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Title: Black Oxen
Author: Atherton, Gertrude Franklin Horn, 1857-1948
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Black Oxen" ***

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Transcriber's note:

      Extensive research found no evidence that the U.S. copyright
      on this publication was renewed.



BLACK OXEN

by

GERTRUDE ATHERTON

Author of
"_Sisters-in-Law_"


  The years like Great Black Oxen tread the world
  And God the herdsman goads them on behind.
          --_W. B. Yeats._



[Frontispiece: Their tete-e-tete ended, Clavering (Conway Tearle) was
about to make his departure when Judge Trent (Tom Guise), who held
buried in his mind the secret of the charming Madame Zattiany's
(Corinne Griffith), entered.  (_Screen version of "The Black Oxen."_)]



A. L. Burt Company
Publishers -------- New York
Published by arrangement with Boni and Liveright

Printed in U. S. A.

Copyright, 1923, by
Gertrude Atherton

Printed in the United States of America



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Their tete-e-tete ended, Clavering (Conway Tearle) was about to make
his departure when Judge Trent (Tom Guise), who held buried in his mind
the secret of the charming Madame Zattiany's (Corinne Griffith),
entered.  (_Screen version of "The Black Oxen."_) . . . . _Frontispiece_

Returning home one night Clavering (Conway Tearle) found Janet
Oglethorpe (Clara Bow), daughter of his old friend, in a
semi-intoxicated condition.  (_Screen version of "The Black Oxen."_)

It took a lot of self possession and grit for Zattiany (Corinne
Griffith) and Clavering (Conway Tearle) to hide their feelings when she
alighted to go to the ship which was to return her to Europe.  (_Screen
version of "The Black Oxen."_)

At Dinwiddie's mountain lodge Clavering (Conway Tearle) pleaded with
Madame Zattiany (Corrine Griffith) to marry him.  (_Screen version of
"The Black Oxen."_)



BLACK OXEN


I

"Talk.  Talk.  Talk. . . .  Good lines and no action . . . said
all . . . not even promising first act . . . eighth failure and season
more than half over . . . rather be a playwright and fail than a critic
compelled to listen to has-beens and would-bes trying to put over bad
plays. . . .  Oh, for just one more great first-night . . . if there's
a spirit world why don't the ghosts of dead artists get together and
inhibit bad playwrights from tormenting first-nighters? . . .  Astral
board of Immortals sitting in Unconscious tweaking strings until
gobbets and sclerotics become gibbering idiots every time they put pen
to paper? . . .  Fewer first-nights but more joy . . . also joy of
sending producers back to cigar stands. . . .  Thank God, no longer a
critic . . . don't need to come to first-nights unless I want . . .
can't keep away . . . habit too strong . . . poor devil of a colyumist
must forage . . . why did I become a columnist?  More money.  Money!
And I once a rubescent socialist . . . best parlor type . . .  Lord!  I
wish some one would die and leave me a million!"

Clavering opened his weary eyes and glanced over the darkened
auditorium, visualizing a mass of bored resentful disks: a few hopeful,
perhaps, the greater number too educated in the theatre not to have
recognized the heavy note of incompetence that had boomed like a
muffled fog-horn since the rise of the curtain.

It was a typical first-night audience, assembled to welcome a favorite
actress in a new play.  All the Sophisticates (as Clavering had named
them, abandoning "Intellectuals" and "Intelligentsia" to the Parlor
Socialists) were present: authors, playwrights, editors and young
editors, columnists, dramatic critics, young publishers, the
fashionable illustrators and cartoonists, a few actors, artists,
sculptors, hostesses of the eminent, and a sprinkling of Greenwich
Village to give a touch of old Bohemia to what was otherwise almost as
brilliant and standardized as a Monday night at the opera.  Twelve
years ago, Clavering, impelled irresistibly from a dilapidated colonial
mansion in Louisiana to the cerebrum of the Western World, had arrived
in New York; and run the usual gamut of the high-powered man from
reporter to special writer, although youth rose to eminence less
rapidly then than now.  Dramatic critic of his newspaper for three
years (two years at the war), an envied, quoted and omniscient
columnist since his return from France.  Journalistically he could rise
no higher, and none of the frequent distinguished parties given by the
Sophisticates was complete without the long lounging body and saturnine
countenance of Mr. Lee Clavering.  As soon as he had set foot upon the
ladder of prominence Mr. Clavering had realized the value of
dramatizing himself, and although he was as active of body as of mind
and of an amiable and genial disposition, as his friends sometimes
angrily protested, his world, that world of increasing importance in
New York, knew him as a cynical, morose, mysterious creature, who, at a
party, transferred himself from one woman's side to another's by sheer
effort of will spurred by boredom.  The unmarried women had given him
up as a confirmed bachelor, but a few still followed his dark face with
longing eyes.  (He sometimes wondered what rôle he would have adopted
if he had been a blond.)  As a matter of fact, he was intensely
romantic, even after ten years of newspaper work in New York and two of
war; and when his steel-blue half-closed eyes roved over a gathering at
the moment of entrance it was with the evergreen hope of discovering
the consummate woman.

There was no affectation in his idealistic fastidiousness.  Nor, of
late, in his general boredom.  Not that he did not still like his work,
or possibly pontificating every morning over his famous name to an
admiring public, but he was tired of "the crowd," the same old faces,
tired of the steady grind, of bad plays--he, who had such a passionate
love of the drama--somewhat tired of himself.  He would have liked to
tramp the world for a year.  But although he had money enough saved he
dared not drop out of New York.  One was forgotten overnight, and
fashions, especially since the war, changed so quickly and yet so
subtly that he might be another year readjusting himself on his return.
Or find himself supplanted by some man younger than himself whose
cursed audacity and dramatized youthfulness would have accustomed the
facile public to some new brand of pap flavored with red pepper.  The
world was marching to the tune of youth, damn it (Mr. Clavering was
beginning to feel elderly at thirty-four), but it was hard to shake out
the entrenched.  He had his public hypnotized.  He could sell ten
copies of a book where a reviewer could sell one.  His word on a play
was final--or almost.  Personal mention of any of the Sophisticates
added a cubit to reputation.  Three mentions made them household words.
Neglect caused agonies and visions of extinction.  Disparagement was
preferable.  By publicity shall ye know them.  Even public men with
rhinocerene hides had been seen to shiver.  Cause women courted him.
Prize fighters on the dour morn after a triumphant night had howled
between fury and tears as Mr. Lee Clavering (once crack reporter of the
gentle art) wrote sadly of greater warriors.  Lenin had mentioned him
as an enemy of the new religion, who dealt not with the truth.  Until
he grew dull--no grinning skeleton as yet--his public, after hasty or
solemn digestion of the news, would turn over to his column with a sigh
of relief.  But he must hang on, no doubt of that.  Fatal to give the
public even a hint that it might learn to do without him.

He sighed and closed his eyes again.  It was not unpleasant to feel
himself a slave, a slave who had forged his own gilded chains.  But he
sighed again for his lost simplicities, for his day-dreams under the
magnolias when he had believed that if women of his class were not
obliged to do their own housework they would all be young and beautiful
and talk only of romance; when he had thought upon the intellectual
woman and the woman who "did things" as an anomaly and a horror.  Well,
the reality was more companionable, he would say that for them. . . .
Then he grinned as he recalled the days of his passionate socialism,
when he had taken pains, like every socialist he had ever met, to let
it be understood that he had been born in the best society.  Well, so
he had, and he was glad of it, even if the best society of his small
southern town had little to live on but its vanished past.  He never
alluded to his distinguished ancestry now that he was eminent and
comfortable, and he looked back with uneasy scorn upon his former
breaches of taste, but he never quite forgot it.  No Southerner ever
does.

The play droned on to the end of the interminable first act.  Talk.
Talk.  Talk.  He'd go to sleep, but would be sure to get a crick in his
neck.  Then he remembered a woman who had come down the aisle just as
the lights were lowering and passed his seat.  He had not seen her
face, but her graceful figure had attracted his attention, and the
peculiar shade of her hair: the color of warm ashes.  There was no
woman of his acquaintance with that rare shade of blonde hair.

He opened his eyes.  She was sitting two seats ahead of him and the
lights of the stage gave a faint halo to a small well-shaped head
defined by the low coil of hair.  She had a long throat apparently, but
although she had dropped her wrap over the back of the seat he had no
more than a glimpse of a white neck and a suggestion of sloping
shoulders.  Rather rare those, nowadays.  They reminded him, together
with the haughty poise of the head, of the family portraits in the old
gallery at home.  Being dark himself, he admired fair women, although
since they had taken to bobbing their hair they looked as much alike as
magazine covers.  This woman wore her hair in no particular fashion.
It was soft and abundant, brushed back from her face, and drawn merely
over the tips of the ears.  At least so he inferred.  He had not seen
even her profile as she passed.  Profiles were out of date, but in an
old-fashioned corner of his soul he admired them, and he was idly
convinced that a woman with so perfectly shaped a head, long and
narrow, but not too narrow, must have a profile.  Probably her full
face would not be so attractive.  Women with _cendré_ hair generally
had light brows and lashes, and her eyes might be a washed-out blue.
Or prominent.  Or her mouth too small.  He would bet on the profile,
however, and instead of rushing out when that blessed curtain went down
he would wait and look for it.

Then he closed his eyes again and forgot her until he was roused by the
clapping of many hands.  First-nighters always applaud, no matter how
perfunctorily.  Noblesse oblige.  But the difference between the
applause of the bored but loyal and that of the enchanted and quickened
is as the difference between a rising breeze and a hurricane.

The actors bowed en masse, in threes, in twos, singly.  The curtain
descended, the lights rose, the audience heaved.  Men hurried up the
aisle and climbed over patient women.  People began to visit.  And then
the woman two seats ahead of Clavering did a singular thing.

She rose slowly to her feet, turned her back to the stage, raised her
opera glasses and leisurely surveyed the audience.

"I knew it!"  Clavering's tongue clicked.  "European.  No American
woman ever did that--unless, to be sure, she has lived too long abroad
to remember our customs."

He gazed at her eagerly, and felt a slight sensation of annoyance that
the entire house was following his example.  The opera glasses
concealed her eyes, but they rested upon the bridge of an indubitably
straight nose.  Her forehead was perhaps too high, but it was full, and
the thick hair was brushed back from a sharp point.  Her eyebrows,
thank Heaven, were many shades darker than her hair.  They were also
narrow and glossy.  Decidedly they received attention.  Possibly they
were plucked and darkened--life had made him skeptical of "points."
However, Clavering was no lover of unamended nature, holding nature,
except in rare moments of inspiration, a bungler of the first water.

In spite of its smooth white skin and rounded contours above an
undamaged throat, it was, subtly, not a young face.  The mouth, rather
large, although fresh and red (possibly they had lip sticks in Europe
that approximated nature) had none of the girl's soft flexibility.  It
was full in the center and the red of the underlip was more than a
visible line, but it was straight at the corners, ending in an almost
abrupt sternness.  Once she smiled, but it was little more than an
amused flicker; the mouth did not relax.  The shape of the face bore
out the promise of the head, but deflected from its oval at the chin,
which was almost square, and indented.  The figure was very slight, but
as subtly mature as the face, possibly because she held it
uncompromisingly erect; apparently she had made no concession to the
democratic absence of "carriage," the indifferent almost apologetic
mien that had succeeded the limp curves of a few years ago.

She wore a dress of white jet made with the long lines of the present
fashion--in dress she was evidently a stickler.  The neck was cut in a
low square, showing the rise of the bust.  Her own lines were long, the
arms and hands very slender in the long white gloves.  Probably she was
the only woman in the house who wore gloves.  Life was freer since the
war.  She wore a triple string of pearls.

He waited eagerly until she should drop her glasses. . . .  He heard
two girls gasping and muttering behind him. . . .  There was a titter
across the house.

She lowered the opera glasses and glanced over the rows of upturned
faces immediately before her, scrutinizing them casually, as if they
were fish in an aquarium.  She had dropped her lids slightly before her
eyes came to rest on Clavering.  He was leaning forward, his eyes hard
and focal, doing his best to compel her notice.  Her glance did linger
on his for a moment before it moved on indifferently, but in that brief
interval he experienced a curious ripple along his nerves . . . almost
a note of warning. . . .  They were very dark gray eyes, Greek in the
curve of the lid, and inconceivably wise, cold, disillusioned.  She did
not look a day over twenty-eight.  There were no marks of dissipation
on her face.  But for its cold regularity she would have looked
younger--with her eyes closed.  The eyes seemed to gaze down out of an
infinitely remote past.

Suddenly she seemed to sense the concentrated attention of the
audience.  She swept it with a hasty glance, evidently appreciated the
fact that she alone was standing and facing it, colored slightly and
sat down.  But her repose was absolute.  She made no little embarrassed
gestures as another woman would have done.  She did not even affect to
read her program.



II

Clavering left his chair and wandered up the aisle.  He felt none of
his usual impatience for the beneficent cigarette.  Was he hit?
Hardly.  Inquisitive, certainly.  But he had seen so many provocative
shells.  Vile trick of nature, that--poverty-stricken unoriginal
creature that she was.

He glanced over the rows of people as he passed.  It was not the play
that was animating them.  The woman was a godsend.

His gaze paused abruptly on the face of Mr. Charles Dinwiddie.
Clavering's grand-aunt had married Mr. Dinwiddie's father and the two
men, so far apart in years, were more or less intimate; the older man's
inexhaustible gossip of New York Society amused Clavering, who in turn
had initiated Mr. Dinwiddie into new and strange pleasures, including
literary parties and first nights--ignored by the world of fashion.

All New York men of the old régime, no matter what their individuality
may have been twenty years earlier, look so much alike as they approach
sixty, and more particularly after they have passed it, that they might
be brothers in blood as in caste.  Their moustaches and what little
hair they have left turns the same shade of well-bred white.  Their
fine old Nordic faces are generally lean and flat of cheek, their
expression calm, assured, not always smug.  They are impeccably groomed
and erect.  Stout they may be, but seldom fat, and if not always
handsome, they are polished, distinguished, aloof.  They no longer wear
side-whiskers and look younger than their fathers did at the same age.

Mr. Dinwiddie's countenance as a rule was as formal and politely
expressionless as became his dignified status, but tonight it was not.
It was pallid.  The rather prominent eyes were staring, the mouth was
relaxed.  He was seated next the aisle and Clavering hastened toward
him in alarm.

"Ill, old chap?" he asked.  "Better come out."

Mr. Dinwiddie focussed his eyes, then stumbled to his feet and caught
Clavering by the arm.  "Yes," he muttered.  "Get me out of this and
take me where I can get a drink.  Seen a ghost."

Clavering guided him up the aisle, then out of a side exit into an
alley and produced a flask from his hip-pocket.  Mr. Dinwiddie without
ceremony raised it to his lips and swallowed twice, gasping a little.
He had reached the age of the mild whiskey and soda.  Then he stood
erect and passed his hand over the shining curve of his head.

"Ever seen a ghost, Lee?" he asked.  "That woman was there, wasn't she?"

"She was there, all right."  Clavering's face was no longer cynical and
mysterious; it was alive with curiosity.  "D'you know who she is?"

"Thirty-odd years ago any one of us old chaps would have told you she
was Mary Ogden, and like as not raised his hat.  She was the beauty and
the belle of her day.  But she married a Hungarian diplomat, Count
Zattiany, when she was twenty-four, and deserted us.  Never been in the
country since.  I never wanted to see her again.  Too hard hit.  But I
caught a glimpse of her at the opera in Paris about ten years
ago--faded!  Always striking of course with that style, but withered,
changed, skinny where she had been slim, her throat concealed by a dog
collar a yard long--her expression sad and apathetic--the dethroned
idol of men.  God!  Mary Ogden!  I left the house."

"It is her daughter, of course----"

"Never had a child--positive of it.  Zattiany title went to a nephew
who was killed in the war. . . .  No . . . it must be . . . must
be . . ."  His eyes began to glitter.  Clavering knew the symptom.  His
relative was about to impart interesting gossip.

"Well?" he asked impatiently.

"There were many stories about Mary Ogden--Mary Zattiany--always a
notable figure in the capitals of Europe.  Her husband was in the
diplomatic service until he died--some years before I saw her in Paris.
She was far too clever--damnably clever, Mary Ogden, and had a
reputation for it in European Society as well as for beauty--to get
herself compromised.  But there were stories--that must be it!  She had
a daughter and stowed her away somewhere.  No two women could be as
alike as that except mother and daughter--don't see it too often at
that.  Why, the very way she carries her head--her _style_ . . . wonder
where she kept her?  That girl has been educated and has all the air of
the best society.  Must have got friends to adopt her.  Gad!  What a
secret chapter.  But why on earth does she let the girl run round
loose?"

"I shouldn't say she was a day under twenty-eight.  No doubt she looked
younger from where you were sitting."

"Twenty-eight!  Mary must have begun sooner than we heard.  But--well,
we never felt that we knew Mary--that was one of her charms.  She kept
us guessing, as you young fellows say, and she had the devil's own
light in her eyes sometimes."  His own orb lit up again.  "Wonder if
Mary is here?  No doubt she's come over to get her property back--she
never transferred her investments and of course it was alienated during
the war.  But not a soul has heard from her.  I am sure of that.  We
were discussing her the other night at dinner and wondering if her
fortune had been turned over.  It was at Jane Oglethorpe's.  Jane and a
good many of the other women have seen her from time to time
abroad--stayed at her castle in Hungary during the first years of her
marriage; but they drifted apart as friends do. . . .  She must be a
wreck, poor thing.  She ran a hospital during the war and was in Buda
Pesth for some time after the revolution broke out.  I hope she had the
girl well hidden away."

"Perhaps she sent the girl over to look after her affairs."

"That's it.  Beyond a doubt.  And I'll find out.  Trent is Mary's
attorney and trustee.  I'll make him open up."

"And you'll call on her?"

"Won't I?  That is, I'll make Trent take me.  I never want to look at
poor Mary again, but I'd feel young----  Hello!  I believe you're hit!"
Mr. Dinwiddie, having solved his problems, was quite himself again and
alert for one of the little dramas that savored his rather tasteless
days.  "I'd like that.  I'll introduce you and give you my blessing.
Wrong side of the blanket, though."

"Don't care a hang."

"That's right.  Who cares about anything these days?  And you can only
be young once."  He sighed.  "And if she's like her mother--only
halfway like her inside--she'll be worth it."

"Is that a promise?"

"We'll shake on it.  I'll see Trent in the morning.  Dine with me at
the club at eight?"

"Rather!"



III

The critics left after the second act to damn the play at leisure.
Clavering remained in his seat.  Forty minutes later, while the
performers were responding to faint calls and amiable friends were
demanding the author of the doomed play, the lady of mystery (who,
Clavering reflected cynically, was doubtless merely an unusual looking
person with a commonplace history--most explanations after wild guesses
were common-place) left her seat and passed up the aisle.
Irresistibly, Clavering followed her.  As she stood for a moment under
the glare of the electric lights at the entrance he observed her
critically.  She survived the test.  A small car drew up to the curb.
She entered it, and he stood in the softly falling snow feeling
somewhat of a fool.  As he walked slowly to his rooms in Madison Square
he came definitely to the conclusion that it was merely his old
reporter's instinct that burned so fiercely, even when he had prodded
Dinwiddie and shaken hands in a glow of anticipation.  Certainly there
was no fire in his blood.  His imagination had not toyed for a moment
with the hope that here at last . . .  He did not feel in the least
romantic.  But what man, especially after Dinwiddie's revelations,
wouldn't feel a bit curious, a bit excited?  Thank Heaven he was young
enough for that.  He must know who she was.  Certainly, he would like
to talk to her.  She knew the world, no doubt of it--with those eyes!
European women, given the opportunity, could cram more of life into ten
years than an American woman into forty.  She had had her experiences
in spite of that madonna face; he'd bet on it.  Well, he wasn't falling
in love with a woman who had too heavily underscored in the book of
life.  But he enjoyed talking to European women of the world.  New York
had been overrun of late with Russian princesses and other ladies of
title come over in the hope of milking the good old American cow, and
when he could divert them from their grievances he found them clever,
subtle and interesting.  It was unlikely that this woman had a
grievance of that sort or was looking for a chance to get at the
generous but elusive udder.  Her pearls might not be real, but her gown
was superlatively expensive, her evening wrap of mauve velvet lined
with ermine, and her little car perfectly turned out.  He'd look like a
fortune-hunter with his salary of fifteen thousand a year and a few
thousands in bonds . . . not if he knew it!  But find out who she was,
know her, talk to her, learn what he felt was an interesting
history--quite another matter.



IV

The next evening when he arrived at the club he found Mr. Dinwiddie
fuming.

"What do you think!" he exclaimed as he led his guest to his favorite
table in the corner.  "That old rascal bluffed me!  Bluffed me.  Said
there was no relative of Countess Zattiany in the country that he knew
of.  Looked blank as a post when I told him of the extraordinary
resemblance of that girl to Mary Ogden.  Said he never heard of her.
Laughed at the idea of a sub-rosa daughter.  Pretended to be angry at
such an aspersion on Mary's fair fame--was in love with her himself
like the rest of us.  But he was lying and he knew that I knew he was
lying.  What'll you have?"

"Anything.  Go ahead.  I know by the glitter of your eye that you
haven't finished."

"You're right, I haven't."  He gave his order and leaned forward.
"I've done a little prospecting on my own account.  Mary inherited the
old Ogden house over on Murray Hill.  I happen to know that the lease
ran out last year and that it hasn't been rented since.  Well, I walked
past there today, and some one is living in it.  Boarding off.  Windows
open.  Fresh curtains.  A servant receiving a parcel at the area door.
She's there, mark my words."

"Not a doubt of it.  Why didn't you walk boldly up and send in your
card?"

"Hadn't the courage.  Besides, that girl never heard of me.  I hadn't
the ghost of an excuse."

"Why not put Mrs. Oglethorpe on the scent?  She could call.  Women are
always fertile in excuses."

"I can't see what pretext she could trump up.  She'd be keen enough,
all right, but she hardly could tell this haughty creature with the
unmistakable stamp of the great world on her that she knows she must be
the left-handed daughter of Mary Ogden.  Even Jane hasn't assurance
enough for that."

"She might assume that this young woman is a member of the Countess
Zattiany's family--daughter of a cousin or something--those
extraordinary resemblances do recur in families. . . .  That indeed may
be the explanation."

"Not a bit of it.  That girl is Mary's daughter."

"I'm inclined to agree with you.  But it is understood that you can't
hurl it at her.  Mrs. Oglethorpe, however, could invent a pretty
pretence--saw her at the theatre--struck by her likeness to her old
friend--discovered she was living in the family mansion--felt that she
must seek her out----"

"Um.  That's not quite the sort of thing the New York woman does, and
you know it.  True, the war has upset them as it has every one else.
They are still restless.  I have met two opera singers, two actresses,
three of these juvenile editors and columnists at dinners and musical
evenings during the last month alone.  I believe they'd lionize Charley
Chaplin if he'd let them, but I understand he's more exclusive than we
are.  God!  What is New York Society coming to?"

"You like straying outside the sacred preserves yourself occasionally."

"I do.  But I'm a man.  We always did stray a bit.  But when I think of
the exclusiveness of only a few years ago!  Why, New York Society was a
Club.  The most exclusive club in the world.  London Society was
Bohemia compared to it.  It's the democratic flu, that's what!
Aristocracy's done for."

"I'm not so sure.  The reaction may be devastating.  But it's a sign of
grace that they've at last discovered sufficient intelligence to be
bored with their somewhat monotonous selves.  And Mrs. Oglethorpe
always does exactly as she pleases.  Better drop her a hint."

"Well, I'll try it.  But while Jane may be high-handed, she has certain
rigid ideas when it comes to Society and who shall enter its gates.  So
far she's made no concessions.  She and a few others still keep a tight
rein.  Their daughters though!  And granddaughters!  Jane's girls are
replicas of herself with every atom of her personality left out--but
Jim's daughter, Janet, is her grandmother over again plus modern bad
manners, bad habits, and a defiance of every known convention.
Wretched little flapper.  Gad!  What are we coming to!"

"Never mind Janet----"

"Why don't you suggest it to Jane?  She thinks more of you than of any
one else.  I doubt if you could ask her anything----"

"Not much.  She'd twig at once.  I've had several hints lately that she
has her eye on somebody she wants me to marry.  You must do it
yourself--and you _must_!"

"Well!  If she won't, Mrs. Jim might.  The younger women would know
this girl like a shot if they thought there was any fun in it--then
drop her if she didn't measure up.  I don't know that I care to place
her in such a position."

"I've an idea the fair unknown can take care of herself.  I don't see
her picked up and dropped.  Probably it would be the deuce and all to
meet her.  I think my plan is best.  You can rouse any woman's
curiosity, and no one has more than Mrs. Oglethorpe.  That would be the
wedge.  You'd meet her and then you could give her a dinner and invite
me."

"All right.  I'll try it.  Something must happen soon.  My arteries
won't stand the strain."



V

"Madam is not at home, ma'am."

"Is she not?  Then I'll wait for her."

Mrs. Oglethorpe swept by the butler and he had the sensation of chaff
scattering before a strong wind.  In truth Mrs. Oglethorpe was an
impressive figure and quite two inches taller than himself.  He could
only stare at her in helpless awe, the more so as he had recognized her
at once.  Leadership might be extinct, but Mrs. Oglethorpe was still a
power in New York Society, with her terrible outspokenness, her
uncompromising standards, her sardonic humor, her great wealth, and her
eagle eye for subterfuge.  How could a mere servant hope to oppose that
formidable will when his betters trembled at her nod?

Mrs. Oglethorpe had made her usual careful toilet.  Her full long dress
of heavy-pile black velvet, almost covered with a sable cape, swept the
floor; changing skirts meant nothing to her.  Like all women of the old
régime in New York, she wore her hair dressed very high and it was
surmounted by a small black hat covered with feathers, ruthlessly
exposing her large square face with its small snapping black eyes and
prominent nose.  A high-boned collar of net supported what was left of
her throat.  She wore no jewels, as she clung to the rigorous law of
her youth which had tabued the vulgar display of anything but pearls in
the daytime.  As she was too old and yellow for pearls she compromised
on jet earrings and necklace.  She carried a cane.

Mr. Dinwiddie to his surprise had found no difficulty in persuading her
to investigate the mysteries of the Ogden mansion, for she had leapt at
once to the conclusion that the friend of her youth was in some way
menaced by this presumptuous stranger of the fantastic resemblance.
There had been a time when, while indignantly repudiating the stories
so prevalent for many years after Mary Ogden's marriage to Count
Zattiany, she had secretly believed and condoned them; not only because
she had loved her devotedly and known something of her heavy
disillusionment, but because the wild secret life the exalted Countess
Zattiany was believed to be leading fed her own suppressed longings for
romance and adventure.  With the passage of years, which had taken
their toll of Mary's beauty and fascination, and brought complete
disillusionment to herself, she had almost forgotten that old phase;
moreover, it was many years since she had visited Europe and
correspondence between the two friends, once so intimate, had almost
ceased before the war.  During that long interval she had heard nothing
of her except that she was running a hospital in Buda Pesth, but
shortly after the close of the war she had been distressed to learn
from a member of one of the various commissions to Vienna that Countess
Zattiany was ill in a sanitarium.  She had written at once, but
received no reply.  Now she feared that some adventuress had taken
advantage of a superficial resemblance--she dismissed Mr. Dinwiddie's
protestations of the exactness of that resemblance as the maunderings
of a weakened memory playing about among the ghosts of its youth--to
scheme for the Ogden fortune.  When told that Judge Trent was evidently
shielding the woman her suspicions were redoubled.  She had
consistently hated Judge Trent for fifty years.

If, on the other hand, the creature were really Mary's daughter--and
could prove it--well, she would make up her mind what course to take
when she met her.

"I'll wait in the library," she announced, and moved majestically down
the hall.  Then at a sound she paused and glanced toward the stair
which rose on the left, opposite the library.  A woman was descending,
a woman only an inch or two shorter than herself and no less stately,
with ashen blonde hair coiled low on her graceful neck and wearing a
loose gown of pale green crepe with a silver girdle.

"My God!" exclaimed Mrs. Oglethorpe in a loud imperious voice, as if
commanding the Almighty to leap from his throne and fly to her
assistance.  Then she leaned heavily on her cane.

The lady came quickly down the stairs and made a peremptory signal to
the butler.  As he disappeared she walked forward more slowly and
paused within a few feet of her agitated guest.  Her eyebrows were
slightly raised, her face impassive.  Not even those sharp old eyes
staring at her guessed that she had been completely taken by surprise
and was inwardly quaking.

Mrs. Oglethorpe could not speak for a moment.  The years had dropped
from her.  She was once more a young woman come to spend the day with
her favorite friend . . . or to attend a reception in the stately
formal house on Murray Hill . . . high rooms filled with women wearing
tight basques, bustles, full sweeping skirts, small hats or bonnets
perched on puffs and braids. . . .  Mary, the most radiant and
beautiful and enchanting girl in the world, coming forward with hands
outstretched, while her more formal mother frowned a little at her
enthusiasm . . . or were they both risen to haunt the old house?

But confusion could reign for only a few seconds in Mrs. Oglethorpe's
indomitable soul.  She drew herself up to her imposing height, and her
voice was harsher than usual as she addressed the vision that had
confounded her.

"Pardon me.  Your likeness to my old friend, Countess Zattiany,
startled me.  Who are you, may I ask?"

"Does it really matter?"  And once more Mrs. Oglethorpe started,
although the accent was foreign.

"Yes, it does matter," she said grimly.  "That is what I have come to
find out."

"Oh!"  Again there was a slight lift of the eyebrows.  "I had always
heard that Americans were unconventional, but hardly that they carried
their independence of the conventions so far as to invade the house of
a stranger."

"I'll not be put off.  Are you Mary Zattiany's daughter?"

For a second there was an expression of broad amusement on the
beautiful cold face opposite, but it passed with a slight shrug of the
shoulders.  "No," she said evenly.

"Then who are you?"

"I do not choose to say--at present."  Her tone was as arrogant as her
interlocutor's and Mrs. Oglethorpe bristled.

"What does Trent mean by lying about your presence in this house?"

"Judge Trent respects my wishes."

"Your wishes!  You've made a fool of him.  But I am Countess Zattiany's
oldest friend, and if she has been imposed upon, if she has come to any
harm, if you are after her fortune by pretending on the strength of
your singular likeness to be her heir, I shall know how to put a stop
to it in spite of Judge Trent.  I suppose you have never heard of me.
My name is Oglethorpe."

"I have heard of Mrs. Oglethorpe--from Countess Zattiany.  But she
failed to prepare me for your excessively bad manners."

"Manners be damned.  I use what manners I choose and I've never done
anything else.  I repeat to you that Countess Zattiany was the most
intimate friend of my youth and for many years after.  If she has no
one to protect her interests in this country, I shall protect them
myself.  Don't you suppose I am well aware that if you were in her
confidence she would have sent you direct to me?  It is the first thing
she would have thought of.  If you are not an impostor and an
adventuress present your credentials and I will ask your pardon."

"Judge Trent has my credentials.  Now, if you will excuse me----"

"I will not excuse you.  I will get to the depth of all this mystery.
I abominate mystery.  It is vulgar and stupid.  You will tell me who
you are, or I will set the newspapers on your track.  They'll soon
ferret it out.  I've only to say the word."

"Ah!"  The lady seemed to falter for a moment.  She looked
speculatively at the indignant old face opposite, then made a vague
little gesture toward her hair, and dropped her eyes.  "No," she said
softly.  "Don't--please."  She raised her eyes once more and looked
straight into Mrs. Oglethorpe's.  The two women stood staring at each
other for several seconds.  Mrs. Oglethorpe's eyes blinked, her jaw
fell.  Then she drew herself up in her most impressive manner.

"Good day," she said.  "Your pardon for the intrusion," and although
her voice had trembled, she swept majestically down the hall.  The
unwilling hostess touched a bell and a footman opened the door.



VI

Three weeks passed.  There were almost twice as many first-nights.
"Mary Ogden," as Clavering called her for want of the truth, was at
each.  She never rose in her seat again, and, indeed, seemed to seek
inconspicuousness, but she was always in the second or third row of the
orchestra, and she wore a different gown on each occasion.  As she
entered after the curtain rose and stole out before it went down for
the last time, few but those in the adjacent seats and boxes were
edified by any details of those charming creations, although it was
noticeable that the visiting of both sexes was most active in her
neighborhood.

For by this time she was "the talk of the town," or of that important
and excessively active-minded section of Greater New York represented
at first-nights.  The columnists had commented on her.  One had indited
ten lines of free verse in her honor, another had soared on the wings
of seventeenth century English into a panegyric on her beauty and her
halo of mystery.  A poet-editor-wit had cleped her "The Silent Drama."
Had it been wartime she would inevitably have been set down as a spy,
and as it was there were dark inferences that she was a Bolshevik agent
who had smuggled vast sums of money into the country and passed it on
to the Reds.  There were those who opined she was some rich man's
mistress, recently imported, snatched from some victim of revolution
who could no longer afford her.  Blonde madonnas were always under
suspicion unless you knew all about them.  Others, more practical,
scoffed at these fancy theories and asserted roundly that she was
either a Russian refugee who had sound American or English investments,
or some American woman, educated abroad, who knew no one in New York
and amused herself at the theatre.  Indeed?  Why then should an
obviously wealthy young woman of as obviously good birth and breeding
bring no letters?  Something crooked, not a doubt of it.  A European
girl or young widow of position would never come to America without a
chaperon; nor an American brought up abroad.  A woman with that "air"
knows what's what.  She's simply put herself beyond the pale and
doesn't care.  Some impoverished woman of the noblesse who has taken up
with a rich man.

The men would have liked to put a detective on the track of every
millionaire in town.

Clavering had confided in no one, and Mr. Dinwiddie, although he had
attended a party given by one of the most hospitable of the
Sophisticates where the unknown was discussed from cocktail to
cocktail, and where, forgetting his arteries, he had befuddled himself
at the generous fount, had guarded his tongue.  To Clavering he had
been unable to extend either hope or information.  Mrs. Oglethorpe had
turned a bleak and rigid countenance upon the friend of her youth when
he had called with an eager ear, and forbidden him tartly ever to
mention the subject to her again.

"Interview must have been devilish unpleasant to curdle poor old Jane
like that," he had commented.  "No doubt the girl showed her the door.
Gad!  Jane!  But Mary's daughter could do it.  None better."

Clavering was deeply disappointed.  He turned a scowling back on the
gossips rending The Topic to tatters.  New York must have a new Topic
every season.  This girl had arrived in a season of dearth.  And,
unless she were discovered to be living in absolute flagrancy, they
would throw down the carpet.  Some went even further.  After all, what
about . . .

But there seemed to be not the remotest prospect of meeting her, nor
even of solving the mystery.  She had been seen striding round the
reservoir in a short skirt and high laced boots of soft pale leather.
One triumphant woman had stood next to her at a glove counter and
overheard her observe to the clerk in a sweet and rather deep voice
with an ineluctably refined--and foreign--accent that gloves were
cheaper in New York than in Paris.  She had been passed several times
in her smart little car, and once she had been seen going into the
Public Library.  Evidently she was no hermit.  Several of the
Sophisticates had friends in Society and questioned them eagerly, but
were rewarded only by questions as eager in return.

On the sixth of these first-nights, when the unknown slipped quietly
from her seat at the end of the last act, she saw the aisle in front of
her almost blocked.  One after another the rows of seats were hurriedly
deserted.  Clavering, as usual, was directly behind her, but Mr.
Dinwiddie, forced from his chair many aisles back, was swept out with
the crowd.

When she reached the foyer she found herself surrounded by men and
women whose frank interest was of the same well-bred but artless
essence as that afforded a famous actress or prima donna exhibiting
herself before the footlights.  It was evident that she had a sense of
humor, for as she made her way slowly toward the entrance a smile
twitched her mouth more than once.  Clavering thought that she was on
the point of laughing outright.  But he fumed.  "Damn them!  They'll
scare her off.  She'll never come again."

One or two women had vowed they'd speak to her.  After all a
first-night was a club of sorts.  But their courage failed them.  The
crowd made way for her and she crossed the pavement to wait for her
car.  Clavering, always hoping that some drunken brute would give him
the opportunity to succor her, followed and stood as close as he dared.
Her car drove up and she entered.  As it started she turned her head
and looked straight at him.  And then Clavering was sure that she
laughed outright.

He started recklessly after the car, plunging between automobiles going
in four different directions, and jumping on the running board of a
taxi, told the man to drive like hell toward Park Avenue.  There was
amused recognition in that glance!  She had, must have, noticed him
before tonight!

And then he had his chance.  To the brave belong the fair.



VII

He dismissed the taxi at the corner of her street and walked rapidly
toward the house.  He had no definite object, but with the blood of
romantic ancestors who had serenaded beneath magnolia trees pounding in
his veins, he thought it likely he would take up his stand under the
opposite lamp-post and remain there all night.  The reportorial
news-sense died painlessly.

Suddenly, to his amazement, he saw her run down the steps of her house
and disappear into the area.  She was once more at the gate when he
hurried up to her.

"May I--am I----" he stammered.  "Is anything the matter?"

For a moment she had shrunk back in alarm, but the narrow silent street
between its ramparts of brown stone was bright with moonlight and she
recognized him.

"Oh, it is you," she said with a faint smile.  "I forgot my key and I
cannot make any one hear the bell.  The servants sleep on the top
floor, and of course like logs.  Yes, you can do something.  Are you
willing to break a window, crawl in, and find your way up to the front
door?"

"Watch me!"  Clavering forgot that he was saturnine and remote and
turning thirty-four.  He took the area steps at a bound.  Iron gates
guarded the basement doors, but the old bars on the windows were easily
wrenched out.  He lifted his foot, kicked out a pane, found the catch,
opened the window and ran up the narrow dark stairs.  There was a light
in the spacious hall and in another moment he had opened the door.  He
expected to be dismissed with a word of lofty thanks, but she said in a
tone of casual hospitality:

"There are sandwiches in the library and I can give you a whiskey and
soda."

She walked with a light swift step down the hall, the narrow tail of
her black velvet gown wriggling after her.  Clavering followed in a
daze, but his trained eye took note of the fine old rugs and carved
Italian furniture, two splendid tapestries, and great vases of flowers
that filled the air with a drowsy perfume.  He had heard of the Ogden
house, built and furnished some fifty years ago.  The couple that had
leased it had been childless and it showed little wear.  The stairs
curving on the left had evidently been recarpeted, but in a very dull
red that harmonized with the mellow tints of the old house.

She opened a door at the end of the hall on the right and he found
himself in a large library whose walls were covered with books to the
ceiling.  Dinwiddie had told him that the Ogdens were bookish people
and that "Mary's" grandfather had been an eminent jurist.  The room was
as dark in tone as the hall, but the worn chairs and sofas looked very
comfortable.  A log was burning on the hearth.

She took a key from a drawer and handed it to him.

"You will find whiskey and a syphon in that cabinet, Mr. Clavering.  I
keep them for Judge Trent."

"Mr. Cla----"  He came out of his daze.  "You know who I am then?"

"But certainly.  I am not as reckless as all that."

Her accent was slight but indubious, yet impossible to place.  It might
be that of a European who spoke many languages, or of an American with
a susceptible ear who had lived the greater part of her life abroad.
"I was driving one day with Judge Trent and saw you walking with Mr.
Dinwiddie."

"Trent--ah!"

He had his first full look into those wise unfathomable eyes.  Standing
close to her, she seemed somewhat older than he had guessed her to be,
although her face was unlined.  Probably it was her remarkable poise,
her air of power and security--and those eyes!  What had not they
looked upon?  She smiled and poured broth from a thermos bottle.

"You are forgetting your whiskey and soda," she reminded him.

He filled his glass, took a sandwich and sank into the depths of a
leather chair.  She had seated herself on an upright throne-like chair
opposite.  Her black velvet gown was like a vase supporting a subtly
moulded flower of dazzling fairness.  She wore the three rows of pearls
that had excited almost as much speculation as her mysterious self.  As
she drank her mild beverage she looked at him over the brim of her cup
and once more appeared to be on the verge of laughter.

"Will you tell me who you are?" asked Clavering bluntly.  "This is
hardly fair, you know."

"Mr. Dinwiddie really managed to coax nothing from Judge Trent?  He
called three times, I understand."

"Not a word."

"He had my orders," she said coolly.  "I am obliged to pass some time
in New York and I have my reasons for remaining obscure."

"Then you should have avoided first-nights."

"But I understood that Society did not attend first-nights.  So Judge
Trent informed me.  I love the play.  Judge Trent told me that
first-nights were very amusing and that I would be sure to be seen by
no one I had ever met in European Society."

"Probably not," he said drily and feeling decidedly nettled at her calm
assumption that nothing but the society of fashion counted.  "But the
people who do attend them are a long sight more distinguished in the
only way that counts these days, and the women are often as well
dressed as any in the sacrosanct preserves."

"Oh, I noticed that," she said quickly.  "Charming intelligent faces, a
great variety of types, and many--but many--quite admirable gowns.  But
who are they, may I ask?  I thought there was nothing between New York
Society and the poor but--well, the bourgeoisie."

He informed her.

"Ah!  You see--well, I always heard that your people of the artistic
and intellectual class were rather eccentric--rather cultivated a pose."

"Once, maybe.  They all make too much money these days.  But there are
freaks, if you care to look for them.  Some of the suddenly prosperous
authors and dramatists have rather dizzy-looking wives; and I suppose
you saw those two girls from Greenwich Village that sat across the
aisle from you tonight?"

She shuddered.  "One merely looked like a Hottentot, but the
other!--with that thin upper layer of her short black hair dyed a
greenish white, and her haggard degenerate green face.  What do they do
in Greenwich Village?  Is it an isolation camp for defectives?"

"It was once a colony of real artists, but the big fish left and the
minnows swim slimily about, giving off nothing but their own sickly
phosphorescence."

"How interesting.  A sort of Latin Quarter, although I never saw
anything in Paris quite like those dreadful girls."

"Probably not.  As a race we are prone to exaggerations.  But are you
not going to tell me your name?"

She had finished her supper and was leaning against the high back of
her chair, her long slender but oddly powerful looking hands folded
lightly on the black velvet of her lap.  Once more he was struck by her
absolute repose.

"But certainly.  I am the Countess Zattiany."

"The Countess Zattiany!"

"The Countess Josef Zattiany, to be exact.  I went to Europe when I was
a child, and when I finished school visited my cousin, Mary Zattiany--I
belong to the Virginian branch of her mother's family--at her palace in
Vienna and married her cousin's nephew."

"Ah!  That accounts for the resemblance!" exclaimed Clavering.  And
then, quite abruptly, he did not believe a word of it.

"Resemblance?"

"Yes, poor old Dinwiddie was completely bowled over when you stood up
and surveyed the house that night.  Thought he had seen the ghost of
his old flame.  I had to take him out in the alley and give him a
drink."

She met his eyes calmly.  "That was the cause of his interest?  Cousin
Mary always said that the likeness to herself as a young woman was
rather remarkable, that we might be mother and daughter instead of only
third cousins."

"Ah--yes--exactly.  Is--is she with you?"

"No, alas!  She is in a sanitarium in Vienna and likely to remain there
for a long time.  When Judge Trent wrote that it would be well for her
interests if she came to New York she asked me to come instead and gave
me her power of attorney.  As my husband was killed in the first year
of the war and I had no other ties, I can assure you I was glad to
come."  She shivered slightly.  "Oh, yes!  Vienna!  To see so much
misery and to be able to give so little help!  But now that Mary's and
my own fortune are restored I can assure you it gives me the greatest
satisfaction of my life to send a large share of our incomes to our
agent in Vienna."

This time there was an unmistakable ring of truth in her deep tones.
And she was human.  Clavering had begun to doubt it, notwithstanding
her powerful disturbing magnetism.  But was he falling in love with
her?  He was attracted, dazzled, and he still felt romantic.  But love!
In spite of his suspicions she seemed to move on a plane infinitely
remote.

"Shall you stay here?"

"Oh, for a time, yes.  I cannot see Cousin Mary, and even Paris is
spoiled.  Besides, Judge Trent wishes me to learn something of
business.  He is growing old and says that women nowadays take an
interest in their investments.  I certainly find it highly diverting."

"No doubt.  But surely you will not continue to shut yourself up?  You
could know any one you choose.  Judge Trent has only to give you a
dinner.  Unfortunately most of his respectable friends are a great many
years older than yourself----"

"I have no desire to know them.  In Paris, off and on, I met many of
those elderly New York ladies of position.  They all have that built-up
look, with hats too small and high for their bony old faces, which they
do not even soften with powder or the charming accessories of the
toilet known to every European woman of fashion.  And feathers!  Why
are they so fond of feathers--not charming drooping feathers, but a
sort of clipped hedge, all of a size, like a garden plot; sometimes
oblong, sometimes round?  And why do they never look _à la mode_, in
spite of their expensive furs and materials?"

"That is the sign manual of their intense respectability.  The old
régime would not compromise with fashion in all its extravagant changes
for the world.  Moreover, it is their serene belief that they may dress
exactly as they choose, and they choose to keep an old tradition alive.
Are not English duchesses much the same?"

"So.  Well, I do not bore myself."

"But the younger women.  They are the smartest in the world.  There is
not the least necessity you should bore yourself with the elders.
Surely you must long for the society of women of your age."

She moved restlessly for the first time.  "They were always in Europe
before the war.  I met many of them.  They did not interest me.  I
hardly knew what they were talking about."

"But men.  Surely a woman as young--and beautiful----"

"Oh, men!"  Clavering had never heard as profound disillusion in any
woman's tones.  And then a curious expression of fear flitted through
her eyes and she seemed to draw herself together.

"What has some brute of a man done to her?" thought Clavering with
furious indignation, and feeling more romantic than ever.  Could it
have been her husband?  For a moment he regretted that Count Josef
Zattiany had gone beyond human vengeance.

"You are too young to hate men," he stammered.  And then he went on
with complete banality, "You have never met the right man."

"I am older than you perhaps think," she said drily.  "And I have known
a great many men--and of a variety!  But," she added graciously, "I
shall be glad if you will come and see me sometimes.  I enjoy your
column, and I am sure we shall find a great deal to talk about."

Clavering glowed with a pride that almost convinced him he was not as
blasé as he had hoped.  He rose, however.

"I'll come as often as you will let me.  Make no mistake about that.
But I should not have stayed so long.  It is very late, and you
are--well, rather unprotected, you know.  I think you should have a
chaperon."

"I certainly shall not.  And if I find you interesting enough to talk
with until two in the morning, I shall do so.  Dine with me tomorrow
night if you have nothing better to do.  And----"  She hesitated a
moment, then added with a curious smile, "Bring Mr. Dinwiddie.  It is
always charitable to lay a ghost.  At half after eight?"

She walked with him to the front door, and when he held out his hand
she lifted hers absently.  He was a quick-witted young man and he
understood.  He raised it lightly to his lips, then let himself out.
As he was walking rapidly toward Park Avenue, wondering if he should
tramp for hours--he had never felt less like sleeping--he remembered
the broken window.  The "crime wave" was terrorizing New York.  There
was no policeman in sight.  To leave her unprotected was unthinkable.
He walked back slowly until he reached the lamp-post opposite her
house; finally, grinning, he folded his arms and leaned against it.
There he stood until a policeman came strolling along, some two hours
later.  He stated the case and told the officer that if anything
happened to the house he would hold him responsible.  The man was
inclined to be intensely suspicious until Clavering mentioned his
newspaper and followed the threat with a bill.  Then he promised to
watch the house like a hawk, and Clavering, tired, stiff, and very
cold, went home to bed.



VIII

"Tommy rot.  Don't believe a word of it.  Mary's mother was one of the
Thornhills.  Don't believe there ever was a Virginia branch.  But I'll
soon find out.  Also about this Josef Zattiany.  That girl is Mary
Ogden's daughter."

They were seated in a corner of Mr. Dinwiddie's favorite club, where
they had met by appointment.  Clavering shrugged his shoulders.  He had
no intention of communicating his own doubts.

"But you'll dine there tonight?"

"Won't I?  And I'll keep my ears open."

Clavering privately thought that the Countess Josef Zattiany would be
more than a match for him, but replied: "After all, what does it
matter?  She is a beautiful and charming woman and no doubt you'll have
a very good dinner."

"That's all very well as far as it goes, but I've never been so
interested in my life.  Of course if she's Mary's daughter I'll do
anything to befriend her--that is if she'll be honest enough to admit
it.  But I don't like all this lying and pretence----"

"I think your terms are too strong.  There have been extraordinary
resemblances before in the history of the world, 'doubles,' for
instance, where there was no known relationship.  Rather remarkable
there are enough faces to go round.  And she confesses to be of the
same family.  At all events you must admit that she has not made use of
her alibi to force her way into society."

"Probably knows her alibi won't stand the strain.  The women would soon
ferret out the truth. . . .  What I'm afraid of is that she's got this
power of attorney out of Mary when the poor girl was too weak to
resist, and is over here to corral the entire fortune."

"But surely Judge Trent----"

"Oh, Trent!  He's a fool where women are concerned.  Always was, and
now he's got to the stage where he can't sit beside a girl without
pawing her.  They won't have him in the house.  Of course this lovely
creature's got him under her thumb.  (I'll see him today and give him a
piece of my mind for the lies he's told me.)  And if this girl has
inherited her mother's brains, she's equal to anything."

"I thought that your Mary was composite perfection."

"Never said anything of the sort.  Didn't I tell you she always kept us
guessing?  I sometimes used to think that if it hadn't been for her
breeding and the standards that involves, and her wealth and position,
she'd have made a first-class adventuress."

"Was she a good liar?"

"She was insolently truthful, but I'm certain she wouldn't have
hesitated at a whopping lie if it would have served her purpose.  She
was certainly _rusée_."

"Well, the dinner should be highly interesting with all these
undercurrents.  I'll call for you at a quarter past eight.  I must run
now and do my column."


Clavering, often satirical and ironic, was positively brutal that
afternoon.  The latest play, book, moving picture, the inefficiency of
the New York police, his afflicting correspondents, were hacked to the
bone.  When he had finished, his jangling nerves were unaccountably
soothed.  Other nerves would shriek next morning.  Let 'em.  He'd been
honest enough, and if he chose to use a battle-axe instead of Toledo
steel that was his privilege.

He called down for a messenger boy and strolled to the window to soothe
his nerves still further.  Dusk had fallen.  Every window of the high
stone buildings surrounding Madison Square was an oblong of light.  It
was a symphony of gray and gold, of which he never tired.  It invested
business with romance and beauty.  The men behind those radiant panels,
thinking of nothing less, made their brief contribution to the beauty
of the world, transported the rapt spectator to a realm of pure
loveliness.

A light fall of snow lay on the grass and benches, the statues and
trees of the Square.  Motors were flashing and honking below and over
on Fifth Avenue.  The roar of the great city came up to him like a
flood over a broken dam.  Black masses were pouring toward the subways.
Life!  New York was the epitome of life.  He enjoyed forcing his way
through those moving masses, but it interested him even more to feel
above, aloof, as he did this evening.  Those tides swept on as
unconscious of the watchers so high above them as of the soaring beauty
of the Metropolitan Tower.  Ground hogs, most of them, but part of the
ever changing, ever fascinating, metropolitan pageant.

The arcade of Madison Square Garden was already packed with men and he
knew that a triple line reached down Twenty-sixth Street to Fourth
Avenue.  There was to be a prize fight tonight and the men had stood
there since noon, buying apples and peanuts from peddlers.  This was
Tuesday and there was no half-holiday.  These men appeared to have
unbounded leisure while the rest of the city toiled or demanded work.
But they were always warmly dressed and indubitably well-fed.  They
belonged to what is vaguely known as the sporting fraternity, and were
invariably in funds, although they must have existed with the minimum
of work.  The army of unemployed was hardly larger and certainly no
bread line was ever half as long.  Mounted police rode up and down to
avert any anticipation of the night's battle.  A loud barking murmur
rose and mingled with the roar of the avenues.

The great clock of the Metropolitan Tower began to play those sad and
sweetly ominous notes preliminary to booming out the hour.  They always
reminded him of the warning bell on a wild and rocky coast, with
something of the Lorelei in its cadences: like a heartless woman's
subtle allure, poignantly difficult to resist.

There was a knock on the door.  Clavering gave his daily stint to the
messenger boy.  He was hunting for change, when he recaptured his
column, sat down at his desk, and, running it over hastily, inserted
the word "authentic."  New York must have its Word, even as its topic.
"Authentic," loosed upon the world by Arnold Bennett, was the rage at
present.  The little writers hardly dared use it.  It was, as it were,
the trademark of the Sophisticates.

The boy, superior, indifferent, and chewing gum, accepted his tip and
departed.  Clavering returned to the window.  Gone was the symphony of
gold and gray.  The buildings surrounding the Square were a dark and
formless mass in the heavy dusk.  Only the street lights below shone
like globular phosphorescence on a dark and turbulent sea.

Two hours later he left his hotel and walked up Madison Avenue.
Twenty-sixth Street was deserted and as littered with papers, peanut
shells, and various other debris as a picnic train.  The mounted police
had disappeared.  From the great building came the first roar of the
thousands assembled, whether in approval or the reverse it would be
difficult to determine.  They roared upon the slightest pretext and
they would roar steadily until half-past ten or eleven, when they would
burst out of every exit, rending the night with their yells, while a
congested mass of motors and taxi-cabs shrieked and honked and squealed
and coughed; and then abruptly the silence of death would fall upon
what is now a business quarter where only an occasional hotel or little
old brownstone house--sole reminder of a vanished past when Madison
Square was the centre of fashion--lingered between the towering masses
of concrete and steel.



IX

When Clavering and Dinwiddie arrived at the Ogden house Judge Trent was
already there and mixing cocktails in the library.  He was a large man
who must have had a superb figure before it grew heavy.  He wore the
moustache of his generation and in common with what was left of his hair
it glistened like crystal.  His black eyes were still very bright and his
full loose mouth wore the slight smirk peculiar to old men whose sex
vanity perishes only in the grave.  Beside him stood a man some ten years
younger who was in the graying period, which gave him a somewhat dried
and dusty look; but whose figure was still slender and whose hard
outlines of face were as yet unblurred by flesh.  They were, of course,
faultlessly groomed, but if met in the wilds of Africa, clad in rags and
bearded like the jungle, to the initiate they still would have been New
Yorkers.

"Come in!  Come in!" cried the Judge heartily.  "Madame Zattiany will be
down in a minute--she prefers to be called Madame Zattiany, by the way.
Thinks titles in America are absurd unless wearers were born to
them--more particularly since continental titles today are worth about as
much as rubles and marks. . . .  Mr. Clavering, you know Mr. Osborne?
Madame Zattiany kindly permitted me to bring him as she was having a
little party.  Families old friends."

Clavering placed two fingers in the limp hand extended and met the cold
appraising eye calmly.  The New York assumption that all other Americans
are rank outsiders, that, in short, not to have been born in New York is
a social and irremediable crime, had often annoyed him but never caused
him to feel the slightest sense of inferiority.  He had his own
ancestors, as important in their day as any bewigged old Dutchmen--all of
whom, he reminded himself, had been but honest burghers in Holland.  But
he admired their consistency.  The rest of the country had been
commenting bitterly on the New York attitude since the eighteenth
century.  And when you got under their protective armor they were an
honorable and a loyal lot.  Meanwhile it paid to be as rude as themselves.

"I am delighted that Madame Zattiany has decided to come out of her shell
at last," said Judge Trent, shaking vigorously.  "I've been urging it for
some time.  But she has had a long and harrowing experience, and seemed
to want only to rest.  I think the stir she made at your first-nights,
Clavering, had something to do with it.  There was a time, you know, when
she never appeared without making a sensation--like poor Mary before
her--but young as she is all that seems almost too remote to recall.  Of
course if she had been able to live in London or Paris after the war it
would have been different, but she was stuck in Buda Pesth and
Vienna--ah!"

Madame Zattiany had entered the room.  She wore pale green chiffon with
floating sleeves that left her arms bare.  In the subdued light she
looked like a girl playing at Undine.

Clavering heard Dinwiddie give a sharp hiss.  "Gad!  More like Mary than
ever.  Nile-green was her favorite color."

She greeted the Judge and Clavering with her slight flickering smile and
then turned to the other two men.

"This must be Mr. Osborne, as Judge Trent pointed out Mr. Dinwiddie to me
one day on Fifth Avenue.  It was kind of you both to come in this
informal manner.  I appreciate it very much."

Her manner was a little like that of a princess giving audience,
Clavering reflected, a manner enhanced by her slight accent and profound
repose, the negligent lifting of her hand to be kissed; and as she stood
graciously accepting their expressions of unhoped for felicity she looked
less American, more European, than ever.  But Clavering wondered for the
first time if that perfect repose were merely the expression of a
profound indifference, almost apathy . . . but no, she was too young for
that, however the war may have seared her; and she was smiling
spontaneously, there was a genuine note of pleasure in her voice as she
turned to him.

"It was more than kind of you to watch my house until the policeman
came," she said on a lower key.  "I was really alarmed when I remembered
that broken window and all those dreadful stories in the newspapers.  But
you kept watch beneath my windows like a _preux chevalier_ and I felt
safe."

"I felt rather a fool if the truth be told."  Her eyes had a curious
exploring look and Clavering felt unaccountably irritated, in spite of
all that her words implied.  "I'd have done the same if you had been old
and withered.  Served me right.  I should have thought before I left the
house to telephone for a watchman."

"Ah!  Quite so.  American men are famous for their gallantry, are they
not?  Myself, I have always liked them."  The smile rose to her wise
penetrating eyes, and Clavering colored like a schoolboy.  Then it faded
and her face looked suddenly rigid.  "I wonder," she muttered, then
turned her back abruptly.  "You must not forget your cocktail.  And
dinner has been announced."

Mr. Dinwiddie made a pretext of sipping his cocktail as the three raised
their glasses simultaneously to their hostess.  She had declined to join
them, with a little grimace.  "Perhaps in time I may become American
enough to like your strange concoctions, but so far I think cocktails
have a really horrid taste.  Shall we go in?"

The Judge offered his arm with the formal gallant air he could assume at
will and the other men followed at a discreet distance: her shimmering
gown had a long tail.  Mr. Dinwiddie's eyes seemed to bore into that
graceful swaying back, but he was not the man to discuss his hostess
until he had left her house, and Clavering could only wonder what
conclusions were forming in that avid cynical old brain.

The dining-room, long and narrow, was at the back of the hall and
extended along the entire width of the large house.  Like the hall it was
panelled and dark, an imposing room hung with family portraits.  A small
table at the end looked like a fairy oasis.  It glittered and gleamed and
the flowers were mauve, matching the tall wand-like candles.

"I do hope, Madame Zattiany," said Mr. Osborne, as he took a seat at her
left, "that you won't succumb to the prevailing mania for white, and
paint out this beautiful old walnut.  Too many of our houses look
entirely too sanitary.  One feels as if he were about to be shown up to a
ward, to be received by a hospital nurse with a warning not to speak too
loud."  There was no chill formality in his mien as he bent over his
young and beautiful hostess.

"Ah, you forget this is Countess Zattiany's house," she said, smiling.
"But I will admit that if it were mine I should make few changes.  White
was quite _à la mode_ in London long before the war, but, myself, I never
liked it."

Judge Trent sat opposite his hostess at the round table.  She had placed
Mr. Dinwiddie and Mr. Osborne on either side of her, smiling at
Clavering.  "I am sorry I do not know any young ladies," she said
graciously, although there was a twinkle in her eye.  "You look rather
lonesome."

"Why should he?" growled Dinwiddie.  "He is young and you are young.  The
rest of us are the ones to feel out of it."

"Not a bit of it!  Not a bit of it!" exclaimed Judge Trent.  "You forget
that Madame Zattiany has lived in Europe since infancy.  She's talked to
elderly statesmen all her life."

"Well, we're not statesmen, the lord knows."  Dinwiddie could always be
relied on to make the obvious retort, thought Clavering, although it must
be admitted that he was seldom with none at all.  "But you must have seen
more young men than old during the war, Madame Zattiany.  I understand
that Mary turned her palace in Buda Pesth into a hospital and that you
were her chief assistant."

"That is quite true, and I had by no means confined myself before that to
elderly statesmen; but I had almost forgotten what a young man on his
feet looked like before the war finished.  Or Society, for that matter.
My one temptation to enter Society here would be the hope of forming a
relief organization--drive, do you call it?--for the starving children of
Austria.  Russian children are not the only pitiable objects in Europe,
and after all, the children of civilized countries are of more value to
the future of the world."

"Another drive!" Judge Trent groaned.  "New York flees to cover at the
word.  Enter Society by all means, but to give your youth its rights.
You have been deprived of them too long."

"I shall never feel as young as that again.  Nor will any girl who was
merely sixteen at the beginning of the war ever be the same as your
care-free young ladies here.  I sit in the restaurants and watch them
with amazement--often with anger.  What right have they . . .
however . . . as for myself I shall not reenter the world for any but the
object I have just mentioned.  Luncheons!  Dinners!  Balls!  I was
surfeited before the war.  And I have forgotten persiflage, small talk.
I am told that Americans avoid serious topics in Society.  I, alas, have
become very serious."

She swept her favored guests with a disarming smile.  They understood.
There was no sting in her words for them.

Clavering spoke up eagerly.  "Why should you bore yourself with social
functions?  If you want to raise money for the children I will not only
start a drive in my column but take you to call on several powerful
editors--or bring them here," he added hastily at the look of amazement
in her eyes, "and they will be more than willing to help you.  They have
only to meet you----"

"That is all very well," interrupted Judge Trent, who, like the other
elderly gentlemen, was glaring at the famous young columnist who daily
laid down the law to his admiring readers.  "But to raise money in large
amounts you've got to have a committee, and no committee is of any
use--for this sort of thing--without the names of fashionable women who
are as well known to our democratic public, that daily devours the
society columns, as the queens of the movies."

"Well--well--I do not know.  I must think.  It is not a step to take
lightly."

Clavering intercepted a flash between her eyes and Judge Trent's and the
old gentleman tightened his lips in a self-conscious smirk as he bent
over his fish.

"Damn him!" thought Clavering.  "He knows the whole truth and is laughing
at us in his sleeve."

Madame Zattiany had turned the subject gracefully to European politics,
and he watched her with a detached air.  Trent's attitude toward her
amused him.  It was more deferential and admiring than infatuated. . . .
Whatever her charm, she was no longer in her first youth, and only unripe
fruit could sting that senescent palate.  But the other two!  Clavering
smiled sardonically.  Dinwiddie, hanging on her every word, was hardly
eating.  He was a very handsome man, in spite of his shining pate and
heavy white moustache.  His features were fine and regular, his eyes, if
rather prominent, were clear and blue, his skin clean, and his figure but
little amplified.  He was only sixty-two.

Osborne, who looked barely fifty, was personable and clever enough to
attract any woman.  He, too, was astonishingly indifferent to the
excellent dinner, and both these gentlemen had reached an age, where, if
wary of excess for reasons of vanity and interior comfort, they derived
their sincerest enjoyment at the table.

That she possessed sex magnetism in a superlative degree in spite of her
deliberate aloofness, Clavering had, of course, been conscious from the
first.  Had not every male first-nighter been conscious of it?  There was
a surfeit of beauty in New York.  A stranger, even if invested with
mystery, must possess the one irresistible magnet, combined with some
unusual quality of looks, to capture and hold the interest of weary New
Yorkers as she had done.  Even the dramatic critics, who looked as if
they hated everybody, had been seen to gaze upon her with rare approval.

But tonight Clavering had a glimpse of something more than a magnetism
for which she was not responsible and to which she had seemed singularly
indifferent.  It was quite evident that he was watching charm in action.
She was sparkling and exerting herself, talking brilliantly and
illuminatingly upon the chaos still known as Europe, and it was patent
that her knowledge was not derived from newspapers or drawing-room
gossip.  Her personal acquaintance of public men had evidently been
extensive before the war, and she had as manifestly continued to see
those in and out of office in Vienna and Buda Pesth throughout all the
later fluctuations.  Her detestation of the old German militaristic party
was unmitigated and she spoke of the late ruler of the Dual Empire and of
his yearning heir with no respect whatever.  With other intelligent
people she believed Bolshevism to be an inevitable phase in a country as
backward and ignorant as Russia, but, to his surprise, she regarded the
Republican ideal of government as the highest that had yet been evolved
from finite minds, still far from their last and highest stages of
development.  She believed that the only hope of the present civilization
was to avert at any cost the successful rise of the proletariat to power
until the governing and employing classes had learned sufficient wisdom
to conciliate it and treat it with the same impartial justice they now
reserved for themselves.  ("And to educate themselves along the lines
laid down in 'The Mind in the Making,'" interpolated Clavering.)
Otherwise any victory the masses might achieve would be followed by the
same hideous results as in Russia--in other words, the same results that
had followed all servile uprisings since the dawn of history.  When the
underdog, who has never felt anything but an underdog, with all the
misery and black injustice the word implies, finds himself on top he will
inevitably torture and murder his former oppressors.  He hasn't the
intelligence to foresee the ultimate folly of his acts, or that the only
hope of the world is equal justice for all classes; he merely gratifies
his primitive instinct for vengeance--precisely the same today, as during
the first servile uprising of Rome--he butchers and slaughters and
wrecks, and then sinks with his own weight, while what brains are left
reconstruct civilization out of the ruins.  "The trouble is that the
reconstructing brains are never quite good enough, and after a time it is
all to do over again. . . ."

This was by no means a monologue, but evoked in the give and take of
argument with Mr. Osborne, who believed in never yielding an inch to the
demands of labor, and with Mr. Dinwiddie, who, since his association with
the Sophisticates, was looking forward vaguely toward some idealistic
regeneration of the social order, although Socialism was rather out of
date among them, and Bolshevism long since relegated to the attic.

But Clavering was not particularly interested in her political views,
sound as they were.  Foreign women of her class, if not as liberal,
always talked intelligently of politics.  What interested him keenly was
her deliberate, her quite conscious attempt to enslave the two men beside
her, and her complete success.  Occasionally she threw him a word, and
once he fancied she favored him with a glance of secret amused
understanding, but he was thankful to be on the outer edge of that
glamorous crescent.  It was enough to watch at a comparatively safe
distance.  Would his turn come next, or was she merely bent on so
befuddling these old chaps that there would be no place left in their
enraptured minds for suspicion or criticism?  No doubt he was too rank an
outsider. . . .  She shot him another glance. . . .  Was his to be the
rôle of the sympathetic friend?

Then she began to draw Dinwiddie and Osborne out, and it struck him that
her attitude was not merely that of the accomplished hostess.  They both
talked well, they were intelligent and well-informed, and he was himself
interested in what they had to say on the subject of national politics.
(The Judge, who had an unimpaired digestion, was attending strictly to
his champagne and his dinner.)  There was something of anxiety, almost of
wistfulness, in her expression as she listened to one or the other doing
his admirable best to entertain her.  They had the charm of crisp
well-modulated voices, these two men of her own class; she had met no
better-bred men in Europe; and their air was as gallant as it had been in
their youth.  He had a fleeting vision of what gay dogs they must have
been.  Neither had married, but they had been ardent lovers once and
aging women still spoke of them with tender amusement.  And yet only the
shell had changed.  They had led decent enough lives and no doubt could
fall honestly and romantically in love today.  In fact, they appeared to
be demonstrating the possibility, with the eternal ingenuousness of the
male.  And yet nature had played them this scurvy trick.  The young heart
in the old shell.  Grown-up boys with a foot in the grave.  Dependent
upon mind and address alone to win a woman's regard, while the woman
dreamed of the man with a thick thatch over his brains and the responsive
magnetism of her own years.  Poor old fighting-cocks!  What a jade nature
was . . . or was it merely the tyranny of an Idea, carefully inculcated
at the nativity of the social group, with other arbitrary laws, in behalf
of the race?  The fetish of the body.  Stark materialism. . . .  However,
it was not as hard on them as on women outgrown their primary function.
Theirs at least the privilege of approach; and their deathless masculine
conceit--when all was said, Nature's supreme gift of compensation--never
faltered.

It crossed Clavering's mind that she was experimenting on her own
account, not merely bewildering and enthralling these estimable gentlemen
of her mother's generation.  But why?  Joining casually in the
conversation, or quite withdrawn, he watched her with increasing and now
quite impersonal interest.  He almost fancied she was making an effort to
be something more than the polite and amiable hostess, that she was
deliberately striving to see them as men who had a perfect right to
fascinate a woman of her age and loveliness.  Well, it had happened
before.  Elderly men of charm and character had won and kept women fully
thirty years their junior.  Possibly she belonged to that distinguished
minority who refused to be enslaved by the Ancient Idea, that iron code
devised by fore-thinking men when Earth was young and scantily
peopled. . . .  Still--why this curious eagerness, this--it was
indecipherable . . . no doubt his lively imagination was playing him
tricks.  Probably she was merely sympathetic. . . .  And then, toward the
end of the dinner, her manner changed, although too subtly for any but
the detached observer to notice it.  To Clavering she seemed to go dead
under her still animated face.  He saw her eyes wander from Dinwiddie's
bald head to Osborne's flattened cheek . . . her lip curled, a look of
fierce contempt flashed in her eyes before she hastily lowered the
lids. . . .  He fancied she was glad to rise from the table.



X

"Well?" he asked, as he and Dinwiddie were walking away from the house;
Osborne had driven off with Judge Trent.  "Do you still think her a
base impostor?"

"Don't know what I think and don't much care.  She can pack me in her
trunk, as we boys used to say.  She's a great lady and a charming
woman; as little doubt about the first as the last.  She's like Mary
Ogden and she isn't.  I suppose she might be merely a member of the
same family--with several thousand ancestors where types must have
reappeared again and again.  If she wants New York Society, especially
if she wants money for those starving children, I'll go the limit.  But
I'm going to find out about her all the same.  I'll hunt up Harry
Thornhill tomorrow--he's a recluse but he'll see me--and I'll get on
the track of some Hungarian refugee.  She can't be the usual rank
impostor, that's positive.  She has the same blood as Mary in her
veins, and if she's Mary's daughter and wishes to keep it dark, that's
her business.  I'll never give her away."

"Well, good luck.  Glad it went off so well."

They parted at the door of Mr. Dinwiddie's rooms and Clavering walked
slowly home in an extremely thoughtful mood.  He felt an uneasy
distrust of the Countess Josef Zattiany, and he was not even sure that
he liked her.

