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Title: The Dominant Strain
Author: Ray, Anna Chapin, 1865-1945
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Dominant Strain" ***

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  THE DOMINANT STRAIN


  [Illustration: "'Beatrix?' he said"]



  THE
  DOMINANT STRAIN

  BY
  ANNA CHAPIN RAY

  AUTHOR OF "TEDDY, HER BOOK," "PHEBE, HER PROFESSION,"
  "TEDDY, HER DAUGHTER," "NATHALIE'S CHUM,"
  "EACH LIFE UNFULFILLED"


  _ILLUSTRATED BY_
  HARRY C. EDWARDS


  BOSTON
  LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
  1903



  _Copyright, 1903_,
  BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

  _All rights reserved_

  Published May, 1903

  UNIVERSITY PRESS · JOHN WILSON
  AND SON · CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.



ILLUSTRATIONS

FROM DRAWINGS IN COLOR BY HARRY C. EDWARDS


"'Beatrix?' he said"                                 _Frontispiece_

"'Can't you make any sort of an excuse for
yourself, Sidney?' she demanded"                           Page 123

"It was so that Thayer liked best to think of her"           "  205

"Beatrix still sat at the disordered table"                  "  245

"'I believe I might as well ask you now'"                    "  339



THE DOMINANT STRAIN



CHAPTER ONE


Beatrix smiled a little wearily. Intimate friends are sometimes cloying,
and she felt a certain irritation rising within her, as she watched
Sally's bright face under her French toque, and listened to the easy
stream of chatter which issued from Sally's lips. Sally had never faced
such a crisis as the one confronting Beatrix, that day. Moreover, she
had dimples, and it was impossible to believe in the sympathy of a
person whose dimples insisted upon coming into sight, even in the midst
of serious discussion.

"If he hasn't already," Sally persisted; "he is bound to do it before
the season is over. Then what shall you tell him?"

"Aren't you rushing things a little?" Beatrix inquired languidly.
"Please do remember that I only met Mr. Lorimer at the Horse Show, and
that it is three weeks to Lent."

"That's nothing," Sally replied flatly, but flippantly. "You subjugated
Eric Stanford in half that time, and his gray matter has been in a
pulpy condition ever since."

"I didn't know it."

"About his gray matter?"

"Oh, that is congenital trouble. I mean I didn't know that I had
subjugated him. Besides, that is different. He was Bobby Dane's chum,
and we took him into the family."

"Took him in all over," Sally drawled.

Beatrix's eyes flashed. There were things she would not say to Sally;
there were also things which Sally could not say to her.

"I am so sorry," she said, as she rose; "but I must get ready for Mrs.
Stanley's recital. How does it happen you aren't going?"

"For the most ignominious of reasons. I'm not bidden. Mrs. Stanley and I
were on a committee together, once upon a time. We squabbled over some
amateur theatricals, and she has cut my acquaintance ever since. I
always did say that there is nothing like amateur theatricals for
bringing out all the worst vices of humanity. If a Shakespearian revival
ever reaches the heavenly host, Gabriel and Michael will have to play
Othello and Iago turn and turn about, to prevent ill-feeling. Beatrix?"

"Well?"

"What do you honestly think of Mr. Lorimer?"

Beatrix hesitated. Then she faced her friend.

"That he is the most interesting man we have met, this season."

"That's not saying any too much. Still, it is an admission. Are you
going to marry him?"

"He hasn't asked me."

"But he will."

"How do you know?"

"I do know."

"I'm not so sure of it." Beatrix laughed nervously.

"But if he does?"

"I--I'm not so sure of that, either."

"Beatrix! Why not?"

Beatrix untied the long ribbons which belted her gown, and stood drawing
them slowly through and through her fingers. Sally leaned back in her
deep chair and watched her friend keenly, mercilessly. She and Beatrix
had fenced long enough; it was time for the direct thrust. Sidney
Lorimer was the most available man on that winter's carpet. Moreover,
for weeks he had been a patient follower in the wake of Beatrix Dane.
Beatrix might be as impenetrable as she chose; but Sally knew that,
during the past week, she had been reading the headings of certain
suppressed chapters in Lorimer's history, and that they had changed her
whole attitude towards the man. The signs were slight, too slight for
him to have recognized them as yet; but Sally's curious, pitiless eyes
had discerned them. She had discerned and disapproved, and she had
resolved that no squeamish delicacy should keep her from preventing
Beatrix's playing the part of a prude.

"He is the best-looking man of the season, and the best dancer. He took
honors at Göttingen. He has any quantity of money." Sally ticked off the
points on the tips of her gray glove. "And most of all," she tapped her
thumb conclusively, "he is very much in love with Miss Beatrix Dane, and
I want him to marry her."

"Oh, Sally, do be sensible!" Beatrix burst out impatiently. Then she
pulled herself up sharply and turned to bay. "What about the Forbes
supper?" she demanded.

Sally shrugged her shoulders, as she fastened her fur collar.

"Oh, Beatrix, you prig! Are there any men of our set who haven't been a
little frisky?"

"Frisky! That is a milder word than I should use, Sally. The Forbes
affair transcends friskiness and becomes the beginning of the pace that
kills. It was intolerable; I can't forgive it."

Her face flushed; then it paled and hardened with the rigidity of
self-control. Sally peered out at her through lowered lashes, and judged
that it was time for her to remove herself. She had known Beatrix from
their childhood, and this was the first time she had seen her jarred
from her self-possession. She fastened the last hook with a jerk. Then
she rose and went to her friend's side.

"I didn't mean to tease you, dear," she said penitently. "I know this
has been worrying you; but don't let it get on your nerves and influence
you too much. All men make slips at times. Mr. Lorimer is a good fellow,
even if he has been a little fast. He would drop all that as soon as he
was--settled. Besides, this isn't nearly as bad as ever so many of the
stories we hear."

"No," Beatrix assented drearily; "but it is bad enough."

"Then you do care?"

"Care!" She laughed a little harshly. "Sally, truly I must send you off.
It is time I was dressing, for I promised to go. I am sorry, but--"

"I am used to being dismissed; I shall come again." There was no hint of
rancor in Sally's tone, yet she went away fully convinced that her own
system of measurement could never reach the heights and the depths of
her friend's mood.

Left to herself, Beatrix forgot her need for haste. She dropped down
into a chair, and sat for many moments brooding over the fire. Her hand
shielded her face; yet it could not conceal the anxious lines above her
eyes nor the drooping lips. Lorimer had asked permission to call upon
her, that evening, and she knew by instinct what the evening was holding
in store for her. Confronted with the final decision, she was at a loss
which course to take. Should she close her eyes to the plague-spot which
might one day spread and spread until it tainted her whole life? The
present was very tempting. Why not take it, and ignore the future? Most
girls would wink at the suspicion which, during the past week, had been
clouding her dream of perfect content. How far was she accountable for
the future?

She dressed hurriedly; but when she reached Mrs. Stanley's house, the
recital had already begun, and she dropped into a seat outside the
music-room door. The artist was a new star upon the horizon. She had
supposed him to be only one of the vast milky way which helped to shed a
dim light upon Mrs. Stanley, as that good lady clambered slowly up the
social ladder. Instead of that, Beatrix entirely forgot Mrs. Stanley's
antics, in watching for the star itself. She even dismissed Lorimer from
her mind, as she bent forward in eager listening to the invisible
singer.

"Great fellow, Schubert!" her cousin observed, sauntering up to her side
as soon as the recital was ended. "They say that this Thayer is daft
upon the subject of him. Anyway, he manages to interpret him fairly
well. What did you think?"

She pulled herself out of her absorption and laughed.

"Don't expect me to analyze him, Bobby. He is past that."

"Bad or good?"

"Good, if making havoc of my nerve centres is any test."

"Then you really liked him? I thought you didn't want to come."

"I didn't. Nothing but a stern sense of duty brought me; but it also
brought its own reward. One hears such a voice only once a decade."

Bobby Dane eyed her askance.

"Sure this is yourself, Beatrix? I thought you scoffed at all baritones,
and only delighted in maudlin tenors and anticking sopranos. I have
hopes of you yet; but whence comes your conversion?"

"From this man, Mr. ----." She referred to the programme in her hand.

"Thayer," her cousin prompted. "Cotton Mather Thayer."

Beatrix gasped.

"Bobby! What a name for an artist!"

"For a punster, you'd better say; but at least one can't doubt its
genuineness. If he had been going to assume a stage name, he would have
chosen something more romantic."

"Who is he, and where did Mrs. Stanley accumulate him?"

Bobby rolled his eyes expressively towards the portly, satin-clad figure
of his hostess.

"Mrs. Stanley hunts every lion that comes to Manhattan Island. As a
rule, she catches only cubs; this is the exception which proves the
rule."

"I haven't heard the name before."

"No; Thayer is a brand-new lion, but fully grown. Of course, with that
name, his family tree sprouted in Massachusetts; but he has been in
Germany and Italy for years. He only landed, the third, and is to make
his formal début at the Lloyd Avalons's on the twentieth. Don't you want
to meet him?"

"N--no. I am afraid it would be anticlimax."

"Not a bit of it. He doesn't indulge in speckled neckties and an
imperial. He is a man, as well as a singer."

"You know him, then?"

"Yes, as one knows any number of people. Lorimer has had him at the club
occasionally, and I have met him there."

"Mr. Lorimer?"

"Lorimer knew him well in Germany. Come and help burn incense before
him, and do try to say something rational. Those fellows must get deadly
sick of the inanities people talk when they are being introduced. If you
make a good impression, perhaps I'll bring him around, some Monday."

"Wait till you see what impression he makes, Bobby. I'm not Mrs.
Stanley, you know, and I'm not stalking any lions."

Even while he laughed at the sudden hauteur of her tone, he allowed his
glance to wander over her with manifest approval.

"Good for you, Beatrix! But Thayer is a gentleman first of all, then an
artist. A cad always shows himself at a strange club; but Thayer passed
muster at The Critic, where even Lorimer isn't altogether popular."

"Why not?" she demanded sharply.

"Difference in taste in jokes," her cousin replied evasively. "I only
spoke of it to show you that you were safe enough in knowing Thayer.
Lorimer is a good fellow; even good fellows have their foes."

"But if Mr. Thayer hasn't--"

"Thayer hasn't been here long enough to get them. Give him time,
Beatrix. Inside of six weeks, he will have every singer in New York
slandering him. There's nothing more lovable than the way musicians
stand by one another, when it's a case of fighting a successful rival."

She laughed suddenly.

"How do you know, Bobby? You're not a musician."

"Heaven forfend! If I were, I should spend half my time on The Island,
doing sentence for battery and breach of the peace. I have known a few
musicians in my time, Beatrix, and I know their pleasant little ways."

They had joined the large group gathered at the head of the music-room,
and were slowly working their way from the outer fringe to the focal
point. As they waited, now advancing a step, then halting again, Beatrix
listened in some scorn to the fugue of praise which rose about her, a
fugue composed chiefly of adjectives heaped in confusion about the
single, magical noun _temperament_. She shot a mischievous glance up at
her tall cousin.

"Fancy any man having to live up to this sort of thing, Bobby! _Divine_
and _perfectly elegant_ do not suggest the same set of attributes, and I
don't see how he can strike the golden mean between them. Somebody
really ought to coin a new word for such emergencies as this."

Before her cousin could answer, the woman just ahead of them had buried
the singer's hand in her own pudgy clasp.

"Oh, Mr. Thayer, that was such a pretty piece you sang last! It was a
German piece; wasn't it? It was just sweet!"

And it was after such a prelude that Beatrix bowed in recognition of her
cousin's introduction. Even as she bowed, there came a swift realization
that she was facing no anticlimax. And yet the man before her was in no
wise the typical musician. Tall, so tall that Bobby Dane, five feet ten
in his stockings, seemed short beside him, well-dressed, well-groomed,
he looked far more like a prosperous, alert man of affairs than an
artist or a dreamer. Moreover, in spite of certain lines in his face, he
was absurdly boyish to have sung those great songs. He could know
nothing of the real issues of fate with which he had been juggling,
could have no real conception of either hope or disappointment.
Doubtless he had developed his _Weltschmerz_ mechanically, imitatively,
at so many marks or _lire_ an hour.

Beatrix had always been distressed by the flatness of her one-syllabled
name. It gained a new roundness now; and she raised her eyes, as Thayer
spoke it, to meet the gray ones above her. They were clear and steady
eyes, smiling, yet with a look in their depths which to her mind
accounted for the insistent, troubled note in his singing. The lines
about his shaven lips were firm, but mobile.

Bobby eyed the two of them quizzically. Then he broke in upon the
tentative conversation which follows an introduction.

"Pass, Beatrix! That's quite original. I told my cousin, Thayer, that if
she could hail you with a new adjective, I should present you as a
candidate for a dish of tea, some Monday."

As usually happened with Bobby Dane's remarks, this proved the end of
any serious talk, and Beatrix laughed, as she responded,--

"Please come alone, Mr. Thayer. My cousin monopolizes all the
conversation, when he is present."

"And Miss Dane always demands a good listener. Like a conspirator, she
relies upon your silence, Thayer."

"What a restful hostess!" Thayer answered lightly. Then, turning, he
laid a kindly hand on the arm of his accompanist. "Otto, I wish you to
meet Mr. Dane. Miss Dane, may I introduce my friend, Mr. Arlt?"

It was done simply; but the boy blushed with sudden shyness before the
stately girl, whose fur collar alone had cost far more than his whole
year's expenses. Beatrix met him cordially, for she had seen him
standing ignored in his corner by the piano, and she liked the friendly
way in which the singer had included him in the trivial talk. It was not
until afterwards that she suddenly recalled the fact that she herself
and her cousin were apparently the only ones to whom Thayer had
introduced his companion. She pondered over the reason for this until,
as she slowly mounted the steps to her own door, she abruptly recurred
to the unanswered question which had been driven from her mind by the
afternoon's events.

The old butler met her in the hall.

"Mr. Lorimer has just telephoned to you, Miss Beatrix. He can't come,
to-night, he says. His horse stumbled and threw him just now, and his
ankle is sprained. It will be a few days before he can go out."

And with utter thankfulness Beatrix accepted even this brief reprieve.



CHAPTER TWO


"Cast your bread upon the waters, and it will come floating back to you
in time to be fed out to the next man."

"Bad for the next man's digestion, though!" Bobby Dane commented, as he
set down his empty cup. "You needn't offer me any of your second-hand
pabulum, Beatrix."

"You probably will be in such dire straits that I shall offer you the
first chance at it, Bobby," she retorted.

"Another cup of tea, and two pieces of lemon, please," Sally demanded.
"What is the particular appositeness of your remarks, Beatrix?"

"Mr. Arlt and Mrs. Stanley. Also the conservation of philanthropic
energy."

Sally stirred her tea with a protesting clatter of the spoon.

"Beatrix, I am glad I didn't go to college. Your mind is appalling; your
language is more so. May I ask whether you are going into slumming?"

"No. Worse."

"For the family credit, I must draw the line at the Salvation Army,"
Bobby adjured her. "A poke bonnet and a tambourine wouldn't be a proper
fruitage for our family tree."

"What are you going to do, Beatrix?" Sally repeated. "It is something
uncanny, I know. I felt it in the air, and that was the reason I stayed
until everybody else had gone. I knew you wished to confess."

"But I didn't."

"Not even to ease your conscience?"

"My conscience is perfectly easy."

"But you said it was worse than slumming."

"It is. Slumming is aristocratic and conservative; I am about to be
radical."

"Don't tell me it is spectacles and statistics," Bobby pleaded. "I abhor
statistical women; they are so absorbed in collating material that they
never listen to the point of even your best stories."

"Not a statistic, I promise you, Bobby."

"Nor a poke bonnet?"

"No; my choice is for toques, not pokes. Do you know Mr. Arlt?"

"Never heard of the gentleman." Bobby's tone expressed cheery
indifference, as he bent over to prod the fire.

"But you met him, Bobby."

"It was in a crowd, then, and it doesn't signify that I've heard of him.
Who is he, Sally?"

With the freedom born of intimacy, Sally was eating up her lemon rind,
and there was a momentary pause, while she shook her head. Beatrix
answered the question.

"He is Mr. Thayer's accompanist, that little German who was with him at
Mrs. Stanley's."

"Have you heard Thayer yet, Sally?" Bobby asked parenthetically.

"No. I have heard about him till I am weary of his name, though, and
such a name! Cotton Mather Thayer!"

"Did it ever occur to you the handicap of going through life as Bobby?"
inquired the owner of that name. "It is a handicap; but it is also a
distinct advantage. Nobody ever expects me to amount to anything. No
matter how much I fizzle, they'll say 'Oh, but it's only Bobby Dane!'
Now, Cotton Mather Thayer is bound to fill a niche in the--the--"

"Lofty cathedral of fame reared by the ages." Sally helped him out of
his rhetorical abyss.

"Thanks awfully; yes. And then Beatrix will scatter her water-soaked
breadcrumbs around him to coax the little sparrows to make their nests
in the crown of his hat and get free music lessons for their young in
exchange for keeping his head warm."

Beatrix frowned; then she laughed. Bobby was incorrigible, and there was
no use in expecting seriousness from him. He and Sally were alike;
Beatrix was cast in a different mould. She could suffer and enjoy with
an intensity unknown to either of the others; yet she was close kin to
her cousin in her appreciation of his irresponsible fun, even though it
would never have occurred to her to originate it. Moreover, even if it
had occurred to her, it is doubtful whether she could have accomplished
it.

"Who gets first bite at your bread, Beatrix?" Bobby asked encouragingly.
"Granted that Arlt, whoever he is, gets second nibble, who comes in
ahead?"

"Mrs. Stanley." In spite of herself, Beatrix laughed at the logical
application of her metaphor. Stout, energetic Mrs. Stanley was so like a
greedy young turkey snapping up the crumbs dropped from the hands of her
superiors.

Sally raised her brows.

"Knowing Mrs. Stanley's appetite, I only wonder that any of the loaves
and fishes should be left over," she drawled maliciously.

"Mrs. Stanley has her good points, Sally."

Bobby interrupted.

"Not a point. She is all built in parabolic curves. Why can't you be
accurate, Beatrix, as befits your higher education? You took conic
sections a year before I did."

"All the more reason I should forget them sooner. Besides, haven't I
begged you not to allude to the fact that I am a year older than you?"

"But is Mr. Thayer as great a singer as they say?" Sally asked, with
sudden irrelevancy.

"Greater. He is almost perfectly satisfactory."

"Not quite?"

"Not yet; he will be, some day, if he can only have an unhappy love
affair," Beatrix answered placidly, as she rose from the tea table and
crossed to the open fire.

"That is an humane speech."

"Artistic, though. He needs just that to develop him. He strikes every
note but tenderness."

"Tenderness is generally located at _C in Alt_, Beatrix. A baritone
can't soar to that height; you should be content when he growls defiance
and moans resignation."

"Besides," Sally suggested; "it is quite within the limits of
possibility that Mr. Thayer might have a happy love affair. Would that
answer your purpose, Beatrix?"

"Not in the least. It is his minor key that needs developing."

"Never mind," Bobby added. "Artists are scheduled for the unhappy loves.
Therein lies the advantage of being merely a newspaper man."

Sally looked up inquiringly.

"Just what is it that you do, Bobby? I know you have a desk and a
salary; but I've never been able to find out that you did anything but
put your heels on one and your fingers on the other."

"That's because you aren't there to see."

"No; but I have heard. Do you ever work, really work?"

"Of course I work. I earn the jam to eat on my daily bread. I boxed the
devil's ears, this morning."

"Luther _redivivus_! You and Beatrix will soon be great moral forces in
the metropolis. Beatrix, is he really presentable?"

"Bobby, or the devil?"

"Neither. Mr. Th--"

"Mr. Thayer," the old butler announced imperturbably, and the subject of
discussion came slowly across the great dusky room towards the circle
of light around the table.

Even while she was suppressing her gasp of sheer embarrassment, Sally
admitted to herself that he was presentable, very presentable. His
manner was altogether free from the self-conscious graciousness of an
artist off-duty; moreover, he was very big, very comely, very much
stamped with the hall-mark of her own class. His eyes were steady; his
shoulders were broad, but his hands were slim. As for Sally Van Osdel,
she had one attribute of a great general; she knew how to beat a
dignified retreat from an awkward situation, and she it was who broke in
upon the little pause which followed the introductions.

"Your entrance was most dramatic, Mr. Thayer, for your name was just
trembling upon our lips. Miss Dane has been asking us if we knew your
accompanist, Mr. Arlt."

He turned to Beatrix.

"Otto? What about him, Miss Dane?"

"Only good. Miss Gannion was speaking to me about him, last night."

"You know Miss Gannion?"

"Who doesn't?"

He laughed silently from between his close-shut teeth.

"That can be interpreted in two senses."

"Not if you know Miss Gannion. She is of the salt of the earth."

"I am glad to hear you say so. She is the one person in the city to whom
I brought an introduction. She was out when I called, so I am still a
good deal at sea in regard to her."

A direct question would have been unpardonable; but Beatrix could see no
offence in the note of interrogation in his voice.

"She is a dear little spinster of fifty, with endless interests and not
a hobby to her name, the most downright, practical person I have ever
known, and the most helpful to strangers and pilgrims in the city. It is
quite incidental that she is uncommonly rich and uncommonly homely.
Nobody ever stops to think about either fact."

"And she has heard of Arlt?"

"Yes, she hears of everybody. She has a great talent for putting young
men on their feet and teaching them to walk alone. In fact, she is a
perfect employment bureau for meritorious youth. Somebody wrote to her
that Mr. Arlt has genius and grit, and not a guinea to his name, and she
is trying to get him some engagements."

"She asked you to help him?"

"Yes. At least, she spoke about him, and asked me to keep my eyes open
and to say a good word for him, when I can. What does he want, Mr.
Thayer?"

"Whatever he can get."

"What does he need, then?"

"Everything." Thayer's tone was grave.

"At least, that is comprehensive, Beatrix," her cousin assured her. "He
may even be starved into eating your chloride of manna."

She ignored the interruption.

"And you have known him for some time, Mr. Thayer?"

"Long enough to have no hesitation in vouching for him, both as a man
and as an artist." His tone was not unfriendly, yet it was of dignified
finality.

"Then why the deuce hasn't the fellow arrived?" Bobby rose, as he spoke,
and planted his feet accurately on the middle pothook of the hearthrug.

"Chiefly because art is long, and we are all too busy to wait for it to
display itself. Give him time," Sally suggested idly, for she was
becoming a little bored by the discussion.

"Time is money, though. Perhaps a pension would do just as well."

Thayer frowned involuntarily. To him, his art was too sacred to admit
of any flippancy in discussing it. He turned still more directly to
Beatrix.

"Arlt is a thoroughly good fellow, one you are safe in introducing
anywhere. He is only a boy, barely twenty; but he is one of the most
satisfactory pianists I have ever heard. I don't mean I haven't heard
better ones; but never one who has been more satisfying to my mood,
whatever it is. His technique is not perfect, and he lacks maturity; but
he has a trick of making people dissatisfied with other pianists and
anxious to hear him play the same programme."

"And he will accompany?"

"Ye-es. Sometimes."

Beatrix laughed.

"I spare your modesty, Mr. Thayer. I think I understand. But really I
haven't much influence. If I can help him, though, you can count on my
doing it."

"All he needs is a little start. As Miss Van Osdel says, New York is
moving too fast to wait for strangers to fall into step with the
procession."

"He is a stranger, then?"

"He came over with me." Thayer hesitated. "I may as well tell you a bit
about him," he went on. "It can't do any harm, and it may supplement
Miss Gannion's story. He is that unhappy being, the youngest son of a
younger son, and he has more ancestors than money. His father ran away
to escape army service, and forgot to provide for his wife and children.
The children died, all but two, Otto and a sister eight years older. He
was half through his musical training, when she had a fall that crippled
her, and the boy had to give up study and take to teaching. For two
years, he fought a losing fight, giving lessons to stolid youngsters,
playing at cheap concerts wherever he could get an engagement, and all
the time slowly dropping deeper and deeper into debt. One night, he
fainted in the middle of the accompaniment to _The Erl-King_, and it
looked as if the King had claimed him. There were a couple of Americans
in the hall who had been watching him for weeks, and they began to
investigate the case. Arlt, it seems, hadn't eaten anything for two
days; and, just as he had started for the concert, he had received legal
notice that the next day his mother and sister would be turned into the
street, because the rent was unpaid."

"And then?" Sally queried, as Thayer came to a full stop.

"Then they took him out to supper," he replied prosaically.

"And then?" Sally persisted.

Thayer spoke with some reluctance.

"Then they found him an engagement that paid a better salary, and they
bullied him into accepting a little loan, until the first week's payday
came around."

"That was so good of you!" Beatrix said impulsively.

He raised his brows.

"I wasn't the only American in Berlin at the time, Miss Dane."

"No; you said there were two of you. But there is no use in your denying
that you were the one who sang _The Erl-King_."

"Circumstantial evidence convicts you, Thayer," Bobby said, coming to
the support of his cousin. "You sang; you also fed him. Likewise, you
brought him to America. Then wherefore deny?"

"There's no reason I should deny. I like Arlt, and for weeks I had been
trying to get him as accompanist, so I gained by the affair. The other
fellow didn't, though. He was no musician; but the case interested him.
He not only backed Arlt financially, but he hunted up the mother and
sister and did no end of nice things for them, the things that count:
rolling chairs and extract of beef and all that stuff. He had nothing
to make by the transaction."

"Were they properly grateful?" Bobby inquired.

"Yes, to the point of enthusiasm. The mother insisted upon doing his
mending all the next winter, and the sister embroidered him a pair of
huge antimacassars and a smoking-cap. It sounds funny; but it was grim,
earnest tragedy mixed with pathos. He did it all with such tact that the
poor creatures never half realized how for a fact they never came into
the middle of his life at all. Arlt realizes it, though. That is one of
the most pathetic phases of the whole situation. By the way, Dane, you
know the fellow, I think."

"I wish I did." Beatrix spoke impetuously. "Plenty of people will give
generously, but not many of them are willing to give humanely."

Thayer smiled.

"Old Frau Arlt used to call him her _Lieber Sohn_, and fuss over him as
if he were in dire need of her motherly care. He took it just as it was
given. The two women lived too quietly to have heard of him. Otto never
told them the truth; but outside the house his deference made up for
the familiarity at home. It has been a pretty story to watch, and it has
meant a comfortable life for two half-starved women."

"Who was the man?" Bobby asked idly.

"Lorimer. Sidney Lorimer."



CHAPTER THREE


Of course, as Bobby Dane had said, with such a name, Thayer's family
tree had sprouted in Massachusetts. His Puritanism was hereditary and
strong; it tempered the artistic side of his nature, but it could not
destroy it. In the musical sense of the word, Cotton Mather Thayer
possessed Temperament; but his Temperament was the battle-field where
two warring temperaments were at constant strife.

In the year of grace sixteen hundred and thirty-five, Richard Thayer,
freeman, landed in America. From Plymouth Rock, he strode straight
towards a position of colonial fame. His children and his children's
children kept up the family tradition and name until one of them, of a
more theological bent than his cousins had been, annulled the custom of
his ancestors and named his oldest son for the grim divine, Cotton
Mather Thayer, and during the next one hundred and fifty years, Cotton
Mathers and Richards had flourished side by side among the Thayers of
eastern Massachusetts. They were strong men, one and all, quiet and
self-contained in years of peace, grim fighters in seasons of war, and
prominent citizens at all times, a godly, gritty, and prosperous race.
Of such is the greatness of New England.

Their records, like the records of all good things, were slightly
monotonous. They were born into orderly nurseries; they were graduated
from the vicissitudes of teething and mumps into orderly, peaceful
adolescence. They invariably married the most suitable damsel of their
own class, and they passed from an orderly old age through an orderly
churchyard into a heaven which the imagination of their surviving kin
peopled with orderly ranks of angels, playing gilt harps in perfect
accord. Their artistic ideals were bounded by _Coronation_ and the
pictures in _The New England Primer_ and _Godey_. Blackberry shrub, to
their minds, was the medium of riotous dissipation.

Under such fostering conditions, ancestral traits strengthened from
generation to generation, until the race of Puritan Thayers culminated
in one Cotton Mather who was born in the early decades of the last
century, a grim deacon, a shrewd lawyer, and the owner of two or three
ships which sailed from his own seaport town. Shrewd as he was, however,
his logic failed him at one point. When his first child, Cotton Mather
Thayer, was a tiny boy, the youngster was allowed and even invited to
toddle about the wharves, clinging to the paternal thumb. On the other
hand, when the boy Cotton was fourteen, he received a round dozen of
canings for lounging about among the shipping. The thirteenth caning was
one too many. It was more severe than the others, and it cracked the
long-strained situation. The caning occurred in his father's office,
after hours, one June night. The _Thankful_ was booked to sail, the next
morning at eight. When, at eight-ten, it slipped down the harbor, it
bore away as cabin-boy and general drudge the stiff and sore, but
unrepentant sinner, Cotton Mather Thayer, age fourteen.

His later adventures have little concern with the story of his son's
life. He sailed over many seas, he visited many lands, mellowing by
contact with many peoples the unyielding temper of his race. The
possibility of failure never once entered into his mind. The Thayers
always had succeeded, for they always had worked. In consequence, he
took it quite as a matter of course that, at twenty-three, he should be
commander of the _Presidenta_, stationed in the Baltic for a year of
chilly inaction. St. Petersburg was near, and St. Petersburg, as the
young commander found, held for him the focal point of the world, in the
person of the pretty daughter of one of the court musicians. Twelve
years later, while the _Presidenta_ was stationed in the Mediterranean,
its young captain died, leaving behind him in Russia a fragile wife and
a little son who had inherited the name and character of the Thayers,
curiously mingled with the artistic, emotional temperament and the rare
musical ability of his mother's race.

It was no common combination. Russian art and Puritan morals are equally
grim; yet the one yields to every passing emotion, the other is girded
up by unyielding strength. Throughout his little boyhood, the child's
nature seemed borne hither and thither by these two counter currents in
his blood, now passing days of quiet, sturdy self-control, now swept by
black gusts of passion which carried all things before them. Then, four
years after his father's death, there came two events into his life: his
mother's death, and the discovery that he had a voice. The one taught
him the meaning of utter, absolute loneliness, for the alien blood of
the Thayers had never been able to win many friends in the land of his
mother's kin. The other proved to be at once a rudder to guide him over
the uncharted future of his life, and an outlet for the pent-up passion
within him. His voice was totally untrained, and as yet it broke into
all manner of distressing falsetto fragments. Nevertheless, it gave him
a cause for living, and it enabled him, the descendant of a taciturn
race, to give utterance to the doubts and questionings which accompanied
his growth to manhood. Bereft of his mother and without his voice, he
might easily have become an ascetic or a criminal.

To a boy of sixteen, trained to a life of strict economy, his slight
income from his father's investments seemed enough for his needs, and he
felt a boyish disgust when, one day, word came to him that his
grandfather had died, leaving him the only heir to the large property
laid up by eight generations of Thayers. His grandfather had refused to
become reconciled to his son; then why should he assume post-mortem
friendship with his son's son? However, by the time he was launched into
German student-life, dividing his time fitfully between his university
and his music, young Cotton Mather was forced to admit that an ancestral
fortune was no despicable addition to the stock in trade of a man
starting in life. He only needed to watch the grinding existences of
some of his comrades to realize the value of money in shaping a broad
artistic career. Instead of wasting his gray matter over details of ways
and means, he could let that side of life take care of itself, while he
gave his whole attention to developing the best that was in his mind and
his voice.

Of course, he was extravagant; of course, he learned, among other
things, some of the blacker lessons of the student world. However, the
Puritanism of his ancestors stood him in good stead. It enabled him to
come into close contact with the seamy side of life; but it decreed that
the friction should never leave a sore spot behind it. It only hardened
the fibre. When he ended his studies, he knew the world at its best and
at its worst, but with this distinction: the best was an integral part
of his life; the worst was an alien, a foe to be recognized and downed,
however often it should face him.

From Göttingen, where he had met Lorimer casually, Thayer went to Berlin
to devote his time entirely to music. Lorimer joined him there, more
because he had nothing to call him back to America than because he had
anything to call him to Berlin. During the next winter, the two men, as
unlike as men could be, had shared a bachelor apartment, the one working
industriously, the other playing just as industriously. It was during
this winter that Lorimer had come into contact with the Arlts. It was
during this winter also that Thayer finally decided to give up his other
plans and make his profession centre in his voice. He had battled
against the idea with the fervor of a race to whom "the stage" offered
no distinction between vaudeville and grand opera, but inclined to the
characteristics of the one and the scope of the other. For years, he had
fought against the temptation; he yielded, one night, during the second
act of _Faust_, and, in after time, he could always identify the chord
which had punctuated his decision. Three hours later, he was studying
that fraction of Baedeker which concerns itself with Italy.

He was in Italy for two years. Then he went back to Berlin for another
year of grinding work, of passing discouragements, and of ultimate
success. There had been many and many a day when his pluck had failed
him, when he had questioned whether his voice was really good, whether,
after all, it were possible to make an artist out of gritty Puritan
stock; whether, in fact, he was not a thing of fibre, rather than a man
of temperament. His progress was great; but his ideals kept pace with
it.

It was one dazzling June morning when he took his final lesson. He had
gone onward and upward until, for months, he had been in the hands of
the _maestro_ universally acknowledged to be the dean of his art. The
_maestro_ was an old man and chary of his words; yet even he was stirred
to enthusiasm.

"My son, it is time for you to go," he said, as he rose from the piano
and took Thayer's hands into his own fragile, elderly fingers. "I can
teach you nothing more. It is now for you to work out your own
reputation. Not much more of life is left in me; but, before it is
ended, I shall hear your name spoken, both often and with praise. While
I live, my house will hold a welcome to you. _Auf wiedersehen!_"

As Thayer went out into the sunshine, the glitter and the brightness of
it all, of the day and of the future, dazzled him and made him afraid.
Then of a sudden the blood of the Thayers, in abeyance during those mad,
sad, glad years of study and of striving, asserted itself again. Obeying
its behest, he turned abruptly from the street where he was seeking the
impresario to whom his master had sent him. In that instant, he turned
his back for many a long month upon opera and upon all that followed in
its train.

One clean, cold night in mid-February, Thayer came down the steps of his
club, where he had been dining with Bobby Dane. At the foot of the steps
he halted long enough to button his coat to the chin and pull his hat
over his eyes, preparatory to facing the cutting wind. Then, turning
southward, he went striding away down the Avenue with the vigorous,
alert tread of the well-fed, contented man. It was still early, so early
that the pavements were dotted with theatre-going groups. He strode
through and beyond them, along the lower end of the Avenue, and came
under the arch, standing in chill, austere dignity at the edge of the
wind-swept square. Over its fretted surface the electric lights shone
coldly, and the deserted benches beyond brought to Thayer, fresh from
the glow and good-fellowship of the club, a sudden depressing sense of
his own aloofness from his kind. The club and Bobby were incidental
points of contact, pleasant, but not permanent. Like the arch, he was
alone, outside the rushing life of the busy town, something to be
watched and commented upon, but never destined to be really in the heart
of things. Bobby was a part of it, and Bobby had held out to him a
welcoming hand. He had taken the hand, and had dropped it again. It was
of no use. He did not belong. The sensation was not a new one to him.
He had met it before and in many places. It came to him suddenly and
unbidden, and it lay, a chilly weight, over all his consciousness. It
always left him wondering whether he would ever become fully adjusted to
his environment, whether it would ever be possible for him to come into
perfect contact with his fellow-men.

As if the depression had brought with it a physical chill, he shook his
broad shoulders and plunged his hands into the side pockets of his
overcoat. Then, facing westward, he went on for a block or two and
stopped at the door of a shabby boarding-house.

"Mr. Arlt?" he said to the maid, in brief interrogation.

She nodded and stood aside to let him pass. Thayer's tread on the dim
stairway showed his familiarity with the place, as did the prompt
calling of his name which answered his knock.

Without laying down his pipe, Arlt rose to greet his guest.

"You were so late that I was afraid you were not coming."

Thayer took off his fur-lined coat and tossed it into a chair.

"Haven't you learned that I always get around?" he asked. "I was dining
with a friend, and we took things lazily."

"And now you expect to sing?" Arlt's accent was rebuking.

"Yes. I walked down here to get myself into condition. How is it? Are
you feeling nervous over the prospect?"

Arlt had seated himself at the grand piano which completely filled one
end of the dreary room. Now he drew a protesting arpeggio from the black
keys and shook his head.

"Oh, that is a terrible woman, that Mrs. Lloyd Avalons! She was here
again, to-day, to tell me about the programme. What does she know of
music? She refuses the Haydn Variations and demands a Liszt Rhapsodie.
If you are not firm with her, she will end by making you sing _The Holy
City_ with a flute obligato."

Thayer laughed unfeelingly.

"She is a Vandal, Arlt; but the world will be at her musicale, they tell
me; and you will find it a good place to make your bow to an American
public. Mrs. Dana told me, over in Berlin, that Mrs. Lloyd Avalons gave
the best private recitals in New York."

"What does she know about music?" Arlt grumbled.

"Nothing, apparently; but the new-rich must have some sort of a fad, if
they are to make themselves count for anything, and people will go to
hear good music, even when they know it is a mere social bribe. Hofman
could fill a Bowery dance-hall with the elect; you only have to lead
them to the latest architectural vagary on Fifth Avenue. They are bound
to be there, for, even while they scoff, they like to keep an eye on
Mrs. Lloyd Avalons for fear she may prove to be worth knowing after they
have snubbed her; so play your best. It may lead to other engagements to
come."

"And the Liszt Rhapsodie?" he asked mournfully.

"Bad, I admit."

"It is detestable. The Rhapsodies are the forlorn hope of artists who
have failed on Beethoven."

"Not so bad as that. Still, there's a way of escape. Announce to your
audience that, by request, you are changing the number from Liszt to
Haydn. I do request it most earnestly."

The boy looked up in admiring relief.

"How is it that such ideas come to you, Mr. Thayer?"

"My Yankee blood, Arlt. Now shall we run over my songs?"

It was characteristic of Thayer that, in consenting to make his American
début at the recital of Mrs. Lloyd Avalons, he had insisted upon the
condition that he should choose his own assisting artist. How Mrs. Lloyd
Avalons had heard of him in the first place was a mystery which he had
made no effort to solve. From the testimony of several members of the
American colony in Berlin, it appeared that all New York and half of
Boston had heard of Mrs. Lloyd Avalons, who, for three or four seasons
past, had been using her really choice musicales as a species of knocker
upon the portal of New York society. By this time, she had passed the
portal and was disporting herself in the vestibule, with one toe resting
upon the sacred threshold. Socially, she was as yet impossible; but her
recitals had won the reputation of being among the choicest tidbits of
the season's musical feast, for she made up in money what she lacked in
artistic sense, and, thanks to her agent, she had been able to discover
certain new stars before they rose above the horizon. For this reason it
was a distinct honor, Thayer was told, to be bidden to sing for Mrs.
Lloyd Avalons, and therefore Thayer had promptly made up his mind that
Arlt also should have a hearing upon this occasion. The boy already had
decided to come to America. Thayer realized with regret how cold a
welcome the country of his own ancestors was accustomed to extend to
struggling young musicians. Arlt had genius; but he lacked both
influence and initiative. The fight would be a long one, and Arlt's
conquest would be at the expense of many a wound. Teutons are not
necessarily pachyderms, and Arlt was sensitive to a rare degree.

As Arlt's fingers dropped from the keys at the close of _Valentine's_
song of farewell, Thayer laughed suddenly.

"It is rather contrary to custom to be accompanied by the star of the
evening, Arlt. I suppose I ought to have hunted up somebody else; but
these other fellows make frightful work of my accompaniments. They hurry
till they get me out of breath, and then they take advantage of the
moment to drown me out. I'd like a baton, only I should beat the
accompanist with it, before I was half through a programme."

The boy's color came.

"When another man accompanies you, I shall be dead, or incapable," he
returned briefly. "I do not forget."

"Nor I. But do you also remember the last time we did this in Germany?"

"At my home? To Katarina?"

Thayer nodded.

"It is my song, you know. I am superstitious about it."

"Mr. Lorimer was there, that night."

"Oh, that reminds me, Arlt, I heard, to-night, that Lorimer was
engaged."

"Mr. Lorimer?"

"Yes, to a Miss Dane. It is only just announced, to-day. I was dining
with her cousin and he told me."

"She must be good. I hope she is also strong of character," the boy
said, with a curiously deliberate accent which seemed characteristic of
him. "He is a good man and a kind one; but he needs a steadying hand. I
shall write to the mother and Katarina."

"Will they like the news?"

"Why not? Mr. Lorimer is their friend, and they will be glad of any
happiness which shall come to him. To the mother, he is like a son, for
she is simple-hearted and knows nothing of the world. To Katarina, he is
like a god."

"But gods don't usually marry," Thayer suggested whimsically, as he took
up his coat.

However, Arlt was ready for him.

"Zeus did, and Homer tells us how he quarrelled with his wife.'"

"Lorimer never will quarrel; he is too easy-going. By the way, you met
Miss Dane at the Stanley recital. Do you remember her?"

Arlt's lips straightened thoughtfully.

"A tall lady in brown furs, who knew how to praise without making a fool
of herself?" he queried.

"That is the one. I should judge that Lorimer has been making a
systematic campaign ever since he met her, three months ago, and that,
after all, it came suddenly in the end. Dane was noncommittal; but I
think he doesn't like Lorimer any too well. Good-night, Arlt. We'll
rehearse again, Wednesday morning; meanwhile, stick to your Haydn." And
Thayer went away, out into the cold, crisp air, which greeted him now
with all its tonic force.

Arlt's simple, boyish loyalty and lack of self-analysis always put him
into good-humor. It was as infectious as the jovial temper of Bobby
Dane, Thayer reflected enviously, with a sudden memory of the idle talk
over their dinner. Strange what had put him on his nerves afterwards!
Then his thoughts flew to Lorimer, and he wondered how his old chum
would bear the harness of domestic living. Perhaps it was just as well
that no idea crossed his mind of how far his story told to Beatrix Dane,
the Monday before, had had a share in shaping the decision which was to
change the whole character of her life.

