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Title: Tower of Ivory - A Novel
Author: Atherton, Gertrude Franklin Horn
Language: English
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                             TOWER OF IVORY

                            BY MRS. ATHERTON

                    THE CONQUEROR
                    A FEW OF HAMILTON’S LETTERS
                    THE GORGEOUS ISLE
                    RULERS OF KINGS
                    THE ARISTOCRATS
                    THE TRAVELLING THIRDS
                    THE BELL IN THE FOG
                    SENATOR NORTH
                    HIS FORTUNATE GRACE

                          _CALIFORNIA SERIES_

                 THE DOOMSWOMAN
                 A DAUGHTER OF THE VINE
                 THE CALIFORNIANS
                 A WHIRL ASUNDER

                             TOWER OF IVORY

                               _A NOVEL_

                           GERTRUDE ATHERTON

                                New York
                         THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                         _All rights reserved_

                            COPYRIGHT, 1910,

                       BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

      Set up and electrotyped. Published February, 1910. Reprinted
                       March, twice, July, 1910.

                             Norwood Press
                 J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
                         Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.


            CHAPTER                                        PAGE
                 I. WHEN BRIDGMINSTER WAS TWENTY-FOUR         1
                II. FLYING ARROWS                             5
               III. NEUSCHWANSTEIN                           12
                IV. THE STYR                                 23
                 V. ORDHAM AND THE STYR                      35
                VI. CERTAIN INEVITABLE PHASES                49
               VII. THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS                    64
              VIII. PURPLE LILIES AND BITTER FRUIT           69
                IX. EXCELLENZ, THE POTTER                    80
                 X. THE BIRTH OF AN ARTIST                   85
                XI. THE DIPLOMATIC TEMPERAMENT               92
               XII. LA BELLE HÉLÈNE                          98
              XIII. STYR, THE POTTER                        107
               XIV. THE SAVING GRACE                        121
                XV. POTTERS CONFER                          125
               XVI. THE IVORY TOWER OF STYR                 128
              XVII. ROMANTIC MUNICH                         133
             XVIII. THE SYSTEM’S FLOWER                     143
               XIX. A DIPLOMATIST IN THE MAKING             151
                XX. ISOLDE                                  155
               XXI. THE WOMAN BY THE ISAR                   164
             XXIII. ONE OF THE POTTERIES                    173
              XXIV. THE CRACK IN THE JAR                    178
               XXV. FRIENDSHIP AT FOUR IN THE MORNING       184
              XXVI. FRIENDSHIP IN A BORROWED FRAME          191
             XXVII. ADIEU TO THE ISAR                       197
            XXVIII. A ROSSETTI                              200
              XXIX. THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS AGAIN             207
               XXX. LADY BRIDGMINSTER, POTTER               221
             XXXII. EVERY MAN HIS OWN PILOT                 234
            XXXIII. SLOW MAGIC                              243
             XXXIV. WHERE IS ROSAMOND HAYLE?                248
              XXXV. YOUTH                                   253
             XXXVI. THE RACE                                260
            XXXVII. ORDHAM CEASES TO BE ORIGINAL            268
           XXXVIII. ISOLDA FURIOSA                          271
             XXXIX. PEGGY HILL AND MARGARETHE STYR          276
                XL. HAPPY POTTERS                           286
               XLI. THE PRINCESS PINCHES                    293
              XLII. HIS HOUSE OF CARDS                      300
             XLIII. THE WOMAN’S INNINGS                     311
              XLIV. STARS AND DUST                          315
               XLV. EUROPE’S BOUQUET                        322
             XLVII. A FAIRY COMET                           337
            XLVIII. THE GREAT PRIZES                        342
              XLIX. THE SPIRIT OF THE RACE MOVES ON         349
                 L. THE ROOM IN THE TEMPLE                  367
                LI. THE ROCKET WITHOUT A STICK              375
               LII. MATRIMONY                               383
              LIII. LOVE                                    389
               LIV. THE CONQUEST OF LONDON                  400
                LV. THE WORLD AND THE CROSS                 410
               LVI. A DIPLOMATIST OUT OF THE SADDLE         413
              LVII. THE LAST CARD                           421
             LVIII. THE FOOLISH FATES                       440
               LIX. WHEN ORDHAM WAS BRIDGMINSTER            445
                LX. LIFE, THE POTTER                        449
               LXI. THEIR MARRIAGE                          461
              LXII. THE IVORY TOWER OF ORDHAM               465


John Ordham had been in Munich several months before he met Margarethe
Styr. Like all the young men, native and foreign, he chose to fancy
himself in love with her, and although both too dignified and too shy to
applaud with the vehemence of the Germans, he never failed to attend a
performance at the “Hof” when the greatest _hochdramatische_ the new
music had developed sang Iseult or Brynhildr. He was not sure that he
wanted to meet her, for in a languid and somewhat affected manner he
persuaded himself that she existed on the stage alone, and that did he
even permit his imagination to picture her in private life it must be as
a commonplace American woman of German extraction who drank enormously
of beer and ate grossly, like the people in the restaurants. And as at
that time he cultivated the sensuous rather than the stronger elements
of his nature, he avoided what might have attenuated one of the most
exquisite of his pleasures. It was true that in the second and last acts
of _Götterdämmerung_ her tragedy was so stupendous, her grief so
poignant, her despair so fathomless, that he turned cold to his marrow,
and felt as if the sufferings of all humanity were drowning him. But
vicarious woe has all the voluptuousness and none of the hell of Life’s
cruelties at first hand.

Styr’s methods were as likely to inthral the fastidious Englishman as
the more artistic German. In a day when Sarah Bernhardt was the fashion
in tragediennes, she had a still method all her own, a manner of
appearing quietly on the stage, seemingly as impersonal as a part of its
setting; then gradually dominating it, not only by the magic of her
great golden voice and imposing height and presence, but by a force,
which the critics, after long and acrimonious controversy, agreed to be
an emanation from the brain. Whether she possessed also that physical
magnetism, commonly indispensable to stage people, was a question still
agitated when Ordham arrived in Munich, although she had then been
“Royal Bavarian Court Singer” for six years; but that she had cultivated
a mental power which above all else made her the great artist she was,
the most violent partisans of other prime donne, lyric and dramatic,
frankly conceded. Her associates at the Hof told that at rehearsals she
merely walked through her part; and Princess Nachmeister, boasting
private acquaintance with her since her elevation to the Bavarian
aristocracy as Countess Tann, confided to the world that she never
practised even those slow, grand, graceful, and infinitely varied
gestures of hands and arms which were as expressive as her voice, but
directed them from her brain as she did her acting; that she sat for
hours thinking out the minutest details, but without moving a muscle
until the night of public performance. All facial expression was
concentrated in her eyes. She could express more with those features for
which Nature had failed to invoke her conventions, than any living
actress with physical writhings and distorted visage. Therefore, when
she gave way to momentary violence, as, when at Siegfried’s repudiation
she looked to be tearing her heart out, she created so profound an
impression that more than Ordham rose breathless from their seats. Her
desolation, her incredulous horror, the alternate pride of the goddess
and agony of the woman, the dark and remorseless vengeance of the
daughter of Wotan, not only induced a nervous shudder in Ordham but
plunged his imagination down the past of this great but forbidding
creature, who seemed to unlock her own heart for the moment with the
reckless indifference of the supreme artist. He was but twenty-four at
this time, but he had seen a good deal of the world, and its
inheritances had composed many of his brain cells; he was, moreover, a
very clever young man, as all admitted. Nevertheless, when he stared at
Brynhildr in her agony and wrath, or dreamed through the second act of
_Tristan und Isolde_, he had vague prickings in the depths of his soul
that tragedy was not confined to the gods, and uneasy forebodings that
life even for such as he was not all roses and cream.

But at this time, although had Styr ever been photographed, he would
have framed and enthroned her, he rarely thought of her when not in his
seat in the Hof, or listening to the comments of his friends. He was
fluttering from flower to flower with the impatience and curiosity of
his years, fearful of missing the least the gods provided for fortunate
youth; drawn intensely for a day or a week by a beautiful face or an odd
personality, but not daring to dally too long lest something more
charming escape him. He had passing episodes of a semi-serious nature in
that gay scampish underworld of Munich (that world of soubrettes,
waitresses, young officers, students of both sexes), as well as in the
sphere that revolved about the Queen-mother, but they were by no means
ardent or sustained. He had not yet begun to cultivate that outdoor life
which makes Englishmen so virile, and in extenuation of his fickleness
he reminded himself of the penetrating observation of Marguerite de
Valois, that the passions of young men are apt to be wavering and cold.
The truth was that he was influenced by what appealed to his mind and
taste rather than to his passions, although being sensitive and eager,
these could momentarily be aroused by a charming woman who chose to take
the initiative. The serious side of his nature had hardly begun its
development; youth, bubbling youth, was uppermost; unconsciously
(sometimes!) he smiled into any pair of pretty eyes that met and held
his rather absent gaze, flirted desperately for an evening with a
delightful creature whom he quite forgot to call upon next day. He found
life very satisfactory and his studies not too arduous: persuaded by his
family to enter diplomacy, and taking to it as naturally as he turned
from the more dubious work of politics, he had spent a year in Paris
unofficially attached to the British Embassy; then, a relative being
appointed Minister Resident to the Court of Bavaria, he had come to him
for another year in order to perfect himself in the German language
before attempting his examinations.

It was some time before Munich found him out. For a while he was too
much interested in the cafés, the ale-halls, the student life, the opera
and theatre, to go about in society, even had it not been away. But soon
after the return of the fashionable world to the capital, it became
known that visiting at the British Legation was a young Englishman of
fine appearance, distinguished family, and excellent prospects: his
half-brother, Lord Bridgminster, although still a young man and quite
healthy, was, owing to an early disappointment and an accident which
marred his features, a misanthropist and misogynist. Almost
simultaneously Ordham began to go about with Mr. Trowbridge, the
minister; and, to do himself as well as society justice, he was
immediately and enthusiastically liked for himself. The glamour of long
descent and a possible coronet can never wholly be forgotten, but they
carry a man so far and no farther. John Ordham’s worldly advantages no
doubt were among the earliest of the factors that made him the fashion
in Munich, so slow to accept strangers; but, later they were but the
final excuse to shower attentions upon a young man who, under a shy and
languid exterior, possessed an independent and audacious mind, who
breathed refinement, and whose gentle and courteous manner charmed even
the morose Ludwig to invite him to a private concert at Neuschwanstein,
where he and Princess Nachmeister were the only guests. It was there
that he met Margarethe Styr.

                             FLYING ARROWS

Princess Nachmeister was the most disagreeable old woman in Munich and
quite the most powerful. Herself a Prussian, she was a lifelong friend
of the Queen-mother, and one of the few women ever admitted to the
presence of the King; her genius for social leadership had been
cultivated for forty years, and she had a “palace” in the
Königenstrasse, whose high-walled garden extended through to the
Kaulbachstrasse. Ordham, in his rather listless walks, had often glanced
longingly over the flat coping at the grounds, half formal, half wild,
crowded with trees and set with Italian seats and fountains, noseless
satyrs and empty urns. The princess boasted that she was the first to
“discover” him, and after the season opened he found himself dining or
attending parties at her house several times a week. At the moment, so
great was the depression, owing to the persistent seclusion of the King,
that few besides Excellenz Nachmeister had the spirit to entertain on
the grand scale. Luncheons, kettle-drums, diplomatic dinners, were not
infrequent, and occasionally one of the minor royal palaces opened its
doors for a rout; but had it not been for the old lady whom all vilified
and courted, society would have been moribund. No one was more aware of
this than Excellenz herself, for one secret of her uninterrupted success
in a city that still hated Prussia was her genius for seizing and
holding the strategic position.

She took Ordham to the routs that were given, to private tea-parties at
the Residenz, where frequently the only other guests of the Queen-mother
were her ancient ladies-in-waiting, and, in time, invited him alone of
all the unofficial young men to her dinners given in honour of the
diplomatic corps. She knew that he barely tolerated her, that he came to
her house so often, not only because he found much to amuse him there,
but because he was far too good-natured to refuse any one that pressed
hospitality upon him; but she would have forgiven more to his manners,
which she pronounced the finest in the world; and the old court
intriguer honestly admired the diplomatic talents which inspired him to
express the proper amount of deference and polite gratitude without
sacrificing his dignity in the fashion of many that craved something
more than a mere entrée to the Palast Nachmeister; then, later, when to
be the enfant gâté and the formal man-of-the-world.

Ordham, indeed, began by disliking her intensely. Her thin dispraising
nose, which, he reflected, looked as if it had a pin in it; her narrow
mouth, whose corners seemed to drip poison; her hard, round, brilliant
eyes; her red wig and emaciated figure,—all offended him; but her
manifest and disinterested friendship (she had not a young relative in
the world), her many favours, and the more subtle influence of Time, to
say nothing of her discretion in not inviting him to make love to her,
inclined him to indulgence, and he even began to find good points in
her,—after his habit with people whom he tolerated at all.

And he was never bored in her house, for he met in it a far more
cosmopolitan society than he had been accustomed to in England or even
in Paris. The United States had not yet discovered Munich, but it was
always refreshed, this beautiful art city of mid-Europe, by Russians,
Hungarians, Austrians, Italians, and odd and interesting people from the
Balkans and the Porte. Moreover, he loved beautiful things, and the
Nachmeister’s house was an essential reincarnation of the rococo, even
to the dinginess of the gilt, so fatally neglected by Ludwig in his
brand-new palaces, Linderhof and Herrenchimsee. Her rooms and her
grounds satisfied him so completely that he could not go to them often
enough, and he was able to exclude their owner from his memory unless
she stood in front of him.

Nor did she deny him anything he craved. When the rather nervous young
man, who blushed so often, and yet was as automatically sure of himself
as only an Englishman of his class can be, told her flatly that he
wanted to meet the King, whom no stranger met, the audacity of the
request took her breath away, but she managed the interview through the
Queen-mother; and Ludwig, who happened to be in one of those intensely
lucid tempers when he was sick unto death of shams and hypocrisies, and
the vileness he found in the men that cringed at his wavering feet,
fancied that he saw in the clean high-bred young Englishman something of
the nobility and beauty of his own untainted youth, and impulsively
invited him to Neuschwanstein for the following evening.

It was quite in keeping with the curious complications which at this
period began to deflect John Ordham’s feet from the sunny highway into
dim by-paths ending in the mazes of life, that he should have met Mabel
Cutting before he made even the bare acquaintance of Margarethe Styr.
She was just eighteen, and her mother had brought her to Munich for a
few weeks of German and music before launching her into London society.
Princess Nachmeister, giving a garden party soon after the squares and
gardens of Munich had burst into the vivid young greens of spring,
begged Mrs. Cutting, whom she had known for many years, to bring the new
American beauty to decorate her “gloomy old park.” This with her
romantic loveliness—she was tall and slim, her hair was golden, her big
eyes were brown, sad, remote, her little nose and mouth cut with the
sharpest and most rapid of chisels—Mabel accomplished with much
complacency; she was not only quite aware of her charms, but that her
smart Parisian gown made the greater number of the Bavarian aristocracy
look like housemaids. But she was bored by the strange babel of tongues
about her, and, unable to interest herself in the stiff young officers
that clicked their heels together in front of her, permitted them to be
captured by ladies with whose methods they were more familiar. She was
sitting alone,—save for her pug-dog, LaLa,—on one of the curved marble
seats under a large tree, flanked by a pink hawthorn on one side and a
white lilac bush on the other, when Ordham, who had arrived late, as
usual, caught sight of her. A few moments later, his hostess,
congratulating herself upon her subtlety, had steered him to the
maiden’s side and casually presented him.

Mabel enlivened immediately when the tall “boy,” as she defined him,
very dignified and very diffident, stood blushing before her, and talked
so fast that Ordham subsided into a chair with the welcome sensation of
being spared all trouble. He was fascinated not more by the sparkling
flow of empty words than by the play of dimples in the pink and white
cheeks, and the flecks of golden light which the large pathetic brown
eyes seemed to intercept from the aureole of her hair. She talked of
England and Paris, which she knew far better than New York, “adoring”
both, delivered her soul of her hatred of all things German, from the
music to the shops, spoke with admiration of his mother who was a great
friend of “Momma’s,” and admitted that she was simply dying to see the
inside of Ordham Castle and its romantic recluse, Lord Bridgminster.
Occasionally she dammed the stream of her eloquence with a question,
answered by a glance from Ordham’s smiling eyes. Then Mrs. Cutting, who
had been detained within, bore down upon them, and Mabel rose to her
feet like a willow branch slowly released from the water.

“Momma!” she cried, “this is Mr. Ordham, Lady Bridgminster’s son. I have
asked him to call. Do invite him for dinner to-night. He is the very
nicest boy I ever met. You are sure to like him, for he talks so
splendidly, and says such amusing things.”

Ordham had much ado to refrain from laughing outright, and Mrs. Cutting
caught the flash in his eyes which made him suddenly look older. He
cultivated—or perhaps, in his conventional hours, it was quite natural
to him—a somewhat infantile expression, and Mrs. Cutting, observing him
from the window, had concluded that he was a mere boy, and quite safe to
sit alone with her little daughter at a formal German party. But as she
stood talking to him,—he was now quite at his ease,—this woman whose
keen American brain had never for a moment been clouded by passion,
whose nerves were mere magnetic needles for the thousand complexities of
the world she lived in, experienced a subtle response to something hard
under the plastic surface of this charming young man. It was remote, a
whisper from the unknown, as evanescent as a quiver along the branches
of the tree that cast its shadow on the young pink of the hawthorn; and
in a moment she forgot the impression in her general approval. But she
recalled it long after, that fleeting response in herself to the germ of
ruthlessness under that sincere and boyish desire to please her.

Then and there she made up her mind that he should marry Mabel. The
serious quest of her life was the son-in-law who should make her one
with the aristocracy she had selected as the best this world had
precipitated. She was a woman as fastidious as she was ambitious, for
she belonged to the aristocracy of her own country, and there was still
much of the Puritan in her, albeit none of the provincial. She would
give her immaculate daughter to no man whom she knew to be unworthy, no
matter what his rank; and, unsuspected, she had examined and rejected
all the young unmarried noblemen she had met during her last two seasons
in England. As it happened, she had never met Ordham, although she
enjoyed something more than a passing acquaintance with Lady
Bridgminster. Always a favourite of fortune, she realized at once that
this garden party had been arranged by the august recipient of the
prayers she never omitted to offer up when the exigencies of fashion
took her to church.

“Certainly you must dine with us to-night, if you are not ‘invited,’ as
they say over here,” she exclaimed in her bright cordial voice which
retained not a taint of the national crudity. “Mabel is a chatterbox and
I shall send her to bed; but you and I will have a delightful gossip
about London, from which I have been banished so often these last three
years—since my husband’s death there has been so much tiresome
litigation in New York. It is a delight even to look at an Englishman
once more, especially here in Germany, which—let me whisper it—I hate
as much as I love Paris. I am still a good American, you see, even if I
did migrate long since to England. And you will come at eight?”

Ordham murmured his thanks, almost as much fascinated by the mother as
by the daughter. Mrs. Cutting was not yet forty, very slim, Parisian,
high-bred, not in the least faded, and her grey eyes, if cold, were very
bright; her small mouth could accomplish smiles dazzling, arch,
sympathetic, merely sweet, and she held her head higher than any lady of
the court of Queen Marie. Ordham had met Americans of all sorts, but
never any that attracted him as strongly as this distinguished couple
that said nothing so charmingly and liked him so spontaneously. He felt
the utter passionlessness of the older woman’s nature, but after the
tempestuousness of certain of his foreign acquaintance this but added to
her charm. As for the exquisite Mabel, she suggested all enchanting
possibilities, although perhaps more than aught else the divine white
flame of Wagner’s Elizabeth; that is to say (he was dreaming over a
midnight cigarette at his window in the Legation when these reflections
took shape), she would resemble that exalted ideal when she passed the
chatterbox stage, that inevitable phase of the young American female.
But, barring the fact that she talked too much and really knew nothing
at all, she was quite flawless.

He dined, lunched, drove constantly with the Cuttings during the ensuing
fortnight, writing pathetic notes of apology to those that had booked
him long since; and as Mrs. Cutting dined in her private suite, his many
good friends almost wept as they thought on his sufferings. He answered
their notes of sympathy in terms of passionate gratitude and regret
(which made him more popular than ever) and gave not a second thought to
the writers save when endeavouring to fix each particular excuse in his
memory. He was enchanted with his new friends. Mrs. Cutting talked
smartly, and on all subjects which she discovered appealed to him. Mabel
was not sent to bed, and a great deal of quiet flirting went on under
Momma’s discreetly averted eye. Frequently Mrs. Cutting was summoned
into an adjoining room by her “dressmaker” (she would not have worn a
German gown into her coffin), but certainly Ordham never felt so much as
a passing suspicion that the girl was being thrown at his head, nor that
his ideals, peculiarities, vague desires, were being carefully sounded
and analyzed. When they departed he missed them so acutely for a few
days that he was almost melancholy; then, by rapid gradations, forgot
them. Mabel bedewed her pillow for many nights, and Mrs. Cutting, as
soon as she had opened her house in London, and presented Mabel at
Buckingham Palace, devoted herself to ripening her pleasant acquaintance
with Lady Bridgminster into friendship. It was not long before those two
astute dames understood one another, and the pliant Mabel, by no means
without the craft of her sex, was put into training.


Ordham journeyed down to Neuschwanstein full of pleasant anticipations,
which for several hours after his arrival seemed unlikely to be
fulfilled. Although he and Princess Nachmeister, with whom he travelled,
were received at Füssen by a royal coach, which bounded at the heels of
four galloping steeds through the grey mediæval town crowded on the
banks of the river, then up through the woods to the white castle on its
lofty rock, in a fashion that exhilarated his blood, and although they
were received at Neuschwanstein with vast ceremony, he learned
immediately that the King found himself too unwell to see his guests,
and that the Gräfin von Tann would dine in her own apartments over in
the Kemenate, where rooms had been put in order for herself and the
Princess Nachmeister. In the main body of the castle no woman had ever
slept, and few men. Ordham, after ascending to the third story, was
conducted through endless suites of rooms, very new, very gaudy, painted
with the legends of the sagas and furnished with blue, purple, red, or
green satin heavily incrusted with gold. In his own imposing chamber,
finding nothing comfortable but the bed—after turning up a corner of
the quilt—to sit on (the gold embroideries of the chairs being at least
four inches thick), he made his way out of the castle and determined to
explore while it was still daylight, half hoping to meet the King or the

He forgot both for a time while he roamed about what is probably the
most beautiful spot on earth. In an undulating valley surrounded by an
irregular chain of Alps, the two castles were set on their heights about
a mile apart: Hohenschwangau, feudal in appearance if not in fact, old
and brown, with citadel, wall, and bastions; Neuschwanstein, a white
mass of towers on a mighty rock springing abruptly from the deep gorge
of the river Pöllat. Between the castles and on all sides was the dark
green forest, separating only for those two jewels of the Bavarian
Highlands, the lakes, Alp and Schwan. Down in the lower valley were the
old grey towers of Füssen; beyond Hohenschwangau and facing
Neuschwanstein, three sharp peaks of the higher Alps glittered with
snow. Behind the newer castle a green mountain rose almost as straight
as a rampart, throwing the romantic white pile into such bold relief
that it attracted the eye from every point of the valleys.

As Ordham wandered about, staring at the castles from all sides, or
lying on the turf under the trees of the forest, his solitude broken
only by a passing peasant in the picturesque grey and green costume of
the Highlands, or the sudden appearance of a chamois at the end of a
vista, he understood something of Ludwig’s contempt for mere mortals. He
loitered on in the groves sacred to the unhappiest man the modern world
has seen, many moods sweeping over him, but finally he lay dreaming
idly; and, feeling that such romantic solitudes demanded a mate in
fancy, since fate was obdurate, he evoked the image of the prettiest
girl he knew, Mabel Cutting, and persuaded himself for a few moments
that his happiness depended upon seeing her again and at once. He had
just resolved to overcome his hatred for letter writing and indite her
an epistle on the morrow, when a footman came to remind him that dinner
was at seven. Mabel vanished with the chamois, although he made a wry
face as he reflected that he was to dine alone in this enchanted vale
with Princess Nachmeister.

The same lackey stood outside his door while he dressed, evidently under
the impression that he must not be lost sight of again, and this time
conducted him to the story above. He had expected as a matter of course
that the dinner would be served in one of the smaller rooms, perhaps
over in the Kemenate, where Excellenz might have inveigled the Styr to
join their little party. But he was shown into a vast room, which was in
such a glitter of light that for a moment he was half blinded. Few
surprises ruffled his imperturbability, however; and although he
appeared barely to glance about him, he observed with much pleasure the
immense vaulted room, which was nearly a hundred feet long and almost
half as wide, supported on carved columns and decorated with the legend
of Parsifal. The ten chandeliers were blazing suns.

At the upper end of the hall a small square table looked like an oasis
in a painted desert, with its service of crystal and gold, its candles
shaded with pink—no doubt a satiric attention on the part of the King.
Princess Nachmeister, very magnificent in pale blue brocade embroidered
with silver (which, Ordham reflected, became her hideously), stood by
the window and watched the young man with sharp interest as he advanced
down the long apartment between the rows of gorgeous lackeys that seemed
to await a concourse of kings. She despised the Anglo-Saxon race with
all her German soul, believing them to be moderns without subtlety, and
never forgetting that they were savages when the Italy of her ancestors
was the crown of civilization; but if she had a soft spot in her fibrous
old heart, it was for this protégé of hers, and it delighted her to
observe that, far from being disconcerted, he had never looked more at
his ease. Always, even in his boyish moments, he had the quiet aloofness
of those born to the unpurchasable prizes and responsibilities of life,
and although he was often nervous and shy in petty ordeals, the
centuries that had made him invariably came to his rescue when suddenly
placed in positions that shift the ballast of older men of less
persistent breeding. Moreover, it is doubtful if the English aristocrat
has deference in him for even the royal families of the minor states. He
is democratic in manner, partly because it has become the fashion,
partly through discretion, partly from sheer careless sense of
superiority; but let no one mistake that attitude for humility of spirit
or a sense of the universal brotherhood of man.

Ordham was not a little assisted in his present ordeal by his slight
erect graceful figure, and he always carried his arms better than any
man Excellenz had ever seen. She almost blushed with pleasure (poor
lady, she could no longer blush) as she noted the respectful wonder on
the faces of the lackeys. No doubt they had hoped to enjoy the
embarrassment of so young a guest; and a rare entertainment it would
have been to them, for the greatest nobles in Germany seldom found
access to a castle where the solitary King forgot the world when he

Ordham seated himself with a grumble at the short time he had been given
to dress. “And my servant is lost somewhere in this barrack,” he added
(and this was a genuine grievance). “I could not find anything!”

“Tiens! Tiens!” (Excellenz relieved her English with French or German
according to the specific gravity of her mood.) “You would have been
late if I had sent for you an hour earlier. You were roaming all over
the place hoping to meet Die Styr—don’t deny it!”

“Why couldn’t she dine with us? She is not going to sing an opera.”

“But she is going to sing out of doors, and her temper is worse than
your own. I had a few words with her, and I never saw even a prima donna
in such a state of suppressed fury. Of course she expected to sing in
this room, but it seems the King has taken a vow that he will honour the
memory of The Master by permitting no more music inside his castles,
so—enfin!—he gets round his vow by commanding the great Styr to sing
in the open—which, of course, is bad for the voice.”

“Why doesn’t she refuse—fall ill? I thought that prime donne were never
without corns on their vocal chords when determined to have their own
way, and that even a King must be prepared for caprice.”

“Not this King. Styr did not bring her doctor with her, and she loves
but two things on earth, her art and Munich. When his Majesty commands,
no excuse will serve. He alone in this realm is permitted to indulge

“The Styr looks much too imperious to submit to such
slavery—disgusting! She could sing anywhere.”

“Could she? Richard Wagner has no foothold as yet in either England or
America—hardly outside of Germany. Styr’s voice would tear the old
lyric rôles to tatters—divinely lyric as she makes her Isolde. It is
Germany or nothing. And in Germany it is Munich or nothing—for she goes
no more to Bayreuth.”

“Yes, Munich!—I too love Munich—Bavaria,” Ordham said softly, his eyes
straying to the mountains beyond the narrow gorge. The windows were open
and he could hear the low roar of the Pöllat waterfall.

“Now don’t fall into a dream,” said Excellenz, tartly. “It isn’t often
that I have you alone. What a situation—what surroundings! It makes me
feel almost young again.”

“Then tell me something about the Styr.” Ordham sometimes amused himself
playing on the strings of the old coquette’s remnant of sex. But he
always smiled so charmingly that she really did feel younger for the
moment. The Nachmeister was never able to decide whether it was his
manners or his smile that enabled her to understand the relations
between Elizabeth and Essex.

Her fine little nose seemed to rise and point further downward as her
round brilliant eyes, whose expression never changed, returned his
steady ingenuous gaze. In a moment the corners of her protesting mouth
moved upward and she shrugged her shoulders.

“Enfin, mon enfant gâté! What do you want to know? Surely you hear the
gossip of the town.”

“All gossip is more or less alike. Is she the King’s mistress?”

“That I am sure you have never heard. His worst enemy would not raise
the point. I do not know but that I had better carry you over into the
Kemenate to-night.”

“Great heaven!” Ordham upset his champagne. “Why then does he show her
more favour than the other singers—why has he given her a title and a

“Her voice. Her art. Are not those enough—for this King? He is quite
mad over both. One might have hoped for the supreme Isolde, Kundry,
Brünhilde, in the course of another ten or twenty years—for has not
Wagner revolutionized voices as well as music?—but she burst upon the
world full blown. One day she appeared in Bayreuth and demanded audience
of The Master. He taught her the great rôles himself; her voice was
ready for them—perfectly placed and trained, flexible, sweet, resonant,
noble, enormous, three perfect octaves. Wonderful! No doubt he and the
King put their heads together and determined that she should leave
Bavaria for short _gastspiels_ only. But where did she come from? Who is
she? Why has she no credentials? Even if lowly born, which would seem
incredible did not the most queenly creatures appear now and again among
the peasantry,—while as for queens—do not they often look as if
Nature, worn out, had peevishly sent her highest back to the soil to
begin over again?—Tiens! Genius is no respecter of quarterings—but,
even so, why such reticence? Beyond the bare assertion that she is an
American she has barely alluded to her impossible country. Why doesn’t
she invent a plausible story that would put people’s imaginations to
sleep? Has it occurred to you as odd that she never will be
photographed?” she concluded abruptly.

“How fatiguing to think about anything that matters so little!” He had
fumed more than once because he could not obtain even a magazine sketch
of her. “The ordinary prima donna caprice, no doubt. Or réclame. Such
self-abnegation is enough to make any ‘artist’ notorious.”

Excellenz shook her befeathered head. Ordham, fascinated, as he often
was by the intensifying of her wicked old face, wondered if visible
poison were about to drop from her lips.

“She dare not. Photographs travel. Did hers reach America—and those
vaudeville newspapers—cannot you fancy whole pages devoted to her past?
They would rake it up in a week. Fortunate for her that America comes
not to Munich and she goes no more to Bayreuth.”

“If she is too haughty to silence slander by an ingenious lie, why
should she not be too haughty—too much the artist—to care? She must
know that Munich has settled down into the belief that her past will not
bear inspection. I have heard that much.”

“Ah, but it is all vague rumour now. Never was the woman, not publicly
in the half-world, who did not congratulate herself that many people
gave her the benefit of the doubt. And whatever Styr was in America,
here in Germany she is a goddess walking on clouds. Her voice, her
method, her acting, her superb appearance, which yet is not commonplace
beauty, above all, her divine artist soul, have made her the idol of the
public. In the Hof there are the usual jealousies and intrigues that
have driven so many fine artists from Munich never to return, but the
influence of the King, to say nothing of her own wit, tact, and will of
cast iron, blunt every shaft. She is cleverer than all the good people
in the world put together, and I, Olivia Nachmeister, who have seen so
many great gifts disintegrate for want of that virile brain-mortar of
many ingredients that compels success, greatly respect her.”

“And in private life?”

“An ivory statue waiting for the night of a public performance to come
to life at the bidding of The Master. When she first appeared in Munich
our men shook out all their battered flags of a thousand sieges. They
bombarded that ivory fortress with notes, flowers, jewels, even with
proposals of marriage after she had demonstrated her imperviousness to
the more regular sort. The jewels she sent publicly to charities; of the
other attentions she made no acknowledgment whatever. Not a man, barring
the officials of the Hof, or perhaps a new composer, can boast that he
has been received by her alone. She opens her doors once a month, she
goes to routs, sometimes to dinners—at first she went a good deal into
society, and, I fancy, was fascinated by it; but no man got a word alone
with her. I believe she hates men—but mortally! If this be true, it is
significant enough. It may be, however, that the monotonies of society
merely bore her. She is the most intellectual woman I know.”

“Intellectual?” She had succeeded in surprising his interest to the

“She has a fine library of her own, and her footman may be seen any day
striding between her villa and the royal library—looking very cross.
She often attends lectures at the University, and when at home always is
either reading or buried in her rôles—when she does not walk. Gott!
what a life for a woman under forty! And no one would care if she had a
lover. She is a great artist. Does not that give her the liberty of a
goddess? What futile regrets when she is my age—sixty!” (Ordham amused
himself on rainy days looking up the ages of his friends in the _Graf
Buch_, and knew that Princess Nachmeister was seventy; but she was not
too old to retain delusions, and fancied that young men were above such
curiosities, or that their memories at least were unfeminine.)

“Where does she walk?”

