The Purple Heights
Marie Conway Oemler
Part 4 out of 6
so completely in the person of the estimable Mrs. MacGregor.
Mr. Champneys demanded a lady middle-aged but not too middle-aged,
not overly handsome, but not overly otherwise; an excellent
disciplinarian, of a good family, and with impeccable references.
For the rest, Mrs. MacGregor was a tall, spare, high-nosed lady,
with a thin-lipped mouth full of large, sound teeth of a yellowish
tinge, and high cheek-bones with a permanent splash of red on them.
Her eyes were frosty, and her light hair was frizzled in front, and
worn high on her narrow head. She dressed in plain black silk of
good quality, wore her watch at her waist, and on her wrist a large,
old-fashioned bracelet in which was set a glass-covered,
lozenge-shaped receptable holding what looked like a wisp of
bristles, but which was a bit of the late Captain MacGregor's hair.
Mr. Champneys had wanted a lady who was a church member. He had a
vague idea that if a lady happened to be a church member you were
somehow or other protected against her. Mrs. MacGregor was orthodox
enough to satisfy the most rigid religionist. Mr. Champneys gathered
that she believed in God the father, God the son, and God the Holy
Ghost, three in One, and that One a dependable gentleman beautifully
British, who dutifully protected the king, fraternally respected the
Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister, and was heartily in
favor of the British Constitution. Naturally, being a devout woman,
she agreed with Deity.
An American family domiciled for a while in England had secured her
services as companion to an elderly aunt of theirs, fetching her
along with them, on their return to America. The aunt had been a
family torment until the advent of Mrs. MacGregor, but in the hands
of that disciplinarian she had become a mild-mannered old body. On
her demise the grateful family settled a small annuity upon her whom
they couldn't help recognizing as their benefactor. Finding
Americans so grateful, Mrs. MacGregor decided to remain among them
and with her recommendations secure another position of trust in
some wealthy family. This, then, was the teacher selected by Mr.
Jason Vandervelde, who thought her just what Mr. Champneys wanted
and his ward probably needed.
Mrs. MacGregor never really liked anybody, but she could respect
certain persons highly; she respected Mr. Chadwick Champneys at
sight. His name, his appearance, the fact that Jason Vandervelde was
acting for him, convinced her that he was "quite the right
sort"--for an American. She was as gracious to him as nature
permitted her to be to anybody. And the salary was very good indeed.
It was only when Nancy put in her appearance that Mrs. MacGregor's
satisfaction withered around the edges. The red on her high cheeks
deepened, and she fixed upon her new pupil a cold, appraising stare.
She made no slightest attempt to ingratiate herself; that wasn't her
way; what she demanded, she often said, was Respect. The impossible
young person who was staring back at her with hostile curiosity
wasn't overcome with Respect. The two did not love each other.
Strict disciplinarian though she might be where others were
concerned, Mrs. MacGregor treated herself with lenient
consideration. She was selfish with a fine, Christian zeal that
moved Nancy to admiring wonder. Nancy's own selfishness had been
superimposed upon her by untoward circumstances. This woman's
selfishness was a part of her nature, carefully cultivated. She
believed her body to be the temple of the Holy Ghost, and she made
herself exceedingly comfortable in the building, quite as if the
Holy Ghost were an obliging absentee landlord. Nancy observed,
too, that although the servants did not like her, they obeyed her
without question. She got without noise what she wanted.
But she really could teach. Almost from the first lesson, Nancy
began to learn, the pure hatred she felt for her instructress adding
rather than detracting from her progress. Had the woman been
broader, of a finer nature, she might have failed here; but being
what she was, immovable, hard as nails, narrow and prejudiced,
sticking relentlessly to the obviously essential, she goaded and
stung the girl into habits of study.
Her reaction to Mrs. MacGregor really pushed her forward. She knew
that the woman could never overcome a secret sense of amaze that
such a person as herself should be a member of Chadwick Champneys's
family--the man was a _gentleman_, you see. And she called Nancy
"Anne." Her lifted eyebrows at Nancy's English, her shocked,
patient, parrot-like, "Not 'seen him when he done it,' _please_. You
_saw_ him when he _did_ it!--No, 'I come in the house' isn't
correct. Try to remember that _well-bred_ persons use the past tense
of the verb; thus: 'I _came_ into the house.'--What _do_ I hear,
Anne? You '_taken'_ it? No! You TOOK it!" And she would look at
Nancy like a scandalized martyr, ready to die for the noble cause of
English grammar! Rather than endure that look, rather than face
those uplifted eyebrows, Nancy, gritting her teeth, set herself
seriously to the task of making over her method of speech.
It was Mrs. MacGregor who, discovering the girl's unstinted
allowance of candy, cut off the supply. She didn't care much for
candies herself, but she did like fruit, and fruit was substituted
for the forbidden sweets. She had the healthy, wholesome English
habit of walking, and unless the weather was impossible she forced
her unwilling charge to take long tramps with her, generally
immediately after breakfast. They would set out, Nancy dressed in a
plain blue serge, her pretty, high-heeled pumps discarded for
flat-heeled walking-shoes, Mrs. MacGregor flat-footed also, tall,
bony, in a singular bonnet, but nevertheless retaining an inherent
stateliness which won respect. Sometimes they tramped up Riverside
Drive, their objective being Grant's tomb. Mrs. MacGregor respected
Grant; and the stands of dusty flags brought certain old British
shrines to her mind. On stated mornings they visited the Library,
while Mrs. MacGregor selected the books Nancy was to read, books
that Nancy looked at askance. They had their mornings for the
museums, too. Mrs. MacGregor knew nothing of art, except that, as
she said to Nancy, well-bred persons simply _had_ to know something
about it. After their walk came lessons, grueling, dry-as-dust,
nose-to-the-grindstone lessons, during which Nancy's speech was
vivisected. At two o'clock they lunched, and Nancy had further
critical instructions. The dishes she had once been allowed to order
were changed, greatly to her annoyance; Mrs. MacGregor liked such
honest stuff as mutton chops and potatoes, just as she insisted upon
oatmeal for breakfast. Porridge, she called it. In the afternoon
they motored; Mrs. MacGregor, who detested speed, became the bane of
the hard-faced chauffeur's life.
They dined at seven, and for an hour thereafter Mrs. MacGregor
either read aloud from some book intended to edify the young person,
or forced Nancy to do so. She was possibly the only person alive who
delighted in Hannah More. She said, modestly, that at an early age
she had been taught to revere this paragon, and whatever happy
knowledge of the virtues proper to the female state she possessed,
she owed in a large measure to that model writer. Nancy conceived
for Hannah More a hatred equaled in intensity only by that cherished
for Mrs. MacGregor herself.
Mrs. MacGregor's notions of dress and her own were asunder, even as
the poles. But here again that rigid duenna did her invaluable
service, for if she didn't look handsome in the clothes selected
for her, she didn't, as that lady said frankly, look vulgar in them.
No longer would you be liable to mistake her for somebody's
second-rate housemaid on her day out. The simple diet and the
inexorable regularity of her hours also told in her favor, although
she herself wasn't as yet aware of the change taking place. Already
you could tell that hers was a supple and shapely young body, with
promise of a magnificent maturity; you glimpsed behind the fading
freckles a skin like a water-lily for creamy whiteness; and that red
hair of hers, worn without frizzings, began to take on a glossy,
That spring they moved into the new house. It was so different from
the average newly-rich American home that it moved even Mrs.
MacGregor to praise. Nancy thought it rather bare. It hadn't color
enough, and there were but few pictures. Yet the old rosewood and
mahogany furniture pleased her. She remembered that golden-oak,
red-plush parlor at Baxter's with a sort of wonder. Why! she had
thought that parlor handsome! And now she was beginning to
understand how hideous it had been.
She saw little of Mr. Champneys, who seemed to be plunged to the
eyes in business. Occasionally he appeared, looked at her
searchingly, said a few words to her and Mrs. MacGregor, and
vanished for another indefinite period. Mr. Jason Vandervelde was
almost a daily visitor when Mr. Champneys happened to be in the
city. At times Mr. Champneys went away, presumably to look after
business interests, and Nancy thought that at such times the lawyer
accompanied him. She had no friends of her own age, and Mrs.
MacGregor wasn't, to say the least, companionable. And the books she
was compelled to read bored her to distraction. She took it for
granted they must be frightfully good, they were so frightfully
dull! The deadliest, dullest of all seemed to be reserved for
Sunday. She didn't mind going to church; in church you could watch
other people, even though Mrs. MacGregor sat rigidly erect by your
side, and expected you to be able to find your place in a Book of
Common Prayer entirely unfamiliar to you. While she sat rapt during
what you thought an unnecessarily long sermon, you could look about
you slyly, and take note of the people within your immediate radius.
Nancy liked to observe the younger people. Sometimes a bitter envy
would almost choke her when she regarded some girl who was both
pretty and prettily dressed, and, apparently, care-free and happy.
She watched the younger men stealthily. Some of them pleased her;
she would have liked to be admired by at least one of them, and she
felt jealous of the fortunate young women singled out for their
attentions. Think of being pretty, and having beautiful clothes, and
swell fellows like that in love with you! That any one of these fine
young men should cast a glance in her own direction never entered
her mind. No. Loveliness and the affection and gaiety of youth were
for others; for her--Peter Champneys. At that she fetched a deep
sigh. She always went home from church silent and subdued. Mrs.
MacGregor thought this a proper attitude of mind for the Sabbath.
The girl was vaguely disturbed and uneasy without knowing why. The
newness and glamour of the possession of creature comforts, the
absence of want, was wearing thin in spots. She was conscious of a
lack. She was beginning to think and to question, and as there was
no one in whom she might confide, she turned inward. Naturally, she
couldn't answer her own questions, and all her thoughts were as yet
chaotic and confused. She wanted--well, what did she want, anyhow?
She repeated to herself, "I want something different!" That
something different should not include a dreary round of Mrs.
MacGregor, a cold inspection by Mr. Chadwick Champneys; nor the
thought of Peter Champneys. It _would_ include laughter and--and
people who were neither teachers nor guardians, but who were gay,
and young, and kind. She began to be conscious of her own isolation.
She had always been isolated. Once poverty had done it; and now
money was doing it. Those girls she saw at church--she'd bet they
went to parties, had loads of friends, had a good time, were loved;
plenty of people wanted their love. For herself, as far back as she
could look, she had never had a friend. Who cared for her love?
Sometimes she watched the new maid, a distractingly pretty little
Irish girl, black-haired, blue-eyed, rosy-faced. The girl tried to
be demure, to restrain the laughter that was always near the
surface; but her eyes danced, her cheek dimpled, she had what one
might call a smiling voice. And the handsome young policeman on the
corner was acutely aware of her. Nancy remembered one afternoon when
she and Mrs. MacGregor happened to be coming in at the same time
with Molly. It was Molly's afternoon off and she was dressed trimly,
and with taste. Under her little close-fitting hat her hair was like
black satin, her face like a rose. The young policeman managed to
pass the house at that moment, and lifted his cap to her; Nancy saw
the look in the young man's eyes. She followed Mrs. MacGregor into
the house, rebelliously. Nobody had ever looked at _her_ like that.
Nobody was ever going to look at her like that. She remembered Peter
Champneys's eyes when they had first met hers. A dull flush stained
her face, and bitterness overwhelmed her.