On the following Monday night, however, he was by no means averse from
making a notable personal score.  As Abbott, a dramatic critic, who
happened to sit next to Madame Zattiany, made his usual hurried exit at
the falling of the first curtain Clavering slipped into the vacant
chair.  She smiled a welcome, but it was impossible to talk in the
noise.  This was a great first-night.  One of the leading actresses of
America had returned in an excellent play, and her admirers, who
appeared to be a unit, were clapping and stamping and shouting:
handkerchiefs fluttered all over the house.  When the curtain descended
after the fifteenth recall and the lights went up and demonstration
gave place to excited chatter, Madame Zattiany held out her hand toward
Clavering.

"See!  I have split my glove.  I caught the enthusiasm.  How
generous your people are!  I never heard such whole-souled,
such--ah--unself-conscious response."

"Oh, we like to let go sometimes and the theatre is a safe place.  One
of the best things that can be said for New York, by the way, is its
loyalty to two or three actresses no longer young.  The whole country
has gone crazy over youth.  The most astonishingly bad books create a
furore because from end to end they glorify post-war youth at its
worst, and the stage is almost as bad.  But New Yorkers are too old and
wise in the theatre not to have a very deep appreciation of its art,
and they will render tribute to old favorites as long as they produce
good plays."

"But that is very fine. . . .  I go to the matinee a good deal and I am
often very bored.  And I have been reading your current novels with the
desire to learn as well as to be amused.  I wish so much to understand
the country in which I was born.  I have received much illumination!
It is quite remarkable how well most of your authors write--but merely
well, that is.  So few have individuality of style.  And even in the
best authors I find nearly all of the heroines too young.  I had read
many American novels before the war--they came to us in Tauchnitz--and
even then I found this quite remarkable preoccupation with youth."

"Well--youth is a beautiful thing--is it not?"  He smiled into her own
beautiful face.  "But, if you will notice, many of our novelists,
capable of real psychology, carry their heroines over into their second
youth, and you can almost hear their sigh of relief when they get them
there."

"Yes, but they are still behind the European novelists, who find women
interesting at any age, and their intelligent readers agree with them.
Young women have little psychology.  They are too fluid."

"Quite right.  But I am afraid we are too young a country to tolerate
middle-aged heroines.  We are steeped in conventionalism, for all our
fads.  We have certain cast-iron formulae for life, and associate love
with youth alone.  I think we have a vague idea that autumnal love is
rather indecent."

"And you--yourself?" She looked at him speculatively.  "Are you too
obsessed?"

"I?  Good lord, no.  I was in love with a woman of forty when I was
seventeen."

His eyes were glowing into hers and she demanded abruptly: "Do you
think I am forty?"

"Rather not!"

"Well, I am young," she said with a deep sigh of content.  "But look!
I see nothing, but I see everything."

Clavering glanced about him.  Every neck in the boxes and neighboring
seats was craned.  It was evident that the people in front--and no
doubt behind--were listening intently, although they could have caught
no more than an occasional word of the murmured conversation.  Eyes
across the aisle, when not distended with surprise, glared at him.  He
laughed softly.

"I am the best hated man in New York tonight."  Then he asked abruptly:
"If you wish to avoid fashionable society why not see something of
this?  It would be quite a new experience and vary the monotony of
books and plays."

"I may--some time, if you will kindly arrange it.  But I am not a
stranger to the cognoscenti.  In London, of course, they are received,
sought after.  In Paris not so much, but one still meets them.--the
most distinguished.  In Berlin the men might go to court but not the
women.  In Vienna--well, genius will not give quarterings.  But alas!
so many gifted people seem to come out of the bourgeoisie, or lower
down still--whether they are received or not depends largely on their
table manners."

"Oh, I assure you, our cognoscenti have very good table manners indeed!"

"I am sure of it," she said graciously.  "I have an idea that American
table manners are the best in the world.  Is it true that one never
sees toothpicks on the table here?"

"Good lord, yes!"

"Well, you see them on every aristocratic table in Europe, royalty not
excepted."

"One more reason for revolution----  Oh!  Hang it!"

The lights had gone out.  Clavering half rose, then settled himself
back and folded his arms.  A man stood over him.  "Just take my seat,
Billy, will you?" he asked casually of the eminent critic.  "It's only
two back."

The eminent critic gave him a look of hate, emitted a noise that
resembled a hiss, hesitated long enough to suggest violence, then with
the air of a bloodhound with his tail between his legs, slunk up the
aisle.

"Will you tell me how you always manage to get one of these prize
seats?" asked Clavering at the fall of the second curtain.  "Nothing in
New York is more difficult of attainment than a good seat--any
seat--for a first-night.  All these people, including myself, have a
pull of some sort--know the author, star, manager.  Many of us receive
notifications long in advance."

"Judge Trent has a pull, as you call it."

"That explains it.  There has been almost as much speculation on that
point as about your own mysterious self.  Well, this time I suppose I
must.  But I'm coming back."

He gave Mr. Dinwiddie his seat and went out for a cigarette.  The foyer
was full of people and he was surrounded at once.  Who was she?  Where
had he met her?  Dog that he was to keep her to himself!  Traitor!  He
satisfied their curiosity briefly.  He happened to know Judge Trent,
who was her trustee.  His acquaintance with the lady was only a week
old.  Well, he hadn't thought to mention it to such friends as he had
happened to meet.  Been too busy digging up matter for that infernal
column.  Yes, he thought he could manage to introduce them to her
later.  She had brought no letters and as she was a Virginian by birth
and had gone abroad in her childhood and married a foreigner as soon as
she grew up she knew practically no one in New York and didn't seem to
wish to know any one.  But he fancied she was getting rather bored.
She had been here for a month--resting--before she even went to the
theatre.  Oh, yes, she could be quite animated.  Was interested in
everything one would expect of a woman of her intelligence.  But the
war had tired her out.  She had seen no one but Judge Trent until the
past week. . . .

He kept one eye on the still resentful Abbott, who refused to enhance
his triumph by joining his temporary court, and slipped away before the
beginning of the last act.  Dinwiddie resigned his seat with a sigh but
looked flushed and happy.

"Poor old codger," thought Clavering as he received a welcoming smile,
and then he told her of the excitement in the foyer.

"But that is amusing!" she said.  "How naïve people are after all, even
in a great city like New York."

"Oh, people as active mentally as this crowd never grow blasé, however
they may affect it.  But surely you had your triumphs in Europe."

"Oh, yes.  Once an entire house--it was at the opera--rose as I entered
my box at the end of the first act.  But that was a thousand years
ago--like everything else before the war."

"That must be an experience a woman never forgets."

"It is sometimes sad to remember it."

"Dinwiddie tells me that your cousin, who was Mary Ogden, once had a
similar experience.  It certainly must be a sad memory for her."

"Yes, Mary was one of the great beauties of Europe in her day--and of a
fascination!  Men went mad over her--but mad!  She took growing old
very hard.  Her husband was handsome and attractive, but--well,
fortunately he preferred other women, and was soon too indifferent to
Mary to be jealous.  He was the sort of man no woman could hold, but
Mary soon cared as little about him.  And she had her consolations!
She could pick and choose.  It was a sad day for Mary when men left her
for younger women."

"But I thought that European men were not such blind worshippers of
youth as we are?"

"Yes, within reason.  Mary was too intellectual, too brilliant, too
well-informed on every subject that is discussed in salons, not to
attract men always.  But with a difference!  Quite elderly women in
Europe have _liaisons_, but alas! they can no longer send men off their
heads.  It is technique meeting technique, intellectual companionship,
blowing on old ashes--or creating passion with the imagination.  Life
is very sad for the women who have made a cult of men, and the cult of
men is the European woman's supreme achievement."

The delayed curtain rose and the house was silent.  First-nighters,
unlike less distinguished audiences, never disgrace themselves by
whispering and chattering while the actors are on the stage.

At the end of this, the last act, while the audience, now on their
feet, were wildly applauding and fairly howling for the author of "the
first authentic success of the season," Clavering and Madame Zattiany
went swiftly up the aisle.  A few others also hastened out, less
interested in authors than in taxi-cabs.

He handed her into her car and she invited him to enter and return with
her for a sandwich and a whiskey-and-soda.  He hesitated a moment.
"I'll go with pleasure," he said.  "But I think I'll walk.
It--it--would be better."

"Oh!"  A curious expression that for the second it lasted seemed to
banish both youth and loveliness spread even to her nostrils.  Sardonic
amusement hardly described it.  Then it vanished and she said sweetly:
"You are very considerate.  I shall expect you."

He did not walk.  He took a taxi.



XI

She opened the door as he ran up the steps.  "I never ask my servants
to sit up," she said.  "Judge Trent warned me that the American servant
is as difficult to keep as to get and must be humored.  When I think of
the wages I pay these pampered creatures and the amount of food they
consume, and then of my half-starved friends in Austria, it makes me
sick--sick!"

There being no reply to the axiomatic truth involved in these words,
Clavering followed her silently into the library.  The log fire was
still burning and he hastily replenished it.  They took their little
supper standing and then seated themselves in easy chairs on either
side of the hearth.

"Why don't you bring over your own servants?" he asked.  "Time and
democracy might ruin them, but meanwhile you would have comfort.
Surely you brought your maid?"

"I've had no maid until now since the beginning of the war.  I rarely
left the hospital.  Heaven knows where my other servants are.  The
young men were mobilized and those that returned alive were either
killed in the revolution or turned revolutionists themselves.  No doubt
the new government would have turned Mary's palace in Buda Pesth into a
tenement house if it had not still been a hospital.  We left during the
revolution and lived in Vienna.  Servants with the virus of Bolshevism
in their veins would be worse than these."

"Were you ever in danger?"

"Oh, many times," she said indifferently.  "Who was not?"

"Was that what broke your cousin down?"

"That and the hard work in Vienna trying to relieve the distress--while
half-starved herself.  Of course we had almost no money until the
United States Government restored our properties."

"Will she join you here when she is well?"

"No, Mary Zattiany will never be seen again."

"Ah?  As bad as that?  Her friends will be distressed.  I understand
they saw her abroad from time to time before the war--particularly Mrs.
Oglethorpe.  That old set is very loyal."

"Loyal!  Oh, yes.  They are loyal.  Mrs. Oglethorpe was ready to give
me over to the police.  She seemed to think that I had murdered
Mary--no doubt during the revolution, when it would have been quite
easy.  And she seemed to resent quite bitterly my resemblance to Mary
in her youth--as if I had committed a theft."

"Probably it made her feel her age.  I wonder you saw her."

"I was coming down the stairs as she crossed the hall.  Be sure I would
not have seen her if I could have avoided it."

"Why?"  He left his seat restlessly and leaned against the mantelshelf.
"That sounds impertinent.  All my questions have been impertinent, I am
afraid.  But--I should warn you--I gather that both Mr. Dinwiddie and
Mrs. Oglethorpe think there is something wrong--that is, unexplained."

"Really?"  She looked intensely amused.  "But that is interesting.  Of
course I knew of Mr. Dinwiddie's curiosity from Judge Trent--but I
rather thought----"

"Oh, yes, you have floored him completely.  But I fancy he's more
curious than ever.  I--I--wish you would confide in me.  I might be
better able to defend you if the necessity arose."

"Don't you believe I am what I represent myself to be?"

"It is a terrible thing to say to a woman like you, but----"

He expected her to rise in her majesty and order him to leave the
house, but she merely smiled again and said:

"You forget Judge Trent.  Do you think if I were an impostor he would
vouch for me?"

"I believe you could make any man believe what you wished him to
believe."

"Except yourself."

"Remember that a newspaper man----  However, I'll speak only for
myself."  He thrust his hands into his pockets and tried to summon his
saturnine expression, but he had an uncomfortable feeling that he
looked merely wistful and boyish and that this highly accomplished
woman of the world was laughing at him.  "For my own sake I want to
know," he blurted out.  "I haven't an idea why I suspect you, and it is
possible that you are what you say you are.  Certainly you are far too
clever not to have an alibi it would be difficult to puncture.  But I
_sensed_ something that first night . . . something beyond the fact
that you were a European and did a curious thing--which, however, I
understood immediately. . . .  It was something more. . . .  I don't
think I can put it into words . . . you were there, and yet you were
not there . . . somebody else seemed to be looking out of your
eyes . . . even when Dinwiddie thought he had explained the
matter. . . ."

"You mean when he assumed that I was the illegitimate daughter of Mary
Zattiany.  Poor Mary!  She always wanted a daughter--that is, when her
own youth was over.  That is the reason she was so fond of me.  Do you
think I am Mary's bastard?"

"I did--I don't now. . . .  I don't know what to think. . . .  I have
never lost that first impression--wholly."

She stirred slightly.  Was it a movement of uneasiness?  He was
horribly embarrassed, but determined to hold his ground, and he kept
his eyes on her face, which retained its expression of mocking
amusement.

"But you think I am an adventuress of some sort."

"The word does not apply to you.  There is no question that you are a
great lady."

"Of course I might be an actress," she said coolly.  "I may have been
on the stage in Vienna when the war broke out, become accidentally
associated with Countess Zattiany, won her confidence, owing to the
extraordinary resemblance--our blood may have met and mingled in
Cro-Magnon days--stolen her papers, led her to talk of her youth--of
course every one knew Countess Zattiany's record in European
Society--forged her power of attorney with the aid of an infatuated
clerk, poisoned her--and here I am!"

He laughed.  "Bully plot for the movies.  That is a new angle, as they
say.  I hadn't thought of it.  And a good actress can put over
anything.  I once heard a movie queen, who was the best young
aristocrat, in looks and manner, I ever saw on the screen, say to her
director--repeating a telephone conversation--'I says and he says and
then I seen he hadn't heard me.'"

For the first time since he had known her she threw back her head and
laughed heartily.  Even her eyes looked young and her laugh was musical
and thrilling.

Then she demanded: "And do you think I am an actress--who got an
education somehow?"

"I think you are an actress, but not that sort.  Your imaginative
flight leaves me cold."

"Perhaps you think I had Mary's personality transferred and that it
exists side by side with my own here in this accidental shell.  There
are great scientists in Vienna."

"Ah!"  He looked at her sharply.  "Button, button--I feel a sensation
of warmth somewhere."

She laughed again, but her eyes contracted and almost closed.  "I fear
you are a very romantic young man as well as a very curious one."

"I deserved that.  Well, I am curious.  But not so curious
as--interested."

"I hope you are not falling in love with me."  Her deep voice had risen
to a higher register and was light and gay.

"I am half in love with you.  I don't know what is going to happen----"

"And you want to protect yourself by disenchantment?"

"Perhaps."

"And you think it is my duty . . ."

"Possibly I'd fall in love with you anyway, but I'd like to know where
I stand.  I have a constitutional hatred of mystery outside of fiction
and the drama."

"Ah."  She gazed into the fire.  "Mr. Dinwiddie, no doubt, is making
investigations.  If he verified my story, would you still disbelieve?"

"I should know there was something back of it all."

"You must have been a good reporter."

"One of the best."

"I suppose it is that."

"Partly.  I don't think that if you were not just what you are I'd care
a hang.  Other people's affairs don't excite me.  I've outgrown mere
inquisitiveness."

"That is rather beside the point, isn't it?  It all comes back to
this--that you are afraid of falling in love with me."

"You don't look as if it would do me any good if I did."

"Why not let it go at that?"

"I think the best thing I can do is to get out altogether."

She rose swiftly and came close to him.  "Oh, no!  I am not going to
let you go.  You are the only person on this continent who interests
me.  I shall have your friendship.  And you must admit that I have done
nothing----"

"Oh, no, you have done nothing.  You've only to be."  He wondered that
he felt no desire to touch her.  She looked lovely and appealing and
very young.  But she radiated power, and that chin could not melt.

He asked abruptly: "How many men have you had in love with you?"

"Oh!"  She spread out her hands vaguely.  "How can one remember?"  And
that look he most disliked, that look of ancient wisdom, disillusioned
and contemptuous, came into her eyes.

"You are too young to have had so very many.  And the war took a good
slice out of your life.  I don't suppose you were infatuating
smashed-up men or even doctors and surgeons."

"Certainly not.  But, when one marries young--and one begins to live
early in Europe."

"How often have you loved, yourself?"

"That question I could answer specifically, but I shall not."

He calculated rapidly.  "Four years of war.  Assuming that you are
thirty-two, although sometimes you look older and sometimes younger,
and that you married at seventeen, that would leave you--well, eleven
years before the war began.  I suppose you didn't fall in love once a
year?"

"Oh, no, I am a faithful soul.  Say three years and a third to each
attack."

"You talk at times singularly like an American for one who left here at
the age of two."

"Remember that my family went with me.  Moreover, Mary and I always
talked English together--American if you like.  She was intensely proud
of being an American.  We read all the American novels, as I told you.
They are an education in the idiom, permanent and passing.  Moreover, I
was always meeting Americans."

"Were you?  Well, the greater number of them must be in New York at the
present moment.  No doubt they would be glad to relieve your
loneliness."

"I am not in the least lonely and I have not the least desire to see
any of them.  Only one thing would induce me--if I thought it would be
possible to raise a large amount of money for the women and children of
Austria."

"Ah!  You would take the risk, then?"

"Risk?  They were the most casual acquaintances.  They probably have
forgotten me long since.  I had not left Hungary for a year before the
war, and one rarely meets an American in Pesth Society--two or three
other American women had married Hungarians, but they preferred Vienna
and I preferred Europeans.  I knew them only slightly. . . .  Moreover,
there are many Zattianys.  It is an immense connection."

"You mean you believe you would be safe," he caught her up.

"_Mon dieu_!  You make me feel as if I were on the stand.  But yes,
quite safe."

"And you really believe that any one could ever forget you?"

"I am not as vain as you seem to think."

"You have every right to be.  Suppose--suppose that something should
occur to rouse the suspicions of the Countess Zattiany's old friends
and they should start investigations in Vienna?"

"They would not see her--nor their emissaries.  Dr. Steinach's
sanitarium is inviolate."

"Steinach--Steinach--where have I heard that name lately?"

Her eyes flew open, but she lowered the lids immediately.  Her voice
shook slightly as she replied:  "He is a very great doctor.  He will
keep poor Mary's secret as long as she lives and nobody in Vienna would
doubt his word.  Investigations would be useless."

"She is there then?  I suppose you mean that she is dying of an
incurable disease or has lost her mind.  But do not imagine that I care
to pry further into that.  I never had the least idea that you had----
Oh, I don't know what to believe! . . .  Won't you ever tell me?"

"I wonder!  No, I think not!  No!  No!"

"There is something then?"

"Do you know why you still harp on that absurd idea that I am what I am
and still am not?  Do you not know what it is--the simple explanation?"

"No, I do not."

"It is merely that European women, the women who have been raised in
the intrigues of courts and the artificialities of what we call 'the
World,' who learn the technique of gallantry as soon as they are
_lancée_, where men make a definite cult of women and women of men,
where sincerity in such an atmosphere is more baffling than subtlety
and guile--that is the reason your American girl is never understood by
foreign men--where naturalness is despised as gauche and art commands
homage, where, in short, the game is everything--that most aristocratic
and enthralling of all games--the game of chess, with men and women as
kings, queens, pawns. . . .  There you have the whole explanation of my
apparent riddle.  You have never met any one like me before."

"There are a good many women of your class here now."

"Yes, with avowed objects, is it not?  And they do not happen to
possess the combination of qualities that commands your interest."

"That is true enough.  Perhaps your explanation is the real one.  There
is certainly something in it.  Well, I'll go now.  I have kept you up
long enough."

He was about to raise her hand to his lips when she surprised him by
shaking his warmly.

"I must get over that habit.  It is rather absurd in this country where
you have not the custom.  But you will come again?"

"Oh, yes, I'll come again."



XII

Madame Zattiany adjusted the chain on the front door and returned very
slowly to the library.  That broad placid brow, not the least of her
physical charms, was drawn in a puzzled frown.  Instead of turning out
the lights she sat down and stared into the dying fire.  Suddenly she
began to laugh, a laugh of intense and ironic amusement; but it stopped
in mid-course and her eyes expanded with an expression of
consternation, almost of panic.

She was not alarmed for the peace of mind of the man who was more in
love with her than he had so far admitted to himself.  She had been
loved by too many men and had regarded their heartaches and balked
desires with too profound an indifference to worry over the possible
harm she might be inflicting upon the brilliant and ambitious young man
who had precipitated himself into her life.  That might come later, but
not at this moment when she was shaken and appalled.

She had dismissed from her mind long ago the hope or the desire that
she could ever again feel anything but a keen mental response to the
most provocative of men.  No woman had ever lived who was more
completely disillusioned, more satiated, more scornful of that age-old
dream of human happiness, which, stripped to its bones, was merely the
blind instinct of the race to survive.  Civilization had heaped its
fictions over the bare fact of nature's original purpose, imagination
lashing generic sexual impulse to impossible demands for the consummate
union of mind and soul and body.  Mutuality!  When man was essentially
polygamous and woman essentially the vehicle of the race.  When the
individual soul had been decreed by the embittered gods eternally to
dwell alone and never yet had been tricked beyond the moment of nervous
exaltation into the belief that it had fused into its mate.  Life
itself was futile enough, but that dream of the perfect love between
two beings immemorially paired was the most futile and ravaging of all
the dreams civilization had imposed upon mankind.  The curse of
imagination.  Only the savages and the ignorant masses understood
"love" for the transitory functional thing it was and were undisturbed
by spiritual unrest . . . by dreams . . . mad longings. . . .

No one had ever surrendered to the illusion more completely than she.
No one had ever hunted with a more passionate determination for that
correlative soul that would submerge, exalt, and complete her own
aspiring soul.  And what had she found?  Men.  Merely men.  Satiety or
disaster.  Weariness and disgust.  She had not an illusion left.  She
had put all that behind her long since.

It seemed to her as she sat there staring into the last flickerings of
the charred log that it had been countless years since any man had had
the power to send a thrill along her nerves, to stir even the ghost of
those old fierce desires.  No woman had ever had more cause to feel
immune.  Too contemptuous of life and the spurious illusions man had
created for himself, while destroying the even balance between matter
and mind, even to be rebellious, she had felt a profound gratitude for
her complete freedom from the thrall of sex when she had realized that
with her gifts of mind and fortune she still had a work to do in the
world that would resign her to the supreme boredom of living.  During
the war man had been but a broken thing to be mended or eased out of
life; and she knew that there was no better nurse in Europe; it had
always been her pride to do nothing by halves; and before that she had
come to look upon men with a certain passive toleration when their
minds were responsive to her own.  Whatever sex charm they possessed
might better have been wasted on the Venus in the Louvre.

And tonight she had realized that this young man, so unlike any she had
ever known in her European experience, had been more or less in her
thoughts since the night he had followed her out of the theatre and
stood covertly observing her as she waited for her car.  She had been
conscious during subsequent nights at the play of his powerful gaze as
he sat watching for a turn of the head that would give him a glimpse of
something more than the back of her neck; or as she had passed him on
her way to her seat.  She had been even more acutely conscious of him
as he left his own seat while the lights were still down and followed
her up the aisle.  But she had felt merely amusement at the time,
possibly a thrill of gratified vanity, accustomed as she was to
admiration and homage.

But on the night when he had hastened up to her in the deserted street
and offered his assistance, standing with his hat in his hand and
looking at her with a boyish and diffident gallantry in amusing
contrast with his stern and cynical countenance, and she had realized
that he had impulsively followed her, something had stirred within her
that she had attributed to a superficial recrudescence of her old love
of adventure, of her keen desire for novelty at any cost.  Amused at
both herself and him, she had suddenly decided, while he was effecting
an entrance to her house, to invite him into the library and take
advantage of this break in the monotonous life she had decreed should
be her portion while she remained in New York.

She had found him more personally attractive than she had expected.
Judge Trent, whom she had deftly drawn out, had told her that he was a
young man of whom, according to Dinwiddie, great things were expected
in the literary world; his newspaper career, brilliant as it was, being
regarded merely as a phase in his progress; he had not yet "found
himself."  After that she had read his column attentively.

But she had not been prepared for a powerful and sympathetic
personality, that curious mixture of naïveté and hard sophistication,
and she had ascribed her interest in him to curiosity in exploring what
to her was a completely foreign type.  In her own naïveté it had never
occurred to her that men outside her class were gentlemen as she
understood the term, and she still supposed Clavering to be exceptional
owing to his birth and breeding.  It had given her a distinct
satisfaction, the night of the dinner, to observe that he lost nothing
by contact with men who were indubitably of her own world.  There was
no snobbery in her attitude.  She had always been too secure in her own
exalted state for snobbery, too protected from climbers to conceive the
"I will maintain" impulse, and she had escaped at birth that
overpowering sense of superiority that carks the souls of high and low
alike.  But it was the first time she had ever had the opportunity to
judge by any standards but those in which she had been born and passed
her life.  As for Clavering, he was a gentleman, and that was the end
of that phase of the matter as far as she was concerned.

It was only tonight that she had been conscious of a certain youthful
eagerness as she paced up and down the hall waiting to hear him run up
the steps.  She had paused once and laughed at herself as she realized
that she was acting like a girl expecting her lover, when she was
merely a coldly--no longer even bitterly--disillusioned woman, bored
with this enforced inaction in New York, welcoming a little adventure
to distract her mind from its brooding on the misery she had left
behind her in Europe, and on the future to which she had committed
herself.  And a midnight adventure!  She had shrugged her shoulders and
laughed again as she had admitted him.

But she felt no disposition to laugh as she sat alone in the chilling
room.  She was both angry and appalled to remember that she had felt a
quivering, almost a distension of her nerves as she had sat there with
him in the silence and solitude of the night.  That she had felt a warm
pleasure in the interest that betrayed him into positive impertinence,
and that a sick terror had shaken her when she saw that he was making
up his mind not to see her again.  She had not betrayed herself for a
moment, she was too old a hand in the game of men and women for that,
and she had let him go without a sign, secure in the confidence that he
was at her beck; but she knew now, and her hands clenched and her face
distorted as she admitted it, that if he had suddenly snatched her in
his arms she would have flamed into passion and felt herself the
incarnation of youth and love.

Incredible.  Unthinkable.  She!

What should she do?  Flee?  She had come to New York for one purpose
only, to settle her financial affairs in the briefest possible time and
return to the country where her work lay.  But she had been detained
beyond expectation, for the slow reorganization of one of the companies
in which a large portion of her fortune was invested would not be
complete without her final signature.  There were other important
transfers to be made, and moreover Judge Trent had insisted that she
become thoroughly acquainted with her business affairs and able to
maintain an intelligent correspondence with her trustees when he
himself had retired.  She had shown a remarkable aptitude for finance
and he was merciless in his insistence, demanding an hour of her time
every day.

Business.  She hated the word.  What did it matter----  But she knew
that it did matter, and supremely.  She might have the beauty, the
brains, and the sex domination to win men to her way of thinking when
she launched herself into the maelstrom of politics, but she was well
aware that her large fortune would be half the battle.  It furnished
the halo and the sinews, and it gave her the power to buy men who could
not be persuaded.  She had vowed that Austria should be saved at any
cost.

No, she could not go now.  She must remain for another month--two
months, possibly.  She was no longer in that undisciplined stage of
youth when flight from danger seems the only solution.  To wreck the
lives of others in order to secure her own peace of mind would make her
both ridiculous and contemptible in her own eyes, and she had yet to
despise herself.  She would "stick it out," "see it through," to quote
the vernacular of these curious American novels she had been reading;
trusting that she had merely been suffering from a flurry of the
senses . . . not so remarkable perhaps. . . .

But her mind drifted back to the past month.  Senses?  And if it were
not that alone, but merely the inevitable accompaniment of far stranger
processes . . . if it were what she had once so long sought and with
such disastrous results . . .  She had believed for so many years that
it existed somewhere, in some man . . . that it was every woman's
right . . . even if it could not last for ever. . . .  But while it
lasted!  After all, imagination had its uses.  It helped to prolong as
well as create. . . .  She sank back and closed her eyes, succumbing to
an ineffable languor.

It lasted but a moment.  She started up with an exclamation of
impatience and disgust; and she shivered from head to foot.  The room
was bitterly cold.  There were only ashes on the hearth.



XIII

Clavering turned hot and cold several times during his walk home.  He
had been atrociously rude, impertinent.  If she hadn't ordered him out
of the house it must have been because she was a creature of moods, and
he had merely amused her for the hour.  No doubt she would wake up in a
proper state of indignation and give her servants orders. . . .
Or--was she sincere when she demanded his friendship, willing to put up
with his abominable manners, trusting to her own wit to defeat him,
lull his suspicions?  Friendship!  The best thing for him to do was to
avoid her like the plague.  He hated to admit it, but he was afraid of
her, not so much of falling in love with her and going through tragedy,
which was probably what it would come to, as of the terrible force so
skillfully hidden in that white and delicate body, of a powerful
personality fortified by an unimaginable past.  She gave the impression
of a woman who had been at grips with life and conquered it, from first
to last.  Formidable creature!  An extraordinary achievement if true.
But was it?   Women, no matter how beautiful, wealthy, highly placed
and powerfully organized, got the worst of it one way or another.  When
they fell in love they were apt to lose their heads, and with that the
game.  Technique crumbled.  For a moment he imagined her in love,
dissolved, helpless; then hastily changed the subject.  He liked women
to be strong--having long since abandoned his earlier ideal of the
supine adorant--but not too strong.  Certainly not stronger than
himself.  He had met a good many "strong" women in the last twelve
years, swathed, more often than not, in disarming femininity.  A man
hadn't a chance with them, man's strength as a rule being all on the
outside.  Women grew up and men didn't.  That was the infernal truth.

For the moment he hated all women and felt not only a cowardly but a
decidedly boyish impulse to run away.  He'd like to wander . . .
wander . . . lie out in the woods and dream as he had done in his
boyhood . . . before he knew too much of life . . . reading Shelley and
munching chestnuts. . . .  Then he remembered that woods were full of
snow in winter, and laughed.  Well, he'd go and see Gora Dwight.  She
was in Washington at the moment, but would be home on Friday.  She was
a tonic.  Strong if you like, but making no bones about it.  No soft
feminine seductions there.  She, too, had fought life and conquered, in
a way, but she showed the scars.  Must have had the devil of a time.
At all events a man could spend hours in her stimulating company and
know exactly where he stood.  No damned sex nonsense about her at all.
He knew barely another woman who didn't trail round to sex sooner or
later.  Psychoanalysis had relieved them of whatever decent inhibitions
they might have had in the past.  He hated the subject.  Some day he'd
let go in his column and tell women in general what he thought of them.
Remind them that men were their superiors in this at least: they kept
sex in its proper place and were capable always of more than one idea
at a time.  So was Gora Dwight.  He believed he'd make a confidante of
her--to a certain extent.  At all events he'd refresh his soul at that
tranquil font.



XIV

Gora Dwight, after the fashion of other successful authors, had
recently bought a house.  It was in East Thirty-fifth Street, not far
from the one at present occupied by Madame Zattiany, but nearer
Lexington Avenue.  It was one of the old monotonous brownstone houses,
but with a "southern exposure," and the former owner had removed the
front steps and remodeled the lower floor.

The dining-room, on the left of the entrance, was a long admirably
proportioned room, and the large room above, which embraced the entire
floor, Miss Dwight had converted into a library both sumptuous and
stately.  She had bought her furniture at auction that it might not
look too new, and on the longer walls were bookcases seven feet high.
She had collected a small library before the war; and for the many
other books, some of them rare and all highly valued by their present
possessor, she had haunted second-hand bookshops.

The prevailing tone of the room was brown and gold, enlivened
discreetly with red, and the chairs and lounges were deep and
comfortable.  A large davenport stood before the fireplace, which had
been rebuilt for logs.  There was a victrola in one corner, for Miss
Dwight was amenable if her guests were seized with the desire to jazz,
and a grand piano stood near the lower windows.  The only evidence of
sheer femininity was a tea table furnished with old pieces of silver
she had picked up in France.  The dining-room below was a trifle gayer
in effect; the walls and curtains were a deep yellow and there were
always flowers on the table.

New York knew so much about this new literary planet that it took for
granted there was nothing further to be discovered.  There are always
San Franciscans in the great city, and when she became famous they were
obliging with their biographical data.  Life had been hard on her at
first, for although she came of old Revolutionary stock she grew up in
poverty and obscurity.  Her father had been a failure, and after the
death of her parents she had kept a lodging house for business women,
taking courses at the University of California meanwhile; later she had
studied nursing and made her mark with physicians and surgeons.  Her
brother, a good-looking chap with fine manners, but a sort of
super-moron, had unexpectedly married into the old aristocracy of San
Francisco, and Gora, through her sister-in-law, the lovely Alexina
Groome,[1] had seen something of the lighter side of life.  During this
period she had written a number of short stories that had been
published in the best magazines, and one novel of distinction that had
made a "howling success" in San Francisco, owing to the unprecedented
efforts of the fashionable people led by young Mrs. Mortimer Dwight;
but had fallen flat in the East in spite of the reviews.  Then had come
a long intermission when fictionists were of small account in a world
of awful facts.  She was quite forgotten, for she made not even a
casual contribution to the magazines; shortly after the war broke out
she offered her services to England and for long and weary years was
one of the most valued nurses in the British armies.  At the close of
the war she had returned to California, intending to write her new
novel at Lake Tahoe, but finding the season in full swing she had gone
to some small interior town and written it there.  When it was finished
she had brought it on to New York and had remained here ever since.

So ended the brief biography, which was elaborated in many articles and
interviews.

As for the novel, it won her instant fame and a small fortune.  It was
gloomy, pessimistic, excoriating, merciless, drab, sordid, and
hideously realistic.  Its people hailed from that plebeian end of the
vegetable garden devoted to turnips and cabbages.  They possessed all
the mean vices and weaknesses that detestable humanity has so far
begotten.  They were all failures and their pitiful aspirations were
treated with biting irony.  Futile, futile world!

The scene was laid in a small town in California, a microcosm of the
stupidities of civilization and of the United States of America in
particular.  The celebrated "atmosphere" of the state was ignored.  The
town and the types were "American"; it would seem that merely some
unadmitted tenuous sentiment had set the scene in the state of the
author's birth, but there the concession ended.  Even the climate was
treated with the scorn that all old _clichés_ deserved.  (Her
biographers might have contributed the information that the climate of
a California interior town in summer is simply infernal.)

Naturally, the book created a furore.  A few years before it would have
expired at birth, even had a publisher been mad enough to offer it to a
smug contented world.  But the daily catalogue of the horrors and the
obscenities of war, the violent dislocations that followed with their
menaces of panic and revolution that affected the nerves and the
pockets of the entire commonwealth, the irritable reaction against the
war itself, knocked romance, optimism, aspiration, idealism, the sane
and balanced judgment of life, to smithereens.  More _clichés_.  The
world was rotten to the core and the human race so filthy the wonder
was that any writer would handle it with tongs.  But they plunged to
their necks.  The public, whose urges, inhibitions, complexes, were in
a state of ferment, but inarticulate, found their release in these
novels and stories and wallowed in them.  The more insulting, the more
ruthless, the more one-sided the disclosure of their irremediable
faults and meannesses, the more voluptuous the pleasure.  There had
been reactions after the Civil War, but on a higher plane.  The
population had not been maculated by inferior races.

The young editors, critics, special writers were enchanted.  This was
Life!  At last!  Moreover, it was Democracy.  These young and able men,
having renounced their earlier socialism, their sense of humor
recognizing its disharmony with high salaries and pleasant living, were
hot for Democracy.  Nothing paid like Democracy in this heaving world.
The Democratic wave rose and roared.  Symbolic was this violent
eruption of small-town fiction, as realistic as the kitchen, as
pessimistic as Wall Street.  All virtue, all hope, all idealism, had
gone out of the world.  Romance, for that matter, never had existed and
it was high time the stupid world was forcibly purged of its immemorial
illusion.  Life was and ever had been sordid, commonplace, ignoble,
vulgar, immedicable; refinement was a cowardly veneer that was beneath
any seeker after Truth, and Truth was all that mattered.  Love was to
laugh.  Happiness was hysteria, and content the delusion of morons (a
word now hotly racing "authentic").  As for those verbal criminals,
"loyalty" and "patriotism"--_fecit vomitare_.

Their success was colossal.

Gora Dwight caught the crest of the wave and sold three hundred
thousand copies of "Fools."  She immediately signed a contract with one
of the "woman's magazines" for the serial rights of her next novel for
thirty thousand dollars, and received a corresponding advance from her
publisher.  Her short stories sold for two thousand dollars apiece, and
her first novel was exhumed and had a heavy sale.

It was difficult to be pessimistic with a hundred thousand dollars in
bonds and mortgages and the deed of a house in her strong box, but Gora
Dwight was an artist and could always fall back on technique.  But
although her book was the intellectual expression of wildly distorted
complexes, owing to the disillusionments of war, the humiliation of her
ego in woman's most disastrous adventure, and the consequent repression
of all her dearest urges, she deserved her success far more than any of
her adolescent rivals.  She had formed her style in the days of
complete normalcy, and not only was that style distinguished, vigorous,
and individual, but she was able to convey her extremest realism so
subtly and yet so unambiguously that she could afford to disdain the
latrinities of the "younger school."  A marvellous feat.  Most of them
used the frank vocabulary of the humble home, as alone synonymous with
Truth.  Never before had such words invaded the sacrosanct pages of
American letters.  Little they recked, as Mr. Lee Clavering, who took
the entire school as an obscene joke, pointed out, that they were but
taking the shortest cut--advantage of the post-war license affecting
all classes--to save themselves the exhausting effort of acquiring a
vocabulary and forming a style.

The spade as a symbol vanished from fiction.

Miss Dwight had her own ideals, little as she permitted her unfortunate
characters to have any, and not only was she a consummate master of
words and of the art of suggestion, but she had been brought up by
finicky parents who held that certain words were not to be used in
refined society.  The impressions received in plastic years were not to
be obliterated by any fad of the hour.

No one knew, not even her fellow Californians, that she had had a
disastrous love affair which had culminated in an attempt to murder her
beautiful sister-in-law.  Her book had been a wild revulsion from every
standard of her youth, and she loathed love and the bare idea of mutual
happiness in fellow mortals as she recently had loathed blood and filth
and war and Germans.

Success is a great healer.  Moreover, she was a woman of strong and
indomitable character, and very proud.  She consigned the man, who,
after all, was the author of her phenomenal success, to nethermost
oblivion.  You cannot sell three hundred thousand copies of a book,
receive hundreds of letters from unknown admirers telling you that you
are the greatest novelist living, see your name constantly in the
"news," be besieged by editors and publishers, and become a popular
favorite with Sophisticates, and carry around a lacerated heart.  The
past fades.  The present reigns.  The future is rosy as the dawn.  Gora
Dwight was far too arrogant at this period of her career to love any
man even had there been anything left of her heart but a pump.  Her
life was full to the brim.  She was quite aware that the present rage
for stark and dour realism would pass--the indications were to be seen
in the more moderate but pronounced success of several novels by
authors impervious to crazes--but she was too fertile for apprehension
on that score.  She had many and quite different themes wandering like
luminous ghosts about the corridors of a brain singularly free from
labyrinths, ready to emerge, full-bodied, when the world was ready for
them.

The last time Clavering had sat opposite a woman by a log fire both had
enjoyed the deep luxury of easy chairs and his hostess had seemed to
melt into the depths until they enfolded her.  But Miss Dwight never
lounged.  Her backbone appeared to be made of cast-iron.  She sat erect
today on a hassock while he reclined in a chair that exactly fitted his
spine and enjoyed contrasting her with the other woman.  Gora Dwight
had no beauty, but she never passed unnoticed in a crowd, even if
unrecognized.  Her oval eyes were a pale clear gray, cold, almost
sinister, and she wore her mass of rich brown hair on top of her head
and down to her heavy eyebrows.  Her mouth was straight and sharply
cut, but mobile and capable of relaxing into a charming smile, and she
had beautiful teeth.  The nose was short and emphatic, the jawbone
salient.  It was, altogether, a disharmonic type, for the head was long
and the face short, broad across the high cheekbones; and her large
light eyes set in her small dark face produced a disconcerting effect
on sensitive people, but more often fascinated them.  Clavering had
been told that in her California days she had possessed a superb bust,
but long years of unremitting work in France and England had taken toll
of her flesh and it had never returned; she was very thin and the
squareness of her frame was emphasized by the strong uncompromising
bones.  But her feet and her brown hands were long and narrow, and the
straight lines of the present fashion were very becoming to her.  She
wore today a gown of dark red velvet trimmed with brown fur and a touch
of gold in the region of the waist.  It was known that she got her
clothes at the "best houses."

She was a curious mixture, Clavering reflected, and not the least
contradictory thing about her was the way in which her rather sullen
face could light up: exactly as if some inner flame leapt suddenly
behind those uncanny eyes and shed its light over the very muscles of
her cheeks and under her skin.  The oddest of her traits was her
apparent pleasure in seeing a man comfortable while she looked like a
ramrod herself; and she was the easiest of mortals to talk to when she
was in the right mood.  She was morose at times, but her favorites were
seldom inflicted with her moods, and of all her favorites Clavering
reigned supreme.  This he knew and took advantage of after the fashion
of his sex.  He told her all his troubles, his ambitions, which he
believed to be futile--he had written plays which his own criticism had
damned and no eye but his own and Gora Dwight's had ever seen--and she
refreshed and stimulated his mind when his daily column must be written
and his brain was stagnant.  She also knew of his secret quest of the
one woman and had been the repository of several fleeting hopes.  And
never for a moment had she thought him saturnine or disillusioned.  Not
she!  Gora Dwight had an extraordinary knowledge of men for a woman to
whom men did not make love.  But if she had neither beauty nor allure
she had genius; and a father confessor hardly knows more about women
than a nurse about men.  Moreover, she had her arts, little as men
suspected it.  Long ago she had read an appraisement of Madame Récamier
by Sainte-Beuve: "She listens _avec séduction_."  Gora had no intention
of practising seduction in any of its forms, but she listened and she
never betrayed, and her reward was that men sound and whole, and full
of man's inherent and technical peculiarities, had confided in her.
Altogether she was well equipped for fiction.



[1] See the author's "Sisters-in-Law."



XV

She was listening now as Clavering told her of his adventurous meeting
with Madame Zattiany, of their subsequent conversations, and of his
doubts.

"Are you sure she is not playing a part deliberately?" she asked.
"Having her little fun after those horrible years?  She looks quite
equal to it, and a personal drama would have its attractions after an
experience during which a nurse felt about as personal as an amputated
limb.  And while one is still young and beautiful--what a lark!"

"No.  I don't believe anything of the sort.  I fancy that if she didn't
happen to be so fond of the theatre she'd have come and gone and none
of us been the wiser.  Her secret is _sui generis_, whatever it is.
I've racked my mind in vain.  I don't believe she is the Countess
Zattiany's daughter, nor a third cousin, nor the Countess Josef
Zattiany.  I've tried to recall every mystery story I ever read that
would bear on the case, but I'm as much in the dark as ever."

"And you've thought of nothing else.  Your column has fallen off."

"Do you think that?"  He sat up.  "I've not been too satisfied myself."

"You've been filling up with letters from your correspondents after the
fashion of more jaded columnists.  Even your comments on them have been
flat.  And as for your description of that prize fight last night, it
was about as thrilling as an account of a flower show."

He laughed and dropped back.  "You are as refreshing as a cold shower,
Gora.  But, after all, even a poor colyumist must be allowed to slump
occasionally.  However, I'll turn her off hereafter when I sit down to
my typewriter.  Lord knows a typewriter is no Wagnerian orchestra and
should be warranted to banish sentiment. . . .  Sentiment is not the
word, though.  It is plain raging curiosity."

"Oh, no, it is not," said Miss Dwight coolly, lighting another
cigarette, which she carefully fitted into a pair of small gold tongs:
neither ink nor nicotine was ever seen on those long aristocratic
fingers.  "You are in love with her, my child."

"I am not!"

"Oh, yes, you are.  I've never been misled for a moment by your other
brief rhapsodies--the classic Anne--the demoniac Marian--but you're
landed high and dry this time.  The mystery may have something to do
with it, but the woman has far more.  She is the most beautiful
creature I ever beheld and she looks intelligent and keen in spite of
that monumental repose.  And what a great lady!"  Gora sighed.  How she
once had longed to be a great lady!  She no longer cared a fig about
it, and would not have changed her present state for that of a princess
in a stable world.  But old dreams die hard.  There was no one of
Madame Zattiany's abundant manifestations of high fortune that she
admired more.  "Go in and win, Clavey--and without too much loss of
time.  She'll be drawn into her own world here sooner or later.  She
confesses to being a widow, so you needn't get tangled up in an
intrigue."

"You forget she is also a very rich woman.  I'd look like a fortune
hunter----"

"How old-fashioned of you!  And you'd feel like nothing of the sort.
The only thing that worries you at present is that you are trying to
hide from yourself that you are in love with her."

"I wonder!  I don't feel any raging desire for her--that I can swear."

"You simply haven't got that far.  The mystery has possessed your mind
and your doubts have acted as a censor.  But once let yourself go . . ."

"And suppose she turned me down--which, no doubt, she would do.  I'm
not hunting for tragedy."

"I've an idea she won't.  While you've been talking I've written out
the whole story in my mind.  For that matter, I began it last Monday
night when I saw you two whispering together.  I was in the box just
above--if you noticed!  And I watched her face.  It was something more
than politely interested."

"Oh, she looked the same when she was talking to Din and Osborne that
night at dinner.  She is merely a woman of the world who has had scores
of men in love with her and is young enough to be interested in any
young man who doesn't bore her.  To say nothing of keeping her hand
in. . . .  But there is something else."  He moved restlessly.  "She
seems to me to be compounded of strength, force, power.  She emanates,
exudes it.  I'm afraid of being afraid of her.  I prefer to be stronger
than my wife."

"Don't flatter yourself.  Women are always stronger than their
husbands, unless they are the complete idiot or man-crazy.  Neither
type would appeal to you.  The average woman--all the millions of
her--has a moral force and strength of character and certain shrewd
mental qualities, however unintellectual, that dominate a man every
time.  This woman has all that and more--a thousand times more.  A
mighty good thing if she would take you in hand.  She'd be the making
of you, for you'd learn things about men and women and life--and
yourself--that you've never so much as guessed.  And then you'd write a
play that would set the town on fire.  That's all you need.  Even if
she treated you badly the result would be the same.  Life has been much
too kind to you, Clavey, and your little disappointments have been so
purely romantic that only your facile emotions have played about like
amiable puppies on the roof of your passions.  It's time the lava began
to boil and the lid blew off.  Your creative tract would get a
ploughing up and a fertilizing as a natural sequence.  Your plays would
no longer be mere models of architecture.  I am not an amiable
altruist.  I don't long to see you happy.  I'm rather inclined to hate
this woman who will end by infatuating you, for of course that would be
the last I'd ever see of you.  But I'm an artist and I believe that art
is really all that is worth living for.  I want you to do great work,
and I want you to be a really great figure in New York instead of a
merely notable one."

"You've both taken the conceit out of me and bucked me up. . . .  But I
want you to meet her, and I don't know how to bring it about.  I have
an idea that your instinct would get somewhere near the truth."

"Suppose I give a party, and, a day or two before, you ask her casually
if she would like to come--or put it to her in any way you think best.
Nobody calls these days, but I have an idea she would.  People of that
type rarely renounce the formalities.  Then, if I'm really clever, I'll
make her think she'd like to see me again and she will be at home when
I return her call.  Do you think you could work it?"

"It's possible.  I've roused her curiosity about our crowd and I'll
plant a few more seeds.  Yes, I think she'll come.  When will you have
it?"

"A week from Saturday."

"Good.  You're a brick, Gora.  And don't imagine you'll ever get rid of
me.  If she is unique, so are you.  This fireside will always be a
magnet."

Miss Dwight merely smiled.



XVI

Clavering walked rapidly toward Mr. Dinwiddie's club.  He was in no
haste to be alone with himself, although he should have been at his
desk an hour ago.  But it was time Dinwiddie had some news for him.

The club was deserted as far as he was concerned and he went on to Mr.
Dinwiddie's rooms in Forty-eighth Street.  There he found his friend in
dressing-gown and slippers, one bandaged foot on a stool.

"Gout?" he asked with the callousness of youth.  "Wondered why I hadn't
heard from you."

"I've tried to get you no less than four times on the telephone."

"When I'm at work I leave orders downstairs to let my telephone alone,
and I've been walking a lot."

"Well, sit down and smoke.  Standing round makes me nervous.  You look
nervous yourself.  Been working too hard?"

"Yes.  Think of taking a run down to Florida."

"Perhaps I'll go with you.  But I've something to tell you.  That's the
reason I called you up----"

"Well?"

"Don't snap my head off.  Got a touch of dyspepsia?"

"No, I haven't.  If you had to turn out a column a day you'd be nervous
too."

"Well, take a vacation----"

"What have you found out?"

"It took me a week to get in touch with Harry Thornhill, but he finally
consented to see me.  He's lived buried among books for the last twenty
years.  His wife and two children were killed in a railway
collision----"

"What the devil do I care about Harry Thornhill!"

"You're a selfish young beggar, but I would have cared as little at
your age.  Well--a cousin of his, Maynard Thornhill, did move to
Virginia some thirty-five years ago, married, and had a family, then
moved on to Paris and remained there until both he and his wife died.
Beyond that he could tell me nothing.  They weren't on particularly
cordial terms and he never looked the family up when he went over.  Has
Madame Zattiany ever said anything about brothers and sisters?"

"Not a word."

"Probably married and settled in Europe somewhere, or wiped out.  You
might ask her."

"I'll ask her no more questions."

"Been snubbing you?"

"On the contrary, she's been uncommonly decent.  I got rather strung up
the last time I was there and asked her so many leading questions that
she'd have been justified in showing me out of the house."

"You impertinent young scamp.  But manners have changed since my day.
What did she tell you?"

"Nothing.  I'm as much in the dark as ever.  What have you found out
about Josef Zattiany?"

"Something, but not quite enough.  I met an Austrian, Countess Loyos,
at dinner the other night and asked her about the Zattianys.  She said
the family was a large one with many branches, but she had a vague idea
that a Josef Zattiany was killed in the war.  Whether he was married or
not, she had no idea. . . ."

Clavering stood up suddenly and looked down on Mr. Dinwiddie, who was
smiling less triumphantly than ruefully.  "Well?" he asked sharply.
"Well?"

"I see you've caught it.  It's rather odd, isn't it, that this Austrian
lady, who has lived her life in Viennese Society, knows nothing
apparently of any young and beautiful Countess Zattiany?  I didn't give
her a hint of the truth, for I certainly shall not be the one to loose
the bloodhounds on this charming young woman, whoever she may be.  Told
her that I recalled having met a very young and handsome countess of
that name in Europe before the war and wondered what had become of
her. . . .  But somebody else may let them loose any moment.  A good
many people are interested in her already."

"Well, they can't do anything to her.  She's a right to call herself
whatever she likes, and she asks no favors.  But I'd like to hypnotize
Judge Trent and get the truth out of him.  He knows, damn him!"

"He's laying up trouble for himself if he's passing off an
impostor--letting her get possession of Mary's money.  I cannot
understand Trent.  He's a fool about women, but he's the soul of honor,
and has one of the keenest legal minds in the state.  That she has
fooled him is unthinkable."

"He knows, and is in some way justified.  Madame Zattiany _must_ have
your friend's power of attorney.  That's positive.  And there is no
doubt that Countess Zattiany--Mary Ogden--is in some sanitarium in
Vienna, hopelessly ill.  She let that out."

"Poor Mary!  Is that true?"

"I'm afraid it is . . . perhaps . . . that _may_ be it. . . ."

"What are you talking about?"

"When she was mocking my curiosity she suggested that she might have
been an actress and won the confidence of Countess Zattiany owing to
the resemblance.  It struck me as fantastic, but who knows? . . .
Still, why should she use the name Zattiany even if your friend did
give her the power of attorney . . . unless . . ." he recalled Gora's
suggestion, "she is out for a lark."

"Lark?  She hasn't tried to meet people.  I can't see any point in your
idea.  Absurd.  And that woman is no actress.  She is _grande dame_
born and bred."

"I've met some actresses that had very fine manners indeed, and also
the _entrée_."

"Well, they don't measure up according to my notion.  This girl is the
real thing."

"Then why, in heaven's name, doesn't your Countess Loyos know anything
about her?  If Madame Zattiany is what she says she is, they must have
met in Viennese Society a hundred times.  In fact she would have been
one of the notable figures at court."

"The only explanation I can think of is that Madame Zattiany is all
that she claims to be, but that for some reason or other she is not
using her own name."

"Ah!  That is an explanation.  But why--why?"

"There you have me . . . unless . . .  Ah!"  The familiar glitter came
into his eyes and Clavering waited expectantly.  This old bird had a
marvellous instinct.  "I have it!  For some reason she had to get out
of Europe.  Maybe she's hiding from a man, maybe from the Government.
Zattiany may be one of her husband's names--or her mother's.  Of course
Mary would be interested in her--with that resemblance--and help her
out.  She knew her well enough to trust her, and somebody had to
represent her here.  Of course Trent knows the truth and naturally
would keep her secret."

"Another plot for the movies . . . still--it's a plausible enough
explanation . . . yes . . .  I shouldn't wonder.  But from whom is she
hiding?"

"Possibly from her husband."

"Her--her----"

"Like as not.  Don't murder me.  I think you'd better go to Florida and
stay there.  Better still, marry Anne Goodrich and take her along----"

Clavering had flung himself out of the room.



XVII

He charged down Madison Avenue, barely escaping disaster at the
crossings in the frightful congestion of the hour: he was not only
intensely perturbed in mind, but he was in a hurry.  His column was
unfinished and an article on the "authentic drama" for one of the
literary reviews must be delivered on the morrow.  In the normal course
of events it would have been written a week since.

He was furious with himself.  Passionate, impulsive, and often
unreasonable, his mind was singularly well-balanced and never before
had it succumbed to obsession.  He had taken the war as a normal
episode in the history of a world dealing mainly in war; not as a
strictly personal experience designed by a malignant fate to deprive
youth of its illusions, embitter and deidealize it, fill it with a cold
and acrid contempt for militarism and governments, convert it to
pacificism, and launch it on a confused but strident groping after
Truth.  It was incredible to him that any one who had read history
could be guilty of such jejunity, and he attributed it to their bruised
but itching egos.  After all, it had been a middle-aged man's war.  Not
a single military reputation had been made by any one of the millions
of young fighters, despite promotions, citations, and medals.
Statesmen and military men long past their youth would alone be
mentioned in history.

The youth of America was individualism rampant plus the national
self-esteem, and the mass of them today had no family traditions behind
them--sprung from God knew what.  Their ego had been slapped in the
face and compressed into a mould; they were subconsciously trying to
rebuild it to its original proportions by feeling older than their
fathers and showering their awful contempt upon those ancient and
despicable loadstones: "loyalty" and "patriotism."  Writers who had
remained safely at home had taken the cue and become mildly pacifist.
It sounded intellectual and it certainly was the fashion.

Clavering, whose ancestors had fought in every war in American history,
had enlisted in 1917 with neither sentimentalism, enthusiasm, nor
resentment.  It was idle to vent one's wrath and contempt upon
statesmen who could not settle their quarrels with their brains, for
the centuries that stood between the present and utter barbarism were
too few to have accomplished more than the initial stages of a true
civilization.  No doubt a thousand years hence these stages would
appear as rudimentary as the age of the Neanderthals had seemed to the
twentieth century.  And as man made progress so did he rarely outstrip
it.  So far he had done less for himself than for what passed for
progress and the higher civilization.  Naturally enough, when the
Frankenstein monster heaved itself erect and began to run amok with
seven-leagued boots, all the pigmies could do was to revert
hysterically to Neanderthal methods and use the limited amount of
brains the intervening centuries had given them, to scheme for victory.
A thousand years hence the Frankenstein might be buried and man's brain
gigantic.  Then and then only would civilization be perfected, and the
savagery and asininity of war a blot on the history of his race to
which no man cared to refer.  But that was a long way off.  When a
man's country was in danger there was nothing to do but fight.
Noblesse oblige.  And fight without growling and whining.  Clavering
had liked army discipline, sitting in filthy trenches, wounds,
hospitals, and killing his fellow men as little as any decent man; but
what had these surly grumblers expected?  To fight when they felt like
it, sleep in feather beds, and shoot at targets?  Disillusionment!
Patriotism murdered by Truth!  One would think they were fighting the
first war in history.

It was not the war they took seriously but themselves.

Like other men of his class and traditions, Clavering had emerged from
the war hoping it would be the last of his time, but with his ego
unbruised, his point of view of life in general undistorted, and a
quick banishment of "hideous memories."  (His chief surviving memory
was a hideous boredom.)  One more war had gone into history.  That he
had taken an infinitesimal part in it instead of reading an account of
it by some accomplished historian was merely the accident of his years.
As far as he could see he was precisely the man he was before he was
sent to France and he had only unmitigated contempt for these "war
reactions" in men sound in limb and with no derangement of the ductless
glands.

As for the women, when they began to talk their intellectual
pacificism, he told them that their new doctrine of non-resistance
became them ill, but as even the most advanced were still women,
consistency was not to be expected--nor desired.  Their pacificism,
however, when not mere affectation--servility to the fashion of the
moment--was due to an obscure fear of seeing the world depopulated of
men, or of repressed religious instinct, or apology for being females
and unable to fight.  He was extremely rude.

And now this infernal woman had completely thrown him off his balance.
He could think of nothing else.  His work had been deplorable--the last
week at all events--and although a month since nothing would have given
him more exquisite satisfaction than to write a paper on the authentic
drama, he would now be quite indifferent if censorship had closed every
theatre on Broadway.  Such an ass, such a cursed ass had he become in
one short month.  He had tramped half the nights and a good part of
every day trying to interest himself by the wayside and clear his
brain.  He might as well have sat by his fire and read a piffling novel.

Nevertheless, until Gora Dwight had brought her detached analytical
faculty to bear on his case, he had not admitted to himself that he was
in love with the woman.  He had chosen to believe that, being unique
and compact of mystery, she had hypnotized his interest and awakened
all the latent chivalry of his nature--something the modern woman
called upon precious seldom.  He had felt the romantic knight ready to
break a lance--a dozen if necessary--in case the world rose against
her, denounced her as an impostor.  True, she seemed more than able to
take care of herself, but she was very beautiful, very blonde, very
unprotected, and in that wistful second youth he most admired.  He had
thought himself the chivalrous son of chivalrous Southerners, excited
and not too happy, but convinced, at the height of his restlessness and
absorption, that she was but a romantic and passing episode in his life.

When Gora Dwight had ruthlessly led him into those unconsciously
guarded secret chambers of his soul and bidden him behold and ponder,
he had turned as cold as if ice-water were running in his veins,
although he had continued to smile indulgently and had answered with
some approach to jocularity.  He was floored at last.  He'd got the
infernal disease in its most virulent form.  Not a doubt of it.  No
wonder he had deluded himself.  His ideal woman--whom, preferably, he
would have wooed and won in some sequestered spot beautified by nature,
not made hideous by man--was not a woman at all, but a girl; twenty-six
was an ideal age; who had read and studied and thought, and seen all of
the world that a girl decently may.  He had dreamed of no man's
leavings, certainly not of a woman who had probably had more than one
lover, and, no doubt, would not take the trouble to deny it.  He hated
as much as he loved her and he felt that he would rather kill than
possess her.

It was half an hour after he reached his rooms before he finished
striding up and down; then, with a final anathema, he flung himself
into a chair before his table.  At least his brain felt clearer, now
that he had faced the truth.  Time enough to wrestle with his problem
when he had won his leisure.  If he couldn't switch her off for one
night at least and give his brain its due, he'd despise himself, and
that, he vowed, he'd never do.  He wrote steadily until two in the
morning.



XVIII

He awoke at noon.  His first impression was that a large black bat was
sitting on his brain.  The darkened room seemed to contain a visible
presence of disaster.  He sprang out of bed and took a hot and cold
shower; hobgoblins fled, although he felt no inclination to sing!  He
called down for his breakfast and opened his hall door.  A pile of
letters lay on his newspapers, and the topmost one, in a large envelope,
addressed in a flowing meticulously fine hand, he knew, without
speculation, to be from Madame Zattiany.

He threw back the curtains, settled himself in an armchair, read his
other letters deliberately, and glanced at the headlines of the papers,
before he carefully slit the envelope that had seemed to press his
eyeballs.  The time had come for self-discipline, consistently exercised.
Moreover, he was afraid of it.  What--why had she written to him?  Why
hadn't she telephoned?  Was this a tardy dismissal?  His breath was short
and his hands shaking as he opened the letter.

It was sufficiently commonplace.


"Dear Mr. Clavering:

"I have been in Atlantic City for a few days getting rid of a cold.  I
hope you have not called.  Will you dine with me tomorrow night at half
after eight?  I shall not ask any one else.

"Sincerely,
  "MARIE ZATTIANY."


So her name was Marie.  It had struck him once or twice as humorous that
he didn't know the first name of the woman who was demanding his every
waking thought.  And she had been out of town and unaware that he had
deliberately avoided her.  Had taken for granted that he had been polite
enough to call--and had left his cards at home.

Should he go?  He'd have his breakfast first and do his thinking
afterward.

He did ample justice to the breakfast which was also lunch, read his
newspapers, cursed the printers of his own for two typographical errors
he found in his column, then called up her house.  Feeling as normal and
unromantic as a man generally does when digesting a meal and the news, he
concluded that to refuse her invitation, to attempt to avoid her, in
short, would not only be futile, as he was bound to respond to that
magnet sooner or later, but would be a further confession of cowardice.
Whatever his fate, he'd see it through.

He gave his acceptance to the butler, went out and took a brisk walk,
returned and wrote his column for the next day, then visited his club and
talked with congenial souls until it was time to dress for dinner.  No
more thinking at present.

Nevertheless, he ascended her steps at exactly half-past eight with the
blood pounding in his ears and his heart acting like a schoolboy's in his
first attack of calf love.  But he managed to compose himself before the
footman leisurely answered his ring.  If there was one point upon which
he was primarily determined it was to keep his head.  If he gave her a
hint that she had reduced him to a state of imbecility before his moment
came--if it ever did!--his chances would be done for--dished.  He looked
more saturnine than ever as he strode into the hall.

"Dinner will be served in the library, sir," said the footman.  "Madame
will be down in a moment."

A tête-à-tête by the fire!  Worse and worse.  He had been fortified by
the thought of the butler and footman.  An hour under their supercilious
eyes would mean the most impersonal kind of small talk.  But they'd
hardly stand round the library.

However, the small table before the blazing logs looked very cosy and the
imposing room was full of mellow light.  Two Gothic chairs had been drawn
to the table.  They, at least, looked uncomfortable enough to avert
sentiment.  Not that he felt sentimental.  He was holding down something
a good deal stronger than sentiment, but he flattered himself that he
looked as saturnine as Satan himself as he warmed his back at the fire.
He hoped she had a cold in her head.

But she had not.  As she entered, dressed in a white tea gown of chiffon
and lace, she looked like a moonbeam, and as if no mortal indisposition
had ever brushed her in passing.  Instead of her pearls she wore a long
thin necklace of diamonds that seemed to frost her gown.  She was smiling
and gracious and infinitely remote.  The effect was as cold and steadying
as his morning's icy shower.

He shook her hand firmly.  "Sorry you've been seedy.  Hope it didn't lay
you up."

"Oh, no.  I fancy I merely wanted an excuse to see Atlantic City.  It was
just a touch of bronchitis and fled at once."

"Like Atlantic City?"

"No.  It is merely an interminable line of ostentatiously rich hotels on
a _board walk_!  None of the grace and dignity of Ostend--poor Ostend as
it used to be.  The digue was one of the most brilliant sights in
Europe--but no doubt you have seen it," she added politely.

"Yes, I spent a week there once, but Bruges interested me more.  I was
very young at the time."

"You must have been!  Don't you like to gamble?  The Kursaal could be
very exciting."

"Oh, yes, I like to gamble occasionally."  (God!  What banal talk!)
"Gambling with life, however, is a long sight more exciting."

"Yes, is it not?  Atlantic City might do you good.  You do not look at
all well."

"Never felt better in my life.  A bit tired.  Generally am at this time
of the year.  May take a run down to Florida."

"I should," she said politely.  "Shall you stay long?"

"That depends."  (Presence of servants superfluous!)  "Are you fond of
the sea?"

"I detest it--that boundless flat gray waste.  A wild and rocky coast in
a terrific storm, yes--but not that moving gray plain that comes in and
falls down, comes in and falls down.  It is the mountains I turn to when
I can.  I often long for the Austrian Alps.  The Dolomites!  The
translucent green lakes like enormous emeralds, sparkling in the sun and
set in straight white walls.  A glimpse of pine forest beyond.  The roar
of an avalanche in the night."

"New York and Atlantic City _must_ seem prosaic."  He had never felt so
polite.  "I suppose you are eager to return?"  (Why in hell don't those
servants bring the dinner!)

"I have not seen the Alps since two years before the war.  Some day--yes!
Oh, yes!  Shall we sit down?"

The two men entered with enormous dignity bearing plates of oysters as if
offering the Holy Grail and the head of Saint John the Baptist on a
charger.  Impossible to associate class-consciousness with beings who
looked as impersonal as fate, and would have regarded a fork out of
alignment as a stain on their private 'scutcheon.  They performed the
rite of placing the oysters on the table and retired.

Madame Zattiany and Clavering adjusted themselves to the Gothic period.
The oysters were succulent.  They discussed the weather.

"This was a happy thought," he said.  "It feels like a blizzard outside."

"The radiator in the dining-room is out of order."

"Oh!"

She was a woman of the world.  Why in thunder didn't she make things
easier?  Had she asked him here merely because she was too bored to eat
alone?  He hated small talk.  There was nothing he wanted less than the
personalities of their previous conversations, but she might have
entertained him.  She was eating her oysters daintily and giving him the
benefit of her dark brown eyelashes.  Possibly she was merely in the mood
for comfortable silences with an established friend.  Well, he was not.
Passion had subsided but his nerves jangled.

And inspiration came with the soup and some excellent sherry.

"By the way!  Do you remember I asked you--at that last first-night--if
you wouldn't like to see something of the Sophisticates?"

"The what?"

"Some of them still like to call themselves Intellectuals, but that
title--Intelligentsia--is now claimed by every white collar in Europe who
has turned Socialist or Revolutionist.  He may have the intellect of a
cabbage, but he wants a 'new order.'  We still have a few
pseudo-socialists among our busy young brains, but youth must have its
ideals and they can originate nothing better.  I thought I'd coin a new
head-line that would embrace all of us."

"It is comprehensive!  Well?"

"A friend of mine, Gora Dwight--at present 'foremost woman author of
America'--is giving a party next Saturday night.  I'd like enormously to
take you."

"But I do not know Miss Dwight."

"She will call in due form.  I assure you she understands the
conventions.  Of course, you need not see her, but she will leave a card.
Not that it wouldn't be quite proper for me merely to take you."

"I should prefer that she called.  Then--yes, I should like to go.  Thank
you."

The men arrived with the entrée and departed with the soup plates.

Once more he had an inspiration.

"Poor old Dinwiddie's laid up with the gout."

"Really?  He called a day or two after the dinner, and I enjoyed hearing
him talk about the New York of his youth--and of Mary's.  Unfortunately,
I was out when he called again.  But I have seen Mr. Osborne twice.
These are his flowers.  He also sent me several books."

"What were they?" growled Clavering.  He remembered with dismay that he
hadn't even sent her the usual tribute of flowers.  There had been no
place in his mind for the small amenities.

"A verboten romance called 'Jurgen.'  Why verboten?  Because it is too
good for the American public?  'Main Street.'  For me, it might as well
have been written in Greek.  'The Domesday Book.'  A great story.  'Seed
of the Sun.'  To enlighten me on the 'Japanese Question.'  'Cytherea.'
Wonderful English.  Why is it not also verboten?"

"Even censors must sleep.  Is that all he sent you?"

"I am waiting for the chocolates--but possibly those are sent only by the
very young men to the very young girls."

He glowered at his plate.  "Do you like chocolates?  I'll send some
tomorrow.  I've been very remiss, I'm afraid, but I've lost the habit."

"I detest chocolates."

Squabs and green peas displaced the entree.  The burgundy was admirable.

Once more he was permitted to gaze at her eyelashes.  He plunged
desperately.  "The name Marie doesn't suit you.  If ever I know you well
enough I shall call you Mary.  It suits your vast repose.  That is why
ordinary Marys are nicknamed 'Mamie' or 'Mame.'"

"I was christened Mary."  She raised her eyes.  They were no longer wise
and unfathomable.  They looked as young as his own.  Probably younger, he
reflected.  She looked appealing and girlish.  Once more he longed to
protect her.

"Do you want to call me Mary?" she asked, smiling.

"I hardly know whether I do or not. . . .  There's something else I
should tell you.  I swore I'd never ask you any more questions--but
I--well, Dinwiddie kept on the scent until he was laid up.  One of the
Thornhills verified your story in so far as he remembered that a cousin
had settled in Virginia and then moved on to Paris.  There his
information stopped. . . .  But . . .  Dinwiddie met a Countess Loyos at
dinner."

"Countess Loyos?"

"Yes--know her?"

"Mathilde Loyos?  She is one of my oldest friends."

"No doubt you'd like to see her.  I can get her address for you."

"There is nothing I want less than to see her.  Nor any one else from
Austria--at present."

"I think this could not have been your friend.  She emphatically said--I
am afraid of being horribly rude----"

"Ah!"  For the first time since he had known her the color flooded her
face; then it receded, leaving her more pale than white.  "I understand."

"Of course, it may be another Countess Loyos.  Like the Zattianys, it may
be a large family."

"As it happens there is no other."

Silence.  He swore to himself.  He had no desire to skate within a mile
of her confounded mysteries and now like a fool he had precipitated
himself into their midst again.  But if she wouldn't talk. . . .

"Suppose we talk of something else," he said hurriedly.  "I assure you
that I have deliberately suppressed all curiosity.  I am only too
thankful to know you on any terms."

"But you think I am in danger again?"

"Yes, I do.  That is, if you wish to keep your identity a secret--for
your own good reasons.  Of course, no harm can come to you.  I assume
that you are not a political refugee--in danger of assassination!"

