leave immediately.
Pleydon helped her into the Hallet open motor landaulet. Linda
demanded quantities of air. He was, he told her at the door, leaving
in an hour for New York. "I wish you could be happier," she insisted.
He reminded her that he had had the afternoon with her. It was so
little, she thought, carried rapidly over a smooth wide street. His
love for her increased rather than lessened. How wonderful it was....
The woman outside that barred door of treasure.
Linda thought frequently about Dodge and his feeling for her;
memories of his words, his appearance, speculations, spread through
her tranquil daily affairs like the rich subdued pattern of a fine
carpet on the bare floor of her life. She was puzzled by the depth of
a passion that, apparently, made no demands other than the occasional
necessity to be with her and the knowledge that she existed. If she
had been a very intelligent woman, and, of course, not quite
bad-looking, she might have understood both Pleydon and Arnaud, the
latter a man whose mind was practically absorbed in the pages of
books. There could be no doubt, no question, of their love for her.
Then there had always been the others—the men at the parties, in
her garden, through the old days of her childhood in hotels. It was
very stupid, very annoying, but at the same time she became interested
in what, with her candid indifference, affected them. She had never,
really, even when she desired, succeeded in giving them anything,
anything conscious or for which they moved. Judith Feldt, on the
contrary, had been prodigal. And, while certainly numbers of men had
been attracted to her, they all tired of her with marked rapidity. Men
met Judith, Linda recalled, with eagerness, they came immediately and
often to see her... for, perhaps, a month. Then, temporarily deserted,
she was submerged in depression and nervous tears.
But, while it was obviously impossible for all lovers to be
constant, two extraordinary and superior men would be faithful to her
as long as she lived, no—as long as they lived. This was beyond
doubt. One was celebrated—she watched with a quiet pride Pleydon's
fame penetrate the country—and the other, her husband, a person of
the most exacting delicacy of habits, intellect and wit.
What was it, she wondered, that made the supreme importance of
women to men worth consideration. Linda was thinking of this now in
connection with her daughter. Vigne was fourteen; a larger girl than
she had ever been, with her father's fine abundant cinnamon-brown
hair, a shapely sensitive mouth, and a wide brown gaze with a habit of
straying, at inappropriate moments, from things seen to the invisible.
She was, Linda realized thankfully, transparently honest; her only
affectation was the slight supercilious manner of her associations;
and she read, ridiculously like her father, with increasing pleasure.
However, what engaged Linda most was the fact that Vigne already
liked men; she had been at the fringe, as it were, of young dances,
with a sparkling satisfaction to herself and the securely nice youths
who "cut in"
at her brief appearances.
The truth was that Linda saw that more than a trace of Stella
Condon's warm generosity of emotion had been brought by herself to
Arnaud's daughter. The faults of every life, every circumstance, were
endlessly multiplied through all existence. At fourteen, it was
Linda's frowning impression, her mother had very fully instructed her
in the wiles and structure of admirable marriage, and she had never
completely lost some hard pearls of the elder's wisdom. Should she, in
turn, communicate them to Vigne?
The moment, the anxiety, she dreaded was arriving, and it found her
no freer of doubt than had the other aspects of her own responses. Yet
here she was possessed by the keenest need for absolute rectitude; and
perhaps this, she thought, with an unusual pleasure, was an evidence
of the affection she had seemed to lack. But in the end she said
She was still unable to disentangle the flesh from the spirit,
love—the love that so amazingly illuminated Dodge Pleydon—from
Dodge had disturbed all her sense of values, even to the point of
unsettling her allegiance to the supremacy of a great deal of money.
He had worked this without giving her anything definite, that she
could explain to Vigne, in return. Linda preserved her demand for the
actual. If she could only comprehend the force animating Dodge she
felt life would be clear.
She was tempted to experiment—when had such a possibility
occurred to her before?—and discover just how far in several
directions Pleydon's devotion went. This would be easy now, she was
unrestrained by the fact of Arnaud, and the old shrinking from the
sculptor happily vanished. Yet with him before her, on one of his
infrequent visits to their house, she realized that her courage was
insufficient. Was it that or something deeper—a reluctance to turn
herself like a knife in the source of the profoundest compliment a
woman could be paid. Linda thought too highly of his love for that;
the texture of the carpet had become too gratifying.
They were all three in the library, as customary; and Linda,
restless, saw her reflection in a closed long window. She was wearing
yellow, the color of the jonquils on a candle-stand; but with her
familiar sash tied and the ends falling to the hem of her skirt. The
pointed oval of her face was unchanged, her pallor, the straight line
of her black bang, the blueness of her eyes, were as they had been a
surprisingly long while ago. Arnaud, with a disconcerting
comprehension, demanded, "Well, are you satisfied?" She replied
coolly, "Entirely." Pleydon, seated for over an hour without moving,
or even the trivial relief of a cigarette, followed her with his
luminous uncomfortable gaze, his disembodied passion.
Linda heard Vigne's laugh, the expression of a sheer lightness of
heart, following a low eager murmur of voices in her daughter's room,
and she was startled by its resemblance to the gay pitch of Mrs. Moses
Feldt's old merriment. Three of Vigne's friends were with her, all
approximately eighteen, talking, Linda knew, men and—it was
autumn—anticipating the excitements of their bow to formal society
that winter. They had, she silently added, little enough to learn
about the latter. Through the year past they had been to a
dancing-class identical, except for an earlier hour and age, with
mature affairs; but before that they had been practically introduced
to the pleasures of their inheritance.
The men were really boys at the university, past the first year,
receptacles of unlimited worldly knowledge and experience. They
belonged to exclusive university societies and eating clubs, and Linda
found their stiff similarity of correct bigoted pattern highly
She had no illusions about what might be called their morals; they
were midway in the period of youthful unrestraint; but she recognized
as well that their attitude toward, for example, Vigne was
irreproachable. Such boys affected to disdain the girls of their
associated families... or imagined themselves incurably in love.
The girls, for their part, while insisting that forty was the ideal
age for a lover—the terms changed with the seasons, last year
"suitor" had been the common phrase—were occasionally swept in young
company into a high irrational passion. Mostly, through skillful adult
pressure or firm negation, such affairs came to nothing; but even
these were sometimes overcome. And, when Linda had been disturbed by
the echo of old days in her daughter's tones, she was considering
exactly such a state.
One of the nicest youths imaginable, Bailey Sandby, had lost all
trace of superior aloofness in a devotion to Vigne. He was short,
squarely built, with clear pink cheeks, steady light blue eyes and
crisp very fair hair. This was his last season of academic
instruction, after which a number of years, at an absurdly low
payment, awaited him in his father's bond brokerage concern. However,
he was, Linda gathered, imperious in his urgent need for Vigne's
Ridiculous, she thought, at the same time illogically rehearsing
the resemblances of Vigne to her grandmother. She had no doubt that
the parties Vigne shared on the terraces and wide lawns, in the
informal dancing at country houses, were sufficiently sophisticated;
there was on occasion champagne, and—for the masculine element
The aroma of wine, lightly clinging to her young daughter's breath,
filled her with an old instinctive sickness.
She had spoken to Arnaud who, in turn, severely addressed Vigne;
but during this Linda had been oppressed by the familiar feeling of
impotence. The girl, of course, had properly heard them; but she gave
her mother the effect of slipping easily beyond their grasp. When she
had gone to bed Arnaud repeated a story brought to him by the juvenile
Lowrie, under the influence of a temporary indignation at his sister's
unwarranted imposition of superiority. Arnaud went on:
"Actually they had this kissing contest, it was at Chestnut Hill,
with a watch held; and Vigne, or so Lowrie insisted, won the prize for
length of time—something like a minute. Now, when I was young—"
Submerged in apprehensive memory Linda lost most of his account of
the Eden-like youth of his earlier day. When, at last, his assertions
pierced her abstraction, it was only to bring her to the realization
of how pathetically little he knew of either Vigne or her. She weighed
the question of utter frankness here—the quality enhanced by
universal obscurity—but she was obliged to check her desire for
perfect understanding. A purely feminine need to hide, even from
Arnaud, any detracting facts about women shut her into a diplomatic
silence. In reality he could offer them no help; their problems—in a
world created more objectively by the hand of man than God—were
singular to themselves.
Women were quite like spoiled captives to foreign princes, masking,
in their apparent complacency, a necessarily secret but insidiously
tyrannical control. It wouldn't do, in view of this, to expose too
The following morning it was Arnaud, rather than herself, who had a
letter from Pleydon. "He wants us to come over to New York and his
studio," the former explained. "He has some commission or other from a
city in the Middle West, and a study to show us. I'd like it very
much; we haven't seen this place, and his surroundings are not to be
Pleydon's rooms were directly off Central Park West, in an
apartment house obviously designed for prosperous creative arts, with
a hall frescoed in the tones of Puvis de Chavannes and an elevator
cage beautifully patterned in iron grilling. Dodge Pleydon met them in
his narrow entry and conducted them into a pleasant reception-room.
"It's a duplex," he explained of his quarters; "the dining-room you
see and the kitchen's beyond, while the baths and all that are over
our heads; the studio fills both floors."
There were low bookcases with their continuous top used as a shelf
for a hundred various objects, deep long chairs of caressing ease and
chairs of coffee-colored wicker with amazingly high backs woven with
designs of polished shells into the semblance of spread peacocks'
The yellow silk curtains at the windows, the rug with the intricate
coloring of a cashmere shawl, the Russian tea service, were in a
perfection of order; and Linda almost resentfully acknowledged the
skilful efficiency of his maid. It was surprising that, without a
wife, a man could manage such a degree of comfort!
Over tea far better than hers, in china of an infinitely finer
fragility, she studied Pleydon thoughtfully. He looked still again
perceptibly older, his face continued to grow sparer of flesh,
emphasizing the aggressively bony structure of his head. When he shut
his mouth after a decided statement she could see the projection of
the jaw and the knotted sinews at the base of his cheeks. No, Dodge
didn't seem well.
She asked if there had been any return of the fever and he nodded
in an impatient affirmative, returning at once to the temporarily
suspended conversation with Arnaud. There was a vast difference, too,
in the way in which he talked.