“That no one discovers. I have an idea that she rises at four in the
morning, when, of a certainty, she will not meet the gallants of Munich.
She is always in fine physical condition, and one would know that she
took much exercise—and baths—not too favourite a pastime in
Germany!—even did she not allude once in a while to her ‘tramps.’ But
don’t lie in wait for her. You would only get a snub for your pains.”

Ordham coloured haughtily. He did not like the word. “I never lie in
wait for any one,” he replied coldly. “Besides, no doubt, she is stalked
by a footman.”

“None of her servants speak English.”

“How is it that her German is so faultless? I am told that before any
stories got about she was taken for a German as a matter of course.”

“Her parents were Hungarian. Her singing teacher in America was a

“Has she told you that much?”

“Now and again I get something out of her—but nothing that really
counts. To judge from her manner, her carriage, her breeding, she might
be a Karoly or a Festetics, but one day when I told her bluntly there
was a rumour to the effect that her parents were emigrants,—steerage
emigrants,—she replied coolly that she should be delighted if the story
put an end to romantic nonsense.”

“I should like to believe that she was a runaway—or an

“So would all the other romantic babies. Unfortunately, we have her word
for it that she is an American born—and reared. Of course her policy in
admitting that much is to stifle curiosity in her origin—origin in
America not counting with Europeans in the least—as well as to
discourage curiosity. The place is so vast—ten thousand miles across, I
am told—or is it in diameter?—that one might as well look for a lost
soul in Hades. She has even admitted that she was on the stage in
America. But under what name? That I cannot surprise out of her, and the
few Americans I know never saw nor heard of her. They all live in
Europe. Of course she never sang over there. She need not tell us that,
for if they were still red and wore feathers, they would have made that
voice famous in a day.”

“What makes you so sure that Margarethe Styr is not her name?”

“Am I a Frau Professor or an old woman of the world? When the King
decided that bracelets, rings, even necklaces were inadequate
acknowledgment from the first living royal patron of art to the greatest
interpreter of the new music, and that she must be raised to the
Bavarian aristocracy—Gott!—I was commanded to be her social sponsor.
Naturally, with the utmost delicacy, I endeavoured to extract such
information as would satisfy the curiosity of her future compatriots. I
distilled a little and inferred more. Enfin! I am convinced that the
story, whatever it may be, is hideous—but hideous! Who minds a lover or
two?—and an artist, as I have said. I know women—ach Gott, ja! and I
have studied the Styr far more deeply than she knows. There are certain

Excellenz lifted her shoulders and curved the corners of her mouth
almost to her chin.

“I wonder!” Again Ordham’s glance strayed into the dusk beyond the
glare. He recalled the curses and the ecstasies of Isolde. A footman
changed his plate, and he asked, “How is it that I have never met her,
even at a rout?”

“She has gone into society very little this year. I fancy she is now
quite tired of it, and that only a royal command could draw her forth.
And”—with a sigh—“there is no court, as you know.”

“Do the men still pursue her?”

“Not the older men; there are always recruits among the fledglings, but
men soon learn the difference between ice and ivory, and life is short.”

“I should like to meet her.”

“No doubt. But she is more difficult to meet than the King.”

“You seem to know her very well.”

“Comparatively. But she happens to be the only genius of my
acquaintance—of my own sex—and I am never quite at ease with her. I
should far more aptly take a liberty with the Queen, to whom, indeed, I
am privileged to say _du_; but I have never ventured into that zone of
liberty with Die Styr. She is the most majestic, or shall I say, the
most frozen, creature I have ever met. Where did she get it? Her origin!
Her past! She upsets every theory.”

“There are no theories where genius is concerned. And if, in addition,
she has an intellect—naturally she dominates. There are so few
intellects. D’you see?”

“I do, you impertinent boy! And I shall not even try to present you to

“According to all accounts, dear Princess, you should be the last to
fear her, for in your society alone does she appear to find any
pleasure. Who else can claim to know her? I have heard of no one.”

“Again I am assured of your fitness for the diplomatic career! As I told
you, she was placed in my hands. I found her little in need of
instruction. She seems to have been born with a sort of royal tact—this
makes me believe that her parents were political refugees, at least.
Perhaps they had disgraced themselves in other ways. Or it is possible
that she is the illegitimate offspring of a prince and some pretty
little actress who was bundled out of the country. Austrian archdukes
have a mania for romantic marriages. N’importe! We have always remained
friends of a sort. I rarely let a week pass without going to see her,
and once in a while she comes to me alone and sits in my garden—and
expresses her scorn of Sardou and her admiration of Ibsen! When I would
give two or three of my best memories to hear how many lovers she has
had, and what they were like. A woman can always be read through her
lovers. Whatever Styr’s may have been, her one desire now is to be
impersonal. I might as well invoke Brynhildr or Iseult. Perhaps nothing
personal remains in that charming casket. Off the stage ivory, on the
stage fire. It is all very odd. I have never been so intriguée in my
life. Don’t try to know her. She might find you worth talking to—and
then—who knows?”

Ordham flushed at the bare suggestion. “I am quite determined to know

Excellenz noted that his eyes were less infantile than usual. “Well,
later—I will take you to one of her routs,” she remarked indifferently,
determined to do nothing of the sort. “I wonder where this remarkable
concert is to take place.” She beckoned to the master of ceremonies, and
was informed that the prima donna would stand on the Marienbrücke, the
narrow bridge that spans the Pöllat at a dizzy height, and that the
guests would listen from the windows of the _Festsaal_, or from the
balcony of the throne room below, as suited their pleasure. His Majesty
would occupy the balcony before his bedroom windows.

Ordham’s eyes flashed. “When?” he demanded.

“When the moon rises, sir. In less than an hour.”

                                THE STYR

John Ordham stood alone on the balcony before the throne room. Princess
Nachmeister, shivering and twinging, had gone over to her own
comfortable apartment, where, wrapped in a wadded dressing-gown, she
could sit at her window and lose nothing of the concert. Ordham, for
some time, was sensitively conscious of an unquiet spirit just round the
corner of the castle. He could not hear a footfall, a sigh, but he knew
that the lonely King was trying to surrender his tormented soul to the
golden flood pouring upward from the white figure on the Marienbrücke,
perhaps to the unearthly beauty of the night.

The full moon mounted slowly above the three snow peaks of the distant
Alps. It turned even the lakes to sheets of silver, threw forest and
unpowdered mountain tops into hard black outline against the deep blue
of a sky that seemed to throb with a thousand responsive notes: the
golden notes of every human song-bird that Earth had lost. The wind was
still. Save for the roar of the waterfall, there was not a sound in the
world but that great voice that seemed to fill it.

Ordham had waited breathlessly during the few moments that preceded her
appearance, the intense stillness pounding in his ears. Then, by what
sleight of body he could not guess, she seemed to dart suddenly up from
the gorge below the bridge as she uttered the terrible shriek of Kundry
when summoned by Klingsor from her enchanted sleep.

“Ach! Ach! Tiefe Nacht—Wahnsinn!—Oh!—Wuth!—”

Ordham fancied he recognized a note of genuine anger in her wild
remonstrance, a bitter personal reproach. But she was artist before all,
and when she passed on to her scene with Parsifal, her dulcet
reminiscences of his infancy when she herself seemed to brood above him,
the helpless anguish of the desolate wife and adoring mother, the
maternal agony when the boy ran from her out into the world, the
waiting, the savage cries of despair, the “dulling of the smart,” the
ebbing of life—the strain of exquisite pity in which she told the youth
that he was alone on Earth—Ordham shivered more than once, staring back
into a brief past where he could recall little of maternal love,
wondering how much he would care if he never saw his mother nor any
member of his distinguished selfish family again.

The echoes gave back Parsifal’s brief lament; then the tall white figure
on the bridge, although she did not move, seemed to bend her voice above
the kneeling boy, summoning him to consolation. As it rose in seduction,
in the insolent triumph of the passionate woman who knows that not for
her is the balking of desire, it was so warm, so rich, so vast in its
compass, that Ordham felt as if the golden waters were rising to
suffocate him. When she paused so lingeringly on the final note of
seduction, “_Ersten kuss_,” that the words seemed to live on and gather
volume in the thrilling rebellious ear, and an angry cry burst from the
balcony of the King:—

     Die wunde! Die wunde!—
     Sie brent in meinen Herzen—
     Oh, Klage! Klage!
     Furchtbare, Klage!—”

he came as angrily to himself. It was the spell whose meshes he cared
least to encounter, and he wondered how he could be sensible to it, even
under the influence of music, so soon after breaking from an
entanglement which the lady had taken with a seriousness
incomprehensible to himself. He was in a mood which impelled him to
close the eyes of the lover in him forever, and his real interest in
Margarethe Styr began when the Princess Nachmeister told him that she
was a woman of intellect and hated his sex. He by no means hated hers,
but his mind was lonely, and his ego sought blindly for that
companionship which all souls claim as their right, and generally go
forth to other worlds still seeking.

The voice of the King ceased. Kundry burst forth again. The wild grief,
the remorse of her awakened soul at her abandonment of Christ, then her
passionate supplication for the joys and compensations of mortal love,
hardly removed the impression, nor her promise to make the obstinate
youth a god in her embrace. But when she hurled forth her curses, Ordham
breathed more freely, although the furies of hell seemed to echo among
the hills.

There was a brief pause. Then with a wild and startling transition:—

    “Ho-yo-to-ho! Ho-yo-to-ho!
     Hi-ya-ha! Hi-ya-ha!
     Ho-yo-to-ho! Ho-yo-to-ho!”

Brünhilde’s jubilant cry sprang from peak to peak; then this strange
woman’s vocal interpretation of the gulf that separated Wotan’s daughter
from her sisters even before the War-father bereft her of her godhead;
the gathering clouds of her approaching humanity; the eternal tragedy of
woman’s sacrifice to man.

Styr passed from opera to songs, all, no doubt, selected by the King.
Some were sonorous with deep religious feeling, others a long-sustained
chaunt of sadness and despair; one alone was insolent with triumph and
power. It seemed to Ordham that he was swept upward to the stars, those
golden voices of dead singers once as great as this virile creature
below him. His body was cold, his pulses were still, his brain was on
fire. He had a vision of himself and this woman swirling together on a
tide of song through the infinite paths of the Milky Way—invisible
to-night under the violent light of the moon—then—up—up—through the
gates of heaven—

But he was by character and training too cool and self-controlled to
remain in a condition of mental intoxication for any length of time. He
had glanced at the programme handed to him at the conclusion of dinner
and knew that the songs were to end the night’s performance.

Ordham, constitutionally shy, albeit with the audacity which so often
accompanies that weakness, possessed also what Napoleon called two
o’clock in the morning courage. He had felt sure that were he suddenly
to be introduced to the mysterious Styr he should turn cold to his
marrow and long to bolt. But to meet her formally might prove
impossible. To-night was his opportunity. He made up his mind that he
would talk to her did she invoke the vengeance of the gods.

He hastily made his way out of the castle by the main entrance, ran down
the slope of the great rock, skirted its base, and ascended through the
forest to the bridge. He believed that the King would retire as soon as
the concert was over, and that the singer would remain for a few moments
to enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the night.

And so it happened. Styr, her engagement finished, but still exalted
with the intoxication of song, after one long look about her, leaned
both hands on the railing of the bridge and stared down into the wild
depths below. The grip of the bridge on the rocks was none too secure; a
landslip, such as occurred daily in the Alps, and she would lie
shattered below. But she enjoyed the hint of danger and might have stood
motionless for an hour, warm as she was in her white woollen draperies,
had not a footstep made her move her shoulders impatiently. She supposed
it to be a lackey with a superfluous wrap, and did not move again until
aware that some one stood beside her on the bridge. Then she turned with
a start and faced Ordham. She knew at once who he must be; Princess
Nachmeister often talked of her favourite, and had told her that he was
a guest at the castle to-night. His audacity in approaching her and in
such circumstances took away her breath. But only for an instant. She
drew herself up with a majesty few queens have had sufficient practice
to attain. Her height nearly matched his—not quite; he thanked his
stars that she was compelled to look up at him; and she did look the
cold astonishment her lips would not frame.

“I could not think of letting you return to the castle alone, Countess
Tann,” said Ordham, gently, “even if those lackeys were not too stupid
to think of coming for you. I am sure this forest is full of peasants;
they must have known of the concert. They may be harmless, but as the
King’s only guest of his own sex, and as he is unable to look after you
himself—I am sure you will forgive me. How could I remain quiet in the
castle while you found your way back alone? I should be a barbarian.”

There was no trace of emotion or even of admiration in his face, merely
the natural courtesy of a gentleman, perhaps a touch of boyish
knightliness. And certainly he was a mere boy, Margarethe Styr
reflected. In that white downpour, that has rejuvenated many a battered
visage, he looked—she groped for the word—virginal. And his steady
gaze had never wavered before the haughty inquiry of hers. This young
man might or might not be as innocent as he looked, but his perfect
breeding, which she instantly divined to be an integral part of him,
appealed to the woman who had so often found polished manners a brittle
veneer. Moreover, she was as amused at his ruse, which had not deceived
her for a moment, as she felt herself compelled to admire his strategic
cleverness. Then she abruptly asked herself the question that perhaps
the immortal goddesses asked in their day, “Why not?” and bent her head

“Thank you,” she said. “Of course you are Mr. Ordham. Thank you many
times for thinking of me. Shall we walk a little? I should not stand too
long after singing.”

He was so taken aback by the swiftness of his triumph that diffidence
overwhelmed him, and he stammered: “You are sure you would not like
another wrap? I can fetch one in a moment.”

“I am very warmly clad. Do not bother.” She did not notice his relapse
and asked him idly if he had enjoyed her singing.

“Oh—enjoy! Please do not tempt me into banalities. It was much too
wonderful to talk about. I should like to talk to you—about a hundred
other things. I know your voice—I have never missed one of your nights
since I came to Munich. But I do not know you at all. This is the
blessed opportunity.”

He had had time to recover himself, and he watched her intently. Her
eyes, which had hung before his mental vision like two tragic suns,
flashed with amusement.

“Do you know that I have lived in Munich for six years and not had five
minutes’ conversation with any man alone, except on business relating to
the Hof? Much less have I ‘known’ any one.”

“But you can’t go on forever like that. If you weren’t fundamentally
human, you could not be a great artist; and if you are human, you must
crave some sort of companionship. Are you never quite horribly lonely?”

“There is so much in life that is worse than loneliness.” Her voice
sounded as dry as dust. “Moreover, it is an excellent rampart. But I am
not lonely. I work constantly. Why do you set such a high value on human

“I don’t think I do. I am often glad enough to get away from people. And
I fancy I read a good deal more than I talk—and I am not sure that I
don’t like the theatre quite as well as society. But, after all—there
are certain wants—”

“We outlive so many of them!”

“Do we—permanently, I mean? I feel that sooner or later you would have
flung down your barriers. It is mere chance that makes me the blessed

“I wonder?”

“Whether it is chance or destiny?” He smiled as if at the audacity of
his own words.

“Not at all. There is no such thing as chance, or any destiny but that
which you make for yourself—that is, after you are old enough to know
what you are about. I wondered if the human needs were stronger than the

“I was thinking of mental needs when I spoke. Nothing is more human than
the brain. One can get on without love, after one has had a dose or two
of it, but not without striking fire from another brain now and again.
From one brain in particular, I should say.”

“That is a curious speech for so young a man to make.”

“Perhaps I should not make it if I were ten years older. For the matter
of that, do years count? We come into the world encased in traditions
and are only happy when we have shed the last of them.”

She liked the way he walked beside her, seeming to protect her down the
steep path without touching her. He carried himself with a quiet
unconscious dignity, refreshing after the military strut of which she
was artistically weary; and as he looked down at her with his kind smile
and calm almost studious gaze, he attracted her more than any man had
done for half his years. She also felt a curious mental excitement, a
desire to talk very fast, which she attributed to the uncommon
circumstances, but which she realized before long was the stimulating
influence of that rarest of mortal contacts, a sympathetic brain. In
days gone by she had found it easy to love, but she remembered few men
she had cared to talk to. At the moment she shot up an inquisitive
glance. Might he not be older than she had fancied? Nineteen he had
looked on the bridge. Possibly he was nearer thirty. But she recalled
that Princess Nachmeister had mentioned his age. Young men—with one
tragic exception—had never interested her. But she was quick to read
the human countenance; and she observed that if his eyes recorded
nothing beyond the mood of the moment, the line from ear to chin, under
the fine smooth English skin, was uncommonly long. It might indicate
future character and present obstinacy; although there were no strong
lines yet in the boyish sensuous mouth, soft and pouting in spite of its
fine modelling. And although he had demonstrated that he could seize and
hold a fort, there was no hint of obstinacy in his manner, which was
very gentle and diffident. For the first time in her life she
experienced a sensation of gratitude toward a member of the man sex, a
sensation made up of many parts, and rising from dark corners of memory.
It impelled her to say:

“Let us sit down. It is quite warm here in the forest.”

“You are sure you will not take a cold? I will give you my coat to sit

“You will do nothing of the sort. Fortunately, these classic costumes
commanded by the King are made of wool. Besides, I always dress warmly
to sing in that _Festsaal_. It is colder there than out of doors.”

“Nevertheless, you were very angry when you began to sing.”

“Did you detect that? I hope the King did.”

Ordham, who had stretched himself at her feet—she had seated herself on
a bench—looked steadily at her while they talked, wondering if she were
beautiful or not, or if it mattered. Her head in poise and form was
classic, her face oval, and her rather long nose thin and sensitive. But
her eyes—those eyes that looked immense on the stage—were small,
deeply set, dark, impenetrable, sullen, like the lower part of her face.
Occasionally they lit up with amusement, and hinted of temper and other
uncomfortable attributes; nor was there any suggestion of tenderness in
the close mouth and strong jaw. In the second act of _Tristan und
Isolde_ she expressed every soft enchantment of womanhood, and Ordham
for the first time fully realized what a great artist she was, for he
could see no indication that any traces remained of those impulses that
drive the race blindfolded, in this sullen almost angry shell. She
looked like a fallen goddess, whom mortal passions had consumed, leaving
but a vast regret for her lost godhead. No wonder she could play
Brynhildr! There was nothing else in that imposing casket but brain, and
although he could imagine the tigerish beauty of her youth, she
fascinated him far more as she was. The world was full of soft
passionate women—he hated the thought of them—and his mind, almost
full-blown, imperiously demanded this particular brain as its mate. But
he made no effort to lead the conversation into unusual channels. In
conversation, for that matter, he was not skilful, and depended upon the
inspiration of the moment.

Princess Nachmeister had said that a woman might be known by her lovers,
but he judged people largely by what they read, and he asked Margarethe
Styr if she took in all the reviews.

“Not one. To me this high plateau is the world. I do not know who is the
President of the United States, or the Prime Minister of England.”

“Does your art really fill your life?”

“Almost. And I read a great deal, although no reviews, newspapers, and
few novels.”

“And is this to go on forever? How do you define the word ‘life’?”

“All that I most wish to forget.”

“Then if you had not this wonderful voice, you would not live at all,”
he adventured.

Her eyes gleamed, and for the moment she seemed about to turn the remark
aside. But she looked at him unflinchingly, and finally answered, “No.”

“Then art does suffice. It is very interesting to learn that.”

“It once saved me from death—when I was almost dead. Every one else had
succumbed. It was the knowledge of that golden wonder in my throat and
the memory of the ecstasy in pouring it forth that kept the breath in my

“Tell me about it!” He sat up eagerly.

She shook her head. “I never think of it. I cannot imagine what has
brought it to my mind to-night.” She bent her head and looked at him
keenly. “Yes, there is a slight resemblance,” she added thoughtfully.

“You are unfair. I am mad with curiosity. Tell me. Tell me.”

She asked him abruptly: “Do you find that I have a German accent? It is
seven years and more since I have spoken with any one of my own tongue,
and I am curious to know.”

“It is a colour rather than an accent—that is to say—I always express
myself very badly—as if you had dyed your native American with brown
and crimson, and at the same time rounded off the thin edges. But I
should not take you for a German. Is that what you wish?”

“Not in the least.”

“But Princess Nachmeister intimated that Munich was the passion of your
life, or something of that sort.”

“Well, it is one of them, certainly; and for a while I was so grateful
to Germany, so enchanted with my new life, that I deliberately tried to
make myself over into a German, put myself into the rôle, as one does on
the stage. I succeeded for a time, but all that is past. Once an
American always an American, I fancy. And the longer I live in Europe
the more American I become. Don’t ask me to define this. It is merely an
instinct—perhaps a jealousy of birthright. I may never return to the
United States. I know nothing of her affairs. But—well, my essence was
compounded in that great country. She could put Germany into her pocket
and not hear it rattle. It may be that—the physical vastness of the
country—that holds me. I am only thinking out loud—I have never
attempted to analyze why I finally admitted that Europe could inspire me
with everything but a new patriotism, but I have a fancy that it is only
snobs that become thoroughly Europeanized. Titles are a form of
intoxication to republicans as well as to the bourgeoisie of monarchical
countries. But after all, they work less harm than absinthe and cognac,
so why be too severe? If one must have human weaknesses, let us be
content merely with making fools of ourselves and save our livers and
our nerves.”

Ordham laughed. “I was sure you were a monster of charity! But I hardly
understand your loyalty to the United States. If your blood is
Hungarian, what matters your birthplace? No Englishman feels a sentiment
for the American flag because he happens to have been born under it.”

“Who told you I was of Hungarian parentage?”


“My mother was a Hungarian—emigrant. I have caused that story to be
circulated about Munich, for I was tired of their nonsense. If you have
any curiosity on the subject—I have not the vaguest idea who my father
was. My mother, I have reason to believe, was of aristocratic blood on
her father’s side, but she was a natural child, of course, and a

“Are you trying to disenchant me?” Ordham felt a little angry; he was,
in truth, too much of a Briton and a born diplomatist to relish such
plain speech.

“Perhaps. But, to be quite honest, not entirely that. It is rather a
relief to fling the bare facts into somebody’s teeth. When you have been
shut up within yourself for many years, it suddenly becomes necessary to
lift the lid and let the steam escape. Of course I cannot give all the
facts to the public. It would not be fair to the King, in the first
place. Moreover, when I set foot on German soil and assumed the name of
Margarethe Styr, it was with the firm intention of beginning life over
again. I had no scruple about holding my tongue on many subjects. I
brought to the Germans the equivalent of all they could give to me. We
are quits. I experience a kind of defiance now and again, a desire to
assert my complete liberty and independence by proclaiming the truth
from the housetops. But of course I do nothing of the sort.”

She did not ask him to keep her counsel, and he volunteered no promise,
two facts that must have struck them as significant had either been in
the analytical temper. But Ordham was wondering if she would ever tell
him the whole story; and she, if the excited stir of her mind were due
to the unwonted occurrence of talking to a young man alone in a forest
at night, after eight years of almost complete disassociation from his
sex; or if it were merely the usual nervous aftermath of song. But she
had no time to define her sensations at the moment. There was a rapid
step in the forest. Out of the shadows emerged the King’s personal
footman, Meyr, who announced that his Majesty’s coach was in the
courtyard, ready for the customary midnight drive, and that his Majesty
requested the pleasure of the company of the Gräfin Tann and Herr

“I won’t go,” said Ordham, in English. “I wish to stay here and talk to
you. Please don’t get up.”

“Not even for the pleasure of talking to you would I risk being
dismissed out of Bavaria to-morrow. This is the sovereign that takes no
excuse. And why should I deny him? Has he not made me what I am? And do
you realize that a great honour is being conferred upon you?—upon us
both? So far as I know, he has never invited any one to drive with him
at night before.”

“I will go for the sake of remaining with you, and only hope it may
prove half as interesting as our talk would have been.”

He walked beside her down the hill, grumbling all the way. In the upper
courtyard was a large open coach, bountifully gilded, to which six white
horses were harnessed. On two were postilions; an outrider carried an
unlighted torch. A footman was on the box beside the coachman, but there
was none behind. Ordham’s eyes sparkled as he put on without further
protest the overcoat and hat with which his apologetic servant awaited
him; and had they been less under control, would have danced a moment
later when the King’s valet came hastily from the castle with the
announcement, which surprised no one but the English stranger, that his
Majesty found himself too indisposed to go out that night, and begged
that his guests would use the carriage at their pleasure. Countess Tann,
whose maid had muffled her in a white hood and cloak, half turned from
the coach, but she suddenly found herself handed in and Ordham seated
beside her.

“This is quite wonderful!” he cried, as the horses seemed to make a
flying leap over the drawbridge. “And I thought this visit was to be a
failure. Blessed be the fates!”

And in spite of all that followed he never recalled that pæan.

                          ORDHAM AND THE STYR

The six horses seemed to take another leap through the air as they left
the lower courtyard, and Ordham expected to land on the tree-tops below.
But those horses, that had the motion of winged things, flew unerringly
along the lower road, through the dark forest, down the mountain side to
Füssen. In this loyal village every window, suddenly lighted, was flung
open, heads of old and young appeared, and delighted cries of “_Heil
unserem König, Heil!_” rang after the undetected occupants of the coach
when they were once more in the forest. Up hill and down hill flew the
horses, out of the forest again, toward snow peaks that seemed to be
flying about in distraction, sometimes rushing to meet these mad riders
of the night. The coachman and footman kept their seats as if a part of
the bounding vehicle. But Ordham and his companion were so tossed about
that he soon gathered up the cushions and packed them round her, then
leaning his weight on those between them, braced his feet on the
opposite seat. He made no attempt to hold her in place as another man
might have done, he did not even touch her; and Margarethe Styr, who had
been accustomed to men that took every possible advantage of a woman’s
helplessness, gave him a place in her regard that she never permanently

But nothing was farther from his mind than the wish to touch her. She
was a woman alone with him under somewhat hazardous circumstances, and
he protected her instinctively and made her as comfortable as possible.
Although he would have risen to the occasion as a matter of course, he
was grateful that he was not with a woman who would expect to be made
love to, but with this strange and delightful creature, who, exhilarated
by the terrific speed and the danger, could enjoy herself in precisely
his own fashion. He did not even ask her if she were frightened,
although once, as they tore through a narrow gorge with the roar of
waters far below, he leaned over the side of the carriage, holding the
cushions firmly against her with his left hand, then, as he resumed his
former position, remarked:

“Three hundred feet, I should think, and perhaps three inches between
the wheels and the edge.”

She laughed, and he turned his eyes quickly to her white face, in which
the dark eyes were more widely opened and eager than usual.

“You enjoy the idea of possibly being dashed to pieces on those
rocks—getting out of it all.”

Her eyes met his in a cold flash. “Do you realize what you have said?”

“That you are the bravest woman I ever saw, but with no love of life.
Could you be the greatest actress in the world otherwise?”

“I wonder if you really know what you are saying? But you are young—so
very young.”

“What has that to do with it?”


“Nothing, really. I have seen you look very old and very young, and
every shade between. When you get that helmet on your head in _Die
Walküre_, you look sixteen, much too young for the part. Just now you
look like a fate. A woman who calls out of their graves other women that
have been dead for centuries and gives them life again for four or five
hours,—Wagner’s operas are much too long,—who makes them live so
intensely that their very dust must feel the current,—why, of course,
you have no age. Margarethe Styr disappears, ceases to exist. When she
returns to her tenement, it must be with the sensation of being born
again. For myself—well, perhaps I am forty masquerading as a boy.”

“I know exactly how old you are,” she said maliciously. “And you could
not grow a mustache to save your life.”

“Nothing would induce me to!” And then they both laughed, although he
blushed very red, for he was sensitive on the subject of his age and
wished that Peerages had never been invented.

Styr put her hands to her face and gave a faint scream. A column of fire
had shot up in the path just ahead of the horses.

“The moon has gone under a cloud and the outrider has lit the torch,”
Ordham reassured her.

She dropped her hands and leaned forward eagerly. The moon had made the
wild mountain scenery, the forests and snow peaks, the upper reaches, so
beautiful that more than once she had held her breath, felt as if her
soul were full of crystal flowers. The flaming torch, high in the right
hand of the outrider, lit the vast scene in a fashion that suggested the
approach to Hell arranged in honour of distinguished visitors. The
waterfalls leaping down the opposite cliffs, the glittering peaks, the
gloomy roaring depths of the gorges, started out red and black,
disappeared, flashed in the distance, rushed forward to hurl themselves
at the flying carriage. Ordham wondered how many horses the King killed
in a year. But he was too much interested in the scene, the adventure,
to care. It was more wonderful, more satisfying, than anything he had
ever dreamed of. For a moment he had an ecstatic desire for death, if
only to avoid the anticlimax of life.

The moon came out again. The torch was extinguished. All the Alpine
world was white and silver. It seemed like a sudden ascent into the vast
quiet regions of space from the chaos of the Inferno. Both Ordham and
his companion, who had been sitting tensely, leaned back with a
sensation of contentment and peace.

In a moment she turned to him with softly shining eyes and said, “Cannot
you understand the King a little better?”

“I think so.”

“Not yet! Be thankful for that.”

“When you began to sing to-night, I was frightfully oppressed by the
thought of that tormented soul only a few feet from me. Then I forgot

“Is it possible?” She stared at him with a puzzled interest. She knew
nothing of the worldly and mental precocity of young Englishmen of
Ordham’s class, and Ordham was himself in more ways than one.

“‘Tormented soul.’ Nothing could express it more perfectly.” She
continued in a moment: “It was developed for some other planet where all
conditions are higher and more satisfying than on this, then strayed
here through some mismanagement of the Unknown Forces—and into the dark
passages of a Wittelsbach brain, of all places! If he only had been in a
position to work out his one hope of mortal salvation—to become a great
artist. Genius inflamed and smothered by the megalomania of a king—and
of a king with no part to play on the stage of Europe! No wonder there
are abysses in his brain for which this life will build no bridges.”

“Do you know him well?”

“I have never exchanged a word with him, never met him face to face.”

“No?” Ordham turned to her with a quickened interest. He had attributed
the Nachmeister’s defence to the amiable mood of the moment, but it did
not occur to him to doubt the word of Margarethe Styr. “He has shown you
so much favour—”

“He is grateful for my voice, poor soul, for it gives him a few moments’
happiness. But I shall never know him. I wish I might. I understand him
so well.”

“Then you too do not belong to this planet?”

“I wonder you did not add that I too have a tormented soul.”

“That is what I meant.”

“But I have not.” She looked at him steadily. “Perhaps—once—yes. But
that is long past. You, being a man, with a more sensitive fibre in you
than most men possess,—you may catch just a glimmer of the depths of
Ludwig, in spite of your tender years. But there is one thing of which
you know absolutely nothing, and that is the intense and absorbing joy
that an artist finds in his art.”

“‘His.’ Can a woman?”

“Oh, you are clever! But, yes—in certain conditions. There are moments
when I am happier than any one not an artist can ever dream of being.
And betweenwhiles—with my studies, my long meditations upon the
characters I portray—for I find always something new in those strange
women, that not even The Master apprehended when he resurrected them—in
my unruffled life, in my certainty of repeated triumphs—well, it is
close enough to happiness; although I am willing to confess that it
might not have been at your age. Have we really pulled up a bit?”

The horses were trotting quietly across a valley, where, unable to find
excitement, the King, no doubt, was in the habit of sparing his unhappy
beasts. But a few moments later the speed was increased again,
apparently that they might enter a village on the other side of the
valley like a hurricane. Here, as in all the other villages through
which they had flashed, was the same rattling of windows flung up, the
same flaring of lights, the same passionate cry:—

“_Heil unserem König, Heil!_”

But in this case the cheers stopped abruptly, for the faithful peasants
had time to discover their mistake; the foaming horses came to a sudden
halt before the gasthaus trembling and panting. As Ordham and Countess
Tann descended into the narrow street which flamed like a comet, there
were loud astonished cries. The outrider made a brief explanation, and
the lights were extinguished, the windows slammed. In the beloved
romantic figure of their King these humble folk took a deathless
interest, but not the least in any guest he might invite to his castles;
although for a week from this night they discussed the strange fact that
he condescended to have guests at all, much less relinquish in their
favour his midnight drive.

But the landlord of the inn had expected the King’s visitors, and kept
his counsel: a groom on horseback had galloped in with orders half an
hour before. Ordham and Styr were conducted into a long dark raftered
room which had been hastily aired of its evening fumes of beer and
tobacco, and illuminated with lamps and candles. There was a fire in the
big tiled stove, and Ordham quickly threw off his overcoat and removed
the long Arabian-looking wrap in which the singer was muffled. The
supper was not ready, and he looked her over as she stood by the fire
with her back to him, a tall figure draped in severe white folds, a
finely poised head with loosened coils of heavy but rippling brown hair
that shone as if polished daily with a silk handkerchief. But although
she was engaged in the prosaic occupation of warming her hands, he
received the impression that he always did in the first act of _Tristan_
and the second of _Götterdämmerung_, of a ruthless mental force, barely
held in leash, of sullen deadly fires.

It was like a sudden vision of Aspasia in the dark tobacco-scented room
of the little Alpine gasthaus, but in a moment he forgot his fancies;
she turned to him with bright eyes and flushed cheeks that made her look
human and young.

“How odd! How odd!” she cried. “And the oddest part of it is that I like
it—talking to a human being once more. It might even seem natural to
feel young and gay again. And in spite of your preternatural insight—or
whatever it is—you are deliciously young, and, I think, stimulated all
that was still youthful in my brain the moment we made friends.”

“Are we to remain friends?”

“I do not know. I must think it over.”

“I shall call.”

“Of course. That would be mere civility. But I am not sure that you will
get in.”