"I am not.  What is Mr. Dinwiddie's inference?"  She was looking at him
eagerly.

"That you really are a friend of Countess Zattiany, but for some motive
or other you are using her name instead of your own.  That--that--you had
your own reasons for escaping from Austria----"

"Escaping?"

"One was that you might have got into some political mess--restoration of
Charles, or something----"

She laughed outright.

"The other was--well--that you are hiding from your husband."

"My husband is dead," she said emphatically.

He had never known that clouds, unless charged with thunder, were noisy.
But he heard a black and ominous cloud gather itself and roll off his
brain.  Had that, after all, been . . .  Nevertheless, he was annoyed to
feel that he was smiling boyishly and that he probably looked as
saturnine as he felt.

"Whatever your little comedy, it is quite within your rights to play it
in your own way."

"It is not a comedy," she said grimly.

"Oh!  Not tragedy?" he cried in alarm.

"No--not yet.  Not yet! . . .  I am beginning to wish that I had never
come to America."

"Now I shall ask you why."

"And I shall not tell you.  I have read your Miss Dwight's novel, by the
way, and think it quite hideous."

"So do I.  But that is the reason of its success."  And the conversation
meandered along the safe bypaths of American fiction through the ices and
coffee.



XIX

They sat beside the fire in chairs that had never felt softer.  He
smoked a cigar, she cigarettes in a long topaz holder ornamented with a
tiny crown in diamonds and the letter Z.  She had given it to him to
examine when he exclaimed at its beauty.

Z!

But he banished both curiosity and possible confirmation.  He was
replete and comfortable, and almost happy.  The occasional silences
were now merely agreeable.  She lay back in her deep chair as relaxed
as himself, but although she said little her aloofness had mysteriously
departed.  She looked companionable and serene.  Only one narrow foot
in its silvery slipper moved occasionally, and her white and beautiful
hands, whose suggestion of ruthless power Clavering had appreciated
apprehensively from the first, seemed, although they were quiet, subtly
to lack the repose of her body.

Once while he was gazing into the fire he felt sure that she was
examining his profile.  He made no pretensions to handsomeness, but he
rather prided himself on his nose, the long fine straight nose of the
Claverings.  His brow was also good, but although his hair was black,
his eyes were blue, and he would have preferred to have black eyes, as
he liked consistent types.  Otherwise he was one of the "black
Claverings."  Northumbrian in origin and claiming descent from the
Bretwaldes, overlords of Britain, the Claverings were almost as fair as
their Anglian ancestors, but once in every two or three generations a
completely dark member appeared, resurgence of the ancient Briton;
sometimes associated with the high stature of the stronger Nordic race,
occasionally--particularly among the women--almost squat.  Clavering
had been spared the small stature and the small too narrow head, but
saving his steel blue eyes--trained to look keen and hard--he was as
dark as any Mediterranean.  His mouth was well-shaped and closely set,
but capable of relaxation and looked as if it might once have been full
and sensitive.  It too had been severely trained.  The long face was
narrower than the long admirably proportioned head.  It was by no means
as disharmonic a type as Gora Dwight's; the blending of the races was
far more subtle, and when making one of his brief visits to Europe he
was generally taken for an Englishman, never for a member of the Latin
peoples; except possibly in the north of France, where his type, among
those Norman descendants of Norse and Danes, was not uncommon.
Nevertheless, although his northern inheritance predominated, he was
conscious at times of a certain affinity with the race that two
thousand years ago had met and mingled with his own.

He turned his eyes swiftly and met hers.  She colored faintly and
dropped her lids.  Had she lowered those broad lids over a warm glow?

"Now I know what you look like!" he exclaimed, and was surprised to
find that his voice was not quite steady.  "A Nordic princess."

"Oh!  That is the very most charming compliment ever paid me."

"You look a pretty unadulterated type for this late date.  I don't mean
in color only, of course; there are millions of blondes."

"My mother was a brunette."

"Oh, yes, you are a case of atavism, no doubt.  If I were as good a
poet as one of my brother columnists I should have written a poem to
you long since.  I can see you sweeping northward over the steppes of
Russia as the ice-caps retreated . . . reëmbodied on the Baltic coast
or the shores of the North Sea . . . sleeping for ages in one of the
Megaliths, to rise again a daughter of the Brythons, or of a Norse
Viking . . . west into Anglia to appear once more as a Priestess of
the Druids chaunting in a sacred grove . . . or as Boadicea--who
knows!  But no prose can regenerate that shadowy time.  I see
it--prehistory--as a swaying mass of ghostly multitudes, but always
pressing on--on . . . as we shall appear, no doubt, ten thousand years
hence if all histories are destroyed--as no doubt they will be.  If I
were an epic poet I might possibly find words and rhythm to fit that
white vision, but it is wholly beyond the practical vocabulary and
mental make-up of a newspaper man of the twentieth century.  Some of us
write very good poetry indeed, but it is not precisely inspired, and it
certainly is not epic.  One would have to retire to a cave like Buddha
and fast."

"You write singularly pure English, in spite of what seems to me a
marked individuality of style, and--ah--your apparent delight in
slang!"  Her voice was quite even, although her eyes had glowed and
sparkled and melted at his poetic phantasma of her past (as what
woman's would not?).  "I find a rather painful effort to be--what do
you call it? highbrow?--in some of your writers."

"The youngsters.  I went through that phase.  We all do.  But we
emerge.  I mean, of course, when we have anything to express.
Metaphysical verbosity is a friendly refuge.  But as a rule years and
hard knocks drive us to directness of expression. . . .  But poets must
begin young.  And New York is not exactly a hot-bed of romance."

"Do you think that romance is impossible in New York?" she asked
irresistibly.

"I--oh--well, what is romance?  Of course, it is quite possible to fall
in love in New York--although anything but the ideal setting.  But
romance!"

"Surely the sense of mystery between a man and woman irresistibly
attracted may be as provocative in a great city as in a feudal castle
surrounded by an ancient forest--or on one of my Dolomite lakes.  Is it
not that which constitutes romance--the breathless trembling on the
verge of the unexplored--that isolates two human beings as
authentically--I am picking up your vocabulary--as if they were alone
on a star in space?  Is it not possible to dream here in New York?--and
surely dreams play their part in romance."  Her fingertips, moving
delicately on the surface of her lap, had a curious suggestion of
playing with fire.

"One needs leisure for dreams."  He stood up suddenly and leaned
against the mantelpiece.  The atmosphere had become electric.  "A good
thing, too, as far as some of us are concerned.  The last thing for a
columnist to indulge in is dreams.  Fine hash he'd have for his readers
next morning!"

"Do you mean to say that none of you clever young men fall in love?"

"Every day in the week, some of them.  They even marry--and tell
fatuous yarns about their babies.  No doubt some of them have even
gloomed through brief periods of unreciprocated passion.  But they
don't look very romantic to me."

"Romance is impossible without imagination, I should think.  Aching for
what you cannot have or falling in love reciprocally with a charming
girl is hardly romance.  That is a gift--like the spark that goes to
the making of Art."

"Are you romantic?" he asked harshly.  "You look as if born to inspire
romance--dreams--like a beautiful statue or painting--but mysterious as
you make yourself--and, I believe, are in essence--I should never have
associated you with the romantic temperament.  Your eyes--as they too
often are----  Oh, no!"

"It is true that I have never had a romance."

"You married--and very young."

"Oh, what is young love!  The urge of the race.  A blaze that ends in
babies or ashes.  Romance!"

"You have--other men have loved you."

"European men--the type my lot was cast with--may be romantic in their
extreme youth--I have never been attracted by men in that stage of
development, so I may only suppose--but when a man has learned to
adjust passion to technique there is not much romance left in him."

"Are you waiting for your romance, then?  Have you come to this more
primitive civilization to find it?"

She raised her head and looked him full in the eyes.  "No, I did not
believe in the possibility then."

"May I have a high-ball?"

"Certainly."

He took his drink on the other side of the room.  It was several
minutes before he returned to the hearth.  Then he asked without
looking at her: "How do you expect to find romance if you shut yourself
up?"

"I wanted nothing less.  As little as I wanted it to be known that I
was here at all."

"That damnable mystery!  Who _are_ you?"

"Nothing that you have imagined.  It is far stranger--I fancy it would
cure you."

"Cure me?"

"Yes.  Do you deny that you love me?"

"No, by God!  I don't!  But you take a devilish advantage.  You must
know that I had meant to keep my head.  Of course, you are playing with
me--with your cursed technique! . . .  Unless . . ."  He reached her in
a stride and stood over her.  "Is it possible--do you--_you_----"

She pushed back her chair, and stood behind it.  Her cheeks were very
pink, her eyes startled, but very soft.  "I do not admit that yet--I
have been too astounded--I went away to think by myself--where I was
sure not to see you--but--my mind seemed to revolve in circles.  I
don't know!  I don't know!"

"You do know!  You are not the woman to mistake a passing interest for
the real thing."

"Oh, does a woman ever--I never wanted to be as young as _that_ again!
I should have believed it impossible if I had given the matter a
thought--It is so long!  I had forgotten what love was like.  There was
nothing I had buried as deep.  And there are reasons--reasons!"

"I only follow you vaguely.  But I think I understand--worse luck!
I've hated you more than once.  You must have known that.  I believe
you are deliberately leading me on to make a fool of myself."

"I am not!  Oh, I am not!"

"_Do_ you love me?"

"I--I want to be sure.  I have dreamed . . .  I--I have leisure, you
see.  This old house shuts out the world--Europe--the past.  The war
might have cut my life in two.  If it had not been for that--that long
selfless interval . . .  I'd like you to go now."

"Will you marry me?"

"It may be.  I can't tell.  Not yet.  Are you content to wait?"

"I am not!  But I've no intention of taking you by force, although I
don't feel particularly civilized at the present moment.  But I'll win
you and have you if you love me.  Make no doubt of that.  You may have
ten thousand strange reasons--they count for nothing with me.  And I
intend to see you every day.  I'll call you up in the morning.  Now I
go, and as quickly as I can get out."



XX

He plunged down the steps into a snowstorm.  Even during his
precipitate retreat he had realized the advisability of telephoning for
a taxi, but had been incapable of the anti-climax.  He pulled his hat
over his eyes, turned up the collar of his coat, and made his way
hastily toward Park Avenue.  There was not a cab in sight.  Nor was
there a rumble in the tunnel; no doubt the cars were snow-bound.  He
hesitated only a moment: it would hardly take him longer to walk to his
hotel than to the Grand Central Station, but he crossed over to Madison
Avenue at once, for it was bitter walking and there was a bare chance
of picking up a cab returning from one of the hotels.

But the narrow street between its high dark walls looked like a
deserted mountain pass rapidly filling with snow.  The tall
street-lamps shed a sad and ghostly beam.  They might have been the
hooded torches of cave dwellers sheltering from enemies and the storm
in those perpendicular fastnesses.  Far down, a red sphere glowed
dimly, exalting the illusion.  He almost fancied he could see the
out-posts of primeval forests bending over the cañon and wondered why
the "Poet of Manhattan" had never immortalized a scene at once so
sinister and so lovely.

And no stillness of a high mountain solitude had ever been more
intense.  Not even a muffled roar from trains on the distant "L's."
Clavering wondered if he really were in New York.  The whole evening
had been unreal enough.  Certainly all that was prosaic and ugly and
feverish had been obliterated by what it was no flight of fancy to call
white magic.  That seething mass of humanity, that so often looked as
if rushing hither and thither with no definite purpose, driven merely
by the obsession of speed, was as supine in its brief privacy as its
dead.  In spite of the fever in him he felt curiously uplifted--and
glad to be alone.  There are moods and solitudes when a man wants no
woman, however much he may be wanting one particular woman. . . .  But
the mood was ephemeral; he had been too close to her a moment before.
Moreover, she was still unpossessed. . . .  She seemed to take shape
slowly in the white whirling snow, as white and imponderable. . . .  A
Nordic princess drifting northward over her steppes. . . .  God!  Would
he ever get her? . . .  If he did not it would be because one of them
was qualifying for another incarnation.

He walked down the avenue as rapidly as possible, his hands in his
pockets, his head bent to the wind, no longer transported; forcing his
mind to dwell on the warmth of his rooms and his bed. . . .  His head
ached.  He'd go to the office tomorrow and write his column there.
Then think things out.  How was he to win such a woman?  Make her sure
of herself?  Convert her doubts into a passionate certainty?  She, with
her highly technical past!  Make no mistakes?  If he made a precipitate
ass of himself--what comparisons! . . .  His warm bed . . . the
complete and personal isolation of his rooms . . . he had never given
even a tea to women . . . he gave his dinners in restaurants. . . .
How many more blocks?  The snow was thicker.  He couldn't even see the
arcade of Madison Square Garden, although a faint diffused radiance
high in air was no doubt the crown of lights on the Metropolitan
Tower. . . .  Had he made a wrong move in bolting----?

His thoughts and counter-thoughts came to an abrupt end.  At the corner
of Thirtieth Street he collided with a small figure in a fur coat and
nearly knocked it over.  He was for striding on with a muttered
apology, when the girl caught him by the arm with a light laugh.

"Lee Clavering!  What luck!  Take me home."

He was looking down into the dark naughty little face of Janet
Oglethorpe, granddaughter of the redoubtable Jane.

"What on earth are you doing here?" he asked stupidly.

"Perhaps I'll tell you and perhaps I won't.  On second thoughts don't
take me home.  Take me to one of those all-night restaurants.  That's
just the one thing I haven't seen, and I'm hungry."

He subtly became an uncle.  "I'll do nothing of the sort.  You ought to
be ashamed of yourself--alone in the streets at this hour of the night.
It must be one o'clock.  I shall take you home.  I suppose you have a
latch-key, but for two cents I'd ring the bell and hand you over to
your mother."

"Mother went to Florida today and dad's duck-hunting in South Carolina.
Aunt Mollie's too deaf to hear doorbells and believes anything I tell
her."

"I am astonished that your mother left you behind to your own devices."

"I wouldn't go.  She's given me up--used to my devices.  Besides, I've
one or two on her and she doesn't dare give me away to dad.  He thinks
I'm a darling spoilt child.  Not that I'd mind much if he didn't, but
it's more convenient."

"You little wretch!  I believe you've been drinking."

"So I have!  So I have!  But I've got an asbestos lining and could
stand another tall one.  Ah!"  Her eyes sparkled.  "Suppose you take me
to your rooms----"

"I'll take you home----"

"You'll take me to one of those all-nighters----"

"I shall not."

"Then ta! ta!  I'll go home by myself.  I've had too good a time
tonight to bother with old fogies."

She started up the street and Clavering hesitated but a moment.  Her
home was on East Sixty-fifth Street.  Heaven only knew what might
happen to her.  Moreover, although her mother was one of those women
whose insatiable demand for admiration bored him, he had no more
devoted friends than her father and her grandmother.  Furthermore, his
curiosity was roused.  What had the little devil been up to?

He overtook the Oglethorpe flapper and seizing her hand drew it through
his arm.

"I'll take you where you can get a sandwich," he said.  "But I'll not
take you to a restaurant.  Too likely to meet newspaper men."

"Anything to drink?"

"Ice cream soda."

"Good Lord!"

"You needn't drink it.  But you'll get nothing else.  Come along or
I'll pick you up and carry you to the nearest garage."

She trotted obediently beside him, a fragile dainty figure; carried
limply, however, and little more distinguished than flappers of
inferior origin.  He led her to a rather luxurious delicatessen not far
from his hotel, kept by enterprising Italians who never closed their
doors.  They seated themselves uncomfortably at the high counter, and
the sleepy attendant served them with sandwiches, then retired to the
back of the shop.  He was settling himself to alert repose when Miss
Oglethorpe suddenly changed her mind and ordered a chocolate ice cream
soda.  Then she ordered another, and she ate six sandwiches, a slice of
cake and two bananas.

"Great heaven!" exclaimed Clavering.  "You must have the stomach of an
ostrich."

"Can eat nails and drink fire water."

"Well, you won't two years hence, and you'll look it, too."

"Oh, no I won't.  I'll marry when I'm nineteen and a half and settle
down."

"I should say you were heading the other way.  Where have you been
tonight?"

"Donny Farren gave a party in his rooms and passed out just as he was
about to take me home.  I loosened his collar and put a pillow under
his head, but I couldn't lift him, even to the sofa.  Too fat."

[Illustration: Returning home one night Clavering (Conway Tearle) found
Janet Oglethorpe (Clara Bow), daughter of his old friend, in a
semi-intoxicated condition.  (_Screen version of "The Black Oxen."_)]

"I suppose you pride yourself on being a good sport."

"Rather.  If Donny'd been ill I'd have stayed with him all night, but
he was dead to the world."

"You say he had a party.  Why didn't some of the others take you home?"

"Ever hear about three being a crowd?  Donny, naturally, was all for
taking me home, and didn't show any signs of collapse till the last
minute."

"But I should think that for decency's sake you'd all have gone down
together."

"Lord!  How old-fashioned you are.  I was finishing a cigarette and
never thought of it."  She opened a little gold mesh bag, took out a
cigarette and lit it.  Her cheeks were flushed under the rouge and her
large black eyes glittered in her fluid little face.  She was one of
the beauties of the season's débutantes, but scornful of nature.  Her
olive complexion was thickly powdered and there was a delicate smudge
of black under her lower lashes and even on her eyelids.  He had never
seen her quite so blatantly made up before, but then he had seen little
of her since the beginning of her first season.  He rarely went to
parties, and she was almost as rarely in her own home or her
grandmother's.  Her short hair curled about her face.  In spite of her
paint she looked like a child--a greedy child playing with life.

"Look here!" he said.  "How far do you go?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?"

"I should.  Not for personal reasons, for girls of your age bore me to
extinction, but you've a certain sociological interest.  I wonder if
you are really any worse than your predecessors?"

"I guess girls have always been human enough, but we have more
opportunities.  We've made 'em.  This is our age and we're enjoying it
to the limit.  God! what stupid times girls must have had--some of them
do yet.  They're naturally goody-goody, or their parents are too much
for them.  Not many, though.  Parents have taken a back seat."

"I don't quite see what you get out of it--guzzling, and smoking your
nerves out by the roots, and making yourselves cheap with men little
older than yourselves."

"You don't see, I suppose, why girls should have their fling, or"--her
voice wavered curiously--"why youth takes naturally to youth.  I
suppose you think that is a cruel thing for a girl to say."

"Not in the least," he answered cheerfully.  "Don't mind a bit.  But
what do you get out of it--that's what I'm curious to know."

She tossed her head and blew a perfect ring.  "Don't you know that
girls never really enjoyed life before?"

"It depends upon the point of view, I should think."

"No, there's a lot more in it than you guess.  The girls used to sit
round waiting for men to call and wondering if they'd condescend to
show up at the next dance; while the men fairly raced after the girls
with whom they could have a free and easy time--no company manners, no
chaperons, no prudish affectations about kisses and things.  No fear of
shocking if they wanted to let go--the strain must have been awful.
You know what men are.  They like to call a spade a spade and be damned
to it.  Our sort didn't have a chance.  They couldn't compete.  So, we
made up our minds to compete in the only way possible.  We leave off
our corsets at dances so they can get a new thrill out of us, then sit
out in an automobile and drink and have little petting parties of two.
And we slip out and have an occasional lark like tonight.  We're not to
be worried about, either."

"Why cryptic after your really admirable frankness?  But there's always
a point beyond which women never will go when confessing their
souls. . . .  I suppose you think you're as hard as nails.  Do you
really imagine that you will ever be able to fall in love and marry and
want children?"

"Don't men?"

"Ancient standards are not annihilated in one generation."

"There's got to be a beginning to everything, hasn't there?  One would
think the world stood still, to hear you talk.  But anything new always
makes the fogies sick."

"Nothing makes _me_ as sick as your bad manners--you and all your
tribe.  Men, at least, don't lose their breeding if they choose to sow
wild oats.  But women go the whole hog or none."

"Other times, other manners.  We make our own, and you have to put up
with them whether you like it or not.  See?"

"I see that you are even sillier than I thought.  You need nothing so
much as a sound spanking."

"Your own manners are none too good.  You've handed me one insult after
another."

"I've merely talked to you as your father would if he were not blind.
Besides, it would probably make you sick to be 'respected.'  Come
along.  We'll go round to a garage and get a taxi.  Why on earth didn't
you ring for a taxi from Farren's?"

"I tried to, but it's an apartment house and there was no one
downstairs to make the connection.  Too late.  So I footed it."  She
yawned prodigiously.  "I'm ready at last for my little bunk.  Hope
you've enjoyed this more than I have.  You'd be a scream at a petting
party."

Clavering paid his small account and they issued into the storm once
more.  It was impossible to talk.  In the taxi she went to sleep.
Thank Heaven!  He had had enough of her.  Odious brat.  More than once
he had had a sudden vision of Mary Zattiany during that astonishing
conversation at the counter.  The "past" she had suggested to his
tormented mind was almost literary by contrast.  She, herself, a queen
granting favors, beside this little fashionable near-strumpet.  They
didn't breathe the same air, nor walk on the same plane.  Who, even if
this little fool were merely demi-vierge, would hesitate between them?
One played the game in the grand manner, the other like a glorified
gutter-snipe.  But he was thankful for the diversion, and when he
reached his own bed he fell asleep immediately and did not turn over
for seven hours.



XXI

He had informed Madame Zattiany's butler over the telephone that he
would call that evening at half-past nine, but he returned to his rooms
after a day at the office with lagging steps.  He dreaded another
evening in that library by the fire.  It was beyond his imagination to
foresee how she would treat him, what rôle she would choose to play,
and although he was grimly determined to play whatever rôle she
assigned to him (for the present!), he hated the prospect.  He was in
no mood for a "game."  This wooing was like nothing his imagination had
ever prefigured.  To be put on trial . . . to sit with the woman in the
great solitude of the house and the very air vibrating between
them . . . or frozen . . . self-conscious as a schoolboy up for
inspection . . . afraid of making a false move. . . .  What in God's
name would they talk about?  Politics?  Books?  Art?  Banalities! . . .
he'd half a mind to go to Florida after all . . . or join Jim
Oglethorpe in South Carolina: he had a standing invitation . . . he'd
return by the next train; he'd felt as if existing in a vacuum all
day. . . .

When he reached his rooms he found his problem solved for the
moment--possibly.  A telephone slip informed him that Madame Zattiany
would be at home, and a note from Mrs. Oglethorpe enclosed tickets for
her box at the opera that night.

If she would only go!

He called the house.  The butler answered and retired to summon Madame
Zattiany.  Her voice came clear and cool over the telephone.  He
invited her to go to Sherry's for dinner and to hear Farrar in
_Butterfly_ afterward.  "I must tell you that we shall sit in a box,"
he added.  "Mrs. Oglethorpe's."

"Oh!"  There was a pause that seemed eternal.  Then she laughed
suddenly, a laugh of intense amusement that ended on a note of
recklessness.  "Well!  Why not?  Yes, I will go.  Very many thanks."

"Good.  It means an early dinner.  I'll call for you at a quarter to
seven."

"I'm promptness itself.  Au 'voir."

So that was that!  One night's respite.  He'd leave her at her door.
He wondered if his voice had been as impersonal as her own: he had
almost barked into the telephone and had probably overdone it.  But was
any man ever in such a ghastly position before?  Well, he'd lose the
game before he'd make a fool of himself again. . . .  Ass . . . he'd
had the game in his own hands last night . . . could have switched off
any moment.  He'd let go and delivered himself into hers.

He took a cold shower, and made a meticulous toilet.

When he arrived at the house he was shown into the drawing-room.  He
had never seen it before and he glanced about him with some curiosity.
It was a period room: Louis Quinze.  The furniture looked as if made of
solid gold and Madame Du Barry herself might have sat on the dainty
brocades.  The general effect was airy and graceful, gay, frivolous,
and subtly vicious.  (An emanation to which the chaste Victorian had
been impervious.)  He understood why Madame Zattiany did not use it.
She might be subtly anything, but assuredly she was neither airy nor
frivolous.

Then he realized that there was a painting of a girl over the mantel
and that the girl was Mary Ogden.  He stepped forward eagerly, almost
holding his breath.  The portrait ended at the tiny waist, and the
stiff satin of the cuirass-like bodice was softened with tulle which
seemed to float about the sloping shoulders.  The soft ashen hair,
growing in a deep point on the broad full brow, was brushed softly back
and coiled low on the long white neck.  The mouth was soft and pouting,
with a humorous quirk at the corners, and the large dark gray eyes were
full of a mocking light that seemed directed straight into the depths
of his puzzled brain as he stood gazing at that presentment of a once
potent and long vanished beauty. . . .  Extraordinarily like and yet so
extraordinarily unlike!  But the resemblance may have well been exact
when Mary Zattiany was twenty.  How had Mary Ogden looked at thirty?
That very lift of the strong chin, that long arch of nostril . . .
something began to beat in the back of his brain. . . .

"What a beauty poor Mary must have been, no?"

He turned, and forgot the portrait.  Madame Zattiany wore a gown of
that subtle but unmistakable green that no light can turn blue; thin
shimmering velvet to the knees, melting into satin embroidered with
silver and veiled with tulle.  On her head was a small diamond tiara
and her breast was a blaze of emeralds and diamonds.  She carried a
large fan of green feathers.

He had believed he had measured the extent of her beauty, but the crown
gave her a new radiance--and she looked as attainable as a queen on her
throne.

He went forward and raised her hand to his lips.  "I insist," he said
gallantly.  "Anything else would be out of the picture.  I need not
tell you how wonderful you look--nor that after tonight you will hardly
remain obscure!"

"Why do things halfway?  It has never been my method.  And Mary told me
once that Nile-green had been her favorite color until she lost her
complexion.  So--as I am to exhibit myself in a box--_enfin!_ . . .
Besides, I wanted to go."  She smiled charmingly.  "It was most kind of
you to think of me."

"Would that all 'kind' acts were as graciously rewarded.  I shall be
insufferably conceited for the rest of my life--only it is doubtful if
I shall be seen at all.  Shall we go?"

When they arrived at Sherry's they found the large restaurant almost
deserted.  It was barely seven.  After he had ordered the dinner--and
he thanked his stars that he knew how to order a dinner--she said
casually:

"I had a call from your friend, Miss Dwight, today."

"Yes?  You did not see her, I suppose?"

"Oh, but I did.  We talked for two hours.  It was almost comical--the
sheer delight in talking to a woman once more.  I have never been what
is called a woman's woman, but I always had my friends, and I suddenly
realized that I had missed my own sex."

"I shouldn't fancy that you two would have much in common."

"You forget that we were both nurses.  We compared experiences: methods
of nursing, operations, doctors, surgeons, shell shock, plastic
surgery, the various characteristics of wounded men--all the rest of
it."

"It must have been an exciting conversation."

"You never could be brought to believe it, but it was.  Afterward, we
talked of other things.  She seems to me quite a remarkable woman."

"Entirely so.  What is it she lacks that prevents men from falling in
love with her?  Men flock there, and she is more discussed as a mind
and a personality than any woman among us; but it is all above the
collar.  And yet those handsome-ugly women often captivate men."

"You ask one woman why another cannot fascinate men!  I should say that
it is for want of transmission.  The heart and passions are there--I
will risk guessing that she has been tragically in love at least
once--but there is something wrong with the conduit that carries sexual
magnetism; it has been bent upward to the brain instead of directed
straight to the sex for which it was designed.  Moreover, she is too
coldly and obviously analytical and lacks the tact to conceal it.  Men
do not mind being skewered when they are out for purely intellectual
enjoyment, but they do not love it."

Clavering laughed.  "I fancy your own mind is quite as coldly
analytical, but nature took care of your conduits and you see to the
tact.  You cannot teach Gora how to redistribute her magnetism, but you
might give her a few points."

"They would be wasted.  It is merely that I am a woman of the world,
something she will never be.  And in my hey-day, I can assure you, I
was not analytical."

"Your hey-day?"

"I was a good many years younger before the war, remember.  Heavens!
How rowdy those young people are!  A month ago I should have asked if
they were ladies and gentlemen, but I have been quite close to their
kind in the tea rooms and their accent is unmistakable; although the
girls talk and act like _gamines_.  One of them seems to know you."

Clavering had been conscious that the restaurant was filling with
groups and couples, bound, no doubt, for the opera or theatre.  He
followed Madame Zattiany's eyes.  In the middle of the room was a large
table surrounded by very young men and girls; the latter as fragile and
lovely as butterflies: that pathetic and swiftly passing youth of the
too pampered American girl.  The youth of this generation promised to
be briefer than ever!

He gave them a cursory glance, and then his chair turned to pins.
Janet Oglethorpe sat at the head of the table.  What would the brat do?
She had been fond of him as a child, but as he had found her detestable
in her flapperhood, and been at no pains to conceal his attitude, she
had taken a violent dislike to him.  Last night he had deliberately
flicked her on the raw.

He was not long in doubt.  She had returned his perfunctory bow with a
curt nod, and after a brief interval--during which she appeared to be
making a communication that was received with joyous hilarity--she left
her seat and ran across the room.  She might have been in her own house
for all the notice she took of the restaurant's other guests.

Clavering rose and grimly awaited the onslaught.  Even the waiters were
staring, but for the moment only at the flashing little figure whose
cheeks matched to a shade the American Beauty rose of her wisp of a
gown.

Her big black eyes were sparkling wickedly, her vivid little mouth wore
a twist that can only be described as a grin.  She had come for her
revenge.  No doubt of that.

She bore down on him, and shook his unresponsive hand heartily.  "I've
been telling them how dear and noble you were last night, dear Mr.
Clavering, just like a real uncle, or what any one would expect of one
of granny's pets.  No doubt you saved my life and honor, and I want to
tell the world." Her crisp clear voice was pitched in G.  It carried
from end to end of the silent room.

"Would that I were your uncle!  Won't you sit down?  I believe that you
have not met Madame Zattiany."

Miss Oglethorpe had not cast a glance at her victim's companion,
assuming her to be some writing person; although he did once in a while
take out Anne Goodrich or Marian Lawrence: old girls--being all of
twenty-four--in whom she took no interest whatever.

She half turned her head with a barely perceptible nod.  The tail of
her eye was arrested.  She swung round and stared, her mouth open.  For
the moment she was abashed; whatever else she may have submerged, her
caste instinct remained intact and for a second she had the unpleasant
sensation of standing at the bar of her entire class.  But she
recovered immediately.  _Grandes dames_ were out of date.  Even her
mother had worn her skirts to her knees a short time since.  What fun
to "show this left-over."  And then her spiteful naughtiness was
magnified by anger.  Madame Zattiany had inclined her head graciously,
but made no attempt to conceal her amusement.

"Yes, I'll sit down.  Thanks."  She produced a cigarette and lit it.
"Granny's got a lot of ancient photographs of her girlhood friends,"
she remarked with her insolent eyes on Madame Zattiany, "and one of
them's enough like you to be you masquerading in the get-up of the
eighties.  Comes back to me.  Just before mother left I heard her
discussing you with a bunch of her friends.  Isn't there some mystery
or other about you?"

"Yes, indeed!  Is it not so?"  Madame Zattiany addressed her glowering
host, her eyes twinkling.  It was evident that she regarded this
representative of the new order with a scientific interest, as if it
were a new sort of bug and herself an entomologist.  "Probably," she
added indulgently, "the most mysterious woman in New York.  What you
would call an adventuress if you were not too young to be uncharitable.
Mr. Clavering is kind enough to take me on trust."

Miss Oglethorpe's wrath waxed.  This creature of an obsolete order had
the temerity to laugh at her.  Moreover----  She flashed a glance from
Clavering's angry anxious face to the beautiful woman opposite, and a
real color blazed in her cheeks.  But she summoned a sneer.

"Noble again!  Has he told you of our little adventure last night?"

"Last night?"  A flicker crossed the serenity of Madame Zattiany's
face.  "But no.  I do not fancy Mr. Clavering is in the habit of
telling his little adventures."

"Oh, he wouldn't.  Old standards.  Southern chivalry.  All the rest of
it.  That's why he's granny's model young man.  Well, I'll tell you----"

"You've been drinking again," hissed Clavering.

"Of course.  Cocktail party at Donny's----"

"Well, moderate your voice.  It isn't necessary to take the entire room
into your confidence.  Better still, go back to your own table."

She raised her voice.  "You see, Madame Zattiany, I was running round
loose at about one o'clock A. M. when whom should I run into but dear
old Uncle Lee.  He looked all shot to pieces when he saw me.  Girls in
his day didn't stay out late unless they had a beau.  Ten o'clock was
the limit, anyhow.  But did he take advantage of my unprotected maiden
innocence?  Not he.  He stood there in the snow and delivered a lecture
on the error of my ways, then took me to a delicatessen shop--afraid of
compromising himself in a restaurant--and stuffed me with sandwiches
and bananas.  Even there, while we were perched on two high stools, he
didn't make love to me as any human man would have done.  He just ate
sandwiches and lectured.  God!  Life must have been dull for girls in
his day!"

People about them were tittering.  One young man burst into a guffaw.
Madame Zattiany was calmly eating her dinner.  The tirade might have
fallen on deaf ears.

Clavering's skin had turned almost black.  His eyes looked murderous.
But he did not raise his voice.  "Go back to your table," he said
peremptorily.  "You've accomplished your revenge and I've had all I
propose to stand. . . .  By God!  If you don't get out this minute I'll
pick you up and carry you out and straight to your grandmother."

"Yes you would--make a scene."

"The scene could hardly be improved.  Will you go?"

He half rose.  Even Madame Zattiany glanced at him apprehensively.

Miss Oglethorpe laughed uncertainly.  "Oh, very well.  At least we
never furnish material for your newspapers.  That's just one thing we
think beneath us."  She rose and extended her hand.  "Good night,
Madame Zattiany," she said with a really comical assumption of the
grand manner.  "It has been a great pleasure to meet you."

Madame Zattiany took the proffered hand.  "Good night," she said
sweetly.  "Your little comedy has been most amusing.  Many thanks."

Miss Oglethorpe jerked her shoulders.  "Well, console dear unky.  He'd
like the floor to open and swallow him.  Ta!  Ta!"

She ran back to her table, and its hilarity was shortly augmented.

Madame Zattiany looked at Clavering aghast.  "But it is worse than I
supposed!" she exclaimed.  "It is really a tragedy.  Poor Mrs.
Oglethorpe."  Then she laughed, silently but with intense amusement.
"I wish she had been here!  After all! . . .  Nevertheless, it is a
tragedy.  An Oglethorpe!  A mere child intoxicated . . . and truly
atrocious manners.  Why don't her people put her in a sanitarium?"

"Parents count about as much today as women counted in the cave era.
But it is abominable that you should be made conspicuous."

"Oh, that!  I have been conspicuous all my life.  And you must admit
that she had the centre of the stage!  If any one is to be
commiserated, it is you.  But you really behaved admirably; I could
only admire your restraint."

Clavering's ferment subsided, and he returned her smile.  "I hope I
didn't express all I felt.  Murder would have been too good for her.
But you are an angel.  And for all her bravado you must have made her
feel like the little vulgarian she is.  Heavens, but the civilization
varnish is thin!--and when they deliberately rub it off----"

"Tell me of this adventure."

"It was such a welcome adventure after leaving you!  She told
practically the whole of it.  She had been to a party and her host was
too drunk to take her home.  She couldn't get a taxi, so started to
walk.  After I had fed the little pig I took her home.  Of course I had
no intention of mentioning it to any one, but I hardly feel that I am
compromising my honor as a gentleman!"

"But will Society permit this state of things to last?  New York!  It
seems incredible."

"Heaven knows.  It might as well try to curb the lightning as these
little fools.  Their own children, if they have any, will probably be
worse."

"I wonder.  Reformed rakes are not generally indulgent to adventurous
youth.  There will probably be a violent revulsion to the rigors of the
nineteenth century."

"Hope so.  Thank Heaven we can get out of this."

They left the table.  As he followed her down the long room and noted
the many eyes that focussed on the regal and beautiful figure in its
long wrap of white velvet and fox he set his lips grimly.  Another
ordeal before him.  For a moment he wished that he had fallen in love
with a woman incapable of focussing eyes.  He hated being conspicuous
as he hated poverty and ugliness and failure and death.  Then he gave
an impatient sigh.  If he could win her he cared little if the entire
town followed her every time she appeared on the street.  And she had
been very sweet after that odious flapper had taken herself off.  He
had ceased to feel at arm's length.



XXII

They entered the box during the nuptial hymn.  Farrar, almost supine in
the arms of the seducer, was singing with the voluptuous abandon that
makes this scene the most explicit in modern opera.  She had sung it a
thousand times, but she was still the beautiful young creature exalted by
passion, and her voice seemed to have regained its pristine freshness.
She had done many things to irritate New Yorkers, but in this scene,
whether they forgave her or not, they surrendered; and those to whom love
and passion were lost memories felt a dim resurgence under that golden
tide.

Clavering had no desire to surrender.  In fact he endeavored to close his
ears.  He had received a cold douche and a hot one in the course of the
past hour, and he felt that his equilibrium was satisfactorily
established.  He had forgotten to warn Madame Zattiany of the step at the
front of the box, down which so many novices had stumbled, but she had
taken it and settled herself with the nonchalance of custom.  Odd.  Once
more something beat in the back of his brain.  But he dismissed it
impatiently.  No doubt many boxes in Europe were constructed in the same
fashion.

He had seated himself a little to the right and behind her.  He saw her
lids droop and her hands move restlessly.  Then, as the curtain went down
and Farrar was accepting the customary plaudits, her eyes opened and
moved over the rich and beautiful auditorium with a look of hungry
yearning.  This was too much for Clavering and he demanded abruptly:

"Why do you look like that?  Have you ever been here before?"

She turned to him with a smile.  "What a question! . . .  But opera, both
the silliest and the most exalting of the arts, is the Youth of Life, its
perpetual and final expression.  And when the house is dark I always
imagine it haunted by the ghosts of dead opera singers, or of those whose
fate is sadder still.  Does it never affect you in that way?"

"Can't say it does. . . .  But . . .  I vaguely remember--some ten years
ago a young singer with a remarkable voice sang Marguerite once on that
stage and then disappeared overnight . . . lost her voice, it was
said. . . ."

She gave a low choking laugh.  "And you think I am she?  Really!"

"I think nothing, but that I am here with you--and that in another moment
I shall want to sit on the floor--Oh, Lord!"

The house was a blaze of light.  It looked like a vast gold and red jewel
box, built to exhibit in the fullness of their splendor the most
luxurious and extravagant women in the world.  And it was filled tonight
from coifed and jewelled orchestra to highest balcony, where plainer
people with possibly jewelled souls clung like flies.  Not a box was
empty.  Clavering's glance swept the parterre, hoping it would be
occupied for the most part by the youngest set, less likely to be
startled by the resemblance of his guest to the girl who had sat among
their grandmothers when the opera house was new.  But there were few of
the very young in the boxes.  They found their entertainment where
traditions were in the making, and dismissed the opera as an old
superstition, far too long-winded and boring for enterprising young
radicals.

Against the red backgrounds he saw the austere and homely faces of women
who represented all that was oldest and best in New York Society, and
they wore their haughty bones unchastened by power.  There were many more
of the succeeding generation, of course, many more whose ancestry derived
from gold not blood, and they made up in style and ritual what they
lacked in pulchritude.  Lack of beauty in the parterre boxes was as
notorious as the "horseshoe" itself, Dame Nature and Dame Fortune, rivals
always, having been at each other's throats some century and
three-quarters ago, and little more friendly when the newer aristocracy
of mere wealth was founded.  All the New York Society Beauties were
historical, the few who had survived the mere prettiness of youth
entering a private Hall of Fame while still alive.

It had begun!  Clavering fell back, folded his arms and set his teeth.
First one pair of opera glasses in the parterre, then another, then
practically all were levelled at Mrs. Oglethorpe's box.  Young men and
old in the omnibus box remained in their seats.  Very soon white
shoulders and black in the orchestra chairs began to change their angle,
attracted by the stir in the boxes.  That comment was flowing freely, he
made no doubt.  In the boxes on either side of him the occupants were
staring less openly, but with frequent amazed side glances and much
whispering.  Madame Zattiany sat like an idol.  She neither sought to
relieve what embarrassment she may have felt--if she felt any! thought
Clavering--by talking to her escort nor by gazing idly about the house
comparing other women's gowns and crowns with her own.  She might have
been a masterpiece in a museum.

A diversion occurred for which Clavering at least was grateful.  The door
opened and Mr. Dinwiddie entered, limping and leaning on a cane.  He
looked pale and worried.  Clavering resigned his seat and took one still
further in the rear.  But the low-pitched dialogue came to him distinctly.

"Is this prudent?" murmured Dinwiddie, as he sat himself heavily beside
her.  "There will be nothing else talked of in New York tomorrow.  So far
there have only been rumors.  But here!  You look like Mary Ogden risen
from the dead.  There's a rumor, by the way, that she is dead."

"She was alive the last time I heard from Vienna.  But why imprudent?
Mr. Clavering told me of your kind concern, but I assure you that I am
neither a political nor a marital refugee."

"But you have a secret you wish to keep.  Believe me, you can do so no
longer.  The Sophisticates are generous and casual.  They take you on
your face value and their curiosity is merely human and good-natured.
But this!  In Jane Oglethorpe's box!  It is in the nature of an invasion.
You hardly could have done more if you had forced yourself into a
drawing-room uninvited.  You must either come out tomorrow and tell them
who you are, establish yourself . . . or . . . or----"

"Well?"  Madame Zattiany was smiling, and, probably, the most serene
person in the house.

"I--I--think you had better go back to Europe.  I must be frank.
Anything less would be cowardly.  You interest me too much. . . .  But I
can only suppose that your secret is of the sort that if discovered--and
they will discover it!--would cause you grave embarrassment."

"You mean if I am Mary Zattiany's illegitimate daughter?"

"I don't think they would have minded that if you had brought letters to
them from Mary asking them to be kind to you--and if you had made a good
marriage.  But to have it flung in their faces like this--they will never
forgive you."

"And you think I am Mary Zattiany's daughter?"

"I--yes--I think I have gone back to my original theory.  But there must
be something behind.  She never would have let you come over here with a
letter only to Trent.  She knew that she could rely on many of her old
friends.  No people in the world are more loyal to their own than these
old New Yorkers."

"And suppose she did give me letters--and that I have not been interested
enough to present them?"

"I knew it!  But I am afraid it's too late now.  They not only will
resent your indifference, but they are extremely averse to anything like
sensational drama in private life.  And your appearance here tonight is
extremely dramatic!  They'll never forgive you," he reiterated solemnly.

"Really?  Well, let us enjoy the next act," she added indulgently.  "I
hope you will remain here."

The curtain had gone up.  The audience, balked of the private drama, in
which they had manifested no aversion whatever from playing their own
rôle, transferred their attention to the stage, although Clavering saw
more than one glance wander across the house, and those in the adjoining
boxes felt themselves free to peer persistently.

Farrar had not finished bowing and kissing her hands before the next
curtain when the door of the box opened once more and Mr. Osborne
entered.  After a few words with Madame Zattiany he went out and returned
almost immediately with three other men, two of his own generation, and a
tall, dark, extremely good-looking young man, whose easy negligent air
was set askew by the eager expression of his eyes.  Clavering, not
waiting to be introduced, fled to the smoking-room and took a seat in a
corner with his back to the other occupants lest some one recognize and
speak to him.  A hideous fear had invaded his soul.  If this world, so
indisputably her own, did accept her--as he had not a doubt it would if
she demanded it; he made light of Dinwiddie's fears, knowing her as he
did--where would he come in?  Sheer luck, supplemented by his own
initiative, had given him a clear field for a few weeks, but what chance
would he have, not only if her house were overrun with people, but if she
were pursued by men with so much more to offer, with whom she must have
so much more in common?  He might be the equal of the best of them in
blood and the superior of many, but his life had not been of the order to
equip him with those minor but essential and armorial arts, that assured
ease and distinction, possessed by men not only born into the best
society but bred in it, and who had lived on their background, not on
their nerves.  To be "born" is not enough.  It is long association that
counts, and the "air" may be acquired by men of inferior birth but the
supreme opportunity.  He had managed to interest her because he had no
rival, and he was young and his mind in tune with hers.  That alone, no
doubt, was the secret of her imaginative flight in his direction.  For
the first time in his life he felt a sense of inferiority, and for the
moment he made no attempt to shake it off.  He was in the depths of
despair.  He did not even light a cigarette. . . .  He could hear a group
of young men discussing her . . . as one of their own kind . . . with no
lack of respect . . . some new friend of Mrs. Oglethorpe's--they were too
young to remember Mary Ogden. . . .  She would have many "knights" on the
morrow . . . he felt on the far side of a rapidly widening gulf . . . and
he had once sought to dig a gulf!  Disapproved!  Questioned!  Tried to
forget her!  He wished he had abducted her.

A bell rang.  The men moved toward the foyer.  In a few moments he
followed.  The attendant opened the Oglethorpe door and as he entered the
ante-room he saw that the box was still filled with men.  They had
evidently taken root.  He was possessed by a dull anger, and as it spread
upward his sense of inferiority took flight.  He'd rout them all, damn
them.  After all he had more brains than any man in the house and his
manners could be as good and as bad as their own.  Moreover, he was
probably more strongly endowed in other ways than the youngest of them.
The wise thing for him to do was to let her find it out the next time
they were alone.



XXIII

But it was some time before he saw her alone again, and meanwhile many
things happened.

She took Mr. Dinwiddie home in her car for supper, Clavering following
with Osborne in a taxi, and as the abundant repast was spread in the
dining-room it was patent that she had gone to the opera with the
intention of bringing back willing guests.  She knew that both
Dinwiddie and Osborne subscribed to the omnibus box, and no doubt if
they had failed to put in an appearance she would have dropped--with
one of her infernally ready excuses--himself at his own door.  She
might as well have announced, without bothering to feed these damned
old bores, that she did not intend to see him alone again until she had
made up her royal mind.

He ground his teeth, but he was master of himself again and had no
intention to make the mistake of sulking.  The situation put him on his
mettle.  He led the conversation and did practically all the talking:
as if the vital youth in him, stimulated by music and champagne (which
the older men were forced to imbibe sparingly), must needs pour forth
irresistibly--and impersonally.  He was not jealous of Dinwiddie or
Osborne (although the black frown on the latter's brow was sufficient
evidence of a deeply personal resentment), and although he did not
flash Madame Zattiany a meaning glance, might indeed have sat at her
board for the first time, he knew that he had never made a better
impression.  Her eyes, which had been heavy and troubled as they took
their seats at the table, and as old as eyes could be in that perfect
setting, began to look like a gray landscape illumined by distant
flashes of lightning.  Before long they were full of life, and
response, and laughter.  And pride?  There was something very like
pride in those expressive orbs (not always as subject to her will as
she fancied), as they dwelt on the brilliant young journalist whose
mind darted hither and thither on every subject he could summon that
would afford the opportunity of witty comment.  He even quoted
himself--skipping the past two months--and what had been evolved with
much deliberation and rewriting sounded spontaneous and pertinent.  But
in truth he was so genuinely stimulated before the brief hour was over
that when he returned to his rooms he wrote his column before turning
in.  He felt as if fiery swords were playing about his mind, flashing
out words and phrases that would make his brother columnists, no
sluggards in words and phrases themselves, green on the morrow.  For
the moment he was quite happy, as he always was when his mind was
abnormally quickened, and he dismissed women and their infernal whims
to limbo.

When he awoke at two o'clock in the afternoon his brain felt like the
ashes of a bonfire and his spirits were a leaden weight.  He knew what
was to be expected of reaction, however, and after his punch bag and
showers he felt better.  He'd see her today and force some sort of
understanding.

But when he opened his door and saw a letter in her handwriting, and
evidently delivered by a servant, as it was unstamped, his hand shook
and his half-recovered confidence fled.  This time he made no attempt
at the farce of self-discipline; he opened it at once.  When he saw
that it began without formality he drew a longer breath.

"I am not going to see you until Saturday," it read, "when I hope you
will take me to Miss Dwight's party.  Meanwhile I shall ask you not to
see Mr. Dinwiddie nor any one else likely to discuss me.  I shall not
care to stay long at the party and if you will return here with me I
will tell you my secret, such as it is.  I shall only say here that I
had no intention of making a mystery of myself, for I did not expect to
exchange a word with any one in America but Judge Trent and his
business associates.  I came to America for one purpose only, to settle
my affairs, which would have dragged on interminably if I had not been
here to receive my alienated properties in person.  I know many people
in New York, but I had no idea of seeing any of them, although tempted
on account of the money they might help me to collect for the children
of Austria.  But I had decided to leave that until the last minute.  I
not only was no longer interested in these old friends of mine, but I
disliked the explanations I should be forced to give them, the
comments, the curiosity, the endless questions.  What I mean by this
you will know on Saturday night.

"But it is not the first time in my life that I have discovered the
futility of making plans.  My meeting with you and the profound
interest you have awakened has upset all calculations.  I expected
nothing less!  If I had I should have told you the truth the night we
met.  But it never occurred to me for an instant that I could love any
man again.  I had done with all that years ago, and my intention was to
give my life and my fortune to certain problems in Europe which I shall
not bore you with here.

"Possibly if I had met you casually with Judge Trent, or if I had not
chosen to avoid my old friends and met you at one of their houses, as I
might easily have done, I should have made no mystery of myself; if
indeed you did not know the truth already.

"But not only the curious circumstances of our meeting after your weeks
of silent devotion, but your own personality, quickened to life a
flicker of youthful romance so long moribund that I had forgotten it
had ever been one of my lost inheritances.  I was also both amused and
interested, and to play a little comedy with you was irresistible.  It
did not occur to me for a moment that you would fall in love with me.

"It was not until the second time you came here after the theatre that
I realized what was happening in those submerged cells of mine.  But I
could not make up my mind to tell you that night--nor the next.  By
that time I was frightened.  I feared there could be only one result.
I suppose all women are cowards when in love.  But I knew that this
could not last, and when you asked me to sit in Mrs. Oglethorpe's box I
thought the time had come to precipitate matters.  After a decisive
step like that I could not retreat.  But I wish to tell you myself, and
for that reason I have asked you to discuss me with no one until we
meet.  It will probably be the last time I shall see you, but I am
prepared for that.

"I shall see Jane Oglethorpe today.  She has been very loyal and I
think she will forgive me.  It would not matter much if she did not,
and possibly would save me a good deal of boredom, but after last night
an explanation is due her.

"And after Saturday night, _mon ami_, matters will be entirely in your
hands.  You will realize whether you have merely been dazzled and
fascinated or whether there is really between us that mysterious bond
that no circumstances can alter.  Such things have happened to men and
women if we may believe history, but I have had too good reason to
believe that it is not for me.  However--at least for a brief time you
have given me back something of the hopes and illusions of youth.  This
in itself is so astonishing that whatever the result I shall never be
able to forget you.

"Until Saturday.
  "M."


Clavering's immediate act was to dash off a love-letter more
impassioned than any he had ever dreamed himself capable of writing,
vowing that he was dazzled and fascinated, God knew, but that he loved
her with the love of his life and would marry her if she would have
him, no matter what her revelations.  And with what patience he could
muster and with no grace whatever he would make no attempt to see her
until Saturday night.  But she must believe that he loved her and she
must write at once and tell him so.  He could not exist throughout that
interminable interval unless she wrote him at once that she believed in
the existence and the indissolubility of that bond, and that he had
given her the highest and deepest and most passionate love of which man
was capable, and which no woman but she could inspire, for no woman
like her had ever lived.

He dared not read it over.  He had never let himself go before, and he
had written too much for print not to be self-conscious and critical of
even a love-letter intended only for concordant eyes.  Nevertheless, he
was aware even in his excitement that the more reckless it was the
surer its effect.  No edited love-letter ever yet hit its mark.  (He
remembered Parnell's love-letters, however, and devoutly hoped his own
would never see the light.)  The waiter entered at the moment, and he
gave him the missive, hastily addressed and sealed, and asked him to
tell the "desk" to send it immediately and give the boy orders to wait
for an answer.

He drank his coffee, but ate nothing.  Nor did he open his newspapers.
He strode up and down his rooms or stood at the window watching the
hurrying throngs, the lumbering green busses, the thousand automobiles
and taxis over on Fifth Avenue.  They were as unreal as a cinema.  He
had the delusion, common to lovers, that Earth was inhabited by two
people only--that brief extension of the soul which in its common
acceptance of eternal loneliness looks out upon the world as upon a
projected vision in which no reality exists, for man the dreamer is but
a dream himself.  Phantasmagoria!

He glanced at the clock every time he passed it.  It seemed incredible
that mere minutes were passing.  But she was merciful.  She kept him in
suspense but thirty-five minutes.  The messenger boy stared at the
celebrated journalist, with whose appearance he was reasonably
familiar, as if regarding a phase of masculine aberration with which he
was even more familiar.  He grinned sympathetically, and Clavering was
not too distraught to detect the point of view of the young
philosopher.  He had been running his hands through his hair and no
doubt his eyes were injected with blood.  He told him to wait, and went
into his bedroom.  But the note was brief and required no answer.  "I
believe you."  That was all, and it was enough.  He gave the astonished
philosopher a five-dollar bill: an automatic American reaction.

Then he sat down to puzzle over those parts of her letter which he had
barely skimmed; faded into insignificance for the moment before the
outstanding confession that she really loved him.  But they loomed
larger and larger, more and more puzzling and ominous, as he read and
reread them.  Finally he thrust the pages into his desk and went out
for a tramp.



XXIV

It was a cold bright day.  The ice on the trees of Central Park was a
diamond iridescence.  Nursemaids were leading children, bits of muffled
wealth, along the alleys.  Horses pounded on the bridle paths.
Automobiles and taxis, that must have looked to the airman above like
aimless black planes drifting in a crystal sea, were carrying people to
a thousand destinies.  Towering on all sides was the irregular concrete
mass of New York.  As dusk fell, lights in those high buildings began
to appear, first intermittently, then as long necklaces of brilliants
strung against the sky.  Silence fell on the Park.

Clavering walked until he could walk no farther, then took a bus at One
Hundred and Tenth Street for Claremont.  When he reached the restaurant
he could think of only three men whose companionship would be
endurable, and failing to get any of them on the telephone resigned
himself to a solitary dinner.  But still restless, he wandered over to
a window and stared out across the Hudson at the dark Palisades on the
opposite shore.  Battleships were at anchor, for there had been no ice
in the Hudson this winter, and a steamboat with its double chain of
lights swam gracefully up the river.  The cold winter stars winked down
indifferently upon seething human hearts.

He still refused to admit that the source of his uneasiness was that
revelation set for Saturday night.  Nothing but death itself could halt
his marriage with this woman, for she herself had unequivocally stated
that after Saturday night the future would be in his hands.
_His!_ . . .  Her secret?  Not that she had had lovers, for he had
accepted that fact already, and for him the past had ceased to exist.
Her husband was dead.  Nothing else mattered.  Nevertheless, the vague
prescient chill he had experienced the night he first met her eyes, and
once or twice since, accompanied as it was by a curious sense that just
below his consciousness lay the key to the mystery, rattling now and
again, but sinking deeper every time he made a dart at it, had defied
further evasion since the receipt of her cryptic letter.  He was the
more uneasy as she seemed far more certain of Mrs. Oglethorpe than of
himself.

Once more he heard the key rattle, but higher . . . almost in his
consciousness . . . for the first time it seemed to sound a double note
of warning . . . he had a sudden vision of a locked door--and not a
door locked on a mere secret.

He swung about impatiently.  The explanation of his mood was this
hideous interval to be got through, Heaven alone knew how.  No wonder
he had felt a sensation of terror.  When a man is in the unsatisfied
stages of love he must expect occasional attacks of greensickness,
sullen passions intensified by unreasoning fear.  And he was luckier
than most.  He had been the confidant of men in love, with hope
deferred or blasted, and although he had been sympathetic enough, and
convinced that men had a far deeper capacity for suffering than women,
still had his pity been tempered by a certain contempt.  Those had been
the times when he had flouted the idea that he was basically romantic;
and that he had never made a jackass of himself over any woman had
induced a feeling of superiority that had expanded his ego.  Now he was
convinced that his capacity for love put theirs to shame, and he was
filled with pride at the thought.  Still--he wished it were Saturday
night.

He was crossing the room to his solitary table when he saw Jim
Oglethorpe enter.  His first impulse was to avoid him.  The restaurant
was well-filled and he could easily take a table in a corner with his
back to the room.  But dining alone was a melancholy business at
best--and tonight!  If Oglethorpe brought up Madame Zattiany's name he
could change the subject or state bluntly that he had his reasons for
not wishing to discuss her.  As he stood hesitating, Oglethorpe caught
sight of him and almost ran across the room, his face, which had looked
heavy and worried, glowing with pleasure.

"Jove, this is luck!" he exclaimed.  "Alone?  So am I.  Got in this
morning and found Janet had a dinner on for those infernally noisy
friends of hers.  Got something to think over, so thought I'd come out
here.  This is really luck as I was going to hunt you up tomorrow.
Let's sit here.  I want to talk."

He had led the way to a table in a remote corner, secluded, so far.  He
beckoned the head waiter, who agreed that it should remain secluded.
Then he asked Clavering to order the dinner, and, folding his arms,
stared out of the window, his face sagging once more.  He was still a
young man, not more than forty-five, but in spite of his love of
outdoor sport he showed a more consistent love of eating and drinking
in flabby muscles and pouches under the eyes.  It was an amiable,
rather weak but stubborn face that had been handsome in youth when his
eyes were bright and clear skin covered firm muscles, and it would be
handsome again when years had compelled him to diet and his already
faded hair had turned white; his features were regular and his figure
well-knit under its premature accumulations.

He produced a flask from his pocket when the waiter had discreetly
turned his back, and their ice-water might have passed for cold tea.

"Think I'll come to the point," he said.  "You know me well enough not
to mind anything I say."

Clavering glanced up from his oysters in alarm.  "There's just one
question I won't discuss," he said sharply.

Oglethorpe stared.  "You don't mean to say you're interested in her?
So much the better!  And it strikes me you can't have any objection to
discussing her with me.  I'm her father, ain't I?"

"Her father--are you talking of Janet?"

"Who else?  I'm worried as the devil.  Have been ever since I got in
this morning.  I'd telegraphed I was coming, and when I got to the
house Molly told me that mother wanted to see me at once and I posted
down there.  It was about Janet, and you know more about it than I do."

"I suppose I know what you mean.  But it turned out all right.  She
happened to meet me, not some man who might have annoyed her.  Of
course she shouldn't have taken such a risk, but; what can you do with
these flappers?  They're all in league together and you might as well
let them go their little pace.  It won't last.  They'll soon be older,
and I don't suppose you intend to play the heavy father and lock her
up."

"No, but I'd like damn well to get her married.  Mother told me a
pretty tale.  It seems she made a row at Sherry's last night, making
you and some lady you had with you as conspicuous as herself.  Mrs.
Vane was there and carried it straight to mother.  Mother's no fool and
had already got on to this younger generation business and given Janny
one or two tongue lashings, but she never dreamed it had gone as far as
it looks.  Roaming the streets alone at one in the morning!  She'd
undoubtedly been drinking last night--God!  I've a notion to take a
switch to her.  And I suppose she was pretty well lit the night you
picked her up.  I've never seen a hint of it.  Janny's spoilt enough.
Her mother never had the slightest control over her and she could
always get round me.  But she won't in the future.  I'll get top-hand
somehow.  God!  My daughter!  Tell me your side of it, will you?"

Clavering, who was genuinely fond of Oglethorpe, and relieved,
moreover, that he had not yet heard of Madame Zattiany, gave a cautious
and colorless account of the adventure.

"It is possible that she had had a cocktail or two," he concluded.
"But you must expect that.  If the flapper should adopt a coat of arms
no doubt it would be a cocktail rampant with three cigarettes argent on
a field de rouge.  However, it wouldn't be a bad idea if you took her
in hand.  That is, if you can."

"I'll do it all right.  D'you mean to tell me she was at Farren's
without a chaperon?"

"There may have been a chaperon to each couple for all I know."

"You know damn well there wasn't.  No chaperon would have left her
alone."

"But surely, Jim, you know that chaperons are practically obsolete.
They don't gee with cocktails and petting parties.  The New Freedom!
The Reign of Youth!"

"Damn nonsense.  No, I didn't know it.  I supposed she was properly
chaperoned, as girls of her class always have been.  You know how much
I care for Society, and I haven't got to the chicken stage either.
Took it for granted that certain cast-iron conventions were still
observed, in our set at least.  Of course I've seen her drink cocktails
at home and thought it rather cute, and I've rubbed the paint off her
cheeks and lips once or twice.  Girls are making up nowadays as if they
were strumpets, but some little fool started it, and you know the old
saying: 'What one monkey does the other monkey must do.'  It never
worried me.  Of course I've heard more or less about these young
idiots; they're always being discussed and written up; but somehow you
never think those things can happen in your own family. . . .  I went
straight home and blew up Molly--haven't had a sight of Janet yet--and
of course she bawled.  Always does.  When I told her that Janet had
been at Farren's alone she protested that Janet had told her she was
going to bed early that night.  Even last night, when she had a theatre
party, she understood that some young married woman was along.  But
Molly's a fool.  What on earth am I to do with Janet?  There were no
such girls in my young days.  Some of them were bad uns, but as
discreet as you make 'em.  Didn't disgrace their families.  Some of
them used to drink, right enough, but they were as smooth as silk in
public, and went to a sanitarium to sober up when it got the best of
'em.  But these girls appear to be about as discreet as street-walkers.
You don't think they kick over the traces, do you?"

"I'm dead sure that Janet hasn't.  She puts on the cap and bells partly
because it's the fashion, partly because she thinks girls are alive and
having their fun for the first time.  But she's no fool.  She nearly
floored me once or twice.  She'll take care of herself."

"Girls don't take care of themselves when they're drunk.  But I've an
idea there's something else the matter with her.  At least mother has?"

"Something else?"

"In love."

"Well, there's your chance to marry her off.  The sooner the better.
But why should it drive her to drink?  If she's fixed her affections on
any of those chaps that dance at her beck----"

"She hasn't.  She's in love with you."

"What!"  Clavering dropped his fork.  When the waiter had rushed to
present him with another and retired, he still stared at Oglethorpe as
if he had been stunned by a blow between the eyes.  "Whatever--what on
earth put such an idea into Mrs. Oglethorpe's head?  The child can't
endure me.  She pretty well proved it last night, and I've always known
she disliked me--since she grew up, that is.  To be perfectly frank,
aside from the fact that I don't care for young girls, she always
irritates me like the deuce, and I've never made any secret of it.
Night before last I couldn't well have made myself more disagreeable if
I'd rehearsed for the part."

Oglethorpe grinned.  "Lot you know about girls.  Just the way to make
'em crazy about you.  Like all idealists, you don't know a thing about
women.  Being a rank materialist myself, I know 'em like a book.  The
emancipated flapper is just plain female under her paint and outside
her cocktails.  More so for she's more stimulated.  Where girls used to
be merely romantic, she's romantic--callow romance of youth, perhaps,
but still romantic--plus sex-instinct rampant.  At least that's the way
I size 'em up, and its logic.  There's no virginity of mind left,
mauled as they must be and half-stewed all the time, and they're wild
to get rid of the other.  But they're too young yet to be promiscuous,
at least those of Janet's sort, and they want to fall in love and get
him quick.  See the point?"

"No doubt you're right.  But I'm not the object of Janet's young
affections.  She's either led your mother to believe it for purposes of
her own, or Mrs. Oglethorpe has merely jumped at that conclusion--well,
Heaven only knows why."

"You know why.  Because she'd like it.  So would I."

"Good Lord, Jim!  I'm nearly old enough to be her father.  Barely ten
years younger than yourself."

"You'll never be as old as I am this minute, and I'd give my eyes to
see you married to her.  Moreover, I'm convinced mother's right.  Janny
let out something--broke down, I fancy, although mother wouldn't give
her away any further.  And you used to be fond of her when she was a
child.  She's sat on your lap a hundred times."

"My dear Jim," said Clavering drily.  "You've just pronounced yourself
a man of consummate experience.  Need I remind you that when a man has
held a girl on his lap as a child, she is generally the last girl he
wants on his lap later on?  Man love's the shock of novelty, the spice
of surprise.  It's hard to get that out of a girl you have spanked--as
I did Janet on two different occasions.  She was a fascinating
youngster, but a little devil if there ever was one."

"She's full of fascination yet.  I can see that, if I am her father.  A
year or two from now, when she comes to her senses----"

"Oh, cut it out, Jim!  I won't listen.  Even it were true--and I'd
stake my life it isn't--I--well----"

"D'you mean there's some other woman?"

"I don't care to talk about it--but--let it go at that."

"Sorry.  I'd have liked it.  You could have made a fine woman out of
Janny.  She has it in her."

Clavering did not express his doubts on this point aloud.  He was in
truth horribly embarrassed and hardly knew what to say.  Not for a
moment did he believe that the minx was in love with him, nor would he
have taken the trouble to find out, even to please Jim Oglethorpe and
his mother, had Mary Zattiany never crossed his horizon.  But he felt
sorry for his friend and would have liked to banish his brooding
distress.

"Look here!" he exclaimed.  "You'll have to buck up and take her in
hand.  After all, you're her father and she respects you.  No girl
respects her mother these days, apparently, but the father has the
advantage of being male.  Give her a talking to.  Tell her how cut up
you are.  She's too young to be as hard as she likes to think.  Don't
preach.  That would make matters worse.  Appeal to her.  Tell her she's
making you miserable.  If that doesn't work--well, your idea of taking
a switch to her isn't bad.  A sound spanking is what they all need, and
it certainly would take the starch out of them.  Make them feel so
damned young they'd forget just how blasé they're trying to be."

"She might run away," rumbled Oglethorpe.  "I believe I'll try it,
though, if worse comes to worst.  I'll have no filthy scandals in my
family."

"Why not collect all the fathers and plan a regular campaign?  Without
their allowances they'd soon be helpless.  It would be a battle royal
and might make history!  Might also get hold of the fathers of these
young chaps.  Few have independent incomes."

Oglethorpe laughed for the first time.  "Not a bad idea for a bachelor,
Lee.  Maybe I'll try it.  Let's get out of this.  How about the
Follies?"



XXV

When a man has cultivated a practical and methodical habit of mind and
body he pursues the accustomed tenor of his way, whatever the ferment
of his spirit.  Clavering's spirit was mercurial, but long since
subject to his will, and it would no more have occurred to him to
neglect his regular work because he was in love and a state of suspense
than to put on petticoats and walk up Fifth Avenue.  It might be better
or worse under foreign impact, but it would be done, and all else
banished for the hour.

There were times when he wrote better surrounded by the stimulations of
the office; when he was neither fagged nor disturbed he worked at home.
During this week of incertitudes he rose late, lunched with friends at
the Sign of the Indian Chief, a restaurant where the cleverest of
them--and those who were so excitedly sure of their cleverness that for
the moment they convinced others as well as themselves--foregathered
daily.  Then he went to the office and wrote or talked to other men
until it was time to dine.  He could always be sure of companionship
for the evening.  On his "day off" he took a train out into the country
and walked for hours.

There was a great deal of scintillating talk in his group on the
significant books and tendencies of the day, and if the talk of French
youth in their clubs before the Revolution may possibly have been
profounder and more far-reaching in its philosophy, more formulative in
its plan of action, owing to a still deeper necessity for change in the
social order, the very fact that these brilliant young Americans had no
personal grievance but merely sharpened their wits on matters in which
they were intelligent enough to take an interest, saved their
cleverness from becoming mordant or distorted by passion.  It was an
excellent forcing-house for ideas and vocabulary.

But their most solemn causeries were upon the vital theme of The
American Reputation in Letters.  Past.  Present.  Future.  This was the
age of Youth.  Should any of the old reputations be permitted to live
on--save in the favor of the negligible public?  If so, which?  All the
recent reputations they would have liked to pronounce equally great,
merely on account of their commendable newness, but they were too
conscientious for that.  They appraised, debated, rejected, finally
placed the seal of their august approval upon a favored few.  Claques
were arranged if the public were obtuse.  The future?  A few, a very
few, were selected from the older group, many more from the younger,
and ordained to survive and shed their undying beams for posterity.
From these judicial pronouncements there was no appeal, and the
pleasant spaces of the Sign of the Indian Chief, so innocuous to the
uninitiated eye, was a veritable charnel house that stank in the
nostrils of the rejected; but, inconsistent even as life itself, those
melancholy graves were danced over by the sprightly young feet of the
elect.  Sometimes there was a terrifying upheaval in one of those
graves.  A dismal figure fought his way out, tore off his cerements,
and stalked forth, muttering: "'But I stride on, austere.  No hope I
have, no fear,'" leaving a puzzled uneasiness behind him.

But for good or ill, it was a matter for congratulation that criticism
was at last being taken seriously in the United States.


There was a jazz party at the studio of a hospitable girl artist where
Clavering danced with several of the prettiest young actresses of
recent Broadway fame until dawn, and drank enough to make him as wild
as the rest of the party had it not been for the seasoned apparatus
inherited from hard-drinking Southern ancestors.  Altogether, he gave
himself little time for thought, and if he felt at times an inclination
to dream he thrust it from him with an almost superstitious fear.  He
would speculate no longer, but neither would he run the risk of
invoking the laughter of cynical gods.  If unimaginable disaster
awaited him, at least he would not weaken his defences by a sojourn in
the paradise of fools.

He avoided Oglethorpe and Dinwiddie, and although he had engaged
himself to dine at the Goodriches on Thursday night he sent an excuse.

On Thursday morning, as he was turning over the pages of one of the
newspapers his eye was arrested by the name Zattiany.  He never read
Society paragraphs, but that name would leap to his eyes anywhere.  The
announcement was as brief as "social notes" always are in the daily
editions of the morning papers: "Mrs. Oglethorpe gives a luncheon
tomorrow at her house in Gramercy Park to the Countess Zattiany of
Vienna."

So!  She had satisfied Mrs. Oglethorpe.  That was one on Dinwiddie.

On the following night he bought himself an admission ticket to the
Metropolitan Opera House and entered at the close of the second act.
As he had half expected, she was in Mrs. Oglethorpe's box, and it was
crowded with men.  He fancied that his older friend looked both glum
and amused.  As for Dinwiddie, his expression was half-witted.

He went home and took a bromide.  Sleep, being a function, is outside
the domain of the will, and he had had little of it since Tuesday.  And
sleep he must if he was to be in alert command of his faculties on the
following night.