His attitude was as assertive as ever, but it had less expression
in words; unaccountable periods of silence, almost ill-natured,
overtook him, spaces of abstraction when it was plain that he had
forgotten the presence of whoever might be by. Even direct questions
sometimes failed to pierce immediately his consciousness. Dodge, Linda
told herself, lived entirely too much alone. Then she said this aloud,
thoughtlessly, and she was startled by the sudden intolerable flash of
his gaze. An awkward pause followed, broken by the uprearing of
Pleydon's considerable length.
"I must take you into the studio before it is too dark," he
"Every creative spirit knows when its great moment has come. Well,
mine is here." The men stood aside as Linda, her head positively
ringing with the thrill that was like a strain of Gluck, the happy
sadness, entered the bare high spaciousness of Dodge Pleydon's
Everything she saw, the stripped floor, the white walls bare but for
some casts like the dismembered fragments of flawless blanched bodies,
the inclined plane of the wide skylight, bore an impalpable white dust
of dried clay. In a corner, enclosed in low boards, a stooped
individual with wood-soled shoes and a shovel was working a mass of
clay over which at intervals he sprinkled water, and at intervals
halted to make pliable lumps of a uniform size which he added to a
pile wrapped in damp cloths. There were a number of modeling stands
with twisted wires grotesquely resembling a child's line drawing of a
human being; while a stand with some modeling tools on its edge bore
an upright figure shapeless in its swathing of dampened cloths.
"The great moment," Pleydon said again, in a vibrant tone. "But you
know nothing of all this," he directly addressed Linda. "Neither,
probably, will you have heard of Simon Downige. He was born at
Cottarsport, in Massachusetts, about eighteen forty; and, after—in
the support of his hatred of any slavery—he fought through the Civil
War, he came home and found that his town stifled him. He didn't marry
at once, as so many returning soldiers did; instead he was wedded to a
vision of freedom, freedom of opinion, of spirit, worship any kind of
spaciousness whatever. And, in the pursuit of that, he went West.
"He told them that he was going to find—but found was the word—a
place where men could live together in a purity of motives and air. No
more, you understand; he hadn't a personal fanatical belief to exploit
and attract the hysteria of women and insufficient men. He was not a
pathological messiah; but only Simon Downige, an individual who
couldn't comfortably breathe the lies and injustice and hypocrisy of
the ordinary community. No doubt he was unbalanced—his sensitiveness
to a universal condition would prove that. Normally people remain
undisturbed by such trivialities. If they didn't an end would come to
one or the other, the lies or the world.
"He traveled part way in a Conestoga wagon—a flight out of Egypt;
they were common then, slow canvas covered processions with entire
families drawn by the mysterious magnetism of the West. Then, leaving
even such wayfarers, he walked, alone, until he came on a meadow by a
little river and a grove of trees, probably cottonwoods.... That was
Simon Downige, and that, too, was Hesperia. Yes, he was
unbalanced—the old Greek name for beautiful lands. It is a city now,
successful and corruptly administered—what always happens to such
"It is necessary, Linda, as I've always told you, to understand the
whole motive behind a creation in permanent form. A son of
Simon's—yes, he finally married—a unique and very rich character,
wife dead and no children, commissioned a monument to the founder of
Hesperia, in Ohio, and of his fortune.
"They even have a civic body for the control of public building;
and they came East to approve my statue, or rather the clay sketch for
They were very solemn, and one, himself a sculptor, a graduate of
the Beaux Arts, ran a suggestive thumb over Simon and did incredible
damage. But, after a great deal of hesitation, and a description from
the sculptor of what he thought excellently appropriate for such
magnificence, they accepted my study. The present Downige,
really—though I understand there is another pretentious branch in
Hesperia—bullied them into it. He cursed the Beaux-Arts graduate with
the most brutal and satisfactory freedom—the tyranny of his money;
the crown, you see, of Simon's hope."
He unwrapped one by one the wet cloths; and Linda, in an eagerness
sharp like anxiety, finally saw the statue, under life-size, of a
seated man with a rough stick and bundle at his feet. A limp hat was
in his hand, and, beneath a brow to which the hair was plastered by
sweat, his eyes gazed fixed and aspiring into a hidden dream perfectly
created by his desire. Here, she realized at last, she had a glimmer
of the beauty, the creative force, that animated Dodge Pleydon. Simon
Downige's shoes were clogged with mud, his entire body, she felt,
ached with weariness; but his gaze—nothing Linda discovered but
shadows over two depressions—was far away in the attainment of his
place of justice and truth.
She found a stool and, careless of the film of dust, sat absorbed
in the figure. Pleydon again had lost all consciousness of their
presence; he stood, hands in pockets, his left foot slightly advanced,
looking at his work from under drawn brows. Arnaud spoke first:
"It's impertinent to congratulate you, Pleydon. You know what
you've done better than any one else could. You have all our
admiration." Linda watched the tenderness with which the other
covered Simon Downige's vision in clay. Later, returning home after
dinner, Arnaud speculated about Pleydon's remarkable increase in
power. "I had given him up," he went on; "I thought he was lost in
those notorious debauches of esthetic emotions. Does he still speak of
"Yes," Linda replied. "Are you annoyed by it?" He answered, "What
good if I were?" She considered him, turned in his chair to face her,
thoughtfully. "I haven't the slightest doubt of its quality,
however—all in that Hesperia of old Downige's. To love you, my dear
Linda, has certain well-defined resemblances to a calamity. If you ask
me if I object to what you do give him, my answer must shock the gods
of art. I would rather you didn't."
"What is it, Arnaud?" she demanded. "I haven't the slightest idea.
I wish I had."
"Platonic," he told her shortly. "The term has been hopelessly
ruined, yet the sense, the truth, I am forced to believe, remains."
"But you know how stupid I am and that I can't understand you."
"The woman in whom a man sees God," he proceeded irritably:
"'La figlia della sua mente, l'amorosa idea.'"
"Oh," she cried, wrung with a sharp obscure hurt. "I know that,
I've heard it before." Her excitement faded at her absolute inability
to place the circumstances of her memory. The sound of the words
vanished, leaving no more than the familiar deep trouble, the
disappointing sensation of almost grasping—Linda was unable to think
"After all, you are my wife." He had recovered his normal shy
humor. "I can prove it. You are the irreproachable mother of our
unsurpassed children. You have a hopeless vision—like this
Simon's—of seeing me polished and decently pressed; and I insist on
your continuing with the whole show."
Her mind arbitrarily shifted to the thought of her father, who had
walked out of his house, left—yes—his family, without any
Then, erratically, it turned to Vigne, to Vigne and young Sandby
with his fresh cheeks and impending penniless years acquiring a
comprehension of the bond market. She said, "I wonder if she really
likes Bailey?" Arnaud's energy of dismay was laughable, "What criminal
They haven't finished Mother Goose yet."
Linda, who expected to see Pleydon's statue of Simon Downige finished
immediately in a national recognition of its splendor, was
disappointed by his explanation that, probably, it would not be ready
for casting within two years. He intended to model it again,
life-size, before he was ready for the heroic. April, the vivifying,
had returned; and, as always in the spring, Linda was mainly conscious
of the mingled assuaging sounds of life newly admitted through open
windows. A single shaded lamp was lighted by a far table, where Arnaud
sat cutting the pages of The Living Age with an ivory blade; Dodge was
blurred in the semi-obscurity.
He came over to see them more frequently now, through what he
called the great moment—so tiresomely extended—of his life. Pleydon
came oftener but he said infinitely less. It was his custom to arrive
for dinner and suddenly depart early or late in the evening. At times
she went up to her room and left the two almost morosely silent men to
their own thoughts or pages; at others she complained—no other woman
alive would stay with such uninteresting and thoroughly selfish
They never made the pretense of an effort to consider or amuse her.
At this Arnaud would put aside his book and begin an absurd social
conversation in the manner of Vigne's associates. Pleydon, however,
wouldn't speak; nothing broke the somberness of his passionate
absorption in invisible tyrannies. She gave up, finally, a persistent
effort to lighten his moods. Annoyed she told him that if he did not
change he'd be sick, and then where would everything be.
All at once, through the open window, she heard Stella, her mother,
laughing; the carelessly gay sound overwhelmed her with an instinctive
unreasoning dread. Linda rose with a half gasp—but of course it was
Vigne in the garden with Bailey Sandby.
She sank back angry because she had been startled; but her
irritation perished in disturbing thought. It wasn't, she told
herself, Vigne's actions that made her fear the future so much as her,
Linda's, knowledge of the possibilities of the past. Her undying
hatred of that existence choked in her throat; the chance of its least
breath touching Vigne, Arnaud's daughter, roused her to any embittered
The girl, she was certain, returned a part at least of Bailey's
Linda expected no confidences—what had she done to have them—and
Arnaud was right, affairs of the heart were never revealed until
consummated. Her conclusion had been reached by indirect quiet
deductions. Vigne, lately, was different; her attitude toward her
mother had changed to the subtle reserve of feminine maturity. Her
appearance, overnight, it seemed, had improved; her color was deeper,
a delicate flush burned at any surprise in her cheeks, and the miracle
of her body was perfected.
It wasn't, Linda continued silently, that Vigne could ever follow
the example of Stella Condon through the hotels and lives of men
partly bald, prodigal, and with distant families. Whatever happened to
her would be in excellent surroundings and taste; but the result—the
sordid havoc, inside and out, the satiety alternating with the points
of brilliancy, and finally, inexorably, sweeping over them in a leaden
tide—would be identical. She wondered a little at the strength of her
detestation for such living; it wasn't moral in any sense with which
she was familiar; in fact it appeared to have a vague connection with
her own revolt from the destruction of death. She wanted Vigne as well
to escape that catastrophe, to hold inviolate the beauty of her youth,
her fineness and courage.
She was convinced, too, that if she loved Bailey, and was
disappointed, some of the harm would be done immediately; Linda saw,
in imagination, the pure flame of Vigne's passion fanned and then
arbitrarily extinguished. She saw the resemblance of the dead woman,
all those other painted shades, made stronger. A sentence formed so
vividly in her mind that she looked up apprehensively, certain that
she had spoken it aloud:
If Vigne does come to care for him they must marry.
Her thoughts left the girl for Arnaud—he would absolutely oppose
her there, and she speculated about the probable length his opposition
would reach. What would he say to her? It couldn't be helped, in
particular it couldn't be explained, neither to him nor to the
friendly correctness of Bailey Sandby's mother. She, alone, must
accept any responsibility, all blame.
