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Title: A Rebellious Heroine
Author: Bangs, John Kendrick
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1896 Harper and Brothers edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]

                [Picture: “I laid the scene at Lakewood”]



                           A REBELLIOUS HEROINE


                                 A Story

                                * * * * *

                                    BY
                           JOHN KENDRICK BANGS

                               ILLUSTRATED
                             BY W. T. SMEDLEY

                      [Picture: Decoractive graphic]

                                 NEW YORK
                       HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
                                   1896

                                * * * * *

                        BY JOHN KENDRICK BANGS.

                               * * * * *

THE BICYCLES, AND THREE OTHER FARCES.  Illustrated.  16mo, Cloth, $1
25.

A HOUSE-BOAT ON THE STYX.  Illustrated.  16mo, Cloth, $1 25.

Mr. Bonaparte of Corsica.  Illustrated.  16mo, Closth, $1 25.

THE IDIOT.  Illustrated.  16mo, Cloth, $1 00.

THE WATER GHOST, AND OTHERS.  Illustrated.  16mo, Cloth $1 25.

COFFEE AND REPARTEE.  Illustrated.  32mo, Cloth, 50 cents.

THREE WEEKS IN POLITICS.  Illustrated.  32 mo, Cloth, 50 cents.

                               * * * * *

               PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK.

                                * * * * *

                  Copyright, 1896, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

                                * * * * *

                          _All rights reserved_.

                                    TO
                                 A H. B.

                                * * * * *



                              ILLUSTRATIONS

“I LAID THE SCENE AT LAKEWOOD”               _Frontispiece_
“AM I A MERE MARIONETTE?”                                28
A REBELLIOUS HEROINE                                     38
HE WENT INTO ONE OF HIS TRANCES                          56
“THE DARK EYES OF COUNT BONETTI FLASHED”                 92
THE WALK OF THE CLIFF                                   136
“I AM NOT GOING TO TELL THE WHOLE STORY”                222
“THEY THOUGHT I OUGHT TO GIVE UP HUMOR”                 224



I
STUART HARLEY: REALIST


    “—_if a word could save me_, _and that word were not the Truth_,
    _nay_, _if it did but swerve a hair’s-breadth from the Truth_, _I
    would not say it_!”

                                                              —LONGFELLOW.

STUART HARLEY, despite his authorship of many novels, still considered
himself a realist.  He affected to say that he did not write his books;
that he merely transcribed them from life as he saw it, and he insisted
always that he saw life as it was.

“The mission of the novelist, my dear Professor,” he had once been heard
to say at his club, “is not to amuse merely; his work is that of an
historian, and he should be quite as careful to write truthfully as is
the historian.  How is the future to know what manner of lives we
nineteenth century people have lived unless our novelists tell the
truth?”

“Possibly the historians will tell them,” observed the Professor of
Mathematics.  “Historians sometimes do tell us interesting things.”

“True,” said Harley.  “Very true; but then what historian ever let you
into the secret of the every-day life of the people of whom he writes?
What historian ever so vitalized Louis the Fourteenth as Dumas has
vitalized him?  Truly, in reading mere history I have seemed to be
reading of lay figures, not of men; but when the novelist has taken hold
properly—ah, then we get the men.”

“Then,” objected the Professor, “the novelist is never to create a great
character?”

“The humorist or the mere romancer may, but as for the novelist with a
true ideal of his mission in life he would better leave creation to
nature.  It is blasphemy for a purely mortal being to pretend that he can
create a more interesting character or set of characters than the
Almighty has already provided for the use of himself and his brothers in
literature; that he can involve these creations in a more dramatic series
of events than it has occurred to an all-wise Providence to put into the
lives of His creatures; that, by the exercise of that misleading faculty
which the writer styles his imagination, he can portray phases of life
which shall prove of more absorbing interest or of greater moral value to
his readers than those to be met with in the every-day life of man as he
is.”

“Then,” said the Professor, with a dexterous jab of his cue at the
pool-balls—“then, in your estimation, an author is a thing to be led
about by the nose by the beings he selects for use in his books?”

“You put it in a rather homely fashion,” returned Harley; “but, on the
whole, that is about the size of it.”

“And all a man needs, then, to be an author is an eye and a type-writing
machine?” asked the Professor.

“And a regiment of detectives,” drawled Dr. Kelly, the young surgeon, “to
follow his characters about.”

Harley sighed.  Surely these men were unsympathetic.

“I can’t expect you to grasp the idea exactly,” he said, “and I can’t
explain it to you, because you’d become irreverent if I tried.”

“No, we won’t,” said Kelly.  “Go on and explain it to us—I’m bored, and
want to be amused.”

So Harley went on and tried to explain how the true realist must be an
inspired sort of person, who can rise above purely physical limitations;
whose eye shall be able to pierce the most impenetrable of veils; to whom
nothing in the way of obtaining information as to the doings of such
specimens of mankind as he has selected for his pages is an
insurmountable obstacle.

“Your author, then, is to be a mixture of a New York newspaper reporter
and the Recording Angel?” suggested Kelly.

“I told you you’d become irreverent,” said Harley; “nevertheless, even in
your irreverence, you have expressed the idea.  The writer must be
omniscient as far as the characters of his stories are concerned—he must
have an eye which shall see all that they do, a mind sufficiently
analytical to discern what their motives are, and the courage to put it
all down truthfully, neither adding nor subtracting, coloring only where
color is needed to make the moral lesson he is trying to teach stand out
the more vividly.”

“In short, you’d have him become a photographer,” said the Professor.

“More truly a soulscape-painter,” retorted Harley, with enthusiasm.

“Heavens!” cried the Doctor, dropping his cue with a loud clatter to the
floor.  “Soulscape!  Here’s a man talking about not creating, and then
throws out an invention like soulscape!  Harley, you ought to write a
dictionary.  With a word like soulscape to start with, it would sweep the
earth!”

Harley laughed.  He was a good-natured man, and he was strong enough in
his convictions not to weaken for the mere reason that somebody else had
ridiculed them.  In fact, everybody else might have ridiculed them, and
Harley would still have stood true, once he was convinced that he was
right.

“You go on sawing people’s legs off, Billy,” he said, good-naturedly.
“That’s a thing you know about; and as for the Professor, he can go on
showing you and the rest of mankind just why the shortest distance
between two points is in a straight line.  I’ll take your collective and
separate words for anything on the subject of surgery or mathematics, but
when it comes to my work I wouldn’t bank on your theories if they were
endorsed by the Rothschilds.”

“He’ll never write a decent book in his life if he clings to that
theory,” said Kelly, after Harley had departed.  “There’s precious little
in the way of the dramatic nowadays in the lives of people one cares to
read about.”

Nevertheless, Harley had written interesting books, books which had
brought him reputation, and what is termed genteel poverty—that is to
say, his fame was great, considering his age, and his compensation was
just large enough to make life painful to him.  His income enabled him to
live well enough to make a good appearance among, and share somewhat at
their expense in the life of, others of far greater means; but it was too
small to bring him many of the things which, while not absolutely
necessities, could not well be termed luxuries, considering his tastes
and his temperament.  A little more was all he needed.

“If I could afford to write only when I feel like it,” he said, “how
happy I should be!  But these orders—they make me a driver of men, and
not their historian.”

In fact, Harley was in that unfortunate, and at the same time happy,
position where he had many orders for the product of his pen, and such
financial necessities that he could not afford to decline one of them.

And it was this very situation which made his rebellious heroine of whom
I have essayed to write so sore a trial to the struggling young author.

It was early in May, 1895, that Harley had received a note from Messrs.
Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick, the publishers, asking for a story from his
pen for their popular “Blue and Silver Series.”

“The success of your _Tiffin-Talk_,” they wrote, “has been such that we
are prepared to offer you our highest terms for a short story of 30,000
words, or thereabouts, to be published in our ‘Blue and Silver Series.’
We should like to have it a love-story, if possible; but whatever it is,
it must be characteristic, and ready for publication in November.  We
shall need to have the manuscript by September 1st at the latest.  If you
can let us have the first few chapters in August, we can send them at
once to Mr. Chromely, whom it is our intention to have illustrate the
story, provided he can be got to do it.”

The letter closed with a few formalities of an unimportant and
stereotyped nature, and Harley immediately called at the office of
Messrs.  Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick, where, after learning that their
best terms were no more unsatisfactory than publishers’ best terms
generally are, he accepted the commission.

And then, returning to his apartment, he went into what Kelly called one
of his trances.

“He goes into one of his trances,” Kelly had said, “hoists himself up to
his little elevation, and peeps into the private life of _hoi polloi_
until he strikes something worth putting down and the result he calls
literature.”

“Yes, and the people buy it, and read it, and call for more,” said the
Professor.

“Possibly because they love notoriety,” said Kelly, “and they think if
they call for more often enough, he will finally peep in at their
key-holes and write them up.  If he ever puts me into one of his books
I’ll waylay him at night and amputate his writing-hand.”

“He won’t,” said the Professor.  “I asked him once why he didn’t, and he
said you’d never do in one of his books, because you don’t belong to real
life at all.  He thinks you are some new experiment of an enterprising
Providence, and he doesn’t want to use you until he sees how you turn
out.”

“He could put me down as I go,” suggested the Doctor.

“That’s so,” replied the other.  “I told him so, but he said he had no
desire to write a lot of burlesque sketches containing no coherent idea.”

“Oh, he said that, did he?” observed the Doctor, with a smile.
“Well—wait till Stuart Harley comes to me for a prescription.  I’ll get
even with him.  I’ll give him a pill, and he’ll disappear—for ten days.”

Whether it was as Kelly said or not, that Harley went into a trance and
poked his nose into the private life of the people he wrote about, it was
a fact that while meditating upon the possible output of his pen our
author was as deaf to his surroundings as though he had departed into
another world, and it rarely happened that his mind emerged from that
condition without bringing along with it something of value to him in his
work.

So it was upon this May morning.  For an hour or two Harley lay
quiescent, apparently gazing out of his flat window over the uninspiring
chimney-pots of the City of New York, at the equally uninspiring Long
Island station on the far side of the East River.  It was well for him
that his eye was able to see, and yet not see: forgetfulness of those
smoking chimney-pots, the red-zincked roofs, the flapping under-clothing
of the poorer than he, hung out to dry on the tenement tops, was
essential to the construction of such a story as Messrs. Herring, Beemer,
& Chadwick had in mind; and Harley successfully forgot them, and, coming
back to consciousness, brought with him the _dramatis personæ_ of his
story—and, taken as a whole, they were an interesting lot.  The hero was
like most of those gentlemen who live their little lives in the novels of
the day, only Harley had modified his accomplishments in certain
directions.  Robert Osborne—such was his name—was not the sort of man to
do impossible things for his heroine.  He was not reckless.  He was not a
D’Artagnan lifted from the time of Louis the Fourteenth to the dull,
prosaic days of President Faure.  He was not even a Frenchman, but an
essentially American American, who desires to know, before he does
anything, why he does it, and what are his chances of success.  I am not
sure that if he had happened to see her struggling in the ocean he would
have jumped in to rescue the young woman to whom his hand was plighted—I
do not speak of his heart, for I am not Harley, and I do not know whether
or not Harley intended that Osborne should be afflicted with so
inconvenient an organ—I am not sure, I say, that if he had seen his
best-beloved struggling in the ocean Osborne would have jumped in to
rescue her without first stopping to remove such of his garments as might
impede his progress back to land again.  In short, he was not one of
those impetuous heroes that we read about so often and see so seldom;
but, taken altogether, he was sufficiently attractive to please the
American girl who might be expected to read Harley’s book; for that was
one of the stipulations of Messrs. Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick when they
made their verbal agreement with Harley.

“Make it go with the girls, Harley,” Mr. Chadwick had said.  “Men haven’t
time to read anything but the newspapers in this country.  Hit the girls,
and your fortune is made.”

Harley didn’t exactly see how his fortune was going to be made on the
best terms of Messrs. Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick, even if he hit the
girls with all the force of a battering-ram, but he promised to keep the
idea in mind, and remained in his trance a trifle longer than might
otherwise have been necessary, endeavoring to select the unquestionably
correct hero for his story, and Osborne was the result.  Osborne was
moderately witty.  His repartee smacked somewhat of the refined comic
paper—that is to say, it was smart and cynical, and not always suited to
the picture; but it wasn’t vulgar or dull, and his personal appearance
was calculated to arouse the liveliest interest.  He was clean shaven and
clean cut.  He looked more like a modern ideal of infallible genius than
Byron, and had probably played football and the banjo in college—Harley
did not go back that far with him—all of which, it must be admitted, was
pretty well calculated to assure the fulfilment of Harley’s promise that
the man should please the American girl.  Of course the story was
provided with a villain also, but he was a villain of a mild type.  Mild
villany was an essential part of Harley’s literary creed, and this
particular person was not conceived in heresy.  His name was to have been
Horace Balderstone, and with him Harley intended to introduce a lively
satire on the employment, by certain contemporary writers, of the
supernatural to produce dramatic effects.  Balderstone was of course to
be the rival of Osborne.  In this respect Harley was commonplace; to his
mind the villain always had to be the rival of the hero, just as in opera
the tenor is always virtuous at heart if not otherwise, and the baritone
a scoundrel, which in real life is not an invariable rule by any means.
Indeed, there have been many instances in real life where the villain and
the hero have been on excellent terms, and to the great benefit of the
hero too.  But in this case Balderstone was to follow in the rut, and
become the rival of Osborne for the hand of Marguerite Andrews—the
heroine.  Balderstone was to write a book, which for a time should so
fascinate Miss Andrews that she would be blind to the desirability of
Osborne as a husband-elect; a book full of the weird and thrilling,
dealing with theosophy and spiritualism, and all other “Tommyrotisms,” as
Harley called them, all of which, of course, was to be the making and the
undoing of Balderstone; for equally of course, in the end, he would
become crazed by the use of opium—the inevitable end of writers of that
stamp.  Osborne would rescue Marguerite from his fatal influence, and the
last chapter would end with Marguerite lying pale and wan upon her
sick-bed, recovering from the mental prostration which the influence over
hers of a mind like Balderstone’s was sure to produce, holding Osborne’s
hand in hers, and “smiling a sweet recognition at the lover to whose
virtues she had so long been blind.”  Osborne would murmur, “At last!”
and the book would close with a “first kiss,” followed closely by six or
eight pages of advertisements of other publications of Messrs. Herring,
Beemer, & Chadwick.  I mention the latter to show how thoroughly
realistic Harley was.  He thought out his books so truly and so fully
before he sat down to write them that he seemed to see each written,
printed, made and bound before him, a concrete thing from cover to cover.

Besides Osborne and Balderstone and Miss Andrews—of whom I shall at this
time not speak at length, since the balance of this little narrative is
to be devoted to the setting forth of her peculiarities and charms—there
were a number of minor characters, not so necessary to the story perhaps
as they might have been, but interesting enough in their way, and very
well calculated to provide the material needed for the filling out of the
required number of pages.  Furthermore, they completed the picture.

“I don’t want to put in three vivid figures, and leave the reader to
imagine that the rest of the world has been wiped out of existence,” said
Harley, as he talked it over with me.  “That is not art.  There should be
three types of character in every book—the positive, the average, and the
negative.  In that way you grade your story off into the rest of the
world, and your reader feels that while he may never have met the
positive characters, he has met the average or the negative, or both, and
is therefore by one of these links connected with the others, and that
gives him a personal interest in the story; and it’s the reader’s
personal interest that the writer is after.”

So Miss Andrews was provided with a very conventional aunt—the kind of
woman you meet with everywhere; most frequently in church squabbles and
hotel parlors, however.  Mrs. Corwin was this lady’s name, and she was to
enact the rôle of chaperon to Miss Andrews.  With Mrs. Corwin, by force
of circumstances, came a pair of twin children, like those in the
_Heavenly Twins_, only more real, and not so Sarah Grandiose in their
manners and wit.

These persons Harley booked for the steamship _New York_, sailing from
New York City for Southampton on the third day of July, 1895.  The action
was to open at that time, and Marguerite Andrews was to meet Horace
Balderstone on that vessel on the evening of the second day out, with
which incident the interest of Harley’s story was to begin.  But Harley
had counted without his heroine.  The rest of his cast were safely stowed
away on ship-board and ready for action at the appointed hour, but the
heroine _missed the steamer by three minutes_, _and it was all Harley’s
own fault_.



II
A PRELIMINARY TRIAL


    “_I’ll not be made a soft and dull-eyed fool_
    _To shake the head_, _relent_, _and sigh_, _and yield_.”

                                                    —“Merchant of Venice.”

THE extraordinary failure of Miss Andrews, cast for a star rôle in Stuart
Harley’s tale of _Love and Villany_, to appear upon the stage selected by
the author for her débût, must be explained.  As I have already stated at
the close of the preceding chapter, it was entirely Harley’s own fault.
He had studied Miss Andrews too superficially to grasp thoroughly the
more refined subtleties of her nature, and he found out, at a moment when
it was too late to correct his error, that she was not a woman to be
slighted in respect to the conventionalities of polite life, however
trifling to a man of Harley’s stamp these might seem to be.  She was a
stickler for form; and when she was summoned to go on board of an ocean
steamship there to take part in a romance for the mere aggrandizement of
a young author, she intended that he should not ignore the proprieties,
even if in a sense the proprieties to which she referred did antedate the
period at which his story was to open.  She was willing to appear, but it
seemed to her that Stuart Harley ought to see to it that she was escorted
to the scene of action with the ceremony due to one of her position.