XXVI

Madame Zattiany stood before the long old-fashioned pier glass in her
bedroom, a large cheerful room recently done over in white chintz sprayed
with violets.  The bright winter sun streamed in on a scene of confusion.
Gowns were thrown over every chair and hats covered the bed.  They all
had the air of being tossed aside impatiently, as indeed they had been,
and the maid with a last comprehensive look at her mistress began to
gather them up and carry them to the large wardrobes in the dressing-room.

Mary regarded herself critically.  She had wished (not without malice!)
to emphasize her youthful appearance, but not at the expense of dignity,
and she felt that she had achieved the subtle combination in the frock of
soft black velvet cut with long, sweeping lines and of an excessive
simplicity; and a black velvet hat of medium size with a drooping brim
that almost covered one eye.  The long white gloves disappeared into her
sleeves somewhere above the elbow and she wore a single string of pearls.
She looked very Parisian, very elegant, as Mrs. Oglethorpe would have
expressed it, and very assured.  In spite of the mocking gleam in the one
visible eye her face was serene and proud.

She had felt some trepidation on Tuesday when she had sought out Mrs.
Oglethorpe and made her explanations, but she felt none whatever at the
prospect of meeting these other twelve old friends.  Whether they
approved or resented, were indulgent or elevated their respectable noses
and intimated, "You are no longer one of _us_," was a matter of profound
indifference to Mary Zattiany.  She would have avoided them all if it had
been possible, but since she had deliberately permitted her hand to be
forced she would take the situation humorously and amuse herself with
whatever drama it might afford.

Elinor Goodrich.  Mabel Lawrence.  Polly Vane.  Isabel Ruyler.  Ellen de
Lacey.  Louise Prevost.  She had been so intimate with all of them, not
only in the schoolroom but when they were all in Society together.  Now
only her somewhat cynical sense of anticipation mitigated utter boredom
at the thought of meeting them again.  Of the other six she had still
vaguer memories, although she recalled having heard that the beauty of
her own last season, Lily Armstrong, had married one of the Tracys.  She
also was to be at the luncheon.

What on earth was she to talk to them about at the table?  She could
hardly tell them the story they expected before the servants.  That would
be for the later hour in the drawing-room--or would it be in that absurd
old room of Jane's upstairs?

She recalled Elinor Tracy (Goodrich) and her enthusiastic admiration,
which she had accepted as a matter-of-course, and given little beyond
amiable tolerance in return.  As she had told Clavering, she was not a
woman's woman.  She hoped Nelly had outgrown "gush."  For some ten years
after her marriage she had met her from time to time abroad, but she had
not seen her for so long that she doubted if she would recognize her if
they passed on the street.  The only one of her old friends for whom she
retained either interest or affection was Jane Oglethorpe, who, ten years
older than herself, with a commanding personality unfolding rapidly at
the dawn of their intimacy, had attracted deeply but subtly her own
untried force of character and ruthless will.  Embarrassment over, she
had enjoyed their long hour together, and was glad to renew the intimacy,
to find that her old friend's warm affection had lost nothing with the
years.  And she had found her more interesting than in her youth.

She sighed a little as she looked back on her long hours of almost
unbroken solitude in this old house.  She had been comparatively happy at
first--a blessed interval of rest and peace in this marvellously wealthy
and prosperous city where the poor were kept out of sight, at least,
where all the men were whole and where one never saw a gaunt woman's
appealing eyes, or emaciated ragged children.  Those untroubled hours had
fled for ever and astonishment, impotent fury, and dire mental conflict
had followed, but nevertheless she had dreamed--dreamed--and been glad of
her freedom from social and all other duties.  Now, probably these women
and many more would swarm here.

Her mouth twisted as her maid helped her into the soft gray coat trimmed
with blue fox.  Ordeal!  That would come on Saturday night.  No wonder
she was merely amused and totally indifferent today!

When she arrived at the house in Gramercy Park, purposely late, to give
her entrance the effect Mrs. Oglethorpe had commanded, she heard an
excited buzz of voices in the drawing-room as she was being relieved of
her wrap.  As she entered it ceased abruptly and she heard several hardly
perceptible gasps.  But the pause, before they all crowded about her, was
too brief to be noticeable, and they shook her hand heartily or kissed
her warmly.  If their eyes were perhaps too studiously expressionless,
their words and manner might have been those of old friends welcoming
back one who had been long absent and nothing more.  Conflicting
emotions, born of undying femininity, were not evident for the moment.
Mrs. Goodrich cried out at once how wonderfully well she looked, Mrs.
Lawrence asked if she had stopped in Paris for her clothes, and Mrs. Vane
if she found New York much changed.  Nothing could have gone off better.

Mrs. Oglethorpe, in old-pile black velvet as usual, with a front and
high-boned collar of yellow rose-point lace, stood in the background
watching the comedy with a frank sardonic grin.  If her guests had been
faithless to the traditions in which they had been bred, she would have
felt angry and ashamed, but the automatic manner in which they rose to
the occasion and took the blow standing (Mrs. Oglethorpe often indulged
in the vernacular of her son, her Janet, and her Lee) made her rock with
silent mirth.  She knew exactly how they felt!

They were a fine-looking set of women and handsomely dressed, but they
indisputably belonged to the old régime, and even Mrs. Tracy, the
youngest of them, had something of what Mary Zattiany called that
built-up look.  They were fashionable but not smart.  They carried
themselves with a certain conscious rigidity and aloofness which even
their daughters had abandoned and was a source of disrespectful amusement
to their iniquitous granddaughters.  Although Mrs. Goodrich, Mrs.
Lawrence and Mrs. Tracy were more up to date in their general appearance,
wearing slightly larger hats and fewer feathers, with narrow dog collars
instead of whaleboned net, they were as disdainful as the others of every
art that aims to preserve something of the effect of youth; although they
were spickingly groomed.  They accepted life as it was, and they had
accepted it at every successive stage, serene in the knowledge that in
this as in other things they were above the necessity of compromise and
subterfuge.  They were the fixed quantities in a world of shifting values.

In age they ranged from fifty-six to sixty-two, with the exception of
Mrs. Tracy, who was a mere fifty-two.  A few were stout, the others bony
and gaunt.  Their hair was white or gray.  Only Mrs. Tracy, with her
fresh complexion and soft brown hair, her plump little figure encased in
modern corsets, had got on the blind side of nature, as Mrs. Oglethorpe
had told Mary.  The others were frankly elderly women, but of great
dignity and distinction, some charm, and considerable honesty and
simplicity.  And their loyalty never failed them.

The luncheon was by no means easy and informal.  Mary, by racking her
memory, recalled the first names of most of them and never in all her
varied life had she been more sweetly amiable, made so determined an
effort to please.  She might not care what they thought of her, but she
was sorry for them, they had behaved very decently, and for Jane
Oglethorpe's sake alone the occasion must be a success.  She was ably
seconded by Mrs. Goodrich, who stared at her in wide-eyed admiration and
rattled off the gossip of New York, and by Mrs. Tracy, who had an
insatiable interest in diplomatic society.  When she had satisfied the
latter's curiosity she led the conversation by a straight path to the
sufferings of the children of Austria and begged them to join her in
forming a relief committee.  They received this philanthropic suggestion
with no apparent fervor, but it served to relieve the stiffness and
tension until they retired to the drawing-room for coffee.

They stood about for a few moments, Mary looking up at the portrait of
Jane Oglethorpe in her flaming youth.  But the hostess ordered them all
to sit down and exclaimed peremptorily: "Now, Mary, tell them all about
it or I'll have a lot of fainting hysterical women on my hands.  We're
still human if we are old and ugly.  Go to it, as Janet would say.  I
believe you have met that estimable exponent of the later New York
manner.  You are no more extraordinary yourself than some of the changes
here at home, but you're more picturesque, and that's harder to swallow.
Put them out of their misery."

The ladies smiled or frowned, according to what humor the Almighty,
niggardly in his bestowal of humor, had allotted them.  At all events
they were used to "Jane."  Mrs. Goodrich, who had led Mary to a sofa and
seated herself beside her, took her hand and pressed it affectionately,
as if she were encouraging her on the way to the operating room.  "Yes,
tell us the story, darling.  It is all too wonderful!"

"Do you really mean that you have never heard of this treatment?" asked
Madame Zattiany, who knew quite well that they had not.  "Few things are
better known in Europe."

"We have never heard of it," said Mrs. Vane austerely.  "We were totally
unprepared."

Madame Zattiany shrugged her graceful shoulders.  "I have been told that
America never takes up anything new in science until it has become stale
in Europe.  But women as well as men have been flocking to Vienna.
Russian princesses have pledged their jewels----"

"How romantic!" exclaimed Mrs. Goodrich, who was one of those women in
whom a certain spurious sense of romance increases with age.  But Mrs.
Vane mumbled something less complimentary.  She had never been romantic
in her life; and she was beginning to feel the strain.

"Well," said Madame Zattiany, "I suppose I must begin at the beginning.
I dislike holding forth, but if you will have it----"

"Don't leave out a word!" exclaimed Mrs. Tracy.  "We want every detail.
You've made us feel both as young as yourself and as old as Methuselah."

Madame Zattiany smiled amiably at the one woman in the room who had
lingered in the pleasant spaces of middle age.  "Very well.  I'll be as
little technical as possible. . . .  As you know, I ran a hospital in
Buda Pesth during the war.  After the revolution broke out I was forced
to leave in secret to escape being murdered.  I was on Bela Kun's
list----"

There was a sympathetic rustle in the group.  This at least they could
grasp on the wing.  Mrs. de Lacey interrupted to beg for exciting
details, but Mrs. Goodrich and Mrs. Tracy cried simultaneously:

"No!  No!  Go on--please!"

"Quite right," said Mrs. Oglethorpe, who was prepared to enjoy herself.
"We can have that later."

"I naturally went to Vienna, not only because I had some money invested
there, but because I could live in the Zattiany Palace.  The old house
was difficult to keep warm, and as I was too tired and nervous to
struggle with any new problems I went at a friend's suggestion into a
sanitarium.

"The doctor in charge soon began to pay me something more than
perfunctory visits when he found that intelligent conversation after my
long dearth did me more good than harm.  Finally he told me of a method
of treatment that might restore my youth, and begged me to undertake
it----"

"Ah!"  There were sharp indrawn breaths.  Mrs. Vane drew herself
up--figuratively, for she could hardly be more perpendicular, with her
unyielding spine, her long neck encased in whaleboned net and her lofty
head topped off with feathers.  A look of hostility dawned in several
pairs of eyes, while frank distaste overspread Mrs. Ruyler's mahogany
visage.  Madame Zattiany went on unperturbed.

"It may relieve your minds to hear that I was at first as indifferent as
all of you no doubt would have been.  The war--and many other things--had
made me profoundly tired of life--something of course that I do not
expect you to understand.  And now that the war was over and my
usefulness at an end, I had nothing to look forward to but the
alleviation of poverty by means of my wealth when it was restored, and
this could be done by trustees.  Life had seemed to me to consist mainly
of repetitions.  I had run the gamut.  But I began to be interested, at
first by the fact that science might be able to accomplish a miracle
where centuries of woman's wit had failed----"

"Wit?" snorted Mrs. Vane.  "Ignoble vanity."

"Well, call it that if you like, but the desire to be young again or to
achieve its simulacrum, in both men and women, has something of the
dignity which the centuries give to all antiques.  However, at the time,
you will also be glad to know, I was far more interested in the prospect
of reënergizing my worn out mind and body.  I was so mortally tired!  And
if I had to live on, and no doubt with still much work to do in
distracted Europe----"

"But what did they _do_ to you?" cried Mrs. Tracy.  "I'd have done it in
your place--yes, I would!" she said defiantly as she met the august
disgusted eye of Mrs. Vane.  "I think Countess Zattiany was quite right.
What is science for, anyhow?"

"Go on!  Go on!" murmured Mrs. Goodrich.  She was too fat and comfortable
to have any desire to return to youth with its tiresome activities, but
all her old romantic affection for Mary Ogden had revived and she was
even more interested than curious.

"I am trying to!  Well, I must tell you that the explanation of my
condition, as of others of my age, was that the endocrines----"

"The what?"  The demand was simultaneous.

"The ductless glands."

"Oh," said Mrs. Prevost vaguely, "I've seen something----"

"It is all Greek to me," said Mrs. Vane, who felt that unreasoning
resentment common to the minor-informed for the major-informed.  "You
promised to avoid technical terms."

Madame Zattiany explained in the simplest language she could command the
meaning and the function of the ductless glands.  The more intelligent
among them looked gratified, for the painless achievement of fresh
knowledge is a pleasant thing.  Madame Zattiany went on patiently: "These
glands in my case had undergone a natural process of exhaustion.  In
women the slower functioning of the endocrines is coincident with the
climacteric, as they have been dependent for stimulation upon certain
ovarian cells.  The idea involved is that the stimulation of these
exhausted cells would cause the other glands to function once more at
full strength and a certain rejuvenation ensue as a matter of course;
unless, of course, they had withered beyond the power of science.  I was
a promising subject, for examination proved that my organs were healthy,
my arteries soft; and I was not yet sixty.  Only experimentation could
reveal whether or not there was still any life left in the cells,
although I responded favorably to the preliminary tests.  The upshot was
that I consented to the treatment----"

"Yes?  Yes?"  Every woman in the room now sat forward, no longer old
friends or rivals, affectionate or resentful, nor the victims of
convention solidified into sharp black and white by the years.  They were
composite female.

"It consisted of the concentration of powerful Röntgen--what you call
X-Rays--on that portion of the body covering the ovaries----"

"How horrible!"  "Did you feel as if you were being electrocuted?"  "Are
you terribly scarred?"

"Not at all.  I felt nothing whatever, and there was nothing to cause
scars----"

"But I thought that the X-Rays----"

"Oh, do be quiet, Louisa," exclaimed Mrs. Tracy impatiently.  "Please go
on, Countess Zattiany."

"As I said, the application was painless, and if no benefit results,
neither will any harm be done when the Rays are administered by a
conscientious expert.  My final consent, as I told you, was due to the
desire to regain my old will power and vitality.  I was extremely
skeptical about any effect on my personal appearance.  During the first
month I felt so heavy and dull that, in spite of assurances that these
were favorable symptoms, I was secretly convinced that I had forfeited
what little mental health I had retained; but was consoled by the fact
that I slept all night and a part of the day: I had suffered from
insomnia since my duties at the hospital had ended----"

"But surely you must have been nervous and terrified?"  All of these
women had seen and suffered illness, but all from time-honored
visitations, even if under new and technical names, and they had suffered
in common with millions of others, which, if it offended their sense of
exclusiveness, at least held the safeguard of normalcy.  They felt a
chill of terror, in some cases of revulsion, as Madame Zattiany went on
to picture this abnormal renaissance going on in the body unseen and
unfelt; in the body of one who had been cast in the common mould, subject
to the common fate, and whom they had visioned--when they thought about
her at all--as growing old with themselves; as any natural Christian
woman would.  It was not only mysterious and terrifying but subtly
indecent.  Mrs. Vane drew back from her eager poise.  Almost it seemed to
the amused Mrs. Oglethorpe that she withdrew her skirts.  Drama was for
the stage or the movies; at all events drama in private life, among the
elect, was objective, external, and, however offensive, particularly when
screamed in the divorce court, it was, at least, like the old diseases,
remarkably normal.  But an interior drama; not to put too fine a point on
it, a drama of one's insides, and especially one that dealt with the
raising from the dead of that section which refined women ceased to
discuss after they had got rid of it--it was positively ghoulish.  Drama
of any sort in this respectable old drawing-room, which might have been
photographed as the sarcophagus of all the Respectabilities, was
extremely offensive.  And what a drama!  Never had these old walls
listened to such a tale.  Mrs. Vane and others like her had long since
outgrown the prudery of their mothers, who had alluded in the most
distant manner to the most decent of their internal organs, and called a
leg a limb; but the commonplace was their rock, and they had a sense of
sinking foundations.

Madame Zattiany, who knew exactly what was passing in their minds,
continued placidly: "Almost suddenly at the end of the fourth or fifth
week, it seemed to me that an actual physical weight that had depressed
my brain lifted, and I experienced a decided activity of mind and body,
foreign to both for many years.  Nevertheless, the complete reënergizing
of both was very slow, the rejuvenation of appearance slower still.
Worn-out cells do not expand rapidly.  The mental change was pronounced
long before the physical, except that I rarely felt fatigue, although I
spent many hours a day at the relief stations."

She paused and let her cool ironic glance wander over the intent faces
before her.  "Not only," she went on with a slow emphasis, which made
them prick up their ears, "was the renewed power manifest in mental
activity, in concentration, in memory, but that distaste for new ideas,
for reorientation, had entirely disappeared.  People growing old are
condemned for prejudice, smugness, hostility to progress, to the purposes
and enthusiasms of youth; but this attitude is due to aging glands alone,
all things being equal.  They _cannot_ dig up the sunken tracks from the
ruts in their brain and lay them elsewhere; and they instinctively
protect themselves by an affectation of calm and scornful superiority, of
righteous conservatism, which deceives themselves; much as I had
assumed--and learned to feel--an attitude of profound indifference to my
vanished youth, and refused to attempt any transparent disguise with
cosmetics."

Intentness relaxed once more.  Twelve pairs of eyes expressed at least
half as many sentiments.  Mrs. Vane gazed at Mary Ogden, whose insolence
she had never forgotten, with indignant hostility; Mrs. Poole, who always
dressed as if she had a tumor, but whose remnant of a once lovely
complexion indicated perfect health, maintained her slight tolerant
smile; its effect somewhat abridged by the fact that the small turban of
bright blue feathers topping her large face had slipped to one side.
Mrs. Goodrich looked startled and gazed deprecatingly at her friends.
Mrs. Lawrence's eyes snapped, and Mrs. de Lacey looked thoughtful.  Only
Mrs. Tracy spoke.

"Wonderful!  I feel more like Methuselah than ever.  But it certainly is
a relief to know what is the matter with me.  Do go on, Mary--I may call
you Mary?  I only came out the year you were married--and you cannot
imagine what a satisfaction it is to know that I am younger than
you--were once.  I've never done any of those things one reads about to
keep looking young except cold cream my face at night, but I've often
felt as if I'd like to----"

"Do stop babbling, Lily Tracy!" exclaimed Mrs. Vane, who, however
disgusted, was quite as curious as the others to hear the rest of the
tale.  And Mrs. Goodrich said softly:

"Yes, go on, Mary, darling.  I am sure the most thrilling part is yet to
come.  You see how interested your old friends all are."

Madame Zattiany moved her cool insolent eyes to Mrs. Vane's set visage.
"The time came when I knew that youth was returning to my face as well as
to the hidden processes of my body; and I can assure you that it excited
me far more than the renewed functioning of my brain.  The treatment
induces flesh, and as I had been excessively thin, my skin, as flesh
accumulated, grew taut and lines disappeared.  My eyes, which had long
been dull, had regained something of their old brilliancy under the
renaissance of brain and blood, and that was accentuated.  My hair----"

"Do you mean to say that it restores hair to its natural color?" demanded
Mrs. Tracy, who had been plucking out bleached hairs for the past year.
"That would----"

"It does not.  But my hair is the shade that never turns gray; and of
course my teeth had always been kept in perfect order.  I should never in
any circumstances be a fat woman, but the active functioning of the
glands gave me just enough flesh to complete the outer renovation.  My
complexion, after so many years of neglect, naturally needed scientific
treatment of another sort, but that was still to be had in Vienna."

"Ah!"  The exclamation was sharp.  Here, at least, was something they
knew all about and systematically discountenanced.  "Do you mean that you
had your skin ripped off?" asked Mrs. Ruyler.

"Certainly not.  The skin was simply softened and reinvigorated by
massage and the proper applications."

They were too proud to ask for details, and Mrs. de Lacey, who was stout,
glanced triumphantly at Mrs. Ruyler, who was stouter.  "You mean, Mary,
that one has to be thin for this treatment to be a success?"

"That I cannot say.  I really do not know what the treatment would do to
a stout woman of middle or old age.  The internal change would be the
same, but, although additional flesh can be kept down by medicaments and
diet, I doubt if there would be a complete restoration of the outlines of
face and neck.  A woman of sixty, with sagging flesh and distended skin,
might once more look forty, if the treatment were successful, but hardly
as young as I do.  I was particularly fortunate in having withered.
Still, I cannot say.  As I told you, many women of all ages and sizes
took the treatment while I was in Vienna.  But they are too scattered for
me at least to obtain any data on the results.  I knew none of them
personally and I was too busy to seek them out and compare notes. . . .
But with me----"  She leaned back and lit a cigarette, looking over her
audience with mischievous eyes.  "With me it has been a complete
success--mentally, physically----"

"Yes, and how long will it last?" shot out Mrs. Ruyler.  She was as
strong as a horse and as alert mentally as she had ever been, and her
complete indifference to rejuvenation in any of its forms gave her a
feeling of superior contempt for all those European women who had swarmed
to Vienna like greedy flies at the scent of molasses--no doubt to undergo
terrible torments that Mary Zattiany would not admit.  But her objective
curiosity on the subject of youth was insatiable and she read everything
that appeared in the newspapers and magazines about it, not neglecting
the advertisements.  If she had sent for a facial masseuse she would have
felt that she had planted a worm at the root of the family tree, but the
subject was unaccountably interesting.

Mary Zattiany, who understood her complex perfectly, shrugged her
graceful shoulders.  "It is too soon to reply with assurance.  The method
was only discovered some six years ago.  But the eminent biologists who
have given profound study to the subject estimate that it will last for
ten years at least, when it can be renewed once at all events.  Of course
the end must come.  It was not intended that man should live for ever.
And who would wish it?"

"Not I, certainly," said Mrs. Ruyler sententiously.  "Well, I must admit
it has been a complete success in your case.  That is not saying I
approve of what you have done.  You know how we have always regarded such
things.  If you had lived your life in New York instead of in
Europe--notoriously loose in such matters--I feel convinced that you
would never have done such a thing--exhausted or not.  Moreover, I am a
religious woman and I do not believe in interfering with the will of the
Almighty."

"Then why have a doctor when you are ill?  Are not illnesses the act of
God?  They certainly are processes of nature."

"I have always believed in letting nature take her course," said Mrs.
Ruyler firmly.  "But of course when one is ill, that is another
matter----"

"Is it?"  Madame Zattiany's eye showed a militant spark.  "Or is it
merely that you are so accustomed to the convention of calling in a
doctor that you have never wasted thought on the subject?  But is not
medicine a science?  When you are ill you invoke the aid of science in
the old way precisely as I did in the new one.  The time will come when
this treatment I have undergone will be so much a matter of course that
it will cause no more discussion than going under the knife for
cancer--or for far less serious ailments.  I understand that you, Polly,
had an operation two years ago for gastric ulcer, an operation called by
the very long and very unfamiliar name, gastroenterostomy.  Did you
feel--for I assume that you agree with Isabel in most things--that you
were flying in the face of the Almighty?  Or were you only too glad to
take advantage of the progress of science?"

Mrs. Vane merely grunted.  Mrs. Ruyler exclaimed crossly, "Oh, no one
ever could argue with you, Mary Ogden.  The truth is," she added, in a
sudden burst of enlightenment that astonished herself, "I don't suppose
any of us would mind if you didn't look younger than our daughters.  That
sticks in our craw.  Why not admit it?"

Mrs. Oglethorpe chuckled.  She and Isabel Ruyler snapped at each other
like two belligerent old cats every time they crossed each other's path,
but, with the exception of Mary Ogden, whom she loved, she liked her
better than any of her old friends.

But once more Mrs. Vane drew herself up (figuratively).  "Speak for
yourself.  It may be that I am too old to accept new ideas, but this one
certainly seems to me downright immoral and indecent.  This is not
intended to reflect on you personally, Mary, and of course you were more
or less demoralized by your close contact with the war.  I mean the
idea--the thing--itself.  We may call in doctors and surgeons when we are
in bodily discomfort, and be thankful that they are more advanced than in
our mothers' time, when people died of appendicitis every day in the week
and called it inflammation of the bowels.  But no one can tell me that
rejuvenation is not against the laws of nature.  What are you going to do
with this new youth--I never saw any one look less indifferent to
life!--make fools of men again--of our sons?"

"Who can tell?" asked Mary maliciously.  "Could anything be more amusing
than to come back to New York after thirty-four years and be a belle
again, with the sons and grandsons of my old friends proposing to me?"

"Do you really mean that?"  Mrs. Vane almost rose.  She recalled that her
youngest son had met Madame Zattiany in Mrs. Oglethorpe's box on Monday
night and had been mooning about the house ever since.  "If I thought
that----"

"Well, what would you do, Polly?" Mary laughed outright.  "Your
son--Harry is his name, is it not?--is remarkably good-looking and very
charming.  After all, where could you find a safer and more understanding
wife for him than a woman who has had not only the opportunity to know
the world and men like the primer, but looks--is--so young that he is
bound to forget it and be led like a lamb?  Girls, those uncharted seas,
are always a risk----"

"Stop tormenting Polly," exclaimed Mrs. Oglethorpe.  "Mary has no
intention of marrying any one.  She's only waiting for her estate to be
settled in order to return to Europe and devote herself to certain plans
of reconstruction----"

"Is that true?"

"Quite true," said Madame Zattiany, smiling.  "Don't worry, Polly.  If I
marry it will be some one you are not interested in too personally, and
it is doubtful if I ever marry at all.  There's a tremendous work to be
done in Europe, and so far as lies in my power I shall do my share.  If I
marry it will be some one who can help me.  I can assure you I long since
ceased to be susceptible, particularly to young men.  Remember that while
my _brain_ has been rejuvenated with the rest of my physical structure,
my _mind_ is as old as it was before the treatment."  She gave a slight
unnoticed shiver.  "My memory, that for years before the war was dull and
inactive, is now as vigorous as ever."

Several of the women recalled those old stories of Countess Zattiany's
youth, and looked at her sharply.  There was a general atmosphere of
uneasiness in the large respectable room.  But whether or not they gave
her the benefit of the doubt, they had always given her due credit for
neither being found out nor embarrassing her virtuous friends with
confidences.

Mrs. Tracy was the first to break the silence.  "But you will come to all
of us as long as you do stay, will you not?  I do so want to give you a
dinner next week."

"Yes, yes, indeed."  The chorus was eager, and sincere enough.  After
all, nothing could alter the fact that she was one of them.

"Oh, I have enjoyed meeting you all again, and I am hoping to see more of
you."  Madame Zattiany felt that she could do no less than be gracious.
"I have become a very quiet person, but I will go with pleasure."

"You must let us see you daily while you are with us," cried Mrs.
Goodrich, her spirits soaring at the prospect.  As Mary stood up and
adjusted her hat before the mirror she felt that she had successfully
distracted their attention from a quick sigh of utter boredom.  "You are
too kind, Nelly," she murmured, "but then you always were."

"Yes, go, Mary," said Mrs. Oglethorpe peremptorily, and rising also.
"Clear out and let them talk you over.  They'll burst if you don't.
Human nature can stand just so much and no more."

Madame Zattiany took her leave amid much laughter, more or less
perfunctory, and one and all, whatever their reactions, insisted that she
must give her old friends the pleasure of entertaining her, and of seeing
her as often as possible as long as she remained in New York.

She escaped at last.  That was over.  But tomorrow night!  Tomorrow
night.  Every wheel and tire seemed to be revolving out the words.  Well,
if he were repelled and revolted, no doubt it would be for the best.  She
had made up her mind to spare him nothing.  He would hear far more than
she had told those women.  Certainly he should be given full opportunity
to come to his senses.  If he refused to take it, on his head be the
consequences.  She would have done her part.



XXVII

On Saturday afternoon as Clavering was walking up Forty-fourth Street
he met Anne Goodrich coming out of the Belasco Theatre.  He saw her
first and tried to avoid her, for her family and the Oglethorpes were
as one, but she caught sight of him and held out her hand.

"I shouldn't speak to you after your base desertion the other night,"
she said, smiling.  "But you do look rather seedy and I prefer to
flatter myself that you really were ill."

"Was sure I was coming down with the flu," Clavering mumbled.  "Of
course you know that nothing else----"

"Oh, hostesses are too canny these days to take offence.  All we are
still haughty enough to demand is a decent excuse.  But you really owe
me something, and besides I've been wanting to talk to you.  Take me to
Pierre's for tea."

She spoke in a light tone of command.  There had been a time when
issuing commands to Clavering had been her habit and he had responded
with a certain palpitation, convinced for nearly a month that Anne
Goodrich was the Clavering woman.  He had known her as an awkward
schoolgirl and then as one of the prettiest and most light-hearted of
the season's débutantes, but she had never interested him until after
her return from France, where she had done admirable work in the
canteens.  Then, sitting next to her at a dinner, and later for two
hours in the conservatory, he had thought her the finest girl he had
ever met.  He thought so still; but although she stimulated his mind
and they had many tastes in common, he had soon realized that when
apart he forgot her and that only novelty had inspired his brief
desire.  She might have everything for another man as exacting as
himself, but that unanalyzable something his own peculiar essence
demanded no woman had ever possessed until he met Mary Zattiany.

He had begun too ardently to cease his visits abruptly and, moreover,
he still found her more companionable than any woman he knew; he
continued to show her a frank and friendly devotion until an attack of
influenza sent him to the hospital for a month; when he accepted the
friendly intervention of fate and thereafter timed his occasional calls
to coincide with the hour of tea, when she was never alone.  There were
no more long morning walks, no more long rides in her car, no more
hastily arranged luncheons at the Bohemian restaurants that interested
her, no more "dropping in" and long telephone conversations.  He still
enjoyed a talk with her at a dinner, and she was always a pleasure to
the eye with her calm and regular features softened by a cloud of
bright chestnut hair that matched her eyes to a shade, her serene brow
and her exquisite clothes.  She did not carry herself well according to
his standard; "well" when she came out six years ago had meant laxity
of shoulders and pride of stomach, and in spite of her devotion to
outdoor sports she had fallen a prey to fashion.  She so far
disapproved of the new fashion in girls, however, that she was making
an effort to stand erect and she had even banished powder from her
clear warm skin.  Today she was becomingly dressed in taupe velvet,
with stole and muff and turban of sable; but Clavering had fancied that
her fine face wore a weary discontented expression until she saw him,
when it changed swiftly to a sort of imperious gladness.  It made him
vaguely uncomfortable.  He had never flattered himself that she loved
him, but he had believed in the possibility of winning her.  He had
later chosen to believe that she had grown as indifferent as himself,
and he wondered, as he stood plunging about in his mind for an excuse
to avoid a tête-à-tête, why she had not married.

"Well--you see----"

"Come now!  You don't go to teas, men never call these days, and you
surely have done your column for tomorrow.  Here is the car.  You can
spare me an hour."

He had always avoided any appearance of rudeness and in his mind at
least he had treated her badly; he followed her without further
hesitation, trusting to his agile mind to keep her off the subject of
Madame Zattiany.  This he would do at the cost of rudeness itself, for
he would not permit fiasco at the last moment.

The street was packed with automobiles and taxis, and after a slow
progress toward Fifth Avenue they arrived in time to see the traffic
towers flash on the yellow light and were forced to halt for another
three minutes.  He had started an immediate discussion of the play she
had just witnessed, knowing her love of argument, but she suddenly
broke off and laid her hand on his arm.

"Look!" she exclaimed.  "The famous Countess Zattiany in that car with
mother.  Of course you know her; you were with her at the opera on the
historic night, weren't you?  Tell me!  What is she like?  Did you ever
hear of anything so extraordinary?"

"Never.  I really know her very slightly.  But as I had met her and she
had kindly asked me to dinner, I was glad to return the compliment when
Mrs. Oglethorpe sent me her box, as she always does once or twice
during the season, you know.  But go on.  What you said interested me
immensely, although I don't agree with you.  I have certain fixed
standards when it comes to the drama."

She picked him up and the argument lasted until they were seated in
Pierre's and had ordered tea.

"I might have taken you home," she said then.  "We could have had tea
in my den.  No doubt Countess Zattiany was returning with mother, who,
it seems, has always adored her----"

"This is ever so much nicer, for we are far less likely to be
interrupted.  I haven't had a real talk with you for months."

And he gave her a look of boyish pleasure, wholly insincere, but so
well done that she flushed slightly.

"Is that my fault?  There was a time when you came almost every day.
And then you never came in the same way again."  It evidently cost her
something to say this, for her flush deepened, but she managed a glance
of dignified archness.

"Oh, remember I had a villainous attack of the flu, and after that
there were arrears of work to make up.  Moreover, the dramatic critic
came down with an even longer attack and they piled his work on me.  I
don't know what it is to 'drop in' these days."

"Well--are you always to be driven to death?  I read your column
religiously and it runs so smoothly and spontaneously that it doesn't
seem possible it can take you more than an hour to write it."

"An hour!  Little you know.  And subjects don't drop out of the clouds,
dear Anne.  I have to go through all the newspapers, read an endless
number of books--not all fiction by a long sight--glance through the
magazines, reviews, weekly publications and foreign newspapers, read my
rivals' columns, go about among the Sophisticates, attend first-nights,
prize-fights, and even see the best of the movies.  I assure you it's a
dog's life."

"It sounds tremendously interesting.  Far, far more so than my own.  I
am so tired of that!  I--that is one thing I wanted to talk to you
about--I meant to bring it up at my dinner--I wish you would introduce
me to some of your Sophisticates.  Uncle Din says they are the most
interesting people in New York and that he always feels young again
when he is at one of their parties.  Will you take me to one?"

"Of course I will.  The novelty might amuse you----"

"It's not only novelty I want.  I want really to know people whose
minds are constantly at work, who are doing the things we get the
benefit of when we are intelligent enough to appreciate them.  I cannot
go on in the old way any longer.  I paint more or less and read a great
deal--still on the lines you laid down.  But one cannot paint and read
and walk and motor and dance all the time.  Even if I had not gone to
France I should have become as bored and disgusted as I am now.  You
know that I have a mind.  What has it to feed on?  I don't mean, of
course, that all the women I know are fools.  Some of them no doubt are
cleverer than I am.  But all the girls of my set--except Marian
Lawrence, and we don't get on very well--are married; and some have
babies, some have lovers, some are mad about bridge, a few have gone in
for politics, which don't interest me, and those that the war made
permanently serious devote themselves to charities and reform
movements.  The war spoilt me for mere charity work--although I give a
charity I founded one afternoon a week--and mother does enough for one
family anyhow.  I see no prospect of marrying--I don't know a young man
who wants to talk anything but sport and prohibition--you are an oasis.
There you are!  The Sophisticates are an inspiration.  I am sure they
will save my life."

"But have you reflected----"  Clavering was embarrassed.  She had
controlled her tones and spoken with her usual crisp deliberateness,
but he knew that the words came from some profound emotional reaction.
For Anne Goodrich it was an outburst.  "You see--it is quite possible
that when the novelty wore thin you would not be much better off than
you are now.  All these people are intensely interested in their
particular jobs.  They are specialists.  You----"

"You mean, what have I to give them?"

"Not exactly.  You could give them a good deal.  To say nothing of your
own high intelligence, they are by no means averse from taking an
occasional flyer into the realm of fashion.  Curiosity partly, natural
human snobbishness, perhaps.  They will go to your house if you invite
them, no doubt of that; and they may conceive an enthusiastic liking
for you.  But after all, you would not be one of them.  Even though
they genuinely appreciated your accomplishments, still you would be
little more than an interesting incident.  They are workers, engaged in
doing the things they think most worth while--which are worth while
because they furnish what the intelligent public is demanding just now,
and upon which the current market places a high value.  And you are
merely an intellectual young woman of leisure.  They might think it a
pity you didn't have to work, but secretly, no matter what their
regard, they'd consider you negligible because you belong to a class
that is content to be, not to do.  I assure you they consider
themselves the most important group in New York--in America--at
present: the life-giving group of suns round which far-off planets
humbly revolve."

"I see.  You mean that my novelty would wear thin long before theirs.
Heaven knows I have little to give them.  I should feel rather ashamed
sitting at the head of my table offering nothing but terrapin and
Gobelins.  But don't you think I could make real friends of some of
them?  Surely we would find much in common to talk about--and they
certainly take time to play, according to Uncle Din."

"I think there would always be a barrier. . . .  Ah!  I have an idea.
Why don't you set up a studio and take your painting seriously?  Cut
yourself off from the old life and join the ranks of the real workers?
Then, by degrees, they would accept you as a matter of course.  You
could return their hospitality in your studio, which could be one of
the largest--there is no danger of overwhelming them; they are too
successful themselves.  Think it over."

Miss Goodrich's face, which had looked melancholy, almost hopeless, lit
up again.  Her red mouth lifted at the corners, light seemed to pour
into her hazel eyes.  "I'll do it!" she exclaimed.  "I did a portrait
of father last month and it really is good.  He is delighted with it,
and you know how easy he is to please!  I wonder I never thought of it
before.  You certainly are the most resourceful man in the world,
Lee--by the way, I hear there is a party at that wonderful Gora
Dwight's tonight.  Do take me."

"Oh! . . .  I'm so sorry . . . it's quite impossible, Anne.  I wish I
could. . . .  I'll take you to one next week.  And meanwhile get to
work.  Be ready to meet them in the outer court at least.  You'll find
it an immense advantage--rob your advent of any suggestion of
curiosity."

"I'll look for a studio tomorrow.  That is the way I do things--my
father's daughter, you see."

She spoke with gay determination, but her face had fallen again.  In a
moment she began to draw on her gloves.  "Now I'll have to run if I'm
to dress and get over to Old Westbury for dinner at eight.  Thank you
so much, Lee; you've been a godsend.  If I were a writer instead of a
mere dabbler in paints I'd dedicate my first book to you.  I'm so sorry
I haven't time to drive you down to Madison Square."

Clavering, drawing a long breath as if he had escaped from imminent
danger, saw her into her car and then walked briskly home.  He intended
to dine alone tonight.  And in a moment he had forgotten Anne Goodrich
as completely as he had forgotten Janet Oglethorpe.



XXVIII

He called for Madame Zattiany at ten o'clock.  This time she was
standing in the hall as the man opened the door, and she came out
immediately.  A lace scarf almost concealed her face.

"I didn't order the car," she said.  "It is such a fine night, and she
lives so near.  Do you mind?"

"I much prefer to walk, but your slippers----"

"They are dark and the heels not too high."

"I'm not going to make the slightest preliminary attempt at
indifference tonight, nor wait for one of your leads.  How long do you
intend to stay at this party?"

"Oh, an hour, possibly.  One must not be rude."  Her own tones were not
even, but he could not see her face.

"But you'll keep your word and tell me everything tonight?"

She gave a deep sigh.  "Yes, I'll keep my word.  No more
now--please! . . .  Tell me, what do they do at these parties besides
talk--dance?"

"Not always.  They have charades, spelling matches, pick a word out of
a hat and make impromptu speeches----"

"But _Mon dieu_!"  She stopped short and pushed back her scarf.
Whatever expression she may have wished to conceal there was nothing
now in her face but dismay.  "But you did not tell me this or I should
not have accepted.  I never bore myself.  I understood these were your
intellectuals.  Charades!  Spelling matches!  Words in the hat!  It
sounds like a small town moved to New York."

"Well, a good many of them are from small towns and they rather pride
themselves on preserving some of the simplicities of rural life and
juvenescence, while leading an exaggerated mental life for which nature
designed no man.  Perhaps it is merely owing to an obscure warning to
preserve the balance.  Or an innocent arrogance akin to Mrs.
Oglethorpe's when she is looking her dowdiest. . . .  But Gora often
has good music . . . still, if you don't want to go on I'm sure I do
not."

"No," she said hurriedly.  "I shall go.  But--I am still astonished.  I
do not know what I expected.  But brilliant conversation, probably,
such as one hears in a European salon.  Don't they relax their great
minds at outdoor sports?  I understand there are golf links and tennis
courts near the city."

"A good many of them do.  But they like to relax still further at
night.  You see we are not Europeans.  Americans are as serious as
children, but like children they also love to play.  Remember, we are a
young nation--and a very healthy one.  And you will have conversation
if you want it.  The men, you may be sure, will be ready to give you
anything you demand."

"I had rather hoped to listen.  Is this the house?"

Several taxis were arriving and there were many cars parked along the
block.  When they entered the house they were directed to
dressing-rooms on the second floor, and Clavering met Madame Zattiany
at the head of the staircase.  She wore a gown of emerald green velvet,
cut to reveal the sloping line of her shoulders, and an emerald comb
thrust sideways in the low coil of her soft ashen hair.  On the
dazzling fairness of her neck lay a single unset emerald depending from
a fine gold chain.  Clavering stared at her helplessly. . . .  It was
evident she had not made her toilette with an eye to softening a blow!

"Am I overdressed?" she murmured.  "I did not know. . . .  I thought I
would dress as if--well, as if I had been invited by one of my own
friends----"

"Quite right.  To 'dress down' would have been fatal.  And Gora must
spend a small fortune on her clothes. . . .  But you . . . you . . .  I
have never seen you----"

"I am fond of green," she said lightly.  "_Couleur d'espérance_.  Shall
we go down?"

He followed her down the stairs and before they reached the crowded
room below he had managed to set his face; but his heart was pounding.
He gave Gora, who came forward to meet them, a ferocious scowl, but she
was too much engaged with Madame Zattiany to notice him; and so, for
that matter, was the rest of the company.  Miss Dwight's gown was of
black satin painted with flaming poinsettias, and Clavering saw Madame
Zattiany give it a swift approving glance.  Around her thin shoulders
was a scarf of red tulle that warmed her brown cheeks.  She looked
remarkably well, almost handsome, and her strange pale eyes were very
bright.  It was evident that she was enjoying her triumphs; this no
doubt was the crowning one, and she led Madame Zattiany into the room,
leaving Clavering to his own devices.

It was certainly the "distinguished party" he had promised.  There were
some eight or ten of the best-known novelists and story-writers in the
country, two dramatists, several of the younger publishers, most of the
young editors, critics, columnists, and illustrators, famous in New
York, at least; a few poets, artists; the more serious contributors to
the magazines and reviews; an architect, an essayist, a sculptress, a
famous girl librarian of a great private library, three correspondents
of foreign newspapers, and two visiting British authors.  The men wore
evening dress.  The women, if not all patrons of the ranking "houses"
and dressmakers, were correct.  Even the artistic gowns stopped short
of delirium.  And if many of the women wore their hair short, so did
all of the men.  Everybody in the room was reasonably young or had
managed to preserve the appearance and spirit of youth.  Clavering
noticed at once that Mr. Dinwiddie was not present.  No doubt he had
been ordered to keep out of the way!

Miss Dwight led Madame Zattiany to the head of the room and enthroned
her, but made no introductions at the moment; a young man stood by the
piano, violin in hand, evidently waiting for the stir over the guest of
honor to subside.  The hostess gave the signal and the guests were
polite if restless.  However, the playing was admirable; and Madame
Zattiany, at least, gave it her undivided attention.  She was, as ever,
apparently unconscious of glances veiled and open, but Clavering laid a
bet with himself that before the end of the encore--politely
demanded--she knew what every woman in the room had on.

The violinist retired.  Cocktails were passed.  There was a surge
toward the head of the room.

Clavering had dropped into a chair beside the wife of De Witt Turner,
eminent novelist, who, however, called herself in print and out, Suzan
Forbes.  She was one of the founders of the Lucy Stone League, stern
advocates of the inalienable individuality of woman.  Whether you had
one adored husband or many, never should that individuality (presumably
derived from the male parent) be sunk in any man's.  When Suzan's
husband took his little family travelling the astonished hotel register
read: De Witt Turner, Suzan Forbes, child and nurse.  Sometimes
explanations were wearisome; and when travelling in Europe they found
it expedient to bow to prejudice.  Several of the Lucy Stoners,
however, had renounced Europe for the present, a reactionary government
refusing to issue separate passports.  You took your husband's name at
the altar, didn't you?  You are legally married?  You are?  Then you're
no more miss than mister.  You go to Europe as a respectable married
woman or you stay at home.  So they stayed.  But they would win in the
end.  They always did.  As for the husbands, they were amenable.
Whether they really approved of feministics in extenso, or were merely
good-natured and indulgent after the fashion of American husbands, they
were at some pains to conceal.  All the bright young married women who
were "doing things," however, were not Lucy Stoners, advanced as they
might be in thought.  They were mildly sympathetic, but rather liked
the matronly, and possessive, prefix.  And, after all, what did it
matter?  There were enough tiresome barriers to scale, Heaven knew.
This was the age of woman, but man, heretofore predominant by right of
brute strength and hallowed custom, was cultivating subtlety, and if he
feminized while they masculinized there would be the devil to pay
before long.

Miss Forbes was a tiny creature, wholly feminine in appearance, and in
spite of her public activities, her really brilliant and initiative
mind, was notoriously dependent upon her big burly husband for guidance
and advice in all practical matters.  When they took a holiday the
younger of his children gave him the least trouble, for she had a
nurse: he dared not give his wife her ticket in a crowd lest she lose
it, far less trust her to relieve his burdened mind of any of the
details of travel; nor even to order a meal.  Nevertheless, he
invariably, and with complete gravity, introduced her and alluded to
her as Suzan Forbes (she even tabued the Miss), and he sent a cheque to
the League when it was founded.  His novels had a quality of delicate
irony, but he avowed that his motto was live and let live.

Miss Forbes was not pretty, but she had an expressive original little
face and her manners were charming.  Janet Oglethorpe was a boor beside
her.  It was doubtful if she had ever been aggressive in manner or rude
in her life; although she never hesitated to give utterance to the
extremest of her opinions or to maintain them to the bitter end (when
she sometimes sped home to have hysterics on her husband's broad
chest).  She was one of Clavering's favorites and the heroine of the
comedy he so far rejected.

She lit a cigarette as the music finished and pinched it into a holder
nearly as long as her face.  But even smoking never interfered with her
pleasant, rather deprecatory, smile.

"It must be wonderful to be an authentic beauty," she said wistfully,
glancing at the solid phalanx of black backs and sleek heads at the
other end of the room.  "And she's ravishing, of course.  The men are
sleepless about her already.  Do assure me that she is stupid!  Nature
would never treat the rest of us so unfairly as to spare brains for
that enchanting skull when she hasn't enough to go round as it is.  I
believe I'd give mine to look like that."

"She's anything and everything but stupid.  Ask Gora.  They've met
already."

"Well, there's _something_," she said wisely.  "Law of compensation.
Although any woman who can look like that should have a special
dispensation of Providence.  Are you interested in her, Clavey?"

"Immensely.  But I want to talk to you about another friend of mine."
And he told her something of Anne Goodrich, her ambitions, her talents,
and her admiration of the new aristocracy.

Suzan Forbes listened with smiling interest and bobbed her brown little
head emphatically.  "Splendid!  I'm having a party on Thursday night.
Be sure to bring her.  She'll need encouragement at first, poor thing,
and I'll be only too glad to advise her.  I'll tell Tommy Treadwell to
find a studio for her.  I've an idea there's one vacant in The
Gainsborough, and she'd love the outlook on the Park.  Witt can help
her furnish; he's a wonder at picking up things.  Mother can furnish
the kitchenette.  Do you think she'd join the Lucy Stone League?"

"No doubt, as she was brought up in the most conservative atmosphere in
America, she'll leap most of the fences after she takes the first.  But
I don't think she's the marrying kind."

"I shall advise her to marry.  Husbands are almost indispensable in a
busy woman's life; and there are so many new ways of bringing up a
baby.  D'you like my gown?"

It was a charming but not extravagant slip of bright green chiffon and
suited her elfishness admirably, as he told her.

"I paid for it myself.  I pay for all my gowns, as I think it
consistent, but I can't afford the expensive dressmakers yet.  At least
I think I've paid for it.  Witt says I haven't and that he expects a
collector any day.  But I must have, because I told her to send the
bill at once so that it wouldn't get lost among all the other bills on
the first of the month.  Your column's been simply spiffing lately.
Full of fire and go, but rather--what shall I call it--explosive?
What's happened, Clavey?"

"Good of you to encourage me, Suzanna.  I'd thought it rotten.  What
are you working at?"

"I've just finished a paper on John Dewey for the _Atlantic_.  I was so
proud when Witt said he hadn't a criticism to make.  I'm on a review
for the _Yale_ now; and the new _Century_ has asked me for a
psychological analysis of the Younger Generation.  I'm going to compare
our post-war product with all that is known of young people and their
manifestations straight back to the Stone Age.  I've made a specialty
of the subject.  Witt has helped me a lot in research.  D'you think
he's gone off?"

"Gone off?  Certainly not.  Every columnist in town had something to
say about that last installment of his novel.  Best thing he's ever
done, and that's saying all.  He's strong as an ox, too.  Why in
heaven's name should he go off?"

"Well, baby's teething and won't let any one else hold her when she
gets a fretting spell.  He's been up a lot lately."

Clavering burst into a loud delighted laugh.  He had forgotten his
personal affairs completely, as he always did when talking to this
remarkable little paradox.  "Gad!  That's good!  And his public
visualizes him as a sort of Buddha, brooding cross-legged in his
library, receiving direct advice from the god of fiction. . . .  But I
wouldn't have you otherwise.  The nineteenth century bluestocking with
twentieth century trimmings. . . .  What now?"

Rollo Landers Todd, the "Poet of Manhattan," had stalked in with a
Prussian helmet on his head, his girth draped in a rich blue shawl
embroidered and fringed with white, a bitter frown on his jovial round
face; and in his hand a long rod with a large blue bow on the metal
point designed to shut refractory windows.  Helen Vane Baker, a
contribution from Society to the art of fiction, with flowing hair and
arrayed in a long nightgown over her dress, fortunately white, was
assisted to the top of the bookcase on the west wall.  Henry Church, a
famous satirist, muffled in a fur cloak, a small black silk
handkerchief pinned about his lively face, stumped heavily into the
room, fell in a heap on the floor against the opposite wall, and in a
magnificent bass growled out the resentment of Ortrud, while a rising
but not yet prosilient pianist, with a long blonde wig from Miss
Dwight's property chest, threw his head back, shook his hands, adjusted
a cigarette in the corner of his mouth, and banged out the prelude to
_Lohengrin_ with amazing variations.  Elsa, with her profile against
the wall and her hands folded across her breast, sang what of Elsa's
prayer she could remember and with no apparent effort improvised the
rest.  Lohengrin pranced up and down the room barking out German
phonetics (he did not know a word of the language, but his accent was
as Teutonic as his helmet), demanding vengeance and threatening
annihilation.  He brandished his pole in the face of Ortrud, stamping
and roaring, then, bending his knees, waddled across the room and
prodded Elsa, who winced perceptibly but continued to mingle her light
soprano with the rolling bass of Mr. Church and the vociferations of
the poet.  Finally, at the staccato command of Mr. Todd's hoarsening
voice, she toppled over into his arms and they both fell on Ortrud.
The nonsense was over.

No one applauded more spontaneously than Madame Zattiany, and she even
drank a cocktail.  By this time every one in the room had been
introduced to her and she was chatting as if she hadn't a care in the
world.  As far as Clavering could see, she had every intention of
making a Sophisticate night of it.

The pianist, after a brief interval for recuperation, played with
deafening vehemence and then with excruciating sweetness.  Once more
cocktails were passed, and then there was a charade by Todd, Suzan
Forbes and the handsome young English sculptress, which Madame Zattiany
followed with puzzled interest; and was so delighted with herself for
guessing the word before the climax that she clapped her hands and
laughed like a child.

More music, more cocktails, a brief impromptu play full of witty
nonsense, caricaturing several of the distinguished company, whose
appreciation was somewhat dubious, and Miss Dwight led the way down to
supper.  Clavering watched Madame Zattiany go out with the good-looking
young editor of one of the staid old fiction magazines which he had
recently levered out of its rut by the wayside, cranked up and driven
with a magnificent gesture into the front rank of Youth.  She was
talking with the greatest animation.  He hardly recognized her and it
was apparent that she had entered into the spirit of the evening, quite
reconciled to any dearth of intellectual refreshment.

The supper of hot oysters, chicken salad, every known variety of
sandwich, ices and cakes was taken standing for the most part, Madame
Zattiany, however, once more enthroned at the head of the room, women
as well as men dancing attendance upon her.  Prohibition, a dead letter
to all who could afford to patronize the underground mart, had but
added to the spice of life, and it was patent that Miss Dwight had a
cellar.  More cocktails, highballs, sherry, were passed continuously,
and two enthusiastic guests made a punch.  Fashionable young actors and
actresses began to arrive.  Hilarity waxed, impromptu speeches were
made, songs rose on every key.  Then suddenly some one ran up to the
victrola and turned on the jazz; and in a twinkling the dining-room was
deserted, furniture in the large room upstairs was pushed to the wall
and the night entered on its last phase.

Then only did Madame Zattiany signify her intention of retiring, and
Clavering, to whom such entertainments were too familiar to banish for
more than a moment his heavy disquiet, hastened to her side with a sigh
of relief and a sinking sensation behind his ribs.  Madame Zattiany
made her farewells not only with graciousness but with unmistakable
sincerity in her protestations of having passed her "most interesting
evening in New York."

Miss Dwight went up to the dressing-room with her, and Clavering,
retrieving hat and top-coat, waited for her at the front door.  She
came down radiant and talking animatedly to her hostess; but when they
had parted and she was alone with Clavering her face seemed suddenly to
turn to stone and her lids drooped.  As she was about to pass him she
shrank back, and then raised her eyes to his.  In that fleeting moment
they looked as when he had met them first: inconceivably old, wise,
disillusioned.

"Now for it," he thought grimly as he closed the door and followed her
out to the pavement.  "The Lord have mercy----"  And then he made a
sudden resolution.



XXIX

Madame Zattiany did not utter a word during the short walk to her house.
It was evident that she had dismissed the merry evening from her mind and
was brooding on the coming hour.  At the top of the steps she handed him
the latchkey, but still lingered outside for a moment.  As he took her
hand and drew her gently into the house he felt that she was trembling.

"Come," he said, his own voice shaking.  "Remember that you need tell me
nothing unless you wish.  This idea of confession before marriage is
infernal rot.  I have not the least intention of making one of my own."

"Oh!"  She gave a short harsh laugh.  "I should never dream of asking for
any man's confession.  They are all alike.  And I must tell you.  I
cannot leave you to hear it from others."

He helped her out of her wrap and she threw the lace scarf on a chair and
preceded him slowly down the hall.

"I am a coward.  A coward," she thought heavily.  "Have I ever felt moral
cowardice before?  I don't remember.  Not toward any other man who loved
me.  But----  Oh, God!  And I shall never see him again.  How shall I
begin?"

She was totally unprepared for the beginning.  She heard him shut the
library door, and then it seemed to her that her entire body was
encircled by flexible hot bars of iron and her face, her mouth, were
being flagellated.  If he hadn't held her in that vise-like grip she
would have fallen.  She lay back on his arm as he kissed her and for the
moment she forgot the past and the future and was happy, although she
felt dimly that life was being drained out of her.  She was passive in
that fierce possessive embrace.  She had lost all sense of separateness.

"I won't listen to your story," he muttered.  "This is no time for talk."

His voice, hoarse and shaking as it was, broke the spell; with a sudden
lithe movement she twisted herself out of his arms.  Before he realized
what was happening she had run across the room, snatched the key from the
door and locked it on the other side.  He heard her run up the stairs.

Clavering did and said most of the things men do and say when balked in
mid-flight, but in a moment he took the little key from the drawer in the
table and poured himself out a whiskey and soda--he had taken almost
nothing at the party--lit a cigarette and threw himself into a chair.  He
had no desire to stride up and down; he felt as if all the strength had
gone out of him.  But he felt no apprehension that she had left him for
the night.  Nor should he take possession of her again until she had told
her story: he reflected with what humor was left in him that when a woman
had something to say and was determined to say it, the only thing to do
was to let her talk.  Words to a woman were as steam to a boiler, and no
man could control her mind until she had talked off the lid.

She was giving him time to cool off, he reflected grimly, as he glanced
at the clock.  Well, he felt heavy and inert enough--hideous reaction!
He was in a condition to listen to anything.  If she was determined to
work her will on him, at least he had worked his on her for a brief
moment.  She knew now that in the future she might as well try to resist
death itself.  Let her have her last fling.

He rose as she entered, and for the moment his heart failed him.  He had
never seen even her look more like marble, and she did not meet his eyes
as she crossed the room and seated herself so that her profile would be
toward him as she talked.  As she had chosen the large high-backed chair,
Clavering, knowing her love of comfort, hoped that her discourse was to
be brief.

"When I finish," she said in her low vital voice, "I shall leave the room
immediately and I must have your word that you will make no attempt to
detain me, and that you will go at once and not return until Monday
afternoon.  I shall not wish to see you again until you have had time to
deliberate calmly on what I shall tell you.  I do not want any
embarrassed protests from a gallant gentleman--whose confusion of mind is
second only to his chivalrous dismay.  Have I your word?"

"It never takes me long to make up my mind----"

"That may be, but I intend to save you from an embarrassing situation.
You need not come on Monday unless you wish.  You may write--or, for that
matter, if I do not hear from you on Monday by four I shall
understand----"

"I--for God's sake, Mary----"

"You must do as I say--this time.  And--and--you could not overcome me
again tonight.  I can turn myself to stone when I choose."

"Oh!"  He ground his teeth.  His own nerves might be lulled for the
moment, but he had anticipated reaction when she finished her story.
"Very well--but it is for the last time, my dear.  And why Monday?  Why
not this afternoon?"

"You must sleep and write your column, is it not so?  Moreover--and
deliberately--I am lunching with Mrs. Ruyler and dining at the
Lawrences'."

"Very well.  Monday, then.  You have set the stage.  If I must be a
puppet for once in my life, so be it.  But, I repeat, it's for the last
time.  Now, for heaven's sake, go ahead and get it off your chest."

"And you will let me go without a word?  Otherwise I shall not speak--and
I'll leave the room again and not return."

"Very well.  I promise."

"I told part of it the other day at Mrs. Oglethorpe's luncheon--I had
told her before.  But there's so much else.  I hardly know how to begin
with you, and I have not the habit of talking about myself.  But I
suppose I should begin at the beginning."

"It is one of the formulae."

"It is the most difficult of all--that beginning."  And although she had
announced the torpidity of her nerves, her hands clenched and her voice
shook slightly.

"Let me remind you that to begin anywhere you've got to begin somewhere."
And then as she continued silent, he burst out: "For God's sake, say it!"

"Is--is--it possible that the suspicion has never crossed your mind that
I am Mary Ogden?"

"Wh-a-at!"

"Mary Ogden, who married Count Zattiany thirty-four years ago.  I was
twenty-four at the time.  You may do your own arithmetic."

But Clavering made no answer.  His cigarette was burning a hole in the
carpet.  He mechanically set his foot on it, but his faculties felt
suspended, his body immersed in ice-water.  And yet something in his
unconscious rose and laughed . . . and tossed up a key . . . if he had
not fallen in love with her he would have found that key long since.  His
news sense rarely failed him.

"I've told a good many lies, I'm afraid," she went on, and her voice was
even and cool.  The worst was over.  "You'll have to forgive me that at
least.  I dislike downright lying, if only because concessions are
foreign to my nature, and I quibbled when it was possible; but when
cornered there was no other way out.  I had no intention of being forced
to tell you or any one the truth until I chose to tell it."

"Well, you had your little comedy!"

"It did amuse me for a time, but I think I explained all that in my
letter.  I also explained why I came to America, and that if I had not
met you I should probably have come and gone and no one but Judge Trent
been the wiser.  I had prepared him by letter, and to him, I suppose, it
has been a huge comedy--with no tragic sequel.  Be sure that I never
entertained the thought that I could ever love any man again.  But I have
made up my mind to disenchant you as far as possible, not only for your
sake but my own.  I wish you to know exactly whom you have fallen in love
with."

"You grow more interesting every moment," said Clavering politely, "and I
have never been one-half as interested in my life."

"Perhaps you have heard--Mrs. Oglethorpe, I should think, would be very
much disposed to talk about old times--that I was a great belle in New
York--belles were fashionable in those days of more marked individuality.
I suppose no girl ever had more proposals.  Naturally I grew to
understand my power over men perfectly.  I had that white and regular
beauty combined with animation and great sex-magnetism which always
convinces men that under the snow volcanic fires are burning.  I was
experienced, under the frankest exterior, in all the subtle arts of the
coquette.  Men to me were a sort of musical instrument from which I could
evoke any harmony or cacophony I chose.

"What held the men I played with and rejected was my real gift for
good-fellowship, my loyalty in friendship, and some natural sweetness of
disposition.  But such power makes a woman, particularly while young,
somewhat heartless and callous, and I was convinced that I had no
capacity for love myself; especially as I found all men rather
ridiculous.  I met Otto Zattiany in Paris, where he was attached to the
Embassy of the Dual Empire.  He was an impetuous wooer and very handsome.
I did not love him, but I was fascinated.  Moreover, I was tired of
American men and American life.  Diplomacy appealed to my ambition, my
love of power and intrigue.  He was also a nobleman with great estates;
there could be no suspicion that he was influenced by my fortune.  He
followed me back to New York, and although my parents were opposed to all
foreigners, I had my way; there was the usual wedding in Saint Thomas's,
and we sailed immediately for Europe.

"I hated him at once.  I shall not go into the details of that marriage.
Fortunately he soon tired of me and returned to his mistresses.  To him I
was the Galatea that no man could bring to life.  But he was very proud
of me and keenly aware of my value as the wife of an ambitious
diplomatist.  He treated me with courtesy, and concerned himself not at
all with my private life.  He knew my pride, and believed that where he
had failed no man could succeed; in short, that I would never consider
divorce nor elopement, nor even run the risk of less public scandals.

"I was not unhappy.  I was rid of him.  I had a great position and there
was everything to distract my mind.  I was not so interested in the inner
workings of diplomacy as I was later, but the comedy of jealousy and
intrigue in the diplomatic set was amusing from the first.  I was very
beautiful, I entertained magnificently, I was called the best-dressed
woman in Paris, I was besieged by men--men who were a good deal more
difficult to manage than chivalrous Americans, particularly as I was now
married and the natural prey of the hunter.  But it was several years
before I could think of men without a shudder, little as I permitted them
to suspect it.  I learned to play the subtle and absorbing game of men
and women as it is played to perfection in the bolder civilizations.  It
was all that gave vitality to the general game of society.  I had no
children; my establishment was run by a major domo; it bore little
resemblance to a home.  It was the brilliant artificial existence of a
great lady, young, beautiful, and wealthy, in Europe before
nineteen-fourteen.  Of course that phase of life was suspended in Europe
during the war.  All the women I knew or heard of worked as hard as I
did.  Whether that terrible interregnum left its indelible seal on them,
or whether they have rebounded to the old life, where conditions are less
agonizing than in Vienna, I do not know."

She paused a moment, and Clavering unconsciously braced himself.  Her
initial revelation had left the deeper and more personal part of him
stunned, and he was listening to her with a certain detachment.  So far
she had revealed little that Dinwiddie had not told him already, and as
he knew that this brief recapitulation of her earlier life was not
prompted by vanity, he could only wonder if it were the suggestive
preface to that secret volume at which Dinwiddie had hinted more than
once.

As she continued silent, he got suddenly to his feet.  "I'll walk up and
down a bit, if you don't mind," he muttered.  "I'm rather--ah--getting
rather cramped."

"Do," she said indifferently.

"Please go on.  I am deeply interested."

She continued in a particularly level voice while he strode unevenly up
and down: "Of course the time came when ugly memories faded, my buoyant
youth asserted itself and I wanted love.  And when a woman feels a crying
need to love as well as to be loved, her whole being a peremptory demand,
unsatisfied romance quickening, she is not long finding the man.  I had
many to choose from.  I made my choice and was happy for a time.
Although I had been brought up in the severest respectability--just
recall Jane Oglethorpe, Mrs. Vane, Mrs. Ruyler, and you will be able to
reconstruct the atmosphere--several of the women I had known as a girl
had lovers, it seemed to me that American women came to Europe for no
other purpose, and I was now living at the fountain-head of polite
license.  Not that I made any apologies to myself.  I should have taken a
lover if I had wanted one had virtue been the fashion.  And the contract
with my husband had been dissolved by mutual consent.  The only thing
that rebelled was my pride.  I hated stepping down from my pedestal."

Clavering gave a short barking laugh.  "Your arrogance is the most
magnificent thing about you, and that is saying more than I could
otherwise express.  I'll fortify myself before you proceed further, if
you will permit."  He poured himself out a drink, and returned to his
chair with the glass in his hand.  "Pray go on."

She had not turned her head and continued to look into the fire.  She
might have been posing to a sculptor for a bust that would hardly look
more like marble when finished.

"I soon discovered that I had not found happiness.  Men want.  They
rarely love.  I realized that I had demanded in love far more than
passion, and I received nothing else.

"I am not going to tell you how many lovers I have had.  It is none of
your business----"

"Ah!"  Clavering, staring at her, had forgotten his first shock,
everything but her living presence; forgotten also that he had once
apprehended something of the sort, then dismissed it from his mind.  He
spilt the whiskey over the arm of the chair, then sprang to his feet and
began to pace the room once more.

She went on calmly: "Disappointment does not mean the end of
seeking. . . .  They gave me little that I wanted.  They were clever and
adroit enough in the prelude.  They knew how to create the illusion that
in them alone could be found the fulfillment of all aspiration and
desire.  No doubt they satisfied many women, but they could not satisfy
me.  They gave me little I did not find in the mere society of the many
brilliant and accomplished men with whom I was surrounded.  I had a
rapacious mind, and there was ample satisfaction for it in the men who
haunted my salon and were constantly to be met elsewhere.  European men
are _instruits_.  They are interested in every vital subject,
intellectual and political, despite the itch of amor, their deliberate
cult of sex.  They like to talk.  Conversation is an art.  My mind was
never uncompanioned.  But that deeper spiritual rapacity, one offspring
of passion as it may be, they could not satisfy; for love with them is
always too confused with animalism and is desiccated in the art of
love-making.  Fidelity is a virtue relegated to the bourgeois----"

"What about Englishmen?" demanded Clavering sarcastically.  "I thought
they were bad artists but real lovers."

"I know little of Englishmen.  Zattiany was never appointed to St.
James's, and although, of course, I met many of them in the service on
the continent, and even visited London several times, it must have
happened that I was interested in some one else or in a state of profound
reaction from love at the time--at least so I infer.  It is a long while
ago.  I remember only the fact.

"Those whom I tried to love would soon have tired of me had I not played
the game as adroitly as themselves, and if I had permitted them to feel
sure of me.  The last thing any of them wanted was depth of feeling,
tragic passion. . . .  My most desperate affair was my last--after a long
interval. . . .  I was in my early forties.  I had thought myself too
utterly disillusioned ever to imagine myself in love again.  Men are
gross and ridiculous creatures in the main, and aside from my personal
disappointments, I thought it was time for that chapter of my life to
finish; I was amusing myself with diplomatic intrigue.  I was in the
Balkans at the time, that breeding ground of war microbes, and I was
interested in a very delicate situation in which I played a certain part.

"The awakening was violent.  He was an Austrian, with an important place
in the Government; he came to Belgrade on a private mission.  He was a
very great person in many ways, and I think I really loved him, for he
seemed to me entirely worthy of it.  He certainly was mad enough about me
for a time--for a year, to be exact.  When he returned to Vienna it was
not difficult for me to find an excuse to go also.  Although Zattiany was
a Hungarian, he never visited his Hungarian estates except for the boar
hunting, and spent his time when on leave, or between appointments, in
Vienna, where he had inherited a palace--I must tell you that the city
residence of a nobleman in the Dual Empire was always called a palace,
however much it might look like a house.

"I shall always remember this man with a certain pleasure and respect,
for he is the only man who ever made me suffer.  A woman forgets the
lovers she has dismissed as quickly as possible.  Their memory is hateful
to her, like the memory of all mistakes.  But this man made me suffer
horribly.  (He married a young girl, out of duty to his House, and
unexpectedly fell in love with her.)  Therefore, although I recovered,
and completely, still do I sometimes dwell with a certain cynical
pleasure on the memory of him----"

"Have you never seen him since?" asked Clavering sharply.  He had
returned to his chair.  "How long ago was that?"

"Quite sixteen years ago.  I did not visit Vienna again for several
years; in fact, not until after my husband's death, when I returned there
to live.  But by that time I had lost both youth and beauty.  His wife
had died, but left him an heir, and he showed no disposition to marry
again; certainly he was as indifferent to me as I to him.  We often met,
and as he respected my mind and my knowledge of European affairs, we
talked politics together, and he sometimes asked my advice.

"But to go back.  After that was over I determined to put love definitely
out of my life.  I believed then and finally that I had not the gift of
inspiring love; nor would I ever risk humiliation and suffering again.  I
played the great game of life and politics.  I was still beautiful--for a
few years--I had an increasingly great position, all the advantages,
obvious and subtle, that money could procure.  My maid was very clever.
My gowns, as time went on, were of a magnificent simplicity; all
frou-frous were renounced.  I had no mind to invite the valuation I heard
applied to certain American women in Paris: 'elderly and dressy.'"

Clavering laughed for the first time.  "I wonder you ever made a mistake
of any sort.  I also wonder if you are a type as well as an individual?
I have, I think, followed intelligently your psychological involutions
and convolutions so far.  I am only hoping you will not get beyond my
depth.  What was your attitude toward your past mistakes--beyond what you
have told me?  Did you suffer remorse, as I am told women do when they
either voluntarily renounce or are permitted to sin no more?"

"I neither regarded them as mistakes nor did I suffer remorse.  Every
human being makes what are called mistakes and those happened to be mine.
Therefore I dismissed them to the limbo of the inevitable. . . .  As your
world, I am told, looks upon you as the coming dramatist, it may appeal
to your imagination to visualize that secret and vital and dramatic
undercurrent of what was on the surface a proud and splendid life. . . .
Or, if there are regrets, it is for the weight of memories, the
completeness of disillusion, the slaying of mental youth--which cannot
survive brutal facts.

"I think that for women of my type--what may be called the intellectual
siren--the lover phase is inevitable.  We are goaded not only by the
imperious demands of womanhood and the hope of the perfect companion, but
by curiosity, love of adventure, ennui; possibly some more obscure
complex--vengeance on the husband who has wrecked our first illusions--on
Life itself.  Bringing-up, family and social traditions, have nothing to
do with it.  Only opportunity counts.  Moreover, we are not the product
of our immediate forebears, but of a thousand thousand unknown
ancestors. . . ."