The threatened situation developed more quickly than she had
anticipated. Linda met Bailey, obviously disturbed, in the portico,
leaving their house; his manner, mechanically, was good; and then,
with an irrepressible boyish rush of feeling, he stopped her:
"Vigne and I love each other and Mr. Hallet won't hear of it. He
insulted us with the verse about the old woman who went to the
cupboard to get a bone, and if he hadn't been her father—" he
breathed a portentous and difficult self repression. "Then he took a
cowardly advantage of my having no money, just now; right after I
explained how I was going to make wads—with Vigne."
An indefinable excitement possessed Linda, accompanied by a sudden
acute fear of what Arnaud might say. She wanted more than anything
else in life to go quickly, inattentively, past Bailey Sandby and up
to her room. Nothing could be easier, more obvious, than her
disapproval of a moneyless boy. She made a step forward with an
assumed resolute ignoring of his disturbed presence. It was useless. A
dread greater than her fright at Arnaud held her in the portico, her
hand lifted to the polished knob of the inner door. Linda turned
slowly, cold and white, "Wait," she said to his shoulder in an
admirable coat; then she gazed steadily into his frank pained eyes.
"How do you know that you love Vigne?" she demanded. "You are so
young to be certain it will last always. And Vigne—"
"How does any one know?" he replied. "How did you? Married people
always forget their own experiences, the happy way things went with
them. From all I see money hasn't much to do with loving each other.
But, of course, I'm not going to be poor, not with Vigne. Nobody
could. She'd inspire them. Mr. Hallet knows all about me, too; and
he's the oldest kind of a friend of the family. I suppose when he sees
father at the Rittenhouse Club they'll have a laugh—a laugh at Vigne
and me." His hand, holding the brim of a soft brown hat, clenched
"No," Linda told him, "they won't do that." Her obscure excitement
was communicated to him. "Why not?" he demanded.
"Because," she paused to steady her voice, "because I am going to
take a very great responsibility. If it fails, if you let it fail,
you'll ruin ever so much. Yes, Mr. Hallet, I am sure, will consent to
your marrying Vigne." She escaped at the first opening from his
Arnaud was in the library, and she stopped in the hall, busy with
the loosening of her veil. Perhaps it would be better to speak to him
after dinner; she ought to question Vigne first; but, as she stood
debating, her daughter passed her tempestuously, blurred with crying,
and Arnaud angrily demanded her presence.
"You were quite right," he cried; "this young idiot Sandby has been
telling Vigne that he loves her; and now Vigne assures me, with tears,
that she likes it! They want to get married—next week, tomorrow, this
evening." Linda stood by the window; soon the magnolia tree would be
again laden with flowers. She gathered her courage into a determined
composure of tone. "I saw Bailey outside," she admitted. "He told me.
It seems excellent to me."
Arnaud Hallet incredulously challenged her. "What do you
mean—that you gave him a trace of encouragement!" Linda replied:
"I said that I was certain you would consent." She halted his
exasperated gesture. "You think Vigne is nothing but a child, and yet
she is as old as I was at our wedding. My mother was no older when
Bartram Lowrie married her. I think Vigne is very fortunate, Bailey is
as nice as possible; and, as he said, it isn't as if you knew nothing
of the Sandbys; they are as dignified as the Lowries."
An expression she had never before seen hardened his countenance
into a sarcasm that travestied his customary humor. "You realize, of
course, that except for what his father gives him young Sandby is
wretchedly poor. He's nice enough but what has that to do with it?
And, in particular, how does it touch you, Linda Condon? Do you
suppose I can ever forget your answer that time I first asked you to
marry me? You wouldn't consider a poor man; you were worth, really, a
hundred thousand a year; but, if nothing better came along, you might
sacrifice yourself for fifty."
"I remember very well," she answered; "and, curiously enough, I am
not ashamed. I was very sensible then, in a horrible position with
extravagant habits. They were me. I couldn't change myself. Without
money I should have made you, any man, entirely miserable. Arnaud, I
hadn't—I haven't now—the ability to see everything important through
the affections, like so many many women. You often told me that; who
hasn't? I have always admitted it wasn't pleasant nor praiseworthy.
But how, to use your own words, does all that affect Vigne? She isn't
cold but very warm-hearted; and, instead of my experience, she has her
own so much better feeling."
"I absolutely refuse to allow anything of the sort," he declared
sharply. "I won't even discuss it—for three years. Tell this Sandby
infant, if you like, to come back then."
"In three years, or in one year, Vigne may be quite different,
yes—less lovable. Happiness, too, is queer, Arnaud; there isn't a
great deal of it. Not an overwhelming amount. If it appears for an
instant it must be held as tightly as possible. It doesn't come back,
Don't turn to your book yet—you can't get rid of us, of Vigne and
me, like that; and then it's rude; the first time, I believe, you have
ever been impolite to me."
"Forgive me," he spoke formally. "You seem to think that I am as
indifferent as yourself. You might be asking the day of the week to
judge from your calm appearance. The emotion of a father, or even of a
mother, perhaps, you have never explored. On the whole you are
fortunate. And you are always protected by your celebrated honesty."
"I promised Bailey your consent."
"Why bother about that? It isn't necessary for your new romantic
mood. An elopement, with you to steady the ladder, would be more
She repeated the fact of her engagement. Her dread for him had
vanished, its place now taken by a distrust of what, in her merged
detachment and suffering, she might blunderingly do. At the back of
this she realized that his case, his position, was hopeless. Without
warning, keen and undimmed, his love for her flashed through his
resentful misery. There was no spoken acknowledgement of surrender; he
sank into his chair dejected and pitiable, infinitely gray. His shoes,
on the brightness of the hooked rug, were dingy, his coat drawn and
Linda saw herself on her knees before him, before his patience and
generosity, sobbing her contrition into his forgiving hands. She
longed with every nerve—as she had so often before—to lose herself
in passionate emotion. She had never been more erect or withdrawn,
never essentially less touched. After a little, waiting for him to
speak, she saw that he, too, had retreated into the profound depths of
his own illusions and despairs.
For a surprising while—even in the face of Vigne's radiance—Arnaud
was as still and shadowed as the inert surface of a dammed stream.
Then slowly, the slenderest trickle at first, his wit revived his
spirit; and he opened an unending mock-solemn attack on Bailey
Sandby's eminently serious acceptance of the responsibilities of his
The boy had left the university, and his father—a striking replica
of Arnaud's prejudices, impatience and fundamental kindness—exchanged
with Vigne's male parent the most dismal prophecies together with
concrete plans for their children's future security. This, inevitably,
resulted in Vigne's marriage; a ceremony unattended by Pleydon except
by the presence of a very liberal check.
The life-size version of his Simon Downige was again under way—it
had been torn down, Linda knew, more than once—and he was in a fever
of composition. Nor was this, she decided with Arnaud, his only
oppression: the Asiatic fever clung to him with disquieting
Pleydon himself admitted he had a degree or two in the evening.
Linda was seated in his studio near Central Park West, perhaps a
year later, and she observed aloud that so much wet clay around was
bad for him. He laughed: nothing now could happen to him, he was
forever beyond accident, sickness, death—his statue for the monument
in Hesperia was finished. It stood revealed before them, practically
as Linda had first seen it, but enlarged, towering, as if the vision
it portrayed had grown, would continue to grow eternally, because of
the dignity of its hope, the necessity of its realization.
"Now," she said, "it will go to the foundry and be cast." He
corrected her. "You will go to the foundry and be cast... in bronze."
A distinct graceful happiness possessed her at the knowledge that his
love for her was as constant as though it, too, were metal. Not flesh
but bronze, spirit, he insisted.
The multiplying years made that no more comprehensible than when,
a child, she had thrilled in a waking dream. Love, spirit, death.
Three mysteries. But only one, she thought, was inevitably hers, the
last. to be loved was not love itself, but only the edge of its cloak;
response was an indivisible part of realization. No, sterility was the
measure—of its absence. And she was, Linda felt, in spite of Vigne
and Lowrie, the latter a specially vigorous contradiction, the most
sterile woman alive. There were always Dodge's assurances, but clay,
stone, metal, were cold for a belief to embrace. And she was, she
knew, lovelier now than she had ever been before, than she would ever
The faint ringing of the bell from outside that probably announced
Arnaud sounded unreal, futile, to Linda. He came into the studio, and
at once a discussion began between the two men of the difference in
the surfaces of clay and bronze. The talk then shifted to the
pictorial sources of the heroic Simon Downige before them, and Linda
declared, "Dodge, you have never made a head of me. How very
"You're an affair for a painter," he replied; "Goya or Alfred
No one but Goya could have found a white for you, with the quality
of flower petals; and Stevens would have fixed you in an immortality
of delicate color, surrounded by your Philadelphia garden." He stood
quite close to her, with his jacket dragged forward by hands thrust
into its pockets, and he added at the end of a somber interrogation,
"But if you would really like to know why—"
In a moment more, she recognized, Dodge would explain his feeling
for her—to Arnaud, to any one who might be present. The gleam in his
eyes, his remoteness from earthly concern, were definitely not normal.
Pleydon, his love, terrified her. "No," she said with an assumed
hurried lightness, "don't try to explain. I must manage to survive the
injury to my vanity."
They left New York almost immediately, Pleydon suddenly
determining to go with them; and later were scattered through the
Hallet household. Vigne and her husband were temporarily living there;
with their heads close together they were making endless computations,
numerous floor plans and elevations. Linda, at the piano in the
drawing-room, could hear them through the hall. Pleydon was lounging
in a chair beyond her. She couldn't play but she was able, slowly, to
pick out the notes of simple and familiar airs—echoes of Gluck and
blurred motives of Scarlatti. It was for herself, she explained; the
sounds, however crude and disconnected, brought things back to her.
What things, she replied to Pleydon's query, she didn't in the least
know; but pleasant.
The fact that she understood so little depressed her with
increasing frequency. It was well enough to be ignorant as a girl, or
even as a young woman newly married; but she had left all that behind;
she had lost her youth without any compensating gain of knowledge.
Linda could not assure herself that life was clearer than it had been
to her serious childhood. It had always been easily measured on the
surface; she had had a very complete grasp of its material aspects
almost at once, accomplishing exactly what she had planned. Perhaps
this was all; and her trouble an evidence of weakness—the indecision,
she saw with contempt, that kept so many people in a constant
agitation of disappointment.
