The Bacillus of Beauty
Harriet Stark

Part 4 out of 6

both. Love has conquered us, and I--I shall never again be unhappy!





East Sixty-seventh Street, Feb. 25.

He said he did not love me.

It is not true. I saw love when he spoke, when he kissed my hands. He does
love me, but he guards a man's honour.

I have broken John's heart, given up my home, estranged my friends; I have
given up even Ned for love of him. But I'd have gone to the ends of the
earth in gladness, I'd have given up for him all else in life--even my
beauty; which is dearer than life.

He'll come to me yet. Milly won't forgive, won't trust. She will not try
to understand. Her only thought will be to hurt, to punish. She'll drive
him to me again; but oh, the shame of taking him so, given to me by her

I won't believe he doesn't love me.

What have I done to be so tortured? I didn't know it was cruelty not to
break the bond with John earlier; I didn't know I gave him only a girl's
passing fancy.

It was when I met Ned that my heart awoke.

I knew that he was Milly's betrothed and I had not thought of thus
repaying Aunt's kindness. Her kindness! Kind as a stone.

But it wasn't Ned's fault. He couldn't help himself. If he could have left
me alone! If he could only have gone away!

I suppose he tried to control himself, but his eyes glowed when he looked
on me; and I, thinking I knew what love was, because I was affianced, did
not see--did not know what the wild joy meant that his look woke in my

To keep faith with John and Milly, should I have shunned him? But there
was nothing to warn me; he never spoke of love; I never thought of it. If
he had spoken earlier, I might have known what to do. It might have been
the danger signal. Why could he not have kept away? Why did he not speak a
word of love until it was too late--until--ah, I was so happy!

But he does love me. There's truer speech than that of words, and his
lips--that kissed me, but said he did not love--have told two stories. I
know which to believe!

And Milly knows. She is too wise to contend with Me.

I shall never know what brought Ned to the house--three weeks ago, but I
haven't dared to write of it--I shall never know what happened before I
saw him.

I ran into the library with a song bubbling to my lips--for I was thinking
of him--and the gladness of it was in my eyes when I found him there. He
started and turned to me a face of confusion--yes, and of worship. He
fumbled with a book on the table, and glanced toward the door as if he
would have left me. I saw that, but I didn't think--there was no time to
think, but I must have felt that a crisis had come that would decide our
lives. All the fear, all the sweet shame that I had felt before him
vanished. My heart beat wildly for happiness, but I was calm.

At last we were alone together!

I waited for him to speak. Slowly he turned as my questioning eyes had
willed. His were black with passion and grief. A look of pain contracted
his face, and he said, jerking the words out hoarsely:--

"I'm going away."

The suddenness of it almost took my breath. I had expected different
words. Indeed his eyes had shot another message; _they_ said that he
would never leave me!

Confused by lips that lied and eyes that confessed, I stammered:--

"Going--not going away? Why? Why should you go?"

I couldn't keep appeal out of my tone, and I could see him brace himself
to resist. I think I knew that, if he could, he meant to sacrifice our
love to John and Milly. I think I had seen this earlier; but I had thought
the struggle past when he came to me and begged me not to leave the city.
But perhaps, this time, I didn't understand him; perhaps I was simply
confused by his distress.

I thought he tried in vain to look away from me. Then he moved a step
nearer, slowly, as if reluctant. His face was haggard.

"Tell me why you are going."

I scarcely knew I spoke. It was as if some will independent of my own had
dictated the words. Yet I did not try to hide my heart's wish; it was too
late. He was my life, and in all but words--yes, and in words even--I told
him so. We had confessed our love. It was his right.

"Listen," I said. "If anything is--is wrong, I must know it. I--I
_must_ know it. Tell me. I must know everything. Ned, you must tell

A vein stood out upon his forehead, but still he gazed silently at me.
After a time he said hoarsely:--

"I'm going because for your beauty I have thrown away the love of the
woman I was to marry. For you I have lost her, and yet--I loved Milly. My
God, I love her!"

Once he had begun, the words came with fierce swiftness. He seemed to mean
them to sting, to cut, to stab. It was hard not to cry out with the pain
of hearing them. All that I understood was that he meant to wrench himself
from me with a force that should make the breach impassable. This I felt,
though still his eyes gave the lie to his words; his eyes that said I was
dear as life to him.

"Don't think I blame you for the inevitable," he went on. "You do not
know, and I pray God you may never understand, how contemptible I have
been. And don't think me a fool; I'm not crying for the moon, nor dreaming
that a glorious creature like you--ah, you're as far above me as the stars
above the sea--to you I have been only--"

"Don't speak like that!" I cried. White-faced, I stared at him,
tremblingly, pleadingly. There was a cloud in my brain that seemed to be
coming down; it threatened to smother me--but I held fast to my courage.
It was life itself for which I was fighting.

"You have--you are--"

The truth was at my lips, but he interrupted:--

"I know you have reason to hate me, for I have done you wrong. Because of
my folly, your place here is not what it was; and you love Burke, whom I
have wronged, as I love Milly, whom I have estranged. I must keep away
from you. You can see that. For the sake of all, I must keep away from

The cloud was choking me, but I put forth my strength.

"You have done nothing wrong; I do not--"

Words failed me. I hadn't the temerity to speak John's name. And Ned--
could he not see?--only stood there saying:--

"Why I've wrecked Milly's life and mine and turned your friends against
you, only God knows, who made men what they are; only God knows--I don't.
Can you forgive me?"

Didn't he love me? His despair was beating conviction into me. He was
pale, his lip quivered. Why was he humbled and ashamed? I was palsied with
doubt, and the golden moments were fleeting, were fleeting. I must act!
But I felt as if I were dead and could not, though that strangling cloud
still hurt me.

"There is nothing to forgive," I faltered at last. "Or--you must forgive
me. Perhaps I should understand, but--oh, I'm not wise. Indeed I have not
meant to--to--Shall I speak to Milly for you? But that would only make
matters worse. They may take me--to Bermuda--anywhere; or--I will leave
this house; she'll forget if I go away."

At the last words my tremulous voice broke almost into a scream. Must I go
away--go away that he may make Milly happy?

"You will stay here," he said, his lips quivering more and more. "Why
should I drive you from home? I have lost Milly. She understands no more
than you, and I hope she never may! You need not fear that I shall trouble
you. I shall not see you again. You are maddening--no, not that--but I am
mad. Mad!"

He turned abruptly to go, came back as hastily, caught my hand and pressed
hot kisses on it. His burning eyes looked passionately into mine. He was
indeed like one insane.

Then with a great groan of contrition he put his hands before his face and
rushed blindly from the room.

"Ned! Ned!" I cried out, but it was too late; he didn't hear me.

I don't know how I reached my chamber. I fell in a heap on the floor,
shivering, laughing, sobbing, moaning for death.

Going away! I was going away from Ned! My beauty had meshed him; I almost
hated it. I saw his haggard face, I heard again his voice, solicitous for
Milly's grief. I know now that pain cannot kill, or I should have died.

Going away! He did not love me. He cared nothing for my hurt, only for
Milly's. He loved that little white piece of putty that hadn't life enough
to love any man!

I heard rain against the windows and felt a sudden fierce longing to go
out and fight the storm. Could not a strong woman compel love? No other
woman since the world began had been so fit for love, had yearned for it
so hungrily.

Going away! Yet I felt his kisses upon my hand. Are men so different? What
is a man, that he should love and not love?

How cold the old Nelly was! Since coming to the city, I had never let John
kiss me; yet I thought I loved him. I thought love was a brook to make
little tinkling music, and it had become a mighty ocean sweeping over me,
sweeping over me!

But I must act at once, I thought; I must go away. I must find my aunt,
must tell her--what? Where could I go? Not back to Kitty; she had left the
den. Not to Miss Baker, who would share Aunt's wrath. Where could one such
as I find refuge? A woman whom all women must hate for her loveliness?

"Ned! Ned! I am alone!" I cried in my agony of soul. "You must--you
will!--come back to me, come back to me."

I bathed my eyes and hurried from the house to forget the thought, but it
followed everywhere. The rain had not stopped, but it suited me to be
drenched, to hold my face to the whiplash of the water snapped by the
wind. I went to Meg Van Dam, who had long urged me to pay her a visit.
This time I was ready to consent, for she at least was glad to have me;
and before I left her I had agreed to go to her.

It was dinner time when I reached home, glad that it was to be home to me
no longer; the house made me shudder as a dungeon might. It was so changed
since morning, seen now with different eyes. The dining room was so
heavily respectable, with its fussily formal arrangements--like Uncle, for
it's big; like Aunt, for it's crotchety.

I suppose there must have been a scene with Ned. Aunt Frank was depressed,
fitfully talkative. Milly scarcely spoke, but in the curtness with which
she turned her sullen head when poor Ethel asked some question, I wasn't
slow in finding a meaning.

Joy begged in vain for her nightly lullaby. I couldn't respond to her
"Thing, Cothin Nelly!" I'd never before noticed how like she is to her
sisters. With her snubby nose and her yellow braids, she'll grow into just
another white-faced doll as Milly.

Miss Baker talked persistently about Bermuda; as if my exile had ever been
a possibility! In all my blind whirlwind of pain, I was glad that this was
the last night I should have to writhe under the click of her knitting
needles, and sit opposite her large, solemn features.

"A change will do you good, Frances," she purred. "By either the
_Orinoco_ or the _Trinidad_ you'll have only a two days' voyage.
Helen will be in her element among the coral, and Milly must come home
with a coat of tan."

Milly bent lower over her magazine; in an hour she hadn't turned a page.
Her thin hands, like claws, that held the book, disgusted me, fascinated
me! They were the hands that Ned had kissed, as he had mine; clasped and
pressed, as he had--how could he!