"God!  True enough!"

"Unfortunately, these women who have wasted so much time on love never
realize the tragic futility until Time himself disposes of temptation,
and then it is too late for anything but regrets of another sort.  The
war may have solved the problem for many a desperate spirit.

"My own case has assumed an entirely different complexion.  With my youth
restored I have the world at my feet once more, but safeguarded by the
wisdom of experience--in so far as a mortal ever may be.  The bare idea
of that old game of prowling sex fills me with ennui and disgust.  The
body may be young again, but my mind, reënergized though it is, is packed
with memories, a very Book of Life.  When I found that my beauty was
restored I thought of nothing less than returning to the conquest of men
in the old manner, although quite aware of its powerful aid in the work I
have made up my mind to do in Austria.  Of late, of course, I have
thought of little else but what this recrudescence of my youth means to
you and to myself.  But--please do not interrupt--this I shall not
discuss with you again until Monday--if then.

"But once more I wish to impress you with the fact that I indulge in
nothing so futile as regrets for my 'past.'  'Sack-cloth and ashes'
provokes nothing but a smile from women of my type and class.  Moreover,
I believe that my education would not be complete without that
experience--_mine_, understand.  I am not speaking for women of other
temperaments, opportunities, of less intellect, of humbler character,
weaker will. . . .  And if I had persisted in virtue at that time I
should probably make a fool of myself today, an even more complete fool
than women do when they feel youth slipping but still are able with the
aid of art and arts to fascinate younger men.

"That almost standardized chapter I renounced peremptorily.  My pride was
too great to permit me to be foolish even in the privacy of my mind over
men half my age.  Nor did I make any of the usual frantic attempts to
keep looking young.  I had seen too much of that, laughed at it too
often.  Nevertheless, I hated the approach of age, the decay of beauty,
the death of magnetism, as bitterly as the silliest woman I had ever met.

"Some women merely fade: lose their complexions, the brightness of their
eyes and hair.  Others grow heavy, solid; stout or flabby; the muscles of
the face and neck loosen and sag, the features alter.  I seemed slowly to
dry up--wither.  There was no flesh to hang or loose skin to wrinkle, but
it seemed to me that I had ten thousand lines.  I thought it a horrid
fate.  I could not know that Nature, meaning to be cruel, had given me
the best chance for the renewal of the appearance as well as the fact of
youth.

"I suppose all this seems trivial to you--this mourning over lost
youth----"

"Not at all.  It must have been hell to a woman like you.  As for women
in general--they may make more fuss about it, but I fancy they hate it
less than men."

"Yes, men are vainer than women," said Madame Zattiany indifferently.
"But I have yet to waste any sympathy on men. . . .

"I suppose I only fully realized that my youth, my beauty, my magnetic
charm, had gone when men ceased to make violent love to me.  They still
paid court, for I was a very important person, my great prestige was a
sort of halo, and I had never neglected my mind.  There was nothing of
significance I had not read during all these years.  I was as profoundly
interested in the great political currents of Europe, seen and unseen, as
any man--or as any intelligent woman of European society.  Moreover, I
had the art of life down to a fine point, and I had not forgotten that
even in friendship men are drawn to the subtle woman who knows how to
envelop herself in a certain mystery.  And European men are always eager
to talk with an accomplished woman, even if she has no longer the power
to stir their facile passions.

"When I realized that my sex power had left me I adopted an entirely new
set of tactics--never would I provoke a cynical smile on the faces I once
had the power to distort!  With no evidence of regret for my lost
enchantment I remained merely the alert and always interested woman of
the world, to whom men, if sufficiently entertaining, were welcome
companions for the moment, nothing more.  I cemented many friendships, I
cultivated a cynical philosophy--for my own private succor--and although,
for a time, there were moments of bewildered groping and of intense
rebellion, or a sudden and hideous sense of inferiority, I twisted the
necks of those noxious weeds thrusting themselves upward into my
consciousness and threatening to strangle it, and trampled them under the
heel of my will.  It was by no means the least happy interval of my life,
for I was very healthy, I took a great deal of outdoor exercise, and
there was a sense of freedom I never had experienced before.  Love is
slavery, and I was no longer a slave.

"After my husband's death, as I told you, I opened the Zattiany palace in
Vienna once more (my nephew and his wife preferred Paris, and I leased it
from them), expecting to follow the life I had mapped out, until I was
too old for interests of any sort.  I had a brilliant salon and I was
something of a political power.  Of course, I knew that the war was
coming long before hatreds and ambitions reached their climax, and
advised this man of whom I have spoken, Mathilde Loyos, and other
friends, to invest large sums of money in the United States.  Judge Trent
arranged the trusteeship in each case----"

"Where is this man?"

"I do not know.  He went down with the old régime, of course, and would
be a pauper but for these American investments and a small amount in
Switzerland.  He has occupied no position in the new Government, although
he was a Liberal in politics.  What he is doing I have no idea.  I have
not seen him for years."

"Well--go on."

"It was only when I became aware of a growing mental lassitude, a
constant sense of effort in talking everlastingly on subjects that called
for constant alertness and often reorientation, that I was really aghast
and began to look toward the future not only with a sense of helplessness
but of intolerable weariness.  I used to feel an inclination to turn my
head away with an actual physical gesture when concentration was
imperative.  I thought that my condition was psychological, that I had
lived too much and too hard, that my memory was over-burdened and my
sense of the futility and meaninglessness of life too overwhelming.  But
I know now that the condition was physical, the result of the
degeneration of certain cells.

"I spent the summer alone on my estate in Hungary, and when it was over I
determined to close the palace in Vienna and remain in the country.  I
could not go back to that restless high-pitched life, with its ceaseless
gaiety on the one hand and its feverish politics and portentous rumblings
on the other.  My tired mind rebelled.  And the long strain had told on
my health.

"I lived an almost completely outdoor life, riding, walking, swimming in
the lake, hunting, but careful not to overtax my returning strength.  I
was not in love with life, far from it!  But I had no intention of adding
invalidism to my other disintegrations.  In the evening I played cards
with my secretary or practised at the piano, with some revival of my old
interest in music.  I read little, even in the newspapers.  I was become,
save perhaps for my music, an automaton.  But, although I did not improve
in appearance, my health was completely restored, and when the war came I
was in perfect condition for the arduous task I immediately undertook.
Moreover, my mind, torpid for a year, was free and refreshed for those
practical details it must grapple with at once.  I turned the Zattiany
palace in Buda Pesth into a hospital.  And then for four years I was
again an automaton, but this time a necessary and useful one.  When I
thought about myself at all, it seemed to me that this selfless and
strenuous interval was the final severance from my old life.  If Society
in Europe today were miraculously restored to its pre-war
brilliancy--indifferent to little but excitement and pleasure--there
would be nothing in it for me.

"Now I come to the miracle."  And while she recapitulated what she had
told the women at Mrs. Oglethorpe's luncheon, Clavering listened without
chaos in his accompanying thoughts.  "Certainly, man's span is too brief
now," she concluded.  "He withers and dies at an age when, if he has
lived sanely--and when a man abuses his natural functions he generally
dies before old age, anyhow--he is beginning to see life as a whole, with
that detachment that comes when his personal hold on life and affairs is
relaxing, when he has realized his mistakes, and has attained a mental
and moral orientation which could be of inestimable service to his fellow
men, and to civilization in general.  What you call crankiness in old
people, so trying to the younger generations, does not arise from natural
hatefulness of disposition and a released congenital selfishness, but
from atrophying glands, and, no doubt, a subtle rebellion against nature
for consigning men to ineptitude when they should be entering upon their
best period of usefulness, and philosophical as well as active enjoyment
of life.

"Science has defeated nature at many points.  The isolation of germs, the
discovery of toxins and serums, the triumph over diseases that once
wasted whole nations and brought about the fall of empires, the arrest of
infant mortality, the marvels of vivisection and surgery--the list is
endless.  It is entirely logical, and no more marvellous, that science
should be able to arrest senescence, put back the clock.  The wonder is
that it has not been done before."

She rose, still looking down at the fire, which Clavering had replenished
twice.  "I am going now.  And I have no fear that you will not keep your
promise!  But remember this when thinking it over: I do not merely _look_
young again, _I am_ young.  I am not the years I have passed in this
world, I am the age of the rejuvenated glands in my body.  Some day we
shall have the proverb: 'A man is as old as his endocrines.'  Of course I
cannot have children.  The treatment is identical with that for
sterilization.  This consideration may influence you.  I shall use no
arguments nor seductions.  You will have decided upon all that before we
meet again.  Good night."  And she was gone.



XXX

It seemed to Clavering that he had run the gamut of the emotions while
listening to that brief biography, so sterilely told, but there had
also been times when he had felt as if suspended in a void even while
visited by flashes of acute consciousness that he was being called upon
to know himself for the first time in his life.  And in such fashion as
no man had ever been called upon to know himself before.

There was no precedent in life or in fiction to guide him, and he had
realized with a sensation of panic even while she talked that it was
doubtful if any one had ever understood himself since the dawn of time.
Man had certain standards, fixed beliefs, ideals, above all,
habits--how often they scattered to the winds under some unheralded or
teratogenic stress.  He had seen it more than once, and not only in
war.  Every man had at least two personalities that he was aware of,
and he dimly guessed at others.  Some were frank enough to admit that
they had not an idea what they would do in a totally unfamiliar
situation.  Clavering had sometimes emblemized man and his
personalities with the old game of the ivory egg.  A twist and the
outer egg revealed an inner.  Another and one beheld a third.  And so
on to the inner unmanipulatable sphere, which might stand for the
always inscrutable soul.  Like all intelligent men, he had a fair
knowledge of these two outer layers of personality, and he had
sometimes had a flashing glimpse of others, too elusive to seize and
put under the microscopic eye of the mind.

What did he know of himself?  He asked the question again as he sat in
his own deep chair in the early morning hours.  The heat in the hotel
had been turned off and he had lit the gas logs in the grate--symbol of
the artificialities of civilization that had played their insidious
rôle in man's outer and more familiar personality.  Perhaps they struck
deeper.  Habit more often than not dominated original impulse.

His own room, where he was nearly always alone, with its warm red
curtains and rug, the low bookcases built under his direction and
filled with his favorite books, the refectory table and other pieces of
dark old English oak that he had brought from home, and several family
portraits on the wall, restored his equilibrium and his brain was
abnormally clear.  He wondered if he ever would sleep again.  Better
think it over now.

Mary Zattiany as she talked had never changed her expression.  She
might have been some ancient oracle reciting her credo, and she seemed
to have narcotized that magnetic current that had always vibrated
between them.  Nevertheless, he had been fully aware that she felt like
nothing less than an oracle or the marble bust she looked, and that her
soul was racked and possibly fainting, but mastered by her formidable
will.

Formidable.  Did that word best express her?  Was she one of the
superwomen who could find no mate on earth and must look for her god on
another star?  He certainly was no superman himself to breathe on her
plane and mate that incarnate will.  Had she any human weakness?  Even
that subterranean sex-life in her past had not been due to weakness.
She was far too arrogant for that.  Life had been her foot-stool.  She
had kicked it about contemptuously.  Even her readjustments had been
the dictates of her imperious will.  And her pride!  She was a female
Lucifer in pride.

No doubt the men she had dismissed had been secretly relieved; stung
for the only time in their lives perhaps, with a sense of inferiority.
It must have been like receiving the casual favors of a queen on her
throne.  Well, she had got it in the neck once; there was some
satisfaction in that.  He wished he knew the man's name.  He'd hunt him
up and thank him in behalf of his sex.

For an hour he excoriated her, hated her, feared her, dissociating her
from the vast army of womanhood, but congratulating himself upon having
known her.  She was a unique if crucifying study.

With restored youth superimposed upon that exhaustive knowledge of
life--every phase of it that counted in her calculations--the
rejuvenation of all her great natural endowments, she'd probably go
back and rule Europe!  What use could she possibly have for any man?

He made himself a cup of coffee over his electric stove, turned off the
malodorous gas, which affected his head, stood out on his balcony for a
moment, then lit his pipe and felt in a more mellow mood.

After all, she had suffered as only a woman so liberally endowed could
suffer, and over a long period of years.  She had known despair and
humiliation and bewilderment, lethargic hopelessness, and finally a
complete sacrifice of self.  His imagination, in spite of his
rebellious soul, had furnished the background for that bald recital.

And she must have an indomitable soul, some inner super-fine spiritual
essence, with which arrogance and even pride had less to do than she
imagined.  Otherwise, after the life she had led, she would either have
become an imperious uncomfortable old woman or one of those faltering
non-entities crowded into the backwaters of life by a generation which
inspires them with nothing but timidity and disapproval.  Towering
individualities often go down to defeat in old age.

And nothing could alter the fact that she was the most beautiful and
the most wholly desirable woman he had ever known, the one woman who
had focussed every aspiration of his mind, his soul, and his body.  He
knew he must ask himself the inevitable question and face it without
blinking.  Was he appalled by her real age; could he ever get away from
the indubious fact that whatever miracle science may have effected, her
literal age was verging on sixty?  If she were not an old woman she had
been one.  That beautiful body had withered, undesired of all men, that
perfect face had been the battered mirror of an aged ego.  He did not
ask himself if the metamorphosis would last, if the shell might not
wither again tomorrow.  He was abreast of the important scientific
discoveries of his day and was not at all astonished that the problem
of senescence should be solved.  It was no more remarkable than
wireless, the Röntgen Ray, the properties of radium, or any one of the
beneficent contributions of science to the well-being of mankind that
were now too familiar for discussion.  He had heard a good deal of this
particular discovery as applied to men.  No doubt Dinwiddie and Osborne
would soon be appearing as gay young sparks on her doorstep.  It might
be the greatest discovery of all time, but it certainly would work both
ways.  While its economic value might be indisputable, and even, as she
had suggested, its spiritual, it would be hard on the merely young.
The mutual hatreds of capital and labor would sink into insignificance
before the antagonism between authentic youth and age inverted.  On the
other hand it might mean the millennium.  The threat of
overpopulation--for man's architectonic powers were restored if not
woman's; to say nothing of his prolonged sojourn--would at last rouse
the law-makers to the imperious necessity of eugenics, birth control,
sterilization of the unfit, and the expulsion of undesirable races.  It
might even stimulate youth to a higher level than satisfied it at
present.  Human nature might attain perfection.

However, he was in no mood for abstract speculation.  His own problem
was absorbing enough.

He might as well itemize the questions he had to face and examine them
one by one, and dispassionately.  He would never feel more emotionless
than now; and that mental state was very rare that enabled a man to
think clearly and see further than a yard ahead of him.

Her real age?  Could he ever forget it?  Should he not always see the
old face under the new mask, as the X-Rays revealed man's hideous
interior under its merciful covering of flesh?  But he knew that one of
the most beneficent gifts bestowed upon mankind is the talent for
forgetting.  Particularly when one object has been displaced by
another.  Reiteration dulls the memory.  He might say to himself every
hour in the day that she was sixty not thirty and the phrase would soon
become as meaningless as absent-minded replies to remarks about the
weather.

And he doubted if any man could look at Mary Zattiany for three
consecutive minutes and recall that she had ever been old, or imagine
that she ever could be old again.  However prone man may be to dream,
he is, unless one of the visionaries, dominated by the present.  What
he wants he wants now and he wants what he sees, not what may be
lurking in the future.  That is the secret of the early and often
imprudent marriage--the urge of the race.  And if a man is not deterred
by mere financial considerations, still less is he troubled by visions
of what his inamorata will look like thirty years hence or what she
might have looked like had disease prematurely withered her.  He sees
what he sees and if he is satisfied at all he is as completely
satisfied as a man may be.

He made no doubt that Mary Zattiany would have, if she chose, as many
suitors among men of his own age as among her former contemporaries.
They would discuss the phenomenon furiously, joke about it, try to
imagine her as she had been, back water, return out of curiosity,
hesitate, speculate--and then forget it.

No one would forget it sooner than himself.  He had no doubt whatever
that when he went to her house tomorrow afternoon he would remember as
long as she kept him waiting and no longer.  So that was that.

Did he want children?  They charmed him--sometimes--but he had never
been conscious of any desire for a brood of his own.  He knew that many
men felt an even profounder need of offspring than women.  Man's ego is
more strident, the desire to perpetuate itself more insistent, his
foresight is more extended.  Moreover, however subconsciously, his
sense of duty to the race is stronger. . . .  But he doubted if any man
would weigh the repetition of his ego against his ego's demand to mate
with a woman like Mary Zattiany.  He certainly would not.  That was
final.

What was it she demanded in love, that she had sought so ardently and
ever missed?  Could he give it to her?  Was she merely glamored once
more, caught up again in the delusions of youth, with her revivified
brain and reawakened senses, and this time only because the man was of
a type novel in her cognizance of men?  Useless to plead the urge of
the race in her case. . . .  Nevertheless, many women, denied the power
of reproduction fell as mistakenly in love as the most fertile of their
sisters.  But hardly a woman of Mary Zattiany's exhaustive experience!
She certainly should know her own mind.  Her instincts by this time
must be compounded of technical knowledge, not the groping inherited
flashes playing about the shallow soil of youth. . . .  If her
instincts had centred on him there must be some deeper meaning than
passion or even intellectual homology.  After all, their conversations,
if vital, had been few in number.

Perhaps she had found, with her mind's trained antennae, some one of
those hidden layers of personality which she alone could reveal to
himself.  What was it?  She wanted far more than love-making and mental
correspondence.  _What_ was it?  He wished he knew.  Tenderness?  He
could give her that in full measure.  Sentiment?  He was no
sentimentalist, but he believed that he possessed the finer quality.
Fidelity?  That was not worth consideration.  Appreciation of the
deepest and best in her, sympathetic understanding of all her mistakes
and of all that she had suffered?  She knew the answer as well as he
did.  The ability to meet her in many moods, never to weary her with
monotony?  He was a man of many moods himself.  What had saved him from
early matrimony was a certain monotony in women, the cleverest of them.

But there must be something beyond, some subtle spiritual demand,
developed throughout nearly twice as many years as he had dwelt on
earth; born not only of an aspiring soul and terrible disenchantments,
but of a wisdom that only years of deep and living experience, no mere
intelligence, however brilliant, could hope to assemble.  He was
thirty-four.  There was no possible question that at fifty-eight, if he
lived sanely, and his intellectual faculties had progressed unimpaired,
he would look back upon thirty-four as the nonage of life--when the
future was a misty abyss of wisdom whose brink he had barely trod.  She
herself was an abyss of wisdom.  How in God's name could he ever cross
it?  Her body might be young again, but never her mind.  Never her
mind!  And then he had a flash of insight.  Perhaps he alone could
rejuvenate that mind.

Certainly he could make her forget.  Men and women would be aged at
thirty, but for this beneficent gift of forgetting. . . .  He could
make the present vivid enough.

He explored every nook of those personalities of his, determined to
discover if he felt any sense of inferiority to this woman who knew so
much more, had lived and thought and felt so much more, than
himself--whom he still visioned on a plane above and apart.  No woman
was ever more erudite in the most brilliant and informing declensions
of life, whatever the disenchantments, and for thirty years she had
known in varying degrees of intimacy the ablest and most distinguished
men in Europe.  She had been at no pains to conceal her opinion of
their intellectual superiority over American men. . . .

He concluded dispassionately that he never could feel inferior to any
woman.  Women might arrest the attention of the world with their
talents, change laws and wring a better deal out of life than man had
accorded them in the past, but whatever their gifts and whatever their
achievements they always had been and always would be, through their
physical disabilities, their lack of ratiocination, of constructive
ability on the grand scale, the inferiors of men.  The rare exceptions
but proved the rule, and no doubt they had been cast in one mould and
finished in another.

In sheer masculine arrogance he was more than her match.  Moreover,
there were other ways of keeping a woman subject.

Did he love her?  Comprehensively and utterly?  Clear thinking fled
with the last of his doubts. . . .  And when a man detaches himself
from the gross material surface of life and wings to the realm of the
imagination, where he glimpses immortality, what matter the penalty?
Any penalty?  Few had the thrice blessed opportunity.  If he were one
of the chosen, the very demi-gods, jeering at mortals, would hate him.

And then abruptly he fell asleep.



XXXI

He went direct from the office that evening to Mrs. Oglethorpe's house
in Gramercy Park.  During the morning he had received the following
note from her, and he had puzzled over it at intervals ever since.


"Dear Lee:

"Will you dine alone with an old woman tonight--a rather bewildered and
upset old woman?  I suppose to the young nothing is too new and strange
for readjustment, but I have hardly known where I am these last few
days.  You are the only friend I care to talk to on the subject, for
you always understand.  I am probably older than your mother and I look
old enough to be your grandmother, but you are the only person living
with whom I ever feel inclined to lay aside all reserve.  Old men are
fossils and young men regard me as an ancient wreck preserved by family
traditions.  As for women I hate them and always did.  Do come and dine
with a lonely puzzled old woman unless you have an engagement
impossible to break.  Don't bother to dress.

"Your affectionate old friend,
  "JANE OGLETHORPE."


"What's up?" Clavering had thought as he finished it.  "Mary or Janet?"

It was an extraordinary letter to receive from Mrs. Oglethorpe, the
most fearsome old woman in New York.  To Clavering she had always shown
the softer side of her nature and he knew her perhaps better, or at all
events more intimately, than any of her old friends, for she had not
treated him as a negligible junior even when he arrived in New York at
the tender age of twenty-two.  His ingenuous precocity had amused her
and she had discovered a keen interest in the newspaper world of whose
existence she had hardly been aware; no interviewer had ever dared
approach her; and as he grew older, developing rapidly and more and
more unlike her sons and her sons' friends, they had fallen into an
easy pallish intimacy, were frank to rudeness, quarrelled furiously,
but fed each other's wisdom and were deeply attached.  During the war
she had knitted him enough socks and sweaters to supply half his
regiment; and when he had left the hospital after a serious attack of
influenza it had been for the house in Gramercy Park, where he could
have remained indefinitely had he wished.

But in all the years of their intimacy never before had she "broken,"
given a hint that she felt the long generation between them.  He found
her more interesting in talk than any girl, except when he was briefly
in love, and her absence of vanity, her contempt for sentiment in any
of its forms, filled him with a blessed sense of security as he spent
hours stretched out on the sofa in her upstairs sitting-room, smoking
and discussing the universe.  She was not an intellectual woman, but
she was sharp and shrewd, a monument of common sense and worldly
wisdom.  It would be as easy to hoodwink her as the disembodied
Minerva, and it was doubtful if any one made even a tentative attempt.
Clavering wondered which of those inner secret personalities was to be
revealed tonight.

As he stood in the drawing-room waiting for her to come down he
examined for the first time in many years the full-length picture of
her painted shortly before her marriage to James Oglethorpe.  She was
even taller than Mary Zattiany and in the portrait her waist was round
and disconcertingly small to the modern therapeutic eye.  But the whole
effect of the figure was superb and dashing, the poise of the head was
almost defiant, and the hands were long, slender, and very white
against the crimson satin of her gown.  She looked as if about to lead
a charge of cavalry, although, oddly enough, her full sensuous mouth
with its slightly protruding lower lip was pouting.  Beautiful she had
never been; the large bony structure of her face was too uncoverable,
her eyes too sharp and sardonic; but handsome certainly, and, no doubt,
for many years after she had stood for this portrait in the full
insolence of her young womanhood.  She retained not a trace of that
handsomeness today.  Her hands were skinny, large-veined, discolored by
moth patches, and her large aquiline nose rose from her sunken cheeks
like the beak of an old eagle--an indomitable old eagle.  Many women of
sixty-eight had worn far better, but looks need care, spurred by
vanity, and she had a profound contempt for both.  No doubt if she had
made a few of the well-known feminine concessions would have looked at
least ten years younger than her age, for she had never had a day's
illness: eight lyings-in were not, in her case, to be counted as
exceptions.  No doubt, thought Clavering, as he turned to greet her,
she had thought it quite enough to be imposing.

She certainly looked imposing tonight in spite of her old-fashioned
corsets and her iron-gray hair arranged in flat rolls and puffs on the
precise top of her head, for although flesh had accumulated lumpily on
her back, her shoulders were still unbowed, her head as haughtily
poised as in her youth, and the long black velvet gown with yellow old
point about the square neck (the neck itself covered, like the throat,
with net), and falling over her hands, became her style if not the
times.

"Well, Lee!" she said drily.  "I suppose when you got my note you
thought I had gone bug-house, as my fastidious granddaughter Janet
would express it.  But that is the way I felt and that is the way I
feel at the present moment."

"Dear Lady Jane!  Whatever it is, here I am to command, as you see.
There is no engagement I wouldn't have broken----"

"You are a perfect dear, and if I were forty years younger I should
marry you.  However, we'll come to that later.  I want to talk to you
about that damnable little Janet first--we'll have to go in now."

When they were seated at a small table at one end of the immense
dining-room she turned to the butler and said sharply:

"Get out, Hawkins, and stay out except when we can't get on without
you."  And Hawkins, whom a cataclysm would not have ruffled after
forty-five years in Mrs. Oglethorpe's service, vanished.

"Jim said he had a talk with you about Janet, and that you advised him
to spank her," she said.  "Well, he did."

"What?"  Clavering gave a delighted grin.  "I never believed he'd do
it."

"Nor I.  Thought his will had grown as flabby as his body.  But when
she stood up to him and with a cool insolence, which she may or may not
have inherited from me, or which may be merely part and parcel of the
new manner, and flung in his face a good deal more than he knew
already, and asked him what he was going to do about it, he turned her
over his knee and took a hair-brush to her."

"It must have been a tussle.  I suppose she kicked and scratched?"

"She was so astonished that at first she merely ejaculated: 'Oh, by
Jimminy!'  Then she fought to get away and when she found she couldn't
she began to blubber, exactly as she did when she was not so very much
younger and was spanked about once a day.  That hurt his feelings, for
he's as soft as mush, and he let her go; but he locked her up in her
room and there she stays until she promises to behave herself as girls
did in his time.  I'm afraid it won't work.  She hasn't promised yet,
but merely hisses at him through the keyhole.  D'you understand this
new breed?  I'm afraid none of the rest of us do."

"I can't say I've been interested enough to try.  Janet informed me
that they were going the pace because they couldn't hold the men any
other way.  But I fancy it's merely a part of the general unrest which
is the usual aftermath of war.  This was a very long war, and the young
seem to have made up their minds that the old who permitted it are
bunglers and criminals and idiots and that it is up to them to
demonstrate their contempt."

"And what good do they think that will do them?"  Mrs. Oglethorpe's
face and inflection betrayed no sympathy with the Younger Generation.

"You don't suppose they worry their little heads with analysis, do you?
Somebody started the idea and the rest followed like sheep.  No doubt
it had its real origin in the young men who did the fighting and saw
their comrades do the dying, and all the kudus carried off by the old
men who ran no risks.  They are very bitter.  And women generally take
their cues from men, little as they suspect it.  However, whatever the
cause, here it is, and what to do about it I've no more idea than you;
but I should think it would be a good idea for Jim to take her abroad
for a year."

"I don't see Jim giving up his clubs and sports, and tagging round the
world after a flapper.  He never took himself very seriously as a
parent . . . still, he is really alarmed. . . .  Are you going to marry
Marian Lawrence?"

"Do you think I'd engage myself to any one without telling you first of
all?"

"Better not.  Are you in love with her?"

"No."

"I'm told you were devoted to her at one time.  That was one of the
times when I saw little or nothing of you."

"I've been devoted to quite a number of girls, first and last, but
there's really been nothing in it on either side.  I know what you're
driving at.  Shoot."

"Yes, Jim said he told you.  Well, I've changed my mind.  Janet's a
little fool, perhaps worse.  Not half good enough for you and would
devil the life out of you before you got rid of her in self-defence.
Let her hoe her own row.  How about that writing person, Gora Dwight,
you and Din are always talking about?"

"Never been the ghost of a flirtation.  She's all intellect and
ambition.  I enjoy going there for I'm almost as much at home with her
as I am with you."

"Ha!  Harmless.  I hope she's as flattered as I am.  There remains Anne
Goodrich.  She's handsome, true to her traditions in every way--Marian
Lawrence is a hussy unless I'm mistaken and I usually am not--she has
talent and she has cultivated her mind.  She will have a fortune and
would make an admirable wife in every way for an ambitious and gifted
man.  More pliable than Marian, too.  You're as tyrannical and
conceited as all your sex and would never get along with any woman who
wasn't clever enough to pretend to be submissive while twisting you
round her little finger.  I rather favor Anne."

Clavering was beginning to feel uneasy.  What was she leading up to?
Who next?  But he replied with a humorous smile:

"Dearest Lady Jane!  Why are you suddenly determined to marry me off?
Are you anxious to get rid of me?  Marriage plays the very devil with
friendships."

"Only for a year or so.  And I really think it is time you were
settling yourself.  To tell you the truth I worry about you a good
deal.  You're a sentimental boy at heart and chivalrous and
impressionable, although I know you think you're a seasoned old
rounder.  Men are children, the cleverest of them, in a scheming
woman's hands."

"But I don't know any scheming women and I'm really not as irresistible
as you seem to think.  Besides, I assure you, I have fairly keen
intuitions and should run from any unprincipled female who thought it
worth while to cast her nets in my direction."

"Intuitions be damned.  They haven't a chance against beauty and
finesse.  Don't men as clever as yourself make fools of themselves over
the wrong woman every day in the week?  The cleverer a man is the less
chance he has, for there's that much more to play on by a cleverer
woman.  It would be just like you to fall in love with a woman older
than yourself and marry her----"

"For God's sake, Jane, cut out my fascinating self!  It's a subject
that bores me to tears.  Fire away about Janet.  How long's she been
shut up?  What will Jim do next?  I'll do my best to persuade him to
take her round the world.  He'd enjoy it himself for there are clubs in
every port and some kind of sport.  I'll look him up tomorrow."

Mrs. Oglethorpe gave him a sharp look but surrendered.  When he shouted
"Jane" at her in precisely the same tone as he often exploded "Jim" to
her son, she found herself suddenly in a mood to deny him nothing.



XXXII

They went up to her sitting-room to spend the rest of the evening.  It
was a large high room overlooking the park and furnished in massive
walnut and blood-red brocade: a room as old-fashioned and ugly as its
mistress but comfortable withal.  On a table in one corner was an
immense family Bible, very old, and recording the births, marriages,
and deaths of the Van den Poeles from the time they began their
American adventures in the seventeenth century.  On another small table
in another corner was a pile of albums, the lowest containing the first
presentments of Mrs. Oglethorpe's family after the invention of
calotype photography.  These albums recorded fashion in all its stages
from 1841 down to the sport suit, exposed legs and rolled stockings of
Janet Oglethorpe; a photograph her grandmother had sworn at but
admitted as a curiosity.

One of the albums was devoted to the friends of Mrs. Oglethorpe's
youth, and Mary Ogden occupied the place of honor.  Clavering had once
derived much amusement looking over these old albums and listening to
Mrs. Oglethorpe's running and often sarcastic comment; but although he
had recalled to mind this photograph the night Mr. Dinwiddie had been
so perturbed by the stranger's resemblance to the flame of his youth,
he had, himself, been so little interested in Mary Ogden that it had
not occurred to him to disinter that old photograph of the eighties and
examine it in detail.  He turned his back squarely on it tonight,
although he had a misgiving that it was not Janet who had inspired Mrs.
Oglethorpe's singular note.

On one wall was a group of daguerreotypes, hideous but rare and
valuable.  An oil painting of James Oglethorpe, long dead, hung over
the fireplace; an amiable looking gentleman with long side-whiskers
sprouting out of plump cheeks, a florid complexion, and the expression
of a New Yorker who never shirked his civic obligations, his
chairmanships of benevolent institutions, nor his port.  Opposite was
another oil painting of young James taken at the age of twelve, wearing
a sailor suit and the surly expression of an active boy detained within
walls while other boys were shouting in the park.  Beside it was a
water color of Janet at the age of two, even then startlingly like her
grandmother.  She had been Mrs. Oglethorpe's favorite descendant until
the resemblance had become too accentuated by modern divagations.

Clavering did not extend himself on the sofa tonight but drew a leather
chair (built for Mr. Oglethorpe) to the small coal grate, which
inadequately warmed the large room.  Mrs. Oglethorpe, like many women
of her generation, never indulged her backbone save in bed, and she
seated herself in her own massive upright chair not too close to the
fire.  She had made a concession to time in the rest of the house,
which was lighted by electricity, but the gas remained in her own
suite, and the room was lit by faint yellow flames struggling through
the ground-glass globes of four-side brackets.  The light from the
coals was stronger, and as it fell on her bony austere old face with
its projecting beak, Clavering reflected that she needed only a
broomstick.  He really loved her, but a trained faculty works as
impersonally as a camera.

He smoked in silence and Mrs. Oglethorpe stared into the fire.  She,
too, was fond of her cigar, but tonight she had shaken her head as
Hawkins had offered the box, after passing the coffee.  Her face no
longer looked sardonic, but relaxed and sad.  Clavering regarded her
with uneasy sympathy.  Would it be possible to divert her mind?

"Lady Jane," he began.

"I wish you would call me Jane tonight.  I wouldn't feel so intolerably
old."

"Of course I'll call you Jane, but you'll never be old.  What skeleton
have you been exhuming?"  He was in for it and might as well give her a
lead.

"It's Mary Ogden," she said abruptly and harshly.

"Oh--I wondered how you felt about it.  You certainly have been
splendid----"

"What else could I do?  She was the most intimate friend of my youth,
the only woman I ever had any real affection for.  I had already seen
her and recognized her.  I suppose she has told you that I went there
and that she treated me like an intruding stranger.  But I knew she
must have some good reason for it--possibly that she was here on some
secret political mission and had sworn to preserve her incognito.  I
knew she had been mixed up in politics more than once.  I thought I was
going mad when I saw her, but I never suspected the truth.  The light
was dim and I took for granted that some one of those beauty experts
had made a mask for her, or ripped her skin off--I hardly knew what to
think, so I concluded not to think about it at all, and succeeded
fairly well in dismissing it from my mind.  I was deeply hurt at her
lack of confidence in me, but I dismissed that, too.  After all it was
her right.  I do as I choose, why shouldn't she?  And I remembered that
she always did."

Here Clavering stirred uneasily.

"When she came to me here last Tuesday and told me the whole truth I
felt as if I were listening to a new chapter out of the Bible, but on
the whole I was rather pleased than otherwise.  I had never been
jealous of her when we were young, for I was married before she came
out, and she was so lovely to look at that I was rather grateful to her
than otherwise.  After her marriage I used to meet her every few years
in Europe up to some three or four years before the outbreak of the
war, and it often made me feel melancholy as I saw her beauty
going . . . until there was nothing left but her style and her hair.
But nothing else was to be expected.  Time is a brute to all
women. . . .  So, while she sat here in this room so radiantly
beautiful and so exquisitely and becomingly dressed, and leaning toward
me with that old pleading expression I remembered so well; when she
wanted something and knew exactly how to go to work to get it; and
looking not a day over thirty--well, while she was here I felt young
again myself and I loved her as much as ever and felt it a privilege to
look at her.  I arranged a luncheon promptly to meet several of her old
friends and put a stop to the clacking that was going on--I had been
called up eight times that morning. . . .  I could have boxed your
ears, but of course it was a natural enough thing to do, and you had no
suspicion. . . .  Well, as soon as she had gone I wrote to twelve
women, giving them a bare sketch of the truth, and sent the notes off
in the motor.  And then--I went and looked at myself in the glass."

She paused, and Clavering rose involuntarily and put his hand on her
shoulder.

"Never mind, Jane," he said awkwardly.  "What does it matter?  You are
you and there's only one of the kind.  After all it's only one more
miracle of Science.  You could do it yourself if you liked."

"I?  Ha!  With twenty-three grandchildren.  I may be a fool but I'm not
a damn fool, as James used to say.  What good would it do me to look
forty?  I had some looks left at that age but with no use for them as
women go.  I'd have less now.  But Mary was always lucky--a daughter of
the gods.  It's just like her damned luck to have that discovery made
in her time and while she is still young enough to profit by it,
besides being as free as when she was Mary Ogden.  Now, God knows what
devilment she'll be up to.  What she wants she'll have and the devil
take the consequences."  She patted his hand.  "Go and sit down, Lee.
I've a good deal more to say."

Clavering returned to his seat with no sense of the old chair's
comfort, and she went on in a moment.

"The unfairness of it as I looked at that old witch in the glass that
had reflected my magnificent youth, seemed to me unendurable.  I had
lived a virtuous and upright life.  I knew damned well she hadn't.  I
had done my duty by the race and my own and my husband's people, and I
had brought up my sons to be honorable and self-respecting men,
whatever their failings, and my daughters in the best traditions of
American womanhood.  They are model wives and mothers, and they have
made no weak-kneed concessions to these degenerate times.  They bore me
but I'd rather they did that than disgrace me.  Mary never had even one
child, although her husband must have wanted an heir.  I have lived a
life of duty--duty to my family traditions, my husband, my children, my
country, and to Society: she one of self-indulgence and pleasure and
excitement, although I'm not belittling the work she did during the
war.  But noblesse oblige.  What else could she do?  And now, she'll be
at it again.  She'll have the pick of our young men--I don't know
whether it's all tragic or grotesque.  She'll waste no time on those
men who loved her in her youth--small blame to her.  Who wants to
coddle old men?  They've all got something the matter with 'em. . . .
But she'll have love--love--if not here--and thank God, she's not
remaining long--then elsewhere and wherever she chooses.  Love!  I too
once took a fierce delight in making men love me.  It seems a thousand
years ago.  What if I should try to make a man fall in love with me
today?  I'd be rushed off by my terrified family to a padded cell."

"Well--Jane----"

"Don't 'well Jane' me!  You'd jump out of the window if I suddenly
began to make eyes at you.  I could rely on your manners.  You wouldn't
laugh until you struck the grass and then you'd be arrested for
disturbing the peace.  Well--don't worry.  I'm not an old ass.  But I'm
a terribly bewildered old woman.  It seems to me there has been a
crashing in the air ever since she sat in that chair. . . .  Growing
old always seemed to me a natural process that no arts or dodges could
interrupt, and any attempt to arrest the processes of nature was an
irreverent gesture in the face of Almighty God.  It was immoral and
irreverent, and above all it showed a lack of humor and of sound common
sense.  The world, my candid grandchild tells me, laughs at the women
of my generation for their old-fashioned 'cut.'  But we have our code
and we have the courage to live up to it.  That is one reason, perhaps,
why growing old has never meant anything to me but reading-spectacles,
two false teeth, and weak ankles.  It had seemed to me that my life had
been pretty full--I never had much imagination--what with being as good
a wife as ever lived--although James was a pompous bore if there ever
was one--bringing eight children into the world and not making a
failure of one of them, never neglecting my charities or my social
duties or my establishments.  As I have grown older I have often
reflected upon a life well-spent, and looked forward to dying when my
time came with no qualms whatever, particularly as there was precious
little left for me to do except give parties for my grandchildren and
blow them up occasionally.  I never labored under the delusion that I
had an angelic disposition or a perfect character, but I had always
had, and maintained, certain standards; and, according to my lights, it
seemed to me that when I arrived at the foot of the throne the Lord
would say to me 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.'  The only
thing I ever regretted was that I wasn't a man."

She paused and then went on in a voice that grew more raucous every
moment.  "That was later.  It's a long time since I've admitted even to
myself that there was a period--after my husband's death--when I hated
growing old with the best of them.  I was fifty and I found myself with
complete liberty for the first time in my life; for the elder children
were all married, and the younger in Europe at school.  I had already
begun to look upon myself as an old woman. . . .  But I soon made the
terrible discovery that the heart never grows old.  I fell in love four
times.  They were all years younger than myself and I'd have opened one
of my veins before I'd have let them find it out.  Even then I had as
little use for old men as old men have for old women.  Whatever it may
be in men, it's the young heart in women.  I had no illusions.  Fifty
is fifty.  My complexion was gone, my stomach high, and I had the face
of an old war horse.  But--and here is the damned trick that nature
plays on us--I hoped--hoped--I dreamed--and as ardently as I ever had
dreamed in my youth, when I was on the look-out for the perfect knight
and before I compromised on James Oglethorpe, who was handsome before
he grew those whiskers and got fat--yes, as ardently as in my youth I
dreamed that these clever intelligent men would look through the old
husk and see only the young heart and the wise brain--I knew that I
could give them more than many a younger woman.  But if beauty is only
skin deep the skin is all any man wants, the best of 'em.  They treated
me with the most impeccable respect--for the first time in my life I
hated the word--and liked my society because I was an amusing caustic
old woman.  Of course they drifted off, either to marry, or because I
terrified them with my sharp tongue: when I loved them most and felt as
if I had poison in my veins.  Well, I saved my pride, at all events.

"By the time you came along I had sworn at myself once for all as an
old fool, and, in any case, I would hardly have been equal to falling
in love with a brat of twenty-two."

She seized the stick that always rested against her chair and thumped
the floor with it.  "Nevertheless," she exclaimed with savage contempt,
"my heart is as young today as Mary Ogden's.  That is the appalling
discovery I have made this week.  I'd give my immortal soul to be
thirty again--or look it.  Why in heaven's name did nature play us this
appalling dirty trick?"

"But Jane!"  He felt like tearing his hair.  What was Mary Zattiany's
tragedy to this?  Banalities were the only refuge.  "Remember that at
thirty you were in love with your husband and bent on having a
family----"

"I meant thirty and all I know now. . . .  I'm not so damn sure I'd
have tried to make myself think I was in love with James--who had about
as much imagination as a grasshopper and the most infernal mannerisms.
I'd have found out what love and life meant, that's what!  And when I
did I'd have sent codes and traditions to the devil."

"Oh, no, you would not.  If you'd had it in you you'd have done it,
anyhow.  All women of your day were not virtuous--not by a long sight.
I'll admit that your best possibilities have been wasted; I've always
thought that.  You have a terrific personality and if you were at your
maturity in this traditionless era you'd be a great national figure,
not a mere social power.  But nature in a fit of spite launched you too
soon and the cast-iron traditions were too strong for you.  It was the
epoch of the submerged woman."

"Mary Ogden was brought up in those same cast-iron traditions."

"Yes, but Madame Zattiany belongs to a class of women that derive less
from immediate ancestors than from a legendary race of sirens--not so
merely legendary, perhaps, as we think.  Convention is only a flexible
harness for such women and plays no part whatever in their secret
lives."

"You're in love with Mary."

"_Don't_ come back to me.  I won't have it.  For the moment I don't
feel as if I had an atom of personality left, I'm so utterly absorbed
in you; and I'd give my immortal soul to help you."

"Yes, I know that.  I wouldn't be turning myself inside out if I
didn't.  I've never talked to a living soul as I've talked to you
tonight and I never shall again."

She stared at him for a moment, and then she burst into a loud laugh.
It was awe-inspiring, that laugh.  Lucifer in hell, holding his sides
at the futilities of mankind, could not have surpassed it.  "What a
mess!  What a mess!  Life!  Begins nowhere, ends nowhere."  She went on
muttering to herself, and then, abruptly, she broke into the sarcastic
speech which her friends knew best.

"Lord, Lee, I wish you could have been behind a screen at that
luncheon.  Thirteen old tombstones in feathers and net collars--seven
or eight of 'em, anyhow--colonial profiles and lorgnettes, and all
looking as if they'd been hit in the stomach.  I at one end of the
table looking like the Witch of Endor, Mary at the other looking like
one of our granddaughters and trying to be animated and intimate.  I
forgot my own tragedy and haw-hawed three times.  She looked almost
apologetic when she called us by our first names, especially when she
used the diminutive.  Polly Vane, who's got a head like a billiard ball
and has to wear a wig for decency's sake, drew herself up twice and
then relaxed with a sickly grin. . . .  All the same I don't think Mary
felt any more comfortable or liked it much better than the rest of us.
Too much like reading your own epitaph on a tombstone.  I thought I saw
her squirm."

"How did they take it individually?"  Clavering hoped she was finally
diverted.  "Were they jealous and resentful?"

"Some.  Elinor Goodrich had always been too besottedly fond of her to
mind.  Others, who had been merely admirers and liked her, were--well,
it's too much to say they were enchanted to see Mary looking not a day
over thirty, but they were able to endure it.  Isabel Lawrence thought
it downright immoral, and Polly Vane looked as if she had fallen into a
stinking morass and only refrained from holding her nose out of
consideration for her hostess.  I think she feels that Mary's return is
an insult to New York.  Lily Tracy was painfully excited.  No doubt
she'll begin collecting for the Vienna poor at once and finding it
necessary to go over and distribute the funds in person.  Mary lost no
time getting in her fine work for Vienna relief."

"But they'll all stand by her?"

"Oh, yes, she's Mary Ogden.  We'd be as likely to desert New York
itself because we didn't like the mayor.  And she'll need us.  It's the
young women she'll have to look out for.  My God!  How they'll hate
her.  As for Anne Goodrich and Marian Lawrence----"

Clavering sprang to his feet.  "Who's that?  Jim?"

A man was running up the stairs.

"Janet," said Mrs. Oglethorpe grimly.  "She's out."



XXXIII

  "Don't be a flat tyre,
  Don't be a dumb-bell;
  Run from the dumb ducks,
  Run from the plumbers.
  Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"


Oglethorpe pounded on the door with his stick.  There was a sudden hush
in the room, then a wild scurry and a slamming door.  He rattled the
knob and, to his surprise, for he had assumed that these wild parties
of his young friends were soundly barricaded, the door opened.

There were only four young men standing about a table covered with the
remains of a chafing dish supper and many champagne bottles, but an
excited whispering came through the partition.  Young Farren was
leaning against the table, his large moon-face pallid with fright.  As
he recognized Oglethorpe and Clavering fright was wiped out by
astonishment and relief.

"Thought you were the police," he muttered.  "Though they've got no
business here----"

"I've come for Janet.  Go into that room and bring her out at once."

"Janet ain't here.  Haven't seen Janet for a week.  Tried to get her on
the 'phone early this afternoon and couldn't----"

"If you don't go into that room and fetch her, I will."  As he started
for the inner door, Farren with drunken dignity opposed his broad bulk.

"Now, Mr. Oglethorpe, you wouldn't do that.  Ladies in there.  Chorus
girls----"

"That's a lie.  Stand aside."

Farren, who was very young and very drunk, but who had a rudimentary
sense of responsibility where girls of his own class were concerned,
burst into tears.  "You wouldn't, Mr. Oglethorpe!  I swear to God
Janet's not there.  But--but--some of her friends are.  They wouldn't
want you to see them."  His mood changed to righteous indignation.
"What right you got breaking into a gentleman's rooms like a damned
policeman?  It's an outrage and if I had a gun I'd shoot you.
I'd--I'd----"  And then he collapsed on a chair and was very sick.

Oglethorpe turned to Clavering, who had thought it best to remain in
the hall and watch other exits.  "Just stay there, will you?"  He
turned to the three gaping youngsters.  "You dare make a move and I'll
knock your heads together.  Just remember that you're drunk and I'm
sober."

He went into the next room, and immediately saw several forms under the
bed.  He reached down and jerked them out by their legs.  They rolled
over, covering their faces and sobbing with fright.  Emancipated as
they were and disdainful of pre-war parents, when it came to late
parties in a bachelor's rooms they exercised strategy to slip out, not
defiance.

"Oh, Mr. Oglethorpe," gasped one convulsively.  "Don't tell on us,
p-l-e-a-s-e."

"I've no intention of telling on you.  You can go to the devil in your
own way for all I care.  I'm after Janet----"

"She's not here----"

"That's what I'm going to find out."  He opened the door of a wardrobe
and another girl tumbled into his arms, shrieked, and flung herself
face downward on the bed.  But it was not Janet.  He investigated every
corner of the apartment and then returned to Clavering, slamming the
door behind him.

"She's not there, Lee," he said, leaning heavily against the wall.
"Where in God's name is she?  I don't know where to look next.  This is
her particular gang.  She has no other intimates that I know of.  But
what do I know about her, anyway?"

"You're sure she isn't hiding anywhere at home?"

"Searched the house from top to bottom."

"I suppose it isn't likely that she's gone to any of her aunts."

"Good Lord, no.  She'd take a chance on mother, but never with any of
the rest of the family, and she's got no money.  I saw to that.  D'you
suppose she's roaming the streets?"

"Well, she can't roam long; legs will give out.  Perhaps she's home by
now or at Mrs. Oglethorpe's.  Better telephone."

They went out and found a public telephone.  Janet had not been seen
nor heard from.

"You don't think it's going to be another Dorothy Arnold case?" gasped
Oglethorpe, who seemed completely unnerved.

"Good Heavens no, Jim!  And she's able to take care of herself.  Nobody
better.  She'll give you a scare and then turn up--with her thumb at
her nose, likely.  Better come up to my rooms and have a drink."

"Orright.  I can't go home and I don't want to be alone anywhere.  I'd
go out of my senses.  Anything might happen to her, and I shan't call
in the police until the last minute.  Filthy scandal."

"Police?  Certainly not.  And as Janet is cold sober, be sure she'll
come to no harm."

A few moments later they were in the lift ascending to Clavering's
rooms.  "Hullo!" he said, as he opened the door of his little hall.
"The fool maid has left the light on," and, as they entered the
living-room, "what the devil--"  Cigarette smoke hung in the air.

[Illustration: It took a lot of self possession and grit for Zattiany
(Corinne Griffith) and Clavering (Conway Tearle) to hide their feelings
when she alighted to go to the ship which was to return her to Europe.
(_Screen version of "The Black Oxen."_)]

There was a wild shriek from a corner of the room, a slim girl leapt
across the intervening space like a panther, and flinging herself upon
Oglethorpe, beat his chest with her fists.

"You damned old plumber, you old dumb-duck!" shrieked his little
daughter.  "What did you come here and spoil everything for?  He'd have
had to marry me tomorrow if you'd minded your own business.  I'll claw
your eyes out."  But her hands were imprisoned in her father's hard
fists, and she turned and spat at the petrified Clavering.  "I hate
you!  I hate you!  But I'm going to marry you all the same.  One way or
another I'll get you.  I meant to wait awhile; for I hadn't had fun
enough yet, and I'd have precious little with you, you old flat tyre.
But when I heard that old Zattiany woman'd got hold of you--and then
locked up and not able to do a thing--I thought I'd go mad.  I dropped
my diamond bracelet out of the window and one of the servants let me
out--I won't tell which.  You've been seen coming out of her house at
all hours, but she's a thousand years old and nobody cares what she
does, but I intended to rouse this whole house and I'd have been so
compromised you'd have had to marry me.  You're a gentleman if you are
a damned old left-over, and you're a friend of granny's and dad's.  I'd
have had you tied up so tight you'd have toddled straight down to the
City Hall."

Clavering stared at her, wondering how women felt when they were going
to have hysterics.  What a night!  And this girl's resemblance to her
grandmother was uncanny.  He could see the Jane Oglethorpe of the
portrait in just such a tantrum.  And he had thought he knew both of
them.  He wanted to burst into wild laughter, but the girl was tragic
in spite of her silly plot and he merely continued to regard her
stonily.

"How did you get in?" he asked.  "That's not easy in this house."

"I just got in the lift and told the boy I was your sister just arrived
from the South and he let me in with the pass key.  He took me for
sixteen and said that as you weren't one for chickens he'd chance it."

"He'll get the sack in the morning."

"I don't care what happens to him."  Suddenly she burst into tears, her
face working like a baby's, and flung herself into her father's arms.

"Make him marry me, daddy.  Make him!  I want him.  I want him."

Oglethorpe put his arms about her, but his sympathies were equally
divided, and he understood men far better than he did young girls.
"You wouldn't want to marry a man who doesn't love you," he said
soothingly.  "Where's your pride?"

"Who cares a damn about pride?  I want him and that's all there is to
it."  She whirled round again.  "Do you think you're in love with that
rejuvenated old dame who's granny's age if she's a day?  She's
hypnotized you, that's what.  It isn't natural.  It isn't.  It isn't."

"I certainly shall marry Madame Zattiany if she will have me."

"O-h-h."  Tears dried.  She showed her teeth like a treed cat.  Her
eyes blazed again and she would have precipitated herself upon him, but
her father held her fast.  "Oh!  Oh!  Oh!  It can't be.  It can't be.
It's as unnatural as if you married granny.  It isn't fair.  How dare
she come here with her whitewash and sneak young girls' lovers away
from them?"

"Really, Janet."

"Oh, I know, you thought you didn't care for me, but you always did,
and I'd have got you in time.  I knew there was no chance for Marian
and Anne; they're old maids, and I'm young--_young_.  If I'd cut out
the fun and concentrated on you I'd have got you.  I wish I had!  I
wish I had!  But you were such an old flat tyre I thought you were
safe."

"What in heaven's name makes you think you're in love with me?"
exploded Clavering.  "Your opinion of me is anything but complimentary,
and I'm everything your chosen companions are not.  You don't want me
any more than I want you.  You've simply been playing some fool game
with yourself----"

"It's not!  It's not!  It's the real thing.  I've been in love with you
since I was six.  Ask daddy.  Daddy, didn't I always say I was going to
marry him?"

"Yes, when you were little more of a baby than you are now.  Can't you
imagine how ashamed you'll be of such an undignified performance as
this?"

"I ashamed?  Not much.  I always intend to do just as I please and damn
the consequences."

"A fine wife you'd make for Lee or any other man."

"I'd make him the best wife in the world.  I'd do everything he told
me.  No, I wouldn't.  Yes, I would."  Sheer femaleness and the spirit
of the age seesawed inconclusively.  "Anyhow, I'd make you happy,
because I'd be happy myself," she added naïvely.  "Much happier than
your grand-mother----"

"Perhaps you will oblige me by making no further allusion to Madame
Zattiany."

"No, I won't.  And the first time I see her when there's a lot of
people round I'll tell her just what she is to her face."

"If you dare!"  Clavering advanced threateningly and she swung herself
behind her father, who, however, took her firmly by the arm and marched
her to the door.

"Enough of this," he said.  "You come home and pack your trunk and
tomorrow we take the first steamer out of New York.  If there isn't
one, we'll take the train for Canada----"

"I won't go."

"It's either that or a sanitarium for neurotics.  I'll have you
strapped down and carried there in an ambulance.  You may take your
choice.  Good night, Lee.  Forget it, if you can."

As Clavering slammed the door behind them he envied men who could tear
their hair.  He had wanted to spend a long evening alone thinking of
Mary Zattiany, dreaming of those vital hours before him, and he had
been treated to a double nightmare.  For the moment he hated everything
in petticoats that walked, and he felt like taking a steamer to the
ends of the earth himself.  But he was more worn out than he knew and
was sound asleep fifteen minutes later.



XXXIV

Janet had her revenge.  Words have a terrible power.  And Janet's
vocabulary might be as primitive as lightning, but unlike lightning it
never failed to strike.

"That old Zattiany woman."  "She's a thousand years old and nobody
cares what she does."  "That rejuvenated old dame who's granny's age if
she's a day."  "Much happier than your grandmother."  The phrases
flashed into his mind when he awoke and echoed in his ears all day.  No
doubt similar phrases, less crude, but equally scorching, were being
tossed from one end of New York Society to the other.  If Janet knew of
his devotion to Madame Zattiany others must, for it could only have
come to her on the wings of gossip.  He was being ridiculed by people
who grasped nothing beyond the fact that the woman was fifty-eight and
the man thirty-four.  Of course it would be but a nine days' wonder and
like all other social phenomena grow too stale for comment, but
meanwhile he should feel as if he were frying on a gridiron.  Anne
Goodrich would merely exclaim: "Abominable."  Marian Lawrence would
draw in her nostrils and purr: "Lee was always an erratic and
impressionable boy.  Just like him to fall in love with an old woman.
And she's really a beautiful blonde--once more.  Poor Lee."  As for
Gora and Suzan Forbes--well, Gora would understand, and impale them
sympathetically in her next novel, and Suzan would read up on
endocrines, blend them adroitly with psychology, and write an article
for the _Yale Review_.

He avoided the office and wrote his column at home.  Luckily a favorite
old comedian had died recently.  He could fill up with reminiscence and
anecdote.  But it was soon done and he was back in his chair with his
thoughts again.

It had been his intention when he awakened on Sunday after a few hours
of unrefreshing sleep to dispatch his work as quickly as possible, take
a long walk, and then return to his rooms and keep the hours that must
intervene until Monday afternoon, sacred to Mary Zattiany.  But if man
wishes to regulate his life, and more particularly his meditations, to
suit himself he would be wise to retire to a mountain top.  Civilized
life is a vast woof and the shuttle pursues its weaving and
counter-weaving with no regard for the plans of men.  It was impossible
to ignore Mrs. Oglethorpe's appeal, and it was equally impossible to
refuse to aid in the hunt for that damnable Janet when her distracted
father and his own intimate friend took his coöperation as a matter of
course.  And even if he had remained at home, no doubt she would have
wiggled her way in before he could shut the door in her face.  Then
there _would_ have been the devil to pay, for she would have seen to it
that he was hopelessly compromised.  No doubt she would have run out on
the balcony and screamed for help.  Her failure was the one saving
grace in the whole wretched night.

But she had planted her stings.

He was in a fine frame of mind to make love to a woman.  He had
pictured that scene as one of the great moments of life, so subtly
beautiful and dramatic, so exalted and exulting, so perfect in its very
incompleteness, that not a lifetime of suffering and disappointment
could blur it.  And he felt exactly like the flat tyre of Janet's
distinguished vernacular.  Even his body was worn out, for he had had
but nine hours' sleep in two nights.  What a dead cinch the playwrights
had.  A man might as well try to breathe without oxygen on Mount
Everest as attempt to give his own life the proper dramatic values.  He
was a cursed puppet and Life itself was a curse.

He excoriated himself for his susceptibility to mere words; he who
juggled in words, and often quite insincerely when it suited his
purpose.  But "that rejuvenated old dame," and "that old Zattiany
woman" crawled like reeking vapors across some fair landscape a man had
spent his life seeking, blotting out its loveliness, turning it to a
noisome morass.

He had used equally caustic phrases when some young man he knew had
married a woman only ten years older than himself, and when old men had
taken to themselves young wives.  And meant them, for he was
fundamentally as conventional and conservative as all men. . . .  But
he cared less that he would be the laughing stock of New York than that
his own soul felt like boiling pitch and that he was ashamed of himself.

He looked at the clock.  It was twenty minutes to four.  There was
neither love nor desire in him and he would have liked to throw himself
on the divan and sleep.  But he set his teeth and got to his feet.  He
would go through it, play up, somehow.

He felt better in the nipping air and soon began to walk briskly.  And
then as he crossed Park Avenue and entered her street he saw two men
coming down her steps.  They were Mr. Dinwiddie, and the extremely
good-looking young man whom Osborne had brought to the box on Monday
night.  The young man was smiling fatuously.

A wave of rage and jealousy swept Clavering from head to foot.  She, at
least, could have kept these hours sacred, and she had not only
received this grinning ape, but evidently given him a delectable morsel
to chew on.  He could have knocked both men down but he was not even
permitted to pass them by with a scowling nod.  Another contretemps.

Dinwiddie hailed him delightedly.

"Good old Lee!  Haven't seen you in an age.  Where've you kept
yourself?  Know Vane?  Mother's an old friend of Mary's.  He's head
over like the rest of us.  Who says we don't live in the age of
miracles?"

"Yeh, ain't life wonderful?"  Clavering's jocular faculty was
enfeebled, but it came to the rescue.  He was staring at Vane.
Evidently this young man was unimpressed by searing phrases and he must
have heard several, for, if he remembered aright, "Polly Vane" with
"her head like a billiard ball," who "wore a wig for decency's sake,"
had been one of the most resentful women at the luncheon.  For a moment
he had a queer impression that his stature had diminished until the top
of his head stood level with this glowing young man's waistcoat.  And
then he shot up to seven feet.  Something had turned over inside him
and vomited forth the pitch and its vapors.  But he still felt angry
and jealous.  He managed to reply, however:

"Well, I must be getting on.  Have an engagement at four.  See you in a
day or two, Din."  He nodded to young Vane and in another moment he was
taking Madame Zattiany's front steps three at a time.



XXXV

When Mary Zattiany had reached her bedroom on Sunday morning she had
leaned heavily on her dressing-table for a few moments, staring into
the mirror.  Then she curled her lip and shrugged her shoulders.  Well,
it was done.  She had been as bald and uncompromising as she knew how
to be.  A picturesque softening of details, pleas to understand, and
appeals to the man's sympathy, might be for other women but not for
her.  Life had given her a respect for hard facts and an utter contempt
for the prevalent dodging of them.

She had told him that she was determined to relate her story in full as
much for his sake as her own.  But she had told it far more for her
own.  Before going any farther she was determined to know this man, who
may only have intoxicated her, as thoroughly as it was possible for a
woman to know any man she had not lived with.  If he met the test she
could be reasonably sure that for once she had made no mistake.  If he
did not--well, perhaps, so much the better.  Surely she had had more
than her share of love, and she had something to do in the world of
vastly greater importance than wasting time in a man's arms.  And did
she really want passion in her life again?  She with her young body and
her old mind!  Did she?

She recalled those brief moments of complete and ecstatic surrender.
Or tried to recall them.  She was very tired.  Perhaps she might dream
about them, but at the moment they seemed as far away as her first
youth.

She awoke the next day only in time to dress and go to Mrs. Ruyler's
for luncheon.  She attended a concert in the afternoon, and she did not
return from the Lawrences' until midnight.  On Monday she lunched with
Mrs. Vane and brought "Harry" and Mr. Dinwiddie home with her.  She
would give herself no time to think and brood.  She was too wise to
harden her heart against him by bitter fancies that might be as
bitterly unjust, and assuredly she had no intention of meeting disaster
weakened by romantic castle-building.  Not she.  Let events take their
course.  Whatever came, she had the strength to meet it.

As Clavering entered the library she was standing by the hearth, one
hand on the mantelshelf.  Her repose was absolute as she turned her
head.  In her eyes was an insolent expression, a little mocking, a
little challenging.  There was no trace of apprehension.  As she saw
Clavering's angry face her brows lifted.

"What did you let those fellows in for?" he demanded, glaring at her
from the door.  "You set this hour for our meeting and I just missed
finding them here in this room.  I should have thought you would have
wanted to be alone before I came----"

And then for a moment Mary Zattiany's mind felt as young as her body.
It seemed to her that she heard ruins tumbling behind her, down and out
of sight.  Her head felt light and she grasped the mantel for support;
but she was not too dazed to realize that Clavering was in anything but
a love-making mood, and she managed to steady her voice and reply
lightly:

"I lunched with Polly Vane, and her devoted son was hanging 'round.
Mr. Dinwiddie was also at the luncheon, and as they both walked home
with me I could do no less than ask them in for a moment.  But I never
have the least difficulty getting rid of people."

"Ah!"  He continued to stand staring at her, and, as he had
anticipated, he saw only Mary Zattiany.  As far as he was concerned
Mary Ogden had never existed.  But he still felt no immediate desire to
touch her.  He came over and stood opposite her on the hearthrug, his
hands in his pockets.

"What have you been through?" he asked abruptly.  "I've been through
hell."

"So I imagined," she said drily.  "I can't say I've been through hell.
I've grown too philosophical for that!  I have thought as little as
possible.  I left it on the knees of the gods."

There certainly was neither despair nor doubt in that vital voice of
hers as she looked at him, and she was smiling.  He twitched his
shoulders under those understanding eyes and turned his own to the fire
with a frown.

"I don't believe you had a moment of misgiving.  You were too sure of
me."

"Oh, no, I was not!  I know life too well to be sure of anything, mon
ami.  Unlike that nice Vane boy, you have imagination and I gave you
some hard swallowing.  Poor boy, I'm afraid you've been choking ever
since----"

"Don't 'poor boy' me.  I won't have it.  I feel a thousand years old."
He glared at her once more.  "You are sure of me now--and quite
right . . . but I don't feel in the least like kissing you. . . .  I've
barely slept and I feel like the devil."

For the first time in many days she felt an inclination to throw back
her head and give vent to a joyous laugh--joyous but amused, for she
would always be Mary Zattiany.  But she merely said:  "My dear Lee, I
could not stand being made love to at four in the afternoon.  It is not
aesthetic.  Suppose we sit down.  Tell me all about it."

"I'll not tell you a thing."  But he took the chair and lit a
cigarette.  "I'm more in love with you than ever, if you want to know.
When will you marry me?"

"Shall we say two months from today?"

"Two months!  Why not tomorrow?"

"Oh, hardly.  In the first place I'd like it all to be quite perfect,
and I'd dreamed of spending our honeymoon in the Dolomites.  I've a
shooting box there on the shore of a wonderful lake.  I used to stay
there quite alone after my guests had left. . . .  And then--well, it
would hardly be fair to give New York two shocks in succession.  They
all take for granted I'll marry some one--I am already engaged to Mr.
Osborne, although I have heard you alluded to meaningly--but better let
them talk the first sensation to rags. . . .  They will be angry enough
with me for marrying a young man, but perhaps too relieved that I have
not carried off one of their own sons. . . .  Polly is in agonies at
the present moment . . . we'll have to live in New York more or less--I
suppose?"

"More or less?  Altogether.  My work is here."

"I believe there is more work for both of us in Europe."

"And do you imagine I'd live on your money?  I've nothing but what I
make."

"I could pull wires and get you into one of the embassies----"

"I'm no diplomat, and don't want to be.  Rotten lazy job."

"Couldn't you be foreign correspondent for your newspaper?"

"We've good men in every European capital now.  They've no use for
more, and no excuse for displacing any of them.  Besides, I've every
intention of being a playwright."

"But playwrighting isn't--not really--quite as important as poor
Europe.  And I know of several ways in which we could be of the
greatest possible use.  Not only Austria----"

"Perhaps.  But you'll have to wait until I've made money on at least
one play.  I'll be only too glad to spend the honeymoon in the
Dolomites, but then I return and go to work.  You'll have to make up
your mind to live here for a year or two at least.  And the sooner you
marry me, the sooner we can go to Europe to live--for a time.  I've no
intention of living my life in Europe.  But I'm only too willing to
help you.  So--better marry me tomorrow."

"I can't get away for at least two months--possibly not then.  Ask
Judge Trent.  And a honeymoon in New York would be too flat--not?"

"Better than nothing . . . however--here's an idea.  I'll get to work
on my play at once and maybe I can finish it before I leave.  If it
went over big I could stay longer.  Besides, it'll be something to boil
over into; I don't suppose I shall see any too much of you.  What's
your idea?  To set all the young men off their heads and imagine you
are Mary Ogden once more?  It _would_ be a triumph.  I've an idea
that's what you are up to."

"Certainly not," she said angrily.  "How trivial you must think me.
I've not the least intention of going to dancing parties.  I should be
bored to death.  I hardly knew what young Vane was talking about today.
He seems to speak a different language from the men of my time.  But it
is only decent that I bore myself at luncheons and dinners, for my old
friends have behaved with the utmost loyalty and generosity.  Jane
Oglethorpe would have been quite justified in never speaking to me
again, and I have violated the most sacred traditions of the others.
But it has not made the least difference.  Besides, I must keep them up
to the mark.  I have their promise to form a committee for the children
of Austria."

"Well, that's that.  We'll marry two months from today.  I can finish
my play in that time, and I won't wait a day longer."

"Very well. . . .  I met Marian Lawrence the other day.  I'm told you
were expected to marry her at one time.  She is very beautiful and has
more subtlety than most American women.  Why didn't you?"

"Because she wasn't you, I suppose.  Did she stick a little bejewelled
gold pin into you?"

"Only with her eyes.  She made me feel quite the age I had left behind
me in Vienna."  And then she asked irresistibly, "Do you think you
would have fallen in love with me, after a much longer and better
opportunity to know me, if you--if we had met in Vienna before that
time?"

"No, I should not.  What a question!  I should have loved you in one
way as I do now--with that part of me that worships you.  But men are
men, and never will be demi-gods."

This time she did laugh, and until tears were in her eyes.  "Oh, Lee!
No wonder I fell in love with you.  Any other man--well, I couldn't
have loved you.  My soul was too old."  And then her eyes widened as
she stared before her.  "Perhaps----"

He sprang to his feet and pulled her up from her chair.  "None of that.
None of that.  And now I do want to kiss you."

And as Mary Zattiany never did anything by halves she was completely
happy, and completely young.



XXXVI

He left her at ten o'clock, and the next morning rose at seven and went
to work at once on his play.  He chose the one that had the greatest
emotional possibilities.  Gora Dwight had told him that he must learn
to "externalize his emotions," and he felt that here was the supreme
opportunity.  Never would he have more turgid, pent-up, tearing
emotions to get rid of than now.  He wrote until one o'clock, then,
after lunch and two hours on his column, went out and took a long walk;
but lighter of heart than since he had met Mary Zattiany.  He also
reflected with no little satisfaction that when writing on the play he
had barely thought of her.  All the fire in him had flown to his head
and transported him to another plane; he wondered if any woman, save in
brief moments, could rival the ecstasy of mental creation.  That rotten
spot in the brain, dislocation of particles, whatever it was that
enabled a few men to do what the countless millions never dreamed of
attempting, or attempt only to fail, was, through its very abnormality,
productive of a higher and more sustained delight, a more complete
annihilation of prosaic life, than any mere function bestowed on all
men alike.  It might bring suffering, disappointment, mortification,
even despair in its train, but the agitation of that uncharted tract in
the brain compensated for any revenge that nature, through her
by-product, human nature, might visit on those who departed from her
beloved formulae.

Nevertheless, and before his walk was finished and he had returned home
to dress for dinner with her, the play was on one plane and he on
another, visioning himself alone with her in the Austrian agapemone.
And cursing the interminable weeks between.  He anathematized himself
for consenting to the delay, and vowed she'd had her own way for the
last time, He foresaw many not unagreeable tussles of will.  She was
far too accustomed to having her own way.  Well, so was he.

For two weeks he left his rooms only to walk, or dine or spend an hour
with her in the afternoon when she was alone.  He rebelled less than he
had expected.  If he could not have her wholly, the less he saw of her
the better.