The question of one's accountability for others is rarely an edifying
subject of meditation.



CHAPTER FOUR


"It isn't so easy to say airy nothings to an artist, when you know him
behind the scenes," Beatrix said, suddenly shifting the talk back to the
point of departure.

"Talk philosophy, then," Bobby returned.

"But I must say something to him, after he gets through singing; and now
that I have seen him, three or four times, I can't launch into a sea of
platitudes."

"I thought women could always go to sea in a platitude. It is as leaky
as a sieve, and not half so likely to upset and leave one floating
without any support at all."

Sally laughed outright.

"Beware of Bobby, when he turns metaphorical! He suggests a second-hand
curio shop."

Lorimer glanced up at her, with a whimsical smile twisting his lips.

"Your own rhetoric isn't above reproach, Miss Van Osdel. But has it ever
occurred to you that Young America has abandoned its sieve for a man of
war? I met a callow junior from Harvard, the other day, and by way of
making polite conversation, I asked him to suggest a clever subject for
a debate. He promptly told me that at his eating club they had been
discussing the origins of morality."

Bobby whistled, to the huge delight of the butler. That factotum
revelled in the pranks of "Master Bobby" who had upset his dignity at
least once a week for the past fifteen years.

"In our time we took our pleasures less sadly, Lorimer. What are we all
coming to?"

"To congenital senility."

"That is nothing more nor less than the frugal trick of making both ends
meet," Sally interpolated.

"But what shall I say to Mr. Thayer?" Beatrix reiterated.

"That it is a pleasant evening."

"That you hope he isn't very tired with singing so much," Bobby and
Sally suggested in the same breath.

Beatrix made a little gesture of scorn.

"It is your turn, Mr. Lorimer. You know him better than the rest of us.
What shall you say to him?"

"I know him so well that I rarely talk to him about his singing,"
Lorimer replied, with sudden gravity. "Thayer is too large a man to
smack his lips over sugar-plums. He knows exactly what I think of his
voice, that it is one of the best baritone voices I have ever heard. He
also knows that I am perfectly aware of the fact when he sings unusually
badly or unusually well. Under those conditions, there is no especial
need of our discussing the matter. One can have reservations with one's
friends, you know." As he spoke, his eyes met those of Beatrix, and a
smile lighted his gravity.

At a first glance, Sidney Lorimer produced the impression of being a
remarkably handsome man. The second glance, while it strengthened the
impression, nevertheless set one wondering what had created it. His
figure, his features, his coloring were all good, yet they were in no
way remarkable. A wiry, nervous, clean-cut man, with brown hair and
eyes, a slim, straight nose, and a well-set head, he would have
commanded little attention had it not been for the nameless stamp set
upon him by his training at an English public-school. It is impossible
to analyze this stamp, yet it exists and insists upon recognition.
Political life had called the elder Lorimer to England, and he had
judged it better to take his only child with him and drop him into Eton
than to leave him in America and send him to St. Paul's. He did it as a
matter of convenience, not of theory; but when his boy was ready for a
Yale diploma, the father confessed to himself that he was pleased with
the result of the experiment. Young Lorimer would never be an important
factor in the world's development; but he was an uncommonly attractive
fellow, and could hold his own in any position where chance would be
likely to place him. Only his lower lip betrayed the fact that his
mother had been a woman of uncurbed nerves.

It was the evening of the twentieth, and Lorimer was distinctly nervous.
He liked Arlt and was anxious for his success; but his anxiety for Arlt
was as nothing in comparison with that which he felt for Thayer, to whom
he gave the adoration that a weak man sometimes offers to one
immeasurably his superior. Probably Lorimer's whole life would contain
no better year than the one he had spent with Thayer in Berlin. Thayer's
influence was strongly good, and Lorimer was of plastic material. It is
doubtful whether Lorimer realized this influence; yet he was genuinely
delighted to have Thayer within easy reach once more, genuinely wishful
to have Thayer's American début such an unqualified success that
hereafter he would regard New York as his professional home.

Lorimer rarely was garrulous; he was unusually silent during the long
drive to the Lloyd Avalons's. It was his first introduction to the
pseudo-fashionable world, for his own family had been of conservative
stock, and Beatrix and Bobby had been the first of the Danes to break
down the barriers of their own exclusive set. To be sure, he realized
that in a city like New York it was quite possible for circles of equal
choiceness to exist tangent to each other, yet in mutual ignorance of
one another; but his years abroad in slower-moving countries had not
prepared him for the countless agile performers clambering up and down
over the social trapeze. In his father's day, society had stood on an
elevated platform and watched the performers as they played leap-frog on
the ground. The performers had been as agile then as now; but their
agility had been free from any danger of a tumble. Between the ground
and the platform, there is no place of permanent rest. One must keep
moving, or else be pushed to the ground.

As a rule, people forgot that there was a Mr. Lloyd Avalons. He was a
little man with an imperial, and a total incapacity for telling the
truth. In that, he was inferior to his wife in point of social
evolution, for she had learned, from certain episodes which still filled
her with mortification, that fibbing was bad form. To Mrs. Lloyd
Avalons, her husband was a mere cipher. Placed before her, he added
nothing to her value; placed after and in the background, he multiplied
her importance tenfold. There were certain privileges accruing to a
woman with a husband, certain immunities that followed in the train of
matrimony. Mrs. Lloyd Avalons was quite willing to include the word
_obey_ in the marriage service; she had a distinct choice in regard to
whom it should refer.

To-night, Lloyd Avalons stood slightly in the rear of the elbow of his
wife who, resplendent in pale gray velvet and emeralds, was welcoming
her guests on the threshold of the music-room. Her gray eyes were
shining with a greenish light that matched the emeralds, for her lips
were set in a conventional smile, and there must be some escape for her
delight, as she counted over the tale of guests and recognized
individuals of many a named species from the garden of society. All in
all, this was the best success she had as yet attained.

She greeted Beatrix effusively, and cast a coy glance at Lorimer while
she murmured a few words of congratulation. Then she fell a victim to
one of Bobby's quibbles, and while she was struggling to see the point
of his joke, the others made their escape.

"At least, the architect knew what he was about," Lorimer remarked to
Beatrix, as they took their seats. "Thayer can't complain of the
acoustic effects of the place."

"When have you seen him?"

"Just before dinner. He was in superb voice then, and a fairly good
mood."

"Isn't he always?" she questioned idly, as she nodded to an acquaintance
in the next row of chairs.

"Not always. As a rule, he is the best-tempered fellow in the world.
Once in a while, though, he wraps himself up in his dignity and stalks
about like an Indian brave in his best Navajo blanket. Nobody ever knows
what is the reason, nor when he will go off into a Mood. It makes him an
uncertain quantity. For my part, I would rather a man would swear and
get it over with." Lorimer spoke easily. Unlike Thayer, he never
collided with the angles of his own temperament.

"What does it do to his singing?"

"Depends on one's taste. I like it, myself, as I like a high-flavored
cheese. People who pin their faith to Mendelssohn might be a little
over-powered. Fact is, there is a strange streak in Thayer's make-up. I
can't account for him at all."

"What is the use of trying? Aren't one's friends immune from analysis?"

"I don't care to try. I don't want to account for him; he is too large
for that. I wish you might know him; but you never will. He's not a
woman's man in the least."

Beatrix was silent for a moment. Involuntarily she was making a swift
comparison of the way in which the two men spoke of each other.
Lorimer's praise had been full of half-suppressed reservations. Thayer
had made no reservations, he had scarcely uttered a word of praise, yet
his hastily-drawn picture of Lorimer's connection with the Arlts had
proved a determining factor in her life. It had been a new phase of
Lorimer's character which Thayer had presented. It had revealed him in a
new light and one infinitely more likable than any she had yet known.
The Lorimer she had met, had been fascinating and a bit snobbish. The
friend of the Arlts was altogether lovable. It takes greater tact and
staying power to make friends outside one's social grade than in it.
People suspect the motives of those who are crossing the boundaries
between caste and caste; yet the Arlts had trusted Lorimer completely.

Beatrix had remained thoughtful for some time after Thayer's departure.
Lorimer had called, that same night. His coming had been unexpected; it
had taken Beatrix off her guard. She had been unfeignedly glad to see
him, for his ten-days' absence from her life had been unprecedented in
their acquaintance. The world is wide, yet, owing to some strange law of
attraction, one invariably seems to meet the same people everywhere.
Beatrix had greeted Lorimer more eagerly than she had been aware. She
had tried in vain to keep the fact of the Forbes supper uppermost in her
mind. Instead, it slid into the background, and its place had been taken
by the thought of Lorimer's probable feelings when he received the
smoking cap from the hands of Katarina Arlt. And the evening had hurried
away from her. When it had gone, she had realized with a sudden shock
that her girlhood was ended. She was the plighted bride of Sidney
Lorimer, and, distrustful of her own mental grasp of the fact, she had
ruthlessly waked up her mother to tell her what had occurred. Later,
she had not understood the motive which had led her to her mother's
room. As a rule, she was self-reliant, and adjusted herself to a crisis
without caring to talk it over. For the once, however, she felt the need
of being strengthened by the enthusiastic delight of Mrs. Dane whose
sentimental hopes had centered in Lorimer from the hour of his
introduction to her only child.

All this had passed in review through Beatrix's mind, and it seemed long
to her since Lorimer's last words, when he said,--

"Don't think I am depreciating Thayer, Beatrix. He is one of the finest
fellows who ever came out of the Creator's hands. In his worst moods, he
is away ahead of most of the men one meets. Some day, I hope you may
know him for what he really is."

There was true generosity underlying Lorimer's frank words. He was still
smarting from his contact with Thayer, that afternoon, for Thayer had
heard of a dinner at the club, on the previous night, and had spoken a
quiet warning. It was only such a warning as he had given, a dozen times
before; he knew just how Lorimer would resent it, then accept it, and it
would have made no difference to him, could he have foreseen that, in
his resentment, Lorimer's words to Beatrix would be slightly tinged with
aloes. It is not certain that, foreseeing, he would have cared. Beatrix
was nothing to him; of Lorimer he was strangely fond.

Beatrix had felt some curiosity as to the effect Thayer's voice might
have upon her. Familiarity in all truth does breed contempt, and a
second hearing often proves a disappointment. For Lorimer's sake, she
was anxious to enjoy the recital, and she drew a quick, nervous breath
as Thayer, followed by Arlt, came striding out across the little stage
with the same unconscious ease with which he had crossed her parlor, the
week before. As he waited for Arlt to seat himself, he glanced about the
room, his practised eye measuring its size and the probable nature of
his audience. For an instant, his glance rested upon Beatrix and
Lorimer, and he gave a slight smile of recognition. Then his shoulders
straightened and he came to attention, as Arlt struck the opening chord
of his accompaniment.

He had chosen to begin his programme, that night, with the _Infelice_
for, in spite of its Verdiism, it had been a favorite of his old master
in Berlin. Before he had sung a dozen notes, Beatrix, bending forward,
was listening with parted lips and flushing cheeks. Of Thayer as a man
who had dallied with one of her cups of tea, she took no account; but
his voice, sweet and flexible, was tugging at her nerves and setting
them vibrating with its note of passionate sadness. Then, gathering
power and intensity, it swept its hearers along upon its furious
tempest; yet, as she listened, Beatrix felt herself inspired for,
underneath it all, there was the same throbbing, insistent note which
seemed to assure her that the singer had hoped and lost and fought and
conquered, that he knew all about it, himself.

Lorimer nodded contentedly at the stage, as Thayer ended his song.

"That's all right; but they would better save their strength, for he
never gives an encore for the first number. What do you think of Thayer
now, Beatrix?"

She caught her breath sharply.

"That I should be a better woman, if I could hear him sing often."

"There's something in what you say. He makes me feel it, too. I never
have heard him sing better, though he always does that song well. He
told me once that he felt possessed with the spirit of his own
grandfather, whenever he started it. From all signs, his grandfather
must have been an intolerable old person to get on with, if he could
rage in that fashion."

"Possibly he had occasion." Beatrix forced herself to speak lightly,
though it was an effort for her to resume the accent and manner which
befitted the place.

"Perhaps. He was a Russian musician with a young wife. Now for the
Schubert group! Thayer's reputation is made, though; he can sing through
his nose now, and they will think it a beautiful manifestation of
individual genius. I only hope that Arlt will do one tenth as well."

It proved that Arlt did fully six tenths as well, and was applauded to
the echo. To the undiscerning ear, he won even more than his share of
applause; but Beatrix, her nerves still tense from _The Erl-King_, felt
a difference in the quality of the welcome to the two musicians. The
critical few were impartial, and in the case of Arlt they led a wavering
fugue of the uncritical many. Arlt was young, small and insignificant.
His tailor was not an artist, and Arlt was too palpably conscious that
his coat tails demanded respectful care. Society applauded Arlt with
punctilious courtesy; but it promptly took Thayer to its bosom and
caressed him with enthusiasm.

Late in the evening, Beatrix brought her father to the corner where
Thayer, with Arlt beside him, was still holding a sort of court, and the
four of them were talking quietly when Mrs. Stanley came pushing her way
towards them.

"I must add my word of congratulation, Mr. Thayer," she said, as she
graciously offered him a pudgy bundle of white kid fingers. "You have
made a wonderful success, and it won't be long before you have New York
at your feet."

Thayer glanced down at his patent leather shoes.

"It would be a good deal in the way, Mrs. Stanley. Let us hope it will
stay where it belongs," he answered gravely.

"How ungrateful you artists are! But I shall always be so glad and proud
to think that your first song in New York was in my house."

"But it wasn't."

Her face fell.

"I thought--Wasn't that your first recital? I am sure you said--"

His smile went no further than his lips, for his clear gray eyes
appeared to be taking her mental and spiritual measure, with some little
disappointment at the result.

"It was my first recital, Mrs. Stanley; but not my first song. I sang
German folk songs to Arlt's landlady, half the afternoon before. You
remember Mr. Arlt, I think."

She glanced around with a carelessness which ignored the hand that the
boy shyly extended towards her.

"Oh, yes, very pleased," she said vaguely. Then, with a resumption of
her former manner, she turned back to Thayer. "And I thought you
promised to drop in for a cup of tea, some Thursday, Mr. Thayer."

Beatrix was deaf to his answer. She had turned to Arlt who, scarlet with
hurt and anger, stood alone in his corner by the piano.

"Mr. Arlt," she said gayly; "it is very warm here, and I know where they
keep the frappé. Shall we leave my father here, and run off in search of
some goodies? You ought to be hungry, after playing for two hours.
Come!"

And Arlt, surprised at the sudden winning intonations which had crept
into her voice, dodged around the portly back of Mrs. Stanley and
followed Beatrix out of the room. For the moment, the haughty woman had
changed to a jovial, friendly girl, no more awe-inspiring than Katarina,
in spite of her wonderful gown and the fluffy white thing in her hair;
and the artist, in his turn, changed into a normal hungry boy, as he
followed her away.

So absorbed were they in each other that they failed to see Bobby Dane
who met them upon the threshold, on his way to join the group they had
just left.

"Beg pardon, Thayer; but can I speak to you for a moment?" he said
abruptly.

His uncle turned to Mrs. Stanley with old-fashioned pomposity.

"May I have the pleasure of taking you to the dining-room?" he asked.

"What is it, Dane?" Thayer asked, as soon as they were alone, for
Bobby's face showed that something was amiss.

"It's Lorimer in the smoking-room. That beast of a Lloyd Avalons has
opened a perfect bar in there, and--and Lorimer is making a bit of a cad
of himself," Bobby confessed reluctantly. "I tried to get him away; but
he wouldn't come, and I thought perhaps you could start him. It's not
that he is drunk, only he is talking rather too much, and I want to get
him off before Beatrix gets wind of it. You know girls--"

"I know," Thayer assented gravely. "I'll see what I can do with him."



CHAPTER FIVE


"You musicians make me deadly weary," Bobby proclaimed, from his
favorite rostrum of the hearthrug.

"Is that the reason you are trying to sit on them, Bobby?" his cousin
asked. "You'll find an easy chair just as restful to you and a good deal
more so to the musician."

Bobby waved her remark aside.

"Don't interrupt me, Beatrix. I have things I wish to say."

"Very likely; but it is barely possible that somebody else also may have
things he wishes to say, and can't, because you talk so much."

"Sally is busy eating bonbons, and Thayer would much better wait till I
get through his indictment. He'll need all his voice to defend himself."

Sally glanced up.

"Go on, Bobby," she said encouragingly. "The sooner it is over, the
better."

"Thank you. Then I have the floor. Thayer, I never believe in talking
about people behind their backs, so I look you squarely in the eye and
ask you if you ever realize that you don't amount to much, after all."

"Who told you?"

"Nobody. I evolved it."

"I didn't know you were a critic."

"I'm not, nor yet an interpreting artist. I create."

"What, I should like to know!" This was from Sally.

"Scareheads. I do them. If that's not creating, I should like to know
what is. They never have any connection with facts."

"What is your grievance?" Thayer asked languidly.

"I was just getting to that. As I say, I create. You only interpret. I
don't know as it counts that you don't try to interpret my scareheads,
though some of them would make stunning fugues. Take the last one, for
instance: _Billions at Stake: Potato Corner in Prospect_. You could work
up something fine from that, Thayer. Think of the chest tones you could
throw into the single word _Potato_!"

"Bobby, you are growing discursive," his cousin reminded him.

"No; it is only my rhetorical method. I shall bring you up with a round
turn, before you know it. Well, granted that we represent the two
classes, the creative and the interpretive, which is the greater?"

"How can we tell, unless you stand back to back?" Sally inquired.

But by this time, Bobby was fairly launched.

"The fact is, you singers and players have a smug little fashion of
forgetting that there is a composer back of you. You don't sing
extempore, Thayer, make up the song as you go along. You're nothing more
than a species of elocutionist, you know, trying to show the people who
weren't on the spot what the composer really did when he created the
thing."

"Animated phonograph records, in short?" Thayer suggested.

"Yes, if you choose to call it that. Of course you count for something,
else every composer could make a set of records and dispense with his
interpreting artist once for all. But you fellows honestly do make an
awful fuss about yourselves; now don't you?"

"Bobby!" Beatrix protested.

"Oh, yes; but I'm not meaning anything personal," Bobby responded
amicably. "We know that Thayer's voice is beyond all odds the best we
have heard for a three years. How do you do it, Thayer? You look as calm
as a Dutch dolly; but you manage to tear us all to bits. Even I felt
sanctified at your recital, and Miss Van Osdel's lashes were freighted
with unshed tears."

"That must be one of your next week's scareheads," she objected. "I
never cry in public where there are electric lights, Mr. Thayer; it's
horribly unbecoming to most women. But I did have to say a nonsense
rhyme over to myself, to keep steady."

"Yes, I taught you that trick," Beatrix asserted suddenly. "Lear is very
soothing in an emotional crisis. _The Rubáiyát_ for gooseflesh and Lear
for tears is my rule. _The Jumblies_ carried me safely through the fifth
act of _Cyrano_. But go on, Bobby. We are nearly ready to change the
subject."

"Now take that recital of yours," Bobby pursued meditatively. "You were
there to interpret Schubert and Franz and those fellows; but nobody is
talking about Schubert and Franz, to-day. It is all Thayer, Cotton
Mather Thayer, Baritone. It's all right enough. You did them awfully
well; but there's the Them in the background, and it's not decent to
forget Them."

Thayer laughed good-naturedly. It was impossible to take offence at the
mock seriousness of Bobby's harangue. Furthermore, it held its own grain
of truth, even though the grain was buried in an infinite amount of
chaff.

"I do occasionally remember that there was a composer," he suggested;
"and, in case of the dead ones, you need somebody to sing them."

"Ye-es," Bobby replied grudgingly; "and in case of the live ones, too,
sometimes. I have an idea that you make a good deal better noise out of
it than most of these old duffers would do. It is only that you take all
the glory for the whole business. The newsboys on the street corners
have no right to take the credit for my scareheads."

"They are a self-respecting race, Bobby; they don't want to."

"How unkind of you, Sally! But the cases are analogous. And my final
point, aside from professional jealousy, is the economy of time. You
grub longer over learning to sing a song than it takes the composer to
write it, and, when you're through, you've only reproduced somebody
else's ideas. Why can't you be original? Next time you feel musically
inclined, just say to yourself, 'Go to, now! Let us create!' It won't
take a bit longer, and really it's not hard to do. I know, because, you
see, I do it."

"Bravo, Bobby! I am delighted to hear that you ever do anything."

At the new voice, Bobby whirled around and bowed himself into a right
angle, while Beatrix rose and crossed the room to greet the guest.

"Miss Gannion! What joy to see you!"

Thayer's Russian blood received swift impressions; his Puritanism made
him weigh and measure with careful deliberation. Now, as he bowed in
acknowledgment of the introduction, he was conscious that in Margaret
Gannion he was meeting a woman who would bear either test. She seemed to
him one of the most strongly individual women he had ever met; yet at
the same time he had a comfortable sense of an infinite number of points
of mental contact. Later, he was destined to learn that this sense was
not imparted to himself alone. Margaret Gannion was tangent to many
lives.

"What is the discussion?" she inquired, as she seated herself.

"No discussion at all, Miss Gannion. Bobby is doing a monologue on
music, and the rest of us can't get a word in edgewise."

"Have you joined the ranks of the musicians, Bobby?"

"Yes, or the angels," Sally responded for him. "Nothing else could have
such a fatal facility for harping on one string."

"I was so sorry to lose your recital, Mr. Thayer," Miss Gannion said,
after a while, as she turned her steady brown eyes on the young man. "I
was in Boston, that week, and I am told that I missed one of the treats
of the season. When am I to have another chance of hearing you?"

Thayer hesitated for a moment, while his gray eyes met the brown ones
that seemed to be taking his mental measure. Apparently both were
satisfied with what they saw, for they exchanged a smile of sudden
understanding. Then Thayer's face grew grave.

"Whenever you wish," he replied quietly.

"Does that mean you will sing to me, myself? I should never have dared
hope for that."

"Why not? That is, if you will let me bring Arlt with me. I dislike to
force him upon people; but he is the only accompanist I really enjoy."

Beatrix looked up with a laugh.

"You never asked if you might bring him here, Mr. Thayer."

Suddenly he rose.

"May I take that as a hint, Miss Dane? I can play a few accompaniments
after a fashion." And, without waiting for the response which was sure
to come, he crossed the room to the piano.

He sang Schubert's _Haiden Röslein_ and an American song or two. The
hush over the room deepened, as the last words fell on the stillness,--

    _"Oh barren gain! Oh bitter loss!
    I kiss each bead, and strive at last to learn
    To kiss the cross--"_

And, in the midst of the stillness, he rose and quietly returned to his
old place by the fire.

It was long before anyone spoke. Then even Miss Gannion's level voice
jarred upon the silence.

"You have a wonderful gift in your keeping, Mr. Thayer," was all she
said.

But Beatrix was silent, her eyes fixed on the glowing coals. At length
she roused herself with an effort. Reverie was not permissible for a
hostess on her reception day. She came out of hers, to find that the
conversation had broken into duets. At one side of the table, Bobby and
Sally were sparring vivaciously; at the other, Miss Gannion and Thayer
had fallen into quiet talk about certain common friends and about the
simplest method of helping Arlt to gain the professional recognition he
deserved and needed.

"I'm not potent at all," Miss Gannion said regretfully. "I only know
people who are, and they are not always receptive in their minds. Still,
I may be able to do something, and he made a good impression at Mrs.
Lloyd Avalons's recital. In the meantime, bring him to my home, some
evening soon. Friday is my day; but, if you don't mind--"

Thayer understood her.

"Arlt will like it a great deal better, and so shall I. He is a shy
fellow, and he never shows at his best, when too many people are about."

Miss Gannion's face betrayed her relief. She had not meant to seem
inhospitable; neither had she desired apparently to be scheming for a
free recital. It was a precarious matter, this establishing social
relations with a really great artist who had just expressed his
willingness to sing in private life. Miss Gannion's acquaintance was
large and of many lines; but Thayer was a new species to her, and she
had felt somewhat at a loss how to treat him, as artist or as mere man.
Thayer's answer inclined her to the latter alternative.

"What about Saturday, then?" she asked. "I shall be at home, that
night."

"Please ask me, Miss Gannion," Bobby entreated.

Miss Gannion shook her head.

"No; you are too much in evidence, Bobby. You would distract my mind
from Mr. Arlt, and this is his party, you know. Even Mr. Thayer is
subordinate. But, Beatrix child, where is Mr. Lorimer? I thought surely
I should find him here, to-day. I've not congratulated him yet. That was
one thing that brought me here."

Beatrix flushed a little.

"Mr. Lorimer was called to Washington, last Thursday," she answered so
evenly that no one would have suspected the wondering annoyance which
his hasty note of explanation had caused her.

"Then he was here for your recital." Miss Gannion turned back to Thayer
once more. "Didn't someone tell me you were old friends, Mr. Thayer? It
must have been a very exhilarating night for him, this American début of
yours."

For the space of a minute, out of her four hearers, three were holding
their breath. Under the promise of the strictest secrecy, Bobby had
confided to Sally the story of the scene in the smoking-room; and, like
two conspirators, they had spent a long evening in stealthy discussion
of the best way to keep the matter from the ears of Beatrix. Sally liked
Lorimer; Bobby detested him, yet to neither of them had the matter
seemed of quite sufficient importance to justify a broken engagement,
and they were too well acquainted with the strict code of Beatrix Dane
to doubt what would be the outcome of the affair, if the facts were to
reach her ears. Sally was less mature, less aware of the danger inherent
in the situation, less strong in her condemnation of what she termed
"friskiness." Bobby, with a shrug of his shoulders, admitted that a man
should not be condemned for a first offence, that there was plenty of
time to watch for a repetition of the affair, to warn Beatrix then and
to allow her to take her own course as seemed good to her. Meanwhile,
there was no use in disturbing her for nothing. It might be a single
slip, such as all men are liable to make. Of course, as Sally argued,
Lorimer had been under strong excitement, that evening, partly by reason
of his own newly-announced engagement, partly by reason of the brilliant
success of his friend. Lloyd Avalons was just the man to take advantage
of such a situation, and to think it a huge piece of humorous
hospitality to throw Lorimer off his guard. Lloyd Avalons had never
joined the camp of the prohibitionists, himself, and he saw no reason
for staying the appetites of his guests. To his mind, that Sidney
Lorimer could drink too much wine in his house presupposed a certain
intimacy. At least, if the incident were to be mentioned, their names
were bound to be bracketed with each other. Like his wife, Lloyd Avalons
possessed his social ambitions.

In the most accurate use of the words, Lorimer had not been drunk, only
intoxicated. When Thayer, with Bobby at his side, had appeared in the
door of the smoking-room, Lorimer had been more flushed, more garrulous
than was his wont, more inclined to the French doctrine of equality and
fraternity. In some moods, he would not have tolerated the arm of Lloyd
Avalons which now rested across the back of his chair.

The scene lasted only for an instant. Thayer went into the room,
accepted a dozen hot hands whose owners were trying rather incoherently
to congratulate him upon his success, waved aside the wine offered him,
and, with a word of excuse, bent down and spoke quietly to Lorimer.

"Beg pardon, Mr. Avalons," he said shortly; "but I have a message for
Mr. Lorimer. He is needed on business, and I shall have to take him
away. Please give my good-night to Mrs. Avalons. My cab is waiting, and
I can set Lorimer down at his club." And, with a bow, he had left the
room, with Lorimer sullenly following at his heels.

In Lorimer's room, Thayer broke the silence which had lasted during
their drive along the brilliantly-lighted Avenue. He had watched his
companion's face keenly and with an understanding born of similar
scenes, and he knew it would not be well to use many words. However, as
he was leaving Lorimer, he turned back.

"This is once too often, Lorimer," he said briefly. "You've somebody
besides yourself to think of now. If I were in your place, I would have
important business call me to Washington, in the morning, and I would
stay down there for a few days. It will give you time to think things
over, and find out just where you stand."



CHAPTER SIX


Miss Gannion nestled luxuriously back into the depths of her easy chair.

"Do you know, Mr. Thayer, it is a very wonderful experience, this having
a species of court musician?"

He laughed the silent laugh she liked so well. It came from between
close-shut teeth; but it lighted his whole face.

"As wonderful as it is to have a good listener who always understands
and rarely praises?" he asked.

Under her thin, middle-aged skin, the flush rose to her cheeks, turning
them to the dainty likeness of youth.

"You say very pleasant things."

"True ones. If this keeps on, I shall begin using you as critic for all
my new songs."

"Like the fabled dog? I wish you would. But, truly, I am not joking. You
are quite spoiling me for my usual diet of recitals. Do you realize
that, for the past two months, you have sung to me on an average of two
hours a week?"

Thayer smiled contentedly down at her, as he sat by the piano, with one
muscular arm thrown across the rack.

"Well, what of it?" he inquired.

"Nothing, except that people say you are refusing engagements."

"A fellow must have a little time to enjoy his friends," he returned
coolly. "I can't be expected to sing, six nights a week."

"Your logic betrays your artistic nature. You have sung at five
recitals, this week. This is the sixth night; but you've not been
silent."

"You know you wanted to hear _Faust_ sung again."

"Yes, and so did Mrs. Stanley want you to sing at her house."

He looked up sharply.

"Who told you?"

"Mr. Arlt."

"Arlt shouldn't tell tales. But I had three good reasons for refusing: I
don't like Mrs. Stanley; she doesn't treat Arlt as well as she treats
her pug dog, and moreover you had asked me to dinner. I never sing after
a good dinner."

"But you mustn't refuse engagements."

"I didn't. I kept one."

"Engagements to sing, I mean. You seem to forget that you are a star."

"All the more reason I should stop twinkling now and then. I can't be on
duty, the whole time. Besides, Miss Gannion," he rose from the piano and
came forward to her side; "we can't give out, all the time. We must stop
occasionally to take something in, else our mental fuel runs low. I
wonder if you realize that this is the one place in New York City where
I can be entirely off my guard, entirely at home. A place like this
means a good deal to an isolated man."

"I am very glad," she said quietly.

"Most people forget that a public singer has a private personality," he
went on thoughtfully. "We are supposed to divide our time into even
thirds, practising, singing and receiving compliments. It gets to be a
positive delight to discuss the weather and the fashion in neckties."

"And to sing by the hour for your friends?" she inquired.

"It is our easiest way of speaking to them."

She laughed.

"But, on the other hand, you are demoralizing me completely. You have no
idea what empty, formal affairs recitals seem to me now; they are so
impersonal. I feel like grumbling, because I can't talk over each item
of the programme with the one who does it. I said something of the sort
to Miss Dane, the other day; but she told me she always dreaded the
sound of a speaking voice after one of your songs."

"She might have a species of choral service evolved for social use,"
Thayer suggested dryly. "The Gregorian tones would lend dignity even to
conventionalities, and they are quite within the powers of any amateur."

There was an interval of silence which Miss Gannion employed in bringing
herself back to the physical world around her. Thayer's singing always
swayed her profoundly; it gave her the impression of the ultimate
satisfaction of a wish which had haunted her whole life. During the past
two months, she and Thayer had established relations of cordial
friendship. They had met frequently in the world which already was
clamorous for Thayer's appearing, and Thayer was a frequent guest at
Miss Gannion's home. He always sang to her; it had become so much a
matter of routine that now he never waited for an invitation. Once
seated at the piano, talking and singing by turns, she allowed him to
follow out the bent of his mood; but, wherever it led him, she was
always conscious of the insistent, throbbing note which told her that,
underneath his self-control, there pulsed a fiery nature which was
curbed, but not yet tamed, that the day might come when the Puritan
would meet the Russian face to face, and the Russian would be dominant,
if only for one brief hour. And then? Often as she asked herself the
question, Margaret Gannion never swerved from her original answer. In
the end, the Puritan would rule. No man could so dominate others and
fail to dominate himself.

Thayer, meanwhile, had risen and was thoughtfully pacing the room. Miss
Gannion shook off the last of her reverie and turned to watch him.

"What is it, Mr. Thayer?" she inquired suddenly.

He came back to the fire and, deliberately moving the trinkets on the
mantel, made a place for his elbow. Then he hesitated, with his clear,
deep-set eyes resting on her face.

"I think I am going to ask your advice," he said slowly.

"Or my approval. It amounts to the same thing in a man."

It was a direct challenge, and it was made with deliberate intention.
Accustomed as she was to the semi-imaginary mental crises of
struggling, strenuous youth, she yet shrank from the intentness of
Thayer's mood.

He ignored the challenge.

"No; it is advice whether to act at all. Later, when I have acted, it
will be time to demand your approval."

"But you may not like my advice."

"Very possibly. I am not binding myself to follow it."

Her color came again this time not altogether from pleasure.

"Then why do you ask it?"

"Because I need fresh light on the subject. As often as I go over it, I
find myself in a mental blind alley, and I am hoping that, if I talk it
over with you, I shall clear up my ideas and perhaps get some new ones."

His tone was dispassionate, yet kindly. With a pang, Miss Gannion
admitted to herself the futility of her ever hoping to gain so
impersonal an attitude. She was intensely feminine, which is to say,
intensely subjective. Talking to Thayer in his present mood gave her the
feeling that unexpectedly she had collided with an iceberg. Glittering
coldness is an admirable surface to watch; but not an altogether
comfortable one upon which to rest. The touch set her to stinging,
although she realized that the sting was out of all proportion to the
touch. She was silent, and Thayer went on,--

"You know the people, one of them much better than I do."

"Then it is not about yourself?"

Thayer shook his head.

"I rarely ask help in solving my own problems," he replied. Then, as he
saw her face, he suddenly realized that he had hurt her in some unknown
fashion. "That sounds rather brutal," he added; "but, if you will think
it over a bit, you will see it is wise. I don't believe in wasting
words, and there is no real use in talking some things over. A man knows
he can't state his own problem impartially to someone else, so of course
he isn't going to trust someone else's solution of the problem."

Her smile came back again.

"No," she assented; "but there is a certain comfort in talking things
over."

"Not for me. If I have anything to do, I grit my teeth and do it, and
waste as little thought upon it as possible. Iteration makes good into a
bore. It is best to let it alone. And of bad, the less said, the better,
that is, when it is a matter of one's own personality. But now I want
to talk about Miss Dane."

"Beatrix?"

"Yes. I have felt anxious about her lately, and I haven't known whether
to keep still, or to speak. It all seems a good deal like meddling, and
I really know her so little."

It was unlike his usual directness to wander on in this fashion, and
Miss Gannion wondered. She started to speak; then she thought better of
it and leaned back in her chair. The ticking of the clock and the
snapping of the fire mingled in a staccato duet. A stick burned in two
and fell apart, with tiny, torch-like flames dancing on its upturned
ends. Methodically Thayer bent over and piled up the embers. Then he
spoke again.

"And so I thought I would speak to you about it. You have known Miss
Dane always, and you know New York and how it looks at such things. I
imagine you take it more seriously, here in America. It is serious, God
knows, and yet it may not amount to anything."

Margaret Gannion straightened up and spoke with a sudden assumption of
dignity which seemed to add inches to her moral and physical stature.

"To what are you referring, Mr. Thayer?"

"I beg your pardon. I thought you knew. I am talking about Lorimer."

"What about him?"

Man as he was, Thayer flinched under her keen eyes. All at once, he
realized that Margaret Gannion included among her friends Beatrix Dane,
and that it was Margaret Gannion's habit to fight for her friends.

"I had hoped you would understand without my putting it into so many
words. Lorimer has been my friend for years, and it seems rather beastly
to begin talking him over; but--"

"But?" Miss Gannion's tone was as hard and ringing as steel.

"But he sometimes takes a little more wine than is altogether wise,"
Thayer replied, with brief directness.

Miss Gannion dropped back in her chair.

"Does--does he get--drunk?" she questioned sharply.

"No. That is too strong a word. He is imprudent, foolish. Still, one
never knows what may come."

"Poor Beatrix!" Miss Gannion said softly.

Thayer faced her again.

"Understand me, Miss Gannion; I am not doing this for love of gossip.
Miss Dane is nothing to me, and I like Lorimer immensely. But there is
a good deal at stake, and I am not sure how much I ought to leave to
chance. Lorimer is one of the most lovable fellows in the world,
generous and loyal; but he is weak. He was born so; I fancy it is in the
blood. If Miss Dane is strong enough and has tact, perhaps she can hold
him steady. He can't be driven an inch; but he can be led a long way."

Miss Gannion brushed her hair away from her face with an odd, bewildered
gesture.

"Wait," she said breathlessly. "I love Beatrix, and it makes me slow to
take this in. How long has it been going on?"

Thayer's lips tightened.

"Ever since I have known him," he answered reluctantly.

"Much?"

"No, comparatively little."

"Often?"

"Well--" The lengthening of the word told its own story.

"Does it increase?"

His expression answered her, and she took the answer in perfect silence.
It was a full minute before she spoke again; but when she did speak, her
voice had the old, level intonation.

"Are you willing to tell me just how far the trouble has gone, Mr.
Thayer?"

"It is a hard matter to measure. Lorimer drinks less than a good many
men; but it takes less to upset him. In Germany, the students all drink,
and he was with them. As a rule, he stopped in time, but occasionally he
was a little silly. Once or twice it was worse."

"How much worse?" The question was almost masculine in its direct
brevity.

"I helped him to bed."

She compressed her lips. Then,--

"Go on," she said.

"I can't tell what happened while I was in Italy, and Lorimer had left
Berlin before I went back there, so I didn't see him till I came to New
York. At first, I thought he had stopped all that sort of thing. His
color was better, his hand steadier. I knew the temptation was less
here, and I hoped he was so taken up with Miss Dane that he wouldn't
have time to get into the wrong set. The night of the Lloyd Avalons's
recital, he was not quite himself, and I advised him to go to Washington
while the matter blew over."

"Strange I didn't hear of it," Miss Gannion said thoughtfully.

"Dane and I saw to it that the story shouldn't get outside the walls of
the smoking-room. Dane is a good fellow, and no fool. He got wind of the
trouble and came for me, and we hurried Lorimer away as fast as
possible. The next day, I began to hear of a supper or two where Lorimer
had been making himself a bit conspicuous."

"And since then?"

"Only twice."

"But twice is more than enough."

"It shows that the trouble is still there, that one can't count on his
promises," Thayer assented gravely.

"He does promise?"

"Yes, like a child. That is the pitiful part of it, pitiful and yet
exasperating. He admits his own weakness, and is sorry and ashamed, as
soon as he comes to himself. For a time, he is a model of caution and
sobriety. Then he blunders into the way of temptation and makes a mess
of it all." Unconsciously Thayer's voice betrayed his dislike of a
weakness of which he had no comprehension. An instant later, he seemed
to realize his own self-betrayal and he pulled himself up sharply. "I
wish you knew Lorimer better, Miss Gannion. Then you would understand
why I am telling you all this. He is so loyal, so generous to his
friends, so full of talent. At Göttingen, they called him the most
brilliant American who had ever studied there, and he was by all odds
the most popular fellow of his time. His very popularity increased the
danger." As if he had been pleading his own cause, Thayer's voice was
full of earnest eagerness. Even in the midst of her anxiety and pain,
Miss Gannion felt the power of its flexible modulation; and her
half-formulated condemnation of Lorimer stayed itself.

Thayer broke the silence which followed, and his accent was resonant
again.

"There's no especial use in thrashing over the past. The present is none
too good; but my question is simply in relation to the future."

"And the question is?" Miss Gannion asked.

"Whether we ought to tell Miss Dane," he answered briefly.

"It will kill her." The feminine in Margaret Gannion was uppermost once
more.

"Such wounds are more likely to mangle than to kill." Thayer spoke
grimly.

"Poor Beatrix!"

"She does love him, then? I didn't see how she could help it."

Margaret Gannion's hands shut on a fold of her skirt.

"She loves him better than she loves her life; but she loves right
better than either."

"And what is right?"

"I am not sure," she confessed weakly. "I can't seem to analyze it at
all. What do you think?"

"That she ought to be told."

"What good will it do?"

"At least, it will put her on her guard."

"Against what? From your own showing, it is like fighting an unseen
enemy. One never knows when or where it will come. She will only be put
under a terrible nervous strain, faced by a fear that will haunt her,
day and night. Besides, she might break the engagement. Have you thought
of that?"

"It was of that I was thinking. She ought to have the facts, and be
allowed to face the alternatives before it is too late. Miss Gannion,"
he turned upon her sharply; "can't you realize the pain it is to me to
be saying this? I love Lorimer, love him as one man rarely loves
another. Perhaps I love him all the more for his lack of strength. But
that is no reason I should let him make havoc of a girl's whole life,
perhaps of other lives to come. Miss Dane loves him; moreover, she is
very proud. She is bound to suffer keenly on both scores."

"Then you think--"

"That the trouble is likely to increase."

"And, if she breaks her engagement to him?"

"That it will increase all the faster. She has a strong hold on him."

"And you would run the risk of loosing this hold, when you know the
danger to your friend?"

"Yes, when I see the danger to Miss Dane."

Miss Gannion's hands unclasped, and she looked up at him with the
pitiful, drooping lips of a frightened child. Like Thayer, she too loved
Lorimer.

"It is terrible, Mr. Thayer. I can see no way out of the trouble; it
stands on either side of the path. But do you think she could hold him,
if she were to try?"

"It is an open question. Lorimer is weak; but I am not sure how strong
she is, nor how patient. If she could steady him and forgive him
ninety-nine times, it is possible that, on the hundredth, she would have
nothing to forgive. But that is asking too much of a woman, that she
should sacrifice her pride and her hope to her loyalty and her love."

"I think Beatrix would do it."

"Perhaps. At least, though, she ought to have the right to choose for
herself."

Once more Miss Gannion mastered herself.

"I am not sure. You make the alternatives certain ruin and possible
salvation. I should cling to the chance."

"And take the responsibility of silence?"

"It is a responsibility; but I should assume it for the present. What we
should say to her could never be unsaid. It might do good; it might do
terrible harm. It is possible that the truth may come to her in some
other way. I should certainly prefer that it might."