I called Aunt to me at bedtime, and told her I'd trespassed upon her
kindness too long, and that Mrs. Van Dam was pressing.

"But we can't let you go," she said, even while the wonder whether she
might not shone through her face. "You and Meg have become friends, I
know, but Bake and I feel responsible to your mother."

Of course we understood each other, but neither cared to speak the truth.
She had no pity, in her feeling for her own child, for the hurt I might
conceal. And I don't want her pity!

At least I shall no longer have to tear my heart out, meeting Ned in her

The parting was easier than might have been expected, for we all rose to
the occasion. Uncle had been drilled over night, and his perplexity and
Aunt's preparations for leaving home amused me. The trip to Bermuda had
been proposed for my sake, Aunt had only half desired it; but now she
forgot her fears of winter storms, seasickness and shipwreck, and clutched
at the excuse to whisk Milly out of reach of Ned Hynes and out of sight of

Her tone was dulcet sweet.

"We can't blame you for preferring New York, when the Van Dams are so
lovely to you," she said complacently. "But Ethel is delicate. Bermuda'll
do her a world of good; though of course it's not fashionable.'"

"I'm sure you'll have a lovely trip," I said. "You must let me help you

She was turning the house topsy-turvy in her zeal to sail by the next
boat, the very next day. She succeeded; and when she left the house I
left it, too; to come here; to the General; to a house that would two
months ago have seemed a palace such as I could never dream of living in.
It would suit me better to be independent, to be sometimes alone, to feel
that I shouldn't have a shrewd woman's eyes so much upon me. But for the
present--it is my refuge!

At Christmas I should have broken down and sobbed when I saw the last of
the Bakers, instead of dropping honeyed sentences and undulating out of
the room--like--like--. He called me once the Goddess glowing in her walk.
I have changed this winter, mentally as well as physically.



I've been feverishly gay since I came to Meg. I have walked between
stormwinds--grief behind and grief that I must enter. I've dined and
danced, and I've clenched my hands lest I might shriek, and I've longed to
hide away and die.

But I won't die. I'm not like other women--a silly, whining pack, their
hearts the same fluttering page blotted with the same tears wept in Hell
or Heaven. Love is a draught for two--or one; wretched one!--to drink. My
life is for the world.

Oh, I've been a child, caring only for the lights and the pretty things
and the music; but I'm not blind now. I understand many things that were
hidden from the plain girl from the West. I have lived a year in every
day. I see as they are these people I have thought so kind. So rich I call
them now; so smug, so socially jealous.

There's Meg Van Dam, now; surely she knows why I have come to her, and she
was Milly's friend; yet she fawns upon me. I thought her a great person,
but now I know she's eager to rise by hanging at my skirts, and I amuse
myself with her joy that I've rejected Ned, as she thinks; with her talk
of Strathay, her dismay at John Burke's wooing.

John's so persistent. He called to see me the very day--almost in the hour
I came here; the hour I was pacing the dainty little room Meg assigns me,
picturing the scene on board the Bermuda boat, wondering if Ned had gone
to the dock on the chance of a parting word with Milly, torturing myself
with the vision of a lovers' reconciliation.

When John's card was brought, I was tempted to refuse to see him. But at
the thought that he would know too well how to interpret reserves, I went
down, nerved to meet him with a smile.

"Why, John," I said with my most pleased expression, "back from the West
so soon? You've heard the news, I suppose--my cousins sailed this

He had turned from the window at the rustle of my dress, and the grimness
of his square-set jaws, warning me of a coming struggle, relaxed into a
look of perplexity. Men have so little insight; he could not see that, as
I sank, still smiling, into a chair, my breath came in gasps that almost
choked me. After a moment's silence he said sharply:--

"Helen, we must be married."

"Married! Didn't you get my letter? John--"

"Listen!" he interrupted. "I must have the right to take care of you. You
need me."


My tone was purposed insolence; I met his look with bravado. I hated him
because he--because I--because he dared to know--because he offered to
come to my relief when my aunt--Ned--perhaps he thought me deserted--
lovelorn. His awkward figure woke in me a sudden physical repulsion.

"_I_ need _you_?" I repeated with a cool laugh. "And except the
good deed of providing me with a husband, what services do you propose

"Nelly," he said, disregarding my taunts, "I have just come from the
_Orinoco_. When I reached the office this morning and heard that the
party was starting, I assumed that you would be with it and hurried to the
pier. If I'd missed the boat, I might not have learned the truth until--
when? Why have they gone without you? What does it all mean?"

I pulled a flower nonchalantly from a vase beside me, but I felt my cheeks
burn and grow white with deadly cold and fever.

"Didn't Mrs. Baker tell you," I said, "that 'Nelly dear' thought Bermuda
unfashionable? You got my letter?"

"No; you did write, then? You so far recognised the claim of your promised

"Not now; not one minute--"

In a blind frenzy of rage I held out his ring; but he knew the master word
to my heart. I stopped short as, ignoring what I said, he hurried on.

"Why wasn't Hynes at the boat?" he demanded. "Did he know what I didn't--
that it was not the place to seek you?"

He grasped my wrists, he looked into my bloodless face--caught the
defiant, exultant look that flashed upon it at the news he gave; then he
dropped my hands but immediately seized them again.

"If he dares come near you, he shall answer! Speak!" he said. "Is it for
his sake that you've stayed here?"

"If you will let me go--"

He loosed his grasp and I ostentatiously chafed my wrists. I was in a
fury. I was driven to madness by the thought that John might force a
quarrel upon Ned--the man I had rejected and the man that had rejected me!

"I'll never marry you nor any poor man!" I cried out. "What have you to
offer me? What can you do? Oh, yes, you can come and insult me, and talk
to me of love--Love! The love that would make me a poor man's drudge!"

Again I thrust his ring at him, the opal spitting angry blue and orange
fires. I thought he would have struck at it. Heaven knows what mad
instinct was at the back of his brain. I believe every man's a brute when
the woman he loves defies him. I think his fingers tingled for the Cave
man's club. At any rate, I shrank in terror from his eyes.

But quickly the red light sank in them, and a puzzled look grew there
instead, turning them very soft and pitiful.

"Nelly, I cannot think you serious," he said. "We have always talked of
marriage, and--is it an insult to press you for the day? Heart of me, I've
been so much worried about you! Are you very sure that you have chosen the
wisest part? If you are, I can only leave you to think it over, perhaps

"Don't preach!"

I flung out at him a torrent of abusive words, resolved that he should
think about me what he chose, so long as it was not the truth.

He had no plea for himself; he saw that it would be useless. I stabbed him
the more viciously as the anger died out of his face and left it only
grave and pained. He looked older than I had ever seen him before; and on
his temple, where he turned toward the window, gleamed a little streak of

"But, Nelly, what will you do?" he said at last.

His tone was as level as if he were discussing some trivial matter. He had
given up the fight, and, paying no heed to my unkindness, had fallen back
upon the old habit, the instinct of looking out for me, smoothing my way
after his own fashion that is so irritating.

"You can't stay among these--these strangers, can you?" he continued. "Are
you going home?"

"To the farm? Never, I hope. Mrs. Van Dam, my chaperon, has many plans for
me--better form than talking things over with a man. In the spring we may
go abroad."

He tried--poor, foolish fellow--to read from my face the riddle of a
woman's heart before he answered:--

"I'm afraid I don't altogether understand you, Nelly."

Presently he left me, wondering, even as I wonder now: Why don't I care
for John? He's a strong man and he loves me. Just another of Nature's
sorry jests, isn't it?

It was all so hopeless, so tangled. I leaned against the mantel, relieved
by his going, but unutterably lonely. Just for a moment I feared the
brilliant future that stretched in vista--without love, it looked an
endless level of tedium and weariness. My bitterness towards John melted
and the years we had known each other unrolled themselves before me--
happy, innocent years. I felt his strength and gentleness, and of a sudden
something clutched at my throat. Sob followed sob; I shook in a tearless

Only for an instant. Then I, too, turned to leave the room, but fate or
instinct had brought John back and I was startled by his voice:--

"Nelly, tell me!"

He did not come near me. There was no gust of passion in his tone, yet I
felt as never before the depth of his tenderness. He had not come back to
woo, but as the old friend, ambitious of helpfulness.

"Helen," he said, "how can I leave you, who need protection more than any
other woman, so terribly alone?"

I didn't fear I might be tempted, but I quavered out:--

"John, go away. I've wronged you enough. I never loved you; I've no faith
in love. I never loved you at all, and--you must have seen, lately, that I
have changed--that I've become a very--a very mercenary woman. I can't
afford to marry a poor man."

My lips quivered, for this was the cruelest lie of all; I have changed,
but I'm not money loving. And I couldn't deceive him. He smiled queerly,
but he must have thought time his ally, for he only said:--

"Money can buy you nothing; you might leave gewgaws to other women. But
you are less mercenary than you think yourself; and you will always know
that I love you; let it rest with that, for now."

So he went away the second time, leaving me with my hands clenched and my
teeth set--so fierce had been my fight to seem composed. As I sank
breathless into a chair, and my tense fingers relaxed, out from my right
hand rolled the little opal ring. I hadn't returned it, after all; had
been gripping it all the time, unknowing. At sight of it, I burst into
hysterical laughter.

And that madly merry laughter is the end. I should go crazy if I yielded
to love that I can't return, and I should despise him if he accepted. A
husband not too impassioned, a fair bargain--beauty bartered for position,
power, for a name in history--that is all there is left to me, now that
love has vanished.

The farm! I couldn't go back, to isolation and dull routine! I told John I
might go abroad. Why not? I might see the great capitals, and in the
splendour of palaces find a fitting frame for my beauty. There may be
salve for heartache in the smile of princes. At any rate, the seas would
flow between me and Ned Hynes.