“What does he take me for?” she asked of Mrs. Corwin, indignantly, on the
eve of her departure.  “Am I a mere marionette, to obey his slightest
behest, and at a moment’s notice?  Am I to dance when Stuart Harley pulls
the string?”

                    [Picture: Am I a mere marionette?]

“Not at all, my dear Marguerite,” said Mrs. Corwin, soothingly.  “If he
thought that, he would not have selected you for his story.  I think you
ought to feel highly complimented that Mr. Harley should choose you for
one of his books, and for such a conspicuous part, too.  Look at me; do I
complain?  Am I holding out for the proprieties?  And yet what is my
situation?  I’m simply dragged in by the hair; and my poor children,
instead of having a nice, noisy Fourth of July at the sea-shore, must
needs be put upon a great floating caravansary, to suffer seasickness and
the other discomforts of ocean travel, so as to introduce a little
juvenile fun into this great work of Mr. Harley’s—and yet I bow my head
meekly and go.  Why?  Because I feel that, inconspicuous though I shall
be, nevertheless I am highly honored that Mr. Harley should select me
from among many for the uses of his gifted pen.”

“You are prepared, then,” retorted Marguerite, “to place yourself
unreservedly in Mr. Harley’s hands?  Shall you flirt with the captain if
he thinks your doing so will add to the humorous or dramatic interest of
his story?  Will you permit your children to make impertinent remarks to
every one aboard ship; to pick up sailors’ slang and use it at the
dining-table—in short, to make themselves obnoxiously clever at all
times, in order that Mr. Harley’s critics may say that his book fairly
scintillates with wit, and gives gratifying evidence that ‘the rising
young author’ has made a deep and careful analysis of the juvenile
heart?”

“Mr. Harley is too much of a gentleman, Marguerite, to place me and my
children in a false or ridiculous light,” returned Mrs. Corwin, severely.
“And even if he were not a gentleman, he is too true a realist to make me
do anything which in the nature of things I should not do—which disposes
of your entirely uncalled-for remark about the captain and myself.  As
for the children, Tommie would not repeat sailors’ lingo at the table
under any circumstances, and Jennie will not make herself obnoxiously
clever at any time, because she has been brought up too carefully to fail
to respect her elders.  Both she and Tommie understand themselves
thoroughly; and when Mr. Harley understands them, which he cannot fail to
do after a short acquaintance, he will draw them as they are; and if
previous to his complete understanding of their peculiarities he
introduces into his story something foreign to their natures and
obnoxious to me, their mother, I have no doubt he will correct his error
when he comes to read the proofs of his story and sees his mistake.”

“You have great confidence in Stuart Harley,” retorted Miss Andrews,
gazing out of the window with a pensive cast of countenance.

“Haven’t you?” asked Mrs. Corwin, quickly.

“As a man, yes,” returned Marguerite.  “As an author, however, I think he
is open to criticism.  He is not always true to the real.  Look at Lord
Barncastle, in his study of English manners!  Barncastle, as he drew him,
was nothing but a New York society man with a title, living in England.
That is to say, he talked like an American, thought like one—there was no
point of difference between them.”

“And why should there be?” asked Mrs. Corwin.  “If a New York society man
is generally a weak imitation of an English peer—and no one has ever
denied that such is the case—why shouldn’t an English peer be represented
as a sort of intensified New York society man?”

“Besides,” said Miss Andrews, ignoring Mrs. Corwin’s point, “I don’t care
to be presented too really to the reading public, especially on board a
ship.  I never yet knew a woman who looked well the second day out, and
if I were to be presented as I always am the second day out, I should die
of mortification.  My hair goes out of curl, my face is the color of an
unripe peach, and if I do go up on deck it is because I am so thoroughly
miserable that I do not care who sees me or what the world thinks of me.
I think it is very inconsiderate of Mr. Harley to open his story on an
ocean steamer; and, what is more, I don’t like the American line.  Too
many Americans of the brass-band type travel on it.  Stuart Harley said
so himself in his last book of foreign travel; but he sends me out on it
just the same, and expects me to be satisfied.  Perhaps he thinks I like
that sort of American.  If he does, he’s got more imagination than he
ever showed in his books.”

“You must get to the other side in some way,” said Mrs. Corwin.  “It is
at Venice that the trouble with Balderstone is to come, and that Osborne
topples him over into the Grand Canal, and rescues you from his baleful
influence.”

“Humph!” said Marguerite, with a scornful shrug of her shoulders.
“Robert Osborne!  A likely sort of person to rescue me from anything!  He
wouldn’t have nerve enough to rescue me from a grasshopper if he were
armed to the teeth.  Furthermore, I shall not go to Venice in August.
It’s bad enough in April—damp and hot—the home of malaria—an asylum for
artistic temperaments; and insecty.  No, my dear aunt, even if I overlook
everything else to please Mr. Harley, he’ll have to modify the Venetian
part of that story, for I am determined that no pen of his shall force me
into Italy at this season.  I wouldn’t go there to please Shakespeare,
much less Stuart Harley.  Let the affair come off at Interlaken, if it is
to come off at all, which I doubt.”

“There is no Grand Canal at Interlaken,” said Mrs. Corwin, sagely; for
she had been an omnivorous reader of Baedeker since she had learned the
part she was to play in Harley’s book, and was therefore well up in
geography.

“No; but there’s the Jungfrau.  Osborne can push Balderstone down the
side of an Alp and kill him,” returned Miss Andrews, viciously.

“Why, Marguerite!  How can you talk so?  Mr. Harley doesn’t wish to have
Balderstone killed,” cried Mrs. Corwin, aghast.  “If Osborne killed
Balderstone he’d be a murderer, and they’d execute him.”

“Which is exactly what I want,” said Miss Andrews, firmly.  “If he lives,
it pleases the omnipotent Mr. Harley that I shall marry him, and I
positively—Well, just you wait and see.”

There was silence for some minutes.

“Then I suppose you will decline to go abroad altogether?” asked Mrs.
Corwin after a while; “and Mr. Harley will be forced to get some one
else; and I—I shall be deprived of a pleasant tour—because I’m only to be
one of the party because I’m your aunt.”

Mrs. Corwin’s lip quivered a little as she spoke.  She had anticipated
much pleasure from her trip.

“No, I shall not decline to go,” Miss Andrews replied.  “I expect to go,
but it is entirely on your account.  I must say, however, that Stuart
Harley will find out, to his sorrow, that I am not a doll, to be worked
with a string.  I shall give him a scare at the outset which will show
him that I know the rights of a heroine, and that he must respect them.
For instance, he cannot ignore my comfort.  Do you suppose that because
his story is to open with my beautiful self on board that ship, I’m to be
there without his making any effort to get me there?  Not I!  You and the
children and Osborne and Balderstone may go down any way you please.  You
may go on the elevated railroad or on foot.  You may go on the
horse-cars, or you may go on the luggage-van.  It is immaterial to me
what you do; but when it comes to myself, Stuart Harley must provide a
carriage, or I miss the boat.  I don’t wish to involve you in this.  You
want to go, and are willing to go in his way, which simply means turning
up at the right moment, with no trouble to him.  From your point of view
it is all right.  You are anxious to go abroad, and are grateful to Mr.
Harley for letting you go.  For me, however, he must do differently.  I
have no particular desire to leave America, and if I go at all it is as a
favor to him, and he must act accordingly.  It is a case of carriage or
no heroine.  If I’m left behind, you and the rest can go along without
me.  I shall do very well, and it will be Mr. Harley’s own fault.  It may
hurt his story somewhat, but that is no concern of mine.”

                     [Picture: A rebellious heroine]

“I suppose the reason why he doesn’t send a carriage is that that part of
your life doesn’t appear in his story,” explained Mrs. Corwin.

“That doesn’t affect the point that he ought to send one,” said
Marguerite.  “He needn’t write up the episode of the ride to the pier
unless he wants to, but the fact remains that it’s his duty to see me
safely on board from my home, and that he shall do, or I fail him at the
moment he needs me.  If he is selfish enough to overlook the matter, he
must suffer the consequences.”

All of which, I think, was very reasonable.  No heroine likes to feel
that she is called into being merely to provide copy for the person who
is narrating her story; and to be impressed with the idea that the moment
she is off the stage she must shift entirely for herself is too
humiliating to be compatible with true heroism.

Now it so happened that in his meditations upon that opening chapter the
scene of which was to be placed on board of the _New York_, Stuart
realized that his story of Miss Andrews’s character had indeed been too
superficial.  He found that out at the moment he sat down to describe her
arrival at the pier, as it would be in all likelihood.  What would she
say the moment she—the moment she what?—the moment she “emerged from the
perilous stream of vehicles which crowd West Street from morning until
night,” or the moment “she stepped out of the cab as it drew up at the
foot of the gangway”?  That was the point.  How would she arrive—on foot
or in a cab?  Which way would she come, and at what time must she start
from home?  Should she come alone, or should Mrs. Corwin and the twins
come with her?—or would a woman of her stamp not be likely to have an
intimate friend to accompany her to the steamer?  Stuart was a rapid
thinker, and as he pondered over these problems it did not take him long
to reach the conclusion that a cab was necessary for Miss Andrews; and
that Mrs. Corwin and the twins, with Osborne and Balderstone, might get
aboard in their own way.  He also decided that it would be an excellent
plan to have Marguerite’s old school friend Mrs. Willard accompany her to
the steamer.  By an equally rapid bit of thought he concluded that if the
cab started from the Andrews apartment at Fifty-ninth Street and Central
Park at 9.30 A.M., the trip to the pier could easily be made in an hour,
which would be in ample time, since the sailing hour of the _New York_
was eleven.  Unfortunately Harley, in his hurry, forgot two or three
incidents of departures generally, especially departures of women, which
he should not have overlooked.  It was careless of him to forget that a
woman about to travel abroad wants to make herself as stunning as she
possibly can on the day of departure, so that the impression she will
make at the start shall be strong enough to carry her through the dowdy
stage which comes, as Marguerite had intimated, on the second and third
days at sea; and to expect a woman like Marguerite Andrews, who really
had no responsibilities to call her up at an early hour, to be ready at
9.30 sharp, was a fatal error, unless he provided his cab with an
unusually fast horse, or a pair of horses, both of which Harley neglected
to do.  Miss Andrews was twenty minutes late at starting the first time,
and just a half-hour behind schedule time when, having rushed back to her
rooms for her gloves, which in the excitement of the moment she had
forgotten, she started finally for the ship.  Even then all would have
been well had the unfortunate author not overlooked one other vital
point.  Instead of sending the cab straight down Fifth Avenue, to
Broadway, to Barclay Street, he sent it down Sixth, and thence through
Greenwich Village, emerging at West Street at its junction with
Christopher, and then the inevitable happened.

_The cab was blocked_!

“I had no idea it was so far,” said Marguerite, looking out of the cab
window at the crowded and dirty thoroughfare.

“It’s a good mile farther yet,” replied Mrs. Willard.  “I shall have just
that much more of your society.”

“It looks to me,” said Marguerite, with a short laugh, as the cab came
suddenly to a halt—“it looks to me as if you were likely to have more
than that of it; for we are in an apparently inextricable, immovable
mixture of trucks, horse-cars, and incompetent policemen, and nothing
short of a miracle will get us a mile farther along in twenty minutes.”

“I do believe you are right,” said Mrs. Willard, looking at her watch
anxiously.  “What will you do if you miss the steamer?”

“Escape a horrid fate,” laughed Marguerite, gayly.

“Poor Mr. Harley—why, it will upset his whole story,” said Mrs. Willard.

“And save his reputation,” said Marguerite.  “It wouldn’t have been real,
that story,” she added.  “In the first place, Balderstone couldn’t write
a story that would fascinate me; he could never acquire a baleful
influence over me; and, finally, I never should marry Robert Osborne
under any circumstances.  He’s not at all the style of man I admire.  I’m
willing to go along and let Mr. Harley try to work it out his way, but he
will give it up as a bad idea before long—if I catch the steamer; and if
I don’t, then he’ll have to modify the story.  That modified, I’m willing
to be his heroine.”

“But your aunt and the twins—they must be aboard by this time.  They will
be worried to death about you,” suggested Mrs. Willard.

“For a few moments—but Aunt Emma wanted to go, and she and the rest of
them will have a good time, I’ve no doubt,” replied Miss Andrews, calmly;
and here Stuart Harley’s heroine actually chuckled.  “And maybe Mr.
Harley can make a match between Aunt Emma and Osborne, which will suit
the publishers and please the American girl,” she said, gleefully.  “I
almost hope we do miss it.”

And miss it they did, as I have already told you, by three minutes.  As
the cab entered the broad pier, the great steamer moved slowly but surely
out into the stream, and Mrs. Willard and Mr. Harley’s heroine were just
in time to see Mrs. Corwin wildly waving her parasol at the captain on
the bridge, beseeching him in agonized tones to go back just for a
moment, while two separate and distinct twins, one male and one female,
peered over the rail, weeping bitterly.  Incidentally mention may be made
of two young men, Balderstone and Osborne, who sat chatting gayly
together in the smoking-room.

“Well, Osborne,” said one, lighting his cigar, “she didn’t arrive.”

“No,” smiled the other.  “Fact is, Balderstone, I’m glad of it.  She’s
too snippy for me, and I’m afraid I should have quarrelled with you about
her in a half-hearted, unconvincing manner.”

“I’m afraid I’d have been the same,” rejoined Balderstone; “for, between
us, there’s a pretty little brunette from Chicago up on deck, and
Marguerite Andrews would have got little attention from me while she was
about, unless Harley violently outraged my feelings and his own
convictions.”

And so the _New York_ sailed out to sea, and Marguerite Andrews watched
her from the pier until she had faded from view.

As for Stuart Harley, the author, he sat in his study, wringing his hands
and cursing his carelessness.

“I’ll have to modify the whole story now,” he said, impatiently, “since
it is out of my power to bring the _New York_ back into port, with my
hero, villain, chaperon, and twins; but whenever or wherever the new
story may be laid, Marguerite Andrews shall be the heroine—she interests
me.  Meantime let Mrs. Willard chaperon her.”

And closing his manuscript book with a bang, Harley lit a cigarette, put
on his hat, and went to the club.



III
THE RECONSTRUCTION BEGINS


    “_Then gently scan your brother man_,
       _Still gentler sister woman_;
    _Tho’ they may gang a kennin wrang_,
       _To step aside is human_.”—BURNS.

WHEN, a few days later, Harley came to the reconstruction of his story,
he began to appreciate the fact that what had seemed at first to be his
misfortune was, on the whole, a matter for congratulation; and as he
thought over the people he had sent to sea, he came to rejoice that
Marguerite was not one of the party.

“Osborne wasn’t her sort, after all,” he mused to himself that night over
his coffee.  “He hadn’t much mind.  I’m afraid I banked too much on his
good looks, and too little upon what I might call her independence; for
of all the heroines I ever had, she is the most sufficient unto herself.
Had she gone along I’m half afraid I couldn’t have got rid of Balderstone
so easily either, for he’s a determined devil as I see him; and his
intellectual qualities were so vastly superior to those of Osborne that
by mere contrast they would most certainly have appealed to her strongly.
The baleful influence might have affected her seriously, and Osborne was
never the man to overcome it, and strict realism would have forced her
into an undesirable marriage.  Yes, I’m glad it turned out the way it
did; she’s too good for either of them.  I couldn’t have done the tale as
I intended without a certain amount of compulsion, which would never have
worked out well.  She’d have been miserable with Osborne for a husband
anyhow, even if he did succeed in outwitting Balderstone.”

Then Harley went into a trance for a moment.  From this he emerged almost
immediately with a laugh.  The travellers on the sea had come to his
mind.

“Poor Mrs. Corwin,” he said, “she’s awfully upset.  I shall have to give
her some diversion.  Let’s see, what shall it be?  She’s a widow, young
and fascinating.  H’m—not a bad foundation for a romance.  There must be
a man on the ship who’d like her; but, hang it all! there are those
twins.  Not much romance for her with those twins along, unless the man’s
a fool; and she’s too fine a woman for a fool.  Men don’t fall in love
with whole families that way.  Now if they had only been left on the pier
with Miss Andrews, it would have worked up well.  Mrs. Corwin could have
fascinated some fellow-traveller, won his heart, accepted him at
Southampton, and told him about the twins afterwards.  As a test of his
affection that would be a strong situation; but with the twins along,
making the remarks they are likely to make, and all that—no, there is no
hope for Mrs. Corwin, except in a juvenile story—something like ‘Two
Twins in a Boat, not to Mention the Widow,’ or something of that sort.
Poor woman!  I’ll let her rest in peace, for the present.  She’ll enjoy
her trip, anyhow; and as for Osborne and Balderstone, I’ll let them fight
it out for that dark-eyed little woman from Chicago I saw on board, and
when the best man wins I’ll put the whole thing into a short story.”

Then began a new quest for characters to go with Marguerite Andrews.