Mr. Champneys was busy; Mrs. MacGregor was satisfied--she had a
position of authority; her creature comforts were exquisitely
attended to; her salary was ample. The man saw his plans being
carried forward, if not brilliantly at least creditably; the woman
saw that her tasks were fulfilled. It never occurred to either that
the girl might or should ask for more than she received, or that she
might find her days dull. But Nancy was discovering that the body is
more than raiment, and that one does not live by bread alone.
THE BRIGHT SHADOW
The Champneys chauffeur, greatly to Mrs. MacGregor's terror and
disapproval, seemed to live for speed alone; in consequence, one
afternoon Mrs. MacGregor and Nancy very narrowly escaped dying for
it. Whereupon Mr. Champneys summarily dismissed the chauffeur and
engaged in his place young Glenn Mitchell, accidentally brought to
his notice. Mr. Champneys congratulated himself upon the discovery
of Glenn Mitchell. To begin with, he was a South Carolinian, one of
those well-born, penniless, ambitious young Southerners who come to
New York to make their fortune. One of his forebears had married a
Champneys. That was in ante bellum days, but South Carolina has a
long memory, and this far-off tie immediately established the young
fellow upon a footing of family relationship and of cousinly
friendliness. He was a personable youth of twenty, who had worked
his way through high school and meant presently to go through the
College of Physicians and Surgeons,--his grandfather had been a
distinguished physician, Mr. Champneys remembered. The boy proposed
to use his skill in handling a motor-car as a means toward that end.
Mr. Chadwick Champneys would gladly have paid Glenn's college
expenses out of his own pocket, but the young man, delicately
sounded, politely but sturdily declined. The next best thing the
kindly old Carolinian could do, then, was to make the boy a member
of his own household. Hoichi had orders to prepare a room for Mr.
Mitchell, and Mrs. MacGregor was advised that he would take his
meals with the family. She was at first inclined to be scandalized:
to bring your chauffeur to your own table was Americanism with a
vengeance! But when she met the young man, she was mollified. This
chauffeur was a gentleman, and in Mrs. MacGregor's estimation a
gentleman may do many things without losing caste. She remembered
that the perfectly decent younger son of a certain poverty-stricken
nobleman had driven a car. This young Mitchell was exceptionally
good-looking in a nice, boyish, fresh-faced way, and she saw in his
manner a youthful reflection of the courtliness which distinguished
Mr. Chadwick Champneys. He had a great deal of that indefinable
something we call charm, and before she knew it Mrs. MacGregor was
won over to him, and looked upon his presence as a distinct addition
to the Champneys menage.
When he had been introduced to Nancy, she was mentioned as "My
niece, Mrs. Champneys." Mrs. MacGregor called her "Anne." Mr.
Champneys spoke to her as "Nancy," and Glenn thought he must have
been mistaken as to that "Mrs." There was no sign of a husband
anywhere; neither was there any indication of widowhood. Nobody
mentioned Peter--Mr. Champneys because he was more interested in
talking about Glenn's business than his own, on the occasions when
he had time to talk about anything; Mrs. MacGregor, because she had
never seen Peter, knew nothing at all about him, except that there
was a nephew somewhere in the background of things, and wasn't in
the least interested in anything but her own immediate affairs;
besides, it never would have occurred to her to talk about her
employer's affairs, even if she had known anything about them. An
employer who was a gentleman, and very wealthy, belonged to the
Established Order, and Mrs. MacGregor had the thorough-going British
respect for Established Order. Nancy, for her part, wished to forget
that Peter existed. She never by any chance mentioned him, or even
thought of him if she could help it. So when young Glenn Mitchell,
after the pleasant South Carolina fashion, addressed her as "Miss
Nancy" it seemed perfectly all right to everybody.
Nancy was a little over eighteen then. She had grown taller, but she
retained the pleasant angularity of extreme youth. Because she
didn't know how to arrange her hair, Mrs. MacGregor sternly
forbidding frizzing and curling, and insisting upon a "modest
simplicity becoming to a young girl" she wore her red mane in a huge
plait. She had been so teased and badgered about her red hair, had
hated it so heartily, been so ashamed of it, that she didn't realize
how magnificent it was now, after two years of care and cleanliness.
It wasn't auburn; it wasn't Titian; it was a bright, rich,
glittering, unbuyable, undeniable red, and Nancy wore her plait as
a boy wears a chip on his shoulder. Young Glenn Mitchell was seized
with a wild desire to catch hold of that braid that was like a cable
of gleaming copper, and wind it around his wrists. For the first
time, he thought, he was seeing the true splendor and beauty of red
hair; and the girl had the wonderfully white skin that accompanies
it. He suspected that she must have been pretty badly freckled when
she was a child, for the freckles were still fairly visible, though
one saw that they would presently vanish altogether. The curve of
her throat and chin, the "salt-cellars" at the base of the neck,
left nothing to be desired. Altogether there was that about this
girl that caught and held his boyish attention. It wasn't that she
was pretty,--he had at first thought her plain. It was rather that
here lay a tantalizing promise of unfoldment by and by, a sheathed
hint of something rare and perilous.
He didn't quite know what to make of Mr. Champneys's niece. She was
abnormally silent, unbelievably unobtrusive, singularly still.
Watching her, he found himself wishing she would smile, at least
occasionally: he longed to see what her mouth would look like if it
should curve into laughter. She had exquisite teeth, and her eyes,
when one was allowed to get a glimpse of them, were of a curious,
agaty, gray green, with one or two little spots or flecks in the
iris. Hers was an impassive, emotionless face; yet she gave a
distinct impression of feeling, emotion, passion held in check; it
was as if her feelings had been frozen. But suppose a spring thaw
should set in--what then? Would there be just a calm brook flowing
underneath placid willows, or a tempestuous torrent sweeping all
before it? He wondered!
She sat opposite him at table three times a day, and never addressed
a word to him, or to Mrs. MacGregor, who carried on whatever
conversation there might be. Mrs. MacGregor liked to give details of
entertainments "at home," at which she herself had been present, or
of events in which A Member of My Family had participated. "I said
to the dear Bishop,"--"His Lordship remarked to My Cousin."
Sometimes during these recitals the thin, fine edge of a smile
touched Nancy's lips. It was gone so quickly one wasn't quite sure
it had been there at all; yet its brief passage gave her a strange
expression of mockery and of weariness. She offered no opinions of
her own about anything; she made no slightest attempt to keep the
conversation alive; you could talk, or you could remain silent--it
was all one to her. Yet dumb and indifferent though she appeared to
be, you felt her presence as something very vital, listening, and
immensely honest and natural.
He wished she would speak to him, say something more than a mere
"Yes" or "No." Girls had always been more than willing to talk to
Glenn Mitchell--very much prettier and more fascinating girls than
this silent, stubborn, red-headed Anne Champneys. He began to feel
piqued, as well as puzzled.
And then, one day, he happened to glance up suddenly and in that
instant encountered a full, straight, intense look from her--a look
that weighed, and wondered, and searched, and was piercingly, almost
unbearably eager and wistful. He felt himself engulfed, as it were,
in the bottomless depths of that long, clear gaze, that went over
him like the surge of great waters, and drenched his consciousness
to the core. Brand-new Eve might have looked thus at brand-new Adam,
sinlessly, virginally, yet with an avid and fearful questioning and
curiosity. For the second his heart shook and reeled in his breast.
Then the dark lashes fell and veiled the shining glance. Her face
was once more indifferent and mask-like.
As a matter of fact, Nancy was avidly interested in Glenn, in whom
for the first time she encountered youth. He came like a fresh
breeze into an existence in which she stifled. From his first
appearance in the house she had watched him stealthily, looking at
him openly only when she thought herself unobserved. Conscious of
her own defects, she was timid where this good-looking young man was
concerned. It never occurred to her that she might interest him, but
she did not wish him to think ill of her. She kept herself in the
background as much as possible.
She had none of the joyousness natural to a girl of her age. She had
no young companions. Was there some reason? Wasn't she happy? He
felt vaguely troubled for her. She aroused his sympathy, as well as
his curiosity. He couldn't forget that look he had surprised. It
stayed in his memory, perilously. At night in his room, when he
should have been studying, that astonishing glance came before him
on his book, and cast a luminous spell upon him.
He surprised no more such glances. She still relegated to Mrs.
MacGregor the full task of talking to him; a task that lady
performed nobly. Just as she walked every morning with Mrs.
MacGregor, she took her place in the car every afternoon, apparently
obeying orders. Sometimes, twisting his head around, he could
glimpse her profile turned toward the moving panorama of the crowded
streets through which he was skilfully manoeuvering his way. But if
she were interested in what she gazed at so fixedly, she made no
comment. One never knew what she thought about anything.
One memorable evening she appeared at dinner in a yellow frock,
instead of the usual serge or plain blue silk. It wasn't an
elaborate dress, but its prettily low neck allowed one to admire her
full throat, with a string of amber beads around it. Her hair hung
in two thick braids across her shoulders, and the straight lines of
the yellow satin accentuated the youthfulness of her figure. Glenn's
heart behaved unmannerly.
She appeared not to see his quick, pleased glance, but turned
instead to Mrs. MacGregor, who was regarding her critically. Mrs.
MacGregor hadn't been consulted about the yellow frock, and she
viewed it with distinct disapproval. Glenn found himself solidly
aligned against Mrs. MacGregor, and siding with the girl. He liked
that yellow frock; somehow it suited her coloring, enabled one to
see how unusual she really was. He wondered that he had thought her
so plain, at first. She agitated him. He wished intensely that she
would look at him; and just then she did, and for the first time saw
admiration in a young man's eyes, not for another girl, but for
herself! She held his glance, doubtfully, timidly; but she couldn't
doubt the evidence of her senses. Glenn was pleased with her, he
admired her! His ingenuous face beamed the fact, from frank eyes and
smiling lips. There was somewhat more than admiration in his look,
but Nancy was more than content with what appeared on the surface.
Her eyes widened, a flush rose to her cheek, a naive and pleased
smile transformed her dissatisfied young mouth. When he ventured to
speak to her presently, she ventured to reply, shyly, but with new
friendliness. Once, when Mrs. MacGregor said something sententious,
and Glenn laughed, Nancy laughed with him.
That frank and boyish admiration restored to her, as it were, some
rightful and precious heritage long withheld, an indispensable
birthright the lack of which had beggared and stripped her. She had
a sense of profound gratitude to this likable and handsome young
man, a moved and touching interest in him. He made her feel glad to
be alive; through him the world seemed of a sudden a kindlier place,
full of charming surprises. And when she accompanied Mrs. MacGregor
to church on the following Sunday, she looked with a secret
sisterliness at the girls she had envied and disliked. It was as if
she had been elected to their ranks, been made one of them; she
wasn't on the outside of things any more; somebody--a very
desirable and handsome somebody--admired her, too. She didn't
analyze her feelings. Youth never thinks or analyzes, it feels and
realizes; that is why it is divine, why it is lord of the earth. Her
growing liking for him was so shy, so naive, so touchingly sincere,
that Glenn was profoundly moved when he became aware of it. He had
the old South Carolina chivalry; to him women were still invested
with a halo, and one approached them with a manly reverence. He had
liked girls, many girls; he would have told you, himself, that he
never met a pretty girl without loving her some! But this was the
first time Glenn had ever really fallen in love, and he fell
headlong, with an impetuous ardor that all but swept him off his
feet, and that was like strong wine to Nancy, whose drink heretofore
had been lukewarm water.
