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Title: The Coast of Bohemia
Author: Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
Language: English
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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.

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THE COAST OF BOHEMIA



By W. D. Howells


Biographical Edition



NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS
1899

Copyright, 1893, 1899, by WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS.

_All rights reserved._



INTRODUCTORY SKETCH.


In one of the old-fashioned books for children there was a story of the
adventures of a cent (or perhaps that coin of older lineage, a penny)
told by itself, which came into my mind when the publishers suggested
that the readers of a new edition of this book might like to know how
it happened to be written. I promptly fancied the book speaking, and
taking upon itself the burden of autobiography, which we none of us
find very heavy; and no sooner had I done so than I began actually to
hear from it in a narrative of much greater distinctness than I could
have supplied for it.

"You must surely remember," it protested to my forgetfulness, "that you
first thought of me in anything like definite shape as you stood
looking on at the trotting-races of a county fair in Northern Ohio, and
that I began to gather color and character while you loitered through
the art-building, and dwelt with pitying interest upon the forlorn,
unpromising exhibits there.

"But previous to this, my motive existed somewhere in that nebulous
fore-life where both men and books have their impalpable beginning; for
even you cannot have forgotten that when a certain passionately
enterprising young editor asked you for a novel to be printed in his
journal, you so far imagined me as to say that I would be about a girl.
When you looked over those hapless works of art at the Pymantoning
County Fair, you thought, 'What a good thing it would be to have a nice
village girl, with a real but limited gift, go from here to study art
in New York! And get in love there! And married!' Cornelia and her
mother at once stepped out of the inchoate; Ludlow advanced from
another quarter of Chaos, and I began really to be.

"The getting me down on paper was a much later affair--nearly two years
later. There were earlier engagements to be met; there was an exciting
editorial episode to be got behind you; and there was material for a
veridical representation of the ardent young life of the New York
Synthesis of Art Studies to be gathered as nearly at first hands and as
furtively as possible.

"I should be almost ashamed to remind you of the clandestine means you
employed before you were forced to a frankness alien to your nature,
and went and threw yourself on the mercy of a Member who, upon your
avowing your purpose, took you through the schools of the Synthesis and
instructed you in its operation. Not satisfied with this, you got an
undergraduate of the Synthesis to coach you as to its social side, and
while she was consenting to put it all down in writing for your
convenience, you were shamelessly making notes of her boarding-house,
as the very place to have Cornelia come to.

"Your methods were at first so secret and uncandid that I wonder I ever
came to be the innocent book I am; and I feel that the credit is far
less due to you than to the friends who helped you. But I am glad to
remember how you got your come-uppings when, long after, a student of
the Synthesis whom you asked, in your latent vanity, how she thought
that social part of me was managed, answered, 'Well, any one could see
that it was studied altogether from the outside, that it wasn't at all
the _spirit_ of the Synthesis.'

"It was enough almost to make me doubt myself, but I recovered my
belief in my own truth when I reflected that it was merely a just
punishment for you. I could expose you in other points, if I chose, and
show what slight foundations you built my facts and characters upon;
but perhaps that would be ungrateful. You were at least a doting
parent, if not a wise one, and in your fondness you did your best to
spoil me. You gave me two heroines, and you know very well that before
you were done you did not know but you preferred Charmian to Cornelia.
And you had nothing whatever to build Charmian upon, not the slightest
suggestion from life, where you afterwards encountered her Egyptian
profile! I think I ought to say that you had never been asked to a
Synthesis dance when you wrote that account of one in me; and though
you have often been asked since, you have never had the courage to go
for fear of finding out how little it was like your description.

"But if Charmian was created out of nothing, what should you say if I
were frank about the other characters of my story? Could you deny that
the drummer who was first engaged to Cornelia was anything more than a
materialization from seeing a painter very long ago make his two
fingers do a ballet-dance? Or that Ludlow was not at first a mere
pointed beard and a complexion glimpsed in a slim young Cuban one night
at Saratoga? Or that Cornelia's mother existed by any better right than
your once happening to see a poor lady try to hide the gap in her teeth
when she smiled?

"When I think what a thing of shreds and patches I am, I wonder that I
have any sort of individual temperament or consciousness at all. But I
know that I have, and that you wrote me with pleasure and like me
still. You think I have form, and that, if I am not very serious, I am
sincere, and that somehow I represent a phase of our droll American
civilization truly enough. I know you were vexed when some people said
I did not go far enough, and insisted that the coast of Bohemia ought
to have been the whole kingdom. As if I should have cared to be that!
There are shady places inland where I should not have liked my girls to
be, and where I think my young men would not have liked to meet them;
and I am glad you kept me within the sweet, pure breath of the sea. I
think I am all the better book for that, and, if you are fond of me,
you have your reasons. I----"

"Upon my word," I interrupted at this point, "it seems to me that you
are saying rather more for yourself than I could say for you, if you
_are_ one of my spoiled children. Don't you think we had both better
give the reader a chance, now?"

"Oh, if there are to be any readers!" cried the book, and lapsed into
the silence of print.

[Illustration: W. D. Howells.]



Transcriber's Note: The Table of Contents has been added for the
                    convenience of the reader.



TABLE OF CONTENTS


         Chapter

    I.              XXI.
   II.             XXII.
  III.            XXIII.
   IV.             XXIV.
    V.              XXV.
   VI.             XXVI.
  VII.            XXVII.
 VIII.           XXVIII.
   IX.             XXIX.
    X.              XXX.
   XI.             XXXI.
  XII.            XXXII.
 XIII.           XXXIII.
  XIV.            XXXIV.
   XV.             XXXV.
  XVI.            XXXVI.
 XVII.           XXXVII.
XVIII.          XXXVIII.
  XIX.            XXXIX.
   XX.



THE COAST OF BOHEMIA.



I.


The forty-sixth annual fair of the Pymantoning County Agricultural
Society was in its second day. The trotting-matches had begun, and the
vast majority of the visitors had abandoned the other features of the
exhibition for this supreme attraction. They clustered four or five
deep along the half-mile of railing that enclosed the track, and sat
sweltering in the hot September sun, on the benching of the grandstand
that flanked a stretch of the course. Boys selling lemonade and
peanuts, and other boys with the score of the races, made their way up
and down the seats with shrill cries; now and then there was a shriek
of girls' laughter from a group of young people calling to some other
group, or struggling for a programme caught back and forth; the young
fellows shouted to each other jokes that were lost in mid-air; but, for
the most part, the crowd was a very silent one, grimly intent upon the
rival sulkies as they flashed by and lost themselves in the clouds that
thickened over the distances of the long, dusty loop. Here and there
some one gave a shout as a horse broke, or settled down to his work
under the guttural snarl of his driver; at times the whole throng burst
into impartial applause as a horse gained or lost a length; but the
quick throb of the hoofs on the velvety earth and the whir of the
flying wheels were the sounds that chiefly made themselves heard.

The spectacle had the importance which multitude givers, and Ludlow
found in it the effects which he hoped to get again in his impression.
He saw the deep purples which he looked to see with eyes trained by the
French masters of his school to find them, and the indigo blues, the
intense greens, the rainbow oranges and scarlets; and he knew just how
he should give them. In the light of that vast afternoon sky,
cloudless, crystalline in its clearness, no brilliancy of rendering
could be too bold.

If he had the courage of his convictions, this purely American event
could be reported on his canvas with all its native character; and yet
it could be made to appeal to the enlightened eye with the charm of a
French subject, and impressionism could be fully justified of its
follower in Pymantoning as well as in Paris. That golden dust along the
track; the level tops of the buggies drawn up within its ellipse, and
the groups scattered about in gypsy gayety on the grass there; the dark
blur of men behind the barrier; the women, with their bright hats and
parasols, massed flower-like,--all made him long to express them in
lines and dots and breadths of pure color. He had caught the vital
effect of the whole, and he meant to interpret it so that its truth
should be felt by all who had received the light of the new faith in
painting, who believed in the prismatic colors as in the ten
commandments, and who hoped to be saved by tone-contrasts. For the
others, Ludlow was at that day too fanatical an impressionist to care.
He owed a duty to France no less than to America, and he wished to
fulfil it in a picture which should at once testify to the excellence
of the French method and the American material. At twenty-two, one is
often much more secure and final in one's conclusions than one is
afterwards.

He was vexed that a lingering doubt of the subject had kept him from
bringing a canvas with him at once, and recording his precious first
glimpses of it. But he meant to come to the trotting-match the next day
again, and then he hoped to get back to his primal impression of the
scene, now so vivid in his mind. He made his way down the benches, and
out of the enclosure of the track. He drew a deep breath, full of the
sweet smell of the bruised grass, forsaken now by nearly all the feet
that had trodden it. A few old farmers, who had failed to get places
along the railing and had not cared to pay for seats on the stand, were
loitering about, followed by their baffled and disappointed wives. The
men occasionally stopped at the cattle-pens, but it was less to look at
the bulls and boars and rams which had taken the premiums, and wore
cards or ribbons certifying the fact, than to escape a consciousness of
their partners, harassingly taciturn or voluble in their reproach. A
number of these embittered women brokenly fringed the piazza of the
fair-house, and Ludlow made his way toward them with due sympathy for
their poor little tragedy, so intelligible to him through the memories
of his own country-bred youth. He followed with his pity those who
sulked away through the deserted aisles of the building, and nursed
their grievance among the prize fruits and vegetables, and the fruits
and vegetables that had not taken the prizes. They were more censorious
than they would have been perhaps if they had not been defeated
themselves; he heard them dispute the wisdom of most of the awards as
the shoutings and clappings from the racetrack penetrated the lonely
hall. They creaked wearily up and down in their new shoes or best
shoes, and he knew how they wished themselves at home and in bed, and
wondered why they had ever been such fools as to come, anyway.
Occasionally, one of their husbands lagged in, as if in search of his
wife, but kept at a safe distance, after seeing her, or hung about with
a group of other husbands, who could not be put to shame or suffering
as they might if they had appeared singly.



II.


Ludlow believed that if the right fellow ever came to the work, he
could get as much pathos out of our farm folks as Millet got out of his
Barbizon peasants. But the fact was that he was not the fellow; he
wanted to paint beauty not pathos; and he thought, so far as he thought
ethically about it, that, the Americans needed to be shown the festive
and joyous aspects of their common life. To discover and to represent
these was his pleasure as an artist, and his duty as a citizen. He
suspected, though, that the trotting-match was the only fact of the
Pymantoning County Fair that could be persuaded to lend itself to his
purpose. Certainly, there was nothing in the fair-house, with those
poor, dreary old people straggling through it, to gladden an artistic
conception. Agricultural implements do not group effectively, or pose
singly with much picturesqueness; tall stalks of corn, mammoth
squashes, huge apples and potatoes want the beauty and quality that
belong to them out of doors, when they are gathered into the sections
of a county fair-house; piles of melons fail of their poetry on a
wooden floor, and heaps of grapes cannot assert themselves in a very
bacchanal profusion against the ignominy of being spread upon long
tables and ticketed with the names of their varieties and exhibitors.

Ludlow glanced at them, to right and left, as he walked through the
long, barn-like building, and took in with other glances the inadequate
decorations of the graceless interior. His roving eye caught the
lettering over the lateral archways, and with a sort of contemptuous
compassion he turned into the Fine Arts Department.

The fine arts were mostly represented by photographs and crazy quilts;
but there were also tambourines and round brass plaques painted with
flowers, and little satin banners painted with birds or autumn leaves,
and gilt rolling-pins with vines. There were medley-pictures contrived
of photographs cut out and grouped together in novel and unexpected
relations; and there were set about divers patterns and pretences in
keramics, as the decoration of earthen pots and jars was called.
Besides these were sketches in oil and charcoal, which Ludlow found
worse than the more primitive things, with their second-hand _chic_
picked up in a tenth-rate school. He began to ask himself whether
people tasteless enough to produce these inanities and imagine them
artistic, could form even the subjects of art; he began to have doubts
of his impression of the trotting-match, its value, its possibility of
importance. The senseless ugliness of the things really hurt him: his
worship of beauty was a sort of religion, and their badness was a sort
of blasphemy. He could not laugh at them; he wished he could; and his
first impulse was to turn and escape from the Fine Arts Department, and
keep what little faith in the artistic future of the country he had
been able to get together during his long sojourn out of it. Since his
return he had made sure of the feeling for color and form with which
his country-women dressed themselves. There was no mistake about that;
even here, in the rustic heart of the continent he had seen costumes
which had touch and distinction; and it could not be that the instinct
which they sprang from should go for nothing in the arts supposed
higher than mantua-making and millinery. The village girls whom he saw
so prettily gowned and picturesquely hatted on the benches out there by
the race-course, could it have been they who committed these
atrocities? Or did these come up from yet deeper depths of the country,
where the vague, shallow talk about art going on for the past decade
was having its first crude effect? Ludlow was exasperated as well as
pained, for he knew that the pretty frocks and hats expressed a love of
dressing prettily, which was honest and genuine enough, while the
unhappy effects about him could spring only from a hollow vanity far
lower than a woman's wish to be charming. It was not an innate impulse
which produced them, but a sham ambition, implanted from without, and
artificially stimulated by the false and fleeting mood of the time.
They must really hamper the growth of æsthetic knowledge among people
who were not destitute of the instinct.

He exaggerated the importance of the fact with the sensitiveness of a
man to whom æsthetic cultivation was all-important. It appeared to him
a far greater evil than it was; it was odious to him, like a vice; it
was almost a crime. He spent a very miserable time in the Fine Arts
Department of the Pymantoning County Agricultural Fair; and in a kind
of horrible fascination he began to review the collection in detail, to
guess its causes in severalty and to philosophize its lamentable
consequences.



III.


In this process Ludlow discovered that there was more of the Fine Arts
Department than he had supposed at first. He was aware of some women
who had come into the next aisle or section, and presently he overheard
fragments of their talk.

A girl's voice said passionately: "I don't care! I shan't leave them
here for folks to make remarks about! I knew they wouldn't take the
premium, and I hope you're satisfied now, mother."

"Well, you're a very silly child," came in an older voice, suggestive
of patience and amiability. "Don't tear them, anyway!"

"I shall! I don't care if I tear them all to pieces."

There was a sound of quick steps, and of the angry swirl of skirts, and
the crackling and rending of paper.

"There, now!" said the older voice. "You've dropped one."

"I don't care! I hope they'll trample it under their great stupid
hoofs."

The paper, whatever it was, came skating out under the draped tabling
in the section where Ludlow stood, arrested in his sad employment by
the unseen drama, and lay at his feet. He picked it up, and he had only
time to glance at it before he found himself confronted by a fiercely
tearful young girl who came round the corner of his section, and
suddenly stopped at sight of him. With one hand she pressed some
crumpled sheets of paper against, her breast; the other she stretched
toward Ludlow.

"Oh! will you----" she began, and then she faltered; and as she turned
her little head aside for a backward look over her shoulder, she made
him, somehow, think of a hollyhock, by the tilt of her tall, slim,
young figure, and by the colors of her hat from which her face
flowered; no doubt the deep-crimson silk waist she wore, with its
petal-edged ruffle flying free down her breast, had something to do
with his fantastic notion. She was a brunette, with the lightness and
delicacy that commonly go with the beauty of a blonde. She could not
have been more than fifteen; her skirts had not yet matured to the full
womanly length; she was still a child.

A handsome, mild, middle-aged woman appeared beside the stormy young
thing, and said in the voice which Ludlow had already heard, "Well,
Cornelia!" She seemed to make more account than the girl made of the
young fellow's looks. He was of the medium height for a man, but he was
so slight that he seemed of lower stature, and he eked out an effect of
distinction by brushing his little moustache up sharply at the corners
in a fashion he had learned in France, and by wearing a little black
dot of an imperial. His brow was habitually darkened by a careworn
frown, which came from deep and anxious thinking about the principles
and the practice of art. He was very well dressed, and he carried
himself with a sort of worldly splendor which did not intimidate the
lady before him. In the country women have no more apprehension of men
who are young and stylish and good-looking than they have in the city;
they rather like them to be so, and meet them with confidence in any
casual encounter.

The lady said, "Oh, thank you," as Ludlow came up to the girl with the
paper, and then she laughed with no particular intention, and said,
"It's one of my daughter's drawings."

"Oh, indeed!" said Ludlow, with a quick perception of the mother's
pride in it, and of all the potentialities of prompt intimacy. "It's
very good."

"Well, _I_ think so," said the lady, while the girl darkled and bridled
in young helplessness. If she knew that her mother ought not to be
offering a stranger her confidence like that, she did not know what to
do about it. "She was just going to take them home," said the mother
vaguely.

"I'm sorry," said Ludlow. "I seem to be a day after the fair, as far as
they're concerned."

"Well, I don't know," said the mother, with the same amiable vagueness.
She had some teeth gone, and when she smiled she tried to hide their
absence on the side next Ludlow; but as she was always smiling she did
not succeed perfectly. She looked doubtfully at her daughter, in the
manner of mothers whom no severity of snubbing can teach that their
daughters when well-grown girls can no longer be treated as infants. "I
don't know as you'd think you had lost much. We didn't expect they
_would_ take the premium, a _great_ deal."

"I should hope not," said Ludlow. "The competition was bad enough."

The mother seemed to divine a compliment in this indefinite speech. She
said: "Well, I don't see myself why they didn't take it."

"There was probably no one to feel how much better they were," said
Ludlow.

"Well, that's what _I_ think," said the mother, "and it's what I tell
her." She stood looking from Ludlow to her daughter and back, and now
she ventured, seeing him so intent on the sketch he still held, "You an
artist?"

"A student of art," said Ludlow, with the effect of uncovering himself
in a presence.

The mother did not know what to make of it apparently; she said
blankly, "Oh!" and then added impressively, to her daughter: "Why don't
you show them to him, Cornelia?"

"I should think it a great favor," said Ludlow, intending to be
profoundly respectful. But he must have overdone it. The girl
majestically gave her drawings to her mother, and marched out of the
aisle.

Ludlow ignored her behavior, as if it had nothing to do with the
question, and began to look at the drawings, one after another, with
various inarticulate notes of comment imitated from a great French
master, and with various foreign phrases, such as "_Bon! Bon! Pas
mauvais! Joli! Chic!_" He seemed to waken from them to a consciousness
of the mother, and returned to English. "They are very interesting. Has
she had instruction?"

"Only in the High School, here. And she didn't seem to care any for
that. She seems to want to work more by herself."

"That's wrong," said Ludlow, "though she's probably right about the
High School."

The mother made bold to ask, "Where are _you_ taking lessons?"

"I?" said Ludlow, dreamily. "Oh! everywhere."

"I thought, perhaps," the mother began, and she stopped, and then
resumed, "How many lessons do you expect to take?"



IV.


Ludlow descended from the high horse which he saw it was really useless
for him to ride in that simple presence. "I didn't mean that I was a
student of art in that sense, exactly. I suppose I'm a painter of some
sort. I studied in Paris, and I'm working in New York--if that's what
you mean."

"Yes," said the lady, as if she did not know quite what she meant.

Ludlow still remained in possession of the sketches, and he now looked
at them with a new knot between his eyebrows. He had known at the first
glance, with the perception of one who has done things in any art, that
here was the possibility of things in his art, and he had spoken from a
generous and compassionate impulse, from his recognition of the
possibility, and from his sympathy with the girl in her defeat. Now his
conscience began to prick him. He asked himself whether he had any
right to encourage her, whether he ought not rather to warn her. He
asked her mother: "Has she been doing this sort of thing long?"

"Ever since she was a little bit of a thing," said the mother. "You
_might_ say she's been doing it ever since she could do anything; and
she _ain't_ but about fifteen, _now_. Well, she's going on sixteen,"
the mother added, scrupulously. "She was born the third of July, and
now it's the beginning of September. So she's just fifteen years and a
little over two months. I suppose she's too young to commence taking
lessons regularly?"

"No one would be too young for that," said Ludlow, austerely, with his
eyes on the sketch. He lifted them, and bent them frankly and kindly on
the mother's face. "And were you thinking of her going on?" The mother
questioned him for his exact meaning with the sweet unwisdom of her
smile. "Did you think of her becoming an artist, a painter?"

"Well," she returned, "I presume she would have as good a chance as
anybody, if she had the talent for it."

"She has the talent for it," said Ludlow, "and she would have a better
chance than most--that's very little to say--but it's a terribly rough
road."

"Yes," the mother faltered, smiling.

"Yes. It's a hard road for a man, and it's doubly hard for a woman. It
means work that breaks the back and wrings the brain. It means for a
woman, tears, and hysterics, and nervous prostration, and
insanity--some of them go wild over it. The conditions are bad air, and
long hours, and pitiless criticism; and the rewards are slight and
uncertain. One out of a hundred comes to anything at all; one out of a
thousand to anything worth while. New York is swarming with girl
art-students. They mostly live in poor boarding-houses, and some of
them actually suffer from hunger and cold. For men the profession is
hazardous, arduous; for women it's a slow anguish of endeavor and
disappointment. Most shop-girls earn more than most fairly successful
art-students for years; most servant-girls fare better. If you are
rich, and your daughter wishes to amuse herself by studying art, it's
all very well; but even then I wouldn't recommend it as an amusement.
If you're poor----"

"I presume," the mother interrupted, "that she would be self-supporting
by the time she had taken six months' lessons, and I guess she could
get along till then."

Ludlow stared at the amiably smiling creature. From her unruffled
composure his warning had apparently fallen like water from the back of
a goose. He saw that it would be idle to go on, and he stopped short
and waited for her to speak again.

"If she was to go to New York to take lessons, how do you think she'd
better----" She seemed not to know enough of the situation to formulate
her question farther. He had pity on her ignorance, though he doubted
whether he ought to have.

"Oh, go into the Synthesis," he said briefly.

"The Synthesis?"

"Yes; the Synthesis of Art Studies; it's the only thing. The work is
hard, but it's thorough; the training's excellent, if you live through
it."

"Oh, I guess she'd live through it," said the mother with a laugh. She
added, "I don't know as I know just what you mean by the Synthesis of
Art Studies."

"It's a society that the art-students have formed. They have their own
building, and casts, and models; the principal artists have classes
among them. You submit a sketch, and if you get in you work away till
you drop, if you're in earnest, or till you're bored, if you're amusing
yourself."

"And should you think," said the mother gesturing toward him with the
sketches in her hand, "that she could get in?"

"I think she could," said Ludlow, and he acted upon a sudden impulse.
He took a card from his pocketbook, and gave it to the mother. "If
you'll look me up when you come to New York, or let me know, I may be
of use to you, and I shall be very glad to put you in the way of
getting at the Synthesis."

"Thanks," the mother drawled with her eyes on the card. She probably
had no clear sense of the favor done her. She lifted her eyes and
smiled on Ludlow with another kind of intelligence. "You're visiting at
Mrs. Burton's."

"Yes," said Ludlow, remembering after a moment of surprise how
pervasive the fact of a stranger's presence in a village is. "Mr.
Burton can tell you who I am," he added in some impatience with her
renewed scrutiny of his card.

"Oh, it's all right," she said, and she put it in her pocket, and then
she began to drift away a little. "Well, I'm sure I'm much obliged to
you." She hesitated a moment, and then she said, "Well, good
afternoon."

"Good-by," said Ludlow, and he lifted his hat and stood bowing her out
of the Fine Arts Department, while she kept her eyes on him to the last
with admiration and approval.

"Well, I declare, Cornelia," she burst out to her daughter, whom she
found glowering at the agricultural implements, "that _is_ about the
nicest fellow! Do you know what he's done?" She stopped and began a
search for her pocket, which ended successfully. "He's given me his
name, and told me just what you're to do. And when you get to New York,
if you ever do, you can go right straight _to_ him."

She handed Ludlow's card to the girl, who instantly tore it to pieces
without looking at it. "I'll never go to him--horrid, mean, cross old
thing! And you go and talk about me to a perfect stranger as if I were
a baby. And now he'll go and laugh at you with the Burtons, and they'll
say it's just like you to say everything that comes into your head,
that way, and think everybody's as nice as they seem. But _he_ isn't
nice! He's _horrid_, and conceited, and--and--hateful. And I shall
_never_ study art anywhere. And I'd _die_ before I asked _him_ to help
me. He was just making fun of you all the time, and anybody but you
would see it, mother! Comparing me to a hired girl!"

"No, I don't think he did _that_, Cornelia," said the mother with some
misgiving. "I presume he may have been a little touched up by your
pictures, and wanted to put me down about them----"

"Oh, mother, mother, mother!" The girl broke into tears over the
agricultural implements. "They were the dust under his feet."

"Why, Cornelia, how you talk!"

"I wish _you_ wouldn't talk, mother! I've asked you a thousand times,
if I've asked you once, not to talk about me with anybody, and here you
go and tell everything that you can think of to a person that you never
saw before."

"What did I tell him about you?" asked her mother, with the uncertainty
of ladies who say a great deal.

"You told him how old I was almost to a day!"

"Oh, well, that wasn't anything! I saw he'd got to know if he was to
give any opinion about your going on that was worth having."

"It'll be all over town, to-morrow. Well, never mind! It's the last
time you'll ever have a chance to do it. I'll never, never, never touch
a pencil to draw with again! Never! You've done it _now_, mother! _I_
don't care! I'll help you with your work, all you want, but don't ever
ask me to draw a single thing after this. I guess he wouldn't have much
to say about the style of a bonnet, or set of a dress, if it _was_
wrong!"

The girl swept out of the building with tragedy-queen strides that
refused to adjust themselves to the lazy, lounging pace of her mother,
and carried her homeward so swiftly that she had time to bang the front
gate and the front door, and her own room door and lock it, and be
crying on the bed with her face in the pillow, long before her mother
reached the house. The mother wore a face of unruffled serenity, and as
there was no one near to see, she relaxed her vigilance, and smiled
with luxurious indifference to the teeth she had lost.



V.


Ludlow found his friend Burton smoking on his porch when he came back
from the fair, and watching with half-shut eyes the dust that overhung
the street. Some of the farmers were already beginning to drive home,
and their wheels sent up the pulverous clouds which the western sun
just tinged with red; Burton got the color under the lower boughs of
the maple grove of his deep door-yard.

"Well," he called out, in a voice expressive of the temperament which
kept him content with his modest fortune and his village circumstance,
when he might have made so much more and spent so much more in the
world outside, "did you get your picture?"

Ludlow was only half-way up the walk from the street when the question
met him, and he waited to reach the piazza steps before he answered.

"Oh, yes, I think I've got it." By this time Mrs. Burton had appeared
at the hall door-way, and stood as if to let him decide whether he
would come into the house, or join her husband outside. He turned aside
to take a chair near Burton's, tilted against the wall, but he
addressed himself to her.

"Mrs. Burton, who is rather a long-strung, easy-going, good-looking,
middle-aged lady, with a daughter about fifteen years old, extremely
pretty and rather peppery, who draws?"

Mrs. Burton at once came out, and sat sidewise in the hammock, facing
the two men.

"How were they dressed?"

Ludlow told as well as he could; he reserved his fancy of the girl's
being like a hollyhock.

"Was the daughter pretty?"

"Very pretty."

"Dark?"

"Yes, 'all that's best of dark and bright.'"

"Were they both very graceful?"

"Very graceful indeed."

"Why it must be Mrs. Saunders. Where did you see them?"

"In the Art Department."

"Yes. She came to ask me whether I would exhibit some of Cornelia's
drawings, if I were she."

"And you told her you would?" her husband asked, taking his pipe out
for the purpose.

"Of course I did. That was what she wished me to tell her."

Burton turned to Ludlow. "Had they taken many premiums?"

"No; the premiums had been bestowed on the crazy quilts and the medley
pictures--what extraordinarily idiotic inventions!--and Miss Saunders
was tearing down her sketches in the next section. One of them slipped
through on the floor, and they came round after it to where I was."

"And so you got acquainted with Mrs. Saunders?" said Mrs. Burton.

"No. But I got intimate," said Ludlow. "I sympathized with her, and she
advised with me about her daughter's art-education."

"What did you advise her to do?" asked Burton.

"Not to have her art-educated."

"Why, don't you think she has talent?" Mrs. Burton demanded, with a
touch of resentment.

"Oh, yes. She has beauty, too. Nothing is commoner than the talent and
beauty of American girls. But they'd better trust to their beauty."

"I don't think so," said Mrs. Burton, with spirit.

"You can see how she's advised Mrs. Saunders," said Burton, winking the
eye next Ludlow.

"Well, you mustn't be vexed with me, Mrs. Burton," Ludlow replied to
her. "I don't think she'll take my advice, especially as I put it in
the form of warning. I told her how hard the girl would have to work:
but I don't think she quite understood. I told her she had talent, too;
and she did understand that; there was something uncommon in the
child's work; something--different. Who _are_ they, Mrs. Burton?"

"_Isn't_ there!" cried Mrs. Burton. "I'm glad you told the poor thing
that. I thought they'd take the premium. I was going to tell you about
her daughter. Mrs. Saunders must have been awfully disappointed."

"She didn't seem to suffer much," Ludlow suggested.

"No," Mrs. Burton admitted, "she doesn't suffer much about anything. If
she did she would have been dead long ago. First, her husband blown up
by his saw-mill boiler, and then one son killed in a railroad accident,
and another taken down with pneumonia almost the same day! And she goes
on, smiling in the face of death----"

"And looking out that he doesn't see how many teeth she's lost," Burton
prompted.

Ludlow laughed at the accuracy of the touch.

Mrs. Burton retorted, "Why shouldn't she? Her good looks and her good
nature are about all she has left in the world, except this daughter."

"Are they very poor?" asked Ludlow, gently.

"Oh, nobody's _very_ poor in Pymantoning," said Mrs. Burton. "And Mrs.
Saunders has her business,--when she's a mind to work at it."

"I suppose she has it, even when she hasn't a mind to work at it," said
Burton, making his pipe purr with a long, deep inspiration of
satisfaction. "I know I have mine."

"What _is_ her business?" asked Ludlow.

"Well, she's a dressmaker and milliner--when she _is_." Mrs. Burton
stated the fact with the effect of admitting it. "You mustn't suppose
that makes any difference. In a place like Pymantoning, she's 'as good
as anybody,' and her daughter has as high social standing. You can't
imagine how Arcadian we are out here."

"Oh, yes, I can; I've lived in a village," said Ludlow.

"A New England village, yes; but the lines are drawn just as hard and
fast there as they are in a city. You have to live in the West to
understand what equality is, and in a purely American population, like
this. You've got plenty of independence, in New England, but you
haven't got equality, and we _have_,--or used to have." Mrs. Burton
added the final words with apparent conscience.

"Just saved your distance, Polly," said her husband. "We haven't got
equality now, any more than we've got buffalo. I don't believe we ever
had buffalo in this section; but we did have deer once; and when I was
a boy here, venison was three cents a pound, and equality cheaper yet.
When they cut off the woods the venison and the equality disappeared;
they always do when the woods are cut off."

"There's enough of it left for all practical purposes, and Mrs.
Saunders moves in the first circles of Pymantoning," said Mrs. Burton.

"When she _does_ move," said Burton. "She doesn't _like_ to move."

"Well, she has the greatest taste, and if you can get her to do
anything for you your fortune's made. But it's a favor. She'll take a
thing that you've got home from the city, and that you're frantic
about, it's so bad, and smile over it a little, and touch it here and
there, and it comes out a miracle of style and becomingness. It's like
magic."

"She _was_ charming," said Ludlow, in dreamy reminiscence.

"_Isn't_ she?" Mrs. Burton demanded. "And her daughter gets all her
artistic talent from her. Mrs. Saunders _is_ an artist, though I don't
suppose you like to admit it of a dressmaker."

"Oh, yes, I do," said Ludlow. "I don't see why a man or woman who
drapes the human figure in stuffs, isn't an artist as well as the man
or woman who drapes it in paint or clay."

"Well, that's sense," Mrs. Burton began.

"She didn't know you had any, Ludlow," her husband explained.

Mrs. Burton did not regard him. "If she had any ambition she would be
anything--just like some other lazy-boots," and now she gave the large,
dangling congress gaiter of her husband a little push with the point of
her slipper, for purposes of identification, as the newspapers say.
"But the only ambition she's got is for her daughter, and she _is_
proud of her, and she would spoil her if she could get up the energy.
She dotes on her, and Nie is fond of her mother, too. Do you think she
can ever do anything in art?"

"If she were a boy, I should say yes; as she's a girl, I don't know,"
said Ludlow. "The chances are against her."

"Nature's against her, too," said Burton.

"_Human_ nature ought to be for her, then," said Mrs. Burton. "If she
were your sister what should you wish her to be?" she asked Ludlow.

"I should wish her to be"--Ludlow thought a moment and then
concluded--"happily married."

"Well, that's a shame!" cried Mrs. Burton.

Her husband laughed, while he knocked the ashes out of his pipe against
the edge of his chair-seat. "Rough on the holy estate of matrimony,
Polly."

"Oh, pshaw! I believe as much in the holy estate of matrimony as
anybody, but I don't believe it's the begin-all or the end-all for a
woman, any more than it is for a man. What, Katy?" she spoke to a girl
who appeared and disappeared in the doorway. "Oh! Well, come in to
supper, now. I hope you have an appetite, Mr. Ludlow. Mr. Burton's such
a delicate eater, and I like to have _some_body keep me in
countenance." She suddenly put her hand on the back of her husband's
chair, and sprung it forward from its incline against the wall, with a
violence that bounced him fearfully, and extorted a roar of protest
from him.

They were much older than Ludlow, and they permitted themselves the
little rowdy freedoms that good-natured married people sometimes use,
as fearlessly in his presence as if he were a grown-up nephew. They
prized him as a discovery of their own, for they had stumbled on him
one day before any one else had found him out, when he was sketching at
Fontainebleau. They liked the look of his picture, as they viewed it at
a decent remove over his shoulder, and after they got by Burton
proposed to go back and kill the fellow on account of the solemn
coxcombery of his personal appearance. His wife said: "Well, ask him
what he'll take for his picture, first," and Burton returned and said
with brutal directness, while he pointed at the canvas with his stick,
"_Combien?_" When Ludlow looked round up at him and answered with a
pleasant light in his eye, "Well, I don't know exactly. What'll you
give?" Burton spared his life, and became his friend. He called his
wife to him, and they bought the picture, and afterwards they went to
Ludlow's lodging, for he had no studio, and conscientiously painted in
the open air, and bought others. They got the pictures dog cheap, as
Burton said, for Ludlow was just beginning then, and his reputation
which has never since become cloud-capt, was a tender and lowly plant.
They made themselves like a youngish aunt and uncle to him, and had him
with them all they could while they stayed in Paris. When they came
home they brought the first impressionistic pictures ever seen in the
West; at Pymantoning, the village cynic asked which was right side up,
and whether he was to stand on his head or not to get them in range.
Ludlow remained in France, which he maintained had the only sun for
impressionism; and then he changed his mind all at once, and under an
impulse of sudden patriotism, declared for the American sky, and the
thin, crystalline, American air. His faith included American subjects,
and when, after his arrival in New York, Burton wrote to claim a visit
from him and ironically proposed the trotting-match at the County Fair
as an attraction for his pencil, Ludlow remembered the trotting-matches
he had seen in his boyhood, and came out to Pymantoning with a
seriousness of expectation that alarmed and then amused his friends.

He was very glad that he had come, and that night, after the supper
which lasted well into the early autumn lamp-light, he went out and
walked the village streets under the September moon, seeing his picture
everywhere before him, and thinking his young, exultant thoughts. The
maples were set so thick along the main street that they stood like a
high, dark wall on either side, and he looked up at the sky as from the
bottom of a chasm. The village houses lurked behind their door-yard
trees, with breadths of autumnal bloom in the gardens beside them.
Within their shadowy porches, or beside their gates, was

    "The delight of happy laughter,
    The delight of low replies,"

hushing itself at his approach, and breaking out again at his retreat.
The air seemed full of love, and in the midst of his proud, gay hopes,
he felt smitten with sudden isolation, such as youth knows in the
presence of others' passion. He walked back to Burton's rather
pensively, and got up to his room and went to bed after as little stay
for talk with his hosts as he could make decent; he did not like to
break with his melancholy.

He was roused from his first sleep by the sound of singing, which
seemed to stop with his waking. There came a confused murmur of girls'
and young men's voices, and Ludlow could see from his open window the
dim shapes of the serenaders in the dark of the trees below. Then they
were still, and all at once the silence was filled with a rich
contralto note, carrying the song, till the whole choir of voices took
up the burden. Nothing prettier could have happened anywhere in the
world. Ludlow hung rapt upon the music till Burton flung up his window,
as if to thank the singers. They stopped at the sound, and with gay
shouts and shrieks, and a medley of wild laughter, skurried away into
the farther darkness, where Ludlow heard them begin their serenade
again under distant windows as little localized as any space of the
sky.



VI.


Ludlow went back to New York and took up his work with vigor and with
fervor. The picture of the County Fair, which he exhibited at the
American Artists', ran a gauntlet of criticism in which it was
belabored at once for its unimaginative vulgarity and its fantastic
unreality; then it returned to his studio and remained unsold, while
the days, weeks, months and years went by and left each their fine
trace on him. His purposes dropped away, mostly unfulfilled, as he grew
older and wiser, but his dreams remained and he was still rich in a
vast future. His impressionism was somewhat modified; he offered his
palette less frequently to the public; he now and then permitted a
black object to appear in his pictures; his purples and greens were
less aggressive. His moustache had grown so thick that it could no
longer be brushed up at the points with just the effect he desired, and
he suffered it to branch straight across his cheeks; his little dot of
an imperial had become lost in the beard which he wore so
conscientiously trimmed to a point that it might be described as
religiously pointed. He was now twenty-seven.

At sixteen Cornelia Saunders had her first love-affair. It was with a
young man who sold what he called art-goods by sample--satin banners,
gilt rolling-pins, brass disks and keramics; he had permitted himself
to speak to her on the train coming over from the Junction, where she
took the cars for Pymantoning one afternoon after a day's shopping with
her mother in Lakeland. It did not last very long, and in fact it
hardly survived the brief stay which the young man made in Pymantoning,
where his want of success in art-goods was probably owing to the fact
that he gave his whole time to Cornelia, or rather Cornelia's mother,
whom he found much more conversable; he played upon the banjo for her,
and he danced a little clog-dance in her parlor, which was also her
shop, to the accompaniment of his own whistling, first setting aside
the bonnet-trees with their scanty fruitage of summer hats, and pushing
the show-table against the wall. "Won't hurt 'em a mite," he reassured
her, and he struck her as a careful as well as accomplished young man.
His passion for Cornelia lingered a while in letters, which he proposed
in parting, and then, about six months later, Mrs. Saunders received
the newspaper announcement of his marriage to Miss Tweety Byers of
Lakeland. There were "No Cards," but Mrs. Saunders made out, with Mrs.
Burton's help, that Tweety was the infantile for the pet name of
Sweety; and the marriage seemed a fit union for one so warm and true as
the young traveller in art-goods.

Mrs. Saunders was a good deal surprised, but she did not suffer keenly
from the disappointment which she had innocently done her best to bring
upon her daughter. Cornelia, who had been the passive instrument of her
romance, did not suffer from it at all, having always objected to the
thickness of the young man's hands, and to the early baldness which
gave him the Shakespearian brow he had so little use for. She laughed
his memory to scorn, and employed the episode as best she could in
quelling her mother's simple trust of passing strangers. They worked
along together, in the easy, unambitious village fashion, and kept
themselves in the average comfort, while the time went by and Cornelia
had grown from a long, lean child to a tall and stately young girl, who
carried herself with so much native grace and pride that she had very
little attention from the village youth. She had not even a girl
friendship, and her chief social resource was in her intimacy at the
Burtons. She borrowed books of them, and read a good deal; and when she
was seventeen she rubbed up her old studies and got a teacher's
certificate for six months, and taught a summer term in a district at
Burnt Pastures. She came home in the fall, and when she called at the
Burtons' to get a book, as usual, Mrs. Burton said, "Nelie, you're not
feeling very well, are you? Somehow you looked fagged."