“She must have a chaperon, to begin with,” thought Harley.  “That is
indispensable.  Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick regard themselves as
conservators of public morals, in their ‘Blue and Silver Series,’ so a
girl unmarried and without a chaperon would never do for this book.  If
they were to publish it in their ‘Yellow Prism Series’ I could fling all
such considerations to the winds, for there they cater to stronger
palates, palates cultivated by French literary cooks, and morals need not
be considered, provided the story is well told and likely to sell; but
this is for the other series, and a chaperon is a _sine qua non_.
Marguerite doesn’t need one half as much as the girls in the ‘Yellow
Prism’ books, but she’s got to have one just the same, or the American
girl will not read about her: and who is better than Dorothy Willard, who
has charge of her now?”

Harley slapped his knee with delight.

“How fortunate I’d provided her!” he said.  “I’ve got my start already,
and without having to think very hard over it either.”

The trance began again, and lasted several hours, during which time Kelly
and the Professor stole softly into Harley’s rooms, and, perceiving his
condition, respected it.

“He’s either asleep or imagining,” said the Professor, in a whisper.

“He can’t imagine,” returned the Doctor.  “Call it—realizing.  Whatever
it is he’s up to, we mustn’t interfere.  There isn’t any use waking him
anyhow.  I know where he keeps his cigars.  Let’s sit down and have a
smoke.”

This the intruders did, hoping that sooner or later their host would
observe their presence; but Harley lay in blissful unconsciousness of
their coming, and they finally grew weary of waiting.

                [Picture: He went into one of his trances]

“He must be at work on a ten-volume novel,” said the Doctor.  “Let’s go.”

And with that they departed.  Night came on, and with it darkness, but
Harley never moved.  The fact was he was going through an examination of
the human race to find a man good enough for Marguerite Andrews, and it
speaks volumes for the interest she had suddenly inspired in his breast
that it took him so long to find what he wanted.

Along about nine o’clock he gave a deep sigh and returned to earth.

“I guess I’ve got him,” he said, wearily, rubbing his forehead, which
began to ache a trifle.  “I’ll model him after the Professor.  He’s a
good fellow, moderately good-looking, has position, and certainly knows
something, as professors go.  I doubt if he is imposing enough for the
American girl generally, but he’s the best I can get in the time at my
disposal.”

So the Professor was unconsciously slated for the office of hero; Mrs.
Willard was cast for chaperon, and the Doctor, in spite of Harley’s
previous resolve not to use him, was to be introduced for the comedy
element.  The villain selected was the usual poverty-stricken foreigner
with a title and a passion for wealth, which a closer study of his
heroine showed Harley that Miss Andrews possessed; for on her way home
from the pier she took Mrs. Willard to the Amsterdam and treated her to a
luncheon which nothing short of a ten-dollar bill would pay for, after
which the two went shopping, replenishing Miss Andrews’s wardrobe—most of
which lay snugly stored in the hold of the _New York_, and momentarily
getting farther and farther away from its fair owner—in the course of
which tour Miss Andrews expended a sum which, had Harley possessed it,
would have made it unnecessary for him to write the book he had in mind
at all.

“It’s good she’s rich,” sighed Harley.  “That will make it all the easier
to have her go to Newport and attract the Count.”

At the moment that Harley spoke these words to himself Mrs. Willard and
Marguerite, accompanied by Mr. Willard, entered the mansion of the latter
on Fifth Avenue.  They had spent the afternoon and evening at the Andrews
apartment, arranging for its closing until the return of Mrs. Corwin.
Marguerite meanwhile was to be the guest of the Willards.

“Next week we’ll run up to Newport,” said Dorothy.  “The house is ready,
and Bob is going for his cruise.”

Marguerite looked at her curiously for a moment.

“Did you intend to go there all along?” she asked.

“Yes—of course.  Why do you ask?” returned Mrs. Willard.

“Why, that very idea came into my mind at the moment,” replied
Marguerite.  “I thought this afternoon I’d run up to Riverdale and stay
with the Hallidays next week, when all of a sudden Newport came into my
mind, and it has been struggling there with Riverdale for two hours—until
I almost began to believe somebody was trying to compel me to go to
Newport.  If it is your idea, and has been all along, I’ll go; but if
Stuart Harley is trying to get me down there for literary purposes, I
simply shall not do it.”

“You had better dismiss that idea from your mind at once, my dear,” said
Mrs. Willard.  “Mr. Harley never compels.  No compulsion is the
corner-stone of his literary structure; free will is his creed: you may
count on that.  If he means to make you his heroine still, it will be at
Newport if you are at Newport, at Riverdale if you happen to be at
Riverdale.  Do come with me, even if he does impress you as endeavoring
to force you; for at Newport I shall be your chaperon, and I should
dearly love to be put in a book—with you.  Bob has asked Jack Perkins
down, and Mrs. Howlett writes me that Count Bonetti, of Naples, is there,
and is a really delightful fellow.  We shall have—”

“You simply confirm my fears,” interrupted Marguerite.  “You are to be
Harley’s chaperon, Professor Perkins is his hero, and Count Bonetti is
the villain—”

“Why, Marguerite, how you talk!” cried Mrs. Willard.  “Do you exist
merely in Stuart Harley’s brain?  Do I?  Are we none of us living
creatures to do as we will?  Are we nothing more than materials
pigeon-holed for Mr. Harley’s future use?  Has Count Bonetti crossed the
ocean just to please Mr. Harley?”

“I don’t know what I believe,” said Miss Andrews, “and I don’t care much
either way, as long as I have independence of action.  I’ll go with you,
Dorothy; but if it turns out, as I fear, that we are expected to act our
parts in a Harley romance, that romance will receive a shock from which
it will never recover.”

“Why do you object so to Mr. Harley, anyhow?  I thought you liked his
books,” said Mrs. Willard.

“I do; some of them,” Marguerite answered; “and I like him; but he does
not understand me, and until he does he shall not put me in his stories.
I’ll rout him at every point, until he—”

Marguerite paused.  Her face flushed.  Tears came into her eyes.

“Until he what, dearest?” asked Mrs. Willard, sympathetically.

“I don’t know,” said Marguerite, with a quiver in her voice, as she rose
and left the room.

“I fancy we’d better go at once, Bob,” said Mrs. Willard to her husband,
later on.  “Marguerite is quite upset by the experiences of the day, and
New York is fearfully hot.”

“I agree with you,” returned Willard.  “Jerrold sent word this afternoon
that the boat will be ready Friday, instead of Thursday of next week; so
if you’ll pack up to-morrow we can board her Friday, and go up the Sound
by water instead of by rail.  It will be pleasanter for all hands.”

Which was just what Harley wanted.  The Willards were of course not
conscious of the fact, though Mrs. Willard’s sympathy with Marguerite led
her to suspect that such was the case; for that such was the case was
what Marguerite feared.

“We are being forced, Dorothy,” she said, as she stepped on the yacht two
days later.

“Well, what if we are?  It’s pleasanter going this way than by rail,
isn’t it?” Mrs. Willard replied, with some impatience.  “If we owe all
this to Stuart Harley, we ought to thank him for his kindness.  According
to your theory he could have sent us up on a hot, dusty train, and had a
collision ready for us at New London, in order to kill off a few
undesirable characters and give his hero a chance to distinguish himself.
I think that even from your own point of view Mr. Harley is behaving in a
very considerate fashion.”

“No doubt you think so,” returned Marguerite, spiritedly.  “But it’s
different with you.  You are settled in life.  Your husband is the man of
your choice; you are happy, with everything you want.  You will do
nothing extraordinary in the book.  If you did do something extraordinary
you would cease to be a good chaperon, and from that moment would be cast
aside; but I—I am in a different position altogether.  I am a single
woman, unsettled as yet, for whom this author in his infinite wisdom
deems it necessary to provide a lover and husband; and in order that his
narrative of how I get this person he has selected—without consulting my
tastes—may interest a lot of other girls, who are expected to buy and
read his book, he makes me the object of an intriguing fortune-hunter
from Italy.  I am to believe he is a real nobleman, and all that; and a
stupid wiseacre from the York University, who can’t dance, and who thinks
of nothing but his books and his club, is to come in at the right moment
and expose the Count, and all such trash as that.  I know at the outset
how it all is to be.  You couldn’t deceive a sensible girl five minutes
with Count Bonetti, any more than that Balderstone man, who is now making
a useless trip across the Atlantic with my aunt and her twins, could have
exerted a ‘baleful influence’ over me with his diluted spiritualism.  I’m
not an idiot, my dear Dorothy.”

“You are a heroine, love,” returned Mrs. Willard.

“Perhaps—but I am the kind of heroine who would stop a play five minutes
after the curtain had risen on the first act if the remaining four acts
depended on her failing to see something that was plain to the veriest
dolt in the audience,” Marguerite replied, with spirit.  “Nobody shall
ever write me up save as I am.”

“Well—perhaps you are wrong this time.  Perhaps Mr. Harley isn’t going to
make a book of you,” said Mrs. Willard.

“Very likely he isn’t,” said Marguerite; “but he’s trying it—I know that
much.”

“And how, pray?” asked Mrs. Willard.

“That,” said Marguerite, her frown vanishing and a smile taking its
place—“that is for the present my secret.  I’ll tell you some day, but
not until I have baffled Mr. Harley in his ill-advised purpose of
marrying me off to a man I don’t want, and wouldn’t have under any
circumstances.  Even if I had caught the _New York_ the other day his
plans would have miscarried.  I’d never have married that Osborne man;
I’d have snubbed Balderstone the moment he spoke to me; and if Stuart
Harley had got a book out of my trip to Europe at all, it would have been
a series of papers on some such topic as ‘The Spinster Abroad, or How to
be Happy though Single.’  No more shall I take the part he intends me to
in this Newport romance, unless he removes Count Bonetti from the scene
entirely, and provides me with a different style of hero from his
Professor, the original of whom, by-the-way, as I happen to know, is
already married and has two children.  I went to school with his wife,
and I know just how much of a hero he is.”

And so they went to Newport, and Harley’s novel opened swimmingly.  His
description of the yacht was perfect; his narration of the incidents of
the embarkation could not be improved upon in any way.  They were
absolutely true to the life.

But his account of what Marguerite Andrews said and did and thought while
on the Willards’ yacht was not realism at all—it was imagination of the
wildest kind, for she said, did, and thought nothing of the sort.

Harley did his best, but his heroine was obdurate, and the poor fellow
did not know that he was writing untruths, for he verily believed that he
heard and saw all that he attributed to her exactly as he put it down.

So the story began well, and Harley for a time was quite happy.  At the
end of a week, however, he had a fearful set-back.  Count Bonetti was
ready to be presented to Marguerite according to the plan, but there the
schedule broke down.

Harley’s heroine took a new and entirely unexpected tack.



IV
A CHAPTER FROM HARLEY, WITH NOTES


    “_Good-bye_, _proud world_, _I’m going home_.
    _Thou art not my friend_, _and I’m not thine_.”

                                                                 —EMERSON.

I THINK the reader will possibly gain a better idea of what happened at
the Howlett dance, at which Count Bonetti was to have been presented to
Miss Andrews, if I forego the pleasure of writing this chapter myself,
and produce instead the chapter of Stuart Harley’s ill-fated book which
was to have dealt with that most interesting incident.  Having
relinquished all hope of ever getting that particular story into shape
without a change of heroine, and being unwilling to go to that extreme,
Mr. Harley has very kindly placed his manuscript at my disposal.

“Use it as you will, my dear fellow,” he said, when I asked him for it.
“I can’t do anything with it myself, and it is merely occupying space in
my pigeon-holes for which I can find better use.  It may need a certain
amount of revision—in fact, it is sure to, for it is unconscionably long,
and, thanks to the persistent failure of Miss Andrews to do as I thought
she would, may frequently seem incoherent.  For your own sake revise it,
for the readers of your book won’t believe that you are telling a true
story anyhow; they will say that you wrote this chapter and attributed it
to me, and you will find yourself held responsible for its shortcomings.
I have inserted a few notes here and there which will give you an idea of
what I suffered as I wrote on and found her growing daily less and less
tractable, with occasionally an indication of the point of divergence
between her actual behavior and that which I expected of her.”

To a fellow-workman in literary fields this chapter is of pathetic
interest, though it may not so appear to the reader who knows little of
the difficulties of authorship.  I can hardly read it myself without a
feeling of most intense pity for poor Harley.  I can imagine the
sleepless nights which followed the shattering of his hopes as to what
his story might be by the recalcitrant attitude of the young woman he had
honored so highly by selecting her for his heroine.  I can almost feel
the bitter sense of disappointment, which must have burned to the very
depths of his soul, when he finally realized how completely overturned
were all his plans, and I cannot forego calling attention to the
constancy to his creed of Stuart Harley, in sacrificing his opportunity
rather than his principles, as shown by his resolute determination not to
force Miss Andrews to do his bidding, even though it required merely the
dipping of his pen into the ink and the resolution to do so.

I cannot blame her, however.  Granting to Harley the right to a creed,
Miss Andrews, too, it must be admitted, was entitled to have views as to
how she ought to behave under given circumstances, and if she found her
notions running counter to his, it was only proper that she should act
according to the dictates of her own heart, or mind, or whatever else it
may be that a woman reasons with, rather than according to his wishes.

As to all questions of this kind, however, as between the two, the reader
must judge, and one document in evidence is Harley’s chapter, which ran
in this wise:

                                  A MEETING

    “_Stop beating_, _heart_, _and in a moment calm_
    _The question answer—is this_, _then_, _my fate_?”

                                                        —PERKINS’S “Odes.”

As the correspondents of the New York papers had surmised, invitations
for the Howlett ball were issued on the 12th.  It is not surprising that
the correspondents in this instance should be guilty of that rare crime
among society reporters, accuracy, for their information was derived from
a perfectly reliable source, Mrs. Howlett’s butler, in whose hands the
addressing of the envelopes had been placed—a man of imposing presence,
and of great value to the professional snappers-up of unconsidered
trifles of social gossip in the pay of the Sunday newspapers, with many
of whom he was on terms of closest intimacy.  Of course Mrs. Howlett was
not aware that her household contained a personage of great journalistic
importance, any more than her neighbor, Mrs. Floyd-Hopkins, was aware
that it was her maid who had furnished the _Weekly Journal of Society_
with the vivid account of the scandalous behavior, at her last dinner, of
Major Pompoly, who had to be forcibly ejected from the Floyd-Hopkins
domicile by the husband of Mrs. Jernigan Smith—a social morsel which
attracted much attention several years ago.  Every effort was made to
hush that matter up, and the guests all swore eternal secrecy; but the
_Weekly Journal of Society_ had it, and, strangely enough, had it right,
in its next issue; but the maid was never suspected, even though she did
appear to be possessed of more ample means than usual for some time
after.  Mrs. Floyd-Hopkins preferred to suspect one of her guests, and,
on the whole, was not sorry that the matter had got abroad, for everybody
talked about it, and through the episode her dinner became one of the
historic banquets of the season.

The Willards, who were by this time comfortably settled at “The Needles,”
their cottage on the cliff, it is hardly necessary to state, were among
those invited, and with their cards was included one for Marguerite.
Added to the card was a personal note from Mrs. Howlett to Miss Andrews,
expressing the especial hope that she would not fail them, all of which
was very gratifying to the young girl.

“See what I’ve got,” she cried, gleefully, running into Mrs. Willard’s
“den” at the head of the beautiful oaken stairs.

(_Note_.—At this point in Harley’s manuscript there is evidence of
indecision on the author’s part.  His heroine had begun to bother him a
trifle.  He had written a half-dozen lines descriptive of Miss Andrews’s
emotions at receiving a special note of invitation, subsequently erasing
them.  The word “gleefully” had been scratched out, and then restored in
place of “scornfully,” which had at first been substituted for it.  It
was plain that Harley was not quite certain as to how much a woman of
Miss Andrews’s type would care for a special attention of this nature,
even if she cared for it at all.  As a matter of fact, the word chosen
should have been “dubiously,” and neither “gleefully” nor “scornfully”;
for the real truth was that there was no reason why Mrs. Howlett should
so honor Marguerite, and the girl at once began to wonder if it were not
an extra precaution of Harley’s to assure her presence at the ball for
the benefit of himself and his publishers.  The author finally wrote it
as I have given it above, however, and Miss Andrews received her special
invitation “gleefully”—according to Harley.  He perceives her doubt,
however, without comprehending it; for after describing Mrs. Willard’s
reading of the note, he goes on.)

“That is very nice of Mrs. Howlett,” said Mrs. Willard, handing
Marguerite back her note.  “It is a special honor, my dear, by which you
should feel highly flattered.  She doesn’t often do things like that.”

“I should think not,” said Marguerite.  “I am a perfect stranger to her,
and that she should do it at all strikes me as being most extraordinary.
It doesn’t seem sincere, and I can’t help thinking that some extraneous
circumstance has been brought to bear upon her to force her to do it.”

(_Note_.—Stuart Harley has commented upon this as follows: “As I read
this over I must admit that Miss Andrews was right.  Why I had Mrs.
Howlett do such a thing I don’t know, unless it was that my own
admiration for my heroine led me to believe that some more than usual
attention was her due.  In my own behalf I will say that I should in all
probability have eliminated or corrected this false note when I came to
the revision of my proofs.”  The chapter then proceeds.)