He was never demonstrative in manner, although he often indulged in
certain exaggerations of speech. But he could direct a quiet smiling
appeal from his juvenile orbs which he had discovered was seldom
resisted. He was far too clever to flirt with Margarethe Styr, so upon
this occasion he merely looked like a very young man begging indulgence
of a goddess. She smiled and shook her head.

“I am not sure. It is the first step that counts, and first steps are
too often fatal. I might find myself enjoying the society of my kind
again. I want nothing less—the even tenor of my life destroyed. When
one has attained a form of happiness it is the quintessence of folly to
risk it.”

“But the first step—you have taken it. We have had an adventurous night
together and I shall refuse to be ignored.”

“To-morrow it will seem like a dream.”

“To-morrow, but not a week hence,” he retorted with his uncommon
sagacity, which fascinated her more than any trait he had yet displayed
to her. “And nothing can alter the fact that it is no dream, and that
neither of us can forget it. I shall call to-morrow.”

She laughed and they sat down to the omelette that preceded the
chickens. Like all singers she had a healthy appetite, and wondered that
she had not missed her usual replenishment even after but an hour and a
half of work.

“How do you manage it—concentrating all that tragedy in your eyes?”
asked Ordham, abruptly. “Is it that you draw your brows together in some
peculiar way—I fancy that is it; they are so low and straight. Will you
show me?”

“Do you think I am a machine?” The artist arose in her wrath. “Do you
fancy that when I am suffering the anguish of Iseult or Brynhildr I put
eyebrows on my soul?”

“But you don’t really feel it? I thought artists dared not feel too
much. I have seen would-be emotional actresses carried away to such an
extent that they were quite ridiculous.”

“You give no stage artist the credit of a brain, I suppose? Can you
imagine a born actress—born, mind you—living her part, yet never quite
shaking loose from that strong grip above? That is what is meant by
‘living a part.’ You abandon yourself deliberately—with the whole day’s
preparation—into that other personality, almost to a soul in
possession, and are not your own self for one instant; although the
purely mental part of that self never relaxes its vigilance over the
usurper. It is a curious dual experience that none but an artist can
understand. Of course that perfect duality is only possible after years
of study, work, practical experience, mastery of technique. No beginner,
no matter what her genius, should dare to abandon herself to her rôles.”

“You must have had great masters. You have harrowed me horribly.”

“I have had none, except Wagner. Five years of stage experience in the
United States were of a certain value, for although I never had an
important part—I was too tall, I was not interested, my talent barely
stirred—still I observed, I studied in an abstract mental fashion, I
gained poise. It is an achievement alone to feel at home on the stage.”

He was burning with impatience. “How in heaven’s name could they have
failed over there to discover that you were a great actress, whether or
not you chose to cultivate your genius—and why not? why not? I hope you
do not think me merely curious. I am trying to speak as one of the
public that adores you—quite impersonally. There are so few great
actresses. I feel that you had no right, for any private reasons
whatever, to build a bushel over your talent. No genius belongs to
himself alone.”

The colour left her face, but she replied composedly: “Perhaps not, but
that is not the way that women, at least, reason when they are young. I
went on the stage, not because I was stage-struck, nor in poverty, but
for a reason that I cannot give you. When I found that the big heavy
voice that even singing teachers had laughed at could be minted into
pure gold for the new music,—which only one of the many instructors I
sought knew anything about, or at least believed in,—then I felt
resigned even to the causes which had driven me to the stage. I have
become inordinately ambitious; I often wonder what life can mean to
those that have no excuse for ambition—it is one of the reasons which
enabled me to begin life all over again. I was indeed another being
after my first triumph at Bayreuth, and not only because half the
crowned heads in Europe rushed to hear me the second time I sang; when I
stood on the greatest stage in the world with all my being set to the
music soaring from my throat, not a nerve out of tune, I knew that I no
longer was of common clay, that nothing that had ever happened to me
before mattered in the least. Ah, what matter the charnel rooms in the
soul when such memories blaze forever above? Poor women! Poor
women!—that have no such blinding moments—that must sit and think—and

Her eyes, dilated, horror-struck, gazed beyond Ordham, who felt
intolerably excited. He drew a short breath of relief when she recovered
herself abruptly, and said with a laugh: “But the world is very
ungrateful to its stage artists. Think of Mallinger, Josephine Schefzky,
Malwina Schnoor von Caroldsfeld. Less than twenty years ago all Germany
rang with their fame. Have you ever heard their names?”

“I have heard of Schefzky! It was she that overturned the swan boat in
the winter garden of the Residenz when sailing with the King—dressed up
as Lohengrin!—and he ran off, dripping, and calling to a lackey to pull
her out. I love that story.”

“It is all that keeps poor Josephine’s name alive. However—what matter
so long as we have our little day? Only the chosen few have that. What
have you made up your mind to do with your own life?”

She put the question so abruptly that he almost dropped his fork. “If I
have interested you sufficiently to inspire that question, then the last
six or eight years have not atrophied everything but the artist. Unless
you asked it for the sake of saying something,” he added anxiously.

“Not altogether. I suddenly wondered. Excellenz Nachmeister and the few
people I meet often mention you. I have had the impression that you were
badly spoilt, but your head does not seem to be turned.”

“Why should it be? No one has ever spoilt me—thought of such a thing”
(and he really meant it). “I am going into the diplomatic service, if
you care to know. I am here to get my German—not that I get much,
between rushing about and four teachers that practise their English on

“Why four teachers?”

“I take every new one that is recommended, and am too weak-minded to
dismiss the others. They all seem to be so horribly poor.”

“I must find you a good teacher.” She spoke impulsively, feeling an
uncommon interest in a promising young creature, quite thirteen years
her junior. She had never had a child, but as she regarded Ordham, who
in the mellow light looked his youngest, and was eating his abundant
supper as daintily as a girl, she moved toward him with an instinct of
protection. He still had the soft bloom of lip and cheek and eye that
the most innocent of women lose so early, and she knew the world he
lived in. What a pity it must go, that he too must change! Between his
inherited impressions and exceeding opportunities, he might know his
world, and his brain might be all that admiring Munich acclaimed, but he
was young, divinely young. No girl had ever given her such an impression
of youth—fleeting youth! His contacts with the emotional side of life
had made no impression on him beyond satisfying his curiosity and saving
his mind from morbidity. She divined, indeed, that, his heart still
being untouched, his nature was practically unawakened, that his casual
experiences, when they had not disgusted him, had affected him no more
than some story he had read and forgotten. Other phases of life meant so
much more.

She reached these conclusions by aid of her deep instincts rather than
through any conscious mental process, for her own contacts had been
almost entirely with American men who were either ingenuously fast or
uncompromisingly puritanical, generally the former, circumstances having
limited her experience. She had met, as all handsome actresses must,
young Americans of Ordham’s age; and when they had not been precocious
and impertinent, they had belonged to that gallant, clean-minded,
well-bred type the universities turn out in such abundance—the type
that has every attribute to win the girl and not one to interest the
woman. Ordham’s inherited complexities, intensified by growing up among
men of affairs in a country always consciously making history, added to
his own uncommon individuality, fascinated her. She would have liked to
cultivate him, but she relinquished that idea, and said practically:

“These are precious years if you really mean to make a career. I know an
excellent teacher, and will send her to you to-morrow. But you must not
waste her time. Will you promise me to study?”

“Of course.” Ordham was always willing to promise anything. “I’ll
dismiss all four and take her for as many hours as she will give me. You
inspire me with a desire to work. Did you begin to study German when you
were very young that your accent is so perfect?”

“I did not study anything when I was very young.” She hesitated,
reflected that in all probability she would never see this young man
again, and might as well drop a good seed when the opportunity was given
her; it did not occur often. “I did not know even the English alphabet
until I was fifteen. Nor did any other child in the wretched coal-mining
district where I first saw light. It was peopled wholly by the poorest
class of immigrants from eastern Europe—brought over wholesale by
enterprising and not too honest mine owners. My clothes were made of
hop-sacking. I had not the faintest idea that I was good-looking, for
the simple reason that I was never clean or half fed. My mind was as
tightly closed as an oyster. I recall no desires beyond want of more
food and the night that brought rest. My mother died at my birth, and I
was taken in by a family of fellow-immigrants to whom one more child
meant one more future bread-winner.

“Suddenly, I went to New York. Almost immediately I began to attend a
public school—a free school, not a public school in your sense. Later I
had tutors, masters. I learned well from the first. My intellect, that
is to say my interest in books, awakened early—novels, at first, of
course; gradually heavier works. In them I soon learned to forget; that
is to say, I found in them a separate and particular happiness. I made a
special study of the language and the literature of Germany. Whence I
inherit my tendencies and talents I have no idea. From nowhere, most
likely. Some mysterious disarrangement of particles, of which science,
so far, knows nothing. You are an exotic yourself, or I am much
mistaken. To return—that rushing of the awakened mind over dam after
dam, barrier after barrier,—there is nothing under heaven like it,
except the discovery that one was born to be a great artist, which, of
course, is the supreme happiness. There were times, even then, when I
was as happy as I ever shall be; that is to say, my mental exaltation
was as great, for I suppose that is what mortal happiness really means,
what gives us our most precise distinction from the lower order of
animals, and makes us feel our relationship to that omnipotent force
which we personify as God. At all events it was a life apart, a secret
life, a life in which no one—no one—” her voice rose on an accent
almost furious—“could enter. And of course those years of study played
their part in making me what I am to-day. Most singers have no brain, no
mental life; they must be taught their rôles like parrots, they put on a
simulation of art with their costumes which deceives the great stupid
public and touches no one. Mere emotionalism, animal robustness, they
call temperament. I strengthened and developed my brain during those
terrible years to such an extent that I now act out of it, think myself
into every part, relying not at all upon the instructions of the
uninspired, nor upon chance.”

Ordham had forgotten his dessert and was staring at her, fascinated,
almost bewildered. Again she had lifted a corner of the veil. If she
would but fling it aside! And pity overwhelmed him, for he saw far
behind her words. But his face betrayed little of his emotions, and when
she paused abruptly, he said: “You have an object in telling me this.
What is it?”

“To show what obstacles can be overcome by the power of the will and by
ceaseless mental activity rightly directed. You have no obstacle to
overcome but your indolence, which may, nevertheless, balk your languid
desire for a career. Therefore, if you fail; if ten years hence you are
a mere society butterfly, a drone, which, I infer, Munich is doing its
best to make of you; if twenty years hence you are an old beau, with no
object but to be invited out every night that you may escape death by
ennui,—you need curse no one but yourself. Had I failed, I should have
been justified in throwing myself into the river, cursing life, fate,
your entire sex. I have conquered in spite of every millstone that could
be hung about a woman’s neck. But you!”

He had flushed, and looked frightened. The vision she had evoked was not
pleasant. He answered steadily, however: “Thank you for telling me all
this. I know that no one, not even Princess Nachmeister, has ever heard
one-tenth as much from you. What shall I do to show my gratitude?”

“Make a great man of yourself and study with Fräulein Lutz,” she said
gayly, as they rose from the table. “I think they are bringing those
poor horses round.”

They started by the light of the torch, but on the return journey the
horses were spared, save on the more dangerous parts of the road. Then
they galloped as if bent on destruction. While the carriage rocked and
bounded through a gorge with the thunder of waters below and the narrow
pass reeling in the red flame, Ordham regaled his companion with the
story of the wild black night when the outrider, overcome by panic, had
flung the torch into the depths, and fled shrieking, leaving the King to
his fate. But she only laughed and shrugged her shoulders, and would not
talk until they entered the valley of the Pöllat. The moon had sailed
high above the thick Bavarian clouds, and the great white pile of
Neuschwanstein seemed to be poised in the black void. Margarethe pointed
to a solitary figure standing on the balcony before the throne room.

“The King,” she said softly. “He has his consolations. Who can say he is
not happier in his mystic communion with nature, in his freedom to dwell
amidst such scenes as this, than the mere mortals that pity him and
think him mad? He is looking out now on the three snow peaks. Who knows?
He may be their offspring. Mountains are no mere masses of rock, and he
is no mere mortal. When his adumbrated spirit sheds that gross mass of
flesh, who can say what glorious destiny awaits it? I should like to
meet him out there in space. I feel sure he will reign over a noble
kingdom, where he will no longer be alone, but where only the rarest
spirits may enter.”

“Are you in love with Ludwig—with his soul?”

“Not even that. But I should be glad to know that he, above all
men,—for he has suffered most,—had found what we all seek and never
find—I mean all of us who are worthy of loneliness.”

“You do not believe in mortal companionship, then?”


“I wonder.”

As he handed her out of the carriage in the courtyard they were
surrounded by lackeys, and her anxious maid awaited her. But he said, as
they shook hands:

“Thank you so much—again and again. And I shall call to-morrow.”

                       CERTAIN INEVITABLE PHASES

Somewhat to his surprise, but vastly to his gratification, Ordham, on
the following afternoon, was handed a card inscribed “Hiobe Lutz,”
accompanied by a line of introduction on one of Gräfin von Tann’s. He
had just risen from luncheon in the Legation, and received the rather
formidable looking female in the anteroom. She addressed him in such
German as he had seldom heard in Bavaria, announced that she should
never utter a word of English during his lessons, that he must dismiss
his other teachers and study with her every morning, Sundays excepted,
from ten until twelve. The last was a harrowing prospect, for he hated
early rising; but he had the wit to perceive that here was the force to
control his indolence and furnish his brain, that he would never
fascinate this grenadier with his wiles and be permitted to entertain
her in English. Moreover, he realized that she had received instructions
from Margarethe Styr, and this flattered him deeply. The arrangement was
quickly made and Fräulein Lutz departed, announcing that upon his second
failure to appear promptly at ten o’clock she should consider herself
dismissed. She would not waste her time,—she was assisting a historian
upon a great work,—no, not for anybody.

Several hours later Ordham left a card on Countess Tann, and with it a
note of thanks. But he did not ask for admittance. It cost him an
unaccustomed effort of self-denial to turn from her door when there was
a bare possibility of crossing its threshold, but he had reflected that
he had no right to take advantage of his chance intimacy with a recluse,
nor even of her very marked kindness; moreover, that, having done his
duty, it was her privilege to ask him to come another day and drink a
cup of tea.

But the days passed and it waxed evident that she had no intention of
embracing her opportunity. In ordinary conditions he might have been
piqued, for he was more spoilt than he knew; certainly disappointed. But
even he had his worries, and two descended upon him the day after his
return from Neuschwanstein.

One arrived in the morning mail. It was a request from his tailor to pay
a bill of four years’ standing, a letter whose inexorable business
flavour—which seemed to him sheer insolence—left him aghast. It is
true that he had received several reminders from this necessary but
ignominious person during the past six months, and tossed them, half
read, into his waste-basket. It annoyed him to receive a bill at all,
but that the demands of a mere machine might increase in firmness, much
less hint of “summons,” had never crossed his mind. Until his father’s
death four years since, he had rarely read a bill, or even, extravagant
as he was, suffered remonstrance from a parent, who, regretting that his
favourite son should not have been his first, made a point of ignoring
the fact when he could. Every acre of the large estate was entailed,
Lord Bridgminster’s personal property was small, and there were five
sons more to educate and provide for. The oldest son and his father had
not met for years, but while there was antipathy, there was no rancour;
and Lord Bridgminster, never being called upon to meet debts for a man
who lived the year round in his hunting box, contrived to forget him.
Disappointed in his second wife, after the glamour of her peculiar
personality had vanished, he devoted himself to politics and the son
whom he fain would believe must inherit the solid honours as well as the
brains of his house. Whenever the boy came home from Eton, and later,
from Oxford,—where it rarely occurred to him to open a book,—he was
received at Ordham Castle with all the honours and attentions due to the
heir, and, had his father lived a year longer, the celebration of his
twenty-first birthday would have dimmed the memory of the perfunctory
festivities with which the majority of Lord Ordham had been announced to
the county. And as it grew to be an accepted fact that the Timon would
never marry, the oldest of the second family was so generally recognized
as the heir, that, from the servants up, he was visited with no
reminders of the long interval which might elapse before he could spend
the income that went with the titles. Even after his father’s death it
was some time before he began to appreciate the difference in his
fortunes, for he spent the following summer yachting with a friend, and,
a few months later, left Christ Church abruptly and went for a tour
round the world. He finished in Paris, where, through the influence of
his mother, a place had been found for him, unofficially, in the British
Embassy. Moreover, Lord Bridgminster had managed to leave him two
thousand pounds, and, although this ran away quickly, it served to
postpone the day when he must reckon with a younger son’s portion.

And he had been brought up in that criminal ignorance of the value of
money which has compassed the ruin of so many of the younger members of
the British aristocracy. American fathers may live up to the last dollar
of the large income they make by the constant turning over of their
discrepant capital, die bankrupt, or leave nothing but a life insurance
to their women; but the sons, no matter how indulged, grow up in the
electric atmosphere of a business country; the subject of money and its
infinite meanings is never long absent from the conversation about them
nor from their minds; they witness the rise and fall of fortunes, the
fluctuation of incomes, the accidents to which the most cautious are
liable; and they live through those periodical rabies of the money
market known as panics, which focus the attention of the most careless.
Leisure they know to be merely an incident; they realize that, however
wise it may be to enjoy life while conditions are favourable, it is
equally wise to keep one’s energies polished and alert. And these
energies are born in the blood, which perhaps is the whole point.

There is, save for war and sport, little latent energy in the blood of
the young British aristocrat whose ancestors have too long been men of
leisure. He has no acquaintance with business, and as little premonition
of the serious responsibilities of life as of its ugly contacts.
Surrounded, sheltered, reared in an atmosphere of plenty, with expensive
habits, and self-denial no part of his creed (and the sons of peers
comparatively poor are no exceptions), he has during his father’s
lifetime all the advantages and refinements of the concentrated income
of the estates that go to the head of the house. Then comes the
inevitable moment when he is turned adrift, and confronted with the
problem of maintaining his legitimate position in the world upon a
younger son’s pittance. Readjustment taking place in few characters
except at the conclusion of a series of shocks, and as often not then,
he goes on spending mechanically, expecting that a new deus ex machinâ
will as inevitably appear as the regular if sometimes invisible stars.

Ordham had imbibed the half-admitted principle that those that toiled
existed merely by virtue of their usefulness to the great. It might be
necessary to throw a bone occasionally to prevent snarling, or even for
mere humanity’s sake; but that these underlings should presume to demand
a settlement of accounts at inconvenient seasons—the liberty would
hardly be greater did they solicit an invitation to dinner! That it was
dishonest to buy when you had no definite prospect of paying, Ordham
would have regarded as a principle of foreign growth, possibly American,
wholly plebeian. It was not a matter upon which he had ever wasted a
moment’s analysis; but possibly, had it been put to him with
uncompromising bluntness, he would have been startled and ashamed, for
he was not only kind and lavish, but without conscious arrogance; as for
the word “dishonesty” it never entered his conversation or head unless
some man of his class committed incomprehensible follies and went to
Wormwood Scrubbs.

But if he had not as yet given the question sufficient thought even to
defend himself on the ground that the tradespeople were more culpable
than the fatuous class whose reckless habits they encouraged that they
might suck their life blood undetected, he had long since begun to
resent his paltry income, and to wonder in what torpors Providence
drowsed when she permitted his useless miserly brother to come into the
world before himself. Still, he had felt the actual pinch very seldom,
for Bridgminster, under strong pressure, had twice paid his debts since
the death of his father, and his temperament and tastes saved him from
certain of the snares that are spread for young and engaging patricians.

But if too fastidious and too indifferent for dissipation, his sensuous
artistic pleasure-loving nature, his extravagant personal habits,—he
was one of the best-dressed young men in Europe,—and his careless
generosity, demanded the income of an heir-apparent, and his brother
incredibly failed to settle it upon him. Of the word “economy” he had
not the vaguest appreciation. He would no more have bought a cheap
edition of a favourite book than he would have worn ready-made clothing;
clear type, hand-made paper, and a chaste binding were as necessary to
his enjoyment as the contents they adorned, and he had already collected
a considerable library in three languages. In Paris he had kept house
with two brother secretaries, and, personally, a brougham and a riding
horse. He by no means despised cards and the turf. He had attended the
opera and theatre every night in the week, if only for an act, and he
had made a notable little collection of etchings, prints, and bibelôts.
Moreover, the three young men had done the Embassy credit by the
elegance and originality of their entertainments. When Lord Bridgminster
paid the last of the bills whose gracefully dissipated substance had
added lustre to his name, he announced in no mistakable terms that his
brother would hereafter live within his income or go to the devil. It is
possible that the reverberations of his wrath reached London, for it was
shortly after Ordham arrived in Munich that his tradespeople, whose
existence he had forgotten, began to send in their accounts. Ordham, of
course, had not taken his brother’s proclamation seriously;
nevertheless, he knew that he would have more trouble extracting money
in the future. He relied upon the blandishments of his mother, the only
member of the family tolerated by its present head.

Lady Bridgminster, still a woman of considerable fashion, was always
hard up, always in debt. She had been a beauty of the early Rossetti
type in her young womanhood; that great painter, indeed, had
immortalized her on canvas; and since her husband’s death what she had
saved in food, avoiding increase, she had spent on rare and lovely
fabrics, stones, and distracted dressmakers, that she might retain her
individual style and with it the illusion of youth. She gave her oldest
son much advice, but never a penny. The advice by no means was to reform
his habits, but to find him a rich wife. She was quite sensible of his
attractions and thought he should have established himself before this.
“Bridg is thirty-eight,” she had written him just as he was leaving
Paris. “As likely as not he will suddenly cease to be a misogynist at
forty, come up to London, and make a fool of himself; he would be putty
in the hands of the first clever mother of portionless daughters that
marked him as her own. Then where would be those golden apples you have
grown accustomed to regard as your own (in pickle)? I have always
believed them to be just a shelf too high, and that is the reason I have
been so firm about the diplomatic career; not only because it suits your
talents, but because it will be the means of dazzling some wealthy
American girl, to whom the prospect of a position in the diplomatic
circles of Europe will prove quite as alluring as a coronet—which, for
that matter, you may win for yourself. I prefer an American, because her
relatives will not be likely to live in England. An alliance with any of
the modern British tribes might prove extremely awkward; and who else
over here has any money—I mean for poor dowagers and younger sons? The
Americans, when well-bred, have such a charming independence, yet know
exactly how far to go. And then they are generous and would pay my
bills. Tradespeople are so tiresome. Don’t ask me, dear Johnny, for
money. As well ask courage of a mouse. If I were young enough, or did
not have six boys inadequately provided for, I might marry again. As it
is, my only present hope is in you. Too bad the other boys are not
girls. I should defy any man in England to escape me if I marked him for
my prey with a pink and white complexion on the hook.

“I don’t know what your opportunities will be in Munich, but at least
you will be able to live within your income for a bit; you could not
spend money in a dowdy old German town if you tried—at least no one
else could, but I rather fancy you could spend money in the canals of
Mars. If Munich has no magnet for the American heiress, try to pass your
examinations this year, that you may be launched the sooner.” Then
followed several pages of news about his brothers, one of whom was at
Sandhurst, one at Eton, the others with a tutor in the country, all
“growing at a frightful rate,” and costing every penny their father had
been able to set aside for their education. In a postscript she reverted
to the first theme. “Remember that you _must, must_ marry money. You are
the grand seigneur. You will never learn economy. And why should you?”

Ordham recalled this letter as he stared at the epistle of his tailor.
He longed to send the man a check accompanied by a curt withdrawal of
his patronage. This being out of the question, and Bridgminster
untractable for the present, his diplomacy conquered his indignation and
he wrote a polite note, promising to call and settle his account
“immediately upon his arrival in London.” Then, concluding upon further
reflection that the man was indulging in what the Americans called
bluff, he dismissed the matter into one of the water-tight compartments
of his mind, where it rubbed elbows in the dark with other episodes best

But the second evil was more pressing. For two weeks past, having
exhausted even his fertile ingenuity in excuses for not calling upon a
certain Frau von Wass, he had burned her letters unopened. She was a
Bulgarian, married these twenty years to a Bavarian Privy Councillor
(Geheimrath), barely tolerated in Munich society, which has little
hospitality for foreigners, and indulging her amorous propensities at
the constant risk of her position; the Müncheners, lenient to their own,
or to the outsider they embrace voluntarily, circle like lynxes in the
pathway of the intruder. Hélène Wass was both stupid and clever; the
well-trained instincts of the born adventuress taught her how to
entertain as well as to fascinate men; but she bored her own sex with
her egotism, her imaginary complaints, her tirades against her husband,
servants, enemies, and antagonized them by the bewildering variety and
grandeur of her Paris costumes, her ostentation, and her conquests. Of
plebeian origin, but, with the external traits of heredity corrected by
a ten years’ sojourn in a convent in Vienna, determined to have
admiration, excitement, and money at any cost, her father having lost
his little fortune in speculation, it is possible that she would have
drifted into the half-world had not an anxious relative persuaded her to
marry the wealthy and respectable Herr Geheimrath von Wass, although he
was thirty years her senior and already fat. She met him while visiting
a school friend in Hungary, where he owned an estate.

The commonplace deceit of the girl quickly developed into the subtlety
of the woman, and she found no difficulty in managing a husband whose
ruling passion was vanity. She found Munich as dull, narrow, and
provincial as only an exclusive court society can be; but she consoled
herself with the assurance that she extracted more out of it than any
woman who courtesied to the King by divine right. She had loved much,
but had never been tempted to leave her dull important old husband, and
had long since forgotten the dreams of her convent days, when she had
alternately yearned for the honourable proposals of an archduke and the
untrammelled life of a cocotte. In all the eminent women of the
half-world there is something of the grande dame, and doubtless, had
fate, at the critical moment, dealt them a rich and powerful husband,
they would have become equally distinguished members of society. So it
was, at least, with Hélène Wass. Although Munich never ceased to harp
upon the suggestion of the demimondaine in her dress, her beauty, her
very essence,—whatever they may have meant by that,—she was now a very
great little lady, and no inferior ever made a mistake in approaching

She was thirty-nine, and, without artifice, looked quite ten years
younger. Her light blue eyes, sometimes insolently bright, often soft
and languid, so thickly lashed that they looked made up; her abundant
hair, of a rich hot brown, arranged with apparent carelessness about her
pale eager often excited, little face; her slender, tiny, stately, and
always smartly attired figure—composed a magnet for the eyes of men
wherever she appeared. She had fascinated Ordham, always on the lookout
for the uncommon, not only by her odd beauty, her sprightliness, her
wild morbid moods, but by her subtle appeal to his sympathies. Far too
clever to practise upon men’s senses alone, she had quickly discovered
that the young Englishman was chivalrous, possibly sentimental, and, in
the outer wrappings of his heart, indubiously soft. Unlike Mrs. Cutting,
she did not divine the hardness at the core, that hardness which is the
inevitable result of waiting for dead men’s shoes, of resentment against
fate for putting the shoes on the wrong feet, of belonging to a class
which secretly believes itself to be above all laws.

But she quickened his sympathies so effectually that he had suddenly
found her in his arms, gasping out her hatred of life, her frantic
desire to die at once. He had been stirred, flattered, delighted; but
all these emotions lasted little over a fortnight. He soon chafed at the
halter round his neck, and endeavoured to escape from it without
wounding the susceptibilities of a lady to whom he was still young
enough to be grateful. To escape, however, he was determined; not only
did he shrink from her tropical storms, but—and for once her astuteness
had failed her—he had no mind to be at any woman’s beck and call. She
had sent him summonses at all hours of the day and night, and forced him
to break more than one engagement he would have preferred to keep.
Courteous diplomacy failing, he had been driven to ignore her existence.
Her present command, however, he could not afford to disregard, for it
arrived in a telegram, and announced that if he did not call upon her at
three o’clock she would call upon him at the Legation at four.

He had a bad two hours with Fräulein Lutz, and was so dull and absent at
luncheon that although there were guests he had no difficulty in making
his escape. But he lingered in his own room, cursing his folly, for half
an hour longer; then, offering a cab driver double fare to hasten,
managed to arrive at the “palace” of the eminent Geheimrath at a quarter
to four.

Frau Hélène, familiar with his habits, had not expected him earlier, and
had preserved the equanimity necessary to the rôle she was determined to
play. Instead of being conducted to the Pompadour boudoir, where he
expected to find her in negligée and tears, he was ushered into the
great Empire drawing-room, where she stood severely attired in a black
velvet gown, whose train gave her fictitious inches and accented the
proud mask into which she had set her mobile little face. She saw at a
glance that he was very white and nervous, but more dignified, more
remote, than ever, and only long experience, and the cool brain of the
born huntress, enabled her to restrain her passion. She completely
disconcerted him by putting out her hand and smiling brightly.

“That was a wild telegram,” she said, in her soft, somewhat thick voice.
“But—let us sit quite in the middle of the room where we cannot be
overheard—I felt that I must see you before I go away.”

“You are going away?” Ordham felt like a prisoner reprieved, but
employed the tone of polite regret.

“My husband is so ill (this, of course, is a profound secret) that I
have persuaded him to go to his estate in Hungary and die in peace. Not
that he has the least idea he must die, poor old dear; we call it
resting for a time. As you may fancy, dear Mr. Ordham, I have few
regrets in leaving a city whose insults and slights I have been forced
to endure for fifteen years—I was married on my sixteenth birthday”
(Ordham had looked her up also in the _Graf Buch_), “and now—well—”

He drew a long breath and clenched his hands. She continued:

“I felt that I _must_ see you before I left. I telegraphed because I
felt sure that you had ceased to open my notes—”

“Oh! How can you say such a thing?”

“You were quite right. I have done the same thing myself. But many, many
times! When a woman of my age makes a fool of herself, she does not
deserve half the consideration which you have shown to me. Seven years
may be very few as time goes, but they are an eternity when a woman
commits the folly of loving a man younger than herself—”

“Oh! How can you say such things? How can you—” Ordham, who had been
prepared for worse, felt as if his brain were being flicked with red-hot
whips. He sprang to his feet and strode up and down the room, longing to
tear his hair, to bolt from the house. Frau von Wass continued:

“Allow me to see myself as I should see another woman in the same
circumstances. And while it has not been a happy experience, it has been
salutary. Of course, I knew, when you turned as sulky as Adonis and as
polite as an unfaithful husband, that it was all over. But—being a

“I am so sorry!”

“You say that in precisely the same tone when you forget an appointment
or are late for dinner.” She spoke with soft humour. “But I did not send
for you to reproach you, but for two reasons: to express my regret that
I was so short-sighted as to sacrifice friendship to love, and to ask
you to renew the first delightful relationship during the short time I
shall remain in Munich.”

“Why not?” he asked eagerly, in his immense relief. He had found her
wholly charming during their earlier acquaintance; and was quite willing
to obliterate the entr’acte, were only she. He took a straight chair
opposite her, and did not even look at the little white hands lying so
helplessly on the black velvet lap. He shrank from her, and she guessed
this, and for the moment was filled with such a rage of hatred that she
would have stuck a knife into him had one been at hand. As it was she
dropped her eyelashes, and permitted her red lips to quiver. Then she
looked him full in the face and said quietly:

“It is too kind of you to believe that you can stand me for a fortnight
longer. You are safe. You gave me a blow on the heart that has paralyzed
it—no! do not get up again. I am not reproaching you, merely stating
the case, quite dispassionately, as you can see. Love is a sealed book
to me from this time forth, and, far from feeling reproachful,—ah! dear
Mr. Ordham,—I am grateful. Just so often as a woman loves does she die.
She comes to life again in the course of time, but with less and less of
energy, illusion, her original power to love and be happy. I sometimes
think that love is a congestion of a spot in the brain round the image
of the man, which stares at her waking and sleeping, never to be
banished from the tortured consciousness till Time has drained the blood
from that little spot. And then it withers! And the best man on earth
could never give life to that dead spot again. I am telling all this to
your curious analytical mind, knowing of old how such things interest
you, and being quite beyond all sensation myself. Now,” she concluded,
rising like royalty and holding out her hand, which he took limply, “I
shall let you go—how cold your hand is!”

“I am congealed! You have made me utterly miserable.”

“Not utterly, but a little. You deserve that much. Poor boy!” Her accent
was that of the indulgent woman of the world. “Your education has begun
too early. Nature did you an ill turn in giving you a brain and a charm
out of all proportion to your years. You ought to be amusing yourself
with nice English girls” (she knew that he hated English girls), “not
playing up to a lot of European flirts a dozen years older than
yourself. Be thankful that you fell into my hands. You are now as free
as air once more—only—you will come here often this last fortnight?”

“Of course.” He shook hands with her once more and escaped from the
house. As he opened the gate, absorbed in his miserable reflections, and
quite unaware of his white dejected face, he did not notice a carriage
that passed, nor that the occupant leaned forward suddenly; but a moment
later he vaguely recognized the brougham and liveries of Countess Tann.

Within the magnificent Empire salon, which had tempted more than one
member of the royal family, upon whom restrictions as to quarterings did
not sit as heavily as upon the anointed, Hélène Wass sat with clenched
hands and contorted face. She had fought down her passion at the risk of
a fainting fit, but, well as she thought she knew herself, she had not
guessed how difficult it would be, hardly what proportions her passion
had assumed. She had not had the faintest intention of leaving Munich;
her object had been to disarm her episodical lover, as cold and restive
as a young girl, and with other methods and other arts win him again.
Failing that, she would indulge in the doubtful joy of his mere
friendship. But now she discarded not only the last alternative, but the
waiting policy.

One of Ordham’s charms for this blasée woman of plebeian origin was the
atmosphere of intellectual remoteness in which he seemed to dwell, and
which, combined with his dignity and fine manners, made him the most
finished type of the traditional aristocrat she had ever met. It was
when she realized that she might never penetrate those outer envelopes
of gayety and candour with which he concealed the intense reserve of his
nature, that she had fallen genuinely in love with him; and the love of
a woman of that sort is far more dangerous than her mere passion.