He bent over the fire for a moment. Then he straightened up and threw
back his shoulders, like a man relieved of the burden of a heavy load.

"Then that is your final advice?" he asked slowly.

She made answer just as slowly,--

"Mr. Thayer, I am growing older than I used to be, and things don't look
quite so plain to me as they did once. Motives mix themselves more, and
I am not so ready to put my finger on my neighbor's nerve. If I were in
your place, I--rather think I should say my prayers, and then wait."



CHAPTER SEVEN


"I believe I should hate to have Mr. Thayer fall in love with me," Sally
observed thoughtfully.

"I wouldn't worry about it yet," Bobby said unkindly. "He yawned twice,
last night, while he was talking to you."

Sally's answer was prompt.

"Yes, we were discussing you."

"Why didn't you call me over to give you some points? It is the only
subject upon which I can speak with authority. But just think what a
lover Thayer would make, troubadouring around under windows!"

Sally counted swiftly.

"There are nineteen families in our hotel, Bobby, and thirteen of them
have marriageable daughters. Imagine the creaking of casements, when Mr.
Thayer warbled, 'Open the window to me, Love!' Troubadours will do for
the country; in town, one can heed only the impersonal strains of the
hurdy-gurdy. But really--"

"Yes?" Bobby's accent was encouraging.

"If Mr. Thayer should fall in love and get engaged, what could the girl
call him? His name doesn't lend itself easily to endearments."

"His mother ought to have thought of that, when she named him."

"It is a case of visiting the father's sins upon the child of the sixth
generation. He is only Volume Seven in the series of Cotton Mathers."

Bobby plunged his fists into his pockets.

"That is a respectable custom; but a mighty stupid one. A fellow
oughtn't to be labelled like one of a class. Might as well catalogue
children, and done with it, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and so on through the
list of Thayers. Then, when he came to years of discretion, he could
pick for himself. Do you suppose I would have been Bobby, if I had been
consulted?"

"What then?" Beatrix asked, pausing in her talk with Lorimer.

"Demosthenes Alphonso, of course. That's something worth while."

"Demosthenes Alphonso Dane. D. A. D." Sally commented irrepressibly.
Then she swept across the room and, parting the curtains, peeped out
between them. "Beatrix, the Philistines be upon you! Here comes Mrs.
Lloyd Avalons. Oh, why was I the first to come? As a rule, I believe in
the rotation of callers as implicitly as I do in the rotation of crops.
Bobby, you came next. How long do you mean to stay?"

"Till the almonds are gone, or till Beatrix turns me out," he replied
imperturbably.

"All right. Give me five minutes' warning. You can twirl your thumbs,
when it is time for me to start; but I am bound to see some of the fun."

"Now, children, you must be good," Beatrix implored them hurriedly.
"Bobby, do try to talk about something she can understand."

"If you want to condemn me to the conversational limits of a mummy, say
so in plain Saxon," he retorted. "How can I talk about something that
doesn't exist?"

"Bobby!" Sally's tone was full of warning, as Beatrix rose to meet her
guest.

Mrs. Lloyd Avalons had gained one distinct point in her social training.
She had learned to cross a room as if she were doing her hostess a favor
by appearing. Even Beatrix was impressed by the swift, dainty sweep with
which she came forward, and she cast a hasty thought to the quality of
her tea. Bobby, meanwhile, was taking mental stock of Mrs. Lloyd
Avalons's tailor and deciding that he could give points to his own
fellow. For a person who professed to ignore all such detail, Bobby
Dane was singularly critical of feminine dress, as Beatrix had learned
to her cost.

Seated by the tea-table, balancing a Sèvres cup in her hand, Mrs. Lloyd
Avalons appeared to be casting about in her mind for a subject of
conversation. Bobby came to her relief.

"When you appeared, Mrs. Avalons, we were just speaking of mummies. Have
you seen the latest importation at the Metropolitan?"

"Mr. Dane!" she remonstrated hastily. "Do you suppose I--"

"Certainly," Bobby assured her gravely. "I often spend an hour looking
at them, and I always feel the better for the time passed in their
society. They remind me of the futility of earthly things, and inspire
me to higher aims."

Mrs. Lloyd Avalons smiled faintly.

"You literary people have strange thoughts," she observed, addressing
the room at large. "I have often thought I should like to write, if I
only had the time."

"Why don't you?" Bobby inquired blandly. "The result would be sure to be
interesting."

But Beatrix interposed.

"Are you as busy as ever, Mrs. Avalons?"

"Busier. It is such a bore to be in this perpetual rush; but I can't
seem to help it. Lent didn't bring me any rest, this year; and, now that
Easter is over, it seems to me that we are more gay than ever."

"That is the penalty of having an early Easter," Sally suggested. "We
had to stop for Lent in the middle of the season, and now we are
finishing up the sins of which we have already repented."

"Oh--yes," Mrs. Lloyd Avalons responded blankly.

"Can you get all your arrears of penitence done up in six weeks, Sally?"
Bobby asked, as he passed her the almonds.

"Yes, if I've not seen too much of you," she returned. "Mrs. Avalons,
when are you going to give us another recital?"

Mrs. Lloyd Avalons rose to the cast.

"Wasn't that a success? Mr. Thayer quite covered himself with glory."

"His mantle fell over some of the rest of us, and we gained lustre from
his glory." Sally's tone was slightly malicious.

"He is certainly a great artist, and I am proud to have discovered him."

"But I thought Mrs. Stanley discovered him. He sang for her first."

Mrs. Lloyd Avalons straightened in her chair. She had no intention of
allowing to Mrs. Stanley the prestige which belonged to herself. Mrs.
Stanley was several rounds farther up the social ladder than she was,
herself; but Mrs. Stanley lacked initiative and was rapidly losing her
start. In the seasons to come, she would find herself playing the part
of understudy to Mrs. Lloyd Avalons.

"Oh, Mrs. Stanley heard he was to sing for me, and she cabled across to
him to take an earlier steamer and sing for her first. It was a little
tricky. What is it you call it in the business world, Mr. Dane?"

"A corner in Cotton," Bobby replied gravely.

Mrs. Lloyd Avalons thought she could see that the point of this joke was
directed against Mrs. Stanley, and she laughed rather more heartily than
good breeding required. In her mirth, she even bent forward in her
chair, writhing slightly to and fro, while her silken linings hissed
like angry snakes. Suddenly she realized that she had prolonged her
mirth beyond the limits of the others, and she straightened her face
abruptly.

"But I am so glad the subject has come up, Miss Dane," she went on. "I
was meaning to ask you whether you thought I could get Mr. Thayer to
sing for our Fresh Air Fund."

"Really, I have no idea of Mr. Thayer's engagements," Beatrix said
drily.

"But I thought you knew him so well."

Beatrix's face expressed her surprise.

"I know him as I know any number of people, Mrs. Avalons. That doesn't
mean that Mr. Thayer consults me in regard to his plans."

"Oh, no," Mrs. Lloyd Avalons responded vivaciously. "But couldn't you
just say a good word for us?"

"I am afraid it wouldn't count for much."

Mrs. Lloyd Avalons raised her brows and made a delicate, pushing gesture
with her outspread palms.

"You are too modest, Miss Dane. We all know your powers of persuasion,
and we are counting on you."

"Who are _we_?" Sally inquired, in flat curiosity.

"Mrs. Van Bleeker and Mrs. Knickerbocker and I. We are the committee,
this year, and we are trying to have an uncommonly good concert."

"It must be very hard for you to work on a music committee with Mrs. Van
Bleeker," Bobby suggested. "She doesn't know a fugue from a bass viol,
and she never hesitates to say so."

"Therein she differs from most unmusical people," Sally responded, in a
swift aside. "Even truthful people will fib valiantly, where music is
concerned, and go into raptures, when they have hard work to suppress
their yawns. It was a sorry day for music, when it became the fashion."

"How droll you are, Miss Van Osdel!" Mrs. Lloyd Avalons was nothing, if
not direct, in her personal comments. Then she answered Bobby. "Even if
Mrs. Van Bleeker isn't really musical, it is a delight to work with her,
she is so very charming and so business-like. Strange as it may seem, I
actually take pleasure in our committee meetings, Mr. Dane."

"I haven't the slightest doubt of it," Bobby responded, with unctuous
emphasis.

"When is the concert to be, Mrs. Avalons?" Beatrix asked hastily, with a
frown at her cousin who stared blandly back at her.

"The first week in May, if we can possibly be ready for it. There was so
much, just before Lent, that we postponed it until after Easter. Now we
are no better off, for every day is full, so we are delaying it again.
We want to make it a large affair, don't you know, something that will
attract the swell set and the musical people, too."

If Bobby Dane hated one word in the language, that word was _swell_.
Accordingly, he glared haughtily across the table at Mrs. Lloyd
Avalons, noting, as he did so, the scornful cadence of her voice over
the final phrase.

"The two sets rarely mingle, Mrs. Avalons. Which is under your especial
care?"

Lorimer interposed hurriedly, for he felt the hostility in Bobby's tone,
and he was ignorant of the thickness of Mrs. Lloyd Avalons's skin.

"Both, I should say from the make-up of your recital, Mrs. Avalons.
Society and art both spelled themselves with capital letters, that
night."

"I am sure it is very kind of you to say so," she answered, while her
pleasure brought the first sincere note into her voice. "I tried to have
something really good. But about this concert; we are to have a soprano
from the Metropolitan Opera House, and possibly a violinist, and we want
Mr. Thayer so much. Do you suppose we could get him?"

"It might depend a little upon the state of your finances," Bobby
suggested.

"Oh; but it is for charity, you know."

"Yes, charity is supposed to be like molasses, sweet and cheap. It isn't
very nourishing to a professional man, though."

"But Mr. Thayer is not poor."

"That doesn't signify that he can give all his time for nothing," Bobby
answered rather warmly, considering that the question was utterly
impersonal. "If he sang every day, all winter, for some charity or
other, he couldn't begin to get round in ten years. There ought to be a
new mission started, a Society for the Protection of Over-begged
Artists."

"But I am only asking him for one charity."

"That's all anybody is supposed to do. The time hasn't come yet when you
syndicate the job, though I suppose it is only a matter of time."

Mrs. Lloyd Avalons looked at him distrustfully for a moment; then she
laughed with a dainty vagueness.

"You are so amusing, Mr. Dane! One never really knows whether you're in
earnest or not. How many tickets did you say you would take?"

"One and a half," Sally advised, while Bobby stared at Mrs. Lloyd
Avalons in speechless disgust. "He will go, and take me with him; but
newspaper men are always admitted at half-rates."

"And you really think Mr. Thayer will sing for us?" Mrs. Lloyd Avalons
went on, turning back to Beatrix. "It will be an advantage to him, in a
way, to have sung under the auspices of our committee."

This time, even Beatrix felt herself antagonized. Thayer belonged to her
own class, and her class was scarcely of the type to need the official
social sanction of Mrs. Lloyd Avalons.

"I have no idea at all in regard to the matter," she answered a little
coldly. "Mr. Thayer appears to me to be able to hold his own, without
the backing of any committee. It simply depends upon his personal
generosity."

"But it is such a worthy object. And don't you think we could get that
little Arlt to fill in with?"

"From, by, in, or with charity, and to or for a charity?" Bobby asked
savagely.

"Oh, of course, we couldn't pay him." There was a falling inflection of
the last word.

"Then I should advise him to decline charity altogether," Bobby
retorted.

"It would be an advantage to him to play on such a programme," Mrs.
Lloyd Avalons asserted, as she set down her cup.

"It would also be an advantage to him to get a little money, now and
then."

Mrs. Lloyd Avalons raised her brows. They were daintily-marked brows,
and the expression suited her pretty, empty little face.

"I think it is something for a man of no reputation at all to have a
chance to be heard in such a connection," she replied a little tartly.

"Ye-es." Bobby rose with provoking deliberation. "And it is also
possible, Mrs. Avalons, that when we are thankful even to be charted in
Woodlawn, Mr. Arlt's name may be a good deal better known than it is
now. Sally, we are due at the Stuyvesants', and I think we must tear
ourselves away."

Out in the hall, he addressed himself to Sally.

"For social pulleys, give me three: music, cheek, and charity, but the
greatest of these is ch--"

"Charity," amended Sally promptly.

Bobby gloomily pulled himself into his overcoat.

"Sally, I abhor that woman," he said.



CHAPTER EIGHT


"If you once begin, there'll be no end to it," Bobby warned Thayer, when
he announced his intention of singing for the Fresh Air Fund.

"I never yet found anything I couldn't end, when I tried," Thayer
returned coolly.

Bobby eyed him askance.

"Ever tackled Mrs. Lloyd Avalons's idiocy?" he queried.

"She is not the only one."

"No; worse luck! But what makes you do it?"

"I approve the charity, and I happened to have a free night. Moreover,
it will give Arlt a chance to accompany."

"But she won't pay him."

"No, but I generally manage to pay my own accompanist."

"Do you think he will gain from such a thing?"

Crossing his knees comfortably, Thayer lighted the pipe he had been
filling, and took a tentative puff or two.

"I don't know," he said dubiously. "He ought to, but I can't seem to
discover the way to get on in this precious country of ours. Arlt is a
musician to the tips of his fingers; I have yet to hear a pianist in the
city to compare with him. And still, nobody manifests the least interest
in him."

Bobby contemplated the tip of his own cigar, bending his brows and
frowning as much from his optical angle as from his mental one.

"He lacks the two P's," he said slowly; "pull and personality."

Impatiently Thayer uncrossed his knees and crossed them in the reverse
position.

"Do you mean that nothing else counts here?" he demanded.

"Precious little. A fellow has got to have good lungs for blowing his
own horn, else he is drowned in the general chorus. That's the worst of
music as a profession; personality is everything. You must be perfect or
peculiar. The latter alternative is the greater help. If Arlt would grow
a head of hair, or wear a dinner napkin instead of a necktie, it would
improve his chances wonderfully."

"But, if the right people would take him up?" Thayer suggested.

"They won't; or, if they do, they'll drop him as a monkey drops a hot
chestnut. Arlt plays like an artist; but he blushes, and he forgets to
keep his cuffs in sight. He is as unworldly as he is conventional.
Society doesn't care to fuss with him."

Thayer looked grave.

"I am having my own share of good times, Dane. It seems as if I ought to
be able--"

Bobby interrupted him.

"You can't. No man can hoist his brother into success. It is bound to be
every man for himself. You can work over Arlt till the crack of doom,
and that's all the good it will do him. People will say 'How noble of
Mr. Thayer!' and they will burn moral tapers about your feet; and
meanwhile they'll leave Arlt sitting on the floor alone in the dark."

"Nevertheless, I think I shall keep on with the experiment," Thayer said
stubbornly.

"Good luck go with you! But it won't. You can't make the next man's
reputation; he must do it for himself. All art is bound to be a bit
selfish; but music is the worst of the lot. I don't mean composing, of
course, but the interpreting end of it. It's such beastly personal
work; all the nooks and corners of your individuality show up across the
footlights. They are commented upon, and they have to pass muster.
Artistically, you and Arlt are as alike as two peas; personally, you are
positive, he is negative.'"

There was a pause. Then Thayer said quietly,--"I think I shall sing the
Damrosch _Danny Deever_. It has a stunning accompaniment."

The committee of the Fresh Air Fund concert showed themselves a potent
trio, and their concert became recognized as the official finale of the
musical season. Their meetings had been fraught with interest, for time,
place and programme all came under detailed discussion. It must be at a
time neither too soon after Easter to collide with it, nor too late to
have a place in the season's gayety. The place must be lofty enough to
lure the world of fashion; yet not so lofty as to deter the simpler folk
to whom the white and gold of the Waldorf ballroom was a mere name, as
remote from their lives as the _Petit Trianon_. The programme must be
classic enough to satisfy the critic; yet tuneful enough not to bore the
amateur, and accordingly it roamed from Brahms to Molloy, and included
that first Slavonic Dance of Dvorák which sets the pulses of Pagan and
Philistine alike to tingling with a barbarous joy in the mere
consciousness of living. Thayer alone had refused to accept dictation at
the hands of the committee.

"If I consent to sing, I must choose my own songs," he had said quietly
to Mrs. Lloyd Avalons, when she had suggested a modern French love song
in place of the Händel aria he had selected.

"Oh, but it is so late in the season, and everybody is tired," she had
urged gayly. "If we give them too heavy things on a warm night, they may
go to sleep."

"Then I shall proceed to wake them up," he replied. "And, for the second
number, the _Danny Deever_, I think."

"Mr. Thayer! That grewsome thing! Why don't you sing _My Desire_, if you
are so anxious for an American song?"

"I think _Danny_ will be better. Then we will consider it settled." And
it was not until she was out on the stairs that Mrs. Lloyd Avalons
realized she had been defeated and then dismissed by the man whose
patroness she was assuming to be.

"No matter," she reflected; "we've got to pay Signora Cantabella, and we
can insist upon her singing something a little more digestible. Mr.
Thayer is cranky; but we get him and that little Arlt for nothing, so I
suppose we mustn't be too critical."

For once, Mrs. Lloyd Avalons showed her good sense. In all truth,
beggars should not be choosers, whether the alms be of bread crusts or
of high art.

Lorimer dined with Beatrix, that night. Contrary to the custom of the
Danes, they did not linger over the meal; and, as soon as they left the
table, Beatrix and Lorimer strolled away to the conservatory at the back
of the house. The yellow sunset light was still gilding the place, and
through the wide-open windows the night breeze crept in, softly stirring
the heavy palm leaves and scattering the scent of a few late violets
over all the air.

Refusing the seat which Lorimer silently pointed out to her, Beatrix
paced restlessly up and down the broad middle walk.

"I think I am nervous, to-night," she said, with an odd little laugh. "I
have been feeling, all day long, as if things were going to happen."

"Things generally do happen," Lorimer said lightly, as he sauntered
along by her side.

"Yes; but something unusual, something uncanny."

Lorimer threw back his head and laughed.

"I thought you derided presentiments, Beatrix."

She bit her lip.

"I do," she said, after a pause. "I know it is foolish, and I am ashamed
of myself; but I dread this recital, to-night, and I dread that hateful
Lloyd Avalons supper after it. Let's not go, Sidney."

"Oh, but we must. Why not?"

"They are such impossible people."

"I know; but everyone will understand that it is on Thayer's account
that we go, Beatrix. And he made such a point of it."

She drew a long breath.

"If we must--But I dread it. Do keep Mr. Avalons away from me, then."

As he looked down at the brown head which scarcely rose above his lips,
Lorimer's smile ceased to be whimsical and became inexpressibly tender
and winning.

"Count on me, dear girl. He is a brute; but I won't let him go near
you."

Impulsively she turned and faced him.

"Sidney," she said, with a breathless catch in her voice; "Sidney--"
Then, while she hesitated, she raised her hands and rested them on his
broad shoulders. "Sidney dearest, do you know what it is to love as I
love you? It would kill me to have anything come in between us."

Startled by her overwrought nerves, he put his arm around her and drew
her head against his shoulder.

"I know only one thing, Beatrix," he said gravely; "nothing now can come
between us but death."

Diamond aigrettes and critical ears both were at the concert, that
night, mingled with a fair sprinkling of those to whom the charity
appealed far more than did the mere musical and worldly phases of the
affair. The little folded programmes were in a way typical of the whole
situation: one page containing the modest announcement of the Fresh Air
Fund concert, the next one the simple statement of the numbers of the
programme, while the third, in full-faced type bore the majestic list of
patronesses. Between his German and Italian fellow artists and his
polysyllabic Dutch sponsors, Thayer's name stood out in all the
aggressiveness of Puritan simplicity.

As a whole, the concert was as frothy as was the audience. The songs
glittered like the diamonds, and the orchestra played the _Valkyries'
Ride_ with a cheerful abandonment of mirth.

"Thayer is the only dignified member of the company," Bobby growled into
Sally's ears, as the last note of his aria died away. "The rest of them
are doing tricks like a set of vaudeville artists. I expected that
violinist to play cadenzas with his violin held in the air above his
head. You don't catch Thayer dropping into such trick work."

"He doesn't need to; he can 'scorn such a foe' to his heart's content,
for he is getting the applause of the evening. Does he sing again?"

"The very last number. It is an unusual place, to wind up a programme
after the orchestra is through; but I think he is equal to it."

Beatrix felt every nerve in her body tingling and throbbing, when Thayer
came out on the stage for the second time. As a whole, the concert had
not been inspiring to her; it had been too obviously popular. Yet, at
least, it had tended to relax her strained nerves. Gade concertos are a
species of mental gruel, easy to assimilate and none too stimulating;
but all the innate barbarism of humanity, all of her nervous force
responded to the clashing rhythm of the Slavonic Dance, and the swift
color came into her face and focussed itself in a tiny circle in either
cheek, as she listened. For the moment, she was as fiercely defiant of
fate as a Valkyrie flying forth to battle.

The mood was still upon her, as Thayer came striding out across the
stage. Arlt was beside him, for Thayer had refused an orchestral
accompaniment and had left _Danny Deever_ in the hands of a pianist. His
choice had been a wise one for Arlt. The two of them had spent hours
over the song, and the young German surpassed himself in the swift
changes of _motif_ until, as he left _Danny's_ soul freeing itself from
the swinging body and took up the cheery theme of the quickstep once
more, even Thayer was relegated momentarily to the background, as a mere
librettist to the passionate fury of the accompaniment.

Again and again the applause broke out; again and again Thayer insisted
upon leading Arlt before the audience to make his bow; but still the
audience refused to be satisfied. Even the most graceful of bows is not
enough, when one is thoroughly aroused.

"Play something, Arlt," Thayer ordered him at last.

Arlt shook his head.

"It is for you they are calling."

"Nonsense. This is your success; not mine."

Arlt demurred; but in the end he yielded and played one or two numbers
of Schumann's _Papillon_, played them like a true artist. As he
listened, Thayer held his breath. At last, Arlt's chance had come, and
he was making the most of it. The furore of a moment before had been for
Arlt more than for himself. Sad experience had taught him the futility
of _Danny_, unless it were adequately accompanied, and the audience were
discerning enough to give honor to whom honor was due. Standing in the
wings, Thayer exulted in each note which fell from the boy's fingers,
round and mellow and weighted with passionate meaning. Arlt was
betraying his hopes and fears more than he realized, just then, and
Thayer grew impatient for his closing phrase, that he might hear the
storm of applause which was bound to follow. He had not counted upon the
veering wind of popular interest which scattered the storm, leaving only
the gentle patter of a summer shower. The critics applauded; but society
applied its lorgnette to its eye and discovered that, in his excitement,
Arlt had neglected to make sure that his tie was mathematically
straight. The patter died away into silence. Then the wind veered again
and the storm broke out afresh, mingled with cries of Thayer's name.

Arlt's lips worked nervously, as he joined Thayer in the wings.

"It was you they wanted, after all," he said, with a pitiful attempt at
a smile.

"Then they are damned fools," Thayer replied savagely; but his hand was
gentle, as he rested it on Arlt's shoulder.

The boy braced himself at the touch.

"We must go back," he said.

Thayer hesitated, while his thoughts worked swiftly. There would be a
certain cruelty, to his mind, in forcing Arlt to appear again before the
audience which had just cut him so mercilessly. On the other hand, it
would be the part of childish pique for him to refuse to show himself.
Nevertheless, he needed Arlt's support. He disliked to play his own
accompaniments, and he felt that, in doing so, he risked possible
disaster. The hesitation lasted only for a moment. Then his jaw
stiffened.

"It's all right, Arlt," he said briefly. "I am going to accompany
myself, this time."

As he crossed the stage, he glanced hastily from Bobby to Bobby's
cousin. Bobby was glowering at the audience and grumbling into Sally's
ear. Four rows in front of them, Beatrix sat silent at Lorimer's side.
The color had left her face again, and her eyes drooped heavily. It was
as if, in watching Arlt's overthrow, her old prescience of impending
disaster had come back upon her in fourfold measure, heightened by the
intensity of her exhilaration of a few moments before. When a quiet
woman is stirred from her usual poise, the pendulum of her nerves swings
in a long arc. The Dvorák dance had not deepened Sally's color; the
Damrosch song had not caused her to draw her white ostrich boa more
closely about her throat.

Thayer struck a vigorous major chord or two; then, with a sudden memory
of the dry glitter in Arlt's eyes, he modulated thoughtfully. His own
eyes rested again upon Beatrix during the few notes of the introduction,
and his mind went swiftly back to the day when he had sung the same
little song in her parlor. Half absently, his eyes were still upon her
face, as he came again to the closing words,--

    "_I kiss each bead, and strive at last to learn
    To kiss the cross, sweetheart, to kiss the cross._"

Unconsciously, uncontrollably, his eyes held hers, and he could see the
two great drops gather there, as she listened, her lips parted with her
deep, swift breathing. Then their eyes dropped apart, and the color
rushed into her cheeks while, with a sudden, impulsive gesture, she
slipped her hand into Lorimer's arm and pressed it until she felt the
returning, reassuring pressure.

Lorimer looked down at her with a smile.

"Spooky again, dear girl?" he asked, under cover of the applause which
had broken out madly once more. "He is singing superbly, to-night; but
this last was wonderful. Something has rubbed him the wrong way; I know
that set of his jaw, and it always means that he will be inspired to do
his best. Queer thing; isn't it? If I were angry or hurt, I should go to
pieces completely; but it brings Thayer to his feet, every time."

"What do you think was the reason?" Beatrix asked, with as great a show
of interest as she could command. The first lesson Mrs. Dane had taught
her child in preparation for her coming-out tea had been the simple and
obvious one that men were rarely minded to sympathize with feminine
moods; but that under all conditions a woman who seeks to please, must
adapt herself to the mental vagaries of her masculine companion. Even
Lorimer, tender and loving as he invariably showed himself, was no
exception to the rule.

"It was Arlt's snubbing," Lorimer returned, as he rose. "It was a
beastly thing to do. Arlt played superbly, and they might have treated
him with common courtesy. But there is no accounting for tastes. Thayer
is the hero of the evening, and people are too busy applauding him, to
have any time for lesser lights."

"Do you think Mr. Arlt will ever succeed?" she asked anxiously for,
through Thayer's efforts to bring them together, she had become
genuinely interested in the boy.

"God knows," Lorimer answered, with a sudden gravity that became him
well.

Later, that evening, Thayer joined Lorimer and Beatrix in a corner of
the Lloyd Avalons's music-room. Beatrix greeted him half shyly.

"It was a new experience," she said, with an effort to speak lightly. "I
thought I had learned to know your voice long ago; but I have decided
that I never really knew it, until to-night."

He stood looking down at her with a grave smile.

"My voice isn't always reliable, Miss Dane. Once in a while, it seems to
run away with me. To-night, it took the bits in its teeth."

She felt compelled to raise her eyes to meet his.

"I hope it won't do it too often. It is wonderful; but--" Then she
pulled herself together with a little laugh. "It must be rather amusing
to you, Mr. Thayer, to watch your effect on your audience, and to know
that you can make them shiver or cry whenever you choose."

He refused to be won into the laugh for which she hoped.

"It isn't whenever I choose," he responded, with unexpected literalness.
"Sometimes I feel as if I were the victim of a sort of possession. I
believe I have a demon that inhabits my vocal cords upon occasion. If he
does get hold of me, I am merely a machine in his hands. When I become
my own manager again, I am never quite sure what I may have been doing."

"Something very good, to-night. But where is Mr. Arlt?"

Thayer's face darkened.

"Mrs. Lloyd Avalons neglected to invite him," he replied quietly.

Lorimer's lip curled.

"If that isn't beyond the dreams of snobbishness, Thayer! Why did you
come to her old party, then?"

"Because I thought it would be too petty to stay away."

"I would be petty, then. But, as far as that goes, Arlt's ancestors were
gentlemen, when hers were shovelling gravel for a dollar a day. American
democracy runs in strange grooves. Thayer, I am going to leave Beatrix
in your care for a few minutes. I promised Ned Carpenter I would see him
in the smoking-room, to make a date for his yachting cruise."

Thayer looked after him with a certain anxiety which clouded his gray
eyes and found a reflection in the face of his companion. The cloud
remained, although their talk went on as if nothing were amiss. In fact,
nothing was amiss; it was only that their nerves, jarred by Arlt's
failure, were looking for disaster upon every hand. For the time being,
each bead seemed tipped with its cross. Both felt it; both were loath to
acknowledge the feeling by so much as a look.

Suddenly Thayer roused himself.

"Lorimer has been detained, Miss Dane, and we both are growing hungry.
May I take you to the dining-room?"

Side by side, they crossed the floor, now almost deserted, and reached
the door of the dining-room whence came a confused noise of buzzing
tongues and clattering dishes. Then, above all else, Lorimer's voice met
their ears, a merry, laughing voice, but strangely thick as regarded its
consonants.

"An' so, 's I was shayin', we wen' to Mory's, one ni', an' there was
thish man--"

Some unaccountable impulse made him raise his eyes just then. They fell
full upon Beatrix standing in the doorway, with Thayer at her side.



CHAPTER NINE


Beatrix's library was full of women, when Lorimer put in a tardy
appearance, the day after the Fresh Air Fund concert. A dozen little
tables littered with cards were pushed together in one corner, and the
tinkling of china and the hum of conversation betrayed the fact that
whist had given place to a more congenial method of passing the time.
Modern womanhood plays whist almost without ceasing; but it should be
noted that she frowns over the whist and reserves her smiles for her
more garrulous interludes.

Lorimer, as he stepped across the threshold, felt a sudden longing to
retreat. He had forgotten both the whist and the interlude, that
afternoon, and he felt no inclination to exchange verbal inanities with
a group of women of whom several had been at the Lloyd Avalons supper,
the night before. All of them, he was convinced, had heard of the
incident, and were covertly eying Beatrix to see whether she looked as
if she had slept well. His theory was justified by the fact that, for
the first time that season, not a substitute had been present.

Beatrix rose from the tea table, as he crossed the room towards her. Her
manner was a shade more alert than usual; but her eyes, half-circled in
heavy shadows, drooped before his eyes, as she gave him her hand. He
felt her fingers shake a little, and he could see the color die out of
her cheeks. Otherwise, there was nothing to mark their meeting as in any
way differing from any other meeting in the past. He greeted the other
women, accepted his cup of tea and took up his share of the burden of
conversation with apparent nonchalance.

The nonchalance was only apparent, however. Lorimer had sought Beatrix,
that day, much in the mood in which the naughty boy turns his back to
receive his allotted caning. The bad half-hour was bound to come; it was
best to have it over as soon as possible. Lorimer had gone to bed, the
night before, in a state of maudlin cheeriness. He had wakened, that
morning, feeling a heavy weight in his head and a heavier one on his
conscience. He had an unnecessarily clear recollection of Beatrix's face
as it had looked to him, the one sharply-outlined fact across a misty
distance peopled with vague shadows. The eyes had been hurt and angry;
but the lips showed only loving disappointment. All the morning long, he
had pondered upon the matter; but by noon he had made his decision. The
meeting was inevitable, so what was the use of trying to put it off?

"Well, Sidney?" Beatrix said steadily, as soon as the last guest had
made her nervous, chattering exit.

With some degree of care, he had prepared his defensive argument; but it
had lost all its force and fervor by reason of the half-hour spent in
the roomful of women. Now he made a hasty effort to reconstruct it, and
failed.

"I am sorry," he said, with simple humility.

Unconsciously, each had taken the best method to disarm the other.
Before scornful, angry denunciation, he could have burst out into
voluble explanation and defence which, in its turn, would have
antagonized Beatrix beyond any possibility of relenting. For the
unpardonable sin, forgiveness must be a free gift. Confronted by
excuses, Beatrix would have been unyielding. In the face of his
humility, she hesitated to speak the final condemnation, and instinct
taught her that feminine reproaches were worse than futile in the face
of a real crisis.

[Illustration: "'Can't you make any sort of an excuse for yourself,
Sidney?' she demanded"]

"How did you happen to do it, Sidney?" she asked quietly, as she seated
herself again beside the deserted tea table and began absently setting
the disordered cups into straight rows.

He raised his eyes from the carpet.

"Because I was a brute," he said briefly.

Methodically she sorted out the spoons in two little piles. Then,
pushing them together into a disorderly heap, she started to her feet
and faced him.

"Can't you make any sort of an excuse for yourself, Sidney?" she
demanded, and there was a desperate ring to her words.

He shook his head.

"I can't see any," he replied, after an interval. Suddenly he laughed
harshly. "Unless you count total depravity," he added.

She ignored the laugh.

"I suppose you know, then, what this means," she said slowly, so slowly
that it seemed as if each word caught in her throat.

His face whitened and he started to speak; but his voice failed him. He
bowed in silence.

"I am sorry," she went on, while the cords in her clasped hands stood
out like bits of rattan; "perhaps I am more sorry than you are; but
there seems to be nothing else that I can do. Last night was the
tragedy of my life; to-day is the hardest, the longest day I have ever
spent. But--"

Bending forward, he took up one of the spoons from the table and looked
at it intently for a moment. Under his mustache his lips worked
nervously, and Beatrix saw the moisture gather in great drops upon his
forehead. Fortunately she could not see his eyes, for their long lashes
veiled them. It was better so; she could hold herself more steady. There
was a certain mercilessness in the way she waited for him to break the
silence.

"Is it final?" he asked at length. "I wish you would give me another
chance, Beatrix."

"I have given you too many, as it is," she replied sadly.

He looked up at her, too much startled now to care whether or not she
saw the tell-tale tears.

"How do you mean?"

"That last night only confirmed what I have been suspecting and
dreading." This time, there came the scornful note he had so feared.

He dropped his eyes again, and accepted the condemnation in silence. If
she knew the whole truth, there was no need of arguing with her over the
details. The spoon snapped in two in his hands. He rose and tossed the
fragments into the fire.

"Where are you going?" Beatrix asked.

"Straight to the devil." His accent was hard, but perfectly quiet, the
accent of a desperate man, not of a reckless boy.

Up to the last moment, she had expected that he would seek to justify
himself, would ask her to explain her decision and to modify it. This
grim, silent acceptance of his fate terrified her. It seemed to throw
upon her shoulders all the responsibility of an action which in itself
was right, yet possibly burdened with consequences dangerous to another.
For herself, for the killing of her own great love, Beatrix never
wavered. It was her own affair and concerned herself alone. But she knew
that Lorimer loved her, and all at once she realized that her sudden
rejection of his love was bound to bring forth bitter fruit. During the
time it took him to cross the floor, she was swiftly weighing her duty
to herself against her duty to her neighbor. She was bound to send him
away; but was she equally bound to send him away like a beaten dog,
without a word of explanation or of pity?

"Sidney?"

He had reached the door; but, at her call, he hesitated and looked
back.

"You understand why I am doing this?"

"Yes," he said bitterly; "I understand only too well."

"And you think I am justified?"

He faced about squarely.

"Good God, Beatrix, when you have stabbed a man to death, don't grind
the knife round and round, and ask him if he feels it! Let him make as
plucky an exit as he can."

His words broke the strain she had put upon herself.

"I didn't mean--I didn't suppose--" she faltered. Then she dropped into
a chair and covered her face with her hands.

Lorimer turned to the door again, halted irresolutely, then went back to
her side.

"I can't go away and leave you like this, dear girl," he said, as he
bent over her. "It isn't going to be easy for either of us; it is bound
to leave a terrible scar on our lives. But, if it is the only thing you
can do: at least, can't we say a decent good-by to each other?"

She took down her hands, drew a long breath and looked up at him; but
she was unable to meet the look in his eyes, the loving, hungry look
which she had learned to know so well.

"We have loved each other, dear girl. I have been better and stronger
for your love. I only wish it might have lasted, for in time it might
have made me quite steady. But I am glad I have had so much. Whatever
the future has for me, at least I have had something in the past."

The hardness had left his tone, and the passionate, bitter ring. There
was nothing now but the note of utter sadness. Beatrix trembled for
herself, for the fate of her resolve, as she heard it.

"But I couldn't hold you, Sidney."

"No, dear; perhaps not. But you held me more than you knew. You only saw
the times I slipped; you never had any idea of the times I nearly went
under, and pulled myself up again for your sake. If it hadn't been for
you and Thayer, for Thayer before I ever saw you, dear, I should have
gone under long ago. Now Thayer will have it all to do."

There was no reproach in his voice. He seemed to be merely stating the
fact, not entirely for her ears, but as if he were trying to accustom
himself to the thought of all which it implied. Suddenly his shoulders
straightened; his tone grew resonant; his words came more rapidly.

"It is in my blood, Beatrix. My mother was weak, and I am weaker still.
I know the danger; I see it and I tell myself that I must fight shy of
it. For a while I do fight shy of it, till I get off my guard and think
I am quite safe. The next thing I know, it has cropped out again, and I
haven't the nerve to face it and knock it over. It knocks me over,
instead, and each knock is just a little harder than the one before it
has been. I realize it, and I try to down it; but that's all the good it
does. I am weak, Beatrix, weak and selfish. I honestly think it is
harder for me to keep steady than it would be for Thayer, or even for
Bobby. The taint is in me. I don't mean that it is any excuse for my
making a brute of myself; but, if there is any pity in God, he must give
a little bit of it to us fellows, born weak, realizing our weakness and
truly meaning to fight it, and yet giving in to it again and again."

"There is pity in God, Sidney," she said drearily; "but pity can't do
any good in a case like this. You need help, not pity."

"The help of man?" he asked bitterly. "Who will give it? They are too
busy saving themselves."

"There is only one man who can help you."

"Thayer?"

"No; yourself. Sidney, I hate to discuss this thing, for it has come
between us and spoiled life for us both; but you have no right to depend
on Mr. Thayer as you do. You aren't a child, and you can fight your own
way out of this."

"What's the use now?"

"Use! Everything. Your whole manhood."

"But in the end? What does it all amount to?"

"Surely, you aren't child enough to need a bribe?" she asked in sharp
scorn.

Her scorn stung him to rapid speech.

"Beatrix, ever since I turned into manhood, I have known this danger of
mine, and I have tried to fight it for the sake of the woman I might
love, some day. Laugh, if you will. Perhaps it is funny; but it has a
certain pitiful side to it, this trying to keep one's self clean for the
sake of the woman one has never yet seen. Then, last fall, I did see
her. Since then, the fight has been easier; perhaps I've not lost so
many battles. It all seemed more worth while. And now--"

"And now?" Her voice was almost inaudible.

"Now I have had it all and lost it, lost it through my own fault, and
there doesn't seem to be anything left worth fighting for."

There was a long silence. At length, Beatrix rose.

"Sidney," she said, as she slowly held out both hands to him; "shall we
fight side by side for a little longer?"



CHAPTER TEN


"I've manufactured a new definition of happiness," Sally said to Bobby
Dane, six months later.

"What now?"

"Think with the mob."

"Who has rubbed you the wrong way, this time?" Bobby queried
unsympathetically.

"Everybody. I am so tired of hearing people praise Beatrix for marrying
Sidney Lorimer."

Bobby halted and shook hands with her, to the manifest wonder of the
post-ecclesiastical Fifth Avenue throng.

"That's where even your head is level, Sally," he said, as he resumed
his stroll. "Do you want to know what I think of her?"

"If you agree with me; not otherwise. I hate arguments, and, besides, it
is bad form to condemn one's dearest friend. But keeping still so long
has nearly driven me to--"

"Tetanus," Bobby suggested. "Well, my impression of Beatrix is that she
is a bally idiot. I don't know just what _bally_ means; but our English
brethren apply it in critical cases, and so it is sure to be right. Yes,
I think Beatrix is very bally indeed."

"Then you don't approve, either?"

"Me? I? I have hated Lorimer from the start."

"I haven't," Sally said, after a thoughtful interval. "I liked him at
first."

"You never saw him at the club," Bobby returned briefly.

"What did he do there?"

"I don't know. He just wasn't right."

Sally paced along meditatively at his side.

"Bobby, you are a critical being," she observed at length.

"Mayhap. But the event justifies me. I never have liked Lorimer, and I
never shall."

"What are you going to do about it?"

Bobby opened his hands and turned them palm downwards.

"There's nothing to be done. I hate to see Beatrix throw herself away;
but I can't help it."

"I wonder what her idea is," Sally said thoughtfully. "She has always
been so down upon any fastness that I supposed she would cut his
acquaintance entirely, after that Lloyd Avalons supper."

"He acted an awful cad, that night." Bobby's tone was disdainful. "I
helped get him home and, before he was fairly out of the dining-room, he
was bragging about his family, and his money, and the Lord knows what."

"Yes, I heard him. Beatrix heard some of it, too, before Mr. Thayer took
her away. I was at her house, the next afternoon, when Mr. Lorimer
called, and I was sure she would break her engagement there and then.
Put not your faith in the principles of a woman in love."

"Confound her principles! That's what is the matter with her," Bobby
growled. "I had always supposed that Beatrix was a reasonable girl; but
no girl in her senses would tackle the job of marrying Sidney Lorimer to
reform him."

"When I do it, I'll reverse things and reform the man to marry him,"
Sally returned shrewdly.

Bobby raised his brows.

"The first time you've ever warned me that I was on probation, Sally!"

"I said a man, not a boy," she replied unkindly. "But, after all, Mr.
Lorimer has been perfectly steady, all summer long."

"Mm--yes, after a fashion. Of course, he would do his best, for I will
do him the justice to admit that he loves Beatrix with all the manhood
there is in him. To be sure, that's not saying much."

"You aren't quite fair to him, Bobby. He must have some manhood in him,
to have steadied down as much as he has done, this summer."

Bobby shrugged his shoulders.

"He is playing for high stakes, Sally, and he can afford to be careful.
Any slip now would prove to be the losing of the whole game. Wait a year
and see."

"Then you think--"

"That his reform is skin deep, and that, like all other serpents, he
sloughs his skin once a year."

"Bobby!"

"Sarah Maria!"

"Don't make fun of me because I was named for a spinster aunt. I can't
help my name."

"No; it's past help. I'd change it, if I were you. Just think how it
would sound at the altar, while the alteration was going on! 'I, Sarah
Maria, take thee--'"

Sally interposed hurriedly.