He didn't know whether or not she was Mr. Champney's sole heir, and
he didn't care: what difference could that make? He was as well born
as any Champneys, wasn't he? And if he wasn't blessed with much of
this world's goods just now, he took it for granted he was going to
be, after a while. As for that, hadn't Chadwick Champneys himself
once been as poor as Job's turkeys? And hadn't Mr. Champneys
acknowledged the relationship existing between them, slight and
distant though it was? Who'd have the effrontery to look down on one
of the Mitchells of Mitchellsville, South Carolina? He'd like to
know! Glenn began to dream the rosy dreams of twenty.
It took Nancy somewhat longer to discover the amazing truth.
She was more suspicious and at the same time very much more
humble-minded than Glenn. But suspicion faded and failed before his
honest passion. His agitation, his eagerness, his face that altered
so swiftly, so glowingly, whenever she appeared, would have told the
truth to one duller than Nancy. If Mrs. MacGregor could have
suspected that anybody could fall in love with Anne Champneys, she
must have seen the truth, too. But she didn't. She was serenely
blind to what was happening under her eyes.
Nancy never forgot the day she discovered that Glenn loved her. Mrs.
MacGregor had one of her rare headaches. She was a woman who hated
to upset the fixed routine of life, and as their afternoon outing
was one of the established laws, she insisted that Nancy should go,
though she herself must remain at home. Half fearful, half
delighted, Nancy went. Glenn had looked at her, mutely entreating;
in response to that entreaty she took the seat beside him. For some
time neither spoke--Glenn because he was too wildly happy, Nancy
because she hadn't anything to say. She was curious; she waited for
him to speak.
"I wonder," gulped Glenn, presently, "if you know just how happy I
Nancy said demurely that she didn't know; but if he was happy she
was glad: it must be very nice to be happy!
"Aren't _you_ happy?" he ventured.
Nancy turned pink by way of answer. As a matter of fact, she was
nearer being happy then than she had ever been. They fell into an
intimate conversation--that is, Glenn talked, and the girl listened.
He explained his hopes, ambitions, prospects. He talked eagerly and
impetuously. He wished her to understand him, to know all about
him,--what he was, what he hoped to be. A boy in love is like that.
In return for this confidence Nancy explained that she hated
oatmeal, and Hannah More; some of these days she meant to buy every
copy of Hannah More she could lay her hands on, and burn them. Of
herself, her past, she said nothing.
"And so you're going to be a doctor!" she turned the conversation
back to him, as being much more interesting.
"Yes. Or rather, I'm going to be a great surgeon." And then he
"And you--what do _you_ want to be?"
"I want to be happy," said Nancy, half fiercely.
"There isn't any reason why you shouldn't be--a girl like you."
Nancy looked a bit doubtful. But no, he wasn't poking fun. And after
a pause, he asked, as one putting himself to the test:
"Miss Anne--Nancy--do you think you could be happy--with _me_?"
"_You_?" breathed Nancy, all a-tremble. She thought she could be
happier with Glenn than with anybody else. Why! there _wasn't_
anybody else! That is, nobody that cared. She was afraid to say so.
But her moved and changed face said it for her.
"Because, if you could be happy with me, why shouldn't you be?"
asked Glenn, brilliantly. But Nancy understood, and her heart
crowded into her throat with delight, and terror, and a sort of
agony. She felt that she loved and adored this boy to distraction.
She would have adored anybody who loved and desired her, who found
her fair. But she didn't understand that; neither did Glenn.
"You care?" said the boy, leaning toward her. They were running
slowly, along a road high above the river. "Nancy, you care?"
Care? Of course she cared! She considered him the most beautiful and
desirable of mortals; she was so enraptured, so thrilled with the
astounding fact that he cared for her, that she couldn't speak, but
looked at him with swimming eyes. He brought the car to a stop,
slipped an arm around her shoulder, and drew her close. She knew
that something momentous was going to happen to her, and looked at
him, full of a sweet terror. "I love you!" said Glenn, and kissed
her on the mouth.
His beard was the ghost of down on his cheek; her hair hung in a
braid to her waist; their kiss was the kiss of youth,--tender,
passionately pure. Everything but that morning face, pale with young
emotion, looking at her with enamored eyes, vanished from her mind;
everything else counted for nothing, went like chaff upon the wind.
The one fact alone remained: _Glenn loved her_! Her senses were in a
delicious tumult from the power and the glory of it: _Glenn loved
her_! It was as if a skylark sang in her breast, as if she walked in
a rosy and new-born world. Had Nancy been called upon to die for him
then, she would have gone to her death shining-eyed, fleet-footed,
"I love you, I love you!" Glenn repeated it like a litany. "Nancy!
Does it make you as happy because I love you as it makes me because
you love me?"
"Oh, ten thousand times ten thousand times more!" she said
"I think it was your hair I fell in love with, first off," he told
her presently. "I have never seen a girl with such hair, and such a
lot of it. I'm crazy about your hair, Nancy."
"I think you must be," she agreed whole-heartedly. She wasn't vain,
They had no more plans than birds or flowers have. Plenty of time
for sober planning by and by, when one grew accustomed to the sweet
miracle of being beloved as much as one loved! Glenn simply took it
for granted he was going to marry her. He had known her all of three
months--a lifetime, really!--and she had allowed him to kiss her,
had admitted she cared. He supposed they would have to wait until he
had been through his training and won that coveted degree. Until
then, they would keep their beautiful secret to themselves; they
didn't wish to share it with anybody, yet.
It was only when she was alone in her room that night that Nancy
realized the true situation that confronted her. On the one side
was Glenn, dear, wonderful Glenn, who loved her. On the other was
Peter Champneys, who had married her as she had married him, for the
Champneys money. Peter Champneys! who despised her, and whom she
must consider a barrier between herself and whatever happiness life
might offer her! She could understand how Glenn had made his
mistake. Nobody had explained Peter to him. To tell him the truth
now meant to lose him. She was like a person dying of thirst, yet
forbidden to drink the cup of cold water extended to her.
Wasn't it wiser to take what life offered, drain the cup, and let
come what might? Why not snatch her chance of happiness, even though
it should be brief? Suppose one waited? Deep in her heart was the
hope that something would happen that would save her; youth always
hopes something is going to happen that will save it. Wasn't it
possible Peter might fall in love with somebody, and divorce her?
One saw how very possible indeed such a thing was! For the present,
let Glenn love her. It was the most important and necessary thing in
the world that Glenn should love her. What harm was she doing in
letting Glenn love her? Particularly when Peter Champneys didn't,
never would, any more than she ever could or would love Peter
Even Mrs. MacGregor noticed the change taking place in Anne
Champneys. The girl had more color and animation, and at times she
even ventured to express her own opinions, which were strikingly
shrewd and fresh and original. Her eyes had grown sweeter and
clearer, now that she no longer slitted them, and her mouth was
learning to curve smilingly. Decidedly, Anne was vastly improved!
And her manner had subtly changed, too; she was beginning to show an
individuality that wasn't without a nascent fascination.
Mrs. MacGregor plumed herself upon the improvement in her pupil,
which she ascribed to her own civilizing and potent influence, for
she was a God-fearing woman. She didn't understand that the greatest
Power in heaven and earth was at work with Nancy.
But although Glenn became daily more enamored of the girl, he wasn't
so satisfied with things as they were. He couldn't say that Nancy
really avoided him, of course. He drove her and Mrs. MacGregor, whom
at times he wished in Jericho, out in the car every afternoon. He
sat opposite her at table thrice daily. Sometimes in the evening he
spent an hour or two with her and Mrs. MacGregor, before going to
his own room to study. But it so happened that he never was able to
see her alone any more; and Nancy certainly made no effort to bring
about that desirable situation. This made him restive and at the
same time increased his passion for her.
For her part, she was perfectly content just to look at him, to know
that he was near. But Glenn was more impatient. He wanted the
fragrance of her hair against his shoulder; he wanted the straight,
strong young body in his arms; he wished to kiss her. And she held
aloof. Although she no longer veiled her eyes from him, although he
was quite sure she loved him, she was always tantalizingly out of
his reach. She didn't seem to understand the lover's desire to be
alone with the beloved, he thought. He grew moody. The weeks seemed
years to his ardent and impetuous spirit. One night, happening to
need a book he had noticed in the library, he went after it. And
there, oh blessed vision, sat Nancy! She had been sleepless and
restless, and had stolen out of her room for something to read that
hadn't been selected by Mrs. MacGregor. It was rather late, but
finding the quiet library pleasanter to her mood than her own room,
she curled up in a comfortable chair and began to read. The book was
Hardy's "Tess," and its strong and somber passion and tragedy filled
her with pity and terror. Something in her was roused by the story;
she felt that she understood and suffered with that simple and
She looked up, startled, as Glenn entered the room. He came to her
swiftly, his arms outstretched, his face alight.
"You!" he cried, radiant and elate. "You!"
Nancy rose, torn between the desire to retreat, and to fling herself
into those waiting arms. Glenn left her no choice. He seized her,
roughly and masterfully, and held her close, pressing her against
his body. His lips fastened upon hers. Nancy closed her eyes and
shivered. She felt small and helpless, a leaf before the wind, and
she was afraid.
"Nancy!" he whispered. "Nancy! You've got to marry me. We'll just
have to risk it, degree or no degree! What's the use of waiting all
our lives, maybe, when we love each other? When will you marry me,
She knew then that she had to tell him the truth, and she trembled.
"Glenn, I--I--" she stammered. Her tongue seemed to cleave to the
roof of her mouth.
"Soon? Say yes, Nancy! I'm crazy about you, don't you know that? Why
don't you say when, Nancy?"
She felt desperate, as if some force were closing in upon her,
relentlessly. She had to speak, and yet she couldn't. She tried to
escape from the arms that held her, but they clasped her all the
closer. His eager lips closed on hers.
"Nancy! Ah, darling, why not let everything go and marry me at
Ah, why not, indeed? As if Peter Champneys had reached across the
sea to divide her and Glenn, a stern voice answered Glenn's
"Because she has a husband already," it said harshly. Chalky white,
with blazing eyes, Chadwick Champneys confronted Peter's wife in
another man's arms. "She is married to my nephew, Peter Champneys.
Is it possible you do not know?"
Glenn's arms dropped. Intuitively he moved away from her. His visage
blanched, and he stared at her strangely.
"Nancy, is this thing true?"
Nancy nodded. She said in a lifeless voice: "Oh yes, it's true. I
was trying to tell you, but--" And then she broke into a cry:
"Glenn, you don't understand! Glenn, listen, please listen! I did
love you, I do love you, Glenn! You--you don't know--you don't
The boy staggered. He was an honorable, clean-souled boy, heir to
old heritages of pride, and faith, and chivalry. A dull, shamed red
crept from cheek to brow, replacing his pallor. His gesture, as he
turned away from her, made her feel as if she had been struck across
the face. She winced. She saw herself judged and condemned.
"Mr. Champneys," stammered Glenn, painfully, "surely you know I
didn't understand--don't you? I--we--fell in love, sir. We'd meant
to wait--that's why I didn't come to you at once--but I--that is, I
was very much in love with her, and I was going to make a clean
breast of it and ask you what we'd better do. And you're not to
think I'm--dishonorable--" he choked over the word.
Knowing the boy's breed, Champneys laid a not unkindly hand on his
"I see how it was," he said. "And--I guess you're punished enough,
without any reproaches from me."
Glenn turned to Nancy. "Why did you do it?" he cried. "I loved you,
I trusted you. Nancy, why did you do such a thing--to _me_?"