"Well, I do feel queer," said the girl. "I seem to be in a kind of
dream. It--scares me. I'm afraid I'm going to be sick."

"Oh, I guess not," Mrs. Burton answered comfortably. "You're just tired
out. How did you like your school?"

"I hated it," said the girl, with a trembling chin and wet eyes. "I
don't believe I'm fit for teaching. I won't try it any more; I'll stay
at home and help mother."

"You ought to keep up your drawing," said Mrs. Burton in general
admonition. "Do you draw any now?"

"Nothing much," said the girl.

"I should think you would, to please your mother. Don't you care
anything for it yourself?"

"Yes; but I haven't the courage I had when I thought I knew it all. I
don't think I should ever amount to anything. It would be a waste of
time."

"I don't think so," said Mrs. Burton. "I believe you could be a great
artist."

The girl laughed. "What ever became of that painter who visited you
year before last at fair time?"

"Mr. Ludlow? Oh, he's in New York. _He_ thought your sketches were
splendid, Nelie."

"He said the girls half-killed themselves there studying art."

"Did he?" demanded Mrs. Burton with a note of wrath in her voice.

"Mm. He told mother so that day."

"He had no business to say such a thing before you. Was that what
discouraged you?"

"Oh, I don't know. I got discouraged. Of course, I should like to
please mother. How much do you suppose it would cost a person to live
in New York? I don't mean take a room and board yourself; I shouldn't
like to do that; but everything included."

"I don't know, indeed, Nelie. Jim always kept the accounts when we were
there, and we stayed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel."

"Do you suppose it would be twice as much as it is here? Five dollars a
week?"

"Yes, I'm afraid it would," Mrs. Burton admitted.

"I've got sixty-five dollars from my school. I suppose it would keep me
three months in New York, if I was careful. But I'm not going to throw
it away on any such wild scheme as that. I know _that_ much."

They talked away from the question, and then talked back to it several
times, after they had both seemed to abandon it. At last Mrs. Burton
said, "Why don't you let me write to Mr. Ludlow, Nelie, and ask him all
about it?"

The girl jumped to her feet in a fright. "If you do, Mrs. Burton, I'll
kill myself! No, I didn't mean to say that. But I'll never speak to you
again. Now you won't really, will you?"

"No, I won't, Nelie, if you don't want me to; but I don't see why----
Why, bless the child!"

Mrs. Burton sprang forward and caught the girl, who was reeling as if
she were going to fall. "Katy! Katy! Bring some water here, quick!"

When they had laid Cornelia on a sofa and restored her from her faint,
Mrs. Burton would not let her try to rise. She sent out to Burton, who
was reading a novel in the mild forenoon air under the crimson maples,
and made him get the carryall and take Cornelia home in it. They
thought they would pretend that they were out for a drive, and were
merely dropping her at her mother's door; but no ruse was necessary.
Mrs. Saunders tranquilly faced the fact; she said she thought the child
hadn't been herself since she got back from her school, and she guessed
she had better have the doctor now.



VII.


It was toward the end of January before Cornelia was well enough to be
about in the old way, after her typhoid fever. Once she was so low that
the rumor of her death went out; but when this proved false it was
known for a good sign, and no woman, at least, was surprised when she
began to get well. She was delirious part of the time, and then she
raved constantly about Ludlow, and going to New York to study art. It
was a mere superficial effect from her talk with Mrs. Burton just
before she was taken down with the fever; but it was pathetic, all the
same, to hear her pleading with him, quarrelling, protesting that she
was strong enough, and that she was not afraid but that she should get
through all right if he would only tell her how to begin. "Now you just
tell me that, tell me that, tell me that! It's the _place_ that I can't
find. If I can get to the right door! But it won't open! It won't open!
Oh, dear! What _shall_ I do!"

Mrs. Burton, who heard this go on through the solemn hours of night,
thought that if Ludlow could only hear it he would be careful how he
ever discouraged any human being again. It was as much as her husband
could do to keep her from writing to him, and making the girl's fever a
matter of personal reproach to him; but she refrained, and when
Cornelia got up from it she was so changed that Mrs. Burton was glad
she had never tried to involve any one else in her anxieties about her.

Not only the fever had burned itself out, but Cornelia's temperament
seemed for awhile to have been consumed in the fire. She came out of it
more like her mother. She was gentler than she used to be, and
especially gentle and good to her mother; and she had not only grown to
resemble her in a greater tranquillity and easy-goingness, but to have
come into her ambitions and desires. The change surprised Mrs. Saunders
a good deal; up to this time it had always surprised her that Cornelia
should not have been at all like her. She sometimes reflected, however,
that if you came to that, Cornelia's father had never been at all like
her, either.

It was only a passing phase of the girl's evolution. With the return of
perfect health and her former strength, she got back her old energetic
self, but of another quality and in another form. Probably she would
have grown into the character she now took on in any case; but
following her convalescence as it did, it had a more dramatic effect.
She began to review her studies and her examination papers before the
doctor knew it, and when the county examiners met in June she was ready
for them, and got a certificate authorizing her to teach for a year.
With this she need not meet the poor occasions of any such forlorn
end-of-the-earth as Burnt Pastures. She had an offer of the school at
Hartley's Mills, and she taught three terms there, and brought home a
hundred and fifty dollars at the end. All through the last winter she
drew, more or less, and she could see better than any one else that she
had not fallen behind in her art, but after having let it drop for a
time, had taken it up with fresh power and greater skill. She had come
to see things better than she used, and she had learned to be faithful
to what she saw, which is the great matter in all the arts.

She had never formulated this fact, even if she knew it; and Mrs.
Burton was still further from guessing what it was that made Cornelia's
sketches so much more attractive than they were, when the girl let her
look at them, in one of her proud, shy confidences. She said, "I do
wish Mr. Ludlow could see these, Nelie."

"Do you think he would be very much excited?" asked the girl, with the
sarcastic humor which had risen up in her to be one of the reliefs of
her earlier intensity.

"He ought to be," said Mrs. Burton. "You know he _did_ admire your
drawings, Nelie; even those you had at the fair, that time."

"Did he?" returned the girl, carelessly. "What did he say?"

"Well, he said that if you were a boy there couldn't be any doubt about
you."

Cornelia laughed. "That was a pretty safe kind of praise. I'm not
likely ever to be a boy." She rose up from where they were sitting
together, and went to put her drawings away in her room. When she came
back, she said, "It would be fun to show him, some day, that even so
low down a creature as a girl could be something."

"I wish you would, Nie," said Mrs. Burton, "I just _wish_ you would.
Why don't you go to New York, this winter, and study! Why don't you
make her, Mrs. Saunders?"

"Who? Me?" said Mrs. Saunders, who sat by, in an indolent abeyance.
"Oh! I ain't allowed to open my mouth any more."

"Well," said Cornelia, "don't be so ungrammatical, then, when you do it
without being allowed, mother."

Mrs. Saunders laughed in lazy enjoyment. "One thing I know; if I had my
way she'd have been in New York studying long ago, instead of fooling
away her time out here, school-teaching."

"And where would you have been, mother?"

"Me?" said Mrs. Saunders again, incorrigibly. "Oh, I guess I should
have been somewhere!"

"Well, I'll tell you what," Mrs. Burton broke in, "Nie must go, and
that's all about it. I know from what Mr. Ludlow said that he believes
she could be an artist. She would have to work hard, but I don't call
teaching school _play_, exactly."

"Indeed it isn't!" said Mrs. Saunders. "I'd sooner set all day at the
machine myself, and dear knows that's trying enough!"

"I'm not afraid of the hard work," said Cornelia.

"What are you afraid of, then?" demanded her mother. "Afraid of
failing?"

"No; of succeeding," answered Cornelia, perversely.

"_I_ can't make the child out," said Mrs. Saunders, with apparent
pleasure in the mystery.

Cornelia went on, at least partially, to explain herself. "I mean,
succeeding in the way women seem to succeed. They make me sick!"

"Oh," said her mother, with sarcasm that could not sustain itself even
by a smile letting Mrs. Burton into the joke, "going to be a Rosa
Bonnhure?"

Cornelia scorned this poor attempt of her mother. "If I can't succeed
as men succeed, and be a great painter, and not just a great _woman_
painter, I'd rather be excused altogether. Even Rosa Bonheur: I don't
believe _her_ horses would have been considered so wonderful if a man
had done them. I guess that's what Mr. Ludlow meant, and I guess he was
right. I guess if a girl wants to turn out an artist she'd better start
by being a boy."

"I guess," said Mrs. Burton, with admiring eyes full of her beauty,
"that if Mr. Ludlow could see you now, he'd be very sorry to have you a
boy!"

Cornelia blushed the splendid red of a brunette. "There it is, Mrs.
Burton! That's what's always in everybody's mind about a girl when she
wants to do something. It's what a magnificent match she'll make by her
painting or singing or acting! And if the poor fool only knew, she
needn't draw or sing or act, to do that."

"A person would think you'd been through the wars, Cornelia," said her
mother.

"I don't care! It's a shame!"

"It _is_ a shame, Nelie," said Mrs. Burton, soothingly; and she added,
unguardedly, "and I _told_ Mr. Ludlow so, when he spoke about a girl's
being happily married, as if there was no other happiness for a girl."

"Oh! _He_ thinks that, does he?"

"No, of course, he doesn't. He has a very high ideal of women; but he
was just running on, in the usual way. He told afterwards how hard the
girl art-students work in New York, and go ahead of the young men, some
of them--where they have the strength. The only thing is that so few of
them have the strength. That's what he meant."

"What do you think, mother?" asked the girl with an abrupt turn toward
her. "Do you think I'd break down?"

"I guess if you didn't break down teaching school, that you hated, you
won't break down studying art, when you love it so."

"Well," Cornelia said, with the air of putting an end to the audience,
"I guess there's no great hurry about it."

She let her mother follow Mrs. Burton out, recognizing with a smile of
scornful intelligence the ladies' wish to have the last word about her
to themselves.



VIII.


"I don't know as I ever saw her let herself go so far before," said
Mrs. Saunders, leaning on the top of the closed gate, and speaking
across it to Mrs. Burton on the outside of the fence. "I guess she's
thinking about it, pretty seriously. She's got money enough, and more
than enough."

"Well," said Mrs. Burton, "I'm going to write to Mr. Ludlow about it,
as soon as I get home, and I know I can get him to say something
that'll decide her."

"So do!" cried Mrs. Saunders, delighted.

She lingered awhile talking of other things, so as to enable herself to
meet Cornelia with due unconsciousness when she returned to her.

"Have you been talking me over all this time, mother?" the girl asked.

"We didn't hardly say a word about you," said her mother, and now she
saw what a good thing it was that she had staid and talked
impersonalities with Mrs. Burton.

"Well, one thing I know," said the girl, "if she gets that Mr. Ludlow
to encourage me, I'll never go near New York in the world."

Mrs. Saunders escaped into the next room, and answered back from that
safe distance, "I guess you'd better get _her_ to tell you what she's
going to do."

When she returned, the girl stood looking dreamily out of the little
crooked panes of the low window. She asked, with her back to her
mother, "What would _you_ do, if I went?"

"Oh, I should get along," said Mrs. Saunders with the lazy piety which
had never yet found Providence to fail it. "I should get Miss Snively
to go in with me, here. She ain't making out very well, alone, and she
could be company to me in more ways than one."

"Yes," said the girl, in a deep sigh. "I thought of her." She faced
about.

"Why, land, child!" cried her mother, "what's the matter?"

Cornelia's eyes were streaming with tears, and the passion in her heart
was twisting her face with its anguish. She flung her arms round her
mother's neck, and sobbed on her breast. "Oh, I'm going, I'm going, and
you don't seem to care whether I go or stay, and it'll _kill_ me to
leave you."

Mrs. Saunders smiled across the tempest of grief in her embrace, at her
own tranquil image in the glass, and took it into the joke. "Well, you
ain't going to leave this minute," she said, smoothing the girl's black
hair. "And I don't really care if you never go, Nie. You mustn't go on
my account."

"Don't you want me to?"

"Not unless you do."

"And you don't care whether I'm ever an artist or not?"

"What good is your being an artist going to do _me_?" asked her mother,
still with a joking eye on herself in the mirror.

"And I'm perfectly free to go or to stay, as far as your wish is
concerned?"

"Well!" said Mrs. Saunders, with insincere scorn of the question.

The girl gave her a fierce hug; she straightened herself up, and dashed
the water from her eyes. "Well, then," she said, "I'll see. But promise
me one thing, mother."

"What is it?"

"That you won't ask me a single thing about it, from this out, if I
_never_ decide!"

"Well, I won't, Nie. I promise you that. _I_ don't want to drive you to
anything. And I guess you know ten times as well what you want to do,
as I do, anyway. I ain't going to worry you."

Three weeks later, just before fair time, Cornelia went to see Mrs.
Burton. It was warm, and Mrs. Burton brought out a fan for her on the
piazza.

"Oh, I'm not hot," said Cornelia. "Mrs. Burton, I've made up my mind to
go to New York this winter, and study art."

"I _knew_ you would, Nie!" Mrs. Burton exulted.

"Yes. I've thought it all out. I've got the money, now. I keep wanting
to paint, and I don't know whether I can or not, and the only way is to
go and find out. It'll be easy enough to come home. I'll keep money
enough to pay my way back."

"Yes," said Mrs. Burton, "it's the only way. But I guess you'll find
out you can paint fast enough. It's a pretty good sign you can, if you
want to."

"Oh, I don't know. Some girls want to write poetry awfully, and can't.
Mrs. Burton," she broke off, with a nervous laugh, "I don't suppose you
expect that Mr. Ludlow out to the fair this year?"

"No, Nelie, I don't," said Mrs. Burton, with tender reluctance.

"Because," said the girl with another laugh, "he might save me a trip
to New York, if he could see my drawings." Something, she did not know
what, in Mrs. Burton's manner, made her ask: "Have you heard from him
lately? Perhaps _he's_ given it up, too!"

"Oh, no!" sighed Mrs. Burton, with a break from her cheerfulness with
Cornelia, which set its voluntary character in evidence to the girl's
keen, young perception. "But he seemed to be rather discouraged about
the prospects of artists when he wrote." She was afraid Cornelia might
ask her when he had written. "He seemed to think the ranks were very
full. He's a very changeable person. He's always talked, before now,
about there being plenty of room at the top."

"Well, that's where I expect to be," said the girl, smiling but
trembling. She turned the talk, and soon rose to go, ignoring to the
last Mrs. Burton's forced efforts to recur to her plan of studying art
in New York. Now she said: "Mrs. Burton, there's one thing I'd like to
ask you," and she lifted her eyes upon her with a suddenness that
almost made Mrs. Burton jump.

"What is it, Nelie?"

"You've always been so good to me--and--and taken such an interest,
that I'm afraid--I thought you might try--I want you to promise me you
won't write to Mr. Ludlow about me, or ask him to do the least thing,
for me!"

"I won't, I won't indeed, Nelie!" Mrs. Burton promised with grateful
perfervor.

"Because," said the girl, taking her skirt in her left hand,
preparatory to lifting it for her descent of the piazza steps, "now
that I've made up my mind, I don't want to be discouraged, and I don't
want to be helped. If I can't do for myself, I won't be done _for_."

After she got down through the maples, and well out of the gate, Burton
came and stood in the hall door-way, with his pipe in his mouth. "Saved
your distance, Polly, as usual; saved your distance."

"What would _you_ have done?" retorted his wife.

"I should have told her that I'd just got a letter from Ludlow this
morning, and that he begged and entreated me by everything I held dear,
to keep the poor girl from coming to New York, and throwing away her
time and health and money."

"You wouldn't!" cried Mrs. Burton. "You wouldn't have done anything of
the kind. It would have made her perfectly hate him."

Burton found his pipe out. He lighted a match and hollowed his hands
over it above the pipe, to keep it from the draught. "Well," he said,
avoiding the point in controversy, "why _shouldn't_ she perfectly hate
him?"



IX.


September was theoretically always a very busy month with Mrs.
Saunders. She believed that she devoted it to activities which she
called her fall work, and that she pressed forward in the fulfilments
of these duties with a vigor inspired by the cool, clear weather. But
in reality there was not much less folding of the hands with her in
September than there was in July. She was apt, on the coolest and
clearest September day, to drop into a chair with a deep drawn "_Oh_,
hum!" after the fatigue of bringing in an apronful of apples, or
driving the hens away from her chrysanthemums, and she spent a good
deal of time wondering how, with all she had to do, she was ever going
to get those flowers in before the frost caught them. At one of these
times, sitting up slim, graceful and picturesque, in the
feather-cushioned rocker-lounge, and fanning her comely face with her
shade-hat, it occurred to her to say to Cornelia, sewing hard beside
the window, "I guess you won't see them in blossom _this_ Christmas,
Nie."

"Not unless you cut them at the roots and send them to me by mail to
look at," said the girl.

Her mother laughed easily. "Well, I must really take hold and help you,
or you'll _never_ get away. I've put off everybody else's work, till
it's perfectly scandalous, and I'm afraid they'll bring the roof about
my ears, and yet I seem to be letting you do all your sewing. Well, one
thing, I presume I hate to have you go so!"

"Mother!" cried the girl, drawing out her needle to the full length of
her thread before she let her hand drop nervelessly at her side, and
she fell back to look fixedly at Mrs. Saunders. "If _that's_ the way
you feel!"

"I don't! I want you to go just as much as ever I did. But looking at
you there, just against the window, that way, I got to thinking you
wouldn't be there a great while; and----" Mrs. Saunders caught her
breath, and was mute a moment before she gave way and began to whimper.
From the force of habit she tried to whimper with one side of her
mouth, as she smiled, to keep her missing teeth from showing; and at
the sight of this characteristic effort, so familiar and so full of
long association, Cornelia's heart melted within her, and she ran to
her mother, and pulled her head down on her breast and covered the
unwhimpering cheek with kisses.

"Don't you suppose I think of that, too, mother? And when you go round
the room, or out in the yard, I just keep following you as if I was
magnetized, and I can see you with my eyes shut as well as I can with
them open; and I _know_ how I shall feel when that's all I've got of
you! But I'll soon be back! Why I'll be here in June again! And it's no
use, _now_. I've _got_ to go."

"Oh, yes," said her mother, pushing herself free, and entering upon so
prolonged a search for her handkerchief that her tears had almost time
to dry without it before she found it. "But that don't make it any
easier, child."

They had agreed from the time Cornelia made up her mind to go, and they
had vowed the Burtons to secrecy, that they were not to tell any one
till just before she started; but it was not in Mrs. Saunders's nature
or the nature of things, that she should keep her part of the
agreement. She was so proud of Cornelia's going to study art in New
York, and going on her own money, that she would have told all her
customers that she was going, even if it had not proved such a good
excuse for postponing and delaying the work they brought her.

It was all over town before the first week was out, and the fact had
been canvassed in and out of the presence of the principals, with much
the same frankness. What Cornelia had in excess of a putting-down pride
her mother correspondingly lacked; what the girl forbade, Mrs. Saunders
invited by her manner, and there were not many people, or at least many
ladies, in Pymantoning, who could not put their hands on their hearts
and truly declare that they had spoken their minds as freely to Mrs.
Saunders as they had to anybody.

As the time drew near Mrs. Burton begged to be allowed to ask Mr.
Ludlow about a boarding-place for Cornelia; and to this Cornelia
consented on condition that he should be strictly prohibited from
taking any more trouble than simply writing the address on a piece of
paper. When Mrs. Burton brought it she confessed that Mr. Ludlow seemed
to have so far exceeded his instructions as to have inquired the price
of board in a single room.

"I'm afraid, Nelie, it's more than you expected. But everything _is_
very dear in New York, and Mr. Ludlow thought it was cheap. There's no
fire in the room, even at that, but if you leave the door open when
you're out, it heats nicely from the hall. It's over the door, four
flights up; it's what they call a side room."

"How much is it, Mrs. Burton?" Cornelia asked, steadily; but she held
her breath till the answer came.

"It's seven dollars a week."

"Well, the land!" said Mrs. Saunders, for all comment on the
extortionate figure.

For a moment Cornelia did not say anything. Then she quietly remarked,
"I can be home all the sooner," and she took the paper which Ludlow had
written the address on; she noticed that it smelt of tobacco smoke.

"He said you could easily find your way from the Grand Central Depot by
the street cars; it's almost straight. He's written down on the back
which cars you take. You give your check to the baggage expressman that
comes aboard the train before you get in, and then you don't have the
least trouble. He says there are several girl art-students in the same
house, and you'll soon feel at home. He says if you feel the least
timid about getting in alone, he'll come with a lady friend of his, to
meet you, and she'll take you to your boarding-house."

Mrs. Burton escaped with rather more than her life from the
transmission of this offer. Cornelia even said, "I'm very much obliged
to him, I'm sure. But I shouldn't wish to trouble him, thank you. I
won't feel the least timid."

But her mother followed Mrs. Burton out to the gate, as usual. "I
guess," Mrs. Saunders explained, "she hated to have him make so much
to-do about it. What makes him want to bring a lady friend to meet her?
Somebody he's engaged to?"

"Well, that's what I wondered, at first," said Mrs. Burton. "But then
when I came to think how very different the customs are in New York, I
came to the conclusion that he did it on Cornelia's account. If he was
to take her to the boarding-house himself, they might think he was
engaged to _her_."

"Well!" said Mrs. Saunders.

"You may be sure it's because he's good and thoughtful about it, and
wants her not to have any embarrassment."

"Oh, I guess he's all right," said Mrs. Saunders. "But who'd ever have
thought of having to take such precautions? I shouldn't think life was
worth having on such terms, if _I_ was a girl."

She told Cornelia about this strange social ceremony of chaperonage,
which now for the first time practically concerned them.



X.


The night began to fall an hour before Cornelia's train reached New
York, and it drew into the station, through the whirl and dance of
parti-colored lights everywhere.

The black porter of the sleeping-ear caught up her bag and carried it
out for her, as if he were going to carry it indefinitely; and outside
she stood letting him hold it, while she looked about her, scared and
bewildered, and the passengers hurrying by, pushed and bumped against
her. When she collected her wits sufficiently to take it from him, she
pressed on with the rest up toward the front of the station where the
crowd frayed out in different directions. At the open doorway giving on
the street she stopped, and stood holding her bag, and gazed fearfully
out on a line of wild men on the curbstone; they all seemed to be
stretching their hands out to her, and they rattled and clamored: "Keb?
A keb, a keb, a keb? Want a keb? Keb here! Keb? A keb, a keb, a keb!"
They were kept back by a policeman who prevented them from falling upon
the passengers, and restored them to order when they yielded by the
half-dozen to the fancy that some one had ordered a cab, and started
off in the direction of their vehicles, and then rushed back so as not
to lose other chances. The sight of Cornelia standing bag in hand
there, seemed to drive them to a frenzy of hope; several newsboys,
eager to share their prosperity, rushed up and offered her the evening
papers.

Cornelia strained forward from the doorway and tried to make out, in
the kaleidoscopic pattern of lights, which was the Fourth Avenue car;
the street was full of cars and carts and carriages, all going every
which way, with a din of bells, and wheels and hoofs that was as if
crushed to one clangerous mass by the superior uproar of the railroad
trains coming and going on a sort of street-roof overhead. A sickening
odor came from the mud of the gutters and the horses and people, and as
if a wave of repulsion had struck against every sense in her, the girl
turned and fled from the sight and sound and smell of it all into the
ladies' waiting-room at her right.

She knew about that room from Mrs. Burton, who had said she could go in
there, and fix her hair if it had got tumbled, when she came off the
train. But it had been so easy to keep everything just right in the
nice dressing-room on the sleeper that she had expected to step out of
the station and take a Fourth Avenue car without going into the
ladies-room. She found herself the only person in it, except a
comfortable, friendly-looking, middle-aged woman, who seemed to be in
charge of the place, and was going about with a dust-cloth in her hand.
She had such a home-like air, and it was so peaceful there, after all
that uproar outside, that Cornelia could hardly keep back the tears,
though she knew it was silly, and kept saying so to herself under her
breath.

She put her hand-bag down, and went and stood at one of the windows,
trying to make up her mind to venture out; and then she began to move
back and forth from one window to the other. It must have been this
effect of restlessness and anxiety that made the janitress speak to her
at last: "Expecting friends to meet you?"

Cornelia turned round and took a good look at the janitress. She
decided from her official as well as her personal appearance that she
might be trusted, as least provisionally. It had been going through her
mind there at the windows what a fool she was to refuse to let Mr.
Ludlow come to meet her with that friend of his, and she had been
helplessly feigning that she had not refused, and that he was really
coming, but was a little late. She was in the act of accepting his
apology for the delay when the janitress spoke to her, and she said: "I
don't know whether I'd better wait any longer. I was looking for a
Fourth Avenue car."

"Well, you couldn't hardly miss one," said the janitress. "They're
going all the time. Stranger in the city?"

"Yes, I am," Cornelia admitted; she thought she had better admit it.

"Well," said the janitress, "if I was you I'd wait for my friends a
while longer. It's after dark, now, and if they come here and find you
gone, they'll be uneasy, won't they?"

"Well," said Cornelia, and she sank submissively into a seat.

The janitress sat down too. "Not but what it's safe enough, and you
needn't be troubled, if they don't come. You can go half an hour later
just as well. My! I've had people sit here all day and wait. The things
I've seen here, well, if they were put into a story you couldn't hardly
believe them. I had a poor woman come in here one morning last week
with a baby in her arms, and three little children hanging round her,
to wait for her husband; and she waited till midnight, and he didn't
come. I could have told her first as well as last that he wasn't ever
coming; I knew it from the kind of a letter he wrote her, and that she
fished up out of her pocket to show me, so as to find whether she had
come to the right place to wait, or not, but I couldn't bear to do it;
and I did for her and the children as well as I could, and when it came
to it, about twelve, I coaxed her to go home, and come again in the
morning. She didn't come back again; I guess she began to suspect
something herself."

"Why, don't you suppose he ever meant to come?" Cornelia asked,
tremulously.

"_I_ don't know," said the janitress. "I didn't tell _her_ so. I've had
all kinds of homeless folks come in here, that had lost their
pocket-books, or never had any, and little tots of children, with
papers pinned on to tell me who they were expecting, and I've had 'em
here on my hands till I had to shut up at night."

"And what did you do then?" Cornelia began to be anxious about her own
fate, in case she should not get away before the janitress had to shut
up.

"Well, some I had to put into the street, them that were used to it;
and then there are homes of all kinds for most of 'em; old ladies'
homes, and young girls' homes, and destitute females' homes, and
children's homes, where they can go for the night, and all I've got to
do is to give an order. It isn't as bad as you'd think, when you first
come to the city; I came here from Connecticut."

Cornelia thought she might respond so far as to say, "I'm from Ohio,"
and the janitress seemed to appreciate the confidence.

She said, "Not on your way to the White House, I suppose? There _are_
so many Presidents from your State. Well, I knew you were not from near
New York, anywhere. I _do_ have so many different sorts of folks coming
in here, and I have to get acquainted with so many of 'em whether or
no. Lots of foreigners, for one thing, and men blundering in, as well
as women. They think it's a ticket-office, and want to buy tickets of
me, and I have to direct 'em where. It's surprising how bright they
are, oftentimes. The Irish are the hardest to get pointed right; the
Italians are quick; and the Chinese! My, they're the brightest of all.
If a Chinaman comes in for a ticket up the Harlem road, all I've got to
do is to set my hand so, and _so_!" She faced south and set her hand
westward; then she faced west, and set her hand northward. "They
understand in a minute, and they're off like a flash."

As if she had done now all that sympathy demanded for Cornelia, the
janitress went about some work in another part of the room and left the
girl to herself. But Cornelia knew that she was keeping a friendly eye
on her, and in the shelter of her presence, she tried to gather courage
to make that start into the street alone, which she must finally make
and which she was so foolish to keep postponing. She had written to the
landlady of her boarding house that she should arrive on such a day, at
such an hour; and here was the day, and she was letting the hour go by,
and very likely the landlady would give her room to some one else. Or,
if the expressman who took her check on the train, should get there
with her trunk first, the landlady might refuse to take it. Cornelia
did not know how people acted about such things in New York. She ought
to go, and she tried to rise; but she was morally so unable that it was
as if she were physically unable.

People came and went; some of them more than once, and Cornelia began
to feel that they noticed her and recognized her, but still she could
not move. Suddenly a figure appeared at the door, the sight of which
armed her with the power of flight. She knew that it was Ludlow, from
the photograph he had lately sent Mrs. Burton, with the pointed beard
and the branching moustache which he had grown since they met last, and
she jumped up to rush past him where he stood peering sharply round at
the different faces in the room, and finally letting his eyes rest in
eager question on hers.

He came towards her, and then it was too late to escape. "Miss
Saunders? _Oh_, I'm so glad! I've been out of town, and I've only just
got Mrs. Burton's telegram. Have I kept you waiting long?"

"Not very," said Cornelia. She might have said that he had not kept her
waiting at all; the time that she had waited, without being kept by
him, was now like no time at all; but she could not say anything more,
and she wished to cry, she felt so glad and safe in his keeping. He
caught up her bag, and she followed him out, with a blush over her
shoulder for the janitress, who smiled after her with mistaken
knowingness. But this was at least her self-delusion, and Cornelia had
an instant in the confusion when it seemed as if Ludlow's coming had
somehow annulled the tacit deceit she had practised in letting the
janitress suppose she expected some one.

Ludlow kept talking to her all the way in the horse-car, but she could
find only the briefest and dryest answers to his friendly questions
about her mother and the Burtons; and all Pymantoning; and she could
not blame him for taking such a hasty leave of her at her
boarding-house that he almost flew down the steps before the door
closed upon her.

She knew that she had disgusted him; and she hinted at this in the
letter of scolding gratitude which she wrote to Mrs. Burton before she
slept, for the trick she had played her. After all, though, she
reasoned, she need not be so much troubled: he had done it for Mrs.
Burton, and not for her, and he had not thought it worth while to bring
a chaperon. To be sure, he had no time for that; but there was
something in it all which put Cornelia back to the mere child she was
when they first met in the Fair House at Pymantoning; she kept seeing
herself angry and ill-mannered and cross to her mother, and it was as
if he saw her so, too. She resented that, for she knew that she was
another person now, and she tingled with vexation that she had done
nothing to make him realize it.



XI.


Ludlow caught a cab in the street, and drove furiously to his lodging,
where he dressed in ten minutes, so that he was not more than fifteen
minutes late at the dinner he had risked missing for Cornelia's sake.

"I'm afraid I'm very late," he said, from his place at the left of his
hostess; he pulled his napkin across his lap, and began to attack his
oysters at once.

"Oh, not at all," said the lady, but he knew that she would have said
much the same if he had come as they were rising from table.

A clear, gay voice rose from the corner of the board diagonally
opposite: "The candles haven't begun to burn their shades yet; so you
are still early, Mr. Ludlow."

The others laughed with the joy people feel in having a familiar fact
noted for the first time. They had all seen candle-shades weakly topple
down on the flames and take fire at dinner.

The gay voice went on, rendered, perhaps, a little over-bold by
success: "If you see the men rising to put them out, you may be sure
that they've been seated exactly an hour."

Ludlow looked across the bed of roses which filled two-thirds of the
table, across the glitter of glass, and the waver of light and shadow,
and said, "Oh, _you're_ there!"

The wit that had inspired the voice before gave out; the owner tried to
make a pout do duty for it. "Of course I'm there," she said; then
pending another inspiration she was silent. Everybody waited for her to
rise again to the level of her reputation for clever things, and the
general expectation expressed itself in a subdued creaking of stiff
linen above the board, and the low murmur of silken skirts under the
table.

Finally one of the men said, "Well, it's bad enough to come late, but
it's a good deal worse to come too early. I'd rather come late, any
time."

"Mr. Wetmore wants you to ask him why, Mrs. Westley," said Ludlow.

Mrs. Westley entreated, "Oh, why, Mr. Wetmore?" and every one laughed.

"All right, Ludlow," said the gentleman in friendly menace. Then he
answered Mrs. Westley: "Well, one thing, your hostess respects you
more. If you come too early you bring reproach and you meet contempt;
reproach that she shouldn't have been ready to receive you, and
contempt that you should have supposed her capable of dining at the
hour fixed."

It was a Mrs. Rangeley who had launched the first shaft at Ludlow; she
now fitted another little arrow to her string, under cover of the laugh
that followed Mr. Wetmore's reasons. "I shouldn't object to any one's
coming late, unless I were giving the dinner; but what I can't bear is
wondering what it was kept them."

Again she had given a touch that reminded the company of their common
humanity and their unity of emotion, and the laugh that responded was
without any of that reservation or uncertainty which a subtle observer
may often detect in the enjoyment of brilliant things said at dinner.
But the great charm of the Westley dinners was that people generally
did understand each other there. If you made a joke, as Wetmore said,
you were not often required to spell it. He celebrated the Westleys as
ideal hosts: Mrs. Westley had the youth and beauty befitting a second
wife; her social ambition had as yet not developed into the passion for
millionaires; she was simply content with painters, like himself and
Ludlow, literary men, lawyers, doctors and their several wives.

General Westley was in what Wetmore called the bloom of age. He might
be depended upon for the unexpected, like fate. He occasionally did it,
he occasionally said it, from the passive hospitality that
characterized him.

"I believe I share that impatience of yours, Mrs. Rangeley," he now
remarked; "though in the present case I think we ought to leave
everything to Mr. Ludlow's conscience."

"Oh, do you think that would be quite safe?" she asked with burlesque
seriousness. "Well! If we _must_!"

Ludlow said, "Why, I think Mrs. Rangeley is right. I would much rather
yield to compulsion. I don't mind telling what kept me, if I'm obliged
to."

"Oh, I almost hate to have you, now!" Mrs. Rangeley bubbled back. "Your
willingness, somehow, makes it awful. You may be going to boast of it!"

"No, no!" Wetmore interposed. "I don't believe it's anything to boast
of."

"Now, you see, you _must_ speak," said Mrs. Westley.

Ludlow fell back in his chair, and dreamily crumbled his bread. "I
don't see how I can, exactly."

Wetmore leaned forward and looked at Ludlow round the snowy shoulder of
a tall lady next him.

"Is there any particular form of words in which you like to be
prompted, when you get to this point?"

"Dr. Brayton might hypnotize him," suggested the lady whose shoulder
Wetmore was looking round.

The doctor answered across the table, "In these cases of the inverted
or prostrated will, there is often not volition enough to coöperate
with the hypnotizer. I don't believe I could do anything with Mr.
Ludlow."

"How much," sighed Mrs. Rangeley, "I should like to be the centre of
universal interest like that!"

"It's a good pose," said Wetmore; "but really I think Ludlow is working
it too hard. I don't approve of mob violence, as the papers say when
they're going to; but if he keeps this up much longer I won't be
answerable for the consequences. I feel that we are getting beyond the
control of our leaders."

Ludlow was tempted to exploit the little incident with Cornelia, for he
felt sure that it would win the dinner-table success which we all like
to achieve. Her coming to study art in New York, and her arriving in
that way, was a pretty romance; prettier than it would have been if she
were plainer, and he knew that he could give the whole situation so
that she should appear charming, and should appeal to everybody's
sympathy. If he could show her stiff and blunt, as she was, so much the
better. He would go back to their first meeting, and bring in a sketch
of Pymantoning County Fair, and of the village itself and its social
conditions, with studies of Burton and his wife. Every point would
tell, for though his commensals were now all well-to-do New Yorkers, he
knew that the time had been with them when they lived closer to the
ground, in simple country towns, as most prosperous and eminent
Americans have done.

"Well," said Wetmore, "how long are you going to make us wait?"

"Oh, you mustn't wait for _me_," said Ludlow. "Once is enough to-night.
I'm not going to say what kept me."

This also was a success in its way. It drew cries of protest and
reproach from the ladies, and laughter from the men. Wetmore made
himself heard above the rest. "Mrs. Westley, I know this man, and I
can't let you be made the victim of one of his shameless fakes. There
was really nothing kept him. He either forgot the time, or, what is
more probable, he deliberately put off coming so as to give himself a
little momentary importance by arriving late. I don't wish to be hard
upon him, but that is the truth."

"No, no," said the hostess in the applause which recognized Wetmore's
mischievous intent. "I'll not believe anything of the kind." From her
this had the effect of repartee, and when she asked with the
single-heartedness which Wetmore had praised among her friends as her
strongest point, and advised her keeping up as long as she possibly
could, "It isn't so, is it, Mr. Ludlow?" the finest wit could not have
done more for her. The general beamed upon her over the length of the
table. Mrs. Rangeley said at his elbow, "She's always more charming
than any one else, simply because she _is_," and he made no effort to
turn the compliment upon her as she thought he might very well have
done.

Under cover of what the others now began saying about different
matters, Ludlow murmured to Mrs. Westley, "I don't mind telling _you_.
You know that young girl you said you would go with me to meet when I
should ask you?"

"The little school-mistress?"

"Yes." Ludlow smiled. "She isn't so very little, any more. It was she
who kept me. I found a dispatch at my place when I got home to-day,
telling me she was coming, and would arrive at six, and there was no
time to trouble you; it was half-past when I got it."

"She's actually come then?" asked Mrs. Westlay. "Nothing you could say
would stop her?"

"No," said Ludlow with a shrug. He added, after a moment, "But I don't
know that I blame her. Nothing would have stopped _me_."

"And is there anything else I can do? Has she a pleasant place to
stay?"

"Good enough, I fancy. It's a boarding-house where several people I
know have been. She must be left to her own devices, now. That's the
best thing for her. It's the only thing."



XII.


In spite of his theory as to what was best for her, in some ways Ludlow
rather expected that Cornelia would apply to him for advice as to how
and where she should begin work. He forgot how fully he had already
given it; but she had not. She remembered what she had overheard him
say to her mother, that day in the Fair House, about the superiority of
the Synthesis of Studies, and she had since confirmed her faith in his
judgment by much silent inquiry of the newspapers. They had the Sunday
edition of the _Lakeland Light_ at Pymantoning, and Cornelia had kept
herself informed of the "Gossip of the Ateliers," and concerning "Women
and Artists," "Artists' Summer Homes," "Phases of Studio Life," "The
Ladies who are Organizing Ceramic Clubs," "Women Art Students,"
"Glimpses of the Dens of New York Women Artists," and other æsthetic
interests which the Sunday edition of the _Light_ purveyed with the
newspaper syndicate's generous and indiscriminate abundance. She did
not believe it all; much of it seemed to her very silly; but she
nourished her ambition upon it all the same.

The lady writers who celebrated the lady artists, and who mostly
preferred to swim in seas of personal float, did now and then offer
their readers a basis of solid fact; and they all agreed that the
Synthesis of Art Studies was the place for a girl if she was in earnest
and wished to work.

As these ladies described them the conditions were of the exacting sort
which Cornelia's nature craved, and she had her sex-pride in the
Synthesis, too, because she had read that women had borne an important
part in founding it; the strictest technical training and the freest
spirit of artistic endeavor prevailed in a school that owed its
existence so largely to them. That was a great point, even if every one
of the instructors was a man. She supposed that Mr. Ludlow would have
sheltered himself behind this fact if she had used the other to justify
herself in going on with art after he had urged that as a woman, she
had better not do so. But the last thing Cornelia intended was to
justify herself to Mr. Ludlow, and she vehemently wished he would not
try to do anything more for her, now. After sleeping upon the facts of
their meeting she felt sure that he would not try. She approved of
herself for not having asked him to call in parting. She was almost
glad that he hardly had given her a chance to do so.