To-day, as he had sat in his straight chair, with his hands resting
lightly, yet with a suggestion of weight, on his lap, completely at his
ease in spite of his distress, his watchful brain throwing an almost
visible shadow over his youth, she had become violently conscious that
to possess this man wholly she would see the earth crumble under her
feet. It was the first time in her life that she had considered
sacrificing the world for any man. Whether she loved Ordham more than
she had ever loved before, she could not be sure, for when a woman has
loved many times memory is the last thing she cultivates; but love,
heretofore, had not demanded sacrifice as a part of its programme. Nor
had she ever felt quite so sick of Munich, its passive impregnability,
the eternal weary round of official dinners she was forced, as the wife
of a Geheimrath, to give and attend; the husband, whom she had expected,
when she married him, to leave her a young widow, had never seemed so
hopelessly hale, the future had never looked so short.

She tore and gnawed her handkerchief until her gown was strewn with
lint, but her brain worked clearly. Only a brief while of self-control
and she felt positive that she could reawaken his interest. Then she
would force him to compromise her in such a manner that he could not
desert her when she fled from Munich. Six months at her villa in Italy,
and then a quiet wedding; and in addition to owning the unfortunate
youth, body and soul, she should enjoy a fair prospect of blinding the
world to her indiscretion with the coronet of Bridgminster. So far, she
had had no occasion to appeal to the young Englishman’s honour or
chivalry, but let her be able to demonstrate to him that, through the
mighty passion he had awakened, her life was in ruins, and he would
marry her beyond the shadow of a doubt. The opposition of his family
would merely crystallize that obstinacy that showed its grim face now
and again amidst the vacillations of a character still immature. To the
young man’s ruined career and maimed life, to his possibly broken heart,
she gave not a thought; or had she, it would have made no difference in
her plans. There is no adventuress so utterly unscrupulous as the
society cocotte, with her demands so much more complicated than those of
the women of commerce, particularly when her sated senses are
electrified for the last time. Hélène Wass knew that she should never
love again, and for love and the pleasure of spending money she had
lived since the convent doors had closed behind her. Money of her own
she now had in abundance, for her father had speculated rationally
during the later years of his life and had left her, his sole heir, a
considerable fortune. Once her lips gave a satirical twist as the
question obtruded itself: should she have had the courage to sacrifice
all for love on a younger son’s meagre income? Then she felt something
like a pang of gratitude that there was no obstacle to her headlong
abandonment to a passion, which, whatever suffering and mortification it
entailed, gave her back her youth, awoke once more in her weary brain
the power to dream, to vizualize a future. Years before, it seemed to
her, as she sat there and heard the heavy feet of her old husband in the
hall, she had resigned herself to the interminable blankness of the

                         THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS

Ordham was unstrung and miserable for quite twelve hours. He went that
night to a rout at one of the embassies, and, dully alive to the
paltriness of life in general, and the absurdities of small courts in
particular, he pushed past a group of astonished royalties with as
little ceremony as had they been hucksters and the occasion Lord Mayor’s
Day in London. He managed to avoid speaking to every one he knew; but at
the end of an hour, realizing that he could no longer ignore Princess
Nachmeister or Frau von Wass, he left the house. In no mood for the
student cafés, with their careless gayety, their atmosphere so dense
with smoke that the clusters of caps on the “trees” were mere blurs of
colour, he strolled into Maximilia, a restaurant fashionable during the
day and early evening on account of its exceptional cooking, but rather
more interesting toward midnight and after. There was little night life
in Munich, outside of the student haunts, but Maximilia was a favourite
resort with the young bloods that had seen enough of other capitals to
scorn the bourgeois hours of the true Münchener. Occasionally there was
a dashing stranger to ogle, but few ladies of the lower ten thousand
found Munich worthy of their enterprise. The pretty waitresses,
actresses, chorus girls, then, as now, had each her patron, for even the
young Bavarian officer is of a domestic turn; and the floating tribe
received such cursory attention that they had been known to cut short
their visits with anathema. But the officers often brought their gaudy
young friends to Maximilia after twelve, and it amused Ordham,
interested in every phase of life, to sit and watch this honest German
attempt to feel as sophisticated as the Parisian.

And only in Munich, perhaps, a city too artistic to have a moral left,
would army officers and their almost respectable partners rub elbows, in
the best restaurant in the town, with painted young men come on the same
quest as the floating female. There were three of these young men here
to-night, all members of noble families, who had neither the energy nor
the ambition in their worn-out blood to cross the ocean and seek to
replenish their equally exhausted coffers in the manly avocations of
waiter and riding master. Ordham usually watched them with a mild
contempt, for they were of his class and he felt sorry for them. But
to-night, as he saw the head of one of the oldest and most distinguished
houses in Europe, a young man with something of Apollo in his slender
grace, and a face of perfect beauty, despite its signal-flag of paint,
enter, seat himself, and cast about the room a slow, anxious, appraising
glance, Ordham, depressed as he already was, felt the very walls of his
soul shudder. How much better fitted was he to cope with the grim
problem of mere existence than these unfortunates? He had a fine
physique, but his indolent habits, long indulged, had made nearly every
form of exertion distasteful to him. Individual as he was, he yet
belonged to that strictly modern type of English aristocrat impatiently
dubbed “literary” by those that shoot and ride and eat and drink in the
good old fashion of their ancestors. These intellectual young scions,
without any peculiar talent or the obligations of poverty, too modest or
too indolent to dream of enriching the arts they love, give themselves
up more and more to the refined pleasures and sensibilities of the
intellect, less and less to the pursuits that keep the blood swift and
red in the veins. With many this attitude begins in affectation, even
though as often it develops into something like a vocation; but in the
case of Ordham the subtler chords of Life’s big orchestra, forever
inaudible to the swarm, had allured him since he could remember. If
there was one reason more than another why Lord Bridgminster disliked
and disapproved of his heir presumptive, it was because of Ordham’s
candid aversion from “long tiresome meaningless days behind a gun,”
“tearing across country at the tail of a frantic fox,” “wolfing food
that would have stupefied the brain of a day labourer.” But if the life
he led was set to the tune of his temperament, he was forced to admit
that he paid toll in the depletion of his physical vigours, for at this
age, at all events, he should have been developing his muscles and
enriching his blood in the open air.

To-night he felt more tired than usual, and as he stared blankly at the
young nobleman to whom the centuries had given beauty and breeding in
their highest perfection, and a sufficient amount of brain to make him
something of a social star in every capital he visited, Ordham was
driven to review his own resources. His income was inadequate for his
mere needs, much less for his tastes, and some unthinkable reverse of
fortune might deprive him of it altogether. Upon what, then, could he
rely, not only to supply his material wants, but those others, which,
never having been hungry, he believed to be far more indispensable were
life to be tolerated at all. He was a lover of all the arts and a pupil
of none. His reading was wide, he was fastidious in his manner of
expressing himself; but what his fellow-students had learned out of
books or in lecture rooms he had but the vaguest idea. The mere thought
of roughing it in any of the colonies was as repugnant as of marrying a
rich woman devoid of charm. “The City,” into which he knew that many of
his kind disappeared, he visualized as a maelstrom of high hats and
office stools without backs. He had an aristocratic distaste for
business, not out of snobbery, of which he was innocent, but because of
a belief, both hazy and firm, that it commanded the development of the
meaner faculties, that only the cynically dishonest emerged from the
gorged arena with fortune in their disfigured hands. To-night, however,
he recalled, what he had practically forgotten, that the moneyed
foundations of the house of Ordham had been laid anew but four
generations since by the desperate heir of the ancient but impoverished
family: he had built a textile factory on one end of his Yorkshire
property. This enterprise prospering, he had built another, and another,
until he was enabled to buy back twenty thousand of the acres
confiscated during the Civil Wars, restore Ordham Castle, unroofed and
sacked by Cromwell, and furnish it with all the horrors in horsehair,
rep, mahogany, and meaningless bronze which preceded the crusade of the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He then found leisure to occupy his seat in
the House of Lords, developed other useful talents, and was raised from
the barony of Ordham to the earldom of Bridgminster. Since then there
had always been an Ordham in Parliament, but the majority of the family
were given over to the enjoyment of sport, and were noted mainly for
their selection of beautiful wives and handsome husbands, rarely
unendowed with the minor blessings of wealth and race. They had
forgotten the origin of the factories still flourishing on the Yorkshire
estate, but now far removed from covers and fields; to-night, however,
Ordham, facing the contingency of Bridgminster’s marriage, or his own
failure to fall in love with a girl whose riches would be a fair
exchange for the position he could give her, bitterly envied his wise
and possibly unscrupulous ancestor, and would have welcomed similar
outcroppings in his own brain.

Or suppose he married for mere love, a folly to which all young men were
liable, and, upon his ridiculous income, found himself with a family
upon his hands? This, however, he felt to be such a violent strain upon
his imagination that he dismissed it, but found no consolation in the
prospect of keeping up appearances, much less enjoying life, on a
diminishing credit. He was too young, and too accustomed to see the
creases of life magically smoothed, to remain dispirited for long, no
matter what the combining causes; but during this hour he sat plunged in
a melancholy so profound that for years after its bare memory appalled

There is a fine line between hypercivilization and degeneracy, too fine
to be a barrier for unwary feet: but the natural nobility and refinement
of Ordham’s mind, combined with its higher activities and poise, had
brought him up short. No matter what his straits, even with his somewhat
cynical attitude that all forms of vice were too inevitable to bother
about, he was incapable of falling to the horrid level of these young
continental nobles. But of what else might he not be capable? As his
imagination, morbidly active, pictured him hopelessly involved, without
a plank to grasp at, he suddenly swore an oath that he would never go
under, no, not if he sacrificed all belonging to him, and every canon
that society had invented for her own defence and deluded man into
believing was handed down from on high. Ordham, fastidiously bred, and
reared above the temptations that men of lower degree must reckon with
in their daily struggle, was one of the most finished results of those
same immemorial laws; but in this sudden vision of the horrors of
poverty, of the terrors and temptations of life, they fell to ashes, and
left him part savage, partly as cool, cynical, and unscrupulous, as only
the supercivilized can be. He would never go under, never come down one
step from the high position to which he had been born. If wishes could
have slain Lord Bridgminster, he would have died that night in his
Spartan bed. Ordham suddenly wondered if he were capable of killing his
brother. He glanced about the restaurant once more, his gaze lingering
on the gloomy face of the last of the line that had been illustrious in
the history of Europe since it had emerged from the yoke of the Huns. He
set his teeth and swore that he could, and without a scruple or a
regret. He would never go under, never, never, never. But it was a
solution by no means to his taste, and he left the restaurant abruptly
and went for a walk of unaccustomed activity in the Englischergarten.
When he reached his bed in the small hours his equilibrium was restored,
and he reflected with amazement and horror upon the vitalities that had
flourished unsuspected in the depths of his being. But his ego was
somewhat excited and fascinated at the discovery, and he fell asleep
wishing that he could talk it all over with Margarethe Styr.


That night Styr sang _Isolde_. On the morning following, Ordham sent her
a box of purple lilies. He expected no acknowledgment, for he knew that
she ignored all offerings; but in the course of the afternoon he
received a note which banished evil memories, including his struggles
with Fräulein Lutz.

    “DEAR MR. ORDHAM: I feel Isolde herself with these purple lilies
    in my hands. She was a great woman and no other colour is worthy
    of her. I have half promised to sing at Princess Nachmeister’s
    concert to-morrow night, and now I have a fancy to cover myself
    with these lilies and sing the _Liebestod_. One needs
    inspiration of an uncommon sort when, unsupported by orchestra
    and footlights, one feels as if one might founder any moment in
    a sea of impertinent eyes. Your eyes, at least, are kind and
    encouraging. I will sing to you—for once—in memory of a
    picturesque hour designed by a king, and one of that unhappy
    monarch’s rare triumphs.

    “Thank you so much!

                                                 “MARGARETHE TANN.”

This note so flattered and delighted him that he went voluntarily to
call on Frau von Wass, and further beatified by finding her surrounded,
made himself so charming to her guests that although, in spite of a
murmured invitation, he would not linger, Hélène was tempted to believe
that he kindled alone in the light of her smiles.

But he had no intention of bestowing a thought upon her except when
circumstances forced him into her society. She had craved no more than
her due, and for a fortnight longer she should have the benefit of all
the courtesy he could summon, but not a shadow of superfluous attention.
Little dreaming of what was pickling for him, he had already consigned
her to the past, and the only wish she inspired was the expiration of
the fortnight. He was too indifferent constitutionally to speculate upon
her sudden change of front, and too inexperienced, despite his
cleverness, to be the match of any adventuress who wore the habit of his
own world. With those profound and haunted abysses of wicked women he
had had as little contact as with that practical side of life which
tapers the wits and sharpens the vision. Ten years hence and the Hélène
Wasses would be read and disposed of in short order; to-day he was but
the good-natured, honourable, gullible young English aristocrat, who has
been taken in time out of mind, and will continue to be until England is

On the following evening he took his chair in the concert room of the
Nachmeister Palast with an inner ferment so successfully concealed that
his face was quite expressionless. For once he did not smile into every
pair of eyes turned upon him. He thought of little but the note of
Margarethe Styr, which he had read several times. Whatever her motive,
he knew that a great compliment had been paid him; and although a too
kindly fate disposed him to take most compliments as a matter of course,
and humility disturbed him at rare intervals, to-night he was inclined
to be not only exultant but grateful.

The immense room, with its old crimson brocades, its heavy dingy rococo
gilding, its cosmopolitan assemblage, was an imposing sight, and Ordham
was still young enough to love society. Parties at Excellenz
Nachmeister’s were seldom dowdy (unless too many royalties were
present), and when, as to-night, the entire diplomatic corps was bidden,
as well as many army officers and high officials, the men, in their
beautiful uniforms, their orders and sashes, made an even more dazzling
impression than the women. Uniforms at least were always new, and gowns
did duty in aristocratic Munich for many seasons, regardless of changes
in style. Waists too were large, and square, and soft; but the materials
that covered them, whether old or new, were very rich, and jewels
conceal many defects. A few besides Hélène Wass could be relied upon to
display the fashions of Paris, and the women of the diplomatic corps
were always resplendent.

When Princess Nachmeister received in this room she wore a powdered wig
and a brocade as stiff as a hoopskirt, consequently was less of an
eyesore than usual. Ordham had murmured his compliments, then after a
hasty glance about—he arrived late—taken an empty chair between two
people he did not know. Frau von Wass, a siren to-night in pale green
tulle, water-lilies, and many pearls, left her seat, took a chair
conspicuously apart, drew her eyelids into bows, and sent him a
quiverful of arrows. All in vain.

A number of distinguished amateurs played and warbled brilliantly; for
in the most musical city of northern Europe no one dared offend the
hypercritical ear with a second-rate performance. Possart recited from
_Manfred_. There was a small orchestra, and a tenor from Paris. At the
end of two hours, when even the most artistic were thinking wistfully of
supper and motion, there was a sharp rustle throughout the _Festsaal_, a
deep intaking of breath: little Baron Walleypeg of the crooked smile had
announced that Countess Tann had arrived at the last moment and would
sing. (But he made the announcement in redundant phrases and tones of
emotion, for he was a German, and he cherished a hopeless passion for
Die Styr.)

She appeared suddenly on the platform at the head of the room and
received a demonstration. Not only was she the artist best beloved in
Munich, but surprise shattered the languor appropriate to so fashionable
an occasion.

Ordham saw his lilies. They were in her hair, on her breast, on the
front of her skirt. But what diverted his attention from this expected
compliment was the surprise afforded by her evening gown. He had seen
her only in the heavy white draperies affected by the heroines of
Wagnerian romance, and in the still more classic costume she had worn at
Neuschwanstein; he had supposed her to be a massive woman built for such
rôles, and the more untuned to private life. To-night she wore a closely
fitting modish gown of maize-coloured tulle, in which the purple lilies
seemed to grow. Her neck and arms were uncovered, every line of her
figure was salient. She was almost slender, clean-limbed, with a low
small bust, and hips barely accentuated. Her shoulders sloped
gracefully, her waist was so round that it looked small if it was not.
Ordham was familiar, of course, with her long round throat, the famous
arms and hands, and he marvelled that he had not taken for granted that
the rest of her figure was built in harmony. Then he wondered what part
that incomparable form, which might have risen from the mould of
Messalina, had played in her unhappy past; and fancied he understood why
she veiled it from the public eye with so complete an indifference.
Again he felt sorry for her, and more determined than ever to know her.

She wore her heavy dark hair in a low knot. Her skin, ivory-white, had
the luminous effect he had often noted on the stage and missed at
Neuschwanstein; her eyes were sullen and heavy, she held her head very
high. To the surprise of her audience she sang them several folk-songs.
When she paused, there was a spontaneous outburst of approval, then a
vocal demand for more. The applause subsided, and as she smiled and
bowed, they took for granted that their desire for these old songs of
their hearts was about to be gratified.

She burst softly into the _Liebestod_. Her face remained as immobile as
ivory, but she threw the soul of Isolde into her voice. It floated
upward in the first rapture of delirium, and few but saw the wild face
of the dying queen rise above the body of Tristan, the castle towers,
the dead Kurwenal, the weeping figures of King Mark and Brängane, the
army of retainers in the background. Ordham, at least, shared Isolde’s
vision of the valiant soul that had replaced the clay, as she sang, in
tones heart-breaking in their sweet frenzy:

    “Seht ihr’s Freunde?
     Säh’t ihr’s nicht?”

As her voice, rising on a higher and higher note, clear and sustained in
the triumph of the seer, the heaven-given vision of the woman to whom
her lost has been restored, it seemed the golden pathway upon which her
own soul mounted to disappear among the stars. When she opened the
flood-gates many gasped and wept; and Ordham, petrified, wondered if all
the passion of the world were being swept out into eternity by that soul
of Isolde, whom nothing but the passion of death could satisfy.

The voice, remote, dying, drawn to a mere crystal thread, sank away on
the last lines:

     höchste Lust!”

A great woman and her passion were dead and the world was poorer.

The applause was long and Styr was forced to return and bow many times;
but when Baron Walleypeg announced that she would not sing again, the
audience rose, and Ordham went in search of her. She had not glanced in
his direction, but he chose to believe that she had kept her word and
sung to him. He found her near the door of the supper room, surrounded
by so dense a crowd of men and women that he could not approach within
two feet of her. But she smiled at him, and a few moments later, when
there was a break in the ranks, extended her hand. When he would have
lifted it to his lips in the German fashion, which he privately thought
beneath his dignity unless the hand were young and shapely, she shook
his warmly, as if to remind him that she was an American. It was
pleasant to feel a hearty clasp again, and he smiled with quick
response, but asked her formally if it did not tire her to sing so
often. She replied that nothing tired her; and then her ear was claimed
by a personage in a light blue uniform embellished with many orders,
whom she addressed as “Königliche Hoheit.” It was impossible to
interrupt her conversation with a prince of the blood, but Ordham stood
his ground and glanced about idly. Nothing could be more formal than
Princess Nachmeister’s dinners, and nothing less so than her suppers,
when her guests, presumably, had had enough of the straight and narrow
chairs of Louis XIV. Only the unfortunate royalties were marshalled to
an alcove and seated about a table on a dais; the other guests stood,
sat on little sofas, grouped about small tables, as they listed; the
women waited upon, not only by the lackeys, but by the young officers
and diplomatic attachés. Now and again the imposing and portly, who no
doubt commanded the incessant service of their hausfraus at home, were
moved to demonstrate their youthful agility.

Ordham’s eye met the fixed gaze of Hélène Wass, sitting conspicuously
apart. He nodded carelessly to the wife of the distinguished Geheimrath,
heedless of the significance of the act, then coloured with annoyance as
he turned to meet a glance of keen inquiry in the eyes of Margarethe
Styr. Those eyes deliberately travelled from his to the siren in green
tulle and water-lilies, and encountered a look of haughty defiance.
Another dignitary offering his arm, she moved away, but gave Ordham a
little nod and smile which seemed to say, “Later—_nicht wahr_?”

As he turned he could not avoid seeing that Frau von Wass was still
strangely alone, and felt that he could do no less than offer his
services. She was quite at the end of the room, and she had time to
observe that he came on a leaden foot. Once more hatred flamed and
almost routed the octopus of her love. She had leapt to the not
unwarranted conclusion that there was an understanding between Ordham
and the great singer whom no man pretended to know informally. The
hand-shake and smile, the challenging glance at herself, caused the
depths of the desperate woman to swarm with fighting devils, rushing on
their armours and polishing their blades. She swore under her breath
that she would ruin him if she could not have him, and her momentary
hatred gave her a poise which, in her ferment, she might otherwise have
been unable to command. She smiled brightly when he finally stood before

“Bring me an ice and a cup of coffee,” she said, in the pretty woman’s
careless tone of command, which he had thought so charming a few weeks
ago. He left her with alacrity; then, as he never could find anything,
it was quite fifteen minutes before he returned, followed by two
servants bearing a small table and a delicate but abundant supper.

“Always the grand seigneur!” she said lightly. “Even one or two
_Hoheits_ are waiting on the ladies, and as for several of my husband’s
portly old confrères—Well! the less one expects of you the better.”

She took a chair that gave her the advantage of sitting with her back to
the room, and Ordham wondered if she meant to treat him to a scene, then
reassured himself with the memory of her formal renunciation. And her
present manner was light and agreeable, that of the gay young woman of
the world.

“See how bored those poor dears are!” She indicated the segregated
royalties. “Whatever else has been my unhappy fate, I can at least be
thankful that I was not born a _Hoheit_. Do you know that all the queer
people of my acquaintance I have met at one or other of the royal
palaces? No wonder royalties grasp at the few liberties permitted them,
and snatch at any straw that relieves their ennui.”

“You met me at court,” said Ordham, for want of something better.

“Oh, not at court. You forget I cannot go to court. We met at a rout at
the Red Palace. Have you forgotten?”

“Of course not. Only these distinctions are beyond me. When do you break
all our hearts by leaving Munich?”

“Fritz puts me off! But I shall get him away almost as soon as I
planned. It is time!” The last sentence was delivered as from the mouth
of a toy cannon, and he jumped.

“What is it?”

“Do you not see that I am ostracized? Did you not notice that I was
driven to seat myself apart—like a pariah?”

“Well, you are here”—he answered vaguely. “It is not so easy—”

“You forget that Fritz is one of the Nachmeister’s oldest and closest
friends—a prehistoric lover, no doubt. No matter how much she may hate
me, she will never insult him. But when he dies—”

“Oh, well, you do not like Munich and would live elsewhere in any case.”
Ordham’s supper was turning to gall. Why would this woman always talk
about herself?

“But the present? And if I should not be able to persuade Fritz to go,
after all? Like all old men he is full of whims. It will be a
martyrdom—I may as well tell you the cause. I learned it to-day. All
your friends and admirers of my own dear sex have suddenly discovered
that you see more of me than of any one else and have formed the one
conclusion that can tickle the Munich palate. They have made up their
minds that as yet you are not seriously in love with me, however, and
have determined to get me out of the way before I have worked your


“Yes—It seems that I have a reputation! You would neglect your studies,
miss your examinations, wreck your chances of a wealthy marriage—heaven
knows what not! So they have made up their minds to put a stop to it.”

“Made up their minds—” An odd light was kindling in Ordham’s eyes,
which no longer looked juvenile, or even absent.

“It is a cabal. I only learned of it by the merest chance—rather, to be
exact, through the consideration of one faithful friend. They have
agreed to cut me, drop me, mortify me so that I shall no longer have the
courage to go anywhere. Meanwhile they will shower you with invitations
that you may not have an instant’s time to seek me. When you no longer
meet me, even see me, of course you will forget my existence, after the
fashion of volatile youth. Even the men that once liked me are in the
plot, for they have guessed for a long time that I was interested in no
one but you; and men are pettier than women.”

She told this preposterous story with so much concentrated passion, such
bitterness and venom of accent, that almost any man would have believed
her. And Ordham was young and full of the vanity of youth. His eyes were
blazing, his jaw line looked even longer than usual. She was quite aware
that he mistook his natural (and British) resentment at coercion of any
sort for righteous wrath, also, that by this time he knew something of
the petty cabals and intrigues of European court society; whose smiling
distaste for truth in any form, he had once remarked to her, made even
his diplomatic soul feel blunt and Anglo-Saxon.

“They have persuaded themselves that they think only of your welfare,
that extraordinary future they all predict for you. But they know what
their real motive is! It is their opportunity to cast me out, a pleasure
too long deferred. And out, I suppose, I must go.”

“Well, I will go with you.” This came through his teeth. “How dare

Her eyes dilated, but she dropped her lashes. She was not so carried
away by her victory as to lose sight of its contributing cause. To ask
him now if he loved her, to pin him down, might be fatal.

“Dare? They have taken you up to such an extent that they look upon
themselves as the natural arbiters of your destiny. They are devoted to
you. They have made you the fashion. Not tamely will they sit by and
watch their work undone. If you want the whole truth,” she ran on with
her amazing fertility, “they even wish to make you one of them. They
have decided upon the Brobdingnagian daughter of the rich Herr von
Schmidt, whose beer is justly famous. She is to be presented privately
to the Queen-mother, and then she will be formally on the market. She
looks as if she had beer in her very veins, and her ankles are as thick
as my waist. But what does that signify? She is the only child of an
ennobled Schmidt and will inherit millions. They will succeed! They will
succeed! They are so clever—and you—you are so indolent—you would
accept any one determined to marry you. It is your destiny to be
managed, and when these friends fling garlands about your neck and gold
dust into your eyes, you will murmur: ‘What a bore, but why not? My
family expect something of the sort. What matter a yellow skin and thick
ankles?’ While I—I—” She pounded the table in her mounting passion, no
longer entirely simulated. “I shall be an outcast. Once out, they will
never let me in again. Fritz, stupid as he is, will notice, inquire; he
will treat me as badly as the rest. I shall have the whole world against
me. I have always had the whole world against me. Those words will be
found flaming in my heart when I am dead. Even if I left Munich, these
people would hound me. It is my destiny. I can never escape it—never!
never! You cannot understand; you, who were born at the top, who would
compel deference for that alone if you committed the seven deadly sins,
if you wore rags in Australia—while I—I, the daughter of a small
merchant,—even if I had married a duke, the world would never let me
forget that I was born bourgeois. And a mere ritter, like Fritz—”

“Oh, please, please compose yourself! Let us go into another room.”
Ordham was cold with terror. A scene threatened him, with all Munich as
audience. She had stirred his anger, his dramatic sense, his pity; but
for the moment he had no thought of her. She controlled herself so
quickly and completely, however, that he was moved to admiration.
“Forgive me,” she said quietly, wishing that she had worn black velvet
instead of this frivolous Lorelei costume, but contriving to look
dignified in spite of her flushed cheeks and suffused eyes. “How could I
forget myself? But I was carried away by the thought of that abominable
cabal—remember that I only heard of it this afternoon. I wonder if they
will succeed?”

“Of course not.”

She stared at him, fascinated, as she had done on the day of their
reconciliation. Again his brain seemed to cast its shadow of maturity
over his face. This singular effect, combined with his youthful bloom
and indolent strength, entranced the blasée woman choking with the dregs
of life. With a last effort she controlled herself again. He had had as
much as he could stand for one evening; better she go home and mature
her plans. She rose and drew herself up, looking far more the great lady
than many of the homely shapeless women whose pedigrees ran back into
the Holy Roman Empire. “I shall go now,” she said. “Will you tell a
lackey to call my carriage?”

He went with her into the courtyard, and as he bade her good-night, she
said softly: “You will come to-morrow?”

“Of course.”

“I shall expect you.”

He returned hastily to the house in the hope of a word with Margarethe
Styr. But she had gone; and he took his own leave immediately, almost
scowling at his many good friends, and wondering if any young man had
ever been thrown into such perturbation before.

                         EXCELLENZ, THE POTTER

The next morning he was rejoiced by the news that Fräulein Lutz was
confined to the house by a severe _katarrh_, and he remained in bed
until twelve, meditating upon the position in which he found himself. He
had slept well—nothing had ever kept him awake—and he discovered that
refreshed by sleep and coffee, to say nothing of the brilliant sunlight
streaming over his bed, he hated his friends less than he had supposed
the night before. He would be managed by nobody, but women were born
matchmakers; it was not an unamiable vice; why should he resent their
efforts in his behalf? He had not the least apprehension of being
married against his will, and the painful picture of Fräulein von
Schmidt no longer maddened him. Last night he had felt almost trapped,
so communicable had been the excitement of that poor little woman.

He endeavoured to analyze his feeling for Frau von Wass. (He had never
called her Hélène even in his thoughts.) Could it be that he was really
fond of her? Certainly his soul had risen in arms last night as she
poured out her wrongs, passionately dwelt upon her isolation. “With all
the world against her.” It was a phrase to affect any man with a rag of
feeling in him.

Unconsciously he shook his head. He was not in love with her. On that
point at least he was quite clear. But he was uneasily sensible that
events might rush too rapidly for his guidance. Were she ostracized on
his account, cast out, perhaps, by an infuriated husband, there was no
folly that he might not be induced to commit, particularly when his
family combined in opposition. Although he had no suspicion of the plot
hatching by Frau von Wass, a new light rose in his mind and played about
the dangers of inspiring such a woman with a desperate passion. It is
true that she had announced her complete recovery, but her eyes had
betrayed her last night; moreover, he could not doubt that she had made
a deliberate appeal to his pity, his tenderness, his humanity. Could it
be that she wanted to elope with him? He broke into a cold perspiration.
A moment later he was out of bed and writing her a note protesting that
he was too ill to call on her that afternoon; he was really in a
pitiable condition and must break all his engagements. Would she forgive
him and let him call the instant he was presentable? Perhaps she would
honour him at a little dinner he intended to give during the following
week at one of the restaurants? Which did she prefer? And would Friday
suit her? He would speak to Princess Nachmeister as soon as he could get

The Wass disposed of for at least three days, he shoved the memory of
her into one of those wonderful water-tight compartments of his brain,
and, returning to the pleasant places, met Margarethe Styr. Whether he
wanted to know any woman again well he was not sure, but his experience
of this isolated creature on the strange night of their meeting gave him
hope that she had outlived the vanities and follies of her sex. He
wondered that a woman to whom the fiery furnace of life had left no
precipitation but mind could retain so much of feminine charm. Or was it
but the magnetism of a strong brain, with the sauce piquante of fine
manners? It would be worth while to discover. No beauty, so far, had
appealed to his senses as odd and complex personalities did to his cool
analytical brain. And how delightful even the occasional companionship
of such a woman might be! Yes, he would know her if he could.

He did not care to call and run the risk of being turned from her door,
but after the deliberate compliment she had paid him he felt at liberty
to write and crave admittance. He was very guarded in expressing
himself, for he had all a young man’s sensitive fear of being laughed at
by a woman so much older in years and in life; the enterprises of blasée
women of the world, and mothers with marriageable daughters, while they
had augumented a self-confidence as inevitable as his grammar, had not
disposed of his natural modesty.

He sent the note by a messenger, but no reply came until the following
morning. It was very brief.

    “DEAR MR. ORDHAM: I have hesitated a long time—but it is better
    not. Friends are not for me. I shall not even go into society
    again for a long while. Think of me as a stage creature only.
    And after all, I am nothing else.

                                                 “MARGARETHE TANN.”

This put Ordham into such a villanous humour that he went out and
lunched alone.

“Does she think that I want to make love to her?” He addressed the
dinner (alas! not luncheon), which was very bad. “Little she knows! And
whoever would be the wiser if I called out there occasionally? Or is she
merely trying to _intriguer_ me? Is it that inflexible principle of sex
which will not let a man go in peace, but must hold him in the toils
even while denying him the little he asks? Or does she fear to step down
from her pedestal? Well, I’ll think no more about her. I hate them all.”

He returned to the Legation in time for coffee, and to help Mr.
Trowbridge entertain several pretty women that had lunched there. Later
he called at the Nachmeister Palast, sure of not meeting Frau von Wass;
she, with many another, never entered the gates save when bidden to a
function. Several old ladies were taking tea with Excellenz, and they
increased our hero’s ill humour by their maternal petting, for he was
almost as tired of being mothered as of being made love to.
Nachmeister’s sole charm was her entire indifference to his health and
his emotions.

When the women had gone, she invited him into her famous porcelain
boudoir, where the walls were made up of innumerable panels painted by a
disciple of Watteau, the windows and chairs covered with fading
brocades; and exhibited a photograph of Mabel Cutting that had arrived
in the morning mail. Of the note enclosed by the young beauty’s mamma,
the wise old diplomatist said nothing.

“Is she not lovely?”

Ordham scowled at the picture. “All American girls look alike. I saw
them by wholesale in Paris.”

“I do not pretend to vie with such experience, but, myself, I never saw
anything so lovely as Mabel. Leaning on that railing, she looks like The
Blessed Damozel. But it should be painted. Of course it gives no idea of
her exquisite colouring—pink and white and gold and brown. And such
soft pathetic eyes!” The Nachmeister looked almost sad.

“Those fluffy American beauties are passée at twenty-five. I like women
to be handsome at forty—as our women are,” he hastened to add.

“Of course, mon enfant. At your age the woman of forty, or a little
less, nicht? is part of Life’s curriculum. So is the unhappy wife who
wants sympathy—and all the rest of them. Fortunately there are the
Mabel Cuttings to marry.”

“Is she being trotted out for my inspection?”

“What if she were? Do you fancy that you can ever do better? Youth,
beauty, gentle blood, millions—and you merely look bored? I have no
patience with you.”

“I am in no hurry to marry.”