She twisted her fingers. Well, this was the end. She was to be
thrust out of the new brightness, back into the drab dreariness, the
emptiness that was her fate. She lifted tragic eyes.
"I never expected you to love me. But when you did--I just _had_ to
let you! Nobody else cared--ever. And I loved you for loving me--I
couldn't help it, Glenn; I couldn't help it!" Her voice broke. She
stood there, twisting her fingers.
An old, wise, kind woman, or an old priest who had seen and forgiven
much, or men who knew and pitied youth, would have understood.
Neither of the men to whom she spoke realized the significance of
that childishly pitiful confession. Champneys felt that she had
shamed his name, belittled the sacred Family which was his fetish;
Glenn thought she had made a fool of him for her own amusement.
Never again would he trust a woman, he told himself. And in his pain
and shame, his smarting sense of having been duped, his hideous
revulsion of feeling, he spoke out brutally. Nancy was left in no
doubt as to the estimation in which he now held her. And she
understood that it was his pride, even more than his love, that
She made no further attempt to explain or to exculpate herself; what
was the use? She knew that had they changed places, had Glenn been
in her shoes and she in his, her judgment had not been thus swift
and merciless. Her larger love would have understood, and pitied,
and forgiven. Pride! They talked of Pride, and they talked of Name.
But she could only feel that the one love she had ever known, or
perhaps ever was to know, was going from her, must go from her,
unforgiving, as if she had done it some irreparable wrong. She
looked from one wrathful, accusing face to the other, like a child
that has been beaten. How could Glenn, who had seemed to love her
so greatly, turn against her so instantly? Not even--Peter
Champneys--had looked at her as Glenn was looking at her now! And of
a sudden she felt cold, and old, and sad, and inexpressibly tired.
So this was what men were like, then! They always blamed. And they
never, never understood. She would not forget.
She checked the impulse to cry aloud to Glenn, to try once more to
make him understand. Her eyes darkened, and two bright spots burnt
in her cheeks. Without a further word or glance she walked out of
the room and left the two standing close together. So stepped Anne
Champneys into her womanhood.
She locked her door upon herself. Then she went over, after her
fashion, and stared at herself in her mirror. The herself staring
back at her startled her--the flushed cheeks, the mouth like coral,
the eyes glowing like jewels under straight black brows. The ropes
of red hair seemed alive, too; the whole figure radiated a
personality that could be dynamic, once its powers should be fully
She viewed the woman in the glass impersonally, as if it had been a
stranger's face looking at her. That vivid creature couldn't be
Nancy Simms, not quite three years ago the Baxter slavey, the same
Nancy that Peter Champneys had shrunk from with aversion, and that
Glenn had repudiated to-night!
"Yes,--it's me," she murmured. "But I ain't--I mean I am not really
ugly any more. I'm--I don't know just _what_ I am--or whether I
ought to like or hate me--" But even while she shook her head, the
face in the glass changed; the mouth drooped, the color faded, the
light in the eyes went out. "But whatever I am, I'm not enough to
make anybody keep on loving me." Then, because she was just a girl,
and a very bewildered, sad, and undisciplined girl, she put her red
head down on her dressing-table and wept despairingly.
The next morning Mr. Champneys explained to the concerned and
regretful Mrs. MacGregor that Mr. Mitchell had been called away
suddenly, last night, and didn't think he would be able to return.
The ladies were to accept Mr. Mitchell's regrets that he hadn't been
able to bid them good-by in person. Mr. Champneys bowed for Mr.
Mitchell, in a very stately manner. He went on with his breakfast,
while Nancy made a pretense of eating hers, hating life and wishing
with youthful intensity that she was dead, and Glenn with her. His
empty place mocked and tortured her. He had gone, and he didn't,
wouldn't, couldn't understand. She could never, never hope to make
Glenn understand! She rather expected Mr. Champneys to sit in
judgment upon her that morning, but a whole week passed before
Hoichi brought the message that Mr. Champneys wished to see her in
the library. Her uncle was standing by the window when she entered,
and he turned and bowed to her politely. He was thinner, gaunter,
more Don Quixotish than usual. If only he had been kind! But his
face was set, and hers instinctively hardened to match it.
"Nancy," he began directly, "I have not sent for you to load you
with reproaches for your inexplicable conduct. But I must say this:
deliberately to deceive and befool an honest gentleman, to trifle
with his affections out of mere greedy vanity, is so base that I
have no words strong enough to condemn it."
"I didn't mean to fool him. He fooled himself, and I let him do it,"
said she, dully. He thought her listlessness indifference, and any
bluntness in moral tone in a woman, scandalized him. He could
understand a Mrs. MacGregor, who was without subtleties; or soft,
loving, courageous women like Milly and his sister-in-law, Peter's
mother. But this girl he couldn't fathom. He beat his hands
"I--you--" he groaned. And then: "Oh, Peter, what have I done to
"I can't see you've done anything to him, except pay him to go away
and learn how to make something out of himself," returned Nancy,
practically. It brought him up short. "Uncle Chadwick, please keep
quiet for a few minutes: I want you to listen to me." She met his
eyes fully. "I didn't do Glenn Mitchell any real harm: he'll fall in
love with somebody else pretty soon. I suppose it's easy for Glenn
to love people because it's easier for people to love Glenn. And
he's done me this much good: I won't be so ready to believe it's
easy for folks to love _me_, Uncle Chadwick. I guess I'm the sort
they mostly--_don't_. I'll not forget." She spoke without
bitterness, even with dignity. "One thing more, please. If ever
Peter Champneys finds out he loves somebody, and he'll let me know,
I'll give him his freedom. Fortune or no fortune, I won't hold him.
I know now--a little--what loving somebody means," she finished.
Her voice was so steady, her eyes so clear and direct, her manner so
contained, that he was uncomfortably impressed. He felt put upon the
defensive. As a matter of fact, in his first anger and surprise at
what he still considered her shameless behavior, he had seriously
considered the advisability of having Peter's marriage annulled. As
soon as he had become calmer, his pride and obstinacy rejected such
a course. After all, no harm had been done. She was very young. And
he hoped Glenn's outspoken condemnation had taught her a needed and
salutary lesson. Looking at her this morning, he realized that she
had been punished. But that she should so calmly speak of divorcing
Peter, of making way for some other woman, horrified him.
"You are talking immoral nonsense!" he said, angrily. "Let him go,
indeed! Divorce your husband! What are we coming to? In my day
marriage was binding. No respectable husband or wife ever dreamed of
"But they were real husbands and wives, weren't they?" asked Nancy.
"All husbands and wives are real husbands and wives!" he thundered.
She considered this--and him--carefully. "Then you don't want Mr.
Peter Champneys and me ever to be divorced? I thought maybe you
"I forbid you even to _think_ such wickedness," cried he, alarmed.
"A girl of your age talking in such a manner! It's scandalous,
that's what it is,--scandalous! Shows the dry-rot of our national
moral sense, when the very children"--he glared at Nancy--"gabble
"Then I--I mean, things are just to go along, the same as they have
been?" She looked at him pleadingly.
For a few minutes he drummed on the library table with his thin
brown fingers. His bushy brows contracted. He asked unexpectedly:
"Would you like to go away for a while? To travel?"
"Where? Why, anywhere! There's a whole world to travel in, isn't
there? Well, take Mrs. MacGregor and travel around in it, then."
She shook her head.
"What's the use? Anywhere I went I'd have to go with _me_, wouldn't
I? And I can't seem to like the idea of traveling around with Mrs.
"What _do_ you want, then?"
"I don't know," said she, in a low voice. And she added: "So I think
I might just as well stay right on here at home, if it's all the
same to you."
"Well, if it pleases you, of course--" he began doubtfully.
"If I do stay, you needn't be afraid I'll fall in love with anybody
else you hire," said she, with a faint flush. "I'm only a fool the
same way once." Her bomb-shell directness all but stunned him. He
"Why--very well then, very well then! Quite so! I see exactly what
you mean! I--ah--am very glad we understand each other." But as the
door closed behind her, he mumbled to himself:
"Now, that was a devil of an interview, wasn't it! What's come over
the girl? And what's the matter with _me_?" After a while he
telephoned Mr. Jason Vandervelde.
Everything went on as usual in the orderly, luxurious house, for
some ten quiet months or so. And then one memorable morning at the
breakfast-table Mr. Champneys suddenly gasped and slid down in his
chair. Nancy and Hoichi carried him into the library and placed him
on a lounge. He opened his eyes once, and stared into hers with
something of his old imperiousness. She took his hand, pitifully,
and bent down to him.
"Yes, Uncle Chadwick?"
But he didn't speak--to her. His eyes wandered past her. His lips
trembled, into a whisper of "_Milly_!" With that he went out to the
wife of his youth.
While Mr. Chadwick Champneys was alive, Nancy had been able to feel
that there was some one to whom she, in a way, belonged. Now that he
was gone, she felt as if she had been detached from all human ties,
for she couldn't consider Peter as belonging. Peter wasn't coming
home, of course. He was content to leave his business interests in
the safe hands of Mr. Jason Vandervelde, and the trust company that
had the Champneys estate in charge. A last addition to Mr.
Champneys's will had made the lawyer the guardian of Mrs. Peter
Champneys until she was twenty-five.
While he was putting certain of his late client's personal affairs
in order, Mr. Vandervelde necessarily came in contact with young
Mrs. Peter. The oftener he met her, the more interested the shrewd
and kindly man became in Anne Champneys. When he first saw her in
the black she had donned for her uncle, the unusual quality of her
personal appearance struck him with some astonishment.
"Why, she's grown handsome!" he thought with surprise. "Or maybe
she's going to be handsome. Or maybe she's not, either. Whatever
she is, she certainly can catch the human eye!"
He remembered her as she had appeared on her wedding-day, and his
respect for Chadwick Champneys's far-sighted perspicacity grew: the
old man certainly had had an unerring sense of values. The girl had
a mind of her own, too. At times her judgment surprised him with its
elemental clarity, its penetrating soundness. The power of thinking
for herself hadn't been educated out of her; she had not been
stodged with other people's--mostly dead people's--thoughts,
therefore she had room for her own. He reflected that a little
wholesome neglect might be added to the modern curriculum with great
advantage to the youthful mind.
Her isolation, the deadly monotony of her daily life, horrified him.
He realized that she should have other companionship than Mrs.
MacGregor's, shrewdly suspecting that as a teacher that lady had
passed the limit of usefulness some time since. Somehow, the
impermeable perfection of Mrs. MacGregor exasperated Mr. Vandervelde
almost to the point of throwing things at her. She made him
understand why there is more joy in heaven over one sinner saved,
than over ninety and nine just persons. He could understand just how
welcome to a bored heaven that sinner must be! And think of that
poor girl living with this human work of supererogation!
"Why, she might just as well be in heaven at once!" he thought, and
shuddered. "I've got to do something about it."
"Marcia," he said to his wife, "I want you to help me out with Mrs.
Peter Champneys. Call on her. Talk to her. Then tell me what to do
for her. She's changed--heaps--in three years. She's--well, I think
she's an unusual person, Marcia."
A few days later Mrs. Jason Vandervelde called on Mrs. Peter
Champneys, and at sight of Nancy in her black frock experienced
something of the emotion that had moved her husband. She felt
inclined to rub her eyes. And then she wished to smile, remembering
how unnecessarily sorry she and Jason had been for young Peter
Marcia Vandervelde was an immensely clever and capable woman;
perhaps that partly explained her husband's great success. She
looked at the girl before her, and realized her possibilities. Mrs.