It was Saturday night when Cornelia arrived, and she spent Sunday
writing home a full account of her adventures to her mother, whom she
asked to give Mrs. Barton the note she enclosed, and in looking over
her drawings, and trying to decide which she should take to the
Synthesis with her. She had a good deal of tacit argument about them
with Mr. Ludlow, who persisted in her thoughts after several definitive
dismissals; and Monday morning she presented herself with some drawings
she had chosen as less ridiculous than some of the others, and hovered
with a haughty humility at the door of the little office till the
janitor asked her if she would not come in and sit down. He had
apparently had official experience of cases like hers; he refused
without surprise the drawings which she offered him as her credentials,
and said the secretary would be in directly. He did not go so far as to
declare his own quality, but he hospitably did what he could to make
her feel at home.

Numbers of young people began to appear, singly and in twos and threes,
and then go out again, and go on up the stairs which led crookedly to
and from the corner the office was cramped into. Some of them went up
stairs after merely glancing into the office, others found letters
there, and staid chatting awhile. They looked at Cornelia with merely
an identifying eye, at first, as if they perceived that she was a new
girl, but as if new girls were such an old story that they could not
linger long over one girl of the kind. Certain of the young ladies
after they went up stairs came down in long, dismal calico aprons that
covered them to the throat, and with an air of being so much absorbed
in their work that they did not know what they had on. They looked at
Cornelia again, those who had seen her before, and those who had not,
made up for it by looking at her twice, and Cornelia began to wonder if
there was anything peculiar about her, as she sat upright, stiffening
with resentment and faintly flushing under their scrutiny. She wore her
best dress, which was a street dress, as the best dress of a village
girl usually is; her mother had fitted it, and they had made it
themselves, and agreed that it was very becoming; Mrs. Burton had said
so, too. The fashion of her hat she was not so sure about, but it was a
pretty hat, and unless she had got it on skewy, and she did not believe
she had, there was nothing about it to make people stare so. There was
one of these girls, whom Cornelia felt to be as tall as herself, and of
much her figure; she was as dark as Cornelia, but of a different
darkness. Instead of the red that always lurked under the dusk in
Cornelia's cheeks, and that now burned richly through it, her face was
of one olive pallor, except her crimson lips; her long eyes were black,
with level brows, and with a heavy fringe of lucent black hair cut
straight above them; her nose was straight, at first glance, but showed
a slight arch in profile; her mouth was a little too full, and her chin
slightly retreated. She came in late, and stopped at the door of the
office, and bent upon Cornelia a look at once prehistoric and _fin de
siècle_, which lighted up with astonishment, interest and sympathy,
successively; then she went trailing herself on up stairs with her
strange Sphinx-face over her shoulder, and turned upon Cornelia as long
as she could see her.

At last a gentleman came in and sat down behind the table in the
corner, and Cornelia found a hoarse voice to ask him if he was the
secretary. He answered in the friendly way that she afterwards found
went all through the Synthesis, that he was, and she said, with her
country bluntness, that she wished to study at the Synthesis, and she
had brought some of her drawings with her, if he wanted to look at
them. He took them, but either he did not want to look at them, or else
it was not his affair to do so. He said she would have to fill out a
form, and he gave her a blank which asked her in print a number of
questions she had not thought of asking herself till then. It obliged
her to confess that she had never studied under any one before, and to
say which master in the Synthesis she would like to study under, now.
She had to choose between life, and still-life, and the antique, and
she chose the antique. She was not governed by any knowledge or desire
in her choice more definite than such as come from her having read
somewhere that the instructor in the antique was the severest of all
the Synthesis instructors, and the most dreaded in his criticisms by
the students. She did not forget, even in the presence of the
secretary, and with that bewildering blank before her, that she wished
to be treated with severity, and that the criticism she needed was the
criticism that every one dreaded.

When the secretary fastened her application to her drawings, she asked
if she should wait to learn whether it was accepted or not; but he said
that he would send her application to the Members' Room, and the
instructor would see it there in the morning. She would have liked to
ask him if she should come back there to find out, but she was afraid
to do it; he might say no, and then she should not know what to do. She
determined to come without his leave, and the next morning she found
that the master whom they had been submitted to had so far approved her
drawings as to have scrawled upon her application, "Recommended to the
Preparatory." The secretary said the instructor in the Preparatory
would tell her which grade to enter there.

Cornelia's heart danced, but she governed herself outwardly, and asked
through her set teeth, "Can I begin at once?" She had lost one day
already, and she was not going to lose another if she could help it.

The secretary smiled. "If the instructor in the Preparatory will place
you."

Before noon she had passed the criticism needed for this, and was in
the lowest grade of the Preparatory. But she was a student at the
Synthesis, and she was there to work in the way that those who knew
best bade her. She wished to endure hardness, and the more hardness the
better.



XIII.


Cornelia found herself in the last of a long line of sections or stalls
which flanked a narrow corridor dividing the girl students from the
young men, who were often indeed hardly more than boys. There was a
table stretching from this corridor to a window looking down on the
roofs of some carpenter shops and stables; on the board before her lay
the elementary shape of a hand in plaster, which she was trying to
draw. At her side that odd-looking girl, who had stared so at her on
the stairs the day before, was working at a block foot, and not getting
it very well. She had in fact given it up for the present and was
watching Cornelia's work and watching her face, and talking to her.

"What is your name?" she broke off to ask, in the midst of a monologue
upon the social customs and characteristics of the Synthesis.

Cornelia always frowned, and drew her breath in long sibilations, when
she was trying hard to get a thing right. She now turned a knotted
forehead on her companion, but stopped her hissing to ask, "What?" Then
she came to herself and said, "Oh! Saunders."

"I don't mean your last name," said the other, "I mean your first
name."

"Cornelia," said the owner of it, as briefly as before.

"I should have thought it would have been Gladys," the other suggested.

Cornelia looked up in astonishment and some resentment. "Why in the
world should my name be Gladys?" she demanded.

"I don't know," the other explained. "But the first moment I saw you in
the office, I said to myself, 'Of course her name is Gladys.' Mine is
Charmian."

"Is it?" said Cornelia, not so much with preoccupation, perhaps, as
with indifference. She thought it rather a nice name, but she did not
know what she had to do with it.

"Yes," the other said, as if she had somehow expected to be doubted.
"My last name's Maybough." Cornelia kept on at her work without remark,
and Miss Maybough pursued, as if it were a branch of autobiography,
"I'm going to have lunch; aren't you?"

Cornelia sighed dreamily, as she drew back for an effect of her
drawing, which she held up on the table before her, "Is it time?"

"Do you suppose they would be letting me talk so to you if it weren't?
The monitor would have been down on me long ago."

Cornelia had noticed a girl who seemed to be in authority, and who sat
where she could oversee and overhear all that went on.

"Is she one of the students?" she asked.

Miss Maybough nodded. "Elected every month. She's awful. You can't do
anything with her when she's on duty, but she's a little dear when she
isn't. You'll like her." Miss Maybough leaned toward her, and joined
Cornelia in a study of her drawing. "How splendidly you're getting it.
It's very _chic_. Oh, anybody can see that _you've_ got genius!"

Her admiration made no visible impression upon Cornelia, and for a
moment she looked a little disappointed; then she took a basket from
under the table, and drew from it a bottle of some yellowish liquid, an
orange and a bit of sponge cake. "Are you going to have yours here?"
she asked, as Cornelia opened a paper with the modest sandwich in it
which she had made at breakfast, and fetched from her boarding-house.
"Oh, I'm so glad you haven't brought anything to drink with you! I felt
almost sure you hadn't, and now you've got to share mine." She took a
cup from her basket, and in spite of Cornelia's protest that she never
drank anything but water at dinner, she poured it full of tea for her.
"I'll drink out of the bottle," she said. "I like to. Some of the girls
bring chocolate, but I think there's nothing like cold tea for the
brain. Chocolate's so clogging; so's milk; but sometimes I bring that;
it's glorious, drinking it out of the can." She tilted the bottle to
her lips, and half drained it at a draught. "I always feel that I'm
working with inspiration after I've had my cold tea. Of course they
won't let _you_ stay here long," she added.

"Why?" Cornelia fluttered back in alarm.

"When they see your work they'll see that you're fit for still-life, at
least."

"Oh!" said Cornelia, vexed at having been scared for nothing. "I guess
they won't be in any great hurry about it."

"How magnificent!" said Miss Maybough. "Of course, with that calm of
yours, you can wait, as if you had eternity before you. Do you know
that you are _terribly_ calm?"

Cornelia turned and gave her a long stare. Miss Maybough broke her bit
of cake in two, and offered her half, and Cornelia took it
mechanically, but ate her sandwich. "_I_ feel as if I had eternity
_behind_ me, I've been in the Preparatory so long."

On the common footing this drop to the solid ground gave, Cornelia
asked her how long.

"Well, it's the beginning of my second year, now. If they don't let me
go to round hands pretty soon, I shall have to see if I can't get the
form by modelling. That's the best way. I suppose it's my imagination;
it carries me away so, and I don't see the thing as it is before me;
that's what they say. But with the clay, I'll _have_ to, don't you
know. Well, you know some of the French painters model their whole
picture in clay and paint it, before they touch the canvas, any way. I
shall try it here awhile longer, and then if I can't get to the round
in any other way, I'll take to the clay. If sculpture concentrates you
more, perhaps I may stick to it altogether. Art is one, anyhow, and the
great thing is to _live_ it. Don't you think so?"

"I don't know," said Cornelia. "I'm not certain I know what you mean."

"You will," said Miss Maybough, "after you've been here awhile, and get
used to the atmosphere. I don't believe I really knew what life meant
before I came to the Synthesis. When you get to realizing the standards
of the Synthesis, then you begin to breathe freely for the first time.
I expect to pass the rest of my days here. I shouldn't care if I stayed
till I was thirty. How old are you?"

"I'm going on twenty," said Cornelia. "Why?"

"Oh, nothing. You can't begin too young; though some people think you
oughtn't to come before you're eighteen. I look upon my days before I
came here as simply wasted. Don't you want to go out and sit on the
stairs awhile?"

"I don't believe I do," said Cornelia, taking up her drawing again, as
if she were going on with it.

"Horrors!" Miss Maybough put her hand out over the sketch. "You don't
mean that you're going to carry it any farther?"

"Why, it isn't finished yet," Cornelia began.

"Of _course_ it isn't, and it never ought to be! I hope you're not
going to turn out a _niggler_! _Please_ don't! I couldn't bear to have
you. Nobody will respect you if you _finish_. Don't! If you won't come
out with me and get a breath of fresh air, do start a new drawing! I
want them to see this in the rough. It's _so_ bold."

Miss Maybough had left her own drawing in the rough, but it could not
be called bold; though if she had seen the block hand with a faltering
eye, she seemed to have had a fearless vision of many other things, and
she had covered her paper with a fantastic medley of grotesque shapes,
out of that imagination which she had given Cornelia to know was so
fatally mischievous to her in its uninvited activities. "_Don't_ look
at them!" she pleaded, when Cornelia involuntarily glanced at her
study. "My only hope is to hate them. I almost _pray_ to be delivered
from them. Let's talk of something else." She turned the sheet over.
"Do you mind my having said that about your drawing?"

"No!" said Cornelia, provoked to laughter by the solemnity of the
demand. "Why should I?"

"Oh, I don't know. Do you think you shall like me? I mean, do you care
if I like _you_--very, _very_ much?"

"I don't suppose I could stop it if I did, could I?" asked Cornelia.

The Sphinx seemed to find heart to smile. "Of course, I'm ridiculous.
But I do hope we're going to be friends. Tell me about yourself. Or,
have some more tea!"



XIV.


"I don't want any more tea, thank you," said Cornelia, "and there isn't
anything to tell."

"There must be!" the other girl insisted, clinging to her bottle with
tragic intensity. "Any one can see that _you've_ lived. What part of
the country did you come from?"

"Ohio," said Cornelia, as the best way to be done with it.

"And have you ever been in Santa Fé?"

"Goodness, no! Why, it's in New Mexico!"

"Yes; I was born there. Then my father went to Colorado. He isn't
living, now. Are your father and mother living?"

"My mother is," said Cornelia; the words brought up a vision of her
mother, as she must be sitting that moment in the little front-room,
and a mist came suddenly before her eyes; she shut her lips hard to
keep them from trembling.

"I see, you worship her," said Miss Maybough fervidly, keeping her gaze
fixed upon Cornelia. "You are homesick!"

"I'm _not_ homesick!" said Cornelia, angry that she should be so and
that she should be denying it.

"Mine," said the other, "died while I was a baby. She had Indian
blood," she added in the same way in which she had said her name was
Charmian.

"_Did_ she?" Cornelia asked.

"That is the legend," said Miss Maybough solemnly. "Her grandmother was
a Zuñi princess." She turned her profile. "See?"

"It does look a little Indian," said Cornelia.

"Some people think it's Egyptian," Miss Maybough suggested, as if she
had been leading up to the notion, and were anxious not to have it
ignored.

Cornelia examined the profile steadily presented, more carefully: "It's
a good deal more Egyptian."

Miss Maybough relieved her profile from duty, and continued, "We've
been everywhere. Paris two years. That's where I took up art in dead
earnest; Julian, you know. Mamma didn't want me to; she wanted me to go
into society there; and she does here; but I hate it. Don't you think
society is very frivolous, or, any way, very stupid?"

"I don't know much about it. I never went out, much," said Cornelia.

"Well, I hope you're not conventional! Nobody's conventional _here_."

"I don't believe I'm conventional enough to hurt," said Cornelia.

"You have humor, too," said Miss Maybough, thoughtfully, as if she had
been mentally cataloguing her characteristics. "_You'll_ be popular."

Cornelia stared at her and turned to her drawing.

"But you're proud," said the other, "I can see that. I adore pride. It
must have been your pride that fascinated me at the first glance. Do
you mind my being fascinated with you?"

Cornelia wanted to laugh; at the same time she wondered what new kind
of crazy person she had got with; this was hardly one of the
art-students that went wild from overwork. Miss Maybough kept on
without waiting to be answered: "I haven't got a bit of pride, myself.
I could just let you walk over me. How does it feel to be proud? What
are you proud _for_?"

Cornelia quieted a first impulse to resent this pursuit. "I don't think
I'm very proud. I used to be proud when I was little;--I guess you
ought to have asked me then."

"Oh, yes! Tell me about yourself!" Miss Maybough implored again, but
she went on as before without giving Cornelia any chance to reply. "Of
course, when I say mamma, I mean my step-mother. She's very good to me,
but she doesn't understand me. You'll like her. I'll tell you what sort
of a person she is." She did so at such length that the lunch hour
passed before she finished, and a hush fell upon all the babbling
voices about, as the monitor came back to her place.

Toward the end of the afternoon the monitor's vigilance relaxed again,
and Miss Maybough began to talk again. "If you want to be anything by
the Synthesis standards," she said, "you've got to keep this up a whole
year, you know." It was now four o'clock, and Cornelia had been working
steadily since eleven, except for the half-hour at lunch-time. "They'll
see how well you draw; you needn't be afraid of their not doing that;
and they'll let you go on to the round at once, perhaps. But if you're
truly Synthetic in spirit, you won't want to. You'll want to get all
you can out of the block; and it'll take you a year to do that; then
another year for the full length, you know. At first we only had the
block here, and a good many people think now that the full length
Preparatory encroaches on the Antique. Sometimes they even let you put
in backgrounds here, but it don't matter much: when the instructor in
the Antique gets hold of you he makes you unlearn everything you've
learnt in the full-length. _He's_ grand."

A girl who was working at the other end of the table said with a
careless air, "They told me I might go up to the Antique to-day."

"Lida!" Miss Maybough protested, in a voice hoarse with admiration.

"Yes; but I'm not going."

"_Why_ not? I should think you would be so proud. _How_ did they come
to tell you?"

"Oh, they just said I might. But I'm not going. They're so severe in
the Antique. They just discourage you."

"Yes, that is so," said Miss Maybough, with a sigh of solemn joy. "They
make you feel as if you couldn't draw at all."

"Yes," said the other girl. "They act as if you didn't know a thing."

"I _wouldn't_ go," said Miss Maybough.

"I don't know. Perhaps I may." The girl went on drawing, and Miss
Maybough turned to Cornelia again.

"Towards the end of your third year--or perhaps you don't like to have
your future all mapped out. Does it scare you?"

"I guess if it does I shall live through it," said Cornelia steadily;
her heart was beginning to quake somewhat, but she was all the more
determined not to show it.

"Well, the third year you may get to painting still-life, while you
keep up your drawing afternoons here. The next year you'll go into the
antique class, if they'll let you, and draw heads, and keep up your
still-life mornings. When they think you're fit for it, they'll let you
do an arm, maybe, and work along that way to the full figure; and that
takes another whole winter. Then you go into the life class, one of
them, all the morning, and keep drawing from the antique in the
afternoons, or else do heads from the model. You do a head every day,
and then paint it out, and begin another the next day. You learn to
sacrifice self to art. It's grand! Well, then, the next winter you keep
on just the same, and as many winters after that as you please. You
know what one instructor said to a girl that asked him what she should
do after she had been five years in the Synthesis?"

"No, I don't," answered Cornelia anxiously.

"Stay five years more!"

Miss Maybough did not give this time to sink very deep into Cornelia's
spirit. "Will you let me call you by your first name?"

"Why, I've hardly ever been called by any other," said Cornelia simply.

"And will you call me Charmian?"

"I had just as lief." Cornelia laughed; she could not help it; that
girl seemed so odd; she did not know whether she liked her or not.

"What poise you _have_ got!" sighed Charmian. "May I come to see you?
Not a ceremonious call. In your own room; where we can talk."

Cornelia thought that if they went on as they had that day, they should
probably talk quite enough at the Synthesis; but she said, "Why, yes, I
should like to have you, if you won't care for my sitting on the trunk.
There's only one chair."

"Let _me_ have the trunk! Promise me you'll let me sit on the trunk.
It's divine! Is it in a Salvation Hotel?"

"What do you mean?" asked Cornelia.

"Why, that's what they call the places that the Young Women's Christian
Association keep."

"No, it isn't. It's just a boarding-house." Cornelia wrote her address
on a piece of paper, and Charmian received it with solemn rapture. She
caught Cornelia in a sudden embrace and kissed her, before Cornelia
could help herself. "Oh, I adore you!" she cried.

They parted at the head of the stairs, where they found themselves
among groups of students arriving from all parts of the place, and
pausing for Synthesis gossip, which Cornelia could not have entered
into yet if she had wished. She escaped, and walked home to her
boarding-house with rather a languid pace, and climbed to her little
room on the fifth story, and lay down on her bed. It was harder work
than teaching, and her back ached, and her heart was heavy with the
thought of five years in the Synthesis, when she barely had money
enough for one winter. She was not afraid of the work; she liked that;
she would be glad to spend her whole life at it; but she could not give
five years to it, and perhaps ten. She was ashamed now to think she had
once dreamed of somehow slipping through in a year, and getting the
good of it without working for it. She tried to plan how she could go
home and teach a year, and then come back and study a year, and so on;
but by the end of the twenty years that it would take for ten years'
study at this rate, she would be an old woman of forty, ready to drop
into the grave. She was determined not to give up, and if she did not
give up, there was no other end to it; or so it seemed at the close of
her first day in the Synthesis.

She was very homesick, and she would have liked to give up altogether
and go home. But she thought of what people would say; of how her
mother, who would be so glad to see her, would feel. She would not be a
baby, and she turned her face over in the pillow and sobbed.



XV.


Cornelia thought that perhaps Mr. Ludlow would feel it due to Mrs.
Burton to come and ask how she was getting on; but if she did not wish
him to come she had reason to be glad, for the whole week passed, and
she did not see him, or hear anything from him. She did not blame him,
for she had been very uncouth, and no doubt he had done his whole duty
in meeting her at the depot, and seeing her safely housed the first
night. She wished to appreciate his kindness, and when she found
herself wondering a little at his not caring to know anything more
about her, she made much of it. If it was not all that she could have
imagined from his offer to be of use to her in any way he could, she
reminded herself that he had made that offer a very long time ago, and
that she never meant to use him. Beside, she was proud of having made
her start alone, and she knew which way she wished to go, though the
way seemed so hard and long at times. She was not sure that all the
students at the Synthesis were so clear as to their direction, but they
all had the same faith in the Synthesis and its methods. They hardly
ever talked to her of anything else, and first and last they talked a
good deal to her. It was against the rules to loiter and talk in the
corridors, as much against the rules as smoking; but every now and then
you came upon a young man with a cigarette, and he was nearly always
talking with a group of girls. At lunch-time the steps and window-seats
were full, and the passages were no longer thoroughfares. After the
first day Cornelia came out with the rest; Charmian Maybough said that
one could not get into the spirit of the Synthesis unless one did; and
in fact those who wished to work and those who would rather have
played, as it seemed to her, met there in the same æsthetic equality.
She found herself acquainted with a great many girls whose names she
did not know, in the fervor of the common interest, the perpetual glow
of enthusiasm which crowned the severest ordeals of the Synthesis with
the halo of happy martyrdom if not the wreath of victory.

They talked about the different instructors, how awful they were, and
how they made you cry sometimes, they were so hard on your work; but if
you amounted to anything, you did not mind it when you got to feel what
they meant; then you _wanted_ them to be harsh. They said of one, "My!
You ought to see him! _He_ can spoil your drawing for you! He just
takes your charcoal, and puts thick black lines all over everything. It
don't do to finish much for _him_." They celebrated another for sitting
down in front of your work, and drooping in silent despair before it
for awhile, and then looking up at you in cold disgust, and asking,
"What made you draw it _that_ way?" as if it were inconceivable anybody
should have been willing to do it so. There were other instructors who
were known to have the idea of getting at the best in you by a
sympathetic interest in what you had tried for, and looking for some
good in it. The girls dramatized their manner of doing this; they did
not hold them in greater regard than the harder masters, but they did
not hold them in less, and some of them seemed to value an instructor
as much for the way he squinted his eyes at your drawing as for what he
said of it.

The young men did not talk so much of the instructors; they were more
reticent about everything. But some had formed themselves upon them,
and you could tell which each of these was studying under; or this was
what Charmian Maybough said.

She led Cornelia all about through the quaint old rookery, with its
wandering corridors, and its clusters of rooms distributed at random in
the upper stories of several buildings which the Synthesis had gathered
to itself as if by a sort of affinity, and she lectured upon every one
and everything.

It was against usage for students in the lower grades to visit the
upper classes when they were at work; but Charmian contrived stolen
glimpses of the still-life rooms and the rooms where they were working
from the draped models. For the first time Cornelia saw the irregular
hemicycle of students silently intent upon the silent forms and faces
of those strange creatures who sat tranced in a lifeless immobility, as
if the long practice of their trade had resolved them into something as
impersonal as the innumerable pictures studied from them. She even
penetrated with Charmian to the women's life-room, where you really
could not go while the model was posing, and where they had to time
their visit at the moment when the girls had left off for lunch, and
were chattering over their chocolate. They had set it out on the vacant
model-stand, and they invited their visitors to break bread with them:
the bread they had brought to rub out their drawings with. They made
Cornelia feel as much at home with them on the summit they had reached,
as she felt with the timidest beginners in the Preparatory. Charmian
had reported everywhere that she had genius, and in the absence of
proofs to the contrary the life-class accepted her as if she had. Their
talk was not very different from the talk of the students in the lower
grades. They spoke of the Synthesis, and asked her how she liked it,
but they did not wait for her to say. They began to descant upon their
instructors, and the pictures their instructors had last exhibited at
the Academy or the American Artists; and the things that the old
Synthesis pupils had there. Cornelia learned here that even actual
Synthetics had things in the exhibitions, and that in the last Academy
a Preparatory girl had sold a picture; she determined that before the
winter was over she would at least give the Academy a chance to refuse
the picture of another Preparatory girl.

She got Charmian to point out the girl who had sold the picture; she
was a little, quiet-looking thing; Cornelia saw some of her work in
round hands and she did not think it was better than she could do
herself. She took courage and dreamed of trying not to disappoint the
hopes of immediate performance, which she knew her mother would be
having in spite of her pretending the contrary. Her mother had written
that she must not work herself down, trying to learn too fast, but must
take the whole winter for it. Cornelia wondered what she would think if
she knew how little a person could be expected to do in one winter, in
the regular Synthesis way.

She was happier at the end of the first week than she had been at the
end of the first day, though she was very tired, and was glad to stop
at the earlier hour when most of the students left their work on
Saturday afternoon. She had begun to feel the charm of the Synthesis,
which every one said she would feel. She was already a citizen of the
little republic where the heaviest drudgery was sweet with a vague,
high faith and hope. It was all a strange happiness to her, and yet not
strange. It was like a heritage of her own that she had come into;
something she was born to, a right, a natural condition.

She did not formulate this, or anything; she did not ask herself why
the frivolities and affectations which disgusted her in the beginning
no longer offended her so much; she only saw that some of the most
frivolous and affected of her fellow-citizens were the cleverest; and
that the worst of them were better than they might have been where the
ideal was less generous. She did not know then or afterwards just why
some of them were there, and they did not seem to know themselves.
There were some who could reasonably expect to live by their art; there
were more who could hope to live by teaching it. But there were others
who had no definite aim or purpose, and seemed to think their study
would shape them to some design. They were trying it, they did not know
clearly why, or at least were not able to say clearly why. There were
several rich girls, and they worked from the love of it, as hard as the
poorest. There were some through whom she realized what Ludlow meant
when he spoke to her mother of the want that often went hand in hand
with art; there were others even more pitiful, who struggled with the
bare sufficiency of gift to keep within the Synthesis. But even among
the girls who were so poor that they had to stint themselves of food
and fire, for art's sake, there were the bravest and gayest spirits;
and some of these who could never have learned to draw well if they had
spent their lives in the Synthesis, and were only waiting till their
instructor should find the heart to forbid them further endeavor, were
so sweet and good that Cornelia's heart ached for them.

At first she was overawed by all the students, simply because they were
all older students at the Synthesis than she was. Then she included
them without distinction in the slight that she felt for the chatter
and the airs of some. After that she made her exceptions among them;
she begun to see how every one honored and admired the hard workers.
She could not revert to her awe of them, even of the hardest workers;
but she became more tolerant of the idlest and vaguest. She compared
herself with the clever ones, and owned herself less clever, not
without bitterness, but certainly with sincerity, and with a final
humility that enabled her to tolerate those who were least clever.



XVI.


When she got home from the Synthesis the first Saturday afternoon,
Cornelia climbed up the four flights of stairs that led to her little
room, and lay down to rest, as she promised Mrs. Burton she would do
every day; some days she did not. She had to lie on her bed, which
filled two-thirds of the room. There was a bureau with a glass, which
she could not see the bottom of her skirt in without jumping up; and a
wash-stand with a shut-down lid, where she wrote her letters and drew;
a chair stood between that and her trunk, which was next the door, and
let the door open part way.

It seemed very cramped at first, but she soon got used to it, and then
she did not think about it; but accepted it as she did everything else
in the life that was all so strange to her. She had never been in a
boarding-house before, and she did not know whether it was New York
usage or not, that her trunk, which the expressman had managed to leave
in the lower hall, should be left standing there for twenty-four hours
after his escape, and that then she should be asked to take some things
out of it so that it should not be too heavy for the serving-maids to
carry up to her room. There was no man-servant in the place; but the
landlady said that they expected to have a furnace-man as soon as it
came cold weather.

The landlady was such an indistinct quality, that it could seldom be
known whether she was at home or not, and when she was identifiably
present, whether she had promised or had not promised to do this or
that. People were always trying to see her for some reason or no
reason, and it was said that the best time to find her was at table.
This was not so easy; the meals had a certain range in time, and the
landlady was nominally at the head of the table; but those who came
early to find her made the mistake of not having come late, and if you
came late you just missed her. Yet she was sometimes actually to be
encountered at the head of the stairs from the kitchen, or evanescing
from the parlor; and somehow the house was operated; the meals came and
went, and the smell of their coming and going filled the hall-way from
the ground floor to the attic. Some people complained of the meals, but
Cornelia's traditions were so simple that she thought them a constant
succession of prodigies, with never less than steak, fish and hash for
breakfast, and always turkey and cranberry sauce for dinner, and often
ice-cream; sometimes the things were rather burnt, but she did not see
that there was much to find fault with. She celebrated the luxury in
her letters home, and she said that she liked the landlady, too, and
that they had got to be great friends; in fact the landlady reminded
the girl of her own mother in the sort of springless effectiveness with
which she brought things to pass, when you would never have expected
any result whatever; and she was gentle like her mother, and
simple-hearted, with all her elusiveness. But she was not neat, like
Mrs. Saunders; the house went at loose ends. Cornelia found fluff under
her bed that must have been there a long time. The parlor and the
dining-room were kept darkened, and no one could have told what
mysteries their corners and set pieces of furniture harbored. The
carpets, where the subdued light struck them, betrayed places worn down
to the warp. Mrs. Montgomery herself had a like effect of unsparing
use; her personal upholstery showed frayed edges and broken woofs,
which did not seriously discord with her nerveless gentility.

The parlor was very long and rather narrow, and it was crossed at the
rear by the dining-room which showed the table in stages of preparation
or dismantling through sliding-doors never quite shut. At intervals
along the parlor walls were set sofas in linen brocade and yellow jute;
and various easy and uneasy chairs in green plush stood about in no
definite relation to the black-walnut, marble-topped centre-table. A
scarf, knotted and held by a spelter vase to one of the marble mantles,
for there were two, recorded a moment of the æsthetic craze which had
ceased before it got farther amidst the earlier and honester ugliness
of the room. The gas-fixtures were of the vine-leaf and grape-cluster
bronze-age; some of the garlands which ought to have been attached to
the burners, hung loose from the parent stem, without the effort on the
part of any witness to complete the artistic intention. In the evening,
the lady-boarders received their gentlemen-callers in the parlor; their
lady-callers were liable at all times to be asked if they would not
like to go to the boarders' rooms, and whether they expressed this
preference or not, they were directed where to find them by the maid,
who then rapidly disappeared down the kitchen stairs.

In fact, the door-service at Mrs. Montgomery's was something she would
probably have deprecated if any one had asked her to do so. It was the
charge of a large, raw-boned Irish girl, who made up by her athletic
physique and her bass voice for the want of a man-servant on the
premises. She brow-beat visitors into acceptance of the theory that the
persons they came to see were not at home, especially if they showed
signs of intending to wait in the parlor while she went upstairs to
find out. Those who suffered from her were of the sex least fitted to
combat her. The gentlemen boarders seldom had callers; when they had,
their callers did not ask whether their friends were in or not; they
went and saw for themselves.

The gentlemen at Mrs. Montgomery's were fewer than the ladies, and they
were for several reasons in greater favor. For one thing they gave less
trouble: they had a less lively fear of mice, and they were not so apt
to be out of health and to want their meals sent up; they ate more, but
they did not waste so much, and they never did any sort of washing in
their rooms. Cornelia did not know who or what some of them were; but
she made sure of a theatrical manager; two or three gentlemen in
different branches of commerce; a newspaper writer of some sort, and an
oldish gentleman who had been with Mrs. Montgomery a great while, and
did not seem to be anything but a gentleman boarder, pure and simple.
They were all very civil and quiet, and they bore with the amiable
American fortitude the hardships of the common lot at Mrs.
Montgomery's, which Cornelia underwent ignorantly as necessary
incidents of life in New York.

She now fell asleep where she lay, and she was startled from her nap,
but hardly surprised, to hear her name spoken in the hall far below, as
if it were a theme of contention between the bass-voiced Irish girl and
some one at the street door, who supported the other side of the
question in low, indistinct, lady-like murmurs.

"No, she don't be in," said the Irish girl bluntly. The polite murmur
insisted, and the Irish girl said, with finality, "Well, then, yous can
go up yourselves and see; the room is right over the dure, four flights
up."

Cornelia jumped up and tried to pull her hair into a knot before the
glass. There came a tap at her door and the voice of Charmian Maybough
asked, "May I come in, Miss Saunders,--Cornelia?"

"Yes," said Cornelia, and she opened the door as far as her trunk would
let her.

Charmian pushed impetuously in. She took Cornelia in her arms and
kissed her, as if they had not met for a long time.

"Oh," she said, whirling about, so as to sweep the whole room with her
glance, before sinking down on Cornelia's trunk, "why can't _I_ have
something like this? Well, I shall have, I hope, before I die, yet.
What made her say you weren't in? I knew you were." She rose and flew
about the room, and examined it in detail. She was very beautifully
dressed, in a street costume of immediate fashion, without a suggestion
of the æstheticism of the picturesque gown she wore at the Synthesis;
that had originality, but Cornelia perceived with the eye trained to
see such differences, that this had authority. Charmian could not help
holding and carrying herself differently in it, too. She was
exquisitely gloved, and Cornelia instinctively felt that her hat was
from Paris, though till then she had never seen a Paris hat to know it.
She might have been a little overawed by it, if the wearer had not
abruptly asked her what she thought of it.

"Well," said Cornelia, with her country directness, which was so
different from the other's abruptness, "I think it's about the most
perfect thing I ever saw."

Charmian sighed. "I saw you looking at it. Yes, it _is_ a dream. But
it's a badge of slavery. So's the whole costume. Look how I'm laced!"
She flung open the jacket and revealed a waist certainly much smaller
than she had earlier in the day. "That's the way it goes through my
whole life. Mamma is dead set against the artistic, and I'm dead set
against the fashionable. As long as I'm at the Synthesis, I do as the
Synthetics do. I dress like the Synthesis, and I think like it, and I
act like it. As soon as I get home in the afternoon, I have to be of
the world worldly. I put on a Worth frock, and mamma would make me put
on a Worth spirit, if she could. I do my best to conform, because it's
the bargain, and I'll keep my word if it kills me. _Now_ you see what a
double life I lead! If I could only be steeped in hopeless poverty to
the lips! If I could have a room like this, even! Sometimes I'm so
bewildered by the twofold existence I'm leading, I don't really know
what I'm saying. Those your things, of course?" She sprang from
Cornelia's trunk, which she had sank down upon again, and swiftly
traversed the sketches Cornelia had pinned about the wall. "What touch!
Yes, you merely have to live on, to be anything you like. It'll do
itself for _you_. Well, I suppose you'll have to see her." She turned
about to Cornelia with an air of deprecation. "Mamma, you know. She's
down stairs waiting for us. She thinks it right to come with me always.
I dare say it is. She isn't so very bad, you know. Only she insists
upon knowing all the girls I take a fancy to, herself. You needn't be
afraid of her."

"I don't know why I should be afraid of anybody," said Cornelia.

The darker corner of the long parlor was occupied by a young couple in
the earnest inquiry into each other's psychological peculiarities which
marks a stage of the passion of love. It obliged them to get very close
together, where they sat, she on a lounge and he in the chair, which he
kept pulling nearer and nearer; they fulfilled these conditions and
exchanged their observations with a freedom that ignored the presence
of the lady sitting somewhat severely upright between the two long,
front windows, exactly midway of the dingy lace curtains, trained
fan-wise on the carpet. They were not disturbed when Cornelia and
Charmian appeared; the young lady continued to dangle the tassel of a
cushion through her fingers, and the young man leaned toward her with
his face in his hand, and his elbow sunk in the arm of the lounge; but
the other lady rose at once and came quickly forward, as if escaping
from them. Beside the tall girls she looked rather little, and she was
decidedly blonde against their brunette color. She wore a veil that
came just between her upper and her lower lip, and that stirred lightly
when she spoke. She was dressed with the same authoritative fashion as
Charmian, but not so simply.

She did not wait for her daughter to speak, but took Cornelia's hand,
and said in a soft voice, "Miss Saunders? I am very glad we found you
at home. My daughter has been speaking to me about you, and we hoped to
have come sooner, but we couldn't manage together before."

"Won't you sit down?" asked Cornelia.

"No, I thank you," Mrs. Maybough returned, with a velvety tenderness of
tone that seemed to convey assent. "We shall be rather late, as it is.
I hope you're comfortably situated here."

"Oh, very," said Cornelia. "I've never been away from home before, and
of course it isn't like home."

"Yes," said Mrs. Maybough, "one misses the refinements of home in such
places." She turned and swept the appointments of the room, including
the students of psychology, with a critical eye.

"I wish _I_ could come here," sighed the daughter. "If I could have a
room like Cornelia's, mamma! I _wish_ you could see it."

"I'm glad you're pleasantly placed, Miss Saunders. I hope you're not
working too hard at the Synthesis. I understand the young ladies there
are so enthusiastic."

"Oh, no," Cornelia protested.

"Of course she is!" said Charmian. "Everybody works too hard at the
Synthesis. It's the ideal of the place. We woke her out of a nap, and I
know she was tired to death."

Cornelia could not deny it, and so she said nothing.

"Oh!" said Mrs. Maybough, non-committally; "that won't do." She paused,
without intermitting the scrutiny which Cornelia felt she had been
subjecting her to from the first moment through her veil. "You mustn't
wear yourself out." She paused again, and then while Charmian turned
away with an effect of impatience, she asked, "Do you ever go out on
Sundays?"

"Why, I don't know," Cornelia began, not certain whether Mrs. Maybough
meant walking out or driving out; young people did both in Pymantoning.

Mrs. Maybough pursued: "We receive on Thursdays, but we have a few
friends coming in to-morrow afternoon, and we should be very glad to
see you, if you have nothing better."

The invitation was so tentatively, so gingerly offered in manner, if
not in words, that Cornelia was not quite sure it had been given. She
involuntarily searched her memory for something better before she
spoke; for the first time in her life she was about to invent a
previous engagement, when Charmian suddenly turned and laid her arms
about her neck.

"You'll come, of course!"

"Charmian!" said Mrs. Maybough. It would have been hard to tell whether
she was reproving the action or the urgence. "Then we shall hope to see
you?"

"Yes, thank you," said Cornelia.

"Do come!" said Charmian, as if she had not yet accepted. "I can't let
it be a whole day and two nights before I see you again!" She put her
arm round Cornelia's waist, as the girl went with them to the outer
door, to open it for them, in her village fashion. In the hall,
Charmian whispered passionately, "Don't you _envy_ them? _Oh_, if I
could live in such a house with you, and with people like that just to
look at!"

"My dear!" said Mrs. Maybough.

"They seem to be engaged," said Cornelia placidly, without sense of
anything wrong in the appearance of the fact.

"Evidently," said Mrs. Maybough.

"I shouldn't care for the engagement," said Charmian. "That would be
rather horrid. But if you were in love, to feel that you needn't hide
it or pretend not to be! That is life! I'm coming here, mamma!"



XVII.


Mrs. Maybough had an apartment in the Mandan Flats, and her windows
looked out over miles of the tinted foliage of the Park, and down
across the avenue into one of the pretty pools which light up its
woodland reaches. The position was superb, and the Mandan was in some
sort worthy of it. The architect had done his best to give unity and
character to its tremendous mass, and he had failed in much less
measure than the architects of such buildings usually do. Cornelia
dismounted into the dirty street in front of it from a shabby
horse-car, and penetrated its dimmed splendors of mosaic pavement and
polished granite pillars and frescoed vaults, with a heart fluttered by
a hall-boy all over buttons, and a janitor in blue and silver livery,
and an elevator-man in like keeping with American ideals. She was
disgusted with herself that she should be so scared, and she was
ashamed of the relief she felt when a servant in plain clothes opened
Mrs. Maybough's door to her; she knew he must be a servant because he
had on a dress-coat and a white tie, and she had heard the Burtons joke
about how they were always taking the waiters for clergymen at first in
Europe, He answered her with subdued respectfulness when she asked for
the ladies, and then he went forward and for the first time in her life
she heard her name called into a drawing-room, as she had read it was
done in England, but never could imagine it. The man held aside the
portière for her to pass, but before she could pass there came a kind
of joyous whoop from within, a swishing of skirts toward her, and she
was caught in the arms of Charmian, who kissed her again and again, and
cried out over her goodness in coming.