Perhaps this was enough; more than the majority had or
accomplished. She made, again, a resolute effort to be contented, at
Her straying fingers clumsily wrought a fragmentary refrain that
mocked her determination. It wasn't new, this—this dissatisfaction;
but it had grown sharper. As she was older her restlessness increased
at the realization that life, opportunity, were slipping from her.
Soon she would be forty.
The conviction seized her that most lives reflected hers in that
their questioning was never answered. The fortunate, then, were the
incurious and the hearts undisturbed by a maddening thrill. She said
aloud, "The ones who never heard music." Pleydon was without a sign
that she had spoken. Her emotions were very delicate, very fragile,
and enormously difficult to perceive. They were like plants in stony
ground. Where had she heard that—out of the Bible? Then she thought
of her failure to get anything from religion—a part of her inability
to drink at the springs which others declared so refreshing. Linda
pressed her hands more sharply on the keys and the answering discord
had the effect of waking her to reality.
Pleydon remained until the following afternoon, and then was
lost—in the foundry casting his statue—for six months. Arnaud went
over to view the completion of the bronze and returned filled with
enthusiasm. "Its simplicity is the surprising part," he told her. "The
barest statement possible. But Pleydon himself is in a disturbing
condition; I can't decide if it is mental or physical. The fever of
course; yet that doesn't account for his distance from ordinary
living. The truth is, I suppose, that men weren't designed for great
arts, and nature, like the jealous God of the Hebrews, retaliates. It
is absurd, but Pleydon reminds me of you; you're totally different. I
suppose it's because of the detachment you have in common." He veered
to a detail of Lowrie's first year at a university, and exhibited,
against a decent endeavor to the contrary, his boundless pride in
The boy was, Linda acknowledged, more than commonly dependable and
able. He was heavy, like his father, and so diffident that he almost
stuttered; but his mental processes flashed in quick intuitive
Lowrie was an easy and brilliant student; and, perhaps because of
this, of his mental certainty, he was not intimate with her as Arnaud
had hoped and predicted. It seemed to Linda that he instinctively
penetrated her inner doubt and regarded it without sympathy. In this
he was her son.
Lowrie was a confident and unsympathetic critic of humanity.
Even now, so soon, there was no question of his success in the law
his fitness had elected. The springs of his being were purely
intellectual, reasoning. In him Linda saw magnified her own coldness;
and, turned on herself, she viewed it with an arbitrary feminine
resentment. He was actually courteous to her; but under all their
intercourse there was a perceptible impatience. His scorn of other
women, girls, however, was openly expressed and honest; it had no
trace of the mere affectation of pessimism natural to his age. Arnaud,
less thoughtful than she, was vastly entertained by this, and drew
Lowrie out in countless sly sallies and contradictions.
Yes, he would succeed, but, after all, what would his success be
worth—placed, that was, against Vigne's radiant happiness, Bailey
Sandby's quiet eyes and the quality of his return home each evening?
Her thoughts came back to Pleydon—she had before her a New York
paper describing the ceremony of unveiling his Simon Downige at
Hesperia. There was a long learned article praising its beauty and
emphasizing Pleydon's eminence. He was, it proceeded, an anomaly in an
age of momentary experimental talents—a humanized Greek force. He
didn't belong to to-day but to yesterday and to-morrow. This gave her
an uncomfortable vision of Dodge in space, with no warm points of
contact. She, too, was suspended in that vague emptiness. Linda had
the sensation of grasping at streamers, forms, of sparkling mist. A
strange position in view of her undeniable common sense, the solid
foundations of her temperament and experience. She saw from the paper,
further, that the Downige who had commissioned the monument was dead.
In the middle of the festive period that connected Christmas with the
new year Arnaud turned animatedly from his breakfast scanning of the
news. "It seems," he told her, "that a big rumpus has developed in
Hesperia over the Pleydon statue—the present Downige omnipotence,
never friendly with our old gentleman, has condemned its bronze
founder. You know what I mean. It's an insult to their pride, their
money and position, to see him perpetuated as a tramp. On the contrary
he was a very respectable individual from a prominent family and town.
"They have been moving the local heavens, ever since the monument
was placed, to have it set aside. I suppose they would have succeeded,
too, if a large amount given to the city were not contingent on its
preservation. But then they can always donate more money in the cause
of their sacred respectability."
Linda had never, she exclaimed, heard of anything more disgusting.
It was plain that Hesperia knew nothing of art. "Every one," she
ran on in the heat of her resentment, "every one, that is, who should
decide, agrees it's magnificent. They were frightfully lucky to get
it—Dodge's finest work." She wrote at once to Pleydon commanding his
presence and expressing her contempt of such depravity of opinion. To
her surprise he was undisturbed, apparently, by the condemnation of
He even laughed at her energy of scorn. She was hurt, perceptibly
silenced, with a feeling of having been misunderstood or rather
undervalued. Her disturbance at any blame attached to the statue of
Simon Downige was extremely acute. But, she thought, if it failed to
worry Dodge why should she bother. She did, in spite of this
philosophy; Simon was tremendously important to her.
He stood for things: she had watched his evolution from the clay
sketch, and in Pleydon's mind, to the final heroic proportions; and
she had taken for granted that a grateful world would see him in her
light. A woman, she decided, had made the trouble; and she hated her
with a personal vigor. Pleydon said:
"I told you that old Simon was unbalanced; now you can see it by
his reception in a successful city. The sculptor—do you remember him,
a Beaux-Arts graduate? admits that he had always opposed it, but that
political motives overbore his pure protest. There is a scheme now to
build a pavilion, for babies, and shut out the monument from open
They may do that but time will sweep away their walls. If I had
modeled Simon Downige, yes, he would go; but I modeled his vision, his
aspiration—the hope of all men for release and purity.
"Downige and the individual babies are unimportant compared to a
vision of perfection, of escape. As long as men live, if they live,
they'll reach up; and that gesture in itself is heaven. Not
accomplishment. The spirit dragging the flesh higher; but spirit
alone—empty balloons. A dream in bronze, harder even than men's
heads, more durable than their prejudices, so permanent that it will
wear out their ignorance; and in the end—always in the end—they'll
bring their wreath.
"A replica has gone to Cottarsport, from me; and you ought to see
it there, on a block of New England granite. It's in the Common, a
windswept reach with low houses and a white steeple and the sea. It
might have been there from the beginning, rising on rock against the
pale salt day. They can go to hell in Hesperia."
Still Linda's hurt persisted; she saw the unfortunate occurrence as
a direct blow at her pride. Arnaud, too, failed her; he was splendid
in his assault upon such rapacious stupidity; but it was only an
impersonal concern. His manner expressed the conviction that it might
have been expected. He was blind to her special enthusiasm, her long
intimate connection with the statue. Exasperated she almost told him
that it was more real to her than their house, than Vigne and Lowrie,
than he. She was stopped, fortunately, by the perception that,
amazingly, the statue was more actual than Dodge Pleydon. It touched
the center of her life more nearly.
Why, she didn't know.
If her mental confusion increased by as much as a feeling, Linda
thought, she would be close to madness. It was unbearable at
Lowrie said, at the worst possible moment, that he found the entire
episode ridiculously overemphasized. A statue more or less was of
small importance. If the Downige family were upset why didn't they
employ an able lawyer to dispose of it? There were many ways for such
"I have no desire to hear them," she interrupted. "You seem to know
a tremendous lot, but what good it will do you in the end who can say!
And, with all your cleverness, you haven't an ounce of appreciation
for art. Besides, I hate to see any one as young as you so sure of
Often I suspect you are patronizing your father and me. It's not
pretty nor polite."
Lowrie was obviously embarrassed by her attack, and managed the
abrupt semblance of an apology. Arnaud, who had put down his eternal
book, said nothing until the boy had vanished. "Wasn't that rather
sharp?" he asked mildly. "Perhaps," she replied in a tone without
warmth or regret. "Somehow I am never comfortable with Lowrie."
"You are too much alike," he shrewdly observed. "It is laughable at
times. Did you expect your children to be fountains of sentiment? And,
look here—if I can get along in comfort with you for life you in
particular ought to put up peacefully with Lowrie. He is a damned
sight more human than, at bottom, you are; a woman of alabaster."
"I loathe quarrels," she admitted; "they are so vulgar. You know
that they are not like me and just said so. Oh, Arnaud, why does life
get harder instead of easier?"
He put his book aside completely and gazed at her in patient
"Linda," he said finally, "I have never heard anything that stirred
me so much; not what you said, my dear, but the recognition in your
voice." A wistfulness of love for her enveloped him; an ineffable
desire as vain as the passion she struggled to give him in return. She
smiled in an unhappiness of apology.
"Perhaps—" he stopped, waiting any assurance whatever, his face
eager like a dusty lamp in which the light had been turned sharply up.
She was unable to stir, to move her gaze from his hopeful eyes, to
mitigate by a breath her slender white aloofness. A smile different
from hers, tender with remission, lingered in his fading irradiation.
The dusk was gathering, adding its melancholy to his age—sixty-five
now. Why that was an old man! Her sympathy vanished in her shrinking
from the twilight that was, as well, slowly, inevitably, deepening
It was laughable that, as she approached an age whose only resource
was tranquillity, she grew more restless. Her present vague agitation
belonged ridiculously to youth. The philosophy of the evident that had
supported her so firmly was breaking at the most inopportune time. And
it was, she told herself, too late for anything new; the years for
that had been spent insensibly with Arnaud. Linda was very angry with
herself, for, in all her shifting state of mind, she preserved an
inner necessity for the quality of exactness expressed in her clothes.
There were literally no neglected spaces in her conscious living.
Her thoughts finally centered about the statue in Hesperia—it
presented an actual mark for her fleeting resentments. She wondered
why it so largely occupied her thoughts, moved her so personally. She
watched the papers for the scattered reports of the progress of the
contention it had roused, some ill-natured, others supposedly
humorous, and nearly all uninformed. She became, Arnaud said, the
champion of the esthetic against Dagon. He elaborated this picture
until she was forced to smile against her inclination, her profound
seriousness. Linda had the feeling that she, too, was on the pedestal
that held the bronze effigy of Simon Downige challenging the fog that
obscured men. Its fate was hers.