“What shall we wear?” mused Mrs. Willard, as Marguerite folded Mrs.
Howlett’s note and replaced it in its envelope.

“I must positively decline to discuss that question.  It is of no public
interest,” snapped Marguerite, her face flushing angrily.  “My clothing
is my own business, and no one’s else.”  She paused a moment, and then,
in an apologetic tone, she added, “I’d be perfectly willing to talk with
you about it generally, my dear Dorothy, but not now.”

Mrs. Willard looked at the girl in surprise.

(_Note_.—Stuart Harley has written this in the margin: “Here you have one
of the situations which finally compelled me to relinquish this story.
You know yourself how hard it is to make 30,000 words out of a slight
situation, and at the same time stick to probability.  I had an idea, in
mapping out this chapter, that I could make three or four interesting
pages—interesting to the girls, mind you—out of a discussion of what they
should wear at the Howlett dance.  It was a perfectly natural subject for
discussion at the time and under the circumstances.  It would have been a
good thing in the book, too, for it might have conveyed a few wholesome
hints in the line of good taste in dress which would have made my story
of some value.  Women are always writing to the papers, asking, ‘What
shall I wear here?’ and ‘What shall I wear there?’  The ideas of two
women like Mrs. Willard and Marguerite Andrews would have been certain to
be interesting, elevating, and exceedingly useful to such people, but the
moment I attempted to involve them in that discussion Miss Andrews
declined utterly to speak, and I was cut out of some six or seven hundred
quite important words.  I had supposed all women alike in that matter,
but I find I was mistaken; one, at least, won’t discuss clothes—but I
don’t wonder that Mrs. Willard looked up in surprise.  I put that in just
to please myself, for of course the whole incident would have had to be
cut out when the manuscript went to the type-setter.”  The chapter takes
a new lead here, as follows:)

Mrs. Willard was punctiliously prompt in sending the acceptances of
herself and Mr. Willard to Mrs. Howlett, and at the same time
Marguerite’s acceptance was despatched, although she was at first
disposed to send her regrets.  She was only moderately fond of those
inconsequent pleasures which make the life social.  She was a good
dancer, but a more excellent talker, and she preferred talking to
dancing; but the inanity of what are known as stair talks at dances
oppressed her; nor did she look forward with any degree of pleasure to
what we might term conservatory confidences, which in these luxurious
days have become so large a factor in terpsichorean diversions, for
Marguerite was of a practical nature.  She had once chilled the heart of
a young poet by calling Venice malarious (Harley little realized when he
wrote this how he would have suffered had he carried out his original
intention and transplanted Marguerite to the City of the Sea!), and a
conservatory to her was a thing for mid-day, and not for midnight.  She
was therefore not particularly anxious to spend an evening—which began at
an aggravatingly late hour instead of at a reasonable time, thanks to a
social custom which has its foundation in nothing short of absolute
insanity—in the pursuit of nothing of greater value than dancing, stair
talks, and conservatory confidences; but Mrs. Willard soon persuaded her
that she ought to go, and go she did.

It was a beautiful night, that of the 22_d_ of July.  Newport was at her
best.  The morning had been oppressively warm, but along about three in
the afternoon a series of short and sharp electrical storms came, and as
quickly went, cooling the heated city, and freshening up the air until it
was as clear as crystal, and refreshing as a draught of cold
spring-water.

At the Howlett mansion on Bellevue Avenue all was in readiness for the
event.  The caterer’s wagons had arrived with their dainty contents, and
had gone, and now the Hungarian band was sending forth over the cool
night air those beautiful and weird waves of melody which entrance the
most unwilling ear.  About the broad and spacious grounds festooned
lights hung from tree to tree; here and there little rose-scented bowers
for _tête-à-tête_ talks were set; from within, streaming through the
windows in regal beauty, came the lights of the vast ballroom, the
reception-rooms, and the beautifully designed dining-hall—lately added by
young Morris Black, the architect, to Mrs. Howlett’s already perfect
house.

On the ballroom floor are some ten or twenty couples gracefully waltzing
to the strains of Sullivan, and in the midst of these we see Marguerite
Andrews threading her way across the room with some difficulty, attended
by Mr. and Mrs. Willard.  They have just arrived.  As Marguerite walks
across the hall she attracts every one.  There is that about her which
commands attention.  At the instant of her entrance Count Bonetti is on
the _qui Vive_.

“Py Chove!” he cries, as he leans gracefully against the doorway opening
into the conservatory.  “Zare, my dear friend, zat iss my idea of ze
truly peautiful woman.  Vat iss her name?”

“That is Miss Andrews of New York, Count,” the person addressed replies.
“She is up here with the Willards.”

“I musd meed her,” says the Count, his eye following Marguerite as she
walks up to Mrs. Howlett and is greeted effusively by that lady.

Marguerite is pale, and appears anxious.  Even to the author the ways of
the women in his works are inscrutable; so upon this occasion.  She is
pale, but I cannot say why.  Can it be that she has an intuitive
knowledge that to-night may decide her whole future life?  Who can tell?
Woman’s intuitions are great, and there be those who say they are
unerringly true.  One by one, with the exception of Count Bonetti, the
young men among Mrs. Howlett’s guests are presented—Bonetti prefers to
await a more favorable opportunity—and to all Marguerite appears to be
the beautiful woman she is.  Hers is an instant success.  A new beauty
has dawned upon the Newport horizon.

Let us describe her as she stands.

(_Note_.—There is a blank space left here.  At first I thought it was
because Harley wished to reflect a little before drawing a picture of so
superb a woman as he seemed to think her, and go on to the conclusion of
the chapter, the main incidents being hot in his mind, and the purely
descriptive matters more easily left to calmer moments.  He informs me,
however, that such was not the case.  “When I came to describe her as she
stood,” he said, “she had disappeared, and I had to search all over the
house before I finally found her in the conservatory.  So I changed the
chapter to read thus:”)

After a half-hour of dancing and holding court—for Marguerite’s triumph
was truly that of a queen, it was so complete—Miss Andrews turned to Mr.
Willard and took his arm.

“Let us go into the conservatory,” she said, in a whisper.  “I have heard
so much about Mrs. Howlett’s orchids, I should like to see them.”

Willard, seeing that she was tired and slightly bored by the incessant
chatter of those about her, escorted her out through the broad door into
the conservatory.  As she passed from the ballroom the dark eyes of Count
Bonetti flashed upon her, but she heeded them not, moving on into the
floral bower in apparently serene unconsciousness of that person’s
presence.  Here Willard got her a chair.

“Will you have an ice?” he asked, as she seated herself beneath one of
the lofty palms.

“Yes,” she answered, simply.  “I can wait here alone if you will get it.”

           [Picture: “The dark eyes of Count Bonetti flashed”]

Willard passed out, and soon returned with the ice; but as he came
through the doorway Bonetti stopped him and whispered something in his
ear.

“Certainly, Count, right away,” Willard answered.  “Come along.”

Bonetti needed no second bidding, but followed Willard closely, and soon
stood expectant before Marguerite.

“Miss Andrews,” said Willard, “may I have the pleasure of presenting
Count Bonetti?”

The Count’s head nearly collided with his toes in the bow that he made.

“Mr. Willard,” returned Miss Andrews, coldly, ignoring the Count,
“feeling as I do that Count Bonetti is merely a bogus Count with
acquisitive instincts, brought here, like myself, for literary purposes
of which I cannot approve, I must reply to your question that you may not
have that pleasure.”

With which remark (concludes Stuart Harley) Miss Marguerite Andrews swept
proudly from the room, ordered her carriage, and went home, thereby
utterly ruining the second story of her life that I had undertaken to
write.  But I shall make one more effort.



V
AN EXPERIMENT


    “_And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humor_.
    _He that knows better how to tame a shrew_,
    _Now let him speak_; _’tis charity to show_.”

                                                   —“Taming of the Shrew.”

“WHAT would have happened if she had behaved differently, Stuart?” I
asked, after I had read the pages he had so kindly placed at my disposal.

“Oh, nothing in particular to which she could reasonably object,”
returned Harley.  “The incidents of a truly realistic novel are rarely
objectionable, except to people of a captious nature.  I intended to have
Bonetti dance attendance upon Miss Andrews for the balance of the season,
that’s all, hoping thereby to present a good picture of life at Newport
in July and part of August.  About the middle of August I was going to
transport the whole cast to Bar Harbor, for variety’s sake.  That would
have been another opportunity to get a good deal of the American summer
atmosphere into the book.  I wish I could afford the kind of summer I
contemplated giving her.”

“You didn’t intend that she should fall in love with Bonetti?” I asked.

“Not to any serious extent,” said Harley, deprecatingly.  “Even if she
had a little, she’d have come out of it all right as soon as the hero
turned up, and she had a chance to see the difference between a manly man
of her own country and a little titled fortune hunter from the land of
macaroni.  Bonetti wasn’t to be a bad fellow at all.  He was merely an
Italian, which he couldn’t help, being born so, and therefore, as she
said, of an acquisitive nature.  There is no villany in that,
however—that is, no reprehensible villany.  He was after a rich marriage
because he was fond of a life of ease.  She’d have found him amusing, at
any rate.”

“But he was bogus!” I suggested.

“Not at all,” said Harley, impatiently.  “That’s what vexes me more than
anything else.  She made a very bad mistake there.  As a Count, Bonetti
was quite as real as his financial necessities.”

“It was a beastly awkward situation, that conservatory scene,” said I.
“Especially for Willard.  The Count might have challenged him.  What
became of the Count when it was over?”

“I don’t know,” said Harley.  “I left him to get out of his predicament
as best he could.  Possibly he did challenge Willard.  I haven’t taken
the trouble to find out.  If, as I think, however, he’s a living person,
he’ll extricate himself from his difficulty all right; if he’s not, and I
have unwittingly allowed myself to conjure him up in my fancy, there’s no
great harm done.  If he’s nothing more than a marionette, let him fall on
the floor, and stay there until I find some imaginative writer who will
take him off my hands—you, for instance.  You can have Bonetti for a
Christmas present, with my compliments.  I’m through with him; but as for
Miss Andrews, she has been so confoundedly elusive that she has aroused
my deepest interest, and I couldn’t give her up if I wanted to.  I never
encountered a heroine like her in all my life before, and the one object
of my future career will be to catch her finally in the meshes of a
romance.  Romance will come into her life some time.  She is not at all
of an unsentimental nature—only fractious—new-womanish, perhaps; but none
the less lovable, and Cupid will have a shot at her when she least
expects it; and when it does come, I’ll be on hand to report the
attempted assassination for the delectation of the Herring, Beemer, &
Chadwick public.”

“I should think you would try a little persuasion, just for larks,” I
suggested.

“You forget I am a realist,” he replied, as he went out.

Now I sincerely admired Stuart Harley, and I wished to the bottom of my
heart to help him if I could.  It seemed to me that, however admirable
Miss Andrews had shown herself to be generally as a woman, she had been
an altogether unsatisfactory person in the rôle of a heroine.  I
respected her scruples about marrying men she did not care for, and, as I
have already said, no one could deny her the right to her own
convictions; but it seemed to me that in the Bonetti incident she might
and truly ought to have acted differently when the time came for the
presentation.  There is no doubt in my mind that her little speech to
Willard, in which she stated that the Count was a fraud and might not be
presented, was a deliberately planned rebuff, and therefore not in any
sense excusable.  She could have avoided it by telling Willard before
leaving home that she did not care to meet the Count.  To make a scene at
Mrs. Howlett’s was not a thing which a sober-minded, self-contained woman
would have done; it was bad form to behave so rudely to one of Mrs.
Howlett’s guests, and was so inconsiderate of Willard and unreasonable in
other ways that I blamed her unreservedly.

“She deserves to be punished,” I thought to myself, as Harley went
dejectedly out of the room.  “And there is no kind of punishment for a
woman like that so galling to her soul as to find herself in the hands of
a relentless despot who forces her this way and that, according to his
whim.  I’d like to play Petrucio to her Katherine for five minutes.
She’d soon find out that I’m not a realist bound by a creed to which I
must adhere.  Whatever I choose to do I can do without violating my
conscientious scruples, because I haven’t any conscientious scruples in
literature.  And, by Jove, I’ll do it!  I’ll take Miss Marguerite Andrews
in hand myself this very afternoon, and I’ll put her through a course of
training that will make her rue the day she ever trifled with Stuart
Harley—and when he takes her up again she’ll be as meek as Moses.”

Strong in my belief that I could bring the young woman to terms, I went
to my desk and tried my hand at a story, with Miss Andrews as its
heroine, and I was not particular about being realistic either.  Neither
did I go off into any trances in search of heroes and villains.  I did
what Harley could not do.  I brought the _New York_ back to port that
very day, and despatched Robert Osborne, the despised lover of the first
tale, to Newport.

“She shall have him whether she likes him or not,” said I, gritting my
teeth determinedly; “and she won’t know whether she loves him or Count
Bonetti best; and she’ll promise to marry both of them; and she shall go
to Venice in August, despite her uncompromising refusal to do so for
Harley; and she shall meet Balderstone there, and, no matter what her
opinion of him or of his literary work, she shall be fascinated by the
story I’ll have him write, and under the spell of that fascination she
shall promise to marry him also; whereupon the Willards will turn up and
take her to Heidelberg, where I’ll have her meet the hero she couldn’t
wait for at the Howlett dance, the despised Professor, and she shall
promise to be his wife likewise; and finally I’ll put her on board a
steamer at Southampton, bound for New York, with Mrs. Corwin and the
twins; and the second day out, when she is feeling her very worst, all
four of her fiancés will turn up at the same time beside her chair.  Then
I shall leave her to get out of her trouble the best way she can.  I
imagine, after she has had a taste of my literary regimen, she’ll quite
fall in love with the Harley method, and behave herself as a heroine
should.”

I sat down all aglow with the idea of being able to tame Harley’s heroine
and place her in a mood more suited for his purposes.  The more I thought
of how his failures were weighing on his mind, the more viciously ready
was I to play the tyrant with Marguerite, and—well, I might as well
confess it at once, with all my righteous indignation against her, I
could not do it.  Five times I started, and as many times did I destroy
what I wrote.  On the sixth trial I did haul the _New York_ relentlessly
back into port, never for an instant considering the inconvenience of the
passengers, or the protests of the officers, crew, or postal authorities.
This done, I seized upon the unfortunate Osborne, spirited his luggage
through the Custom-house, and sent the ship to sea again.  That part was
easy.  I have written a great deal for the comic papers, and acrobatic
nonsense of that sort comes almost without an effort on my part.  With
equal ease I got Osborne to Newport—how, I do not recollect.  It is just
possible that I took him through from New York without a train, by the
mere say-so of my pen.  At any rate, I got him there, and I fully
intended to have him meet Miss Andrews at a dance at the Ocean House the
day after his arrival.  I even progressed so far as to get up the dance.
I described the room, the decorations, and the band.  I had Osborne
dressed and waiting, with Bonetti also dressed and waiting on the other
side of the room, Scylla and Charybdis all over again, but by no
possibility could I force Miss Andrews to appear.  Why it was, I do not
pretend to be able to say—she may have known that Bonetti was there, she
may have realized that I was trying to force Osborne upon her; but
whatever it was that enabled her to do so, she resisted me
successfully—or my pen did; for that situation upon which I had based the
opening scene of my story of compulsion I found beyond my ability to
depict; and as Harley had done before me, so was I now forced to do—to
change my plan.

“I’ll have her run away with!” I cried, growing vicious in my wrath; “and
both Bonetti and Osborne shall place her under eternal obligations by
rushing out to stop the horse, one from either side of the street.
She’ll have to meet Bonetti then,” I added, with a chuckle.

And I tried that plan.  As docile as a lamb she entered the phaeton,
which I conjured up out of my ink-pot, and like a veteran Jehu did she
seize the reins.  I could not help admiring her as I wrote of it—she was
so like a goddess; but I did not relent.  Run away with she must be, and
run away with she was.  But again did this extraordinary woman assert
herself to my discomfiture; for the moment she saw Bonetti rushing out to
rescue her from the east, she jerked the left rein so violently that the
horse swerved to one side, toppled over on Osborne, who had sprung
gallantly to the rescue from the west; and Bonetti, missing his aim as
the horse turned, fell all in a heap in the roadway two yards back of the
phaeton.  Miss Andrews was not hurt, but my story was, for she had not
even observed the unhappy Osborne; and as for Bonetti, he cut so
ridiculous a figure that, Italian though he was, even he seemed aware of
it, and he shrank dejectedly out of sight.  Again had this supernaturally
elusive heroine upset the plans of one who had essayed to embalm her
virtues in a literary mould.  I could not bring her into contact with
either of my heroes.

I threw my pen down in disgust, slammed to the cover of my ink-well, and
for two hours paced madly through the maze-like walks of the Central
Park, angry and depressed; and from that moment until I undertook the
narration of this pathetic story I gave Harley’s heroine up as
unavailable material for my purposes.  She was worse, if anything, in
imaginative work than in realism, because she absolutely defied the
imagination, while the realist she would be glad to help so long as his
realism was kept in strict accord with her ideas of what the real really
was.