“But one day you must—is it not so? I can speak plainly, for I am an
old woman of the world that has grown fond of you, and there is no
mystery about you whatever. Inheritance to the titles and estates of
your family is by no means assured, at best is remote. You are entering
one of the most expensive of careers and your habits are extravagant.
Your income is small and your brother miserly. So do not be the baby you
sometimes look and are not, and give Mabel Cutting a definite place in
your calculations.”

“What has she in her own right?”

“Eight or ten millions—dollars, of course. Forty million marks! Ach
Gott! I have known Adela Cutting for twenty years. There is no doubt
whatever that her husband’s fortune was one of the largest in America;
and I remember perfectly the account of his death and will. There were
no other heirs.”

“What of this plot to marry me to the daughter of Herr von Schmidt?”

“What?” The Nachmeister’s astonishment was manifestly genuine.

“I heard—well, it is not worth talking about.”

“I should think not. Marie Schmidt! You! Her silly mother has never put
stays on her and she will have a Munich waist in three years. And her
complexion, her manners—but it does not matter. I happen to know that
she is to marry her cousin, Heinrich Krauss. Schmidt means to keep the
money in the family. Who could have started such a report?”

“Oh, one hardly knows where one hears such things.”

“Another time come to me at once with any little rumours that put you
out of temper, and I will tell you if they are correct or not. There are
no secrets in Munich from me. I may keep them, but I know them.”

“May I borrow this photograph?” Ordham looked as innocent as Moses in
the bulrushes.

“You may have it—and the original, no doubt, if you are clever enough.
But to tell you the truth, I do not know whether she retains her
interest in you or not. It was evident enough when she was here; but
maids as well as men are fickle.”

Ordham enthroned the photograph on his writing table. He even began a
letter to Mrs. Cutting. But he could think of no excuse that would cover
his long negligence, and after dreaming over his pen for a while he put
it aside until a more fertile moment. But fate pursued its even way and
drove Mabel Cutting far from his mind.

                         THE BIRTH OF AN ARTIST

The following night he was paddling on the Isar when he became aware
that he approached the house of Margarethe Styr. It stood on a branch of
the river that separated the Englischergarten from Schwabing, an old
village now incorporated in the city of Munich. From the back projected
a tower whose foundation was not in the garden, but in the bed of the
stream. Her grounds were surrounded by a high wall, and on the day he
had left his card he had seen nothing of the house but its baroque
façade; but more than one of his friends, when driving him in the park,
had pointed out the tower and commented upon the lonely dwelling of the
Styr. There was a story that Ludwig I had built this villa for a
beautiful woman of Siena, intending to visit her by way of the Isar,
which flowed not far from the palace walls. The lady, however, could not
make up her mind to brave the rigours of the North, and it had become
the property of a romantic young couple, whose grandchildren had sold it
to the present King when the whim seized him to present a dwelling to
the Styr.

Ordham did not rest on his oars, but used them more slowly perhaps as he
raised his face, hoping for a glimpse of the great artist whom he still
permitted himself to admire even if no longer consumed by a desire to
know her. Just as the boat slipped past the tower such a shriek of
horror rang from the lowest of its rooms, that Ordham, without
hesitating a second, reached the shore with a stroke and swung himself
through a window in the opposite curve. He expected to find Countess
Tann struggling in the arms of a burglar, and was astonished to see her
standing alone in the middle of the room, staring down through the
window to which he had raised his eyes as the boat rounded the corner.
He did not enter noiselessly, but it was fully a moment before she
turned. Then she drew a spasmodic breath of relief.

“Of course—you! But when I saw that white face down in the water—your
face down there did look so white—I thought it was—”

Although the room was nearly dark he could see that she made an effort
to recover her natural poise, and she added: “Thank you for coming to my
rescue. Of course you thought I was being murdered?”

“Or Kundry!” He was recovering from his own fright.

“Oh, don’t jest! I have had a terrible shock. You have no idea what your
face down there brought back. I thought it was the ghost of a young man
who once gave his life for me; and yet there is no reason why he should
haunt me. I begged him to go.”

His complete silence expressed his right to hear the story, and in a
moment it was evident that she would tell it. Her head was bent, her
brows drawn, giving her eyes the expression of tragedy most familiar to
him. The shock, no doubt, had set her sense of drama in action. He
wondered if it were ever far from the surface of the artist that lived
for his art, as this woman did.

“I will tell you,” she said at length. “Why not? You have come into my
life in odd ways. As oddly you compel me to talk. I even wrote you long
letters—and tore them up. I have told you that I was on the stage in
America. I always had small parts, but I had some influence,
nevertheless. Over there it is called ‘pull’—but you never use slang,
do you? I scarcely ever went ‘on the road,’ as another phrase goes. But
one summer, after I had been cultivating my voice for about three years
with the old Wagnerian devotee I had discovered in New York, I
quarrelled with a man I had come to hate, and, it being impossible that
he should leave New York, I made up my mind to join a travelling company
that would demand my services for months to come. It was not the salary
of an actress that I needed in order to put the continent between us,
but the protection of the company. Women in that great free country, to
be admitted to hotels, or at least to remain in them, must be
accompanied by some member of their family, by some man who at least
pretends to be their husband, must be known (favourably known), must be
shabbily respectable, or must have a raison d’être. An actress
travelling with a company has always the right to live, no matter if she
can do nothing but dust the furniture. So I went barnstorming, and,
accustomed to luxury as I had grown, I was very uncomfortable,
disgusted; no doubt, had I been less hardy, I should have fallen ill. If
the adventure I am about to relate had not happened, I might not have—I
might have returned to New York in a very different fashion. My voice
might not have been enough. I cannot tell.

“We played across the continent to San Francisco, then up to Portland,
Oregon, intending to return in the same leisurely manner by the northern
route from Seattle. We took the steamer from Portland. It is an infamous
piece of coast, called, indeed, the ‘graveyard of the Pacific,’ but the
weather was fair, and as there are only twenty or thirty wrecks a year,
everybody in that optimistic section of the country expects to be among
the favoured. Before night one of those terrible winds of the North
Pacific suddenly descended upon us. I had often crossed the Atlantic,
but I had never heard such a wind, seen such waves. Only the old phrase,
‘mountains high,’ gives any impression the waves made upon me, at least.
Nearly everybody was ill. I remained on deck, enjoying the storm, the
roaring wind, the great green glassy waves with their soft white combs.
There was no rain, and the sky, as we rolled about, seemed to shake out
the folds of a spangled flag. I soon noticed an athletic young fellow
trying to stride up and down the deck. He gave it up after a time, and,
having helped me to my feet, after I had gone for the third time into
the scuppers, we fell into conversation. He was a Harvard man, had been
visiting relatives in San Francisco, and was on his way to British
Columbia for some shooting before returning to his home in Boston. He
confessed that he had cultivated sport to such an extent that he had
neglected his studies, and intended to take a post-graduate course. I do
not recall anything else that he said, but he looked so young, so
strong, so clean and thoroughbred, that I liked him, as I have always
liked the few of his type that I have met. After a time he advised me to
go to my room and get some sleep. I bade him good-night; and although my
small state-room was close and crowded, I soon fell asleep. I knew
nothing more until we were on the rocks.”

She flung out those famous expressive hands of hers. “That awful scene
of confusion! The sharp animal-like cries of the women! The hoarse yells
and curses of the men! The frantic rush! The horrible darkness—for
every light went out. Finally I found myself on deck—swept there, I
suppose, by that fighting mass of people. But it was all unreal at
first, like a scene in the theatre. I remember hearing the leading lady
sob: ‘Oh, Gawd, I’ll never do it no more, I swear I won’t!’ and

“Then I saw that the atmosphere was impenetrable. I learned afterward
that the captain had entered those terrible straits in a dense fog. And
then I heard the grinding and pounding of the ship on the rocks, the
roar and hiss of breakers. The signal gun scattered the shrieks that
never stopped for a second. The ship gave a violent lurch. I saw a green
wall rushing through the fog and flung myself face downward, throwing my
arms about a smokestack. When the wave had receded and I recovered my
breath, I found myself alone and saw dark objects tossing on the water.

“There were no more screams, but there were other sounds—I cannot
describe them! Suddenly I felt myself lifted up and a voice said: ‘Come
quickly. There will be another wave. And we are sinking.’ I recognized
the voice of the young Bostonian. He half carried me to the top of the
pilot-house, where a few others were huddled. The fog lifted. I could
see still others clinging to the higher parts of the boat, but nearly
every one had been washed overboard. By this time lights were flashing
all along the shore, and we expected every moment that boats would put
out to our rescue. But the seas were running at a frightful rate. I
heard later that more than one boat was launched, but unable to fight
the energy of those heaving mountains.

“One end of the steamer was below water. The other was pounding
horribly; we merely waited for her to free herself and plunge to the
bottom. More than once she slipped—twisted—When morning came the
pilot-house was but a few feet above water. My young friend lashed me to
a mast. How I climbed it with him I cannot tell you, but I did, and was
firmly tied. He stood on a rung just below me and held my hand. He had
already wrapped his coat about me. There was no more rope, even for him.
I saw the others washed away, one by one. They went in silence. At first
I implored him not to leave me to die alone, and he promised that he
would not. But finally I begged him to try to swim to the shore. He was
so strong, and we now could see people running up and down, a boat
launching, even fancied we heard cries of encouragement. Surely they
would manage to pick him up even although they might not reach the ship.
But he would not. He said that a man could die only once, and that he
should be ashamed to call himself an American if he deserted a woman in
an hour like that.

“It will always be incredible to me that they did not make a more
persistent effort to save us than they did. And his life was worth
saving! The day passed. We saw a steam tug, evidently telegraphed for;
but after hanging about for an hour it went away again without making
any attempt to approach us. Another night passed. The gale did not
diminish for an instant. I was stiff, frozen, hungry, a mere bundle of
automatic nerves. Will, memories, reason, all that make the individual,
might have gone to find a grave for my tortured body. But I was safe so
long as the ship gripped the rock. With him it was a different matter.
He was strong and young, but he was not a god, and he was not lashed to
the mast. He spoke to me from time to time, but his hold on my hand
relaxed more than once, and I knew that he was in agony.

“I fell asleep. When I awakened, in a moment or two, no doubt, I called
to him in terror, for, had he too slept, he must have fallen and been
washed away. He answered me in a moment, and then I roused myself from
my lethargy and talked constantly. He held out till morning. Almost with
the dawn I saw a glittering green mountain, that seemed to smoke like a
volcano, rise above the ship, bend down, slip under my friend, roar
again and recede, holding triumphantly aloft that straight young figure.
For the first time in my life I forgot myself and wept for the fate of
another. Then I set my teeth in the face of that demoniacal storm and
swore that I would not be conquered. I had survived Life. I would defy
the mere elements. I thought of my voice, the voice my master had begged
me, literally on his knees, to consecrate to the greatest rôles ever
written. Sometimes he had thrilled me with an appetite for fame,
independence, but intermittently; perhaps because, although I had read
those rôles again and again, I had never heard them, above all never
known the ecstasy of singing them (he made me grind at tone production,
scales, difficult exercises); perhaps because I was by no means giving
my life to music alone. But now, abruptly, the artist awoke to life.
Alone in that raging waste of water, with death tugging at my very feet
and screaming in my ears, I was born into the religion of art, received
the sign that I had been chosen to worship at that shrine, to be blest,
to be lifted to its highest places—I—I—of all women! I saw far beyond
those hungry waters. I no longer regretted my friend. What mattered
it—the death of one mere mortal? I heard the cries of the Valkyrs as
they rode across the sky on their winged horses. The black clouds rolled
apart and I saw Wotan on his throne in Walhalla, the daughters of Erda,
my sisters, about him . . . they besought him. . . . I could see the
streaming of their hair, the flashing of their helmets and shields, as
they ran back and forth, leaned over the ramparts to encourage me with
their cries: ‘Hi—ya—ha! Ho—yo—to—ho!’ I was Brünhilde on her rock.
The waves were fire. Ah!” Styr flung her arms upward, her body backward,
swaying from side to side. “I shall never have such exquisite delusions
again. Never! Never! For one hour—or was it one moment?—I was a
goddess. It was no delusion! I was Brünhilde, awaking from a sleep, not
of a generation, but of the centuries that had gone since she rode into
the funeral pyre. I try to recall that ecstasy on the stage. Some of it
comes back, but not all! Not all! I have a fancy that Death will bring
it in his hand when he comes again.”

She dropped her arms, and her groping hand closed over the back of a
chair. “I remember nothing of the rescue. I awoke in bed. They told me
that I had slept for two days and nights, that I had been lashed to the
mast for forty hours, alone for ten. They asked my name. I gave the
first insignificant combination that entered my head. Charitable people
advanced the money for my return to New York. I had money of my own
there, for I had made profitable investments, when the whim for playing
with gold instead of spending it had seized me. I revealed myself to no
one but my banker and my singing teacher, and lived in obscure lodgings
until I was pronounced fit to go to Bayreuth and ask The Master to
listen to my voice. So far as any one else that had ever heard of me
knew, I was dead, dead with the rest of that miserable company. And I
was dead—for must not one die to be born again?”

                       THE DIPLOMATIC TEMPERAMENT

Ordham had been leaning against the wall, staring at her, carried out of
himself. He had heard the roar of the waters, the fragment of ship
pounding on the rocks, seen the solitary woman lashed to the mast for an
eternity, witnessed the tragedy of the gallant youth in whose death he
felt a poignant sense of loss. Once or twice he shivered, as when Styr
screamed on the stage, or her voice seemed to come from some far hidden
bower, dying of languor, in the love duet of _Tristan und Isolde_.

She passed through an archway and lit a lamp. As she turned and motioned
him to a chair she thought she had never seen any one look so young.
Every memory in his brain but this last might have withered and floated
away. He recovered himself and followed her into what appeared to be a
long gallery used as a living room.

“Thank you for telling me,” he said. “I think he deserved that one man
should honour his memory. Why don’t you sit on this comfortable divan?”

He arranged the pillows about her, took a chair close by, and accepted a
cigarette; which, he felt, he had never needed more. She did not smoke,
but sat staring straight before her. Her eyes seemed to burn her white
face, but her repose was absolute. In a few moments she spoke abruptly.

“Twice I have lifted the curtain for you. I hope I never may again. It
is not good for me and can be of no use to you. All that know me here
are concerned only with my present—”

“Yes, with Die Styr, not Margarethe Styr.”

“I have little private life, but you seem to have been projected into
it, and you may remain if you think it would interest you to come here
and talk to me occasionally.”

He did not answer her, for he was wondering again if he wanted to know
her or not. Was not his personal experience of this famous woman already
romantic and adventurous enough to satisfy any man not in love? Whatever
it may have amused him to fancy before they met, that night at
Neuschwanstein had convinced him that he never should love her. The
woman was too wholly suffocated by the artist. Even now he hardly
realized that he was not in the presence of Brynhildr or Iseult,
summoned to earth by the necromancy of the mad King. Certainly he had
shared her delusion for a moment to-night. But he was a modern of the
moderns. There was nothing of the old gods in him. It was only when Styr
sang that the dead men in his soul awoke and surrendered. Contact with
herself did not stir his senses in the least, although it agitated his

If there be such a thing as the diplomatic temperament, John Ordham may
be said to have possessed it. Side by side with the recklessness of
youth and a sensitive nature, marched already a tendency to regard life
as a sort of musical instrument whose keys were to be touched
delicately, warily; crashing chords to be struck at precisely the right
moment or not at all—whatever the temptation. It was hardly more than
an instinct as yet, but he had made surprisingly few mistakes for a man
of his years. In spite of his British reserve he had little of the
narrow conservatism of his race; his tastes, his sympathies, his points
of view, were catholic. Nevertheless, even the acquaintances made
outside of his own world were never of a character to cause him future
annoyance; and when he tired of them, they experienced pangs of
self-reproach, or chafed at relentless fate. As the natural grace of his
body saved him in difficult social moments, its mental partner gently
extricated him from the most delicate situations. In spite of that
stratum of iron in his nature, he would never be brutal, but he might be
more ruthless and inflexible where his interests, or perhaps his
desires, were concerned, than the more primitive being who sticks a
knife into a rival or beats his woman.

But if insensible to the sex in this woman whom so many men had loved,
still loved, his mind was on the brink of an irresistible attraction. It
was not so much that her secrets and her depths tormented his curiosity,
as that her intellect called to his with that vague seductive promise of
completion which is usually confined to the whispers of sex.

He turned his head and looked at her. Her eyes were staring far beyond
him again, and his slight motion did not attract her attention. Her hair
was half down, but her skin, although white and clear, had none of the
freshness of youth. Her figure, in its loose white gown, looked massive,
immobile. He had a sudden conviction that she would never receive him in
a revealing gown, that he could not be more determined than she to keep
their intercourse on the rational plane. In a flash he comprehended her
intense loathing of his sex. She had demolished a barrier for his sake,
either because she had decided that fate was too strong or because their
chance intimacy had forced her to appreciate the loneliness of her life.
Down in the depths of his being he fancied that he heard a sharply
struck note of warning, but it was stifled under a rush of sympathy and
mental avidity.

He felt an intense desire to relieve the tension of the moment and
uttered the first commonplace that came to his mind:

“Should I not go? You look pale. Your skin has lost its wonderful

She replied indifferently, “I did not put it on,” then laughed. “Are you

“Not in the least. Why should not a complexion be as fine a work of art
as a canvas that hangs on the line? As for nature—I have seen nothing
so exquisite in Venice as the pictures of Turner.”

“I have worked out a make-up which enables me to delude the world into
the belief that I am a beauty. But it is not merely these minor arts
that disguise me; I _am_ transfigured, even when I merely sing Venus or
Senta; and that is the reason I have never been recognized in Bayreuth,
where the elect of America are beginning to flock.”

“You change your eyes in both size and expression, but I should know

“Now, perhaps, that my characters have become a part of myself.” She
added abruptly, “I believe you know nothing in England of Ibsen, but he
is the only dramatist who, in some moods, makes me wish that I were on
the other stage.”

“I made my first teacher in Munich translate several of his plays:
first, because it was a straight path away from declensions, then
because I became interested. I never miss an Ibsen night, unless it
happens to be one of yours. I hardly know whether I like him or
not—yes, I suppose I do; that is to say, he fascinates my mind, while I
resent him with all my inherited particles, that cry out in favour of
illusions and lies.”

“Ah!” She looked at him with keen interest. “It may be those
uncompromising pictures of middle-class life, mean, sordid, bare, that
excite your mere curiosity—you are a pampered baby yourself. But you
are too young to hate shams.”

“I am sure that I love them. Perhaps he merely induces an irritability
of mind, which is a novel sensation. I shouldn’t wonder if I really
hated him. I cannot imagine you in any of these rôles. You do not
suggest his heroines—you whose mission it is to give intense reality to
impossible romance.”

“In other words you deny my right to be called an actress?”

“Oh! oh! How can you say such a thing? I have a theory that Wagner’s
music changed the character of the void itself. The souls floating
downward vibrated to the new harmonies, the least of them; and now and
again a great one was saturated, absorbed, imperiously impelled—”

“I never heard a more ingenious theory, but considering that _Tristan_
was written in ’57-’59, and _Götterdämmerung_ nearly fifteen years

“Souls sometimes sleep a long while,” he said softly.

For the first time he saw her flush. Then she sat erect suddenly.

“I won’t permit you to question my right to be called an actress! You
remember the scene in _Ghosts_ in which Mrs. Alving listens to Oswald’s
terrible revelation?”

He nodded, holding his breath. She did not rise, nor repeat a word of
the play, but he watched her skin turn grey, her muscles bag, the
withering cracking soul stare through her eyes. Every part of her face
expressed a separate horror, and he could have sworn that her hair
turned white. He shivered as if he had fallen into the snow water
beneath the tower, and stood up.

“It is too horrible! I am glad there is no such part in opera.”

She smiled triumphantly and Mrs. Alving vanished. But she turned pale
again as he asked abruptly:

“Was it of Mrs. Alving you were thinking?”

“Yes and no. It was Mrs. Alving on a superstructure. For the moment I
was that tormented mother, but were I merely a clever actress that had
left a pleasant home for the stage, I might make myself
feel—well—half, perhaps, of what I expressed for your benefit just

He asked irresistibly, “Are you glad or sorry?”

“Glad.” And neither had the vaguest premonition of when and where she
would answer that question at length.

“I think I shall go now. It is late and I have kept you up long enough.
Thank you so much.”

“What are you thanking me for?”

“Everything. When may I come again?”

“Tuesday evening for supper, if you are not invited.”

“Of course I shall come.”

They shook hands and Ordham left as he had entered. As he rowed up the
Isar and heard the iron shutters slam, he felt some exultation in the
thought that no longer were they closed to him. And he knew that an
atmosphere both bracing and quickening was his to command. There was the
scent of neither violets nor patchouli in it, in other words, neither
bland conservatism nor commonplace outlawry. He was too modern for the
one and too fastidious for the other. He could not identify scent at all
with Margarethe Styr, not even those rare and subtle perfumes fabricated
for the elect, among whom was himself; and this a little disappointed

                            LA BELLE HÉLÈNE

On strange and brittle threads hang the apples of fate. Hélène Wass had
matured her plan for the following Wednesday night. Like all plans
promising success, it was very simple. She divined Ordham’s nervous
dread of finding himself alone with her, but parties at her house were
always gay, and he was ever more than willing to be amused. She invited
him to dinner “to meet a party of friends from Vienna who were giving
her a night on their way to Paris.” Upon arrival he would discover that
the party had disappointed her, but he could not well refuse to eat her
dinner; nor could he run away immediately after. The Herr Geheimrath
never graced these late dinners of his wife, adhering stoutly to the
heavy midday meal of his ancestors, and partaking of a Spartan supper of
eggs, cold ham, sausage, tongue, salad, and compôte at six o’clock. At
eight he was slumbering peacefully. The dainty French repast finished,
Hélène would sing in her boudoir,—all the newest, gayest songs,—until
Ordham’s apprehensions, if he cherished any, were lulled, and he had
made himself too comfortable to think of moving before eleven o’clock,
at least. Then she would confide to him a long list of new indignities,
visited upon her by Munich society and her old husband, gradually
working herself up into a mighty passion—no difficult matter at any
time—and when, in a climax of uncontrollable excitement, she had flung
herself into his arms, her faithful maid, having awakened the virtuous
Geheimrath, would usher him in at precisely the right moment and exhibit
the scandalous tableau. She would shriek and sob and plead for
forgiveness, which, she well knew, would never kindle in that flabby
mass of vanity, shocked out of the fatuousness of a lifetime. Ordham, of
course, would not plead his innocence, and when she cowered to the
floor, wailing that now indeed all the world was against her, he would
walk over and take his place at her side. There would be no duel, for
the Herr Geheimrath had chronic rheumatism in his right shoulder, and
she would leave Munich with the young Englishman at eight o’clock on the
following morning.

She had not the least doubt that, given conditions as she planned them,
Ordham would go with her, and that between sympathy and Italy—her villa
was romantically situated in the Alban Hills—she could persuade him
that he loved the dainty versatile charming creature who had sacrificed
the world for his sake. And, it may be, the vanity of youth being very
great indeed, she would continue to win in the uneven game.

Hélène Wass was as clever as only a subtle unscrupulous highly seasoned
European can be. She belonged to a class that responds automatically to
the intrigues hatched under thrones and disseminated to the outposts of
society; in whose brains are dark and tortuous recesses furrowed by
generations of ancestors that have lied and schemed for royal favour;
and what birth had not given her, she had industriously colonized in the
rich soil of her brain for twenty years.

But the cleverest of mere mortals, even the wise old statesman at the
helm, is unable to see far into that dense belt just beyond his horizon,
can but guess at the forces generating there. Hélène Wass’s inimical
forces were trivial, almost ridiculous, but less have wrecked life and

She had written a month since to her Parisian milliners to set to work
on her summer trousseau at once, for even then she had contemplated a
house party in her Italian villa, where Ordham would find it difficult
to dodge her. On the day of their apparent reconciliation she
telegraphed orders that it be sent at once. If delivered to her in
Munich, her husband must pay the bill, to say nothing of the duties.
Munich had denounced her extravagance as regularly as the seasons called
their attention to it; but she was, in truth, a thrifty creature, and
had kept her own inheritance, capital and income, intact. The Italian
villa was her only personal extravagance, and Wass supported that. This
trousseau, in spite of letters and telegrams, was unaccountably delayed.
Go without it she would not, and not only for economical reasons, but
because it was already hot in Italy, and she depended in no small
measure upon these exquisite diaphanous garments for the ultimate
conquest of her observing young lover.

It had been a mere chance that had taken Ordham on the Isar that night,
or, to speak by the book, an undetected chain of circumstances. Paddling
on the river in the city limits was a privilege granted to few, but a
friend of Ordham, Count Kilchberg, whose garden sloped to the banks, had
long since invited him to use a boat whenever he chose; and on the night
when he had so unpremeditatedly won the friendship of Margarethe Styr,
he had, after excusing himself from a dinner where he was likely to meet
Frau von Wass, suddenly bethought himself of this novel and congenial
way of passing the evening.

The trousseau arrived on Monday, and, still unpacked, was ready to be
spirited out of the house by the annoyed but acquisitive Lotte, who, as
a guardian of secrets and a surgeon of obstacles, received a salary
rather than a wage, and was meditating respectable matrimony at no
distant date. Lotte, although profoundly indifferent to moral lapses,
did not like Italy and was in love with a valet de chambre in the
Residenz. She was in a bad humour at the proposed flight, but dared not
forsake her mistress, who, beyond question, would give her a wedding
present. On Tuesday morning the Herr Geheimrath suddenly took it into
his fussy old head to go to Berlin and attend a scientific conference.
He invited Hélène to accompany him, and she screamed her refusal, almost
beside herself. Assuming that she was merely more nervous than usual, he
departed in haste, promising to bring her a present, and to return in
the course of ten days; he needed a little vacation and should see many
of his old friends.

She spent the greater part of Tuesday in bed, after her fashion when her
astonished ego was forced to admit that there were conflicting egos in
the world which her stupid patron saint went to sleep and forgot. She
wept, she had hysterics, she bit several handkerchiefs to pieces, she
tormented herself with visions of Ordham’s sudden recall to England
before her husband’s return; finally, in a flash of blinding light, saw
him infatuated with Margarethe Styr. That cordial hand-shake, that
unstereotyped smile, had meant something from the woman who would have
the world believe that she dwelt on a pedestal—in a niche—with a
curtain in front of her. Ordham, true to his temperament, had not
mentioned his meeting with Styr at Neuschwanstein, but Hélène knew of
the visit, and leaped at conclusions not far from the truth. Of course
he was fascinated, no doubt was talking Wagner (they were sure to begin
on Wagner) with her at that very moment.

She sprang out of bed and ordered her victoria brought round in an hour.
She must have movement, diversion, or her mind would become so inflamed
that she could not plan, and a new plan was imperative, unless, indeed,
she found the self-control to await her husband’s return.

It was a cold spring with occasional warm days. Lotte, anxious to shake
out one of the new gowns, expatiated upon the weather. Frau von Wass,
soothed by the thought that she could always command the envy of Munich,
permitted herself to be arrayed in a gown and hat designed to make its
wearer look as like a butterfly as a mere mortal can. The parasol, the
slippers and stockings, the gloves and handkerchief, assisted to
transform her into at least the Parisian she loved to be mistaken for,
and she forgot her woes for an hour in the delight of showing herself.
But she by no means forgot Ordham and directed her coachman to drive in
the Englischergarten, where he occasionally strolled with Kilchberg and
other friends. The beautiful day had brought out all Munich, driving,
riding, walking; the great park was filled with good-natured saunterers,
many of whom stared in open admiration, amazement, or disapproval at the
dazzling vision behind the liveries of the excellent Geheimrath Wass.

But she saw nothing of the young Englishman. She ordered her coachman to
leave the park by the Schwabing entrance and drive to the tennis court
on the other side of the village. This was a sacred enclosure, which,
with all her social adroitness and her husband’s popularity, she had
never penetrated. Reserved in the first instance for the young and
active members of the House of Wittelsbach, poverty in numbers had
forced them to open the gates to the embassies and legations, as well as
to the older families of the Bavarian aristocracy. Ordham had been
admitted to this club as a matter of course, and tennis being the only
form of exercise that he tolerated, he was an expert player, and might
be seen at the courts four or five times a week.

To-day, the air being charged with the elixir of spring, he was frisking
about like a kitten; and the sight not only made Hélène Wass pale with
fury, but induced a spasm of bitter despair. It was manifest that
nothing in him but his youth, his incontrovertible youth, was sentient.
What cared this buoyant healthy young Englishman for the pleasures of
the intellect, for impending examinations, the momentous question of
career? What cared he for LIFE, its problems, its tragic females? They
were non-existent, as was proper at his age, and his blood was sweeping
from his heels to his head in exultant waves, his lungs were full of
oxygen, and he was winning his game.

He made her feel old, forlorn, remember that whether she captured and
held him or not there was one of life’s gates to which she had lost the
key. That belonged to other young people like himself. True, she could
play tennis, and a very good game, but she could not abandon herself to
it, and that was the whole point.

Then, for the first time, she lost her head. She had imposed a severe
strain upon her excitable spoilt temper in disciplining herself for a
week. The prospect of ten days more, during which she must still control
herself, play the rôle of the arch indulgent friend, when she was
devoured by at least four different passions, abruptly declared itself
beyond her powers of endurance. The game of tennis finished, she sent
her footman to Ordham with an imperious summons. He came reluctantly,
for he intended to play another game at once.

“Come with me!” she exclaimed below her breath. “You must! you must! The
most dreadful thing has happened, and you are my only friend. I must
talk to you.”

Wondering what dreadful fate could menace any one so carefully and
exquisitely arrayed, but recalling that he had practically engaged
himself to stand by her for a fortnight, he sent the footman for his
coat and entered the victoria. She waved her hand in the direction of
the Englischergarten, and ten minutes later, leaving the carriage at the
opening of a secluded path in the woods, she led Ordham along the
romantic windings of the Isar. When they were out of earshot, she
suddenly caught him by the shoulders and brought her morbid excited
little face close to his.

“Johann! Johann!” she gasped. (She spoke English perfectly.) “Take me
away! Fritz suspects—he threatened this morning to kill me. He has gone
to Berlin. It is only a ruse! He will return suddenly, hoping to entrap

“But he cannot.” Ordham recalled some of her recent lies, and felt the
necessity of keeping his head clear. “I will even stay away from your
house. Then, what danger?”

“Oh, you don’t understand! It is the knowledge of the sword that hangs
over my head. If he came back suddenly and discovered nothing immediate,
it would make him the more furious. He would ferret out other things.”

“I don’t think he could.” But his blood congealed, and he wondered if it
were the damp woodland after his hour of tennis. That this would be an
excellent excuse for illness on the morrow cheered him somewhat, and he
said with his exquisite gentle courtesy:

“I am sure that you are agitating yourself for nothing. But could we not
talk it over to-morrow? I feel that I am getting a chill—I have not had
a shower and rub down, you know, and this enchanting nook is rather like
a new-made grave. You know how easily I take cold.”

“I don’t believe you ever had a cold in your life,” she screamed. “In
those flannels you look like a pink baby that hasn’t cut its teeth. You
shall listen to me, and if you write me to-morrow that you are ill I’ll
go to the Legation.”

“Oh, for your own sake, don’t do that.”

“I’m beyond caring for appearances. If Fritz discovers that I love you,
will he not divorce me? What matter if Munich cut me first? I know now
that is what they expect Fritz to do. Some one of them has told him. My
life here is rushing to a climax. It is only a question of days when I
shall be cast out for every she-wolf—led by Princess Nachmeister—to
set her teeth in my flesh.”

Ordham, colder each moment, stared at the ground with blanching face. He
recalled the discreet hint of Excellenz. And if she knew, why not
others? He wondered somewhat at Munich’s sudden access of virtue, then
remembered its deathless intolerance of the outsider. Might it not be
true that this poor woman—he had never seen any one look so weak and
helpless, as she wrung her hands and stared into vacancy—was about to
be publicly disgraced on his account? He turned faint and sick at the
burden cast upon his unwilling shoulders, but he made up his mind to
temporize until the last moment.

Her eyes dismissed their fixed stare and met his in an agony of appeal.
So may martyrs have looked when beholding the torch approach the fagots.

“Ah!” she wailed softly. “If you but loved me! Then it would not matter.
My villa in Italy! We could be so happy. In Italy nothing matters. And
by and by all would be forgotten. You are of the elect, and to them all
things are forgiven. But you hate me! You hate me!”

“How can you say such a thing? You have taken away my breath. You
suggest enchanting possibilities, but we must both take more time to
think. And I really must leave this damp spot. It is dangerous for us
both. If you have not come to the conclusion by to-morrow that your
fears are exaggerated, we will talk it over. Shall we meet here?”

“Will you swear not to send me word that you are ill?”

“Of course.”

“Then come to the house. I shall receive you in the salon. If we sit in
the middle of the room no one can overhear a word we say, and did Fritz
return suddenly no situation could disconcert him more. Whereas, did we
meet here—and were followed—how do I not know that the footman was not
told to spy?—yes! Let us go—now—quickly!”

She hastened out of the grove, but at the end of the path paused
abruptly. “I must walk!” she announced. “I shall dismiss the carriage.
It is better, too, that you should walk.”