Peter was for the time being virtually a young widow, she had no
relatives, and she was co-heir to the Champneys millions. Properly
trained, she should have a brilliant social career ahead of her. And
here she was shut up--in a really beautiful house, of course--with
nobody but an insufferable frump of an unimportant Mrs. MacGregor!
The situation stirred Mrs. Vandervelde's imagination and appealed to
her executive ability.
Mrs. Vandervelde liked the way she wore her hair, in thick red
plaits wound around the head and pinned flat. It had a medieval
effect, which suited her coloring. Her black dress was soft and
lusterless. She wore no jewelry, not even a ring. There were shadows
under her grave, gray-green eyes. Altogether, she looked
individual, astonishingly young, and pathetically alone. Mrs.
Vandervelde's interest was aroused. Skilfully she tried to draw the
girl out, and was relieved to discover that she wasn't talkative;
nor was she awkward. She sat with her hands on the arms of her
chair, restfully; and while you spoke, you could see that she
weighed what you were saying, and you.
"I am going to like this girl, I think," Marcia Vandervelde told
herself. And she looked at Nancy with the affectionate eyes of the
creative artist who sees his material to his hand.
"Jason," she said to her husband, some time later, "what would you
think if I should tell you I wished to take Anne Champneys abroad
"I'd say it was the finest idea ever--if you meant it."
"I do mean it. My dear man, with proper handling one might make
something that approaches a classic out of that girl. There's
something elemental in her: she's like a birch tree in spring, and
like the earth it grows in, too, if you see what I mean. I want to
try my hand on her. I hate to see her spoiled."
"It's mighty decent of you, Marcia!" said he, gratefully.
"Oh, you know how bored I get at times, Jason. I need something real
to engage my energies. I fancy Anne Champneys will supply the needed
stimulus. I shall love to watch her reactions: she's not a fool, and
I shall be amused. If she managed to do so well with nobody but poor
old Mr. Champneys and that dreary MacGregor woman, think what
she'll be when _I_ get through with her!"
Vandervelde said respectfully: "You're a brick, Marcia! If she
patterns herself on you--"
"If she patterns herself on anybody but herself, I'll wash my hands
of her! It's because I think she won't that I'm willing to help
her," said his wife, crisply.
Some six weeks later the Champneys house had been closed
indefinitely, the premises put in charge of the efficient Hoichi,
and Mrs. MacGregor bonused and another excellent position secured
for her, and Mrs. Peter Champneys was making her home with her
guardian and his wife.
She might have moved into another world, so different was
everything,--as different, say, as was the acrid countenance of Mrs.
MacGregor from the fresh-skinned, clear-eyed, clever, handsome face
of Marcia Vandervelde. Everything interested Nancy. Her senses were
acutely alert. Just to watch Mrs. Vandervelde, so calm, so poised
and efficient, gave her a sense of physical well-being. She had
never really liked, or deeply admired, or trusted any other woman,
and the real depths of her feeling for this one surprised her. Mrs.
Vandervelde possessed the supreme gift of putting others at their
ease; she had tact, and was at the same time sincere and kind. Nancy
found herself at home in this fine house in which life moved largely
A maid had been secured for her, whom Mrs. Vandervelde pronounced a
treasure. Then came skilful and polite persons who did things to
her skin and hair, with astounding results. After that came the
selection of her wardrobe, under Mrs. Vandervelde's critical
supervision. Although the frocks were black, with only a white
evening gown or two for relief, Nancy felt as if she were clothed in
a rosy and delightful dream. She had never even imagined such things
as these black frocks were. When she saw herself in them she was
silent, though the super-saleswomen exclaimed, and Mrs. Vandervelde
smiled a gratified smile.
"I am going to keep her strictly in the background for the time
being, Jason," she explained to her husband. "As she's already
married, she can afford to wait a year--or even two. I mean her to
be perfect. I mean her to be absolutely _sure_. She's going to be a
sensation. Jason, have you ever seen anything to equal her
team-work? When I tell her what I want her to do, she looks at me
for a moment--and then does it. One thing I must say for old Mr.
Champneys and that MacGregor woman: they certainly knew how to lay a
Nancy was perfectly willing to remain in the background. She was
interested in people only as an on-looker. She responded instantly
to Mrs. Vandervelde's suggestions and instructions, and carried them
out with an intelligent thoroughness that at times made her mentor
gasp. It gave her a definite object to work for, and kept her from
thinking too much about Glenn Mitchell. And she didn't want to
think about Glenn Mitchell. It hurt. She watched with a quiet
wonder--quite as if it had been a stranger to whom all this was
happening--the change being wrought in herself; the immense
difference intelligent care, perfectly selected clothes, and the
background of a beautiful house can make not only in one's
appearance but in one's thoughts. Sometimes she would stare at the
perfectly appointed dinner-table, with its softly shaded lights; she
would look, reflectively, from Marcia Vandervelde's smartly
coiffured head to her husband's fine, aristocratic face; the
reflective glance would trail around the beautiful room, rest
appreciatively upon the impressive butler, come back to the food set
before her, and a fugitive smile would touch her lips and linger in
her eyes. There were times when she felt that she herself was the
only real thing among shadows; as if all these pleasant things must
vanish, and only her lonesome self remain. She watched with a
certain wistfulness the few people she knew. Marcia, now--so
admired, so sure, with so many interests, so many friends, and with
Jason Vandervelde's quiet love always hers--did _she_ ever have that
haunting sense of the impermanence of all possessions; of having, in
the end, nothing but herself?
"What are you thinking, when you look at me like that?" Marcia asked
her one evening, smilingly. She was as curious about Nancy as Nancy
was about her.
"I was just--wondering."
"I was wondering if you were ever lonely?" said Nancy, truthfully.
"I mean, as if all this,"--they were in the drawing-room then, and
she made a gesture that included everything in it,--"just _things_,
you know, all the things you have--and--and the people you
know--weren't _real_. They go. And nothing stays but just _you_.
_You_, all by yourself." She leaned forward, her eyes big and
Marcia Vandervelde stared at her. After a moment she said,
tentatively: "There are always things; things one has, things one
does. There are always other people."
"Yes, or there wouldn't be you, either. But what I mean is, they go.
And you stay, don't you?" She paused, a pucker between her brows,
"All by yourself," she finished, in a low voice.
"Does that make you afraid?" asked Mrs. Vandervelde.
"Oh, no! Why should it? It just makes me--wonder."
Mrs. Vandervelde said quietly: "I understand." Nancy felt grateful
A few days later Mrs. Vandervelde said to her casually: "An old
friend of ours dines with us to-night, Anne,--Mr. Berkeley Hayden,
one of the most charming men in the world. I think you will like
Mrs. Vandervelde always said that Berkeley Hayden was the most
critical man of her acquaintance, and that his taste was infallible.
He had an unerring sense of proportion, and that miracle of judgment
which is good taste. He was one of those fortunate people who, as
the saying goes, are born with a gold spoon in the mouth. Unlike
most inheritors of great wealth, he not only spent freely but added
even more freely to the ancestral holdings. He was moneyed enough to
do as he pleased without being considered eccentric; he could even
afford to be esthetic, and to prefer Epicurus to St. Paul. He had a
highly important collection of modern paintings, and an even more
valuable one of Tanagra figurines, old Greek coins, and medieval
church plate. He had, too, the reputation of being the most gun-shy
and bullet-proof of social lions. At thirty he was a handsome,
well-groomed, rather bored personage, with sleekly-brushed blond
hair and a short mustache. He looked important, and one suspected
that he must have been at some pains to keep his waist line so
inconspicuous. For the rest, he was as really cultivated and
pleasing a pagan as one may find, and so wittily ironical he might
have been mistaken for a Frenchman.
Mrs. Vandervelde had planned that he should be the only guest. She
knew this would please him, as well as suit her own purpose, which
was that he should see young Mrs. Peter Champneys. She was curious
to learn what impression Anne would create, and if Berkeley Hayden's
judgment would coincide with her own. She had informed him that
Jason's ward was stopping with them; would, in fact, go abroad with
her shortly. Mr. Hayden was not interested. He thought a ward rather
a bore for the Vanderveldes.
He was standing with his back to the mantel, facing the door, when
Nancy entered the room. In the filmy black Mrs. Vandervelde had
selected for her, tall and slim, she paused for the fraction of a
second and lifted her cool, shining, inscrutable green eyes to his
lazy blue ones. Mrs. Vandervelde had prevailed upon her to retain
her own fashion of wearing her hair in plaits wound around her head,
and the new maid had managed to soften the severity of the style and
so heightened its effectiveness. A small string of black pearls was
around her throat, and pendants of the same beautiful jewels hung
from her ears. Berkeley Hayden started, and his eyes widened. Mrs.
Vandervelde, who had been watching him intently, sighed
"I wasn't mistaken, then," she thought, and smiled to herself.
She could have hugged Anne Champneys for her beautifully
unconscious manner. Of course the girl didn't understand she was
being signally honored and favored by Hayden's openly interested
notice, but Marcia reflected amusedly that it wouldn't have made
much difference if Anne had known. He didn't interest her, except
casually and impersonally. She thought him a very good-looking
man, in his way, but rather old: say all of thirty:--and Glenn
Mitchell had been handsome, and romantic, and twenty. Young Mrs.
Champneys, then, didn't respond to Mr. Berkeley Hayden's notice
gratefully, pleasedly, flutteringly, as other young women--and
many older ones--did. This one paid a more flattering attention to
Mr. Jason Vandervelde than to him. But he had seen other women
play that game; he wondered for a moment if this one were
designing. But he was himself too clever not to understand that
this was real indifference. Then he wondered if she might
be--horrible thought!--stupid. He was forced to dismiss that
suspicion, too. She wasn't stupid. The truth didn't occur to
him--that he himself was spoiled. It provoked him, too, that he
couldn't make her talk.
Mrs. Vandervelde smiled to herself again. Berkeley was deliberately
trying to make himself agreeable, something he did not often have to
trouble himself to do. He was at his best only when he was really
interested or amused, and he was at his best to-night. He aroused
her admiration, drew the fire of her own wit and raillery, stung
even quiet Jason into unwonted animation. Anne Champneys looked
from one to the other, concealing the fact that at times their
conversation was over her head. She didn't always understand them.
The sense of their unreality in relation to herself came upon her.
She turned to watch this strange man who was saying things that
puzzled her, and he met her eyes, as Glenn Mitchell had once met
them. She wasn't looking at him as she had looked at Glenn, but
Berkeley Hayden's sophisticated, well-trained, wary heart gave an
unprecedented, unmannerly jump when those green eyes sought to
Marcia spoke of their proposed stay abroad. She had gone to school
in Florence, and she retained a passionate affection for the old
city, and showed her delight at the prospect of revisiting it.
"This will be your first visit to Italy, Mrs. Champneys?" asked
"I envy you. But you mustn't allow yourself to be weaned away from
your own country. You must come back to New York." He smiled into
her eyes--Berkeley Hayden's famous smile.
"Yes, I suppose I must," said Nancy, without enthusiasm.
He felt puzzled. Was she unthinkably simple and natural, or was she
immeasurably deep? Was her apparent utter unconsciousness of the
effect she produced a superfine art? He couldn't decide.
He usually knew exactly why any certain woman pleased him. He had
usually demanded beauty; he had worshiped beauty all his life. But
beauty must go hand in hand with intellectual qualities; he hated a
fool. To-night he found himself puzzled. He couldn't tell exactly
why Anne Champneys pleased him. Studying her critically, he decided
that she was not beautiful. He could not even call her pretty.