I had forgotten my ambitions. I'd have said to Ned: "Whither thou goest I
will go;" but if what he feels for me is not love--if in his heart he
hates me for the witchery I've put upon him--

I could go abroad with a title, if I chose. If love lies not my way, there
is Strathay.

How listless I am, turning from my sorrow to write of what to most girls
would be a delight--of that pathetic little figure, toadied and flattered,
but keeping a good heart through it all; of his marked attentions, which I
permit because they keep other men away; of his efforts to see me--for the
Van Dams' position isn't what I imagined it, and we are not invited to
many houses where I could meet him; of Meg's rejoicings over a few of the
cards we do receive.

Oh, I win her triumphs, triumphs in plenty! Because the Earl admires me,
hasn't she once sat at the same table with Mrs. Sloane Schuyler, who
refuses to meet intimately more than a hundred New York women; and hasn't
she twice or thrice talked "autos" with Mrs. Fredericks; and isn't she
envied by all the women of her own set because the Earl and his cousin
shine refulgent from her box at the Opera?

Triumphs, certainly; doesn't Mrs. Henry wrangle with Meg over my poor
body, demanding that I sit in her box, and that I join Peggy's Badminton
club, and bring the Earl, who would bring the youths and maidens who would
bring the prestige that would, some day, make a Newport cottage socially

That's her dream, Meg's is Mayfair; she thinks of nothing but how to
invest me in London and claim her profit when I am Strathay's Countess, or
mistress of some other little great man's hall. Oh, I understand them;
Mrs. Henry's the worst; oily!

I wonder if London is less petty than New York; if I should be out of the
tug and scramble there. But I mustn't judge New York, viewing it through
the Van Dams' eyes. If I did, I should see a curious pyramid.

At the top, a sole and unapproachable figure, the twelfth Earl of
Strathay, just out of school;

Next a society, two-thirds of whose daughters will marry abroad, and to
all of whose members an Earl's lack of a wife is a burning issue;

Hanging by their skirts a thousand others, like the General and Mrs.
Henry, available for big functions, pushing to get into the little ones;

Hanging by these in turn, ten thousand others outside the pale, but
flinging money right and left in charity or prodigality to catch the eyes
of those who catch the eyes of those who nod to Earls;

And after them nobody!

And the problem: "How high can we climb?"

Why, there are twenty thousand families in New York rich enough to be
Elect, if wealth were all. I could almost marry Strathay to save him from
the ugly millioned girls! How they hate me!

I know what love is like, now; Strathay means to speak. If Ned would
only--but three weeks--three long, long weeks, and he doesn't--oh, I
won't believe that, deep in his heart he does not love me. It's not time--
not time, yet, to think about the little Earl!

At any rate I won't be flung at his head; last night I taught Meg a lesson
she'll remember. She meant to bring him home to supper after the Opera,
where, in spite of my first experience, we're constant now in attendance;
but, to her surprise, then dismay, then almost abject remonstrance, I
prepared to go out before dinner to inspect the new studio Kitty and Cadge
have taken.

"Be back in good season?" she pleaded. "How _could_ you make an
engagement for the night when Strathay.--Not wait for you! Why Helen, you
can't--what would Strathay think if I allowed you to arrive alone at the

"Then can't you and Peggy entertain him?"

"Peggy?" She looked at me with blank incredulity. "You wouldn't stay away
when Strathay--why, Helen, you didn't mean that. Drive straight to the
Metropolitan when you leave your--those people, if you don't wish to come
back for me. Where do they live?" she groaned despairingly.

"Top of a business block in West Fourteenth Street."

I thought she would have refused me the carriage for such a trip, but she
didn't venture quite so far as that; and the hour I spent with the girls
was a blessed breathing spell.

"What a barn!" I cried, when I had climbed more stairs than I could count
to the big loft where I found them. "Girls, how came you here?"

"Behold the prodigal daughter! Shall we kill the fatted rarebit?" And
Kitty threw herself upon me; while Cadge, waving her arms proudly at the
Navajo rugs, stuffed heads of animals and vast canvasses of Indian braves
and ponies that made the weird place more weird, replied to my query:--

"Borrowed it of an artist who's wintering in Mexico; cheap; just as it

Then they installed me under a queer tepee, and we had one of the old time
picked-up suppers, and for an hour my troubles were pushed into the
background. The girls are in such frightful taste that I really should
drop them, but they're loyal and so proud of me!

"Princess," said Cadge, "time you were letting contracts for the building
of fresh worlds to shine in. You're the most famous person in this, with
all the women thirsting for your gore; and you've a real live Lord for a

"That's nothing."

Cadge thinks me still betrothed to John, so she affected to misunderstand.

"Nearly nothing, for a fact," she said; "it isn't ornamental, but we
seldom see specimens and mustn't judge hastily. And it is a Lord.--See the
hand-out he gave me for last Sunday--full-page interview: 'Earl of
Strathay Discusses American Society?'

"Some English won't stand for anything but a regular pie-faced story, but
Strathay's a real good little man."

"You said he had sixty-nine pairs of shoes," said Kitty reminiscently.

"No; twenty-nine."

"What's His Lordlets doing in New York?" inquired Pros., who was there as
usual, a queer and quiet wooer.

"Tinting the town a chaste and delicate pink, assisted and chaperoned by
his cousin, the Hon. Stephen Allardyce Poultney. Ugh! Glad the _Star_
doesn't want an interview with _His_ Geniality; don't like S.A.P.
Esq.," said Cadge energetically. "But, Helen, now you've got people where
you want 'em, you play your own hand. You don't want any Van Dam for a
bear leader. That crowd's been working every fetch there is to get in with
the top notchers, and they just couldn't. Knowing you is worth more to
them than endowing a hospital. You're a social bonanza."

Perhaps I shouldn't have let her talk so about Meg, but, after all, she
told me nothing new.

"Did I send you a marked paper with the paragraph I wrote about the
important 'ological experiments you couldn't leave, even for the 'land of
the lily and the rose?'" she proceeded. "Don't wonder you didn't want to
go to Bermuda, everything coming so fast your way. I crammed your science
into the story because it's good advertising. Don't really study at
Barnard now, do you? I wouldn't; would you, Kitty?"

Her white, mobile face gleaming with animation, Cadge declaimed upon one
of her thousand hobbies:--

"What's women's science good for but dribbling essays to women's clubs? If
some 'Chairwoman of Progress' were to grab off the Princess, does it take
science to give 'em 'Fresh Evidence that Woman was Evolved from a Higher
Order of Quadrumanous Ape than Man?' We all know what the clubs want, and
if they get it, they'd vote any one of us as bright a light as Haeckel.--
Pros., you saved any clippings for the Princess?"

Pros. gave me a quantity of articles about my beauty cut from out-of-town
and foreign papers. I believe I'll subscribe to a clippings bureau. I
hadn't thought of that.

I stayed and stayed; it was so pleasant in the eyrie; but when at last I
rose to go, Kitty sighed:--

"Why, you've only been here a minute, and in that gorgeous dress, you're
like a real Princess, not my chum. I shall suggest a court circular--'The
Princess Helen drove out yesterday attended by Gen. Van Dam.'--'Her Serene
Highness, Princess Helen, honoured the Misses Reid and Bryant last evening
at a soiree.'--leaded brevier every morning on the editorial page. Oh,
Nelly, can't I have your left-off looks? A homely girl starves on bread
and water, while a pretty one wallows in jam."

"Princess must be wallowing in wealth," said Cadge, inspecting my evening
dress; "suspect she didn't dress for us; it's Opera night. Stockholders
share receipts with you? Beauty show in that first tier box must sell

"Wish they would divide; I'm as poor as a church mouse," I said, laughing.

I didn't go to the Opera, though the girls had cheered me up until I
hurried home prepared to do Meg's bidding; but she had gone--angry, I
suppose--and I didn't follow.

I gained nothing; the Opera gives me my best chance to see and be seen. I
might as well have had my hour of triumph, the men in the box, the jealous
glances of the women. I might as well have scanned with feverish
expectation the big audience that turns to me more eagerly than to the
singers, searching--oh, I'm mad to think that Ned might come there again
to look upon me.

I didn't even escape the Earl. Meg and her husband came home early,
bringing him and Poultney; we had the supper, and, for my sins, I made
myself so agreeable that Meg forgave me, almost.

It was easy; I just let the poor boy talk to me about his mother and
sisters, and watched his face light up as he spoke of them in a simple,
hearty way that American boys don't often command. He is really very nice.
One of his sisters is a beauty.

"But not like you," he said.

He's as boyishly honest as if he were sixteen; and as modest. To be
Countess of Strathay would be a--

Of course Mrs. Henry and Peggy were here, smiling on Mr. Poultney,
Strathay's cousin. Oh, I'm useful! I believe Mrs. Marmaduke is the only
Van Dam who's kind to me without a motive; they're not Knickerbockers at
all, as I supposed.

Cadge is right; I gain nothing socially by remaining with Meg; and her
guesses come too close to my heart's sorrow. She watches and worries,
forever concerned lest some "folly" on my part interfere with her
ambitions. Why, I'm frantic at times with imagining that even the maid she
lends me--an English "person"--reports upon my every change of mood.

Oh, I ought to be independent, independent in all ways. With a little
money I could manage it.

There's a Mrs. Whitney, a widowed aunt of Meg's husband, who lives alone
in an apartment where a paying guest, if that guest were I, might be
received. Meg would raise an outcry, of course, but I can't keep on
visiting her indefinitely; and I should still be partly in her hands.