She didn't pretend to explain how.
As time passed it seemed to her that it took her longer and longer
to dress in the morning, while her preparations couldn't be simpler;
her habit of deliberation had become nearly a vice, the precision of
her ruffles, her hair, a tyranny. She never quite lost the
satisfaction of her mirror's faultless reflection; and stopped, now,
for a moment's calm interrogation of the being—hardly more silvery
cool than the reality before her.
Arnaud was at the table, and the gaze with which he met her was
troubled. The morning paper, she saw, was, against custom, at her
place, and she picked it up with an instinctive sense of calamity. The
blackly printed sensational headline that immediately established her
fear sank vivid and entire into her brain: an anonymous inflamed mob
in Hesperia had pulled down and destroyed Pleydon's statue. Their act
was described as a tribute to the liberality of the present Downige
family in the light of its objection to the monument.
As if in the development of her feeling Linda had a sensation of
crashing with a sickening violence from a pedestal to the ground.
Actually, it seemed, the catastrophe had happened to her. She
heard, with a sense of inutility, Arnaud denouncing the outrage; he
had a pencil in his hand for the composition of a telegram to Dodge.
He paid—but perhaps only naturally—no attention to her, suffering
dully from her fall.
She shuddered before the recreated lawless approaching voice of the
mob; the naked ugly violence froze her with terror; she felt the gross
hurried hands winding ropes about her, the rending brutality of force
She sat and automatically took a small carved glass of orange-juice
from a bed of ice, and her chilled fingers recalled a dim image of her
mother. Arnaud was speaking, "I'm afraid this will cut through
Pleydon's security, it was such a wanton destruction of his unique
You see, he worked lovingly over the cast with little files and
countless finite improvements. The mold, I think, was broken. What a
piece of luck the thing's at Cottarsport." He paused, obviously
expecting her to comment; but suddenly phrases failed her.
In place of herself she should be considering Dodge; her sympathy
even for him was submerged in her own extraordinary injury. However,
she recovered from her first gasping shock, and made an utterly
commonplace remark. Never had her sense of isolation been stronger. "I
must admit," her husband continued, "that I looked for some small
display of concern. I give you my word there are moments when I think
Pleydon himself cut you out of stone. He isn't great enough for that,
though; in the way of perfection you successfully gild the lily. A
thing held to be impossible."
Linda told him with amazing inanity that his opinion of her was
unreliable; and, contented, he lightly pursued his admiration of what
he called her boreal charm. At intervals she responded appropriately
and proceeded with breakfast. She had entered a region of
dispassionate consideration, her characteristic detachment, she
thought, regained. She mentally, calmly, reconstructed the motives and
events that had led to the destruction of the statue; they, at least,
were evident to her. She reaffirmed silently her conviction that it
had resulted from the stupidity, the vanity, of a woman. The
limitations of men, fully as narrow, operated in other directions.
Then, with an incredulous surprise, she was aware that the clear
space of her reason was filling with anger. Never before had such a
flood of emotion possessed her; and she surrendered herself, in an
enormous relief, to the novelty of its obliterating tide. It deepened
immeasurably, sweeping her far from the security of old positions of
indifference and critical self-possession. Linda became enraged at a
world that had concentrated all its degraded vulgarity in one
It was fall, October, and the day was a space of pale gold foliage
wreathed in blue garlands of mist. The gardener was busy with a
wooden rake and wheelbarrow in which he carted away dead leaves for
burning. The fire was back of the low fence, in the rear, and Linda,
at the dining-room window, could hear the fierce small crackle of
flames; the drifting pungent smoke was like a faint breath of ammonia.
Arnaud had left for the day, Lowrie was at the university, while Vigne
and her husband—moving toward their ultimate colonial threshold—had
taken a small house. She was alone.
However, in her present state her solitude had lost its
inevitability; she failed to see why it must continue until the end of
time. She could no longer discover a sufficient reason for her
limitless endurance, her placid acceptance of all that chance, or any
inconsiderable person, happened to dictate. She wasn't like that in
the least. Her temper had solidified as though it were ice, taking
everywhere the form in which it was held. It was a reality. She
determined, as well, that her feeling should not melt back into the
familiar acceptance of a routine that had led her blindfolded across
such an extent of life.
She understood now, in a large part, her disturbance at the
indignity to Dodge's monument—he had assured her that she was its
inspiration; except for her it would never have been realized, he
would have kept on modeling those Newport fountains, continued with
the Susanna Nodas, spending himself ignobly. He loved her, and that
love had resulted in a statue the world of art, of taste, honored. But
it was she all the while they were approving, discussing, writing
about, Linda Condon.
She had always been that, Pleydon had informed her, never Linda
Hallet—in spite of Arnaud and their children. It sounded like
nonsense; but, at the bottom, it was truth. Of course it couldn't be
explained, for example, to the man who had every right, every
evidence, to consider himself her husband. Nothing was susceptible of
explanation. Absolutely nothing! There was the earth, which appeared
to be everything, the houses you entered, the streets you passed over,
the people among whom you lived, yet that wasn't all. Heavens, no! It
was quite unimportant compared with—with other facts latent in the
mind and blood.
Dodge Pleydon's love was one of those other facts; it was simply
impossible to deny its existence, its power. Dodge had been totally
changed by it, born over again. But she, who had been the source, had
had no good from it, nothing except the thrill that had always been
No one knew of it, counted it as her achievement, paid the
slightest attention to her. Arnaud smiled indulgently, Lowrie scoffed.
When the statue had been thrown down they thought of it merely as a
deplorable part of the day's news. They hadn't seen that she, Linda
Condon, was unspeakably insulted.
She doubted if she could bring them to comprehend what had
happened—to her. Or if Arnaud understood, if she made it plain, what
good would be done! That wouldn't save her, put her back again on the
pedestal. The latter was necessary. Linda recognized that a great deal
of her feeling was based on pride; but it was a pride entirely
justified. She had no intention of submitting to the coarse hands and
ropes of public affront. Throughout her life she had rebelled against
any profanation of her person, she had hated to be touched.
Every instinct, she found, every delicate self-opinion, was bound
into Pleydon's success; the latter had kept her alive. Without it
existence would have been intolerable. It was unbearable now.
She discharged the small daily duties of her efficient housekeeping
with a contemptuous exactness; for years she had accomplished, in
herself, nothing more. But at last a break had come. Linda recognized
this without any knowledge of what reparation it would find. She
wasn't concerned with that, a small detail. It would be apparent.
Arnaud was silent through dinner; tired, it seemed. She saw him as if
at the distant end of a dull corridor—as she looked back. There was
no change in her liking for him. Mechanically she noticed the disorder
of his scant hair and rumpled sleeves.
Not until, waking sharply, in the middle of the night, did she have
a glimpse of a possible course—she might live with Dodge and
perfectly express both her retaliation and her accomplishment. In that
way she would re‚stablish herself beside him and place their vision in
bronze on an elevation beyond the spite of the envious and the blind.
It was so directly simple that she was surprised it hadn't occurred
to her before. The possibility had always been a part, unsuspected and
valuable, of her special being; the largely condemned faults of her
character and experience had at least brought her this—a not
inconsiderable freedom in a world everywhere barred by the necessity
for upholding a hypocritical show of superiority to honest desire. The
detachment that deprived her of life's conventional joys released her
from its common obligations. That conviction, however, was too
intimately connected with all her inheritance to bring her any
conscious dramatic sense of rebellion or high feeling of justified
Sleep had deserted her, and she waited for the dawn in the windows
that would bring her escape. It was very slow coming; the blackness
took on a grayer tone, like ink with added faint infusions of water.
Slowly the blackness dissolved and she heard the stir of the sparrows
in the ivy.
There was the passing rumble of an early electric car on the paved
aged street, the blurred hurried shuffle of a workman's clumsy shoes.
The brightening morning was cool with a premonitory touch of frost; at
the window she saw a vanishing silver sheen on the lawn and board
A sensation of youth pervaded her; and while, perhaps, it was out
of keeping with her years, she had still her vitality unspent; she was
without a trace of the momentary frost on the grass. She was tranquil,
leisurely; her heart evenly sent its life through her unflushed body.
Piece by piece she put on her web-like garments, black and white;
brushing the heavy stream of her hair and tying the inevitable sash
about her supple waist.
Below she met Arnaud with an unpleasant shock—she hadn't given
him a thought. Her feeling now was hardly more than annoyance at her
forgetfulness. He would be terribly distressed at her going, and she
was genuinely sorry for this, poised at the edge of an explanation of
her purpose. Arnaud was putting butter and salt into his egg-cup,
after that he would grind the pepper from a French mill—pure spices
were a precision of his—and she waited until the operation was
Then it occurred to her that all she could hope to accomplish by
admitting her intention was the ruin of his last hour alone with her.
He was happier, gayer, than usual. But his age was evident in his
voice, his gestures. Linda marveled at her coldness, her ruthless
disregard of Arnaud's claim on her, of his affection as deep as
Pleydon's, perhaps no less fine but not so imperative. Yet Arnaud had
had over twenty years of her life, the best; and she had never
deceived him about the quality of her gift. It was right, now, for
Dodge to have the remainder. But whether it were right or wrong, there
was no failure of her determination to go to Pleydon in the
vindication of her existence.
She delayed speaking to Arnaud until, suddenly, breakfast was over.
He seldom went to the law office where he had been a partner, but
stayed about the lower floor of his house, in the library or directing
small outside undertakings. Either that or he left, late, for the
Historical Society, with which his connection and interest were
uninterrupted. As Linda passed him in the hall he was fumbling in the
green bag that accompanied all his journeyings into the city; and she
gathered that he intended to make one of his occasional sallies. She
proceeded above, to her room, where with steady hands she pinned on
her hat. It would be impossible to take any additional clothes, and
she'd have to content herself with something ready-made until she
could order others in the establishment of her living with Dodge. Her
close-fitting jacket, gloves, and a short cape of sables were
collected; she gazed finally, thoughtfully, about the room, and then,
with a subdued whisper of skirts, descended the stair. Arnaud was in
the library, bending over the table that bore his accumulation of
papers and serious journals. A lingering impulse to speak was
overborne by the memory of what, lately, she had endured—she saw him
at the dusty end of that long corridor through which she had
monotonously journeyed, denied of her one triumph, lost in
inconsequential shadows—and she continued firmly to the door which
closed behind her with a normal mute smoothness, an inanimate silence.