"But, to go back to Beatrix, if you feel in this way about Mr. Lorimer,
why don't you do something about it?"

"Do what, for example?"

"Speak to her father, or something."

Bobby's answer had an accent of utter gravity which somehow belied the
frivolous form of his words.

"Sally, I'll give you a new proverb, one I have found useful at times.
Put not thy finger into thy neighbor's pie, lest it get stuck there
permanently."

For the next few blocks, the silence between them was unbroken. Sally
nodded to an occasional acquaintance, and Bobby, without lifting his
eyes from the ground, seconded her salute with the mechanical raising of
his hat which good breeding demands. Few conventions are more
exasperatingly impersonal than the bow and smile of the average social
being.

"But I love Beatrix," Sally said inconsequently, after an interval.

"I, too."

For the moment, both voices had lost their customary tone of light
banter. Bobby broke the next pause.

"Couldn't you say something, Sally?"

"I wish I could; but it is no use. Beatrix hasn't the least respect for
my opinion. She thinks I am only a child, and, moreover, once upon a
time, I urged her to marry Mr. Lorimer. Of course, that was before any
of this came out about him; but I hate to go into details with her, and,
if I don't she will think it's nothing but a whim."

"What do you care what she thinks?"

Sally shifted her eyes from the apartment houses on Eighth Avenue to
Bobby's face.

"Bobby, I am afraid of Beatrix," she confessed. "She is built on a
larger frame than I am, and we both of us are quite aware of the fact."

"It may be a part of her capacious frame to risk her life in marrying
Sidney Lorimer," Bobby grumbled; "but, for my part, I prefer smaller
women."

Sally faced him suddenly.

"Bobby! You don't mean you think he will kill her sometime when he is
drunk?"

"No such luck! In the intervals, he will adore her and treat her like a
princess; but he won't spare her the anxiety and the shame of knowing he
is liable to take too much at any reception to which they may send an
acceptance. You haven't seen men as I have, Sally; you don't know how
far they can make babbling fools of themselves, without being absolutely
drunk. To a girl like Beatrix, the shame of it when it does occur, and
the fear of the shame, when it doesn't, would be worse than sudden
death. That gets over and done with; the other hangs on and grows worse
and worse to an endless end."

"And you think there's no cure?"

Once more Bobby shrugged his shoulders.

"I wouldn't take any chances."

"You think Beatrix can't hold him?"

"She can for a time; but there's no knowing how long the time will last.
Any medicine loses its effect, if it is repeated often enough."

"What about Mr. Thayer?"

"He has more power over Lorimer than anyone else; but he has his own
professional life before him, and it won't be long before New York has a
small share of his time. He isn't going to give up a grand success for
the sake of playing keeper to Sidney Lorimer."

"I think he is fully capable of the sacrifice."

"Capable, yes. But it would be a sin to allow it; it would be spoiling a
saint to patch up a sinner. Thayer's future is too broad to be limited
by a futile creature like Lorimer. If he turns Quixotic, I'll poison
him. At least, that will ensure his dying in the full tide of
professional success."

"Ye-es," Sally answered thoughtfully; "but, do you know, Mr. Thayer is
so perfectly organized that I have an idea he could swallow a certain
amount of poison and come out of it unharmed, if his will were really
bent upon accomplishing some definite end."

There was another interval. It was Sally's turn to break it.

"Bobby, does it occur to you that we are just exactly where we started?
We both hate Mr. Lorimer; we hate the idea of his marrying Beatrix, and
neither one of us dares interfere. Let's go and talk to Miss Gannion."

"What's the use?"

"To clear out our mental ganglia. At least, by the time we have been
over it with her, we shall know what we think, and there's a certain
satisfaction in that."

"I know just what I think about it now."

"What do you think?"

"Damn," Bobby replied concisely.

They found Miss Gannion alone before the fire. She threw down her book
and welcomed them cordially.

"I had an indolent fit, to-day," she said, as she drew some chairs up
before the hearth. "Once in a while, I prefer to dismiss my clerical
adviser and settle my problems to suit myself. To be sure, I am quite
likely to settle them wrongly; but that renews my confidence in
churchly methods, so some good is gained, after all."

Bobby deliberately placed himself in the chair which long experience of
Miss Gannion's house had taught him best fitted the angles of his
anatomy.

"We came to have you settle a problem for us," he said; "so we are glad
your hand is in."

"And the problem," Sally added; "is Beatrix."

"What about Beatrix?" Miss Gannion asked.

"She is going to marry Sidney Lorimer, and she mustn't. Please tell us
how we are going to prevent it."

Miss Gannion sat still for a moment, with her clear eyes fixed on the
glowing embers.

"Are you sure that it would be best to prevent it?" she asked then.

Bobby started to his feet, faced about, and stood looking down at the
little figure of his hostess.

"Miss Gannion, Beatrix and I have been chums ever since we could go
alone. In fact, we learned to go alone by hanging on to each other's
hands. I love her as a fellow without any sisters is bound to love a
girl cousin; and I'll be blest if I can keep quiet and see her throw
herself away."

"Have you spoken to her about it?"

"I don't dare," Bobby returned bluntly. "I know I should end by losing
my temper and saying things about Lorimer. I wouldn't hurt Beatrix for
the world, and I believe she honestly thinks she is doing the Lord's own
work in not throwing Lorimer over."

"Perhaps she may be," Miss Gannion said gently.

"Miss Gannion! Well, if she is, I shall have to revise my notions of the
Lord," Bobby responded hotly.

Miss Gannion's smile never wavered. She knew Bobby Dane too well to
resent his occasional outbursts.

"Bobby, my dear boy," she said, with the maternal accent she assumed at
times; "this isn't too easy a problem for any of us; but the hardest
part of its solution is coming on Beatrix. It's not an easy place to put
a woman with a conscience. The old-fashioned idea was to marry a man to
reform him; the new-fashioned practice is to wash your hands of him
altogether, as soon as he makes a single slip. The middle course is the
most difficult one to take and the most thankless. Any good woman is
sure to have a strong hold on the man who loves her; and, in times of
real danger, she is afraid to let go that hold."

Bobby shook his head.

"That's Beatrix all over, Miss Gannion. But it will take a mighty strong
grip to haul Lorimer across to firm ground."

"I realize that."

"But the question is, does Beatrix realize it, too," Sally said
abruptly.

"Better than we can. I think she has measured both the danger and her
own strength."

Bobby took a turn or two up and down the room. Then he came back to the
hearthrug.

"She can't do it," he said conclusively. "The odds are all against her.
Lorimer can't pull her down, of course; but he can tug and tug till he
has used up all her strength and she has to let him go. And then what?
Miss Gannion, do you honestly think it worth the while?"

"No; I do not," she said reluctantly.

"Then why the deuce do you argue for it?" he asked, with a recurrence of
his former temper. "I beg your pardon, Miss Gannion; but this maddens
me, and I came here to have you help me find a way out. Instead, you are
in favor of Beatrix's signing her own death warrant."

"No," she said slowly. "Down in my heart of hearts, I think it is all a
mistake, a terrible mistake; and I have tried in vain to find a way to
prevent it. Then, each time I think it over, I am afraid to prevent it,
because it seems to me that Beatrix's mistake is just a little bit
nobler than the safe course which we ourselves would take."

"Have you heard Mr. Thayer say what he thinks about it?" Sally asked.

"Not lately."

Sally's eyes were under less subjection than her tongue, and Miss
Gannion answered the question they so plainly asked.

"Long ago, before the night of the concert, even, Mr. Thayer spoke of
the matter to me. Since then he has never mentioned it."

"I wish you would ask him what he thinks now," Sally said bluntly. "He
knows Mr. Lorimer better than any of us do, and he should be able to
judge what we ought to do about it."

"The honest fact is," Bobby broke in thoughtfully; "we can't one of us
do a solitary thing about it, but get together and grumble. Beatrix
hasn't a clinging, confiding nature; she makes up her own mind and she
doesn't change it easily. If she has decided to marry Lorimer, we can
kneel in a ring at her feet and shed tears by the pint, and all the good
it will do us will be the chance of making her die of pneumonia caused
by the surrounding dampness. But it's a beastly shame! I'd rather she
married Arlt and done with it. If you've got to form a character, it's
better to start in while the character is young."

Miss Gannion caught at the opportunity for a digression.

"Mr. Arlt is coming to lunch," she observed.

"To-day? I didn't know he was back in town."

"He came last night."

"Was Mr. Thayer with him?"

"No; Mr. Thayer sings in Boston, last night and to-night. He sent me a
note, saying I might expect him to dinner on Tuesday."

"I wonder what success Mr. Arlt has had."

"Mr. Thayer sent me some criticisms. They were very enthusiastic, as far
as they went; but that was only a few lines."

"And the rest of the criticism probably concerned itself with Thayer,
and was discreetly cut away," Bobby said, as he dropped back into his
chair. "Miss Gannion, Arlt is on the steps, and you have not invited us
to stay to lunch, so we must take a reluctant departure. Before I go,
though, I'd like to ask one favor. When Thayer comes, Tuesday night, are
you willing to talk the whole matter over with him and see what he
thinks about it now? There would be a certain consolation to me in
knowing that he disapproved the affair, and he may possibly suggest some
way of breaking it off."

"Possibly," Miss Gannion assented; "unless it is already too late."

The words were still ringing in the air, when Arlt came into the room.
They were still ringing in Bobby's ears, ten minutes later, when he and
Sally took their leave.

"My mental ganglia are cleared," Bobby said disconsolately, as they went
down the steps. "I now see that there is precisely one thing for us to
do, and only one."

"What is that?"

"To grin and bear it."



CHAPTER ELEVEN


Beatrix's principles extended even to the point of observing her day at
home. Society was bidden, the next afternoon, to a tea at Mrs.
Stanley's, and Beatrix was absolutely certain that none of her friends
would cross the intervening forty blocks in order to look in upon her,
going or coming. In her secret heart, she longed to follow society;
instead, she was sitting in solitude, when Thayer was announced.

She rose to greet him with a cordial friendliness, for the past six
months had made a great change in their outward relations. They had
liked each other from the day of Mrs. Stanley's recital, and the liking
had increased with each subsequent meeting. During the next few weeks,
they had met often. Lorimer insisted upon going to every recital at
which Thayer was to sing, and under his guidance Beatrix had gained a
fair idea of what went on behind the scenes. Thayer, meanwhile, had
swiftly assumed his own place in society, and discerning hostesses
generally found it well to put him near to Beatrix at dinner. Owing to
his many evening engagements, Thayer usually ate but sparingly, so it
was all the more necessary that he should be placed within range of
someone with whom he cared to talk. He rarely lent himself to the usual
run of social badinage; but retired into his shell whenever it became
the dominant note of the conversation. A man of his bulk and prominence
and potential boredom was an object of hospitable consideration. He
could always talk to Beatrix, for she never chattered. Therefore he was
generally to be found somewhere within the conversational radius of
Beatrix Dane.

The tea table of Beatrix, moreover, had become one of the focal points
of his New York life. He liked the cheery, informal atmosphere of the
house whose old-fashioned austerity was tempered with a dash of modern
frivolity; he liked the people he met there, people too assured of their
own social position to be touchy upon slight points of social
precedence. Most of all, he liked Beatrix Dane, herself. In the gay,
chattering multitude among whom she moved, her own steadfast quietness
stood out in bold relief, and it answered to certain traits of his own
Puritanism. It was not that she was dull, or overfreighted with
conscience. She frisked with the others of her kind; but her friskiness
was intermittent and never frivolous. To Beatrix Dane, pleasure was an
interlude, never the sole end and aim of life. And, on her own side,
Beatrix felt a thorough admiration for the clean-minded, clean-bodied
singer, a thorough reliance upon his judgment and upon his loyalty to
anyone to whom he vouchsafed his friendship.

This had been the relation between them, on the evening of the concert
for the Fresh Air Fund, a relation whose cordial matter-of-factness was
in no way disturbed by the potent spell of Thayer's voice. Beatrix had
spent much of her life in the open air; she was too healthy to be given
to self-analysis. She admitted to herself the wonderful power of
Thayer's voice, the passionate appeal of certain of his songs; but she
made a curiously sharp distinction between the man and the voice. The
one might be a strong guiding force in the current of her life; the
other was a rising tide that swept her from her moorings and left her
drifting to and fro over stormy seas. On the night of the Fresh Air Fund
concert, for the first time in her experience, these two personalities
had become inextricably intermingled. As she had said, she had never
before realized the possibilities of either Thayer or his voice.

Everything had conspired to produce the impression. All day long, she
had been haunted by a nervous, nameless dread. The vague hints and
signs of the past months had suddenly gathered to a nucleus of anxiety
and alarm, and, in spite of her rigid self-control, she had been
terrified into giving the one outcry, partly to satisfy her feminine
need for sympathy, partly with the hope of putting Lorimer upon his
guard. The sympathy had come, prompt and loving; the warning had been
utterly ignored.

Music ought to be taken with fasting and prayer. Quiet nerves and a full
stomach are deaf to its deepest meaning. To most of the audience, _Honor
and Arms_ stood as a superb piece of vocal gymnastics; to Beatrix,
Thayer was like a live wire, pulsing with a virile scorn of any but
uneven contests, defiant only of those mightier than himself. To her
mind, he was ready to court heavy odds, bound to conquer them, one and
all; and her own pulses beat faster in time to the half-barbarous
outburst which ends the great aria. The Gade concerto, instead of
soothing her, had only exasperated her. She longed to get behind the
violinist and the orchestra and even the composer himself, and goad them
into some tenseness of emotion. But the Slavonic Dance had set her heart
bounding once more, until her very finger tips tingled with the blood
racing through them, and the clashing cymbals had seemed scarcely
louder than the ringing of her own ears. The rest had been only the
natural sequel; _Danny_ and Arlt's failure had led inevitably up to the
finale when Thayer's eyes, burning with that new, strange light, had
held her own eyes captive while he had sounded the tragic note which
dominates all human love.

And the finale had not been final, after all. She had had a vague
presentiment that the cross might be at the end; she had been totally
unprepared to find it pressed to her lips, that selfsame night.

With a swift excuse, Thayer had hurried her back into the music-room;
but he had not been able to prevent that one instant when Beatrix had
found herself face to face with a Lorimer she had never known till then.
Though her eyes had betrayed her horror of the scene, she had kept her
voice steady as she asked Thayer to call her carriage and to say her
farewells to her hostess.

Thayer went with her to her own door. Neither of them spoke until they
stood on the steps; then Thayer cleared his throat, but even then his
voice was husky.

"It may not be as bad as you think, Miss Dane," he said slowly.

As if with a physical effort, she raised her eyes to his.

"Perhaps not," she assented; "but I can think of nothing worse."

It took Thayer two weeks to gather together his courage to see her
again. He too had been shaken by the events of the evening. His Slav
blood, kindled by the Dvorák dance, fired by his anger for Arlt, had
blazed up into a fury of scorn and hatred against the man who would so
allow his own weakness to stab another's strength. Lorimer, in Bobby
Dane's cab and under the lash of Bobby's energetic tongue, was out of
Thayer's way; but, as Thayer stood looking down at the face, whiter than
the fluffy white fur of her cloak, he had felt a momentary longing to
take Beatrix into his arms and, holding her there, to protect her from
Lorimer and from the danger that was threatening her whole happiness.
The moment passed and with it the longing; but, unknown to himself, it
had done its work. It had broken out the beginning of a new channel; it
had prepared the way for a new trend of thought.

Bobby Dane told him what had actually passed between himself and Lorimer
on the way home, what had probably occurred, the next day, between
Lorimer and Beatrix. Thayer waited before calling until he hoped the
memory of what had passed was so remote that neither he nor Beatrix
would think of it again. Nevertheless, though Beatrix was surrounded by
callers and upon her guard, the eyes of both drooped before the sudden
consciousness of having faced a crisis side by side.

According to their annual custom, the Danes went to their cottage at
Monomoy, the first of July, and Lorimer took up his quarters at the
hotel, less than a mile away. Two weeks later, Thayer and Arlt joined
him there. Lorimer had been urgent for Thayer's coming, and Thayer, upon
thinking the matter over, could see no valid reason for refusal. Miss
Gannion was on the way to Alaska, that summer, and, next to her, the
Danes were the closest friends he had made during his first season in
New York. It was only natural that he should arrange his plans in order
to be near them. Moreover, the idle life on the island sounded
attractive, and he was fully aware of the fact that his constant
companionship would be a strong hold upon Lorimer. All in all, he
decided to go.

He took Arlt with him, on the plea of requiring an accompanist for the
new songs he was studying. The boy needed the change. The stress of New
York life was wearing upon him; the consciousness of comparative failure
had disheartened him. He needed the tonic of sea air and of idleness and
of contact with inartistic, care-free humanity. Furthermore, Thayer felt
that he himself might need the tonic of the simple-hearted affection of
the young German. The world about him was too complex. There were days
when the most conventional of incidents seemed weighted with a hidden
meaning, burdened with a consciousness of their own future import.

The summer days passed swiftly and with a certain monotony. During the
mornings while Thayer was practising, Lorimer and Beatrix idled away the
hours together. Later in the day, Thayer always appeared at Monomoy,
sometimes with Lorimer, sometimes alone. Occasionally Beatrix forsook
them both, and went off for long walks with Arlt or floated lazily about
the harbor with him, leaving her mother to entertain the young men with
garrulous recollections of her own childhood.

One subject was forever sealed between Beatrix and Thayer, to one
evening's events they neither of them ever alluded. Now and then, at
some careless turn of the conversation, one or the other of them would
stealthily raise his eyes to find the other furtively watching him; and
their eyes would drop apart again swiftly. It was obvious to Thayer that
Beatrix was carrying a heavy care, that summer. If Lorimer were tardy in
appearing, she was absent and restless; if he came upon her suddenly,
she started; if he talked or laughed more than usual, she invented an
excuse to take him away from the group, apart from the general
conversation. Occasionally, it was evident to Thayer that she was trying
to take him, himself, off his guard, seeking to make him betray himself,
in case he was sharing in her watchfulness. Upon such occasions,
Thayer's mental armor became as impenetrable as a corselet of steel. If
he were keeping guard over Lorimer, amusing him and circumventing him in
a thousand different ways, it was not only for Lorimer's sake, but for
that of Beatrix as well, and it was imperative that Beatrix should never
know. The day had passed forever when he could look into Miss Gannion's
clear eyes and declare with perfect truthfulness that Beatrix was
nothing in the world to him. He admitted this to himself; he also
admitted that there are an infinite number of gradations between the
opposite poles, nothing and something. There was no especial need of
deciding which one of them marked his present status.

This Monday afternoon was the first time he had seen Beatrix since early
September. He had left the others at Monomoy and, in company with Arlt,
had gone back to the city to put himself in training for some autumn
festivals at which he had been engaged to sing. By the time Beatrix was
back in town once more, he had started upon what was destined to be a
triumphal progress through New England. To some men, the mere
professional success would have been enough in itself; but Thayer was of
too large calibre to find a steady diet of applause and adjectives, both
in the superlative degree of comparison, either a satisfactory or a
stimulating meal. Often and often, as he bowed across the footlights
preparatory to shouldering and lugging off his ponderous wreath of
laurels, he would have given all the evening's triumph for the sake of
one quiet hour upon the Monomoy beach.

The evening before had been the climax of his empty successes. It had
been Boston's first oratorio of the season, and the wreath had been an
unusually ponderous one. It had met him promptly at the end of his first
number, and it had impressed him as a curious bit of irony, following as
it did upon the closing phrases of _Spe modo Vivitur_. Were his crowns
to be only the thornless, characterless ones that went with his
profession? He bowed low, nevertheless, before the storm of applause,
set up his trophy against the steadiest of the music racks of the second
violins, and lost himself so completely in wondering how Lorimer was
holding out without him that he went through his part in the quartette,
three numbers later, in perfect unconsciousness of the hostile glances
which the soprano had been casting at him during the _Est tibi Laurea_.
Her flowers had been carnations, and only two dozen of them, at that.

The next afternoon, Thayer found himself in the familiar room, with
Beatrix's hand in his own.

"Only ten weeks, measured by time," he answered her greeting; "but it
seems half a decade since we were killing time on the beach at Monomoy."

"Killing crabs, you would better say," she returned, with a smile. "I
think you and Sidney must have exterminated the race for all time."

"Can you destroy the future for a race that habitually goes backwards?"
he questioned, with a boyish gayety which she had never seen in him
before. "How is Lorimer?"

No one else but Thayer would have noted the slight hesitation that
punctuated her reply.

"He is--well."

Thayer's momentary gayety left him, and he glanced at her sharply.

"And you?" he asked.

"I am always in rude health, just now the better for having you invade
my loneliness. Do you still take only one lump?" Her tone was perfectly
noncommittal.

"Only one. How does it happen that I have the good luck to find you
alone?"

"Everybody is at Mrs. Stanley's. She has captured a new lion, and has
bidden the world to come and inspect her prey."

Thayer laughed.

"What is he, this time?"

"Not he at all; it is a full-fledged Japanese princess whose husband
does lectures on some sort of theosophy before all the universities.
Your lustre is totally eclipsed by this new comet." There was a short
silence; then Beatrix added inconsequently, "We all of us have been so
delighted at your success, Mr. Thayer."

He did not take the trouble to discount the fact; but merely asked,--

"How did you know about it?"

"We have followed you in the papers. Bobby had some, and I think Sidney
must have bought tons of them. He even talked of subscribing to a
clipping bureau. He has read them aloud to us, every night; and we all
have tried to act as if it were nothing so very unusual to have one of
our friends winning laurels by the wholesale."

"They were very concrete laurels, too, Miss Dane," he returned
indifferently, though his face had lighted at her eager accent. "Some of
the wreaths must have been four feet across, and I invariably tripped
over the ribbons, when I carried them off the stage. I did wish they
would furnish a dray; garlands are horribly in the way in a carriage."

"And then what became of them?"

Thayer shrugged his shoulders.

"Ask the chambermaids along the route. I don't mean to be
unappreciative; but not even the most trusting of publics could expect
me to bear my trophies away in my arms, next morning. I came to wish I
could ship them back to the florist, to be presented to some other
baritone, the next night."

"But you enjoyed the trip?"

"After a fashion. I enjoyed the summer more, though."

"There is a certain satisfaction in dropping off the social harness now
and then, and we were comparatively primitive at Monomoy," she
assented. "The whole summer would have been worth while, just for the
sake of seeing Mr. Arlt enjoy it. Has he come back yet?"

"Yes, two days ago. The trip has meant a good deal to him, and already
he is engaged for two festivals in the spring. I am hoping that a taste
of success will give him more self-reliance. He needs it, if ever he is
to impose himself upon the dear public. Even the critics are prone to
take a man at his own valuation, and one of the best American musicians
is working in a corner, to-day, because he finds it a good deal more
interesting to work towards future successes than to exploit his past
ones in the eyes of the world."

Beatrix smiled, half in assent, half in amusement at his sudden energy.

"Mr. Arlt will succeed in time; he is only a boy yet. But, with genius
and energy and his real love for his art, there can be no doubt of his
future."

"That is as fate may decree," Thayer answered.

"Or Providence," she corrected him.

He shook his head.

"Miss Dane, the more I know of life, I am learning to write fate in
capitals, and to spell Providence with a little _p_. Things are pretty
well cut out for us."

She glanced at him with sudden intentness.

"Then I hope the scissors are sharp, and that Moira carries a steady
hand. We have to put up with our own indecisions; those of other people
are maddening."

"Doesn't that depend upon what the decision finally proves to be?" he
asked.

Her eyes had gone back to the fire, and her face was very grave.

"No; I would rather know where I am going. Anything is better than
drifting; it is a comfort to look steadily forward to the best or to the
worst." Suddenly she roused herself. "Mr. Thayer, do you realize that it
is two months since I have heard you sing?"

He roused himself quite as suddenly. In the slight pause which had
broken her speech, he had been making a swift, but futile effort to
chart the future. He knew that Lorimer was drifting carelessly,
thoughtlessly; he also knew that Beatrix was allowing herself to drift
idly in his wake. And how about himself? And would they all make the
same port in the end? If not, where would the diverging currents be
waiting for them?

His brain was working intently; but his voice was quite conventional, as
he rose.

"I hoped you would ask me. After a month or two of singing to strangers,
I begin to feel the need of something a little more personal. Will you
have the new songs, or the old?"

"The old, of course," she answered unhesitatingly.

He improvised for a moment; then he began to sing,--

    "_The hours I spent with thee, dear heart,
    Are as a string of pearls to me.
    I count them over one by_--"

Abruptly he stopped singing and struck a dozen resonant major chords.

"What a disgustingly sentimental thing that is!" he said sharply. "After
our summer at Monomoy in the sea air, we need an atmosphere of ozone,
not of laughing gas."

And he played the prelude of _Die Beiden Grenadieren_.



CHAPTER TWELVE


Arlt dropped in at Thayer's rooms, the next afternoon, and sat looking
on while his friend put himself into his evening clothes, preparatory to
dining with Miss Gannion.

"I walked up here with Mr. Dane," he observed, after a thoughtful
interval. "What an American he is!"

"American?"

"Yes. No other country but yours can produce such people. France tries
it, and fails. A Frenchman takes his frivolity in earnest. Mr. Dane is
like that little _Scherzo_ by Faulkes, the one that frisks on and on,
and all of a sudden comes to an end with a loud _Ha ha_ over its own
absurdity. Mr. Dane delights in his own talk, just as you delight in
your singing."

"He is not self-conscious," Thayer objected quickly.

"Neither are you. Each of you has a gift, and you each delight in using
it. That is not saying that you either of you regard it as the only gift
in the world. Instead, having it, you make the most of it, to let it
grow and to put it in the way of giving pleasure to other people."

Thayer smiled, in spite of himself.

"To paraphrase you, Arlt, what a German you are! Nobody else would
attempt to philosophize concerning Bobby Dane."

"Why not? He is worth it, for he has other gifts than his wit."

"Did he say anything about Lorimer?" Thayer asked abruptly.

"He spoke of him once or twice."

"Anything especial?"

"N-o."

There had been a slight hesitation. The next instant, Arlt felt Thayer's
keen eyes upon him.

"Is anything wrong with Lorimer?"

"What should there be?"

"Nothing should be. I asked if anything is."

"Mr. Dane would hardly discuss his friends with me." Arlt's tone was
noncommittal.

"Now, see here, Arlt, don't get obstinate. We both know Lorimer's
failing. Have you heard anything new about him?"

Arlt stared hard at the carpet.

"Mr. Lorimer was very good to the mother and Katarina," he said, in his
slow, deliberate English.

"That may be. Mr. Lorimer has been good to a great many people, and we
aren't going to forget it. That doesn't keep us from knowing his
weakness."

"No," Arlt said simply; "but it might keep us from discussing it."

Thayer's lips shut closely for an instant. He felt a rebuke which Arlt
would never have dared to intend.

"It might; but it does not. We both know it, and there is no harm in our
talking it over. Lorimer is weak and foolish; he isn't nearly so bad as
many men we know. The taint is in his blood, and he is too easy-going to
fight it out."

"But he did fight, last summer," Arlt urged.

Thayer's thoughts flew backwards to one night, in Lorimer's room at the
hotel. It seemed to him he could still see Lorimer's flushed face, still
hear against the background of noises that marred the stillness of the
August moonlight outside the window, the high-pitched, insistent voice
of the man who sat on the edge of the bed, arguing about the necessity
of unlacing his shoes before taking them off. The next morning, Beatrix
had received a note from Thayer, apologizing for carrying Lorimer off
for a day's fishing. Cotton Mather himself might well have envied the
grim fervor of the sermon preached by his namesake, that sunshiny summer
day. The old-time hell gave place to a more modern theory of
retribution; but the terrors were painted with a black-tipped brush, and
Lorimer had shuddered, as he listened. For the once, Thayer had made no
effort to avoid rousing his antagonism. Lorimer had been more angry than
ever before in his life; then the inevitable reaction had come, and it
had been a penitent, hopeful sinner who had walked up the pier at
Thayer's side, late in the afternoon. But Arlt, who had been playing
Chopin at Monomoy, all the previous evening, was quite at a loss to
understand how a single day's fishing could so completely exhaust a
strong man like Thayer.

Arlt changed his phrase to the direct question.

"Don't you think he fought with the best that was in him?"

And Thayer assented with perfect truthfulness,--

"I do."

"Then we ought to ask for nothing more."

"If he stood alone. Unfortunately he doesn't."

Arlt raised his brows.

"But the risk is hers."

Thayer untied his necktie with a long, deliberate pull, and made a
second attempt to arrange it to his liking. At length he turned from the
mirror and faced Arlt.

"Would you be willing to allow Katarina to take such a risk?"

"No," Arlt answered honestly, after an interval.

Neither man spoke for some time. Arlt was unwilling to continue the
subject, and Thayer knew from experience the uselessness of trying to
force him to talk when he was minded to keep silence. It was Arlt,
however, who finally broke the silence, and his subject was one utterly
remote from Lorimer.

"I have heard from the mother, to-day," he said suddenly.

"Good news, I hope." Thayer's tone was as hearty as if he had felt no
passing annoyance at the boy's stubborn reticence.

"The best that can be for them. An old cousin has died, and they are his
heirs."

"Good! Is it much?"

"Enough so they can live in comfort, whatever happens to me."

"And enough so that you can live in comfort, without anxiety for them,"
Thayer supplemented kindly.

"Without anxiety; I can do without the comfort," Arlt replied. "I have
worried sometimes."

Crossing the room, Thayer laid his hand on the boy's shoulder.

"And you have borne the worry very pluckily, too, Arlt. It has been hard
for you, this first year in America, with the double care for them and
for yourself. I hope things are going to be easier now."

"It will be a help in my work," he assented. Then he added, with a
sudden effort which showed how dear the subject was to his heart, "I
think I shall now have a few more lessons in counterpoint."

"More?" Thayer said interrogatively.

"Yes; I had already studied for two years."

"And you want to compose?"

"When I know enough. Not till then."

"It takes something besides the knowing, to make a composer, Arlt,"
Thayer said warningly.

"I know. But I think I have something to say, when I am ready," the boy
answered, with simple directness.

"But, if you wanted to study counterpoint, why didn't you say so? You
knew I would lend you the money."

"Yes, you would give me everything; but I could never accept this."

"Why not?"

Arlt looked up, and even Thayer, well as he knew him, was surprised at
the sudden concentration of character in the boy's face.

"One will be helped in the small things, never in accomplishing the real
purpose of his life. Each one of us must work that out for himself.
Then, if he succeeds or fails, at least the result is of his own
making."

Dismissing four or five importunate cab drivers with a brief shake of
his head, Thayer went striding away up the Avenue towards Miss Gannion's
house. As he went, he was half-consciously applying Arlt's words to the
question of his own future. It was true enough that he must work out his
own real purpose for himself; and, in one sense the unsuccessful boy was
happier by far than the successful man. Arlt's purpose was single.
Thayer's was two-fold, and as yet he could not determine which of them
would prove to be the dominant impulse of his life.

"Really, it does seem very good to drop back into the old ways," Miss
Gannion said contentedly, two hours later.

The loitering, lingering dinner was over; the servants had been
instructed to admit no other guests, and Miss Gannion was snuggled back
in her deep chair, gazing up at Thayer who stood on the rug with his
hands idly locked behind his back. In this room which showed so plainly
its feminine occupancy, he seemed uncommonly virile, and Miss Gannion,
watching him, felt a momentary exultation in his virility. Most of the
men whom she knew, put on a feminine languor as an adjunct to their
evening clothes. Thayer looked down upon her with manifest approval.
After months of separation, it was good to find himself in the presence
of this woman to whom he was allowed to speak freely his real opinion.
Miss Gannion by no means always agreed with him; but she usually
understood his point of view and was willing to admit its weight.
Moreover, she was able to discuss without losing her temper, and she
belonged to that species of good listener who understands that an
occasional word of comprehension is worth more than hours of mere silent
attention.

"It is refreshing to get back to a place where my personality counts for
something," Thayer assured her. "The past two months have left me
feeling as if I had not a friend in the world, nothing but audiences."

"What an ingrate you are! Most of us would be willing to have that kind
of impersonality."

"Would you?"

"No," she said candidly. "I'm not large enough for that."

"It wouldn't have occurred to me that it was any indication of
largeness."

"To be able to resign your own individuality, for the sake of the
pleasure you can give other people? That seems to me rather large."

"It depends. I think I would rather concentrate my efforts, person on
person, instead of spreading myself out like a vast impersonal plaster."

She laughed a little, though her eyes were very grave.

"You might apply your theory here and now. Go and sing to me, not a new
song, but one of the old favorites."

Obediently he crossed the room to the piano where he sat for an hour,
now singing, now stopping to comment on a song or to relate some of his
experiences of the past two months. Later that night, when Miss Gannion
was thinking over the talk of the evening, it suddenly occurred to her
that he had made no reference at all to the summer. At length he rose to
return to the fire.

"No," she objected. "There is one song still lacking. You've not sung
_The Rosary_ yet."

His stride across the room never hesitated, although duller ears than
his own could not have mistaken the wish in her voice.

"I have worn out _The Rosary_," he said briefly. "I shall have to let it
rest for a while."

"I am sorry. I loved it."

He laughed mirthlessly.

"It is the weakest kind of sentimentality, Miss Gannion. The song itself
amounts to very little; it is merely a question of the key."

"I am sorry," she repeated, still a little sadly. "I have cared a good
deal for the song."

Thayer made no answer, and she sat looking up at him with a steady
wishfulness which made him uneasy. Her next words, though chosen by
chance, increased his uneasiness.

"Have you seen Miss Dane, since you came back?"

"I was there, yesterday."

"How did she seem to you?"

His steady eyes met hers without wavering.

"I don't quite understand what you mean by the question."

Miss Gannion varied the form of her words.

"Did you think she looked well?"

"Very."

"And yet, I don't think Beatrix is happy," Miss Gannion said, half to
herself.

"Why not?"

"How can she be? Beatrix is not dense. She thinks things, and she must
know the uncertainty of the future."

"But I thought it was quite certain." There was a level monotony in
Thayer's accent.

"You think Mr. Lorimer has really reformed and is out of danger?" Miss
Gannion asked quickly.

"I wish he had," Thayer answered half involuntarily.

"Then there is still trouble?"

But already Thayer was once more upon his guard.

"I have heard of nothing since I came home."

"Have you seen Mr. Lorimer?"

"No."

There was a curt brevity in his manner which was new to Miss Gannion. In
spite of herself, it set her to wondering whether prosperity had been
good for her friend, whether the consciousness of his own importance
were making him indifferent to the interests of others. Perhaps, after
all, it was true that he was becoming impersonal. He might be growing
larger; he was certainly growing more remote from her life. Miss
Gannion cared for Thayer. Now, while she watched him, her eyes were
lighted with an almost fierce affection, even though her disappointment
made her voice take on a hard, metallic ring, as she asked,--

"Are you turning your back upon the problem of your old friend, Mr.
Thayer?"

"No," he answered; "but I thought we had solved it, in this very room."

She raised her brows interrogatively.

"'To say our prayers, and wait,'" he quoted.

Her momentary distrust of him weakened, and her face lighted, as she
heard him quoting her own words, spoken so long ago.

"Yes; but I--we all--think it is time--think it may be a mistake."

He lifted his eyes from the fire, looked at her steadily for a minute,
and then stared into the fire again. She grew restless with the
stillness.

"And we thought perhaps you could say something."

"To--?" he asked, without raising his eyes.

"To Mr. Lorimer."

"What could I say?"

"Something to break it off."

In spite of himself, he laughed outright.

"Would you advise threats or bribery, Miss Gannion? I really can't
imagine any argument that would lead Lorimer to give up Miss Dane of his
own accord."

"Couldn't you put it to him strongly that he has no moral right to hold
her to her promise?"

"I could; but he would probably put it to me just as strongly that I
have no moral right to interfere in his concerns."

Miss Gannion sat up straight, bracing her elbows against the sides of
her chair.

"Mr. Thayer, have you any idea that Mr. Lorimer will ever give up
drinking, drinking more than is good for him?"

"I have not."

"Have you any idea that Beatrix, if she marries him, can escape years of
anxiety and wretchedness?"

"I have not," he answered again.

"Oh, how cold you are!" she cried, in passionate revolt against his even
tone. "Don't you care anything at all for Beatrix?"

If he flinched at her question, he rallied again too quickly for her to
discover it. Then he looked her squarely in the eye.

"I would do anything in my power to protect Miss Dane; but this is a
case where I have no right to speak to her. I have spoken to Lorimer
again and again, urging him to control himself for her sake. Beyond
that, I have no right to go."

"But you said once that you thought she ought to be told."

"That was months ago. She found out, without being told."

"Not all."

"Enough."

"But, if she knew all about it, all that you know, Beatrix Dane would
never marry Sidney Lorimer."

"Very likely not."

"Then you ought to tell her. What right have you to suppress facts that
would change her whole point of view? You have it in your power to save
Beatrix Dane. Once you were willing to do it." She had risen and stood
on the rug, facing him. Stung by his coldness and by her disappointment
in him, she allowed a sudden note of hostility to creep into her voice,
and it cut Thayer like the edge of a steel knife.

"I am sorry," he said, after a pause; "but it is too late for that now,
Miss Gannion."

His words were more true than he realized. When, after a half-hour of
uncomfortable, disjointed talk, he said good-night and went away, he
found Lorimer waiting for him in his own rooms. Thayer's greeting was
curt, for he was still smarting from the memory of his talk with Miss
Gannion. He had been impenetrable to her questions, but not to her
sharpness, and he was hurt by the disapproval she had shown. It was the
first time he had heard the curious icy tone in her voice; it had struck
a jarring note in their friendship. For the time being, Miss Gannion had
distrusted him; but at least she had gained no idea of the cause of his
changed attitude. For so much, he was thankful. He had saved his own
respect at the risk of forfeiting that of Miss Gannion.

Lorimer met him excitedly; but Thayer's experienced eye saw that the
excitement had no alcoholic basis.

"Congratulations, old fellow! Everything is settled at last, and we are
to be married, early in January. I came straight to you, for I knew you
would be delighted. Of course, I shall count on you as best man."

It would never have occurred to Thayer that there was need to brace
himself against any possible shock. For a minute, the droplight on the
table seemed to be dancing a Russian _trépac_. Then, just as it was
ready to fall, he heard his own voice saying, with exactly the proper
degree of cordiality,--

"I do congratulate you, Lorimer, and I am delighted that it is settled."

Later on, he knew that he had spoken the truth.

"And you will be best man?" Lorimer questioned eagerly.

"Yes. Who else has better claim?" The conventional note was still there;
Thayer felt its aloofness far more than Lorimer, absorbed in his own
joy, was able to do. The silence was short; then Thayer mastered himself
again. "Lorimer," he said quietly; "I certainly do congratulate you, for
you have been able to gain one of the noblest women in the world. Your
happiness ought to be great; but you have taken a fearful responsibility
along with it. At your best you can be worthy of her; but, if you fall
one inch below your best level, you will deserve to be flayed alive. You
have gone into this with your eyes open. You know that you can make
Beatrix Dane's life a heaven or a hell. You and I both know the danger;
we know that she is running a terrible risk in marrying you, and that
you yourself are the only person who can save her from shame and sorrow.
For God's sake, Lorimer, do all you can to make yourself live up to the
best that is in you."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN


Late March found Thayer just completing a long circle. He had gone to
Chicago by way of Washington; he was coming back by way of Canada and
New England. Oratorio societies were rampant, that Lent, and he had been
the popular baritone of the season, completely ousting from public favor
the bass who had monopolized the applause for six or seven years
previous. He had fainted under Elijah's juniper tree times without
number, until he had learned to watch with cynical interest for the
phrase which never failed to draw forth the tears. He had even taken
part in one grand operatic rendition of the work, when the audience had
been half strangled by the too realistic fumes from the altar, and the
chorus, huddled at the back of the stage, had sung the _Rain Chorus_ off
the key, to the accompaniment of the torrent which poured down in a thin
sheet just back of the curtain, raining neither on the just nor on the
unjust, but falling accurately into the groove for the footlights
between them. He had sung _The Messiah_ and _Arminius_ until they were a
weariness to his flesh, and _Hiawatha's_ call to _Gitche Manito, the
Mighty_ had become second nature to his tongue. He had moments of acute
longing to astound his audience with a German student song, and, upon
his off nights, he fell into the vaudeville habit. Not even his
Puritanism could enjoy an unlimited diet of oratorio.

At first there had been some question of his giving a number of recitals
at different points on his journey; but he had renounced the idea. Arlt
was grinding away at counterpoint under the best master to be found in
New York, and Arlt was the only accompanist with whom Thayer cared to
sing. The boy had no notion that Thayer needed him; neither did he have
any idea of the discrepancy between his own payments and the actual fees
of the great musician with whom Thayer had advised him to study. Week by
week, he brought his few dollars, without once suspecting that Thayer's
monthly checks were really paying for the lessons.

Arlt had fallen to work with the eagerness born of long and enforced
abstinence. Certain musical themes had been haunting him for the past
two years; yet he had known that he lacked the training which should
enable him to develop them properly, and, with rare self-denial, rather
than spoil them he had turned his back upon them and tried to forget
them. Now, however, his work was beginning to tell upon him, and his
teacher was more and more encouraging, while the old themes came back to
him, grown and enriched by their season of lying fallow. Spurred on by
the consciousness of all this, Arlt was hard at work upon an overture
with which he hoped to greet Thayer on his return to the city. Day by
day, the overture was growing. It was boyish; yet it was dignified and
original.

On the last morning of his trip, Thayer came down the steps of his
hotel, halted to stare about him at the streets of the leisurely little
city, and then sauntered away towards the hall where the rehearsal was
to take place. It was still early; nevertheless, as he came within sight
of the building, he found the street filled with the members of the
orchestra who, thriftily refusing cabs, had marched up from the station
in a solid phalanx, laden with all manner of strange-looking bags and
cases. Thayer nodded to them with a certain eagerness. After two months
of wandering, it was good to find himself once more within the New York
radius. He had sung with these men often; they knew every trick of his
voice, and he could count upon them not to break into a galloping rhythm
in the midst of a minor _andante_. His face lighted, and his tongue fell
into his beloved German idioms, as he went up the stairs with a bass
viol and a bassoon on either hand.