But I have no money. My allowance is the merest nothing, spent before it
comes. Why, I owe Meg's dressmaker, for the dress Cadge admired and for
others--Mrs. Edgar was cheaper; I must go back to her. And in the
Nicaragua, where Mrs. Whitney lives, the cost of--but it wouldn't be for

If Ned doesn't--

I won't think about Strathay. I must wait. It's my fault that I haven't
plenty of money. I've been so unhappy that I haven't explained to Father
how my needs have increased, how my way of life has changed. But I'll
write to-night; he refuses me nothing. He must send me a good sum at once;
as much as he can raise.

Mrs. Whitney's a harmless tabby--a thin, ex-handsome creature struggling
to maintain appearances; but I can put up with her. I will go to the
Nicaragua. I'll go at once.



The Nicaragua, March 29.

How could I have known that he would die?

I had never seen any one die. It was as if life were a precious wine
rushing from an overturned glass that I could not put right again. I did
not dream a man could be so fragile.

For weeks I have not added a word to this record. But now I have looked
upon death, and I must write. There is no one to confide in but this
little book, stained by so many tears, confident of so many sorrows, so
many disappointments.

Prof. Darmstetter is dead.

Dead, but not by my fault. I was not the thousandth part to blame. Yet I
tremble like a leaf to think of it. I shall get no sleep to-night and to-
morrow look like a fright to pay for it--no! I can never do that now,
thank God! Thank God for that!

Yes, I'm glad; when I try to be calm, I am glad he's dead--no, not that--
sorry he's dead, of course, but glad that my rights are safe--when I am

But I can't be calm; it was too horrible!

It happened yesterday in the laboratory; we were alone together. I have
seldom been to the laboratory of late, but I had begun to suspect that the
Professor was planning treachery, preparing to try the Bacillus upon other
women. He had been so impatient because I had not gone often enough, that
he might make his records, his comparisons, his tests--I don't know what
flummery. All at once he ceased his importunities; some instinct taught me
that he was about to seek a more tractable subject. I was resolved that if
he did contemplate such injustice, I should put a stop to it. And I went
to watch him.

Was that wrong? Why, he had promised me that I should have pioneer's
rights in the realm of beauty. Sole possession was to be my reward? I had
the right to hold him to his promise. But I didn't think--

Yesterday I spoke to Prof. Darmstetter. That was how it came about. He had
looked disconcerted at my appearance in the laboratory, and my suspicions
had suddenly grown to certainty. I said to him:--

"I wish to see you alone."

A guilty look came to his face. I was watching him as he had watched me
before the great change, and when he started at my words I knew he was
thinking of playing me false; his conscience must have warned him that I
had read his thoughts. But he knew that my strength was greater than his
and he bowed assent.

When the other girls had gone--some of them with frightened looks at me,
as if mine were the devil's beauty they tell about--and when Prof.
Darmstetter was ready to begin his own work, I faced him with a

"Prof. Darmstetter, you are about to break your word."

"You are mistaken," he said; but he could not face my look.

"I am not mistaken; you are planning to try the Bacillus upon other women,
and you promised that I should be first."

"And so you are! I dit not promise t'at you should be t'e only beautiful
voman all your life, or ten years, or von year. You haf t'e honour of
being first. It is all, and it is enough. You shall be famous by t'at. I
am an old man and must sometime brint my discofery for t'e goot of t'e
vorld; but first I must make experiments; I must try the Bacillus vit' a
blonde voman, vit' a brunette voman, vit' a negro voman--it vill be fine
to share t'e secrets of Gott and see v'at He meant to make of t'e negro."

If his enthusiasm had not run counter to my rights, I might have admired

"I must try it vit' a cripple," he went on, "vit' an idiot, vit' a deaf
and dumb voman. I must set it difficult tasks, learn its limitations. T'en
I must publish."

"You shall do nothing of the kind. You are not a very old man and I am
young. I have your secret safe, and it shall not be lost to the world even
if you die. I shall see that your name is coupled with the Bacillus as
that of its discoverer. Do you think I care to rob you of your honours? I
value them little, compared with the beauty you have given me. Think what
you promised me! That I should be first! And I have had the perfect beauty
only a few days and already you are planning to make it cheap and common.
This injustice I will oppose with all my might, but I will be fair with

"Fair vit' me!" he shouted. "Vat do you mean? T'at I shall die unknown,
vit' t'e greatest discofery of all time in my hands? You call t'at fair?
It is not fair to me, because I haf hungered for fame as you for beauty.
But t'at is not'ing; t'at is for me only, and I am not'ing. It is not fair
to t'e vorld to vit'hold t'is precious gift one hour longer t'an is
necessary to experiment, to try, to make sure. To keep t'is possession all
to yourself vould you deny it to millions of your sisters?"

"Yes, I would; and so would they, in my place," I cried. "I care as much
for my beauty as you for your fame. And I hold you to your promise. I was
to be first, and I shall be first. I haven't yet begun to live. You have
barely finished your experiments, and now you're planning my ruin. I will
not be balked."

"I vill not be balked by such selfishness," screamed Prof. Darmstetter,
his parchment face livid with rage; "_I_ vill be master of my own

My beauty! My hold on life and power and success and love! My only hope of
Ned, if he loves me--and God knows whether he does or no! See such beauty
multiplied by the thousand, the million? Never!

I forced myself to be calm. My anger left me in a moment. I knew how
useless it was, and I remembered that he himself had armed me for my
protection. I smiled and held out both my hands to him, and I could see
him falter as he looked.

"Look at me!" I said. My voice was a marvel even to myself, so rich and
full and musical! "Look at me! Of what use was it to make me beautiful if
you are now to make me unhappy? Ah, I beg of you, I implore you, don't be
just, but be kind! Let me have my own way and see--oh, see how I shall
thank you!"

His face changed as I moved toward him with a coaxing smile, and dropped
my hands on his shoulders. The tempest of his wrath subsided as suddenly
as it had risen, and he stood short-sightedly, his head thrust forward,
peering into my eyes, helpless, panting, disarmed.

"You will not--ah, you will not!" I whispered.

"Ach, Du!" he murmured. "Du bist mein Frankenstein! Ich kann nicht--ich--
ich habe alles verloren, verloren! Ehre, Ruhm, Pflicht, Redlichkeit, den
guten Namen! Verloren! Verloren!"

A touch of colour that I had never seen there before grew slowly in his
cheeks. It was the danger signal; but I did not know; indeed I did not

"Come," I said, shaking him lightly, playfully; "promise me that you will
not do it for a year."

"Delilah!" he whispered from behind set lips, his breath coming quicker, a
hoarse rattling in his throat.

Then he snatched my hand and began pressing kisses upon it--greedily, like
a man abandoning himself to a sudden impulse.

But the next moment, before I could move, he threw back his head and
tottered to a chair, where he sat for an instant, breathing heavily. Just
as I sprang toward him his frame stiffened and straightened and he slipped
from the chair and fell heavily to the floor, where he lay limp,
unbreathing, sprawled upon the bare boards in all the pitiful ugliness of

I was terribly frightened.

For a moment wild thoughts raced through my brain--foolish impulses of
flight lest I be found with the body and somehow be held responsible.
Then, with scorn for my folly, I ran out into the hall, crying for help.

The janitor rushed in, and seeing what had happened, went for the nearest
physician, who came at once and knelt by the fallen man's side. But before
he closed the staring eyes, rose from his examination of the prostrate
figure and slowly shook his head, we both knew that Prof. Darmstetter was

"His heart--." he began, turning for the first time toward me, whom as yet
he had not noticed; and then he started back and stood open-mouthed,
transfixed, staring at me--at my beauty.

In that sweet instant, call it wicked or not, I was glad that Darmstetter
was dead! I could not help it. So long as he lived, I was not safe.

I did not blame him for planning to experiment with others, any more than
I would have blamed a cat that scratches or a snake that stings. I will be
just. His love of learning overbore his honour. He could not have kept
faith. I should never have been safe with him in the same world. Yet am I
sorry for him. I owe him much.

In the Doctor's wondering gaze at me over the body of my beauty's creator
I felt anew the sense of power that has inspired me by night and day since
my great awakening.

I have had bitter experiences of late; this has been the worst, yet in a
way the most fortunate. By no fault of mine I am relieved of the danger of
seeing beauty like--like this too common.

And I will be fair to the dead man, though he was not fair to me: if there
is a God above, by Him I swear that I will write out the secret of the
Bacillus this day, so that it shall not be lost if I too die suddenly, as

I will devise it to humanity, and John Burke shall execute the will. Poor
fellow! Poor John!

I can't see that I was wrong. I did not know, Prof. Darmstetter himself
probably did not know, that he was liable to such an attack. Even if I had
known--I had the right to defend myself, hadn't I? It was not like the
Nelly Winship I once knew to use such weapons against him; but that Nelly
is as dead as he, and this glorious vision of white and rosy tint and
undulant form shall be rival-less for years; marvel of every land, the
theme of every tongue.

I sit alone in this huge palace in which I have come to live--feeling that
at last I have a home of my own, where no one can overlook my thoughts--I
sit alone and think of the future; and it is rosy bright, if only I could
forget--if only I could forget!

In all the world I am the sole guardian of the Secret. I shall be the most
beautiful woman for years and years and years; blessed with such beauty
that men shall know the tale of it is a lie, until they, too, come from
far countries to look upon it; and they shall go home and be known as
liars in their turn, and always dream of me. When I am old and gray, I
will tell the world how Darmstetter died, on the eve of publishing his
discovery. Perhaps I shall cling to it until I, too--

Ah, I can see that ghastly Thing, the dead, hideous eyes staring up at me!
Shall I be like that some day? As ugly as that!

It was not my fault, dead, staring eyes; not my fault!