It was some days before I saw Harley again, and I thought he looked tired
and anxious—so anxious, indeed, that I was afraid he might possibly be in
financial straits, for I knew that for three weeks he had not turned out
any of his usual pot-boilers, having been too busy trying to write the
story for Messrs. Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick.  It happened, oddly
enough, that I had two or three uncashed checks in my pocket; so, feeling
like a millionaire, I broached the subject to him.

“What’s the matter, old fellow?” I said.  “You seem in a blue funk.  Has
the mint stopped?  If it has, command me.  I’m overburdened with checks
this week.”

“Not at all; thanks just the same,” he said, wearily.  “My Tiffin
royalties came in Wednesday, and I’m all right for a while, anyhow.”

“What’s up, then, Stuart?” I asked.  “You look worried.  I’ve just
offered to share my prosperity with you, you might share your grief with
me.  Lend me a peck of trouble overnight, will you?”

“Oh, it’s nothing much,” he said.  “It’s that rebellious heroine of mine.
She’s weighing on my mind, that’s all.  She’s very real to me, that
woman; and, by Jove! I’ve been as jealous as a lover for two days over a
fancy that came into my head.  You’ll laugh when I tell you, but I’ve
been half afraid somebody else would take her up and—well, treat her
badly.  There is something that tells me that she has been forced into
some brutal situation by somebody, somewhere, within the past two or
three days.  I believe I’d want to kill a man who did that.”

I didn’t laugh at him.  I was the man who was in a fair way to get killed
for “doing that,” and I thought laughter would be a little bit misplaced;
but I am not a coward, and I didn’t flinch.  I confessed.  I tried to
ease his mind by telling him what I had attempted to do.

“It was a mistake,” he said, shortly, when I had finished.  “And you must
promise me one thing,” he added, very seriously.

“I’ll promise anything,” I said, meekly.

“Don’t ever try anything of the sort again,” he went on, gravely.  “If
you had succeeded in writing that story, and subjected her to all that
horror, I should never have spoken to you again.  As it is, I realize
that what you did was out of the kindness of your heart, prompted by a
desire to be of service to me, and I’m just as much obliged as I can be,
only I don’t want any assistance.”

“Until you ask me to, Stuart,” I replied, “I’ll never write another line
about her; but you’d better keep very mum about her yourself, or get her
copyrighted.  The way she upset that horse on Osborne, completely
obliterating him, and at the same time getting out of the way of that
little simian Count, in spite of all I could do to place her under
obligations to both of them, was what the ancients would have called a
caution.  She has made a slave of me forever, and I venture to predict
that if you don’t hurry up and get her into a book, somebody else will;
and whoever does will make a name for himself alongside of which that of
Smith will sink into oblivion.”

“Count on me for that,” said he.  “‘Faint heart never won fair lady,’ and
I don’t intend to stop climbing just because I fear a few more falls.”



VI
ANOTHER CHAPTER FROM HARLEY


    “_Was ever woman in this humour woo’d_?
    _Was ever woman in this humour won_?
    _I’ll have her_,—_but I will not keep her long_.”

                                                           —“Richard III.”

THERE was no doubt about it that Harley, true to his purpose, was making
a good fight to conquer without compulsion, and appreciated as much as I
the necessity of reducing his heroine to concrete form as speedily as
possible, lest some other should prove more successful, and so deprive
him of the laurels for which he had worked so hard and suffered so much.
In his favor was his disposition.  He was a man of great determination,
and once he set about doing something he was not an easy man to turn
aside, and now that, for the first time in his life, he found himself
baffled at every point, and by a heroine of no very great literary
importance, he became more determined than ever.

“I’ll conquer yet,” he said to me, a week or so later; but the weariness
with which he spoke made me fear that victory was afar off.

“I’ve no doubt of it—ultimately,” I answered, to encourage him; “but
don’t you think you’ll stand a better chance if you let her rest for a
while, and then steal in upon her unawares, and catch her little romance
as it flies?  She is apparently nerved up against you now, and the more
conscious she is of your efforts to put her on paper, the more she will
rebel.  In fact, her rebelliousness will become more and more a matter of
whim than of principle, unless you let up on her for a little while.
Half of her opposition now strikes me as obstinacy, and the more you try
to break her spirit, even though you do it gently, the more stubborn will
she become.  Put this book aside for a few weeks anyhow.  Why not tackle
something else?  You’d do better work, too, after a little variety.”

“This must be finished by September 1st, that’s why not,” said Stuart.
“I’ve promised Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick to send them the completed
manuscript by that time.  Besides, no heroine of mine shall ever say that
she swerved me from doing what I have set about doing.  It is now or
never with Marguerite Andrews.”

So I left him at his desk, and for a week was busy with my own affairs.
Late the following Friday night I dropped in at Harley’s rooms to see how
matters were progressing.  As I entered I saw him at his desk, his back
turned towards me, silhouetted in the lamp-light, scratching away
furiously with his pen.

“Ah!” I thought, as my eye took in the picture, “it goes at last.  I
guess I won’t disturb his train of thought.”

And I tried to steal softly out, for he had not observed my entrance.  As
luck would have it, I stepped upon the sill of the door as I passed out,
and it creaked.

“Hello!” cried Harley, wheeling about in his chair, startled by the
sound.  “Oh!  It’s you, is it?” he added, as he recognized me.  “What are
you up to?  Come back here.  I want to see you.”

His manner was cheerful, but I could see that the cheerfulness was
assumed.  The color had completely left his cheeks, and great rings under
his eyes betokened weariness of spirit.

“I didn’t want to disturb you,” said I, returning.  “You seem to have
your pen on a clear track, with full steam up.”

“I had,” he said, quietly.  “I was just finishing up that Herring,
Beemer, & Chadwick business.”

“Aha!” I cried, grasping his hand and shaking it.  “I congratulate you.
Success at last, eh?”

“Well, I’ve got something done—and that’s it,” he said, and he tossed the
letter block upon which he had been writing across the table to me.
“Read that, and tell me what you think of it.”

I read it over carefully.  It was a letter to Messrs. Herring, Beemer, &
Chadwick, in which Stuart asked to be relieved of the commission he had
undertaken:

    “I find myself utterly unable to complete the work in the stipulated
    time,” he wrote, “for reasons entirely beyond my control.  Nor can I
    at this writing say with any degree of certainty when I shall be able
    to finish the story.  I have made constant and conscientious effort
    to carry out my agreement with you, but fruitlessly, and I beg that
    you will relieve me of the obligation into which I entered at the
    signing of our contract.  Of course I could send you something long
    enough to cover the required space—words come easy enough for
    that—but the result would be unsatisfactory to you and injurious to
    me were I to do so.  Please let me hear from you, releasing me from
    the obligation, at your earliest convenience, as I am about to leave
    town for a fortnight’s rest.  Regretting my inability to serve you at
    this time, and hoping soon to be able to avail myself of your very
    kind offer, I beg to remain,

                                                        “Yours faithfully,
                                                          “STUART HARLEY.”

“Oh!” said I.  “You’ve finished it, then, by—”

“By giving it up,” said he, sadly.  “It’s the strangest thing that ever
happened to me, but that girl is impossible.  I take up my pen intending
to say that she did this, and before I know it she does that.  I cannot
control my story at all, nor can I perceive in what given direction she
will go.  If I could, I could arrange my _scenario_ to suit, but as it
is, I cannot go on.  It may come later, but it won’t come now, and I’m
going to give her up, and go down to Barnegat to fish for ten days.  I
hate to give the book up, though,” he added, tapping the table with his
pen-holder reflectively.  “Chadwick’s an awfully good fellow, and his
firm is one of the best in the country, liberal and all that, and here at
my first opportunity to get on their list, I’m completely floored.  It’s
beastly hard luck, I think.”

“Don’t be floored,” said I.  “Take my advice and tackle something else.
Write some other book.”

“That’s the devil of it!” he replied, angrily pounding the table with his
fist.  “I can’t.  I’ve tried, and I can’t.  My mind is full of that
woman.  If I don’t get rid of her I’m ruined—I’ll have to get a position
as a salesman somewhere, or starve, for until she is caught between good
stiff board covers I can’t write another line.”

“Oh, you take too serious a view of it, Stuart,” I ventured.  “You’re mad
and tired now.  I don’t blame you, of course, but you mustn’t be rash.
Don’t send that letter yet.  Wait until you’ve had the week at
Barnegat—you’ll feel better then.  You can write the book in ten days
after your return; or if you still find you can’t do it, it will be time
enough to withdraw then.”

“What hope is there after that?” he cried, tossing a bundle of manuscript
into my lap.  “Just read that, and tell me what’s the use.  I’d mapped
out a meeting between Marguerite Andrews and a certain Mr. Arthur Parker,
a fellow with wealth, position, brains, good looks—in short, everything a
girl could ask for, and that’s what came of it.”

I spread the pages out upon the table before me and read:



CHAPTER IV
A DECLARATION


          “_I have not seen_
    _So likely an ambassador of love_.”

                                                    —“Merchant of Venice.”

Parker mounted the steps lightly and rang the bell.  Marguerite’s
kindness of the night before, which was in marked contrast to her
coolness at the MacFarland dance, had led him to believe that he was not
wholly without interest to her, and her invitation that he should call
upon her had given him a sincere pleasure; in fact, he wondered that he
should be so pleased over so trivial a circumstance.

“I’m afraid I’ve lost my heart again,” he said to himself.  “That is,
again if I ever lost it before,” he added.

And his mind reverted to a little episode at Bar Harbor the summer
before, and he was not sorry to feel that that wound was cured—though, as
a matter of fact, it had never amounted to more than a scratch.

A moment later the door opened, and Parker entered, inquiring for Miss
Andrews as he did so.

“I do not know, but I will see if Miss Andrews is at home,” said the
butler, ushering him into the parlor.  That imposing individual knew
quite well that Miss Andrews was at home, but he also knew that it was
not his place to say so until the young lady had personally assured him
of the facts in so far as they related to this particular caller.  All
went well for Parker, however.  Miss Andrews consented to be at home to
him, and five minutes later she entered the drawing room where Parker was
seated.

“How do you do?” she said, frigidly, ignoring his outstretched hand.

(“Think of that, will you?” interposed Harley.  “He’d come to propose,
and was to leave engaged, and she insists upon opening upon him frigidly,
ignoring his outstretched hand.”

I couldn’t help smiling.  “Why did you let her do it?” I asked.

“I could no more have changed it than I could fly,” returned Stuart.
“She ought never to have been at home if she was going to behave that
way.  I couldn’t foresee the incident, and before I knew it that’s the
way it happened.  But I thought I could fix it up later, so I went on.
Read along, and see what I got let into next.”

I proceeded to read as follows:)

“You see,” said Parker, with an admiring glance at her eyes, in spite of
the fact that the coolness of her reception rather abashed him—“you see,
I have not delayed very long in coming.”

“So I perceive,” returned Marguerite, with a bored manner.  “That’s what
I said to Mrs. Willard as I came down.  You don’t allow your friends much
leeway, Mr. Parker.  It doesn’t seem more than five minutes since we were
together at the card party.”

(“That’s cordial, eh?” said Harley, as I read.  “Nice sort of talk for a
heroine to a hero.  Makes it easy for me, eh?”

“I must say if you manage to get a proposal in now you’re a genius,” said
I.

“Oh—as for that, I got reckless when I saw how things were going,”
returned Harley.  “I lost my temper, and took it out of poor Parker.  He
proposes, as you will see when you come to it; but it isn’t realism—it’s
compulsion.  I simply forced him into it—poor devil.  But go on and read
for yourself.”

I did so, as follows:)

This was hardly the treatment Parker had expected at the hands of one who
had been undeniably gracious to him at the card-table the night before.
He had received the notice that she was to be his partner at the tables
with misgivings, on his arrival at Mrs. Stoughton’s, because his
recollection of her behavior towards him at the MacFarland dance had led
him to believe that he was personally distasteful to her; but as the
evening at cards progressed he felt instinctively drawn towards her, and
her vivacity of manner, cleverness at repartee, and extreme amiability
towards himself had completely won his heart, which victory their little
tête-à-tête during supper had confirmed.  But here, this morning, was
reversion to her first attitude.  What could it mean?  Why should she
treat him so?

(“I couldn’t answer that question to save my life,” said Stuart.  “That
is, not then, but I found out later.  I put it in, however, and let
Parker draw his own conclusions.  I’d have helped him out if I could, but
I couldn’t.  Go on and see for yourself.”

I resumed.)

Parker could not solve the problem, but it pleased him to believe that
something over which he had no control had gone wrong that morning, and
that this had disturbed her equanimity, and that he was merely the victim
of circumstances; and somehow or other it pleased him also to think that
he could be the victim of her circumstances, so he stood his ground.

“It is a beautiful day,” he began, after a pause.

“Is it?” she asked, indifferently.

(“Frightfully snubbish,” said I, appalled at the lengths to which Miss
Andrews was going.

“Dreadfully,” sighed Harley.  “And so unlike her, too.”)

“Yes,” said Parker, “so very beautiful that it seemed a pity that you and
I should stay indoors, with plenty of walks to be taken and—”

Marguerite interrupted him with a sarcastic laugh.

“With so much pity and so many walks, Mr. Parker, why don’t you take a
few of them!” she said.

(“Good Lord!” said I.  “This is the worst act of rebellion yet.  She
seems beside herself.”

“Read on!” said Harley, in sepulchral tones.)

This was Parker’s opportunity.  “I am not fond of walking, Miss Andrews,”
he said; and then he added, quickly, “that is, alone—I don’t like
anything alone.  Living alone, like walking alone, is—”

“Let’s go walking,” said Marguerite, shortly, as she rose up from her
chair.  “I’ll be down in two minutes.  I only need to put my hat on.”

Parker acquiesced, and Miss Andrews walked majestically out of the parlor
and went up-stairs.

“Confound it!” muttered Parker, as she left him.  “A minute more, and I’d
have known my fate.”

(“You see,” said Harley, “I’d made up my mind that that proposal should
take place in that chapter, and I thought I’d worked right up to it, in
spite of all Miss Andrews’s disagreeable remarks when, pop—off she goes
to put on her hat.”

“Oh—as for that—that’s all right,” said I.  “Parker had suggested the
walk, and a girl really does like to stave off a proposal as long as she
can when she knows it is sure to come.  Furthermore, it gives you a
chance to describe the hat, and so make up for a few of the words you
lost when she refused to discuss ball-dresses with Mrs. Willard.”

“I never thought of that; but don’t you think I worked up to the proposal
skilfully?” asked Harley.

“Very,” said I.  “But you’re dreadfully hard on Parker.  It would have
been better to have had the butler fire him out, head over heels.  He
could have thrashed the butler for doing that, but with your heroine his
hands were tied.”

“Go on and read,” said Harley.)

“She must have known what I was driving at,” Parker reflected, as he
awaited her return.  “Possibly she loves me in spite of this frigid
behavior.  This may be her method of concealing it; but if it is, I must
confess it’s a case of

   ‘Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love,
   But—why did you kick me down-stairs?’

Certainly, knowing, as she now must, what my feelings are, her being
willing to go for a walk on the cliffs, or anywhere, is a favorable sign.

(“Parker merely echoed my own hope in that remark,” said Harley.  “If I
could get them engaged, I was satisfied to do it in any way that might be
pleasing to her.”)

A moment later Marguerite appeared, arrayed for the walk.  Parker rose as
she entered and picked up his gloves.

“You are a perfect picture this morning,” said he.

“I’m ready,” she said, shortly, ignoring the compliment.  “Where are we
scheduled to walk?—or are we to have something to say about it
ourselves?”

Parker looked at her with a wondering smile.  The aptness of the remark
did not strike him.  However, he was equal to the occasion.

“You don’t believe in free will, then?” he asked.

(“It was the only intelligent remark he could make, under the
circumstances, you see,” explained Harley.

“He was a clever fellow,” said I, and resumed reading.)

“I believe in a great many things we are supposed to do without,” said
Marguerite, sharply.

They had reached the street, and in silence walked along Bellevue Avenue.

                     [Picture: The walk on the cliff]

“There are a great many things,” vouchsafed Parker, as they turned out of
the avenue to the cliffs, “that men are supposed not to do without—”

“Yes,” said Marguerite, sharply—“vices.”

“I did not refer to them,” laughed Parker.  “In fact, Miss Andrews, the
heart of man is supposed to be incomplete until he has lost it, and has
succeeded in getting another for his very—”

“Are you an admirer of Max Nordau?” interposed Marguerite, quickly.

(“Whatever led you to put that in?” I asked.

“Go on, and you’ll see,” said Harley.  “I didn’t put it in.  It’s what
she said.  I’m not responsible.”)

“I don’t know anything about Max Nordau,” said Parker, somewhat surprised
at this sudden turn of the conversation.

“Are you familiar with Schopenhauer?” she asked.

(“It was awfully rough on the poor fellow,” said Harley, “but I couldn’t
help him.  I’d forced him in so far that I couldn’t get him out.  His
answer floored me as completely as anything that Miss Andrews ever did.”)

“Schopenhauer?” said Parker, nonplussed.  “Oh yes,” he added, an idea
dawning on his mind.  “That is to say, moderately familiar—though, as a
matter of fact, I’m not at all musical.”

Miss Andrews laughed immoderately, in which Parker, thinking that he had
possibly said something witty, although he did not know what it was,
joined.  In a moment the laughter subsided, and for a few minutes the two
walked on in silence.  Finally Parker spoke, resignedly.