Dinners, luncheons, theatre parties, receptions, were being given for
her not only by her old friends--who seemed to her to grow more
numerous daily--but by their daughters and by many others who made up
for lack of tradition by that admirable sense of rightness which makes
fashionable society in America such a waste of efficiency and force.
And whether the younger women privately hated her or had fallen victims
to that famous charm was of little public consequence.  It was as if
she had appeared in their midst, waved a sceptre and announced:  "I am
the fashion.  Always have I been the fashion.  That is my _métier_.
Bow down."  At all events the fashion she became, and it was quite as
patent that she took it as a matter of course.  The radiant happiness
that possessed her, refusing as she did to look into the future with
its menace to those high duties of her former dedication--clear, sharp,
ruthless children of her brain--not only enhanced both her beauty and
magnetism, but enabled her to endure this social ordeal she had
dreaded, without ennui.  She was too happy to be bored.  She even
plunged into it with youthful relish.  For the first time in her life
she was at peace with herself.  She was not at peace when Clavering
made love to her, far from it; but she enjoyed with all the zest of a
woman with her first lover, and something of the timidity, this
tantalizing preliminary to fruition.  How could she ever have believed
that her mind was old?  She turned her imagination away from that lodge
in the Dolomites, and believed it was because the present with its
happiness and its excitements sufficed her.

Moreover, she was having one novel experience that afforded her much
diversion.  The newspapers were full of her.  It took exactly five days
after Mrs. Oglethorpe's luncheon for the story she had told there to
filter down to Park Row, and although she would not consent to be
interviewed, there were double-page stories in the Sunday issues,
embellished with snapshots and a photograph of the Mary Ogden of the
eighties: a photographer who had had the honor to "take" her was still
in existence and exhumed the plates.

Doctors, biologists, endocrinologists, were interviewed.  Civil war
threatened: the medical fraternity, upheld by a few doubting Thomases
among the more abstract followers of the science, on one side of the
field, by far the greater number of those who peer into the human
mechanism with mere scientific acumen on the other.  Doctors,
notoriously as conservative as kings and as jealous as opera singers,
found themselves threatened with the loss of elderly patients whose
steady degeneration was a source of respectable income.  When it was
discovered that New York actually held a practicing physician who had
studied with the great endocrinologists of Vienna, the street in front
of his house looked as if some ambitious hostess were holding a
continual reception.

Finally Madame Zattiany consented to give a brief statement to the
press through her lawyers.  It was as impersonal as water, but
technical enough to satisfy the _Medical Journal_.  At the theatre and
opera people waited in solid phalanxes to see her pass.  Her utter
immobility on these occasions but heightened the feverish interest.

Women of thirty, dreaming of becoming flappers overnight, and
formidable rivals, with the subtlety of experience behind the mask of
seventeen, were desolated to learn that they must submit to the claws
and teeth of Time until they had reached the last mile-post of their
maturity.  Beauty doctors gnashed their teeth, and plastic surgeons
looked forward to the day when they must play upon some other form of
human credulity.  As a subject for the press it rivalled strikes,
prohibition, German reparations, Lenin, prize-fights, censorship and
scandalous divorces in high life.

"Why isn't your head turned?" Clavering asked her one day when the
sensation was about a month old and was beginning to expire
journalistically for want of fresh fuel.  (Not a woman in New York
could be induced to admit that she was taking the treatment.)  "You are
the most famous woman in America and the pioneer of a revolution that
may have lasting and momentous consequences on which we can only
speculate vaguely today.  I don't believe you are as unmoved as you
look.  It's not in woman's nature--in human nature.  Publicity goes to
the head and then descends to the marrow of the bones."

"I'm not unmoved.  I've been tremendously interested and excited.  I
find that newspaper notoriety is the author of a distinctly new
sensation."  And then she felt a disposition to play with fire.
Clavering was in one of his rare detached moods, and had evidently come
for an hour of agreeable companionship.  "I am beginning to get a
little bored and tired.  If it were not for this Vienna Fund--and to
the newspapers for their assistance I am eternally grateful--I believe
I'd suggest that we leave for Austria tomorrow."

"And I wouldn't go."  Clavering stood on the hearthrug smiling down at
her with humorous defiance.  "You switched me on to that play, and
there I stick until it is finished.  No chance for it in a honeymoon,
and no chance for undiluted happiness with that crashing round inside
my head."

She shrank and turned cold, but recovered herself sharply and dismissed
the pang.  It was her first experience, in her exhaustive knowledge of
men, of the writing temperament; and after all it was part of the
novelty of the man who had obliterated every other from her mind.  Nor
had she any intention of letting him see that he could hurt her.  She
smiled sweetly and asked:

"How is it coming on?  Are you satisfied with it?"

"Yes, I am.  And so is Gora Dwight.  I've finished two acts and I read
them to her last night."

"Ah?  Your Egeria?"

"Not a bit of it.  But she's a wise cold-blooded critic.  You can't
blame me for not even talking about it to you.  I see so little of you
that I've no intention of wasting any of the precious time."

"But you might let me read it."

"I'd rather wait until it's finished and as polished and perfect as I
can make it.  I always want you to know me at my best."

"Oh, my dear!  You forget that we are to be made one and remain twain.
Do you really believe that we shall either of us always be at our best?"

"Well, to tell you the truth, I don't care a hang whether we are or
not.  I'll have you, and all to myself.  And I won't say 'for a while,
at least.'  Do you imagine that when we return to New York I'm going to
let Society take possession of you again?  Not only shall I work harder
than I've ever worked before, but I'd see little more of you than I do
now.  And that I'll never submit to again.  I'll write my next play
inside this house, and you'll be here when I want you, not gadding
about."

She felt a sudden pang of dismay, apprehension.  New York?  She
realized that not for a moment had she given up her original purpose.
But why disturb the serenity of the present?  When she had him in the
Dolomites . . .  She answered him in the same light tone.

"I'm having my last fling at New York Society.  When we return we'll
give our spare time to the Sophisticates.  I see far less of them now
than I like."  Then, with a further desire to investigate the literary
temperament, even if she were stabbed again in the process, she looked
at him with provocative eyes and said: "I've sometimes wondered why you
haven't insisted upon a secret marriage.  I'm told it can be done with
a reasonable prospect of success in certain states."

"Don't imagine I didn't think of it . . . but--well--I think the play
would go fluey . . . you see. . . ."

"I see!  And what about your next?"

"The next will be a comedy.  I'll never be able to write a tremendously
emotional play again."

"And meanwhile you will not deny that the artist has submerged the
lover."

"I admit nothing of the sort.  But you yourself let the artist
loose--and what in God's name should I be doing these cursed weeks if
you hadn't?  You know you never would have consented to a secret
marriage.  You've set your heart on the Dolomites. . . .  How about
that interval of travel, by the way?  Liners and trains are not
particularly conducive to illusions."

"I thought I'd told you.  My plan is to be married there.  I should go
on a preceding steamer and see that the Lodge was in proper condition.
I want everything to be quite perfect, and Heaven only knows what has
happened to it."

"Oh!  This is a new one you've sprung.  But--yes--I like the idea.  I'd
rather dreaded the prelude."  And then he made one of those abrupt
vaultings out of one mood into another which had fascinated her from
the first.  "God!  I wish we were there now.  When I'm not writing----!
How many men have you got in love with you already?  But no.  I don't
care.  When I'm here--_like this, Mary, like this_--I don't care a hang
if I never write another line."



XXXVII

During the following week she gave a dinner and insisted upon his
attendance.  She had given others to that increasing throng that had
been young with her in the eighties and to others who had stormed and
conquered that once impregnable citadel, but, she informed him, it was
now time to entertain some of the younger women, and he must help her.

He consented readily enough, for he was curious to see her surrounded
by a generation into which she had coolly stepped with no disadvantage
to herself and, from all he heard, considerable to them.  He knew that
not only Vane but other men in their late twenties and early thirties
were paying her devoted attentions.  Dinwiddie, who met him in the Park
one day and dined with him in the Casino, had spoken with modified
enthusiasm of these conquests, but added that it was yet to be
demonstrated whether the young men were egged by novelty or genuine
coveting.  When he hinted that she may have appealed to that secret
lust for the macabre that exists somewhere in all men, Clavering had
scowled at him so ferociously that he had plunged into rhapsody and
bewailed his own lost youth.

And then he had endeavored to sound the young man in whom he was most
interested, but of whose present relations with Mary Zattiany he had no
inkling; he had not seen them together nor heard any fresh gossip since
her second début.  But he was told to shut up and talk about the
weather.

Clavering, who knew that he would not have a moment alone with her,
went to the dinner in much the same mood as he went to a first-night at
which he was reasonably sure of entertainment.  It certainly would be
good comedy to the detached observer, and this he was quite capable of
being with nothing better in prospect.  Nevertheless, he was utterly
unprepared for the presence of Anne Goodrich and Marian Lawrence, for
he understood that the dinner was given to the more important of the
young married women.  But they were the first persons he saw when he
entered the drawing-room.  They were standing together--shoulder to
shoulder, he reflected cynically--and he knew that they privately
detested each other, and not on his account only.

How like Mary Zattiany, with her superb confidence in herself, to ask
these beautiful girls who she had heard wanted to marry him themselves.
Well, he understood women well enough to be indulgent to their little
vanities.

He was almost the last of the guests, but he had time to observe the
two girls before dinner was announced, in spite of the fact that he was
claimed by other acquaintances before he could reach them.

Anne looked regally handsome in gold-colored tissue and paillettes that
gave a tawny light to her eyes and hair, and to her skin an amber glow.
She held her head very high, and in spite of her mere five feet five,
looked little less stately than Madame Zattiany, who wore a marvellous
velvet gown the exact shade of her hair.  Marian Lawrence was small but
so perfectly made that her figure was always alluded to as her body,
and she carried her head, not regally, but with an insolent assurance
that became her.  She was very beautiful, with a gleaming white skin
that she never powdered nor colored, and hair like gold leaf, parted
and worn in smooth bands over her ears and knotted loosely on her neck
in the fashion known as à la vierge.  Her large grayish-green eyes were
set far apart and her brows and lashes were black.  She had a straight
innocent-looking nose with very thin nostrils, into which she was
capable of compressing the entire expression of a face.  She generally
wore the fashionable colors of the moment, but tonight her soft
shimmering gown was of palest green, and Clavering wondered if this
were a secret declaration of war.  She, too, was of the siren class,
and it was possible that she and Mary Zattiany derived from some common
ancestress who had combed her hair on a rock or floated northward over
the steppes of Russia.  But there were abysmal differences between the
two women, as Clavering well knew.  Marian Lawrence, with great natural
intelligence, never read anything more serious than a novel and
preferred those that were not translated into English.  She took no
interest whatever in anything outside her inherited circumference, and
had prided herself during the war upon ignoring its existence.  She was
as luxurious and as dainty as a cat and one of the most ardent
sportswomen in America.  She looked as if she had just stepped out of a
stained-glass window, and she was a hard, subtle, predatory flirt; too
much in love with her beautiful body to give it wholly to any man.  She
had never really fallen in love with Clavering until she had lost him,
and he, his brief enthusiasm for her unique beauty and somewhat
demoniac charm having subsided, had avoided her ever since; although
they danced together at the few fashionable parties he attended.  He
knew her better now than when he had seen her daily, almost hourly, at
a house party in the White Mountains, and almost as often for several
weeks after his return.  This was shortly after his mistake with Anne,
and her attraction had consisted largely in her complete difference
from a really fine character toward whom he felt a certain resentment
for having so much and still lacking the undefined essential.  He had
not deluded himself that he would find it in Marian Lawrence, but her
paradoxes diverted him and he was quite willing to go as far as her
technique permitted.  It had never occurred to him for a moment that
she was seriously in love with him, but he had had more than one
glimpse of her claws and he regarded her uneasily tonight.  And what
were she and Anne whispering about?

"You will take in Miss Goodrich," Madame Zattiany had said to him, her
eyes twinkling, and he had merely shrugged his shoulders.  He did not
care in the least whom he talked to; it was the ensemble that
interested him.  Anne and Marian were the only girls present.  The
other women were between twenty-five and thirty-five or -six.  Madame
Zattiany would seem to have chosen them all for their good looks, and
she looked younger than several of them.

Mauve was the fashionable color of the season.  There were three mauve
gowns and the table was lit by very long, very thin mauve candles above
a low bank of orchids.  Mrs. Ruyler had disinterred the family
amethysts, but Mrs. de Lacey and Mrs. Vane, "Polly's" daughter-in-law,
wore their pearls.  There were several tiaras, for they were going on
to the opera and later to a ball.  The company numbered twenty in all
and there were three unmarried men besides Clavering, and including
Harry Vane.  Clavering found Marian Lawrence on his left, and once more
he caught a twinkle in Madame Zattiany's eyes as the guests surrounded
the table.

He had not seen Anne since the night of Suzan's party, when they had
varied the program by sitting on the floor in front of the fire,
roasting chestnuts and discussing philosophy; then playing poker until
two o'clock in the morning.  He asked her if she were comfortable and
happy in her new life.

"Rather!"  She smiled with all her old serene brightness and her eyes
dwelt on him in complete friendliness.  "I'd even sleep in the studio,
but have made one concession to my poor family.  They're not
reconciled, but, after all, I am twenty-four--and spent two years in
France.  I have had three orders for portraits--friends of the family,
of course.  I must be content with 'pull' until I am taken seriously as
an artist.  If I can only exhibit at the next Academy I shall feel
full-fledged."

"And what of your new circle?"

"I've been to several parties and enjoyed myself hugely.  Some of them
get pretty tight, but I've seen people tighter at house parties and not
nearly so amusing.  And then Gora and Suzan!  I've never liked any
women as well. . . .  This is the first dinner of the old sort I've
been to since I started."

"Ah?" asked Clavering absently.  "Why the exception?"

"Well, you see, I am tremendously _intriguée_, like every one else.
I'd met her several times at home, and she came one day to my studio,
where the Sophisticates made the most tremendous fuss over her.  But I
was curious to see her in her own old home, where she had reigned so
long ago as Mary Ogden.  Mother told me that everything was unchanged
except the stair carpet and her bedroom."  Her tone was lightly
impersonal, and still more so as she added: "Why don't you write a
novel about her, Lee?  She must be the most remarkable psychological
study of the age.  Fancy living two lifetimes in the same body.  It
puts reincarnation to the blush.  I suppose she'll bury us all."

Clavering shot her a sharp investigating glance, but replied suavely:
"Not necessarily.  The same road is open to all of you."

Miss Goodrich had never looked more the fine and dignified
representative of her class as she lifted her candid eyes with an
expression of disdain.

"My dear Lee!  Really!  There _are_ some women above that sort of
thing."

"Above?  I don't think I follow you.  But of course she's given
hide-bound conservatism a pretty hard jolt."

"It's not that--really.  But all women growing old and trying to be or
to look young again are rather undignified--according to our standards
at least, and I have been brought up in the belief that they are the
highest in the world.  And then, one's sense of humor----!"

"Humor?  Is that what you call it?"  (Damn all women for cats, the best
of them.  Anne!)

"Why, yes, isn't it rather absurd--for more reasons than one?
To my mind it is the complete farce.  She has regained the
appearance--and--_possibly_--the real feeling of youth, with all its
capacity for enthusiasm and unworn emotions--it seems rather ludicrous,
but still it may be; certainly the interior should be in some degree a
match for that marvellously restored face and body--but the whole thing
is made farcical by the fact that she never can have children.  And
what else does youth in women really mean?"

"Experience has taught me that it means quite a number of other things.
And painting portraits is not fulfilling the first and highest duty of
womanhood, dear Anne."

Miss Goodrich flushed, but accepted his score calmly.  "Oh, I shall
marry, of course.  But then, you see, I am young--really young."

"What are you two quarrelling about?" broke in Miss Lawrence's husky
voice.  She had smoked steadily since taking her seat at the table, not
so much because she had an irresistible passion for tobacco as because
it destroyed her appetite and preserved her figure.  "I haven't seen
Anne blush like that since she got back from France."

"I was just telling her how beautiful she looked tonight."  And angry
as he was, it amused him to hear Anne's little gasp of pleasure.

"Yes, doesn't she?"  Miss Lawrence blew a ring and smiled sweetly.
"I've always been jealous of Anne.  She's such a beautiful height.  I'm
so glad the giraffes of the last generation seem to have died out.  Too
bad, when Madame Zattiany rejuvenated herself, she didn't slice off a
few inches.  She dwarfs even men of your height, although, of course,
you are really taller.  But then tall women----"  She shrugged her
shoulders, her crisp voice softened and she went on as if thinking
aloud.  "Do you know . . . to me she does not look young at all.  I
have a fancy she's hypnotized every one but myself.  I seem to see an
old woman with a colossal will. . . .  But I'd like to know the name of
that whitewash she uses.  It may come in handy some day.  Not for
another ten years, though.  Oh, Lee! it's good to be really young and
not have to be flattened out on a table under broiling X-Rays and have
your poor old feminine department cranked up. . . .  I wonder just how
adventurous men are?"'

But Clavering, although seething, merely smiled.  He knew himself to be
like the man who has had a virulent attack of small-pox and is immune
for the rest of his life.  Nevertheless, he would cheerfully have
twisted her neck.  She was holding that slim lily-like throat up for
his inspection, a cigarette between her thin scarlet lips as she looked
at him over her shoulder.  At sixteen she could not have been more
outwardly unblemished, and she emanated a heady essence.  Her long
green eyes met his keen satiric ones with melting languor.  But she
said unexpectedly:

"I hear she's going to marry Mr. Osborne, mother's old beau--or is that
Mr. Dinwiddie?  How can one straighten out those old-timers?  But it
would be quite appropriate, if she must marry--and I suppose she's
dying to; but I notice she hasn't asked either of them tonight.  I
suppose it makes her feel younger to surround herself with young
people.  It certainly makes me feel frightfully young----  I mean she
does."

"Do you think it good manners to discuss your hostess at her own table?"

"Oh, manners!  You'll always be a Southerner, Lee.  New York has always
prided itself on its bad manners.  That is the real source of our
strength."

"Pretty poor prop.  It seems to me a sign of congenital weakness."

"Oh, we never defend ourselves.  By the way, I hear Jim Oglethorpe
rushed poor little Janet off to Egypt because he found her in your
rooms and you refused to marry her.  You're not such a gallant
Southerner, after all----"

"What a lie!  Who on earth started such a yarn?"  But he turned cold
and his hand shook a little as he raised his wine glass.

"It's all over town, and people think you really ought to marry her.
Of course those ridiculous little flappers don't care whether they are
talked about or not, but their families do.  I hear that old Mrs.
Oglethorpe is quite ill over the scandal, and she always swore by you."

"Mrs. Oglethorpe, I happen to know, as I dined there last night, was
never better and is delighted with the idea that Jim has taken Janet
abroad to get her away from that rotten crowd."

She looked nonplussed, but returned to the charge.  "How stories do get
about!  They even say that he horsewhipped you----"

"Pray don't overtax your powers of invention.  You know there's no such
story going about or everybody here would have cut me dead.  Try
another tack."

"Well, I'll confess I made that up just to get a rise out of you."  She
looked at him speculatively.  "But about Janet--well, you see, I know
you for a gay deceiver--mother is always using those old expressions
that were the fashion in her--and Mary Ogden's--day.  I hear you even
made love to our fair hostess until you found out the truth and then
you dropped her like a hot potato--or a cold fish.  I was surprised
when she told me you were coming here tonight, and asked her at once to
seat us three together so that Anne and I could save you from feeling
embarrassed--not that I told her that, of course.  I merely said we
were such old friends we would naturally have a thousand things to talk
about.  She didn't turn a hair; I'll say that much for her.  But
perhaps she thinks she's playing you on a long string.  She's playing
several poor fish who are here tonight."

Should he tell her?  He really could stand no more.  He hadn't a doubt
that the same rumor that had driven Janet to her crude attempt, to
compromise him and then blast her rival with naked words, had reached
these two older and cleverer, but hardly subtler girls, and they had
joined forces to disenchant him and make him feel the misguided young
man they no doubt believed him to be.  He hated them both.  They had
that for their pains.  He'd never willingly see one of them again.

He longed to blurt out the truth.  But his was not the right.  He
glanced over at Madame Zattiany, who sat in the middle of the table's
length, receiving the intent homage of the men on either side of her
and looking more placid than any other woman in the room. . . .  It
occurred to him that the rest were animated to excess, even the wives
of those two men, to whom, it was patent, they were non-existent.  He
would have given his play at that moment to be able to stand up and ask
the company to drink his health and hers.

For a few moments he was left to himself, both Marian and Anne being
occupied with their neighbors, and during those moments he sensed an
atmosphere of hostility, of impending danger.  He caught more than one
malicious glance directed at Mary, and once a man, in response to a
whispered remark, burst into uncontrollable laughter.  Had these women
come here--but that was impossible.  Even New York had its limits.
They might be icily rude to a pushing outsider, as indeed they had
every right to be, but never to one of their own.  Still--to this
alarmed generation possibly Madame Zattiany was nothing more than a
foreign woman who had stormed the gates and reduced them to a mere
background.  The fact that she had belonged to their mothers'
generation and had abruptly descended to theirs was enough to arouse
every instinct of self-defence.  He quite understood they must hate
her, but in spite of that common enmity his sensitive mind apprehended,
they'd surely commit no overt act of hostility.  Like all their kind,
they were adepts in the art of "freezing out."  He had no doubt they
had come here from mere curiosity and that he would shortly hear they
had ceased to entertain or receive her.  But he wished the dinner were
over.

He was soon enlightened.

Marian Lawrence leaned across the table.  "Oh, Madame Zattiany!  Will
you settle a dispute?  Harry and I have been arguing about Disraeli.
Your husband was an ambassador, wasn't he?  Did you happen to be at the
Berlin What-d'you-call-it?"

"Oh, no," replied Madame Zattiany, with open amusement.  "I was still
Mary Ogden in eighteen-seventy-eight."

"Oh!  The seventies and eighties are all one to me, I'm afraid.  I'm
shockingly ignorant.  But we've all been saying that you ought to write
your memoirs.  Thirty-four years of diplomatic life in Europe!  You
must have met every one worth knowing and it would be such a delightful
way for us youngsters to learn history."

"Oh, I kept a diary," said Madame Zattiany lightly.  "I may publish it
some day."  And she turned pointedly to the man on her right.  Why had
she invited the little cat?

"Oh, but Madame Zattiany!" exclaimed young Mrs. Ruyler, whose black
eyes were sparkling.  "Please don't wait.  I'm so interested in German
history since the war.  You must have known four generations of
Hohenzollerns . . . too thrilling!  And Bismarck.  And the Empress
Elizabeth.  And Crown Prince Rudolf--do tell us the truth of that
mysterious tragedy.  Did you ever see Marie Vetsera?  I never heard of
it until the other day when some of mother's friends raked it up, and
I've been excited ever since."

"Unfortunately my husband was an attaché in Paris at the time, and I
never saw her.  I am afraid your curiosity will never be satisfied.
There was a general impression that if Vienna ever became the capital
of a Republic the archives would be opened and the truth of the
Meyerling tragedy given to the world.  But all documents relating to
private scandals must have been destroyed."  She spoke with the utmost
suavity, the patient hostess with rather tiresome guests.  "People in
Vienna, I assure you, take very little interest in that old scandal.
They are too busy and too uncomfortable making history of their own."

"Yes, it must be a hideously uncomfortable place to live in."  Mrs.
Leonard, another daughter-in-law of one of Mary's old friends, gave a
little shudder.  "No wonder you got out.  I was so glad to subscribe to
your noble charity, dear Madame Zattiany.  But"--and she smiled
winsomely--"I think we should get up a subscription for those wonderful
scientists in Vienna.  Every once in a while you hear the most
harrowing stories of the starving scientists of Europe, and it would be
too awful if those miracle men in Vienna should pass away from
malnutrition before it is our turn to need them."

"Ah, dear Mrs. Ruyler!" exclaimed Madame Zattiany with a smile as
winsome as her own.  "You forget they will probably all be dead by that
time and that their pupils will be equally eminent and even more
expert.  For that matter there will be experts in every city in the
world."

But Clavering, watching her anxiously, had seen an expression of wonder
dawn in her eyes, quickly as she had banished it.  It was evident that
whatever the secret spite of these women, this was the first time they
had given it open expression.  He glanced about the table.  Young
Vane's face was crimson and he had turned his back pointedly on Marian
Lawrence, who was smoking and grinning.  She had started the ball and
was too indolent to take it out of hands that seemed to be equally
efficient.

Clavering leaned forward and caught Mary's eye with a peremptory
expression, but she shook her head, although too imperceptibly for any
one else to catch the fleeting movement, and he sank back with a
humiliating sense of impotence.  He wished she were not so well able to
take care of herself.

"But this is abominable," murmured Anne Goodrich.  It was possible that
she was not in on the baiting.  "Abominable.  What must she think of
us?  Or, perhaps they don't really mean to be horrid.  They look
innocent enough.  After all, she could tell us many interesting things."

"Oh, they mean it," said Clavering bitterly.  "They mean it all right
and she knows it."

"You speak as if you were even more interested in her than poor Harry
Vane."  The indignation had faded from Miss Goodrich's lofty
countenance.  "Are you?"

"Yes, I am, if you want the truth.  I'd marry her tomorrow if she'd
have me."  This was as far as he could go.

"Oh!"  Her mouth trembled, but she did not look wholly unprepared for
the statement.  "But--Lee----  You know how interested I have always
been in you--how interested we all are in you----"

"What has that to do with it?  If you are so interested in me I should
think I'd have your best wishes to carry off such a prize.  Have you
ever seen a more remarkable woman?"

"Oh, remarkable, yes.  But--well----"  And then she burst out: "It
seems to me unspeakably horrid.  I can't say all I'd like to----"

"Pray, don't.  And suppose we change the subject----  They're at it
again, damn them."

The men were looking very uncomfortable.  The women were gazing at
their hostess with round apologetic eyes.  Mrs. de Lacey, the youngest
and prettiest of the married women, had clasped her hands as if
worshipping at a shrine.

"It seems too terrible when we look back upon it!" she exclaimed, and
she infused her tones with the tragic ring of truth, "_dear_ Madame
Zattiany, that for even a little while we thought the most awful things
about you.  We'd heard of the wonderful things surgeons had done to
mutilated faces during the war, and we were sure that some one of them
bad taken one of your old photographs--how could we even guess the
truth?  How you must have hated us!"

"How could I hate you?"  Madame Zattiany smiled charmingly.  "I had not
the faintest idea you were discussing me."

"But why--why--did you shut yourself up so long after you came when you
must have known how mother and all your old friends longed to see you
again?"

"I was tired and resting."  She frowned slightly.  Such a question was
a distinct liberty and she had never either taken or permitted
liberties.  But she banished the frown and met her tormentor's eyes
blandly.  She had no intention of losing her poise for a moment.

"Ah!  I said it!" cried Mrs. de Lacey.  "I knew it was not because you
felt a natural hesitation in showing yourself.  To me you seem brave
enough for anything, but it must have taken a lot of courage."

"Courage?"

"Why, yes!  Fancy--well, you see, I'm such a coward about what people
say--especially if I thought they'd laugh at me--that if I'd done it I
should have run off and hidden somewhere."

"Then what object in invoking the aid of science to defeat nature at
one more point?  And I can assure you, dear Mrs. de Lacey, that when
you are fifty-eight, if you have not developed courage to face the
world on every count it will merely be because you have indulged too
frequently in unbridled passions."

"Ah--yes--but you didn't have any qualms at all?"

"Certainly not.  I confess I am surprised at your rather strained view
of what is really a very simple matter."

"_Simple_?  Why, it's the most extraordinary thing that ever happened."

"The world is equally astonished--and resentful--at every new
discovery, but in a short time accepts it as a commonplace.  The layman
resents all new ideas, but the adjustment of the human mind to the
inevitable is common even among savages."  Her slight affectation of
pedantry was very well done and Clavering could not detect the flicker
of a lash as her eyes rested indulgently upon her tormentor.

"Well, I don't see what that has to do with it.  Anyhow, it must make
you feel terribly isolated."

Madame Zattiany shrugged her shoulders.  She could make this common
gesture foreign, and her accent was a trifle more marked as she
answered, "Here, possibly, but not in Europe, where the treatment has
been known and practised for several years.  It may interest you to
hear that only yesterday I had a letter from a friend in Vienna telling
me that an elderly countess, a great beauty some forty years ago, had
announced triumphantly that once more men were following her on the
street."

Mrs. de Lacey burst into a peal of girlish laughter.  "Pardon me, dear
Madame Zattiany.  We are used to it in your case, now that we have got
over the shock, but it does seem too funny.  And Europe almost manless.
What--what will the poor girls do?"

"Scratch their eyes out," said Clavering, who could contain himself no
longer.

Mrs. de Lacey made no attempt to conceal the wicked sparkle in her eyes
as she turned to him.  "How crude!  I suppose it was you who set those
dreadful newspapers on poor Madame Zattiany."  She turned back to her
hostess.  "That has been a shocking ordeal for you.  You know how we
always avoid that sort of thing.  We've felt for you--I wanted to come
and tell you--you don't mind my telling you now?"

"Your sympathy is very sweet.  But I really have enjoyed it!  You see,
my dear child, when one has lived as long as I have, a new sensation is
something to be grateful for."

"Oh, but----"  Mrs. de Lacey's bright eyes were now charged with
ingenuous curiosity.  "You don't really mean--we've had the most
furious arguments--_couldn't_ you fall in love again?  I don't mean
like silly old women with boys, but _really_--like a young woman?
Please let me have my little triumph.  I've sworn you could.  And then
the poor men----"

"Upon my word!"  Madame Zattiany laughed outright.  "This has gone far
enough.  I refuse to be the exclusive topic of conversation any longer.
I am immensely flattered, but you are making me feel the rude hostess."
And this time she turned with an air of finality to the apologetic,
almost purple, man at her side and asked him to continue to enlighten
her on municipal politics.

One or two women shrugged their shoulders.  A few looked crestfallen,
others, like Marian Lawrence, malignant.  She had marched off with the
flag, no use blinking the fact, and it had been small satisfaction to
make her admit what she had already told the world.  The "rubbing in"
had evidently missed its mark.  And the men, instead of looking cheap,
were either infuriated or disgusted.  Only Clavering, who managed to
look bored and remote, was attending strictly to his salad.

One thing more they could do, however, and that was to make the dinner
a failure.  They barely replied to the efforts of the men to "make
things go" and gloom settled over the table.  Madame Zattiany continued
to talk with placidity or animation to the men beside her, and
Clavering started a running fire with Anne Goodrich, who, almost as
angry as himself, loyally helped him, on censorship, the latest books
and plays, even the situation in Washington; and they continued their
painful efforts until the signal was given to leave the table.



XXXVIII

The men did not linger in the dining-room.  The women, protesting that
they were later than usual for the opera, left immediately after they
returned to the drawing-room.  There was a cool insolence in their
"good-byes" and there was no doubt that they meant them to be final.
Only Anne Goodrich shook the imperturbable hostess's hand warmly and
asked if she might come some day to tea.

The husbands perforce went with their wives, after farewells that
sounded more like au revoirs, and so did the younger men, except
Clavering and Harry Vane.  Clavering planted himself on the hearthrug,
and Vane, scowling at him, lingered uncertainly.

He plunged his hands into his pockets, and, very red, stood in front of
Madame Zattiany, who was leaning back in her chair and fanning herself
leisurely.  "I feel like apologizing for those beastly women," he
blurted out.

"Apologize?"  Madame Zattiany raised her eyebrows.

"Yes.  Can't you see they came here tonight with the deliberate
intention of making New York too hot to hold you?  So that you'd clear
out?  They'd made up their minds that you'd changed yours about
returning to Europe.  They hate you.  They're used to being jealous of
one another, but this has knocked them silly and they can't get used to
it.  It's--it's--oh, it's too awful!  I almost died of shame."

"I really do not understand.  Do you mean to tell me they meant to be
rude?  I thought they were rather naïve and charming."

"Damned hypocrites.  They hoped to make you simply expire with
embarrassment.  But you were splendid.  They must feel like naughty
children that have been stood in a corner."

Madame Zattiany laughed.  "Then I have unwittingly been playing my part
in a little comedy.  How stupid they must have thought me!  But I
really hope for their sakes that you are mistaken."  She rose and held
out her hand.  "I am going to ask you to excuse me, Mr. Vane.  I have a
small commission for Mr. Clavering, who has kindly waited.  And I am
very tired."

Vane's face fell and he looked resentfully at Clavering, in whom he
instantly recognized a rival.  But there was nothing to do but go and
he went.

When Madame Zattiany heard the front door close she told the footman on
duty in the hall to put out the lights and go to bed.

Then she walked down the room to the library door.  "Will you put out
these lights?" she asked Clavering.  "I believe we still have a fire in
here."

Clavering, expecting to find her dissolved in tears, and, violent as
his sympathy for her was, rejoicing that his was the part to comfort
her, followed her precipitately.  But she was standing by the table
with scornful lips and eyes.

"I thought you'd be all broken up," he stammered.  Tears of
disappointment almost rose to his own eyes.

She laughed shortly.  "I?  Do you suppose I would pay them so great a
compliment?  But what a ridiculous exhibition they made of themselves.
It seems incredible."

"But surely you must have been hurt--and stabbed.  It isn't possible
that you weren't!"

"Oh, yes, I was stabbed, but I think I was even more amused.  I felt
sorry for the poor things.  I certainly never saw a more comically
naked exhibition of human nature.  It was worth coming to America for.
Nor do I blame them.  No doubt I should have felt the same at their
age--although I hope I should even then have expressed myself in a
fashion a trifle more subtle, a little less primeval."

"Good God!  Are you always so--so rational?"

She smiled slightly.  "If I deliberately unlearned the more valuable
things a long life taught me there would be no object beyond vanity in
being young again.  And don't you suppose I was grateful tonight for my
years--those years so crowded with training and experience?  Who better
prepared than I to hold my own against a lot of raw Americans?"

"That is the first human thing you've said.  Raw?  Wasn't it Darwin who
said that we are all such a short distance, in time, removed from our
common savage ancestors that it is a wonder we don't revert oftener
than we do?  They were plain unadulterated females.  I believe men are
more civilized than women."

"Oh, no, but they revert on the grand scale. . . .  I cannot say I was
totally unprepared--not for such a concerted and shocking exhibition,
of course; but I've felt their antagonism and expected to be dropped
gradually from their set.  Of course, this is the end, definitely.
However," she shrugged her shoulders again, "I have enjoyed the New
York which seems to have changed in so many ways since my day, and all
dramas should have a proper 'curtain,' should they not?  Is your own
play finished, by the way?"

"Oh!"  He turned his back on her and leaned on the mantel-piece,
dropping his head on his arms.  He had never felt as far away from her
when he had been unable to learn even her name.  What need had she of
him or any man?

Mary gave him a quick comprehending glance, and came out of her
isolation.  She went over to him, turned him around, and took his face
between her hands.

"Can't you imagine what it meant to me to have you there?" she asked
softly.  "It seemed to me that nothing else mattered.  We two are in a
world of our own.  How could they seem more to me than the buzzing of
so many brainless insects?  Forget it, and I shall."

But although he was consoled, he wondered, as he left the house, if he
would ever feel more depressed in his life.  She might love him, but
what else could he ever be to her but a lover?  His manhood rebelled.
If she had only flung herself weeping into his arms.  If for once he
could have felt himself stronger than she--indispensable.



XXXIX

The dinner was on Monday.  On Wednesday morning she met him at the Fort
Lee Ferry at seven o'clock for one of their rare tramps.  She wore
high-laced boots of soft leather, a short skirt and jersey and a soft
hat; and if she had met any of her guests of that memorable dinner they
would have looked profoundly thoughtful, and renounced whatever hope of
having seared her to the bone they may have cherished.  She strode
through the woods above the Palisades beside Clavering with high head
and sparkling eyes, her arms swinging like a schoolboy's.  It was
evident even to him, who had waited for her anxiously, that she had
rubbed a sponge over her memory.  She was in high spirits and looked as
if she had not a care in the world.

There was a soft mist of green on the trees of the wood, a few birds
had already migrated northward, their own world-old wireless having
warned them of the early awakening of spring after an unusually mild
winter, and they were singing their matins.

She did not seem inclined for more than desultory conversation, but she
had the gift of making silence eloquent, and Clavering, his fears
banished, although by no means at peace, gave himself up to the
pleasure of the moment.  They walked briskly for several miles, then
had their breakfast at a roadside inn; and both were so hungry that
they talked even less than before.  But there was little need for words
between them; the current was too strong, and both were merely vital
beings to whom companionship and healthy exercise were the highest good
at the moment.

During the long walk back to the ferry she talked with a certain
excitement.  But it was all of the woods of Austria, the carefully
tended woods with their leaping stags, their winding paths where no
trolley-cars over-laden with commuters rushed shrieking by, their
enchanting vistas with a green lake at the end, or a monastery, or a
castle on a lofty rock.  She told him of the river Inn roaring through
its gorges, with its solitary mills, its clustered old villages huddled
at the foot of the heavy silent woods and forgotten by the world.  The
millers were all old men now, no doubt, and the poor villages inhabited
only by women and children.  Or blinded and broken men who had dragged
themselves back from the war to exist where they once had given life
and energy to that quiet valley of the Inn.  If this made her sad for a
moment it was purely an impersonal sadness, and when they parted on the
New York side of the ferry Clavering had forgotten his doubts and went
back to his work with a light heart and an untroubled mind.

The play was almost finished, and its chances for swift production were
far greater than is usually the case with the new adventurer into the
most inhospitable of all fields of artistic endeavor.  Adrian Hogarth,
who had a play on Broadway every year, and Edwin Scores, who had
recently exchanged the esteem of the few for the enthusiasm of The
Public, had read it act by act and given him the practical advice he
needed.  A dramatic critic always believes he knows more about plays
than any one else until he attempts to write one, but Clavering, at
least, if not unduly modest, was too anxious to succeed not to welcome
all the help he could get.

They even "sat in" with him during the final revision, and the dispute
was hot over the last act, an act so daring in technique they were
loath to believe that even Clavering, whose striking gifts they had
always recognized, could "put it over."  Moreover, there was only one
woman on the American stage who could act it and that was Margaret
Anglin.  If it didn't appeal to her he might as well dock it.  The
younger actresses, clever as some of them were, had so far given no
evidence of sustained emotional power.  During the entire act no one
was on the stage but the woman and she sat at a telephone talking with
the man who controlled her destiny.  Not only must that one-sided
dialogue give as sharp and clear an idea of what the man was saying as
if he had been present, with the vivid personality, the gestures and
the mobile face he must have for the part, but the conversation,
beginning in happy confidence, ran the gamut of the emotions,
portraying a war of wills and souls, and rising to inexorable spiritual
tragedy.  It was a scene whose like had never before been attempted
without both protagonists on the stage, and it lasted twenty-five
minutes; a scene as difficult to write as to act; but the two
playwrights admitted that in the deft use of words which, without
repetitions by the woman, left the audience in no doubt what the man
was saying, made it almost possible to see him, and in the rising scale
of emotion, the act was a surpassingly brilliant piece of work.
Clavering rewrote it fourteen times, and Hogarth and Scores were
finally almost as excited as himself, although it was the last sort of
thing either would have "tackled."  Whatever the originality of their
own ideas they were careful to stick to the orthodox in treatment,
knowing the striking lack of originality in audiences.

Gora Dwight was more enthusiastic than he had ever known her to be over
anything, and one night he read the play to a select few at her house.
Abbott was there and two other critics, as well as Suzan Forbes and her
distinguished consort, De Witt Turner.

The critics preserved their ferocious and frozen demeanor common to
first-nights and less common where cocktails were plentiful.  Not for
them to encourage a tyro and a confrère, as if they were mere friends
and well-wishers.  They left that to the others, but after the last act
had been discussed with fury, Abbott arose and said with a yawn:

"Oh, well, what's the use?  It's about the hardest play for actors ever
written and the audience will either crack on that last act or pass
away of their own emotions.  It would be the former if any one else had
written the damn thing, but it'll go because it isn't time yet for the
Clavering luck to break.  You'll get it in the neck, old man, one of
these days, and when you least expect it.  You're one of Fate's pets,
her pampered pup, and she'll purr over you until she has you besotted,
and then she'll give you such a skinning that you'll wish you were
little Jimmy Jones, cub reporter, with a snub nose and freckles.  I
only hope to be in at the death to gloat."  Then he shot out his hand.
"Good stuff, Clavey.  Congratulate you.  Count on me."

And he drank a highball and waddled out.

The others, expressing their congratulations in various keys, soon
followed, and Clavering was left alone with Gora.  He was flushed and
restless, but he doubted if he would feel happier on the first-night
with the entire Sophisticate body howling for "author."  He had been
more afraid of Abbott and the two other critics than he, a hardened
critic himself, had dared admit.

Gora watched him from her ottoman, where she sat stark upright, as
usual, and smoking calmly.  But her cold gray eyes were softer than
usual.  She knew exactly how he felt and rejoiced with him, but her
expression in the long silence grew more and more thoughtful.  Finally
she threw away her cigarette and said abruptly:

"Clavey."

"Yes, Gora."  He had been wandering about the room, but he halted in
front of her, smiling.

She smiled also.  "You do look so happy.  But you're such a mercurial
creature that you'll probably wake up tomorrow morning with your soul
steeped in indigo."

"Oh, no, I won't.  It isn't as if I had nothing else in my life."  Gora
alone knew of his engagement to Mary Zattiany.

"That is it.  I want to say something.  I know you'll be angry with me,
but just remember that I am not speaking as a friend, merely as an
artist."

"What are you driving at?"  Some of the exultation faded from
Clavering's face.

"This.  I no longer want you to marry Madame Zattiany.  She's served
her purpose."

Clavering stared, then laughed.  "Little you know about it."

"I know more about it than you think.  Remember it is my business to
know people's mental insides down to the roots----"

"Not such a good metaphor, that."

"Let it pass.  I'm not to be diverted.  I've seen her several times
alone, you know.  She lunched here the other day, and I purposely asked
no one else.  I believe I know her well enough to put her in a book,
complex, both naturally and artificially, as she is.  Maybe I shall
some day.  You once told me that she had a character of formidable
strength and the 'will to power'--something like that.  Well, I agree
with you, and I don't think you'd stand a chance of becoming a great
artist if you married her."

"You're talking utter rot."

"Am I?  Tell me that a year hence--if you marry her."

"If?  I'd tear the artist in me out by the roots before I'd give her
up."

"You think so.  I don't doubt it.  But have you really projected your
imagination into the future?  I mean beyond the honeymoon?  She tells
me that she intends to live in Europe--that she has a great work to
accomplish----"

"Yes, and she needs my help."

"She doesn't need your help, nor anybody's help.  For that matter she'd
be better off alone, for I don't doubt she would be in love with you
longer than might be convenient.  She has formidable powers of
concentration. . . .  But you--what would become of your own career?
You'd be absorbed, devoured, annihilated by that woman.  You're no
weakling, but you're an artist and an artist's strength is not like the
ordinary male's.  It's too messed up with temperament and imagination.
You are strong enough to impress your personality on her, win her, make
her love you to the exclusion of everything else for the moment, and
possibly hold her for a time.  But you never could dominate her.  What
she needs is a statesman, if she must have marital partnership at all.
Possibly not even a great executive brain could dominate her either,
but at least it could force upon her a certain equality in personality,
and that you never could do.  Not only would your own career be
wrecked, but you'd end by being wretched and resentful--quite apart
from your forfeited right to express your genius in your own
way--because you've been accustomed all your life yourself to the
dominating act.  You've always been a star of some sort, and you've
never discouraged yourself--except when in the dumps--out of the belief
that a fixed position was waiting for you in the stellar firmament.  To
vary the metaphor, you've always been in the crack regiment, even when
the regiment was composed of cub reporters. . . .  And you'd find
yourself shrinking--shrinking--nothing but a famous woman's
husband--lover, would be perhaps more like it----"

Here Clavering swore and started down the room again.  That interview
in the library two weeks ago tonight came back to him.  He had banished
its memory and she had been feminine and exquisite, and _young_, ever
since.  But that sudden vision of her standing by the table as he had
rushed to her succor, calm and contemptuous in her indomitable powers,
weakened his muscles and he walked unsteadily.

Miss Dwight went on calmly.  "For she's going to be a very famous
woman, make no doubt about that.  It's quite on the cards that she may
have a niche in history.  You might be useful to her in many ways, with
that brain of yours, but it was given to you for another purpose, and
you'd end by leaving her.  You'd come home like a sick dog to its
kennel--and become a hack.  Your genius would have shrivelled to the
roots.  If you give her up now your very unhappiness and baffled
longings will make you do greater and greater things.  Talent needs the
pleasant pastures of content to browse on but they sicken genius.  If
you married her you wouldn't even have the pastures after the first
dream was over and you certainly would have neither the independence of
action nor the background of tragedy so necessary to your genius.  That
needs stones to bite on, not husks. . . .  Believe me, I know what I am
talking about.  I have been through worse.  If personal happiness were
brought to me on a gold platter with Divine assurance that it would
last--which it never does--remember that, Clavey--I should laugh in its
face.  And if you let her go now you will one day say the same thing
yourself."

But Clavering had made a violent rebound.  He threw himself into a
chair and lit a cigarette, smiling at her indulgently.  "The trouble
with you, Gora," he said, "is that you are--and probably always
were--artist first and woman last.  If you'd got the man you thought
you wanted you'd have chucked him in about six months.  But I happen to
be a man first and artist next."

Miss Dwight shrugged her shoulders.  "Will you deny that you have been
completely happy while writing that play?  So happy and absorbed that
you forgot everything else on earth--and everybody?"

"That's true enough.  But if it's a mere question of happiness, that's
not the sort that lasts, and the reaction is frightful.  I am beginning
to feel a hideous sense of loss and wish I had it to do all over again."

"You can go to work on another."

"I'll never feel to another play as I have to this."

"That's what every artist has said to himself since the gods plucked
out a rib and invented the breed.  Even if you do your comedy next your
submergence will be precisely the same.  It's the creative pot boiling
that does the business."

"I don't believe it."

"Well, don't, then.  And don't wake up as blue as paint tomorrow
morning.  Reaction is the price we all have to pay for keeping the
brain too long at a pitch so high above the normal.  It's the downwash
of blood from the organ it has kept at fever heat.  And it's a long
sight less commonplace than reaction from too much love-making.
Especially when love-making has begun to pall--which it does sooner in
artists than in ordinary men. . . .  Writers begin life all over again
with each new release of the creative faculty; and each new work is as
enthralling as the last.  But love!"  She sighed.  "You don't look as
if I had made the slightest impression on you."

"You haven't.  A man can combine both if a woman cannot.  You forget
that we return here after two or three months in Austria, and here we
remain for at least two years."

"Why are you so sure of that?  Have you her actual promise?"

"It is understood.  I told her we should return and she knew that I
meant what I said."

"It is quite likely that she knew you meant it!  But I'd like you to
promise me that you will ask her to tell you exactly what she does
intend to do--when the honeymoon is over."

"What do you mean?" Clavering asked sharply.

"I mean, that although she told me nothing of her plans, it was
perfectly evident from her conversation that she intends to live her
life in Europe and play a great rôle there.  I infer that she is in
constant correspondence with political friends in Austria.  Do you mean
that she has never told you this?"

Clavering sat forward, frowning.  "No.  We--have had little time
together and have not wasted it on politics.  Did she tell you this?"

"Not she.  But I 'got' it.  I can't tell you just how, but my
intuitions are pretty good."

"Intuitions be hanged.  Your creative tract is prepared for action and
has been doing a little stunt all by itself.  Better get to work on it
and plough up a new book.  I don't doubt Mary has political friends in
Austria, and corresponds with them.  Why shouldn't she?  But she's not
committed to any definite date or action.  I'll swear to that.  She'd
have told me so honestly."

"Very well.  I've said my say.  But I wish----"  She fell silent and
sat very still for several moments regarding the point of her slipper.
Then she looked up and said brightly: "Don't you think it's time to let
the rest of them know what's going to happen?  It's hardly fair to your
other friends--and they are your friends, Clavey.  Of course they are
practically certain of it."

"I don't think she'll mind, particularly as the first sensation has
pretty well run its course--she thought she'd spare her own friends two
shocks at once.  But I fancy she intends to go out among them less and
less.  I'll ask her, and if she agrees, suppose you announce it?"

Miss Dwight bent down and removed a pinch of ashes from her slipper.
"Do--persuade her.  It would be a tremendous feather in my cap.  I'll
give you both a dinner and announce it then."

"Settled.  Well, I'm off.  Got my column to write."  He gathered up his
manuscript, and she went to the door with him.  As he held her hand, he
felt one of those subtle whispers along his nerves that had warned him
of danger before.  He dropped her hand with a frown.

"Look here, Gora," he said.  "You haven't any mistaken idea of
appealing to _her_, have you?"

"What do you take me for?" demanded Miss Dwight angrily.  "The father
in _Camille_?"

"Well, keep off the grass, that's all.  Ta, ta."



XL

When Mary Zattiany returned home at twelve o'clock after a tiresome
morning in Judge Trent's office she told the butler to send her
luncheon upstairs, and ascended to the seclusion of her room, delighted
with the prospect of a few hours she could call her own.  These hours
had been increasing during the past fortnight but were no less welcome.
Not a word of that dinner was known to any but those who had attended
it.  People do not foul their own nest unless they are ready to desert
it and sometimes not then.  Moreover, the women were too ashamed or too
humiliated with their failure to invite the criticism of their friends,
and although they avoided the subject among themselves, their agreement
to bury it was no less final for being tacit.  The men, with something
of the deliberation of male guests at a diplomatic dinner where there
has been an unfortunate incident involving dangerous possibilities if
known, called one another up on the telephone the next day and agreed
to "forget it."  Even Dinwiddie never heard of it.  As for Madame
Zattiany, she could be trusted to dismiss it from her contemptuous
mind.  Nevertheless, these young women, who had entertained her almost
constantly, pointedly omitted her from their luncheons and dinners and
parties--in her new lightheartedness she had been induced to attend
several parties during the past six weeks.  And they had little
difficulty in persuading others to follow their example.  The more
amiable of the younger women might have looked upon their attack that
night with horror if they had heard of it, as, indeed, several at the
dinner had done, but they were no more enthusiastic over the "foreign
invasion" than their militant sisters.  The remonstrances of the men
were unheeded, and when one or two tried to arrange theatre parties or
dinners in Madame Zattiany's honor they received graceful regrets.

Even the attitude of her older friends had changed, now that the
dramatic novelty of her return to them, and their first determined
enthusiasm, had worn off.  They were betraying more and more their
disapproval of what she had done, the more so perhaps, as the majority
of them, being excessively thin, might have accomplished a like result
had not their standards protected them.  This naturally inspired them
with a full realization of their superiority, which increased daily.

If she had made the attempt and failed it would have been bad enough,
for such violations of the law of orthodoxy insulted the code in which
she had been born and reared: but triumphantly to have succeeded in
making herself young again while the rest of them were pursuing their
unruffled way to the grave was a deliberate insult both to themselves
and to God.

Moreover, they hardly knew what to talk to her about, and although this
might still have been the case had she returned to them carrying aloft
the crinkled and spotted flag of time, so far apart their lines had
run, her scientific victory added an ever-increasing irritant.  Also,
she had never been a "woman's woman," and it was patent that, as ever,
she was far more animated in the company of men.  Inevitably, old
scandals were raked up.  They had been frowned upon in the days when
she was protected by her husband and the great position he gave her,
and the rumors had been dismissed for more interesting scandals, both
public and private, at home.  They no doubt would have remained in the
limbo of history had she returned looking no better than themselves,
but her ridiculous defiance of nature revived them, and these ladies
discovered that their memories were more lively than might have been
expected of their years.

It would be too much, as Mary told Clavering, to ask a violent
contradiction of human nature from worn out glands, and she bore them
no malice.  She only wondered that Jane Oglethorpe, Elinor Goodrich,
and Lily Tracy were still faithful in private--to the world all of them
preserved a united front; they would not even discuss her with their
children, much less their grandchildren; but they made up their minds
that it would be for the good of her soul to let her see, with no flaw
in their politeness, just what uncompromisingly sensible women of high
moral and social responsibilities thought of her.

Mary, being human, felt the pin-pricks, but was glad on the whole to be
rid of them.  Those first weeks of almost girlish pleasure in what was
to her a novel society, had vanished for ever on the night of her
dinner.  Scornful and indifferent she might be, but although they could
not kill her youth, they drove home to her what she had guessed in the
beginning, that the society and the companionship of young
people--fashionable young people, at least--were not for her.  Their
conversations, interests, shallow mental attitude to life, bored her.
That curious brief period of mental rejuvenescence had been due to the
novelty and excitement of being in love again, after long and arid
years.

And now, Judge Trent had told her that she would be free to leave in a
fortnight.  She had walked the three miles from Broad Street with a
buoyant step, and she had vowed that never, not for any consideration
whatever, would she set foot in America again.  Vienna was the city of
her heart as well as of her future exploits.  She would buy the old
Zattiany palace from her widowed niece-in-law and make it the most
famous rendezvous in Europe.  But of all this nothing to Clavering
until they were in the Dolomites.

She rang for her maid and exchanged her tweed walking suit for a tea
gown of violet velvet and snow white chiffon, with stockings and
slippers to match.  She expected no one but it was always a delight to
her to be exquisitely and becomingly dressed.  Even in the seclusion of
her Hungarian estate she had arrayed herself as appropriately for
outdoors, and as fastidiously for the house, as if she had been under
the critical eye of her world, for daintiness and luxury were as
ingrained as ordinary cleanliness and refinement.  During the war she
had not rebelled at her hard and unremitting labors, but she had often
indulged in a fleeting regret for the frequent luxury of the bath, the
soft caress of delicate underwear, for charming toilettes; and she had
sometimes scowled at her white cotton stockings with a feeling of
positive hatred.

Judge Trent, while she was still in Austria, had sent her a cheque for
forty thousand dollars.  She had given half of it to relief
organizations in Vienna, and then gone to Paris and indulged in an orgy
of clothes.  She looked back upon that wholly feminine reversion, when
she had avoided every one she had ever known, as one of the completely
satisfactory episodes of her life.  Even with unrestored youth and
beauty, and a soberer choice of costumes, she would still have
experienced a certain degree of excited pleasure in adorning herself.

She had always liked the light freshness of chintz in her bedroom,
leaving luxury to her boudoir; but here she had furnished no boudoir;
her stay was to be short, and her bedroom was as large as two ordinary
rooms.  She spent many hours in it, when its violet and white
simplicities appealed to her mood.  Today it was redolent of the lilacs
Clavering had sent her, and through the open windows came the singing
of birds in the few trees still left in the old street.

She loved comfort as much as she loved exercise, and after her careful
toilette was finished and her maid had gone, she settled herself
luxuriously in a deep chair before her desk and opened one of the
drawers.  The European mail had arrived yesterday and she had only
glanced through half of it.  But she must read all of those letters
today and answer some of them before the sailings on Saturday.

The telephone on a little stand at her elbow rang, and she took the
receiver from its spreading violet skirts and raised it to her ear.  As
she had expected, it was Clavering.  He told her that he had promised
Gora Dwight the evening before to ask her permission to announce their
engagement.

For a moment she stared into the instrument.  Then she said hurriedly,
almost breathlessly: "No--I'd rather not.  I hate the vulgarity of
congratulations--publicity of my private affairs.  I've always said
that when one marries a second time the decent thing to do is to marry
first and tell afterward."

"But they guess it, you know."

"That is quite different."  It was Madame Zattiany who spoke now and
her tones were deliberate and final.  "Quite a different thing from
being congratulated, and tormented by newspapers."  She dismissed the
subject.  "I shall be free two weeks from today.  What do you think of
that?"  Her voice was both gay and tender.  "Judge Trent will see at
once about engaging my stateroom.  Don't tell me that that play of
yours will prevent you from following shortly after."

"Not a bit of it.  We shall only be gone two months, and even if
Hogarth succeeds in placing it with his manager as he expects, it might
be several months before rehearsals."

"Then it all fits in quite charmingly.  You are coming to dinner
tonight?"

"Well, rather."

"Mind you come early.  I have many things to tell you."

"It'll not be for that I'll come early."

Mary smiled and hung up the receiver.  She would have to let him return
to New York for a time--possibly.  But herself, she would go on to
Vienna.  No doubt about that.

She returned to her letters.  Those that required answers she placed in
a separate heap with a pencilled note on the back, for she was neat and
methodical; she even slit the envelopes with a paper-knife that was
always at hand for the purpose, and the envelopes were dropped at once
into the waste basket.

The contents for the most part were expected, and related to her work
in Vienna, the disposition of moneys she had sent over, and the usual
clamoring for more.  But when she had read halfway through a long
letter from Baroness Tauersperg, in whose capable hands she had left
the most important of her charities, she involuntarily stiffened and
sat forward a little.

Several pages of her friend's letters were always devoted to business,
the rest to gossip.  In return Mary enlivened her own letters with many
of her American adventures, although she had made no mention of
Clavering.

"I need not ask if you remember Hohenhauer," continued Frau von
Tauersperg, "although, I suppose, like the rest of us, you saw nothing
of him after the war.  He was, as you know, not in bad standing with
the new Government, like the reactionary nobles, as he had always been
a liberal in politics, and had a good record as a generous and just
landlord.  But they did not have intelligence enough to ask him to be a
member of the Cabinet, or to send him to the Peace Conference, where he
alone, of all Austrians, perhaps, might have won some advantage for
this wretched country.

"The present Government seems to have appreciated that initial mistake
of ignoring him, for they have invited him to return from his estate in
Switzerland, where he has been staying, and to act in some advisory
capacity.  That means, we think here, that he will soon have the whole
thing in his hands.  The first step he took was to pay a visit to
Bavaria and have a conference with Count L., and no doubt you will
surmise what that means.  He went incognito, however, and few people
even here in Vienna know of that visit, much less the rest of Europe.
Very shortly he goes to America, whether for reasons connected with his
sudden interest in Bavaria, I have no means of knowing, but ostensibly
because his New York lawyers demand his presence in regard to the large
sum of money he invested in the United States.  The Government makes no
objection to this journey, as you may imagine, for they know they can
depend on him to spend it in the cause of Austria--under his
leadership!  Imagine what it will mean to have the income of several
million American dollars rolling in to be exchanged for Austrian
kronen!  Or the capital, if he thinks the end justifies it.

"No doubt you will see him, for he always had the greatest respect for
your opinion--was it not you who advised him to sell out practically
everything he possessed, except the land in Galicia, and invest it in
America?  I have no doubt he will confide in you and ask your advice.
You have a wonderful flair for politics, dear Marie, and you know what
we all expect of you.  Hurry, hurry and come back to us.  We need you
in a thousand ways.  But what a rest that sojourn in the gay and
brilliant and _rich_ city of New York must have given you.  It is both
wonderful and saddening to read of the almost unbelievable contrast to
our poor Vienna.  But they are generous.  The second cheque from your
Vienna Fund came yesterday.  Do leave the _oeuvre_ in reliable and
sympathetic hands, dear Marie, so that it may go on until--well, God
only knows when."

Mary read this portion of the letter over twice, the serenity of her
face routed by a frown.  Of course she had expected to meet this man in
the future, indeed had had a very definite idea of playing his cards
immediately upon her return to Vienna.  But that he should come here!
Now.  That was another matter.  She had succeeded in dismissing the
past, and she resented this dark reminder.  Well, she could refuse to
see him, and possibly he would not arrive until after her departure.
And then she sighed again.  The futility of attempting to travel
through even one brief cross-section of life on a straight line!

Her luncheon was brought up to her and when it was finished she
answered her letters and settled down to the latest novel of one of her
new friends.  But Gora Dwight was announced and she put the book aside
with a sensation of pleasant anticipation.  She liked no one better, of
her new American acquaintances, and had made no objection when
Clavering had asked her to let him confide his engagement to Gora
Dwight alone.  He felt that he owed her the compliment (how he was to
obtain the forgiveness of Mrs. Oglethorpe was a thought he dared not
dwell on), and Mary, little disposed as she was to intimacies, had felt
a certain release in speaking of her engagement to another woman.



XLI

Gora was looking her best in a smart spring frock of brown tweed with a
drooping red feather on her hat, whose pointed brim almost but not
quite obscured one eye.  The two women greeted each other with
something like affection, and after the usual feminine preliminaries
were over, Gora exclaimed with enthusiasm:

"I have come to tell you how really wonderful Lee's play is, and to say
that I could have shaken him for not letting you hear it, but he seems
determined that it shall burst upon you in the unmitigated glory of a
first-night performance."

Madame Zattiany smiled, very slightly.  "Yes, he made a great point of
that.  I could only let him have his way.  He is very fond of having
his way, is he not?"

"Well, we've spoiled him, you see.  And those of us who have heard the
play are more excited than we have been over anything for a long time.
Those that haven't are not far behind.  I believe there is a dinner or
a party in his honor projected for every night for weeks to come."

Madame Zattiany raised her eyebrows in genuine surprise.  "Isn't it
rather unusual, that--to fête an author before he has made his débût?"

"It is, rather.  But in this case it's different.  We've waited so long
for Clavey to do the big thing that we must let off steam at once."

"He certainly seems to be a tremendous favorite among you.  Several of
his friends were here at dinner the other night--I was so sorry you
were unable to come--and really they seemed to be able to talk of
nothing else.  They are all very charming to me now, but I am wondering
if they will be more than amiably interested in me when I am merely the
wife of a famous playwright?"

"Oh, you must do something yourself," said Miss Dwight emphatically.
"I am sure you could write.  And equally sure that you will try, for
you could not live constantly with such workers as we are without being
stung by the same busy little bee.  You have suggested genius to me
from the first, and I am convinced it is not merely the genius of
personality.  Your life has stifled your talents, but now is the time
to discover them and take your place in American letters."

"I had thought such talents as I possessed should be used in the
attempt to play a humble part in the reconstruction of Europe,"
murmured Madame Zattiany; and one of her beautiful white hands moved
toward the cigarette box with a curious tensing of the muscles that
seemed to rob it subtly of its likeness to flesh.  Nothing escaped Miss
Dwight's observing eye, and she replied casually: "Oh, Europe isn't
worth the effort, dear Madame Zattiany.  It's too far gone.  The future
of the world lies here in the United States.  New York is the brain and
soul of the United States.  Moreover, if you want to help Europe, you
can write about it here, be the one to give us all a clearer
understanding of that miserable chaos."

"But I detest writing," said Madame Zattiany, who was lying back and
watching her smoke rings.  "I like the activity of doing, and I have
had an experience that particularly fits me for political intrigue.  If
this were Washington, now----"

"Oh, Washington!  Washington is merely one of the islands outside of
New York.  So is Chicago, Boston, the rest of them. . . .  And don't
imagine you would not become fascinated with writing as soon as you
were in your stride.  Here is a simple recipe to begin with.  Get up
every morning with the set intention of writing and go to your desk and
sit there for three hours, whether you accomplish anything or not.
Before long you will find that you are writing madly, not waiting for
inspiration.  And you will have Clavey to criticize you.  The rest is
only stern self-discipline.  Here is another suggestion: when you have
brain fag go to bed for two days and starve.  The result is miraculous."

"So, that is the way American writers are made.  There are so many of
them--I had often wondered----"

"Oh, not at all!"  Miss Dwight rushed to the defence of native American
genius.  "But all writers, no matter what their gifts, often go through
a period of torture while forming habits of regular work."

"It sounds like torture!"  She gave Gora a glance of lazy amusement.
"Really, Miss Dwight!  Are you trying to frighten me off?"

But Gora did not blush.  If she chose to concentrate her agile mind on
acting, the accomplished actress opposite could give her few points.
She replied with convincing emphasis: "Certainly not.  What an odd
idea.  I have the most enormous respect for your abilities, and you
should be famous for something besides beauty--and I should like to see
you live down mere notoriety."

"I've loved the notoriety, and rather regret that it seems to have lost
flavor with time.  But I'll never make a writer, Miss Dwight, and have
not the least intention of trying."

"But surely you'll not be content to be just Lee's wife?  Why,
practically every woman in our crowd does something.  There used to be
a superstition that two brain-workers could not live comfortably under
the same roof, but as a matter of fact we've proved that a woman keeps
her husband far longer if her brain is as productive as his.  Each
inspires and interests the other.  Another old _cliché_ gone to the
dust bin.  Our sort of men want something more from a woman than good
housekeeping.  Not that men no longer want to be comfortable, but the
clever women of today have learned to combine both."

"Marvellous age and marvellous America!  Don't you think I could keep
Lee interested without grinding away at my desk for three hours every
morning and lying in hungry misery for days at a time?"

"You could keep any man interested.  I wasn't thinking of him, but of
you.  He has more than a man's entitled to already.  Men are selfish
brutes, and I waste no sympathy on them.  It's women who have the
rotten deal in this world, the best of them.  And men are as vain as
they are selfish.  It's an enormous advantage for a woman to have her
own reputation and her own separate life.  No man should be able to
feel that he possesses a woman wholly.  He simply can't stand it."

"Quite right.  Discarding modesty, I may add that I am an old hand at
that game."

Gora regarded her with frank admiration, wholly unassumed.  "Oh, you
couldn't lose Clavey if you tried.  He is mad about you.  We can all
see that, and I knew it before he did himself.  It's only--really--that
I'm afraid you'll be bored to death with so much shop if you don't set
up one for yourself."

"Oh, I never intend to be bored again as long as I live."  Mary
Zattiany was a very shrewd woman and she determined on a bold stroke.
Her suspicion lingered but had lost its edge.  Gora Dwight was deep and
subtle but there was no doubt that she was honorable.  "I shall tell
you something," she said, "but you must give me your word that you will
not betray me--not even to Lee."

Miss Dwight's mind, not her body, gave a slight stir of uneasiness.
But she answered warmly: "Of course I promise."

"Very well, then.  It is this.  I shall never return to America.  I
sail in a fortnight.  Lee follows soon after, and we shall be married
in Austria."

"But--but--his play!"  Miss Dwight was too startled to act.  "He must
be here for rehearsals.  Some one has said that plays are not written,
they're rewritten, and it's pretty close to the truth."

"I shall consent to his returning in time for rehearsals.  Prolonged
honeymoons are indiscreet.  It is better to divide them into a series.
I fancy the series might hold out indefinitely if adroitly spaced.
Moreover, being a modern myself, I like new methods.  And he will be
too busy to miss me.  I shall be equally busy in Vienna."

"But will he consent?  Lee?  He's not used to having his plans made for
him.  He's about the most dominating male I know."

"I feel sure he will when the time comes.  It is woman's peculiar gift,
you know, to convince the dominating male that he wants what she wants."

Gora laughed.  But she also could turn mental somersaults.  "I think it
a splendid arrangement.  Then we should not lose Lee altogether, for we
really are devoted to him.  He is an adorable creature for all his
absurdities.  But I can't endure the thought of losing you."

"You must pay me a long visit in Vienna.  Many visits.  I can assure
you that you will find material there, under my guidance, for a really
great novel."

Gora's eyes sparkled.  She was all artist at once.  "I should like
that!  How kind of you.  And what a setting!"

"Yes, Austria is the most interesting country in Europe, and the most
beautiful to look at--and describe."

"It will be heavenly."  Gora made up her mind at once that she would
waste no more ingenuity to stop this marriage.  Its modernity appealed
to her, and she foresaw new impulses to creation.  "The American
Scene," conceivably, might grow monotonous with time; and with these
daily recruits bent upon describing its minutiae with the relentless
efficiency of the camera.  And with all her soul she loved beauty.
With the possible exception of Bavaria she knew Austria to be the
darling of nature.

Once more she chose to believe this woman would manage Clavering to his
own good, and to the satisfaction of his friends, who, as she well
knew, were alarmed and alert.  They were too polite to show it, but
much of their enthusiasm for Madame Zattiany had dimmed with the
knowledge that she was a scientific phenomenon.  Fundamentally the
brilliant creative mind is quite as conservative as the worldly, or the
inarticulate millions between, for they have common ancestors and
common traditions.  They feared not only to lose him, moreover, but had
begun to ask one another if his career would not be wrecked.

Miss Dwight concluded that such an uncommon and romantic marriage might
be a spur to Clavering's genius, which might weaken in a conventional
marital drama set in the city of New York.

She rose and for the first time kissed Madame Zattiany.  "It will be
too perfect!" she said.  "Let me visit you in summer when he is
rehearsing.  He can arrange to have his first-nights in September, and
then write his next play in Austria, filling his time while you are
absorbed in politics.  Heavens, what a theme!  Some day I'll use it.
Perfectly disguised, of course."

"And I'll give you points," said Mary, laughing.  She returned the
other's embrace; but when she was alone she sighed and sank back in her
chair, without picking up her book.  Miss Gora Dwight had given her
something to think of!  The last thing she wanted was a serial
honeymoon.  She wanted this man's companionship and his help.  But she
had slowly been forced to the conclusion that Clavering's was a mind
whose enthusiasms could only be inspired by some form of creative art;
politics would never appeal to it.  In her comparative ignorance of the
denaturalized brain, she had believed that a brilliant gifted mind
could concentrate itself upon any object with equal fertility and
power, but she had seen too much of the Sophisticates of late, and
studied Clavering in too many of his moods to cherish the illusion any
longer.  Playwrighting seemed to her a contemptible pastime compared
with the hideous facts of Life as exemplified in Europe, and she had
restrained herself from an angry outburst more than once.  But she was
too philosophical, possibly too fatalistic, not to have dismissed this
attitude eventually.  Clavering could not be changed, but neither could
she.  There would be the usual compromises.  After all, of what was
life made up but of compromise?  But the early glow of the wondrous
dream had faded.  The mistress was evidently the rôle nature had cast
her to play.  The vision of home, the complete matehood, had gone the
way of all dreams.



XLII

She was not sorry to forego the doubtful luxury of meditation on the
sadness of life.  When Miss Trevor's card was brought to her she told
the servant to show her up and bring tea immediately.  She was not
interested in Agnes Trevor, a younger sister of Polly Vane, but at all
events she would talk about her settlement work and give a comfortably
commonplace atmosphere to the room in which tragic clouds were rising.
As it had happened, Mary, during these past weeks, had seen little of
New York women between the relics of her old set and their lively
Society-loving daughters.  The women between forty and fifty, whether
devoted to fashion, politics, husbands, children, or good works, had so
far escaped her, and Agnes Trevor, who lived with Mrs. Vane, was
practically the only representative of the intermediate age with whom
she had exchanged a dozen words.  But the admirable spinster had taken
up the cause of the Vienna children with enthusiasm and raised a good
deal of money, besides contributing liberally herself.  She was
forty-two, and, although she was said to have been a beautiful girl,
was now merely patrician in appearance, very tall and thin and
spinsterish, with a clean but faded complexion, and hair-colored hair
beginning to turn gray.  She had left Society in her early twenties and
devoted herself to moralizing the East Side.