The Nicaragua, April 27.

I've been sitting for my portrait to Van Nostrand. It is an offering to
the shades of Prof. Darmstetter. I must preserve some attempted record of
my beauty for his sake; though the Bacillus couldn't have made, if he had
lived, another woman as beautiful as I. It isn't conceivable.

I believe I'm a little tired with that, and with rearranging Mrs.
Whitney's flat, and a little worried, too, about bills, the money from
Father comes so slowly. Not that I need mind owing a trifle at the shops;
half the women run accounts; but it's embarrassing not to have ready
money. Why, I have to buy things to ward off gifts; Meg simply won't see
me go without.

Perhaps I'm depressed too, because to-day has been a succession of petty
squabbles, and I hate squabbling.

This morning came Aunt Frank. I knew she had returned from Bermuda, so I
wasn't surprised to see her dumpy figure appear in Mrs. Whitney's parlour,
followed by Uncle Timothy's broad back and towering head. I did with zest
the honours of the apartment. It was sweet revenge to see Mrs. Baker's
nervous discomfort at meeting me, and to watch her stealing furtive
glances at my beautiful home.

"Well, Nelly, dear," she said, "you look very cosey, but we expected that,
after your visit to Mrs. Van Dam, you would go to Marcia until our

"Oh, I couldn't think of troubling either of you," I said sweetly; "I have
friends to whom it is a real pleasure to advise me."

That shot told.

"You don't know what anxiety you've caused, leaving us for--for strangers,
that way," she retorted, bridling; "but since you _would_ go, I'm
glad everything's turned out so--been having your portrait painted? Why,
it's a--it _is_ a Van Nostrand!"--She had spied the painting.--"It's
like you, rather; but--doesn't he charge a fortune?"

Then she rattled on, about the rooms, about Bermuda lilies and donkey
carts, trying now and again to pry into my plans and urging me, not too
warmly, to return to her, until she had reached the limits of a call of
courtesy. I think it was with real relief that she rose as she received my
final refusal. Uncle, who had sat silent in kind, or blind, perplexity,
was unfeignedly glad to go.

"Run in often, won't you?" she said, at parting. "I hear--but perhaps I
shouldn't speak of that. Is--is Lord Strathay like his pictures?"

Fussy! She'd gladly wash her hands of me, yet thinks she has a duty. But I
was glad, for once, to see her. It's not for nothing that I have run
society's gauntlet; I can aim confetti with the best of them; innocent-
looking but they hurt.

Scarcely had they gone when in rushed the General and my prim duenna, Mrs.
Whitney; they'd been waiting until the coast was clear. It was with
something like a scream that the two flew at me, crying in one voice:--

"Have you _really_ refused to be one of Peggy's bridesmaids? Why
didn't you consult _me_?"

Peggy despairs of Mr. Poultney; she's going to marry some person in
Standard Oil, and her wedding will be a function.

"Yes," I said, ignoring the latter question.

"But why--_why_--" Mrs. Whitney squeaked and panted, and her breath

"Because--was it because Ann Fredericks was asked too?" Meg demanded.

"Yes, if you must know."

"But what has Ann done?" said Meg. She planted herself in front of me, her
hard, handsome eyes blazing with impatience. "She's as homely as the
Sunset Cox statue and as uncivil to you as she dares; but she's only a
cousin of _the_ Frederickses, you mustn't mind her. What has Ann
done, Helen?"

"She weighs two hundred and they call her 'Baby'! She's a fat slug on a
currant bush! I won't talk about her."

I dashed into my room but Meg's staccato reached me even there.

"Just like Helen! Imagine Mrs. Henry's state of mind."

"And Ann's," said Mrs. Whitney.

"Oh, Ann's in mortal terror. But how can Helen expect pasty girls like Ann
Fredericks--out last fall and already touching up--to forgive her beauty?
Trouble is, every girl who comes near Helen knows she makes her look like
a caricature."

Meg paced the floor a minute, then slapped herself into a chair.

"Oh, I've seen the women scowl at her," said Mrs. Whitney.

"Scowl?" said Meg. "Why, I've seen a woman actually put out her foot for
Helen to trip over. Old women are the worst, I do believe; some of the
young ones admire her. What do you think old Mrs. Terry said--Hughy
Bellmer's aunt--at the last of her frightful luncheon concerts, where you
eat two hours in a jungle of palms and orchids, and groan to music two
hours more in indigestion. 'A lovely girl, my dear Mrs. Van Dam,' she
said; 'a privilege to know her. Pity that so many of our best people fight
shy of a protegee of the newspapers.' _That_ from Mrs. Terry, with
her hair and her hats--"

"And her divorce record," added Mrs. Whitney.

"She fears for her nephew; as if Helen would look at him! But the
newspapers _have_ hurt Helen. I wish she'd announce her engagement;
she has the cards in her hands, but she's got to play 'em; and poor
Strathay's so devoted!--Why didn't you shade the lights Tuesday at your
dinner? In that glare we were all worse frights beside her than usual."

"I hate murky rooms!" I cried, breaking out upon them, for I couldn't
stand it any longer. "It's your 'rose of yesterday' who insists on
twilight and shaded candles. I enjoy electricity!"

Meg gazed at me in despair.

"Helen, are you really bent on making enemies?" she asked. "What
_did_ Ann Fredericks do?"

I couldn't have answered; it would have been no answer to say that she
angers me with a supercilious stare; but the trouble of replying was
spared me, for Mrs. Henry appeared that minute in the doorway, greeting me
in her nervous puffy voice:--

"How _well_ you look!" she said. "_Such_ a treat to get a peep
at you! Peggy really must try your dressmaker--but she's _so_
disappointed! You _must_ let me beg of you--_just_ like an own
daughter and Peggy couldn't think more of a sister! You _will_

Something in the way she thrust forward her head reminded me of how her
tiara slipped and hitched about, on the night of her dance, and how Ned
and I giggled when it had to be repinned.

"I'm afraid Peggy should have consulted me earlier," I said with a spite
born of the recollection.

It would have been more than mortal not to take offense at that. Mrs.
Henry's face grew red, and after a few perfunctory words she and Meg left,
and Mrs. Whitney went out with them.

As Mrs. Henry backed into the hall, she almost collided with Kitty, who
had just come up.

"Talking wedding?" that tease asked, following me back into the parlour
and pirouetting before a mirror. "Chastening experience for once in a way
to see mysel' as ithers see me. Big wedding, won't it be? Florist told
Cadge he was forcing a churchful of peach and apple blossoms. You're a
bridesmaid, ain't you? That _was_ Mrs. Henry? Know I've seen her
here. Looks apoplectic; and there's too much musk in her violet."

"That was Mrs. Henry, but I'm not on Peggy's list. How are the beastesses'
noses and toeses?"

"Ambulance rung for." Kitty darted to another looking glass. "Regular hall
of mirrors, ain't it? Helen, why are photo-engravers--but say, I've seen a
list of bridesmaids; Ann Fredericks was one, cousin of _the_
Frederickses; great for Helen, we all said--Pros. and Cadge and--"

"Has the list been printed?"

Kitty looked puzzled.

"What are you cross about?" she said finally. "I don't wonder you get
tired of such doings, tugging a ton of bouquet down a church aisle, organ
grinding Lohengrin. If ever I marry, I sha'n't ask you to stand up with
me; I propose to be the central figure at my own wedding; Cadge can do as
she chooses."

"Why, Kitty! Cadge and--why, Pros., of course."

"In June. Came to tell you."

For a moment Kitty's eyes danced, then the mist followed the sunlight, and
the poor little creature buried her head in my lap, sobbing.

"Oh, what'll I do," she cried, "when Cadge takes away my brother and my
brother takes away Cadge, and you--they say you're going off with that
Englisher to be a Countess--not that I ever see anything of you now."

"Oh, hush, child; don't you know you're talking nonsense?"

Kitty took me at my word.

"Earl's lady is a Countess, ain't she?" she asked, her voice still shaky.
Then she sat suddenly upright and put back her red curls from her brow,
winking vigourously. "Oh, if you do live in a castle, put in bathtubs and
gas; and if you go to court, please, Princess, hide a kodak under your
bouquet for me and--"

Crying and laughing by turns and tossing back her flaming locks, she
started for the door.

"Helen," she said, turning as she reached it, "I have such bad symptoms!
Am I really the only girl that's jealous of you?"

"The only one that isn't jealous, you--you dear!" I exclaimed; and I
believe it's almost true!

Kitty paused in the hall, playing with the roses in a bowl upon the table.

"We hear something of how the dowagers adore you. But let 'em wag their
double chins; you'll scat the old cats from their cushions!" she said.

At the impetuous outflinging of her hands, the floor was strewn with pink

"Cats?" repeated Mrs. Whitney, who just then made her appearance, "are
they a hobby with Miss Reid?"

"I'd drown 'em," cried Kitty, vanishing, "nine times!"

Oh, I'm weary of these bickerings; so womanish! Every creature whose rival
I could possibly become is my enemy. I don't blame them. What chance have
they while I am present? Women who agree about nothing else make common
cause against one who surpasses them. They are like prairie wolves that
run in packs to pull down the buffalo, and I shall pity them as I would
pity wolves. They shall find that I have a long memory.

I have decided. I shall marry Strathay.

February--March--April--three long, long months, and still Ned doesn't
come, does not write. Yes, it's time to act; thank God, I've still some

While Darmstetter lived, I couldn't have left New York; but now, now that
I am safe, why should I stay here, flatting with a shrew, provoking the
Van Dams, to whom I owe some gratitude, wasting my life for a man who--who
said he didn't love me?