“Miss Andrews,” he said, “perhaps you have noticed—perhaps not—that you
have strongly interested me.”

“Yes,” she said, turning upon him desperately.  “I have noticed it, and
that is why I have on two separate occasions tried to keep you from
saying so.”

“And why should I not tell you that I love—” began Parker.

“Because it is hopeless,” retorted Marguerite.  “I am perfectly well
aware, Mr. Parker, what we are down for, and I suppose I cannot blame you
for your persistence.  Perhaps you don’t know any better; perhaps you do
know better, but are willing to give yourself over unreservedly into the
hands of another; perhaps you are being forced and cannot help yourself.
It is just possible that you are a professional hero, and feel under
obligations to your employer to follow out his wishes to the letter.
However it may be, you have twice essayed to come to the point, and I
have twice tried to turn you aside.  Now it is time to speak truthfully.
I admire and like you very much, but I have a will of my own, am nobody’s
puppet, and if Stuart Harley never writes another book in his life, he
shall not marry me to a man I do not love; and, frankly, I do not love
you.  I do not know if you are aware of the fact, but it is true
nevertheless that you are the third _fiancé_ he has tried to thrust upon
me since July 3d.  Like the others, if you insist upon blindly following
his will, and propose marriage to me, you shall go by the board.  I have
warned you, and you can now do as you please.  You were saying—?”

“That I love you with all my soul,” said Parker, grimly.

(“He didn’t really love her then, you know,” said Harley.  “He’d been
cured of that in five minutes.  But I was resolved that he should say it,
and he did.  That’s how he came to say it grimly.  He did it just as a
soldier rushes up to the cannon’s mouth.  He added, also:”)

“Will you be my wife?”

“Most certainly not,” said Marguerite, turning on her heel, and leaving
the young man to finish his walk alone.

(“And then,” said Harley, with a chuckle, “Parker’s manhood would assert
itself in spite of all I could do.  He made an answer, which I wrote
down.”

“I see,” said I, “but you’ve scratched it out.  What was that line?”

“‘“Thank the Lord!” said Parker to himself, as Miss Andrews disappeared
around the corner,’” said Stuart Harley.  “That’s what I wrote, and I
flatter myself on the realism of it, for that’s just what any
self-respecting hero would have said under the circumstances.”

A silence came over us.

“Do you wonder I’ve given it up,” asked Stuart, after a while.

“Yes,” said I, “I do.  Such opposition would nerve me up to a battle
royal.  I wouldn’t give it up until I’d returned from Barnegat, if I were
you,” I added, anxious to have him renew his efforts; for an idea had
just flashed across my mind, which, although it involved a breach of
faith on my part, I nevertheless believed to be good and justifiable,
since it might relieve Stuart Harley of his embarrassment.

“Very well,” I rejoiced to hear him say.  “I won’t give it up until then,
but I haven’t much hope after that last chapter.”

So Harley went to Barnegat, after destroying his letter to Messrs.
Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick, whilst I put my breach of faith into
operation.)



VII
A BREACH OF FAITH


    “_Having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath_,
    _Study to break it_, _and not to break my troth_.”

                                                   —“Love’s Labor’s Lost.”

WHEN I assured Harley that I should keep my hands off his heroine until
he requested me to do otherwise, after my fruitless attempt to discipline
her into a less refractory mood, I fully intended to keep my promise.
She was his, as far as she possessed any value as literary material, and
he had as clear a right to her exclusive use as if she had been
copyrighted in his name—at least so far as his friends were concerned he
had.  Others might make use of her for literary purposes with a clear
conscience if they chose to do so, but the hand of a friend must be
stayed.  Furthermore, my own experience with the young woman had not been
successful enough to lead me to believe that I could conquer where Harley
had been vanquished.  Physical force I had found to be unavailing.  She
was too cunning to stumble into any of the pitfalls that with all my
imagination I could conjure up to embarrass her; but something had to be
done, and I now resolved upon a course of moral suasion, and wholly for
Harley’s sake.  The man was actually suffering because she had so
persistently defied him, and his discomfiture was all the more deplorable
because it meant little short of the ruin of his life and ambitions.  The
problem had to be solved or his career was at an end.  Harley never could
do two things at once.  The task he had in hand always absorbed his whole
being until he was able to write the word finis on the last page of his
manuscript, and until the finis to this elusive book he was now
struggling with was written, I knew that he would write no other.  His
pot-boilers he could do, of course, and so earn a living, but pot-boilers
destroy rather than make reputations, and Harley was too young a man to
rest upon past achievements; neither had he done such vastly superior
work that his fame could withstand much diminution by the continuous
production of ephemera.  It was therefore in the hope of saving him that
I broke faith with him and temporarily stole his heroine.  I did not
dream of using her at all, as you might think, as a heroine of my own,
but rather as an interesting person with ideas as to the duty of
heroines—a sort of Past Grand Mistress of the Art of Heroinism—who was
worth interviewing for the daily press.  I flatter myself it was a good
idea, worthy almost of a genius, though I am perfectly well aware that I
am not a genius.  I am merely a man of exceptional talent.  I have talent
enough for a genius, but no taste for the unconventional, and by just so
much do I fall short of the realization of the hopes of my friends and
fears of my enemies.  There are stories I have in mind that are worthy of
the most exalted French masters, for instance, and when I have the time
to be careful, which I rarely do, I can write with the polished grace of
a De Maupassant or a James, but I shall never write them, because I value
my social position too highly to put my name to anything which it would
never do to publish outside of Paris.  I do not care to prove my genius
at the cost of the respect of my neighbors—all of which, however, is
foreign to my story, and is put in here merely because I have observed
that readers are very much interested in their favorite authors, and like
to know as much about them as they can.

My plan, to take up the thread of my narrative once more, was, briefly,
to write an interview between myself, as a representative of a newspaper
syndicate, and Miss Marguerite Andrews, the “Well-Known Heroine.”  It has
been quite common of late years to interview the models of well-known
artists, so that it did not require too great a stretch of the
imagination to make my scheme a reasonable one.  It must be remembered,
too, that I had no intention of using this interview for my own
aggrandizement.  I planned it solely in the interests of my friend,
hoping that I might secure from Miss Andrews some unguarded admission
that might operate against her own principles, as Harley and I knew them,
and that, that secured, I might induce her to follow meekly his schedule
until he could bring his story to a reasonable conclusion.  Failing in
this, I was going to try and discover what style of man it was she
admired most, what might be her ideas of the romance in which she would
most like to figure, and all that, so that I could give Harley a few
points which would enable him so to construct his romance that his
heroine would walk through it as easily and as docilely as one could
wish.  Finally, all other things failing, I was going to throw Harley on
her generosity, call attention to the fact that she was ruining him by
her stubborn behavior, and ask her to submit to a little temporary
inconvenience for his sake.

As I have already said, so must I repeat, there was genius in the idea,
but I was forced to relinquish certain features of it, as will be seen
shortly.  I took up my pen, and with three bold strokes thereof
transported myself to Newport, and going directly to the Willard Cottage,
I rang the bell.  Miss Andrews was still elusive.  With all the resources
of imagination at hand, and with not an obstacle in my way that I could
not clear at a bound, she still held me at bay.  She was not at home—had,
in fact, departed two days previously for the White Mountains.
Fortunately, however, the butler knew her address, and, without bothering
about trains, luggage, or aught else, in one brief paragraph I landed
myself at the Profile House, where she was spending a week with Mr. and
Mrs. Rushton of Brooklyn.  This change of location caused me to modify my
first idea, to its advantage.  I saw, when I thought the matter over,
that, on the whole, the interview, as an interview for a newspaper
syndicate, was likely to be nipped in the bud, since the moment I
declared myself a reporter for a set of newspapers, and stated the object
of my call, she would probably dismiss me with the statement that she was
not a professional heroine, that her views were of no interest to the
public, and that, not having the pleasure of my acquaintance, she must
beg to be excused.  I wonder I didn’t think of this at the outset.  I
surely knew Harley’s heroine well enough to have foreseen this
possibility.  I realized it, however, the moment I dropped myself into
the great homelike office of the Profile House.  Miss Andrews walked
through the office to the dining-room as I registered, and as I turned to
gaze upon her as she passed majestically on, it flashed across my mind
that it would be far better to appear before her as a fellow-guest, and
find out what I wanted and tell her why I had come in that guise, rather
than introduce myself as one of those young men who earn their daily
bread by poking their noses into other people’s business.

Had this course been based upon any thing more solid than a pure bit of
imagination, I should have found it difficult to accommodate myself so
easily to circumstances.  If it had been Harley instead of myself, it
would have been impossible, for Harley would never have stooped to
provide himself with a trunk containing fresh linen and evening-dress
clothes and patent-leather pumps by a stroke of his pen.  This I did,
however, and that evening, having created another guest, who knew me of
old and who also was acquainted with Miss Andrews, just as I had created
my excellent wardrobe, I was presented.

The evening passed pleasantly enough, and I found Harley’s heroine to be
all that he had told me and a great deal more besides.  In fact, so
greatly did I enjoy her society that I intentionally prolonged the
evening to about three times its normal length—which was a very
inartistic bit of exaggeration, I admit; but then I don’t pretend to be a
realist, and when I sit down to write I can make my evenings as long or
as short as I choose.  I will say, however, that, long as my evening was,
I made it go through its whole length without having recourse to such
copy-making subterfuges as the description of doorknobs and chairs; and
except for its unholy length, it was not at all lacking in realism.  Miss
Andrews fascinated me and seemed to find me rather good company, and I
found myself suggesting that as the next day was Sunday she take me for a
walk.  From what I knew of Harley’s experience with her, I judged she’d
be more likely to go if I asked her to take me instead of offering to
take her.  It was a subtle distinction, but with some women subtle
distinctions are chasms which men must not try to overleap too
vaingloriously, lest disaster overtake them.  My bit of subtlety worked
like a charm.  Miss Andrews graciously accepted my suggestion, and I
retired to my couch feeling certain that during that walk to Bald
Mountain, or around the Lake, or down to the Farm, or wherever else she
might choose to take me, I could do much to help poor Stuart out of the
predicament into which his luckless choice of Miss Andrews as his heroine
had plunged him.  And I wasn’t far wrong, as the event transpired,
although the manner in which it worked out was not exactly according to
my schedule.

I dismissed the night with a few paragraphs; the morning, with its divine
service in the parlor, went quickly and impressively; for it _is_ an
impressive sight to see gathered beneath those towering cliffs a hundred
or more of pleasure and health seekers of different creeds worshipping
heartily and simply together, as accordantly as though they knew no
differences and all men were possessed of one common religion—it was too
impressive, indeed, for my pen, which has been largely given over to
matters of less moment, and I did not venture to touch upon it, passing
hastily over to the afternoon, when Miss Andrews appeared, ready for the
stroll.

I gazed at her admiringly for a moment, and then I began:

“Is that the costume you wore”—I was going to say, “when you rejected
Parker?” but I fortunately caught my error in time to pass it off—“at
Newport?”  I finished, with a half gasp at the narrowness of my escape;
for, it must be remembered, I was supposed as yet to know nothing of that
episode.

“How do you know what I wore at Newport?” she asked, quickly—so quickly
that I almost feared she had found me out, after all.

“Why—ah—I read about you somewhere,” I stammered.  “Some newspaper
correspondent drew a picture of the scene on the promenade in the
afternoon, and—ah—he had you down.”

“Oh!” she replied, arching her eyebrows; “that was it, was it?  And do
you waste your valuable time reading the vulgar effusions of the society
reporter?”

Wasn’t I glad that I had not come as a man with a nose to project into
the affairs of others—as a newspaper reporter!

“No, indeed,” I rejoined, “not generally; but I happened to see this
particular item, and read it and remembered it.  After all,” I added, as
we came to the sylvan path that leads to the Lake—“after all, one might
as well read that sort of stuff as most of the novels of the present day.
The vulgar reporter may be ignorant or a boor, and all that is
reprehensible in his methods, but he writes about real flesh and blood
people; and, what is worse, he generally approximates the truth
concerning them in his writing, which is more than can be said of the
so-called realistic novel writers of the day.  I haven’t read a novel in
three years in which it has seemed to me that the heroine, for instance,
was anything more than a marionette, with no will of her own, and ready
to do at any time any foolish thing the author wanted her to do.”

Again those eyes of Miss Andrews rested on me in a manner which gave me
considerable apprehension.  Then she laughed, and I was at ease again.

“You are very amusing,” she said, quietly.  “The most amusing of them
all.”

The remark nettled me, and I quickly retorted:

“Then I have not lived in vain.”

“You do really live, then, eh?” she asked, half chaffingly, gazing at me
out of the corners of her eyes in a fashion which utterly disarmed me.

“Excuse me, Miss Andrews,” I answered, “but I am afraid I don’t
understand you.”

“I am afraid you don’t,” she said, the smile leaving her lips.  “The fact
that you are here on the errand you have charged yourself with proves
that.”

“I am not aware,” I said, “that I have come on any particularly
ridiculous errand.  May I ask you what you mean by the expression ‘most
amusing of them all’?  Am I one among many, and, if so, one what among
many what?”

“Your errand is a good one,” she said, gravely, “and not at all
ridiculous; let me assure you that I appreciate that fact.  Your question
I will answer by asking another: Are you here of your own volition, or
has Stuart Harley created you, as he did Messrs. Osborne, Parker, and the
Professor?  Are you my new hero, or what?”

The question irritated me.  This woman was not content with interfering
seriously with my friend’s happiness: she was actually attributing me to
him, casting doubts upon my existence, and placing me in the same
category with herself—a mere book creature.  To a man who regards himself
as being the real thing, flesh and blood, and, well, eighteen-carat flesh
and blood at that, to be accused of living only a figmentary existence is
too much.  I retorted angrily.

“If you consider me nothing more than an idea, you do not manifest your
usual astuteness,” I said.

Her reply laid me flat.

“I do not consider you anything of the sort.  I never so much as
associated you with anything resembling an idea.  I merely asked a
question,” she said.  “I repeat it.  Do you or do you not exist?  Are you
a bit of the really real or a bit of Mr. Harley’s realism?  In short, are
you here at Profile Lake, walking and talking with me, or are you not?”

A realizing sense of my true position crept over me.  In reality I was
not there talking to her, but in my den in New York writing about her.  I
may not be a realist, but I am truthful.  I could not deceive her, so I
replied, hesitatingly:

“Well, Miss Andrews, I am—no, I am not here, except in spirit.”

“That’s what I thought,” she said, demurely.  “And do you exist
somewhere, or is this a ‘situation’ calculated to delight the American
girl—with pin-money to spend on Messrs. Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick’s
publications?”

“I do exist,” I replied, meekly; for, I must confess it, I realized more
than ever that Miss Andrews was too much for me, and I heartily wished I
was well out of it.  “And I alone am responsible for this.  Harley is off
fishing at Barnegat—and do you know why?”

“I presume he has gone there to recuperate,” she said.

“Precisely,” said I.

“After his ungentlemanly, discourteous, and wholly uncalled-for
interference with my comfort at Newport,” she said, her face flushing and
tears coming into her eyes, “I don’t wonder he’s prostrated.”

“I do not know to what you refer,” said I.

“I refer to the episode of the runaway horse,” she said, in wrathful
remembrance of the incident.  “Because I refuse to follow blindly his
will, he abuses his power, places me in a false and perilous situation,
from which I, a defenceless woman, must rescue myself alone and unaided.
It was unmanly of him—and I will pay him the compliment of saying wholly
unlike him.”

I stood aghast.  Poor Stuart was being blamed for my act.  He must be set
right at once, however unpleasant it might be for me.

“He—he didn’t do that,” I said, slowly; “it was I.  I wrote that bit of
nonsense; and he—well, he was mad because I did it, and said he’d like to
kill any man who ill-treated you; and he made me promise never to touch
upon your life again.”

“May I ask why you did that?” she asked, and I was glad to note that
there was no displeasure in her voice—in fact, she seemed to cheer up
wonderfully when I told her that it was I, and not Stuart, who had
subjected her to the misadventure.

“Because I was angry with you,” I answered.  “You were ruining my friend
with your continued acts of rebellion: he was successful; now he is
ruined.  He thinks of you day and night—he wants you for his heroine; he
wants to make you happy, but he wants you to be happy in your own way;
and when he thinks he has discovered your way, he works along that line,
and all of a sudden, by some act wholly unforeseen, and, if I may say so,
unforeseeable, you treat him and his work with contempt, draw yourself
out of it—and he has to begin again.”

“And why have you ventured to break your word to your friend?” she asked,
calmly.  “Surely you are touching upon my life now, in spite of your
promise.”

“Because I am willing to sacrifice my word to his welfare,” I retorted;
“to try to make you understand how you are blocking the path of a mighty
fine-minded man by your devotion to what you call your independence.  He
will never ask you to do anything that he knows will be revolting to you,
and until he has succeeded in pleasing you to the last page of his book
he will never write again.  I have done this in the hope of persuading
you, at the cost even of some personal discomfort, not to rebel against
his gentle leadership—to fall in with his ideas until he can fulfil this
task of his, whether it be realism or pure speculation on his part.  If
you do this, Stuart is saved.  If you do not, literature will be called
upon to mourn one who promises to be one of its brightest ornaments.”