The maid who admitted Linda to Pleydon's apartment, first replying,
"Yes, Mrs. Hallet. No, Mrs. Hallet," to her questions, continued in
fuller sentences expressing a triumph of sympathy over mere
correctness. She lingered at the door of the informal drawing room,
imparting the information that Mr. Pleydon had become very irregular
indeed about his meals, and that his return for lunch was uncertain.
Something, however, would be prepared for her. Linda acknowledged this
Often, with Mr. Pleydon at home, he wouldn't so much as look at his
dinner. Times, too, it seemed as though he had been in the studio all
night. He went out but seldom now, and rarely remained away for more
than an hour or two. Linda heard this without an indication of
responsive interest, and the servant, returning abruptly from the
excursion into humanity, disappeared.
She was glad to have this opportunity alone to accustom herself to
a novel position. But she was once more annoyingly calm. Annoyingly,
she reiterated; the fervor of her anger, which at the same time had
been bitterly cold, had lessened. She was practically normal. She
regarded this, the loss of her unprecedented emotion, in the light of
a fraud on her sanguine decision. Linda had counted on its support,
its generous irresistible tide, to carry her through the remainder of
her life with the exhilaration she had so largely missed.
Here in Dodge's room she was as placid, almost, as though she were
in the library at home. That customary term took its place in her
thoughts before she recognized that, with her, it had shifted.
However, it was unimportant—home had never been a magical word to
her; it belonged in the vast category which, of such universal weight,
left her unstirred.
She resembled those Eastern people restlessly and perpetually
moving across sandy deserts as they exhausted, one after another,
widely separated scanty oases.
She studied the objects around her with the pleased recognition
that they were unique, valuable, and in faultless taste. Then she fell
to wondering at the difference had Dodge been poor: she would have
come to him, Linda knew, just the same. But, she admitted frankly, it
would have been uncomfortable. Perhaps that—actual poverty, actual
deprivation—was what her character needed. A popular sentiment
upheld such a view; she decided it was without foundation. There was
no reason why beauty, finely appropriate surroundings, should damage
Her mind turned to an examination of her desertion of Arnaud, but
she could find no trace of conventional regret; of what, she felt, her
sensation ought to be. The instinctive revolt from oblivion was an
infinitely stronger reality than any allegiance to abstract duty. She
was consumed by the passionate need to preserve the integrity of being
herself. The word selfish occurred to her but to be met unabashed by
the query, why not? Selfishness was a reproach applied by those who
failed to get what they wanted to all who succeeded. Linda wasn't
afraid of public opinion, censure; she didn't shrink even from the
injury to her husband. What Dodge would think, however, was hidden
She had no doubt of his complete acceptance of all she offered;
ordinary obligations to society bound him as little as they held her.
It would be enough that she wanted to come to him.
She would bother him, change his habit of living, very little. Long
years of loneliness had taught her to be self-sufficient. Linda would
be too wise to insist on distasteful regularity in the interest of a
comparatively unimportant well-being, In short, she wouldn't bother
him. That must be made clear at once.
More than anything else he would be inexpressibly delighted to have
her with him, to find—at last—his love. Little intimacies of satin
mules, glimpses, charming to an artist! He'd be faultless, too, in the
relationships where Arnaud as well had never for a moment deviated
from beautiful consideration. Two remarkable men. While her deficiency
in humor was admitted, she saw a glimmer of the absurd in her attitude
and present situation. The combination, at least, was uncommon. There
had been no change in her feeling for either Arnaud or Dodge, their
places in her being were undisturbed; she liked her husband no less,
Dodge no better.
Lunch was announced, a small ceremony of covered silver dishes,
heavy crystal, Nankin china, and flowers. The linen, which was old,
bore a monogram unfamiliar to her—that of Dodge's mother, probably.
When she had finished, but was still lingering at the narrow refectory
table, she heard Pleydon enter the hall and the explanatory voice of
the servant. An unexpected embarrassment pervaded her, but she
overcame it by the realization that there was no need for an immediate
announcement of her purpose. Dodge would naturally suppose that she
was in New York shopping.
He did, to her intense relief, with a moving pleasure that she had
lunched with him. "It's seldom," he went on, "that you are so
sensible. I hope you haven't any plans or concerts to drag you away
immediately. I owe you a million strawberries; but, aside from that,
I'd like you to stay as long as possible."
"Very well," she replied quietly; "I will."
She hadn't seen him since the statue at Hesperia had been
destroyed, and she tried faintly to tell him how much that outrage had
hurt her. It had injured him too, she realized; just as Arnaud
predicted. He showed his age more gauntly, more absolutely, than the
other. His skin was dry as though the vitality of his countenance had
been burned out by the flame visible in his eyes.
"The drunken fools!" he exclaimed of the mob that had torn Simon
Downige from his eminence; "they came by way of all the saloons in the
city. Free drinks! That is the disturbing thing about what the
optimistic call civilization—the fact that it is always at the mercy
of the ignorant and the brutal. There is no security; none, that is,
except in the individual spirit. And they, mostly, are the victims of
a singular insane resentment—Savonarola and there were greater.
"But you mustn't think, you mustn't suppose, that I mean it's
hopeless. How could I? Who has had more from living? Love and
complete self-expression. That exhausts every possibility. Three
Remember Cottarsport. But the love—ah," he smiled, but not
directly at her. Linda was at once reassured and disturbed; and she
rose, proceeding into the drawing-room.
There she sat gracefully composed and with still hands; she never
embroidered or employed her leisure with trivial useful tasks. Pleydon
was extended on a chair, his fingers caught beyond his head and his
long legs thrust out and crossed at the ankles. His gaze was fixed on
her unwaveringly; and yet, when she tried to meet its focus, it went
behind her as though it pierced the solidity of her body and the walls
in the contemplation of a far-removed shining image. Her disturbance
grew to the inclusion of a degree of fretfulness at his unbroken
silence, his apparent absorption in whatever his meditation projected
Now, she decided, was the moment for her revelation; or rather, it
couldn't very well be further deferred, for it promised to be halting.
But, with her lips forming the words, he abruptly spoke:
"I have lived so long with your spirit, it has become so
familiar—I mean the ability of completely making you out of my
heart—that when you are here the difference isn't staggering. You
see, you are never away. I have that ability; it came out of the other
wreck. But you know about it—from years back. Time has only managed a
Lately, and I have nothing to do with it, I have been seeing you
again as a girl; as young as at Markue's party; younger. Not more than
ten. I don't mean that there is anything—isn't the present
fashionable word subliminal?—esoteric. God forbid. You'll remember my
hatred of that brutal deception.
"No, it's only a part of my ability to create the shape of feeling,
of Simon's hope. I see things as realities capable of exact statement;
and, naturally, more than all the rest, you come to me that way. But
as a child—who knows why?" he relinquished the answer with an opened
palm. "And young like that, perhaps ten, I love you more sharply, more
unutterably, than at any other age. What is it I love? Not your
adorable plastic body, not that. It isn't necessary to understand.
"You have, as a child, a quality of blinding loveliness in a world
I absolutely distrust. An Elysian flower. Is it possible, do you
suppose, to worship an abstract idea? It's not important to insist on
The question of that had occurred independently to Linda; his
hurried voice and lost gaze filled her with apprehension. A dull
reddish patch, she saw, burned in either thin cheek; and she told
herself that the fever had revived in him. Pleydon continued:
"Yet it is a timeless vision, because you never get old. I see
Hallet failing year by year, and your children, only yesterday dabs of
soft flesh, grow up and pass through college and marry. I hear myself
in the studio with an old man's cough; the chisels slip under the mall
and I can't move the clay about without help—all fading, decaying,
but you. Candles burn out, hundreds of them, while your whiteness,
"Strange, too, how you light a world, a sky, eternity. A word we
have no business with; a high-sounding word for a penny purpose. Look,
we try to keep alive because it's necessary to life, to nature; and
the effort, the struggle, breeds the dream. You can understand that.
Men who ought to know say that love is nothing more." He rose and
stood over her, towering and portentous against the curtained light.
"I don't pretend to guess. I'm a creative artist—Simon Downige at
Cottarsport—I have you. If it's God so much the better."
What principally swept over Linda was the knowledge that his
possession of her must keep them always apart. The reality, all
realities, were veils to Pleydon. Her momentary vision of things
beyond brick and earth was magnified in him until everything else was
obliterated. The fever! Oh, yes, that and his passion for work merged
in his passion for her. She could bring him nothing; and she had a
curious picture of two Lindas visible to him here—the Linda that was
actual and the other, the child. And of them it was the latter he
cared most for, recreated out of his desire to defraud his loneliness,
to repay the damage to his spirit realized in bronze.
She was, suddenly, too weary to stir or lift her hand; a depression
as absolute as her flare of rage enveloped her. Now the reason for her
coming seemed inexplicable, as if, for the while, her mind had failed.
She repressed a shudder at the thought of being, through the long
nights of his restlessness and wandering voice, alone with Pleydon.
She hadn't, Linda discovered, any of the transmuting feeling for him
which alone made surrender possible. She calculated mentally how long
it would take her to reach the station, what train would be available.
Linda accepted dumbly the fatality to her own hope; for a few hours
she had thought it possible to break out of the prison of
circumstance, to walk free from all hindrance; but it had been vain.
She gazed at Dodge Pleydon intensely—a comprehensive view of the man
she had so nearly married, and who, more than any other force,
dominated her being. It was already too late for anything but memory;
she saw—filled with pity for them both—hardly more than a strange
old man with deadened hair and a yellow parchment-like skin. His suit
of loose gray flannel gave her a feeling that it had been borrowed
from some one she lovingly knew.
The gesture of his hand, too, had been copied from a brilliant
personage with a consuming impatience at all impotence.
"Remember me to Arnaud," he said, holding her gloves and the short
fur cape. "Wait!" he cried sharply, turning to the bookcase against
the wall. Pleydon fumbled in a box of lacquered gilt with a silk cord
and produced a glove once white but now brown and fragile with age.
"You never missed it," he proceeded in a gleeful triumph; "but then
you had so many pairs. Once I sent you nine dozen together from
Grenoble. They were nothing, but this you had worn. For a long while
it kept the shape of your hand."