Milly's at home again; let Ned return to her, if he chooses. I shall marry
Strathay. Meg shall be friend to a Countess. Then I shall be quits with
her and with Mrs. Henry and with Peggy. And the "best people" will no more
fight shy of me--though they don't now; they don't need to. Except Mrs.
Schuyler, who has snubbed me just enough to leave herself right, whatever
happens, few of them have ever met me.

I owe no thanks to Mrs. Whitney, with her prunes and her prisms and her
penny-pinchings. I must secure my future.

And there's only one way--Strathay. I've been foolish to hesitate. He
tried to speak yesterday, after the flower tea--for that's the extent of
my social shining now; I am good to draw a crowd at a bazaar!--and I
should have let him; I meant to do so.

But I can't blame myself for being sentimental, weak, and for putting him
off; I was tired out. What an ordeal I'd undergone! What black looks from
the women! They'd rather have starved their summer church in the
Adirondacks than nursed it with my help!

But he must have understood; I think he saw everything that happened. The
girls at my stall were sulky because no one bought of them, while I was
surrounded; and one, in lifting a handful of roses, drew them towards her
with a spiteful jerk that left a long thorn-scratch across my hand.

I pretended not to notice. Then in a minute I cried:--

"Why, see; how could that have happened?"

And I laid my perfect hand beside hers, ugly with outstanding veins, that
she might note the accident--and the difference. People giggled, and she
snatched her hand away, blushing furiously.

I was in high spirits, with a crowd about me. I knew how tall and graceful
I looked behind my flowers; and to tease Mrs. Terry, I pinned Bellmer's
boutonniere with unnecessary graciousness, and smiled at her while he
sniffed it with beatitude beaming from his moony face.

"Awf'ly slow things, teas," he said regretfully, as she bore him off';
"awf'ly slow, don't you think?" Really the man's little better than a
downright fool; if he were poor, no one would waste a better word upon

As he went, I caught sight of a slight figure, a pair of jealous,
worshipping eyes. Poor Strathay had seen the incident; had perhaps

I took pains to be cordial to him, when he had made his way with Poultney
to my side; and to Mr. Poultney, too; though I don't like him much better
than Cadge does, with his cold eyes and his thin smile, that seems to say:
"Hope you find my schoolboy entertaining."

An Earl is always entertaining!

Yet I ran away from him. I left the tea early. I wanted to think. All the
way home in the carriage I marshalled arguments in his favour. I saw
myself at court, throned in my brilliant circle, flattered by princes,
consulted by statesmen, the ornament of a society I am fitted to adorn. I
saw a world of jealous women at my feet and Ned convinced that I had been
playing with him. I even rehearsed the scene we should enact when Strathay
should speak; I foresaw the flush upon his face, the sparkle of his eyes
when I should tell him that I would try to love him.

He must have slipped his cousin's leash, for he was at the Nicaragua
almost as soon as I was. But there at home, with the boy's eyes fixed on
mine, with the tremour of his voice telling me how much he cared, I
couldn't listen.

I made talk with him, for him. I gave him no chance to speak, determined
as I was that he should speak. I was conscious of but one desire--to put
off the avowal.

At last he said: "Sometimes I fancy you're not happy."

His voice was tense. He was leaning forward in his eagerness; he looked so
zealous to be my champion--so honest!

I tried to smile. I really liked him.

Happy! Out of memory there came to me a picture: I was creeping to Ethel's
bed at night, whispering to her that I was the happiest girl in the world;
she kissed me sleepily, and said she was happy too, and then I groped my
way back to bed, and lay there in the dark, smiling. That was years ago.
Three months? Years, long, long years ago!

Now it flashed across me that Lord Strathay loved me as I had loved Ned.
That gave me a measure of the gift he was to offer. I felt Ned's kisses on
my hands, bidding me be honest.--I felt other kisses, too; I saw--good
God, how long must I see?--a gray old face--the face of Darmstetter!
Happy! I closed my eyes to shut out the vision. I shuddered.

"You--really, I'm afraid you're very tired," he said, after waiting a

"Yes; tired," I gasped; "that's all."

But I knew I must marry him. I controlled myself. I smiled; I waited. I
wished him to go on, but he was peering into my straining eyes with
anxious sympathy.

"I'm afraid you're too tired to talk with me to-day," he said; "but--you
will let me come again?"


Such a relief! Though what was to be gained by waiting? What must be must

Indeed an older man might have seen the wisdom of speaking at once. But
Strathay looked wistfully at me for a moment, then turned away with a big,
honest schoolboy sigh; and something like a sob broke his voice as he

"I--I would do anything to serve you."

Then he went away.

Perverse! I _will_ marry him. Other women take husbands so. I like
him; I should like him even if he were not an Earl--and his name a career.

I shall make Strathay as fine a Countess as any cold, blonde English girl,
and he'll be proud of me, and every man will envy him. I shall wrong him
less than I should have wronged John Burke. I should have hated John if I
had married him, for he'd expect love, where Strathay will be content to
give it. Why, the one honest thing I've done was to break with John.

I wish I could afford to keep on being honest!



May 5.

Lord deliver me from the well-meaning!

Because of one pestilential dun, I've done what the weary waiting for
money, money, money would never have driven me to do. I've been to Uncle,
unknown to his wife, to ask advice. I might have known better.

It was with a wildly beating pulse that I entered the familiar little
private office, thinking that Ned might be on the other side of the
partition--near enough, perhaps, to hear me; that he might at any moment
rap upon the door and enter the room as he used to do, upon such flimsy
errands! I wondered how he would look, and what he'd say if he came; but
he never did come, though the talk was long enough, mercy knows; long and

It was hard, with that cold sinking at my heart, to talk to the Judge, as
he sat with his keen eyes fixed upon me, leaning back in his chair, at
times frowning absent-mindedly.

"I've come to tell you--I've written home for money," I began breathlessly
to explain. "But they don't understand, of course--it isn't half what I
need, now. I really don't quite know what to do. And so I came to--"

My words died away into unintelligibility.

"Anticipated your allowance a little? Well, well, how much do you need?"
he asked indulgently.

"I don't exactly know; not much," I cried eagerly, "I haven't asked Father
to send it all at once. Two or three thousand dollars would be a great
help--for the present."

"Two or three thousand! Is it little Nelly Winship who is talking about
thousands? And what important scheme has she in mind?"

His tone was playful.

"To pay my bills.'"

"Bills aggregating thousands?" He dropped his paper cutter sharply. "Is it
possible that in so short a time--if the recital be not too painful, pray

"Oh, it's simple enough; the dressmaker would say: 'Do let me make you
this, it's such a pleasure to fit you;' or, 'That would be the rage, if
you'd introduce it.' And Mrs. Van Dam begged me to buy a hat from a
protegee just starting in business, because it would be a help to have the
beautiful Miss Winship for a customer. It did help the milliner, too, for
I bought three and they were printed in the papers. But she wants her pay
just as if it hadn't been worth the price twice over as an advertisement.
And all the things for the flat--"


"Why, yes; we've rearranged the place and I've contributed a little. Uncle
Timothy, you can see--I need more money than other women. I can't walk
without attracting notice, and cab hire or a carriage by the month--and--
and I can't shop for myself, you don't know what a difference that makes;
and--oh, everything is different! Why, I've just had my portrait painted.
But Father isn't a poor man." "He is poor, measured by New York
standards. And he is sending you a great deal of money."

"Yes, but--I must have a _lot_ more."

The Judge frowned slowly, considering what he had heard. Finally he said,
slowly shaking his head:--

"Doubtless we should have warned you, upon your coming to New York, but I
did not anticipate that one of your substantial Western stock would
develop habits of extravagance; nor were they apparent while you were with
us. I cannot think it was altogether our fault, and certainly it was not
your father's. I am not unmindful of the recent unsettling experiences
which furnish excuse for confusion of ideas; but, Nelly, I appeal to a
head that should be logical, even if--I have never thought it giddy with
adulation--to see the facts as they exist. You must yield to your aunt's
wish and return to her or to Marcia--"


"--you must bring me your bills; doubtless we can give up the furniture--"

"Give it up!"

The coolly spoken words struck to my heart. Why, we had just finished
arranging it! But he misunderstood my exclamation, and added:--

"I comprehend your reluctance, and I confess that I should little like to
advise returning goods bought in good faith, if there were any chance of
payment; but--let me see; are you of age?"

"Why, yes; just twenty-one."

"Is it possible? How time passes, to be sure! Yet--ah, the point is not
important; the tradespeople should not have trusted you. Consider that you
are unable to pay; the less of two evils is to return the goods as soon as
possible, that they may be received undamaged."

"Oh, it's not so bad as that?" I said hastily. "Nearly everybody is
willing to wait, and I--you know Aunt Frank doesn't want me, and I should
be a--white elephant to Miss Baker. I must live somewhere. It's not my
fault if my only friends are rich, and if I--but why can't Father--"

"I do not believe your father can pay your debts," he interrupted, "in
addition to the generous sums he has already forwarded, unless--surely you
were not suggesting that he should mortgage the farm in order to--pay for

"I didn't mean that at all!" I cried; "I never thought of that. But how
_do_ people--"

"You and I must do what is to be done, if possible without distressing
him," he said; "your father is not so young as he once was. If you have
bought things for which your allowance will not pay, although"--he
hesitated a moment, "--the situation is--ah--trying to Mrs. Whitney. I
suppose her half of the common stock is secure?"

"Her half!"

"Has she been leaning upon your slender purse?" he asked not unkindly.

"Why--she saves money by me and I increase her social importance. Of
course she had furniture, but it was old and--and--"

I could not find the words to explain to a man my horror of ugliness. He
wouldn't have understood.

"Well, well, it makes no difference now. I must arrange matters for you,
and I think you will agree, upon reflection, that the first step must be
to give up whatever we can."