I stopped short.  Miss Andrews was gazing pensively out over the
mirror-like surface of the Lake.  Finally she spoke.

“You may tell Mr. Harley,” she said, with a sigh, “that I will trouble
him no more.  He can do with me as he pleases in all save one particular.
He shall not marry me to a man I do not love.  If he takes the man I love
for my hero, then will I follow him to the death.”

“And may I ask who that man is?”

“You may ask if you please,” she replied, with a little smile.  “But I
won’t answer you, except to say that it isn’t you.”

“And am I forgiven for my runaway story?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.  “You wouldn’t expect me to condemn a man for loyalty to
his friend, would you?”

With which understanding Miss Andrews and I continued our walk, and when
we parted I found that the little interview I had started to write had
turned into the suggestion of a romance, which I was in duty bound to
destroy—but I began to have a glimmering of an idea as to who the man was
that Marguerite Andrews wished for a hero, and I regretted also to find
myself convinced of the truth of her statement that that man did not bear
my name.



VIII
HARLEY RETURNS TO THE FRAY


    “_I will be master of what is mine own_:
    _She is my goods_, _my chattels_.”

                                                   —“Taming of the Shrew.”

AT the end of ten days Harley returned from Barnegat, brown as a berry
and ready for war, if war it was still to be.  The outing had done him a
world of good, and the fish stories he told as we sat at dinner showed
that, realist though he might be, he had yet not failed to cultivate his
imagination in certain directions.  I may observe in passing, and in this
connection, that if I had a son whom it was my ambition to see making his
mark in the world as a writer of romance, as distinguished from the real,
I should, as the first step in his development, take care that he became
a fisherman.  The telling of tales of the fish he caught when no one else
was near to see would give him, as it has given many another, a good
schooling in the realms of the imagination.

I was glad to note that Harley’s wonted cheerfulness had returned, and
that he had become more like himself than he had been at any time since
his first failure with Miss Andrews.

“Your advice was excellent,” he said, as we sipped our coffee at the club
the night of his return.  “I have a clear two weeks in which to tackle
that story, and I feel confident now that I shall get it done.
Furthermore, I shall send the chapters to Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick as
I write them, so that there must be no failure.  I shall be compelled to
finish the tale, whatever may happen, and Miss Andrews shall go through
to the bitter end, willy-nilly.”

“Don’t be rash, Harley,” I said; for it seemed to me that Miss Andrews,
having consented at my solicitation to be a docile heroine for just so
long as Harley did not insist upon her marrying the man she did not love,
it was no time for him to break away from the principles he had so
steadfastly adhered to hitherto and become a martinet.  He struck me as
being more than likely to crack the whip like a ring-master in his
present mood than to play the indulgent author, and I felt pretty
confident that the instant the snap of the lash reached the ears of
Marguerite Andrews his troubles would begin again tenfold, both in
quality and in quantity, with no possible hope for a future
reconciliation between them.

“I’m not going to be rash,” said Harley.  “I never was rash, and I’m not
going to begin now, but I shall use my nerve.  That has been the trouble
with me in the past.  I haven’t been firm.  I have let that girl have her
own way in everything, and I’m very much afraid I have spoiled her.  She
behaves like a child with indulgent parents.  In the last instance, the
Parker proposal, she simply ran her independence into the ground.  She
was not only rebellious to me, but she was impertinent to him.  Her
attitude toward him was not nature at all; it was not realism, because
she is a woman of good breeding, and would naturally be the last to treat
any man, distasteful or not, with such excessive rudeness.  I compelled
him to go on and propose to her, though after he had been at it for five
minutes I could see that he wished he was well out of it.  I should have
taken her in hand and controlled her with equal firmness, declining to
permit her to speak so openly.  Frankness is good enough, especially in
women, among whom you rarely find it; but frankness of the sort she
indulged in has no place in the polite circle in which she moves.”

“Nevertheless, she spoke that way—you said yourself she did,” I said,
seeing that he was wrathful with Marguerite, and wishing to assuage his
anger before it carried him to lengths he might regret.  “And you’ve got
to take her as she is or drop her altogether.”

“She did—I repeat that she did speak that way, but that was no reason why
I should submit to it,” Harley answered.  “It was the fault of her mood.
She was nervous, almost hysterical—thanks to her rebellious spirit.  The
moment I discovered how things were going I should have gone back and
started afresh, and kept on doing so until I had her submissive.  A
hunter may balk at a high fence, but the rider must not give in to him
unless he wishes to let the animal get the better of him.  If he is wise
he will go back and put the horse to it again and again, until he finally
clears the topmost bar.  That I should have done in this instance, and
that I now intend to do, until that book comes out as I want it.”

I had to laugh in my sleeve.  On the whole, Harley was very like most
other realists, who pretend that they merely put down life as it is, and
who go through their professional careers serenely unconscious of the
truth that their fancies, after all, serve them when their facts are
lacking.  Even that most eminent disciple of the Realistic Cult, Mr.
Darrow, has been known to kill off a hero in a railroad accident that
owed its being to nothing short of his own imagination, in order that the
unhappy wight might not offend the readers of the highly moral magazine,
in which the story first appeared, by marrying a widow whom he had been
forced by Mr. Darrow to love before her husband died.  Mr. Darrow
manufactured, with five strokes of his pen, an engine and a tunnel to
crush the life out of the poor fellow, whom an immoral romancer would
have allowed to live on and marry the lady, and with perfect propriety
too, since the hero and the heroine were both of them the very models of
virtue, in spite of the love which they did not seek, and which Mr.
Darrow deliberately and almost brutally thrust into their otherwise happy
lives.  Of course the railway accident was needed to give the climax to
the story, which without it might have run through six more numbers of
the magazine, to the exclusion of more exciting material; but that will
not relieve Mr. Darrow’s soul of the stain he has put upon it by
deserting Dame Realism for a moment to flirt with Romance, when it comes
to the Judgment Day.

“As I want it to be, so must it be,” quoth Harley.

“Good,” thought I.  “It will no doubt be excellent; but be honest, and
don’t insist that you’ve taken down life as it is; for you may have an
astigmatism, for all you know, and life may not be at all what it has
seemed to you while you were putting it down.”

“Yes, sir,” said Harley, leaning back in his chair and drawing a long
breath, which showed his determination, “to the bitter end she shall go,
through such complications as I choose to have her, encountering whatever
villains I may happen to find most convenient, and to complete her story
she shall marry the man I select for my hero, if he is as commonplace as
the average salesman in a Brooklyn universal dry-goods emporium.”

Imagine my feelings if you can!  Having gone as a self-appointed
ambassador to the enemy to secure terms of peace, to return to find my
principal donning his armor and daubing his face with paint for a renewal
of the combat, was certainly not pleasant.  What could I say to
Marguerite Andrews if I ever met her in real life?  How could I look her
in the eye?  The situation overpowered me, and I hardly knew what to say.
I couldn’t beg Harley to stick to his realism and not indulge in
compulsion, because I had often jeered at him for not infusing a little
more of the dramatic into his stories, even if it had to be “lugged in by
the ears,” as he put it.  Nor was he in any mood for me to tell him of my
breach of faith—the mere knowledge that she had promised to be docile out
of charity would have stung his pride, and I thought it would be better,
for the time, at least, to let my interview remain a secret.  Fortune
favored me, however.  Kelly and the Professor entered the dining room at
this moment, and the Professor held in his hand a copy of the current
issue of The Literary Man, Messrs. Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick’s
fortnightly publication, a periodical having to do wholly with things
bookish.

“Who sat for this, Stuart?” called out the Professor, tapping the
frontispiece of the magazine.

“Who sat for what?” replied Stuart, looking up.

“This picture,” said the Professor.

“It’s a picture of a finely intellectual-looking person with your name
under it, Harley,” put in the Doctor.

“Oh—that,” said Harley.  “It does flatter me a bit.”

“So does the article with it,” said Kelly.  “Says you are a great man—man
with an idea, and all that.  Is that true, or is it just plain libel?
Have you an idea?”

Harley laughed good-naturedly.  “I had one once, but it’s lost,” he said.
“As to that picture, they’re bringing out a book for me,” he added,
modestly.  “Good ad., you know.”

“When you are through with that, Professor,” I put in, “let me have it,
will you?  I want to see what it says about Harley.”

“It’s a first-rate screed,” replied the Professor, handing over the
publication.  “It hits Harley right on the head.”

“I don’t know as that’s pleasant,” said Harley.

“What I mean, my dear boy,” said the Professor, “is that it does you
justice.”

And it really did do Harley justice, although, as he had suggested, it
was written largely to advertise the forthcoming work.  It spoke nicely
of Harley’s previous efforts, and judiciously, as it seemed to me.  He
had not got to the top of the ladder yet, but he was getting there by a
slow, steady development, and largely because he was a man with a fixed
idea as to what literature ought to be.

“Mr. Harley has seen clearly from the outset what it was that he wished
to accomplish and how to accomplish it,” the writer observed.  “He has
swerved neither to the right nor to the left, but has progressed
undeviatingly along the lines he has mapped out for himself, and keeping
constantly in mind the principles which seemed to him at the beginning of
his career to be right.  It has been this persistent and consistent
adherence to principle that has gained for Mr. Harley his hearing, and
which is constantly rendering more certain and permanent his position in
the world literary.  Others may be led hither and yon by the fads and
follies of the scatter-brained, but Realism will ever have one steadfast
champion in Stuart Harley.”

“Read that,” I said, tossing the journal across the table.

He read it, and blushed to the roots of his ears.

“This is no time to desert the flag, Harley,” said I, as he read.  “Stick
to your colors, and let her stick to hers.  You’d better be careful how
you force your heroine.”

“Ha, ha!” he laughed.  “I should think so, and for more reasons than one.
I never really intended to do horrible things with her, my boy.  Trust
me, if I do lead her, to lead her gently.  My persuasion will be
suggestive rather than mandatory.”

“And that hero—from the Brooklyn dry-goods shop?” I asked, with a smile.

“I’d like to see him so much as—tell her the price of anything,” cried
Harley.  “A man like that has no business to live in the same hemisphere
with a woman like Marguerite Andrews.  When I threatened her with him I
was conversing through a large and elegant though wholly invisible hat.”

I breathed more freely.  She was still sacred and safe in his hands.
Shortly after, dinner over, we left the table, and went to the theatre,
where we saw what the programme called the “latest London realistic
success,” in which three of the four acts of an intensely exciting
melodrama depended upon a woman’s not seeing a large navy revolver, which
lay on the table directly before her eyes in the first.  The play was
full of blood and replete with thunder, and we truly enjoyed it, only
Harley would not talk much between the acts.  He was unusually moody.
After the play was over his tongue loosened, however, and we went to the
Players for a supper, and there he burst forth into speech.

“If Marguerite Andrews had been the heroine of that play she’d have seen
that gun, and the audience would have had to go home inside of ten
minutes,” he said.  Later on he burst out with, “If my Miss Andrews had
been the heroine of that play, the man who falls over the precipice in
the second act would have been alive at this moment.”  And finally he
demanded: “Do you suppose a heroine like Marguerite Andrews would have
overlooked the comma on the postal card that woman read in the third act,
and so made the fourth act possible?  Not she.  She’s a woman with a
mind.  And yet they call that the latest London realistic success!
Realistic!  These Londoners do not seem to understand their own language.
If that play was realism, what sort of a nightmare do you suppose a
romantic drama would be?”

“Well, maybe London women in real life haven’t any minds,” I said,
growing rather weary of the subject.  I admired Miss Andrews myself, but
there were other things I could talk about—“like lemonade and elephants,”
as the small boy said.  “Let it go at that.  It was an interesting play,
and that’s all plays ought to be.  Realism in plays is not to be
encouraged.  A man goes to the theatre to be amused and entertained, not
to be reminded of home discomforts.”

Stuart looked at me reproachfully, ordered a fresh cigar, and suggested
turning in for the night.  I walked home with him and tried to get him
interested in a farce I was at work on, but it was of no use.  He had
become a monomaniac, and his monomania was his rebellious heroine.
Finally I blurted out:

“Well, for Heaven’s sake, Stuart, get the woman caged, will you?  For,
candidly, I’d like to talk about something else, and until Marguerite
Andrews is disposed of I don’t believe you’ll be able to.”

“I’ll have half the work done by this time to-morrow night,” said he.
“I’ve got ten thousand words of it in my mind now.”

“I’ll bet you there are only two words down in your mind,” said I.

“What are they?” he asked.

“Marguerite and Andrews,” said I.

Stuart laughed.  “They’re the only ones I’m sure of,” said he.  And then
we parted.

But he was right about what he would have accomplished by that time the
next night; for before sundown he had half the story written, and, what
is more, the chapters had come as easily as any writing he ever did.  For
docility, Marguerite was a perfect wonder.  Not only did she follow out
his wishes; she often anticipated them, and in certain parts gave him a
lead in a new direction, which, Stuart said, gave the story a hundred per
cent. more character.

In short, Marguerite Andrews was keeping her promise to me nobly.  The
only thing I regretted about it, now that all seemed plain sailing, was
its effect on Stuart.  Her amiability was proving a great attraction to
his susceptible soul, and I was beginning to fear that Stuart was slowly
but surely falling in love with his rebellious heroine, which would never
do, unless she were really real, on which point I was most uncertain.

“It would be a terrible thing,” said I confidentially to myself, “if
Stuart Harley were to fall in love with a creation of his own realism.”



IX
A SUMMONS NORTH


    “PORTIA.  _A quarrel_, _ho_, _already_?  _What’s the matter_?

    “GRATIANO.  _About a hoop of gold_, _a paltry ring_.”

                                                    —“Merchant of Venice.”

THE events just narrated took place on the 15th of August, and as
Harley’s time to fulfil his contract with Messrs. Herring, Beemer, &
Chadwick was growing very short—two weeks is short shrift for an author
with a book to write for waiting presses, even with a willing and helpful
cast of characters—so I resolved not to intrude upon him until he himself
should summon me.  I knew myself, from bitter experience, how unwelcome
the most welcome of one’s friends can be at busy hours, having had many a
beautiful sketch absolutely ruined by the untimely intrusion of those who
wished me well, so I resolutely kept myself away from his den, although I
was burning with curiosity to know how he was getting on.

On occasions my curiosity would get the better of my judgment, and I
would endeavor, with the aid of my own muses, to hold a moment’s chat
with Miss Andrews; but she eluded me.  I couldn’t find her at all—as,
indeed, how should I, since Harley had not taken me into his confidence
as to his intentions in the new story?  He might have laid the scene of
it in Singapore, for aught I knew, and, wander where I would in my fancy,
I was utterly unable to discover her whereabouts, until one evening a
very weird thing happened—a thing so weird that I have been pinching
myself with great assiduity ever since in order to reassure myself of my
own existence.  I had come home from a hard day’s editorial work, had
dined alone and comfortably, and was stretched out at full length upon
the low divan that stands at the end of my workshop—the delight of my
weary bones and the envy of my friends, who have never been able to find
anywhere another exactly like it.  My cigar was between my lips, and
above my head, rising in a curling cloud to the ceiling, was a mass of
smoke.  I am sure I was not dreaming, although how else to account for it
I do not know.  What happened, to put it briefly, was my sudden
transportation to a little mountain hotel not far from Lake George, where
I found myself sitting and talking to the woman I had so futilely sought.

“How do you do?” said she, pleasantly, as I materialized at her side.

“I am as well as a person can be,” I replied, rubbing my eyes in
confusion, “who suddenly finds himself two hundred and fifty miles away
from the spot where, a half-hour before, he had lain down to rest.”

Miss Andrews laughed.  “You see how it is yourself,” she said.

“See how what is myself?” I queried.

“To be the puppet of a person who—writes,” she answered.

“And have I become that?” I asked.

“You have,” she smiled.  “That’s why you are here.”

The idea made me nervous, and I pinched my arm to see whether I was there
or not.  The result was not altogether reassuring.  I never felt the
pinch, and, try as I would, I couldn’t make myself feel it.

“Excuse me,” I said, “for deviating a moment from the matter in hand, but
have you a hat-pin?”

“No,” she answered; “but I have a brooch, if that will serve your
purpose.  What do you want it for?”

“I wish to run it into my arm for a moment,” I explained.

“It won’t help you any,” she answered, smiling divinely.  “I must have a
word with you; all the hat-pins in the world shall not prevent me, now
that you are here.”

“Well, wait a minute, I beg of you,” I implored.  “You intimated a moment
ago that I was a puppet in the hands of some author.  Whose?  I’ve a
reputation to sustain, and shall not give myself up willingly, unless I
am sure that that person will not trifle with my character.”

“Exactly my position,” said she.  “As I said, you can now understand how
it is yourself.  But I will tell you in whose hands you are now—you are
in mine.  Surely if you had the right to send me tearing down Bellevue
Avenue at Newport behind a runaway horse, and then pursue me in spirit to
the Profile House, I have the right to bring you here, and I have
accordingly done so.”

For a woman’s, her logic was surprisingly convincing.  She certainly had
as much right to trifle with my comfort as I had to trifle with hers.

“You are right, Miss Andrews,” I murmured, meekly.  “Pray command me as
you will—and deal gently with the erring.”