Perhaps it was her unusualness. But wherein was she so unusual? He
had met women with red hair and white skin and gray-green eyes
before--women far, far more seductive than Jason's ward. Yet not one
of them all had so potently gripped his imagination.
Mrs. Vandervelde was a brilliant pianist, and after dinner Hayden
begged her to play. Under cover of the music, he watched Mrs.
Champneys. She was sitting almost opposite him, and he could observe
her changing countenance. Nancy was beginning to love and understand
good music. Men create music; women receive and carry it as they
receive and carry life. It is quite as much a part of themselves.
Nancy's eyes shadowed. She leaned back in her chair, and the man
watched the curve of her white cheek and throat, and the thick
braids of her red hair. She had forgotten his presence. He was
saying to himself, with something of wonder, "No, she's not
beautiful: but, my God! how _real_ she is!" when, subtly drawn by
the intensity of his gaze, she turned, looked at him with her
clouded eyes, and smiled vaguely. Still smiling, she turned her head
again and gave herself up to listening, unconscious that destiny had
clapped her upon the shoulder.
The man sat quite still. It had come to him with, the suddenness of
a lightning stroke, and his first feeling was one of stunned
amazement, and an almost incredulous resentment. He had gone to and
fro in the earth and walked up and down in it, comfortably immune,
an amused and ironic looker-on. And now, at thirty, without rhyme or
reason he had fallen in love with a red-haired young woman of whom
he knew absolutely nothing, beyond the bare fact that she was Jason
Vandervelde's ward. A woman who didn't conform to any standard he
had ever set for himself, whose mind was a closed book to him, of
whose very existence he had been ignorant until to-night. Old Dame
Destiny must have sniggered when she thrust Mrs. Peter Champneys,
nee Nancy Simms, into the exquisitely ordered life of Mr. Berkeley
He presently discovered from Jason all that the trustee of the
Champneys estate knew of Mrs. Peter, which really wasn't very much,
as the lawyer and his wife had never seen Nancy until the morning of
her marriage. And he didn't have much to say about her as she was
then. Hayden gathered that it was a marriage of convenience, for
family reasons--to keep the money in the family. He asked a few
questions about Peter, whom Vandervelde thought a likely young
fellow enough, but whom Hayden fancied must be a poor sort--probably
a freak with a pseudo-artistic temperament. There couldn't have been
very much love lost between a husband and wife who had consented to
so singular a separation. Hayden had a _very_ poor opinion of Mr.
Peter Champneys! But he was fiercely glad it hadn't been a
love-match, glad that that other man's claim upon Anne was at the
best nominal, that theirs was a marriage in name only.
He saw her several times before her departure, and came no nearer to
understanding her. The night before they sailed, he gave a dinner in
his apartment, an old aunt of his, more enchanting at sixty than at
sixteen, being the only other guest. That apartment with its
brocaded walls and its marvelous furniture was a revelation to
Nancy. It was like an opened door to her.
She looked at her host with a new interest. He appeared to greater
advantage seen, as it were, against his proper and natural
background. And that background had the glamour of things strange,
exciting, and alluring, smacking somewhat of, say, an Arabian
Night's entertainment. Over the dining-room mantel hung a curious
and colorful landscape, in which two brown girls, naked to the waist
and from thence to the knees wrapped in straight, bright-colored
stuff, raised their angular arms to pluck queer fruit from exotic
He knew all that, she thought; he had seen that strange landscape
and those brown women, and tasted the fruit they reached to pluck.
Just as he knew those tiny terra-cotta figurines over there, and
that pottery which must have been made out of ruby-dust. Just as he
knew everything. All this had been in his world, always. A world
full of things beautiful and strange. He had had everything that she
had missed. It seemed to her that he incarnated in his proper and
handsome person all the difference and the change that had come into
And quite suddenly she saw Nancy Simms dusting the Baxter parlor,
pausing to stand admiringly before a picture on a white-and-gold
easel, that cherished picture of a house with mother-of-pearl
puddles in front of it. A derisive and impish amusement flickered
like summer lightning across her face, and with an inscrutable smile
she mocked the mother-of-pearl puddles and her old admiration of
them. She lifted her eyes to the painting over Berkeley Hayden's
mantel, and the smile deepened.
"Perhaps it is her smile," thought he, watching her. "Yes, I am sure
it must be her smile. I am rather glad Marcia is taking her abroad.
I do not wish to make a fool of myself, and there'd be that danger
if she remained." Yet the idea of her absence gave him an
He filled her quarters aboard ship with exquisite flowers. She was
not yet used to graceful attentions, they had been for other women,
not for her. She had no idea at all that she was of the slightest
importance, if only because of the Champneys money; her comparative
freedom was still too recent for her to have changed her estimate of
herself. She thought it touchingly kind and thoughtful of this
handsome, important man to have remembered just _her_, particularly
when there wasn't anybody else to do so, and she looked at him with
a pleased and appreciative friendliness for which he felt absurdly
grateful. While Marcia was busied with the other friends who had
come to see her off, he stood beside Mrs. Champneys, who seemed to
know no one but himself, and this established a measure of intimacy
"It occurs to me," said he, tentatively, "that it has been some time
since I saw Florence. All of two or three years."
They stood together by the railing, and she leaned forward the
better to watch a leggy little girl with a brickdust-red pigtail in
a group on the pier.
"Yes?" said she, absently. The leggy girl had just thrust out her
tongue at an expostulating nurse. She seemed to be a highly
unpleasant child; one of those children of whom aunts speak as "poor
Mary" or whatever their name may be. Anne Champneys, watching her,
put her hand up and touched her own hair, that gleamed under her
close-fitting black hat. Her eyes darkened; she smiled, secretly,
In that instant Berkeley Hayden made his decision. There was no
longer any doubt in his mind. When she turned away from the railing,
he said pleasantly:
"You and Marcia have put me in the humor to see Florence again. If I
come strolling in upon you some fine day, I hope you'll be glad to
see me, Mrs. Champneys?"
"Oh, yes!" said she, politely. And then Marcia and Vandervelde came
up, and a few minutes later the two men went ashore. Hayden's face
was the last thing Nancy saw as the steamer moved slowly outward.
There were hails, laughter, waving of hand-kerchiefs. He alone
looked at _her_. And so he remained in her memory, standing a little
apart from all others.
"I, TOO, IN ARCADIA"
If Riverton was his mother's house and England his grandmother's,
France was peculiarly his own. Peter Champneys felt that he had come
home, and even the fact that he couldn't speak understandable French
didn't spoil the illusion. Nobody laughed at his barbarous jargon;
people were patient, polite, helpful. He thought the French the
pleasantest people in the world, and this opinion he never changed.
Later, when he learned to know them better, he concluded that they
were very deliberately and very gallantly gay in order to conceal
from themselves and from the world how mortally sad they were at
heart. They eschewed those virtues which made one disagreeable, and
they indulged only in such vices as really amused them, and in
consequence they made being alive a fine art.
The Hemingways knew Paris as they knew London, and they smoothed his
path. In their drawing-room Peter met that dazzling inner circle of
Parisian society which includes talent and genius as well as rank,
beauty, and wealth. Then, Mrs. Hemingway having first seen to it
that he met those whom she wished him to meet, Peter was permitted
to meet those whom he himself wished to meet. He was introduced to
two deceptively mild-mannered young Englishmen, first cousins named
Checkleigh, students in one of the great ateliers, who were by way
of being painters; and to a shock-headed young man from California,
a sculptor, named Stocks. The Englishmen were closely related to a
large-toothed, very important Lady Somethingorother, high up in the
diplomatic sphere, and the Californian possessed a truly formidable
aunt. Hence the three young men appeared in fashionable circles at
decent intervals. Later, Peter learned to know their redoubtable
relatives as "Rabbits" and "The Grampus," and he once saw a
terrifyingly truthful portrait of "Rabbits" sketched on a skittish
model's bare back, and a movingly realistic little figure of "The
Grampus" modeled by her dutiful nephew in a moment of diabolical
inspiration. It was explained to him that God, for some inscrutable
purpose of his own, generally pleases himself by bestowing only the
most limited human intelligence upon the wealthy relatives of poor
but gifted artists; but that if properly approached, and at not too
frequent intervals, they may be induced to loosen their tight
purse-strings. Wherefore one must somehow manage to keep on good
terms with them. Witness, Stocks said, his forgiving--nay,
kindly--attitude toward The Grampus; see how he went to her house
and drank her loathly tea and ate her beastly little cakes, even
though she regarded a promising sculptor as a sort of unpromising
stone-cutter who couldn't hold down a steady job, and had
vehemently urged him to go in for building and contracting in
Sacramento, California. "And yet that woman has got about all the
money there is in our family!" finished Stocks, bitterly.
"Rabbits takes you aside and talks to you heart to heart," said the
younger Checkleigh, gloomily. The elder Checkleigh's face took on a
look of martyrdom.
"We have Immortal Souls," said he, in a tone of anguish and
affliction. "I ask you, as man to man: Is it our fault?"
It was these three Indians, then, who took Peter Champneys under
their wing, helped him find the pleasantest rooms in the Quartier,
helped him furnish them at about a third of what he would have paid
if left to his own devices, and also helped him to shed his skin of
a timid provincial by plunging him to the scalp in that bubbling
cauldron in which seethes the creative brain of France. Serious and
sad young men who were going to be poets; intense fellows who were
going to rehabilitate the Drama, or write the Greatest Novel;
illustrators, journalists, critics, painters, types in velvet coats,
flowing ties, flowing locks, and astonishing hats, sculptors, makers
of exquisite bits of craftsmanship, models, masters, singers of
sorts, actors and actresses, sewing-girls, frightful old concierges;
students from the four corners of the earth driven hither by the
four winds of heaven, came and went in the devil-may-care wake of
Stocks and the Checkleighs and disported themselves before the
reflective and appreciative eyes of Peter Champneys. These gay
Bohemians laughed at him for what Stocks called his spinterishness,
but ended by loving him as only youth can love a comrade.
In six months he knew the Quartier to the core. He met men who were
utter blackguards, whose selfish, cold-blooded brutality filled him
with loathing; he met women with the soul of the cat. But the
Quartier as a whole was sound-hearted; Peter himself was too
sound-hearted not to know. He met Youth at work, his own kind of
work. They were all going to do something great presently,--and
presently many of them did. The very air he breathed stimulated him.
Here were comrades, to whom, as to himself, art was the one
supremely important thing in the universe. They, too, were climbers
toward the purple heights.
Shy young men who work like mules are as thick as hops in any art
center; but shy young men who are immensely talented, who have a
genius for steady labor, and who at the same time have not only the
inclination but the opportunity to be generous, are not numerous
Peter Champneys never talked about himself, made no parade, was so
simple in his tastes that he spent very little upon himself, and
while he could say "No" to impudence, he had ever a quick, warm
"Yes" for need. That he should be able to become an artist had been
the top of his dream; that by a very little self-denial he could
help others to remain artists, left him large-eyed at his own good
fortune. He experienced the glowing happiness that only the generous
On Sundays he went to see Emma Campbell, for whom he had found a
little house on the summit of Montmartre, on the very top of the
Butte. It had a hillside garden, with a dove-cote in it, and a
little kiosk in which Emma liked to sit, with the cat Satan on her
lap, and projeck at the strange world in which she found herself.