The director of the chorus was also a New York man, and Thayer shook
hands with him cordially, wondering, meanwhile, how it chanced that one
short year had made him feel that New York was home to him. The director
knew Arlt's teacher, too. He had heard of the young German's promise,
and it was with some regret that Thayer heard him break off from these
congenial themes, for the sake of introducing him to the officers of the
society who were unduly agitated by the consciousness that they had
captured both Thayer and the latest English tenor who had landed only
the week before and was to make his American début, that evening.

Meanwhile, the hall was filling fast. The chorus, chattering with the
nervous vivacity which always heralds a concert, were crowding into the
fraction of space allotted to them; and, in the open floor beyond, the
musicians of the orchestra were gathered into little groups, unpacking
their instruments, unfolding their racks and eying the chorus with
metropolitan disdain. Here and there a violinist, his violin at his
shoulder, sauntered up and down the floor, alternately drawing his bow
across the strings and lowering it again, while he tightened them. Then,
in answer to the call from the oboe, the whole place grew filled with
their din, discordant at first, but slowly coming into more and more
perfect harmony, uniting upon the single note, breaking again into
countless changing tones, only to yield once more to the single _A_,
caught, dropped during an instant's pause, then caught again and held in
long-drawn, jubilant sonority.

On the heels of the other soloists, Thayer picked his way up the narrow
aisle at the right of the tenors, and took his seat upon the little
stage. As he did so, he discovered a diminutive gallery directly over
the main entrance to the hall. Side by side in the gallery sat two men,
the president of the chorus and Bobby Dane.

Bobby was beaming down at him placidly, and Thayer's face lighted at the
unexpected sight of his friend. Bobby nodded occasionally, to mark his
approval of the music; then, at the end of Thayer's first solo, he laid
his score on the gallery rail and led off a volley of applause which,
echoing back from the chorus, roused Bobby to such a pitch of
enthusiasm that he knocked the score off the rail and sent it tumbling
down among the rear ranks of the altos.

"Why the unmentionable mischief do you waste your energies, singing like
that at a rehearsal?" he demanded abruptly of Thayer, as he joined him
on the stairs.

"Where the unmentionable mischief did you come from?" Thayer responded,
seizing Bobby's hand in his own firm clasp.

"New York. Just came up, this morning. I'm doing the concert, to-night."

"Oh! I was under the impression that I was going to do a part of it,
myself."

"Musically. I represent the power of the Press."

"As critic?"

"Certainly."

"How long since?"

"To-day. The regular critic is busy with a domestic funeral, his
grandmother, or step-mother, or something, and it lay between the devil
and me to take his place. Strange to say, the Chief chose me; but he was
morose enough to say the old lady shouldn't have died, just when all the
other papers in town were sending up their best critics."

"But how do you expect to get up a criticism?"

Bobby smiled up at him in smug satisfaction over his own wiliness.

"By caressing the mammon of unrighteousness. I know you; likewise the
president of this chorus was in my prep. school. I happened to hear of
him, last week, and I am banking on the fact for all it is worth.
Therefore I have two strings to my bow. That's more than one of your
second violins did. To my certain knowledge, he wrecked two strings in
the overture and one in the prelude of your first solo. After that, I
got interested and lost count."

"Do you expect us to dictate our own praises?"

"Not much. I am too canny for that. Besides, don't be too sure they will
be praises. No; I have asked the president, in strict confidence, just
what he thinks of you, and his answer was properly garrulous. His
originality was startling, too. He observed that you have temperament.
Now I am proceeding to ask you, also in strict confidence, what you
think of the chorus."

"That it has intemperament," Thayer responded promptly. "Dane, I abhor
that word."

"Is that the reason you coined its negative?"

"No; but it gets on my nerves. When it started out into service, it
meant something; but now it is used to express everything, from real
artistic feeling down to the way a man rolls up his eyes when he sings
love songs. I wish you newspaper men would bring out something new to
take its place. You can do it; you generally set the fashion in words."

"I'll ask Lee, when he gets over his funeral," Bobby suggested. "It is
out of my line. I am a greater artist than he is, a typographical song
without words. I do scareheads, and buffet the devil. Thayer?"

"Yes?"

"Do you honestly enjoy this sort of thing?"

Thayer glanced down at the muddy crossing where they stood waiting for a
car to pass.

"No. I prefer an occasional street-cleaning episode; but what can you
expect in a March thaw?"

"I don't mean that," Bobby said impatiently. "I'm not joking now."

"Beg pardon," Thayer returned briefly. "What do you mean, Dane?"

"I mean all this tramping round the country, singing to strange people,
getting applause at night and reading about yourself, next day. Doesn't
it get a frightful bore, after the dozenth time you've been through
it?"

"The applause and the audience and the criticisms, yes. The singing,
no," Thayer said, after an interval.

"And you're willing to put up with one for the sake of the other?"

"Yes."

Bobby dodged a shower of mud from a passing cab.

"Well, tastes differ, then. In New York, we've been going on the same
old routine, and yet no two days have been alike, except in the minor
detail of missing you at places. You have been in twenty different
cities, and I'd be willing to bet that your routine hasn't varied:
sleeper, hotel, rehearsal, concert, applause, wreath, supper, hotel,
bed, and so on around the circuit again and again. And you say the
singing pays for it. It does pay us; but you can't hear yourself,
Thayer, not to get any good of it. If it isn't the applause and such
stuff, what do you do it for?"

Thayer glanced down at the man beside him. He liked Bobby Dane, and, for
the moment, he felt moved to discard his customary reticence in regard
to his art.

"For the sake of feeling myself picked up and carried along by something
quite outside myself, something I am powerless to analyze, or to
master; yet something that I can help to express," he answered.

Bobby accepted the lesson in silence. Then of a sudden his whimsical fun
reasserted itself.

"Must feel a good deal like getting drunk," he commented gravely. "And
_à propos des bottes_, Beatrix is at home again."

Thayer's shoulders straightened, his step grew rhythmic once more.

"When did she come?"

"She landed, ten days ago, and they went right to the new house. She is
going to send out cards for Mondays in May; but, meanwhile, we are
coming in for an earlier event. There's a note at your rooms now, asking
you to dine with them, next Monday."

"How do you know?"

"Because, like a coy maiden, I named the day. It is a sort of
post-nuptial event, the maid of honor, the best man, and the master of
ceremonies, meaning myself. She wasn't going to ask me, because it would
spoil the number; but I told her I would make a point of being there,
and that Monday was my most convenient day. It will give us our first
chance to talk over the wedding."

"How does she--Mrs. Lorimer look?"

"She Mrs. Lorimer looks very natural," Bobby replied gravely. "As a
rule, we only say a person looks natural after his demise; but I assure
you that Beatrix is very much alive."

"And happy?" Thayer asked involuntarily.

Bobby gave him a swift, sharp glance. Then he resumed his former
nonchalant air.

"As happy as one always is at landing after five days of acute
sea-sickness. They pursued a storm, all the way home. They didn't catch
it, though, except in the figurative sense of our remote childhood. I
never saw Beatrix look so happy in her life as when she planted her
second foot safely on the pier."

"What about Lorimer?"

Bobby shook his broad shoulders, with the air of a man shaking off a
disagreeable subject.

"Oh, he's all right," he said shortly.

Together the two men idled away the afternoon. Bobby would fain have
introduced Thayer to his own brother craftsmen who infested the hotel in
the hope of getting speech with the artists; but Thayer had little
liking for being interviewed, and preferred to divide his time between
his own room and the streets. He and Bobby had an apparently limitless
fund of talk, and their conversation wandered at will over the events of
the past two months. However, as all roads lead to Rome, so all
subjects led to Beatrix. When they came around to her in their
discussion, Thayer invariably changed the subject; yet even a few words
on a constantly recurring theme can end by illuminating that theme
perfectly, provided only that it recurs often enough. By the time Thayer
was dressing for the concert, that night, he was in full possession of
all Bobby Dane's facts concerning his cousin, and he was convinced that
all was not well with Lorimer.

With a commendable spirit of originality, the officers of the chorus had
broken away from the established rule which proclaimed it an _Elijah_
season, and had chosen to give _St. Paul_, that night. Thayer liked the
oratorio. It seemed to him more original, more inspired, infinitely more
human than the other. Moreover, it would be restful to keep silent and
let the tenor warble himself to a lingering death. Even fiery chariots
become monotonous in time, and an indignant mob affords a welcome
variety. He had not heard the tenor since they had sung together in
Berlin, two years before, and he was looking forward to the evening with
a good deal of pleasure.

To his surprise and annoyance, he found the music stopping short at his
tympani, powerless to enter his brain. When he jolted himself out of
his train of subconscious thought, he was aware that the orchestra was
superb, that his old friend, the tenor, had added many cubits to his
artistic stature, during the past two years, that he himself, Cotton
Mather Thayer, would have to use his best efforts if he did not wish to
occupy an entirely subordinate place upon the programme. Then he
recurred to his thought of Beatrix and Lorimer. If Lorimer had not kept
a straight course during his honeymoon, what hope was there for either
himself or Beatrix in the many, many moons to come?

The strings and the wind took up the _Allegro_, and Thayer rose.
Lorimer, if he had been present, would have known what to expect from
the straightening of his shoulders and the sudden squaring of his jaw;
but Bobby Dane, who had been watching the apathy in which his friend was
buried, was distinctly nervous. Then, at the first note, his nervousness
vanished, leaving in its place only wondering admiration. Bobby had
supposed he knew what Thayer could do; but he was totally unprepared for
the furious dignity with which the singer rendered his aria,--

    "_Consume them all,
    Pour out Thine indignation, and let them feel Thy power._"

The applause did not wait for the orchestra to slide comfortably back to
the tonic. It broke out promptly upon the final note, and it satisfied
even Bobby. Thayer bowed his acknowledgments, and then returned to his
reverie; but he roused himself again at the _Adagio_ which announced his
second aria.

Then it was, in Paul's outcry for mercy, for the blotting out of his
transgressions, that Bobby Dane understood what Thayer had meant, that
noon, when he had spoken of being carried along by something outside of
himself. Bobby knew Thayer as a quiet, self-contained man of the world;
the Thayer who was singing that great aria was on fire with a passionate
madness, tingling with unfulfilled longing, striving against his whole
temperament for peace and for pardon. Bobby knew all this; he dimly
realized, moreover, that the singer was fired by love for the wife of
his friend, burning with the surety that his friend was unworthy of her,
and struggling with all the manhood there was in him to face that love
and that surety with the stoic calm of one of his Puritan ancestors, to
quench the fire and to cover the ashes.

Bobby joined him in the wings, at the close of the concert. Even in the
dim light, he could see that Thayer looked whiter than his wont, and
that the veins in his temples stood out like knotted cords.

"What business have you to be doing oratorio?" Bobby demanded, as soon
as they could struggle a little apart from the gossiping, gushing ranks
of the chorus which surrounded them, pulling surreptitious bits from
Thayer's mammoth wreath of laurel.

"Why not?" Thayer asked calmly.

"Because you are throwing away the best of yourself. Putting you into
oratorio is like icing tea. You belong in grand opera."

Thayer raised his brows dissentingly.

"I wish I could think so, Dane; but I am afraid I should only disappoint
you," he answered, and his tone was not altogether jovial, as he said
it.



CHAPTER FOURTEEN


"I don't expect to be consistent," Sally retorted. "I'm only an
ill-assorted snarl of threads ravelled out from my different ancestors."

"That's dodging the responsibility, Miss Van Osdel."

Bobby lifted an oyster and held it up to view.

"I never did approve of shunting off our sins on the shoulders of our
ancestors," he observed. "They sin; we get the come-uppance. You might
as well say that the grandfather of this oyster is directly responsible
for his being eaten alive."

"No man's sin is wholly his own doing," Lorimer said half bitterly.

There was a sudden pause, as they all came to a realizing sense that
Sally's idle words had sent them sliding out upon thin ice. Bobby was
the first to rally.

"True for you, Lorimer!" he assented cheerily. "That is one of the
doctrines I have spent my life trying to impress on the governor. I
wish he felt it more borne in upon him. But, as you were saying, Sally,
you're not expecting to become consistent. I'm glad, for you won't be
disappointed. The brightest jewel in your crown will have to be of
another color."

"What color is consistency, Bobby?" his cousin asked.

"Green, of course, reflected from the jealous eyes of the ninety and
nine sinners who haven't the virtue."

"I'm not at all certain that I wish to be consistent," Sally asserted.

"So glad for your sake!" Bobby returned quickly.

Thayer looked up inquiringly.

"Because consistent people are such bores, Miss Van Osdel?"

"So you are a heretic, too? And then they are so smug."

"But there's consistency and consistency," Bobby argued. "There's mashed
potato and frappé, for instance, equally hard, equally homogeneous, yet
totally different. To my mind, there is a distinct choice between them,
and I prefer--"

"Cherries in your frappé." Sally capped his sentence for him. "In other
words, we all like a consistent person with lumps of inconsistency.
That's myself, and one of my lumps is a dislike of having Mrs. Lloyd
Avalons on our tenement committee."

"But, if you are slumming--"

"That is ignoble of you, Beatrix. The committee doesn't slum within its
own confines."

"Oh, I didn't mean that at all," Beatrix protested hastily. "Really,
though. I can't see why you and Mrs. Lloyd Avalons can't unite in
working for somebody quite outside either of your worlds."

Sally raised her brows in saucy imitation of Mrs. Lloyd Avalons's pet
expression. Then she pushed Beatrix's words aside with daintily
outstretched fingers.

"Can't you?" she said coolly, as she ended her little pantomime. "Well,
I can. To adopt Bobby's choice illustration, it would be like mixing
potato and frappé. The potato would melt the frappé, and then the frappé
would--well, would render the potato unpalatable. In other words, if we
work together, I shall pulverize Mrs. Lloyd Avalons, and then the dust
of her individuality will get in among my nerves and clog them."

"If you can't be consistent, Miss Van Osdel, please do try to be
concrete," Thayer urged. "I confess that I find it a little difficult to
follow you."

"Not at all," Bobby interposed. "She isn't going anywhere. Sally's
mental processes always remind me of the way we used to play cars in a
row of easy chairs. We were extremely energetic, and we pretended that
we were going somewhere; but in reality we didn't budge an inch. Sally,
what is the reason you don't like Mrs. Lloyd Avalons?"

"Because she is utterly preposterous," Sally replied concisely.

"And yet, she is bound to arrive, some day," Lorimer said thoughtfully.

"Then I hope it may not be until after I have left," Sally retorted. "I
don't care to have her making connections with me."

"Sally, you are uncharitable," Beatrix said rebukingly; but Bobby
interrupted,--

"That's more than you can say of Mrs. Lloyd Avalons. She is on half the
charity committees in town."

"How did she get there?" Thayer asked, with unfeigned curiosity.

"By toiling upward, day and night. That's where she scores ahead of the
great men. According to the poet, they only belonged to the night
shift. Mrs. Lloyd Avalons sleeps with the Blue Book under her pillow and
dreams social combinations."

"She probably has a chess board always at her elbow," Sally suggested.
"I can fancy the game, the white queen and her pawn against the whole
black force, each man neatly tagged with his name and social status."

"She is marching straight into the king-row, though," Bobby added.

Beatrix called them to order.

"Does it strike you that this is perilously near to being gossip?" she
inquired.

But Sally had the last word.

"It's not gossip to talk over the possibilities of the lower classes,"
she remarked imperturbably. "It is social science."

Lorimer went back to the original question which had started the
discussion.

"As I said before, there is a certain inconsistency in the idea of a
given number of women setting themselves to work to better the condition
of the masses, and then coming to wreck and ruin because one of their
number is of a slightly different set."

"Slightly inferior," Sally corrected him.

Lorimer accepted the amendment.

"Inferior, then, if you choose. But we are talking of the theory in the
abstract, not of any particular case. One hardly expects to find
snobbishness in slumming."

"Then that's where one gets left," Bobby commented, by way of
parenthesis.

"But if you are all stooping?"

"Yes; but the alignment is better, if we all stoop at the same angle,"
Sally protested.

"What I wish to know," Thayer said thoughtfully; "is where the deadline
of propriety exists. Take the case of Mrs. Lloyd Avalons, for instance.
Why does she take Patsey Keefe to her heart and home, and snub Arlt upon
all occasions?"

"Because she wishes to maintain a proper perspective," Sally replied.
"Everyone knows that Patsey and she are chums from choice; with Mr.
Arlt, there might be a question. Legitimate slumming presupposes two
willing parties, the slummer and the slummed."

"In other words," Bobby added; "it is socially possible to foregather
with the slum in the next ward; it is death to speak to the undesirable
neighbor in the back alley. The fact is ordained; but it will take
several generations of social scientists to ferret out the cause."

Sally addressed the table at large.

"For my part, I like Mr. Arlt," she said flatly. "What's more, I am
going with him to the Kneisel concert, to-morrow night; and, if any of
you are there and choose to eye me askance, you are welcome."

Later, that evening, Thayer found himself with Beatrix and a little
apart from the others. The dinner had been utterly informal, and it had
been tacitly understood that the guests should linger afterwards. It was
only ten days since the Lorimers had landed from their European
honeymoon, and as yet they felt themselves privileged to hold themselves
a little aloof from the social treadmill. Though the breakfast table,
each morning, was littered with cards and notes of invitation, yet the
season was in their favor. Lent had entered upon its last week, and even
the largest functions clothed themselves in penitential and becoming
shades of violet. Accordingly, it had been a source of little
self-denial for Bobby and Sally to give up their other engagements for
the evening. As for Thayer, he invariably went his own way, invited
everywhere and appearing only in the places which suited his mood of the
hour. It was the one professional luxury that he allowed himself.

To his keen eye, Beatrix looked as if she were carrying a heavy burden
of care. She was as alert as ever; her social training was bound to
ensure that. But between her conversational sallies, her face settled
into certain fixed lines that were new to Thayer. Even during the past
two months, her lips had grown firmer; but her lids drooped more often,
as if to hide some secret which otherwise might be betrayed by her eyes.
Up to this time, Thayer had never called her especially pretty. She was
handsome, perhaps; but her face was too cold, too austere. Now, however,
it seemed to him full of possibilities for beauty, softer, infinitely
more loving. In the old days, the curve of her lips had been haughty;
to-night, their firmer lines appeared to him like a mask worn to conceal
the gentler womanhood within. She was thinner, too; but browned by her
sea voyage, and she carried herself with the nameless dignity which
comes to a woman upon her bridal day.

Lorimer appeared to be in the pink of condition. He was more handsome
than ever, more graciously winning. His voice had all the old caressing
intonations which Thayer recalled so well, together with many new ones
that crept into his tone whenever he addressed his wife. By look and
word and gesture, he referred and deferred to her constantly; and his
eyes never failed to light, when they rested upon her own. No man could
have been more frankly and openly in love with his own wife.

"Then I take it for granted that the trip has been a success," Thayer
said, as he joined her.

"Indeed it has. Mr. Lorimer took me to all his old haunts and, in
Berlin, to all of yours that he could find. We went to your old
lodgings, and we heard a concert in the hall where you made your début
and, the last day we were there, Sidney insisted upon hunting up your
old master."

Thayer looked up suddenly.

"The dear old _Maestro_! Did he remember me?" he asked, with a boyish
enthusiasm which sat well upon him.

"Certainly he did, if _remember_ is the right word, for his knowledge of
you was not all in the past tense. He has followed you closely, and he
knows just what you have done. Mr. Thayer," she added abruptly; "why
have you never sung in opera?"

"Why should I?"

"Because he said that there was your especial talent, only he called it
by a stronger name. He jeers at the work you are doing."

Thayer smiled.

"I am sorry. I thought it was good work."

"So it is, as far as it goes. But the other goes farther."

"Perhaps," he assented. "But do you think it is as--as--"

"Good form?" she queried, laughing. "Yes, if you choose to have it so.
It depends something upon the individual. With your training and
traditions, you would scarcely elect to sing comic opera in English."

"Heaven forbid!" he said hastily. "But there are grades and grades, even
of the other. Not many mortals reach the top round of the ladder."

"No; and, even if they did, they would be a good deal in your way, for
the space up there is limited. It will be merely a question of your own
will whether or not you occupy a part of it."

He was surprised at the turn the conversation had taken. No woman, not
even Miss Gannion, had ever dared question to him the wisdom of his
choice, or imply to him that there were laurels which he had not yet
plucked. Strange to say, he rather enjoyed the frank fashion in which
Beatrix was taking him to task. Nevertheless, he fenced a little.

"I have always preferred a moderate success to an immoderate failure,"
he answered her.

She shook her head.

"That sounds specious; but you know it is a quibble. I had never
supposed that your ambition was so limited."

"But it is not the mark of limitation to know where my success lies."

"Perhaps not. For my part, though, I don't want to rest on any success.
If I succeed in one thing, that is over and done with, and I want to try
for something else."

"And if you fail?"

"Then, as soon as I am quite sure it is a failure and that no power of
mine can beat it into a success, I try to turn my back upon it, and face
another problem," she replied, with a quiet dignity which ignored the
flush that rose in both their faces at the careless question.

Thayer, too, had seen the flush in her cheeks which had answered to his
own rising color. For an instant, he questioned whether it were an
unwitting acknowledgment that her power over Lorimer was more limited
than she had supposed. Then he dismissed the suspicion. Her poise was
too perfect to make such a supposition possible. It was only that he,
knowing the truth, sought for confirmation upon all sides.

"You are a good fighter," he responded quietly. "What would be the
concrete application of your theory to my practice?"

"That you should try to fulfil the ambition your old master has for
you," she returned. "Why don't you try it? You can't gain any more glory
in your present field; you stand at the head of concert and oratorio
singers in America. You have nothing to lose; and, over there in Berlin,
there is an old man who boasts that he made your voice, and says that he
can never sing his _Nunc Dimittis_ until you have entered upon your
right path."

Thayer's face softened.

"Did he say that?"

"Yes, and he extorted a promise from me that I would tell you his very
words. That is the reason I have made bold to speak about the matter."

"What do you think about it, yourself, Mrs. Lorimer?"

"That he knows your possibilities much better than I," she answered
evasively.

"But you have an opinion," he urged.

"Yes, I have," she replied frankly. "From what he told me, and from what
I have heard of your singing, I know that you can do broader work than
any you have attempted. Your voice will do for either thing, opera or
oratorio; but on a few times--" she hesitated; then she went on without
flinching; "on the night of the Fresh Air Fund concert, for instance,
you showed a dramatic power that is wasted in your present work."
Suddenly she laughed at her own earnestness. "What am I, that I should
advise the star of the season? Do excuse my frankness, Mr. Thayer."

"I asked you."

"That's no reason I should bore you with all my theories upon a subject
of which I know practically nothing. And, meanwhile, I am forgetting to
tell you that we went to see Frau Arlt."

His face showed his pleasure and his approval, his pleasure that he had
found something in Lorimer to which he could give his unreserved
approval.

"I am glad you saw her. It was like Lorimer to hunt her up. Does Otto
know about it?"

"He came to dinner, a day or two after we landed. Mr. Lorimer had
written him a note to tell him we were at home, and you should have seen
the boy's delight over the box of funny little odds and ends his mother
had sent him. Sidney is always so thoughtful, and he suggested to the
old lady that we had room in our trunks for a package. I really think
that the boy was happier with his home-made gifts than I was with the
things Mr. Lorimer gave me in Paris."

[Illustration: "It was so that Thayer liked best to think of her"]

"He has been a very brave, but a very homesick little German," Thayer
answered, while his eyes rested thoughtfully on her face. It brightened
now, as she spoke of Lorimer, and a half-tender, half-amused smile was
playing around her lips. All in all, Thayer was broad enough to like it
better so.

Suddenly she rose, as if to end their conversation; but she turned back
again to add,--

"Of all my wedding gifts, Mr. Thayer, the sweetest was the blessing of
good old Frau Arlt. She will never forget Mr. Lorimer, and her story of
his kindness in their darkest days, her good wishes to me, and her
happiness in seeing us will always stand out as an unforgettable
picture. You knew all about it, of course; but I had no idea how good to
them Sidney had been, nor how full of tact."

The smile still lingered about her lips, and her cheeks were flushed a
little, as she turned away in answer to her husband's call. For long
months to come, it was so that Thayer liked best to think of her.



CHAPTER FIFTEEN


Beatrix raised her eyes from her letters. "Mother wants us to come to
dinner, to-night, Sidney."

"But you are scheduled for something else; aren't you?" he answered,
without looking up from his paper.

"For nothing that I can't break. There are some teas and the theatre. I
had thought I might have to hurry our dinner, to get through in time.
What if we give up the theatre? The Andersons won't mind, if we
telephone them so early."

"Just as well," he responded indifferently, as he turned his paper
inside out and ran his eye down the columns.

"Then shall I telephone mother that we will be there?"

"You can go, Beatrix. I sha'n't be able to be there."

"Why not, Sidney?"

"Because Dudley is giving a dinner at the club, to-night, and I am
booked for that."

"Oh, Sidney!" She checked herself abruptly.

Lowering his paper, he looked at her in surprise.

"What is it, dear?" he asked.

"Nothing, only--I wouldn't go."

"But I can't get out of it. Dudley made a point of my being there, and I
told him to count on me."

"I am sorry," she said quietly. "I don't like Mr. Dudley."

"Neither do I especially. Still, I saw a good deal of him at one time,
and, to-night, he wants to get together the old set. It's sort of a
farewell spread, for he starts for Nome, next week."

"But you had promised the Andersons."

"Yes, I told Anderson that I would get around in time to mingle my tears
with yours over the fifth act. Anderson is such a bore that I couldn't
stand a whole evening of him."

"Then I shall certainly refuse to go," Beatrix said decidedly.

Lorimer raised his brows inquiringly.

"For any especial reason?"

She had risen from the table, and now she stood looking down at him, a
world of disappointed love showing in her dark eyes. She forced herself
to smile a little, as her eyes met his.

"I am old-fashioned, Sidney. I don't like going to the theatre with
other men than my husband, four months after my wedding day."

He dropped his paper hastily, and, rising, linked his arm in hers.

"Why, Beatrix dear, I didn't suppose--"

"No," she said quietly; "but I wish you had supposed. Still, as long as
I found it out in time, there is no great harm done."

"But with older people like the Andersons," he urged. "And I should have
been there to come home with you."

She was silent, and he went on, after a pause,--

"I didn't think of your minding, dear girl. You know that I wouldn't be
discourteous to you for anything."

"Never mind about it now, Sidney. I can telephone to Mrs. Anderson, and
it will be all right," she answered more gently, for she felt the
contrition in his tone and it softened her momentary resentment at his
calm way of adjusting her convenience and happiness to his plans.
"Mother said Bobby is coming, and possibly Sally Van Osdel. She wanted
the four of us to go there for an impromptu dinner such as we used to
have."

"I am sorry, dear." There was a real note of regret in Lorimer's voice.
"She should have telephoned us earlier."

"She waited for Bobby's decision. He is the only one of us, you know,
who makes even a pretence of being busy. Besides, as late in the season
as this, it is generally safe to count on people."

"Apparently not," Lorimer returned lightly. "At least, I seem to be the
unlucky exception that proves the rule. I am sorry, for I know your
mother's dinners of old. I would break most engagements for them."

"Why not this?" she urged.

"Impossible. I promised, a week ago."

Her face flushed.

"How does it happen you haven't mentioned it?"

His answering laugh was frank and free from any taint of bitterness.

"Because I knew you didn't like Dudley, dear girl, and I didn't see any
use in discussing a matter on which we were bound to differ." He
evidently had had no intention of saying more; but, as he saw her
downcast face, he went on, "Truly, Beatrix, I couldn't decently refuse
the fellow, without any good reason."

She raised her eyes to his face a little haughtily.

"But it seems to me you had a good reason."

Lorimer laughed again. It was plain that he was determined not to be
jarred out of his genial mood.

"A good reason; but not one that was very tellable. You really don't
want me saying to a man that I can't eat his dinner because my wife
dislikes him."

Lorimer had no notion that his words could sting his wife, and he was
surprised at her heightened color and at the sudden aggressive poise of
her head. Then swiftly she controlled herself.

"Next time, you can concoct some more specious reason," she answered,
with forced lightness.

In his turn, Lorimer felt himself irritated by her calm feminine
assumption that his acceptance or refusal of invitations in future was
to be bounded by her dislikes.

"Next time, we will hope you will have annulled the reason," he
retorted. "Dudley isn't a bad fellow. Moreover, he has the saving grace
of knowing how to order a good dinner and get together a good crowd."

She felt the half-veiled hostility of his tone, and it cut her. She had
received similar cuts before, during the past three or four months.
Instead of rendering her callous, they had left a sore sensitiveness in
their scars. She battled against the soreness bravely. The Danes were a
race with level nerves, trained by generations of self-control to look
upon moods and lack of breeding as synonymous terms; and Beatrix had had
no conception of the swift alternations of feeling which marked and
marred the temperament of Lorimer. Often as they had been together
during their rather long engagement, he had been able to maintain a
moderately even mood whenever Beatrix was within reach. On one or two
occasions, he had betrayed the fact that he was gloomy and depressed;
but it was not until they came into the every-day and all-day contact
which follows upon the heels of the marriage ceremony that she had
supposed he could be either irritable or petulant. By the time they had
come home from Europe, she was quite aware of both characteristics; yet
they were alternated with hours of passionate devotion, of a tender
chivalry which took away much of their sting. Lorimer loved his wife
loyally; nevertheless, the very traits which most won the admiration of
his better hours, were the first ones to antagonize him when his moments
of irritation were upon him.

If Beatrix had been of the same temper, the danger for the future would
have been infinitely less. Flash would have answered to flash; and then
the quiet current would have run on as if the perfect contact had never
been broken. Instead of that, her quieter, better-controlled nature
received his flashes and made no outward sign of the shock. In the end,
she remained painfully sensitive to his petulance, while his real love
for her left her unbelieving, cold and apathetic. She had proof of the
one; the other was mainly negative, in so far as practical results were
concerned.

"Who are to be there?" she asked, as soon as she could trust her voice
to be properly inexpressive.

"Austin, and Tom Forbes, and Lloyd Avalons, and two or three men you
don't know, and Thayer."

"Mr. Thayer?" Her accent was incredulous.

"Certainly. Why not?"

"I didn't know that he ever had anything to do with Mr. Dudley, and I
really can't imagine his caring to make a table companion of Lloyd
Avalons."

Lorimer's answering laugh was slightly bitter.

"What a social Philistine you are, Beatrix! Thayer is not so narrow."

"Does that mean I am narrow?" she asked resentfully.

"Yes, for a woman who frowned disapproval upon Sally Van Osdel's late
utterances."

"Sally was talking of Mrs. Lloyd Avalons. Mrs. Lloyd Avalons is not bad,
only foolish: Mr. Lloyd Avalons is both." She drew a long breath, as she
paused with her teeth shut upon her lower lip. Suddenly her chin began
to quiver, and two heavy tears slid down her cheeks. Then she rallied
swiftly, for she knew that all men hate domestic tears. "Sidney," she
said slowly and with an evident effort towards steadiness; "let's not
discuss this any more. I will go to mother's, and you may come for me
there, after your dinner is over. I wish you could go with me; but never
mind. Only, Sidney,--next time, please tell me a little sooner when you
make a dinner engagement, and then I shall know just how to fit my plans
into yours. And--?" She raised her eyes to meet his squarely.

He understood.

"Yes, dear girl, I will be careful," he said, as he drew her to his
side.

For a moment, she stood there, passive. Then she went away out of the
room.

Thayer was the last guest to arrive, that night, and when he entered the
room, he found that both host and _chef_ were anxiously awaiting his
coming. He had spent the past two hours with Arlt, listening to scraps
of the completed overture, suggesting, praising, criticising it with an
acumen which surprised even the young composer, though he was fast
learning to attribute omniscience to his friend. After the shabby room
with its half-light, after the intent earnestness of Arlt, Thayer felt a
passing dislike of the gorgeousness and glare and frivolity of the
dinner. He was the last man to assert that good art can only associate
itself with homely origins, that prosperity is a deadly foe to its
growth. Nevertheless, he was fully conscious that Arlt in his meagre
surroundings was much nearer to his own ideals than were the immaculate
guests of the evening. Thayer loved luxury; but it must not be
accompanied by empty-headedness.

Thayer had had a definite purpose in accepting his invitation, that
night, a purpose which was quite alien to his mental estimate of his
host. Dudley, to his mind, was in some respects a shade or two better
than Lloyd Avalons, yet many shades worse in that his caddishness came
from deliberate choice, not from lack of training. In any case, Thayer
prayed that he might be remote from either of them, at table.

He quickly discovered that his prayer had been unavailing. He found
himself at the host's right hand, with Lorimer directly opposite. Lloyd
Avalons was next to Lorimer, and, as the dinner progressed by easy
stages, Thayer became aware that his purpose in coming was about to be
put to the test. The dinner was good and abundant; the wines were better
and yet more abundant, and Lloyd Avalons, who appeared to be constructed
of some material which alcohol was powerless to attack, saw to it that
Lorimer's glass was filled as often as his own. The result was
inevitable. Before Lloyd Avalons felt the slightest exhilaration,
Lorimer's brown cheeks were stained with red, and his voice was mounting
by semitones, then by whole tones, while his accent took on a curiously
insistent note which was quite foreign to the trivial subjects of
discussion.

"How did it happen that you were at Eton, Lorimer?" Dudley asked, at the
end of an unnecessarily long story.

"My father took me over. He was at St. James, you know, and he thought I
would find more fellows of my own class at Eton than up here at
Andover."

"That's modest of you, Lorimer," someone called, from the foot of the
table. "But please remember that I'm an Andover man."

"And even then wouldn't they accept you for the ministry?" Lorimer asked
promptly.

The man laughed with perfect good-temper. Already he was two glasses
ahead of Lorimer; but no outward sign betrayed the fact.

"I am willing to bet that they kept you more strict at Eton than the
Doctor kept us."

Lorimer set down his glass and gave a knowing wink which, at another
time, he would have been swift to condemn in his left-hand neighbor.

"They tried; but they couldn' do much about it. Besides, there was
college, you know."

"We all have experienced university discipline," Dudley suggested. "It
is swift and powerful, and nobody ever knows where it will hit next."

Lorimer appeared to be pondering the matter. Then he turned to Lloyd
Avalons.

"D' you ever 'sperience university discipline?" he demanded, with grave
anxiety.

Lloyd Avalons flushed angrily, and Thayer judged that it was time to
interpose.

"University discipline is more a matter of theory than of fact," he said
lightly. "If you want real discipline, you'd better go through a course
of voice training. How much was my allowance, the last of the time in
Berlin, Lorimer? My salamanders were mere tadpoles."

Lorimer caught at the familiar word.

"_Ein! Zwei! Drei! Salamander! Salamander! Salamander!_" he cried
gayly. "It makesh me homesick for the good ol' days in Berlin."

"You were over, in January; weren't you?" Lloyd Avalons asked.

"Yes, aft' a fashion; but 't wasn' the ol' fashion. A studen' an' a
married man's two differen' things. I took Mrs. Lorimer everywhere an'
to show her grat'tude she took me in han'." And Lorimer's own laugh rang
out merrily at what seemed to him a superlatively good joke.

The next moment, Thayer's level voice, low, yet so perfectly trained
that it reached the farthest corner of the room, broke in upon Lorimer's
mirth and quenched it. There was no bitterness in his voice, no
excitement; he spoke as quietly as if he had been wishing his friend
good-morning.

"It's a pity she isn't here to take you in hand now, Lorimer," he said,
with a smile. "As long as she isn't, I think perhaps I'll do it,
myself."

The deliberate, even tone steadied Lorimer somewhat. He pulled himself
together and stared haughtily at Thayer.

"What do you mean?" he demanded. "I don't understand you."

There was a short silence while it pleased Lorimer to imagine that he
was measuring his puny strength against the power of the other. Then,
before Thayer's gray eyes, his own eyes drooped.

"I think you do understand, Lorimer," Thayer said calmly. "If not, we
can talk it over outside. You know we are due at Mrs. Dane's at ten, and
it is almost that, now. Dudley, I am sorry that this is good-by for so
long. Don't let us break up the party." And, rising, he nodded to the
other guests and took his departure without a backward glance.

He had reckoned accurately, for experience had taught him to know his
man. Lorimer sat still for a moment, then hesitated, and rose. He bade
an over-cordial good-night to Dudley and Lloyd Avalons, exchanged with
the others a jesting word or two of which the humor was obviously
forced; then he sullenly followed Thayer out of the room and out of the
club.

Once safely in the street, Thayer freed his mind, forcibly and tersely
according to his wont.

"It's bad enough to fall into temptation, Lorimer; but the fellow who
deliberately canters into it comes mighty near not being worth the
saving. Some day, you'll wake up to find the truth of that fact; and
then Heaven help you, for there may not be anyone else willing to take
the trouble!"



CHAPTER SIXTEEN


Slowly and by almost imperceptible stages, spring had crept into summer
and summer had crawled sluggishly into autumn. Rose color had turned to
green, green to gold, and then all colors had faded to the uniform gray
of November. To Beatrix it seemed that nature's change typified that of
her life; to Thayer and Arlt the rose color and the gold were still
glowing. For the time being, the problems of their professional lives
were absorbing them both, to the exclusion of more human interests. Such
epochs are bound to come to every man. However broad and generous-minded
he may be, there are hours when it seems to him that the rising of the
sun and the going down of the same are functions of nature ordained
merely for the sake of giving chronological record of his own
professional advancement. November brought them both to this mood and,
while it lasted, each found the other his only satisfactory companion.

To Thayer the summer had been a matter of personal mathematics, the
solving of simultaneous personal equations. He had refused the
Lorimers' urgent invitation to join them at Monomoy. He had felt unequal
to prolong the double strain he had endured, those last weeks in town
before society broke up for the summer. It was almost unbearable to him
to be within daily reach of Beatrix, to be forced to face her with the
unvarying conventional smile of mere social acquaintance. It was
infinitely worse to be forced to look on and watch the gradual wrecking
of her hopes, to know that she was unhappy, discouraged and full of fear
for the future, and to realize that another man was carelessly bringing
upon her all this from which he would have given his own life to shield
her. Yet bad and worse were subordinated to worst. The worst, the most
unbearable phase of the whole situation lay in the knowledge, again and
again brought to the proof, that he himself was the only living person
who had the ability to hold Lorimer even approximately steady, that in a
way the thread of his destiny was knotted together with that of Beatrix.
He loved her absolutely, and the only proof of his love for her must lie
in his strange power to make more tolerable for her the galling yoke of
her marriage to another man.

Even in these few short months, it had become evident to the world that
the yoke was a galling one. Beatrix wore it bravely, even haughtily.
Nevertheless, it was chafing her until she was raw. Like a horse
surprised by the discovery of its own power, from occasional friskiness,
Lorimer was settling into a steadily increasing pace. During the months
of probation, he had held himself fairly steady, rather than lose the
chance of winning Beatrix for his wife. Now that she was won, he snapped
the check he had put upon himself, and yielded to the acquired momentum
gained during his self-imposed repression. By the time he came home from
Europe, Bobby and Thayer both realized that something was amiss. By the
first of June, it was an open secret that all was not well with
Lorimer's soul.

Lorimer still loved Beatrix with all the fervor of his nature. To him,
she was the one and only woman in the world, someone to be caressed and
indulged and played with, the comrade of his domestic hours. But, when
the other mood was upon him, he acknowledged no right upon her part to
offer advice or warning. He treated her as one treats a spoiled child,
fondling her until her presence bored him or interfered with his other
plans, then quietly setting her aside and going his own way alone. As
far as any woman could have held him, Beatrix could have done so; but
in Lorimer's life feminine influence was finite. When he was moved to
take the bits in his teeth, only a man, and but one man at that, was
able to check him. That man was Cotton Mather Thayer.

On a few occasions, Beatrix had endeavored to hold her husband, not from
temptation itself, but from the first steps towards it. She might as
well have tried to bar the rising tide with a pint sieve. At such times,
it seemed to her that Lorimer deliberately made up his mind to have a
revel, that he set himself to work to carry out his desires to a
satisfactory conclusion. These periods came at irregular intervals; but,
all in all, the intervals were shortening and the revels were
increasing. Beatrix learned their symptoms far too quickly; she learned
to know the depression and irritability which greeted her every effort
to rouse and to please him. It was at such times that Lorimer made
bitter revolt against what he termed her narrowness and prejudice, or
burst into occasional angry petulance, if she tried to urge him to cut
loose from the club and from the constantly-growing influence of Lloyd
Avalons who was discerning enough to discover that Lorimers appetite was
a possible lever by which he himself might pry himself up into a more
stable position in society. In this matter, however, Lloyd Avalons was
not quite so unprincipled as he seemed. To his mind, there was nothing
so very bad about a little matter of social intoxication. The evil of
drink was an affair bounded by purely geographical lines, and he
encouraged in Lorimer the very thing for which he would have been prompt
to dismiss the man who cleaned the snow off his sidewalk.

Afterwards, when the depression had ended in the revel, when they both
had ended in penitence, Lorimer temporarily came back again to the old
ways. The caressing intonations returned to his voice, as he talked to
Beatrix; his eyes followed her with loving pride, as she moved about the
room; for days at a time he devoted himself to her wishes, serving her
with a tireless chivalry which made her long to forget all that had gone
before. However, Beatrix could not forget certain facts; certain
episodes were so fixed in her memory that they seemed branded upon the
very tissue of her life. In some respects, these intervening days were
the hardest ones she had to bear. Lorimer seemed totally unable to grasp
the fact that any permanent barrier was rising between them, that there
was any real reason why they should not meet on precisely the old
ground. To his mind, half an hour of impulsive penitence could wipe out
half a night of deliberate sin, and Beatrix dared not explain to him
that it was otherwise. Her hold over him, that hold which once she had
deemed so strong, was growing slighter with every passing month. Any
hasty or ill-considered word from her might have the effect of
destroying it altogether. For the present, the most she could do, was to
avoid antagonizing him; and even that was no easy task. She was quite
unable to decide whether it took more self-control to accept in silence
his petulance or his caresses. Meanwhile, she was thankful for the
apparently growing friendship between Thayer and her husband. During
late May and all of June, Thayer was with Lorimer almost daily, and
Lorimer came nearest to his old, winning self on the days when he had
been longest in company with Thayer.