"Why, didn't you expect me?" Cornelia asked bluntly.

"Yes, but I was just pretending you wouldn't come, or something had
happened to keep you, so that I could have the good of the revulsion
when you did come, and feel that it was worth all I had suffered. Don't
you like to do that?"

"I don't believe I ever did it," said Cornelia.

"That's what makes you so glorious," Charmian exulted. "You don't
_need_ to do such things. You're equal to life as it comes. But I have
to prepare myself for it every way I can. Don't you see?"

She led her, all embraced, into the drawing-room, where she released
her to the smooth welcome of Mrs. Maybough. There was no one else in
the vast, high room which was lit with long windows and darkened again
with long, thick curtains, but was still light enough to let Cornelia
see the elaborate richness of Mrs. Maybough's dress and the simple
richness of Charmian's. She herself wore her street-dress and she did
not know whether she ought to keep her hat on or not; but Charmian said
she must pour tea with her, and she danced Cornelia down the splendid
length of the three great salons opening into each other along the
front of the apartment, toward her own room where she said she must
leave it. The drawing-room was a harmony of pictures so rich and soft,
and rugs so rich and soft, that the colors seemed to play from wall to
floor and back again in the same mellow note; the dimness of the
dining-room was starred with the glimmer of silver and cut-glass and
the fainter reflected light of polished mahogany; the library was a
luxury of low leather chairs and lounges, lurking window-seats,
curtained in warm colors, and shelves full of even ranks of books in
French bindings of blue and green leather. There was a great carved
library table in front of the hearth where a soft-coal fire flickered
with a point or two of flame; on the mantel a French clock of classic
architecture caught the eye with the gleam of its pendulum as it
vibrated inaudibly. It was all extremely well done, infinitely better
done than Cornelia could have known. It was tasteful and refined, with
the taste and refinement of the decorator who had wished to produce the
effect of long establishment and well-bred permanency; the Mandan Flats
were really not two years old, and Mrs. Maybough had taken her
apartment in the spring and had been in it only a few weeks.

"Now all this is _mamma_," Charmian said, suffering Cornelia to pause
for a backward glance at the rooms as she pushed open a door at the
side of the library. "I simply endure it because it's in the bargain.
But it's no more me than my gown is. This is where I _stay_, when I'm
with mamma, but I'm going to show you where I _live_, where I _dream_."
She glided down the electric-lighted corridor where they found
themselves, and apologized over her shoulder to Cornelia behind her:
"Of course, you can't have an attic in a flat; and anything like rain
on the roof is practically impossible; but I've come as near to it as I
could. Be careful! Here are the stairs." She mounted eight or ten steps
that crooked upward, and flung wide a door at the top of the landing.
It gave into a large room fronting northward and lighted with one wide
window; the ceiling sloped and narrowed down to this from the
quadrangular vault, and the cool gray walls rose not much above
Cornelia's head where they met the roof. They were all stuck about with
sketches in oil and charcoal. An easel with a canvas on it stood
convenient to the light; a flesh-tinted lay-figure in tumbled drapery
drooped limply in a corner; a table littered with palettes and brushes
and battered tubes of color was carelessly pushed against the window;
there were some lustrous rugs hung up beside the door; the floor was
bare except for a great tiger-skin, with the head on, that sprawled in
front of the fire-place. This was very simple, with rough iron
fire-dogs; the low mantel was scattered with cigarettes, cigars in
Chinese bronze vases at either end, and midway a medley of pipes,
long-stemmed in clay and stubbed in briar-wood.

"Good gracious!" said Cornelia. "Do you smoke?"

"Not yet," Charmian answered gravely, "but I'm going to learn:
Bernhardt does. These are just some pipes that I got the men at the
Synthesis to give me; pipes are so full of character. And isn't this
something _like_?" She invited Cornelia to a study of the place by
turning about and looking at it herself. "It seemed as if it never
_would_ come together, at one time. Everything was in it, just as it
should be; and then I found it was the ridiculous ceiling that was the
trouble. It came to me like a flash, what to do, and I got this canvas
painted the color of the walls, and sloped so as to cut off half the
height of the room; and now it's a perfect symphony. You wouldn't have
thought it wasn't a real ceiling?"

"No, I shouldn't," said Cornelia, as much surprised as Charmian could
have wished.

"You can imagine what a relief it is to steal away here from all that
unreality of mamma's, down there, and give yourself up to the truth of
art; I just draw a long breath when I get in here, and leave the world
behind me. Why, when I get off here alone, for a minute, I unlace!"

Cornelia went about looking at the sketches on the walls; they were all
that mixture of bad drawing and fantastic thinking which she was used
to in the things Charmian scribbled over her paper at the Synthesis.
She glanced toward the easel, but Charmian said, "Don't look at it!
There's nothing there; I haven't decided what I shall do yet. I did
think I should paint this tiger skin, but I don't feel easy painting
the skin of a tiger I haven't killed myself. If I could get mamma to
take me out to India and let me shoot one! But don't you think the
whole place is perfect? I've tried to make it just what a studio ought
to be, and yet keep it free from pose, don't you know?"

"Yes," said Cornelia. "I've never seen a studio, before."

"You poor thing, you don't mean it!" cried Charmian in deep pity.
Cornelia said nothing, and Charmian went on with an air of candor,
"Well, I haven't seen a great many myself--only two or three--but I
know how they are, and it's easy enough to realize one. What I want is
to have the atmosphere of art about me, all the time. I'm like a fish
out of water when I'm out of the atmosphere of art. I intend to spend
my whole time here when I'm not at the Synthesis."

"I should think it would be a good place to work," Cornelia conceded.

"Yes, and I _am_ going to work here," said Charmian. "The great trouble
with me is that I have so many things in my mind I don't know which to
begin on first. That's why the Synthesis is so good for me; it
concentrates me, if it _is_ on a block hand. _You're_ concentrated by
nature, and so you can't feel what a glorious pang it is to be fixed to
one spot like a butterfly with a pin through you. I don't see how I
ever lived without the Synthesis. I'm going to have a wolf-hound--as
soon as I can get a good-tempered one that the man can lead out in the
Park for exercise--to curl up here in front of the fire; and I'm going
to have foils and masks over the chimney. As soon as I'm a member of
the Synthesis I'm going to get them to let me be one of the monitors:
that'll concentrate me, if anything will, keeping the rest in order,
and I can get a lot of ideas from posing the model; don't you think so?
But _you've_ got all the ideas you want, already. Aren't you going to
join the sketch class?"

"I don't know but I am," said Cornelia. "I haven't got quite turned
round yet."

"Well, you must do it. I'm going to have the class here, some day, as
soon as I get the place in _perfect_ order. I must have a suit of
Japanese armor for that corner, over there; and then two or three of
those queer-looking, old, long, faded trunks, you know, with eastern
stuffs gaping out of them, to set along the wall. I should be ashamed
to have anybody see it now; but you have an eye, you can supply every
thing with a glance. I'm going to have a bed made up in the alcove,
over there, and sleep here, sometimes: just that broad lounge, you
know, with some rugs on it--I've got the cushions, you see,
already--and mice running over you, for the crumbs you've left when
you've got hungry sitting up late. Are you afraid of mice?"

"Well, I shouldn't care to have them run over me, much," said Cornelia.

"Well, I shouldn't either," said Charmian, "but if you sleep in your
studio, sometime you _have_ to. They all do. Just put your hat in
here," and she glided before Cornelia through the studio door into one
that opened beside it. The room was a dim and silent bedchamber,
appointed with the faultless luxury that characterized the rest of the
apartment. Cornelia had never dreamt of anything like it, but "_Don't_
look at it!" Charmian pleaded. "I hate it, and I'm going to get into
the studio to sleep as soon as I've thought out the kind of hangings.
Well, we shall have to hurry back now," but she kept Cornelia while she
critically rearranged a ribbon on her, and studied the effect of it
over her shoulder in the glass. "Yes," she said, with a deep sigh of
satisfaction, "perfectly Roman! Gladys wouldn't have done for you.
Cornelia was a step in the right direction; but it ought to have been
Fulvia.

    "'I should have clung to Fulvia's waist and thrust
            The dagger through her side,'"

she chanted tragically; and she flung her arms about Cornelia for
illustration. "_Dream of Fair Women_, you know. What part are you going
to play, today?"

"What part?" Cornelia demanded, freeing herself, with her darkest frown
of perplexity. "You're not going to have theatricals, I hope." She
thought it was going pretty far to receive company Sunday afternoon,
and if there was to be anything more she was ready to take her stand
now.

Charmian gave a shout of laughter. "I wish we were. Then I could be
_natural_. But I mean, what are you going to be: very gentle and mild
and sweet and shrinking; or very philosophical and thoughtful; or very
stately and cold and remote? You know you have to be _something_. Don't
you always plan out the character you want them to think you?"

"No," said Cornelia, driven to her bluntest by the discomfort she felt
at such a question, and the doubt it cast her into.

Charmian looked at her gloomily. "You strange creature!" she murmured.
"But I love you," she added aloud. "I simply idolize you!"

Cornelia said, half-laughing, "Don't be ridiculous," and pulled herself
out of the embrace which her devotee had thrown about her. But she
could not help liking Charmian for seeming to like her so much.



XVIII.


They still had some time with Mrs. Maybough, when they went back to her
before any one else came; Cornelia could see that her features were
rather small and regular, and that her hair was that sort of elderly
blond in color which makes people look younger than they are after they
have passed a certain age. She was really well on in the thirties when
she went out to Leadville to take charge of Charmian Maybough's
education from the New England town where she had always lived, and
ended by marrying Charmian's father. At that time Andrew Maybough had
already made and lost several fortunes without great depravation from
the immoralities of the process; he remained, as he had always been, a
large, loosely good-natured, casual kind of creature, of whom it was a
question whether he would not be buried by public subscription, in the
end; but he died so opportunely that he left the widow of his second
marriage with the income from a million dollars, which she was to share
during her lifetime with the child of his first. Mrs. Maybough went
abroad with her step-daughter, and most of the girl's life had been
spent in Europe.

There was a good deal of Dresden in their sojourn, something of
Florence, necessarily a little of Paris; it was not altogether wanting
in London, where Mrs. Maybough was presented at court. But so far as
definitively materialized society was concerned, Europe could not be
said to have availed. When she came back to her own country, it was
without more than the hope that some society people, whom she had met
abroad, might remember her.

"You'll see the greatest lot of frumps, if they ever do come," Charmian
said to Cornelia, after her stepmother had made her excuses to Cornelia
for her friends being rather late, "and I don't think they're half as
uncertain to come as mamma does. Anyway, they're certain to stay, after
they get here, till you want to rise up and howl."

"My dear!" said Mrs. Maybough.

"Oh, I don't suppose I ever _shall_ howl. I'm too thoroughly subdued;
and with Cornelia here to-day I shall be able to hold in. You're the
first Synthesis girl," she frankly explained to Cornelia, "that mamma's
ever let me have. She thinks they spend all their time drawing the
nude."

Mrs. Maybough looked at Cornelia for the effect of this boldness upon
her, and the girl frowned to keep herself from laughing, and then gave
way. Mrs. Maybough smiled with a ladylike decorum which redeemed the
excess from impropriety. Charmian seemed to know the bounds of her
license, and as if Mrs. Maybough's smile had marked them, she went no
farther, and her mother began softly to question Cornelia about
herself. The girl perceived that Charmian had not told her anything
quite right concerning her, but had got everything dramatically and
picturesquely awry. She tried to keep Cornelia from setting the facts
straight, because it took all the romance out of them, and she said she
should always believe them as she had reported them. Cornelia knew from
novels that they were very humble facts, but she was prepared to abide
by them whatever a great society woman like Mrs. Maybough should think
of them. Mrs. Maybough seemed to think none the worse of them in the
simple angularity which Cornelia gave them.

Her friends began to come in at last, and Cornelia found herself, for
the first time, in a company of those modern nomads whom prosperity and
the various forms of indigestion have multiplied among us. They were
mostly people whom Mrs. Maybough had met in Europe, drinking different
waters and sampling divers climates, and they had lately arrived home,
or were just going abroad, or to Florida, or Colorado, or California.
The men were not so sick as the women, but they were prosperous, and
that was as good or as bad a reason for their homelessness. They
gradually withdrew from the ladies, and stirred their tea in groups of
their own sex, and talked investments; sometimes they spoke of their
diseases, or their hotels and steamers; and they took advice of each
other about places to go to if they went in this direction or that, but
said that, when it came to it they supposed they should go where their
wives decided. The ladies spoke of where they had met last, and of some
who had died since, or had got their daughters married; they professed
a generous envy of Mrs. Maybough for being so nicely settled, and said
that now they supposed she would always live in New York, unless, one
of them archly suggested, her daughter should be carried off somewhere;
if one had such a lovely daughter it was what one might expect to
happen, any day.



XIX.


The part that Charmian had chosen to represent must have been that of
an Egyptian slave. She served her mother's guests with the tea that
Cornelia poured, in attitudes of the eldest sculptures and mural
paintings, and received their thanks and compliments with the passive
impersonality of one whose hope in life had been taken away some time
in the reign of Thotmes II. She did not at once relent from her
self-sacrificial conception of herself, even under the flatteries of
the nice little fellow who had decorated the apartment for Mrs.
Maybough, and had come to drink a cup of tea in the environment of his
own taste. Perhaps this was because he had been one of the first to
note the peculiar type of Charmian's style and beauty, and she wished
to keep him in mind of it. He did duty as youth and gayety beside the
young ladies at their tea-urn, and when he learned that Cornelia was
studying at the Synthesis, he professed a vivid interest and a great
pleasure.

"I want Huntley to paint Miss Maybough," he said. "Don't you think he
would do it tremendously well, Miss Saunders?"

"Miss Saunders is going to paint me," said Charmian, mystically.

"As soon as I get to the round," said Cornelia to Charmian; she was
rather afraid to speak to the decorator. "I suppose you wouldn't want
to be painted with block hands."

The decorator laughed, and Charmian asked, "Isn't she nice not to say
anything about a block head? Very few Synthesis girls could have helped
it; it's one of the oldest Synthesis jokes."

The young man smiled sympathetically, and said he was sure they would
not keep Miss Saunders long at the block. "There's a friend of mine I
should like to bring here, some day."

"Mamma would be glad to see him," said Charmian. "Who is it?"

Somebody began to sing: a full-bodiced lady, in a bonnet, and with an
over-arching bust distended with chest-notes, which swelled and sank
tumultuously to her music; her little tightly-gloved hands seemed of an
earlier period. Cornelia lost the name which Mr. Plaisdell gave, in the
first outburst, and caught nothing more of the talk which Charmian
dropped, and then caught up again when the hand-clapping began.

Some of the people went, and others came, with brief devoirs to Mrs.
Maybough in the crepuscular corner where she sat. The tea circulated
more and more; the babble rose and fell; it was all very curious to
Cornelia, who had never seen anything like it before, and quite lost
the sense of the day being Sunday. The stout lady's song had been
serious, if not precisely devotional in character; but Cornelia could
not have profited by the fact, for she did not know German. Mr.
Plaisdell kept up his talk with Charmian, and she caught some words now
and then that showed he was still speaking of his friend, or had
recurred to him. "I'm rather dangerous when I get started on him. He's
working out of his mannerisms into himself. He's a great fellow. I'm
going to ask Mrs. Maybough." But he did not go at once. He drew nearer
Cornelia, and tried to include her in the talk, but she was ashamed to
find that she was difficult to get on common ground. She would not keep
on talking Synthesis, as if that were the only thing she knew, but in
fact she did not know much else in New York, even about art.

"Ah!" he broke off to Charmian, with a lift of his head. "That's _too_
bad! There he comes now, with Wetmore!"

Cornelia looked toward Mrs. Maybough with him. One gentleman was
presenting another to Mrs. Maybough. They got through with her as
quickly as most people did, and then they made their way toward
Cornelia's table. She had just time to govern her head and hand into
stony rigidity, when Wetmore came up with Ludlow, whom he introduced to
Charmian. She was going to extend the acquaintance to Cornelia, but had
no chance before Ludlow took Cornelia's petrified fingers and bowed
over them. The men suppressed their surprise, if they had any, at this
meeting as of old friends, but Charmian felt no obligation to silence.

"Where in the world have you met before? Why, Cornelia Saunders, why
didn't you say you knew Mr. Ludlow?"

"I'm afraid I didn't give her time," Ludlow answered.

"Yes, but we were just speaking of you--Mr. Plaisdell was!" said
Charmian, with the injury still in her voice.

"I didn't hear you speak of him," Cornelia said, with a vague flutter
of her hands toward the teacups.

The action seemed to justify Wetmore to himself in saying, "Yes, thank
you, I _will_ have some tea, Miss Saunders, and then I'll get some one
to introduce me to you. You haven't seen _me_ before, and I can't stand
these airs of Ludlow's." He made them laugh, and Charmian introduced
them, and Cornelia gave him his tea; then Charmian returned to her
grievance and complained to Cornelia: "I thought you didn't know
anybody in New York."

"Well, it seems you were not far wrong," Wetmore interposed. "I don't
call Ludlow much of anybody."

"You don't often come down to anything as crude as that, Wetmore,"
Ludlow said.

"Not if I can help it. But I was driven to it, this time; the
provocation was great."

"I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Saunders at home, several years
ago," Ludlow said in obedience to Charmian. "We had some very
delightful friends in common, there--old friends of mine--at
Pymantoning."

"What a pretty name," said Mr. Plaisdell. "What a pity that none of our
great cities happen to have those musical Indian names."

"Chicago," Wetmore suggested.

"Yes, Chicago is big, and the name is Indian; but is it pretty?"

"You can't have everything. I don't suppose it is very decorative."

"Pymantoning is as pretty as its name," said Ludlow. "It has the
loveliness of a level, to begin with; we're so besotted with mountains
in the East that we don't know how lovely a level is."

"The sea," Wetmore suggested again.

"Well, yes, that's occasionally level," Ludlow admitted. "But it hasn't
got white houses with green blinds behind black ranks of maples in the
moonlight."

"If 'good taste' could have had its way, the white house with green
blinds would have been a thing of the past." said the decorator. "And
they were a genuine instinct, an inspiration, with our people. The
white paint is always beautiful,--as marble is. People tried to replace
it with mud-color--the color of the ground the house was built on! I
congratulate Miss Saunders on the conservatism of Py--?"

"Pymantoning," said Cornelia, eager to contribute something to the
talk, and then vexed to have it made much of by Mr. Plaisdell.

Wetmore was looking away. He floated lightly off, with the buoyancy
which is sometimes the property of people of his bulk, and Ludlow
remained talking with Charmian. Then, with what was like the insensible
transition of dreams to her, he was talking with Cornelia. He said he
had been meaning to come and see her all the week past, but he had been
out of town, and very busy, and he supposed she was occupied with
looking about and getting settled. He did not make out a very clear
case, she chose to think, and she was not sure but he was treating her
still as a child, and she tried to think how she could make him realize
that she was not. He seemed quite surprised to hear that she had been
at work in the Synthesis ever since Tuesday. He complimented her
energy, and asked, not how she was getting on there, but how she liked
it; she answered stiffly, and she knew that he was ignoring her blunt
behavior as something she could not help, and that vexed her the more;
she wished to resist his friendliness because she did not deserve it.
She kept seeing how handsome he was, with his brilliant brown beard,
and his hazel eyes. There were points of sunny light in his eyes, when
he smiled, and then his teeth shone very white. He did not smile very
much; she liked his being serious and not making speeches; she wished
she could do something to make him think her less of an auk, but when
she tried, it was only worse. He did not say anything to let her think
he had changed his mind as to the wisdom of her coming to study art in
New York; and she liked that; she should have hated him if he had.

"Have you got that little Manet, yet?" Mr. Plaisdell broke in upon
them. "I was telling Miss Maybough about it."

"Yes," said Ludlow. "It's at my place. Why won't Miss Maybough and Miss
Saunders come and see it? You'll come, won't you, Miss Maybough?"

"If mamma will let me," said Charmian, meekly.

"Of course! Suppose we go ask her?"

The friends of Mrs. Maybough had now reduced themselves to Wetmore, who
sat beside her, looking over at the little tea-table group. Ludlow led
the rest toward her.

"What an imprudence," he called out, "when I'd just been booming you!
Now you come up in person to spoil everything."

Ludlow presented his petition, and Mrs. Maybough received it with her
provisional anxiety till he named the day for the visit. She said she
had an engagement for Saturday afternoon, and Ludlow ventured, "Then
perhaps you'd let the young ladies come with a friend of mine: Mrs.
Westley. She'll be glad to call for them, I'm sure."

"Mrs. General Westley?"

"Yes."

"We met them in Rome," said Mrs. Maybough. "I shall be very happy,
indeed, for my daughter. But you know Miss Saunders--is not staying
with us?"

"Miss Saunders will be very happy for herself," said Charmian.

The men took their leave, and Charmian seized the first moment to
breathe in Cornelia's ear: "Oh, what luck! I didn't suppose he _would_
do it, when I got Mr. Plaisdell to hint about that Manet. And it's all
for you. Now come into my room and tell me everything about it. You
have got to stay for dinner."

"No, no; I can't," Cornelia gasped. "And I'm not going to his studio.
He asked me because he had to."

"I should think he did _have_ to. He talked to you as if there was no
one else here. How _did_ you meet him before? _When_ did you?" She
could not wait for Cornelia to say, but broke out with fresh
astonishment. "Why, Walter Ludlow! Do you know who Walter _Ludlow_ is?
He's one of the greatest painters in New York. He's the greatest!"

"Who is Mr. Wetmore?" Cornelia asked evasively.

"Don't name him in the same century! He's grand, too! Does those little
Meissonier things. He's going to paint mamma. She's one of his types.
He must have brought Mr. Ludlow to see me. But he didn't. He saw nobody
but you! Oh Cornelia!" She caught Cornelia in her arms.

"Don't be a goose!" said Cornelia, struggling to get away.

"Will you tell me all about it, then?"

"Yes. But it isn't anything."

At the end of the story Charmian sighed, "How romantic! Of course, he's
simply in a frenzy till he sees you again. I don't believe he can live
through the week."

"He'll have to live through several," said Cornelia; "You can excuse me
when you go. He's very conceited, and he talks to you as if he were a
thousand years old. I think Mr. Plaisdell is a great deal nicer. He
doesn't treat you as if you were--I don't know what!"



XX.


The next day Cornelia found herself the object of rumors that filled
the Synthesis. She knew that they all came from Charmian, and that she
could not hope to overtake them with denial. The ridiculous romances
multiplied themselves, and those who did not understand that Cornelia
and Ludlow had grown up together in the same place, or were first
cousins, had been encouraged to believe that they were old lovers, who
had quarrelled, and never spoken till they happened to meet at Mrs.
Maybough's. Ludlow was noted for a certain reticence and austerity with
women, which might well have come from an unhappy love-affair; once
when he took one of the instructor's classes at the Synthesis
temporarily, his forbidding urbanity was so glacial, that the girls
scarcely dared to breathe in his presence, and left it half-frozen. The
severest of the masters, with all his sarcasm, was simply nothing to
him.

Cornelia liked to hear that. She should have despised Ludlow if she had
heard he was silly with girls, and she did not wish to despise him,
though she knew that he despised her; she could bear that. The
Synthesis praises made her the more determined, however, to judge his
recent work when she came to see it, just as she would judge any one's
work. But first of all she meant not to see it.

She seemed to have more trouble in bringing herself back to this point
than in keeping Charmian to it. Charmian came to believe her at last,
after declaring it the rudest thing she ever heard of, and asking
Cornelia what she expected to say to Mrs. Westley when she came for
her. Cornelia could never quite believe it herself, though she
strengthened her purpose with repeated affirmation, tacit and explicit,
and said it would be very easy to tell Mrs. Westley she was not going,
if she ever did come for her. She could not keep Charmian from
referring the case to every one on the steps and window-sills in the
Synthesis, and at the sketch-class, where Charmian published it the
first time Cornelia came, and wove a romance from it which involved
herself as the close friend and witness of so strange a being.

Cornelia tried not to let all this interfere with her work, but it did,
and at the sketch-class where she might have shown some rebound from
the servile work of the Preparatory, and some originality, she
disappointed those whom Charmian had taught to expect anything of her.
They took her rustic hauteur and her professed indifference to the
distinction of Ludlow's invitation, as her pose. She went home from the
class vexed to tears by her failure, and puzzled to know what she
really should say to that Mrs. Westley when she came; it wouldn't be so
easy to tell her she was not going, after all. Cornelia hated her, and
wished she would not come; she had let the whole week go by, now, till
Thursday, and perhaps she really would not come. The girl knew so
little of the rigidity of city dates that she thought very likely Mrs.
Westley had decided to put it off till another week.

She let herself into her boarding-house with her latch-key and stood
confronted in the hall with Ludlow, who was giving some charge to the
maid. "Oh, Miss Saunders," he said, and he put the card he held into
his pocket, "I'm so glad not to miss you; I was just leaving a written
message, but now I can tell you."

He hesitated, and Cornelia did not know what to do. But she said,
"Won't you come in?" with a vague movement toward the parlor.

"Why, yes, thank you, for a moment," he said; and he went back with
her.

"I hope I haven't kept you waiting," she said, with a severity which
was for her own awkwardness.

He did not take it for himself. "Oh, no! I've just come from Mrs.
Westley's, and she's charged me with a message for you." He handed
Cornelia a note. "She will call for you and Miss Maybough at the
Synthesis rather earlier than you usually leave work, I believe, but I
want you to have some daylight on my Manet. I hope half-past two won't
be too early?"

"Oh, no," said Cornelia, and while she wondered how she could make this
opening of assent turn to refusal in the end, Ludlow went on:

"There's something of my own, that I'd like to have you look at. Of
course, you won't get away with the Manet, alone; I don't suppose you
expected that. I've an idea you can tell me where I've gone wrong, if I
have; it's all a great while ago. Have you ever been at the County Fair
at Pymantoning since----"

He stopped, and Cornelia perceived that it was with doubt whether it
might not still be a tender point with her.

"Oh, yes, I've forgiven the Fair long ago." She laughed, and he laughed
with her.

"It's best not to keep a grudge against a defeat, I suppose. If we do,
it won't help us. I've had my quarrel with the Pymantoning County Fair,
too; but it wasn't with the Fine Arts Committee."

"No, I didn't suppose you wanted to exhibit anything there," said
Cornelia.

"Why, I don't know. It might be a very good thing for me. Why not? I'd
like to exhibit this very picture there. It's an impression--not just
what I'd do, now--of the trotting-match I saw there that day."

"Yes," said Cornelia, letting her eyes fall, "Mrs. Burton said you had
painted it, or you were going to."

"Well, I did," said Ludlow, "and nobody seemed to know what I was
after. I wonder if they would in Pymantoning! But what I wanted to ask
was that you would try to look at it from the Pymantoning point of
view. I hope you haven't lost that yet?"

"Well, I haven't been away such a great while," said Cornelia, smiling.

"No; but still, one sophisticates in New York very soon. I'll tell you
what I've got a notion of! Well, it's all very much in the air, yet,
but so far as I've thought it out, it's the relation of our art to our
life. It sounds rather boring, I know, and I suppose I'm a bit of a
theorist; I always was. It's easy enough to prove to the few that our
life is full of poetry and picturesqueness; but can I prove it to the
many? Can the people themselves be made to see it and feel it? That's
the question. Can they be interested in a picture--a real work of art
that asserts itself in a good way? Can they be taught to care for my
impression of the trotting-match at the Pymantoning County Fair, as
much as they would for a chromo of the same thing, and be made to feel
that there was something more in it perhaps?"

He sat fronting her, with his head down over the hat he held between
his hands; now he lifted his face and looked into hers. She smiled at
his earnestness, and for a little instant felt herself older and wiser
in her practicality.

"You might send it out to the next County Fair, and see."

"Why, that's just what I thought of!" he said, and he laughed. "Do you
suppose they would let me exhibit it in the Fine Arts Department?"

"I don't believe they would give you the first premium," said Cornelia.

"Well, well, then I should have to put up with the second! I should
like to get the first, I confess," Ludlow went on seriously. "The
premium would mean something to me--not so much, of course, as a
popular recognition. What do you think the chance of that would be?"

"Well, I haven't seen the picture yet," Cornelia suggested.

"Ah, that's true! I forgot that," he said, and they both laughed. "But
what do you think of my theory? It seems to me," and now he leaned back
in his chair, and smiled upon her with that bright earnestness which
women always found charming in him, "it seems to me that the worst
effect of an artist's life is to wrap him up in himself, and separate
him from his kind. Even if he goes in for what they call popular
subjects, he takes from the many and gives to the few; he ought to give
something back to the crowd--he ought to give everything back. But the
terrible question is whether they'll have it; and he has no means of
finding out."

"And you've come to one of the crowd to inquire?" Cornelia asked. Up to
that moment she had been flattered, too, by his serious appeal to her,
and generously pleased. But the chance offered, and she perversely
seized it.

He protested with a simple "Ah!" and she was ashamed.

"I don't know," she hurried on to say. "I never thought about it in
that way."

"Well, it isn't so simple any more, after you once begin. I don't
suppose I shall be at peace quite till I try what I can do; and seeing
you Sunday brought Pymantoning all so freshly back, that I've been
wondering, from time to time, ever since, whether you could possibly
help me."

"I will try, as the good little boy said," Cornelia assented.

"It makes me feel like a good little boy to have asked it." Ludlow did
not profit by the chance which the conclusion of their agreement
offered him, to go. He stayed and talked on, and from time to time he
recurred to what he had asked, and said he was afraid she would think
he was using her, and tried to explain that he really was not, but was
approaching her most humbly for her opinion. He could not make it out,
but they got better and better acquainted in the fun they had with his
failures. It went on till Cornelia said, "Now, really, if you keep it
up, I shall have to stand you in the corner, with your face to the
wall."

"Oh, do!" he entreated. "It would be such a relief."

"You know I _was_ a teacher two winters," she said, "and have actually
stood boys in corners."

That seemed to interest him afresh; he made her tell him all about her
school-teaching. He stayed till the bell rang for dinner, and he
suffered a decent moment to pass before he rose then.

"After all," he said at parting, "I think you'd better decide that it's
merely my Manet you're coming to see."

"Yes, merely the Manet," Cornelia assented. "If I choose, the Ludlows
will all be stood in the corners with their faces to the wall."

She found her own face very flushed, when she climbed up to her room
for a moment before going in to dinner, and her heart seemed to be
beating in her neck. She looked at Mrs. Westley's note. It stated
everything so explicitly that she did not see why Mr. Ludlow need have
come to explain. She remembered now that she had forgotten to tell him
she was not going.



XXI.


Cornelia thought Mrs. Westley would come for Charmian and herself in
her carriage; but when they went down to her in the Synthesis office,
they found that she had planned to walk with them to Ludlow's studio.
She said it was not a great way off; and she had got into the habit of
walking there, when he was painting her; she supposed they would rather
walk after their work. Cornelia said "Oh, yes," and Charmian asked, at
her perfervidest, Had Mr. Ludlow painted _her_? and Mrs. Westley
answered calmly. Yes; she believed he did not think it very successful;
her husband liked it, though. Charmian said, Oh, how much she should
like to see it, and Mrs. Westley said she must show it her some time.
Cornelia thought Mrs. Westley very pretty, but she decided that she did
not care to see Ludlow's picture of her.

His studio stood a little back from the sidewalk; it was approached by
a broad sloping pavement, and had two wide valves for the doorway. He
opened the door himself, at their ring, and they found themselves in a
large, gray room which went to the roof, with its vaulted ceiling; this
was pierced with a vast window, that descended half-way down the
northward wall. "My studio started in life as a gentleman's stable;
then it fell into the hands of a sculptor, and then it got as low as a
painter." He said to Charmian, "Mr. Plaisdell has told me how
ingeniously you treated one of your rooms that you took for a studio."

Charmian answered with dark humility, "But a studio without a painter
in it!" and there were some offers and refusals of compliment between
them, which ended in his saying that he would like to see her studio,
and her saying that Mrs. Maybough would always be glad to see him. Then
he talked with Mrs. Westley, who was very pleasant to Cornelia while
the banter with Charmian went on, and proposed to show his pictures; he
fancied that was what he had got them there, for; but he would make a
decent pretence of the Manet, first.

The Manet was one of that painter's most excessive; it was almost
insolent in its defiance of the old theory and method of art. "He had
to go too far, in those days, or he wouldn't have arrived anywhere,"
Ludlow said, dreamily, as he stood looking with them at the picture.
"He fell back to the point he had really meant to reach." He put the
picture away amidst the sighs and murmurs of Mrs. Westley and Charmian,
and the silence of Cornelia, which he did not try to break. He began to
show his own pictures, taking them at random, as it seemed, from the
ranks of canvasses faced against the wall. "You know we impressionists
are nothing if not prolific," he said, and he kept turning the frame on
his easel, now for a long picture, and now for a tall one. The praises
of the others followed him, but Cornelia could not speak. Some of the
pictures she did not like; some she thought were preposterous; but
there were some that she found brilliantly successful, and a few that
charmed her with their delicate and tender poetry. He said something
about most of them, in apology or extenuation; Cornelia believed that
she knew which he liked by his not saying anything of them.

Suddenly he set a large picture on the easel that quite filled the
frame. "Trotting Match at the Pymantoning County Fair," he announced,
and he turned away and began to make tea in a little battered copper
kettle over a spirit-lamp, on a table strewn with color-tubes in the
corner.

"Ah, yes," said Mrs. Westley. "I remember this at the American Artists;
three or four years ago, wasn't it? But you've done something to it,
haven't you?"

"Improved with age," said Ludlow, with his back toward them, bent above
his tea-kettle. "That's all."

"It seems like painting a weed, though," said Charmian. "How can you
care for such subjects?"

Ludlow came up to her with the first cup of tea. "It's no use to paint
lilies, you know."

"Do you call that an answer?"

"A poor one."

He brought Mrs. Westley some tea, and then he came to Cornelia with a
cup in each hand, one for her, and one for himself, and frankly put
himself between her and the others. "Well, what do you think of it?" he
asked, as if there were no one else but they two.

She felt a warm flush of pleasure in his boldness. "I don't know. It's
like it; that's the way I've always seen it; and it's beautiful. But
somehow----"

"What?"

"It looks as if it were somewhere else."

"You've hit it," said Ludlow. "It serves me right. You see I was so
anxious to prove that an American subject was just as susceptible of
impressionistic treatment as a French one, that I made this look as
French as I could. I must do it again and more modestly; not be so
patronizing. I should like to come out there next fall again, and see
another trotting-match. I suppose they'll have one?"

"They always have them; it wouldn't be the Fair without them," said
Cornelia.

"Well, I must come, and somehow do it on the spot; that's the only
way." He pulled himself more directly in front of her and ignored the
others, who talked about his picture with faded interest to each other,
and then went about, and looked at the objects in the studio. "I don't
think I made myself quite clear the other day, about what I wanted to
do in this way." He plunged into the affair again, and if Cornelia did
not understand it better, it was not for want of explanation. Perhaps
she did not listen very closely. All the time she thought how
brilliantly handsome he was, and how fine, by every worldly criterion.
"Yes," he said, "that is something I have been thinking of ever since
my picture failed with the public; it deserved to fail, and you've made
it so clear why, that I can't refuse to know, or to keep myself in the
dark about it any longer. I don't believe we can take much from the
common stock of life in any way, and find the thing at all real in our
hands, without intending to give something back. Do you?"

Cornelia had never thought about it before; she did not try to pretend
that she had; it seemed a little fantastic to her, but it flattered her
to have him talk to her about it, and she liked his seriousness. He did
not keep up the kind of banter with her that he did with Charmian; he
did not pay her compliments, and she hated compliments from men.

Ludlow went off to speak to Mrs. Westley of something he saw her
looking at; Charmian edged nearer to Cornelia. "I would give the world
to be in your place. I never saw anything like it. Keep on looking just
as you are! It's magnificent. Such color, and that queenly pose of the
head! It would kill those Synthesis girls if they knew how he had been
talking to you. My, if I could get anybody to be serious with _me_!
Talk! Say something! _Do you think its going to rain before we get
home?_ His eyes keep turning this way, all the time; you can't see
them, but they do. _I am glad I brought my umbrella. Have you got your
waterproof?_ I'm going to make you tell me every word he said when he
came to see you yesterday; it'll be mean if you don't. _No, I think I
shall go up by the elevated, and then take the surface-car across._
It's the most romantic thing I ever heard of. _No, I don't believe it
will be dark._ Speak! Say something! You mustn't let me do all the
talking; he'll notice."

Cornelia began to laugh, and Charmian turned away and joined Mrs.
Westley and Ludlow, who were tilting outward some of the canvasses
faced against the wall, and talking them over. Cornelia followed her,
and they all four loitered over the paintings, luxuriously giving a
glance at each, and saying a word or two about it. "Yes," Ludlow said,
"sometimes I used to do three or four of them a day. I work more slowly
now; if you want to get any thinking in, you've got to take time to
it."

It was growing dark; Ludlow proposed to see them all home one after
another. Mrs. Westley said no, indeed; the Broadway car, at the end of
the second block, would leave her within three minutes of her door.

"And nothing could happen in three minutes," said Ludlow. "That stands
to reason."

"And _my_ one luxury is going home alone," said Charmian. "Mamma
doesn't allow it, except to and from the Synthesis. Then I'm an art
student and perfectly safe. If I were a young lady my life wouldn't be
worth anything."

"Yes," Ludlow assented, "the great thing is to have some sort of
business to be where you are."

"I know a girl who's in some of the charities, and she goes about at
all hours of the night, and nobody speaks to her," said Charmian.

"Well, then," said Ludlow, "I don't see that there's anything for me to
do, unless we all go together with Mrs. Wesley to get her Broadway car,
and then keep on to the Elevated with you, Miss Maybough. Miss Saunders
may be frightened enough then to let me walk to her door with her. A
man likes to be of some little use in the world."

They had some mild fun about the weakness of Cornelia in needing an
escort. She found it best to own that she did not quite know her way
home, and was afraid to ask if she got puzzled.

Ludlow put out his spirit-lamp, which had been burning blue all the
time, and embittering the tea in the kettle over it, and then they
carried out their plan. Cornelia went before with Mrs. Westley, who
asked her to come to her on her day, whenever she could leave her work
for such a reckless dissipation. At the foot of the Elevated station
stairs, where Charmian inflexibly required that they should part with
her, in the interest of the personal liberty which she prized above
personal safety, she embraced Cornelia formally, and then added an
embrace of a more specific character, and whispered to her ear, "You're
glorious!" and fled up the station stairs.

Cornelia understood that she was glorious because Mr. Ludlow was
walking home with her, and that Charmian was giving the fact a
significance out of all reason. They talked rather soberly, as two
people do when a gayer third has left them, and they had little
silences. They spoke of Charmian, and Cornelia praised her beauty and
her heart, and said how everybody liked her at the Synthesis.

"Do they laugh at her a little, too?" Ludlow asked.

"Why?"

"She's rather romantic."

"Oh, I thought all girls were romantic."

"Yes? You're not."

"What makes you think so?" asked the girl. "I'm a great deal more
romantic than is good for me. Don't you like romantic people? I do!"

"I don't believe I do," said Ludlow. "They're rather apt to make
trouble. I don't mean Miss Maybough. She'll probably take it out in
madly impossible art. Can she draw?"

Cornelia did not like to say what she thought of Charmian's drawing,
exactly. She said, "Well, I don't know."

Ludlow hastened to say, "I oughtn't to have asked that about your
friend."

"We're both in the Preparatory, you know," Cornelia explained. "I think
Charmian has a great deal of imagination."

"Well, that's a good thing, if it doesn't go too far. Fortunately it
can't, in the Preparatory."