She shared the house with a scene-painter and his wife, and as the
scene-painter was an Englishman, Emma could talk to somebody and be
understood. Emma's idea of happiness was leisure to sew squares of
patchwork together for quilts. She had brought her cut-out quilt
scraps with her, and she sat in the kiosk and sewed little pieces of
colored calico together, while the big cat scampered about the
garden, or lay and blinked at her, and all Paris lay spread out far
below, the spires of Notre Dame showing as through a mist.
On Sundays she cooked for Peter,--old homely Riverton dishes,--and
waited on him while he ate. Because she couldn't read, she looked
forward to Peter's reading what she reverently called "de Book."
Peter had been reading the Bible to old darkies all his life, and he
accepted it as a matter of course that he should take the long
climb, and give up a part of his Sundays, to save Emma Campbell from
being disappointed now. Afterward, Emma spoke of his mother, and of
old, familiar things they both remembered. Then he went back to the
Quartier feeling as refreshed and rested as if he'd had a swim in
the river "over home."
At regular intervals he appeared at Mrs. Hemingway's, and kept up
his acquaintance with her friends. When she told him to accept an
invitation, he resignedly obeyed, looking, the elder of the
Checkleigh boys told him, as if he were doing it for God's sake. He
was beginning to speak French less villainously, and this made
things easier for him. He could carry on a simple conversation, by
going slowly; and he _almost_ understood about half of what
strangers said to him. He interested one or two fine ladies greatly,
and they were extremely gracious to him. Artists--that is, young and
unknown artists in the Quartier--are more or less pleasant to read
about in the pages of Muerger and others, but they are too often
beggarly and quite impossible persons in real life. But this young
American who lived in the Quartier was at the same time on a footing
of intimacy in the exclusive home of those so charming Hemingways,
who were, one knew, of the _grand monde_. Was it true that the
American painter was very wealthy? Yes? Ah, _ciel_! That droll young
man was then amusing himself by living in the Quartier? But what an
original! His family approved? He was an _orphan_? With no relations
save that old uncle whose heir he was? Ah, _mon Dieu_! That touched
one's heart! One must try to be very pleasant to that so lonely
young man! And that so lonely young man was extended mead and balm
in the shape of invitations to very smart affairs. To some of which
he found, at the last minute, he couldn't go, for the simple and
cogent reason that Checkleigh or Stocks had appropriated his dress
"It's infernally unlucky, Rabbits having an affair on to-night. But
you know how it is, Champ--she'd never forgive me if I didn't show
up. Big-wigs from home, and all that, and she feels it's her duty to
make me show 'em I haven't become an Apache. And my togs are out at
interest--one has to pay one's rent _sometimes_, you understand,"
explained Checkleigh, who was dressing before Peter's mirror. "_You_
don't have to care: _you_ aren't compelled to keep in her good
"Oh, all right. I don't mind. I only accepted to please Mrs.
"Mrs. Hemingway is my very good friend. At the first opportunity I
shall explain to her. She can readily understand that
"One may go without relatives, cousins, and aunts--
But civilized man can_not_ go without pants.
I wish you hadn't such deucedly long legs, Champ. Regular
hop-poles!" grumbled Checkleigh, ungratefully.
"They are poor things, but mine own," said Peter, mildly. "You will
find a five-franc piece in the waistcoat pocket, Checkleigh, if you
happen to want it. I keep it there for cab fare."
"If I happen to want it!" shrieked Checkleigh. "Oh, bloated
plutocrat, purse-proud millionaire, I always happen to want it!" He
waved an eloquent hand to the circumambient air. "He has five-franc
pieces in his waistcoat pocket--and no Rabbits in his family!" cried
Checkleigh. "Now, have you a presentable pair of gloves,
Croesus?--Oh, damn your legs, Champneys! Look at these beastly
breeches of yours, will you? I've had to turn 'em up until you'd
fancy I was wearing cuffs on the ankles, and still they're too
"You should have cut 'em off a bit--then you wouldn't look as though
you were poulticing your shins. And they'd fit me, too," commented
Stocks, who had sauntered in.
Checkleigh looked at Peter's watch--his own was "out at interest"
along with his dress suit--and shook his head dolefully.
"If you'd just suggested it sooner, I could have done it--now it's
too late." he lamented. "Your progeny will probably resemble herons,
Champneys, and serve 'em right!--Are those _new_ gloves? I _am_ a
credit to Rabbits!" And he rushed off.
"What a friend we have in Champ-neys,
All his gloves and pa-ants to wear!"
Stocks sang in a voice like the scraping of a mattock over flint;
one saw that he had been piously raised. Then he hooked his arm in
Peter's and the two went forth to join the joyous hordes surging up
the Boul' Miche, and to dine in their favorite restaurant, where the
waiters were one's good friends, and Madame the proprietress
addressed her Bohemians as "mes enfants." Having dined, one joined
one's brother workers who waged the battle of Art with jaws and
gestures. Bawling out the slang of the studios, they grimaced,
sneered, shrugged, praised, demolished. Nothing was sacred to these
young savages but the joy of the present. They had no past, and the
future hadn't arrived. They lived in the moment, worked, laughed,
loved, and, when they could, dined. When one had a handful of
silver, how gay the world was! How one wished to pat it on the back
and invite it to come and be merry with one!
In the full stream of this turbulent tide, behold Peter Champneys;
with a lock of his black hair falling across his forehead; his head
cocked sidewise; and his big nose and clear golden eyes giving him
the aspect of a benevolent hawk, like, say, Horus, Hawk of the Sun.
Those golden eyes of his saw tolerantly as well as clearly. This
quiet American worked like a fiend, yet had time to look on and
laugh with you while you played. He was gravely gay at his best, but
he didn't neglect the good things of his youth. And he had a genius
for playing impromptu Providence when you were down on your luck and
about all in. Maybe you hadn't dined for a couple of days, or maybe
you were pretty nearly frozen in your room, as you had no fire; and
you were wondering whether, after all, you weren't a fool to starve
and freeze for art's sake, and whether, all things considered, life
was worth living; and there'd be a gentle tap at your door, and
Peter Champneys would stick his thin dark face in, smilingly. He'd
tell you he'd been lonely all day, and would you, if you hadn't done
so already, kindly come and dine with him? He spoke French with a
South Carolina accent, in those days, but an archangel's voice could
not then have sounded more dulcet in your ears than his. Presently,
over your cigarettes, you found yourself telling him just how
things were with you. Maybe you slept on a lounge in his studio that
night, because it was warmer there. And next morning you could face
life and work feeling that God's in his heaven, all's right with the
world. That's what Peter Champneys meant to many a hard-pressed
With his immense capacity for work, at the end of a year Peter
Champneys had made great strides. But he was troubled. Like Millet,
he couldn't take the ordered direction. He felt that he was merely
marking time, that he wasn't on the right track. His robust and
original talent demanded heartier food than was offered it.
Reluctantly enough, Peter withdrew from the official studio to which
he was attached, and went on his own. It was a momentous step.
One Sunday afternoon he said to Emma Campbell, seriously:
"You've never laid eyes on a goddess, Emma, have you? Or a nymph?
Well, neither have I. And I can't paint what I don't know." He
walked up and down the little graveled garden path. And he burst
out: "That is not life. It is not truth. I don't want gods. I only
see _men_! I don't want goddesses. I want _women_!"
Emma Campbell said in a scandalized voice:
"Dat ain't no kind o' way to talk! Leastwise," she compromised, "not
Peter burst out laughing. Emma wore her usual Sunday cashmere, with
a snowy apron and head-handkerchief. Satan lay upon the small table
beside her, in the attitude of a sphinx, his black, velvety paws
stretched in front of him, his inscrutable eyes watching the
restless young man. Peter paused, and his eyes narrowed. Then he
snapped his fingers, as he had done when he was a little boy back in
Riverton and something had pleased him.
"I've got it!" he shouted. "Emma, you're It!"
No one ever had a more patient model. She couldn't exackly
understan' why Mist' Peter should want to paint a ole nigger like
her, but if Peter Champneys had wanted to bury her alive in the
ground, with only her head sticking out, Emma would have known it
had to be all right, somehow. So she sat for weary hours, while
Peter made rough sketches, and tried out many theories, before he
settled down to work in dead earnest.
And presently Emma saw herself as it were alive on a square of
canvas, so alive that she was more than a bit afraid. She said it
looked like her own ha'nt, and Emma wasn't partial to ha'nts. There
she sat in her plain black dress and her plain white apron and
head-handkerchief, and her gold hoop ear-rings. On the table beside
her were the vegetables she was to prepare. She had forgotten work
for the time being. Emma projecked, one hand resting idly on the
table, the other on the great black cat in her lap. She looked at
you, with the wistfully animal look of a negro woman, who is loving,
patient, kind, long-suffering, imbued with a terrible patience, and
of a sound, sly, earthy humor; and who at the same time is
childishly credulous, full of dark passions, and with the fires of
savagery banked in her heart. There she sat, that sphinx that is
Africa, who has seen the white races come, and who will probably see
them go; you could almost sense the half-slumbrous brain of her
throbbing under her head-handkerchief. She wasn't a mere colored
woman; she was a symbol and a challenge. And her eyes that had seen
so much and wept so much were as inscrutable as fate, as sphinx-like
as the cat's who watched you from her knee. The whole picture
breathed an amazingly bold and original power, and was so
arrestingly vital that it gripped and held one. Down in one corner,
painted with exquisite care and delicacy, was a Red Admiral.
The Quartier came, squinted through the fingers, and praised and
dispraised, after its wont. The Symbolists sneered and told Peter to
his teeth he was a Philistine; they said you can't boot-lick Nature:
you've got to bully her, demand her soul, _make_ her give you her
Sign! Quieter men came and studied Emma Campbell and her cat, and
clapped Peter on the back; the more exuberant Latins kissed him,
noisy, hearty, hairy kisses on both cheeks. Undoubtedly, it would be
accepted, they said!
It was, and hung conspicuously. There were always small groups
before it, for it created something like the uproar that Manet's
"Olympia" had raised in its time. Peter learned from one critic that
his technique was magnificent, his picture a masterpiece of
psychology and of portraiture, and that if he kept on he'd soon be
one of the Immortals. He learned from another that while he
undoubtedly had technique, his posing was commonplace, his subject
banal, his imagination hopelessly bourgeois; that he was a painter
of the ugly and the ordinary, without inspiration or imagination;
that the one pretty and delicate note in the whole canvas was the
butterfly in the lower left-hand corner, and that _that_ was
obviously reminiscent of Whistler, who on a time had used a
butterfly signature! But on the whole the criticisms were highly
favorable; it was admitted that a young painter of promise had
Peter Champneys went about his business, indifferent to praise or
blame. _He_ knew he was a way-faring man whose business it was to
follow his own road, a road he had to hack out for himself; and
somewhere on the horizon were the purple heights.
The unbounded delight, the disinterested pride of the Hemingways,
couldn't have been greater had he been their son. Mrs. Hemingway
gave a brilliant entertainment in his honor, and he was feted and
made much of. Young ladies who danced divinely found his stork-like
hopping pleasing, and his stammering French delightful. This
charming Monsieur Champneys, you see, was not only invested with the
glamour of art; he was the heir of an American millionaire! Ah, the
dear young man!