“I will treat you far better than you treated me,” she said.  “So have no
fear—although I have been half minded at times to revenge myself upon you
for that runaway.  I could make you dreadfully uncomfortable, for when I
take my pen in hand my imagination in the direction of the horrible is
something awful.  I shall be merciful, however, for I believe in the
realistic idea, and I will merely make use of the power my pen possesses
over you to have you act precisely as you would if you were actually
here.”

“Then I am not here?” I queried.

“What do you think?” she asked, archly.

I was about to say that if I weren’t, I wished most heartily that I were;
but I remembered fortunately that it would never do for me to flirt with
Stuart Harley’s heroine, so I contented myself with saying, boldly, “I
don’t know what to think.”

Miss Andrews looked at me for a moment, and then, reaching out her hand,
took mine, pressed it, and relinquished it, saying, “You are a loyal
friend indeed.”

There was nothing flirtatious about the act; it was a simple and highly
pleasing acknowledgment of my forbearance, and it made me somewhat more
comfortable than I had been at any time since my sudden transportation
through the air.

“You remember what I said to you?” she resumed.  “That I would cease to
rebel, whatsoever Mr. Harley asked me to do, unless he insisted upon
marrying me to a man I did not love?”

“I do,” I replied.  “And, as far as I am aware, you have stuck by your
agreement.  Stuart, I doubt not, has by this time got ready for his
finishing-touches.”

“Your surmise is correct,” she answered, sadly; and then, with some
spirit, she added: “And they are finishing-touches with a vengeance.  I
have been loyal to my word, in spite of much discomfort.  I have
travelled from pillar to post as meekly as a lamb, because it fitted in
with Stuart Harley’s convenience that I should do so.  He has taken me
and my friend Mrs. Willard to and through five different summer resorts,
where I have cut the figure he wished me to cut without regard to my own
feelings.  I have discussed all sorts of topics, of which in reality I
know nothing, to lend depth to his book.  I have snubbed men I really
liked, and appeared to like men I profoundly hated, for his sake.  I have
wittingly endured peril for his sake, knowing of course that ultimately
he would get me out of danger; but peril is peril just the same, and to
that extent distracting to the nerves.  I have been upset in a canoe at
Bar Harbor, and lost on a mountain in Vermont.  I have sprained my ankle
at Saratoga, and fainted at a dance at Lenox; but no complaint have I
uttered—not even the suggestion of a rebellion have I given.  Once, I
admit, I was disposed to resent his desire that I should wear a certain
costume, which he, man as he is, could not see would be wofully
unbecoming.  Authors have no business to touch on such things.  But I
overcame the temptation to rebel, and to please him wore a blue and pink
shirt-waist with a floral silk skirt at a garden-party—I suppose he
thought floral silk was appropriate to the garden; nor did I even show my
mortification to those about me.  Nothing was said in the book about its
being Stuart Harley’s taste; it must needs be set down as mine; and while
the pages of Harley’s book contain no criticism of my costume, I know
well enough what all the other women thought about it.  Still, I stood
it.  I endured also without a murmur the courtship and declaration of
love of a perfect booby of a man; that is to say, he was a booby in the
eyes of a woman—men might like him.  I presume that as Mr. Harley has
chosen him to stand for the hero of his book, he must admire him; but I
don’t, and haven’t, and sha’n’t.  Yet I have pretended to do so; and
finally, when he proposed marriage to me I meekly answered ‘yes,’ weeping
in the bitterness of my spirit that my promise bound me to do so; and
Stuart Harley, noting those tears, calls them tears of joy!”

“You needn’t have accepted him,” I said, softly.  “That wasn’t part of
the bargain.”

“Yes, it was,” she returned, positively; “that is, I regarded it so, and
I must act according to my views of things.  What I promised was to
follow his wishes in all things save in marriage to a man I didn’t love.
Getting engaged is not getting married, and as he wished me to get
engaged, so I did, expecting of course that the book would end there, as
it ought to have done, and that therefore no marriage would ever come of
the engagement.”

“Certainly the book should end there, then,” said I.  “You have kept to
the letter of your agreement, and nobly,” I added, with enthusiasm, for I
now saw what the poor girl must have suffered.  “Harley didn’t try to go
further, did he?”

“He did,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion.  “He set the time
and place for the wedding, issued the cards, provided me with a
trousseau—a trousseau based upon his intuitions of what a trousseau ought
to be, and therefore about as satisfactory to a woman of taste as that
floral silk costume of the garden-party; he engaged the organist, chose
my bridesmaids—girls I detested—and finally assembled the guests.  The
groom was there at the chancel rail; Mr. Willard, whom he had selected to
give me away, was waiting outside in the lobby, clad in his frock-coat, a
flower in his button-hole, and his arm ready for the bride to lean on;
the minister was behind the rail; the wedding-march was sounding—”

“And you?” I cried, utterly unable to contain myself longer.

“I was speeding past Yonkers on the three-o’clock Saratoga express—bound
hither,” she answered, with a significant toss of her head.  “No one but
yourself knows where I am, and I have summoned you to explain my action
before you hear of it from him.  I do not wish to be misjudged.  Stuart
Harley had his warning, but he chose to ignore it, and he can get out of
the difficulty he has brought upon himself in his own way—possibly he
will destroy the whole book; but I wanted you to know that while he did
not keep the faith, I did.”

I suddenly realized the appalling truth.  My own weakness was responsible
for it all.  I had not told Harley of my interview and her promise,
feeling that it was not necessary, and fearing its effect upon his pride.

“I may add,” she said, quietly, “that I am bitterly disappointed in your
friend.  I was interested in him, and believed in him.  Most of my acts
of rebellion—if you can call me rebellious—were prompted by my desire to
keep him true to his creed; and I will tell you what I have never told to
another: I regarded Stuart Harley almost as an ideal man, but this has
changed it all.  If he was what I thought him, he could not have acted
with so little conscience as to try to force this match upon me, when he
must have known that I did not love Henry Dunning.”

“He didn’t know,” I said.

“He should have been sure before providing for the ceremony, after
hearing what I had promised you I would and would not do,” said
Marguerite.

“But—I never told him anything about your promise!” I shouted,
desperately.  “He has done all this unwittingly.”

“Is that true?  Didn’t you tell him?” she cried, eagerly grasping my
hand.  Her manner left no doubt in my mind as to who the hero of her
choice would be—and again I sighed to think that it was not I.

“As true as that I stand here,” I said.  “I never told him.”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“Oh, well, you know what I mean!” I said, excitedly.  “Wherever I do
stand, it’s as true as that I stand there.”

The phrase was awkward, but it fulfilled its purpose.

“Why didn’t you tell him?” she asked.

“Because I didn’t think it necessary.  Fact is,” I added, “I had a sort
of notion that if you married anybody in one of Harley’s books, if Harley
had his own way it would be to the man who—who tells the sto—”

A loud noise interrupted my remark and I started up in alarm, and in an
instant I found myself back in my rooms in town once more.  The little
mountain house near Lake George, with its interesting and beautiful
guest, had faded from sight, and I realized that somebody was hammering
with a stick upon my door.

“Hello there!” I cried.  “What’s wanted?”

“It’s I—Harley,” came Stuart’s voice.  “Let me in.”

I unlocked the door and he entered.  The brown of Barnegat had gone, and
he was his broken self again.

“Well,” I said, trying to ignore his appearance, which really shocked me,
“how’s the book?  Got it done?”

He sank into a chair with a groan.

“Hang the book!—it’s all up with that; I’m going to Chadwick to-morrow
and call the thing off,” he said.  “She won’t work—two weeks’ steady
application gone for nothing.”

“Oh, come!” I said; “not as bad as that.”

“Precisely as bad as that,” he retorted.  “What can a fellow do if his
heroine disappears as completely as if the earth had opened and swallowed
her up?”

“Gone?” I cried, with difficulty repressing my desire to laugh.

“Completely—searched high and low for her—no earthly use,” he answered.
“I can’t even imagine where she is.”

“All of which, my dear Stuart,” I said, adopting a superior tone for the
moment, “shows that an imagination that is worth something wouldn’t be a
bad possession for a realist, after all.  I know where your heroine is.
She is at a little mountain house near Lake George, and she has fled
there to escape your booby of a hero, whom you should have known better
than to force upon a girl like Marguerite Andrews.  You’re getting
inartistic, my dear boy.  Sacrifice something to the American girl, but
don’t sacrifice your art.  Just because the aforesaid girl likes her
stories to end up with a wedding is no reason why you should try to
condemn your heroine to life-long misery.”

Stuart looked at me with a puzzled expression for a full minute.

“How the deuce do you know anything about it?” he asked.

I immediately enlightened him.  I told him every circumstance—even my
suspicion as to the hero of her heart, and it seemed to please him.

“Won’t the story go if you stop it with the engagement?” I asked, after
it was all over.

“Yes,” he said, thoughtfully.  “But I shall not publish it.  If it was
all so distasteful to her as you say, I’d rather destroy it.”

“Don’t do that,” I said.  “Change the heroine’s name, and nobody but
ourselves will ever be the wiser.”

“I never thought of that,” said he.

“That’s because you’ve no imagination,” I retorted.

Stuart smiled.  “It’s a good idea, and I’ll do it; it won’t be the truest
realism, but I think I am entitled to the leeway on one lapse,” he said.

“You are,” I rejoined.  “Lapse for the sake of realism.  The man who
never lapses is not real.  There never was such a man.  You might change
that garden-party costume too.  If you can’t think of a better
combination than that, leave it to me.  I’ll write to my sister and ask
her to design a decent dress for that occasion.”

“Thanks,” said Stuart, with a laugh.  “I accept your offer; but, I say,
what was the name of the little mountain house where you found her?”

“I don’t know,” I replied.  “You made such an infernal row battering down
my door that I came away in a hurry and forgot to ask.”

“That is unfortunate,” said Stuart.  “I should have liked to go up there
for a while—she might help me correct the proofs, you know.”

That’s what he said, but he didn’t deceive me.  He loved her, and I began
again to hope to gracious that Harley had not deceived himself and me,
and that Marguerite Andrews was a bit of real life, and not a work of the
imagination.

At any rate, Harley had an abiding faith in her existence, for the
following Monday night he packed his case and set out for Lake George.
He was going to explore, he said.



X
BY WAY OF EPILOGUE


    “_Let_, _down the curtain_, _the farce is done_.”

                                                                —RABELAIS.

I SUPPOSE my story ought to end here, since Harley’s rebellious heroine
has finally been subdued for the use of his publishers and the consequent
declaration of dividends for the Harley exchequer; but there was an
epilogue to the little farce, which nearly turned it into tragedy, from
which the principals were saved by nothing short of my own ingenuity.
Harley had fallen desperately in love with Marguerite Andrews, and
Marguerite Andrews had fallen in love with Stuart Harley, and Harley
couldn’t find her.  She eluded his every effort, and he began to doubt
that he had drawn her from real life, after all.  She had become a
Marjorie Daw to him, and the notion that he must go through life
cherishing a hopeless passion was distracting to him.  His book was the
greatest of his successes, which was an additional cause of discomfort to
him, since, knowing as he now did that his study was not a faithful
portrayal of the inner life of his heroine, he felt that the laurels that
were being placed upon his brow had been obtained under false pretences.

“I feel like a hypocrite,” he said, as he read an enthusiastic review of
his little work from the pen of no less a person than Mr. Darrow, the
high-priest of the realistic sect.  “I am afraid I shall not be able to
look Darrow in the eye when I meet him at the club.”

“Never fear for that, Stuart,” I said, laughing inwardly at his plight.
“Brazen it out; keep a stiff upper lip, and Darrow will never know.  He
has insight, of course, but he can’t see as far in as you and he think.”

“It’s a devilish situation,” he cried, impatiently striding up and down
the room, “that a man of my age should be so hopelessly in love with a
woman he can’t find; and that he can’t find her is such a cruel sarcasm
upon his literary creed!  What cursed idiosyncrasy of fate is it that has
brought this thing upon me?”

“It’s the punishment that fits your crime, Harley,” I said.  “You’ve been
rather narrow minded in your literary ideas.  Possibly it will make a
more tolerant critic of you hereafter, when you come to flay fellows like
Balderstone for venturing to think differently from you as to the sort of
books it is proper to write.  He has as much right to the profits he can
derive from his fancy as you have to the emoluments of your insight.”

“I’d take some comfort if I thought that she really loved me,” he said,
mournfully.

“Have no doubt on that score, Stuart,” I said.  “She does love you.  I
know that.  I wish she didn’t.”

“Then why can’t I find her?  Why does she hide from me?” he cried,
fortunately ignoring my devoutly expressed wish, which slipped out before
I knew it.

“Because she is a woman,” I replied.  “Hasn’t your analytical mind told
you yet that the more a woman loves a man, the harder he’s got to work to
find it out and—and clinch the bargain?”

“I suppose you are right,” he said, gloomily.  “But if I were a woman,
and knew I was killing a man by keeping myself in hiding, I’d come out
and show myself at any cost, especially if I loved him.”

“Now you are dealing in imagination, Harley,” I said; “and that never was
your strong point.”

Nevertheless, he was right on one point.  The hopelessness of his quest
was killing Harley—not physically exactly, but emotionally, as it were.
It was taking all the heart out of him, and his present state of mind was
far more deplorable than when he was struggling with the book, and
constantly growing worse.  He tried every device to find her—the Willards
were conjured up, and knew nothing; Mrs. Corwin and the twins were
brought back from Europe, and refused to yield up the secret; all the
powers of a realistic pen were brought to bear upon her, and yet she
refused utterly to materialize.

Finally, I found it necessary to act myself.  I could not stand the sight
of Harley being gradually eaten up by the longing of his own soul, and I
tried my hand at exploration.  I had no better success for several weeks;
and then, like an inspiration, the whole thing came to me.  “She won’t
come when he summons her, because she loves him.  She won’t summon him to
come to her, for the same reason.  Why not summon both of them yourself
to a common ground?  Embalm them in a little romance of your own.  Force
them if need be, but get them there, and so bring them together, and let
them work out their own happiness,” said I to myself.  The only
difficulty that presented itself was as to whether or not Marguerite
would allow herself to be forced.  It was worth the trial, however, and
fortune favored me.  I found her far from rebellious.  My pen had hardly
touched paper when she materialized, more bewilderingly beautiful than
ever.  I laid the scene of my little essay at Lake-wood, and I found her
sitting down by the water, dreamily gazing out over the lake.  In her lap
was Stuart Harley’s book, and daintily pasted on the fly-leaf of this was
the portrait which had appeared in the August issue of _The Literary
Man_, which she had cut out and preserved.

Having provided the heroine with a spot conducive to her comfort, I
hastened to transport Harley to the scene.  It was easy to do, seeing how
deeply interested I was in my plot and how willing he was.  I got him
there looking like a Greek god, only a trifle more interesting, because
of his sympathy-arousing pallor—the pallor which comes from an undeserved
buffeting at the hands of a mischievous Cupid.  I know it well, for I
have observed it several times upon my own countenance.  The moment
Harley appeared upon the scene I chose to have Marguerite hastily clasp
the book in her hands, raise it to her lips, and kiss the picture—and it
must have been intensely true to life, for she did it without a moment’s
hesitation, almost anticipating my convenience, throwing an amount of
passion into the act which made my pen fairly hiss as I dipped it into
the ink.  Of course Harley could not fail to see it—I had taken care to
arrange all that—and equally of course he could not fail to comprehend
what that kiss meant; could not fail to stop short, with a convulsive
effort to control himself—heroes always do that; could not fail thereby
to attract her attention.  After this nothing was more natural than that
she should spring to her feet, “the blushes of a surprised love mantling
her cheeks”; it was equally natural that she should try to run, should
slip, have him catch her arm and save her from falling, and—well, I am
not going to tell the whole story.  I have neither the time, the
inclination, nor the talent to lay bare to the world the love-affairs of
my friend.  Furthermore, having got them together, I discreetly withdrew,
so that even if I were to try to write up the rest of the courtship, it
would merely result in my telling you how I imagined it progressed, and I
fancy my readers are as well up in matters of that sort as I am.  Suffice
it to say, therefore, that in this way I brought Stuart Harley and
Marguerite Andrews together, and that the event justified the means: and
that the other day, when Mr. and Mrs. Harley returned from their
honeymoon, they told me they thought I ought to give up humor and take to
writing love-stories.

            [Picture: I am not going to tell the whole story]

“That kissing the picture episode,” said Stuart, looking gratefully at
me, “was an inspiration.  To my mind, it was the most satisfactory thing
you’ve ever done.”

“I like that!” cried his wife, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
“He didn’t do it.  It was I who kissed the picture.  He couldn’t have
made me do anything else to save his life.”

“Rebellious to the last!” said I, with a sigh to think that I must now
write the word “Finis” to my little farce.

“Yes,” she answered.  “Rebellious to the last.  I shall never consent to
be the heroine of a book again, until—”

She paused and looked at Stuart.

“Until what?” he asked, tenderly.

“Until you write your autobiography,” said she.  “I have always wanted of
be the heroine of that.”

And throwing down my pen, I discovered I was alone.

                                * * * * *

                                  FINIS

                                * * * * *

            [Picture: “They thought I ought to give up humor”]





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