With the general scattering of people which heralds the coming of
summer, it seemed to Thayer that, for the time being, Lorimer's danger
was over, and it was with a sigh of utter relief that he saw Lorimer and
Beatrix starting for Monomoy. Strong as he was, Thayer had felt the
strain of the past six weeks; and it was good to hide himself with Arlt
in a Canadian fishing village, dismiss his responsibilities to his
neighbor, and give himself up to absolute idleness and much good music.

He had planned to spend August and September in Germany; but fate willed
otherwise. Less than a week before he was to sail, he received a laconic
epistle from Bobby Dane, dated at the hotel where he himself had spent
the previous summer.

     "DEAR THAYER,--Wish you could come down here for August. Lorimer is
     raising the deuce, and I can't do much with him. Besides, I am
     ordered back, next week. I suppose the devil needs my
     ministrations. I'll see to one, if you'll tackle the other.

                                              Yours,
                                                           R. F. DANE."

Thayer hesitated for three minutes. Then he wrote two telegrams. One was
to the office of the steamship company. The other was to the hotel near
Monomoy.

The reaction which followed, was a natural one. Late in September,
Thayer returned to New York, preparatory to a concert tour through New
England. Exhausted by the long strain of mastering both himself and
Lorimer, he threw himself into his work with a feverish intensity which
astounded Arlt and roused his audiences to the highest pitch of
enthusiasm. Thayer took his new honors quietly, however. In his secret
heart, he knew that this had been the simplest way to work off his
stored-up emotions, and he reached New York, early in November, with a
greater reputation and steadier nerves than he had even dared to hope.

The tour had been a prosperous one for Arlt, as well. Upon several
occasions, he had met with marked favor, and the little touch of success
had reacted upon his personality, rendering him more at ease, more
masterful with his audience. To be popular, art must be modest; but woe
betide it, if it be in the least deprecating! However, Arlt was learning
to face his public with a fairly good grace, and his public showed
itself willing to smile back at him in a thoroughly friendly fashion.

Arlt's overture was to have its first hearing, the week before
Thanksgiving. The matter had been arranged through the influence of his
teacher, and Arlt had been invited to conduct the orchestra for the
event. However, in spite of his added ease, Arlt had judged such an
ordeal too great for his courage. Accordingly, the teacher and Thayer
had taken council together, with the result that Thayer was engaged as
soloist for the evening, and that Thayer insisted upon singing one
group of songs with a piano accompaniment. To this minor detail, Arlt
had been forced to submit, although he was shrewd enough to see that it
was merely a ruse on the part of his teacher to bring him in person
before his audience.

The arrangement of these details, the orchestral rehearsals of the
overture and his own rehearsals with Arlt were engrossing Thayer
completely. Heart and soul, he was working for the boy's success, for he
realized that into this simple overture Arlt had put the very best of
himself, that the young composer's happiness was bound up in the success
or failure of his maiden effort. The creative power had come upon him;
he had worked to the utmost limit with the material ready to his brain.
Now he was waiting to have the world pass judgment whether his work was
worth the doing, whether he should keep on, or turn his back upon his
chosen path. Thayer's own plans, too, were maturing. In the watching
them develop, in the helping Arlt to pass the time of waiting, he almost
succeeded in forgetting the Lorimers. Almost; but not quite. The
forgetting was a little too intentional to be entirely complete. He met
them rarely. Society had not yet organized its winter campaign, and it
was still possible for a man to go his own individual way. Just now,
Thayer's own individual way led him almost daily in the direction of
Washington Square.

He was in Arlt's room, one evening, less than a week before the concert.
He had been dining with Miss Gannion; but he had left her early, in
order to impress upon Arlt that he must accept his bidding to the supper
which the Lorimers were to give after the concert. The invitations had
been noncommittal, and Arlt had announced his intention of declining his
own, on the plea of being too tired with his overture to care to do
anything more, that night. Miss Gannion had told Thayer what he already
half suspected, that Beatrix was really giving this supper in Arlt's
honor and that it was to be the first large affair of the season, in the
hope of focussing public attention upon the boy at the very moment of
his having proved his real genius as composer. Thayer appreciated to the
full the gracious kindliness of the plan, and he had excused himself to
Miss Gannion and hurried away in search of Arlt, devoutly praying, as he
went, that the note of regret might not be already on its way.

He was but just in time. The sealed note lay on the table, and Arlt was
shrugging himself into his overcoat, when Thayer entered the room. Ten
minutes later, they were still arguing the matter, when they heard an
unfamiliar step coming up the stairs.

"Mr. Arlt?" A strange voice followed the knock.

Arlt opened the door hospitably. The dim light in the hallway showed him
a figure known to every opera singer in America and half of Europe.

"Will you come in?" he asked, in some surprise.

"Is Mr. Thayer here?"

"I am." Thayer stepped into the lighted doorway. "You wished me?"

"Yes. What is more, I need you. We know each other well by sight, so I
suppose there is no call for us to waste time on introductions. Mr.
Thayer, Principali, one of my best baritones, is ill and is forced to
cancel his engagements. Will you take his place?"

Thayer meditated swiftly, during a moment of silence.

"What are the operas?"

"Wagner, _Faust_ of course, and--oh, the usual run of extras."

"What reason have you to think that I am fitted for your vacancy?"
Thayer asked directly.

The impresario smiled.

"Your old master in Berlin is one of my most intimate friends. He gave
you a letter of introduction to me, I think?" The accent was
interrogative, although it was plain that only one answer was expected.

"He did," Thayer assented quietly.

"Yes, and I have been waiting for more than a year in the hope that you
would present it. Since you will not come to me, I am at last driven to
go in search of you."

Thayer bowed gravely in recognition of the implied compliment. He
realized that he was suddenly facing a question which might affect his
whole after life, and he was too much in earnest to waste words on mere
conventional phrases. He liked the old man, and he felt a swift, burning
longing to accept his offer. It had come unsought, unexpected. Was not
fate in it; and was not a man always justified in following out his
fate? To accept it would be in a great measure to cut himself off from
his present social life. An operatic engagement would engross him
completely. All in all, it might be better so. And yet, there was
something to be said upon the other side. Was he justified in working
out his own professional salvation at the certain cost of the damnation
of another soul? That was what it amounted to in the long run. If he
went into opera, he must separate himself from all connection with
Sidney Lorimer. He could not take the time to visit Lorimer's world; it
would be sure and swift destruction to Lorimer, if he were to set foot
within the new world which Thayer was preparing to enter. Thayer
realized that the horns of his dilemma were long and curving. The offer
tempted him sorely; yet, for some unaccountable reason, he shrank from
turning his back upon Lorimer. And, besides, if Beatrix--

"How long would you need me?"

"The entire season."

"How soon?"

"In _Faust_, on the tenth of next month."

"In _Faust_?"

The impresario saw that Thayer was hesitating. The idea of Faust plainly
attracted him, and the impresario hastily followed up the advantage.

"Yes, we want you for _Valentine_."

"My favorite part," Thayer said, half to himself.

The impresario smiled serenely. He felt no question now as to the
outcome of his errand.

"Calvé will sing _Marguerite_; it will be a good cast. After that, we
shall need you, two or three times a week, and the salary--"

Impatiently Thayer brushed his words aside.

"How soon must you have my answer?"

"To-night."

"Very well. Then, no."

The impresario straightened up in his chair.

"Mr. Thayer!" he remonstrated.

"It is impossible for me to bind myself for an entire season, without
more time to think the matter over," Thayer said quietly.

"But it is important that I should know, in order to make my other
arrangements."

"Then you would better consider it settled in the negative," Thayer
returned.

The impresario wavered.

"How much time do you need?" he asked a little impatiently.

"I must have a week."

"Impossible."

"Very well, then. But I thank you for the honor you have done me in
asking me to fill the place."

Thayer rose with an air of decision, and the impresario could do nothing
else than follow his example. At the door, he turned back.

"Mr. Thayer, there is no use in my trying to conceal the fact that I
want you badly. If I will wait until a week from to-night, will you give
me your answer then?"

"I will," Thayer replied imperturbably.

"And sign the contracts on the spot?"

"I will," Thayer repeated; "but remember this: in the meantime, I am
binding myself to nothing. Good-night."

He went down the stairs with the impresario. When he returned to Arlt's
room, a moment later, he took up the conversation at the precise point
where they had dropped it; but, even in the dusky room, Arlt could see
that Thayer's eyes were blazing as he had never seen them till then. Not
long afterwards, Thayer glanced down at his own strong, slim hand that
rested on the table beside him. The fingers were moving restlessly and,
on the back, the cords twitched a little now and then. Thayer watched it
curiously for a moment. Then he clasped his hands on his knee and held
them there, motionless.



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN


Above the murmur of talk of his guests, Lorimer's voice rose, high and
clear, merry as the voice of a happy child.

"It's a great night for you, Arlt, the night of your life. Ladies and
ge'men, le's drink to Mr. Arlt."

"You've done it once, Lorimer," Thayer interposed. "Arlt will be getting
more than is good for him."

"And so will you," he might have added; but there seemed to him a
certain impossibility in imposing a check upon a man in his own house
and in the presence of his own guests.

Lorimer laughed out blithely.

"Ne' mind. Arlt can stand it; his head is level. B'sides, las' time, I
drank to Arlt the composer. This time, it's to Arlt the accompanist. He
hasn' any business to play a double rôle, if he can' stan' the double
applause. To the success of Mr. Otto Arlt!"

Thayer raised his glass and set it down again, untasted. As he glanced
across at Arlt with an explanatory smile, he caught the eyes of Beatrix
fixed upon him imploringly. It was evident that she was putting her hope
in him to end the scene; but for the once Thayer was ready to confess
himself beaten. The house and the champagne both were Lorimer's. Under
these conditions, he was powerless to act. Moreover, he felt a sudden
impatience with Beatrix for allowing the champagne in her own home, when
she had learned from months of bitter experience that a single glass
could render Lorimer totally untrustworthy. If this were the measure of
her influence for good, she might as well have married Lorimer in the
first place, without insisting upon those long months of probation. As
he had watched the progress of that merry supper in Arlt's honor, Thayer
had been distressed about Lorimer and about the scene which must
inevitably follow; but his distress had been as nothing in comparison
with his disappointment in Beatrix.

In reality, Beatrix had had no responsibility in the matter.

"I don't see any need of our having champagne, Sidney," she had said, on
the morning that they had first discussed the detail of the supper.

Lorimer had been in one of his old-time moods. Now he laughed a little.

"What a Puritan you are, Beatrix!" he said, as he bent caressingly over
her shoulder to read the completed list of guests.

"Not a Puritan," she urged; "but I would rather not have the champagne,
Sidney. It isn't at all necessary; we can get on perfectly well without
it."

"And a good deal better with it," he retorted, laughing. "Well, never
mind it now, dear girl. But what about a florist?"

And Beatrix, delighted at her easy victory, had allowed herself to be
led off into a consideration of the decorations for the table. She could
not be expected to foresee that, in giving the final orders for the
supper, Lorimer would include a generous allowance of champagne. Neither
could she have foreseen that one of the invitations would find its way
into the hands of Lloyd Avalons. Confronted suddenly by both the
champagne and Lloyd Avalons, Beatrix had faltered only for a moment.
Then she had rallied to meet the inevitable crisis so swiftly that no
one but Bobby Dane at her elbow had been aware of her momentary
weakness. Thayer had been at the other end of the room, and had missed
the instant of hesitation. By the time he had discovered the situation,
Beatrix had forced herself to meet it as a matter of course. She
faltered a second time, however, as she met the questioning glance which
Thayer gave her. She had learned to care for his good opinion; she knew
that now she was in danger of forfeiting it. Nevertheless, her loyalty
to her husband was paramount. Never by a spoken word had she implied to
Thayer that Lorimer was falling below her ideals. To-night, hurt as she
was by his deception, anxious as she was in regard to the outcome of the
episode, nevertheless she remained true to her usual careful reticence.
To a woman of Beatrix Lorimer's temper it was easier to bear unjust
blame than to demand just pity. And yet, as she recognized that the
facts were apparently all against her, she could not help hoping that
Thayer would suspend judgment until he had talked with Bobby Dane. Bobby
had seen the memoranda for the supper, and had advised her in regard to
some of the details. Not only was he the one person besides herself and
Lorimer who knew the whole truth; but he could invariably be relied upon
to tell the truth in its entirety.

As Lorimer had said, it was a great night for Arlt. His work had scored
a complete success, and he had been called twice before the audience to
receive in person his applause. Something in the simple overture had
caught the fancy of the orchestra, and they had played it with an
enthusiasm, had interpreted it with a dainty accuracy to Arlt's own mood
which would have won prompt recognition for a work of far less merit.
The critics were warm in their praises; but the audience, upon whom a
popular success depends far more than upon the professional leaders of
opinion, was in a mood to be expressed by no such temperate phrase. As
he lingered in the Lorimers' box, watching the young German come forward
to the footlights, Thayer was ready to predict a fair measure of lasting
popularity to his friend. The audience was most hospitable to him. It
now remained for the Lorimers' supper to set upon him the seal of social
approval. For Arlt's sake, Thayer devoutly hoped that the supper would
be a success. Under other conditions, he might have had his doubts. This
was the first time he had seen Lorimer for weeks; but the stories which
had drifted to his ears had not been reassuring. In Lorimer's own house,
however, there could be no danger. He felt that he could count upon
Beatrix to forestall that.

In the weeks since they had met, it seemed to him that Beatrix must have
grown more beautiful with each passing day. Beneath the perfect poise
of her manner, he could see an increasing gentleness, a sadness which
was under absolute control. She was as strong as ever, but less
self-reliant. Experience had taught her that she was powerless to fight
alone. In her worst battles, she had learned that she must rely upon
another; and Thayer, as he watched her, rejoiced that that other was
himself. His weeks of separation from her, of enforced forgetfulness,
had taught him a lesson which he had been loath to learn. Rather than be
outside her world, rather than be upon the same footing as all the other
inhabitants of that world, he would gladly endure a strain like that of
the past summer, would accept the place where fate had put him, as the
one man who could make more tolerable her own life with her husband. It
was not a dignified position; yet, for her sake, he believed that he
could fill it in a way which would add dignity to the lives of them
both. At least, he would do the best that was in him. He took no account
of the possibility that, within an hour, he would be balked in his
efforts by certain uninfringible laws of hospitality.

"Moreover," Lorimer went on, still in that unwonted high, clear voice;
"le's drink to Arlt's mother an' sister, Frau Arlt an' Frãulein Katarina
Arlt."

The sudden angry color blazed up in Arlt's cheeks, and he straightened
in his chair. Then he caught Thayer's eye, and with an effort he
controlled himself. The instant's by-play had caused Thayer to lose the
next words of his host; but Lorimer's laugh was ringing out with such
infectious mirth that the guests were laughing with him, although with
obvious reluctance to show their merriment.

Lorimer babbled on discursively.

"I knew 'em well. They were having har' times to get on, an' Arlt here
could n' begin to carry the load. It was killing him, an' so Thayer an'
I--"

"Let the rest go, Lorimer," Thayer broke in hastily, for now two
appealing faces were looking to him for help. "We know all about it."

Lorimer turned to him with an air of grave rebuke.

"You know, Thayer, for you were there. But the res' do' know. How could
they? They were n' there." He paused long enough to empty the glass
before him. Then he braced one hand against the edge of the table and
raised the other, as if to add emphasis to his words. "I was there, an'
you were there, an' Arlt was there. Nobody else was there. If they had
been, they'd know 'bout it, to-night. Plucky fellow, Arlt, an' he
d'serves his success. If 't had n' been for you an' me, Thayer, Arlt
would have gone under, though. No wond' Frau Arlt calls me _Lieb Sohn_.
If it had n' been for me, she would n' have had any _sohn_ 't all. With
me, there's pair of us."

He delivered himself of this long speech with an air of portentous
gravity. Then he turned away from Thayer and smiled benignly up the
table. Side by side at the farther end, Arlt and Beatrix seemed
powerless to take their eyes from his face. Lorimer caught the eye of
Beatrix and instantly his face lighted, as he kissed his hand to her.

"Supper's a gran' success, dear girl," he called gayly. "Ought to be,
cost 'nough, an' has been no end trouble; but it pays. People will know
wha' we think of Arlt now. He's geniush, 'n no mishtake; are n' you,
Arlt?"

"Bobby," Sally whispered; "I must go away, I can't bear this for another
minute."

Bobby nodded comprehendingly.

"Slip out, the next time he begins on Thayer. I think you can do it, and
you oughtn't to stay. I wish the others would go, too."

"They may follow me. I would break it up, if I dared; but--Bobby, I'm
afraid."

"So am I," Bobby growled through his shut teeth. "Come back in the
morning, Sally. Beatrix may need you. I'd go with you now; but I dare
not leave things."

But Lorimer's eye was upon them.

"Wha' now, Sally?" he asked jovially. "Bobby been making a bad pun, that
you look so savage?"

Sally hesitated. For one instant, she eyed her host as if he had been a
scorpion that had crawled across her path. Then she controlled herself,
and her voice took on its customary mocking drawl.

"No; I only feel savage because I know you must have set the clocks
ahead. Just see! It is high time we all were going home, and you know I
always hate to start."

Lorimer glanced at the clock on the mantel. Then he turned to the man
behind his chair.

"Stop tha' clock!" he commanded. "We can' have anybody talk 'bout going
home yet. Night's only jus' begun, an' there's quarts more champagne.
Beatrix did n' wan' us to have any; but I don' believe in being stingy."

Sally had already risen, and one or two other women, casting furtive,
apologetic glances towards Beatrix, were hurriedly following Sally's
example. In the slight confusion, it seemed to Thayer that his chance
had come, and he took it. Unfortunately, however, for the once he had
reckoned without his man. He had kept careful count of the glasses which
Lorimer had emptied since he had sat down at the table, and he knew that
the danger limit was not far distant. In fact, the danger limit was
already passed. Thayer had had no means of taking into account the
glasses which Lorimer had slyly emptied, during his short absence from
the room before they had gone to the table. The mischief was already
done. The slightest shock which could disturb Lorimer's present mood
would be sufficient to destroy his whole mental balance past any
possibility of restoration. Thayer's error in judgment promptly
furnished the shock.

Lorimer had turned again to the butler at the back of his chair.

"Fill thish up," he demanded, as he pointed to his glass.

With a swift gesture, Thayer caught the man's attention, and shook his
head. The man hesitated, halting between two masters. The one paid him
his wages; the other commanded his entire respect, and it was not easy
for him to choose the one whom he should obey.

"Fill thish up, I shay!" Lorimer's voice was thicker, his accent
imperious.

Swiftly the old butler glanced at Thayer as if for instructions, and
Thayer again shook his head. This time, Lorimer saw the signal. The next
instant, his empty glass was flying straight in the direction of
Thayer's face.

There was a frightened outcry from the women; but Thayer swerved
slightly to one side, and the glass crashed harmlessly against the
mantel. There followed the tinkle of the falling pieces, then a
stillness so profound that from one end to the other of the long room
Lorimer's heavy breathing was distinctly audible. The impending crisis
seemed to paralyze the guests. Those who had risen, stood motionless in
their places; the others made no effort to rise. They remained there
together, silent, passive, tense, with Lorimer facing them all, like a
savage beast at bay.

[Illustration: "Beatrix still sat at the disordered table"]

The interval, seemingly so endless, lasted only for a moment. Then, with
a beast-like snarl, Lorimer sprang up, overturning his chair, and hurled
himself straight upon Thayer. Strong as he was, Thayer tottered before
the blow, for the strength of Lorimer just then was far beyond the
human. Drink-crazed and brutalized, he had the fierce power of a
maddened brute. There was a swift, sharp struggle, broken by strange,
inarticulate cries, making the women hide their faces and cram their
fingers into their ears to shut out sight and sound. Then the struggle
grew still again, and they heard Thayer's steady voice saying,--

"I think he is quiet now. Dane, will you help me to carry him to his
room?"

One by one, the terrified guests slank away. There were no good-nights
scarcely a whispered word in the dressing-rooms upstairs. At length,
they were all gone, and the house was still. The lights from the open
windows glared out across the night, and the rooms inside were heavy
with the fragrance of roses and the smell of champagne. Upstairs in
Lorimer's room, Thayer and Bobby Dane were watching the lethargic sleep
which had fallen upon their host, and counting the moments until Arlt
could bring the doctor back with him. Downstairs, alone in the abandoned
dining-room, Beatrix still sat at the disordered table, with her head
bowed forward upon her clasped hands.



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


"It's a devilish mess, do what you will," Bobby said grimly, the next
morning.

"The punishment seems a good deal out of proportion to the cause,"
Thayer replied briefly.

"Hh!" Bobby grunted. "I think he did well to get off without a genuine
case of D. T."

"I was speaking of your cousin, not of Lorimer."

Bobby stared at him in astonishment.

"Really, Thayer, I can't see any cause that was of Beatrix's making," he
returned haughtily.

"It was mistaken judgment, to say the least, to have champagne in the
house," Thayer answered.

"Beatrix had nothing to do with that," Bobby blazed forth angrily. "It
was that brute of a Lorimer, and he deserves all he got, and more, too.
I saw the order to the caterer, made out in Beatrix's handwriting, and
there wasn't a pint of champagne on it. Lorimer sent in the order
afterwards, just as he invited that serpent of a Lloyd Avalons. Beatrix
couldn't help herself."

"She could have countermanded the order."

"She didn't know it till the guests were there. I was with her when she
discovered it, and she took it like a heroine. She was perfectly
helpless. She couldn't make a scene in her own house, and she couldn't
reasonably be expected to send her guests home. She knew exactly what
was bound to happen, what she couldn't help happening, and she kept her
head steady and faced the thing as boldly as she could. I never thought
you would be the one to go back on her, Thayer."

Thayer started to speak. Then he squared his jaw, and was silent. After
a long interval, he said humbly,--

"I have wronged your cousin, Dane. I am very sorry."

"So am I," Bobby returned flatly. "Beatrix has come to where she needs
every friend she owns in the world to stand by her. By to-night, the
story of that supper will have spread from the Battery to Poughkeepsie
bridge. It will be garbled and twisted into all manner of shapes, and it
will come boomeranging back at her from every quarter of the town. When
it comes to gossip, we find Manhattan Island is a mighty small place;
but I suppose Australia is just as bad."

Thayer interrupted his meditations ruthlessly.

"How is Lorimer, this morning? You've been to the house, I suppose."

"Yes, I've just come from there. Lorimer is convalescent, which means he
is a blamed sight better than he deserves to be. I didn't care to see
him; but they assured me he was sitting up and regaling himself on raw
oysters and chicken broth. He is probably an edifying spectacle by this
time, a mush of maudlin penitence. I've seen him before this in his
next-morning mood. Put not your trust in a moral jellyfish!" And Bobby,
his fists in his pockets, stamped up and down the room to ease his
resentment. "The next move is to be a radical one," he continued, after
a pause. "They are going into the Adirondacks."

Thayer looked up sharply.

"They? Who?"

"Beatrix and Lorimer."

"What for?"

"Safety; taking to the woods, and all that."

"What do you mean, Dane?" Thayer asked sternly. "This is no time for
joking. Do speak out."

"I beg your pardon, Thayer. The fact is, I am utterly reckless, this
morning, and I don't know nor care what I am saying. If you loved
Beatrix as I do--"

"Yes," Thayer returned quietly. "I understand."

"No; you don't. You can't. We've been such chums. What hurts her, hurts
me; and, to my dying day, I shall never forget her as we found her in
the dining-room, last night. She knew then it was all over." Bobby's
voice broke upon the last words; then he pulled himself up sharply.
"This morning, we had a council of war, Mrs. Dane and Beatrix and the
doctor and I. The doctor says that Beatrix isn't well, and that another
such scene would kill her, or worse. I was for shutting Lorimer up in an
inebriate asylum; but Beatrix opposed the idea. She was so excited about
it that the doctor finally took sides with her, and said that she and
Lorimer would better not be separated, at least, not until something
else comes up. Do you grasp the pleasant state of things? Lorimer is to
be left with her till something does come up; when the something does
come, it may kill her. That's what they call an alternative, I suppose."

"But the Adirondacks?" Thayer reminded him. It was unlike Bobby Dane to
go off like this into conversational blind alleys. Thayer, as he
listened and looked at his friend's haggard face, realized suddenly that
Bobby was far less superficial than was generally supposed.

"The doctor ordered them both out of town. It is the only way to keep
Lorimer out of mischief, get him into the wilderness to live on venison
and bromides. We chose the Adirondacks because it was near and safe, and
because we could tell people that Beatrix needed the air. Of course,
they'll know we are lying; but we may as well lie valiantly and
plausibly, while we are about it."

"When do they go?"

"Monday."

"Who goes?"

"They hire a cottage, and take enough servants to run it. Then there
will be a man for Lorimer. The doctor insisted upon that."

"Who else?"

"Beatrix and Lorimer."

"And Mrs. Dane?"

"No; no one else."

"You don't mean that Mrs. Lorimer is going up into that wilderness
alone?"

"Alone with her liege lord," Bobby said bitterly.

"But she mustn't. It's not safe."

"Who can go? Mrs. Dane is not strong; she would only be an extra care
for Beatrix."

"Mr. Dane, then."

"He's no use. I would go, myself; but I can't well get off. Besides,
Lorimer hates me, and my being there would only make it harder for
Beatrix. Do you really think she ought to have someone?" Bobby's voice
was anxious.

"For nine days, no; for the tenth, yes," Thayer said decidedly. "We both
know that, some time or other, Lorimer is bound to go on another spree.
No; there's no use in being too hard on him. The time has passed, if it
ever existed, when he was as responsible as you would be, or I. It's in
his blood, and he has lost all his nerve to fight it out. But, when that
spree comes, if it comes while they are up there, Mrs. Lorimer must have
someone to stand back of her. Who is there?"

Bobby shook his head.

"I don't know," he confessed. "I would go, if I could; but I can't."

There was a long silence between the two men. Thayer, sitting at his
desk, was absently measuring his blotting pad with a letter, so many
envelopes' length this way, so many that. The letter was from the
impresario, reminding him that his decision was due, that night, and
urging him to accept the offer. At length, Thayer turned around away
from the desk, and faced Bobby.

"Is there a hotel near there?" he asked.

"Half a mile away."

"Open at this season?"

"Yes, there are always cranks and consumptives, you know."

Thayer faced back again and measured the blotter anew. Then he tossed
the letter aside and, rising, walked across to the mantel.

"I think I'll go up there for a little while," he said briefly.

"Thayer! You can't."

"Why not?"

"Because you mustn't. It's impossible."

Thayer mistook his meaning.

"I can't see the impossibility, Dane. Lorimer was--is my friend. I knew
him long before I ever heard of Mrs. Lorimer. I was their guest at
Monomoy for a month, last summer, too. We both of us know that I can
hold Lorimer, when nobody else can. I don't pretend to understand it,
myself; but the fact remains. All in all, I think I am the best possible
person to go."

His voice was quiet, yet its every accent was final and uncompromising.
Before its dignity, Bobby felt like a rebuked child. He hastened to
justify himself.

"I wasn't thinking of that at all, Thayer. The idea would have been an
insult both to you and to Beatrix. I know that Beatrix feels she can
rely on you to manage Lorimer; but nevertheless it is absolutely out of
the question for you to go."

"Why?"

"Your engagements for the winter."

"I have made no engagements yet."

"Is that a fact?"

"As a general rule, I tell the truth," Thayer answered dryly.

"Well, you are sure to make some."

"Perhaps. When I do, it will be time enough for me to keep them."

"But your reputation!" Bobby urged.

"What of it?"

"How is it going to stand your burying yourself in the wilderness, just
when you have the city at your feet?"

"It will have to stand it. It will, if it is worth anything at all."

"Thayer, you sha'n't!" Bobby protested. "It's Quixotic and idiotic. You
sha'n't spoil your own good life for the sake of Lorimer's bad one. He
isn't worth it."

Thayer straightened his shoulders and threw back his head.

"What about Mrs. Lorimer?" he asked steadily.

The clock marked the passing seconds until hundreds of them had gone
away, never to return. Then Bobby crossed the room and laid his hand on
Thayer's shoulder.

"Thayer," he said slowly; "you are a fool, an utterly asinine fool; but
I can't help wishing that there were a few more fools in the world just
like you."

And in that instant, it flashed into Bobby Dane's mind that, ever since
he had first come to know Cotton Mather Thayer, he had been expecting
and awaiting just such a scene.

Late that same afternoon, Miss Gannion's card was brought to Beatrix.
All that day, she had denied herself to callers; not even Sally Van
Osdel had been admitted. Ten minutes before Miss Gannion came, Beatrix
would have said that she too must be sent away; but, as she read the
name on the card, she felt a sudden impulsive longing to see her
old-time friend.

Miss Gannion wasted no words on conventional greeting.

"You dear child!" she said quietly. "I know a little about what has
happened; but it is all I need to know. Talk about it or not, just as
you choose."

Urged or repressed, Beatrix would have held herself steady, reticent.
All day long, she had kept herself quiet, going through her usual
domestic routine, answering notes of invitation and then methodically
sorting out the clothing she would need during her absence from town.
She had refused her mother's help and she had sent away her maid; it was
a relief to her to keep busy. Left to herself and idle, the future
easily could have occupied her whole attention; but as yet she was not
strong enough to face it. Strange to say, there had been no benumbing
effect of her sorrow. From the first hour, she had been able to grasp
with dreary clearness all its details, all its effect upon the present
and upon the future which now to her was freighted with a double burden
of anxiety and alarm.

All day long until late afternoon, she had forced this quiet upon
herself; but it could not go on indefinitely. Already the tug and wrench
upon her nerves was slackening, and Miss Gannion's words brought the
swift revulsion. The older woman shrank before the storm of passionate
sorrow. Then she braced herself to bear it, for she realized that it
was the flood which must inevitably follow the breaking down of the
dykes that for months had pent in the seas of a daily and hourly agony
such as a weaker soul than that of Beatrix could never know.

It was long before Beatrix dared trust her voice to speak, and then Miss
Gannion was startled at the utter dreariness of her tone.

"It has all been a horrible mistake," she said slowly. "I thought I was
stronger. I did believe that I could hold him, Miss Gannion. I didn't
rush into it carelessly, as most girls do. I knew all the danger. I
thought about it, and measured it against my strength and against the
strength of his love. I truly thought I could hold him."

"I know, dear," Miss Gannion said gently. "I thought so, too."

"But I couldn't. I did try, try my best. But it was no use. And yet, he
did love me, just as I did love him."

"Did love?" Miss Gannion questioned, for Beatrix had paused, as if
challenging her.

"Yes, did love. My love is dead, Miss Gannion."

"But it may come back."

"Never. It never can. He has killed it utterly. I am sorry. I don't
know why I am telling you, for no one else must know it, not even Sidney
himself. He doesn't suspect it at all now, and I mean that he never
shall. If I made the mistake in the first place, I ought to be the one
to suffer for it, not he."

"But he loves you now," Miss Gannion said unsteadily.

"To-day. Yesterday, he forgot me entirely; to-day, he cares for me just
as he always has done, no more, no less. I wish I could care for him;
but I can't. I feel perfectly cold, as if nothing more could ever warm
me."

"But, in time--after you have forgotten last night--"

Beatrix shook her head.

"My love for Sidney did not die, last night. It was too strong, too much
alive, to be killed by the facts of one single night. No; it had been
ailing for months; but it finally died, six weeks ago, and nothing now
can ever make it live again. Miss Gannion, I have been very selfish."

"I don't think so, Beatrix."

But Beatrix gently drew herself out of Miss Gannion's arms, rose and
stood looking down at her friend. In that moment, confronted by
Beatrix's sad, calm face and luminous eyes, the little gray-haired
woman suddenly realized that, notwithstanding the difference in their
years, Beatrix was looking into mysteries which were far beyond her ken.

"Yes, I was selfish," Beatrix went on steadily. "I loved Sidney; I was
happy in his love, and I believed that, through both our loves, I could
be strong enough to save him from himself. I knew it was a risk, a
terrible risk, but I took it for granted that the risk would come only
on myself, and, for both our sakes, I was willing to assume it. I was
nothing but a child, for all I felt so wise, and I stopped there,
without looking ahead. I was wrong, woefully, sinfully wrong. I was
selfish, for I thought of nothing beyond myself. Now that it is too
late, I am beginning to realize what it all may mean to the next
generation."



CHAPTER NINETEEN


    "_O the long and dreary Winter!
    O the cold and cruel Winter!_"

Thayer's voice was wonderfully rich and mellow, as he stood at the
window softly singing over to himself that haunting, tragic Famine Theme
from _The Death of Minnehaha_. Fresh from its weeks of resting, low, yet
suggesting an immeasurable reserve power, it had all its old throbbing
magnetism; but a new quality had been added to it. It had always had
moments of passionate appeal; now it had gained a sadness, a depth of
melancholy which in the past it had been powerless to express. A year
before, Thayer could strike the tragic note, never the pathetic.

Nevertheless, the pathos was apparently merely a matter of the vocal
cords. The tall, alert, well-groomed man who stood at the snow-veiled
window in no way suggested being a candidate for sympathy. His eyes were
clear, his brows unfurrowed. Moreover, one could never dream of
condoling with the owner of such a voice. Taken quite by itself, its
possession would outweigh an almost infinite number of human woes.

    "_Ever thicker, thicker, thicker
    Froze the ice on lake and river,
    Ever deeper, deeper, deeper
    Fell the snow_--"

_Hiawatha's_ wigwam might well have been just beyond the spruce thicket,
Thayer reflected. The description was too accurate to be artistic; it
amounted to mere photography. As far as his own eyes could see, the
earth lay buried in a deep, soft blanket of snow, and the air above was
misty with flakes which neither fell nor scurried before the wind, but
hung apparently motionless in the still, cold air. All through the
preceding night, however, the wind had blown fiercely. The snow lay
heaped in heavy, irregular drifts across the open plain; but under the
trees it was rolled up into soft waves whose tops curled over as
daintily as the waves had curled over on the moonlit beach of Monomoy.
The lake was frozen over and snow-covered; but the creek that came
rushing down to meet it was too swift to be overtaken by the frost, and
it showed, an inky-dark, sinuous line of open water, winding away and
away among the trees, now losing itself in a thicket of alders, now
drawing a straight black mark across an open stretch of meadow where the
frost-flowers on its banks offered a delicate substitute for their
summer kin.

Half a mile away to the south, the mountain rose abruptly, its face of
sheer rock making a dark scar on the winter landscape, a scar crossed
with long white bands and bars of ice which, glacier-wise, were creeping
over the edge of the cliff as if seeking to veil its sinister face.
Against the base of the mountain, close to the inky creek, another patch
of darkness stood out in bold relief. This patch was the Lorimers'
cottage.

In spite of the haunting melancholy of his song, Thayer looked out at
the cottage and at the storm with a feeling of supreme content. Lorimer
hated storms with a catlike fervor; it was an old-time peculiarity of
his, dating from their student days in Göttingen. There was no
likelihood of his leaving the cottage, that day; and, inside the cottage
with his man to look out for him, Thayer felt that he was beyond the
possibility of danger. It was seven weeks since they had buried
themselves in that wilderness, seven weeks that Thayer had voluntarily
kept himself under the daily and hourly strain of constant intimate
association with the woman he loved, of knowing that she gained
strength and courage from her reliance upon him, and of forcing himself
to treat her with an offhand good-fellowship which defied analysis for
the mere reason that it challenged none.

A weaker man than Thayer would have yielded to the strain, or else have
grown fretful under its chafing. Thayer did neither. He felt the
chafing, galling burden which he bore; but he kept the scars out of
sight of others, and moreover, he conscientiously refrained from looking
at them, himself. Self-pity is the surest, yet the most insidious foe to
self-poise. When the original Cotton Mather Thayer had stuck a splinter
of wood into the palm of his hand, he had pulled out the splinter with
his teeth and then, punching his hand into his pocket, he had continued
his discussion of the latest election to the General Court. His namesake
was proving himself true to the traditions of his blood.

Twice only had Thayer sought outlet for his mood. Twice the almost
deserted hotel had vibrated with such singing as it was destined never
to have heard, before or since. The piano was passable and, shut up
alone in the barren parlor, Thayer had sung to the empty chairs as he
had never yet sung to any crowded audience. Out in the halls, the
people of the house gathered in listening, whispering groups; but Thayer
never heeded them. It is not certain that, heeding, he would have cared.
Relief he must have at any cost, and this was the one means at his
command. His own voice, laden with passionate sadness, came echoing back
to him from the unresponsive walls, and in time the echo checked his
outcry. It taught him anew the lesson which already he had conned again
and again, the lesson that his bitterest plaint fell on no one else's
ears with half the compelling fervor with which it reached his own, that
his cry for help came beaten back to the one person who could help him,
that was--himself. But at least, there was some relief in having made
his cry.

He had never allowed himself to regret his answer to the impresario. Day
by day, he realized more and more keenly that his presence there was
imperative. Beatrix seemed to him far from well. Her nerves had been
less steady since the shock of that last supper in New York; she was
totally unable to adjust herself to Lorimer's swift alternations of
mood, his hours of demonstrative affection, his times of black
depression and irritability. Thayer saw that she did her best, that she
bravely sought to play a loyal part in the work of reformation. The
failure was in no sense that of will, but of mere nervous strength. But
there were hours and hours when Thayer stood between them, trying by his
sympathy for Lorimer to atone for Beatrix's coldness, trying by his
chivalry to Beatrix to make amends for the fractiousness of Lorimer.

There were hours when he mourned acutely for his work. They invariably
followed upon the heels of a letter from Arlt and they invariably ended
in his going to the cottage and dragging Lorimer out for a tramp in the
stinging air. The doctor had ordered much exercise, and Lorimer, who
refused to go beyond his door in the society of his man, made long
expeditions at Thayer's side, returning weary of body, but of placid
mood and healthy appetite, to spend a short evening and a long and
restful night.

The day before, they had been out since early morning. The deep-packed
snow had lain, hard and solid and tempting, and the sun glittered coldly
back into the windless air. Lorimer had been in high spirits. One of his
old gay, infectious moods was upon him, and, for the passing hour,
Thayer let himself yield to it until he forgot Beatrix, forgot the
tragedy which overhung them all, forgot even the number of miles they
had come. At noon, they had found a wood-choppers' camp and, sitting
around the blazing fire, they had mingled their daintily-packed lunch
with the cruder fare of their temporary hosts. Lorimer had been the life
of the party, and the good-bys had been spoken with real regret. At the
top of the hill above the camp, Lorimer had turned back again to wave
his cap in boyish farewell. Then the episode had ended, ended more
completely than Thayer as yet could realize.

Lorimer's mood changed on the way home. He grumbled about the softening
snow, about the gathering dusk, about the length of the road. His
exasperation reached its height when, ignoring Thayer's advice in regard
to the path, he struck out across an open snowfield, only to go crashing
down through its insecure foundation of baby spruces whose lusty little
branches bore up the snow like myriad arms. When Lorimer emerged from
the shallow caverns beneath, his temper was of the blackest, and, all
the rest of the way home, he had stalked along in gloomy silence, ten
feet in the rear of his companion's heels.

Thayer had judged that it would he well to invite himself to stay to
dinner at the cottage. Lorimer had been in one of his worst moods, and
even Thayer had found it wellnigh impossible to keep the talk brisk and
amicable. He had remained until he had seen that Lorimer was at last
yielding to the inevitable drowsiness of his long day in the open air;
then he had started back to the hotel. Once outside the cottage,
however, he had squared his shoulders and drawn a deep breath of relief.
He needed mental ozone; but even physical ozone was better than mental
nitrous oxide.

And now he was standing at the snow-veiled window, looking across at the
cottage while he hummed to himself the recurring, haunting Famine
Theme,--

    "_O the famine and the fever!
    O the wasting of the famine!
    O the blasting of the fever!_"

He had no notion of the truth of his words. Had he done so, the cottage,
not the hotel, would have held him, that day, and the tragedy, so long
averted, might have been warded off a little longer. But fate willed
otherwise. To Thayer's mind, Lorimer, storm-bound and weary from his
tramp of the day before, would spend the day, drowsing, novel in hand,
before the open fire. Thayer, in his own absolute integrity, could never
imagine the truth: that Lorimer's trusty attendant had at last yielded
to the temptation of the oft-repeated bribe and had given into Lorimer's
hands the bottle from which he was used to measure out, medicine-wise,
the daily lessening allowance of brandy. He could not know how often,
all that day, Beatrix went to the window and looked out across the storm
in the hope of seeing him come striding to her through the snow. Had it
been possible, she would have sent for him; but it was a day when women
are safest inside a house, and she dared not remove either Lorimer's man
or the old butler from their close guard over her husband. She had been
utterly opposed to bringing the faithful old butler with them; but now
she was glad that she had yielded to his begging. He had been with her
father since her childhood, and had insisted upon following "Miss
Beatrix" into her new home. Without him now, she would have been
absolutely, hopelessly alone.

Thayer spent a quiet, contented day. For the time being, he had
dismissed Lorimer from his mind, and he gave himself up to the luxury of
taking thought for no one but himself. The sensation was very luxurious
from its very novelty. He wrote a long letter to Arlt, responded to a
dozen notes of invitation which had pursued him from the city, loitered
about the office and ended the day with a novel which had reached him
when the mail came in, that noon. It was still early when he went to
bed. As he drew the shades, from sheer force of habit he glanced across
at the cottage. Its lights were burning brightly, their quiet steadiness
giving no hint of the hideous carnival within.

No healthy man can go to bed, two hours before his usual time, and
expect to sleep peacefully till dawn. At four o'clock, Thayer waked
suddenly, with the firm belief that his slumber must have reached quite
around the clock. He struck a match and looked at his watch.