"Dodge," she tried without success to steady her voice, "it stayed
with you anyhow, my—my hand."
"But yes," he answered impatiently. He returned the glove to its
box, carefully tying the tasselled cord. Then, after clumsily helping
her with the cape, he accompanied her to the elevator. "There were
he told her. "Did you see the letters about the Hesperia affair?
Heaps of them. Rodin.... But what can you expect in a world where
there is no safety—" The stopping cage cut off his remark. She held
out the hand that was less real to him than the dream.
"Yes, Linda. But watch that door, your skirt might easily be caught
in it." He fussed over her safety until, abruptly, he seemed to rise
in space, shut out from her by the limitations of her faith.
The evening overshadowed her in the train, as though she were
whirling in the swiftest passage possible, through an indeterminate
grayness, from day to night. The latter descended on her as she
reached the steps of her home. It was still that; now it would
continue to be until death. Nothing could ever again offer her change,
release, vindication; nothing, that was, which might give her, for a
day, what even her mother had plentifully experienced—the igniting
exultation of the body.
It was inevitable, she thought, for Arnaud to be in the library. He
rose unsteadily as she stood in the doorway. "Linda," he articulated
with difficulty. A book had rested open on the table beside him and,
closing it, he put it back in its place. His arm trembled so that it
took a painfully long while. Then he moved forward, still confused.
"What a confounded time you were gone. I had the most idiotic
fancy. You see, it was so unlike you; none more exact in habit. All
day. I didn't get to the Historical Society, it seemed so devilish far
off. I'd never blame you for leaving an old man without any gumption."
He must never think that again, she replied. Wasn't she, too,
Linda admitted, definitely, the loss of her youth; and yet a stubborn
inner conviction remained that she was unchanged. In this she had for
support her appearance; practically she was as freshly and gracefully
pale as the girl who had married Arnaud Hallet. Even Vigne, with
indelible traces of her motherhood, had faint lines absent from
Linda's flawless countenance. Her children, and Arnaud, were immensely
proud of her beauty; it had become a part—in the form of her
ridiculously young air—of the family conversational resources. She
was increasingly aware of its supreme significance to her.
One of her few certainties had been the discovery that, while small
truths might be had from others, all that intimately and deeply
concerned her was beyond questioning and advice. The importance of
her attractiveness, for example, which seemed the base of her entire
being, was completely out of accord with the accepted standard of
values for middle-aged women. Other things, called moral and
spiritual, she inferred, should take up her days and thoughts. There
was a course of discipline—exactly like exercises in the morning—for
the preparation of the willingness to die.
But such an attitude was eternally beyond her; she repudiated it
with a revolt stringing every nerve indignantly tense. She had had, on
the whole, singularly little from life but her fine body; it had
always been the temple and altar of her service, and no mere wordy
reassurance could now repay her for its swift or gradual destruction.
The latter, except for accident, would be her fate; she was remarkably
sound. In her social adventures, the balls to which, without Arnaud,
she occasionally went, she was morbid in her sensitive dread of
discovering, through a waning admiration, that she was faded.
It would be impossible to spend more care on her person than she
had in the past; but that was unrelenting. Linda was inexorable in her
demands on the establishments that made her suits and dresses. The
slightest imperfection of fit exasperated her; and she regarded the
endless change of fashions with contempt. This same shifting, she
observed, occurred not only in women's clothes but in the women
Linda remembered her mother, eternal in gaiety, but very obviously
different from her in states of mind affecting her appearance. She was
unable to define the change; but it was unmistakable—Stella Condon
seemed a little old-fashioned. When now, to Lowrie's wife, Linda was
unmistakably out-of-date. Lowrie, fast accomplishing all that had been
predicted for him, had married a girl incomprehensible to his mother.
Observing this later feminine development she had the baffled
feeling of inspecting a creature of a new order.
To Linda, Jean Tynedale, now a Hallet, seemed harder than ever her
own famous coldness had succeeded in being. This came mostly from
Jean's imposing education; there had been, in addition to the politest
of finishing schools, college—a woman's concern, Bryn Mawr—and then
post-graduate honors in a noteworthy university. She was entirely
addressed, in a concrete way, to the abstract problems of social
progress and hygiene; and, under thirty, the animating spirit, as well
as financial support, of an incredible number of Settlements and
She spoke crisply before civic and other clubs; even, in the
interest of suffrage, addressing nondescript audiences from a box on
But it was her unperturbed dissection of the motives of sex, the
denouncement of a criminal mysterious ignorance, that most daunted
Linda. She listened to Jean with a series of distinct shocks to her
sense of propriety. What she had agreed to consider a nameless
attribute of women, or, if anything more exact, the power of their
charm over men, the other defined in unequivocal scientific terms. She
understood every impulse veiled for Linda in a reticence absolutely
needful to its appeal.
This, of course, the elder distrusted; just as she had no approval
for Jean's public activities. Linda didn't like public women; her
every instinct cried for a fine seclusion, fine in the meaning of an
appropriate setting for feminine distinction, the magic of dress and
cut roses. Her private inelegant word for Lowrie's wife was "bold;"
indeed, describing to herself the younger woman's patronage of her
bearing, she descended to her mother's colloquialism "brass."
She thought this sitting at a dinner-table which held Vigne and her
husband and Lowrie and Jean Hallet. Arnaud, drawing life from the
vitality of an atmosphere charged with youth, was unflagging in
splendid spirits and his valorous wit. Jean would never inspire the
affection Arnaud had given her; nor the passion that, in Pleydon, had
burned unfed even by hope.
Her thoughts slipped away from the present to the sculptor. Three
years had vanished since she had gone with an intention of finality to
his apartment, and in that time he had neither been in their house nor
written. Linda had expected this; she was without the desire to see or
hear from him. Dodge Pleydon was finished for her; as a man, a
potentiality, he had departed from her life. He was a piece with her
memories, the triumphs of her young days. Without an actual knowledge
of the moment of its accomplishment she had passed over the border of
that land, leaving it complete and fair and radiant for her lingering
Whether or not she had been happy was now of no importance; the
magic of its light showed only a garden and a girl in white with a
black bang against her blue eyes.
The bang, the blueness of gaze, were still hers; but, only this
morning, brush in hand, the former had offered less resistance in its
arrangement; it was thinner, and the color perceptibly not so dense.
At this, with a chill edge of fear, she had determined to go at once
to her hairdresser; no one, neither Arnaud, who loved its luster, nor
an unsympathetic bold scrutiny, a scrutiny of brass, should see that
she was getting gray. There was no fault about her figure; she had
that for her satisfaction; she was more graceful than Jean's square
thinness, more slim than Vigne's maternal presence.
Linda had the feeling that she was engaged in a struggle with time,
a ruthless antagonist whom she viewed with a personal enmity. Time
must, would, of course, triumph in the end; but there would be no sign
of her surrender in the meanwhile; she wouldn't bend an inch,
relinquish by a fraction the pride and delicacy of her person. The
skilful dyeing of her hair to its old absolute blackness, as natural
and becoming in appearance as ever, was a symbol of her determination
to cheat an intolerable tyranny.
The process, dismaying her soul, she bore with a rigid fortitude;
as she endured the coldness of a morning bath from which, often, she
was slow to react. This, to her, was widely different from the futile
efforts of her mother, those women of the past, to preserve for
practical ends their flushes of youth and exhilaration. She felt
obscurely that she was serving a deeper reality created by the hands
of Pleydon, Arnaud's faith and pure pleasure, all that countless men
had seen in her for admiration, solace and power.
But it was inevitable, she told herself bitterly, that she should
hear the first intimation of her decline from Jean Hallet. Rather, she
overheard it, the discussion of her, from the loiterers at breakfast
as she moved about the communicating library. Jean's emphatic slightly
rough textured voice arrested her in the arrangement of a bowl of
"You can't say just where she has failed, but it's evident. Perhaps
a general dryness. Perfectly natural. Thoroughly silly to fight
Vigne interrupted her. "I think mother's wonderful. I can't
remember any other woman nearly her age who looks so enchanting in the
Linda quietly left the flowers as they were and went up to the room
that had been her father's. It was now used as a spare bedroom; and
she had turned into it, in place of her own chamber, instinctively,
without reason. She had kept it exactly as it had been when Amelia
Lowrie first conducted her there, as it was when her father, a boy,
slept under the white canopy.
Linda advanced to the mirror; and, her hands so tightly clenched
that the finger-nails dug into the palms, forced herself to gaze
steadily at the wavering reflection. It seemed to her that there had
been a malicious magic in Jean's detraction; for immediately, as
though the harm had been wrought by the girl's voice, she saw that her
clear freshness had gone.
Her face had a wax-like quality, the violet shadows under her eyes
were brown. Who had once called her a gardenia? Now she was
wilting—how many gardenias had she seen droop, turn brown Her heart
beat with a disturbing echo in her ears, and, with a slight gasp that
resembled a sob, she sank on one of the uncomfortable painted chairs.
What, above every other sensation, oppressed her was a feeling of
terrific loneliness—the familiar isolation magnified until it was
past bearing. Yet, there was Arnaud, infallible in his tender
comprehension, she ought to go to him at once and find support. But it
was impossible; all that he could give her was, to her special
necessity, useless. She had never been able to establish herself in
his sympathy; the reason for that lay in the fact that she could bring
nothing similar in return.
The room—except for the timed clangor of the electric cars, like
the measure of lost minutes—was quiet. The photograph of Bartram
Hallet in cricketing clothes had faded until it was almost
indistinguishable. Soon the faint figure would disappear entirely, as
though the picture were amenable to the relentless principle operating
The peace about her finally lessened her acute suffering, stilled
her heart. She told herself with a show of vigor that she was a
coward, a charge that roused an unexpected activity of denial. She
discovered that cowardice was intolerable to her. What had happened,
too, was so far out of her hands that a trace of philosophical
acceptance, recognition, came to her support. The loveliest woman
alive must do the same, meet in a looking-glass—that eternal
accompanying sibyl—her disaster. She rose, her lips firmly set,
composed and pale, and returned to the neglected flowers in the
Vigne entered and put an affectionate arm about her shoulders,
repeating—unconscious that Linda had heard the discussion which had
given it being—the conviction that her mother was wonderful,
specially in the black dinner dress with the girdle of jet. With no
facility of expression she gave her daughter's arm a quick light
From then she watched the slow progress of age with a new
realization, but an unabated distaste and, wherever it was possible, a
determined artifice. Arnaud had failed swiftly in the past months;
and, while she was inspecting the impaired supports of an arbor in the
garden, he came to her with an unopened telegram. "I abhor these
things," he declared fretfully; "they are so sudden. Why don't people
write decent letters any more! It's like the telephone.... Good
manners have been ruined."