At her door Cornelia did not know whether to ask him in, as she would
have done in Pymantoning; she ended by not even offering him her hand;
but he took it all the same, as if he had expected her to offer it.



XXII.


Cornelia found herself in her room without knowing how she got there,
or how long she had been there, when the man-voiced Irish girl came up
and said something to her. She did not understand at first; then she
made out that there was a gentleman asking for her in the parlor; and
with a glance at her face in the glass, she ran down stairs. She knew
it was Ludlow, and that he had thought of something he wanted to say,
and had come back. It must be something very important; it might be an
invitation to go with him somewhere; she wondered if they would have a
chaperone.

In the vague light of the long parlor, where a single burner was turned
half up, because it was not yet dark outside, a figure rose from one of
the sofas and came toward her with one hand extended in gay and even
jocose greeting. It was the figure of a young man, with a high
forehead, and with nothing to obstruct the view of the Shakespearian
dome it mounted into, except a modest growth of hair above either ear.
He was light upon his feet, and he advanced with a rhythmical step.
Cornelia tried to make believe that she did not know who it was; she
recoiled, but her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth, and she could
not gainsay him when he demanded joyfully, "Why, Nie! Why, Nelie! Don't
you remember me? Dickerson, J. B., with Gates & Clarkson, art goods?
Pymantoning? Days of yore, generally? Oh, pshaw, now!"

"Yes, I remember you," said Cornelia, in a voice as cold as the
finger-tips which she inwardly raged to think she gave him, but was
helpless to refuse, simply because he was holding out his hand to her.

"Well, it's good for sore eyes to see you again," said Mr. Dickerson,
closing both of his hands on hers. "Let's see; it's four years ago! How
the time flies! I declare, it don't hardly seem a day. Mustn't tell you
how you've grown, I suppose? Well, we _weren't_ much more than
children, then, anyhow. Set down! I'm at home here. Old stamping-ground
of mine, when I'm in New York; our house has its headquarters in New
York, now; everything's got to come, sooner or later. Well, it's a
great place."

Cornelia obeyed him for the same reason that she gave him her hand,
which was no reason. "I heard your voice there at the door, when you
came in a little while ago, and I was just going to rush out and speak
to you. I was sure it was you; but thinks I, 'It can't be; it's too
good to be true'; and I waited till I could see Mrs. Montgomery, and
then I sent up for you. Didn't send my name; thought I'd like to
surprise you. Well, how's the folks? Mother still doing business at the
old stand? Living and well, I hope?"

"My mother is well," said Cornelia. She wondered how she should rid
herself of this horrible little creature, who grew, as she looked at
him in her fascination, more abominable to her every moment. She was
without any definite purpose in asking, "How is Mrs. Dickerson?"

The question appeared to give Mr. Dickerson great satisfaction; he
laughed, throwing back his head: "Who, Tweet? Well, I thought you'd be
after me there, about the first thing! I don't blame you; don't blame
you a bit. Be just so myself, if I was in your place! Perfectly natural
you should! Then you ain't heard?"

"I don't know what you mean," said Cornelia, with mounting aversion.
She edged away from him, for in the expression of his agreeable emotion
he had pushed nearer to her on the sofa.

"Why, Tweet is Mrs. Byers, now; court let her take back her maiden
name. I didn't oppose the divorce; nothing like peace in families, you
know. Tweet was all right, and I hain't got anything to say against
her. _She's_ a good girl; but we couldn't seem to hit it off, and we
agreed to quit, after we'd tried it a couple of years or so, and I've
been a free man ever since."

It could not be honestly said that Cornelia was profoundly revolted by
the facts so lightly, almost gaily, presented. Her innocence of so much
that they implied, and her familiarity with divorce as a common
incident of life, alike protected her from the shock. But what really
struck terror to her heart was something that she realized with the
look that the hideous little man now bent upon her: the mutual
understanding; the rights once relinquished which might now be urged
again; the memory of things past, were all suggested in this look. She
thought of Ludlow, with his lofty ideals and his great gifts, and then
she looked at this little grinning, leering wretch, and remembered how
he had once put his arm round her and kissed her. It seemed
impossible--too cruel and unjust to be. She was scarcely more than a
child, then, and that foolish affair had been more her mother's folly
than her own. It flashed upon her that unless she put away the shame of
it, the shame would weaken her and master her. But how to assert
herself she did not know till he gave her some pretext.

"Well," he sighed, rolling his head against the back of the sofa, and
looking up at the chandelier, "sometimes a man has more freedom than
he's got any use for. I don't know as I want to be back under Tweet's
thumb, but I guess the Scripture was about right where it says it ain't
good for a man to be alone. When d'you leave Pymantoning, Nelie?"

"It makes no difference when I left." Cornelia got to her feet,
trembling. "And I'll thank you not to call me by my first name, Mr.
Dickerson. I don't know why you should do it, and I don't like it."

"Oh, all right, all right," said Mr. Dickerson. "I don't blame you. I
think you're perfectly excusable to feel the way you do. But some time,
when I get a chance, I should like to tell you about it, and put it to
you in the right light----"

"I don't want to hear about it," cried Cornelia fiercely. "And I won't
have you thinking that it's because I ever did care for you. I didn't.
And I was only too glad when you got married. And I don't hate you, for
I despise you too much; and I always did. So!"

She stamped her foot for a final emphasis, but she was aware of her
words all having fallen effectless, like blows dealt some detestable
thing in a dream.

"Good! Just what I expected and deserved," said Mr. Dickerson, with a
magnanimity that was appalling. "I did behave like a perfect scallawag
to you, Nie; but I was young then, and Tweet got round me before I
knew. I can explain----"

"I don't want you to explain! I won't let you. You're too disgusting
for anything. Don't I tell you I _never_ cared for you?"

"Why, of course," said Mr. Dickerson tolerantly, "you say that now; and
I don't blame you. But _I_ guess you _did_ care, once, Nelie."

"Oh, my goodness, what shall I do?" She found herself appealing in some
sort to the little wretch against himself.

"Why, let's see how you look; I hain't had a fair peep at you, yet." As
if with the notion of affording a relief to the strain of the
situation, he advanced, and lifted his hand toward the low-burning
chandelier.

"Stop!" cried Cornelia. "Are you staying here--in this house?"

"Well, I inferred that I was, from a remark that I made."

"Then I'm going away instantly. I will tell Mrs. Montgomery, and I will
go to-night."

"Why, Nie!"

"Hush! Don't you--don't dare to speak to me! Oh, you--you----" She
could not find a word that would express all her loathing of him, and
her scorn of herself in the past for having given him the hold upon her
that nothing appeared to have loosed. She was putting on a bold front,
and she meant to keep her word, but if she left that house, she did not
know where, in the whole vast city, she should go. Of course she could
go to Charmian Maybough; but besides bring afraid to venture out after
dark, she knew she would have to tell Charmian all about it; or else
make a mystery of it; there was nothing, probably, that Charmian would
have liked better, but there was nothing that Cornelia would have liked
less. She wanted to cry; it always seems hard and very unjust to us, in
after life, when some error or folly of our youth rises up to perplex
us; and Cornelia was all the more rebellious because the fault was not
wholly hers, or not even largely, but mostly her dear, innocent, unwise
mother's.

Mr. Dickerson dropped his hand without turning up the gas; perhaps he
did not need a stronger light on Cornelia, after all. "Oh, well! I
don't want to drive you out of the house. I'll go. I've got my grip out
here in the hall. But see here! I told Mrs. Montgomery we hailed from
the same place--children together, and I don't know but what
cousins--and how glad I was to find you here, and now if I leave----
Better let me stay here, over night, anyhow! I'm off on the road
to-morrow, anyway. I won't trouble you; I won't, indeed. Now you can
depend upon it. Word's as good as my bond, if my bond _ain't_ worth a
great deal. But, honor bright!"

Cornelia's heart, which stood still at the threat she made, began to
pound in her breast. She panted so that she could hardly speak.

"Will you call me by my first name?" she demanded.

"No. You shall be Miss Saunders to me till you say when."

"And will you ever speak to me, or look at me, as if we were ever
anything but the most perfect strangers?"

"It'll be a good deal of a discount from what I told Mrs. Montgomery,
but I guess I shall have to promise."

"And you will go in the morning?"

"Sure."

"How soon?"

"Well, I don't like a _very_ early breakfast, but I guess I can get out
of the house by about nine, or half-past eight, maybe."

"Then you may stay." Cornelia turned and marched out of the parlor with
a state that failed her more and more, the higher she mounted toward
her room. If it had been a flight further she would have had to crawl
on her hands and knees.

At first she thought she would not go down to dinner, but after a while
she found herself very hungry, and she decided she must go for
appearance sake at any rate. At the bottom of her heart, too, she was
curious to see whether that little wretch would keep his word.

He was the life of the table. His jokes made everybody laugh; it could
be seen that he was a prime favorite with the landlady. After the
coffee came he played a great many tricks with knives and forks and
spoons, and coins. He dressed one of his hands, all but two fingers,
with a napkin which he made like the skirts of a ballet-dancer, and
then made his fingers dance a hornpipe. He tried a skirt-dance with
them later, but it was comparatively a failure, for want of practice,
he said.

Toward Cornelia he behaved with the most scrupulous deference, even
with delicacy, as if they had indeed met in former days, but as if she
were a person of such dignity and consequence that their acquaintance
could only have been of the most formal character. He did it so well,
and seemed to take such a pleasure in doing it that she blushed for
him. Some of the things he said to the others were so droll that she
had to laugh at them. But he did not presume upon her tolerance.



XXIII.


The false courage that supported her in Dickerson's presence left
Cornelia when she went back to her room, and she did not sleep that
night, or she thought she did not. She came down early for a cup of
coffee, and the landlady told her that Mr. Dickerson had just gone; he
wished Mrs. Montgomery to give Cornelia his respects, and apologize for
his going away without waiting to see her again. He had really expected
to stay over till Monday, but he found he could save several days by
taking the Chicago Limited that morning. Mrs. Montgomery praised his
energy; she did not believe he would be on the road a great while
longer; he would be in the firm in less than another year. She hinted
at his past unhappiness in the married state, and she said she did hope
that he would get somebody who would appreciate him, next time. There
did not seem to be any doubt in her mind that there would be a next
time with him.

Cornelia wanted to ask whether she expected him back soon; she could
not; but she resolved that whenever he came he should not find her in
that house. She thought where she should go, and what excuse she should
make for going, what she should tell Charmian, or Mr. Ludlow, if she
ever saw him again. It seemed to her that she had better go home, but
Cornelia hated to give up; she could not bear to be driven away. She
went to church, to escape herself, and a turmoil of things alien to the
place and the hour whirled through her mind during the service; she
came out spent with a thousand-fold dramatization of her relations to
Mr. Dickerson and to Mr. Ludlow. She sat down on a bench in the little
park before the church, and tried to think what she ought to do, while
the children ran up and down the walks, and the people from the
neighboring East Side avenues, in their poor Sunday best, swarmed in
the square for the mild sun and air of the late October. The street
cars dinned ceaselessly up and down, and back and forth; the trains of
the Elevated hurtled by on the west and on the east; the troubled city
roared all round with the anguish of the perpetual coming and going;
but it was as much Sunday there as it would have been on the back
street in Pymantoning where her mother's little house stood. The leaves
that dripped down at her feet in the light warm breaths of wind passing
over the square might have fallen from the maple before the gate at
home. The awful unity of life for the first time appeared to her. Was
it true that you could not get away from what you had been? Was that
the meaning of that little wretch's coming back to claim her after he
had forfeited every shadow of right to her that even her mother's
ignorance and folly had given him? Then it meant that he would come
back again and again, and never stop coming. She made believe that if
she looked up, she should now see him actually coming down the path
toward her; she held her eyes fixed upon the ground at her feet, and
then it seemed to her every moment that he was just going to take the
seat next her. The seat was already taken; a heavy German woman filled
it so solidly that no phantasm could have squeezed in beside her. But
the presence of Dickerson became so veritable that Cornelia started up
breathless, and hurried home, sick with the fear that she should find
him waiting for her there.

She was afraid to go out the next morning, lest she should meet him on
the street, though she knew that by this time he was a thousand miles
away.

At the Synthesis she was ashamed to let Charmian think that her absent
and tremulous mood had something to do with Ludlow; but she was so much
more ashamed of the shabby truth that she would have been willing to
accept the romance herself. This was very dishonest; it was very wicked
and foolish; Cornelia saw herself becoming a guilty accomplice in an
innocent illusion. She found strength to silence Charmian's surmise, if
not to undeceive her; she did her best; and as the days began to remove
her farther and farther from the moment of her actual encounter with
Dickerson, her reason came more and more into control of her
conscience. She tried not to be the fool of a useless remorse for
something she was at least not mainly to blame for. She had to make the
struggle alone; there was no one she could advise with; her heart shut
when she thought of telling any one her trouble; but in her perpetual
reveries she argued the case before Ludlow.

It seemed to her as if he had come to render her a final judgment when
his name was sent up to her room, that Saturday afternoon which ended
the longest week of her life. She went down, and found him alone in the
long parlor, and it was in keeping with her fantastic prepossession
that he should begin, "I wonder how I shall say what I've come for?" as
if he would fain have softened her sentence.

He kept her hand a moment longer than he need; but he was not one of
those disgusting people who hold your hand while they talk to you, and
whom Cornelia hated. She did not now resent it, though she was sensible
of having to take her hand from him.

"I don't know," she answered, with hysterical flippancy. "If I did I
would tell you."

He laughed, as if he liked her flippancy, and he said, "It's very
simple. In fact, that's what makes it so difficult."

"Then you might practice on something hard first," she suggested
wildly. "How would the weather do?"

"Yes, hasn't it been beautiful?" said Ludlow, with an involuntary lapse
into earnestness. "I was in the Park to-day for a little effect I
wanted to get, and it was heartbreaking to leave the woods. I was away
up in those forest depths that look wild in spite of the asphalt. If
you haven't been there, you must go some day while the autumn color
lasts. I saw a lot of your Synthesis ladies painting there. I didn't
know but I might see you."

This was all very matter of fact. Cornelia took herself in hand, and
shook herself out of her hallucination. "No, I don't suppose it would
be right for a person who was merely in the Preparatory to go sketching
in the Park. And Charmian and I were very good to-day, and kept working
away at our block hands as long as the light lasted."

"Ah, yes; Miss Maybough," said Ludlow; then he paused absently a
moment. "Do you think she is going to do much in art?"

"How should I know?" returned Cornelia. She thought it rather odd he
should recur to that after she had let him see she did not want to talk
about Charmian's art.

"Because you know that you can do something yourself," said Ludlow.
"That is the only kind of people who can really know. The other sort of
people can make clever guesses; they can't know."

"And you believe that I can do something?" asked Cornelia, and a sudden
revulsion of feeling sent the tears to her eyes. It was so sweet to be
praised, believed in, after what she had been through. "But you haven't
seen anything of mine except those things--in the Fair House."

"Oh, yes, I have. I've seen the drawings you submitted at the
Synthesis. I've just seen them. I may as well confess it: I asked to
see them."

"You did! And--and--well?" she fluttered back.

"It will take hard work."

"Oh, I know that!"

"And it will take time."

"Yes, that is the worst of it. I don't see how I can give the time."

"Why?" he asked.

"Oh, because--I can't very well be away from home." She colored as she
said this, for she could have been away from home well enough if she
had the money. "I thought I would come and try it for one winter."

He said lightly, "Perhaps you'll get so much interested that you'll
find you can take more time."

"I don't know," she answered.

"Well, then, you must get in all the work you can this winter. Block
hands are well enough, but they're not the whole of art nor the whole
preparation for it."

"Oh, I've joined the sketch class," she said.

"Yes, that's well enough, too," he assented. "But I want you to come
and paint with me," he suddenly added.

"You? Me?" she gasped.

"Yes," he returned. "I'll tell you what I mean. I've been asked to
paint a lady. She'll have to come to my place, and I want you to come
with her, and see what you can do, too. I hope it doesn't seem too
extraordinary?" he broke off, at sight of the color in her face.

"Oh, no," said Cornelia. She wondered what Charmian would say if she
knew this; she wondered what the Synthesis would say; the Synthesis
held Mr. Ludlow in only less honor than the regular Synthesis
instructors, and Mr. Ludlow had asked her to come and paint with him!
She took shelter in the belief that Mrs. Burton must have put him up to
it, somehow, but she ought to say something grateful, or at least
something. She found herself stupidly and aimlessly asking, "Is it Mrs.
Westley?" as if that had anything to do with the matter.

"No; I don't see why I didn't tell you at once," said Ludlow. "It's
your friend, Miss Maybough."

Cornelia relieved her nerves with a laugh. "I wonder how she ever kept
from telling it."

"Perhaps she didn't know. I've only just got a letter from her mother,
asking me to paint her, and I haven't decided yet that I shall do it."

She thought that he wanted her to ask him why, and she asked, "What are
you waiting for?"

"For two reasons. Do you want the real reason first?" he asked, smiling
at her.

She laughed. "No, the unreal one!"

"Well, I doubt whether Mrs. Maybough wrote to me of her own
inspiration, entirely. I suspect that Wetmore and Plaisdell have been
working the affair, and I don't like that."

"Well?"

"And I'm waiting for you to say whether I could do it. That's the real
reason."

"How should I know?"

"I could make a picture of her," he said, "but could I make a portrait?
There is something in every one which holds the true likeness; if you
don't get at that, you don't make a portrait, and you don't give people
their money's worth. They haven't proposed to buy merely a picture of
you; they've proposed to buy a picture of a certain person; you may
give them more, but you can't honestly give them less; and if you don't
think you can give them that, then you had better not try. I should
like to try for Miss Maybough's likeness, and I'll do that, at least,
if you'll try with me. The question is whether you would like to."

"Like to? It's the greatest opportunity! Why, I hope I know what a
chance it is, and I don't know why you ask me to."

"I want to learn of you."

"If you talk that way I shall know you are making fun of me."

"Then I will talk some other way. I mean what I say. I want you to show
me how to look at Miss Maybough. It sounds fantastic----"

"It sounds ridiculous. I shall not do anything of the kind."

"Very well, then, I shall not paint her."

"You don't expect me to believe that," said Cornelia, but she did
believe it a little, and she was daunted. She said, "Charmian would
hate it."

"I don't believe she would," said Ludlow. "I don't think she would mind
being painted by half-a-dozen people at once. The more the better."

"That shows you don't understand her," Cornelia began.

"Didn't I tell you I didn't understand her? Now, you see, you must. I
should have overdone that trait in her. Of course there is something
better than that."

"I don't see how you could propose my painting her, too," Cornelia
relented, provisionally.

Ludlow was daunted in his turn; he had not thought of that. It would be
a little embarrassing, certainly, but he could not quite own this. He
laughed and said, "I have a notion she will propose it herself, if you
give her a chance."

"Oh," said Cornelia, "if she does that, all well and good."

"Then I may say to her mother that I will make a try at the portrait?"

"What have I to do with it?" Cornelia demanded, liking and not liking
to have the decision seem left to her. "I shall have nothing to do with
it if she doesn't do it of her own accord."

"You may be sure that she shall not have even a suggestion of any
kind," said Ludlow, solemnly.

"I shall know it if she does," Cornelia retorted, not so solemnly, and
they both laughed.

While he stayed and talked with her the affair had its reason and
justification; it seemed very simple and natural; but when he went away
it began to look difficult and absurd. It was something else she would
have to keep secret, like that folly of the past; it cast a malign
light upon Ludlow, and showed him less wise and less true than she had
thought him. She must take back her consent; she must send for him,
write to him, and do it; but she did not know how without seeming to
blame him, and she wished to blame only herself. She let the evening go
by, and she stood before the glass, putting up her hand to her back
hair to extract the first dismantling hairpin, for a sleepless night,
when a knock at her door was followed by the words, "He's waitun' in
the parlor." The door was opened and the Irish girl put a card in her
hand.



XXIV.


The card was Ludlow's, and the words, "Do see me, if you can, for a
moment," were scribbled on it.

Cornelia ran down stairs. He was standing, hat in hand, under the leafy
gas chandelier in the parlor, and he said at once, "I've come back to
say it won't do. You can't come to paint Miss Maybough with me. It
would be a trick. I wonder I ever thought of such a thing."

She broke out in a joyful laugh. "I knew you came for that."

He continued to accuse himself, to explain himself. He ended, "You must
have been despising me!"

"I despised myself. But I had made up my mind to tell Charmian all
about it. There's no need to do that, now it's all over."

"But it isn't all over for me," said Ludlow gloomily. "I went straight
home from here, and wrote to Mrs. Maybough that I would paint her
daughter, and now I'm in for it."

He looked so acutely miserable that Cornelia gave way to a laugh, which
had the effect of raising his fallen spirits, and making him laugh,
too. They sat down together and began to talk the affair all over
again.

Some of the boarders who were at the theatre came in before he rose to
go.

Cornelia followed him out into the hall. "Then there is nothing for me
to do about it?"

"No, nothing," he said, "unless you want to take the commission off my
hands, and paint the picture alone." He tried to look gloomy again, but
he smiled.

Every one slept late at Mrs. Montgomery's on Sunday morning; all sects
united in this observance of the day; in fact you could not get
breakfast till nine. Cornelia opened her door somewhat later even than
this, and started at the sight of Charmian Maybough standing there,
with her hand raised in act to knock. They exchanged little shrieks of
alarm.

"Did I scare you? Well, it's worth it, and you'll say so when you know
what's happened. Go right back in!" Charmian pushed Cornelia back and
shut the door. "You needn't try to guess, and I won't ask you to. But
it's simply this: Mr. Ludlow is going to paint me. What do you think of
that? Though I sha'n't expect you to say at once. But it's so. Mamma
wrote to him several days ago, but she kept the whole affair from me
till she knew he would do it, and he only sent his answer last night
after dinner." Charmian sat down on the side of the bed with the effect
of intending to take all the time that was needed for the full
sensation. "And now, while you're absorbing the great central fact, I
will ask if you have any idea why I have rushed down here this morning
before you were up, or mamma either, to interview you?"

"No, I haven't," said Cornelia.

"You don't happen to have an olive or a cracker any where about? I
don't need them for illustration, but I haven't had any breakfast,
yet."

"There are some ginger-snaps in the bureau box right before you," said
Cornelia from the window-sill.

"Ginger-snaps will do, in an extreme case like this," said Charmian,
and she left her place long enough to search the bureau box. "What
little ones!" she sighed. "But no matter; I can eat them all." She
returned to her seat on Cornelia's bed with the paper bag which she had
found, in her hand. "Well, I have thought it perfectly out, and all you
have to do is to give your consent; and if you knew how much valuable
sleep I had lost, thinking it out, you would consent at once. You know
that the sittings will have to be at his studio, and that I shall have
to have somebody go with me." Cornelia was silent, and Charmian urged,
"You know that much, don't you?"

"Yes, I suppose so," Cornelia allowed.

"Well, then, you know I could have mamma go, but it would bore her; or
I could have a maid go, but that would bore me; and so I've decided to
have you go."

"Me?"

"Yes; and don't say you can't till you know what you're talking about.
It'll take all your afternoons for a week or a fortnight, and you'll
think you can't give the time. But I'll tell you how you can, and more
too; how you can give the whole winter, if it takes him that long to
paint me; but they say he paints very rapidly, and gets his picture at
a dash, or else doesn't get it at all; and it's neither more nor less
than this: I'm going to get him to let you paint me at the same time?
What do you think of that?"

All our motives are mixed, and it was not pure conscience which now
wrought in Cornelia. It was pride, too, and a certain resentment that
Charmian should assume authority to make Mr. Ludlow do this or that.
For an instant she questioned whether he had not broken faith with her,
and got Charmian to propose this; then she knew that it could not have
been. She said coldly, "I can't do it."

"_What!_ Not when I've come down here before breakfast to ask you? Why
can't you?" Charmian wailed.

"Because Mr. Ludlow was here last night, and asked me to do it."

"He _did_? Then I am the happiest girl in the world! Let me embrace
you, Cornelia!"

"Don't be--disgusting!" said Cornelia, but she felt that Charmian was
generously glad of the honor done her, and that she had wronged her by
suspecting her of a wish to show power over Mr. Ludlow. "I told him I
couldn't, and I can't, because it would have seemed to be making use of
you, and--and--you wouldn't like it, and I wouldn't like it in your
place, and--I wouldn't do it. And I should have to tell you that he
proposed it, and that you would perfectly hate it."

"When it was the very first thing I thought of? Let me embrace you
again, Cornelia Saunders, you adorable wooden image! Why his proposing
it makes it perfectly divine, and relieves me of all responsibility.
Oh, I would come down here every _day_ before breakfast a whole week,
for a moment like this! Then it's all settled; and we will send him
word that we will begin to-morrow afternoon. Let's discuss the
character you will do me in. I want you to paint me in character--both
of you--something allegorical or mythical. Or perhaps you're hungry,
too! And I've eaten every one of the snaps."

"No, I can't do it," Cornelia still protested; but the reasons why she
could not, seemed to have escaped her, or to have turned into mere
excuses. In fact, since Charmian had proposed it, and seemed to wish
it, they were really no longer reasons. Cornelia alleged them again
with a sense of their fatuity. She did not finally assent; she did not
finally refuse; but she felt that she was very weak.

"I see what you're thinking about," said Charmian, "but you needn't be
afraid. I shall not show anything out. I shall be a perfect--tomb."

"What do you mean?" demanded Cornelia, with a vexation heightened by
the sense of her own insincerity.

"Oh, _you_ know what. But from this time forth _I_ don't. It will be
glorious not to let myself realize it. I shall just sit and think up
conundrums, and not hear, or see, or dream anything. Yes, I can do it,
and it will be splendid practice. This is the way I shall look." She
took a pose in Cornelia's one chair, and put on an air of impenetrable
mystery, which she relinquished a moment to explain, "Of course this
back is rather too stiff and straight; I shall be more crouching." She
pushed a ginger-snap between her lips, and chewed enigmatically upon
it. "See?" she said.

"Now, look here, Charmian Maybough," said Cornelia sternly, "if you
ever mention that again, or allude to it the least in the world----"

"Don't I _say_ I won't?" demanded Charmian, jumping up. "That will be
the whole fun of it. From the very first moment, till I'm framed and
hung in a good light, I'm going to be _mum_, through and through, and
if _you_ don't speak of him, I sha'n't, except as a fellow-artist."

"What a simpleton!" said Cornelia. She laughed in spite of her
vexation. "I'm not obliged to let what you think trouble me."

"Of course not."

"Your thinking it doesn't make it so."

"No----"

"But if you let _him_ see----"

"The whole idea is _not_ to let him see! That's what I shall do it all
for. Good-by!"

She put the paper bag down on the bureau for the greater convenience of
embracing Cornelia.

"Why don't you stay and have breakfast with me?" Cornelia asked.
"You'll be sick."

"Breakfast? And ruin everything! I would rather _never_ have any
breakfast!" She took up the paper bag again, and explored it with an
eager hand, while she stared absently at Cornelia. "Ah! I _thought_
there was one left! What mites of things." She put the last ginger-snap
into her mouth, and with a flying kiss to Cornelia as she passed, she
flashed out of the door, and down the stairs.



XXV.


After all, Ludlow decided that he would paint Charmian in her own
studio, with the accessories of her peculiar pose in life about her;
they were factitious, but they were genuine expressions of her
character; he could not realize her so well away from there.

The first afternoon was given to trying her in this light and that, and
studying her from different points. She wished to stand before her
easel, in her Synthesis working-dress, with her palette on her thumb,
and a brush in her other hand. He said finally, "Why not?" and Cornelia
made a tentative sketch of her.

At the end of the afternoon he waited while the girl was putting on her
hat in Charmian's room, where she smiled into the glass at Charmian's
face over her shoulder, thinking of the intense fidelity her friend had
shown throughout to her promise of unconsciousness.

"Didn't I do it magnificently?" Charmian demanded. "It almost killed
me; but I meant to do it if it did kill me; and now his offering to see
you aboard the car shows that _he_ is determined to do it, too, if it
kills _him_. I call it masterly."

"Well, don't go and spoil it now," said Cornelia. "And if you're going
to ask me every day how you've done----"

"Oh, I'm not! Only the first day and the last day!"

"Well!"

As Ludlow walked with Cornelia toward the point where she was to take
her car down town, he began, "You see, she is _so_ dramatic, that if
you tried to do her in any other way--that is, simply--you would be
doing her artificially. You have to take her as she is, don't you
think?"

"I don't know as I think Charmian is acting all the time, if that's
what you mean," said Cornelia. "Or any of the time, even."

Ludlow wished she had said she did not know _that_ instead of _as_, but
he reflected that ninety Americans out of a hundred, lettered or
unlettered, would have said the same. "Oh, I don't at all mean that she
is, intentionally. It's because it's her nature that I want to
recognize it. You think it _is_ her nature, don't you?" he asked
deferentially.

"Oh, I suppose it is," she answered; it amused her to have him take
such a serious tone about Charmian.

"I shall have to depend a great deal on your judgment in that matter,"
he went on. "You won't mind it, I hope?"

"Not if you won't mind it's not being worth anything."

"It will be worth everything!"

"Or if you won't care for my not giving it, sometimes."

"I don't understand."

"Well, I shouldn't want to seem to talk her over."

"Oh, no! You _don't_ think I expected you to do that? It was merely the
right point of view I wanted to get."

"I don't know as I object to that," said Cornelia.

The car which she wished to take came by, and he stopped it and handed
her aboard. She thought he might decide to come with her, but he bowed
his good-night, and she saw him walking on down town as she passed him.

At the end of a fortnight Ludlow had failed to get his picture of
Charmian; at the end of a month he began with a new pose and a fresh
theory. That quality of hers which he hoped to surprise with Cornelia's
help, and which was to give verity and value to his portrait, when once
he expressed it there, escaped him still.

She was capable of perfect poses, but they were mere flashes of
attitude. Then the antique mystery lurking in her face went out of it,
and she became _fin de siècle_ and romantic, and young ladyish, and
uninteresting to Ludlow.

She made tea every afternoon when they finished, and sometimes the talk
they began with before they began work prolonged itself till the time
for the tea had come. On the days when Mr. Plaisdell dropped in for a
cup, the talk took such a range that the early dark fell before it
ended, and then Cornelia had to stay for dinner and to be sent home in
Mrs. Maybough's coupé.

She had never supposed there was anything like it in all the world.
Money, and, in a certain measure, the things that money could buy, were
imaginable in Pymantoning; but joys so fine, so simple as these, were
what she could not have forecast from any ground of experience or
knowledge. She tried to give her mother a notion of what they said and
did; but she told her frankly she never could understand. Mrs.
Saunders, in fact, could not see why it was so exciting; she read
Cornelia's letters to Mrs. Burton, who said she could see, and she told
Mrs. Saunders that, she would like it as much as Cornelia did, if she
were in her place; that she was a kind of Bohemian herself.

She tried to explain what Bohemian meant, and what Bohemia was; but
this is what no one can quite do. Charmian herself, who aimed to be a
perfect Bohemian, was uncertain of the ways and means of operating the
Bohemian life, when she had apparently thrown off all the restrictions,
for the afternoon, at least, that prevented its realization. She had a
faultless setting for it. There never was a girl's studio that was more
like a man's studio, an actual studio. Mr. Ludlow himself praised it;
he said he felt at home in it, and he liked it because it was not
carried a bit too far. Charmian's mother had left her free to do what
she wished, and there was not a convention of Philistine housekeeping
in the arrangement of the place. Everything was in the admired disorder
of an artist's environment; but Mrs. Maybough insisted upon neatness.
Even here Charmian had to submit to a compromise. She might and did
keep things strewn all about in her studio, but every morning the
housemaid was sent in to sweep it and dust it. She was a housemaid of
great intelligence, and an imperfect sense of humor, and she obeyed
with unsmiling scrupulosity the instructions she had to leave
everything in Miss Charmian's studio exactly as she found it, but to
leave it clean. In consequence, this home of art had an effect of
indescribable coldness and bareness, and there were at first some
tempestuous scenes which Cornelia witnessed between Charmian and her
mother, when the girl vainly protested:

"But don't you _see_, mamma, that if you have it regularly dusted, it
never can have any sentiment, any atmosphere?"

"I don't see how you can call _dust_ atmosphere, my dear," said her
stepmother. "If I left your studio looking as you want it, and there
should be a fire, what would people think?"

"Well, if there should happen to be anybody from Wilbraham, Mass.,"
Charmian retorted, "they might criticise, but I don't think the New
York Fire Department would notice whether the place had been dusted or
not. But, go on, mamma! _Some_ day I shall have a studio out of the
house--Cornelia and I are going to have one--and then I guess you won't
have it dusted!"

"I'm sure Miss Saunders wouldn't let it get dusty," said Mrs. Maybough,
and then, in self-defence, Charmian gave Cornelia the worst character
for housekeeping that she could invent from her knowledge of Cornelia's
room.

She begged her pardon afterwards, but she said she had to do it, and
she took what comfort she could in slamming everything round, as she
called it, in her studio, when she went with Cornelia to have her
coffee there. The maid restored it to its conscious picturesqueness the
next day.

Charmian was troubled to decide what was truly Bohemian to eat, when
they became hungry over their work. She provided candy and chocolate in
all their forms and phases, but all girls ate candy and chocolate, and
they were so missish, and so indistinctive, and they both went so badly
with tea, which she must have because of the weird effect of the
spirit-lamp under the kettle, that she disused them after the first
week. There remained always crackers, which went with anything, but the
question was what to have with them. Their natural association with
cheese was rejected because Charmian said she should be ashamed to
offer Mr. Ludlow those insipid little Neufchatel things, which were
made in New Jersey, anyway, and the Gruyère smelt so, and so did
Camembert; and pine-apple cheese was Philistine. There was nothing for
it but olives, and though olives had no savor of originality, the
little crescent ones were picturesque, and if you picked them out of
the bottle with the end of a brush-handle, sharpened to a point, and
the other person received them with their thumb and finger, the whole
act was indisputably Bohemian.

There was one day when they all got on particularly well, and Charmian
boldly ordered some champagne for a burst. The man brought back
Apollinaris water, and she was afraid to ask why, for fear he should
say Mrs. Maybough sent it. Ludlow said he never took champagne, and was
awfully glad of the Apollinaris, and so the change was a great success,
for neither Charmian nor Cornelia counted, in any case; they both hated
every kind of wine.

Another time, Cornelia, when she came, found Charmian lighting one of
the cigars kept for show on her mantel. She laughed wildly at
Cornelia's dismay, and the smoke, which had been going up her nose,
went down her throat in a volume, and Cornelia had to run and catch
her; she was reaching out in every direction for help.

Cornelia led her to the couch, which was still waiting its rugs to
become a bed, and she lay down there, very pale and still, and was
silent a long time, till Cornelia said, "Now, if I could find a moose
somewhere to run over you," and they both burst into a shriek of
laughter.

"But I'm going to _learn_" Charmian declared. "Where did that cigar
go?" She sprang up to look for it, but they never could find it, and
they decided it must have gone into the fire, and been burnt up; that
particular cigar seemed essential to the experiment, or at least
Charmian did not try another.

They were both very grave after Ludlow came. When he went away, he
said, with an absent look at Charmian, "You have a magnificent pallor
to-day, Miss Maybough, and I must compliment you on keeping much
quieter than usual."

"Oh, thank you," said Charmian, gravely, and as soon as the door closed
upon him she flung herself into Cornelia's arms, and they stifled their
laughter in each other's necks. It seemed to them that nothing so
wildly funny had ever happened before; they remained a long while
quaking over the question whether there was smell of smoke enough in
the room to have made him suspect anything, and whether his
congratulations were not ironical. Charmian said that her mistake was
in not beginning with a cigarette instead of a cigar; she said she was
ready to begin with a cigarette then, and she dared Cornelia to try
one, too. Cornelia refused the challenge, and then she said, well, she
would do it herself, some day.

There was a moment when it seemed to her that the Bohemian ideal could
be realized to a wild excess in pop-corn. She bought a popper and three
ears of corn, and brought them home tied up in paper, and fastened to
some canvases she got for Cornelia. She insisted that it was part of
the bargain that she should supply Cornelia's canvases. But the process
of popping made them all very red in the face; they had to take it by
turns, for she would not let Ludlow hold the popper the whole time.
They had a snowy heap of corn at last, which she put on the hearth
before them in the hollow of a Japanese shield, detached from a suit of
armor, for that use. They sat on the hearth to eat it, and they told
ghost-stories and talked of the most psychological things they could
think of. In all this Charmian put Cornelia forward as much as she
dared, and kept herself in a sort of impassioned abeyance. If Cornelia
had been the most jealous and exacting of principals she could not have
received from her second a more single and devoted allegiance.
Charmian's joy in her fortunately mounted in proportion to the devotion
she paid her, rather than Cornelia's gratitude for it. She did not like
to talk of herself, and these séances were nothing if not strictly
personal; but Charmian talked for her, and represented her in phases of
interest which Cornelia repudiated with a laugh, or denied outright,
without scruple, when the invention was too bold. Charmian contrived
that she should acquire the greater merit, from her refusals of it, and
went on to fresh self-sacrifices in her behalf.

Sometimes she started the things they talked of; not because she ever
seemed to have been thinking of them, or of anything, definitely, but
because she was always apparently letting her mind wander about in
space, and chanced upon them there. Mostly, however, the suggestions
came from Ludlow. He talked of art, its methods, its principles, its
duties to the age, the people, the civilization; the large moral uses,
which kindled Charmian's fancy, and made Cornelia laugh when Charmian
proposed a scheme for the relief and refinement of the poor on the East
Side, by frescoing the outsides of the tenement houses in Mott Street
and Mulberry Bend, with subjects recalling the home life of the
dwellers there: rice-fields and tea-plantations for the Chinese, and
views of Etna and Vesuvius and their native shores for the Sicilians
and Neapolitans, with perhaps religious histories.

Ludlow had to explain that he had not meant the employment of any such
direct and obvious means, but the gradual growth of a conscience in
art. Cornelia thought him vague, but it seemed clear to Charmian. She
said, "Oh, yes; _that_," and she made tea, and had him set fire to some
pieces of Southern lightwood on her hearth, for the sake of the murky
fumes and the wreaths of dusky crimson flame, which she said it was so
weird to sit by.

In all matters of artistic theory and practice she set Cornelia the
example of grovelling at the master's feet, as if there could be no
question of anything else; but in other things Cornelia sometimes
asserted herself against this slavish submission with a kind of
violence little short of impertinence. After these moral paroxysms, in
which she disputed the most obviously right and reasonable things, she
was always humiliated and cast down before his sincerity in trying to
find a meaning in her difference from him, as if he could not imagine
the nervous impulse that carried her beyond the bounds of truth, and
must accuse himself of error. When this happened she would not let
Charmian take her to task for her behavior; she would not own that she
was wrong; she put the blame on him, and found him arrogant and
patronizing. She had always known he was that kind of person, and she
did not mean to be treated like a child in everything, even if he was a
genius.

By this time they were far away from that point in Charmian's romance
where the faithful friend of the heroine remains forever constant to
her vow not to speak to the heroine of the hero's passion for her, and
in fact rather finds it a duty to break her vow, and enjoys being
snubbed for it. As the transaction of the whole affair took place in
Charmian's fancy, Cornelia had been obliged to indulge her in it, with
the understanding that she should not let it interfere with their work,
or try to involve her visibly or palpably in it.

With all their idling they had days when they worked intensely, and
Ludlow was as severe with Cornelia's work as he was with his own. He
made her rub out and paint out, and he drew ruthless modifications of
her work all over it, like the crudest of the Synthesis masters. He
made her paint out every day the work of the day before, as they did in
the Synthesis; though sometimes he paused over it in a sort of puzzle.
Once he said, holding her sketch into the light he wanted, at the close
of the afternoon, "If I didn't know you had done that to-day, I should
say it was the one you had done yesterday."