Restlessly he rose and began to walk up and down the room. The storm had
increased during the night. He could hear the snow sifting against the
windows and, far off at a distant corner of the house, a loosened blind
was beating to and fro in the wind. The sound echoed drearily through
the almost deserted barracks, and added infinitely to the loneliness of
the wilderness, and of the night, and of the storm.

Thayer paused at the window, raised the shade and peered out into the
night. At first, he could see only the darkness, no longer black, but
gray with the swirling snow. The ceaseless, pitiless fall of the flakes
fascinated him, and he stood long, watching them take shape in the
distance, come whirling against the glass and slide aimlessly down the
pane, as so many had fallen before them. Then, as the storm lost
something of its fury, he glanced up and out across the night. The next
instant, his face was pressed against the pane, while his clasped
fingers shielded his eyes from the light within the room. In the
Lorimers' cottage, half a mile away, the lights were still burning. On
such a night and at such an hour, those lights meant trouble: illness,
or perhaps something infinitely worse.

He had stood at the window longer than he had realized, and the clock in
the office struck five as Thayer, fully dressed, stepped out into the
hall. With the waning of the night, the storm was increasing again and,
strong man as he was, Thayer faltered as he opened the door and went out
into the darkness.

Four times he tried to beat his way against the wind, to force a path
through the wet, heavy drifts. Four times, buffeted and almost spent, he
was driven back to the shelter of the veranda. The office clock struck
six, as he went inside the house to find a shivering servant sweeping
out the office.

"Get me some snowshoes," he ordered briefly. "The lights have burned all
night in Mr. Lorimer's cottage; I am afraid they may be ill and in need
of help. I thought I could get to them; but in this storm it is
impossible, unless I can have some shoes."

By some trick of the brain, anxious and impatient as he was, the Famine
Theme recurred to his mind, and the servant, coming back with the shoes,
found him singing it softly to himself. The words died away into
inarticulate humming, as Thayer bent over to fasten the straps. Then,
buttoning his coat closely and pulling his cap down over his eyes,
Thayer opened the door for the second time and went striding away across
the gray, tempestuous darkness which had shut down again impenetrably
between himself and those steady, ominous lights.



CHAPTER TWENTY


"It has all been a hideous mistake!"

Abruptly, defiantly Beatrix threw out the words at Thayer, as he
entered. Then her head dropped on her arms which rested on the table
before her.

Breathless from his struggle with the storm and astounded at her
greeting, Thayer halted just across the threshold and looked at her in
silence. The silence grew irksome to her. She changed the form of her
words.

"I couldn't help it. I have tried." The defiance in her voice suddenly
gave place to desperation. She pushed back her chair, rose and crossed
the room to the fire. There she turned and stood facing Thayer, her head
erect, her cheeks scarlet, her hands, palms downward, tightly clasped.
"I have tried my best and failed. It is a total, absolute failure," she
went on fiercely. "I know it, and you know it, too. You have watched it
coming on, growing and overpowering me. We may as well admit it; I made
a mistake when I married Sidney Lorimer."

Thayer met her eyes steadily, rallying all his forces to face her in
this new mood. This sudden change in her baffled his powers of
comprehension. Weakened and torn and shaken by her endless hours alone
in the whistling, roaring storm, listening moment by moment to the
hideous noises of delirium coming from the next room, the level nerves
of Beatrix had at last given way completely. The noises had stopped now,
and an ominous stillness lay over the room; but in Beatrix's ears they
still were ringing, beating a terrible accompaniment to the crowding
measures of her thoughts. Hour after hour as she had sat alone, her
fingers in her ears, her eyes fixed on the snow-draped landscape outside
the window, her mind had worked ceaselessly, arbitrarily. For the time
being, she had felt herself unable to control the direction of her
thoughts, and the direction had been fraught with danger.

She went back to her first meeting with Lorimer. She went over each
detail of their friendship and of their married life. She tried in vain
to connect the genial, fascinating man she had first known with the man
whose ravings found their way under her fingers pressed against her
ears. She recalled his old-time devotion and chivalry; she contrasted it
with his moodiness and the brutal petulance which of late had marked
his manner to her. At no one point had there been a sudden change in
him. The transition had been slow, insidious. At last she had wakened to
it in all its bald reality.

Now and then she rose and went to the window in the hope of seeing
Thayer's familiar figure coming towards her through the storm. Each time
she did so, her thoughts lingered a little upon him, upon his power to
hold Lorimer, upon his constant thoughtfulness for her. Each time she
thought of him, her mind rested there longer, until she found herself
going over their acquaintance much as, a few hours earlier, she had gone
over her life with Lorimer. Then, all at once, she dropped her head on
the table with a little moan. Her will was powerless longer to blind her
to the truth. Her loyalty to Lorimer, her traditions, her training had
made her fight for months, a fight no less bitter because it was
subconscious. Now her fighting strength was gone. The truth had asserted
itself at the instant when her nervous force was at its weakest. It had
asserted itself, and it had mastered her.

She was still in the passive stage of defeat, when Thayer entered the
room, hours later. Struggling to her through the storm, he had been
urged on by a fierce passion of anxiety for the woman he loved. A
strange fire had flashed up within him, and, had he found Beatrix in her
usual mood, he might have lost his power to quench it. Met by a passion
equal to his own, he instinctively pulled himself together. Two such
storms must inevitably have landed them upon hidden rocks and wrecked
them pitilessly and in mid-career. He realized the danger. It took all
his manhood to face it; but two lives were trembling in the balance,
with nothing but his own past character and half of his inherited
tendencies to act as a fulcrum.

"I am afraid I don't quite understand you," he said.

"Then what are you doing here?" she returned sharply.

Thayer faltered. Then,--

"I thought perhaps you might be in need of help," he said quietly.

Her lip curled, and her slender wrists grew tense with the strain upon
them.

"For what? John and Patrick can take care of my husband. Mr. Lorimer
is--very ill; but we are quite capable of taking care of him. Why should
I need help?" She watched him in silent hostility. Then, as she saw the
sudden drawing of his lips, her mood changed. This was her friend, the
only friend who was near her and loyal to her. She must not hurt him
with her bitterness, lest he too should fail her, just as Lorimer
already had done. For months, she had unconsciously depended upon his
loyalty. Now she sought it consciously. "What is the use of keeping up
the pretence any longer?" she went on drearily. "You have been with us
day after day; you know how things are going; you know how my husband
has--that he has not always been himself." Even in her desperation, she
still chose her words guardedly. "Do you think I ever could have held
him?"

Slowly Thayer shook his head.

"No," he said in a low voice. "No; you never could have held him. It was
impossible."

"Then why didn't you warn me?" she burst out hotly.

He looked her straight in the eye.

"How could I?"

Her face flushed with the sudden understanding. Then the old dreary note
came back into her voice.

"And you have known from the first that it was all a mistake?"

"Yes."

"And you have let me suffer for it?"

"You are not the only one," he said, almost involuntarily.

Their eyes met, held each other, then dropped apart. Thayer drew a long,
slow breath.

"Mrs. Lorimer--Beatrix--"

She checked him with a gesture.

"Wait! You don't know it all, you can't know. You never knew Sidney
Lorimer as I did, for my Sidney Lorimer never really existed. I
idealized him, half-deified him. The Sidney Lorimer to whom I gave my
love, my very life, was one man; the Sidney Lorimer I married was quite
another. A woman can't love two men totally unlike each other, and yet I
am bound to him, bound down to the day of my death, or of his. We both
come of a long-lived race, and this must go on for years. I have tried
to prevent it, this gradual change in him; but it was impossible. Then I
tried not to see it; but I had to see it. It insisted on itself and on
being seen. I have been watching it, dreading the time when I must admit
it in so many words. I have tried to be loyal to him, God knows!" She
spoke rapidly. Then she checked herself, and the dreary note came again.
"But what is done, is done. I loved one man; I am married to another.
Nothing now can bring back to me the man I used to know, the man I used
to imagine him. Then what will the future amount to? We shall go on
together to the end, two prisoners bound by a chain which only holds us
the tighter and galls us the more, the looser it grows between us. One
doesn't mind the dying; it's the limitless, unchanging years ahead, the
black, blank years that frighten me. How can I escape them?"

In presence of a woman's passionate pain, every man must stand back,
baffled and powerless to help. Thayer had supposed he understood Beatrix
Lorimer as no other man had ever understood her. To his eyes, her
character seemed crystal clear; yet now, in her supreme crisis, the
crystal grew cloudy before his eyes. For long hours, she had gone into
the deep places of her life, had stirred up from its very source the
spring of her being, and the superficial clearness had grown turgid with
the dregs that had lain undisturbed and unsuspected there. Hatred and
black despair were boiling in the heart which Thayer had thought so calm
and cool, so peaceful in its dainty whiteness. Before it, he stood
silent. Was this the true Beatrix Lorimer? The woman he had fancied her
was a spotless white lily. The heart of this one was banded with bars
of flame and gold. The other grew colorless and cold by comparison, and
his hands twitched to pluck this fiery, vivid thing before him and carry
it away out of reach of Lorimer's sodden, defiling touch. What had
Sidney Lorimer, drunkard, profligate that he was, to do with this
high-bred, high-spirited, heart-broken woman? Why not rather he, Cotton
Mather Thayer--He thrust his hands into his pockets and lowered his eyes
to hide the light burning in them.

It seemed to him hours since he had entered the house. In reality, the
time was short. As he had crossed the threshold, Beatrix had raised her
head and looked at him dully. Then her reaction had come. Like the ebb
and flow of the waves, excitement had followed apathy; and, as she had
met his eyes, the wave had risen again and swept her away upon its
tossing crest. Thayer was here at last. He never forgot her, never
forsook her. He had come to her in this moment of her bitterest need,
even as he had come to her many a time in the past. With him, there
could be no need for explanation or preface. Straight from the heart of
her reverie, Beatrix Lorimer had cast her words at him,--

"It has all been a hideous mistake!"

And now she was following them up with the question which, in Thayer's
ears, sounded the dominant note of the temptation that had been pursuing
him during all those months of rigid self-restraint,--

"The black, blank years, how can I escape them?"

For the second time in his life, Thayer grew dizzy with the tingle of
his nerves answering to the shock to his brain. The blood was pounding
across his temples, and his ears rang loudly. Then he lifted his eyes
deliberately and looked Beatrix full in the face. For an instant, he
held her eyes; then she drew away from him. This was not the quiet,
self-contained man upon whom she had leaned for months. This man's eyes
were glowing, his lips quivering, his hands outstretched to meet her
own. No need to tell her what flame had kindled him into such fierce and
burning life. Their eyes met. She drew away; but her glance never
wavered. Without a spoken word, they had come to the pitiless, naked
truth. Wish had answered to wish, and henceforth there could be no
concealments between them. She took a step forward, and for a moment her
fingers rested in the hot hollow of his hand.

It was only for a moment. However, for Thayer that moment had sufficed
to review a lifetime, to dwell in detail, even, upon the events of the
last fourteen months. In the past, he had done his best to bear himself
as an honest man and a gentleman; and, seen in the light of that past,
the future turned to ashes before him. At best, it was void of honor; at
worst, it was unthinkable. It had not been easy for him to swim against
the tide, to strive, at the expense of his own plans, to rescue Lorimer
from drunkenness and shame. At least, now that for so long a time he had
succeeded in keeping his head above water, he would not wilfully cast
himself upon the first jagged rock in his course. He would not save
Lorimer's honor for the sake of Lorimer's wife, and then deliberately
seek to bring dishonor and shame upon the wife herself. He veiled his
eyes and let his palm drop out from under the pressure of the cold
little fingers.

"It's not necessarily a question of years," he said, after a silence in
which it seemed to him that she must be able to count his heart-throbs.
"Dane told me what the doctor said. He hopes this place will work a
complete cure, and it may not be long before your husband pulls himself
together again."

He had turned a little away from her; but he knew she was still looking
at him. He could feel the pathetic appeal in her eyes, yet he never
wavered. However brutal he might seem to her now, he knew that the hour
would come when she would be grateful to him.

With an effort, she steadied herself.

"I am afraid it is impossible. He has gone too far; the pull now is all
downward."

"What about your hold on him?" Thayer asked quietly.

Beatrix started, as if he had laid a clumsy thumb on an exposed nerve.

"My hold!" she said, with a sudden fierceness. "Do you think that there
is no limit to the help which I must give him?" Then her voice dropped.
"No; I have let go. It is no use. I have done all I can, and now I can
only wait till the play is over and the curtain drops. Perhaps it may
not be so very long, after all. It spoils any tragedy, if the last acts
drag."

He had been fired by her passion; but he had resisted it. Now her
despair unmanned him. It was only the old, old situation: the guiltless
one must suffer for the guilty. The fact in general terms he accepted as
a necessary evil; the particular instance was unbearable. Once more, and
for the last time, the balance wavered; then slowly, steadily it dipped
into position. The tragedy would be no less a tragedy, because a new
hero took the stage for the final acts. He tried to find words to say;
but they refused to come at his bidding. He could only stand mute and
look down at her, as she sat in her old place by the table, with her
head buried in her arms.

The seconds passed and lengthened into minutes. Little by little, the
cold, gray light of the snowy morning was creeping into the room,
dimming the lamplight to pale yellow streaks and filling the place with
a chill, forbidding gloom. The stillness was so absolute that Thayer
could hear his watch ticking in his pocket, could hear the beating of
his own heart. Neither one of them moved, or spoke. In the next room,
there was a faint sound; but they never heeded it. Beatrix's face was
hidden in her arms; Thayer's eyes, turned now to the window, were fixed
upon the pitiless storm outside, while mechanically he sought to adjust
the regular ticking of his watch to the broken rhythm of the Famine
Theme which once more was haunting his brain.

Neither one of them faced the open door; neither one of them saw the
crawling, slinking figure, the pale, fear-stricken face, and the staring
eyes which appeared in the doorway, clung there for a moment and then
vanished again as noiselessly as they had come. Neither of them, had
they seen, could have imagined the fearful interpretation which the
delirium-stricken brain had put upon the silent scene.

The stir in the next room came again. Then it increased until the
cottage echoed with the tumult of struggle and of inarticulate crying.
Above it all, Lorimer's maddened voice rang out in piteous terror,--

"Let me go! I saw him! It's Thayer, and he will kill Beatrix! She is
afraid of him, and she is begging for mercy! He is killing my wife, my
Beatrix! Let me go! Beatrix! Beatrix! Dear girl, I'm coming!"

Beatrix sprang to her feet, as Thayer rushed to the inner room where the
words had ended in a fury of inarticulate shrieks. There was the sound
of a heavy struggle, when it seemed to her that the cottage rocked with
the rocking, writhing bodies of the men just beyond her sight. She dared
not face the scene in all its horror. She stood, erect and alone, in the
middle of the floor, while the struggle slowly died away and the shrieks
sank to the piteous low whimpering of an animal in pain. Then all was
still.

Weak by inheritance, weaker still by dissipation, Lorimer's heart had
yielded to the shock of his imaginary fear; but the last coherent
thought of his distracted brain had been that of protecting love for
Beatrix.

In the gray, cold light, through the silent cottage, the old butler came
to Beatrix's side and gently touched her arm.

"It is over, Miss Beatrix," he said gravely; "and may the good God be
pitiful to us all!"



CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE


It was mid-afternoon when Thayer once more entered the hotel. The
proprietor met him at the door.

"This message was just telephoned in, Mr. Thayer. The boy is getting
ready to carry it to the cottage."

Thayer tore open the envelope indifferently. Exhausted by the struggle
and the shock through which he had been passing, for the time being he
felt little interest in any word which could come to him from the
outside world. His entire life seemed to him limited to one short hour
in one small room, apart from the world and its concerns. That brief
episode was too recent and too personal to allow him at once to cast off
its impression. In his present mood, it appeared to be the focal point
of his entire life, the arena upon which the two warring strains in his
blood had met to fight to a finish. The fight had been sharp and fierce;
already he was beginning to rejoice that the Puritan had conquered the
Slav. Beyond that point, as yet, he was powerless to go. Later, his
rejoicing would be increased by the knowledge that in his own words and
deeds he had never swerved from a certain loyalty towards Lorimer.

"Mr. Lorimer is--" the proprietor was beginning vaguely.

Thayer's nod was more curt than he realized.

"Mr. Lorimer is dead."

"You don't mean it! When?" The man was visibly startled.

"This morning, between seven and eight o'clock."

"It must have been very sudden?" The accent was plainly interrogative.

"Yes, at the last. He had been quite ill for twenty-four hours. He was
overtired with his walk of the day before, and then ate something that
disagreed with him. He suffered terribly, and, at the last, heart
failure developed." Thayer ended his fable with a deep breath of relief.

"But they had no doctor," the man objected.

Thayer raised his eyes and looked at him steadily for an instant.

"No," he said quietly. "Mr. Lorimer has had a number of such attacks,
and Mrs. Lorimer had all the proper remedies. Until within a few
moments of the end, there was no indication that this attack was any
more serious than the others had been, and there had never before been
any tendency to heart failure." He paused for a moment, deliberately
challenging another question. Then he added, "If your telephone is not
in use, I must send word to Mrs. Lorimer's friends." And he walked away
to the telephone closet in the corner of the office.

He called up three numbers in New York. The first one was Mr. Dane's
office, and to him Thayer announced the bare fact of Lorimer's death and
of Beatrix's need for her parents. His talk with Bobby Dane was longer,
and at intervals it became interjectional in its terseness. To Bobby,
Thayer went over the story in all its detail, yet in such guarded
phrases that no one else, listening, could have gained an inkling of the
true cause of Lorimer's death. After the first shock was over, Thayer
and Beatrix had discussed the matter fully and in all its bearings. The
attendant had his own reasons for wishing to keep the secret, and the
butler could be relied upon implicitly. Accordingly, they had decided
that there was no need of acquainting the world with the true version of
the case, and they had agreed that Bobby should be the one person to be
put in possession of all the facts. He was just; he had no sentimental
ideals to be dispelled in regard to Lorimer, and he was utterly
trustworthy.

Thayer's third message was the shortest of all.

"Not in? Very well. I am Mr. Thayer. Tell him that I will be in his
office at ten o'clock on Saturday morning."

It was then late on Thursday afternoon. Thayer had calculated that the
Danes would come in, the next day, and that the sleigh which brought
them in would also carry him out in season for the night train to New
York. There was another illness in the opera company. _Faust_ was to be
sung on the following Wednesday night, and Thayer, in sending that last
message, had given his tacit consent to singing the part of _Valentine_.
Even in the midst of his trouble, he smiled grimly to himself, as he
thought back to that far-off night in Berlin when the chord which closes
_Valentine's_ cavatina also closed his long indecision and left him
sitting with his face definitely turned towards the artist's life. It
had seemed to him then that the decision was threatening to undermine
his Puritanism; nevertheless, he had temporized with that Puritanism. In
resolving to become an artist, in so far as the possibility of art lay
in his keeping, he had likewise resolved to hold himself a man, virile
and of steady nerve. To his young enthusiasm, the two ideals had not
seemed incompatible. To his maturer judgment, they had appeared in no
sense to be at war, yet together they had been by no means easy of
attainment. All in all, he had preferred to leave to the recording angel
the balancing of his psychological accounts. He had lacked the time and
the perspective to do it for himself. But, meanwhile, he believed he
recognized the hand of fate in this second summons to sing the part of
_Valentine_. Fate and his old _maestro_ both had declared themselves for
opera. Their united will should be done.

That evening was the longest he had ever spent, so long that in reality
it lasted until the gray dawn. The eastern sky was tinging itself with
yellow when he roused himself from the reverie which had held him since
he had left the dinner table. Rising to his feet, he drew himself to the
full of his towering height and took a slow, full breath. Then
deliberately he pushed his trunk into the middle of the floor and began
packing it, with the quiet method which characterized all his personal
arrangements. At first, he worked in grim silence; then, by almost
imperceptible degrees, his face lighted and he fell to humming over to
himself the familiar song,--

    _"Even bravest heart may swell
    In the moment of farewell--"_

Little by little, the humming rose and filled the room, at first the one
phrase repeated over and over again; then all at once, deep and
resonant, Thayer's full voice came leaping out in the rich Italian
words,--

    _"Là sul campo nel dì della pugna,
    Ah! si, Fra le file primiero saro."_

The past was already the past. "Blithe as a knight in his bridal array,"
Thayer was echoing the call of his future destiny. Because he had won a
single battle, there was no reason he should lay down his arms.

    _"Careless what fate may befall me,
    When Glory shall call me."_

He sang it boldly, joyously. He was not forgetful, only hopeful. He
would leave to the choice of fate the field in which his mastery should
lie. Master he would be at any cost.

    _"Careless what fate may befall me,
    When Glory shall call me."_

For the last time, that little room was echoing with his voice.

His own rooms in New York were echoing with the same song, when Bobby
Dane entered them, the next Saturday night.

"Well, at least, you don't sound broken-hearted," he observed, as he
took off his coat.

"The sight of you would go far to cure me, if I were," Thayer retorted.
His words were light; but his face and his grip on Bobby's two hands
contradicted his tone.

"Glad of it," Bobby said flatly. "But tell me about Beatrix. How did the
poor girl stand it?"

"Like herself," Thayer answered. "It was enough to shake the nerves of
the Winged Victory; but Mrs. Lorimer went through it like a heroine."

"It was D.T.?"

"Yes."

"It was better that you kept the secret," Bobby said thoughtfully, as he
dropped into a chair by the piano. He sat silent for a moment while,
bending forward, he idly picked out the first few notes of the cavatina
on the lowest octave of the bass. Then he added, "I don't see how you
managed it, Thayer; but it is a good deed done. Was there any trouble
about the certificate?"

"No. It was heart failure, true enough, and there was no need to go into
secondary causes."

"I am glad the doctor was a man of sense. If he had been a martinet, it
would have been worse for us all. Of course, there is no telling how far
people will accept the story; but we may as well try to act as if it
were true." There was a pause. Then Bobby inquired, "Well, and now what
are you going to do next?"

"_Valentine_ in _Faust_," Thayer replied briefly.

"The deuce you are! When?"

"Next Wednesday."

Bobby's face fell.

"Oh, I wanted you, myself, for that day. Isn't it rather sudden?"

"So sudden that I didn't half realize it, till I found myself at
rehearsal, this morning. It is to be announced in to-morrow's papers, I
suppose. Not even Arlt knows it yet."

Bobby meditated for the space of several seconds.

"Thayer, I am delighted," he said then. "I was so afraid your stopping
now might mean a permanent break-up in your work. Now you are going into
your right field at last. You've been too large for oratorio; you fill
altogether too much space, and crowd out the chorus. You need a whole
stage to ramp around in. Moreover, if I have any idea what Gounod meant,
he had your voice in mind, when he created the part. Go in, and you are
sure to win; and not a soul in the city will be gladder of it than I."

Thayers face softened. His life, successful as it was, had been
singularly barren of endearments, and Bobby's words touched him keenly.
Heretofore, only Arlt had manifested any personal interest in his
successes, and Arlt was a true German, chary of his words. Thayer held
out his hand to Bobby.

"Thank you, Dane. I believe you," he said.

There was a short silence. Then Thayer added suddenly,--

"What did you want of me for Wednesday?"

Again Bobby's face clouded, and he laughed uneasily.

"Something you can't and must not do, Thayer. I oughtn't to have spoken
of it."

"What was it?" Then a new idea crossed Thayer's mind. "Something about
Lorimer?"

"Yes, I may as well tell you. We have been telephoning back and forth,
all day. They'll be down, Monday night, and the funeral is to be on
Wednesday afternoon. Beatrix is leaving all the plans to my uncle; and
my aunt, who is a sentimental soul and has no idea of the real state of
the case, is insisting that the poor old chap shall be buried with all
manner of social honors. It is to be a real function, and she thought it
would be the most suitable thing in the world, if you were to sing at
the funeral. I knew you wouldn't enjoy doing it, all things considered;
but I couldn't say so to my uncle. All in all, it is a relief to have
this other affair knock it in the head."

To Bobby, the pause was scarcely perceptible. To Thayer, it sufficed to
review the years between his meeting Lorimer in Göttingen and that last
gray dawn in the cottage.

"But it doesn't," Thayer said then.

"You don't mean--?"

"I will sing. We rehearse in the morning, and I have nothing afterwards
until evening. What time is the service?"

Bobby Dane's call left Thayer feeling once more at war with himself.
Worn out with the long strain of watching over Lorimer, exhausted with
the agony of that hour in the cottage, it had been a relief to him, now
that his work was ended, to throw himself wholly into the preparations
for _Faust_. The needed rehearsals and the inevitable details of
costuming had been sufficient to occupy his tired mind completely, and
he had held firmly to his resolve to forget the past two months. He had
been able to accomplish this only by getting a strong grip upon his own
mind and holding on tightly and steadily; but he had accomplished it.
Bobby left him with it all to do over again. In spite of himself,
Beatrix's desperate question for "the black, blank years," drowned the
familiar words of his cavatina and set themselves in their place,--

     _"Even black, blank years shall pass."_

Impatiently he shut the piano and, sitting down at his desk, began
studying aloud the list of stage directions which outlined his acting;
but, in the intervals of turning a page, he asked himself over and over
again whether any other life could hold a grimmer contrast than the one
confronting him, that coming Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Wednesday came at last. Thayer had left his card at the Lorimers' house,
the day before; but he had felt no surprise that Beatrix had refused to
see him. He caught no glimpse of her until the hour for the funeral, and
he felt that it was better so. For the present, their lives must lie in
different paths.

As Bobby had predicted, Sidney Lorimer's funeral was a function.
Everything about it was above criticism, with the minor exception of
the manner in which Lorimer had met his end. Society, black-clothed and
sombre-faced, was present, partly from respect to the Danes, partly from
a real liking for Lorimer as they had known him at first, partly from
curiosity to see whether there were any foundation for the rumors which
already were flying abroad. The rumors embraced everything from
meningitis to suicide, everything except the truth. And meanwhile, the
Lorimers' rooms were transformed into a species of flower show, and, in
the midst of the flowers, Lorimer lay asleep, his cheek resting on his
hand, his lips curving into the old winning smile they knew so well. For
him, as for Thayer, the past was passed and done. For him, too, the
future might still be full of promise. Thayer, as he stood beside the
man who had been his old-time friend, admitted as much to himself, and
all at once the intoning of the solemn ritual ceased to jar upon his
ears. For Lorimer, as for himself, the fight was still on. The arena had
changed; that was all. Perhaps in the new battle, Lorimer would arm
himself with stronger weapons.

Then the intoning stopped, and some one made a signal to Thayer. Simply
as a boy, and with a boyish tenderness, he sang the little hymn they
had chosen for him. Each man and woman who listened, felt gentler and
nobler for his song; but only Beatrix, shut decorously in the room
upstairs, away from her dead, realized that, for the passing hour,
Thayer had annulled the passion and the pain of those last weeks, and
had gone back again to the old, pitiful, protecting love which for years
had marked his attitude towards Lorimer.

From Lorimer's funeral, society went home to rest and gossip and
exchange its sombre clothing for its most brilliant plumage. Nearly two
years before, society had taken Cotton Mather Thayer to its bosom. Now
it was making ready to burn much incense in his honor, and its first
step in the process was to make his opening night of opera one of the
most brilliant events of the winter. With this laudable end in view, the
house was packed, and the women present had drawn heavily upon their
reserve fund of brand-new gowns which they had been hoarding for the
final gayeties of the season.

Thayer, with Arlt at his side, lingered idly in the wings, while the
audience listened with ill-concealed impatience to the melodious
bargaining between _Faust_ and _Mephistopheles_. Then the attention
quickened, as every bar of the Kermess chorus brought them nearer to
the moment for _Valentine's_ coming.

Charm in hand, he came at last, and the applause, caught up to the
galleries and tossed back to the floor, echoed again and again through
the great opera house. He accepted it quietly, almost indifferently, and
stood waiting for the storm to die away, while his keen eyes, sweeping
the house, recognized here and there among the jewelled, bare-shouldered
women before him the faces of the black-gowned mourners to whom he had
sung in the afternoon. The sight brought Beatrix to his mind. He
wondered how she was passing the evening, whether, from under the
benumbing effects of the blow she had suffered, she were still sending a
thought, a hope for success in his direction. Unconsciously to himself,
his pulses were tingling and throbbing with the music, and the throb and
tingle brought back to him the memory of the pounding of his pulses,
that morning in the cottage, only a week before. He had almost yielded
to their sway; then he had rallied. He had gone through the shock of
Lorimer's death, through the hasty discussion of arrangements which had
followed, through the saying good-by, with a calmness that had steadied
Beatrix and had been a surprise, even to himself. It was more--He
roused himself abruptly to the consciousness that mechanically he had
been going through the scene with _Wagner_, and that the moment for his
cavatina had come.

Instinctively he squared his shoulders and raised his eyes. As he did
so, he caught sight of Bobby Dane, and the sight recalled to him the
half-dismissed thought of Beatrix. During the one measure of
introduction, Beatrix and _Marguerite_, the cottage and the Kermess went
whirling together through Thayer's brain, turning and twisting,
intermingling and separating again like the visions of delirium. For
that one measure, his operatic fate was trembling in the balance. Then
the artist triumphed. Steady and clear, yet burdened with infinite
sadness, his voice rang out, filling the wide spaces of the great house,
filling the smallest heart within it with its throbbing, passionate
power.

    _"Yet the bravest heart may swell
    In the moment of farewell."_

The house was rocking and ringing with applause, as the song died away;
but Thayer heard it with unheeding ears. His old destiny had fulfilled
itself. The chord which closed his cavatina had sealed his fame in
opera; but his fame was to him as ashes in his mouth. With that same
chord, he had wilfully bidden farewell, not to _Marguerite_, his sister,
but to Beatrix, the wife of his friend, Sidney Lorimer. And, as the
chord died away, with its death there also died his passionate love. Who
could foretell what its resurrection would be? Or when? Or where?



CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO


"Otto, how does it feel to be a celebrity?" Miss Gannion asked abruptly,
one afternoon in late May.

The young German smiled.

"How should I know?"

"From experience, of course. Your artistic probation appears to be over.
Your winning the prize for the suite has settled it for all time, and
now I am doing my best to readjust myself to the idea that my boy friend
Otto is the new composer Arlt about whom the critics are waging inky
war."

"What is the use?" he inquired, as he crossed the room and sat down at
the piano.

"Because I really must begin to face the fact that you are destined to
be one of the immortals, and treat you with proper respect." Her tone
was full of lazy amusement and content. "Hereafter, I shall never dare
tell you when your necktie is askew, and as for training you in the
management of your cuffs!" She paused expressively, and they both
laughed.

"It was a blow to me to find that reputation depends upon such things,"
Arlt said, after a thoughtful pause.

"Not reputation; success. The two things don't necessarily touch each
other. One is a matter of brains, the other of fashion." Her accent was
almost bitter. "You have deserved one; you are beginning to have the
other thrust upon you. How does it make you feel?"

"As if I owed a great deal to you."

The girlish pink flush rose in Miss Gannion's cheeks.

"Thank you, dear boy. But really I have done nothing."

Arlt turned his back to the piano and, clasping his hands over his
knees, spoke with simple gravity.

"Miss Gannion, here in America, I have had three good friends, Mr.
Thayer, you, and Miss Van Osdel. Everybody knows what Mr. Thayer has
done to help me; I am the only one who knows about you and Miss Van
Osdel, and I know it better and better, the more I learn to understand
your American ways. It was not always easy for a woman in society to
accept as her friend a stranger musician without reputation and without
social backing, to acknowledge him in public and to insist that her
friends should acknowledge him. At first I took it as a matter of
course. I know better now, and I know that you and Miss Van Osdel must
have given up some things for the sake of helping me along."

Miss Gannion paused, before she answered.

"Otto," she said at length; "I am a lonely woman, and my life has been
broader for knowing you. I mean that _you_ in the plural, for there have
been a good many of you. Some have been successful, some have not; a few
have become famous, just as you are doing. Some of them have been sent
to me; some have come of their own accord. We have been close friends
for a while, and then they have gone on their ways. Every going has left
its scar. I was a woman, sitting still in my place by the fire; they
were marching with the procession, stopping only for a little while and
then going on out of my sight. It has made me feel so futile. But, of
them all, you are the only one who has suggested that the _vivandière_
may be a useful element on the march. It was all I could do, and I did
it. I am glad if it counted for anything."

"Everything in this world counts but cipher, naught, or zero," Bobby
observed suddenly, as he came strolling into the room at Sally's side.
"You aren't a cipher, Miss Gannion. They're either evanescent or tubby,
according to whether you look at their moral or their physical
proportions. You don't fit either measurement. Therefore you aren't a
cipher. Therefore you count. How do, Arlt? No; don't get up from the
piano. You owe me a sonata, at least, to pay for the stunning headlines
I gave you, yesterday."

"Was that your work, Bobby?" Sally asked, while she shook hands with
Arlt. "I thought it must have come from the bake-shop where they do all
the other pi. Did you see it, Miss Gannion? It reminded me of _A was an
Apple Pie: Arlt's Art Analyzed_. Properly, the second line should have
been: _By Bobby Bunkum_; but I suppose his ideas ran low, when he
reached that point."

"I say, Arlt," Bobby suggested; "why don't you write a series of
articles on How to Get on in the World?"

"They would only take one line: Know Miss Gannion and Miss Van Osdel,"
Arlt retorted, with unwonted quickness.

Bobby shook his head.

"No go, Arlt. I've known them for years, known them intimately; and look
at me! I haven't budged an inch in the upward march. The fact is, I have
just budged downward. My new underling is a boy of seventy and afraid
of a draught, so in common humanity I have had to make over to him my
warm corner at the editorial board, and remove myself to the chilly
places below the salt. To be sure, it gives me extra good purchase on
the devil, as my present desk is just in his pathway to the Chief, and I
can smite him as he goes by."

"Does he turn the other cheek?" Sally queried. "One lump, Miss Gannion.
I am still keeping up my Lenten penance, for I acquired the taste for
it, and I can't bring myself back to the old extravagant ways. Next
Lent, probably I shall mortify the flesh by taking two lumps."

Bobby handed her the cup.

"The other cheek," he answered. "Which do you mean? He's all cheek, all
over himself, and it offers itself, whichever way he turns. Have you
seen Thayer lately, Arlt?"

"Yesterday afternoon. He came down to my room to rehearse the songs he
is to sing, next Saturday."

"What is Saturday? You fellows are going ahead at such a rate that I
can't keep track of you, unless I have an engagement book for your
especial benefit."

"Bobby!" Sally expostulated. "Mr. Arlt's suite is to be played,
Saturday, and Mr. Thayer is to be the soloist for the concert. You
oughtn't to have forgotten that, especially when you asked me to go with
you."

"Oh, yes; I do remember now," Bobby replied serenely. "I knew I had some
duty on hand for Saturday, just when I wanted to run up to Englewood for
a little golf. What makes you do music in pleasant weather, Arlt? It's
mean to keep a fellow in-doors at this season."

"It is our last appearance," Arlt answered.

Bobby raised his brows in feigned terror.

"Nothing mortal, I hope."

"No. We are going abroad, early in June."

"Just the other fellow's luck! I wish I were a genius, to go frisking
about Europe instead of inking my fingers at home."

Arlt shook his head.

"No frisking for us. We are going to study."

With characteristic promptitude, Bobby dragged out his hobby, mounted it
and was off at a gallop.

"That's always the way with you musicians! You work till you are tired
of it; then you go off and shirk, and call it studying. I used to think
you were the elect of the earth. Now I doubt it."

"Have some more tea, Bobby," Miss Gannion suggested.

Bobby waved her aside.

"Am I a child, to be diverted with soothing drinks? Never! I must have
my cry out, Miss Gannion. You and Sally can be talking about the last
fashion in peignoirs, if you wish. I don't know what they are; but I did
a scarehead about them for the Sunday fashion page, last week. The woman
who generally sees to it had mumps, and I substituted. I thought I did
it superbly: _Death to Décolleté: Peignoirs Popular for Suburban
Suppers_. That was the way I did it, and I was sure she would be
pleased; but she cut me dead on the stairs, the first day she
convalesced enough to be out. Arlt, musicians are second-rate beings, at
best."

"I am sorry. Perhaps you can suggest a remedy," Arlt replied literally.

"Cast off your leading strings, and work out your own theories to suit
yourselves," Bobby answered unhesitatingly. "Now look here, I used to
think that it was greater to create music than to evolve literature; now
I know more, I know it isn't. When a man writes a book, he goes ahead
and does it according to the light of nature and the sense that is in
him. Sometimes it is good; mostly it isn't, but at least he has done it
out of himself and by himself. When you write a symphony, you do it out
of yourself, but not by yourself. You do it by the exact rules that
somebody else before you has laid down. You can have just so many themes
and so many episodes, though it would puzzle the _Concertmeister_ of the
heavenly choir to tell where the themes leave off and the episodes
begin. You know you have got those rules to hang on to, and they are a
great support in seasons of mental famine. Two themes and a subsidiary,
and a lot of episodes for padding: that's all you need, and they are
bound to come on in just a given order. Can you imagine a novelist
sitting down and fitting his work neatly into a box measured off into
compartments: one hero, one heroine, one extra, plus episodic sunsets
and moonbeams galore? Not much! He makes his rules as he goes along.
Sally, which is greater, to create a gown, or to cut it out by a paper
pattern?"

"To cut it out, of course," Sally answered unexpectedly. "The patterns
never fit, and it is more work to bring them into the shape of any human
being than it is to start out with a free hand, in the first place."

But Miss Gannion challenged her.

"Sally, did you ever make a gown?"

"Never; but that doesn't prevent my having theories," Sally replied
airily.

"And I have had practice. I attempted once, when my years were less and
my zeal more, to clothe an orphan with the work of my own hands. I
thought I would operate free hand, as you call it, and I wish you could
have beheld the result. The orphan's own mother would never have
recognized her babe in the midst of the strange, polyangular bundle of
cloth. I suspect that the same might be said of a good many novelists,
and that a judicious trimming of the seams according to some established
pattern might improve their work."

Arlt nodded approvingly.

"As usual, Miss Gannion has spoken wisely," he remarked.

"Miss Gannion has only echoed my words," Sally objected.

"Not at all. You said it was harder to work from a pattern; I merely
suggested that the results were more satisfactory."

"Well, never mind," Sally returned promptly. "I don't care about that,
so long as the vote goes against Bobby."

"And then, this matter of studying," Bobby went on, disdaining her
interruption. "Now, when you get hard up for ideas, Arlt, when you
actually can't get enough out of your gray matter to fill up your
pattern, you go off somewhere and study something. Now, if I--"

"What have you to do with it, Bobby?" Miss Gannion queried.

"I represent literature, of course, just as Arlt represents music. If I
were to go off and study something, what would you all think?"

"That it was the best possible thing you could possibly do," Sally
retorted.

Bobby frowned.

"You are so feminine and subjective, Sally. I suppose you can't help it,
though. But really--Arlt, for instance, has produced a prize
composition, while he is still studying. That's exactly what we used to
do in prep. school. Fancy a school for novelists, with night classes for
indigent poets! It would be a parallel case; but what would be the
effect upon literature?"

Arlt rose deliberately and crossed the room to the empty chair at Miss
Gannion's side.

"All in all," he answered quietly; "from my slight knowledge of the
teeming millions who are standing in line before the portals of American
literature, I think the establishment of such a school ought to be the
first duty of a self-respecting American government."

Thayer, meanwhile, was preparing for a longer absence from America than
even Arlt was aware. The late winter and early spring had been for him a
season of perfect professional success. _Faust_ had been the first of
many operas, for the illness of the regular baritone had taken a sudden
turn for the worse and had ended his work for the season, and the
manager had insisted that Thayer should fill his place. The event had
fully justified the prediction of the old _maestro_, and in his operatic
rôles Thayer was finding out where his real greatness lay. His mental
personality, as well as his huge figure, demanded room to manifest
itself. His acting was dramatic, yet full of control and reserve power,
and his voice, fresh from its weeks of rest, richer and stronger than
ever, was endowed with a new note of pathos, of longing for something
quite beyond his power of attainment. Measured by the eye, Thayer held
the world in the hollow of his hand. The ear alone betrayed the fact
that he found the world as hollow as the curve of his encircling
fingers. But when Thayer squared his jaw and threw back his shoulders
before one of his great arias, eye and ear united in saying that the
time would come when, by sheer might of his will, he would fill up that
world until the weight of its fulness should fit his encircling hand
with a contact as absolute as it would be lasting. Meanwhile, he was
biding his time.

Nominally, he was going to Germany for a little study and much rest. In
reality, he was considering an invitation to sing at Bayreuth, that
summer; and among his papers was an unsigned contract which would keep
him in European cities during the whole of the following winter. He was
leaving his plans undecided, until he could hear definite news from
Beatrix.

Living within a block of her house, he had nevertheless seen her but
once since Lorimer's death. Once only, less than a week after the
funeral, she had received him when he called. The call had been an
uncomfortable one for them both. Neither had been able to forget that
morning together in the cottage. It had been impossible for them to meet
as if that hour had never been; neither could they accept the truth
which had revealed itself at that time, and face its consequences. As
yet, the time for that had not come. Nevertheless, they both felt
relieved when the call was ended. Living side by side in the same social
circle, they could not fail to meet, as time went on and Beatrix resumed
her old place in the world. Any change in their attitude to each other
would not pass unchallenged. They were bound to meet; it was imperative
that they should meet in precisely the old way. They both were wise
enough to feel that the sooner they met, the better. Unbroken ice
thickens most quickly. However, when Thayer, after a half-hour of
platitudes, went down the steps, Beatrix, locked into her own room,
paced the floor, to and fro, to and fro again, like a caged panther,
while Thayer walked the streets until time to dress for the stage, and
then sang the part of _Valentine_ with a furious madness of despair
which merely added another stiff little leaf to his garland of fame. The
next day, the papers waxed enthusiastic over Thayer's temperament, and
Beatrix, alone in her room, read the papers and smiled sadly to herself
as she read. Thayer's fate was, in a sense, less hard to bear than her
own. He could find outlet for his sorrow. She, perforce, was dumb.