“Very well.” He resigned himself to another tête-à-tête. The park was
nearly deserted. They walked along the outer carriage drive. He
endeavoured to divert her mind. He might as well have attempted to dam a
flood with his hands. She had reached that pitch of nerves which must
find relief in a torrent of words or in hysterics. Her maid would soon
be methodically administering sedatives; and meanwhile Ordham was forced
to listen to a tirade against Wass, Munich, and her thrice unhappy fate
in loving a man who, for worldly reasons, would not permit himself to
return her love, hesitated to fly to a Paradise in Italy lest a few
ridiculous people cut him for six months. He was appalled at the
strength of the woman’s passion, and distracted at the thought of the
possible consequences. No longer could he cheat himself with the
delusion that she had transmuted her love into friendship, that she
would open her net after the fashion of sensible women of the world when
the captive began to flutter. For once his diplomatic instinct was at a
loss. Again he felt that events were rushing too quickly for him, and he
had not the least idea what to do.

Thus it happened that Margarethe Styr, seated in the curtained depths of
her tower, that she might amuse herself with glimpses of the world she
so seldom cared to enter, sat up suddenly and gazed hard at a voluble
white reckless woman dressed like a butterfly, and a dejected young
cavalier in flannels. She had heard no gossip of these two, but this
vision, linked with his similar appearance when leaving the house of the
same woman a few days before and his careless nod on the night of the
Nachmeister concert, told the story. Countess Tann concerned herself not
in the least with the affairs of others, and it is probable that if she
had not met Ordham a second time, she merely would have smiled half in
pity, half in scorn, at the eternal folly of young men, as manifested in
this moving tableau. But she had unbent to him even at Neuschwanstein,
far more on that night when he had leaped through this window to her
rescue. And to no one else in eight years had she given the least of
herself. That alone entitled him to a unique place in her regard; and to
refrain from some degree of personal interest in so sympathetic a
creature she had discovered to be impossible. Moreover, in spite of the
remodelling of character effected by that strong brain and will, there
was no lack of plain female in Margarethe Styr. She determined then and
there, not only to save this charming young man from the toils of an
unscrupulous siren, but to indulge in the pleasure of outwitting another
woman. She knew enough of Hélène Wass to conclude that her life had
reached a desperate climax which threatened danger to the man that had
magnetized the remnant of her youth. As she rose and went upstairs to
dress for supper, she felt even more stimulated than when about to
engage in a round with the opera-house cabal.

                            STYR, THE POTTER

It was on this night that he was to sup with her. The hour appointed was
seven, and, not knowing his habits, she dressed early. As she arrayed
herself in one of the loose Fedora tea-gowns that Bernhardt had made
fashionable, she congratulated herself upon the inspiration that had
bade him, as he swung down from her window, “not to dress.” After that
scene in the park she resolved definitely to make him understand at once
that although living alone, and an artist, about whom, no doubt, many
stories were current, she was not to be confounded with the cocottes of
society: she could picture the costumes in which Hélène Wass received
her admirers at tête-à-tête suppers! The Fedora gown, with its curved
but loosely fitting back, its straight panel in front that hung from
throat to slipper, unrevealing but by no means negligée, was the golden
mean betwixt the formal and the intimate in feminine attire. And no one
could carry such a garment with more dignity than Countess Tann. A
number of these Fedora gowns had come to her recently from Paris, and
she selected one to-night of which all save the ivory-white panel of
crêpe de chine was of mignonette-green velvet. The girdle, which hung
low, was composed of flexible silver links and had been picked up in one
of the antiquity shops of Munich. Only her beautiful throat was bare.
Her hair was arranged like a coronet. She had seldom lost her interest
in clothes, and once or twice a month entertained at supper Excellenz
Nachmeister, Possart, Lenbach, and a number of the older authors,
artists, and scientific men, who could talk, and who were content to
await her summons.

To-night she smiled at the unmistakable excitement of titivating once
more for a mere man, although he made no appeal whatever to her deeper
feminine instincts. Those had long been dead, and she stared down for a
moment at their graves, almost forgotten under the heavy mounds of
loathing and hatred for the sex for which they had been implanted. She
no longer hated men; she had not even the desire, common to the woman
that has been deeply wronged, to wreak vengeance upon them as a sex, now
that all the cards were in her hands; art had enchained every faculty
and left little room in her mind for the meaner interests of life. But
she was a woman still, or she would not have been the great artist she
was; and she sighed a little as she clasped her girdle, and even
experienced a fleeting envy of Hélène Wass, who was two years older than
herself. She was very happy, she dwelt upon serene heights, and one day
Wagner would conquer London and she would sing there and behold the
world at her feet. But Life, Life itself, had cheated her horribly; she
must die when her time came without one tender or beautiful memory. It
had gorged her with its knowledge, but its lessons had been hideous; and
only her strong will—perhaps the greatest of her gifts—banished their
memory when they rose and flitted, phosphorescent ghosts, across her
upper consciousness. She swept them aside to-night and went downstairs,
grateful that with the power to love had gone the power to suffer; for
she would go out that instant from the world and its music rather than
descend into those buried depths of her nature again.

Although it was ten minutes past seven her guest had not arrived, and
she went into the drawing-room to wait for him. She felt some vanity in
displaying her salon to one who she knew instinctively possessed a
cultivated and exacting taste. It was a large room on the right of the
entrance, with a row of alcoves on the garden side, each furnished to
represent one of the purple flowers. The woodwork was ivory-white; the
silk panels of the same shade were painted with violets or lilacs,
pansies, asters, orchids, or lilies, as if reflecting the alcoves. There
was but one picture, a full-length portrait of Styr as Brynhildr, by
Lenbach. The spindle-legged furniture was covered with pale brocades and
not aggressively of any period. It was distinctly a “Styr Room,” as her
admirers, who were admitted on the first Sunday of the month, had long
since agreed, while sealing it with their approval.

At half-past seven Ordham was shown in, exclaiming: “I am so sorry! But
my driver went to sleep. I am positive of it. I spent the entire time
between Barerstrasse and Schwabing crying ‘_Schnell!_’”

“They are always at least half asleep at this hour. They have reached
almost the limit of their day’s allowance of beer. For that matter, I
often see them asleep in the park three hours earlier, huddled down into
their meridians and trusting to their patient old nags to keep the road.
One drove up a tree in front of my window not long since. Shall we go in
to supper?”

The dining-room was across the hall, a stately little room fitted up in
brown and dull gold. The small table, with its delicate service of
porcelain and crystal, was perfectly appointed, and the simple supper of
_omelette aux fines herbes_, pigeons, salad, and American hot breads,
was so refreshing to Ordham, after the heavy English cooking of the
Legation, and the heavier of such of the Bavarian aristocracy as did not
employ chefs, that it diverted and comforted him. But he had looked pale
and harassed when he entered, and Styr bore her purpose in mind.

They talked, as Hélène had anticipated, of Wagner, and Margarethe
succeeded in interesting him deeply when she spoke of her early doubts
and fears, not of the difficulties of the music, but of the strange
women she must portray.

“I had never heard the rôles sung, you know,” she was saying, as they
entered the gallery by the river and she motioned him into the deepest
of the chairs. “Please sit still. I am given to prowling. And smoke.
Those are Russian cigarettes, and very good, but smoke your own, if you
prefer. I had read those operas over and over,—Heavens, but how
often!—imagining myself the heroine of each in turn; but when my voice
was ready for interpretation, I realized that thought—brain—as well as
imagination, was a prerequisite. Of course I had not long been in
Bayreuth before I heard how others interpreted them, but that conveyed
little to me. As soon as I had begun really to analyze and ponder upon
the characters of Brünhilde and Isolde, I chose to call them from their
graves into my own soul, divested of all the conventions which already
clung to them like barnacles. My ardour was so great that when roaming
alone in the woods of Eremetage, the old park of the Margraves on the
hill outside of the town, I really persuaded myself—and for hours at a
time—that I was one or other of those great women, torn with her
passions, delirious with her hopes, exalted with her despair. My God! my
God! What happiness! I lived the life of the imagination, the artistic
imagination on fire; I gave not a thought to my personal self. Nor was
there time for anything but study. Frau Cosima, regarding me as an
irresponsible genius, found me a lodging with a good creature who kept
me from starving—and the clothes on my back. Perhaps even The Master
laughed at my intoxication,—for it was far beyond enthusiasm,—but I
neither knew nor cared. I was quite mad. Of course such a time can never
come again, for I have learned all the great rôles, and who shall write
others? But at least I am happy while singing them, and throughout the
day preceding the night of a performance I live the part to myself. I
see the Rhine beneath my window, my tower is the Hall of the Gibichungs.
I hear the Atlantic in the Isar and fling myself face downward on that
divan and let the passions of all womankind tear my heart as they tore
Isolde’s when they transformed her into a fate and the avenger of her

Ordham had forgotten Hélène Wass. He would rather have made no reply,
but when she paused, he took refuge, after his habit when excited, in

“That is perhaps your greatest acting—that first act of _Tristan_. But
of course there is no other in which you run the gamut of the
passions—although in _Götterdämmerung_—but really I am not up to
criticism. You are terribly real in all of your tragic rôles. I wonder
how real it all is—if you are capable of sweeping a man out into
eternity with you to-day? You must have been once.”

“I am capable of nothing but acting to-day; and of getting quite wrought
up in the novelty of talking to some one besides myself in this room. I
receive those I receive at all in the salon, but in this I live. Let me
show it to you.”

He followed her about the long room that reminded him of galleries in
certain old houses in England. It must have been very bright during the
day, for the side facing the river was made almost entirely of windows.
The other three walls were set thick with pictures, many of them
sketches laid at the feet of Die Styr by the devotees of another art; a
few old prints and etchings, and an infinite number of photographs.
Ordham wondered how a woman who made so few friends had managed to
collect so many signed presentments, until he examined the signatures
and found that they were all from celebrities or members of the royal
families of Bavaria and other German states. Ludwig had sent her no less
than twelve, ranging from the supreme if morbid beauty of his young
manhood to the pallid corpulence of the present, in which nothing lived
to remind the world of one of the most promising monarchs that ever had
ascended a throne but the deathless ideality of the eyes. Other members
of the royal and ducal Wittelsbachs, kindly and genuine people, who came
sometimes to drink a cup of tea with the great artist (whom they admired
with that true reverence for art that the centuries had bred in them)
had sent their photographs handsomely framed and affectionately
autographed. Ennobled though she was, the fact that she was of those
that received payment for services rendered debarred her from court
functions at the Residenz, but that was all. She had dined with the
Queen-mother more than once, and was invited to the routs at the other
palaces in common with the rest of the Bavarian aristocracy. Although
that strong brain could never turn, it must have admitted an occasional
wave of astonishment, perhaps exultation, at the significance of this
eccentric curve in her fortunes.

Some such thought flitted through Ordham’s mind, but he made no comment,
and admired the graceful crowded room in general. It looked as if the
disposition of the tables and chairs were changed daily, and although
the walls were of a delicate grey, there was colour somewhere, in what
he could not define, so perfect was the harmony, that gave the room
warmth and brightness. At one end a marble bust of Wagner stood alone on
a pedestal. The books were in the tower, opposite whose arch was the
divan with its many pillows.

“You should be very happy in such a room,” he said with a sigh, as he
returned to the deep comfort of his chair. “I can well imagine that here
you can conjure up any vision you wish. I have been here but half an
hour, and already it seems more like home to me than any room in Munich.
I cannot fancy anything disagreeable happening in it.”

“But there are so many beautiful rooms in Munich.” She took a chair
facing him, lit a cigarette, and prepared to draw him out.

“Beautiful, but not _gemütlich_—wonderful word! Either they are
magnificent, like Princess Nachmeister’s, or merely formal, with fine
things in them, or quite awful, with stuffy ancestral furniture that
should have been refilled seven generations ago. My room at the Legation
is done up in chintz and is very pretty and fresh, but it is not—well,
it does not shut out the world as this room does.”

“But your place is in the world. And it is very good to you.”

“Oh, sometimes.”

There being no fire to stare into, his gaze had wandered to the open
window near his chair. Suddenly he realized that the dark object beyond
was a bit of the Englischergarten, and the scene of the afternoon
flashed back to his mind. The vague sense of dissatisfaction that had
stolen over him at the last words of Countess Tann crystallized, and he
turned pale and drew in his breath sharply.

“Has Fraülein Lutz been scolding you? She gave me many unhappy quart

“I can only be grateful to her—and to you.”

“That was a sort of gambler’s throw on my part—I am curious to see how
far you will go in the diplomatic career. Very far, I venture to

“Oh!” He twisted about again and looked hard at the dark panel of the
window. His languid ambition gathered a sudden vehemence as he seemed to
behold a forking road in his future and a sinister pointing finger.

“What is the age limit for examinations?”


“That gives you two years. With Fraülein Lutz you cannot fail to pass in
German. But I find those examinations rather stupid. It gives too many
opportunities to the wrong class of young men, while those more
naturally gifted for such a career are thinking only of amusing
themselves. And after all, an under secretary can acquire one language
after another in the capitals where he is attached long before he has
any but a purely personal need of them. By the time he is a first
secretary he will know at least four languages, no matter how limited
his linguistic talents.”

“How wonderful of you to have thought about a career so far removed from
your own.”

“Is it? In your case, however, I have had the benefit more than once of
Princess Nachmeister’s disquisitions. She has made up her mind to live
to see you an ambassador; and she is quite capable of living till

“I could hardly be an ambassador at forty-four, unless I had had
uncommon opportunities.” But his eyes kindled and he smiled. He was
easily diverted, and even though his ambition might not grow fast enough
to conquer his indolence and love of pleasure before it was too late,
his natural sense of dignity, and a pride both personal and racial,
reminded him, now and again, that it was his duty to take the place
among men to which his talents and his opportunities entitled him.

“Well—you might come back as Minister Resident to Bavaria, and cheer
your good old friend’s last days.”

“Oh!” He had turned pale again. “I may never embark upon the diplomatic
career, Countess. It—I—it is too expensive, I am afraid. It is only in
the last year that I have learned the disagreeable lesson that money is
not to be had for the wishing. When I chose the diplomatic career,—not,
I fear, with any idea of serving my country, but as the most congenial I
could think of,—I had a vague idea that money in unlimited quantities
was my birthright, that it would flow in, every quarter, with the
changing seasons. Intellectually, I accept the fact that I am a younger
son and likely to remain one for another quarter of a century; but
personally, this knowledge seems to make no impression on me whatever. I
keep on spending more than my income, even here in Munich where I am a
guest. How can I expect properly to maintain the position of a regular
member of the staff with increasing social obligations? There is no pay
at all for two years; for many it is insignificant. I scorn to be a mere
hanger-on, professional diner-out. It is my disposition to entertain, to
give as good as I get.”

“Young men, particularly young officials, are in such demand—that need
hardly worry you. And then you can marry. High Heaven has preordained
that young Englishmen of great expectations and immediate debts shall
capture ambitious fortunes. Your family influence must be immense. Cause
yourself to be appointed to your legation in Washington—that Mecca of
the worthy and impecunious young attaché. You will have married a rich,
pretty, and charming girl before your first year is out. I am beginning
to feel that I have the seeds of the match-maker in the débris of my
feminine soul. I fancy that half the American wives in Europe were
caught in their own diplomatic pond.”

“I may never marry. I have little inclination for matrimony.” But he
spoke sadly, for the alluring vision of Mabel Cutting and her millions
had risen with the advice of the Styr. “Besides—well—”

Countess Tann rose and closed the window, drawing the curtains. The room
looked even more friendly, more shut in from the world, than before. He
had risen to assist her, and as she resumed her seat, he stood looking
down at her. He had never liked any one so much, never felt so oddly at
home, since the death of his father. Her atmosphere of mystery had
vanished in this room where she lived her intimate woman’s life. She was
not seductive nor too fascinating, but friendly, intelligent,
_gemütlich_. A wave of boyish despair swept over him. He would have
liked to put his head in her lap and pour out his troubles and receive
her comfort and advice. Although he looked as impassive as the Sphinx,
she knew that the time had come to speak.

“You are in trouble,” she said softly. “I knew it the moment you came
in, and it has been rising to the surface at intervals ever since. I can
only divert you for a few moments at a time. You are not in the least
what you were at Neuschwanstein, and you have a great reputation in
Munich for high spirits. New friends often make the best confidants.
Something tells me that I can help you. Do let me if I can. I have given
you more of my confidence than I have ever given to any one. It is your
turn. And there is a bond—you must feel it as well as I. Indeed—I am
almost superstitious about it, so—let me help you.”

He sat down under this assault, but instead of sinking into the deepest
embrace of the easy chair, after his habit whenever he captured that
triumph of modern furnishing, he leaned forward, staring at her as if
magnetized, and feeling something of the gratitude he so often politely

“You are very good! Why do you take so much interest—you, of all women?
You do not dwell on the same plane with poor tormented human beings.”

“But I did once! Bear that in mind, and tell me what troubles you.”

“I am afraid I cannot.”

“You mean that it involves a woman and that I will put two and two
together and discover who she is?”

“Something like that.”

“You forget that I am not of your world. I enter it on rare occasions,
as a sort of lay figure. None of its gossip comes to me. I have a few
acquaintances, but they know better than to regale me with the scandal
of the town. To me Munich is a mere audience.”

“Princess Nachmeister seems to have talked to you a good deal about me.”

“But only because of her genuine interest. She has never gossiped about

“I don’t think there has been any gossip—no, I suppose you never could
guess. I have been foolish and I am afraid I shall have to pay heavily.”

“Don’t believe all that unscrupulous girls—”

“Oh! oh! It is not as bad as that. Perhaps, though, it is worse, if only
because more intangible. It is a sort of pressure—an accumulation—a
woman fancies herself in love with me—of course she isn’t,
but—well—she thinks that she is willing to sacrifice everything. She
has great strength of feeling, and I am haunted by the fear that she
will carry me away on that current whether I will or not. I do not love
her in the least, but there are obligations—”

“Were you very much in love with her? You do not look as if you had
passed through the throes of the grande passion.”

“I was fascinated.”

“But she did the love-making? If it is what I imagine—a casual episode
with some light-headed blasée society woman who is fascinated with your
youth—I fail to see that you have incurred a permanent obligation.”

He gave her a sharp look, but forgot that he was in the hands of a woman
whom many rated as the greatest actress of her time. Her expression was
speculative, disapproving; there was no canny gleam in her eyes, no
undue eagerness in her manner. It was patent that she was theorizing out
of her wide knowledge of the world and human nature.

“She is not old—at least in looks,—and I don’t think she is blasée,”
he replied, driven to defend his taste. “She is extraordinarily full of
life, of interest in everything; but she is high-strung and takes things
too tragically. It is my misfortune that she fancies just now that I
have inspired the serious passion of her life. No doubt she will soon
get over it. But meanwhile!”

“Why don’t you flee to England?”

“I won’t run. Besides, she would follow. And—well, there _is_ an
obligation. I could have stopped it in the beginning—as I did later,
when I had only the excuse of being bored. But I did not. That I did not
take the matter seriously at any time does not alter the fact that she
did—does. And that seems to give her a hold I cannot shake off.”

“Ah! She appeals to your chivalry, your sympathy, pity! She is a clever
woman at all events. She has played upon—Oh, I have no patience with
such women. They ruin more lives than the labelled women of the streets,
for they make the insidious approach. She wants to marry you, of

“I fancy she has some such idea, but her husband lives.”

“Then she wants to run away with you first.”

Ordham stood up again. The more or less vague apprehensions that had
haunted him for several hours took form and substance.

“Yes,” he said; “I am afraid that is it.”

“Good God!” Styr stood up, her face expressing a horror that lashed his
own brain. “That means ruin, no career—being a social outcast—for
several valuable years, at all events. No opportunity to marry a decent
girl of fortune. Nothing! And you—all the delightful freshness of your
young good looks faded, your enjoyment of life dulled, embittered,—your
splendid pride broken. Oh, you cannot, you do not contemplate such a

“No, I don’t,” he said intensely, although he did not raise his voice to
the tragic pitch of hers. “But she does. That is the whole point. Her
husband may accuse her at any moment. I think that is what she wants.
Then she will confess. He will cast her out. I must go with her.
Whatever she may be, there will be no altering the fact that she will
have courted ruin for my sake, and I cannot desert her. I have been a
fool. I must pay the price. How could I act otherwise?”

He looked so obstinate that Margarethe could have shaken him, but she
was aghast. It was far worse than she had supposed. She was the more
determined to save him—but how? She longed to be alone, to set her wits
to work.

“Suppose you were to be convinced that she had had many other
lovers—which, no doubt, is the case?”

“What difference would that make?”

“Well, none, I suppose, with a psychological young modern like yourself!
But you are too good to throw away. This must not happen. Cannot you
keep her quiet by renewed devotion and let her down by degrees?”

“I am afraid I haven’t the self-command. I almost hate her—except when
she appeals to my sympathies, and then I almost love her.”

“If you were ten years older you would manage it all so well! But, to be
sure, if you were ten years older you would not be in this predicament,
for more reasons than one. I suppose that you have never in your life
done anything you did not want to do, nor failed to gratify every

“When possible,” he said ingenuously. “But I have to do many things I
don’t like.”

“I fancy you would have some difficulty in enumerating them. You radiate
an atmosphere of self-indulgence, and the caresses of fortune. But this!
I must, I will save you! I have learned in a hard school to succeed in
whatever I undertake, and I shall not fail here—”

“You will not try to find out who she is?” He did not speak excitedly,
but in a very low and quiet tone.

“I do not care in the least who she is. And how could I find out?
No—but you are too good—It seemed to me when I sent Lutz to you that I
pledged myself to your future.”

She came up to him swiftly and took both his hands. He stared at her,
fascinated, for she looked stronger than any one he had ever seen.
Involuntarily he leaned forward a little, as if to rest on that great
strength; and that moment witnessed the forging of the real bond between
them. “Give me your word,” she said, “that you will take no step until I
have had time to think.”

“Of course.” And then he felt that his usual ready formula was unworthy
of this woman. “I don’t know,” he faltered; “events might be too

“Oh, I know the pressure of events! But you are not fifteen, and you are
very clever. You can temporize for a week or two. Give her a chance to
cool down and think better of it.”

“I have put her off so often. She no longer believes one of my excuses.”
He spoke with some humour.

“Oh, pretend that you love her, but beg her to wait till you have passed
your examinations.”

“What does she care for my examinations? And if she means to marry me,
she knows well enough that I cannot enter diplomacy blackened by a

“Well, find some other excuse—tell her that you are on the verge of
cajoling a larger income out of your brother—and meanwhile you really
must pretend that you love her more than ever—”

“I cannot!” There was such tragic disgust in his tones that Margarethe
had never liked him half as well.

“I am afraid that you really hate her.”

“I wish she were dead and buried!”

“And yet you are thinking of spending your ruined life with her! Oh, the
folly of youth! But one might as well talk to the winds. What would
become of the world if women had such extravagant notions of honour?”

Ordham, being a man, laughed at this. But he replied, “I should think
that you—of all women—had a very keen sense of honour.”

“Perhaps, but I don’t strain the point. And I have lived long enough to
leaven ideals with common sense. Well—at least promise me this—that
for one week—seven whole days, mind you—you will not take a step that
would ruin your life. It is not so much to ask.”

“Yes—I think I can promise you that. I have a sore throat and no doubt
can develop a case of bronchitis and go to bed for a few days. Strangers
always get bronchitis during their first year in Munich.”


“But I don’t see what you can do.”

“Nor I; but I shall disown myself for the rest of my life if I don’t
think of something. Only I must have time.”

He dropped her hands and moved away uneasily. She might be honourable
according to her standards, but he remembered that she could look like a
fate—and was supreme in the first act of _Tristan_! He doubted if,
given an impulse strong enough to rouse her, she would stick at
anything. But, he reflected, she was not in love with him. The vainest
of men could admit no delusion on that point; Ordham had no more than
his share of vanity, and had been given opportunities to decipher the
danger signals he dreaded. Therefore would she do nothing rash; and he
had some curiosity, although little hope, as to what she might suggest
when he emerged from the refuge of his chamber.

“You are too kind,” he said. “Of course I shall be only too ready to
listen if you can show me a way out. May I come again soon? Ah! if I
were swept away on that current, I suppose I never should see this room

“I do not fancy you would care to show yourself again in Munich for
several years, at least. Come meanwhile as often as you can—except on
the night before I sing, or on the day of a performance. I practise my
vocal gymnastics before you are awake in the morning!”

                            THE SAVING GRACE

It was not until the gate was locked behind him that Ordham remembered
that in his preoccupation he had forgotten to tell his _kutscher_ to
return for him. If any more harrowing climax could have been devised by
a vicious fate to crown the unhappiest day of his life than a midnight
walk from Schwabing to Barerstrasse—some three miles—his imagination
was unable to suggest it. He detested walking at any time, and to-night
his throat really was irritated, his head ached a little. Schwabing
showed not a point of light; it might have been the Alpine village it so
picturesquely resembled. There was a long highway between fields to
traverse before reaching the Ludwigstrasse, and even there he might not
pick up a cab. The stately shell of Munich and most of her contents were
practically dead at ten o’clock.

A sharp wind was blowing from the Alps across the high plateau. Ordham
pulled up the collar of his light overcoat and walked more briskly than
was his habit. Illness might be convenient as an excuse, but as a fact
was little to his taste; although he realized that it was not the worst
evil that could befall him at present.

For perhaps the first time in his life something deeper than his temper
was agitated. He could always stamp about in a fine rage when annoyed,
but he had had little occasion to rail at a perverse fate. Now he found
himself face to face with a distinct crisis in his life—the probability
of disaster just beyond. He had heard Frau von Wass talk wildly before,
but other women talked wildly and nothing came of it. They seemed rather
to enjoy their little dramas than otherwise. He regarded them all as
interesting books—or plays—which he was graciously permitted to read
at first hand. But his own attitude had always been nearly impersonal.
When he had closed the book clept “Frau von Wass,” he had, in the
insolence and inexperience of his youth, taken for granted that it would
accumulate dust in limbo with all of its kind. He had been as much
astonished as annoyed at the turn affairs had taken, but not
apprehensive until to-day. That Hélène Wass was in desperate earnest he
could no longer flatter himself by doubting. He reviewed his own share
in the incident; and while he was amazed that such a price should be
levied for what had been little more than politeness on his part, still
was he far too intelligent not to remind himself that men had paid as
high for less, and too just not to admit that it had been in his power
to nip the woman’s passion in the bud.

Although he was puzzled as well as frightened at this encounter with the
grim visage of life, whose gloomy unsympathetic eyes presaged defeat, he
was sullenly angry with himself. If he had loved the woman or even been
possessed, no matter how briefly, by one of those overwhelming passions
of which he was always reading and hearing, he felt that he would have
accepted the consequences without flinching. But as it was, he felt like
a foolish mariner who had gone to sea without a compass and found
himself justly on the rocks. Unless the unexpected happened, it looked
as if he would be swept out of Munich with the rest of the Frau
Geheimrath’s wreckage and landed high and dry in Italy.

Suddenly another ugly phase of this crisis in his life leapt to his
mind, and he passed through the arch of the Siegesthor with such a
stride that the British Minister, returning from a late card party, did
not recognize him and went on without offering the hospitality of his

Normally there was a faint hope that Bridgminster would once more pay
his debts, those distressing tradesmen’s bills of which he was reminded
daily. His tailor’s was but one, and the aggregate must be close upon a
thousand pounds. But if he openly committed the sin with which his
austere brother had the least sympathy, he would be driven into the
bankruptcy court. That would be a disgrace which would blast his
self-respect to the roots, even did England, never lenient to this
offence, forget it in time. There is a secret tendency in most human
hearts to forgive a lover his worst transgressions, but no sympathy
whatever for the financial muddler. And such a thing was unheard of in
his family, whatever its lapses in other directions. It was bred in his
very marrow to shrink with fastidious disgust from any form of monetary
publicity. To owe money to tradespeople did not worry him in the least
so long as they were sensible and patient, but there was ineffable
disgrace in being blazoned to the world as a man hopelessly in debt.

It was at this agonizing point in his reflections that his attention was
attracted by the peculiar antics of a dog emerging from the
Schellingstrasse. It had dropped something and was howling, grovelling
in evident appeal at the feet of a woman who soundly berated it. The
woman stamped her huge foot and pointed to the object the dog had
dropped. Howling and yelping an almost human protest, the dog picked up
the object and ran past Ordham into the Ludwigstrasse, then discarded
his burden once more, sat down on his haunches, and lifted up his voice
in a series of cries that sounded like an appeal to the winking stars.

Ordham, his curiosity excited, went forward, and bending down, examined
the object of the dog’s aversion. It was a block of ice. The poor beast
was howling with a toothache. Ordham looked at the woman as much in
amazement as in anger. She could have carried the ice in her skirt; it
was inconceivable to him that any one could maltreat a dog. But as he
opened his mouth to relieve his indignation, he realized that any
attempt to penetrate the thick Bavarian skull with his inadequate German
would be a mere waste of time. He picked up the piece of ice and dropped
it into the pocket of his overcoat.

“If you will lead the way,” he said, “I will carry it for you.”

The astonished housewife stared in amazement, ejaculated “Ach Gott!”
then, with a laugh of deep good-natured contempt, led off with a swing
that exhibited the tops of her man’s boots, the red blanket petticoat
above them, and the full flounces of her pantalets. She was almost as
broad as long, her waist line being in no place distinguishable from the
solid expanses above and below. Her skirts were short; she wore a shawl
crossed over her upper amplitudes and pinned behind. A small Tyrolean
hat sat jauntily above a walnut of plastered hair. She was a street
sweeper, inured to every sort of hardship, and not likely to sympathize
with a dog’s aching teeth. But no doubt she fed him as well as she could

The strange procession made its way up the stately Ludwigstrasse,
deserted but for the sentries before a palace. Once or twice Ordham,
contemplating his guide, who swung like a vast pendulum, laughed
silently. The grateful dog flew up and down, or frisked about his heels
in an ecstasy of relief. At the Odeonsplatz were two belated cabs.
Ordham handed into one the woman, the dog, and the ice, paid the driver,
and sank into the other with a sigh of gratitude, not only for the more
familiar mode of locomotion, but for the temporary diversion afforded by
a dog with a toothache! For a few moments he had forgotten his bills and
Frau von Wass. When he reached the Legation his throat was very sore,
and fortune so far favoured him that on the following day he really was
laid up with bronchitis. His servant took a verbal message to the Frau
Geheimrath, which, after sharp questioning, she was forced to accept.

                             POTTERS CONFER

On this same morning there was a brief but pithy interview between Styr
and Excellenz in the very centre of the Nachmeister gardens.

“So! so!” exclaimed the old woman; her grey eyes glittered like ice, the
corners of her mouth were down, of her nose up. “It comes to this! Poor
Fritz! We can save the young man if we are quick enough, but what of my
poor old friend? . . . Ach, yes! You are not interested. He is old.
You—yourself—look full of insolent youth this morning. I have never
seen you in this mood. Cultivate it. You look twenty-eight. Myself, were
I your age, should prefer to look more like a woman than a goddess.
Also! Fritz must suffer in any case, so all we can do is to save the
young man and spare the old one a lesion. Fritz is the vainest man in
Germany or he would have found her out long since. He remains in Berlin
ten days. You think she intends to make Mr. Ordham elope with her before
his return. I wonder! Gott! I fancy it would take more than ten days to
work our young friend up to that heroic pitch. More likely she has
planned a coup of some sort. Otherwise—I doubt. He will politely
promise to meet her at the train. At the last moment he will send a
message—but in haste! ‘I am so sorry! I can’t go to-day. I have a
cold.’ I know all the ingenious devices of that charming youth, and so,
I doubt not, does Frau Hélène. He has not eaten of the big black cake of
life yet, merely nibbled at its edges.”

“He is likely to choke on a slice unless we are quick enough.”

“True. Also! I repeat, she must know all his little ways by this time,
have discovered that he is by no means as ingenuous as he looks, nor as
easy to manage. She moves and lives in a network, a very maze, of
intrigue. Only the devious ways appeal to her. You may be sure she has
some plot on foot which the sudden departure of Fritz disarranged. That
would account for her excitement that same afternoon. I have watched
this little drama from the first, but she seems to have been playing a
deeper game than I fancied—and different! I have watched many of her
little dramas in the last twenty years. Of late it would seem that she
had been lulling the suspicions of our young friend while she laid her
wires. But what and where are those wires? There is only one way to find
out and that is through her maid.”

“I thought of that, of course; but none of my servants know any of the
Wass household.”

“Nor mine, probably. But I do my scheming through no such dangerous
channels. The secret police is always at my service. By to-morrow night
I shall have had an interview with the woman. If she has anything to
reveal I shall extract it with the promise of a position in the
Residenz; that is a bribe more potent than gold—which we will not use
unless we must. As soon as I am in possession of the facts I shall
act—you say he has vowed to do nothing rash for a week?”

“To be ill, if necessary. Fortunately she cannot storm the Legation.”

“Even so, we must act quickly. If the woman is really desperate, she
will find some way to compromise him—and what more effective than a
violent scene in the British Legation? It would be all over Munich in an
hour. But, by all the saints,” Nachmeister crossed herself devoutly,
“that scene she shall never make. We will baffle her before she has
quite lost her patience.”

When Excellenz had bidden good-by to her guest she stood for a moment
regarding the path with drawn brows. Had she engaged upon an enterprise
to deliver the lamb from the panther to the tigress? In a moment she
shook her head. She was a very wise old woman, and she recalled that
Styr had made no apologies, no explanations. She had said nothing about
disinterested friendship, taking a natural interest in a man so much
younger than herself. Nachmeister had long outlived the folly of
generalizing, of assuming that the same set of motives must govern the
most diverse individuals. For the present, at least, Ordham was in no
danger from the prima donna, who, no doubt, had lived her life, and
would hardly waste her time playing upon the weakness of young men.

“But if I should be mistaken,” she thought grimly, “she too can be
circumvented. Ordham must marry Mabel Cutting.”