Toward the end of the month he recurred to this notion again.
"Suppose," he said, "we keep this, and you do another to-morrow."

The next day he said, in the same perplexity, "Well, keep this, and do
another."

After a week he took all her canvases, and set them one back of
another, but so that he could see each in nearly the same light. He
stood looking at them silently, with the two girls behind him, one at
either shoulder.

"It's as lovely as standing between two mirrors," Charmian suggested
dreamily.

"Pretty much of a sameness," Cornelia remarked.

"Mm," Ludlow made in his throat. He glanced over the shoulder next her,
and asked, as if Charmian were not there, "What makes you do her always
alike?"

"Because she _is_ always alike."

"Then I've seen her wrong," said Ludlow, and he stared at Charmian as
if she were a lay-figure. She bore his scrutiny as impassively as a
lay-figure could.

He turned again to Cornelia's sketches, and said gloomily, "I should
like to have Wetmore see these."

"Oh!" said Cornelia.

Charmian came to life with another "Oh!" and then she demanded. "When?
We must have something besides tea for Mr. Wetmore."

"I think I'll ask him to step round in the morning," said Ludlow, with
authority.

Charmian said "Oh!" again, but submitted with the eagerness of a
disciple; all phases of the art-life were equally precious, and even a
snub from such a master must be willingly accepted.

He went away and would not have any tea; he had an air of
trouble--almost of offence. "Isn't he grand, gloomy and peculiar?"
Charmian said. "I wonder what's the matter?"

She turned to Ludlow's picture which he had left standing on the chair
where he painted at it in disdain of an easel, and silently compared it
with Cornelia's sketches. Then she looked at Cornelia and gave a
dramatic start.

"What is the matter?" asked Cornelia. She came up and began to look at
the picture, too.

Charmian demanded, "Don't you see?"

"No, I don't see anything," said Cornelia, but as she looked something
became apparent which she could not deny. She blushed violently and
turned upon Charmian. "You ought to be ashamed," she began, and she
tried to take hold of her; she did not know why.

Charmian escaped, and fled to the other end of the room with a wild
laugh, and stood there. Cornelia dropped into the chair before the
picture, with her head fallen on her elbow. She seemed to be laughing,
too, and Charmian went on:

"What is there to be ashamed of? I think it's glorious. It's one of the
most romantic things I ever heard of. He simply couldn't help it, and
it proves everything I've said. Of course that was the reason he
couldn't see _me_ all along. Why, if such a thing had happened to me, I
should go round shouting it from the house-tops. I don't suppose he
knew what he was doing, or else he didn't care; perfectly desperate.
What _fun_!"

Cornelia kept laughing, but Charmian stopped and waited a moment and
listened. "Why, Cornelia!" she said remorsefully, entreatingly, but she
remained the length of the room away. Then she approached tentatively,
and when Cornelia suddenly ceased to laugh she put her hand on her
head, and tenderly lifted her face. It was dabbled with tears.
"Cornelia!" she said again.

Cornelia sprang to her feet with a fierceness that sent her flying some
yards away. "Charmian Maybough! Will you ever speak of this to any
living soul?"

"No, no! Indeed I won't----" Charmian began.

"Will you ever _think_ of it!"

"No----"

"Because I don't choose to have you think I am such a fool as
to--to----"

"No, indeed, I don't."

"Because there isn't anything of it, and it wouldn't mean anything, if
there were."

"No," said Charmian. "The only thing is to tear him out of your heart;
and I will help you!" She made as if she were ready to begin then, and
Cornelia broke into a genuine laugh.

"Don't be ridiculous. I guess there isn't much to tear."

"Then what are you going to do?"

"Nothing! What can I! There isn't anything to do anything about. If
it's there, he knows it, and he's left it there because he didn't care
what we thought. He was just trying something. He's always treated me
like a perfect--child. That's all there is of it, and you know it."

"Yes," Charmian meekly assented. Then she plucked up a spirit in
Cornelia's behalf. "The only thing is to keep going on the same as
ever, and show him we haven't seen anything, and don't care if we
have."

"No," said Cornelia sadly, "I shall not come any more. Or, if I do, it
will just be to---- I'm not certain yet what I shall do." She
provisionally dried her eyes and repaired her looks at the little
mirror which hung at one side of the mantel, and then came back to
Charmian who stood looking at Cornelia's sketches, still in the order
Ludlow had left them in. She stole her arm round Cornelia's waist.
"Well, anyway, he can't say _you've_ returned the compliment. They're
perfectly magnificent, every one; and they're all _me_. Now we can
_both_ live for art."



XXVI.


Wetmore came the next morning with Ludlow, and looked at Cornelia's
studies. "Well, there's no doubt about her talent. I wonder why it was
wasted on one of her sex! These gifted girls, poor things, there don't
seem to be any real call for them." He turned from the sketches a
moment to the arrangement of Charmian's studio. "I suppose this is the
other girl's expression." He looked more closely at the keeping of the
room, and said, with a smile of mixed compassion and amusement, "Why,
this girl seems to be trying to do the Bohemian act!"

"That is her pose," Ludlow admitted.

"And does she get a great deal of satisfaction out of it?"

"The usual amount I fancy." Ludlow began to tell of some of Charmian's
attempts to realize her ideal.

Wetmore listened with a pitying smile. "Poor thing! It isn't much like
the genuine thing, as we used to see it in Paris, is it? We Americans
are too innocent in our traditions and experiences; our Bohemia is a
non-alcoholic, unfermented condition. When it is diluted down to the
apprehension of an American girl it's no better, or no worse, than a
kind of Arcadia. Miss Maybough ought to go round with a shepherdess's
crook and a straw hat with daisies in it. That's what _she_ wants to
do, if she knew it. Is that a practicable pipe? I suppose those
cigarettes are chocolates in disguise. Well!" He reverted to Cornelia's
canvases. "Why, of course they're good. She's doomed. She will have to
exhibit. You couldn't do less, Ludlow, than have her carry this one a
little farther"--he picked out one of the canvases and set it
apart--"and offer it to the Academy."

"Do you really think so?" asked Ludlow, looking at it gravely.

"I don't know. With the friends you've got on the Committee---- But you
don't suppose I came up here to see these things alone, did you?
Where's _your_ picture?"

"I haven't any," said Ludlow.

"Ob, rubbish! Where's your theory of a picture, then? I don't care what
you call it. My only anxiety, when you got a plain, simple, every-day
conundrum like Miss Maybough to paint, was that you would try to paint
the answer instead of the conundrum, and I dare say that's the trouble.
You've been trying to give something more of her character than you
found in her face; is that it? Well, you deserved to fail, then. You've
been trying to _interpret_ her; to come the prophet! I don't condemn
the poetry in your nature, Ludlow," Wetmore went on, "and if I could
manage it for you, I think I could keep it from doing mischief. That is
why I am so plain-spoken with you."

"Do you call it plain-speaking?" Ludlow said, putting his picture where
it could be seen best. "I was going to accuse you of flattery."

"Well, you had better ponder the weighty truths I have let fall. I
don't go round dropping them on everybody's toes."

"Probably there are not enough of them," Ludlow suggested.

"Oh, yes, there are." Wetmore waited till Ludlow should say he was
ready to have him look at his picture. "The fact is, I've been giving a
good deal of attention to your case, lately. You're not simple enough,
and you've had the wrong training. You would naturally like to paint
the literature of a thing, and let it go at that. But you've studied in
France, where they know better, and you can't bring yourself to do it.
Your nature and your school are at odds. You ought to have studied in
England. They don't know how to paint there, but they've brought
fiction in color to the highest point, and they're not ashamed of it."

"Perhaps you've boon theorizing, too," said Ludlow, stepping aside from
his picture.

"Not on canvas," Wetmore returned. He put himself in the place Ludlow
had just left. "Hello!" he began, but after a glance at Ludlow he went
on, with the effect of having checked himself, to speak carefully and
guardedly of the work in detail. His specific criticism was as gentle
and diffident as his general censure of Ludlow was blunt and outright.
It was given mostly in questions, and in recognitions of intention.

"Well, the sum of it is," said Ludlow at last, "you see it's a
failure."

Wetmore shrugged, as if this were something Ludlow ought not to have
asked. He went back to Cornelia's sketches, and looked at them one
after another. "That girl knows what she's about, or what she wants to
do, and she goes for it every time. She _has_ got talent. Whether she's
got enough to stand the training! That's the great difference, after
all. Lots of people have talent; that's the gift. The question is
whether one has it in paying quantity, or enough of it to amount to
anything after the digging and refining. I should say that girl had,
but very likely I might be mistaken."

Ludlow joined in the examination of the sketches. He put his hand on
the weak points as well as on the strong ones; he enjoyed with Wetmore
the places where her artlessness had frankly offered itself instead of
her art. There was something ingenuous and honest in it all that made
it all charming.

"Yes, I think she can do it," said Wetmore, "if she wants to bad
enough, or if she doesn't want to get married worse."

Ludlow winced. "Isn't there something a little vulgar in that notion of
ours that a woman always wishes first and most of all to get married?"

"My dear boy," said Wetmore, with an affectionate hand on Ludlow's
shoulder, "I never denied being vulgar."

"Oh, I dare say. But I was thinking of myself."

Ludlow sent word to Charmian at the Synthesis that he should not ask
her to sit to him that afternoon, and in the evening he went to see
Wetmore. It was eleven o'clock, and he would have been welcome at
Wetmore's any time between that hour of the night and two of the
morning. He found a number of people. Mrs. Westley was there with Mrs.
Rangeley; they had been at a concert together. Mrs. Wetmore had just
made a Welsh rabbit, and they were all talking of the real meaning of
the word "beautiful."

"_I_ think," Mrs. Rangeley was saying, "that the beautiful is whatever
pleases or fascinates. There are lots of good-looking people who are
not beautiful at all, because they have no atmosphere: and you see
other people, who are irregular, and quite plain even, and yet you come
away feeling that they are perfectly beautiful." Mrs. Rangeley's own
beauty was a little irregular. She looked anxiously round, and caught
Wetmore in a smile. "What are you laughing at?" she demanded in rueful
deprecation.

"Oh, nothing, nothing!" he said. "I was thinking how convincing you
were!"

"Nothing of the kind!" said one of the men, who had been listening
patiently till she fully committed herself. "There couldn't be a more
fallacious notion of the meaning of beauty. The thing exists in itself,
independently of our pleasure or displeasure; they have almost nothing
to do with it. If you mix it with them you are lost, as far as a true
conception of it goes. Beauty is something as absolute as truth, and
whatever varies from it, as it was ascertained, we'll say, by the Greek
sculptors and the Italian painters, is unbeautiful, just as anything
that varies from the truth is untrue. Charm, fascination, atmosphere,
are purely subjective; one feels them and another doesn't. But beauty
is objective, and nobody can deny it who sees it, whether he likes it
or not. You can't get away from it, any more than you can get away from
the truth. There it is!"

"Where?" asked Wetmore. He looked at the ladies as if he thought one of
them had been indicated.

"How delightful to have one's ideas jumped on just as if they were a
man's!" sighed Mrs. Rangeley. Her opponent laughed a generous delight,
as if he liked nothing better than having his reasoning brought to
naught. He entered joyously into the tumult which the utterance of the
different opinions, prejudices and prepossessions of the company
became.

Ludlow escaped from it, and made his way to Mrs. Westley, in that
remoter and quieter corner, which she seemed to find everywhere when
you saw her out of her own house; there she was necessarily prominent.

"I think Mr. Agnew is right, and Mrs. Rangeley is altogether wrong,"
she said. "There couldn't be a better illustration of it than in those
two young art-student friends of yours. Miss Saunders is beautiful in
just that absolute way Mr. Agnew speaks of; you simply can't refuse to
see it; and Miss Maybough is fascinating, if you feel her so. I should
think you'd find her very difficult to paint, and with Miss Saunders
there, all the time, I should be afraid of getting her decided
qualities into my picture."

Ludlow said, "Ah, that's very interesting."

He meant to outstay the rest, for he wished to speak with Wetmore
alone, and it seemed as though those people would never go. They went
at last. Mrs. Wetmore herself went off to the domestic quarter of the
apartment, and left the two men together.

"'Baccy?" asked Wetmore, with a hospitable gesture toward the pipes on
his mantel.

"No, thank you," said Ludlow.

"Well?"

"Wetmore, what was it you saw in my picture today, when you began with
that 'Hello' of yours, and then broke off to say something else?"

"Did I do that? Well, if you really wish to know----"

"I do!"

"I'll tell you. I was going to ask you which of those two girls you had
painted it from. The topography was the topography of Miss Maybough,
but the landscape was the landscape of Miss Saunders." He waited, as if
for Ludlow to speak; then he went on: "I supposed you had been working
from some new theory of yours, and I thought I had said about as much
on your theories as you would stand for the time."

"Was that all?" Ludlow asked.

"All? It seems to me that's a good deal to be compressed into one small
'hello.'"

Wetmore lighted a pipe, and began to smoke in great comfort. "We were
talking, just before you dropped in, of what you may call the psychical
chemistry of our kind of shop: the way a fellow transmutes himself into
everything he does. I can trace the man himself in every figure he
draws or models. You can't get away from yourself, simply because you
are always thinking yourself, or through yourself; you can't see or
know any one else in any other way."

"It's a very curious thing," said Ludlow, uneasily. "I've noticed that,
too; I suppose every one has. But--good-night."

Wetmore followed him out of the studio to the head of the public stairs
with a lamp, and Ludlow stopped there again. "Should you think there
was anything any one but you would notice?"

"You mean the two girls themselves? Well, I should say, on general
principles, that what two such girls didn't see in your work----"

"Of course! Then--what would you do? Would you speak to her about it?"

"Which?"

"You know: Miss Saunders."

"Ah! It seems rather difficult, doesn't it?"

"Confoundedly."

"Why, if you mean to say it was unconscious, perhaps I was mistaken.
The thing may have been altogether in my own mind. I'd like to take
another look at it----"

"You can't. I've painted it out." Ludlow ran down one flight of the
stairs, and then came stumbling quickly back. "I say, Wetmore. Do you
tell your wife everything?"

"My dear boy, I don't tell her anything. She finds it out. But, then,
_she_ never tells anybody."



XXVII.


Ludlow sent word again to Charmian that he should not be able to keep
his appointment for the afternoon, and as soon as he could hope to find
Cornelia at home from the Synthesis, he went to see her.

He began abruptly, "I came to tell you, Miss Saunders, when I first
thought of painting Miss Maybough, and now I've come to tell you that
I've given it up."

"Given it up?" she repeated.

"You've seen the failures I've made. I took my last one home yesterday,
and painted it out." He looked at Cornelia, but if he expected her to
give him any sort of leading, he was disappointed. He had to conclude
unaided, "I'm not going to try any more."

She did not answer, and he went on, after a moment: "Of course, it's
humiliating to make a failure, but it's better to own it, and leave it
behind you; if you don't own it, you have to carry it with you, and it
remains a burden."

She kept her eyes away from him, but she said, "Oh, yes; certainly."

"The worst of it was the disappointment I had to inflict upon Mrs.
Maybough," he went on uneasily. "She was really hurt, and I don't
believe I convinced her after all that I simply and honestly couldn't
get the picture. I went to tell her this afternoon, and she seemed to
feel some sort of disparagement--I can't express it--in my giving it
up."

He stopped, and Cornelia asked, as if forced to say something, "Does
Charmian know?"

"I suppose she does, by this time," said Ludlow. He roused himself from
a moment of revery, and added, "But I didn't intend to oppress you with
this. I want to tell you something--else."

He drew a deep breath. She started forward where she sat, and looked
past him at the door, as if to see whether the way of escape was clear.
He went on: "I took Wetmore there with me yesterday, and I showed him
your sketches, and he thinks you might get one of them into the Academy
exhibition in the spring, after you've carried it a little farther."

She sank back in her chair. "Does he?" she asked listlessly, and she
thought, as of another person, how her heart would once have thrilled
at the hope of this.

"Yes. But I don't feel sure that it would be well," said Ludlow. "I
wanted to say, though, that I shall be glad to come and be of any
little use I can if you're going on with it."

"Oh, thank you," said Cornelia. She thought she was going to say
something more, but she stopped stiffly at that, and they both stood in
an embarrassment which neither could hide from the other. He repeated
his offer, in other terms, and she was able finally to thank him a
little more fitly, and to say that she should not forget his kind
offer; she should not forget all he had done for her, all the trouble
he had taken, and they parted with a vague alienation.

As we grow older, we are impatient of misunderstandings, of
disagreements; we make haste to have them explained; but while we are
young, life seems so spacious and so full of chances that we fetch a
large compass round about such things, and wait for favoring
fortuities, and hope for occasions precisely fit; we linger in
dangerous delays, and take risks that may be ruinous.

Cornelia went hack to her work at the Synthesis as before, but she
worked listlessly and aimlessly; the zest was gone, and the meaning.
She knew that for the past month she had drudged through the morning at
the Synthesis that she might free herself to the glad endeavor of the
afternoon at Charmian's studio with a good conscience. Ludlow's
criticism, even when it was harshest, was incentive and inspiration;
and her life was blank and dull on the old terms.

The arts have a logic of their own, which seems no logic at all to the
interests. Ludlow's world found it altogether fit and intelligible that
he should give up trying to paint Charmian if he had failed to get his
picture of her, and thought he could not get it. Mrs. Maybough's world
regarded it as a breach of contract for him not to do what he had
undertaken. She had more trouble to reconcile her friends to his
behavior than she had in justifying it to herself. Through Charmian she
had at least a second-hand appreciation of motives and principles that
were instantly satisfactory to the girl and to all her comrades at the
Synthesis; they accepted it as another proof of Ludlow's greatness that
he should frankly own he had missed his picture of her, and they
exalted Charmian as a partner in his merit, for being so impossible.
The arguments of Wetmore went for something with Mrs. Maybough, though
they were mainly admissions to the effect that Ludlow was more of a
crank than he had supposed, and would have to be humored in a case of
the kind; but it was chiefly the courage and friendship of Mrs. Westley
that availed. She enforced what she had to say in his behalf with the
invitation to her January Thursdays which she had brought. She had
brought it in person because she wished to beg Mrs. Maybough to let her
daughter come with her friend, Miss Saunders, and pour tea at the first
of the Thursdays.

"I got you off," she said to Ludlow, when they met, "but it was not
easy. She still thinks you ought to have let her see your last attempt,
and left her to decide whether it was good or not."

Mrs. Westley showed her amusement at this, but Ludlow answered gravely
that there was a certain reason in the position. "If she's disappointed
in not having any portrait, though," he added, "she had better take
Miss Saunders's."

"Do you really mean that?" Mrs. Westley asked, with more or less of
that incredulity concerning the performance of a woman which all the
sex feel, in spite of their boasting about one another. "Has she so
much talent?"

"Why not? Somebody has to have the talent."

This was like Wetmore's tone, and it made Mrs. Westley think of him.
"And do you believe she could get her picture into the exhibition?"

"Has Wetmore been talking to you about it?"

"Yes."

"I don't know," said Ludlow. "That was Wetmore's notion."

"And does she know about it?"

"I mentioned it to her."

"It would be a great thing for her if she could get her picture in--and
sell it."

"Yes," Ludlow dryly admitted. He wished he had never told Mrs. Westley
how Cornelia had earned the money for her studies at the Synthesis; he
resented the implication of her need, and Mrs. Westley vaguely felt
that she had somehow gone wrong. She made haste to retrieve her error
by suggesting, "Perhaps Miss Maybough would object, though."

"That's hardly thinkable." said Ludlow lightly. He would have gone away
without making Mrs. Westley due return for the trouble she had taken
for him with Mrs. Maybough, and she was so far vexed that she would
have let him go without telling him that she was going to have his
_protégée_ pour tea for her; she had fancied that this would have
pleased him.

But by one of those sudden flashes that seem to come from somewhere
without, he saw himself in the odious light in which she must see him,
and he turned in time. "Mrs. Westley, I think you have taken a great
deal more pains for me than I'm worth. It's difficult to care what such
a poor little Philistine as Mrs. Maybough--the mere figment of somebody
else's misgotten money--thinks of me. But she _is_ to be regarded, and
I know that you have looked after her in my interest; and it's very
kind of you, and very good--it's like you. If you've done it, though,
with the notion of my keeping on in portraits, or getting more
portraits to paint, I'm sorry, for I shall not try to do any. I'm not
fit for that kind of work. I don't say it because I despise the work,
but because I despise myself. I should always let some wretched
preoccupation of my own--some fancy, some whim--come between me and
what I see my sitter to be, and paint that."

"That is, you have some imagination," she began, in defence of him
against himself.

"No, no! There's scope for the greatest imagination, the most intense
feeling, in portraits. But I can't do that kind of thing, and I must
stick to my little sophistical fantasies, or my bald reports of nature.
But Miss Saunders, if she were not a woman--excuse me!----"

"Oh, I understand!"

"She could do it, and she will, if she keeps on. She could have a
career; she could be a painter of women's portraits. A man's idea of a
woman, it's interesting, of course, but it's never quite just; it's
never quite true; it can't be. Every woman knows that, but you go on
accepting men's notions of women, in literature and in art, as if they
were essentially, or anything but superficially, like women. I couldn't
get a picture of Miss Maybough because I was always making more or less
than there really was of her. You were speaking the other night at
Wetmore's, of the uncertain quality of her beauty, and the danger of
getting something else in," said Ludlow, suddenly grappling with the
fact, "and I was always doing that, or else leaving everything out. Her
beauty has no fixed impression. It ranges from something exquisite to
something grotesque; just as she ranges in character from the noblest
generosity to the most inconceivable absurdity. You never can know how
she will look or how she will behave. At least, _I_ couldn't. I was
always guessing at her; but Miss Saunders seemed to understand her. All
her studies of her are alike; the last might be taken for the first,
except that the handling is better. It's invariably the very person,
without being in the least photographic, as people call it, because it
is one woman's unclouded perception of another. The only question is
whether Miss Saunders can keep that saving simplicity. It may be
trained out of her, or she may be taught to put other things before it.
Wetmore felt the danger of that, when we looked at her sketches. I'm
not saying they're not full of faults; the technique is bad enough;
sometimes it's almost childish; but the root of the matter is there.
She knows what she sees, and she tells."

"Really?" said Mrs. Westley. "It _is_ hard for a woman to believe much
in women; we don't expect anything of each other yet. Should you like
her to paint me?"

"I?"

"I mean, do you think she could do it?"

"Not yet. She doesn't know enough of life, even if she knew enough of
art. She merely painted another girl."

"That is true," said Mrs. Westley with a sigh. She added impersonally;
"But if people only kept to what they knew, and didn't do what they
divined, there would be very little art or literature left, it seems to
me."

"Well, perhaps the less the better." said Ludlow, with a smile for the
absurdity he was reduced to. "What was left would certainty be the
best."

He felt as if his praise of Cornelia were somehow retrieval; as if it
would avail where he seemed otherwise so helpless, and would bring them
together on the old terms again. There was, indeed, nothing explicit in
their alienation, and when he saw Cornelia at Mrs. Westley's first
Thursday, he made his way to her at once, and asked her if she would
give him some tea, with the effect of having had a cup from her the day
before. He did not know whether to be pleased or not that she treated
their meeting as something uneventful, too, and made a little joke
about remembering that he liked his tea without sugar.

"I wasn't aware that you knew that," he said.

"Oh, yes; that is the way Charmian always made it for you; and
sometimes I made it."

"To be sure. It seems a great while ago. How are you getting on with
your picture?"

"I'm not getting on," said Cornelia, and she turned aside to make a cup
of tea for an old gentleman, who confessed that he liked a spoonful of
rum in his. General Westley had brought him up and presented him, and
he remained chatting with Cornelia, apparently in the fatuity that if
he talked trivially to her he would be the same as a young man. Ludlow
stayed, too, and when the old gentleman got away, he said, the same as
if there had been no interruption, "Why aren't you getting on?"

"Because I'm not doing anything to it."

"You ought to. I told you what Wetmore said of it."

"Yes; but I don't know how," said Cornelia, with a laugh that he liked;
it seemed an effect of pleasure in his presence at her elbow; though
from time to time she ignored him, and talked with other people who
came for tea. He noticed that she had begun to have a little society
manner of her own; he did not know whether he liked it or not. She wore
a very pretty dress, too; one he had not seen before.

"Will you let me show you how--as well as I can?"

"After I've asked you? Thank you!"

"I offered, once, before you asked."

"Oh!" said Cornelia, with her face aslant from him over her tea-cups.
"I thought you had forgotten that."

He winced, but he knew that he deserved the little scratch. He did not
try to exculpate himself, but he asked, "May I talk with Miss Maybough
about it?"

Cornelia returned gayly, "It's a free country."

He rose from the chair which he had been keeping at her elbow, and
looked about over the room. It was very full, and the first of Mrs.
Westley's Thursdays was successful beyond question. With the roving
eye, which he would not suffer to be intercepted, he saw the
distinguished people whom she had hitherto affected in their usual
number, and in rather unusual number the society people who had
probably come to satisfy an amiable curiosity; he made his reflection
that Mrs. Westley's evolution was proceeding in the inevitable
direction, and that in another winter the swells would come so
increasingly that there would be no celebrities for them to see. His
glance rested upon Mrs. Maybough, who stood in a little desolation of
her own, trying to look as if she were not there, and he had the
inspiration to go and speak to her instead of her daughter; there were
people enough speaking to Charmian, or seeming to speak to her, which
serves much the same purpose on such occasions. She was looking her
most mysterious, and he praised her peculiar charm to Mrs. Maybough.

"It's no wonder I failed with that portrait."

Mrs. Maybough said, "You must try again, Mr. Ludlow."

"No, I won't abuse your patience again, but I will tell you: I should
like to come and look now and then at the picture Miss Saunders has
begun of her, and that I want her to keep on with."

"Why not?" asked Mrs. Maybough in the softest assent. She would not
listen to the injuries which Ludlow heaped upon himself in proof of his
unworthiness to cross her threshold.

He went back to Cornelia, and said, "Well, it's arranged. I've spoken
with Mrs. Maybough, and we can begin again whenever you like."

"With Mrs. Maybough? You said you were going to speak to Charmian!"

"It doesn't matter, does it?"

"Yes. I--I don't know yet as I want to go on with the picture. I hadn't
thought----"

"Oh!" said Ludlow, with marked politeness. "Then I misunderstood. But
don't let it annoy you. It doesn't matter, of course. There's no sort
of appointment."

He found Mrs. Westley in a moment of disoccupation before he went, and
used a friend's right to recognize the brilliancy of her Thursday. She
refused all merit for it and asked him if he had ever seen any thing
like the contrast of Charmian at the chocolate with Cornelia at the
tea. "Did you notice the gown Miss Saunders had on? It's one that her
mother has just sent her from home. She says her mother made it, and
she came to ask me, the other day, if it would do to pour tea in.
Wasn't it delightful? I'm going to have her spend a week with me in
Lent. The general has taken a great fancy to her. I think I begin to
appreciate her fascination; it's her courage and her candor together.
Most girls are so uncertain and capricious. It's delightful to meet
such a straightforward and downright creature."

"Oh, yes," said Ludlow.



XXVIII.


Cornelia knew that Ludlow was offended. She had not meant to hurt or
offend him; though she thought he had behaved very queerly ever since
he gave up painting Charmian. She had really not had time to think of
his offer before he went off to speak with Charmian, as she supposed.
The moment he was gone she saw that it would not do; that she could not
have him coming to look at her work; she did not feel that she could
ever touch it again. She wondered at him, and now if he had spoken to
Mrs. Maybough instead of Charmian, it was not her fault, certainly. She
did not wish to revenge herself, but she remembered how much she had
been left to account for as she could, or painfully to ignore. If he
was mystified and puzzled now, it was no more than she had been before.

There was nothing that Cornelia hated so much as to be made a fool of,
and this was the grievance which she was willing fate should retaliate
upon him, though she had not meant it at all. She ought to have been
satisfied, and she ought to have been happy, but she was not.

She wished to escape from herself, and she eagerly accepted an
invitation to go with Mrs. Montgomery to the theatre that night. The
manager had got two places and given them to the landlady.

Cornelia had a passion for the theatre, and in the excitement of the
play, which worked strongly in her ingenuous fancy, she forgot herself
for the time, or dimly remembered the real world and her lot in it, as
if it were a subordinate action of the piece. At the end of the fourth
act she heard a voice which she knew, saying, "Well, well! Is this the
way the folks at Pymantoning expect you to spend your evenings?" She
looked up and around, and saw Mr. Dickerson in the seat behind her. He
put forward two hands over her shoulder--one for her to shake, and one
for Mrs. Montgomery.

"Why, Mr. Dickerson!" said the landlady, "where did you spring from?
You been sitting here behind us all the time?"

"I wish I had," said Dickerson. "But this seat is 'another's,' as they
say on the stage; he's gone out 'to see a man,' and I'm keeping it for
him. Just caught sight of you before the curtain fell. Couldn't hardly
believe my eyes."

"But where _are_ you? Why haven't you been round to the house?"

"Well, I'm only here for a day," said Dickerson, with a note of
self-denial in his voice that Cornelia knew was meant for her, "and I
thought I wouldn't disturb you. No use making so many bites of a
cherry. I got in so late last night I had to go to a hotel anyway."

Mrs. Montgomery began some hospitable expostulations, but be waived
them with, "Yes; that's all right. I'll remember it next time, Mrs.
Montgomery," and then he began to speak of the play, and he was so
funny about some things in it that he made Cornelia laugh. He took
leave of them when the owner of the seat came back. He told Mrs.
Montgomery he should not see her again this time; but at the end of the
play they found him waiting for them at the outer door of the theatre.
He skipped lightly into step with them. "Thought I might as well see
you home, as they say in Pymantoning. Do' know as I shall be back for
quite a while, this next trip, and we don't see much ladies' society on
the road; at least, _I_ don't. I'm not so easy to make acquaintance as
I used to be. I suppose it was being married so long. I can't manage to
help a pretty girl raise a car-window, or put her grip into the rack,
the way I could once. Fact is, there don't seem to _be_ so many pretty
girls as there were, or else I'm gettin' old-sighted, and can't see
'em."

He spoke to Mrs. Montgomery, but Cornelia knew he was talking at her.
Now he leaned forward and addressed her across Mrs. Montgomery: "Do'
know as I told you that I saw your mother in Lakeland day before
yesterday, Miss Saunders."

"Oh, did you?" Cornelia eagerly besought him. The apparition of her
mother rose before her; it was almost like having her actually there,
to meet some one who had seen her so lately. "Was she looking well? The
last letter she wrote she hadn't been very----"

"Well, I guess she's all right, now. You know _I_ think your mother is
about the finest woman in this world, Miss Nelie, and the
prettiest-looking. I've never told you about Mrs. Saunders, have I,
Mrs. Montgomery? Well, you wouldn't know but her and Miss Nelie were
sisters. She looks like a girl, a little way off; and she _is_ a girl,
in her feelings. She's got the kindest heart, and she's the best person
_I_ ever saw. I tell you, it would be a different sort of a world if
everybody was like Mrs. Saunders, and I should ha' been a different
sort of a man if I'd always appreciated her goodness. Well, so it
goes," he said, with a sigh of indefinite regret, which availed with
Cornelia because it was mixed with praise of her mother; it made her
feel safer with him and more tolerant. He leaned forward again, and
said across Mrs. Montgomery, as before: "She was gettin' off the train
from Pymantoning, and I was just takin' my train West, but I knew it
was her as soon as I saw her walk. I was half a mind to stop and speak
to her, and let my train go."

Cornelia could see her mother, just how she would look, wandering
sweetly and vaguely away from her train, and the vision was so
delightful to her, that it made her laugh. "I guess you're mother's
girl," Mrs. Montgomery interpreted, and Mr. Dickerson said:

"Well, I guess she's got a good right to be. I wasn't certain whether
it was her or Miss Saunders first when I saw her, the other day."

At her door Mrs. Montgomery invited him to come in, and he said he did
not know but he would for a minute, and Cornelia's gratitude for his
praise of her mother kept her from leaving them at once. In the
dining-room, where Mrs. Montgomery set out a lunch for him, he began to
tell stories.

Cornelia had no grudge against him for the past. She was only too glad
that it had all fallen out as it did; and though she still knew that he
was a shameless little wretch, she did not feel so personally disgraced
by him, as she had at first, when she was not sure she could make him
keep his distance. He was a respite from her own thoughts, and she
lingered and lingered, and listened and listened, remotely aware that
it was wrong, but somehow bewildered and constrained.

Mrs. Montgomery went down to the kitchen a moment, for something more
to add to the lunch, and he seized the chance to say, "I know how you
feel about me, Miss Saunders, and I don't blame you. You needn't be
afraid; I ain't going to trouble you. I might, if you was a different
kind of girl; but I've thought it all over since I saw you, and I
respect you. I hope you won't give me away to Mrs. Montgomery, but if
you do, I shall respect you all the same, and I sha'n't blame you, even
then." The landlady returned, and he went on, "I was just tellin' Miss
Saunders about my friend Bob Whiteley's railroad accident. But you've
heard it so often."

"Oh, well, do go on!" said Mrs. Montgomery, setting down the plate of
cold chicken she had brought back with her.

It was midnight before he rose. "I declare I could listen all night,"
said Mrs. Montgomery.

Cornelia could have done so, too, but she did not say it. While the
talk lasted, she had a pleasure in the apt slang, and sinister wit and
low wisdom, which made everything higher and nobler seem ridiculous.
She tried helplessly to rise above the delight she found in it, and
while she listened, she was miserably aware that she was unworthy even
of the cheap respect which this amusing little wretch made a show of
paying her before Mrs. Montgomery.

She loathed him, and yet she hated to have him go; for then she would
be left to herself and her own thoughts. As she crept up the long
stairs to her room, she asked herself if she could be the same girl who
had poured tea at Mrs. Westley's, and talked to all those refined
people, who seemed to admire her and make much of her, as if she were
one of them. Before, she had escaped from the toils of that folly of
the past by disowning it; but now, she had voluntarily made it hers.
She had wilfully entangled herself in its toils; they seemed to trip
her steps, and make her stumble on the stairs as if they were tangible
things. She had knowingly suffered such a man as that, whose commonness
of soul she had always instinctively felt, to come back into her life,
and she could never banish him again. She could never even tell any
one; she was the captive of her shabby secret till he should come again
and openly claim her. He would come again; there could be no doubt of
that.

On the bureau before her glass lay a letter. It was from Ludlow, and it
delicately expressed the hope that there had been nothing in his manner
of offering to help her with her picture which made it impossible for
her to accept. "I need not tell you that I think you have talent, for I
have told you that before. I have flattered myself that I had a
personal interest in it, because I saw it long ago, and I have been
rather proud of thinking that you were making use of me. I wish you
would think the matter over, and decide to go on with your picture of
Miss Maybough. I promise to reduce my criticism to a minimum, for I
think it is more important that you should keep on in your own way,
even if you go a little wrong in it, now and then, than that you should
go perfectly right in some one's else. Do let me hear from you, and say
that I may come Saturday to Miss Maybough's studio, and silently see
what you are doing."

In a postscript he wrote: "I am afraid that I have offended you by
something in my words or ways. If I have, won't you at least let me
come and be forgiven?"

She dropped her face on the letter where it lay open before her, and
stretched out her arms, and moaned in a despair that no tears even came
to soften. She realized how much worse it was to have made a fool of
herself than to be made a fool of.



XXIX.


There was only one thing for Cornelia to do now, and she did it as well
as she knew how, or could hope to know without the help that she could
not seek anywhere. She wrote to Ludlow and thanked him, and told him
that she did not think she should go on with the picture of Charmian,
for the present. She said, in the first five or six drafts of her
letter, that it had been her uncertainty as to this which made her
hesitate when he spoke to her, but in every form she gave this she
found it false; and at last she left it out altogether, and merely
assured him that she had nothing whatever to forgive him. She wished to
forbid his coming to see her; she did not know quite how to do that;
but either the tone of her letter was forbidding enough, or else he
felt that he had done his whole duty, now, for he did not come.

With moments of utter self-abasement, she had to leave Charmian to the
belief that she was distraught and captious, solely for the reason they
shared the secret of, and Charmian respected this with a devotion so
obvious as to be almost spectacular. Cornelia found herself turning
into a romantic heroine, and had to make such struggle against the
transformation as she could in bursts of hysterical gayety. These had
rather the effect of deepening Charmian's compassionate gloom, till she
exhausted her possibilities in that direction and began to crave some
new expression. There was no change in her affection for Cornelia; and
there were times when Cornelia longed to trust her fully; she knew that
it would be safe, and she did not believe that it would lower her in
Charmian's eyes; but to keep the fact of her weakness altogether her
own seemed the only terms on which she could bear it.

One day there came a letter from her mother out of her usual order of
writing; she wrote on Sunday, and her letters reached Cornelia the next
evening; but this letter came on a Wednesday morning, and the sight of
it filled Cornelia with alarm, first for her mother, and then for
herself; which deepened as she read:

    "DEAR NIE: That good-for-nothing little scrub has been here, talken
    aboute you, and acting as if you was hand-and-glove with him. Now
    Nelie, I don't want to interfere with you anyway and I won't if you
    say the word. But I never felt just righte about that fellow, and
    what I done long ago to make you tollerate him, and now I want to
    make it up to you if I can. He is a common low-down person, and he
    isn't fit to speake to you, and I hope you wont speake to him. The
    divorce, the way I look at it, don't make any difference; hese just
    as much married as what he ever was, and if he had never been
    married atoll, it wouldn't of made any difference as far as I feel
    about it. Now Nelie, you are old enough to take care of yourself,
    but I hope if that fellow ever comes around you again, you'll box
    his ears and be done with him. I know hes got a smooth tongue, and
    he can make you laugh in spite of yourselfe, but don't you have
    anything to do with him.

    "MOTHER.

    "P. S. I have been talken it over with Mrs. Burton, and she thinks
    just the way I do aboute it. She thinks you are good enough for the
    best, and you no need to throw yourself away on such a perfect
    little scamp. In haste. How is that cellebrated picture that you
    are painting with Mr. Ludlow getting along?"

                     *      *      *      *      *

Cornelia got this letter from the postman at Mrs. Montgomery's door,
when she opened it to go out in the morning, and she read it on her way
to the Synthesis. It seemed to make the air reel around her, and step
by step she felt as if she should fall. A wild anger swelled her heart,
and left no room there for shame even. She wondered what abominable
lies that little wretch had told; but they must have been impudent
indeed to overcome her mother's life-long reluctance from writing and
her well-grounded fears of spelling, so far as to make her send a
letter out of the usual course. But when her first fury passed, and she
began to grow weak in the revulsion, she felt only her helplessness in
the presence of such audacity, and a fear that nothing could save her
from him. If he could make her so far forget herself as to tolerate
him, to listen to his stories, to laugh at his jokes, and show him that
she enjoyed his company, after all she knew of him, then he could make
her marry him, if he tried.

The logic was perfect, and it seemed but another link in the
infrangible chain of events, when she found another letter waiting for
her at the office of the Synthesis. It bore the postmark of Lakeland,
of the same date as her mother's, and in the corner of the envelope the
business card of Gates & Clarkson, Dealers in Art Goods; J. B.
Dickerson, in a line of fine print at the top was modestly "with" them.