"But, Uncle--" I tried to speak calmly, to show him the situation--"Mrs.
Whitney is a Van Dam, and they befriended me when--why, they would never
forgive me; it would be ruin. And even from the practical standpoint--you
wouldn't like to have your lawbooks sold, would you? Well, people have
introduced me--and pretty furniture and pretty clothes and not to have any
scandal or any talk--oh, you can see!"

"In the light of reports that reach me," said the Judge, "I might suppose
that you"--he hesitated a moment, then continued, in an attempt at a
bantering manner, "that you refer to your luxuries as preliminary to--ah--
matrimony, which is said to be the only gainful occupation that my sex
leaves almost exclusively to yours, and in which fine clothing is
undoubtedly an adjuvant. But observation leads me to think that it is a
business less profitable than is often imagined. Hm!"

He drummed on the table, and when he continued, he seemed talking to gain
time, considering what he wished to say.

"I grant you," he said with his cumbrous playfulness, "that the
sensibility of flesh and blood to beauty is as broad a fact as the effect
of heat or cold. It is so universally recognised that we take a pretty
girl, like original sin or the curse of labour, as a _chose jugee_.
Her sway must have begun with the glacial drifters and the kitchen
middeners and the Engis skull man, when they and the rest of the
paleoliths were battling with the dodo and the dinornis and the
didifornis, and had no time for the cult of beauty except by proxy. Did it
ever occur to you that we men drove a hard bargain with your sex when we
compelled you to beauty, made you carry the topknots and the tail-
feathers? Men propose marriage, women adorn themselves to listen. Let
women choose their mates, and they might go as plain as peahens; and men
would strut about, displaying wattles, combs and argus-eyed plumes."

"Women would be less beautiful if they proposed?"

"Some could not be, I fear." He pulled down his brows, considering the
proposition, then shook his head positively, with a little sigh. "You will
remember--was it not Darwin who said that women, in order to attract men,
borrow the plumage of male birds, which these have acquired to please the
females of their kind? Beauty must be the first law of life to the sex
that has not the privilege of choosing. Under the circumstances, it is
surprising how much of plainness women have preserved. Possibly because of
the extraordinary directions which beauty culture may take. Burton asserts
that the Somali choose wives by ranging the women in line for inspection;
she wins a husband of note who projects farthest _a tergo_. Yet among
famous Greek statues there is also a steatopygous Venus."

The office boy came to the door, and his knock woke Uncle out of his
revery. He excused himself to his caller, and, returning to me, went on:--

"I have been--ah--I admit, rather evading the personal question. I wish,
without seeking embarrassing confidences, to remind you that young people
are apt to think bad matters--other than business matters--worse than they
are. I am not asking questions, but, when I was younger, cynicism usually
hid but ill the scars of heartache. Do not, I pray you, throw yourself
away in the gloom of momentary unhappiness."

Did he guess--about Ned? That I was the one most hurt there? He should
never know that I winced. I shrugged my shoulders, ignoring his fatherly
glance, and faced him with a stare meant to be brazen.

"You do not at the present time believe in sentiment?" he said. "Then I
shall adapt my argument to your whim of practicality, and speak of the
rumours which connect your name with that of young Lord Strathay."

"Oh; that boy!"

"I presume you are right; he does seem to have fallen deeply in love with
you. But--if indeed, you are dazzled by the glamour of a title--do not be
too confident of his fealty. I know men better than you know them, my
dear. Man loves beauty, but he does not always want to marry it. The rare
white swan is admired, but the little brown partridge, clucking as she
marshals her covey of chicks, is the type of the marrying woman. Again, no
man is master of himself. That Strathay wishes to marry you, I can
understand; but, perhaps, when he is not under the spell of your presence,
he falls to wondering how you will pronounce the social shibboleths, and
may let 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would.' It is idle to deny that,
admitting as one must the existence of lines of social cleavage in modern
life, it is often a mistake to overstep their boundaries in matrimony;
though as to international alliances--"

"Oh," I said, interrupting his prosings with a light laugh, "you mustn't
take the matter _au serieux_."

"I take it so because it is serious." The Judge's eyes and his tone were
very grave. "Forgive me if I remind you that these _obiter dicta_
have grown out of a discussion of your money affairs, wherein you are
bankrupt. If--and I ask your pardon if the supposition does you wrong--if
you are relying on a brilliant marriage to help you out of financial

He hesitated a moment, then went on slowly: "Perhaps I ought to warn you
that, if at any time this does become a serious matter, you will have
powerful opposition. I had not intended to tell you--though now I deem it
best--that Mr. Stephen Allardyce Poultney has lately done me the honour to
call; and--"

"Lord Strathay's cousin?" I thought he could hear the thrumming of my
heart. This was why he had beaten so long about the bush! "Was he--was he
speaking about me?"

I felt a sudden chill of apprehension, and almost feared to hear the

"He was; he came to the point with a refreshing directness worthy of a
business man, and said that he wanted to know all about you."

"And you--"

"I need not trouble you with our conversation. In view of the attentions
which his Lordship has been paying you, his cousin felt it a duty, he
intimated, to make inquiries. He did not care a button, I inferred, for
your position here, as it could not affect Lord Strathay's in England; but
he had read the newspapers with pardonable perplexity, and asked if you
were really the only daughter of a bonanza farmer. I did not feel it
necessary to enter into particulars, but informed him that your father was
rich in honesty and in the possession of a daughter good and beautiful
enough for any Lord that lives. He thanked me and said 'quite so,' as
Englishmen usually do say when they disagree with one. He added that he
would try to get the poor beggar--for so he referred to his kinsman--away

"You will note that, in the higher social strata, the choice of
matrimonial partners has progressed beyond the personal selection so
confidently assumed by the scientists, and has become a matter for
relatives to--"

"And my only relative in New York," I said slowly, wondering how fatal was
this unexpected news, "has made it impossible for me to achieve a success
that was almost within my grasp."

I don't see that the remark was so very terrible, but he looked at me with
an odd air of astonishment and consternation. Then he seemed to consider
it best to treat my natural disappointment as a joke.

"Not very serious is this conversation, as you have reminded me," he said.
"You don't wish me to tell that which is not?"

"Why, naturally--no." I was stunned, but I forced a laugh. "But it
_is_ funny. Why--I was nearer landing the prize than I supposed,
wasn't I?--that is, if I had wanted to land it?"

"Um--yes; it was rather close. But in this world you'll find strong men
often dissuading weak ones from action briefly meditated."

He gazed at me solemnly, portentously, critically.

"Yes," I said, trying to speak with careless ease; "one Lord gone, but
there are others. Don't be too hard upon Strathay, though. He's not so
bad. His estates are not heavily encumbered, and he's as likely now to wed
a music hall singer as a daughter of the Beerage. Perhaps such a marriage
as he might have offered is not the best in life, but it is something that
women who love their daughters as well as you love yours are glad to
arrange for them. I should have made Strathay a very decent wife--"

But at the word I stopped; something in the sound of it shattered my cool

"Of course, of course," Uncle assented. Then after a pause he went on,

"Nelly, these are not matters for a man to discuss with you. Why don't you
run in and talk with your aunt?"

I hadn't the least intention of calling, but I answered him according to
his folly.

"I must, some time; but I'm so worried--"

"Ah, yes; those debts. Could you not, if you are determined not to come
home to us, seek less expensive apartments? You know that for any wants in
reason your aunt and I--"

"I--I can't, just yet," I faltered, with a dreary vision before my eyes of
such a boarding house as that from which Kitty rescued me.

"Very well, Nelly, but think about it; you will see that to go on as you
are doing would be only throwing money into a bottomless pit. But bring me
your bills to-morrow; I must have facts and figures, if we are to
straighten your affairs. Now--you need money--"

He was fumbling for his check book. Badly as I needed help, instinctively
I cried:--

"Oh, no; not that!"

"Quite sure? It is the situation that troubles you and not the butcher,
the baker--"

"Quite sure."

"I desist. But sleep on what I have said. Remember that I am in your
father's place, that I--your aunt and I--are very anxious about you."

He took my hand, seeming as perplexed as I am myself. He looked
affectionate enough, but so futile.

So I came away heartsick. It's useless to argue with Judge Baker. He's a
plebeian from his thick shoe soles to his thin hair; but he's honest. And
yet--if he had been less ponderously precise--he might have said: "Why,
really, I don't exactly know. Mr. Winship is a well-to-do man. It has been
years since I knew, but I can ascertain and--"

Or he might just have told the plain truth--that Father has a large
Western farm. Englishmen think all Western folks are rich. Why, I believe
Meg Van Dam would dower me if I were to marry Strathay. I could make it
worth her while. It wouldn't be the first arrangement of that sort in New
York, either.

If only Strathay had seen me once more, no power on earth could have
prevented an avowal; and marriage with a peer of England would have given
me a station befitting my beauty.

But perhaps it's not too late. Strathay may not heed his cousin. If he
comes wooing again, I shall not be so silly as I was the last time.
Strange that I have not seen him. Can he have gone already?

I might do the London season by borrowing from Meg. It would cost a
fortune, and--unless Strathay does propose--perhaps even she wouldn't care
to finance me now.

I wish---

Oh, I wish I could get out of my dreams the ghastly form of Darmstetter,
as I saw him dead at my feet! He haunts me all day long, and all the night
I dream of him!

And I wish I had not broken John Burke's honest heart--how wistful he
looked, as he waited for me at the door of the office and helped me to my
carriage! Perhaps Ned wasn't in the building; perhaps--he may have avoided

I wish I had not brought him sorrow, and I wish--

No, I don't! I just hope Milly is even more wretched than I am!