The picture was sold to a Spanish nobleman, who said it reminded him
of Velasquez's "AEsop"; he was so delighted with the painter's power
that he commissioned Peter to portray his own long, pale, melancholy
visage. Whereupon the two Checkleighs and Stocks called loudly for
a proper celebration, and Peter honored their clamorous demand. It
was a memorable affair, graced by the Quartier's darlingest models,
who had long since voted M'sieu Champnees a _bon garcon_. A Spanish
student, in a velvet coat and with long black hair, insisted upon
charcoaling mustachios and imperial upon his host's countenance, in
honor of his countryman who had distinguished himself as a patron of
art. Later, a laughing girl whose blue-black hair was banded
Madonna-wise around a head considerably otherwise, washed it off
with a table napkin dipped in wine. She sat on his knee to perform
the operation, scanned his clean face with satisfaction, and taking
him by the ears as by handles, kissed him gaily. Then she went back
to her own _cher ami_, who wasn't in the least disturbed.
"It is like kissing thy maiden aunt, Jacques," she told him. "Now,
with thee--" They looked at each other eloquently, and Peter
Champneys, whose eyes had followed the girl, smiled crookedly. An
unaccountable gloom descended upon him. All these lusty young men
shouting and laughing around him, all these handsome, ardent young
women, snatched what joy from life they could; they lived their
hour, knowing how brief that hour must be. They ate to-day, starved
to-morrow; but they were rich because they loved, because they
laughed, because theirs was the passionate unforced comradeship, the
intoxicating joy of youth. Peter Champneys, whose good luck was
being celebrated, looked at his penniless, hilarious comrades, and
twisted a smile of desperate gaiety to his lips. He had never in
his life felt more utterly alone.
The affair ended at six o'clock the next morning, in a last glad,
mad romp up the Boul' Miche. Peter and Stocks waved good-by to the
last revelers, looking somewhat jaded in the fresh morning air. The
two young men, both rather tired, walked slowly. Venders in clacking
sabots pushed their carts ahead of them, shouting their wares.
Crowds of working-people poured through the streets. At a little
restaurant they knew, they had coffee and rolls. While they were
drinking, a girl came in. Peter looked up and saw Denise.
His first thought was that she would have been lovely if she hadn't
been so thin. Then he saw how shabby she was, and how neat. Nothing
could have been more charming than her chestnut hair, or her blue
eyes that had a look of innocence, or her fair and transparent
complexion, though one could have wished she were rosier. She did
not look around with the quick, alert, bright glance of the
Parisienne whom everything interests and amuses; she had the
abstracted and sad air of a child who suffers, and whom suffering
Stocks said, in a low voice, tinged with pity:
"_L'amie de Dangeau_."
Peter received that announcement with a shock of surprise and
distaste. Dangeau was such an utter brute! Handsome in his way,
without conscience or pity, Dangeau would have eaten his mother's
heart to satisfy his own hunger, or wiped his feet upon his
father's beard. The gifted, intellectual, and rapacious savage
seized whatever came near him that pleased his fancy or aroused his
curiosity, extracted the pith, and tossed aside what no longer
amused or served him. There was no generosity in him, only an
insatiable and ferocious demand that life should give him more,
always more! Peter, who both admired and detested him, was sorry for
this gentle creature fallen into his remorseless claws. And he
wondered, as decent men must, at the fatal fascination animals like
Dangeau seem to possess for women.
He saw her occasionally after that, always alone. Plainly, things
were not well with her. Her pale face grew paler and thinner; her
dress shabbier. The look of bewilderment was now a look of pain. Her
eyes were heavy, as if they wept too much. Peter watched her with a
troubled heart. One day Henri, the garcon, murmured confidentially,
as she left the cafe after a particularly slim meal:
"These thin little blondes, they do not last long. That one was like
a rose when I first saw her. _Pauvre enfant_!" And he looked after
her with a compassionate glance.
"She seems--different," said Peter. "It is not well with her?"
"Alas, no! She is from the provinces, Monsieur, come to Paris to
earn more. And so she wearied her _ami_. You know him, Monsieur; he
is a restless man, quickly tiring--that sculptor! Also, he feared
she would fall sick upon his hands--you see how frail she is, and he
abhors all that is not robust." And Henri made an expressive
gesture. He added: "_She_ is of the sort that love, Monsieur; and,
you understand, that is fatal!"
"And how does she manage now?" asked Peter.
Henri shrugged significantly. Peter drummed on the table and
scowled. A little girl, from the provinces! One understood now how
she had fallen into Dangeau's hands, and how, inevitably, he had
tired, and tossed her aside like a wilted flower. And now she was
facing slow starvation--Oh, damn!
Peter slipped some change into Henri's palm. "You are a man of
sense, Henri. Also, I see that you have a good heart," said he. "Now
we must see what we can do for this poor little Mademoiselle, you
and I. You will place before her the best the house affords--I leave
that to you. And when she protests you will say to her: 'Your
venerable godfather has arranged for it, Mademoiselle. His orders
are, that you come here, seat yourself, tap once with your
forefinger upon the table,--and your orders will be obeyed.'"
"And if she questions further, Monsieur?"
"Explain that you obey orders, but do not know her godfather," said
"Trust me, Monsieur!" cried the delighted Henri. And from that
moment the kindly fellow adored Peter Champneys.
The little game began the next day. Denise gave her tiny order;
Henri came back with a loaded tray, whose savory contents he placed
before her. Out of the corner of his eye Peter could see the girl's
astonished face when Henri politely insisted that the meal was
hers--that her venerable godfather had ordered it for her! She
looked timidly and fearfully around; but nobody was paying the
slightest attention to her, and after deftly arranging the dishes,
Henri had whisked himself off. She waited for a few minutes; but
Henri hadn't come back. And then, because she was almost famished,
she ate what had been given her. Peter felt his eyes blur.
Henri came back to her presently with wine. He dusted the bottle
lovingly, and filled her glass with a flourish. She looked up with a
"My godfather's order, Henri?"
"Your venerable godfather's order, Mademoiselle," he replied
sedately. When she had finished her dinner, he glibly, and with an
expressionless countenance repeated Peter's instructions: she was to
come in, seat herself, tap with her forefinger, and give her orders,
which would be instantly obeyed! No, he did not know her godfather.
Nor did Monsieur le patron. No, he might not even take the sous she
offered him: all, all, had been arranged, Mademoiselle!
She hesitated. Then she called for pen and paper, and scribbled in
MONSIEUR MY GODFATHER,
I see that the good God still permits miracles. You are one.
Accept, then, a poor girl's thanks and prayers!
She gave this to Henri, who received it respectfully. Then she went
out, feeling very much better and brighter because of a sadly needed
dinner. She was bewildered, and excited; but she wasn't afraid. She
accepted her miracle, which had come just in the nick of time,
gratefully, with a childlike simplicity. But she used her blue eyes,
and one day they met Peter Champneys's, regarding her with a good
and kind satisfaction; for indeed she looked much better and
brighter, now that she was no longer half starved. Denise had
encountered other eyes, men's eyes; but none had ever met hers with
just such a look as she saw in these clear and golden ones. A flash
of intuition came to her. Only one person in the world could have
eyes like that--it must be, it was, he! And she watched him with an
absorbed and breathless interest.
In these small restaurants of the Quartier one sits so close to
one's neighbors, in a busy hour, that conversation isn't difficult;
it is, rather, inevitable.
"Monsieur," said the young girl, bravely and yet timidly, on an
occasion when they almost touched elbows, "Monsieur,--is it you who
have a god-daughter?"
"Mademoiselle," stammered Peter, who hadn't expected the question.
"I do not know your godfather!" And then he turned red to his ears.
Her face broke into a swift and flashing smile. She looked so like a
happy child that Peter had to smile back at her, and presently they
were chatting like old acquaintances. After that they always managed
to dine together.
They found each other delightful. That gloomy sense of loneliness
which had oppressed Peter vanished in the girl's presence. As for
Denise, no one had ever been so kind, so gentle, so generous to her
as this wonderful Monsieur Champneys. She grew quite beautiful; her
eyes were a child's eyes, her face like one of those little sweet
pinkish-white roses one sees in old-fashioned gardens.
She had no relations; neither had Peter. And so he took Denise into
his life, just as he had once taken a lost kitten out of the dusk on
the Riverton Road: there really was nothing else for him to do! He
had for her something of the same whimsical and compassionate
affection that had made him share his glass of milk with the little
cat. She belonged to him; there was nobody else.
She was rather a silent creature, Denise. She had none of that Latin
vivacity which wearies the listener, but her love for him showed
itself in a thousand gracious ways, in innumerable small services,
in loving looks. Just to touch him was a never-failing joy to her.
She delighted to stroke his face, to trace with her small fingers
the outline of his features. "That is the pattern on the inside of
my heart," she told him. She had a quick, light tread, pleasant to
listen to, and her rare and lovely laughter was always a delicious
surprise, as if one heard an unexpected chime of little bells.
Her housewifely ways, her pretty anxiety about spending money,
amused him tenderly. When she could perform some small service for
him, she hummed little hymns to the Virgin. Her ministrations
extended to Stocks and the Checkleighs, whose shirts she mended so
expertly that they didn't have to borrow so many of Peter's. She was
so happy that Peter Champneys grew happy watching her. It hadn't
seemed possible to Denise that anybody like him could exist; yet
here he was, and she belonged to him!
Nobody had ever loved Peter Champneys in quite the same way. She had
so real and true a genius for loving that she exhaled affection as a
flower exhales perfume. Loving was an instinct with Denise. She
would steal to his side, slip her arm around his neck, kiss him on
the eyes--"thy beautiful eyes, Pierre!"--and cuddle her cheek
against his, with so exquisite a tenderness in touch and look that
the young man's kind heart melted in his breast. He couldn't speak.
He could only gather her close, pressing his black head against her
soft young bosom.
Her cruel experience with Dangeau was not forgotten; but that had
been capture by force, and she remembered it as a black background
against which the bright colors of this present happiness showed
with a heavenlier radiance. Peter himself didn't guess how wholly
his little comrade loved him, though he did realize her utter
selflessness. She never asked him troublesome questions, never
annoyed him with irritating jealousy, made no demands upon him. Was
he not himself? Very well, then: did not that suffice? Denise didn't
think: she felt. She had the exquisite wisdom of the heart, and in
her small hands the flower of Peter Champneys's youth opened and
blossomed. He was young, he was loved, he was busy. Oh, but it was a
good world to be alive in! He whistled while he worked. And how he
worked! To this period belong those angelic heads, chestnut-haired,
wistfully smiling, with blue eyes that look deep into one's heart.
The airy butterfly that signs these canvases is not so much a symbol
as a prescience.
When was it he first noticed that for all his love and care he
wasn't going to be able to keep Denise? How did he learn that the
great last lover was wooing her away? She was not less happy. A deep
and still joy radiated from her, her eyes had the clear and
cloudless happiness of a child's. But he observed that on their
pleasant excursions into the country she tired quickly. Her little
light feet didn't run any more. She preferred to sit cuddled against
his side, holding his hand in both hers, her head pressed against
his shoulder. She didn't talk, but then, he was used to her silence;
that was one of her sweetest charms. Her cheek grew thinner, but the
rose in it deepened. Then the pretty dresses he loved to lavish upon
her began to hang loosely upon her little body.
It was a frightened young man who called in doctors and specialists.
But, as Henri had once told him, they do not last long, these frail
blondes. Also, she was of the sort that loves--and that, you
understand, is fatal!
Stocks, who had made a great pet of Peter's pretty sweetheart,
blubbered when he learned the truth, and the younger Checkleigh,
who delighted to sketch her, left off because his hand shook so, and
he couldn't see clearly. The Spanish student in the velvet coat, who
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