                        THE IVORY TOWER OF STYR

Two days later Styr stood in the tower of her living room, awaiting
Excellenz, who had sent her a succession of hasty notes. As always, when
the river was full, she had the sensation of floating on the current of
the lovely light green waters. The birds were singing in her garden and
in the deep glades of the park. The Isar itself sang of the glaciers and
snow peaks that gave it birth. From the fields, beyond the heavy trees,
came the dainty uplifting scent of newly mown hay. Usually this scene of
sylvan isolation fed the poetry of her secret life, and in these morning
hours, when the park was deserted, she might people it with satyrs and
dryads, even with Valkyrs, if she wished. But to-day it seemed only the
romantic annex to the exciting drama into which she had precipitated
herself; and it required but a slight effort to conjure up the
gorgeously dressed little butterfly with her ugly old soul in her
desperate face, and the perplexed, doubtless terrified, young man,
dragging his feet beside her.

Styr was by no means in a philosophic frame of mind. She fully realized
that this license in which she had indulged for the first time in many
years, this luxury of active interest in a human being, other than a
student or a chorus girl in distress, would lead far—unless she
promptly locked the gates again. Already her brain was showing a
disposition to offer hospitality to more than one of the great interests
with which the world palpitated. Yesterday she had been on the point of
buying a newspaper. If Ordham continued to call, they would inevitably
discuss all interests under the sun; books alone would never occupy
them; one by one the atrophies in her uncommonly complete nature would
disintegrate, disappear. And she had lived the inner life so completely,
so jealously, almost as isolated in her villa by the Isar as had it been
one of those schlosses on its lonely peak that decorate the German
landscape! That sense of unviolated liberty! It had at times lifted her
spirit to that exalted pitch to which music raises the emotional
capacity of speech. There are more forms of happiness than one in this
world, and Margarethe Styr had solved the greatest problem of woman’s
existence: she was quite happy, and not because she had found the man of
her heart, but because she had eliminated man from her existence
altogether. Whether Nature, that inexorable slave-driver, would have
permitted her to dwell in peace with art and her soul had not
circumstances first made all men hateful to her, was beside the
question. But although she had found happiness, it was at the expense of
far more than the one dream to which most women cling until the last of
their days. She had denied her mind much that it naturally craved, and
she had suppressed those superficial frivolous instincts which have
their own appetites. She often longed to dress (and show herself), in
marvellous Paris frocks, and, never before having known women with whom
she cared to associate (save briefly on Atlantic steamers), she would
have derived much honest enjoyment from long gossips with these friendly
sophisticated women of Munich; she would have liked to know and discuss
all the little comedies, tragedies, diverting weaknesses, in the lives
of her new compatriots. But she had not dared, and the results she had
achieved by her fidelity to the life long since prescribed by her too
enlightened brain, encouraged her to persist. She half resolved that,
having done her obvious duty by a fellow-creature, she would withdraw
from further intercourse with him at once. Better snap this link while
her surfaces were merely rippled, not drift on until all that was
feminine in her was caught in the net of the world again, and this ideal
existence destroyed.

It was at this point in her meditations that Princess Nachmeister was
shown into the gallery, and she went hastily through the arch to meet

“What a picture!” exclaimed Excellenz politely, although, indeed, she
had long since reached the age when she could candidly enjoy feminine
loveliness. “Fancy being able to wear unrelieved white in the morning!
How do you like my new Paris frock? My maid says that the overskirt has
too many pleats on the hips, but for my bones, I think not.”

Princess Nachmeister looked very smart in a costume of dark brown
camel’s-hair and silk and a little bonnet of brown leaves, but Countess
Tann gave it but a perfunctory glance, and Excellenz herself was too
excited to demand more.

“Fritz arrives to-night and comes directly to me!” she announced. “I
telegraphed yesterday afternoon that I must see him at once upon a
business so important that he was not to waste time imagining it, but to
come. He replied that he would leave Berlin this morning. Lotte made a
sworn statement, and has obtained leave to visit her sick mother for two
days in order to be out of the way of Hélène’s claws when the bolt
falls. She is locked up in my house; but I do not wish her to see Fritz,
lest his questions should lead to other revelations that would induce
even him to sue for a divorce. And that would leave Hélène free to
practise on the susceptibilities of our _jüngling_. No, I shall convince
him—and present the subject in such a way that he may escape apoplexy.
Three days hence Frau Hélène will be locked up in that castle in Hungary
in good old mediæval style. I know my Fritz. His heart will never
trouble him again until it develops fatty degeneration; but in his
outraged vanity he will roar like a bull, he will be vicious,
relentless, and in the confusion of his mind will follow blindly every
suggestion I make. How he will hate her, and how he will make her pay!
He will give out that he retires to Hungary for his health, taking, of
course, his dutiful wife. Later, official matters recall him, but the
Frau Geheimrath is afflicted with a goitre and desires to remain in
seclusion. The season over, nobody thinks of her in any case. Oh, La
Belle Hélène is disposed of, and our charming young friend is free to
get himself into another scrape.”

“Not for some time, I fancy. He has had his lesson and is by no means a
human caldron. He will not suspect that she has been shut up on his
account. A young Englishman’s chivalry must be reckoned with—”

“Whatever he may suspect, he will discover nothing. Fritz will whisk her
out of Munich to-night. From Hungary he will compel her to write Ordham
a commonplace letter that will set him quite free.”

“Heavens, how old-fashioned and romantic you still are over here! The
United States might be on another planet. But there is law for women in
Europe. Will she not appeal to it? She has money of her own. Will she
not escape from his castle and flee to her villa in Italy?”

“In theory, but not in fact. Fritz will not be made ridiculous in the
eyes of Europe, no, not if he has to pour hot lead into her ear. But a
threat of extinction and the hope of his speedy demise will keep her
quiet, to say nothing of the fact that she will never escape from that
castle. It is in the mountains near the Roumanian border. His servants
are the wild creatures of that region, and will obey their master, not
only because he is their master, but a mighty sportsman, and they revere
that. I have visited there. What a romantic spot for a honeymoon! But as
a prison—Ach Gott! She will never even get a letter out. When she has
calmed down she will affect compliance, and take care of her complexion
till Fritz dies. Then she will run to Paris, where she will be very
smart and very wicked until she is fifty, when she will take to opium,
religion, or roulette—all three, no doubt. But ach, dear Gräfin, what a
tableau we shall miss in imagination! I could regret it, for I had every
detail from Lotte. Mr. Ordham, with blank rigid face supporting the
hysterical Hélène in the Pompadour boudoir, bored, vaguely apprehensive.
Enter Lotte, followed by Fritz in his dressing-gown and nightcap. I am
convinced he wears a mustard-yellow flannel dressing-gown like the one
in which Salvini strangles Desdemona! Behind them the other servants,
that the matter cannot be hushed up. It was a clever and a dramatic
plot! It is almost a pity that it should not make its chapter in the
unwritten history of society. And Gott! Gott! Fancy being still able to
love like that! It makes one almost envious. It is the last love that
makes a fool of the woman, and the first love that makes a man look as
foolish as he is.”

“I suppose something interesting is happening every moment in your
world?” said Styr, somewhat wistfully.

“All those little dramas are more or less alike. Only you are original,
dear Gräfin, and do, for the sake of this tired old brain, remain so. If
ever you succumb to your sex, I shall curse you. You are a great artist
in histrionics, but I am a little artist in Life, and quite as exacting.
Pay me fifty marks. I had to give that voracious Lotte a hundred,
besides the promise of a position in the Residenz.”

                            ROMANTIC MUNICH

For two days Ordham was really ill, or at least so uncomfortable that
his mind was quite averted from his evil fortunes. But with the quick
submission of his ailment to treatment alarm bells began to ring in his
brain once more. He wasted no time, however, cursing fate and his folly,
neither did he make any effort to consign their achievements to one of
those water-tight compartments of which he was so proud. He set his wits
to work and finally hit upon a compromise which promised to save both
his honour and his credit. Immediately upon his recovery he would go to
England, and by hook or crook get his debts paid. He would appeal to
Bridgminster first; finding him obdurate, he would confide his
predicament to his mother, and he well knew that to avert a scandal she
would raise the money if she had to sell her jewels or beg of her
relatives. Meanwhile he should have written to Frau von Wass, very
formally,—when had he ever written to her otherwise?—assuring her that
he should return to Munich within the month. If she followed him, she
could be kept out of sight in London. Otherwise, he might venture to
hope that before his return her common sense would have revived. If not,
he supposed he should be an ass, as other men had been before him; but
while his chances for the diplomatic career would be ruined, his credit
would be immaculate in the eyes of his world, and that would almost
console him.

As it was prudent to receive no visitors and as he was in no mood for
the fiction of other minds, he arrayed one of his tables with certain
books presented to him by his father long since, and whose contents he
must master before presenting himself before the Civil Service
Commission: histories of Europe, Asia, and America covering the period
between 1789 and 1880; Blackstone’s _Commentaries_, Ker’s edition, 1862;
Hallam’s _Constitutional History of England_; Mill’s _Political
Economy_; Smith’s _Wealth of Nations_. Before now, when ill or annoyed,
he had taken refuge in this austere masonry, and had found its
fascinations quite as powerful for the time as the jewelled streets of
literature where the creative minds displayed their wares. Sometimes,
too, he read them when mortified with the knowledge that he had not
“played up,” “risen to the occasion,” as an older man still gambling
with edged tools would have done; a manifestation of the quickness and
assimilative qualities of his intellect salved his wounded vanity and
induced a temporary scorn of youthful follies. But, truth to tell, it is
not likely that he would have opened one of these books for ten years to
come could he have passed his examinations without their aid.

During the six days of his convalescence he read steadily, and if the
severe diet did not elevate his spirits, it diverted his mind. From the
third day of his incarceration he wrote Frau von Wass a series of
pleasant little notes to keep her quiet, and, receiving no answer,
inferred that she was sulking. As she crossed her letters (she never
wrote him notes), he was thankful for the additional respite until the
eighth day of his seclusion; then he began to feel uneasy and to wonder
if she really meditated an attack on the Legation. He was on the point
of cutting his convalescence short and hastening to London, when he was
astounded to receive the following note from Hungary:

    “DEAR MR. ORDHAM: The most dreadful thing has happened to me! I
    am threatened with a goitre!! I spent a part of last summer in
    the Bavarian Alps—I remember certain villages where every other
    person had one—and the young men on Sundays with their arm
    round the waist of some hideous disfigured girl, as if that
    awful growth were a sort of heirloom! The sight made me quite
    ill; and now I—who am always so particular about water—I am in
    the wildest rage with myself for being so careless. The doctors
    say that it will yield to treatment, but meanwhile I prefer to
    keep out of sight. And you were to dine with me next week!
    Please don’t think me rude. One of these days you will visit
    Munich again and then I shall give a great dinner in your

                                                “Yours sincerely,
                                                  “HÉLÈNE V. WASS.”

Then for the first time did Ordham fairly appreciate the load that had
weighed his spirits to earth, delaying his recovery, driving him to
pound his brain into a state of stupefaction before night. In a moment
he felt entirely well. Flinging his dressing-gown off and Blackstone
into a corner, he began to dress hastily that he might go out of doors,
take a drive, call on Countess Tann. He even felt an affectionate
impulse toward Princess Nachmeister and other friends that had given
much and asked little. He whistled, wondering that he had ever lost
faith in his star; he felt young,—“but young!” as these foreigners
would say, gay, insolent. His imagination took leaps and bounds: he saw
himself an ambassador; Bridg long since retired from a world in which he
had no place, leaving behind him an income which delivered his
illustrious heir from the fatiguing obligation of marrying one;
returning to Munich every year to hear Styr sing, and to sit for hours
in that delightful gallery—no doubt in time she would let him lie on
the divan while she sat in that odd American rocking-chair looking like
a friendly goddess—

But his jubilance came to a violent halt. His mind had tossed up
mechanically her avowed intention to save him. He had not given it a
second thought, so manifest was her inability to play any part in this
intensely personal crisis of his life. He recalled her eager insistence
that he grant her a week, the strength that had pulled him toward her
like a magnet, remembered that she had attempted greater things than
foiling a silly woman and failed in none of them.

The blood mounted to his hair, he pressed his lips together until their
soft boyish curves were obliterated. A wave of shame, anger, rebellion,
rose and choked him.

In a few moments it receded, left him quite cold. He was a wise young
man, in spite of follies. Whatever had been done—assuming that
vivacious note from Hungary to have been written under coercion—had
been carried to a finish. The episode was over. Frau von Wass announced
that fact herself. If mystery were here, it were a mystery best
unsolved. A water-tight compartment opened, closed. He refused even to
harbour a natural curiosity.

He returned to the pleasant occupation of arraying himself, one in which
he still took as much pleasure as any girl. Hines, his man, was ill, but
he was too happy to resent the trifling exertion involved in a lonely
toilet. It was a brilliant morning in late spring and he selected socks,
necktie, and handkerchief of a delicate sage green, and a dull grey suit
cut in a fashion that often tempted even the officers to turn and look
at him. Much to his chagrin, no part of his morning was ever wasted at
the barber’s. When he played tennis he exposed an arm with a proper
filamentous surface, and on the top of his head his hair, a light
burnished brown, grew as thickly as sprouting corn; but never a blade
had appeared on his face. For this he should have been grateful, as his
chief claim to regular beauty was the perfect oval of his face and the
clean yet rounded outline of the long jaw; but he yearned for a beard to
shave as a girl yearns for her first adorer to maltreat.

He finished his toilet in the course of time, sauntered out of the
Legation, and, entering the cab that had awaited him forty minutes,
concluded to drive for an hour, as it was too early to call. The
_kutscher_, whose vast expanse looked as if about to burst through its
rusty old livery, hunched down into himself after the fashion of his
kind, and, with his high battered hat tilted on one side of his red
face, his eyes half closed, and apparently in momentary danger of
rolling from his perch, gave the Munich _droschke_ that final touch of
style which is the despair of Paris and Berlin.

But he drove his fare safely and slowly about a city, which after a
week’s tormented seclusion seemed quite the most beautiful in the world.
The stately Renaissance capital with its Gothic corners; its old palaces
and modern public buildings, the former severe, the new ornate but
dignified and magnificent: its churches representing the vagaries of all
architectures; its oblongs and squares of green, set with statues of
public men and gushing fountains—torrents of sparkling water as free
and crystal as Alpine torrents; its classic Königplatz, as severe and
beautiful as Rome in the days of the Cæsars; its superb statues to the
Bavarian rulers that had transformed a mediæval stronghold into the most
artistic city in Europe; its innumerable terraces for beer drinking and
coffee; its winding river of many branches and massive bridges, poetical
name, and strange colour like melted ice reflecting pale green jewels;
and then the fields and woods, the stately drives and winding ways, of
the Englischergarten, where naught of Munich save its irregular but fine
and soaring sky-line can be seen,—all go to the making of a city whose
like is to be found nowhere on earth, and in which one can linger
longest alone.

The Ludwigstrasse, one of the most imposing streets in Europe, lined
from end to end with the high flat façades of the Italian Renaissance,
starts from the Feldherrnhalle, a copy of the famous Loggia in Florence,
and terminates far down in the perspective with the Siegesthor, a
triumphal arch in the fashion of Constantine’s, but surmounted by a
colossal “Bavaria” driving her lions in the direction of Prussia!

As Ordham’s cab turned into this street to-day, he found it crowded with
people, for it was one of those saints’ days, so numerous in the
Bavarian calendar, when every Münchener closes his shop, and, if the
weather be fine, walks the streets and fills the churches and cafés with
his brood. The students too were celebrating, either the saint or some
private deity of their own, for open _fiakers_ were full of them: blue
caps, green caps, red caps, according to their clubs, but all with the
same slashed faces, the same supreme approval of themselves and the
institution of universities, which gave so many of them their only
chance in life to play. Here and there among the throng were the more
impressive figures of officials in brass headgear and gala uniform,
white or the dazzling light Bavarian blue. Royal blue carriages, with
coachmen and footmen in blue and white livery, were leaving the Residenz
gardens, evidently bound for a family reunion at another palace.
Everywhere was life, movement, gayety, except, to be sure, in the
figures of the sentries standing before the palaces. These were as
wooden as only a German soldier on duty can be, but, although they
looked as stupid as no doubt they were, their eyes followed the throng.

Overhead, in the rich blue sky (the royal shade!) hung those low soft
foam-white masses of clouds composed by Nature for Bavaria alone; the
air was warm and light; not a breeze brought down the chill of Alpine
snows; although from highest windows the sharp tumbling crowded peaks
might be seen glittering through the haze that promised fine weather.

Ordham, as happy as if care had never approached him, lounged in the
corner of his uncomfortable _droschke_ and wondered why people went to
Italy: here there was so much of Italy, so much more besides. The old
Saxon at the base of his centuplicated self always stirred amiably at
the sight of the good-natured German crowd (unless it jostled him), and
nowhere was that crowd so good-natured as in Bavaria. It was too
accustomed to its liberal allowance of daily beer ever to overdrink or
crave the excitement of spirits; and although the students occasionally
took pride in spurring on their seasoned constitutions to a point which
enabled them to sing in the streets all night, even they found it too
much of an effort, and transgressed but seldom. It is only the American
student in these German universities and art schools who, unfamiliar in
his home with alcohol in any form, often becomes a sot; and is a
despicable object to behold, where the European is merely absurd.

There was scarcely a factory in the neighbourhood of Munich, little
business outside of its shops, which opened late and closed early, no
poverty, a prevailing belief that life was made to enjoy, not to take
with the fatiguing seriousness of northern climes. The Bavarian
understands Italy far better than he will ever understand Prussia.

Ordham, driving slowly through this slowly moving, smiling throng, bent
only upon innocent enjoyment, wondered a little that it should
practically be the first to welcome all that was distempered in the arts
of literature, music, painting, and the drama (those temporary but
recurring aberrations, which, in the present instance, were ripening to
produce the gifted but dislocated brains of Richard Strauss, Wedekind,
and the ultra Secessionists). A people that were happy and simple by
nature, yet capable of appreciating Wagner when encouraged by their
King, might be expected to turn from this sufficient intoxication of
their mental senses to the relief of plays and romances that were either
serious in the good old style or merely frolicsome. But the plays
presented in the theatres of Munich were enough to make Paris nervously
try on her bays; and the greater and more accomplished city had never
dreamed of exhibiting in the shop windows of her fashionable streets
covers of books so ingenuously shameless. To shock a Münchener, the most
domesticated, virtuous, bourgeois, must always have been as difficult as
to persuade some Americans that human nature is made up of
inconsistencies; but Ordham, at least, had never been more interested in
watching the stolid children at a Spanish bull-fight, than these good,
homely, soft-waisted people of Bavaria relishing the indecencies of
their stage, their expression much the same as when they sat with their
elbows on a table in a restaurant and devoured a dinner lasting two
hours without raising their eyes. That the lower class of Bavaria was
one of the most unmoral in the world, the percentage of illegitimacy
being inordinately high, was beside the question, as this was not the
class that filled the theatres and bought the paper-covered novels. It
was not even the court society that kept the theatres open, for social
diversions were many, even if no longer as brilliant as formerly: the
theatres then as now were filled night after night with the phlegmatic
exemplary bourgeoisie, all of whom ambled home at the end of a
performance designed to spare what imaginations they possessed, supped
on sausage, black bread, and beer, and snored in stuffy ugly rooms
without a dream.

Perhaps this echo of domestic rhythm explains all.

But Ordham soon dismissed the shortcomings of a city he hoped to revisit
many times in the course of his life. A crowd of peasants trooped
through the Siegesthor, which he was leisurely approaching on his way to
the villa of Countess Tann. They had come down from their village in the
Bavarian Alps to assist in the festivities of Schwabing, and were now
bound for one of the humbler cafés of the city. They were in gala
attire; the women homely, shapeless, sunburnt, their plastered hair
surmounted by a flat round hat that looked like a lid, and probably
represented Fashion making her first essay in headgear; the thick full
skirt swayed as if hooped, its ugliness offset, however, by the
short-waisted white bodice over which was laced a silk or velvet
corselet, much decorated with silver chains, buttons, brooches,
filigree, and seed pearls. The short skirts revealed large flat feet
made conspicuous by their proud owners with white open-work stockings,
and low shoes fitted with tassels, bows, and silver buckles. The men
were straighter, better set up, improved by their coats of tan. They
wore short black leather trousers embroidered with green, lively
waistcoats, white shirts, black velvet jackets embroidered with green,
and almost as much silver as the women. Their thick knitted stockings of
grey and green exposed both knee and ankle, and all wore the little
green Alpine hat with its eagle’s feather, and smoked a pipe a yard long
with a painted bowl. On the whole they were vastly more attractive than
the average young Münchener with his high collar, red face, tight and
ill-cut Sunday clothes.

Suddenly, far down the Leopoldstrasse, which continues the Ludwigstrasse
beyond the arch, appeared a cloud of dust. From it emerged mounted
police. They galloped down the highway, waving the crowds to the
pavements, the vehicles to the very curbs. This could mean but one
phenomenon, and although Ordham coloured with annoyance at being swept
aside with the rabble, he stood up in his cab to obtain a better view. A
moment later, escorted by a cavalry guard in brilliant uniforms, a
carriage became visible, its six horses galloping as if pursued by the
furies of hell. Ordham held his breath, expecting an accident in the
tunnel of the Siegesthor, but the carriage shot through without swerving
a hair’s breadth; and as Ludwig stood suddenly upright, all that vast
concourse, that now so rarely saw their King, set up a shout that made
even the old cab horses start and paw the ground.

“_Heil! Heil! Unserem König, Heil! Hoch Ludwig! Hoch! Hoch! Hoch!_”

A flush rose to the heavy pallid face of the King, and his beautiful
restless eyes sparkled, he smiled graciously. But he was always the
conscious actor, and as the carriage flew up the street, as if the
horses indeed were winged, he stood with his arms folded, his head high,
as if already on a pedestal instead of in a bounding vehicle. Little
wonder the Bavarians adored a monarch ever able to furnish them with
impromptu theatricals. They cheered and yelled, waved hats, parasols,
and handkerchiefs, until the Englishman felt the blood racing in his own
veins. No doubt it raced in the King’s. The hearts of the Bavarians
never wavered in their loyalty to this romanticist, who to the last had
something of the immortal gods in his make-up. Had he shown himself
spectacularly during those fatal days when arrest impended, but while
escape from Neuschwanstein was still possible, his capital would have
flocked to his standard and intimidated the ministry. But Ludwig had
cultivated the tragic attitude too long.

The King vanished almost as quickly as he had come. Ordham’s cab ambled
on its way: through the Siegesthor, along the still half-rustic
Leopoldstrasse, and into the village of Schwabing. Here the narrow
zigzag streets, the rural lanes, the riverside, the little beer gardens,
were as thronged as the city, while opposite, in the Englischergarten,
there were glimpses of another crowd which completed the impression that
every house in Munich must be deserted.

Few villages in the high Alps are more picturesque than Schwabing, which
still has its old mill, and the tower of whose white church, perched
high, swells into one of those graceful spheres that form links in an
invisible chain through the blue of Bavaria, Austria, and Hungary to the
land of the Turk. About the church were many graves; and a few old women
in black, hatless, bent, were praying there.

                          THE SYSTEM’S FLOWER

Countess Tann’s house faced a street so narrow that had not her walls
been high and her opposite neighbour’s abode humble she would have been
forced to keep her curtains drawn. It was on the very edge of the
village, and her garden extended along the highway beyond. There were
few flowers in the garden, for Bavaria is not the land of flowers, but
there were many trees; and wide gates at the back could be rolled apart
to frame a picture of the Isar and the Englischergarten.

The front gate was of wrought iron and afforded glimpses of the secluded
little park and of the villa’s ornate façade. Ordham rang the bell
several times before the old butler sauntered out, half asleep, and
informed the impatient visitor that the Frau Gräfin was driving, but had
left instructions to admit Mein Herr, should he call and be disposed to

Ordham sent his _kutscher_ to a near-by beer garden and followed the
servant to the gallery. He declined coffee until the return of the
hostess, and old Kurt opened a box of cigarettes and departed to ponder
upon the marvel of a young man in the house. The maids were gallivanting
or there would have been high discussion.

Ordham realized that he was a little tired, but before making himself
comfortable with a book, strolled into the tower to listen for a moment
to the band playing in the pagoda of the Englischergarten, and picture
the numberless tables, amongst which trudged unceasingly big perspiring
Bavarian maidens, carrying mugs of foaming beer to an ever thirsty
people. But his eye was immediately attracted to the books on the
shelves which covered the walls of the tower, and he scanned them
eagerly. He was astonished to find that the collection was almost wholly
scientific. Bastian, David Strauss, Johannes Müller, Virchow, Descartes,
Goethe, Baer, Lamarck, Paul Holbach, Du Bois-Reymond, Harvey, Heinrich
Hertz, Bacon, Aristotle, Darwin, Spencer, Alexander Humboldt, the Vogts,
Lavoisier, Spinoza, Cuvier, were a few of the names in this catholic
assemblage, which had its representative in every branch of science,
using the word in its broad sense. Ordham ceased to wonder that the
great Styr had been able to extinguish her merely feminine ego. With
such meat for daily sustenance, and the strong wine of art, the wonder
was that she had not developed into a new species. The only works of
fiction were the novels of Balzac, Gautier, Flaubert, and _On the
Heights_. Other shelves were filled with volumes devoted to the analysis
of music and the lives and letters of composers.

He returned to the gallery with a volume of _Illusions Perdues_, and
looked longingly at the divan, but compromised upon the deepest of the
chairs. He would have liked to smoke, but he was far too formal both by
nature and training to make himself at home at this early stage of his
acquaintance with Countess Tann. His eyes roved over the gallery with
much curiosity. It was the first time he had known a woman that worked
for her living, and he appreciated that this room, full of beautiful and
interesting objects as it was, had an entirely different atmosphere from
the boudoirs of the fine ladies of the world. There was a certain
austerity about it, rather an absence of the luxury, frivolity, soft
magnificence, of the personal nests of women that neither knew nor cared
how their wants were gratified. Even the carved old chairs looked
comfortable, but it was not the room of a woman who lounged, but who
worked, studied, thought. To Ordham it was more personal than any
woman’s room he had ever seen; then he suddenly realized that it was its
component of masculinity which had enveloped him at once like an
emanation from his own spirit.

Half an hour later he opened his eyes to behold a tall figure in a long
grey cloak smiling before him. He rose with a deep blush and stammered
apologies. “Is it possible—will you ever forgive me?”

“Why not, Herr Invalide? I will go and change my frock, and then we will
have coffee. Just a moment.”

She reached the door, then, as if suddenly assailed by an anxious
memory, turned and said hesitatingly: “I have felt so worried—it was
such a relief to hear that you were really ill—and to-day you look so
much less careworn, almost happy—”

“I am quite happy—thanks so much. Please don’t bother—how good of you!
The lady thought better of it, as I might have known she would,—has
thrown me over, in fact.”

“Delightful! I was at my wit’s end. Now we shall keep you in Munich. Do
sit down again.”

She returned dressed in a white organdie frock sprigged with violets. It
was flounced and full, the bodice crossed by a Marie Antoinette fichu
tied loosely at the back, and in her hair she had twisted a lavender
ribbon. She looked as if she had merely adapted herself to the warm
afternoon, not in the least coquettish or alluring. How could she,
thought Ordham, with that library behind her?

“Such a drive as I have taken!” she exclaimed as she seated herself
before the coffee service old Kurt had brought in. “Down into the
Isarthal and far beyond Castle Grünwald. It was delightful in the woods,
or would have been without the crowds. You will go there with me some
day, I hope?”

“I will go with you anywhere.”

“That would mean long walks instead of sleeping until nine
o’clock—eleven, I am told, it used to be.”

“But everybody will be leaving Munich soon and I shall not be sitting up
so late. Do take me with you—at any hour.”

“But you will be following—not? They will all ask you to visit them.
Poor German!”

He hesitated. “Shall you stay here?”

“I seldom go away except for a few days at a time, for I no longer sing
in Bayreuth; Frau Cosima and I do not agree on the subject of Brünhilde,
whom I interpret for myself. Moreover the King has often private
representations in the Hof. It is as well, for I am never so happy as in
Munich, and Bayreuth is not the same to me now that The Master is gone.
Late in August and in September I must go on my _Gastspiel_—concert
engagements in several German cities and in Vienna—but that is all; I
never visit.”

“I think I should remain here all summer and study with Fräulein Lutz. I
should like to pass my examinations this year. But perhaps Fräulein Lutz
takes a vacation?”

“I will see that she does not. Yes—stay and study. It is so fatally
easy when one is young and heedless to be caught in the maelstrom of
insignificance; and two years—what are they? You have the rest of your
life to visit country houses.”

“You have a way of phrasing truths that makes it quite impossible to
forget them.” He spoke dryly, but his face had flushed. “‘Caught in the
maelstrom of insignificance.’ I shall stay here and alternate the
delights of Adam Smith with Fräulein Lutz, burn my candle over
Blackstone and Hallam, when I might be sneezing in some draughty castle
or accumulating typhoid germs. That is to say, if you will let me walk
with you—and come here often. My virtues, at least, need admiration and
encouragement. May I?”

Styr had made up her mind: having delivered him from wreck, she would
lead him to the threshold of his future, then return to her solitudes,
pluming herself upon her successful rôle of a kindly fate in the life of
a fellow-mortal so much more interesting than the musical fledglings
that came to her for advice and help. For a few months she would indulge
herself in the luxury and novelty of a friendship, give her mind a
companion; later on, vary her isolation with a permanent interest in the
career of another. She made no doubt that were Ordham carried safely
over this critical interval there was a reasonable chance of his
attaining a high and useful eminence. It was a strange rôle for her to
be contemplating, that of becoming a deliberate factor in the life of a
man with no thought save his own good; but the more she had meditated
upon it the more irresistibly had it appealed to her. She was honest
enough, however, to admit that had she not liked him so thoroughly her
philanthropic tendencies might have slept on undiscovered.

“I will strike a bargain with you,” she said. “If you will promise not
to leave town except from Saturday noon until Sunday night, and take a
daily lesson with Lutz until you are obliged to leave for England, you
may come and go here as you please.”

“That will be every day, and I shall not go to country houses at all.
The more I think of it the more I feel convinced that I should pass this
August. My brother has never believed in me,—for good reasons, wise
man,—but I have an idea that if I astonish him by passing a year sooner
than any one expects, he will be so gratified that he will pay my debts.
After all, he stands in the place of my father.”

“Are you deeply in debt?” All women sympathize with a man in debt except
his wife, who must economize to get him out.

“Horribly!” Ordham buttered a scone and looked as blithe and greedy as a
schoolboy on his first day at home.

“You always use such strong expressions!”

“O—h! Re—ally?” Ordham drawled this as only an Englishman can.
“Well—perhaps you would not think close upon a thousand pounds a great
amount, and I confess I find it disgusting to be unable to pay a sum
which if I had in hand would not last me a month. And to Bridgminster it
is nothing. I find that more disgusting still.”

“I suggested an American girl the other night—but I don’t know.
Somehow, I don’t see you married.”

“I should hate to marry. My mother is always urging it—so are all my
friends, and I suppose that between extravagant habits and the
diplomatic career, I shall be driven into matrimony. But I wish to
heaven Bridgminster would divide his income with me. He spends next to
nothing. I hear he doesn’t even keep up Ordham.”

“Do you want money so much?”

“I need it.” He spoke with deep intensity.

“And you can think of no other resource but your brother or a rich

“No, alas!” He began to butter another scone. “All my relations are
either poor or stingy.”

“But I had an idea that all dukes were rich and superb—your mother’s

“He quarrels with his steward every quarter day over the accounts, the
very household bills. I hate him, and so did my father. He cannot endure
me because I don’t pot birds from the 12th of August until the hunting
season begins and then ride to hounds every day. I have an idea he is
afraid I will write poetry and disgrace the family. The metre would, no

Margarethe looked at him curiously. According to American canons she
ought to despise him, but he was so inevitably a part of a system, and
so replete with all the delightful qualities for which that system was
responsible, besides having an accent all his own, that she could but
accept him as a matter of course. Nevertheless, more to draw him out
than with motive, she asked: “I suppose it has never occurred to you to

“Work?” He barely saved his knife from dropping to the little Sèvres
plate. His eyes grew round and his mouth fell slightly apart.

Styr almost laughed outright, but she dropped her eyes to her cup and
said: “Well, I am an American, you know. A young man over there, born in
a position corresponding to your own—well, if he found himself in debt
or wanted money badly, and there was no immediate prospect of
inheritance, he would go to work and make it.”

“How odd! No, I don’t mean that. Of course I know those things do
happen, but it must be when they feel fitted, have been prepared—for
some of those things that make money. The only time I ever thought about
it—one night not long ago,” he paled at the memory, “I could not think
of any means by which I could support myself did I lose the little I
have. But in America I suppose the business instinct is in every man’s
brain—naturally. Why shouldn’t they be able to make fortunes if they
must? Some of our chaps have to go to work also, but I never heard of
any of them making a fortune—not even in the colonies. Only people you
never heard of before do that. I suppose our brains are too old, they
are no longer capable of that amount of concentration and energy. For
generations we have had so many interests. To let a fixed idea like
money-making control you, I fancy you must have, and inherit, little
intellectual development. Nevertheless, I should think that those same
indulgences and developments must be among the incentives.”

“That is the most ingenious defence I ever heard a lazy man put up! But
I am not sure there is not a good deal in it. The fact remains, however,
that you want money and do not want to marry. Suppose I send you to my
banker in New York? He is a good friend of mine and would give you a
chance of some sort. Would you concentrate your very superior faculties
upon the making of money?”