Father really might mortgage. I could easily pay it back. I wonder I never
thought of that. I'll ask him. I will not take my bills to Judge Baker--to
be lectured on the dodo and on lines of social cleavage--as if any man
could be a match for me.

I'll never go back to Aunt Frank! There is Bellmer, now--and Strathay must
soon return to New York, to sail.



May 20.

I wonder if I couldn't _earn_ money. For the last week--nothing but
trouble. No check from Father. Hugh Bellmer I have not seen. Strathay has
really gone, spirited away by that superior cousin.

And Mrs. Whitney has deserted me--oh, if it were not for money troubles, I
wouldn't mind that, cruel as was the manner of it!

Of course the newspapers soon learned that Strathay had left town. Trust
them for that; and to make sensational use of it! The first I knew of it,
indeed, was when one day Cadge came bursting into the room.

"Isn't it a shame?" she began in her piercing voice; as ever at fever heat
of unrest, she waved at me a folded newspaper.

"Emphatically; but what is it?"

"That fierce tale of the _Echo_; haven't seen it? We couldn't print a
line. Big Tom says the chief has put his foot down; won't have stories
about women in private life, you know--without their consent. But why
didn't you--why can't you give us a whack at it?"

"Because there isn't a word of truth in the whole disgusting--what does it

I had seized the sheet from her hands and rapidly glanced over the staring
headlines. Eagerly she interrupted me:--

"Oh, isn't it the worst ever? But I see how it happened. They must have
sent out a leg man to get facts, and when no one would talk, they stirred
this up in the office. But--not to print, now--what _are_ you going
to do with His Lordship? Honest, Princess?"

"Nothing; there's absolutely nothing between us. He's a nice fellow, and I
like him, and we're good friends; that's all. I--I knew he was going;

"Well, I'm glad of that. But so must I be going."

And she whisked out of the room, leaving in my hands this astounding
outrage upon truth and decency:


Helen Winship is the most extraordinary woman living;

The most beautiful woman in the world;

A scientist of national repute;

She has just passed through a tragedy which has left an impress upon her
whole life;

Most wonderful of all, she is the only American girl who has ever refused
a titled lover.

This is her life story, told for the first time:--

_Chapter I.--Death:_

A woman's scream of agony!

A strange scene, like an alchemist's den, the light of falling day
reflected from test tubes and crucibles, revealing in dark corners uncouth
appliances, queer diagrams, strange odours. Upon the floor the inert
figure of the foremost of New York's chemists; above his prostrate form,
wild-eyed with horror at seeing his dramatic death, a beautiful woman, the
most beautiful in the world.

This was the end of Prof. Carl Darmstetter;

This was how the legacy of science came to Helen Winship.

To carry it out, she has refused a title.

_Chapter II.--Love:_

Born upon a Western farm, Helen Winship's father is a yeoman of the sturdy
stock that has laid the world under tribute for its daily bread.

Early she made the choice that devotes her life to science. She was the
confidant of the dead chemist, whose torch of knowledge she took up firm-
handed, when it fell from his nerveless fingers.

She is vowed as a vestal virgin to science.

Strange whim of destiny! Across this maiden life of devoted study came the
shadow of a great name which for two hundred years has been blazoned upon
the pages of England's history.

In the loom of fate the modest gray warp of Helen Winship's life crossed
the gay woof of a Lord of high degree, and left a strange mark upon the
web of time.

Love came to her--many times; but came at last in a guise that seldom woos
in vain.

_Chapter III.--Sacrifice:_

Who has forgotten the memorable scene in the Metropolitan Opera House,
when the beautiful Miss Winship took the vast audience by storm, causing
almost a panic, which was exclusively reported in these columns?

It was followed by a greater sensation.

Rumour ran through the ranks of the Four Hundred, and the rustle of it was
as the wind in a great forest. For one of the proudest titles from beyond
the sea, before which the wealth and fashion of the city had marshalled
their attractions, had passed them by to kneel at the feet of the lovely

The Earl of Strathay is the twelfth Earl of his house. He is twenty-one
years old. His mother, the Countess Strathay, famous as a beauty, has been
prominent in the "Prince's set."

Witley Castle, his seat, is one of the show places of England, though
financially embarrassed by the follies of the late Earl.

It was Lord Strathay's intention, upon landing in New York to go West in a
week; but he looked upon the fair investigator, and to look is to love.

He laid his title at the feet of the lovely daughter of Democracy, but
with that smile whose sweetness is a marvel to all men, she shook her
beautiful head.

She was wedded to learning.

Fretted by the pain, he plunged into the wilderness to hide like a wounded

What shall be said of this beautiful woman, for whom men sigh as for the
unattainable? That she is lovely as the morning? All New York knows it.
That her walk is like a lily's swaying in the wind, her voice is the
sweetest music that ever ravished ear, her hair a lure for sunbeams? It is
the commonplace of conversation at every smart house.

For this lovely woman of science is no ascetic. She moves by right of
beauty and high purpose, in the best society. This farmer's daughter walks
among the proudest in the land, and none there is to compare with her.

Like the Admirable Crichton, no art is to her unknown, no accomplishment
by her neglected. Her eager soul, not satisfied with dominion over the
realm of beauty and of love, would have all knowledge for its sphere.

Amusing, isn't it?--to one who is not the heroine of the tale! The tragedy
of Darmstetter revived, my scientific attainments--but oh, the worst--the
worst of all--is the wicked lie that I am in the "best society."

Why, the very day before, we had been "at home," Mrs. Whitney and I, and
hardly a soul that counts was here. Mrs. Van Dam had a convenient
headache; I haven't seen her since Peggy's wedding. If she had not been so
very civil--she and Mrs. Henry--I might think that even then she suspected
that Strathay--

There were a few correct, vapid young men in gray trousers and long frock
coats among our guests that day, but none worth serious attention. And the

One creature tucked tracks under the tea cloth, whereat Mrs. Whitney's
pinched nose was elevated. Ethel saw the action--in spite of her mother
and sister, the poor girl clings to me; I suppose it's natural that
_she_ should love beauty--and hopping round the table at the first
chance, she pulled out one, chuckling mightily.

"'Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain,'" she quoted in undertone; "oh,
Nelly, take your share of the unco guid and the riders of hobby horses,
and be thankful it's no larger."

Ethel doesn't know how great it is. There was the woman who insists on
gloating over me as a proof of the superiority of her sex; the woman who
had written a book, the woman who would talk about Karma, and the woman--
there was more than one--who would talk about the Earl.

After they had gone, Mrs. Whitney's disgust was as plain as her horror of
their appetite for cake and other creature comforts. But the storm broke
in earnest a day or two later, after the last reception we shall ever hold

I can't describe it. I don't understand it. Women are fast leaving the
city; it was too late for an "evening."

But that made no difference; I do not deceive myself. I am pressing with
my shoulders against a mountain barrier--the prejudice of women--and it
never, never yields. Active opposition I could fight; but the tactics are
now to ignore me. In response to cards, I get "regrets," or women simply
stay away.

Men--ah, yes, there are always men, and many of them like as well as
admire me. But there is a subtle something that affects every man's
thought of a woman of whom women disapprove. They don't condemn me--ah, a
man can be generous!--they imagine they allow for women's jealousies; but
deep in their hearts lies hid the suspicion that only women are qualified
judges of women. They respect me, but they reserve judgment; and they do
not wholly respect themselves, for in order to see me, they evade their
lawful guardians--their wives and mothers.

It may have been the wine--I overheard two young cads making free of my
house to discuss my affairs.

"Mrs. Terry really dragged Hughy out of town?" one of them asked, assuming
a familiarity with Bellmer that I suspect he cannot claim.

"Guess so; he's playing horse with old Bellmer's money; always wrong side
of the betting."

"Needs Keeley cure. Good natured cuss; wonder if the Winship'll get him."

"Lay ye three to one--say twenties--that he gets away, like that

I addressed some smiling speech to the wretches, but through the whole
evening my cheeks did not cease to burn.

When the last guest had gone, tired and hysterical as she was, Mrs.
Whitney began a long tirade.

"It must be stopped! It must be stopped!" she cried, pacing back and

The blaze of anger improved her. She must have been a handsome woman
once--tall and slender, with fine dark eyes that roll about dramatically.

"I don't see what there is to stop," I said, perversity taking possession
of me, though at heart I quite agreed with her estimate of the evening.
"The object of an entertainment being to entertain, why shouldn't the men
I know come to ours? If they stayed away, you'd be disappointed; but when
they come, as they did to-night, you're frightened, or pretend to be."

"I'm not frightened; I'm appalled. I don't mean Mr. Burke, though he's a
detrimental--and, by the way, he was as much distressed to-night as I was.
I mean the men who have families--wives and daughters! Why didn't they
bring 'em--or stay away?"

"I'd thank John Burke to mind his own business," I cried hotly. "He
doesn't have to come here unless he wants to."

"There is only one way," she went on, as if speaking to herself, pacing
the floor and fanning herself violently--for her face, and especially her
nose, was as red as a beet; she really laces disgracefully--"there's only
one way; I must fall ill at once. I must have nervous prostration, or--
it's nearly June. I shall leave town. Heavens! What a night!"

"You're assuming a great deal. Our arrangements were made by two, and are
hardly to be broken by one. You can't agree to matronize me--let me buy
furniture for you, and then abandon me, cut off my social opportunities--
leave me--"

"Social opportunity! Social collapse! Disgrace! Why, your prospects were
really extraordinary. But now! Where was Meg to-night? Where was Mrs.
Marmaduke? Why did my own sister-in-law stay away?"

"I don't know; do you?"

Her harangue begun, she couldn't stop. "Where's Strathay?" she demanded.
"Gone; and no announcement--what was the matter? Needn't tell me you


Back to Full Books