She came in with a light step and an air of subdued bright energy, very
smartly but plainly dressed in dark blue tweed, with a large black hat
in which a wing had been accurately placed by the best milliner in New
York.  Her clothes were so well-worn, and her grooming was so
meticulous, her accent so clean and crisp, her manner so devoid of
patronage, yet subtly remote, her controlled heart so kind that she
perennially fascinated the buxom, rather sloppy, preternaturally acute,
and wholly unaristocratic young ladies of the East Side.

Mary, who had a dangerous habit of characterizing people in her Day
Book, had written when she met Agnes Trevor: "She radiates
intelligence, good will, cheeriness, innate superiority and
uncompromising virginity."

"Dear Mary!" she exclaimed in her crisp bright tones as she kissed her
amiable hostess.  "How delightful to find you alone.  I was afraid you
would be surrounded as usual."

"Oh, my novelty is wearing off," said Mary drily.  "But I will tell
them to admit no one else today.  I find I enjoy one person at a time.
One gets rather tired in New York of the unfinished sentence."

"Oh, do."  Mary's quick eye took note of a certain repressed excitement
in the fine eyes of her guest, who had taken an upright chair.
Lounging did not accord with that spare ascetic figure.  "And you are
quite right.  It is seldom one has anything like real conversation.
One has to go for that to those of our older women who have given up
Society to cultivate the intellects God gave them."

"Are there any?" murmured Mary.

"Oh, my dear, yes.  But, of course, you've had no time to meet them in
your mad whirl.  Now that things have slowed down a bit you _must_ meet
them."

"I'm afraid it's too late.  I sail in a fortnight."

"Oh!"  Miss Trevor's voice shook oddly, and the slow color crept up her
cheeks.  But at that moment the tea was brought in.

"Will you pour it out?" asked Mary.  "I'm feeling rather lazy."

"Of course."  Miss Trevor was brightly acquiescent.  She seated herself
before the table.  The man retired with instructions that Madame was
not at home to other callers.

Mary watched her closely as she stirred the tea with a little
business-like air, warmed the cups, distributed the lemon and then
poured out the clear brown fluid.

"Formosa Oolong," she said, sniffing daintily.  "The only tea.  I hate
people who drink scented teas, don't you?  I'm going to have a very
strong cup, so I'll wait a minute or two.  I'm--rather tired."

"You?  You look as if you never relaxed in your sleep.  How do you keep
it up?"

"Oh, think of the life the younger women lead.  Mine is a quiet amble
along a country road by comparison. . . .  But . . . monotonous!"

The last word came out with the effect of a tiny explosion.  It
evidently surprised Miss Trevor herself, for she frowned, poured out a
cup of tea that was almost black, and began sipping it with a somewhat
elaborate concentration for one so simple and direct of method.

"I'm afraid good works are apt to grow monotonous.  A sad commentary on
the triumphs of civilization over undiluted nature."  Mary continued to
watch the torch bearer of the East Side.  "Don't you sometimes hate it?"

She asked the question idly, interested for the moment in probing under
another shell hardened in the mould of time, and half-hoping that Agnes
would be natural and human for once, cease to be the bright well-oiled
machine.  She was by no means prepared for what she got.

Miss Trevor gulped down the scalding tea in an almost unladylike
manner, and put the cup down with a shaking hand.

"That's what I've come to see you about," she said in a low intense
voice, and her teeth set for a moment as if she had taken a bit between
them.  "Mary, you've upset my life."

"I?  What next!"

"I suppose you have troubles of your own, dear, and I hate to bother
you with mine----"

"Oh, mine amount to nothing at present.  And if I can help you----"
She felt no enthusiasm at the prospect, but she saw that the woman was
laboring under excitement of some sort, and if she could not give her
sympathy at least she might help her with sound practical advice.
Moreover, she was in for it.  "Better tell me all about it."

"It is terribly hard.  I'm so humiliated--and--and I suppose no more
reticent woman ever lived."

"Oh, reticence!  Why not emulate the younger generation?  I'm not
sure--although I prefer the happy medium myself--that they are not
wiser than their grandmothers and their maiden aunts.  On the principle
that confession is good for the soul, I don't believe that women will
be so obsessed by--well, let us say, sex, in the future."

Miss Trevor flushed darkly.  "It is possible. . . .  That's what I
am--a maiden aunt.  Just that and nothing more."

"Nothing more?  I thought you were accounted one of the most useful
women in serious New York.  A sort of mother to the East Side."

"Mother?  How could I be a mother?  I'm only a maiden aunt even down
there.  Not that I want to be a mother----"

"I was going to ask you why you did not marry even now.  It is not too
late to have children of your own----"

"Oh, yes, it is.  That's all over--or nearly.  But I can't say that I
ever did long for children of my own, although I get on beautifully
with them."

"Well?" asked Mary patiently, "what is it you do want?"

"A husband!"  This time there was no doubt about the explosion.

Mary felt a faint sensation of distaste, and wondered if she were
reverting to type as a result of this recent association with the
generation that still clung to the distastes and the disclaimers of the
nineteenth century.  "Why didn't you marry when you were a girl?  I am
told that you were quite lovely."

"I hated the thought.  I was in love twice; but I had a sort of cold
purity that I was proud of.  The bare idea of--of _that_ nauseated me."

"Pity you hadn't done settlement work first.  That must have knocked
prudishness out of you, I should think."

"It horrified me so that for several years I hardly could go on with
it, and I have always refused to mix the sexes in my house down there,
but, of course, I could not help hearing things--seeing things--and
after a while I did get hardened--and ceased to be revolted.  I learned
to look upon all that sort of thing as a matter of course.  But it was
too late then.  I had lost what little looks I had ever possessed.  I
grew to look like an old maid long before I was thirty.  Why is nature
so cruel, Mary?"

"I fancy a good many American women develop very slowly sexually.  You
were merely one of them.  I wonder you had the climacteric so early.
But nature is very fond of taking her little revenges.  You defied her
and she smote you."

"Oh, yes, she smote me!  But I never fully realized it until you came."

"I hardly follow you."

"Oh, don't you see?  You have shown us that women can begin life over
again, undo their awful mistakes.  And yet I don't dare--don't dare----"

"Why not, pray?  Better come with me to Vienna if you haven't the
courage to face the music here."

"Oh, I haven't the courage.  I couldn't carry things off with such a
high hand as you do.  You were always high and mighty, they say, and
have done as you pleased all your life.  You don't care a pin whether
we approve of what you've done or not.  It's the way you're made.  But
I--couldn't stand it.  The admission of vanity, of--of--after the life
I've led.  The young women would say, in their nasty slang, that I was
probably man-crazy."

"And aren't you?" asked Mary coolly.  "Isn't that just what is the
matter?  The sex-imagination often outlives the withering of the
sex-glands.  Come now, admit it.  Forget that you are a pastel-tinted
remnant of the old order and call a spade a spade."

"There's something terrifying about you, Mary."  Miss Trevor had
flushed a dark purple, but she had very honest eyes, and they did not
falter.  "But I respect you more than any woman I have ever known.  And
although you are not very sympathetic you are the only person on earth
to whom I could even mention such a subject."

"Well, go ahead," said Mary resignedly.  "If you want my advice, take
your courage in your hands and do it.  However people may carp, there
is nothing they so much admire as courage."

"Yes, but they make you suffer tortures just because they do admire
it--or to keep themselves from admitting it."

"True enough.  But after all, they don't matter.  Life would be so much
simpler if we'd all make up our minds that what other people think
about us does not signify in the least.  It's only permitting it to
signify that permits it to exist."

"That's all very well for you, but it's really a question of
temperament.  Do you think I'd dare come back here looking like a girl
again--and I suppose I should.  I'm sixteen years younger than
you. . . .  You must know how many of the women hate you."

"That sort of hate may be very stimulating, my dear Agnes," said Madame
Zattiany drily.

"I can understand that.  But I should return to what it is hardly an
exaggeration to call a life of a thousand intimacies.  The ridicule!
The contempt!  The merciless criticism!  I don't want to live anywhere
else.  I can't face it!  But, oh, I do so want it!  I do so want it!"

"But just think of the compensations.  No doubt you would marry
immediately.  If you were happy, and with a man to protect you, how
much would you care?"

"Oh!"  Once more the thin ascetic face was dyed with an unbecoming
flush.  "Oh!"  And then the barriers fell with a crash and she hurried
on, the words tumbling over one another, as her memory, its inhibitions
shattered, swept back into the dark vortex of her secret past.  "Oh,
Mary!  You don't know!  You don't know!  You, who've had all the men
you ever wanted.  Who, they say, have a young man now.  The nights of
horror I've passed.  I've never slept a wink the nights our girls
married.  I could have killed them.  I could have killed every man I've
met for asking nothing of _me_.  It seems to me that I've thought of
nothing else for twenty years.  When I've been teaching, counselling
good thoughts, virtue, good conduct, to those girls down there, it's
been in the background of my mind every minute like a terrible
obsession.  I wonder I haven't gone mad.  Some of us old maids do go
mad.  And no one knew until they raved what was the matter with them.
When Hannah de Lacey lost her mind three years ago I heard one of the
doctors telling Peter Vane that her talk was the most libidinous he had
ever listened to.  And she was the most forbidding old maid in New
York.  I know if I lose my mind it will be the same, and that alone is
enough to drive any decent woman mad. . . .  I thought I'd get over it
in time--I used to pray--and fight with my will--but when the time came
when I should have been released I was afraid I would, and then I
deliberately did everything I could to keep it alive.  I couldn't lose
my right----  It _was_ my right.  I couldn't tell you all the things
I've----  Oh, I tell you that unless I can be young again and have some
man--any man--I don't care whether he'll marry me or not--I'll go
mad--mad!"

Her voice had risen to a shriek.  She would be in hysterics in another
moment.  Mary, who was on the point of nausea, went hastily into her
dressing-room and poured out a dose of sal-volatile.  "Here!" she said
peremptorily.  "Drink this.  I'll not listen to another word.  And I
don't wish to be obliged to call an ambulance."

Miss Trevor gulped it down, and then permitted herself to be led to a
sofa, where she lay sprawled, her immaculate hat on one side, giving
her the look of a debauched gerontic virgin.  She lay panting for a few
moments, while Madame Zattiany paced up and down the room.

She turned as she heard a groan.  Miss Trevor was sitting up,
straightening her hat.  "Feel better?" she asked unsympathetically.

"Oh, yes--my nerves feel better!  But what have I said?  What must you
think of me?  I never expected to give way like that when I came.  I
thought I could put it all to you in a few delicate hints, knowing that
you would understand.  _What_ have I said?  I can hardly remember."

"Better not try!  I'll promise to forget it myself."  She sat down
beside the sofa.  "Now, listen to me.  It would not be wise for you to
go to Vienna.  They would suspect, if not at once, then certainly when
you returned.  It can be done here.  The rejuvenescence is so gradual
that it would hardly be noticed.  Fully a year.  You do not have to go
into a hospital, nor even to bed.  You are not spied on, so no one
would suspect that you were taking the treatment.  At your age success
is practically assured.  Take it, and don't be a fool.  If you don't
it's only a question of time when that superb self-control you have
practised for so many years will go again.  And, too possibly, in the
wrong place. . . .  It is quite likely that you will never be
suspected, because women often bloom out in their forties, take on a
new lease of life.  Begin to put on a little make-up----"

Miss Trevor interrupted with a horrified exclamation.

"It would be judicious.  If they criticize you, remember that nothing
they can say will be as bad--from your point of view--as their finding
out the truth.  They will lay it to that, and to the fact that you have
grown a little stouter.  And let me tell you, you won't care in the
least, even if conservatism attacks you in solid battalions, for your
mental attitude to life will be entirely changed.  Remember that you
will be young again, and too gay and happy to mind what people think of
you.  Now, promise me that you will take my advice, and then go home
and to bed."

Miss Trevor got up and went to the mirror.  "Yes, I'll do it."  And
then she said, no doubt for the first time in her life: "And I'll not
give a damn, no matter what happens."

When she had left Mary Zattiany stood for a few moments striking her
hands together, her face distorted.  A wave of nausea overwhelmed her.
She felt as if there had been an earthquake in her own soul and its
muck were riding the surface.  She loathed herself and all women and
all men.  She knew that the violence of the revulsion must be
temporary, but for the moment it was beyond her control.  She went to
the telephone and called up Clavering and told him that she had a
severe headache and was going to bed.  And she cut short both his
protests and his expression of sympathy by hanging up the receiver.
And then she picked up a vase and hurled it to the floor and smashed it.



XLIII

Clavering stood on his high balcony and looked down upon Madison
Square.  Spring had come.  The Square looked like an oasis in a rocky
gorge.  The trees were covered with the tender greens of the new birth,
and even President Arthur and Roscoe Conkling, less green than in
winter, looked reconciled to their lot.  A few people were sunning
themselves on the benches, many more were on top of the busses over on
Fifth Avenue, and even the hurrying throngs, preoccupied with crass
business, seemed to walk with a lighter step, their heads up, instead
of sullenly defying winds and sleet.  The eight streets that surrounded
or debouched into the Square poured forth continuous streams of
figures, constantly augmented by throngs rising out of the earth
itself.  There was a vivid color running like ribbons through the
crowds, for it was nearly nine o'clock and the doors of offices and
shops and business houses were open to women as to men.  Overhead a
yellow sun shone in a pale filmy sky and the air was both warm and
sharp.  The doves were circling and settling.

The prize-fighters had taken their prowess elsewhere, and a circus had
come to Madison Square Garden.  Clavering had heard the roar of lions
in the night.  A far different crowd would stand under the arcade in a
few hours, but the peanut venders would ply their trade, and a little
booth for candies and innocuous juices had been erected in an alcove in
the front wall, presided over by a plump pretty blonde.  She alternated
"jollying" and selling with quiet intervals of beading a bag,
undisturbed either by ogling or the hideous noises of Twenty-sixth
Street.

In spite of his disappointment two nights before he found it impossible
to feel depressed in that gay spring sunshine.  He did not believe in
the headache, but she had written him a charming note and he supposed
that a man must get accustomed to the caprices of women if he intended
to live with one.  And a month from now they would be in the Dolomites,
and she would be his.  Let her have her caprices.  He had his own.
There were times when he didn't want to see her.

Moreover, he was still too jubilant over his play to feel depressed for
long over anything; the warm and constantly manifested enthusiasm of
his friends had kept his spirits from suffering any natural reaction.
Their demand for his companionship was almost peremptory, and his
thoughts turned to them as he stood on his balcony looking down on the
waning throngs: the great stone buildings were humming like hives, and
figures were passing busily to and fro behind the open windows.  It
astonished him a little.  True, it was his first play and he was very
popular.  But he had a vague uneasy idea they were overdoing it.  They
talked of nothing else: his play, his brilliant future, his sure place
in the crack regiment "if he hung on"; and they insisted that he must
also express himself at least once through the medium of the novel.
The great New York novel had yet to be written.  They fairly dinned his
gifts into his ears, until he was almost sick of them, and wondered if
Mary were not also.  She had seen a good deal of the Sophisticates
lately, and from what she had let drop he inferred that even when he
had not been present they had talked of little else.  They had by no
means waited for his play to be finished and read to a select few.
Hogarth and Scores had assured them long before it was finished that it
would be a great play.

Once or twice there was a rustling in the back of his mind.  They were
not given to wild enthusiasms of this sort.  They thought too highly of
themselves.  He realized how genuinely fond they were of him, but he
had not hoped for more than critical appreciation, from the men, at
least.  Could it be possible . . .

But he was still in the first flush of his triumph, his brain hummed
with pleasant memories of those hours at Gora Dwight's, three nights
ago.  He had cleared the base of the pedestal on whose narrow and
unaccommodating top he was soon to have his foothold, and it was not in
human nature, at this stage of his progress, to suspect the sincerity
of the adulation so generously poured at his feet.

And Mary, during this past fortnight (when he had been present, at
least) had seemed to bask contentedly in reflected glory, and smiled
sympathetically while they talked of the many Clavering first-nights
they would attend in the sure anticipation of that class of
entertainment up to which the Little Theatres and the Theatre Guild
were striving to educate the public.  They took it as a matter of
course that he was to abide in the stimulating atmosphere of New York
for the rest of his days.  And they invariably insisted that "Madame
Zattiany" must always sit in a stage box and be a part of the
entertainment.  They were too well-bred (and too astute) to hint at the
engagement they were positive existed, but "hoped" she would be willing
to add to the prestige of one who was now as much her friend as theirs.
It was a curious position in which to place a woman like Mary Zattiany,
but Sophisticate New York was not Diplomatic Europe, and he thought he
saw her smile deepen into humor once or twice; no doubt she was
reflecting that she had lived long enough to take people as she found
them.

His reverie was interrupted by a buzzing at the end of his hall and he
went to the door quickly, wondering who could have sent him a special
delivery letter or a note at this hour.  It proved to be a cablegram.
He read it when he returned to his living-room.  It was dated Rome,
Italy, and read:

"I'll have you yet: Janet."

Clavering swore, then laughed.  He tore the message into strips and sat
down to read his newspapers; he had merely glanced at the headlines and
his column.  His eye was arrested by the picture of a man at the top of
the first page of his own newspaper.  Although smooth-shaven and very
regular of feature, with no pronounced racial characteristics, it was,
nevertheless, a foreign face, although difficult to place.  From its
distinction it might be Austrian, but the name below, "Prince
Hohenhauer," might as easily be German.  Still, it was not a German
face, and Clavering studied it for a moment before reading the news
text, wondering faintly at his interest.

It was unmistakably the face of a statesman, and reminded him a little
of a picture of Prince Schwarzenberg, prime minister when Franz Josef
ascended the throne, he had seen lately in a history of Austria.  There
was the same broad placidity of brow, the long oval face, the thin long
slightly curved nose, the heavy lids, the slim erectness, the same
suave repose.  But this man's large beautifully cut mouth was more
firmly set, had a faintly satiric expression, and the eyes a powerful
and penetrating gaze.  It was the face of a man who was complete master
of himself and accustomed to the mastery of men.

Clavering read the story under the headlines:


  PRINCE HOHENHAUER ARRIVES IN NEW YORK
    GOES AT ONCE TO WASHINGTON

"Prince Hohenhauer, a distinguished political factor under the old
Austrian Empire, arrived yesterday morning on the _Noordam_.  He
refused to be interviewed, but it is understood he has a large amount
of money invested in the United States and has come to New York at the
request of his lawyers to attend to certain necessary formalities.  He
was, in fact, met at Quarantine by Judge Trent, one of the most
distinguished members of the New York Bar since his retirement from the
Bench, and they went at once to the Prince's stateroom and remained
there until it was time to leave the ship.  It is significant, however,
that the Prince, after engaging a suite at the Ritz-Carlton, and
lunching there with Judge Trent, took the afternoon train for
Washington.  As he recently left his estate in Switzerland to return to
Vienna and accept a position in the Cabinet, and as it is well known
that Austria desires the backing of the American Government to enable
her to overcome the opposition of France to her alliance with Germany,
or, it is whispered, with a kingdom farther south, it is not
unreasonable to infer that he has come to the United States on a
special, if secret, mission.

"The Prince was the subject of lively interest on the boat and of much
speculation, but he took his meals in his suite and walked the deck
only in the company of his secretary.

"He is a man of striking appearance, quite six feet in height, with a
spare erect figure, fine features, and hardly looks his sixty years, in
spite of his white hair."

Then followed a brief biography, which illustrated the efficiency of
the newspaper "morgue," for the statesman's reputation was, so far,
wholly European.

"Prince Moritz Franz Ernst Felix von Hohenhauer was born October 6th,
1862, on his ancestral estate in what was then known as Galicia.  His
mother was a princess of the House of Schwarzenberg.  He has been the
head of his own historic house for the last forty years, and has one
son and two daughters.  His wife, a member of the Kalnóky family, died
several years ago.  "Hohenhauer" was one of those almost unbelievably
vast estates of sixteen million acres possessed by a few of the
Austrian noblemen under the old régime.  In spite of the fact that
Prince Hohenhauer was one of the greatest landlords in all Christendom
he was a liberal in politics from the first and the author of several
of the reform laws in behalf of the people which from time to time were
forced upon the most conservative monarch in Europe.  He was in
sympathy with the revolution and offered his services at once to the
new Government.  They were declined, and he retired to Switzerland,
where he has an estate near St. Moritz, and, it is understood,
considerable money invested.  His vast estates in what is now Poland
were confiscated, but he was one of the wealthiest men in the Empire
and is said to have transferred immense sums to the United States
before the war."

Clavering dropped the newspaper.  Liberal in politics.  Immense sums
invested in the United States.  Judge Trent.  There could be no
possible doubt as to who the man was.  The floor seemed unsteady for a
moment.

And yet there was as little doubt that Mary Zattiany bad long since
ceased to care for him.  _That_ was over fifteen or sixteen years ago.
They had known each other in later years, both equally indifferent to
the other and to the past. . . .  Yes . . . but she had then completely
lost the beauty and the charm that had enthralled him, while he was
still a man in his prime, who, with that appearance, no doubt had other
young and beautiful women in his life.

He may or may not have heard of the metamorphosis.  At all events they
had been political allies.  He would call on her as a matter of course.
And possibly out of more than politeness: he may have brought her an
important message.  Or he might find it expedient to confer with her on
his present mission.  That he had come on an important mission did not
admit of a doubt; but at least he had not gone to her at once.  His
interest in her, so far, was still impersonal.

Clavering had too much of the arrogance of youth and he was too sure of
Mary Zattiany's love for himself, to be apprehensive of the charms of a
man of sixty, but he was invaded by a nameless and almost sickening
fear.  He had very swift and often very sure intuitions, and he was
shaken by a premonition that in some manner, which, in his ignorance of
the facts he was unable to define, this man's presence in America boded
no good to himself.

But Clavering was also a man of swift decisions and resource, and he
knew this was no time to lose his head, nor even to play a waiting
game.  And he must tread warily.  Impulsive as he was by nature he
could be as wary as a Red Indian when wariness would serve his purpose.
He called up Mr. Dinwiddie on the telephone and asked if he might see
him at once.  It was only half past nine and Mr. Dinwiddie was just
finishing his breakfast in bed, but he told his favorite cordially to
"come along."



XLIV

"What is it?" asked Mr. Dinwiddie, as Clavering entered his bedroom
fifteen minutes later.  "This is an early call.  Thought you didn't get
up till noon."

"Went to bed early last night for a change.  I've come to ask a favor.
I'll smoke, if you don't mind."

He took a chair beside the bed, where Mr. Dinwiddie, in skull cap and
decorous pyjamas, leaned against high pillows, happily digesting his
breakfast, with the newspapers beside him.  Clavering smoked for a few
moments in silence, while his host watched him keenly.  He had never
seen his young friend in quite this mood.  There was a curious deadly
stillness about him.

"What is it, Lee?" he asked when curiosity finally got the better of
him.  "Nothing wrong between you and Mary, I hope?  Of course you know
it's all over town that you're engaged to her.  Don't mind my saying
this, do you?  And you know you can trust me.  Nothing like an old
gossip for keeping a confidence sacred."

"Well, I am.  But she chooses not to announce it and that is her right.
And here is where you can help me.  I want you to open your camp in the
Adirondacks and give Mary a house party.  I suppose Larsing and his
wife are still there?"

"Yes, but it's too early----"

"Spring is early this year.  The ice must have gone out.  And the house
is always comfortable; we've often had fires there when people were
having sunstroke in New York.  I want you to get busy, so that we can
leave tomorrow morning----"

"Tomorrow morning?  You young dynamo.  It can't be done."

"It can.  I'll call up the people I want in a few minutes--from here.
You can telephone to the camp.  Provisions can go tonight.  I'll see to
that also----"

"But can you get away yourself?"

"I'd get away if I had to resign, but I shan't.  I shall break away for
two months later anyhow.  We have planned to marry in Austria in about
a month from now."

"Then why in thunder do you want to run off to the woods with her now?
I never heard of anything so unreasonable.  She has friends here who'd
like to see her until the last minute, you selfish young beggar----"

"It's the most reasonable thing I ever did.  Don't insist upon an
explanation, Din.  Just accept my word that it's a vital matter to me."

"Ah!  But I know!"  Mr. Dinwiddie's eyes glittered.  "Hohenhauer is
here.  That's the milk in the cocoanut."

Clavering scowled.  "What do you mean by that?"

"I--I--well--there was a good deal of talk at the time--but then you
know, Lee, I told you the very first time we both saw her that there
had been stories about Mary."

"Well, as it happens, she told me about this man, although not his
name.  Enough, however, for me to know at once this morning who he was.
I don't intend she shall see him."

"You don't mean to tell me that you are jealous of Hohenhauer.  Why,
that was nearly twenty years ago, and he is almost as old as I am."

"I'm not jealous, but I've got a hunch."  He scowled again, for he
fancied he could see that old story unrolling itself in Dinwiddie's
mind.  It is one thing to dismiss the past with a lordly gesture and
another to see it rise from the dead and peer from old eyes.  He went
on calmly, however.  "I've no faith, myself, in the making of bonfires
out of dead ashes, but all the same I scent danger and I intend to get
her away and keep her away until the day before she sails; and I'll
marry her the morning she does.  I'll take no chances of their
travelling on the same steamer."

"I see.  Perhaps you are right.  He's a damn good-looking chap, too,
and has that princely distinction peculiar to Austrians.  Some European
princes look like successful businessmen of the Middle-West.  I was
once stranded at Abbazia, Austria's Riviera, during a rainy spell, and
as there were only two other people in the vast dining-room I thought
I'd speak to them.  I took for granted they were Americans.  He was a
big heavy man, with one of those large, round, fat, shrewd, weary faces
you see by the hundreds in the lobbies of Chicago hotels.  She looked
like a New England school-marm, and wore a red plaid waist.  Well--he
was the reigning prince of Carlstadt-Rudolfstein, one of those
two-by-six German principalities, and she was an Austrian archduchess.
She was the only Austrian I ever saw that didn't look like one, but her
manners were charming and we became great friends and they took me home
with them to their beautiful old castle. . . .  Ah, those wonderful old
German castles!  Profiteers living in them today, I suppose.  But
Hohenhauer is a perfect specimen of his class--and then some.  I met
him once in Paris.  Intensely reserved, but opened up one night at a
small dinner.  I never met a more charming man in my life.  And
unquestionably one of the ablest men in Europe. . . .  However, he's
sixty and you're thirty-four.  If he has any influence over her it's
political, and in European politics one never knows what dark business
is going on under the surface.  Good idea to get Mary away.  I'll get
some fun out of it, too.  Who'll you ask?"

"None of your crowd.  How many bedrooms have you?  I don't remember."

"Ten.  If you want a large party you can turn in with me.  There are
twin beds in every room.  I don't know how Mary'll like it; she's a
luxurious creature, you know, and we don't go to the woods to be
comfortable----"

"You forget she got pretty well used to worse while she was running
that hospital.  And hardy people never do mind."

"True.  I'll give her a room to herself, for I don't see her
doubling-up, at all events.  That would leave eight good-sized rooms.
Don't ask all married couples, Lee, for heaven's sake.  Let's have two
girls, at least.  But the season is still on.  Sure you can get
anybody?"

"Of course.  They're not all pinned down to regular jobs, and will be
only too glad to get out of New York after a grinding winter.  The
novelty of a house party in the mountains at this season will appeal to
them.  I'll call up Gora first."

He was crossing the room to the telephone when Mr. Dinwiddie said
hesitatingly: "And so--so--you're really going to marry Mary?  Have you
thought what it means?  I mean your own career.  She'll never live
here--she's out of the picture and knows it."

Clavering took down the receiver and called Miss Dwight's number.  Mr.
Dinwiddie sighed and shrugged his shoulders.  But his eyes were bright.
He would have a love drama under his very nose.



XLV

Mary's "headache" had continued for two days, but Clavering came to her
house by appointment that same afternoon at five o'clock.  She kept him
waiting fully ten minutes, and wandered back and forth in her room
upstairs with none of her usual eagerness to welcome him after even a
brief separation.  The violence of her revulsion had passed, but she
was filled with a vast depression, apathetic, tired, in no mood for
love-making.  Nor did she feel up to acting, and Clavering's intuitions
were often very inconvenient.  He would never suspect the black turmoil
of these past two days, nor its cause, but it would be equally
disconcerting if he attributed her low spirits to the arrival of
Hohenhauer.  What a fool she had been to have made more than a glancing
reference to that last old love-affair, almost forgotten until that
night of stark revelation.  She must have enjoyed talking about herself
more than she had realized, unable to resist the temptation to indulge
in imposing details.  Or self-justification?  Perhaps.  It didn't
matter, and he must have "placed" Hohenhauer at once this morning, and
would imagine that she was depressed at the thought of meeting him.
There was no one on earth she wanted to meet less, although she felt a
good deal of curiosity as to the object of his visit to Washington.

She heard the maid in the dressing-room and was visited by an
inspiration.  She called in the woman, gave her a key and told her to
go down to the dining-room and bring her a glass of curacoa from the
wine-cupboard.

The liqueur sent a glow of warmth through her veins and raised her
spirits.  Then, reflecting that Clavering never rushed at her in the
fashion of most lovers, nor even greeted her with a perfunctory kiss,
but waited until the mood for love-making attacked him suddenly, she
took a last look at her new tea-gown of corn-flower blue chiffon and
went down stairs with a light step.

"Shocking to keep you waiting," she said as they shook hands, "but I
came in late.  You'll stay to dinner, of course.  I had an engagement
but broke it, as I'm still feeling a little out of sorts."

"Never saw you look better.  Nor in blue before.  You look like a lily
in a blue vase, or a snow maiden rising from a blue mist.  Not that I'm
feeling poetic today, but you do look ripping.  What gave you a
headache?  I thought you scorned the ills of the flesh."

"So I do, but I had spent three hours in Judge Trent's office that
morning, and you know what these American men are.  They keep the heat
on no matter what the temperature outside, and every window closed.  On
Tuesday the sun was blazing in besides, and Judge Trent and the two
other men I was obliged to confer with smoked cigars incessantly.  It
gave me the first headache I'd had for twenty years.  I felt as if I'd
been poisoned."

She looked up at him, smilingly, from her deep chair as he stood above
her on the hearthrug.  He didn't believe a word of it: he was convinced
she had been advised of Hohenhauer's coming, and that for some reason
the news had upset her; but he had no intention of betraying himself.
Moreover, he didn't care.  He was too intent on his own plans.

"The rest has done you good," he said, smiling also.  "But as you were
looking rather fagged before you came down with that two-days'
headache, I made up my mind that you needed a change and dropped Din a
hint to open his camp in the Adirondacks and give you a farewell
house-party.  He jumped at the idea and it's all arranged.  You'll have
eight days of outdoor life and some sport, as well as a good rest.
He's got a big comfortable camp on a beautiful lake, where we can boat
and fish----"

"But Lee----"  She was almost gasping.

"No buts.  Not only do you need a rest before that long journey but I
want these last days with you in the mountains where I can have you
almost to myself.  It seems to me sometimes that I do not know you at
all--nor you me.  And to roam with you in the woods during the day and
float about that lake at night--it came to me suddenly like a foretaste
of heaven.  I couldn't stand the thought of the separation otherwise.
Besides, here you'd be given a farewell luncheon or dinner every day
until you sailed.  I'd see nothing of you.  And you'd be worn out.  You
must come, Mary dear."

Mary felt dimly suspicious, but it was possible that he had read his
morning papers hastily, or that in his mental turmoil that night she
had told him her story he had paid little attention to details, or
forgotten them later.  He certainly had never alluded to the man since.
And this sudden impetuous plan was so like him that he needed no
foreign impulse.

But she answered with some hesitation: "I'd like it, of course.  And
Judge Trent has nothing more for me to sign until the last minute.
But--a woman always has a thousand things to do before going on a
journey----"

"Your maid can do all that.  And pack your trunks.  She goes with you,
doesn't she?  And you'll only need warm sweaters and skirts up there.
We never dress.  You'll not need a maid."

"Well--but--do you mean to tell me that the whole thing is settled?"

"To the last detail.  There'll be twelve of us, including Din."

"Really, Lee, you _are_ high-handed.  You might have consulted me
first."

"No time to waste on argument.  We'll only have a little over a week
there as it is.  It takes a day to go and another to return, and you'll
need one day here in New York before you sail.  I made up my mind you
should go if I had to take you by force.  I _will_ have those last days
in the Adirondacks."

Her faint resentment vanished and she felt a languid sense of
well-being in this enveloping atmosphere of the tactless imperious
male, so foreign to her experience; of freedom from the necessity for
independent action; and the prospect was certainly enchanting.
Moreover, she would be able to avoid seeing Hohenhauer in surroundings
where this strange love-affair of hers had obliterated the past (for
the most part!), and she had found, for a time at least, happiness and
peace.  She would see him in Vienna, of course, and she had no wish to
avoid him there; no doubt they would work together and as impersonally
as they had sometimes done in the past; but to see him here, even in
the drawing-room, which held no sacred memories, would be but another
and uglier blot on her already dimming idyl; and a subtle infidelity to
this man whose every thought seemed to be of her in spite of all he had
to inflame and excite his ego.

And if she remained and Hohenhauer wished to see her she could hardly
keep on making excuses for nearly a fortnight.  So she merely smiled up
at Clavering, who was gazing down at her intently, and said softly: "Of
course I'll go.  I always have sport things in my wardrobe and I think
it a wonderful idea.  Now tell me who is going.  Miss Dwight, I
suppose--and hope.  And the De Witt Turners?"  Madame Zattiany had no
respect whatever for the Lucy Stone League, and invariably forgot the
paternal names of the emancipated young wives of the men she found
interesting.

"They can't get away.  Gora, yes; and Rolly Todd, the Boltons, the
Minors, Eva Darling, Babette Gold, Gerald Scores."

"Miss Darling is rather a nuisance.  She flung her arms round me the
other night at the Minors' and left a pink kiss on my neck.  She was
very tight.  Still, she is amusing, and a favorite of Din's."

"I would have submitted the list to you in the first place, darling,
but I knew I should have to take what I could get on such short notice.
The only two I really care about are Gora and Todd.  But there wasn't a
moment to lose.  I wish to heaven I'd thought of it before, but that
play had to be finished, and it looked as if the date of your sailing
might be postponed, after all."

He had no intention of letting her suspect that the wonderful plan was
just eight hours old.

"I understand," she said.  "When do we start?"

"Tomorrow morning.  Eight-thirty.  Grand Central."

"Tomorrow morning!"  She looked almost as dismayed as Mr. Dinwiddie had
done, then laughed and shrugged her shoulders.  "Of course it can be
done--but----"

"Anything can be done," he said darkly.  And then, having got his way,
he suddenly felt happy and irresponsible, and made one of his abrupt
wild dives at her.



XLVI

The "camp," a large log house, with a great living-room, a small room
for guns and fishing-tackle, two bedrooms, besides the servants' wing,
downstairs, and eight bedrooms above, stood in a clearing on the
western shore of a lake nearly two miles long, and about three-quarters
of a mile wide in the centre of its fine oval sweep.  The lake itself
was in a cup of the mountains, whose slopes in the distance looked as
if covered with fur, so dense were the woods.  Only one high peak,
burnt bare by fire, was still covered with snow.

The camp was in a grove of pines, but the trees that crowded one
another almost out into the lake among the lily pads were spruce and
balsam and maple.

The party arrived at half-past nine in the evening, and crossed the
lake in a motor launch.  It was very dark and the forest surrounding
the calm expanse of water looked like an impenetrable wall, an
unscalable rampart.  There was not a sound but the faint chugging of
the motor.  The members of the party, tired after their long trip on
the train and two hours' drive up the rough road from the station to
the lake, surrendered to the high mountain stillness, and even Rollo
Todd, who had been in his best spirits all day, fell silent and forgot
that he was a jolly good fellow, remembered only that he was a poet.
Eva Darling, who had flirted shamelessly with Mr. Dinwiddie from New
York to Huntersville, forgot to hold his hand, and he forgot her
altogether.

Mary had a sudden and complete sense of isolation.  Memory had played
her a trick.  These were the mountains of her girlhood, and she was
Mary Ogden once more.  Even the future that had been so hard of outline
in her practical mind, that unescapable future just beyond a brief
interval in an Austrian mountain solitude, seemed to sink beyond a
horizon infinitely remote.  Europe was as unreal as New York.  She
vowed, if it were necessary to vow, that she would give neither a
thought while she was here in the wilderness.  And as she was a
thorough-going person she knew she would succeed.

She took her first step when Mr. Dinwiddie was showing them to their
rooms.  She drew Gora into her own room and shut the door.

"I want you to do me a favor--if you will, dear Miss Dwight," she said.

"Of course."  Gora wondered what was coming.

"I want you to ask the others to abandon their subtle game while we are
up here and ignore the subjects of Lee's play, his future, his genius,
which will wither outside of New York, and cease to attempt to strike
terror into my soul.  You may tell them that we are to be married in a
month or two from now--in Austria--but that I shall do nothing to
interfere with his career; nor protest against his passing a part of
each year in the United States.  Ask them kindly to refrain from
congratulations, or any allusion to the subject whatever.  We have only
eight days here, and I should like it to be as nearly perfect as
possible."

Gora had had the grace to blush.  "They have been worried, and I'm
afraid they hatched a rather naughty plot.  But they'll be delighted to
have their apprehensions banished--and of course they'll ignore the
entire matter.  They won't say a word to Clavey, either."

"They've not made the slightest impression on him, so it really doesn't
matter whether they do or not.  But--when it dawned on me what they
were up to, and the sound reasoning beneath it, I will confess that I
had some bad half-hours.  Of course, Lee has a right to his own life.
I had hoped he would help me in my own field, but he could not if he
would.  I have come to see that plainly.  I do not mean to say that
these amiable machinations of your friends caused me for a moment to
consider giving him up.  I have survived worse----"  She shuddered as
she recalled that hideous hour with Agnes Trevor, but promptly whipped
the memory back to cover.  "But it made me very uncomfortable, and I
realized there was nothing to do but compromise.  We must take what we
can get in this world, my dear Miss Dwight, and be thankful for a
candle when we cannot have the sun."

And Gora, feeling unaccountably saddened, summoned the others to her
room and told them of Madame Zattiany's announcement and request.  Some
gasped with astonishment and delight, others were darkly suspicious,
but all gave their word unhesitatingly to "forget it" while they were
in camp.  Those that regarded Madame Zattiany as the most fascinating
woman they had ever known, but also as an intrigante of dark and
winding ways, made a mental reservation to "say a few things to Clavey"
before he had time to buy his ticket for the Dolomites.

Mary, having accomplished her purpose, swept the whole thing from her
mind and looked about her room with pleasure.  The walls were ceiled
with a wood that gleamed like gold in the candle-light, and gave out a
faint scent of the forest.  On the bare floor were two or three small
blue rugs, there were pretty blue counterpanes on the beds, and blue
curtains on the small windows.  It looked like a young girl's room and
was indescribably sweet and fresh.  Her own room at her father's camp,
on another lake many miles away, had been not unlike it.  Moreover, it
was pleasantly warm, for the caretaker had made a fire in the furnace
the day before.  A window was open and she could hear the soft lap of
the water among the lily pads, but there was no moon and she could see
nothing but a dim black wall on the opposite shore.  And the silence!
It might not have been broken since the glacial era, when mighty masses
of ice ground these mountains into permanent form, and the air was
filled with the roaring horrors of desolation.  But they had gone, and
left infinite peace behind them.  That peace had endured for many
thousands of years and it was unimaginable that any but the puny sounds
of man would disturb that vast repose for thousands of years to come.
The peaks of those old Adirondacks, their quiet lakes, their massive
forests, looked as deathless as time itself.  "The Great North Woods"
could not have been more remote from, more scornful of the swarming
cities called civilization, if they had been on another star.

Luxury in camp did not extend to hot water in the bedrooms,
particularly as Mr. Dinwiddie had had no time to assemble a corps of
servants, and as Mary washed her face and hands in what felt like
melted ice, the shock made her tingle and she would have liked to sing.

A deep bell sounded.  Doors flew open up and down the corridor, which
was immediately filled with an eager chatter.  Rollo Todd stamped down
the stair singing "Oh, Hunger, Sweet Hunger!"  The others took it up in
various keys, and when Mary went down a moment later they were all
swarming about the dining-table at the end of the living-room.

This room, which was fully fifty feet long and half as wide, was lit by
lamps suspended from the ceiling and heated by an immense fireplace in
which logs, that looked like half-sections of trees, were blazing in a
pile as high as a small bonfire.  The walls were ceiled and decorated
with antlered deerheads, woven bright Indian blankets, snap-shots of
Mr. Dinwiddie's many guests, and old Indian weapons.  In one corner,
above a divan covered with gay cushions, were bookshelves filled with
old novels.  A shelf had been built along one side of the room for fine
specimens of Indian pottery and basket weaving.  The comfortable chairs
were innumerable, and there was another divan, and a victrola.  The
guide had filled the vases with balsam, whose pungent odor blended with
the resinous fumes of the burning logs; and through the open door came
the scents of the forest.

"Ideal place for everything but spooning," cried Todd.  "The woods and
the lake are all right in fine weather, but what do you expect us to do
if it rains, mine host?  D'you mean to say you haven't any little
retiring rooms?"

"Not a thing unless you retire to the gun-room, but who comes up to the
woods to spoon in the house?"

"Rolly never spoons, anyhow," announced Eva Darling, whose blue eyes,
however, were languishing toward the table.  "But it makes him unhappy
to think he can't burst in on somebody----"

"Hold your tongue, Evy.  You don't know what you're talking about.
Because I'm quite insensible to your charms, don't fool yourself that
I'm an anchorite.  I merely prefer brunettes."

"Come, come, children!"  Mr. Dinwiddie was rubbing his hands at the end
of the table covered with blue china and mounds of home-made cake.
"Stop quarrelling and sit down.  Anywhere.  No ceremony here."

Some of the guests were in their seats.  The others fairly swooped into
theirs, entirely regardless of anything so uneatable as neighbors.
Mrs. Larsing, a tall, red-haired, raw-boned New England woman, had
entered, bearing an enormous platter of fried trout, fresh from the
lake.  Larsing, burnt almost as dark as an Indian, followed with a
plate of potatoes boiled in their jackets balanced on one hand, and a
small mountain of johnny cake on the other.  He returned in a moment
with two large platters of sliced ham and cold boiled beef, and the
guests were left to wait on themselves.

The dinner was the gayest Mary had ever attended, for even the
Sophisticates, however lively, preserved a certain formality in town;
when she was present, at all events.  Rollo Todd, broke into periodical
war whoops, to Mr. Dinwiddie's manifest delight.  The others burst into
song, while waiting for the travelling platters.  Eva Darling got up
twice and danced by herself, her pale bobbed head and little white face
eerily suspended in the dark shadows of the great room.  Other feet
moved irresistibly under the table.  Good stories multiplied, and they
laughed uncontrollably at the worst of the jokes.

They drank little, for the supply was limited, but the altitude was
four thousand feet and the thin light air went to their heads.  They
were New Yorkers suddenly snatched from the most feverish pitch of
modern civilization, but no less primitive in soul than woodsmen who
had never seen a city, and the men would have liked to put on war paint
and run through the forest with tomahawks.

Todd, when the dinner was over, did seize a tomahawk from the wall,
drape himself in an Indian blanket, and march up and down the room
roaring out terrific battle-cries.  Three minutes later, Minor and
Bolton had followed his example, and marched solemnly behind him,
brandishing their weapons and making unearthly noises.  Mary, from her
chair by the hearth, watched them curiously.  At first it was merely
the exuberant spirits of their release and the unaccustomed altitude
that inspired them, but their countenances grew more and more sombre,
their eyes wilder, their voices more war-like.  They were no longer
doing a stunt, they were atavistic.  Their voices reverberated across
the lake.

One by one the other men had joined them, until even Mr. Dinwiddie was
in the procession, marching with loud stamping feet round and round the
big room.  The cries became shorter, menacing, abrupt, imperative.  The
high lamps cast strange shadows on their lost faces.  The voices grew
hoarse, dropped to low growls, their faces changed from ferocity to a
mournful solemnity until they looked even more like primal men than
before; but they continued their marching and stamping until Gora, who,
with the other women, had begun to fear that the rhythm would bring
down the house, had the inspiration to insert a Caruso disk into the
victrola; and as those immortal notes flung themselves imperiously
across that wild scene, the primitive in the men dropped like a leaden
plummet, and they threw themselves on the floor by the fire.  But they
smoked their pipes in silence.  They had had something that no woman
could give them nor share, and there was an ungallant wish in every
manly heart that they had left the women at home.

Caruso was succeeded by Emma Eames, and the great lost diva by Farrar
and Scotti.  Then, the concert over, a yawning party stumbled upstairs
to bed and not a sound was heard from them until the first bell rang at
seven o'clock next morning.



XLVII

"You forgot me last night."

"Yes, I did."  Clavering smiled unrepentantly.

"You looked horribly primitive."

"No more so than I felt."

They were in a boat on the lake.  The air was crisp and cold although
the sun blazed overhead.  Clavering was happy in a disreputable old
sweater that he kept at the camp, and baggy corduroy trousers tucked
into leggins, but Mary wore an angora sweater and skirt of a vivid
grass green and a soft sport hat of the same shade, the rim turned down
over eyes that might never have looked upon life beyond these woods and
mountains.  Clavering was hatless and smoked his pipe lazily as he
pulled with long slow strokes.

Other boats were on the lake, the women in bright sweaters and hats
that looked like floating autumn leaves, and the lake was liquid amber.
A breeze blew warm scents out of the woods.  The water lilies had
opened to the sun and looked oddly artificial in their waxen beauty, at
the feet of those ancient trees.  Stealthy footsteps behind that wall
of trees, or a sudden loud rustling, told of startled deer.  The
distant peak looked to be enamelled blue and white, and the long slopes
of the nearer mountains were dark green under a blue mist, the higher
spruce rising like Gothic spires.

Clavering smiled into her dancing eyes.  "You look about fourteen," he
said tenderly.

"I don't feel much more.  I spent a month or two every year in these
woods--let us play a game.  Make believe that I am Mary Ogden and you
have met me here for the first time and are deliberately setting out to
woo me.  Begin all over again.  It--you, perhaps!--was what I always
dreamed of up here.  I used to row on the lake for hours by myself, or
sit alone in the very depths of the woods.  Do you think that famous
imagination of yours could accomplish a purely personal feat?  I
haven't nearly as much but I'm quite sure I could.  And then--after--we
could just go on from here."

He looked at her in smiling sympathy.  "Done.  We met last night, Miss
Ogden, and I went down at the first shot.  I'm now out to win you or
perish in the attempt.  But before we get down to business I'll just
inform you of a resolution I took a day or two ago.  I shall get a
license the day we return and marry you the morning you sail."

"Oh!"  And then she realized in a blinding flash what she had fought
out of her consciousness: that she had shrunk from the consummation of
marriage, visualized a long period of intermittent but superficial
love-making and delightful companionship, an exciting but incomplete
idyl of mind and soul and senses. . . .  Underneath always an undertone
of repulsion and incurable ennui . . . the dark residuum of immedicable
disillusion . . . that what she had really wanted was love with its
final expression eliminated.

But she realized it only as a fact, . . . a psychological study of
another . . . buried down there in an artificial civilization she had
forgotten . . . in that past that belonged to Marie Zattiany . . . with
which Mary Ogden had nothing to do . . . her mind at last was as young
as her body, and this man had accomplished the miracle.  The present
and the future were his.

She looked up into his eyes, anxious but imperious, and answered
softly:  "Why not?"

"Exactly.  I've no desire to take that long journey with you, but I'm
not going to take any chances, either. . . .  Ah!  Here's an idea that
beats the other hollow.  When the party breaks up we'll go down to
Huntersville with them, marry there, and return to the camp.  I don't
see how your Dolomites could beat this for a honeymoon.  Why in thunder
should we trail all the way over to Europe to find seclusion when we
must return in two or three months, anyhow?  It's a scandalous waste.
We can go to the Dolomites for our second honeymoon--we'll have one
every year.  And this is much more in the picture if you want to be
Mary Ogden again.  She never would have proposed anything so elaborate
and unnecessary.  Say yes, and don't be more than a minute about it."

Mary drew in her breath sharply.  The plan made a violent and
irresistible appeal.  There would be no long interval for possible
reversal, for contacts in which it might be difficult to hold fast to
her new faith.  But what excuse could she make to leave him
later? . . .  Later?  Did Austria really exist?  Did she care?  Let the
future take care of itself.  Her horizon, a luminous band, encircled
these mountains. . . .  She smiled into his ardent eyes.  "Very well.
I'll write to Hortense today and tell her to send me up a trousseau of
sorts.  And now--you are to understand that you have not dared to
propose to me yet and are suffering all the qualms of uncertainty, for
I am a desperate flirt, and took a long walk in the woods this morning
with Mr. Scores."

"Very well, Miss Ogden, I will now do my best to make a fool of myself,
and as soon as we return to camp will telegraph to New York for a
five-pound box of chocolates."

"Hark!  Hark!  The Lark!" shouted Todd as he rowed past with Babette
Gold.  "Only there isn't a lark or any other bird in these woods that
I've been able to discover."

"Birds sing one at a time," shouted back Clavering.  "Choir of jealous
soloists."

He rowed into a little cove and they gazed into the dim green woods,
but the maple leaves grew almost to the ground, and it was like peering
through the tiny changing spaces of a moving curtain through which one
glimpsed green columns flecked with gold.

He beached the boat, and they walked, single file, up a narrow run-way
made by the deer.  Everywhere was that leafy whispering curtain.
Between the rigid spruce and soft maples were fragrant balsams, and
ferns, and an occasional pine with its pale green spikes.  They passed
enormous boulders detached from the glaciers that had ground mountains
in their embrace, but today things of mere beauty in their coats of
pink and green and golden moss.

Their footsteps made no sound on the mossy path, and they came suddenly
upon a deer and his doe drinking at a pool.  But the antlered head was
flung back instantly, the magnificent buck wheeled on his hind legs,
gave a leap and went crashing through the forest snorting his
protesting fury.  The doe scampered after, her white-lined tail
standing up perfectly straight.

They sat down on a log, dried and warmed by the sun in this open space,
and talked for two hours.  There was no need for careful avoidance of
dangerous subjects.  Clavering had come to these woods nearly every
year since he had made the north his home, and she had forgotten
nothing of her woodland lore.  When one is "in the woods," as the great
Adirondacks are familiarly called, one rarely talks of anything but
their manifold offerings.  It is easy enough to forget the world.  They
both had had their long tramps, their rough campings-out, more or less
exciting adventures.  When a loud bell, hung in a frame outside the
camp, summoned them to dinner, they walked out briskly.  Once, as the
trail widened, he touched her fingers tentatively.  She let her own
curl for a moment, then gave him a provocative glance over her shoulder
and hurried on.



XLVIII

Clavering, when making up his list with Mr. Dinwiddie (by courtesy),
had, with the exception of Todd, who was always the life of any party,
Gora, whom he always liked to have at hand, and Eva Darling, who was a
favorite of "The Ambassador to the Court of the Sophisticates," as Todd
had long since dubbed him, chosen his guests at random, taking whom he
could get, careful merely to ask those who, so far as he knew, were on
speaking terms.

But he hardly could have gathered together a more congenial and lively
party, nor one more delighted to leave New York for the woods.  Henry
Minor, editor of one of the intellectual and faintly radical magazines,
whose style was so involved in his efforts to be both "different" and
achieve an unremitting glitter, that he had recently received a
petition to issue a glossary, was as amiable as a puppy in the society
of his friends and when in the woods talked in words of one syllable
and discovered a mighty appetite.  His wife, who had demonstrated her
originality by calling herself Mrs. Minor, was what is known as a
spiffing cook and a top-notch dresser.  She had, in fact, the most
charming assortment of sports clothes in the camp.  Eva Darling, who
danced for pastime and illustrated for what little bread she was
permitted to eat at home, was as lively as a grasshopper and scarcely
less devastating.  Babette Gold wore her black hair in smooth bands on
either side of the perfect oval of her face, and had the sad and
yearning gaze of the unforgiven Magdalen, and she had written two
novels dealing with the domesticities of the lower middle class,
treating with a clinical wealth of detail the irritable monotonies of
the nuptial couch and the artless intimacies of the nursery.  She
smoked incessantly, could walk ten miles at a stretch, and was as
passionless as a clam.  Gerald Scores, who wore a short pointed beard
and looked the complete artist, was one of the chief hopes of the
intellectual drama cunningly commercialized; and as capable as
Clavering of shutting up his genius in a water-tight compartment, and
enjoying himself in the woods.  He was mildly flirtatious, but looked
upon emotional intensity in the personal life of the artist as a
criminal waste of force.  Halifax Bolton, who claimed to be the
discoverer of the Younger Generation (in fiction) and was just
twenty-eight himself, was a critic of formidable severity and the
author of at least five claques.  The intense concentration of writing
routed his sense of humor, but he had as many droll stories in his
repertoire as Todd.  His wife, the famous "Alberta Jones," fierce Lucy
Stoner, was the editor, at a phenomenal salary, of one of the "Woman's
Magazines," and wrote short stories of impeccable style and indifferent
content for the _Century_ and the _Dial_.

They were all intimate friends and argued incessantly and amiably.  And
they were all devoted to Mr. Dinwiddie, whom they addressed as
Excellence, without accent.

[Illustration: At Dinwiddie's mountain lodge Clavering (Conway Tearle)
pleaded with Madame Zattiany (Corrine Griffith) to marry him.  (_Screen
version of "The Black Oxen."_)]

When Mary and Clavering arrived at the camp in response to the dinner
bell, Eva Darling, who wore very pretty pink silk bloomers under her
sport skirt, was turning hand-springs down the living-room, while the
rest of the party applauded vociferously, and Mrs. Larsing, who was
entering with the fried chicken, nearly dropped the platter.

"Just in time, Madame Zattiany," cried Minor.  "This is the sixth round
and she is panting----"

But she interrupted him.  "'Mary'--from this time on.  I insist.  You
make me feel an outsider.  I won't be addressed in that formal manner
nor answer to that foreign name again."

"Mary!  Mary!  Mary!" shouted the party with one accord, and Clavering
drew a long breath.  He had wondered how she would manage to feel Mary
Ogden under the constant bombardment of a name that was a title in more
ways than one.  But he might have trusted her to manage it!'

In the afternoon Mrs. Minor suggested having tea in the woods, and they
all walked--single file--five miles to drink their tea and eat their
cakes (Larsing carrying the paraphernalia) in a pine grove on the
summit of a hill, and then walked back again, clamoring for supper.
Mary had been monopolized by Scores and Bolton, occasionally
vouchsafing Clavering a glance.  During the evening they were all too
pleasantly tired and replete to dance or to play the charades they had
planned, but lay about comfortably, listening to a concert of alternate
arias and jazz.  Clavering did not have a word alone with Mary.  She
sat on one of the divans between Gora and Todd, while Scores lay on the
floor at her feet, his head on a cushion, one foot waving over a lifted
knee, the perfect picture of the contented playwright.  They kept up a
continuous murmur, punctuated with gales of laughter.  Clavering had
sulkily taken a chair beside Babette Gold, whose metallic humor
sometimes amused him, but she went sound asleep before his eyes, and he
could only gaze into the fire and console himself with visions of a
week hence, when these cursed people had gone and he was the most
fortunate man on earth.

His room was downstairs next to Mr. Dinwiddie's, and he made up his
mind to let himself out softly at midnight, throw pebbles at her window
and whisper to her as she leaned from her casement.  It was a scene
that if introduced into a modern play would have driven him from the
theatre and tipped his pen with vitriol next morning, but it appealed
to him, somehow, as a fitting episode in his own high romance.  But he
was asleep before his head touched the pillow, and did not lift an
eyelash until the first bell roused him at seven o'clock.  Then,
however, he lay for some time thinking, soberly.



XLIX

The hour between seven and eight was a lively one in the upper
corridor.  There was only one bathroom on the second floor.  Scores and
Miss Gold took their morning plunge in the lake, but the rest preferred
the less drastic shower, and there was a continual darting to and fro
of forms clad in bath-robe or kimono; the vanquished peeping through
door-cracks waiting for the bathroom door to open--signal for another
wild rush down the hall, a scuffle at the door, a triumphant slam and
hoot, and loud vituperations from the defeated.  Mary cannily waited
until the last, and came down, clad in a white sweater and heavy white
tweed skirt, after the others had cleared the generous platter of ham
and eggs, and the mountain of corn bread was a hillock of crumbs.

"Oh, Mary!" said Mr. Dinwiddie, reprovingly, "and you as prompt as
royalty.  In camp----"

"I've no thought of going without my breakfast," said Mary
unrepentantly.  "Ring the bell, Din."

The men had risen, but Clavering alone had determination in his eye.
He pulled out a chair beside his own, and Mary accepted it gracefully,
waving a morning greeting to the others.

"How good of you to keep this chair for me, Mr. Clavering," she
murmured.  "It is shocking of me to be so lazy."

"I'm sick of this game," growled Clavering.  "If you act today----"

"Shh!  I am sure you are going to take me out on the lake immediately
after breakfast."

His amiability was immediately restored, but his gaiety was somewhat
forced.  "You are looking charming this morning, Miss Ogden.  I wished
last night that there was a guitar or even a banjo in the camp, that I
might serenade beneath your window."

And Mary actually blushed.  She had slept dreamlessly, and between the
light mountain air and her new rôle, she felt as light-hearted as Eva
Darling, who was holding Mr. Dinwiddie's hand openly.

"Oh, Excellence!" cried Mrs. Minor from the other end of the table.
"What do you say to having a picnic lunch?  Didn't you tell me that you
knew of a lovely gorge about six miles from here?  Steak broiled
between forked sticks!  Potatoes roasted in the ashes!  Flapjacks!
Heavenly."

"Anything you say," replied Mr. Dinwiddie rather tonelessly.  "Want to
put it to the vote?"

"Let me answer for the crowd," commanded Todd.  "It is our duty when in
the woods to eat our meals after as much unnecessary toil, and to enjoy
as much discomfort, as is humanly possible.  Otherwise we might as well
stay in town.  We'll hilariously tramp six miles with packs, sit on the
damp ground, extract earwigs, eat burnt steak and half-cooked potatoes,
and then tramp back again, our spirits gradually rising at the prospect
of a decent meal eaten in comfort----"

"Kill-joy!" cried Minor.  "Don't we come to the woods to tramp?  I want
to lose twenty pounds this trip, and if you don't you ought to.  I vote
we make Rolly carry a sack of potatoes."

"It's agreed then?" asked Mr. Dinwiddie, veiling his hope that it was
not.  But the assent was general.  They were all as excited over the
prospect of a picnic as if they were slum children about to enjoy their
first charitable outing, and it was settled that they were to start at
ten o'clock.  Mrs. Minor and Miss Gold went into the kitchen to help
Mrs. Larsing make sandwiches and salads, and the others ran down to the
lake.



L

Clavering had tied the boat to a tree in a little inlet far down the
lake, and they were walking through a wood of spruce trees and balsam.
There was no leafy curtain here, although they could see one swaying on
either side through open vistas between the rigid columns of the spruce.
A trail was hardly necessary for there was no undergrowth, and although
the trees were set close together they were easily circumnavigated.

It was some time since they had spoken.  His face was graver than she had
ever seen it, and she waited for him to speak.  She almost could feel
those unuttered words beating on the silence of the woods.  There was
nothing else to break that silence but the faint constant murmur in the
tree-tops, and once, beyond that leafy curtain, the sudden trilling of a
solitary bird.  Again, the tremendousness of this high isolation swept
over her.  The camp and its gay party might have been on some far distant
lake.

He put his arm around her firmly.  "I am not going to pretend any
further," he said.  "It is too big for that.  And you have never been
anything but Mary Ogden to me, except, perhaps, on that night I have
practically dismissed from my mind.  I called you Mary Ogden to myself
until I learned your new name, and I don't think that name has ever come
into my thoughts of you.  And although you slipped on another skin with
it you were always Mary Ogden underneath.  You needed a new name for your
new rôle, but, like any actress on the stage, it had nothing to do with
your indestructible personality.  I say this because I want you to
understand that although I cannot play up to your little comedy any
longer and go through the forms of wooing you as if you were a girl--I
shouldn't like you half as well if you were--I do not think of you or
wish you to think of yourself as anything but Mary Ogden."

He paused a moment, and she slipped her arm about him and they walked on
through the wood.

"I cannot go on with it because these days up here that we can spend
almost altogether alone, if we will, are too sacred to waste on an
amusing but futile game.  Do you realize that we do not know each other
very well?  I sometimes wonder if you know me at all.  From the time I
fell in love with you until you promised to marry me, I was at one sort
of fever-pitch, and when I got to work on that play I was at another.  No
writer while exercising an abnormal faculty is quite sane.  His brain is
several pitches above normal and his nerves are like hot taut wires--that
hum like the devil.  If this were not the case he would not be an
imaginative writer at all.  But he certainly is in no condition to reveal
himself to a woman.  I have made wild and sporadic love to you--sporadic
is the word, for between my work and your friends, we have had little
time together--and I don't think I have ever taken you in my arms with
the feeling that you were the woman I loved, not merely the woman I
desired.  And I believe that I love you even more than I desire you.  You
are all that, but so much--so much--more."

She had fixed her startled eyes on him, but he did not turn his head.

"There has always been a lot of talk about the soul.  Sentimentalists
wallow in the word, and realists deride it.  What it really is I do not
pretend to know.  Probably as good a word as any--and certainly a very
mellifluous word--for some obscure chemical combination of finer essence
than the obvious material part of us, that craves a foretaste of
immortality while we are still mortal.  Perhaps we are descended from the
gods after all, and unless we listen when they whisper in this
unexplorable part of our being, we find only a miserable substitute for
happiness, and love turns to hate.  Whatever it is that golden essence
demands, I have found it in you, and if circumstances had been different
I should have known it long ago.  I know now what you meant that night
when you told me you had spent many distracted years looking for what no
man could give you, and although I doubted at that time I could even
guess what your own mysterious essence demanded, I know now--still
vaguely, for it is something as far beyond the defining power of words as
the faith of the Christian.  It can never be seen, nor heard, nor
expressed, but it is there.  And only once in a lifetime does any one
mortal have it to give to another.  A man may love many times, but he is
a god-man only once."

He held her more closely, for she was trembling, but he continued to walk
on, guiding her automatically through the trees, for his eyes were almost
vacant, as if their vision had been reversed.

"I have had some hours of utter despair, in spite of the double
excitement of these past weeks, for it has seemed to me that I was no
nearer to you than I had been in the beginning.  There was a sense of
unreality about the whole affair.  At first it seemed to me the most
romantic thing that could happen to any man, and it was incredible that I
had been chosen the hero of such an extraordinary romance--intensified,
if anything, by the fact that it was set in roaring New York, where you
have to talk at the top of your voice to hear yourself think. . . .  But
that passed--in a measure.  I was beset by the fear--at times, I mean: I
was not always in a state to look inward--that you were slipping away.
Not that I doubted for a moment you would marry me, but that your
innermost inscrutable self had withdrawn, and that you accepted what must
have appeared to be my own attitude--that we were merely two vital
beings, who saw in each other a prospect of a superior sort of sensual
delight----"

"That is not true," she interrupted him fiercely.  "But you seemed to me
to be in that phase when a man can think of nothing else.  If I hadn't
hoped--and believed--in you against all I knew of men, I'd never have
gone on with it."

"I'm sure that is true.  I must have disappointed you horribly.  You had
felt the bond from the beginning, and I can imagine what you must have
dreamed I alone could give you.  The trouble was that I didn't realize
that I alone was in fault, at the time.  That boiling pot in my brain was
making too much noise.  But I can assure you that I have returned to
normal, and if I thought I couldn't satisfy you I'd let you go without a
word.  But you know that I can, don't you?"

She nodded.

"What is it, I wonder?"  He sighed.  "I wish I knew.  But it is enough to
feel. . . .  You must understand that in spite of the erratic creature
you have known since you refused to marry me at once and left me with no
resource but to let that play boil out, I am man first and a writer
incidentally.  I also have a stronger ambition to be your husband than to
write plays.  If I don't strangle what talent I have it is because I must
have the money to be independent of newspaper work.  Otherwise I should
have neither peace of mind nor be able to live abroad with you.  I know
that you cannot be happy here, and I am not a victim of that ancient myth
that two people who love each other can be happy anywhere.  Environment
is half the battle--for the super-civilized, at all events.  But you
shall never have another dose of the writer.  I'll write my plays in New
York and rush production.  The greater part of the year I shall spend
with you in Europe, and I cannot think of anything I'd like more--why,
the very night I first saw you I was longing with all my soul to get out
of New York and over to the other side of the world----  Why, Mary!  You
are not crying?  You!  I never believed you could----"

"I--I--did not believe it either. . . .  But, are you sure?  Could you
reconcile yourself?  You seem so much a part of New York, of this strange
high-pitched civilization.  If you are not sure--if you are only tired of
New York for the moment. . . .  I--yes, I will!  I'll give it all up and
live here.  Of course I love New York itself--was it not my Mary Ogden
home?  And there are delightful people everywhere. . . .  No doubt my
dream of doing great things in Europe was mere vanity----"

"Do you believe that?"

"Perhaps not.  But, after all, what I tried to do might be so easily
frustrated in that cauldron--why should I risk personal happiness--the
most precious and the rarest thing in life, for what may be a
chimera--wasted years and a wasted life.  Why are we made as we are, if
to coax that hidden spark into a steady flame is not our highest destiny?
It certainly is our manifest right. . . .  Dreams of doing great things
in this world are nine-tenths personal vanity.  I believe that when we
leave this planet we go to a higher star, where our incompleteness here
will be made complete; and perhaps we are spared a term of probation if
we make ourselves as complete here as mortal conditions will permit.
And, possibly, once in a great while, two human beings are permitted to
effect that completeness together."

They were both in an exalted mood.  The wood was very still, its beauty
incomparable.  And they might already have been on another star.

Across that divine balsam-scented stillness came the deep imperative
notes of a bell.

Clavering twitched his shoulders impatiently.

"Let them go on their screaming picnic," he said.  "We stay here.  Did
you mean that, Mary?"

"Yes, I meant it.  We will not go to Europe at all--except to visit my
Dolomites some day.  When you are writing I'll come up here."

"I don't know that I shall ask that sacrifice of you.  A part of your
brain is asleep now, but it is a very active and insistent part when
awake.  In time you might revert--and resentment is a fatal canker; but
let's leave it open.  It is generally a mistake to settle things
off-hand.  Let them alone and they settle themselves."

"Very well.  At all events, while we are here, I shall not give it
another thought.  The present at least is perfect."

"Yes, it is perfect!"  He put both arms about her.  The past was a blank
to both.  Their pulsing lips met in the wonder and the ecstasy of the
first kiss of youth, of profound and perfect and imperishable love.  They
clung together exalted and exulting and for the moment at least they were
one.



LI

They ate their dinner under the amused eyes of Mrs. Larsing, who had
served dinners à deux before to couples that had "lost their way."
Afterward they sat by the fire and talked desultorily: a great deal
about themselves; sometimes wandering to the subjects that had
interested them most before they had met each other.  Clavering told
her of the many plays he had written, and burned; because in his
inordinate respect for the drama he had found them, when not wholly
bad, too good to be good enough.  But the long practice had given him a
certain mastery of technique, and when she had set his brain on fire he
had had less trouble than most young playwrights in compelling his
imagination to adapt itself to the inexorable framework.  He had always
felt that the imagination, what is called, for want of a better term,
the "creative faculty," was there, but it was lethargic; it sometimes
roused itself to spurts and flashes during wakeful nights, but slept
like a boa-constrictor that had swallowed a pig when he tried to invoke
it.  No doubt, as Gora had told him, his life had been too easy and
agreeable; he made a good deal of money with no particular effort, he
was a favorite with the cleverest men and women in New York, and he had
no one to think of but himself.  His mother was dead and his sisters
married.  And there was no doubt that if you were on top, a
personality, New York was the most enchanting place in the world to
live in, just as it must be the most unsatisfactory for the poor and
insignificant.  To have conquered New York meant more--several thousand
times more--than conquering all the rest of the United States put
together, with New York left out.  Moreover, it was the only place
where you could have any real fun, if you wanted your fun with the sort
of men who drifted to New York from all parts of the nation as
naturally as pilgrims went to Mecca.  If it was your fate to be a
politician, Washington, of course, was the goal, but that, in his
opinion, was merely moving from a little small-town to a big one, and
he thanked his stars he did not have to live in a place where there was
nothing but politics and society.  In New York you had only to help
yourself to any phase of life you wanted.

Mary smiled as she remembered the contemptuous remark of another New
York convert: "Oh, Washington is merely an island outside of New York,"
and she fell to wondering what New York would have been like if it had
not been fed so persistently by those streams of eager and ambitious
brains debouching into it from every part of a by no means unambitious
and negligible commonwealth.  Another island, probably.  Certainly it
was the most exhilarating place in the world today, with its atmosphere
of invincible security and prosperity, its surging tides of life.  No
wonder it was impossible for the intensive New Yorker to realize that
four thousand miles away a greater world was falling to ruin.

She told him something of the old political life of Vienna, continually
agitated by some "Balkan Question"; of the general dislike of the
"Heir," whose violent death at Sarajevo had been the death knell of
European peace; apprehensions of the day when he should ascend the
throne, for he was intensely clerical and reactionary.  If he had
survived until the old Emperor's death, and there had been no war, it
was doubtful if there would not have been a "palace revolution" within
six months of his succession.  It was also possible that the people
would have had their revolution, for they were becoming enlightened and
discontented, and powerful men in the highest offices of the Government
were in sympathy with them.

"I suppose you mean this Prince Hohenhauer for one," said Clavering.

"Hohenhauer believed that every throne in Europe would be overturned
before the middle of the twentieth century, and that it was the part of
wise leaders to prepare not only themselves but the people for a
republican form of government.  He had the greatest admiration for the
principles on which this Republic was founded, and said that Europe was
to be congratulated that we had made the mistakes for her to avoid.
Much as the rest of the world congratulates itself that Bolshevism was
tried out in Russia and made a ghastly mess of improving the condition
of the underdog before the masses in other countries had time to lose
their heads.  I've no doubt that he will be the next Chancellor of
Austria, and that when he gets the reins of power in his hands, he'll
keep a firm hold on them, which is more than any one else has done----"

"What do you suppose has brought him to this country?"