The address, "Dear friend," was written over something else which had
been rubbed out, but beyond this the letter ran fluently and
uninterruptedly along in a hand which had a business-like directness
and distinctness. "I don't know," the writer said, "as you expected to
hear from me, and I don't know as I expected to let you, but
circumstances alter cases, and I just wanted to drop you a line and
tell you that I have been in Pymantoning and seen your mother. She is
looking prime, and younger than ever. We had a long talk about old
times, and I told her what a mistake I made. Confession is good for the
soul, they say, and I took a big dose of it; I guess I confessed pretty
much everything; regular Topsey style. Well, your mother didn't spare
me any, and I don't know but what she was about right. The fact is, a
man on the road don't think as much about his p's and q's as he ought
as long as he is young, and if I made a bad break in that little
matrimonial venture of mine, I guess it was no more than I deserved to.
I told your mother just how I happened to meet you again, and how the
sight of you was enough to make another man of me. I was always a
little too much afraid of you, or it might have turned out different;
but I can appreciate a character like yours, and I want you to know it.
I guess your mother sized it up about right when I said all I asked was
to worship you at a distance, and she said she guessed you would look
out for the _distance._ I told her you had, up to date. I want you to
understand that I don't presume on anything, and if we seemed to have a
pretty good time after the theatre, the other night, it was because you
didn't want to spoil Mrs. Montgomery's fun, and treated me well just
because I was a friend of hers. Well, it's pretty hard to realize that
my life is ruined, and that I have got nobody but myself to thank for
it, but I guess that's what I've got to come to, sooner or later. It's
what your mother said, and I guess she was right; she didn't spare me a
bit, and I didn't want her to. I knew she would write to you, as soon
as I was gone, and tell you not to have anything to do with me; and if
she has, all I have got to say is, _all right_. I have been a bad lot,
and I don't deny it, and all I can ask now, from this time forward, is
to be kept from doing any more mischief. I don't know as I shall ever
see you again; I had a kind of presentiment I shouldn't, and I told
your mother so. I don't know but I told a little more about how kind
you were to me the other evening than what the facts would justify
exactly, but as sure as you live I didn't _mean_ to lie about it. If I
exaggerated any, it was because it seemed the greatest thing in the
world to me, just to talk to you, and be where I could see you smile,
and hear you laugh; you've got a laugh that is like a child's, or an
angel's, if angels laugh. I've heard of their weeping, and if you knew
my whole life, I think you would shed a tear or two over me. But that
is not what I am trying to get at; I want to explain that if I appeared
to brag of being tolerated by you, and made it seem any thing more than
toleration, it was because it was like heaven to me not to have you
give me the grand bounce again. And what I want to ask you now, is just
to let me write to you, every now and then, and when I am tempted to go
wrong, anyways--and a business life is full of temptations--let me put
the case before you, and have you set me right. I won't want but a word
from you, and most part of the time, I shall just want to free my mind
to you on life in general, and won't expect any answer. I feel as if
you had got my soul in your hands, and you could save it, or throw it
away. That is all. I am writing on the train, and I have to use pencil.
I hope you'll excuse the stationery; it's all the porter could get me,
and I'm anxious to have a letter go back to you at once. I know your
mother has written to you, and I want to corroborate everything she
says against me."

The letter covered half-a-dozen telegraph blanks, and filled them full,
so that the diffident suggestion, "My permanent address is with Gates &
Clarkson," had to be written along the side of the first page.

The low cunning, the impudent hypocrisy, the leering pretence of
reverence, the affectation of penitence, the whole fraudulent design,
so flimsy that the writer himself seemed to be mocking at it, was open
to Cornelia, and she read the letter through with distinct relief.
Whatever the fascinations of Mr. Dickerson were when he was personally
at hand, he had none at a distance, and when she ran over the pages a
second time, it was with a laugh, which she felt sure he would have
joined her in, if he had been there. It turned her tragedy into farce
so completely, for the time, that she went through her morning's work
with a pleasure and a peace of mind which she had not felt for many
days. It really seemed such a joke, that she almost yielded to the
temptation of showing passages of the letter to Charmian; and she
forebore only because she would have had to tell more than she cared to
have any one know of Mr. Dickerson, if she did. She had a right to keep
all that from those who had no right to know it, but she had no right,
or if she had the right, she had not the power to act as if the past
had never been. She set herself to bear what was laid upon her, and if
she was ever to have strength for her burden she must begin by owning
her weakness. There was no one to whom she could own it but her mother,
and she did this fully as soon as she got back to her room, and could
sit down to answer her letter. She enclosed Dickerson's, and while she
did not spare him, she took the whole blame upon herself, for she said
she might have known that if she suffered him to see that he amused her
or pleased her at all, he was impudent enough to think that he could
make her like him again. "And mother," she wrote, "you know I never
really liked him, and was only too glad to get rid of him; you know
that much. But I suppose you will wonder, then, why I ever let him
speak to me if I really despised him as much as ever; and that is not
easy to explain. For one thing he was with Mrs. Montgomery, and she
likes him, and she has always been so good to me that I hated to treat
him badly before her; but that is not the real reason, and I am not
going to pretend it was. You know yourself how funny he is, and can
make you laugh in spite of yourself, but it was not that, either. It
was because I was angry with myself for having been angry with some one
else, without a cause, as I can see it now, and I had made a fool of
myself, and I wanted to get away from myself. I cannot tell you just
how it was, yet, and I do not know as I ever can, but that was truly
it, and nothing else, though the other things had something to do with
it. I suppose it was just like men when they take a drink of whiskey to
make them forget. The worst of it all is, and the discouraging part is,
that it shows me I have not changed a particle. My temper is just us
bad as ever, and I might as well be back at sixteen, for all the sense
I've got. Sometimes it seems to me that the past is all there is of us,
anyway. It seems to come up in me, all the time, and I am so ashamed I
don't know what to do. I make all kinds of good resolutions, and I want
to be good, and then comes something and it is all over with me. Then,
it appears as if it was not me, altogether, that is to blame. I know I
was to blame, this last time, laughing at that little 'scrub's' jokes
as you call him, and behaving like a fool; but I don't see how I was to
blame for his coming back into my life, when I never really wanted him
at all, and certainly never wished to set eyes on him again.

"I don't suppose it would be the least use to ask you not to show this
letter to Mrs. Burton, and I won't, but if you do, I wish you would ask
her what she thinks it means, and whether it's fate, or foreordination,
or _what_."

Mrs. Saunders carried Cornelia's letter to Mrs. Burton, as Cornelia had
foreseen, but the question she put to her was not the abstraction the
girl had suggested. "Mrs. Burton," she asked, "who was it do you
suppose Nie was so mad with that she had to go off and play the fool,
that way?"

Mrs. Burton passed the point of casuistry too. "Well, of course I don't
know, Mrs. Saunders. Has she said anything about Mr. Ludlow lately?"

"No, she hain't said a word, and that seems suspicious. She said a week
or two ago that he had give up trying to paint that Maybough girl, and
that she guessed she had got the last of her lessons from him; but she
didn't seem much troubled about it. But I guess by her not wantin' to
tell, it's him. What do you suppose he did to provoke her?"

"Oh, just some young people's nonsense, probably. It'll come all right.
You needn't worry about it, because if it won't come right of itself,
he'll _make_ it come."

"Oh, I'm not worrying about that," said Mrs. Saunders, "I'm worrying
about this." She gave her the letter Cornelia had enclosed, and as Mrs.
Burton began to read it she said, "If that fellow keeps on writing to
her, I don't know what I _will_ do."



XXX.


Ludlow did not come to see Cornelia, but they met, from time to time,
at Mrs. Westley's, where he was aware of her being rather taken up; at
Mrs. Maybough's, where he found it his duty to show himself after his
failure with Charmian's picture, so as to help Mrs. Maybough let people
know there was nothing but the best feeling about it; and, more to his
surprise, at Wetmore's. At the painter's, Charmian, who came with her,
realized more than anywhere else, her dream of Bohemia, and Wetmore
threw a little excess into the social ease of his life that he might
fulfil her ideal. He proposed that Mrs. Wetmore should set the example
of hilarities that her domestic spirit abhorred; he accused her of
cutting off his beer, and invented conditions of insolvency and
privation that surpassed Charmian's wildest hopes. He borrowed money of
Ludlow in her presence, and said that he did not know that he should
ever be able to pay it back. He planned roystering escapades which were
never put in effect, and once he really went out with the two girls to
the shop of an old German, on the Avenue, who dealt in _delicatessen_,
and bought some Nuremberg gingerbread and a bottle of lime-juice, after
rejecting all the ranker meats and drinks as unworthy the palates of
true Bohemians. He invited Charmian to take part in various _bats_, for
the purpose of shocking the Pymantoning propriety of Cornelia, and they
got such fun out of it as children do when the make-believe of their
elders has been thinned to the most transparent pretence; but Charmian,
who knew he was making fun of her, remained as passionately attached to
the ideal he mocked as ever; and Cornelia had the guilty pang of
wondering what he would think of her if he knew all about Mr.
Dickerson, whose nature she now perceived to be that of the vulgarest
_batting_.

She did not answer the letter she first got, nor any of those which
immediately followed, and this had the effect of checking Mr.
Dickerson's ardor for so long a time that she began to think he would
not trouble her again.

There was no real offence between her and Ludlow, or any but such as
could wear itself away with time and the custom of friendly meeting. He
had the magnanimity to ignore it when he first saw her after that
Thursday of Mrs. Westley's, and she had too keen a sense of having been
a fool not to wish to act more wisely as soon as she could forget.
There came so long a lapse between the letters of Mr. Dickerson that he
ceased, at least perpetually, to haunt her thoughts. She had moments
when it seemed as if she might justly consent to be happy again, or at
least allow herself to enjoy the passing pleasure of the time without
blame. She even suffered herself to fancy taking up the picture of
Charmian, and carrying it farther under Ludlow's criticism. She was
very ambitious to try her fate with the Academy, and when he offered so
generously to help her again, as if she had not refused him once so
rudely, she could not deny him. She found herself once more in
Charmian's studio, and it all began to go on the same as if it had
never stopped. It seemed like a dream, sometimes, when she thought
about it, and it did not seem like a very wise dream. Cornelia now
wished, above all things, to have a little bit of sense, as she phrased
it in her thoughts; and she was aware that the present position of
affairs might look rather crazy to some people. The best excuse for it
was that it would have looked crazier yet if she had refused such an
opportunity simply because of the circumstances. She began to be a
little vague about the circumstances, and whether they were queer
because she had fancied a likeness of herself in Mr. Ludlow's picture
of Charmian, or because she had afterwards made a fool of herself so
irreparably as to be unworthy Mr. Ludlow's kindness.

If it was merely kindness, and she was the object of charity, it was
all right; she could accept it on those terms. She even tempted him to
patronize her, but when he ventured upon something elderly and paternal
in his monitions, she resented it so fiercely that she was astonished
and ashamed. There was an inconsistency in it all that was perplexing,
but not so perplexing as to spoil the pleasure of it.

There were not sittings every day, now; Ludlow came once or twice a
week, and criticised her work; sometimes he struck off a sketch
himself, in illustration of a point, and these sketches were now so
unlike Cornelia, and so wholly like Charmian, that when he left them
for her guidance, she studied them with a remote ache in her heart.
"Never mind," Charmian consoled her once, "he just does it on purpose."

"Does what?" Cornelia demanded awfully.

"Oh, nothing!"

One of the sketches he fancied so much that he began to carry it
forward. He worked at it whenever he came, and under his hand it grew
an idealized Charmian, in which her fantastic quality expressed itself
as high imagination, and her formless generosity as a wise and noble
magnanimity.

She made fun of it when they were alone, but Cornelia could see that
she was secretly proud of having inspired it, and that she did not
really care for the constant portrait which Cornelia had been
faithfully finishing up, while Ludlow changed and experimented, though
Charmian praised her to his disadvantage.

One day he said he had carried his picture as far as he could, and he
should let it go at that. It seemed an end of their pleasant days
together; the two girls agreed that now there could be no further
excuse for their keeping on, and Cornelia wondered how she could let
him know that she understood. That evening he came to call on her at
Mrs. Montgomery's, and before he sat down he began to say: "I want to
ask your advice, Miss Saunders, about what I shall do with my sketch of
Miss Maybough."

Cornelia blenched, for no reason that she could think of; she could not
gasp out the "Yes" that she tried to utter.

"You see," he went on, "I know that I've disappointed Mrs. Maybough,
and I'd like to make her some sort of reparation, but I can't offer her
the sketch instead of the portrait; if she liked it she would want to
pay for it, and I can't take money for it. So I've thought of giving
the sketch to Miss Maybough."

He looked at Cornelia, now, for the advice he had asked, but she did
not speak, and he had to say: "But I don't know whether she likes it or
not. Do you know whether she does? Has she ever spoken of it to you? Of
course she's said civil things to me about it. I beg your pardon! I
suppose you don't care to tell, and I had no right to inquire."

"Oh, yes; yes."

"Well?"

"I know she likes it; she must."

"But she hasn't said so?"

"Not--exactly."

"Then what makes you think she does?"

"I don't know. Any one would. It's very beautiful." Cornelia spoke very
dryly, very coldly.

"But is it a likeness? Is it she? Her character? What do _you_ think of
it yourself?"

"I don't know as I can say----"

"Ah, I see you don't like it!" said Ludlow, with an air of
disappointment. "And yet I aimed at pleasing you in it."

"At pleasing _me_?" she murmured thickly back.

"Yes, you. I tried to see her as you do; to do her justice, and if it
is overdone, or flattered, or idealized, it is because I've been
working toward your notion----"

"Oh!" said Cornelia, and then, to the great amazement of herself as
well as Ludlow, she began to laugh, and she laughed on, with her face
in her handkerchief. When she took her handkerchief down, her eyes
looked strange, but she asked, with a sort of radiance, "And did you
think I thought Charmian was really like that?"

"Why, I didn't know---- You've been very severe with me when I've
suggested she wasn't. At first, when I wanted to do her as Humbug, you
wouldn't stand it, and now, when I've done her as Mystery, you laugh."

Cornelia pressed her handkerchief to her shining eyes, and laughed a
little more. "That is because she isn't either. Can't you understand?"

"I could understand her being both, I think. Don't you think she's a
little of both?"

"I told you," said Cornelia gravely, "that I didn't like to talk
Charmian over."

"That was a good while ago. I didn't know but you might, by this time."

"Why?" she asked. "Am I so changeable?"

"No; you're the one constant and steadfast creature in a world of
variableness. I didn't really expect that. I know that I can always
find you where I left you. You are the same as when I first saw you."

It seemed to Cornelia that she had been asking him to praise her, and
she was not going to have that. "Do you mean that I behave as badly as
I did in the Fair House? No wonder you treat me like a child." This was
not at all what she meant to say, however, and was worse than what she
had said before.

"No," he answered seriously. "I meant that you are not capricious, and
I hate caprice. But do I treat you like a child?"

"Sometimes," said Cornelia, looking down and feeling silly.

"I am very sorry. I wish you would tell me how."

She had not expected this pursuit, and she flashed back, "You are doing
it now! You wouldn't say that to--to--any one else."

Ludlow paused thoughtfully. Then he said, "I seem to treat myself like
a child when I am with you. Perhaps that's what displeases you. Well, I
can't help that. It is because you are so true that I can't keep up the
conventions with you." They were both silent; Cornelia was trying to
think what she should say, and he added, irrelevantly, "If you don't
like that sketch of her, I won't give it to her."

"I? What have I to do with it?" She did not know what they were talking
about, or to what end. "Yes, you must give it to her. I know she wants
it. And I know how kind you are, and good. I didn't mean--I didn't wish
to blame you--I don't know why I'm making such a _perfect_ fool of
myself."

She had let him have her hand somehow, and he was keeping it; but they
had both risen.

"May I stay a moment?" he entreated.

No one thing now seemed more inconsequent than another, and Cornelia
answered, with a catching of her breath, but as if it quite followed,
"Why, certainly," and they both sat down again.

"There is something I wish to tell--to speak of," he began. "I think
it's what you mean. In my picture of Miss Maybough----"

"I didn't mean that at all. That doesn't make any difference to me,"
she broke incoherently in upon him. "I didn't care for it. You can do
what you please with it."

He looked at her in a daze while she spoke. "Oh," he said, "I am very
stupid. I didn't mean this sketch of mine; I don't care for that, now.
I meant that other picture of her--the last one--the one I painted out
before I gave up painting her---- Did you see that it was like you?"

Cornelia felt that he was taking an advantage of her, and she lifted
her eyes indignantly. "Mr. Ludlow!"

"Ah! Don't think _that_," he pleaded, and she knew that he meant her
unexpressed sense of unfairness in him. "I know you saw it; and the
likeness was there because--I wanted to tell you long ago, but I
couldn't, because when we met afterwards I was afraid that I was
mistaken, in what I thought--hoped. I had no right to know anything
till I was sure of myself; but--the picture was like you because you
were all the time in my thoughts, and nothing and no one but you.
Cornelia----" She rose up crazily, and looked toward the door, as if
she were going to run out of the room. "What is it?" he implored. "You
know I love you."

"Let me go!" she panted.

"If you tell me you don't care for me----"

"I don't! I don't care for you, and--let me go!"

He stood flushed and scared before her. "I--I am sorry. I didn't
mean--I hoped---- But it is all right---- I mean you are right, and I
am wrong. I am very wrong."



XXXI.


Ludlow stood aside and Cornelia escaped. When she reached her own room,
she had a sense of her failure to take formal leave of him, and she
mechanically blamed herself for that before she blamed herself for
anything else. At first he was altogether to blame, and she heaped the
thought of him with wild reproach and injury; if she had behaved like a
fool, it was because she was trapped into it, and could not help it;
she had to do so. She recalled distinctly, amidst the turmoil, how she
had always kept in mind that a girl who had once let a man, like that
dreadful little wretch, whose name she could not take into her
consciousness, suppose that she could care for him, could not let a man
like Ludlow care for her. If she did, she was wicked, and she knew she
had not done it for she had been on her guard against it. The reasoning
was perfect, and if he had spoiled everything now, he had himself to
thank for it; and she did not pity him. Still she wished she had not
run out of the room; she wished she had behaved with more dignity, and
not been rude; he could laugh at her for that; it was like her behavior
with him from the very beginning; there was something in him that
always made her behave badly with him, like a petulant child. He would
be glad to forget her; he would believe, now, that she was not good
enough for him; and he might laugh; but at least he could not say that
she had ever done or said the least thing to let him suppose that she
cared for him. If she had, she should not forgive herself, and she
should pity him as much as she blamed him now. There was nothing in her
whole conduct that would have warranted her in supposing such a thing,
if she were a man. Cornelia had this comfort, and she clung to it, till
it flashed through her that not being a man, she could not imagine what
the things were that could let a man suppose it. She had never thought
of that before, and it dazed her. Perhaps he had seen all along that
she did care for him, that he had known it in some way unknown and
forever unknowable to her; the way a man knows; and all her disguises
had availed nothing against him. Then, if he had known, he had acted
very deceitfully and very wrongfully, and nothing could excuse him
unless there had been other signs that a girl would recognize, too.
That would excuse him, it would justify him, and she tried to see the
affair with another woman's eyes. She tried to see it with Charmian's
eves, but she knew they were filled with a romantic iridescence that
danced before them and wrapt it in a rainbow mist. Then she tried Mrs.
Westley's eyes, which she knew were friendly to both Ludlow and
herself, and she told her everything in her impassioned revery: all
about that little wretch; all about the first portrait of Charmian and
the likeness they had seen in it; all about what had happened since
Ludlow began to criticise her work again. In the mere preparation for
this review she found another's agency insufferable; she abandoned
herself wildly to a vision which burned itself upon her in mass and
detail, under a light that searched motive and conduct alike, and left
her no refuge from the truth. Then she perceived, how at every moment
since they began those last lessons at Charmain's he must have believed
she cared for him and wished him to care for her. If she had not seen
it too, it was because she was stupid, and she was to blame all the
same. She was blind to what he saw in her, and she had thought because
she was hidden from herself that she was hidden from him.

It was not a question now of whether she cared for him, or not; that
was past all question; but whether she had not led him on to think she
did, and she owned that down to the last moment before he had spoken,
wittingly or unwittingly she had coaxed him to praise her, to console
her, lo make love to her. She was rightly punished, and she was ready
to suffer, but she could not let him suffer the shame of thinking
himself wrong. That was mean, that was cowardly, and whatever she was,
Cornelia was not base, and not afraid. She would have been willing to
follow him into the night, to go to his door, and knock at it, and when
he came, flash out at him, "I did love you, I do love you," and then
run, she did not know where, but somewhere out of the world. But he
might not be there, or some one else might come to the door; the crude,
material difficulties denied her the fierce joy of this exploit, but
she could not rest (she should never really rest again) till she had
done the nearest thing to it that she could. She looked at the little
busy-bee clock ticking away on her bureau and saw that it was half-past
eleven o'clock, and that there was no time to lose, and she sat down
and wrote: "I did care for you. But I can never see you again. I cannot
tell you the reason."

She drew a deep breath when the thing was done, and hurried the scrap
unsigned into an envelope and addressed it to Ludlow. She was in a
frenzy till she could get it out of her hands and into the postal-box
beyond recall. She pulled a shawl over her head and flew down stairs
and out of the door into the street toward the postal-box on the
corner. But before she reached it she thought of a special-delivery
stamp, which should carry the letter to Ludlow the first thing in the
morning, and she pushed on to the druggist's at the corner beyond to
get it. She was aware of the man staring at her, as if she had asked
for arsenic; and she supposed she must have looked strange. This did
not come into her mind till she found herself again at Mrs.
Montgomery's door, where she stood in a panic ecstasy at having got rid
of the letter, which the special stamp seemed to make still more
irrevocable, and tried to fit her night-latch into the lock. The cat,
which had been shut out, crept up from the area, and rubbed with a soft
insinuation against her skirt. She gave a little shriek of terror, and
the door was suddenly pulled open from within.

She threw back her shawl from her head, and under the low-burning
gas-light held aloft by the spelter statuette in the newel post, she
confronted Mr. Dickerson. He had his hat on, and had the air of just
having let himself in; his gripsack stood at his feet.

"Why, Nelie! Miss Saunders! Is that you? Why, where in the world----
Well, this _is_ something like 'Willy, we have missed you'; I've just
come. What was the matter out there? Somebody trying to scare you?
Well, there's nothing to be afraid of now, anyway. How you do pant! But
it becomes you. Yes, it does! You look now just like I've seen you all
the time I've been gone! You didn't answer any of my letters; I don't
know as I could have expected any different. But I did hope---- Nelie,
it's no use! I've got to speak out, and it's now or never; maybe there
won't be another chance. Look here, my girl! I _want_ you--I love you,
Nie! and I always d----"

He had got her hand, and he was drawing her toward him. She struggled
to free herself, but he pulled her closer.

Her heart swelled with a fury of grief for all she had suffered and
lost through him. She thought of what her mother had said she ought to
do if he ever spoke to her again; there came without her agency,
almost, three swift, sharp, electrical blows from the hand she had
freed; she saw him reeling backward with his hand at his face, and then
she was standing in her own room, looking at her ghost in the glass.

Now, if Mr. Ludlow knew, he would surely despise her, and she wished
she were dead indeed: not so much because she had boxed Dickerson's
ears as because she had done what obliged her to do it.



XXXII.


It is hard for the young to understand that the world which seems to
stop with their disaster is going on with smooth indifference, and that
a little time will carry them so far from any fateful event that when
they gather courage to face it they will find it curiously shrunken in
the perspective. Nothing really stops the world but death, and that
only for the dead. If we live, we must move on, we must change, we must
outwear every motion, however poignant or deep. Cornelia's shame failed
to kill her; she woke the next morning with a self-loathing that seemed
even greater than that of the night before, but it was actually less;
and it yielded to the strong will which she brought to bear upon
herself. She went to her work at the Synthesis as if nothing had
happened, and she kept at it with a hard, mechanical faithfulness which
she found the more possible, perhaps, because Charmian was not there,
for some reason, and she had not her sympathy as well as her own
weakness to manage. She surprised herself with the results of her
pitiless industry, and realized for the first time the mysterious
duality of being, in the power of the brain and the hand to toil while
the heart aches.

She was glad, she kept assuring herself, that she had put an end to all
hope from Ludlow; she rejoiced bitterly that now, however she had
disgraced herself in her violent behavior, she had at least disgraced
no one else. No one else could suffer through any claim upon her, or
kindness for her, or had any right to feel ashamed of her or injured by
her. But Cornelia was at the same time puzzled and perplexed with
herself, and dismayed with the slightness of her hold upon impulses of
hers which she thought she had overcome and bound forever. She made the
discovery, which she was yet far too young to formulate, that she had a
temperament to deal with that could at any time shake to ruins the
character she had so carefully built upon it, and had so wholly
mistaken for herself. In the midst of this dismay she made another
discovery, and this was that perhaps even her temperament was not what
she had believed it, but was still largely unknown to her. She had
always known that she was quick and passionate, but she certainly had
not supposed that she was capable of the meanness of wondering whether
Mr. Ludlow would take her note as less final than she had meant it, and
would perhaps seek some explanation of it. No girl that she ever heard
or read of, had ever fallen quite so low as to hope that; but was not
she hoping just that? Perhaps she had even written those words with the
tacit intention of calling him back! But this conjecture was the mere
play of a morbid fancy, and weak as she was, Cornelia had the strength
to forbid it and deny it.

At the end of the afternoon, she pretended that she ought to go and see
what had happened to Charmian, and on the way, she had time to
recognize her own hypocrisy, and to resolve that she would do penance
for it by coming straight at the true reason of her errand. She was
sent to Charmian in her studio, and she scarcely gave her a chance to
explain that she had staid at home on account of a cold, and had
written a note for Cornelia to come to dinner with her, which she would
find when she got back.

Cornelia said, "I want to tell you something, Charmian, and I want you
to tell me what you really think--whether I've done right, or not."

Charmian's eyes lightened. "Wait a moment!" She got a piece of the
lightwood, and put it on the fire which she had kindled on the hearth
to keep the spring chill off, and went and turned Ludlow's sketch of
herself to the wall. "I know it's about him." Then she came and
crouched on the tiger-skin at Cornelia's feet, and clasped her hands
around her knees, and fixed her averted face on the blazing pine. "Now
go on," she said, as if she had arranged the pose to her perfect
satisfaction.

Cornelia went on. "It's about him, and it's about some one else, too,"
and she had no pity on herself in telling Charmian all about that
early, shabby affair with Dickerson.

"I knew it," said Charmian, with a sigh of utter content, "I _told_
you, the first time I saw you, that _you_ had lived. Well: and has
he--turned up?"

"He has turned up--three times," said Cornelia.

Charmian shivered with enjoyment of the romantic situation. She reached
a hand behind her and tried to clutch one of Cornelia's but had to get
on without it. "And well: have they met?"

"No, they haven't," said Cornelia crossly, but not so much with
Charmian as with the necessity she was now in of telling her about her
last meeting with Ludlow. She began, "They almost did," and when
Charmian in the intensity of her interest could not keep turning around
to stare at her, Cornelia took hold of her head and turned her face
toward the fire again. Then she went on to tell how it had all
happened. She did not spare herself at any point, and she ended the
story with the expression of her belief that she had deserved it all.
"It wasn't boxing that little wretch's ears that was the disgrace; it
was having brought myself to where I _had_ to box them."

"Yes, that was it," sighed Charmian, with deep conviction.

"And I had to tell _him_ that I could never care for him, because I
couldn't bear to tell him what a fool I had been."

"No, no; you never could do that!"

"And I couldn't bear to have him think I was better than I really was,
or let him care for me unless I told him all about that miserable old
affair."

"No, _you_ couldn't, Cornelia," said Charmian solemnly. "_Some_ girls
might; _most_ girls _would_. They would just consider it a flirtation,
and not say anything about it, or not till after they were engaged, and
then just laugh. But you are different from other girls--you are so
_true_! Yes, you would have to tell it if it killed you; I can see
that; and you couldn't tell it, and you had to break his heart. Yes,
you _had_ to!"

"Oh, Charmian Maybough! How cruel you are!" Cornelia flung herself
forward and cried; Charmian whirled round, and kneeling before her,
threw her arms around her, in a pose of which she felt the perfection,
and kissed her tenderly.

"Why didn't you let me see how you were looking? How I have gone
on----"

Cornelia pulled herself loose. "Charmian! Do you _dare_ to mean that I
want him to ever speak to me again--or look at me?"

"No, no----"

"Or that I'm sorry I did it?"

"No; it's this cold that's making me so stupid."

"If he were to come back again this instant, I should have to tell him
just the same, or else tell him about that--that--and you know I
couldn't do that if I lived a thousand years."

Now she melted, indeed, and suffered Charmian to moan over her, and
fortify her with all the reasons she had urged herself in various forms
of repetition. Charmain showed her again how impossible everything that
she had thought impossible was, and convinced her of every conviction.
She made Cornelia's tragedy her romance, and solemnly exulted in its
fatality, while she lifted her in her struggle of conscience to a
height from which for the present at least, Cornelia could not have
descended without a ruinous loss of self-respect. In the renunciation
in which the worshipper confirmed her saint, Ludlow and his rights and
feelings were ignored, and Cornelia herself was offered nothing more
substantial than the prospect that henceforth she and Charmian could
live for each other in a union that should be all principle on one side
and all adoration on the other.



XXXIII.


Cornelia did not go to pass that week in Lent with Mrs. Westley. When
she went, rather tardily, to withdraw her promise, she said that the
time was now growing so short she must give every moment to the
Synthesis. Mrs. Westley tacitly arranged to cancel some little plans
she had made for her, and in the pity a certain harassed air of the
girl's moved in her, she accepted her excuses as valid, and said, "But
I am afraid you are overworking at the Synthesis, Miss Saunders. Are
you feeling quite well?"

"Oh, perfectly," Cornelia answered with a false buoyancy from which she
visibly fell. She looked down, and said, "I wish the work was twice as
hard!"

"Ah, you have come to that very soon," said Mrs. Westley; and then they
were both silent, till she added, "How are you getting on with your
picture of Miss Maybough?"

"Oh, I'm not doing anything with that," said Cornelia, and she stood up
to go.

"But you are going to exhibit it?" Mrs. Westley persisted.

"No, T don't know as I am. I should have to offer it first."

"It would be sure to be accepted; Mr. Ludlow thinks it would."

"Oh, yes; I know," said Cornelia, feeling herself get very red. "But I
guess I won't offer it. Goodbye."

Mrs. Westley kept the impression of something much more personal than
artistic in Cornelia's reference to her picture, and when she met
Ludlow a few days after, she asked him if he knew that Miss Saunders
was not going to offer her picture to the Exhibition.

He said simply that he did not know it.

"Don't you think she ought? I don't think she's looking very well, of
late; do you?"

"I don't know; isn't she? I haven't seen her----" He began carelessly;
he added anxiously. "When did you see her?"

"A few days ago. She came to say she could not take the time from the
Synthesis to pay me that little visit. I'm afraid she's working too
hard. Of course, she's very ambitious; but I can't understand her not
wanting to show her picture, there, and trying to sell it."

Ludlow stooped forward and pulled the long ears of Mrs. Westley's
fashionable dog which lay on the rug at his feet.

"Have you any idea why she's changed her mind?"

"Yes," said Ludlow. "I think it's because I helped her with it."

"Is she so independent? Or perhaps I am not quite discreet----"

"Why not? You say she didn't look well?"

"She looked--worried."

He asked, as if it immediately followed, "Mrs. Westley, should you mind
giving me a little advice about a matter--a very serious matter?"

"If you won't follow it."

"Do we ever?"

"Well?"

"How much use can a man be to a girl when he knows that he can't be of
the greatest?"

"None, if he is sure."

"He is perfectly sure."

"He had better let her alone, then. He had better not try."

"I am going to try. But I thank you for your advice more than if I were
going to take it."

They parted laughing; and Mrs. Westley was contented to be left with
the mystery which she believed was no mystery to her.

Ludlow went home and wrote to Cornelia:

    "DEAR MISS SAUNDERS: I hear you are not going to try to get your
    picture into the Exhibition. I will not pretend not to understand
    why, and you would not wish me to; so I feel free to say that you
    are making a mistake. You ought to offer your picture; I think it
    would be accepted, and you have no right to forego the chance it
    would give you, for the only reason you can have. I know that Mr.
    Wetmore would be glad to advise you about it; and I am sure you
    will believe that I have not asked him to do so.

    "Yours sincerely,

    "W. LUDLOW."

Cornelia turned this letter in many lights, and tried to take it in
many ways; but in the end she could only take it in the right way, and
she wrote back:

    "DEAR MR. LUDLOW: I thank you very much for your letter, and I am
    going to do what you say. Yours sincerely,

    "CORNELIA SAUNDERS.

    "P. S. I do appreciate your kindness very much."

She added this postscript after trying many times to write a reply that
would seem less blunt and dry; but she could not write anything at all
between a letter that she felt was gushing and this note which
certainly could not be called so; she thought the postscript did not
help it much, but she let it go.

As soon as she had done so, it seemed to her that she had no reason for
having done so, and she did not see how she could justify it to
Charmian, whom she had told that she should not offer her picture. She
would have to say that she had changed her mind simply because Mr.
Ludlow had bidden her, and she tried to think how she could make that
appear sufficient. But Charmian was entirely satisfied. "Oh, yes," she
said, "that was the least you could do, when he asked you. You
certainly owed him _that_ much. _Now_," she added mystically, "he never
can say a _thing_."

They were in Charmian's studio, where Cornelia's sketch of her had been
ever since she left working on it; and Charmian ran and got it, and set
it where they could both see it in the light of the new event.

It's magnificent, Cornelia. There's no other word for it. Did you know
he was going to give me his?"

"Yes, he told me he was going to," said Cornelia, looking at her
sketch, with a dreamy suffusion of happiness in her face.

"It's glorious, but it doesn't come within a million miles of yours.
Mr. Wetmore isn't on the Committee, this year, but he knows them all,
and----"

Cornelia turned upon her. "Charmian Maybough, if you breathe, if you
_dream_ a word to him about it I will never speak to you. If my picture
can't get into the Exhibition without the help of friends----"

"Oh, _I_ shan't speak to him about it," Charmian hastened to assure
her. In pursuance of her promise, she only spoke to Mrs. Wetmore, and
at the right time Wetmore used his influence with the committee. Then,
for the reason, or the no reason that governs such matters, or because
Cornelia's picture was no better than too many others that were
accepted, it was refused.



XXXIV.


The blow was not softened to Cornelia by her having prophesied to
Charmian as well as to herself, that she knew her picture would be
refused. Now she was aware that at the bottom of her heart she had
always hoped and believed it would be accepted. She had kept it all
from her mother, but she had her fond, proud visions of how her mother
would look when she got her letter saying that she had a picture in the
Exhibition, and how she would throw on her sacque and bonnet, and run
up to Mrs. Burton for an explanation and full sense of the honor. In
these fancies Cornelia even had them come to New York, to see her
picture in position; it was not on the line, of course, and yet it was
not skyed.

Her pride was not involved, and she suffered no sting of wounded vanity
from its rejection: her hurt was in a tenderer place. She would not
have cared how many people knew of her failure, if her mother and Mrs.
Burton need not have known; but she wrote faithfully home of it, and
tried to make neither much nor little of it. She forbade Charmian the
indignation which she would have liked to vent, but she let her cry
over the event with her. No one else knew that it had actually happened
except Wetmore and Ludlow; she was angry with them at first for
encouraging her to offer the picture, but Wetmore came and was so
mystified and humbled by its refusal, that she forgave him and even
comforted him for his part in the affair.

"She acted like a little man about it," he reported to Ludlow. "She'll
do. When a girl can take a blow like that the way she does, she makes
you wish that more fellows were girls. When I had my first picture
refused, it laid me up. But I'm not going to let this thing rest. I'm
going to see if that picture can't be got into the American Artists'."

"Better not," said Ludlow so vaguely that Wetmore thought he must mean
something.

"Why?"

"Oh--I don't believe she'd like it."

"What makes you think so? Have you seen her?"

"No----"

"You haven't? Well, Ludlow, _I_ didn't lose any time. Perhaps you think
there was no one else to blame for the mortification of that poor
child."

"No, I don't. I am to blame, too. I encouraged her to try--I urged
her."

"Then I should think you would go and tell her so."

"Ah, I think she knows it. If I told her anything, I should tell her no
one was to blame but myself."

"Well, that wouldn't be a bad idea." Wetmore lighted his pipe.
"Confound those fellows! I should like to knock their heads together.
If there is anything like the self-righteousness of a committee when
it's wrong---but there isn't, fortunately."

It was not the first time that Ludlow had faltered in the notion of
going to Cornelia and claiming to be wholly at fault. In thought he was
always doing it, and there were times when he almost did it in reality,
but he let these times pass effectless, hoping for some better time
when the thing would do itself, waiting for the miracle which love
expects, when it is itself the miracle that brings all its desires to
fulfilment. He certainly had some excuses for preferring a passive part
in what he would have been so glad to have happen. Cornelia had
confessed that she had once cared for him, but at the same time she had
implied that she cared for him no longer, and she had practically
forbidden him to see her again. Much study of her words could make
nothing else of them, and it was not until Ludlow saw his way to going
impersonally in his quality of mistaken adviser, from whom explanation
and atonement were due, that he went to Cornelia. Even then he did not
quite believe that she would see him, and he gladly lost the bet he
made himself, at the sound of a descending step on the stairs, that it
was the Irish girl coming back to say that Miss Saunders was not at
home.

They met very awkwardly, and Ludlow had such an official tone in
claiming responsibility for having got Cornelia to offer her picture,
and so have it rejected, that he hardly knew who was talking. "That is
all," he said, stiffly; and he rose and stood looking into his hat. "It
seemed to me that I couldn't do less than come and say this, and I hope
you don't feel that I'm--I'm unwarranted in coming."

"Oh, no," cried Cornelia, "it's very kind of you, and no one's to blame
but me. I don't suppose I should care; only"--she bit her lips hard,
and added deep in her throat--"I hated to have my mother---- But I am
rightfully punished."

She meant for the Dickerson business, but Ludlow thought she meant for
her presumption, and his heart smote him in tender indignation as her
head sank and her face averted itself. It touched him keenly that she
should speak to him in that way of her mother, as if from an
instinctive sense of his loving and faithful sympathy; and then,
somehow he had her in his arms, there in Mrs. Montgomery's dim parlor;
he noted, as in a dream, that his hat had fallen and was rolling half
the length of it.

"Oh, wait!" cried the girl. "What are you doing---- You don't know.
There is something I must tell you--that will make you hate me----" She
struggled to begin somehow, but she did not know where.

"No," he said. "You needn't tell me anything. There isn't anything in
the world that could change me to you--nothing that you could tell me!
Sometime, if you must--if you wish; but not now. I've been too
miserable, and now I'm so happy."

"But it's very foolish, it's silly! I tell you----"

"Not now, not now!" He insisted. He made her cry, he made her laugh;
but he would not listen to her. She knew it was all wrong, that it was
romantic and fantastic, and she was afraid of it; but she was so happy
too, that she could not will it for the moment to be otherwise. She put
off the time that must come, or let him put it off for her, and gladly
lost herself in the bliss of the present. The fear, growing more and
more vague and formless, haunted her rapture, but even this ceased
before they parted, and left her at perfect peace in his love--their
love.

He told her how much she could be to him, how she could supplement him
in every way where he was faltering and deficient, and he poured out
his heart in praises of her that made her brain reel. They talked of a
thousand things, touching them, and leaving them, and coming back, but
always keeping within the circle of their relation to themselves. They
flattered one another with the tireless and credulous egotism of love;
they tried to tell what they had thought of each other from the first
moment they met, and tried to make out that they neither had ever since
had a thought that was not the other's; they believed this. The
commonplaces of the passion ever since it began to refine itself from
the earliest savage impulse, seemed to have occurred to them for the
first time in the history of the race; they accused themselves each of
not being worthy of the other; they desired to be very good, and to
live for the highest things.