She tore open the envelope, read the brief line within, and, a hand
suddenly put out to the arbor, sank on its bench. There had been rain,
but a late sun was again pouring over the sparkling grass, and robins
were singing with a lyrical clearness. "What is it?" Arnaud demanded
anxiously, tremulous in the unsparing sunlight. She replied:
"Dodge died this morning."
His concern was as much for her as for Pleydon's death. "I'm sorry,
Linda," his hand was on her shoulder. "It is a shock to you. A fine
man, a genius—none stronger in our day. When you were young and for
so long after.... I was lucky, Linda, to get you; have you all this
while. Nothing in Pleydon's life, not even his success, could have
made up for your loss."
She wondered dully if Dodge had missed her, if Arnaud Hallet had
ever had her in his possession. The robins filled the immaculate air
with song. It was impossible that Dodge, who was so imperious in his
certainty that he would never say good-by to her, was dead.
There was a revival of public interest in the destruction of Pleydon's
statue at Hesperia, the papers again printed accounts colored by a
variety of attitudes unembarrassed by fact; and the serious journals
united in a dignity of eminently safe praise. At first Linda made an
effort to preserve these; but soon their similarity, her inability to
find, among sonorous periods, any trace of Dodge's spirit—in reality
she knew so blindingly much more than the most penetrating critical
intellect—caused her to leave the reviews unread. No one else living
had understood Pleydon; and when descriptions of his life spoke of the
austerity in his later years, his fanatical aversion to women, Linda
thought of the brittle glove in the gilt-lacquer box.
Her own emotion, it seemed to her, was the most confused of all the
unintelligible pressures that had converted her life into an enigma.
She had a distinct sense of overwhelming loss—of something, Linda was
obliged to add, she had never owned. However, she realized that during
Pleydon's life she had dimly expected a happy accident of explanation;
until almost the last, yes—after she had returned from that ultimate
journey, she had been conscious of the presence of hope. The hope had
been for herself, created out of her constant baffled dissatisfaction.
But now the man in whom solely she had been expressed, the only
possible reason for her obstinate pride, had left her in a world that,
but for Arnaud's fondness, looked on her without remark. The loss of
her distinction had been finally evident at balls, in the dresses in
which Vigne had thought her so wonderful, and she dropped them. Here,
she repeated, was when affection, generously radiated through life,
should have reflected over her a tranquil and contented joy. She had
never given it, and she was without the ability to receive. She
admitted to herself, with a little annoyed laugh, that her old desire
for inviolable charm, for the integrity of a memorable slimness, was
unimpaired. It was, she thought, too ridiculously inappropriate for
Yet it had changed slightly into the recognition that what so often
had been called her beauty was all she now had for sustenance, all she
had ever had. Her mind returned continually to Pleydon, and—deep in
the mystery of his passion—she was suddenly invaded by an insistent
desire to see the monument at Cottarsport. She spoke to Arnaud at once
about this; and alone, through his delicacy of perception, Linda went
to Boston the following day.
The further ride to Cottarsport followed the sea—a brilliant
serene blue, fretted on the landward side by innumerable bare
promontories, hideous towns and factories, but bowed in a far unbroken
arc at the immaculate horizon. She left the train for a hilly cluster
of houses, gray and low like the rock everywhere apparent, dropping to
a harbor that bore a company of motionless boats with half-spread
The day was at noon, and the sky, blue like the sea, held, still as
the anchored schooners, faint, chalky symmetrical clouds. Linda found
the Common without guidance; and at once saw, on its immovable base of
rugged granite, the bronze statue of Simon Downige. It stood well in
advance of what, evidently, was the court-house, the white steeple
Dodge had described. She found a bench by a path in the thin grass;
and there, her gloved hands folded, at rest in her lap, her gaze and
longing were lifted to the fixed aspiration.
From where she sat the seated figure was projected against the sky;
Simon's face was turned toward the west; the West that, for him, was
the future, but which for Linda represented all the past. This
conviction flooded her with unutterable sadness. A sense of failure
weighed on her, no less heavy for the fact that it was perpetually
vague. Her thoughts gathered about Dodge himself; and she recalled the
curious vividness of his vision of her as a child, perhaps ten. She,
too, tried to remember that time and age. It was almost in her grasp,
but her realization was spoiled by absurd mental fragments—the
familiar illusion of a leopard and a rider with bright hair, a forest
with the ascending voices of angels, and an ominous squat figure with
a slowly nodding plumed head.
The vista of a hotel returned, a fleet recollection of marble
columns and a wide red carpet... the white gleam and carbolized smell
of a drug-store, a thick magazine in a brown cover. These, changed
into emotions of mingled joy and pain, shifted in bright or dim colors
and sensations. There was a slow heavy plodding of feet, now above her
head, the passage of a carried weight; and, in a flash of perception,
she knew it was a coffin. She raised her clasped hands to her breast,
crying into the sunny silence, to the figure of Simon Downige lost in
"He died that night, at the Boscombe, after he had told me about
the meadows with silk tents—"
Her memory, thrilling with the echoed miraculous chord of the child
of ten, sitting gravely, alone, among the shrill satins and caustic
voices of a feminine throng, was complete. She saw herself, Linda
Condon, as objectively as Pleydon's described vision: there was a
large bow on her straight black hair, and, from under the bang, her
gaze was clear and wondering. How marvelously young she was! The
vindictive curiosity of the questioning women, intent on their rings,
brought out her eager defense of her mother, the effort to explain
away the ugly fact that—that Mr. Jasper was married.
She saw Linda descending the marble stairs to the lower floor where
the games were kept in a somber corridor, and heard a voice halting
her irresolute passage:
That wasn't her name, and she corrected him, waiting afterward to
listen to a strange fairy-like tale. The solitary, sick-looking man,
with inky shadows under fixed eyes, was so actual that she recaptured
the pungent drift of his burning cigarette. He talked about love in a
bitter intensity that hurt her. Yet, at first, he had said that she
was lovely, a touch of her... forever in the memory. Mostly, however,
he spoke of a beautiful passion. It had largely vanished, his
explanation continued; men had come to worship other things. Plato
She recalled Plato, as well, in connection with Dodge; now, it
appeared to her, that remote name had always been at the back of her
consciousness. There were other names, other men, of an age long ago
in Italy. Their ideal, religion, was contained in the adoration of a
woman, but not her body—it was a love of her spirit, the spirit their
purity of need recognized, perhaps helped to create. It was a passion
as different as possible in essence from all she had observed about
her. It was useless for common purposes, withheld from Arnaud Hallet.
The man, seriously addressing the serious uncomprehending interest
of ten, proceeded with a description of violins—but she had heard
them through all her life—and a parting that left only a white glove
for remembrance. Then he had repeated that line, in Italian, which,
not long back, her husband had recalled. The old gesture toward the
stars, the need to escape fatality—how she had suffered from that!
Yet it was a service of the body, a faith spiritual because, here,
it was never to be won, never to be realized in warm embrace. It had
no recognition in flesh, and it was the reward of no prayer or
humility or righteousness. Only beauty knew and possessed it. His
image grew dim like the blurring of his voice by pain and the shadow
of death. Linda's thoughts and longing turned again to Dodge; it
seemed to her that he no more than took up the recital where the other
Pleydon—was it at Markue's party or later?—talking about "Homer's
children" had meant the creations of great artists, in sound or color
or words or form, through that supreme love unrealized in other life.
The statue of Simon Downige, towering before her against the sky and
above the sea, held in immutable bronze his conviction. The meager
bundle and crude stick rested by shoes clogged with mud; Simon's body
was crushed with weariness; but under the sweat plastered brow his
gaze pierced indomitable and undismayed to the vision of a place of
She was choked by a sharp rush of joy at Dodge's accomplishment, an
entire understanding of the beauty he had vainly explained, the
deathless communication of old splendid courage, an unshaken divine
need, to succeeding men and hope. This had been hers. She had always
felt her presence in his success; but, until now, it had belonged
exclusively to him. Dodge had, in his love, absorbed her, and that
resulted in the statues the world applauded. She, Linda thought, had
been an element easily dismissed. It had hurt her pride almost beyond
endurance, the pride that took the form of an inner necessity for the
survival of her grace—all she had.
She had even asked him, in a passing resentment, why he had never
directly modeled her, kept, with his recording genius, the shape of
her features. She had gone to him in a blinder vanity for the purpose
of stamping her participation in his triumph on the stupid
insensibility of their world. How incredible! But at last she could
see that he had preserved her spirit, her secret self, from
destruction. He had cheated death of her fineness. The delicate
perfection of her youth would never perish, never be dulled by old age
or corrupted in death. It had inspired and entered into Pleydon's
being, and he had lifted it on the pedestal rising between the sea and
She was in the Luxembourg, in that statue of Cotton Mather, the
somber flame, about which he had written with a comment on the
changing subjects of his creations. From the moment when he sat beside
her on the divan in that room stifling with incense, with the naked
glimmer of women's shoulders, she had been the source of his power.
She had been his power. Linda smiled quietly, in retrospect, at her
years of uncertainty, the feeling of waste, that had robbed her of
peace. How complete her mystification had been! And, all the while,
she had had the thrill of delight, of premonition, born in her through
the forgotten hour with the man who had died.
The sun, moving in celestial space, shifted the shadow about the
base of Simon Downige's monument. The afternoon was advancing. She
rose and turned, looking out over the sea to the horizon as brightly
sharp as a curved sword. The life of Cottarsport, below her, proceeded
in detached figures, an occasional unhurried passage. The boats in the
harbor were slumberous. It was time to go. She gazed again, for a last
view, at the bronze seated figure; and a word of Pleydon's, but rather
it was Greek, wove its significance in the placid texture of her
thoughts. Its exact shape evaded her, a difficult word to
recall—Katharsis, the purging of the heart. About her was the beating
of the white wings of a Victory sweeping her—a faded slender woman in
immaculate gloves and a small matchless hat—into a region without