"I fancy he has come to obtain the moral support of the American
Government in whatever plan he may have made for putting Austria on her
feet again."

"Have you any idea of what that plan may be?"  Clavering was watching
her intently, his ear attuned to every inflection of her voice.  But
her tones were as impersonal as if reciting a page out of ancient
history, and her gaze was frank and direct.

"I can only guess.  Personally I should think his present plan would be
an alliance with Bavaria and other South German States--a South German
Confederacy.  That would make a powerful combination, and as Bavaria
has always hated Prussia, she would be the last to lend herself to any
schemes of vengeance the north may cherish--particularly if she remains
a republic.  And, of course, she would assume her share of the Allied
debt. . . .  It would be a wonderful thing if it could be brought off.
Vienna"--her eyes sparkled--"Vienna, of course, would be the
capital--and again one of the great capitals of Europe.  Perhaps the
greatest."

"Were you ever closely associated with Hohenhauer in any of his
schemes?"

"He had no immediate schemes then.  He only awaited events.  While the
old Emperor lived no move was possible; he was most illogically adored
by his people.  But Hohenhauer told me more than once that he was only
biding his time."

"And what of that preposterous estate of his in the old
Galicia--sixteen million acres, wasn't it?  Did he expect to hang on to
that under a popular form of government?"

"He would have retained the castle and a few hundred acres, for he
naturally had a great affection for his birthplace; and divided the
rest among the people, whose natural inheritance it was.  But he could
do nothing until the proper time, for such an act would undoubtedly
have resulted in confiscation and banishment.  He would have
accomplished no good, and lost his immediate power for usefulness
besides.  Like all those old-world statesmen, he knows how to play a
waiting game."

"Sounds like a great man--if there are any such."

"I should certainly call him a great man," said Mary, but still with
that note of complete personal indifference in her voice.  "He not only
has immense brain power and personality, but farsight and a thorough
understanding of the people, and sympathy with them.  Even the
Social-Democrats liked and trusted him.  And he has more than the
ordinary politician's astuteness in trimming his sails; but coming out,
nevertheless, at the end of the course exactly at the point he had
aimed for.  If he captures the bridge, to change the simile, he'll
steer Austria out of her deep waters.  No doubt of that."

"Exactly what was the part you intended to play in Austria?" he asked.
"You have never told me."

"I thought we were not to talk of that.  It is impossible to make
deliberate plans, anyhow.  Only, there is a part for any one who loves
the country and has the brains and the wealth and the political
knowledge to help her."

"I have never quite understood why it should be Austria.  Why not
Hungary?  After all----"

"I never cared for anything in Hungary but the castle, which was
wonderfully situated in the mountains of Transylvania.  The
surroundings were wild beyond description and the peasants the most
picturesque and interesting in Europe.  But even if Buda Pesth had
appealed to me socially, which it never did, there were deep personal
reasons that made me dislike Hungary--I never spent a night in the
Zattiany palace until I turned it into a hospital.  But Vienna!  I
always lived in Vienna when I could, even during my first years in
Europe, and later I made it my home.  It is the most fascinating city,
to me at least, in the world.  Besides, Hungary is in the hands of
Horthy and Bethlen, who have no more idea of making a republic of it
than of permitting any one else to be king.  There is no rôle for----"

"Hullo!  Hullo!  Hullo!"

Clavering sprang to his feet.  "Shall we take the bull by the horns and
go to meet them?" he asked.  "Poor devils!  They'll hate us for looking
so fresh."



LII

They were forced to submit to a vast amount of good-natured chaffing,
for they had invited it, but it was the sort of chaffing with which
this amiable company would have victimized any pair that had recently
met, and found each other's society suddenly preferable to that of the
crowd.

They were all very tired.  Mr. Dinwiddie, after refreshing his guests
and himself with highballs, went to his room and to bed.  Rollo Todd
announced that it was time to go back to New York to rest, and all fell
down on the divans or floor for half an hour before going up to revive
themselves with a hot and cold shower.

But fatigue passes away quickly in the mountains.  They were as lively
as ever the next morning, although they unanimously elected to spend
the day on the lake or idling in the woods.  Clavering and Mary walked
to another gorge he knew of and sat for hours among boulders and ferns
on the brink of the stream, and surrounded by the maples with their
quietly rustling leaves.

When they returned, Miss Darling, attired in ferns, was executing what
she called the wood-nymph's dance, and Todd and Minor were capering
about her making horrible faces and pretending to be satyrs.  The rest
were keeping time with hands and feet.  All had agreed that not a
letter nor a newspaper should be brought to the camp during their eight
days' absence from civilization.  Freedom should be complete.  It
seemed to Clavering that the expression of every face had changed.
They all wore the somewhat fixed and dreamy look one unconsciously
assumes "in the woods."  It was only a few moments before the onlookers
had joined hands and were dancing around the central figures; chanting
softly; closing in on them; retreating; turning suddenly to dance with
one another . . . but with a curious restraint as if they were reviving
some old classic of the forest and were afraid of abandonment.  Almost
unconsciously Clavering and Mary joined in the dance.  Only Mr.
Dinwiddie, a smile half-puzzled, half-cynical, in his eyes, remained a
spectator.  They swayed rhythmically, like tides, the chanting was very
low and measured, the faces rapt.  Even Todd and Minor looked exalted.
Impossible to imagine they had ever been Sophisticates.  They were
creatures of the woods, renegades for a time, perhaps, but the woods
had claimed them.

Then Mr. Dinwiddie did an impish thing.  He inserted a disk in the
victrola, and at once they began to jazz, hardly conscious of the
transition.



LIII

At nine o'clock the moon was on the lake, and several couples,
announcing their need of exercise, went out in boats.

Clavering rowed with long swift strokes until the others were far
behind.  Mary, muffled in a warm white coat and with a scarf twisted
round her head like an Oriental turban, lay on a pile of cushions in
the bottom of the boat, her head against the seat.  She had the
sensation of floating in space.  From the middle of the lake the forest
on every side was a mass of shadows, and nothing was visible but that
high vast firmament sprinkled with silver--silver dust scattered by the
arrogant moon.  The great silver disk, which, Mary murmured, looked
like the tomb of dead gods, seemed to challenge mortals as well as
planets to deny that he was lord of all, and that even human emotions
must dwindle under his splendor.

"The moon is so impersonal," she sighed.  "I wonder why the poets have
made so much of it?  I'm sure it cares nothing about lovers--less about
poets--and thinks the old days, when the world was a heaving splitting
chaos, and glaciers were tearing what was already made of it to bits,
were vastly superior to the finished perfection of form today.  Like
all old things.  If it has the gods in there, no doubt it wakes them up
periodically to remind them how much better things were in their time.
Myself, I prefer the sun.  It is far more glamoring."

"That is because you can't look it in the eye," said Clavering, smiling
down on her.  "You really don't know it half as well, and endow it with
all sorts of mysterious attributes.  I think I prefer the moon, because
it is inimitable.  You can counterfeit the light and warmth and heat of
the sun, and even its color.  But silver is used to describe the
complexion of the moon only for want of a better word.  It is neither
silver nor white, but is the result of some mysterious alchemy known
only to itself.  And its temperature does not affect our bodies at all.
You cannot deny that it has exercised a most beneficent effect on the
spirits of lovers and poets for all the centuries we know of.  Every
pair of lovers has some cherished memories of moonlight, and poets
would probably have starved without its aid.  It is a most benevolent
old god, and the one thing connected with Earth that doesn't mind
working overtime."

"I'm sure it must be frayed at the edges and hollow at the core.  And
when it is in the three-quarters it looks exactly like a fish that has
lost its platter."

"If you continue to insult the moon, I shall take you back to camp and
ask Minor to teach you how to jazz."

"I love the moon," said Mary contentedly, and pushing a cushion between
her head and the sharp edge of the seat, "I'd like to stay out all
night."

They continued to talk nonsense for a while and then fell silent.  When
the boat was almost at the head of the lake Clavering turned it into a
long water lane where the maples met overhead and the low soft leaves
kept up a continual whispering.  It was as dark as a tunnel, but he
knew every inch of the way and presently shot out into another lake,
small enough for its shores to be sharply outlined under the full light
of the moon, which appeared to have poised itself directly overhead.

Here it was less silent than on the larger lake.  There was a chorus of
frogs among the lily pads, an owl hooted wistfully in the forest, and
they heard an angry snort from the underbrush, followed by a trampling
retreat.

"I fancy if we had lingered quietly in that passage we should have seen
deer drinking from that patch of sward over there," said Clavering.
"But I was not thinking of deer."

"What were you thinking of?"

"Why--you--in a way, I suppose.  If I was thinking at all.  I was
merely filled with a vast content.  God!  I have found more than I ever
dreamed any man could imagine he wanted.  Vastly more than any man's
deserts.  It is an astonishing thing for a man to be able to say."

Mary sat up suddenly.  "Be careful.  A little superstition is a good
thing to keep in one's bag of precautions."

"I feel good enough to disdain it.  Of course I may be struck by
lightning tomorrow, or the car may turn turtle when we go down to be
married, but I refuse to contemplate anything of the sort.  I feel as
arrogant as that moon up there, who may have all the gods inside him,
and do not mind proclaiming aloud that earth is heaven."

"Well--it is."  She was not superstitious herself, but she was suddenly
invaded by a sinister inexplicable fear, and smiled the more brightly
to conceal it.  But she lowered her eyelids and glanced hastily about
her, wondering if an enemy could be hiding in those dark woods.  She
was not conscious of possessing enemies venomous enough to assassinate
her, but she knew little of Clavering's life after all, and he was the
sort of man who must inspire hate as well as love . . . danger
assuredly was lurking somewhere . . . it seemed to wash against her
brain, carrying its message. . . .  But there were no wild beasts in
the Adirondacks, nor even reptiles. . . .  Nor a sound.  The owl had
given up his attempt to entice his lady out for a rendezvous and the
frogs had paused for breath.  There was not the faintest rustle in the
forest except those eternally whispering leaves and the faint surging
tide in the tree-tops.  That ugly invading fear was still in her eyes
as she met his.

"What is the matter?" he asked.  "You look frightened."

"I am a little--I have a curious feeling of uneasiness--as if something
were going to happen."


  "'Out of the depths of the hollow gloom,
  On her soul's bare sands she heard it boom,
  The measured tide of the sea of doom,'"

he quoted lightly.  "I fancy when one is too happy, the jealous gods
run the quicksilver of our little spiritual barometers down for a
moment, merely to remind us that we are mortals after all."

The shadow on her face lifted, and she smiled into his ardent eyes.

"Ah, Mary!" he whispered.  "Mary!"



LIV

As they left the boathouse an hour later and walked up the steep path
to the camp, once more that sense of coming disaster drove into her
mind and banished the memory of the past hour, when she had forgotten
it.  What did it mean?  She recalled that she had had dark
presentiments before in her life, and they had always come in the form
of this sudden mental invasion, as if some malignant homeless spirit
exulted in being the first to hint at the misfortune to come.

But the camp was silent.  Every one, apparently, had gone to bed, and
slept the sleep of valiant souls and weary bodies.  One lamp burned in
the living-room, and Clavering turned it out and they parted
lingeringly, and she went up to her room.

She had barely taken off her coat and scarf when she heard a tap on her
door.  She stared for a moment in panic, then crossed the room swiftly
and opened it.  Mr. Dinwiddie, wrapped against the cold in a padded
dressing-gown and with noiseless slippers on his feet, entered and
closed the door behind him.

"What has happened?" she demanded sharply.  "Something.  I know it."

"Don't look so frightened, my dear.  I have no bad news for you.  Only
it's rather annoying, and I knew I shouldn't get a word alone with you
in the morning."

"What is it?  What is it?"

"I had this telegram an hour ago from Trent."  He took a sheet of paper
from the pocket of his dressing-gown, covered with handwriting.  "Of
course those bumpkins down in Huntersville took their time about
telephoning it up.  Luckily the telephone is over in Larsing's room----"

Mary had snatched the paper from his hand and was reading it aloud.


"Hohenhauer took morning train for Huntersville stop will spend night
there and go to camp in morning stop must see M. Z. stop don't let
anything prevent stop very important stop he will not ask you to put
him up stop thought best to warn you as you might be planning
expedition.  Trent."


"Hohenhauer!" exclaimed Mary, and now, oddly enough, she felt only
astonishment and annoyance.  "Why should he come all this way to see
me?  He could have written if he had anything to say."  And then she
added passionately, "I won't have him here!"

"I thought perhaps you'd rather go down to Huntersville to see him,"
said Mr. Dinwiddie, looking out of the window.  "Besides, he would make
thirteen at table.  I can take you down in the morning and telephone
him to wait for us at the same time I order the motor to be sent up."

"I don't know that I'll see him at all."

"But you must realize that if you don't go down he'll come here.  I
don't fancy he's the sort of man to take that long journey and be put
off with a rebuff.  From what I know of him he not only would drive up
here, but, if you had gone off for the day, wait until you returned.  I
don't see how you can avoid him."

"No, you are right.  I shall have to see him--but what excuse can I
give Lee?  He must never know the truth, and he'll want to go with us."

"I've thought of that.  I'll tell him that Trent is sending up some
important papers for you to sign, and as some one is obliged to go to
Huntersville to check up the provisions that will arrive on the train
tomorrow morning, I've told Trent's clerk to wait there, as I prefer to
see to the other matter myself.  I--I--hate deceiving Lee----"

"So do I, but it cannot be helped.  Did he bring me up here to get me
away from Hohenhauer?"

Mr. Dinwiddie's complexion suddenly looked darker in the light of the
solitary candle.  "Well--you see----"

"I suspected it for a moment and then forgot it.  No doubt it is the
truth.  So much the more reason why he should know nothing about that
man's following me.  Why should he be made uneasy--perhaps unhappy?
But what excuse to go off without him?"

"They have a Ford down there.  I'll tell them to send that.  With the
provisions there'll be no room for four people."

"That will answer.  And I'll give Hohenhauer a piece of my mind."

"But, Mary, you don't suppose that one of the most important men in
Europe, with limited time at his disposal, would take that journey
unless he had something very important indeed to say to you?  Not even
for your _beaux yeux_, I should think, or he'd have asked Trent to get
him an invitation to spend several days at the camp.  I must say I'm
devoured with curiosity----"

Mary shrugged her shoulders.  "I'm too sleepy for curiosity.  What time
must we start?"

"About nine, if the car gets here on time.  It takes two hours to come
up the mountain, and they'll hardly be induced to start before seven.
I'll tell Larsing to telephone at six."

"It's now eleven.  We have eight hours for sleep.  Good night, and
believe that I am immensely grateful.  You've arranged it all
wonderfully."

She stamped her foot as Mr. Dinwiddie silently closed the door.

"Moritz!  _What_ does he want?  _Why_ has he followed me here?  But he
has no power whatever over my life, so why should I care what he wants?
. . .  But that this--this--should be interrupted!"

She undressed without calm and slept ill.



LV

The flight next morning proved simpler of accomplishment than she had
anticipated.  The men were going to a neighboring lake to fish, Larsing
having excited them with the prospect of abundant trout; and why fish
in your own lake when you may take a tramp of several miles through the
woods to another?  They begged Clavering to go with them, and as man
cannot exist for long in the rarefied atmosphere of the empyrean
without growing restive, he was feeling rather let down, and cherished
a sneaking desire for a long day alone with men.

But he told Mary that he did not want to go out of their woods and down
to that hideous village for any such purpose as to watch her sign
papers, and he stood on the landing waving his hat as she and Mr.
Dinwiddie crossed the lake in the motor boat to the waiting Ford.  For
once his intuitions failed him, and he tramped off with the other men,
his heart as light as the mountain air, and his head empty of woman.

Mary looked back once at the golden-brown lake, set like a jewel in its
casket of fragrant trees, and wondered if she would see it again with
the same eyes.  She was both resentful and uneasy, although she still
was unable to guess what harm could come of this interview.  If
Hohenhauer wanted her to go to Washington she could refuse, and he had
long since lost his old magnetic power over her.

But as the Ford bumped down the steep road between the woods she felt
less like Mary Ogden every moment . . . those mists of illusion to
withdraw from her practical brain . . . returning to the heights where
they belonged . . . she wondered how she could have dared to be so
unthinkingly happy . . . the sport of the cynical gods? . . .
sentimental folly that she had called exaltation?  After all!  After
all!

Could she recapture that mood when she returned?  Certainly, whatever
this man wanted of her, it would be hard facts, not illusions, he would
invite her to deal with.  Even when he had been the most passionate of
lovers, his brain had always seemed to stand aloof, luminous and
factual.  He had not an illusion.  He saw life as it was, and although
his manners were suave and polished, and his voice the most beautiful
she had ever heard, he could be brutally direct when it suited his
purpose.  For a moment she hated him as ardently as she had for a time
after he left her.

They descended into lower and lower altitudes until the air grew
intensely hot, physically depressing after the cold wine of the
mountains; finally, ten minutes ahead of time, they drove into the
doubly depressing village of Huntersville.  It was no uglier than
thousands of other villages and small towns that look as if built to
demonstrate the American contempt for beauty, but the fact mitigated
nothing to eyes accustomed to the picturesqueness of mountain villages
in Europe, where the very roofs are artistic and the peasants have the
grace to wear the dress of their ancestors.

There were a few farms in the valley, but if Huntersville had not been
a junction of sorts, it is doubtful if it would have consisted of
anything but a "general store," now that the saloons were closed.
There was one long crooked street, with the hotel at one end, the Store
at the other (containing the post office), and a church, shops for
automobile supplies, two garages, a drug store, and a candy store;
eight or ten cottages filled the interstices.  Men were working in the
fields, but those in Huntersville proper seemed to be exhausted with
loafing.  Campers going in and out of the woods needing shelter for a
night, and people demanding meals between trains, kept the dismal
looking hotel open and reasonably clean.

The situation was very beautiful, for the mountains rose behind and
there was a brawling stream.

Mr. Dinwiddie having ascertained that "Mr." Hohenhauer had received his
message and gone for a walk, leaving word he would return at ten
o'clock, Mary went into the hotel parlor to wait for him.  The room was
seldom used, patrons, local and otherwise, preferring the Bar of happy
memories, and it smelled musty.  She opened the windows and glanced
about distastefully.  The walls were covered with a faded yellow paper,
torn in places, and the ceiling was smoked and fly-specked.  The worn
thin carpet seemed to have been chosen for its resemblance to turtle
soup squirming with vermicelli.  Over the pine mantel, painted yellow,
were the inevitable antlers, and on a marble-topped table were badly
executed water lilies under a glass dome.  The furniture was horsehair,
and she wondered how she and the Austrian statesman were to preserve
their dignity on the slippery surface.  Then she heard his voice in the
hall as he stopped to speak to Mr. Dinwiddie, and she glanced out
curiously.

She had not seen him since a year before the war, but he was little
changed; improved if anything, for there was more color in his formerly
pale face.  He was as straight and as thin as ever, his fine head
erect, without haughtiness; his dark eyes under their heavy lids had
the same eagle glance.  He was still, she concluded dispassionately,
the handsomest man she had ever seen, even for an Austrian, the
handsomest race on earth; he combined high intelligence with a classic
regularity of feature, grace, dignity; and when the firm lips relaxed
he had a delightful smile.  If it had not been for his hair, very thick
white hair, he would have passed for little over forty.  He wore loose
gray travelling clothes, and every detail was as quietly faultless as
ever.

She went hastily to the speckled mirror beneath the antlers and
surveyed herself anxiously.  Her own travelling suit of dark green
tweed, with its white silk shirt, was as carelessly perfect as his own,
and the little green turban, with its shaded, drooping feather,
extremely becoming.  No color set off her fairness like green, but she
turned away with a sigh.  It was not the eyes of the past three days
that looked back at her.

And then she remembered that he had not seen her since the renaissance.
The moment was not without its excitements.

Their meeting was excessively formal.

"Frau Gräfin."

"Excellenz."

She lifted her hand.  He raised it to his lips.

And then he drew back and looked at her with penetrating but smiling
eyes.

"I had heard, of course," he said gallantly, "but I hardly was
prepared.  May I say, Frau Gräfin, that you look younger than when I
had the pleasure of meeting you first?"

"I assure you that I feel many years younger," she replied lightly.
"May I add that I am delighted to see that you are in the best of
health?  Your rest in Switzerland has done you good, although it would
have been better for Austria had it been shorter.  Shall we sit down?"

Two tall dignified bodies adjusted themselves to chairs both slippery
and bumpy.  He had closed the door behind him.

"Now that the amenities are over, Excellenz," she said with the
briskness she had picked up from her American friends, "let us come to
the point.  I infer you did not take a day's journey and put up with
this abominable hotel to tell me that you are forming a Federation of
Austria and the South German States.  You were sometimes kind enough to
ask my help in the past, but I have no influence in Washington."

"No, dear Gräfin.  I do not need your assistance in Washington.  But I
do need it in Austria, and that is why I am here."

"But it is--was--my intention to return to Austria almost immediately.
Surely Judge Trent must have told you."

"Yes, dear Gräfin, he told me, but he also told me other things.  I
shall not waste the little time at our disposal in diplomacy.  He told
me that you have the intention to marry a young American."  There was
the faintest accent on the _young_.

Mary was annoyed to feel herself flushing, but she answered coldly, "It
is quite true that I intend to marry Mr. Clavering."

"And I have come here to ask you to renounce that intention and to
marry me instead."

"You!"  Mary almost rose from her chair.  "What on earth do you mean?"

"My dear Marie."  He renounced formalities abruptly.  "I think you will
be able to recall that whether I wrapped my meaning in diplomatic
phrases or conveyed it by the blunter method, it was always
sufficiently clear to the trained understanding.  I have never known a
more trained or acute understanding than yours.  I wish you to marry
me, and I beg you to listen to my reasons."

She gave the little foreign shrug she had almost forgotten.  "I will
listen, of course.  Need I add that I am highly honored?  If I were not
so astonished, no doubt I should be more properly appreciative of that
honor.  Pray let me hear the reasons."  Her tone was satirical, but she
was beginning to feel vaguely uneasy.

Neither her words nor her inflections ruffled the calm of that long
immobile face with its half-veiled powerful eyes.

"Let us avert all possible misunderstandings at the beginning," he said
suavely.  "I shall not pretend that I have fallen in love with you
again, for although my gallantry prompts me to such a natural
statement, I have not the faintest hope of deceiving you.  What I felt
for you once can never be revived, for I loved you more than I have
ever loved any woman; and when such love burns itself out, its ashes
are no more to be rekindled than the dust of the corpse.  You thought I
fell in love with my pretty young wife, but I was merely fond and
appreciative of her.  I knew that the end had come for us, and that if
I did not recognize that sad fact, you would.  My marriage, which, as
you know, was imperative, afforded a graceful climax to a unique
episode in the lives of both of us.  There was no demoralizing interval
of subterfuge and politely repressed ennui.  On the other hand, it did
not degenerate into one of those dreary and loosely knit _liaisons_,
lasting on into old age.  We left each other on the heights, although
the cliff was beginning to crumble."

"Really, Moritz!  I hope you have not come up here to indulge in
sentimental reminiscence.  Why rake up that old--episode?  I assure you
I have practically forgotten it."

"And I can assure you that I never felt less sentimental.  I wish
merely to emphasize the fact that it was complete in itself, and
therefore as impossible of resuscitation as the dead.  Otherwise, you
might naturally leap to the conclusion that I was an elderly romantic
gentleman----"

"Oh, never!  It is obvious that you are inclined to be brutally frank.
But, as you said, time is short."

"If what I said sounded brutal, it was merely to remind you that
love--the intense passionate love I have no doubt you feel for this
young man who helps you to realize your renewed youth--never lasts.
And when this new love of yours burns itself out--you never had the
reputation of being very constant, dear Marie--you will have an alien
young man on your hands, while that remarkable brain of yours will be
demanding its field of action.  You are European, not American--why,
even your accent is stronger than mine!  That may be due to an
uncommonly susceptible ear, but as a matter of fact your mind has a
stronger accent still.  You became thoroughly Europeanized, one of us,
and--I say this quite impartially--the most statesman-like woman in
Europe.  Your mind was still plastic when you came to us--and your
plastic years are long over, _ma chère_.  If your mind had become as
young as your body, you would have bitterly resented it.  You were
always very proud of that intellect of yours--and with the best of
reasons."

Mary was staring out of the window.  She recalled that she had faced
the fact of the old mind in the young brain when she first discovered
that she loved Clavering.  How could she have forgotten . . . for a few
short weeks--and up there? . . .  She raised her eyes to the mountain.
From where she sat she could not see the top.  It looked like an
impenetrable rampart, rising to the skies.

"Can you tell me with honesty and candor," he continued in those same
gentle tones that had always reminded her of limpid water running over
iron, "--and for all your subtlety your mind is too arrogant and
fearless to be otherwise than honest _au fond_--that you believe you
could remain satisfied with love alone?  For more, let us say, than a
year?"

She moved restlessly.  "Perhaps not.  But I had planned to live in
Vienna.  He would spend only a part of the year there with me.  His own
interests are here, of course.  It would be a perfectly workable
arrangement."

"Are you sure?  If you are, I must conclude that in the mental
confusion love so often induces, you have lost temporarily your
remarkable powers of clear and coherent thought.  Do you not realize
that you would no longer be Gräfin Zattiany, you would be Mrs. Lee
Clavering?  Do you imagine for a moment that you could play the great
rôle in Austrian affairs you have set yourself, handicapped by an
American name--and an American husband?  Not with all your gifts, your
wealth, your genius for playing on that complex instrument called human
nature.  Austria may be a Republic of sorts, but it is still Austria.
You would be an American and an outsider--a presumptuous interloper."

She stared at him aghast.  "I--oh!--I had not thought of that.  It
seems incomprehensible--but I had never thought of myself as Mrs.
Clavering.  I have been Gräfin Zattiany so long!"

"And your plans were well-defined, and your ambition to play a great
rôle on the modern European stage possessed you utterly until you met
this young man--is it not so?"

"Oh, yes, but----"

"I understand.  It must have been a quite marvellous experience, after
those barren years, to feel yourself glowing with all the vitalities of
youth once more; to bring young men to your feet with a glance and to
fancy yourself in love----"

"Fancy!"  She interrupted him passionately.  "I am in love--and
more--more than I ever was with you.  Until I met him I did not even
guess that I had the capacity to love again.  It was the last thing I
wanted.  Abhorrent!  But . . . but . . . he has something for me that
you--not even you--ever had . . . that I had given up hope of finding
long before I met you. . . ."

She stopped, coloring and hesitating.  She had an intense desire to
make this man understand, but she shivered, as if her proud reserve
were a visible garment that she had torn off and flung at his feet,
leaving her naked to his ironic gaze.

He was leaning forward, regarding her through his veiled eyes.  Their
light was not ironic, but it was very penetrating.

"And what is that something, Marie?" he asked softly.

"I--you know those things cannot be put into words."

"I fancy they can.  It is merely one more delusion of the senses.  One
of the imagination's most devilish tricks.  I had it for you and you
for me--for a time!  In the intimacies of either a _liaison_ or
matrimony that supreme delusion is soon scattered, _ma chère_."

"But I believe it."  She spoke obstinately, although that brawling
stream seemed to take on a note of derision.

"Do you?  Not in the depths of your clear brain.  The mist on top is
dense and hot--but, alas for those mists!"

"I refuse to discuss it," she said haughtily.  "Why do you wish to
marry me yourself?"

"Because I need your partnership as much as you need mine.  Even if you
returned to Austria unencumbered, you could accomplish less alone than
with a man of equal endowments and greater power beside you.  Two
strong brains and characters with similar purpose can always accomplish
more together than alone.  I intend to rule and to save Austria, and I
need you, your help, your advice, your subtlety, your compelling
fascination, and your great personality."

"Do you intend to make yourself king?" she asked insolently, although
his words had thrilled her.

"You know that is a foolish question.  I do not even use my title
there.  But I intend to make Vienna the capital of a great and powerful
Republic, and I therefore ask you to renounce, before it is too late,
this commonplace and unworthy dream of young love, and stand beside me.
Youth--real youth--and the best years of maturity are the seasons for
love.  You and I have sterner duties.  Do you suppose that I would
sacrifice Austria for some brief wild hope of human happiness?  And you
are only two years younger than I am.  Nothing can alter the march of
the years.  Moreover, you owe to Austria this wonderful rejuvenescence
of yours.  Steinach is not an American."

She stamped her foot.  "You descend to quibbling.  And I have more than
repaid Austria all that I owe her."

"You have given her money and service, but she expects more, and you
pledged yourself to her before you left.  And don't forget that she is
the country of your deliberate adoption.  A far more momentous thing
than any mere accident of birth.  You did not return to America when
Zattiany died.  You never even paid her a brief visit after your
marriage.  You would not be here now but for the imperative necessities
of business.  You are Austrian to your marrow."

"I had a rôle thrust on me and I played it.  My parents came to Europe
every year until they died.  When Zattiany went, there were no ties to
draw me back and habit is strong.  But--underneath--I don't believe
that I have ever been other than Mary Ogden."

She blushed as she said it, and he looked at her keenly.

"I think I understand.  He is a very clever young man--of an
outstanding cleverness, I am told.  Or it may be that he is merely in
love, and love's delusions are infinite--for a time.  I doubt if a
young man with so brilliant an intellect would, if he faced himself in
honest detachment, admit that he believed anything of the sort.  Nor do
you, my dear Marie, nor do you."

She twisted her hands together, but would not raise her eyes.  He bent
forward again and said harshly:

"Marie!  Glance inward.  Do you see nothing that causes you to feel
ashamed and foolish?  Do you--_you_--fail to recognize the indecency of
a woman of your mental age permitting herself to fancy that she is
experiencing the authentic passions of youth?  Are you capable of
creating life?  Can you love with unsullied memory?  Have you the
ideals of youth, the plasticity, the hopes, the illusions?  Have you
still even that power of desperate mental passion, so often
subordinating the merely physical, of the mature woman who seeks for
the last time to find in love what love has not?  The final delusion.
No, Marie.  Your revivified glands have restored to you the appearance
and the strength of youth, but, although you have played with a rôle
that appealed to your vanity, to your histrionic powers--with yourself
as chief audience--your natural desire to see if you could not be--to
yourself, again--as young as you appear, you have no more illusion in
your soul than when you were a withered old woman in Vienna."

She looked at him with hostile but agonized eyes.

"Your calculated brutality does not affect me in the least.  And you
are merely one more victim of convention--like those old women in New
York.  It never has been, therefore it never can be.  Many women are
not able to bear children, even in youth."

"It is your turn to quibble.  Tell me: until you were attracted to this
young man--attracted, no doubt, because he was so unlike the European
of your long experience--had you deviated from the conclusion, arrived
at many years before, that you had had enough of love--of sex--to
satisfy any woman?  You implied as much to me a few moments since.  I
know the mental part of you so well that I am positive the mere thought
would have disgusted you.  If you had been starved all your life it
would be understandable, but you had experimented and deluded yourself
again and again--and you were burnt out when you came to Vienna to
live--burnt out, not only physically but spiritually.  Your imagination
was as arid as a desert without an oasis.  If any man had made love to
you then, you would merely have turned on him your weary disillusioned
eyes, or laughed cynically at him and yourself.  Your keen aesthetic
sense would have been shocked.  You were playing then an important and
ambitious rôle, you had the greatest political salon in Vienna--in
Europe--and you went away to rest that you might continue to play it,
not that you might feel fresh enough once more to have _liaisons_ like
other foolish old women. . . .  But the part you played then was a
bagatelle to the one awaiting you now.  With your splendid mental
gifts, your political genius, your acquired statecraft, your wealth,
and your restored beauty, you could become the most powerful woman in
Europe.  But only as my wife.  Even you are not strong enough to play
the part alone.  There is too much prejudice against women to permit
you to pull more than hidden strings.  Masculine jealousy of women is
far more irritable in a democracy than in a monarchy, where women of
rank are expected to play a decorative--and tactful part in politics.
But if they step down and come into conflict with ambitious men of the
people, class jealousy aggravates sex jealousy.  You might have a salon
again and become a power somewhat in the old fashion, but you never
would be permitted to play a great public rôle.  But as the consort (I
think the word will pass) of the President--or Chancellor--you could
wield almost sensational power."

"I should probably be quite overshadowed by you," she murmured; but she
was hardly conscious of speaking.  Her brain was whirling.

"Your position would be too eminent for that, even if I wished it,
which I assuredly should not.  I value you too highly.  Perhaps I am
one of the few men in Europe who admit--and believe--that a woman may
have as powerful and accomplished an intellect as any man.  I did not
appreciate your mind as you deserved when I loved you, but I did during
those subsequent years in Vienna."

"You did not ask me to marry you then--when you appreciated me so
highly.  You never seemed to know whether you were talking to a man or
a woman when you were with me.  And yet I was, possibly, more
interesting psychologically than I had ever been."

"No man is interested in an old woman's psychology.  I am not
interested in your psychology today.  And I did not ask you to marry me
then for a great many reasons.  I was too handicapped to play a great
rôle myself, you will remember.  Nor could you have been of the same
service to me.  Even if your fatigued mind had been refreshed, by your
stay in Hungary, you had lost the beauty and the energy, the power of
ardent interest in the affairs of state, which have now been restored
to you.  With your rare gifts and your renewed youth, I repeat you have
it in your power to be the most famous woman in Europe, and perhaps the
most useful.  But not with a young alien husband.  Not only would you
automatically revert to the status of an American, but the dignity
which, unlike so many women of your age who had been _dames galantes_,
you took care to impress on the world, would be hopelessly sacrificed.
Incredible.  To spend yourself on a love affair, wantonly to throw away
an historic career, merely because a young man has hypnotized you into
the delusion that you may once more enjoy the passions of youth----"

"Stop!  You shall not!"  She had sprung to her feet.  Her face was
drawn and pinched but her eyes were blazing.  "Every word you say is
for a purpose.  If that were all I should have hated him.  As much as I
hate you.  My mind never dwelt on that--not for a moment--I--I never
faced it.  You don't know what you're talking about."

"Ah, but I do."  He had risen also, and he put his hands on her
shoulders.  They were long thin hands but very powerful, and it seemed
to her that they sank slowly through her flesh, until, however
painlessly, they gripped the skeleton underneath.  "Look at me, Marie.
Your Mary Ogden died many, many years ago.  She died, I should say, at
the first touch of Otto Zattiany.  There was nothing in your new life
to revive her, assuredly not your first lover.  Certainly you were
Marie Zattiany, the most subtle, complex, and fascinating woman in
Europe when I met you--but abominably disillusioned even then.  I
revived your youth for a time, but never your girlhood.  You have been
able to deceive yourself here in the country of that girlhood, for a
time, with this interesting young gentleman in love with you, and, no
doubt, extremely ardent."

"Oh!"  Her head sank.  But she could not turn away, for his hands still
gripped her shoulders.  The roar of the stream sounded to her horrified
ears like the crash of falling ruins.

"Listen, Marie," he said more gently.  "If I have been brutal, it was
merely because there was no other way to fling you head first out of
your fool's paradise.  If I had not known the common sense that forms
the solid lower stratum of your mind, I should not have come here to
say anything at all.  You would not have been worth it.  But remember,
Marie, that under this new miracle of science, the body may go back but
never the mind.  You, your ego, your mind, your _self_, are no younger
than your fifty-eight hard-lived years.  And what object in being young
again for any of us if we are to make the same old mistakes?  Remember,
that when you were as young as you look now you had no such opportunity
offered you as in this terrible period of European history.  Nor could
you have taken advantage of it if you had, for mere mental brilliancy
and ambition cannot take the place of political experience and an
intellect educated by the world.  It may be that we shall both be
destroyed, that our efforts will avail nothing, and we shall all be
swallowed up in chaos.  But at least we shall have done what we could.
And I know you well enough to believe that such an implacable end would
give you greater satisfaction than dallying in the arms of a handsome
young husband."

He pushed her back into her chair, and resumed his own.  "Would you
like to smoke?" he asked.

"Yes."  She looked at him with bitter eyes, but she had recaptured her
threatened composure.  He regarded her with admiration but they smoked
in silence for several moments.  Then he spoke again.

"You remember Elka Zsáky, I suppose?  She was several years older than
you and one of the _dames galantes_ of her day.  She has taken the
treatment and looks many years younger, at least, than when she was a
painted old hag with a red wig.  She is still forced to employ
artifice, but she has lovers again, and that is all she did it for.
Vienna is highly amused.  No doubt all women of her sort will take it
for no other purpose.  But many of the intellectual women of Europe are
taking it, too--and with the sole purpose of reinvigorating their
mental faculties and recapturing the physical endurance necessary to
their work.  I happen to know of a woman scientist, Frau Bloch, who is
now working sixteen hours a day, and she had had a bitter struggle with
her enfeebled forces to work at all.  Lorenz is no more remarkable.  He
seems to be the only disciple besides yourself that this country has
heard of, but I could name a hundred men, out of my own knowledge, who
are once more working with all the vigor of youth----"

"Yes," she interrupted sarcastically.  "And without a thought of women,
of course."

"Probably not."  He waved his hand negligently.  "But incidentally.
That is where men have the supreme advantage of women.  The woman is an
incident in their lives, even when sincerely in love.  And if these men
indulge occasionally in the pleasures of youth, or even marry young
wives, the world will not be interested.  But with women, who renew
their youth and return to its follies, it will be quite another matter.
If they are not made the theme of obscene lampoons they may count
themselves fortunate.  There will certainly be verbal lampoons in
private."

"Orthodoxy!  Orthodoxy!"

"Possibly.  But orthodoxy is a fixed habit of mind.  The average man
and woman hug their orthodoxies and spit their venom on those that
outrage them.  How it may be some years hence, when this cure for
senescence has become a commonplace, I do not pretend to say.  But so
it is today.  Personally, no doubt, you would be indifferent, for you
have a contemptuously independent mind.  But your career and your
usefulness would be at an end."

"And suppose I am quite indifferent to that?"

"Ah, but you are not.  I will not say that I have killed Mary Ogden
during this painful hour, for it is impossible to kill the dead, but I
have exorcised her ghost.  She will not come again.  If you marry this
young man it will be out of defiance, or possibly out of a mistaken
consideration for him--although he will be an object for sympathy later
on.  And you will marry him as Marie Zattiany, without an illusion left
in that clear brain of yours--from which the mists have been blown by
the cold wind of truth.  And in a year--if you can stand self-contempt
and ineffable ennui so long--you will leave him, resume your present
name--the name by which Europe knows you--and return to us.  But it may
be too late.  Vienna would still be laughing.  The Viennese are a
light-hearted race, and a lax, but when they laugh they cease to take
seriously the subject of that good-natured amusement. . . .  It is not
aesthetic, you know, it is not aesthetic.  Are you really quite
indifferent, Marie?"

She shrugged and rose.  "It must be time for luncheon," she said.  "It
will no doubt be horrible, but at least we can have it in here.  The
public dining-room would be impossible.  I will find Mr. Dinwiddie and
ask him to order it."



LVI

When the men returned from their fishing trip at six o'clock they saw
several of the women on the lake, but there was no one in the
living-room.  Clavering tapped at Mr. Dinwiddie's door, but as there
was no answer, concluded that he and Mary had not yet returned from
Huntersville.  He was too desirous of a bath and clean clothes,
however, to feel more than a fleeting disappointment, and it was not
until his return to his room that he saw a letter lying on the table.

It was addressed in Mary's handwriting, and he stared at it in
astonishment for a second, then tore it open.  It was dated
"Huntersvilie, Monday afternoon," and it read:


"Dear Lee:

"Mr. Dinwiddie will tell you that unforeseen circumstances have arisen
which compel me to go to New York for a few days.  It is excessively
annoying, but unavoidable, and I do not ask you to follow me as I
should hardly be able to see anything of you.  If there is a prospect
of being detained it will not be worth while to return and I'll let you
know at once--on Thursday night by telephone; and then I hope you will
not wait for the others, but join me here.  Indeed, dear Lee, I wish
this need not have happened, but at least we had three days.----M."


Clavering read this letter twice, hardly comprehending its purport.
She made no mention of Judge Trent.  The whole thing was ambiguous,
curt.  A full explanation was his right; moreover, it was the reverse
of a love letter.  Even its phrases of regret were formal.  Something
was wrong.

He put on his clothes hurriedly in order to go in search of Dinwiddie,
but before he had finished he heard a sound in the next room and opened
the connecting door unceremoniously.

Mr. Dinwiddie braced himself as he saw Clavering's set face.

"Too bad," he muttered, but Clavering cut him short.

"I want the truth.  What took Mary to New York?"

"Surely she explained in her letter."

"She explained nothing.  There's some mystery here and I want it
cleared up at once."

"By God!  I'll tell you!" Mr. Dinwiddie burst out.  "Mary exacted no
promise--I suppose she took for granted I'd not tell you, for she told
me what she had written.  But if she had I'd tell you anyhow.  I'd
rather break a promise to a woman than lie to a friend.  Believe men
should stand by one another.  She went down there this morning to meet
Hohenhauer."

"Hohenhauer!"  Clavering's face turned almost black.

"Yes.  Trent telegraphed me yesterday that Hohenhauer was arriving at
Huntersville last night and would come up here in the morning to see
Mary.  He said the matter was most important.  I went to Mary's room
after you came in from the lake and showed her the message.  She was
extremely annoyed and said at first that she wouldn't see him.  But I
pointed out that she couldn't possibly avoid it.  Then she said he
shouldn't come up here, and she was very emphatic about it.  The only
thing to do was to take her down.  Of course you will be reasonable and
see there was nothing else to be done."

"What did that infernal blackguard want of her?  And why did she go off
with him?"

"She didn't go off with him.  She hired a car directly after lunch
intending to drive as far as Saratoga and take a train from there.  She
left Hohenhauer to cool his heels until it was time to take the local
for the Adirondack Express.  She could easily have taken him along, but
I think she was meting out punishment."

"Punishment?"

"Yes.  They had a private conference for nearly two hours, and,
whatever happened, it put her in an infernally bad humor.  She scarcely
opened her mouth during luncheon, and as Mary is a woman of the world,
used to concealing her feelings, I thought it highly significant.  She
looked as if she were in a secret frozen rage.  Hohenhauer, however,
was quite himself, and the meal--corned beef and cabbage!--went off
very well."

"What did he want of her?"

"Of that I haven't the vaguest idea.  Something momentous, beyond a
doubt.  If I may hazard a guess, it has something to do with this
special mission of his, and it is quite possible that he has asked her
to go to Washington--insisted upon it--appealing to her love of
Austria.  I confess I don't see what she can accomplish there, for she
never did have any Washington connections--of course she could get
letters from Trent and trust to her personal power and prestige.  But
let me tell you that she didn't do it to please him.  She looked as if
she hated him."

"Is he still in love with her?  Are you sure he didn't come here to ask
her to marry him?"

"If he did he had his journey for his pains--although I can see that it
would be a highly desirable combination from his point of view.  But
he's not in love with her.  I'll stake all I know of men on that."

"You are sure?"

"As sure as that I'm alive."

"Well, I take the morning train for New York."

"Lee," said Mr. Dinwiddie impressively, "take the advice of an old man,
who has seen a good deal of men and women in his day, and stay where
you are until you hear from Mary.  Some sort of crisis has arisen, no
use blinking the fact, but if you burst in on her now, while she is
Madame Zattiany, encased in a new set of triple-plated armor, you may
ruin all your chances of happiness.  Whatever it is let her work it
out--and off--by herself.  I made her promise she would not leave the
country without seeing you again--for I didn't know what might be in
the wind--and when she had given her word she added that she had not
the least intention of not seeing you again, and that it was quite
possible she would return to the camp.  If you go down you'll spoil
everything."

"I suppose I can trust you, Din, but I've seen plainly that you don't
want me to marry her."

"That is true enough.  I want nothing less--for your sake; and
Hohenhauer would be a far more suitable match for her.  But I don't
believe you even question my faith----"

"No.  I don't.  You're a brick, Din.  But I'm unspeakably
worried--almost terrified.  I have never felt that I really knew her.
She may have only imagined--but that is impossible!  How in God's name
am I to sit round here for three days and twiddle my thumbs?"

"Don't.  Take one of the men and go off on a three days' tramp.  Climb
Mount Moose.  That will give you no chance to think.  All your thinking
will be in your muscles."

"And suppose she should return--or telegraph me to go to her?"

"If she returns and finds you gone it'll serve her right.  And she
won't telegraph before Thursday--if she's going to Washington.  Now
take my advice and don't be a fool."

Clavering shrugged his shoulders, but he set his lips.  "Very well.  I
won't follow her.  Nor will I forgive her in a hurry, either."

"That's healthy.  Give her a piece of your mind, have a good row, and
then make it up.  But let me tell you, my dear boy, that she was
horrified at the thought of that man coming up here, and she only
refrained from telling you of the summons, so to speak, because she
wanted to spare you any anxiety.  There's no doubt in my mind that
she's as much in love with you as you are with her. . . .  You have
none, I suppose?"

"None.  Particularly lately.  I hadn't told you, but I had intended, in
a day or two, to ask you if you would let me have the camp for a few
weeks.  We intended to marry in Huntersville the day the rest of you
went out."

Mr. Dinwiddie whistled.  "No wonder she was furious at having her
preliminary honeymoon disturbed.  But if that is the case of course
she'll return.  You're more than welcome to the camp, and I'll send
whatever you need from time to time.  You've only to command me. . . .
It makes it all the more comprehensible.  Whatever it was that man said
to her, she wanted to get over it by herself before coming back to the
place where she had forgotten that Hohenhauers and politics existed.  I
could see how it was with her here.  She looked exactly as she used to
in the old days, and I don't doubt felt like it, too.  No wonder she
resented being forced back into the rôle of Madame Zattiany, or
Gräfin--countess--as he calls her.  You must let her thresh it out by
herself."

"You believe she will come back."

"If that was your plan, I assuredly do.  There isn't a spark of human
affection between those two, and Mary never placed herself in any man's
power.  I am more and more inclined to believe that he appealed to her
for help in his mission here, whatever it is--and it's not so difficult
to guess--and that against her inclination and out of her love for
Austria, she consented."

"Well, it's no use to speculate.  There's the supper bell.  I'll decide
in the morning whether I go off for a tramp or not."



LVII

Clavering slept when he first went to bed, for he was healthily tired,
but he awoke suddenly at midnight with body refreshed and mind
abnormally clear.  He knew that he would sleep no more that night, and
he put on his trousers and coat over his pyjamas, thrust his feet into
bedroom slippers and went out into the living-room.  There he put a log
on the fire and paced up and down, not unlike a tiger round its cage.

He felt as if black bats were flying about his brain, each charged with
a different portent of disaster.  Once more the unreality of the whole
affair overwhelmed him.  How could he have been so fatuous as to
believe that he had really won such a woman?  He remembered his first
impression: that she was on a plane above, apart.  They hadn't an
interest in common, not even a memory that antedated their meeting a
few short weeks ago.  She had lived a life of which he knew nothing
outside of European novels and memoirs.  She had known nothing of any
other world until he had introduced her to his friends, and he made no
doubt that her interest in them was about as permanent as a highly
original comedy on the stage would inspire.  There was nothing,
literally, between them but a mutual irresistible attraction, and that
bond recognized so unerringly by both.

That bond.

Would it hold?

Had this man offered her something that would make love seem
insignificant and trivial?  She, who had had a surfeit of love long
since?  Whose eyes had looked a thousand years old until he had given
her mind back its youth as the great Vienna biologist had rejuvenated
her body.

He was entirely indifferent to her old love affair with Hohenhauer.  It
was those years of political association and mutual interdependence in
Vienna that he feared.  He had, when he first met her, appraised her as
a woman to whom power was the breath of life.  Ambition--in the grand
manner--incarnate.  She had all the appearance and the air of a woman
to whom the wielding of power, however subtly, was an old story.  He
recalled that that terrifying suggestion of concealed ruthless forces
behind those charming manners, those feminine wiles, had almost made
him resolve to "avoid her like the plague."  And then he had fallen
madly in love with her and forgotten everything but the woman.

He had divined even before these last miraculous days that she had
looked upon love with abhorrence for almost half as many years as he
had lived, an abhorrence rooted in a profound revulsion of body and
mind and spirit.  For nearly twenty years that revulsion had endured
and eaten into the very depths of her being. . . .  He had a sudden
blaze of enlightenment.  She had frequently alluded to that Lodge of
hers in the Dolomites and their sojourn there together, but always in
the terms of romance. . . .  She had never given him a glance of
understanding. . . .  And she had put off the wedding until the last
possible moment. . . .  If she had really been as eager as himself she
would have left her power of attorney with Trent and started for
Austria six weeks ago.  Or the papers could have been sent to her to
sign, if her signature were imperative. . . .  And in spite of the fact
that everybody had taken the engagement for granted, she had, with
wholly insufficient reasons,--as he saw, now that he was removed from
the influence of her plausible and dominating self,--refused to
announce it.  Could it be that in the depths of her mind--unadmitted by
her consciousness--she had never intended to marry him?  Was that old
revulsion paramount?  . . .  Sixteen years! . . .  A long time, and
nothing in life is more corroding than habit.

Perhaps--as long as they were down there in New York.  But not up here.
That he would be willing to swear.  There had been another revolution,
involuntary perhaps, but the stronger for that; and every shackle that
memory and habit can forge had dropped from her.  She had been youth
incarnate.  The proof was in her joyful consent to marry him
immediately and remain in the mountains . . . and then her complete
surrender of the future into his hands. . . .  She had during those
three brief days loved him wholly, and without a shadow in her soul.

But now?  Whatever had happened, she was not Mary Ogden tonight,
hastening to New York, nor would she be when in her own house on the
morrow.  She might hate Hohenhauer, but his mere presence would have
made the past live again.  She must have known when she went down that
mountain that even with her strong will and powers of self-delusion,
things could not be quite the same again.  Not even if she had returned
with Dinwiddie.  Why in heaven's name had she been so mad as to go?
She could have sent Hohenhauer a peremptory refusal to see him and then
gone off on a camping trip that could have lasted until he gave up the
game.  She must have been mad--mad.

And he did not believe for a moment that she had gone to Washington.

She had gone home to think--think.

And if he followed Dinwiddie's advice and remained here she might think
too long.  And if he followed and insisted upon seeing her, the result
might be more fatal still.  He knew nothing of those personalities she
may have concealed from him.  For all he knew she might have depths in
her nature as black as the bottomless pit.

And God only knew what the man had said to her. . . .  Should he let
her fight it out by herself?  What in heaven's name should he do?
Whatever happened, this divine interval, like some exquisitely adjusted
musical instrument, had been hopelessly jarred out of tune.  He almost
hoped she would not return.  Let it remain a perfect memory. . . .
They could marry in New York and return here, when she was his
wife. . . .  If he had not already lost her. . . .  What in God's name
was the thing for him to do?  He'd go mad if he stayed here, and if he
went he might regret it for the rest of his days.  Why could not light
be vouchsafed him?

Gora.

Fortunately he knew her room for he had carried up her luggage.  He ran
lightly up the stairs and tapped on her door.  A startled sleepy voice
answered.  He opened the door and put in his head.

"Come downstairs at once, Gora," he said peremptorily.  "I must talk to
you."

She came down in a moment, clad in a scarlet kimono, her hair hanging
in thick braids.  With her large round forehead exposed she looked not
unlike a gnome, but curiously young.

"What on earth is the matter, Clavey?" she asked as she pushed her
chair as close to the fire as possible.  "It has something to do with
this sudden trip of Mary's, I suppose.  Mr. Dinwiddie said she had been
called to New York on important business, and the others accepted the
explanation as a matter of course; but I'll confess I wondered."

Clavering, still too nervous to sit down, jerked out the whole story,
omitting only the old love affair with the man who had exercised so
strong an influence on Mary Zattiany's later life.

"You see," he concluded, "there are two things: Austria had taken the
place in her affections that women of her age generally concentrate on
human beings--it became almost a sacrament.  And then--for nearly
twenty years she had hated everything in men but their minds.  Sex was
not only dead but a detestable memory.  After that rejuvenescence she
had never cast a thought to loving any man again.  That mental habit,
at least, was fixed.  When I met her she was a walking intellect. . . .
I thought I had changed all that . . . up here I had not a doubt
left . . . but now . . .  I don't know. . . .  Put that cold-blooded
mind of yours on it and tell me what to do."

"Let me think a minute, Clavey."

As he resumed his restless march, Gora sent her mind travelling out of
the mountains and far to the south, and tried to penetrate the brain of
Mary Zattiany.  She could not visualize her in the bed of a casual
hotel or sitting in the chair of a parlor car, so she skipped the
interval and saw her next day in that intimate room of hers upstairs;
the room, assuredly, where she would think out her problem.

Gora had studied Madame Zattiany with all the avidity of the artist for
a rare human theme, and she believed that she knew her as well as
Clavering did, if not better.  She had also not failed to observe
Prince Hohenhauer's picture, and had read the accompanying text with
considerable interest, an interest augmented, not unnaturally, by his
exceeding good looks.  That same day she had met a Viennese at dinner
who had talked of him with enthusiasm and stated definitely that he was
the one hope of Austria.

Gora Dwight was a very ambitious woman and revelled in the authority
that fame and success had brought her.  She was also as disillusioned
in regard to men as any unmarried woman could be; although quite aware
that if she had lacked a gift to entice her emotions to her brain, she
no doubt would even now be looking about for some man to fall in love
with.  But her pride was spared a succession of humiliating
anti-climaxes, and she had learned, younger than most women, or even
men, that power, after sex has ceased from troubling, is the dominant
passion in human nature.

And Madame Zattiany was twenty years older than herself, and had
drained the jewelled chalice to the dregs.  And for many years more she
had enjoyed power, revelled in it, looked forward, Gora made no doubt,
to a greater and greater exercise of it.  Power had become the master
passion of her life.

Like men in the same case, she had indulged herself, during a period of
enforced inaction, with an exciting love adventure.  That she had
fallen in love, romantically in love, with this young man, whom so many
women loved, and who, no doubt, had given her the full benefit of all
his pent-up ardors--Gora could imagine those love scenes--she had not
questioned, in spite of Madame Zattiany's carefully composed tones when
speaking of him, and her avoidance of so much as the exchange of a
meaning glance with him in public.  Up here "Mary" had ceased to be a
woman of the world, she had looked like a girl of twenty: and that she
was in love and recklessly happy in the fact, was for all to see.  That
had been one of her most interesting divagations to the novelist, Gora
Dwight--but a phase.  Gora was not deluded.

And this man Hohenhauer had brought her to her senses; no doubt of that
either to a mind both warmly imaginative and coldly analytical.  And
what had he come up here for except to ask her to marry him--to share
his power?  She dismissed the Washington inference with the contempt it
deserved.  Mr. Dinwiddie was a very experienced and astute old
gentleman, but he always settled on the obvious like a hen on a
porcelain egg. . . .  What a manifest destiny!  What an ideal
match. . . .  She sighed, almost envying her.  But it would be almost
as interesting to write about as to experience.  After all, a novelist
had things all her own way, and that was more than even the Zattianys
could hope for.

Then she remembered poor Clavering and looked up at him with eyes that
were wholly sympathetic.

"I don't think there's a doubt," she said, "that Prince Hohenhauer came
up here to ask her to marry him.  You can see for yourself what such a
match would mean for him, for aside from that indisputable genius of
hers--trained in later years by himself--she has great wealth and few
scruples; and where he failed to win men to his purpose, she, with her
superlative charm, and every feminine intuition sharpened by an
uncommon experience of men and public life, would succeed.  She may
hate him, as Mr. Dinwiddie says--for the moment.  But even if she
continued to hate him that would not prevent her from marrying him if
she believed he could help her to power.  If it had not been for you I
don't believe she would have hesitated a moment."

"Do you mean to say you believe she'll throw me over?" demanded
Clavering fiercely.

"I think you're in danger, and if I were you I'd throw Mr. Dinwiddie's
advice to the winds and take the morning train for New York."

"Don't you believe that she loves me?"

"Oh, yes.  As love goes."

"What d'you mean by that?"

"I mean that Madame Zattiany has long since reached the age when power
means more than love--in a woman of that calibre.  But you, in turn,
have tremendous power over her.  Sweep her off her feet again and make
her marry you."

"You don't believe she's gone to Washington?"

"I do not.  If that was all he wanted of her, why didn't he telephone?
I am sure he could be ambiguous enough to defeat the curiosity of any
listeners-in.  But a man of that sort does not ask a woman to marry him
over the telephone----"

"But Din thinks----"

"How long do you think you can stand inaction?"

"Not another hour, by God!  I'm nearly mad as it is."

"I thought so.  You are about the last man on earth equipped to play
the waiting game."

"You don't think she means to return here?"

"Never.  She's too much of an artist for one thing.  She might be
willing to begin a new chapter, but she knows that asterisks in the
wrong place are fatal.  This interruption has done for your idyl!"

"I had thought the same thing."  He sighed heavily.

"Oh, yes, Clavey dear, you are an artist yourself.  No matter what
happens never forget that it is your destiny to be a great one."

"Artist be damned.  If--if--God! if I lose her--I'll never write
another line."

"I don't doubt you think so.  But you're only just beginning to know
yourself.  You got a few glimpses, I should think, while you were
writing that play."

"Don't mention that play to me.  I hate it.  If I hadn't let myself go
with the damned thing I'd have had my wits about me and would have
married her off-hand."

"I wonder.  Was she so very anxious to marry?"

He turned cold.  Fear flared up again.  "What do you mean by that?"

"Well, I don't know that I mean anything.  Except that like all women
she probably wanted to enjoy the thrilling hopes and fears and
uncertainties of that never to be repeated prelude, to the limit.  Now,
better wake up Larsing and order the car if you mean to catch that
morning train.  If you don't want to go back to bed I'll sit up with
you.  You can sleep on the train."



LVIII

He left the next morning in a dense fog.  As Larsing rowed him across
the lake he could not see its surface nor the wall of trees on the
opposite bank, and in a moment the camp was obliterated.

Only Gora and Larsing knew of his departure.  Even Dinwiddie was still
asleep.  Larsing had made him a cup of coffee, and Gora had packed his
bag, moving like a mouse in his room.  She kissed him good-bye and
patted him on the back.

"I'll go out myself in a day or two," she said.  "You may need me down
there."

The fog thinned gradually and the Ford made its usual comfortless speed
down the mountain.  When they reached Huntersville the valley was
bathed in early morning sunlight, and Huntersville, asleep, shared the
evanescent charm of the dawn.  It was a beautiful and a peaceful scene
and Clavering, whose spirits had descended into utter gloom while
enwrapped in that sinister fog, accepted it as a happier portent; and
when he was so fortunate as to find an empty drawing-room on the
Express, he went to bed and slept until the porter awoke him at
Tarrytown.

It was his first impulse to rush direct to Murray Hill, but he knew the
folly of doing anything of the sort.  He needed a bath and a shave and
a fortifying dinner.

He concluded that it would be unwise to telephone, and at nine o'clock
he approached her house, reasonably calm and quite determined to have
his own way.  But the house was dark from cellar to roof.  Every window
was closed although it was a warm night.  He sprang up the steps and
rang the bell.  He rang again, and then kept his finger on the button
for nearly five minutes.

He descended into the area, but the iron bars were new, and immovable.
Moreover, a policeman was sauntering opposite.  He approached the man
in a moment and asked him if he knew whether the house had been open
earlier in the evening.  Yes, the officer told him, he had seen one of
the servants go in about half an hour ago.

Clavering walked away slowly.  If Mary had gone to Washington, why had
the servants not answered his ring?  It was too early for them to be in
bed.  Then his spirits, which had descended to zero, rose jubilantly.
Hohenhauer!  It was against him she was barricading herself.  No doubt
she would feel herself in a state of siege as long as the man remained
in the country.

He went to the nearest hotel and telephoned.  He was prepared to be
told, after an interminable wait, that there was "no answer"; but in a
moment he heard the voice of the butler.  Obeying a sudden impulse he
disguised his own.

"I should like to speak to Madame Zattiany."

"Madame has retired."

He hung up.  He had ascertained that she was at home and his spiritual
barometer ascended another notch.  He'd see her tomorrow if he spent
the day on her doorstep.  He bought an evening paper, picked out a new
play, and spent a very agreeable evening at the theatre.



LIX

His nervous excitement returned next morning, but he forced himself to
eat a good breakfast and read his newspapers.  He was determined to
show her that he was completely master of himself.  She should be able
to draw no unfavorable comparisons with Hohenhauer, whose composure had
probably not been ruffled in forty years.  His comparative youth might
be against him, but after all a man of thirty-four was no infant, and
in some respects he was as old as he would ever be.  He knew the value
of dignity and self-control, and whatever might come he would sacrifice
neither.  But he sighed heavily.  "Whatever might come."  But he
refused to dwell on alternatives.

It was ten o'clock when he presented himself at Madame Zattiany's door.
As he had hoped, his ring was answered.  Hohenhauer was not the man to
call on a woman at ten in the morning.

The footman permitted himself to stare, and said deprecatingly: "I am
very sorry, Mr. Clavering, but Madame told me to admit no visitors----"

"Did she?"  He entered and tossed his hat on a high Italian chair.
"Kindly tell her that I am in the library and shall remain there until
she is ready to come down."

The man hesitated, but after all Clavering had had the run of the
house, and it was possible that Madame believed him still to be in the
mountains.  At all events he knew determination when he saw it, and
marched reluctantly up the stairs.

Clavering went into the library.  He was filled with an almost
unbearable excitement, but at least the man's assertion that she was at
home to no one cemented his belief that she meant to see nothing
further of Hohenhauer.

He glanced round the beautiful mellow room so full of memories.  After
all he had been happier here than he had ever been in his life--until
they had gone up to the woods!  The room's benignant atmosphere seemed
to enfold him, calmed his fears, subdued that inner quiver.  Surely she
would surrender to its influence and to his--whatever had happened.  He
knew she had always liked him the better because he did not make love
to her the moment they met, but today he would take her by surprise,
give her no time to think.

But, as Mrs. Oglethorpe had once told him, a clever man is no match for
a still cleverer woman.

At the end of fifteen minutes the footman opened the door and announced:

"Madame is in the car, sir, and begs you will join her."

Clavering repressed a violent start and an imprecation.  But there was
nothing to do but follow the man; fortunately he did not have what was
known as an "open countenance."  Let her have her own way for the
moment.  He could--and would--return with her.  For the moment he felt
primitive enough to beat her.

She was wearing a black dress with a long jade necklace and a large
black hat, and, as he ran down the steps, he had time further to
observe that she was even whiter than usual and had dark rings under
her eyes.

"It is too beautiful a morning to remain indoors," she said, as she
gave him her hand and he took the seat beside her.  "We will drive in
the Park and then up the river for a bit."

She was completely at her ease, and she was the Madame Zattiany of the
night he had met her.  But she did not elaborate the rôle, and asked
him how he had left his friends at the camp and if he had enjoyed his
fishing trip.

"Enough of this," he interrupted, when he had mastered his excitement
at being close to her once more.  After all, he had expected something
of the sort.  She was just the woman to fall back on her infernal
technique.  "I know that you went down to Huntersville to meet
Hohenhauer, and that the result of that interview was an abrupt flight
from me--possibly from him.  I want the truth."

Her face had flushed, but as the color ebbed she looked almost waxen.
"I relied on Din----"

"Well, I guessed it and he admitted the fact.  And if he hadn't I'd
have come after you, anyhow.  Your note was enough to tell any man
something was wrong.  I shall not be put off and I will have an answer
to my questions.  Do you love me no longer?"

"Oh, yes," she said softly.  "I love you."  But when he tried to take
her hand she drew it away.

"Do you still intend to marry me?"

"Won't you give me a few days more to think it over?"

"No, I will not.  And--do you need them?  Haven't you already made up
your mind?"

She sighed and looked out of the window.  They were driving up Fifth
Avenue and the bright street was full of color and life.  The busses
and motors were filled with women on their way to the shops, whose gay
windows were the most enticing in the world.  New York, in this, her
River of Delight, looked as if she had not a care in the world.

Madame Zattiany did not speak again until they were in the Park.

"I have promised to marry you, remember; and I do not lightly go back
on my word. . . .  But . . .  I had intended to ask if you would be
willing to let me go alone to Vienna for six months--and then join
me----"

"After I had lost you completely!  I shall marry you here, today, or
not at all.  I love you but I'll not let you play with me.  I'll go to
Austria with you, and you may do as you choose when you get there.
You'll belong to me and I'll make the best of it."

"If I married you now it would not be worth my while to return to
Austria. . . .  You see, I'd be an American.  I'd no longer be Gräfin
Zattiany. . . .  I could accomplish nothing. . . .  It is the strangest
thing in the world, but I never had thought of changing my name----"

"Until Hohenhauer reminded you, I suppose.  Well, I could have told you
that myself.  I had counted on it, if you want to know the truth."

"Ah!  Then you counted on that to--to----"

"To have you altogether.  Yes."  And then he added hastily: "But up
there--you must believe this--I never gave it a thought--after--after
you promised to marry me at once."

He doubted if she had listened to this protest that there had been an
hour when in the complete baring of his soul he had been above plotting
and subterfuge.  She was still looking out of the window.  He saw her
long upward-curving nostril grow rigid.

But she said quietly: "And what do you think you would have done with
me, Lee, after we were on the plane of common mortals once more?
Transports do not last for ever, you know, and we are not heedless
young things with no thought of the future.  You have acknowledged
there is no place for me here, and there would be no place for me in
Europe if I married you.  Do you wonder that I came away to think,
after Prince Hohenhauer--who, remember, knows me far better than you
do--pointed out the inexorable truth?  What would you do with me, Lee?"

He stared out of the window in his turn--at the tender greens of the
Park.  He could hear the birds singing.  Spring!  The chill of winter
was in the car, and it emanated from the woman beside him.

"I don't know," he said miserably.  "I only know that I love you and
would take any chances."

"But, you see, although it is my misfortune to love you, I recognize
that there is a long generation between us.  I thought I had spanned
it, but--do you realize that we have literally nothing to give each
other but love?  That we are as unlike----"

"Oh, yes, I realized all that the night you left.  But I don't care.
Cannot you trust me?"

"There is that long generation, Lee.  And it is I who have lived it,
not you.  Lived it and outlived the woman who began it.  The gods in a
sportive mood made us for each other--and then sent me into the world
too soon. . . .  I must go on.  It is not in me to go back nor to
remain becalmed.  Hohenhauer told me many cruel truths.  Those women at
my dinner might have enlightened me if I had not deliberately bandaged
the eyes of my mind.  I chose to forget them at once.  But
Hohenhauer----"  She shuddered.  "Well, although I was infuriated with
him at the time--what he said was true.  Every word.  I must go
forward.  I cannot--cannot go back."

"He appealed to your ambition, your love of power, I suppose----"

"He showed me to myself for exactly what I am," she said emphatically.
"No appeal would have made the slightest impression on me if I had
really and finally returned to my Mary Ogdenhood up there in the woods
of my real youth.  My God!  What incredible folly!  What powers of
self-delusion!  But we both have that memory.  Let us be grateful.  I
at least shall hold it apart from all memories as long as I live."

"Are you going to marry that man?"

"That is so purely incidental that it is not worth talking about.  I
came away to think out my own problem.  I love you and I believe that I
shall always love you--but I don't see any way out.  I have killed once
and for all that fatal talent for self-delusion that I had thought was
as dead--well, as dead as my love for Moritz Hohenhauer; and nothing
could be more dead than that.  My brain feels like a crystal house
illuminated by searchlights, strong enough to penetrate every corner
but not strong enough to blind.  I could never, if I would, deceive
myself again, nor make another mistake, so far as human prescience will
serve me."

He looked at her hands.  Her gloves were black suede and they made
those hands look smaller, but he had an idea that if he lifted one it
would fall of its own rigid weight.

He made no comment and she said in a moment: "Perhaps you may have an
inspiration.  If there is any solution for us, believe me when I say
that it would make me as happy as it could make you."

But her hands did not relax.

"What is the solution, Lee?"

He had buried his face in his hands.  "There is none, I suppose.
Unless you have the courage to drive down to the City Hall and marry
me . . . and"--he lifted his head with a faint gleam of hope--"remember
that you are young again.  You have many years to live.  You are a
woman.  Can you go through life without love?"

"Far better than with it.  Love is a very old story to me," she said
deliberately.  "It could never be to me again the significant thing it
is even to the woman of middle age, much less to the young.  And
now--with a world falling to ruins--in the most critical period of its
history--to imagine that love has any but a passing significance----
Oh, no, my friend.  Oh, no!  Let those women who have it in their power
to repeople the earth which has lost so many millions of its sons,
cherish that delusion of the supreme importance of love; but not I!  I
have had my dream, but it is over.  If we had met in Vienna it would
never have claimed me at all.  In New York one may be serious in the
romantic manner when one is temporarily free from care, but seriousness
is of another and a portentous quality over there."

"Why did you ask me to wait six months and then join you in Vienna?"

She turned her eyes on him with what he had once called her look of
ancient wisdom.  There was not an expiring flicker of youth in them,
nor in the faint smile on her lips.  He had thrown himself back in his
corner and folded his arms; he had no desire to attract the attention
of the passers-by.  But his face was as white as a dark man's can be
and his eyes were both stricken and bitter.

"To give you time to get over it," she said.  "To write another play.
To settle down into your old life--and look back upon this episode as
upon a dream, a wonderful dream, but difficult to recall as anything
more substantial."

"So I inferred.  And you have not the courage to marry me--here--today?"

"No, that is the one thing for which I have no courage whatever.  In
three months I should hate you and myself.  I should not have even one
memory in my life that I had no wish to banish--the sustaining memory
of love undestroyed I may take back with me now.  Courage!  I could
contemplate going back to certain death at the hands of an assassin, or
in another revolution; to stand on the edge of the abyss, the last
human being alive in Europe, and look down upon her expiring throes
before I went over the brink myself.  But I have not the courage to
marry you."

Clavering picked up the tube and told the driver to stop.

He closed the door and lifted his hat.

"Good-bye, Madame Zattiany," he said.  And as the driver was listening,
he added: "A pleasant journey."





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