They began this life by spending the whole afternoon together. When
some other people came into the parlor, they went out to walk. They
walked so long and far, that they came at last to the Park without
meaning to, and sat on a bench by a rock. Other people were doing the
same: nurses with baby-carriages before them; men smoking and reading;
elderly husbands with their elderly wives beside them, whom they
scarcely spoke to; it must have been a very common, idle thing, but to
them it had the importance, the distinction of something signal, done
for the first time. They staid there till it was almost dark, and then
they went and had tea together in the restaurant of one of the vast
hotels at the entrance of the Park. It was a very Philistine place,
with rich-looking, dull-looking people, travellers and sojourners,
dining about in its spacious splendor; but they got a table in a corner
and were as much alone there as in the Park; their happiness seemed to
push the world away from them wherever they were, and to leave them
free within a wide circle of their own. She poured the tea for them
both from the pot which the waiter set at her side; he looked on in
joyful wonder and content. "How natural it all is," he sighed. "I
should think you had always been doing that for me. But I suppose it is
only from the beginning of time!"

She let him talk the most, because she was too glad to speak, and
because they had both the same thoughts, and it did not need two to
utter them. Now and then, he made her speak; he made her answer some
question; but it was like some question that she had asked herself.
From time to time they spoke of others besides themselves; of her
mother and the Burtons, of Charmian, of Mrs. Westley, of Wetmore; but
it was in relation to themselves; without this relation, nothing had
any meaning.

When they parted after an evening prolonged till midnight in Mrs.
Montgomery's parlor, that which had been quiescent in Cornelia's soul,
stirred again, and she knew that she was wrong to let Ludlow go without
telling him of Dickerson. It was the folly of that agreement of theirs
about painting Charmian repeating itself in slightly different terms,
and with vastly deeper meaning, but to a like end of passive deceit, of
tacit untruth; his wish did not change it. She thought afterwards she
could not have let him go without telling him, if she had not believed
somehow that the parallel would complete itself, and that he would come
back, as he had done before, and help her undo what was false between
them; but perhaps this was not so; perhaps if she had been sure he
would not come back she would not have spoken; at any rate he did not
come back.



XXXV.


Cornelia was left to no better counsels than those of Charmian
Maybough, and these were disabled from what they might have been at
their best, by Cornelia's failure to be frank with her. If she was
wronging Charmian by making her a half-confidant only, she could not be
more open with her than with Ludlow, and she must let her think that
she had told him everything until she had told him everything.

She did honestly try to do so, from time to time; she tried to lead him
on to ask her what it was he had kept her from telling him in that
first moment of their newly confessed love, when it would have been
easier than it could ever be again. She reproached him in her heart for
having prevented her then; it seemed as if he must know that she was
longing for his help to be frank; but she never could make that cry for
his help pass her lips where it trembled when she ought to have felt
safest with him. She began to be afraid of him, and he began to be
aware of her fear.

He went home after parting with her that first night of their
engagement too glad of all that was, to feel any lack in it; but the
first thought in his mind when he woke the next morning was not that
perfect joy which the last before he fell asleep had been. His
discomfort was a formless emotion at first, and it was a moment before
it took shape in the mistake he had made, in forbidding Cornelia to
tell him what she had kept from him, merely because he knew that she
wished to keep it. He ought to have been strong enough for both, and he
had joined his weakness to hers from a fantastic impulse of generosity.
Now he perceived that the truth, slighted and postponed, must right
itself at the cost of the love which it should have been part of. He
began to be tormented with a curiosity to know what he could not ask,
or let her suspect that he even wished to know. Whether he was with her
or away from her, he always had that in his mind, and in the small
nether ache, inappeasable and incessant, he paid the penalty of his
romantic folly. He had to bear it and to hide it. Yet they both seemed
flawlessly happy to others, and in a sort they seemed so to themselves.
They waited for the chance that should make them really so.

Cornelia kept on at her work, all the more devotedly because she was
now going home so soon and because she knew herself divided from it by
an interest which made art seem slight and poor, when she felt secure
in her happiness, and made it seem nothing when her heart misgave her.
She never could devolve upon that if love failed her; art could only be
a part of her love henceforward. She could go home and help her mother
with her work till she died, if love failed her, but she could never
draw another line.

There was going to be an exhibition of Synthesis work at the close of
the Synthesis year, and there was to be a masquerade dance in the
presence of the pictures. Charmian was the heart and soul of the
masquerade, and she pushed its claims to the disadvantage of the
exhibition. Some of the young ladies who thought that art should have
the first place, went about saying that she was for the dance because
she could waltz and mask better than she could draw, and would rather
exhibit herself than her work, but it was a shame that she should make
Miss Saunders work for her the way she did, because Miss Saunders,
though she was so overrated, was really learning something, thanks to
the Synthesis atmosphere; and Charmian Maybough would never learn
anything. It was all very well for her to pretend that she scorned to
send anything to a school exhibition, but she was at least not such a
simpleton as to risk offering anything, for it would not be accepted.
That, they said, was the real secret of her devotion to the masquerade
and of her theory that the spirit of the Synthesis could be expressed
as well in making that beautiful, as in the exhibition. Charmian had
Cornelia come and stay with her the whole week before the great event,
and she spent it in a tumult of joyful excitement divided between the
tremendous interests of Ludlow's coming every night to see Cornelia,
and of having them both advise with her about her costume. Ludlow was
invited to the dance, and he was to be there so as to drive home with
her and Cornelia.

In the mean time Charmian's harshest critics were not going to be
outdone, if they could help it, in any way; they not only contributed
to the exhibition, but four or five days beforehand they began to stay
away from the Synthesis, and get up their costumes for the masquerade.
Everything was to be very simple, and you could come in costume or not,
as you pleased, but the consensus was that people were coming in
costume, and you would not want to look odd.

The hall for the dancing was created by taking down the board
partitions that separated three of the class-rooms; and hanging the
walls with cheese-cloth to hide the old stains and paint-marks, and
with pictures by the instructors. There was a piano for the music, and
around the wall rough benches were put, with rugs over them to save the
ladies' dresses. The effect was very pretty, with palettes on nails,
high up, and tall flowers in vases on brackets, and a life-study in
plaster by one of the girls, in a corner of the room. It all had the
charm of tasteful design yielding here and there to happy caprice; this
mingling of the ordered and the bizarre, expressed the spirit, at once
free and submissive, of the place. There had been a great deal of
trouble which at times seemed out of all keeping with the end to be
gained, but when it was all over, the trouble seemed nothing. The
exhibition was the best the Synthesis had ever made, and those who had
been left out of it were not the least of those in the masquerade; they
were by no means the worst dressed, or when they unmasked, the
plainest, and Charmian's favorite maxim that art was all one, was
verified in the costumes of several girls who could not draw any better
than she could. If they were not on the walls in one way neither were
they in another. After they had wandered heart-sick through the
different rooms, and found their sketches nowhere, they had their
compensation when the dancing began.

The floor was filled early, and the scene gathered gayety and
brilliancy. It had the charm that the taste of the school could give in
the artistic effects, and its spirit of generous comradery found play
in the praises they gave each other's costumes, and each other's looks
when they were not in costume. It was a question whether Cornelia who
came as herself, was lovelier than Charmian, who was easily
recognizable as Cleopatra, with ophidian accessories in her dress that
suggested at once the serpent of old Nile, and a Moqui snake-dancer.
Cornelia looked more beautiful than ever; her engagement with Ludlow
had come out and she moved in the halo of poetic interest which
betrothal gives a girl with all other girls; it was thought an
inspiration that she should not have come in costume, but in her own
character. Ludlow's fitness to carry off such a prize was disputed; he
was one of the heroes of the Synthesis, and much was conceded to him
because he had more than once replaced the instructor in still-life
there. But there remained a misgiving with some whether Cornelia was
right in giving up her art for him; whether she were not recreant to
the Synthesis in doing that; the doubt, freshly raised by her beauty,
was not appeased till Charmian met it with the assertion that Cornelia
was not going to give up her art at all, but after her marriage was
coming back to study and paint with Ludlow.

Charmian bore her honors graciously, both as the friend of the new
fiancée, and as the most successful mask of the evening. In her pride
and joy, she set the example of looking out for girls who were not
having a good time, and helping them to have one with the men of her
own too constant following, and with those who stood about, wanting the
wish or the courage to attach themselves to any one. In the excitement
she did not miss Cornelia, or notice whether Ludlow had come yet. When
she did think of her it was to fancy that she was off somewhere with
him, and did not want to be looked up. Before the high moment when one
of the instructors appeared, and chose a partner fur the Virginia Reel,
Charmian had fused all the faltering and reluctant temperaments in the
warmth of her amiability. Nobody ever denied her good nature, in fact,
whatever else they denied her, and there were none who begrudged her
its reward at last. She was last on the floor, when the orchestra,
having played as long as it had bargained to, refused to play any
longer, and the dance came to an end. She then realized that it was
after twelve, and she remembered Cornelia. She rushed down into the
dressing-room, and found her sitting there alone, bonneted and wrapped
for the street. There was something suddenly strange and fateful about
it all to Charmian.

"Cornelia!" she entreated. "What is the matter? What has become of Mr.
Ludlow? Hasn't he been here to-night?"

Cornelia shook her head, and made a hoarse murmur in her throat, as if
she wished to speak and could not. There seemed to be some sort of
weight upon her, so that she could not rise, but Charmian swiftly made
her own changes of toilet necessary for the street, and got Cornelia
out of doors and into her coupé which was waiting for them, before the
others descended from the dancing-room, where the men staid to help the
janitor put out the lights. As the carriage whirled them away, they
could hear the gay cries and laughter of the first of the revellers who
came out into the night after them.



XXXVI.


The solemn man-servant, who was now also sleepy, but who saved the
respect due the young ladies by putting his hand over a yawn when he
let them in, brought Cornelia a letter which he seemed to have been
keeping on his professional salver. "A letter for you, miss. It came
about an hour after you went out. The messenger said he wasn't to wait
for an answer, and Mrs. Maybough thought she needn't send it to you at
the Synthesis. She wanted me to tell you, miss."

"Oh, it is all right, thank you," said Cornelia, with a tremor which
she could not repress at the sight of Ludlow's handwriting.

Charmian put her arm round her. "Come into the studio, dear. You can
answer it there, if you want to, at once."

"Well," said Cornelia, passively.

Charmian found her sitting with the letter in her lap, as if she had
not moved from her posture while she had been away exchanging her
Ptolemaic travesty for the ease of a long silken morning gown of Nile
green. She came back buttoning it at her throat, when she gave a start
of high tragic satisfaction at something stonily rigid in Cornelia's
attitude, but she kept to herself both her satisfaction and the
poignant sympathy she felt at the same time, and sank noiselessly into
a chair by the fireless hearth.

After a moment Cornelia stirred and asked, "Do you want to see it,
Charmian?"

"Do you want me to?" Charmian asked back, with her heart in her throat,
lest the question should make Cornelia change her mind.

There were two lines from Ludlow, unsigned: "I have received the
enclosed letter, which I think you should see before I see you again."
His note enclosed a letter from Dickerson to Ludlow, which ran:

    "Although you are a stranger to me, I feel an old friend's interest
    in your engagement to Miss Cornelia Saunders, of which I have just
    been informed. I can fully endorse your good taste. Was once
    engaged to the young lady myself some years since, and have been in
    correspondence with her up to a very recent date. Would call and
    offer my well wishes in person, but am unexpectedly called away on
    business. Presume Miss Saunders has told you of our little affair,
    so will not enlarge upon the facts. Please give her my best
    regards and congratulations.

    "Yours respect'ly,

    "J. B. DICKERSON."

Charmian let the papers fall to her lap, and looked at Cornelia who
stared blankly, helplessly back at her. "What a hateful, spiteful
little cad!" she began, and she enlarged at length upon Mr. Dickerson's
character and behavior. She arrested herself in this pleasure, and
said, "But I don't understand why Mr. Ludlow should have staid away
this evening on account of his letter, or why he should have sent it to
you, if he knew about it already. It seems to me----"

"He didn't know about it," said Cornelia. "I haven't told him yet."

"Why, Cornelia!"

The reproachful superiority in Charmian's tone was bitter to Cornelia,
but she did not even attempt to resent it. She said meekly, "I did try
to tell him. I wanted to tell him the very first thing, but he wouldn't
let me, then; and then--I couldn't."

Charmian's superiority melted into sympathy: "Of course," she said.

"And now, I never can tell him," Cornelia desperately concluded.

"Never!" Charmian assented. The gleam of common-sense which had visited
her for an instant, was lost in the lime-light of romance, which her
fancy cast upon the situation. "And what are you going to do?" she
asked, enraptured by its hopeless gloom.

"Nothing. What can I do?"

"No. You can do nothing." She started, as with a sudden inspiration.
"Why, look here, Cornelia! Why wouldn't this do?"

She stopped so long that Cornelia asked, somewhat crossly, "Well?"

"I don't know whether I'd better tell you. But I know it would be the
very thing. Do you want me to tell you?"

"Oh, it makes no difference," said Cornelia, hopelessly.

Charmian went on tentatively, "Why, it's this. I've often heard of such
things: Me to pretend that _I_ wrote this horrid Dickerson letter, and
there isn't any such person; but I did it just for a joke, or wanted to
break off the engagement because I couldn't bear to give you up. Don't
you see? It's like lots of things on the stage, and I've read of them,
I'd be perfectly willing to sacrifice myself in such a cause, and I
should have to, for after I said I had done such a thing as that, he
would never let you speak to me again, or look at me, even. But I
should die happy----" She stopped, frozen to silence, by the scornful
rejection in Cornelia's look. "Oh, no, no! It wouldn't do! I see it
wouldn't! Don't speak! But there's nothing else left, that I know of."
She added, by another inspiration, "Or, yes! Now--_now_--we can live
for each other, Cornelia. You will outlive this. You will be terribly
changed, of course; and perhaps your health may be affected; but I
shall always be with you from this on. I have loved you more truly than
he ever did, if he can throw you over for a little thing like that. If
I were a man I should exult to ignore such a thing. Oh, if men could
only be what girls would be if they were men! But now you must begin to
forget him from this instant--to put him out of your mind--your life."

To further this end Charmian talked of Ludlow for a long time, and
entered upon a close examination of his good and bad qualities; his
probable motives for now behaving as he was doing, and the influence of
the present tragedy upon his future as a painter. It would either
destroy him or it would be the fire out of which he would rise a
master; he would degenerate into a heartless worldling, which he might
very well do, for he was fond of society, or he might become a gloomy
recluse, and produce pictures which the multitude would never know were
painted with tears and blood. "Of course, I don't mean literally; the
idea is rather disgusting; but you know what I mean, Cornelia. He may
commit suicide, like that French painter, Robert; but he doesn't seem
one of that kind, exactly; he's much more likely to abandon art and
become an art-critic. Yes, it may make an art-critic of him."

Cornelia sat in a heavy muse, hearing and not hearing what she said.
Charmian bustled about, and made a fire of lightwood, and then kindled
her spirit lamp, and made tea, which she brought to Cornelia. "We may
as well take it," she said. "We shall not sleep to-night anyway. What a
strange ending to our happy evening. It's perfectly Hawthornesque.
Don't you think it's like the _Marble Faun_, somehow? I believe you
will rise to a higher life through this trouble, Cornelia, just as
Donatello did through his crime. I can arrange it with mamma to be with
you; and if I can't I shall just simply abandon her, and we will take a
little flat like two newspaper girls that I heard of, and live
together. We will get one down-town, on the East Side."

Cornelia look the tea and drank it, but she could not speak. It would
have been easier to bear if she had only had herself alone to blame,
but mixed with her shame, and with her pity for him, was a sense of his
want of wisdom in refusing to let her speak at once, when she wanted to
tell him all about Dickerson. That was her instinct; she had been
right, and he wrong; she might be to blame for everything since, but he
was to blame then and for that. Now it was all wrong, and past undoing.
She tried, in the reveries running along with what she was hearing of
Charmian's talk, every way of undoing it that she could imagine: she
wrote to Ludlow; she sent for him; she went to him; but it was all
impossible. She did not wish to undo the wrong that she might have back
her dream of happiness again; she had been willing to be less than
true, and she could wish him to know that she hated herself for that.

It went on and on, in her brain; there was no end to it; no way to undo
the snarl that life had tangled itself up into. She looked at the clock
on the mantel, and saw that it was three o'clock. "Why don't you go to
bed?" she asked Charmian.

"I shall not go to bed, I shall never go to bed," said Charmian darkly.
She added, "If you'll come with me, I will."

"I can't," said Cornelia, with a sort of dry anguish. She rose from
where she had been sitting motionless so long. "Let me lie down on that
couch of yours, there. I'm tired to death."

She went toward the alcove curtained off from the studio, and Charmian
put her arm round her to stay her and help.

"Don't. I can get along perfectly well."

"I will lie down here with you," said Charmian. "You won't mind?"

"No, I shall like to have you."

Cornelia shivered as she sat down on the edge of this divan, and
Charmian ran back to put another stick of lightwood on the fire, and
turn the gas down to a blue flame. She pulled down rugs and draperies,
and dragged them toward the alcove for covering. "Oh, how different it
is from the way I always supposed it would be when I expected to sleep
here!" She sank her voice to a ghostly whisper, and yawned. "Now you go
to sleep, Cornelia; but if you want anything I shall be watching here
beside you, and you must ask me. Would you like anything now? An olive,
or a--cracker?"

"Nothing," said Cornelia, tumbling wearily upon the couch.

Charmian surveyed her white, drawn face with profound appreciation.
Then she stretched herself at her side, and in a little while Cornelia
knew by her long, regular breathing that she had found relief from the
stress of sympathy in sleep.



XXXVII.


The cold north-light of the studio showed that it was broad day when a
tap at the door roused Cornelia from a thin drowse she had fallen into
at dawn. She stirred, and Charmian threw herself from the couch to her
feet. "Don't move--I'll get it--let me----" She tossed back the black
mane that fell over her eyes and stared about her. "What--what is it?
Have I been asleep? Oh, I never can forgive myself!"

The tapping at the door began again, and she ran to open it. The
inexorable housemaid was there; she said that Mrs. Maybough was
frightened at her not finding either of the young ladies in their
rooms, and had sent her to see if they were in the studio.

"Yes, tell her we are, please; we fell asleep on the couch, please;
and, Norah! we want our breakfast here. We are very--busy, and we can't
be disturbed."

She twisted her hair into a loose knot, and cowered over the hearth,
where she kindled some pieces of lightwood, and then sat huddled before
it, watching the murky roll of its flames, till the maid came back with
the tray. Charmian wished to bring Cornelia a cup of coffee where she
still lay, so crushed with the despair that had rolled back upon her
with the first consciousness that she thought she never could rise
again. But as the aroma of the coffee that Charmian poured out stole to
her, she found strength to lift herself on her elbow, and say, "No, I
will take it there with you."

The maid had put the tray on the low table where Charmian usually
served tea, but in spite of all the poignant associations of this piece
of furniture with happier times, the two girls ate hungrily of the
omelette and the Vienna rolls; and by the time the maid had put the
studio in order, and beaten up the cushions of the couch into their
formal shape, they had cleared the tray, and she took it away with her
quite empty. Even in the house of mourning, and perhaps there more than
elsewhere, the cravings of the animal, which hungers and thirsts on,
whatever happens, satisfy themselves, while the spirit faints and
despairs.

Perhaps if Cornelia had thought of it she would not have chosen to
starve to no visible end, but she did not think, and she ate ravenously
as long as there was anything left, and when she had eaten, she felt so
much stronger in heart and clearer in mind, that after the maid had
gone she began, "Charmian, I am going home, at once, and you mustn't
try to stop me; I mean to Mrs. Montgomery's. I want to write to Mr.
Ludlow. I shall tell him it is all true."

"Cornelia!"

"Yes; what else could I tell him?"

"Oh, you must! But must you write it?"

"Yes; I never can see him again, and I won't let him think that I want
to, or to have him forgive me. He was to blame, but I was the most, for
he might have thought it was just some little thing, and I knew what it
was, and that it was something he ought to know at once. He will always
believe now that it was worse than it is, if anything can be worse. I
shall tell him that after I had seen Mr. Dickerson again, and knew just
what a--a dreadful thing he was, I tolerated him, and lured him on----"

"You _didn't_ lure him on, and I won't let you say such a thing,
Cornelia Saunders," Charmian protested. "You always did profess to have
sense, and that isn't sense."

"I never had any sense," said Cornelia, "I can see that now. I have
been a perfect fool from the beginning."

"You may have been a fool," said Charmian, judicially, "but you have
not been false, and I am not going to let you say so. If you don't
promise not to, I will tell Mr. Ludlow myself that you were always
perfectly true, and you couldn't help being true, any more than a--a
broomstick, or anything else that is perpendicular. Now, will you
promise?"

"I will tell him just how everything was, and he can judge. But what
difference? It's all over, and I wouldn't help it if I could."

"Yes, I know that," said Charmian, "but that's all the more reason why
you shouldn't go and say more than there is. He can't think, even if
you're just to yourself, that you want to--wheedle."

"Wheedle!" cried Cornelia.

"Well, not wheedle, exactly, but what would _be_ wheedling in some
other girl--in me," said Charmian, offering herself up. "Will you let
me see the letter before you send it? I do believe I've got more sense
than you have about such things, this minute."

"You wouldn't have any to brag of, even then," said Cornelia with
gloomy meekness, and unconscious sarcasm. "Yes, I will let you see the
letter."

"Well, then, you needn't go home to write it; you can write in your
room here. I want to see that letter, and I sha'n't let it go if
there's the least thing wrong in it." She jumped up gayly, as if this
were the happiest possible solution of the whole difficulty, and began
to push Cornelia out of the room. "Now go, and after you've put
yourself in shape, and got your hair done, you'll have some
self-respect. I suppose you won't begin to write till you're all as
spick and span as if you were going to receive a call from him. I'm
such a slouch that I should just sit down and write, looking every
which-way--but I know you can't."

She came back to the studio an hour later, and waited impatiently for
Cornelia's appearance. She was so long coming that Charmian opened the
door, to go and ask her some question, so as to get her to say that she
would be with her in a moment, even if she didn't come, and almost ran
against the man-servant, who was bringing her a card. She gave a little
nervous shriek, and caught it from his salver.

"For Miss Saunders, miss," he said, in respectful deprecation of her
precipitate behavior.

"Yes, yes; it's all right. Say that she--_is in the studio_." Charmian
spoke in thick gasps. The card was Ludlow's; and between the man's
going and Ludlow's coming, she experienced a succession of sensations
which were, perhaps, the most heroically perfect of any in a career so
much devoted to the emotions. She did not stop to inquire what she
should do after she got Ludlow there, or to ask herself what he was
coming for, a little after nine o'clock in the morning; she simply
waited his approach in an abandon which exhausted the capabilities of
the situation, and left her rather limp and languid when he did appear.
If it had been her own affair she could not have entered into it with
more zeal, more impassioned interest. So far as she reasoned her action
at all, it was intended to keep Ludlow, after she got him there, till
Cornelia should come, for she argued that if she should go for her
Cornelia would suspect something, and she would not come at all.



XXXVIII.


When Ludlow found Charmian and not Cornelia waiting for him, he managed
to get through the formalities of greeting decently, but he had an
intensity which he had the effect of not allowing to relax. He sat down
with visible self-constraint when Charmian invited him to do so.

"Miss Saunders has just gone to her room; she'll be back in a moment."
She added, with wild joy in a fact which veiled the truth, "She is
writing a note."

"Oh!" said Ludlow, and he was so clearly able not to say anything more
that Charmian instantly soared over him in smooth self-possession. "We
were so sorry not to see you last night, Mr. Ludlow. It was a perfect
success, except your not coming, of course."

"Thank you," said Ludlow, "I was--I couldn't come--at the last moment."

"Yes, I understood you intended to come. I do wish you could have seen
Miss Saunders! I don't believe she ever looked lovelier. I wanted her
to go in costume, you know, but she wouldn't, and in fact when I saw
her, I saw that she needn't. She doesn't have to eke herself out, as
some people do."

Ludlow was aware of the opening for a civil speech, but he was quite
helpless to use it. He stared blankly at Charmian, who went on:

"And then, Cornelia is so perfectly truthful, you know, so sincere,
that any sort of disguise would have been out of character with her,
and I'm glad she went simply as herself. We were up so late talking,
that we slept till I don't know when, this morning. I forgot to wind my
clock. I suppose it's very late."

"No," said Ludlow, "it's so very early that I ought to apologize for
coming, I suppose. But I wished to see Miss Saunders----" He stopped,
feeling that he had given too rude a hint.

Charmian did not take it amiss. "Oh, Cornelia is usually up at all
sorts of unnatural hours of the day. I expected when she came here to
spend the week with me, we should have some fun, sitting up and
talking, but last night is the only time we have had a real good talk,
and I suppose that was because we were so excited that even Cornelia
couldn't go to sleep at once. I do wish you could have seen some of the
costumes, Mr. Ludlow!"

Ludlow began to wonder whether Cornelia had got his letter, or whether,
if she had got it, she had kept the matter so carefully from Charmian
that she had not suspected anything was wrong. Or, what was more
likely, had not Cornelia cared? Was she glad to be released, and had
she joyfully hailed his letter and its enclosure as a means of escape?
His brain reeled with these doubts, which were the next moment relieved
with the crazy hope that if his letter had not yet been delivered, he
might recover it, and present the affair in the shape he had now come
to give it. He believed that Charmian must have some motive for what
she was doing and saying beyond the hospitable purpose of amusing him
till Cornelia should appear. We always think that other people have
distinct motives, but for the most part in our intercourse with one
another we are really as superficially intentioned, when we are
intentioned at all, as Charmian was in wishing to get what sensation
she could out of the dramatic situation by hovering darkly over it, and
playing perilously about its circumference. She divined that he was not
there to deepen its tragical tendency at least, and she continued
without well knowing what she was going to say next: "Yes, I think that
the real reason why Cornelia wouldn't go in costume was that she felt
that it was a kind of subterfuge. She keeps me in a perfect twitter of
self-reproach. I tell her I would rather have the conscience of the
worst kind of person than hers; I could get along with it a great deal
easier. Don't you think you could, Mr. Ludlow?"

"Yes, yes," said Ludlow aimlessly. He rose up, and pretended a
curiosity about a sketch on the wall; he could not endure to sit still.

"Won't you have a cup of tea?" asked Charmian. "Cornelia and I had some
last night, and----"

"No, thank you," said Ludlow.

"Do let me ring for some coffee, then?"

"No, I have just breakfasted--that is, I have breakfasted----"

"Why, were _you_ up early, too?" said Charmian, with what seemed to
Ludlow a supernatural shrewdness. "It's perfectly telepathic! The
Psychical Research ought to have it. It would be such fun if we could
get together and compare our reasons for waking so early. But Cornelia
and I didn't know just when we did wake, and I suppose the Psychical
Research wouldn't care for it without. She seems to be writing a pretty
long note, or a pretty hard one!" Ludlow lifted his downcast eyes, and
gave her a look that was ghastly. "Did you look at your watch?" she
asked.

"Look at my watch?" he returned in a daze.

"When you woke, that is."

"Oh!" he groaned.

"Because----"

Charmian suddenly stopped and ran to the door, which Cornelia opened
before she could reach it.

Cornelia gave her a letter. "See if this will do," she said
spiritlessly, and Charmian caught it from her hand.

"Yes, yes, I'll read it," she said, as she slipped out of the door and
shut Cornelia in.

Cornelia saw Ludlow, and made an instinctive movement of flight.

"For pity's sake, don't go!" he implored.

"I didn't know you were here," she said, the same dejection in her
tone.

"No, they told me you were here; but let me stay long enough to tell
you---- That abominable letter--you ought never to have known that it
existed. I don't expect you to forgive me; I don't ask you; but I am so
ashamed; and I would do anything if I could recall--undo--Cornelia!
_Isn't_ there any way of atoning for it? Come! I don't believe a word
of that scoundrel's. I don't know what his motive was, and I don't
care. Let it all be as if nothing of the kind had ever happened.
Dearest, don't speak of it, and I never will!"

Cornelia was tempted. She could see how he had wrought himself up to
this pitch, and she believed that he would keep his word; we believe
such miracles of those we love, before life has taught us that love
cannot make nature err against itself. In his absence the duty she had
to do was hard; in his presence it seemed impossible, now when he asked
her not to do it. She had not expected ever to see him again, or to be
tried in this way. She had just written it all to him, but she must
speak it now. She had been weak, and had brought on herself the worst
she had to tell, and should she be false, even though he wished it, and
not tell?

She forced the words out in a voice that hardly seemed her own at
first.

"No, we made a mistake; you did, and I did, too. There was
something--something--I wanted to tell you at first, but you wouldn't
let me, and I was glad you wouldn't; but it was all wrong, and now I
have got to tell you, when everything is over, and it can never do any
good." She gave a dry sob, and cast upon him a look of keen reproach,
which he knew he deserved. "I _was_ engaged to him once. Or," she
added, as if she could not bear to see him blench, "he could think so.
It was the year after you were in Pymantoning."

She went on and told him everything. She did not spare herself any fact
that she thought he ought to know, and as she detailed the squalid
history, it seemed to her far worse than it had ever been in her own
thoughts of it.

He listened patiently, and at the end he asked, "Is that all?"

"All?"

"Yes. I wanted to know just how much you have to forgive me." She
looked at him stupefied. "Yes, I ought to have let you tell me all this
before, when you wanted to, at first. But I have been a romantic fool,
and I have made you suffer for my folly. I have left you to think, all
the time, that I might care for this; that I might not know that you
were yourself through it all, or that I could care for you any the less
because of it, when it only makes you dearer to me."

"No!" she said for all protest, and he understood.

"Oh, I don't mean that you were always right in it, or always wise; but
I can truly say it makes no difference with me except to make you
dearer. If I had always had more sense than I had, you would not have
to blame yourself for the only wrong or unwise thing you have done, and
I am really to blame for that."

She knew that he meant her having taken refuge from his apparent
indifference in Dickerson, when she fell below her ideal of herself.
This was what she had thought at the time; it was the thought with
which she had justified herself then, and she could not deny it now.
She loved him for taking her blame away, and she said to strengthen
herself for her doom, "Well, it is all over!"

"No," he said, "why is it over? Don't be worse than I was. Let us be
reasonable about it! Why shouldn't we talk of it as if we were other
people? Do you mean it is all over because you think I must be troubled
by what you've told me, or because you can't forgive me for not letting
you tell me before?"

"You know which!" she said.

"Well, then, what should you think of some other man if he could care
for such a thing, when some other girl had told it him of herself? You
would think him very unjust and----"

"But it isn't some other man; it isn't some other girl!"

"No, I'm glad it isn't. But can't we reason about it as if it were?"

"No, we can't. It would be--wicked."

"It would be wicked not to. Do you think you ought to break our
engagement because I didn't let you tell me this at first?"

Cornelia could not say that she did; she could hardly say, "I don't
know."

Ludlow assumed that she had said more. "Then if you don't think you
ought to do it for that, do you think you ought to do it for nothing?"

"For nothing?" Cornelia asked herself. Was there really nothing else,
then? She stood looking at him, as if she were asking him that aloud.
He was not so far off as when they began to talk, just after they had
risen, and now he suddenly came much nearer still.

"Are you going to drive me from you because I don't care for all this?"

"You ought to care," she persisted.

"But if I don't? If I can't? Then what is the reason you won't let it
all be as if nothing had happened? Ah, I see! You can't forgive me for
sending you his letter! Well, I deserve to be punished for that!"

"No; I should have despised you if you hadn't----"

"Well?"

She was silent, looking at the floor. He put his arm round her, and
pushed her head down on his shoulder. "Oh, how silly!" she said, with
lips muted against his own.



XXXIX.


Cornelia and Ludlow were married at Pymantoning in the latter part of
June, and he spent the summer there, working at a picture which he was
going to exhibit in the fall. At the same time he worked at a good many
other pictures, and he helped Cornelia with the things she was trying.
He painted passages and incidents in her pictures, sometimes
illustratively, and sometimes for the pleasure of having their lives
blended in their work, and he tried to see how nearly he could lose his
work in hers. He pretended that he learned more than he taught in the
process, and that he felt in her efforts a determining force, a clear
sense of what she wanted to do, that gave positive form and direction
to what was vague and speculative in himself. He was strenuous that she
should not, in the slightest degree, lapse from her ideal and purpose,
or should cease to be an artist in becoming a wife. He contended that
there was no real need of that, and though it had happened in most of
the many cases where artists had married artists, he held that it had
happened through the man's selfishness and thoughtlessness, and not
through the conditions. He was resolved that Cornelia should not lose
faith in herself from want of his appreciation, or from her own
over-valuation of his greater skill and school; and he could prove to
any one who listened that she had the rarer gift. He did not persuade
her, with all his reasons, but her mother faithfully believed him. It
had never seemed surprising to her that Cornelia should win a man like
Ludlow; she saw no reason why Cornelia should not; and she could
readily accept the notion of Cornelia's superiority when he advanced
it. She was not arrogant about it; she was simply and entirely
satisfied; and she was every moment so content with Cornelia's husband
that Cornelia herself had to be a little critical of him in
self-defence. She called him a dreamer and theorist; she ran him down
to the Burtons, and said he would never come to anything, because
artists who talked well never painted so well. She allowed that he
talked divinely, and it would not have been safe for Mrs. Burton to
agree with her otherwise; but Mrs. Burton was far too wise a woman to
do so. She did not, perhaps, ride so high a horse as Mrs. Saunders in
her praises of Ludlow, but it would have been as impossible to unseat
her. She regarded herself as somehow the architect of Cornelia's
happiness in having discovered Ludlow and believed in him long before
Cornelia met him, and she could easily see that if he had not come out
to visit Burton, that first time, they would never have met at all.
Mrs. Saunders could joyfully admit this without in the least
relinquishing her own belief, so inarticulate that it was merely part
of her personal consciousness, that this happiness was of as remote an
origin as the foundations of the world. She could see, now, that
nothing else could have been intended from the beginning, but she did
not fail at the same time to credit herself with forethought and wisdom
in bracing Cornelia against the overtures of Dickerson when he
reappeared in her life. Burton, of course, advanced no claim to
recognition in the affair. He enjoyed every moment of Ludlow's stay in
Pymantoning, and gave his work a great deal of humorous attention and
gratuitous criticism, especially the picture he was chiefly engaged
upon. This, when it was shown at the County Fair, where Ludlow chose to
enter it, before he took it back to Now York with him in the fall, did
not keep the crowd away from the trotting-matches, and it did not take
either the first or the second premium. In fact, if the critics of the
metropolis were right in their judgment of it when it appeared later in
the Academy, it did not deserve either of them. They said that it was
an offence to those who had hoped better things of the painter as time
went on with him, and who would now find themselves snubbed by this
return to his worst manner. Here, they said, was his palette again,
with a tacit invitation to the public to make what it liked of the
colors, as children did with the embers on the hearth, or the frost on
the window. You paid your money and you took your choice as to what Mr.
Ludlow meant by this extraordinary performance, if he really meant
anything at all.

As far as it could be made out with the naked eye, it represented a
clump of hollyhocks, with a slim, shadowy and uncertain young girl
among them, and the painter had apparently wished to suggest a family,
resemblance among them all. To this end he had emphasized some facts of
the girl's dress, accessories to his purpose, the petal-edged ruffle of
her crimson silk waist, the flower-like flare of her red hat, and its
finials of knotted ribbon; and in the hollyhocks he had recognized a
girlishness of bearing, which he evidently hoped would appeal to a
fantastic sympathy in the spectator. The piece was called "Hollyhocks";
it might equally well be called "Girls," though when you had called it
one or the other, it would be hard to say just what you were to do
about it, especially with the impression curiously left by the picture
that whether it was a group of girls, or a clump of hollyhocks, they
were not in very good humor. The moment chosen, if one might judge from
some suggestions of light, was that just before the breaking of a
thunderstorm; the girl, if it was a girl, had flashed into sight round
the corner of the house where the hollyhocks, if they were hollyhocks,
were blowing outward in the first gust of the storm. It could not be
denied that there was something fine in the wild toss and pull of the
flowers, with the abandon of the storm in them; this was the best thing
in the piece. It was probably intended to express a moment of electric
passion; but there was something so forced, and at the same time so
ineffectual in the execution of the feebly fantastic design, that it
became the duty of impartial criticism, to advise Mr. Ludlow, if he
must continue to paint at all, to paint either girls or flowers, but
not both at once, or both together, or convertibly.

Ludlow did not mind these criticisms much, being pretty well used to
that kind of thing, and feeling secure of his public in any event; but
Cornelia was deeply vexed. She knew that it must be evident to those
who knew her and knew him that she was the girl and she was the
hollyhocks, and though the origin of the picture was forever hid in the
memories of their first meeting, she was aware of a measure of justice
in the censure that condemned it for obscurity. She had not wished him
to show it, but here, as often elsewhere, she found him helpless to
yield to her, even though he confessed that she was right. He did not
try to justify himself, and he did not explain himself very clearly. "I
don't know how it is about one's work, exactly. Up to a certain point
you are master over it, and it seems to belong absolutely to you; but
beyond that it is its own master and does what it pleases with itself.
Of course I could have kept from showing that picture, and yet--I
must."

"Well, at least, then, you can keep from selling it," said Cornelia. "I
want it; give it to me."

"My dear, I will buy it for you. Mrs. Maybough became the owner of the
picture, yesterday, but I will offer her an advance on the price she
paid."

Cornelia now thought she was really angry with him for the first time
since their marriage. She would not speak at once, but when she did
speak, it was to say, "No, let her keep it. I know Charmian made her
buy it and I wouldn't like to take it from her. She has so much
imagination that maybe she can see some meaning in it and it will
always be such a pleasure to her to explain it even if she can't."

Charmian made the Ludlows a Bohemian dinner as soon as the people whom
she wanted got back to town. She said it was a Bohemian dinner, and she
asked artists, mostly; but of course she had the Westleys and their
friend Mrs. Rangeley. There were several of the Synthesis girls, who
said the Synthesis would never be itself again without Cornelia, and
there were some of the students, nice fellows, whom Charmian had liked;
there were, of course, the Wetmores. Ludlow's picture was in evidence
in a place of honor, especially created for it, and Wetmore said, when
they sat down at dinner, "Well, Ludlow, all _this_ company can tell
where you got your hollyhocks." Cornelia turned the color of the
reddest in the picture, and Wetmore recognized her consciousness with
the added remark, "Oh, you'll be in all his imaginative pictures, now,
Mrs. Ludlow. That's the fate of the wife of an imaginative painter. But
you really must get him to keep you out of his portraits."

Charmian checked herself in a wild laugh, and sent Cornelia a look of
fond and proud intelligence, which Mrs. Rangeley tapped, as it were, on
its way up the length of the table. "O Mrs. Ludlow!" she entreated.
"What is it? I hope it isn't professional envy! Is he afraid of Mr.
Ludlow becoming too popular?"

Ludlow answered for his wife, "Mrs. Rangeley, that was worthy even of
you," and he boldly kissed his hand to her.

The dinner was remembered for several weeks as one of the pleasantest
people had ever been at, and it established Mrs. Maybough in such
social acceptance that she was asked to the first of the Westley
dinners, where swells prevailed, and where she was as null as any of
them. But although Charmian was apparently radiant the whole evening,
and would hardly let Cornelia go away at the end, she wanted her to
stay so and talk it over, she had a girl's perverseness in not
admitting the perfection of the occasion to Mrs. Maybough, when she
said, "Well, my dear, I hope your dinner was Bohemian enough for you."

"Bohemian!" she retorted. "It wasn't Bohemian at all. You oughtn't to
have taken the ladies away at coffee. They ought to have stayed and had
cigarettes with the gentlemen."

"My dear, you know that the mere smell of tobacco makes you sick!"

"No matter, I should--if I could only have seen Cornelia Ludlow
smoking--I should have been willing to _die_. And now--now, I'm afraid
she's going to be perfectly respectable!"


                     *      *      *      *      *


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