Since that day, Thayer had caught no glimpse of Beatrix. She had seen
him repeatedly, however, when she had been driving; and once, at Bobby's
urgent pleading, hidden from view in the back of a box, she had heard
him sing _Valentine_. On the way home, she had decided that, after all,
perhaps his fate was no easier than hers to bear. His sorrow had
measured itself by the greatness of his personality.

As the May days passed by, rumors reached the ears of Thayer that all
was not well with Beatrix. In her strict retirement, he could get no
word from her; but at length, as the rumors increased, he sought out
Bobby Dane. When he came away from Bobby, his face was stern and seamed
with deep lines around his rigid lips, and he vouchsafed to Arlt no
reason for his sudden postponement of the date for their sailing.

"The first of July will bring us there in season," he explained briefly.
"I find I can't leave New York until after the twentieth."

So, in the first fierce heat of early June, the days dragged slowly
along. Day after day, Thayer sat long at his desk in the attitude of
passive waiting. Now and then he read over his unsigned contracts,
wondering, meanwhile, whether he would ever sign them. If Beatrix lived,
he had determined to spend the next year abroad. In the other event--He
shook his head.

Nothing then could make much difference in his future.



CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE


During the second week in June, Beatrix's baby was born, and for days
afterward, the mother's life, so long in danger, now hung by a thread.
Then the good old fibre of the Danes reasserted itself, and Beatrix came
slowly upward from the verge of the River of Death. Bobby's face cleared
itself of its shadows, Thayer signed his contracts and, the next week,
he and Arlt finally sailed for Europe.

In the long days of her convalescence, Beatrix manifested an utter
indifference to the tidings from the outer world. She lay by the hour,
her baby on her arm, looking down at the fuzzy little head and the red
little face whose indeterminate features were fast taking the stamp of
those of their father. Strange to say, the fact caused Beatrix no
repulsion. The fires of her being seemed to have burned themselves out,
and even her feeling to Lorimer shared in her general apathy. In the
weeks which had followed his death, she had made up her mind that the
baby would be fashioned in his image; and she accepted the fact
philosophically, as a part of her life from which there was no appeal.

From the first, the baby was a quiet child. Apparently he shared his
mother's apathy towards all things, and he lay by the hour in a sluggish
drowse, leaving his mother free to allow her thoughts to wander at will.
They did wander, too. Lying there, passive, in her luxurious room,
Beatrix's mind scaled the heights of heaven, sounded the depths of hell.
The one had lain within her reach; but she had never known it until too
late. The other had crossed her path in the past; it was opening before
her future. Her baby boy, so plainly created in the physical likeness of
his father, could not have failed to receive something of his moral
nature. She quailed before the grim promise of the future and, drawing
the blanket over her face, she tried to shut out the sight and the
thought of her child. And, in the first weeks of her wedded life, she
had so longed for the time when a baby head should cuddle into the curve
of her arm! At the thought, she pulled the blanket away again
impetuously and, of its own accord, her arm tightened around the little
bundle of flannels. He was not entirely Lorimer's child; he was her
own, her very own. He must have inherited something of the sturdy
constitution, the steady nerves of the Danes. The stronger, better blood
was bound to triumph; and she would work unceasingly to oust that other
taint from his nature. He was her child; she loved him, and she would
give her life to the training which should make him able to wipe out the
stain upon his father's record.

July was burning the white asphalt streets, before Beatrix was strong
enough to be moved to Monomoy. Bobby dropped in to see her, the
afternoon before she left town.

"Funny little beggar!" he observed, as he sat down opposite Beatrix and
gravely inspected the baby in her arms.

"What do you think of him?" Beatrix asked, while she smoothed down the
wholly superfluous skirt and then, tilting the baby forward,
straightened the frills on the back of his little yoke.

"Oh, he's not so bad as he might be," Bobby responded encouragingly, as
he snapped his fingers in the face of the child who stared back at him
impassively.

The mother's face flushed.

"What do you mean, Bobby?" she asked a little sharply.

Too late, Bobby saw his blunder. In his consternation, he blundered yet
more.

"I had no idea he would be half so presentable a boy. Just the living
image of Lorimer; isn't he?"

"You see it, too?"

Bobby was at a loss to interpret the sudden incisive note in her voice.
No one had warned him that the baby's likeness to his father had been a
forbidden subject, and he could not know that Beatrix, in brooding over
the matter, had reached a point where she questioned whether the
resemblance might not exist solely in her own imagination. Bobby's next
words annulled that hope and confirmed her fears.

"He's as like him as two peas, cunning as he can be. There, boy, look at
your Uncle Bobby!" Bobby bent forward and with his forefinger gently
tilted the little face upward. "Lorimer's eyes to perfection," he
observed. Then, as he met Beatrix's eyes, he suddenly understood their
wild appeal. Dropping the baby's chin, he laid his hand on his cousin's
shoulder. "I wouldn't worry about that, Beatrix," he added reassuringly.
"He probably will take it out in looking, and, for his character, hark
back to some remote Dane or other. Lorimer was a handsome fellow, and
the baby might do worse than look like him. Otherwise, he may go off on
a tangent. Suppose he should take after me, for instance!"

Bobby spoke cheerily, hoping that Beatrix's laugh would follow his
words. Instead, she caught his hand with her disengaged one and pressed
it fiercely to her cheek.

"Oh, Bobby, I wish he would!" she cried.

Bobby looked rather abashed. He and Beatrix had been intimate from their
babyhood; yet neither one of them was prone to self-betrayal, and this
was the most demonstrative scene which had ever taken place between the
cousins. As a rule, they were too sure of each other to feel the need
for expressions of affection. For a minute, Bobby patted Beatrix's cheek
with clumsy gentleness. Then he returned to the baby.

"Come here, old man! Come to your Uncle Bobby!" he urged, holding out
his hands invitingly. "Come along here." And before Beatrix could utter
a word of protesting caution, the baby was lying in the hollow of
Bobby's elbow and blinking up at his new nurse with round brown eyes.

Bobby stared down at him benignly.

"Feels cunning; doesn't he, Beatrix? He seems to fit into one's grip
rather well. One can't help liking the little beggar. By the way,
what's his name?"

"Sidney," Beatrix responded quietly.

"The deuce!" In his surprise, Bobby almost dropped the baby.

Beatrix answered his unspoken thought.

"Yes, I have decided that it is best. I must meet fate anyway, and I may
as well do it boldly, with a direct challenge. The name won't make any
difference to the baby, and it may help to make me more patient and
forgiving."

Gently Bobby laid the baby back into Beatrix's arms. Then he rose.

"No," he said slowly; "it won't make any difference, and it gives the
chance of bringing the name back to its old standing. You may take lots
of comfort with the boy, Beatrix. I hope so with all my heart, for I
know how you need it. Things have gone rather against you, these last
months; but perhaps the bad times are all over now." At the door, he
lingered and looked back. "If you need me at Monomoy, Beatrix, don't
hesitate to send for me. Sometimes it is a comfort to have somebody of
one's own generation within hail."

Six weeks later, she realized the truth of his words when Bobby came
striding into the room, with the family doctor at his heels. For the
past forty-eight hours, Beatrix had watched convulsion after convulsion
rack the tiny frame, wear itself out and die away, only to be followed
by another and yet another. Under this new sorrow, the grandparents had
given way entirely. They were powerless to help, and Beatrix, pitying
their misery which she knew was more than half for her sake, had sent
them away from the room. For forty-eight hours, she and the nurse had
kept an unbroken vigil; and Beatrix had held herself steady until she
had caught sight of Bobby's strong, happy, pitiful face in the doorway.

When she came to herself once more, she was lying on the couch in the
hall, with Bobby beside her and Bobby's protecting arm around her
shoulders.

"It may not be so bad, dear," he was saying soothingly. "Schirmer will
pull him through, if anybody can, and he says it isn't at all hopeless.
Lots of youngsters have convulsions and come out of them, jolly as
grigs."

Beatrix saw no need for telling him the new fear which had tortured her,
during those endless hours of waiting after she had sent off her
telegram. Instead, she took his sympathy as it was given, with loving
optimism; but she nestled even more closely against her cousin's side,
as if for the hour she gained strength from the touch of his protecting
arm. It was her one spot of perfect restfulness.

Late that night, Bobby had a talk with the doctor. It left him glad that
already he had spoken with encouragement to Beatrix. The next two days,
he gave his time to her absolutely. Then his official summons came, and
reluctantly he returned to his desk.

By the time Beatrix was in town again, she was ready to admit to herself
that hopelessness might mean something worse than death. By the end of
the winter, the _might_ had ceased to be potential and had become
actual. Since those August days at Monomoy, the convulsions had recurred
at irregular intervals. The physical constitution of the Danes had
refused to give way to them; the nervous instability of the Lorimers had
yielded to them utterly. Unless some miracle intervened, the child must
face a future of vigorous body and enfeebled brain; and Beatrix, as she
watched him, told herself the melancholy truth that the day of miracles
was irrevocably dead. It seemed to her that the years were stretching
out before her in an empty, unending trail, that she must follow it
alone, hand in hand with her child, bound forever to watch for the
signs of an intellect which never, never should appear. And she was the
one to blame. It was no less her own fault, because she had assumed the
responsibility in arrogant ignoring of its true import.

One afternoon in late May found her sitting by the open window with the
child in her arms, when Thayer was announced. She greeted him with
something of her old cordiality. Then she rang for the nurse to take
away the baby.

"When did you get home again?" she asked, when they were seated alone
together.

"This morning. I landed at ten, and I came directly to you."

She ignored the eagerness of his tone.

"You have been wonderfully successful, I am told."

"Well enough. It was nothing wonderful, though."

"Bobby has kept me informed of your glories," she insisted, with a
slight smile; "and Mr. Arlt has really enjoyed them as well as if they
had been his own."

"That is characteristic of Arlt. His letters were noncommittal; but
Bobby says he has had his own fair share of honors. I am glad, for he
deserves them."

"Indeed he does," she assented heartily. "We all are so glad for him;
and it is a delight to watch the odd, boyish modesty with which he
accepts his own fame. He is the most unspoiled genius I have ever
known."

There was a short silence. Thayer grew restless under it. He had not
hurried his return, left his luncheon untasted and escaped from a dozen
reporters, in order to sit and discuss Arlt with that black-gowned woman
the tip of whose finger outweighed for him the clumsy honors of the
earth. All the way over, he had paced the steamer's deck by the hour,
planning what words he should say to Beatrix when at last they stood
face to face, with only the long-buried dead between them. He had
supposed that lie had learned his lesson by heart. Nevertheless, now
that he was at last in her presence, his words fled from his mind.
Beatrix broke the silence.

"You have seen Bobby, then?"

"He met me at the steamer."

She raised her eyes to his, half-appealingly, half-defiantly.

"And he told you--"

"He has told me everything," Thayer interrupted her. He rose restlessly,
crossed the room to the mantel and examined a vase with unseeing eyes.
Then, returning, he halted directly before her, straightened his
shoulders and drew a deep, full breath. "Beatrix?" he said unsteadily.

She shrank from before the words she had been dreading for so long.

"Don't!" she begged him.

"But I must." His voice was steady now. "We both of us know the truth,
and the time has come when we can acknowledge it. I have waited long,
dear, long and patiently. For fifteen months, I have left you to
yourself and to the past. Now it is time for the future. I have come
home, Beatrix, to marry you at last."

Before the glad tenderness that thrilled in his tone, she sank back in
her deep chair and buried her face in her hands. Thayer waited quietly,
patiently. He had told his story; he could afford to wait for her
answer, since he never doubted what it was to be. The silence between
them lasted for moments. From upstairs in another part of the house,
there came a fretful childish cry. Then the stillness dropped again. At
length, Beatrix let her hands fall into her lap. There was an instant of
utter listlessness; then quietly she rose and stood facing him, drawn to
her full height. Her cheeks were white, her eyes unstained by any tears,
her voice quite level.

"I am sorry," she said slowly; "but what you ask is impossible."

He started, as if struck with a lash.

"What do you mean?"

"That I cannot marry you."

He stared at her in amazement, while the color left his cheeks and then
rushed again to his temples where the veins stood out like knotted
cords. For the moment, he was angry, baffled by the shock of her
unexpected answer. Then he mastered himself.

"Do you not love me any longer?" he asked.

"Any longer?" Her tone sought to express haughty disdain; but her eyes
drooped before the fire in his own.

"Never mind the words," he said sharply. "In times like this, one can't
stop to pick for rhetorical effects. It is enough that I love you with
all the manhood there is in me, and that for months I have counted upon
winning your love in return. And now--"

She interrupted him.

"And now you have found out your mistake," she said sadly.

"Yes." There was a long interval of silence, before he added, "And is
this final?"

"It is." Her stiffened lips could scarcely form the words.

He turned to go away. All the alertness which had marked his coming had
dropped away from him. He moved slowly and with drooping shoulders.
Already his face had grown haggard underneath the bronzing of his sea
voyage. Beatrix stood motionless, watching him, struggling to master
herself, to hold herself firmly to her resolve which had been taking
shape within her, during all that past winter and spring.

Halfway across the room, Thayer hesitated, turned and came back to her
side.

"Beatrix," he said impetuously; "we may as well face this thing
squarely. It won't be the first time. We didn't wreck the future then;
we mustn't do it now. The cases are different, though. This time, the
danger lies in half-truths. We must speak plainly."

She attempted to check him; but, for the once, she was powerless to stem
the tide of his words, and he hurried on,--

"We loved each other. There is no disloyalty to Lorimer in admitting it
now. He belonged to the past, and, in that past, you belonged to him.
The past is over and ended now, and, for the future, we must belong to
each other. It is for that that I am here."

She tried in vain to control her voice. Then she shook her head.

"What has come between us?" he demanded. "You did love me. Look up,
Beatrix! Yes, your eyes tell the truth about it. You love me now; I am
here to prove it, and to marry you in spite of yourself."

Gently she put away his arms and faced him.

"No. It is impossible."

He wavered before the finality of her tone.

"But you love me," he urged.

She was silent, and stood with her eyes fixed on the floor at his feet.
Then, of a sudden, she raised her eyes to his, and Thayer was dazzled by
the light that was shining in them.

"Yes," she answered, with a quiet dignity which he could not gainsay.
"And that is the very reason that I will not marry you. I love you too
well--so well that I can never allow you to become the father of Sidney
Lorimer's child."



CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR


"I believe my world is overcrowded," Sally said, one January afternoon,
two years later.

"Arlt, why don't you take the hint?" Bobby asked languidly. "I am too
comfortable to stir, and she evidently wishes to get rid of somebody."

"Possibly she means me; but I was the last to come, so I shall outstay
you both," Miss Gannion said, laughing. "At least, Sally, your
hospitality does you credit."

With leisurely fingers, Sally was opening her teaball; but Bobby
interposed.

"I wouldn't make any tea for us, Sally. I know you are afraid it may not
hold out for your crowded universe, and we three have been here often
enough to have dispelled any illusions about the quality of your cups.
Two are cracked, and one has a nick exactly in the spot where we drink.
I suspect Arlt of having cut his wisdom teeth on it."

"Only women cut their wisdom teeth on a teacup," Miss Gannion observed.
"But really, Sally, I would save my tea until the crowd shows itself."

Sally shook her head.

"You interrupted me in the midst of my thesis."

Bobby interrupted again.

"It is our only chance to get in a word. We have to insert its thin edge
at a comma, or else keep still. You never have any conversational
semicolons, to say nothing of periods."

"As I was saying," Sally repeated pertinaciously; "my world is
overcrowded. I have so many acquaintances that I never get time to enjoy
my friends."

"What about now?" Bobby queried. "Here are we, and here is time. Which
is lacking: enjoyment, or friendship?"

"Oh, this is an interlude, and doesn't count. We shall just get into the
midst of a little rational conversation, though, and two or three stupid
people will come in and reduce us to talking about the weather."

"You might send out cards," Arlt suggested, with the hesitating accent
which was so characteristic of him. "Why not announce that on Tuesdays
you are at home to clever people and friends only?"

"Yes; but it is no subject for joking," Sally persisted. "Last Tuesday
in all that storm, for the first time this winter, Mr. Thayer came to
see me. I know how busy he is, and I was just preparing to make the most
of his call, when Mrs. Stanley came swishing and creaking into the room,
and she babbled about her servants and her lumbago until Mr. Thayer took
his departure. I wanted to administer poison."

"Try an anodyne," Bobby advised her. "They say that stout people yield
easily to their influence. By the way, why is it polite to call a woman
stout, but rude in the extreme to dub her fat? That is one of the
problems I have never been able to solve. I used the wrong word in
regard to Mrs. Stanley, one night, and she overheard me. Since then, she
hauls in her latch-string hand over hand, whenever I turn the corner."

"Do you mind, Bobby?" Sally inquired. "The two most peaceful years of my
social life were the years immediately following the day I advised Mrs.
Stanley not to attempt _Juliet_ in public. Lately, I have wished that
her memory were just a bit more retentive. Tell me, has anybody seen
Beatrix, this week?"

"She was at Carnegie Hall, last night."

Arlt's face brightened.

"Really?"

"Yes, I coaxed her into going. You ought to feel honored, Arlt; it is
the first music she has heard, this season."

"Hasn't she been to hear Mr. Thayer?"

"No; she hasn't heard him since his first season. I tell her she has no
idea how he has developed, nor how much she is losing; but she seems to
have lost her love for music."

"Poor, dear girl! I don't wonder," Sally said impetuously.

But Arlt interposed.

"Isn't there a certain comfort to be gained from it?" he asked. "I
hoped--I had thought music was to inspire and help people, not to amuse
them."

"It does in theory," Bobby returned; "only now and then it reminds one
of things, and upsets the whole scheme of inspiration. But I was
surprised that Beatrix went, last night."

"What did she say?" Arlt inquired, with a frankness which yet bore no
taint of egotism.

"Not very much; but her face at the close of your _Andante_ told the
story. You touched her on the raw, Arlt; but you roused her pluck to
bear it. I think she will send you a note, to-day."

"I wonder if you realize what an event for your friends this symphony
was," Sally broke in.

Arlt smiled. With growing manhood, his gravity also had grown; but his
slow little smile caused his face to light wonderfully. Denied all claim
to beauty, there was a great charm in the simple, modest dignity with
which he bore himself. He answered Sally's last words with an
earnestness that became him well.

"Without my friends, my symphony would have been left unwritten."

"And it was a perfect success," Sally added.

"Success is never perfect," he returned a little sadly. "Its merit must
lie in its incompleteness, for that just urges us on to something
beyond. The success on which we rest, is no better than a failure. Some
day, I shall begin my ideal symphony; but, by the time I have reached my
final _Maestoso_, I shall have learned that my ideal has moved on again
beyond my reach."

"In other words, a real genius is nothing but an artistic
butter-fingers," Bobby commented irreverently. "Stop your German
philosophizing, Arlt, and help us enjoy the present by playing your
_Scherzo_. Thayer says it is by far the best thing you have ever done."

Obediently Arlt crossed to the piano. In his absorption in his symphony,
he had by no means allowed his skill as a pianist to rust for want of
use, and a little sigh of utter content went around the group, as they
heard the dainty, clashing notes answer to the touch of his fingers. He
was in the full rhythm of his _Scherzo_, playing, humming, or whistling,
according to his whim and to the demands of the orchestral score, when
Sally gave a sudden exclamation of warning.

"Behold the crowd! Here endeth the interlude! Enter Mrs. Lloyd Avalons!"

"What in thunder is that woman doing here, Sally?" Bobby demanded, as
Arlt's fingers dropped from the keys in the very midst of a phrase.

Sally shrugged her shoulders with the petulant gesture of a naughty
child.

"How in thunder should I know, Bobby? I wish you'd ask her."

"No use. She never takes a hint."

A sudden change came over the group, as Mrs. Lloyd Avalons tripped
daintily into the room. Miss Gannion straightened herself in her chair
and took refuge in her lorgnette; Arlt's artistic fire extinguished
itself, and he once more became the taciturn young German, while Sally
assumed certain of the characteristics of a frozen olive. Bobby,
however, continued to smile upon the room with unabated serenity.

"What a delight to find you here!" Mrs. Lloyd Avalons exclaimed, as she
took Sally's hand.

"Miss Van Osdel has unsuspected depths to her nature," Bobby observed
gravely. "Long as I have known her, Mrs. Avalons, I assure you I have
never succeeded in finding her out."

"Oh--yes. How like you that is, Mr. Dane! But I was including you all."

"Taking us all in?" Bobby queried.

"Taking us just as you find us," Sally added. "You also take tea, I
think, Mrs. Avalons?"

"You'd better," Bobby urged, with inadvertent pointedness. "We were just
saying that Miss Van Osdel brews wisdom mingled with her tea."

"Bobby!" Sally adjured him, in a horrified whisper; but Mrs. Lloyd
Avalons had already turned to Arlt.

"I am so glad to meet you here, Mr. Arlt. All your friends, to-day, are
eager to congratulate you on your wonderful symphony."

"Yes." Arlt's tone was scarcely ingratiating, as he stirred his tea
violently.

"Yes, it was beautiful, so sweet and harmonious. Really, you are quite
taking the city by storm. You must be very busy to do so much writing.
Don't you get very tired?"

"Sometimes." Arlt emptied his cup at a gulp.

"Oh, you must! But it is worth tiring one's poor head, to achieve such
splendid results. But don't you ever rest? All winter long, I have been
hoping you would find time to drop in on me, some Thursday."

"Thank you." Arlt attacked his extra lump of sugar with his spoon.
Eluding his touch, it flew across the room and landed at Bobby's feet.
Stooping down, Bobby rescued it and gravely handed it back to Arlt.

"Try it again, old man," he said encouragingly. "You'll get the proper
range in time."

But Mrs. Lloyd Avalons returned to the charge.

"Well, as long as you won't come to me, I must seize my chance here, if
Miss Van Osdel will excuse me. We are getting up a concert for the
benefit of the Allied Day Nurseries, Mr. Arlt. It is to be very select
indeed, only artists of established reputation are to be invited to take
part, and we shall keep the price of the tickets up high enough to shut
out any undesirable people who might otherwise come. We are counting on
you for two numbers."

"But I cannot play."

"In other words, Mrs. Avalons," Bobby remarked: "you'll have to discount
Arlt."

"But we must have him," Mrs. Lloyd Avalons said, in real dismay. "We
never thought of his refusing."

Arlt shook his head in grim silence.

Mrs. Lloyd Avalons took refuge in cajolery.

"Oh, but you must! We can't spare you, Mr. Arlt. If you don't care for
the charity, you'll do it for me; won't you?"

Deliberately Arlt packed the sugar and the spoon into his cup, and set
the cup down on the table. Then he turned to face Mrs. Lloyd Avalons
squarely.

"On the contrary, that is the very reason I cannot do it, Mrs. Lloyd
Avalons. When Miss Gannion introduced me to you as Mr. Thayer's
accompanist and a pianist who needed engagements, you wished to refuse
me a place on your programme. Now that others have been good enough to
listen to me, you can make room for two numbers by me. I am very sorry;
but I shall be unable to accept your invitation."

There was no underlying rancor in the slow, deliberate syllables; they
were merely the statement of an indisputable fact. Most women would
have accepted them in silence. Not so with Mrs. Lloyd Avalons.

"But you played for Miss Van Osdel, last week," she persisted.

Arlt rose to his feet.

"Yes, I played for Miss Van Osdel, last week, just as I hope to have the
pleasure of playing for her many times more in the future. However, that
is quite a different matter. Miss Van Osdel and I are very old friends,
and it will always be one of my very greatest pleasures to be entirely
at her service." He made a quaint little bow in Sally's direction, and
his face lighted with the friendly, humorous smile she knew so well.
Then he added, "And now I must bid you all a very good afternoon."

He bowed again and walked away, with his simple dignity unruffled to the
last. Society might bless him, or society might ban. Nevertheless, it
was by no means Arlt's intention to turn his art into a species of
lap-dog, to come trotting in at society's call, and then be dismissed to
the outer darkness again, so soon as the round of its tricks was
accomplished. Egotism Arlt had not; but his independence shrank at no
one of the corollaries of his creed of art.

Bobby lingered after the others had gone away.

"I say, Sally," he remarked at length, apparently apropos of nothing in
particular; "how does it happen that you have never married me?"

[Illustration: "'I believe I might as well ask you now'"]

"Probably for the very excellent reason that you have never asked me,"
Sally responded frankly.

With his hands in his pockets, Bobby sauntered across to the sofa where
she was sitting. There he stood contemplating her for a moment. Then he
settled himself at her side.

"Well," he said slowly; "I believe I might as well ask you now."



CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE


"I almost made a whole poem about you," Bobby said to Thayer, one night.
Thayer laughed.

"How far did you get?"

"The last line."

"Then you actually did make one."

Bobby shook his head.

"Oh, no. I only made the next to the last line and the last. Then the
inspiration gave out."

"What was it?" Thayer asked idly.

The mirth left Bobby's face, and he looked up at his companion almost
defiantly.

    "Forget the things we cannot,
    And face the things we must,"

he said slowly.

The dark red leaped up into Thayer's face, as he looked at Bobby keenly.

"How long have you known it?"

"Since the day I told you they had come home from abroad. You sang _St.
Paul_, that night, you may remember, and afterwards I advised you to go
into grand opera. A fellow with a voice like yours can't expect to have
any secrets of his own." Bobby paused; then he added thoughtfully, "Life
is bound to be a good deal of a bluff for us all."

Thayer walked on in silence for seven or eight blocks.

"What do you think about it?" he asked then.

"I think that I would almost delay my own wedding, for the sake of being
your best man."

"And yet, she says it is impossible," Thayer said thoughtfully.

"When was that?"

"Two years ago, when I came home from Europe."

"Oh!" Bobby said slowly, as the light dawned upon him. "That was the
blow that floored you, that summer; was it? I never knew. What was the
trouble? The child?"

Thayer's assent was rather curt in its brevity. Bobby's blunt, kindly
questions hurt him; yet, after all, there was a sort of comfort in the
hurt. After two years of silence, it was a relief to be able to speak of
his trouble. It had grown no more, no less with the passing months; it
was just what it had been, at the close of that warm May afternoon.

"Do you know, I rather like Beatrix for the stand she has taken," Bobby
said meditatively. "She has the sense to know that, if she married you
and made you share the responsibility of that child, it would knock your
singing higher than a kite."

Thayer interrupted him impatiently.

"How much does my singing amount to me in comparison with my love for
Beatrix? I would cancel my engagements, to-morrow, if she would say the
word."

"But, thank the Lord, she won't," Bobby replied placidly. "Don't be an
ass, Thayer. It is a popular fiction that an artist is expected to give
up his work for the sake of matrimony; but it's an immoral fable. The
gods have endowed you with a voice, and you have no business to fling
away the gift, when your keeping it can do so much good in the world.
You owe something to humanity, and a lot more back to the gods who gave
you the voice; you have no moral right to do anything that will hinder
your paying that debt. Beatrix knows this. She knows what would be the
inevitable effect of saddling you with the child, and she is right in
her decision."

"Has she been talking the matter over with you?" Thayer asked, with
sudden jealousy.

Bobby laughed scornfully.

"No need. I have eyes of my own, and I learned my _Barbara Celarent_ in
junior year."

Another block was passed in silence. Then Thayer asked,--

"Do you see Mrs. Lorimer often?"

"Every day or so. I drop in there when I can, for she's not going out
much, and she needs to see more people."

"How is she?"

"I don't know how to tell you," Bobby answered, while a note of sadness
crept into his voice. "She is giving her life to that child; and, unless
you know the child, you can't imagine the wear and tear of such an
existence. I don't know which would be worse, the watching for the
intellect which never comes, or the waiting for the convulsions that
do."

"What will be the end of it all?" Thayer broke out impetuously.

Bobby shook his head.

"God knows," he said drearily.

Bobby spoke truly, for already it seemed that the divine plan was made
to take the imperfect little life back into its keeping. A sudden chill,
a sudden cold, and then the grim word, pneumonia! For days, Beatrix and
the nurse hung over the child, struggling almost against hope to conquer
the disease. Then it was that Beatrix realized how truly she had loved
her little son, how she would miss even the constant pain of his
presence. He was her very own, the one being in the world who belonged
absolutely to her; and she fought for his life with the fierceness of
despair. Then, just as it seemed that she had triumphed and the child
was out of danger, the same insidious foe which had ended Lorimer's
life, attacked the life of his child.

Alone in the dusky room, Beatrix was sitting on the edge of the bed, her
arm around the boy who had just snuggled down for the night. Drowsily
his lids drooped; then he opened his eyes, met her eyes and struggled up
to reach her face.

"Mamma, kiss!" he begged.

That was all. Weakened by disease, the heart had been powerless to bear
the strain of the sudden motion, and the boy fell into his final sleep,
cradled in his mother's arms.

That night, Thayer sang _The Flying Dutchman_ in the same city where,
four years before, he had sung _St. Paul_. He had not been there, during
the intervening time; but his public had been faithful to his memory,
and the little opera house was packed to its utmost limits to do honor
to its former favorite, as well as to its one-night opera season. For
some unaccountable reason, Thayer had liked the place. Both the house
and the audience had pleased him, and it had been at his own request
that the manager had put on _The Flying Dutchman_, for that night.

During the last few months, _The Dutchman_ had become Thayer's favorite
rôle. Even _Valentine_ had palled upon him in time. Lingering deaths
become monotonous. When one dies them, four or five times a week, he
longs to hasten the course of events, to change the _Andante_ to a
_Prestissimo_. To Thayer's later mood, it seemed that, psychologically
speaking, _Valentine_ belonged to the ranks of the tenors. His riper
manhood demanded something a little more robust.

Thayer never admitted to himself that his liking for _The Dutchman_ came
from the personal interpretation which he put upon the story. In some
moods, he would have scoffed at the idea that there could be any
connection between himself, the successful artist whose single surname
on the bill boards could suffice to fill a house, and the wretched
_Dutchman_ whose one defiance hurled at fate had condemned him to
life-long wandering over the face of the deep. Of course, he wandered,
too; but it was by easy stages and by means of Pullmans. The parallelism
failed utterly. Still, there was the possibility of ultimate salvation
gained through the faithful love of a woman. Nevertheless, Thayer's
analysis always brought him to the conclusion that he liked the opera
because his death scene was consummated in the brief space of two
measures.

Thayer was feeling uncommonly alert and content, that night, and,
moreover, he liked his audience. Accordingly, he gave them of his best.
Never had his voice been richer, never had it rung with more dramatic
power than when, in his aria of the first act, he had ended his lament
with the declaration of his inevitable release on the slow-coming
Judgment Day. Then he stood waiting, a huge, lonely, brooding figure,
square-shouldered, square-jawed, defiant of fate, while softly the
chorus of sailors in the hold below echoed the closing phrase of his
song.

Even into Thayer's experience, no such ovation had ever come before. At
first, the audience sat breathless, as if stunned by the might of his
tragedy. Then the applause came crashing down from the galleries, up
from the floor, in from the boxes, focussing itself from all sides upon
that single, lonely, dominant figure before it. And Cotton Mather
Thayer, as he listened with a quiet, impassive face, felt his heart
leaping and bounding within him. He knew, by an instinct which he had
learned to trust completely, that in the years to come, he would never
reach a greater height of artistic success than he had done just then.
One such experience could justify many a year of halting indecision.
Puritan to the core, he yet had proved true to his Slavonic birthright.

As he left the stage with _Senta_ at the end of the second act, a
messenger handed him a card.

"The gentleman is waiting," he added. "He said he must see you, and that
he was in a hurry."

Thayer glanced at the card.

"Bring him to my dressing-room," he said.

He glanced up in surprise, as the door opened and Bobby Dane entered. He
had expected to see Bobby, immaculate in evening clothes, come strolling
lazily in to congratulate him, as he had so often done before when
Thayer had sung in cities near New York. Instead, Bobby was still in
morning dress, and his face and manner betokened some great excitement.

"I only heard your duet," he said abruptly; "but they are saying you
have outdone yourself. Will it break up your part, if I tell you some
news?"

Thayer paled suddenly.

"Is Beatrix--"

"No; but the boy died at six o'clock, this afternoon. I went to the
house; but I found there was nothing I could do, so I caught the seven
o'clock train and came up to tell you. Sure it won't upset your
singing?"

Thayer shook his head impatiently.

"I've borne worse shocks, Dane, and gone on warbling as if nothing had
happened. Did Beatrix send for me?"

"No. I only saw her for a minute. But I thought perhaps you would like
to go to her at once. She may need you."

Thayer held out his hand.

"This is like you, Dane. Thank you," he said briefly, as his man came to
warn him that _The Dutchman's_ crew had begun their chorus.

Bobby followed him into the wings.

"There's a train down at two o'clock," he suggested. "Shall we take
that?"

"The sooner, the better."

"I'll get the places, then, and meet you at the hotel afterwards." And
Bobby departed, just as the strings and wind gave out their
announcement of _The Dutchman's_ presence.

In the years to come, Thayer never knew how he went through that final
scene. It was the automatic obedience of an artistic nature to its years
of careful training. He was conscious of hearing no note from the
orchestra, no sound from his own lips. His whole being was centred in
the thought that at last Beatrix was free; that, in her final freedom,
they must face the ultimate crisis of their destinies. Would it be for
weal, or for woe? His brain refused to give back answer to the question.
And, meanwhile, the close-packed audience was thrilling with the
passionate pain of his accepted doom.

The crash of the renewed applause aroused him from his absorption and,
hand in hand with _Senta_, he emerged from his watery grave to bow his
appreciation. But it was not enough. Even to his dressing-room, he was
pursued by the cries of his name. Yielding reluctantly, he went out
before the curtain once again. Then he hurried back, and began tearing
off his costume with a feverish haste which took no account of the time
before he could get a train back to New York.

As Thayer's cab turned into the familiar street and stopped at the door
of the Lorimers' house, the gray dawn was breaking. Before its wan
color, the street lamps turned to a sickly yellow, and the asphalt
street stretched away between them like a long chalky ruler bordered
with dots of luminous paint. Above him, the lights in the house glared
out across the sombre dawn, and something in their steady, unsympathetic
glow, in the gray dawn and in the yellowing lamps carried Thayer's mind
far back to that other winter morning when he had hurried through the
storm to be with Beatrix in her hour of need.

The old butler opened the door to him, and took his coat. Then he
pointed towards the library.

"She is there," he said softly, with an odd little quaver in his thin
old voice. "I think you may go to her."

Thayer crossed the hall, laid his hand on the door, then hesitated. For
an instant, he shrank from the scene that might be before him. Then
instinctively he drew himself up and pushed open the door.

"Beatrix?" he said.

The color rushed to her face, as she sprang up and held out her hands.

"Thank God, you have come!"


                     *      *      *      *      *


=Little, Brown, and Co.'s New Novels=

_The Siege of Youth._ By FRANCES CHARLES, author of "In the Country God
Forgot." Illustrated. 12mo. Decorated cloth, $1.50.

     This is a story of the present day, and its scene is San Francisco,
     the author's home. It deals with art, with journalism, and with
     human nature, and its love episodes are charming and true to life.
     The three women characters of the book are finely drawn and
     contrasted, there is much local color in the story, and a great
     deal of bright and epigrammatic writing. The author's previous
     book, "In the Country God Forgot," has been received with the
     utmost favor. The _Boston Daily Advertiser_ says it "discloses a
     new writer of uncommon power."

=Barbara, a Woman of the West.= By JOHN H. WHITSON. Illustrated by Chase
Emerson. 12mo. Decorated cloth, $1.50.

     A distinctively American novel, dealing with life in the far West,
     and in many ways remarkable, with a novel plot and unusual
     situations. The scenes of the story are a Western ranch, Cripple
     Creek, and the City of San Diego. The heroine, Barbara, is the
     loyal wife of a somewhat self-centred man of literary tastes, Roger
     Timberly, living on a ranch in Kansas. Barbara's long and patient
     quest for her husband, who has gone to Cripple Creek to visit a
     mine, the means which she adopts to support herself, the ardor with
     which she is wooed by Gilbert Bream, and the complications which
     ensue are extremely interesting.

=The Shadow of the Czar.= By JOHN R. CARLING. Illustrated. 12mo. Decorated
cloth, $1.50. _Fifth Edition_.

     An engrossing romance of the sturdy, wholesome sort, in which the
     action is never allowed to drag, best describes this popular novel.
     "The Shadow of the Czar" is a stirring story of the romantic
     attachment of a dashing English officer for Princess Barbara, of
     the old Polish Principality of Czernova, and the conspiracy of the
     Duke of Bora, aided by Russia, to dispossess the princess of her
     throne.

=The Dominant Strain.= A Novel. By ANNA CHAPIN RAY, author of "Teddy, her
Book," etc. Illustrated in color by Harry C. Edwards. 12mo. Decorated
cloth, $1.50.

     Anna Chapin Ray's new novel has for its hero Cotton Mather Thayer,
     whose father was a Boston blueblood, and whose mother was a Russian
     musician. The latter gave to him his musical temperament, and the
     title of the book suggests the author's main motif--the warring
     strains, Puritan and Slav, in her hero. The central idea is the
     mistake a woman makes who attempts to reform a man after marriage.
     Beatrix Dane, the heroine of the book, discovers during her
     engagement that Lorimer, her lover, has an inherited appetite for
     drink, but from a mistaken sense of duty does not break her troth,
     and her intimate friends shrink from any interference. Much of the
     novel has a decidedly musical atmosphere, and the attitude of some
     portions of New York society toward musical people is well
     described.

=A Detached Pirate.= By HELEN MILCETE. Illustrated in color by I. H.
Caliga. 12mo. Decorated cloth, $1.50.

     A misunderstanding, a divorce, and a reconciliation furnish the
     theme of this bright, clever, witty, society novel. The events
     occur in London, in Halifax and its garrison, and in New York; and
     the story is told by Gay Vandeleur, a very charming heroine. The
     book will entertain and delight all who read it.

=The Pharaoh and the Priest.= Translated from the original Polish of
ALEXANDER GLOVATSKI, by JEREMIAH CURTIN. Illustrated. 12mo. Decorated
cloth, $1.50. _Fifth Edition_.

     A powerful portrayal of Ancient Egypt in the eleventh century
     before Christ is this novel in which Alexander Glovatski has
     vividly depicted the pitiless struggle between the pharaoh and the
     priesthood for supremacy. "Here is a historical novel in the best
     sense," says the _New York Commercial Advertiser_, "a novel which
     makes a vanished civilization live again."

=Love Thrives in War.= A Romance of the Frontier in 1812. By MARY
CATHERINE CROWLEY, author of "A Daughter of New France," "The Heroine of
the Strait," etc. Illustrated by Clyde O. De Land. 12mo. Decorated
cloth, $1.50.

     The surrender of General Howe and his American army to the British
     and their Indian allies under Tecumseh, and other stirring events
     of the War of 1812 form the historical background of Miss Crowley's
     latest romance. The reader's interest is at once centered in the
     heroine, Laurente Macintosh, a pretty and coquettish Scotch girl.
     The many incidents which occur in the vicinity of Detroit are
     related with skill and grace. The characters, real and fictitious,
     are strongly contrasted. Miss Crowley's new romance is strongly
     imaginative and picturesquely written, wholesome, inspiring, and
     absorbing.

=The Wars of Peace.= By A. F. WILSON Illustrated by H. C. Ireland. 12mo.
Decorated cloth, $1.50.

     A strong and skilfully constructed novel upon a subject of the
     greatest importance and interest at the present time,--"Trusts" and
     their consequences. Albion Harding, a successful and immensely
     ambitious financier, organizes an industrial combination which
     causes much suffering and disaster, and eventually alienates his
     only son, who, declining to enter the "Trust," withdraws his
     capital from his father's business, and buys a small mill and
     attempts to manage it according to his own ideas. The account of
     the destruction of Theodore Harding's mill, and his rescue, is
     dramatic, vivid, and thrilling.

=A Prince of Sinners.= By E. PHILLIPS OPPENHEIM, author of "A Millionaire
of Yesterday," "The Traitors," etc. Illustrated. 12mo. $1.50.

     An engrossing story of English social life told by a skilled hand.
     Lord Arranmore, returning to England after an absence of twenty
     misspent years, finds his manly son, Kingston Brooks, unforgiving,
     and determined to work out his own career. The difficulties with
     which Brooks meets in carrying out his purpose, the attempts of
     Lord Arranmore to assist him, together with the divided love
     interest, make up an ingenious present-day romance, which possesses
     an extraordinary fascination.


=A Rose of Normandy.= By WILLIAM R. A. WILSON. Illustrated by Ch.
Grunwald. 12mo. Decorated cloth, $1.50.

     A most entertaining historical romance of France and Canada in the
     reign of Louis XIV. Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, and his
     faithful lieutenant, Henri de Tonti, are leading characters, the
     latter being the hero of the book. The explorations of La Salle,
     his hardships and adventures, the love of Tonti for Renée, the
     "Rose of Normandy," their escapes from the Indians, and other
     adventures, make up a story which the author has told with great
     spirit.

=The Spoils of Empire.= A Romance of the Old World and the New. By FRANCIS
NEWTON THORPE, author of "The Constitutional History of the United
States," etc. Illustrated by Frank B. Masters. 12mo. Decorated cloth,
$1.50.

     The Spanish Inquisition and the wondrous splendor and power of
     Mexico in the time of Montezuma furnish the rich historical
     background of this brilliant and absorbing romance. The conquest of
     Mexico by the adventurous Spaniards is vividly described; and the
     passion of Juan Estoval, a follower of Cortez, for the beautiful
     Aztec princess, Dorothea, the daughter of Montezuma, furnishes a
     tender and charming love story.

=Sarah Tuldon.= A Woman Who Had Her Way. By ORME AGNUS, author of "Love in
Our Village," "Jan Oxber," etc. Illustrated. 12mo. Decorated cloth,
$1.50.

     A remarkable study of an English peasant girl of strong character
     who was developed by the circumstances of her life into a fine,
     noble-hearted, and generous woman. Sarah Tuldon is a very unusual,
     original, and racy type of character, and outside of Thomas Hardy's
     books there is no such realistic study of conditions which exist in
     England to-day among the laborers, as that given in the pages of
     this story. The author has genuine humor and pathos and great
     dramatic skill.





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