“Good heavens, no! I should hate it. To spend one’s life trying to be
more dishonest than the next man—I had rather live on a younger son’s
portion all my life.” And he elevated his nose in aristocratic disgust.

“It is not quite as bad as that, although I do not pretend that great
fortunes are made with gloves on.”

“I should hate the people I should be compelled to associate with. As I
said just now, it requires enormous concentration to be a successful man
of business; and fancy hearing no other topic of conversation day in and
out, to see, to feel, nothing else in the men by whom one was

“You might be a cow-boy. That has appealed to other Englishmen, and is
more picturesque—quite honest, also, I should think.”

“But so dirty, and such a hard life physically. They get up at four and
go to bed with their boots on. Then, after they are quite demoralized,
all their finer tastes hopelessly blunted, they come home without a
penny. Heaven only knows into what limbo they disappear then. Don’t
think I am really lazy.” (There was a genuine anxiety in his tones!)
“What you said at Neuschwanstein about the possibility of finishing as a
society drone has got me up every morning in time for Fräulein Lutz. I
mean to pass my examinations and enter diplomacy. But I am afraid I am
fitted for nothing else. I haven’t stumbled into it blindly. It is that
or nothing, and although the suggestion was my mother’s, my father quite
agreed with her.”

“It all comes back to this,—you must marry money.”

“Alas, yes! But four or five years hence. I will pay these bills
somehow, and then I can run up others. They will always wait a few

“But suppose you could meet some girl of great wealth whom you could
love? That would be the ideal solution, and there are many rich and
lovely girls. Should not you like peace of mind and happiness?”

“Happiness?” He stared at her in a fashion he had dropped into before,
as if she were a mirror in which the future might take form. “I fancy
that no matter whom I married . . . even if persuaded that I was in love
with her . . . I should no sooner be settled down than I should begin to
invent some one I might have loved better.” He came to himself with a
smile. “Will you let me smoke? And tell you what a delight it is to see
you again? And this room! To think that I may sit in it often! That we
are to be friends for a whole summer! Nothing in life can ever be as
wonderful as that.”

                      A DIPLOMATIST IN THE MAKING

The Queen-mother lingered on in Munich, and society with her. Excellenz
Nachmeister and the diplomatic corps entertained constantly, and if the
rest of the fashionable world took little initiative, it was always
ready to lend the light of its countenance. Ordham, with the most
enthusiastic intentions, saw little of Countess Tann, but at least he
broke no engagements with her; and this, to those that knew him, would
have appeared more significant than had he sought her daily. That
pleasure awaited the empty summer months, and meanwhile, conformably
with his half-admitted creed, he missed nothing that promised enjoyment.
Nevertheless, true to his promise to Margarethe Styr, he took his daily
lesson with Fräulein Lutz; and this recalls a story which became current
in Munich at the time and entertained his friends not a little. Lutz
related it with a mixture of tartness and triumph to Styr, who told it
to Nachmeister, who——

His Grenadier, as he called her, arrived at the Legation every morning
at five minutes before ten. He received her in an upper sitting room,
and had made more progress in four weeks than during the six preceding
months of his sojourn in Munich. As a rule he appeared at the rendezvous
not more than five or six minutes later than Lutz, but one morning he
arose with the greatest reluctance. He had taken a party of English
friends to the monastic cellar of the Hofbräu the night before, and sat
up until late listening to the students singing, and drinking beer in an
atmosphere as thick as a London fog. He wanted to lie in bed until noon,
but dared not run the risk of the loss of his Lutz. He arose when
called, but entered the frigid presence quite twelve minutes late. Being
greeted with a withering outburst, he was suddenly inspired to torment
this iron-clad female, for whom he appeared to have no more magnetism
than had he been a wooden dummy into which she was employed to drill
holes and instil so much German per day. He sank into the deepest chair
in the room, and drawled:

“I am _so_ sorry—”

“That is the one thing you can say fluently in German! At least one
thousand times have I heard you say it.”

“Oh—but I am—really. Not to be late, but to be obliged to come at all.
I was so deliciously comfortable.”

“Deliciously—in bed—at this hour! What an admission for a man to

“But to you I am only a boy,” murmured Ordham.

“Ach ja! But you would like to be thought a man. Nicht? When you have
succeeded in raising a mustache you will want to be thought young again.
I have taught hundreds of your sex, and not one has more sense than the
other. But not one!”

“Is that the reason you have never married?”

Her mottled complexion turned a uniform purple, and she investigated his
innocent orbs with her bright little black eyes. Then she demanded
haughtily: “What is that to you? Am I here to answer personal

“But this is the morning for conversation, Fräulein. We had those
hideous verbs yesterday. And I am so tired! That was so easy, so natural
to say, for I know that at least one Herr Professor carries an arrow in
his heart.”

The personage in question had eluded Fräulein Lutz with such conspicuous
adroitness some years before that the affair had become historical. She
felt a natural gratification that the story had altered its front with
the lapse of time, but replied severely: “Enough! We will ask and answer
questions of a less personal nature. Also! How many neckties do you
possess? I have now taught you for four weeks and I have seen a new one
every day.”

“And she calls that an impersonal question! But I am quite ready to
answer, liebes Fräulein, for my man informed me yesterday. I possess
exactly two hundred and eighty-four.”

“Two hundred and eighty-four neckties!” shrieked Fräulein Lutz. “It is
impossible! But impossible!”

“Only until this afternoon. Then I shall possess two hundred and
eighty-six. And next week I expect a box from London—”

“But it is incredible. Why, I have taught counts, barons, _princes_ for
thirty years, and I do not believe that one of them possessed more than
ten or twelve neckties at a time.”


“Don’t dare to turn up your English nose at counts and princes—princes
of the blood, let me explain. Ach Gott! Act Gott!” She looked him over.
“And socks, handkerchiefs—all match! Do you assert that you have two
hundred and eighty-four handkerchiefs, shirts, pairs of socks? Answer in
idiomatic German or I shall make you write it.”

She did make him write it. Once more he lay back exhausted. Taking out a
handkerchief, he sniffed at it, then waved it gently.

“And scent!” She almost choked. “I have noticed it before, but was too
polite to make remarks. To-day I relieve my mind. Scent is obnoxious,
demoralizing, intended only for idle fine ladies and those others whom
we never mention. Why do you use scent? Mind your idiom.”

He sank into a posture almost reclining; he half closed his eyes and
half opened his mouth. He looked very naughty indeed. “Why?” he murmured
dreamily. “Because I find in perfumes one of the exquisite sensations of
life. I should like to lie in bed all day while some one sprinkled the
crude air with distilled odours—and dream—ah!”

“I’ve a mind to box your ears!” she cried furiously and with a very red
face. “And your German is as execrable as your sentiments.”

“Dictate it to me in pure German and I will learn it.”

“I would not pollute my lips. Sit up and say after me: ‘I am a silly
young English puppy, who should be striding through the Englischergarten
reciting German verbs aloud when I am dawdling in bed like a scented

“Oh! oh! I shall not. How shocking of you! Mein liebes Fräulein!” And he
stared at her so incredulously that she felt uncomfortable.

“Well, you deserve to have harsh things said to you,” she growled, “and
you would demoralize the vocabulary of a saint. Also! I shall converse
with you no more. Conjugate the verb ‘_arbeiten_,’ and then read aloud
three pages of _Wallenstein_. If you mispronounce a word, it shall be
four, and there will be two more verbs. Sit up!”

He meekly obeyed her; and when she had stalked out he hastened to the
tennis court and played until luncheon.

That evening Fräulein Lutz, sitting alone in her musty little flat, her
spectacles astride her nose, muttering aloud over the notes she had
graciously been permitted to cull from the royal archives, became the
astounded recipient of an immense bunch of violets. They were royal
purple in colour and wet with what might have been the dew of the
Riviera, whence they came. But they were quite scentless. If she
suspected the donor she made no sign, and on the following morning was
more than commonly snappish. But the wide streamers of purple satin
ribbon which held the violets together decorated her best bonnet till
the last of her days.


The opera house, notwithstanding its great parquet and five tiers almost
encircling the auditorium, holding some twenty-two hundred people, was
always well filled; but Ordham had never seen it as crowded as to-night.
There had been an official announcement that the King would honour the
season’s last performance of _Tristan und Isolde_, and the blue lights
were burning all over the house, softening its classic severity into the
mysterious twilight of some vast sea grotto whose surges held captive
and coloured the rays of the moon. Of course, at the last moment the
King would change his royal mind; everybody felt sure of that; yet, so
obstinate is hope, even society had turned out, satisfied to honour
Styr, at least, before departing for the country. The boxes beside the
stage, and at the back, flanking the King’s (which rose from the
_balkon_ to the last of the galleries), always reserved for royalties,
their households and guests, were generally empty. To-night they were
filled, and, with the front row of the fashionable _balkon_, gave the
house a smarter appearance than usual; the good hausfrau, genuine lover
of all the arts as she was, never thought of wearing anything but her
street frock, consisting at this time of a skirt, overskirt, and
basque—whose points stood upright, back and front. Her daughter,
perchance, enlivened the useful shade of her costume by a bit of pink or
blue tulle about the turned-in neck of her basque. The good man was
shabby and comfortable in his business suit. Had it not been for the
liberal patronage of officers, the _parkett_ would have presented a
dreary expanse, and even the fashionable women, unless the court was to
be present, seldom thought the opera worthy of full dress. To-night,
however, there were many bare necks and fine gowns, jewels and feathers,
in the _balkon_ and loges, and even in the front rows of the _parkett_,
which many, Ordham among them, preferred as affording a better view of
the performers. The orchestra, under its great conductor, Lévy, never
fretted the most sensitive eardrum.

Few sit until the last bell has rung, and Ordham stood with the rest,
his back to the stage, viewing what to him was always an interesting
sight, and feeling so blithe and happy in his regained freedom, his
mother’s promise, received that morning, to persuade his creditors to
hold their peace until after his examinations, the flutter of
anticipation which he always enjoyed when about to hear Styr sing one of
her great rôles, that long after, when he sat in this opera house for
the last time in his life, he recalled that night and his boyish
spirits, and wondered if the world had remodelled itself meanwhile.

He saw many that he knew, and bowed in his formal way, lit now and again
by his quick smile, so full of youthful brilliancy and sweetness that
tired befeathered old women shook their heads and doubted if a young man
of so many attractions would ever amount to anything. But when
Nachmeister was favoured with that smile to-night, she nodded her head
sagely and felt that she could depart for her spa in peace on the
morrow. No man in love, or nearing the border-land of tumult, could
smile like that. She was a guest in a box beside the King’s, the one
allotted to Lola Montez during her brief reign in Bavaria, when Ludwig I
was king. She too had been elevated to the Bavarian aristocracy, and no
royalty won more than a passing glance when Countess Landsfeldt sat
magnificently in this box, flashing her bold black eyes at the
patricians that feared and snubbed her; far less clever than Styr, few
doors had opened to her. Princess Nachmeister was surrounded by a bevy
of young princesses, pretty with youth, but insipid, as most young
royalties are. The Queen-mother sat alone in the great box, looking old
and sad, not a vestige of her beauty surviving, nor even of that air
which is supposed to distinguish a queen from a hausfrau. She was dowdy
and unattractive, but she cared not; to-morrow she would be in her
humble retreat, Elbingen-Alp, alone with her memories and the new
consolation she had found in the Church of Rome. She, too, hoped for the
presence of her son to-night, but she, too, knew that he would not come.

It was half-past six when word came from the palace that his Majesty,
indisposed, had left for Linderhof; the last bell rang, darkness
descended upon the house, the overture began. As Ordham sat with his
eyes closed lest they be diverted by the fat red necks and plastered
heads, which shone in the dusk, mayhap by hungry jaws munching chocolate
or peppermint, his high spirits slid down into a fathomless abyss; that
tide of sweet despair swirled round and over him, driving repose,
content, gayety from every chamber of his soul, and filling it with
unrest, vague delicious terrors, that made him move his arms restlessly
until he succumbed utterly.

Never had been and never will be so full an expression of unsatisfied
longing. Surge upon surge from the opening phrase, presaging a yearning
that is not all bliss and a torment that is not all pain, so long as
mortals may die; surge upon surge of aching passion, sweet oblivion,
mortal disappointment, infinite desire, a love that only the immortals
could satisfy and only death can quench. The imagination reels along
with this appalling betrayal of mortal love. The curse and the boon of
imagination, the indomitable pursuit of happiness, even while the mind
holds its sides like a chuckling monk, the inevitable awaking, the cry
for death, annihilation, Nirvana,—all and far more are in this mighty
tonal dirge of the human heart to lift Wagner’s masterpiece to the apex
of all the masterpieces the world has preserved.

Unsatisfied longing! Ordham never listened to this music-drama that he
did not wonder its keynote should possess him irresistibly throughout
the performance and desert him when it was over. Even in the foyer,
during the pauses, he was the cool young modern with inherited
experiences in his brain that pushed him far from the sources of nature;
but when the surges beat on his spirit once more he was the immemorial

On the stage Styr was always beautiful and never more so than as Isolde,
with her soft golden wig, her dark eyes enlarged, their natural mobility
enhanced by subtle arts which other stage women secretly studied in
vain, her ivory-white luminous skin. In the first act she wore a flowing
gown of an imperial blue shade, the perfect lines of her long arms
enticing under floating gauze, her long throat rising bare with the
plastic firmness which she might have inherited from the women that
inspired the dreams of Solomon.

When Isolde raised herself slowly from the cushions of the couch in the
pavilion of the ship which was bearing her to the old king of Cornwall
she had consented to marry, abandoning something of her first attitude
of utter despair, and lifting her head toward the joyous singing of the
sailors, her eyes in one long look expressed everything. The dullest
could not entertain the delusion that here was merely an unhappy young
princess of “Irenland,” speeding against her will to fulfil a detestable
marriage, but a woman of the maturest passions, who had already drunk
deep of the cup of love, scornful of every law that might exist for
princess or peasant, and who had watched and waited, and accepted the
fact of betrayal.

And the audience felt itself, not in the presence merely of a woman
eaten with hatred, fury, desire for vengeance, but of a primeval force,
passion incarnate, such as Earth unlooses in convulsions that have
annihilated millions and buried continents. No other Isolde has ever
been as great as Styr, for no other has been able to suggest this
ferocious approach of a devastating force, this hurricane sweeping
across the mind’s invisible plain, tearing at the very foundations of
life. And all this she expressed before singing a note, with her staring
moving eyes, her eloquent body, still and concealed as it was, a gesture
of the hand. It was a concentration of the mental faculties, such as
gives weak women superhuman physical strength in moments of terror or
anger; in her own case they were whipped up like a whirlwind by the
released horrors in her soul, and used with a supreme exercise of art
that made her the risen Isolde.

When she started up, crying out to the wind and waves to shatter the
ship, the passion in her voice hardly expressed the rage consuming her
in plainer terms than that first long silent moment had done.

Styr’s transitions from wildness to gloom, to bitter wildness again,
then to a regal imperiousness, when she ordered Brängane to summon
Tristan (which must have made the royal women present envy the majesty
of soul that could inform poor commonplace flesh with so dread a mien),
were all done with that complete abandonment to her rôle of the great
artist who never for a moment addresses her audience. Then, once more,
she betrayed in her strained eyes and body her outraged womanhood as
Brängane was courteously repulsed by Tristan (alas! very fat), standing
with folded arms at the helm, and taunted by Kurwenal and the sailors.
Upon the tirewoman’s return, after a moment’s futile attempt at
self-control, she broke forth into a furious denunciation of the false
lover, mingling it with bitter reminiscences of a time so fatal to
herself when he was ill and at her mercy, and she healed and loved him.
The anger gradually faded from her voice, which softened into the most
exquisite tenderness and sweetness. “His eyes on mine were
fastened. . . . the sword dropped from my fingers!” In that brooding
moment every woman in the audience recalled the unforgettable, the eyes
of the young widened with terror and hope.

But that moment was brief. Her wrongs beat upon her brain again. With
their recital to the trembling Brängane she worked herself up to that
tremendous climax where, flinging her back against the drawn curtains,
with arms outstretched, she screamed out her curses, invoking vengeance
and death.

Never theatrical, and conveying the impression throughout the greater
part of that act, in which she ran the gamut of the passions, that she
let escape but the smoke of the terrible fires below, when she did give
way to ungovernable fury, she gashed the hidden rivers of blood before
the footlights to such a pitch that it is no wonder the Germans keep on
calling for more sensation, more thrill, with an insatiety which will
work the ruin of music and drama in their nation unless some genius
totally different from Wagner rises and diverts them into safer
channels. Beyond Wagner in his own domain there is nothing but
sensationalism. Rather, he took all the gold out of the mine he
discovered and left but base alloy for the misguided disciple.

Not the least impressive moment in this terrible act was when Styr,
after staring at the phials in the casket while the idea of death
matured in her desperate brain,—death for herself as well as for the
man that betrayed her,—raised her head slowly, her body to its full
height. She looked the very genius of death, a malign fate awaiting its
moment to settle upon the ripest fruit, the blithest hopes. A subtle
gesture of her hand seemed to deprive it of its flesh, leave it a talon
which held a scythe; by the same token one saw the skeleton under the
blue robe; her mouth twisted into a grin, her eyes sank. It was all over
in half a minute, it was but a fleeting suggestion, but it flashed out
upon every sensitive soul present a picture of the charnel house, the
worm, death robbed of its poetry, stripped to the bones by the hot
blasts from that caldron of hate.

When, having compelled Tristan to drink the love potion which Brängane,
who has no taste for crime, mixed instead of the draught of death, when,
from the dark abysses of suicide and murder, her soul rose slowly and
dazedly, but free, to the heights of the mightiest of all the passions,
Styr was so superb in her abandonment, so sweet in her surrender, she
carried this act of many emotions to a climax so acute and so
satisfying, that few in her audience but felt the sequel should be given
on the following night.

The curtain went down as Isolde was torn from Tristan’s arms by her
tirewomen and old King Mark boarded the ship. Styr appeared again and
again in response to loud cries, clapping, and stamping, which lasted
for nearly ten minutes. But at last the audience went forth to refresh
itself at the buffet. Ordham did not rise at once. He sat next to the
central rope and was undisturbed. He was holding fast to that last
picture of Isolde with her dazed yet illuminated eyes in which the love
allowance of Earth seemed to be concentrated, when his own eyes
unwittingly fell upon the woman that occupied the seat in front of him.
She had neatly turned back her overskirt and skirt, and from the
capacious pocket of her petticoat was extracting two large sandwiches, a
slab of chocolate, and an apple. He gave an almost audible groan and
went out into the foyer to exchange “_Wunderschöns_” with his friends.

The second act, greatest of all love scenes as it is, is far less of a
strain on the audience than the first. When Tristan and Isolde, having
expressed their joy in meeting in that succession of ecstatic love cries
which makes the words feeble and superfluous, sank down upon the bench
(that astigmatic couch!) and the love duet began, Ordham once more
closed his eyes and listened, with his soul detached from his body, to
that voice of fluid gold, melting, fainting, fiery, dreaming,
despairing, expressing every phase of the phenomenon of love. Never has
the ecstasy and the futility of love been expressed as here, and when
Styr, her voice returning from those starry voids where Isolde’s soul
had borne Tristan’s, passionately demanded death as the only relief for
the insupportable tension of body and spirit, although she did not move,
she conveyed the impression of a still more complete abandon. The tenor,
being of immense proportions, and with his eyes seldom roving from the
baton of the conductor, conveyed no such impression, or the scene might
have been unbearably descriptive. But in Germany either the tenor or the
soprano, by the entire respectability of their earthly mediums, can be
relied upon to modify the most licentious opera ever written.

As Ordham did not like this particular tenor, he remained in the foyer
until Tristan had finished his bleating and ranting in the last
act—that vicious test of a tenor’s histrionic powers, as of his vocal
endurance—and bribed the doorkeeper to let him enter later and stand
while Styr sang the _Liebestod_. Sometimes she rose to her feet as if
impelled upward by the intensity of her vision; but to-night she chose
to exhibit the physical weakness of delirium as the soul struggled free
of the relaxing flesh, the ecstasy of death. Styr always triumphed anew
in that supreme effort of Wagner, and on this night when the curtain
fell the audience “went quite mad.” While the house was ringing with
“Styr!” “Styr!” “Styr!” Ordham conceived a sudden resolution. He had
invited Princess Nachmeister, Mr. Trowbridge, and several other friends
to sup with him at Maximilia; and although nothing was better known in
Munich than that Styr never accepted invitations to supper after one of
her performances, was never to be seen, for that matter, he determined
to persuade her to join his party. It would gratify his vanity hugely to
succeed where all had failed, and he craved the new experience of
talking with her immediately after she had created the greatest of her

He had been behind the scenes with Kilchberg, who loved a maiden in the
chorus, and he knew the location of Styr’s dressing room, although he
had never caught a glimpse of her in or near it. He was determined to
see her to-night; and he did!

He had made his way across the back of the stage, passed open doors of
supers who were frankly disrobing, too hungry to observe the minor
formalities, and was approaching the room of the prima donna, when its
door was suddenly flung open, a little man was rushed out by the collar,
twirled round, and hurled almost at his feet. The Styr, her own hair
down, her face livid, her eyes blazing, shouted hoarsely at the object
of her wrath, who took to his heels. The _intendant_ rushed upon the
scene. Styr screamed out that the minor official had dared to come to
her dressing-room with a criticism upon the set of her wig, and that if
ever she were spoken to again at the close of a performance by any
member of the staff, from the _intendant_ down, she would leave Munich
the same night. The great functionary fled, for she threatened to box
his own ears unless he took himself out of her sight, and the Styr
stormed up and down, beat the scenery with her hands, stamped, hissed,
her pallor deepening every second, until it was like white fire. Ordham,
half fascinated, half convulsed, at this glimpse of the artistic
temperament in full blast, stared at her with his mouth open. She looked
like some fury of the coal-pit, flying up from the sooty galleries on
the wings of her voice. Her words had been delivered with a strange
broad burring accent, which Ordham found more puzzling than her tantrum.

Suddenly she caught sight of him. If possible her fury waxed.

“You! You!” she screamed. “Go! Get out of here! How dare you come near
me? I hate you! I hate the whole world when I have finished an opera!
They ought to give me somebody to kill! Go! I don’t care whether you
ever speak to me again or not—”

Ordham, not knowing whether he should feel insulted or philosophical,
beat a hasty retreat; and, remaining late at Maximilia, had no time to
ponder upon the matter that night. He had barely awakened in the morning
when he received the following note:

    “DEAR MR. ORDHAM: You will recall that I told you it would be
    better to think of me as a stage woman only?—although at that
    time I did not include the greenroom among your possible
    experiences. If I cannot make you understand the fearful state
    of excitement which an opera like _Isolde_ induces, then indeed
    I hope you will not forgive me, never come near me again. But I
    fancy that you have already forgiven me. I was a wild beast. The
    actress born with the power to portray Isolde has it in her to
    be the worst woman in the world—much simpler than to reach
    those heights (her heights) toward which, alas! there is little
    pulsion. It is all over a few hours later, after I have taken a
    long walk in the Englischergarten, then eaten a prosaic supper
    of cold ham and fowl, eggs perchance, and salad! But for an hour
    after those triumphs I pay! I pay!

    “Do not reply to this, but come on Thursday to supper or not, as
    you will.

                                                 “MARGARETHE STYR.”

                         THE WOMAN BY THE ISAR

Ordham had no intention of ignoring the impromptu to which he had been
treated, whether she expected it of him or not, and on the following
Thursday evening, as they were drinking coffee in the garden after
supper, he said abruptly:

“I should not have recognized your voice the other night if I had not
seen you—ah—when you demolished that poor little man. Is—is it the
native American?”

“One variety.” Her present tones were dry, but without displeasure. “It
was the voice of the Middle West. When I was Peggy Hill, working in the
coal-mines—and for several years after—the burrs on my voice were as
thick as a chestnut tree’s. Insensibly, in New York, they began to peel
off, and soon after I went on the stage I fell in love with purity of
diction and studied with an English teacher of elocution until I
retained not a trace of even the generic American. But when I lose my
temper it bursts out of its little dungeon exactly as other bad
characteristics do when we are off guard. I used to flatter myself that
I had uprooted certain qualities I resented having been born with, but I
have discovered that they occupy remote chambers of my brain, biding
their time. Perhaps I was one of the viragoes of the French Revolution!”

“Did you—once let it go rather often? Somehow you seemed so wonderfully

“I let it go pretty often down in that opera house. Men have such tact!
Fancy telling a singer at the end of a performance, when every nerve in
her body is a red-hot humming wire, that her wig was not on straight!
The _intendant_ came to me one night after the first act of _Isolde_ and
presumed to criticise my tempo. I threw a hand mirror at him, and he has
never visited my dressing-room since. I would have treated the King in
the same fashion, but he is the one man that would never make such a
mistake. Wagner has a good deal to answer for! The lyrics are excitable
enough, but the music of The Master creates a madness; it sets up a
vibration in the nervous system, which, added to the obsession of the
characters, lifts us bodily from the plane of the normal, and no doubt
works permanent changes. I am talking, of course, of singers that have
temperament as well as voice.” She lit a cigarette and leaned back in
her rustic chair. “Before?—Oh, yes. But less and less as time went on.
Tantrums do not hurt a prima donna; in fact they are of use in inspiring
the authorities with awe. But in the private life—well, the price I
sometimes had to pay was too high. I soon stopped throwing things about
like a fishwife; and all the rest of it.”

Ordham studied her face attentively in the pause that followed.
Apparently she had forgotten him, and was staring into the deep arbours
beyond the river. Her profile looked hard and cruel, sharpened against
the black shadow of the trees, like the fine edge of an axe. He held his
breath as the expression deepened into sullen ferocity, then stood up,
overturning his chair.

“I should like to know every bit of your history,” he said, “every

“How you would hate me!”

“I think not. Some people might have hated you the other night when you
looked like all the furies, but I was the more interested. The usual
does not appeal to me particularly.”

“But there is a limit! If ever I want you to hate me, I will tell you
the story of my life, as they say in New York.”

“Why in New York?”

“It is a bit of slang, and New York is the factory of much of the
American slang and a sort of clearing-house for the rest. Does not our
slang appeal to you?”

“I find it utterly meaningless,” he said candidly. “Ours is bad enough,
but at least it has some point.”

“That ours has none is the whole point. It takes the sharp American wits
to understand a new bit of slang or a new joke; the cryptic quality of
both, indeed, has played its part in sharpening those same wits. If you
are not ever on the alert over there, you go under.”

“Really? What a bore!”

She laughed as naturally as a child, but even in her mirth she no longer
betrayed the nurture of the West.

“You are so delightfully genuine! The American imitation of the British
aristocrat is the funniest thing in the world. You are not unhumorous
from our crude point of view, but I doubt if you could really be
affected if you tried, and you never would try. And yet over there you
would be thought a mass of affectations.”

“I hope I’ll never go ‘over there.’ I’ve scarcely ever met an American
that I liked. The women want too much waiting on, and I always have a
feeling that the men despise me.”

“Perhaps they do, understanding no type but their own; few have had the
opportunity to study the men of other races. To an American the man with
no capacity for work, to ‘hustle,’ no desire to fight his way to the
top, simply encumbers the earth. I hope you never will go over. No
matter how good an Englishman’s manners may be at home, they become
abominable the moment he sets foot in the United States. Even yours
might not stand the test—whatever that test is.”

“I am sure they are merely terrified. We are not accustomed to
reporters, interviewers, to an avalanche of invitations from people we
don’t know. It is enough to terrify any one; and being a shy race—not
having had your liberal education!—we shrink into a sort of panoply of
war. We don’t go over meaning to be rude, but we are driven to appear so
rather than show our fright and look ridiculous. One of my cousins
visited the United States a year or two ago, just after he came into his
title, and he was so hounded by reporters and lion hunters, that after
doubling and dodging until he was worn out, he gave himself the airs of
a stage lord and succeeded in freezing them off. Then the journalists
wrote vicious articles calling him a snob—It would seem that like a
good many others, they do not know exactly what that word means. And Jim
is as decent a little chap as you could find in England.”

“Well, you misjudge us too. You are always commiserating the American
husbands left at home to coin dollars while their wives swarm over
Europe. If you only knew how delighted the American husband is to get
rid of his wife for a few months out of the year! But come, let us go
in. I know that you long for an easy chair and to see your cigarette
smoke, while I dare not sit out too late. Who is not a slave of some


He graduated from the easy chair to the divan by imperceptible degrees,
for he had arts of his own; and in the course of a month of well-nigh
daily intercourse he was almost as much at home in the villa by the Isar
as Styr herself. Insensibly he began to assume airs of ownership, which
made Margarethe wonder how her sense of humour had hitherto survived
with so little to feed upon. He never gave her a sentimental glance,
nor, not even when they talked till two in the morning and he left by
the tower window in Kilchberg’s boat, did he in any way manifest a
desire to make love to her. Nevertheless, it was quite evident that he
had drifted into the assumption that the great prima donna, from whom no
other man in Europe could claim more than a bow, or a few meaningless
phrases at a rout, existed for him alone; that her time, her mind, her
affections, were his; that, putting the attitude into the American
nutshell, he owned her. And yet, while his bearing was a mixture of the
husband, the friend, the lover, and the spoilt child, it was all on the
mental plane; nor did he ever lose a certain formality, which indeed was
so integral a part of his birthright that no intimacy of his would ever
descend into the too dangerous places of familiarity.

If, as time went on, Styr was at some pains to analyze a relationship so
foreign to the usual, no such fatiguing process had ever occurred to
him. He accepted it all as a matter of course, as he did whatever good
things came his way; it was only the rare scowl of fortune that gave him
astonished pause. He sometimes threw a passing smile to an intimacy
which had all the surface appearance of so much more, and appreciated
the piquancy of this secret and unique experience. Now and again, too,
he threw a bone of gratitude to Frau von Wass for curing him of whatever
hankering for intrigue he may once have cherished, however languidly;
although he was under no delusion in regard to Styr, knowing well that
did he drop into even the usual gallantries he would be snubbed for his
pains. Commonly, however, he wasted no time on thought, not even upon
that inevitable future in which this rare and delightful companion could
have no part. But when was he inclined to invoke the future unless his
creditors were impertinent, or he dreamed vaguely of some strange
exalted happiness for which he saw no parallel in life? At present his
hopeful debtors were awaiting the sure enthusiasm of Lord Bridgminster
when his brilliant heir had passed triumphantly into the diplomatic
service; and if he sometimes dreamed, it was not of the woman he liked
best on earth: she, being always at hand, why, in heaven’s name, should
he dream of her?

Before leaving Munich, Princess Nachmeister had resolved upon a bold
move. Too astute to mention the name of Mabel Cutting, she yet confided
to the woman who, it was patent, alone possessed any real influence over
her favourite, that his mother and friends were arranging a wholly
desirable alliance for him, and only delayed bringing the two young
people together until the girl should have gained the poise and
experience of a London season, and he should have assimilated,
undistracted, the knowledge of German necessary for his examinational

“You are the subtlest of women,” continued the old diplomat. “Instil the
expedience of an early and wealthy marriage into the mind of this most
extravagant of princelings. Gott! One would think that my lord of
Bridgminster was eighty and living on pap, not a red-faced sportsman of
less than forty. That dear little boy! I fairly shudder when I imagine
his future without an income practically unlimited.” She pressed her
mummified old hand close upon Styr’s, a rare amenity in one that never
permitted Munich to forget that she was its social dictator and the
intimate friend of the Queen-mother. “Yes, that dear little boy! Cannot
you conjure up his unhappy fate if he flings away this great opportunity
and goes on at this pace for five years longer on the income of a
younger son?”

“I think the dear little boy will always fall on his feet, whether he
marry this particular heiress or not. It seems to be the mission of
certain of our sex to take care of him, extricate, engineer him. I have
had this greatness thrust upon me, and I seem humbly to accept it. No
doubt it is as much a part of my destiny as to cheer up the King at
midnight with that black auditorium between us!”

“Well, it is our duty to help others,” said the Nachmeister piously.
“And particularly these young things that think the world is their
footstool, and go on thinking so until too late. Two things our
_jüngling_ must do during the next two years: pass his examinations and
marry. You will not deny that he has the making of a remarkable man in

“He is astonishingly developed mentally, but a more lazy, lymphatic,
self-indulgent, supine creature I never met in my life. If he were an
American, that brain of his would be supplemented by the
‘git-up-and-git’ that would enable him to make a great man of himself
unassisted. Now, it will be others that will lead him, drive him, to the
goal. He’ll never lift a finger for himself.”

“Well, what matter?” asked the European. “I am sure he would not be half
so delicious did he have that dreadful—how do you call it?—No! He
would not be himself at all. If he becomes a great man, if his brain and
talents find their opportunity, what difference whether he or others
clear the way? And while I could wish myself thirty years younger, I am
quite resigned to accomplish my humble part behind the scenes and leave
to you the great work of giving our young friend to Europe. Will you,
dear Gräfin?”

“I have quite made up my mind to keep his lofty nose to the grindstone
until the last of August—if his mother sends in his name on the first
of June as she proposes, he must take his examinations within three
months. I do not leave Munich myself until the last week in August, and
I can make him work by threatening to get a leave of absence from the
King on the plea of ill health and to go yachting with some
acquaintances that invite me every year. Lutz promises to remain in
Munich if he will study faithfully.”

“What original phrases you have! Why did not we ever talk in English
before? Ah, yes! That will be a great work, but you will also help me in
the other matter?”

“Yes, I think he should marry, since he will not work.”


“The only fault I find with our charming youth is that he expects the
world to support him, and could not make ten dollars a month if he
tried. Nor would he try.”

“Gott! He cannot go out into the market-place like your Americans. He is
destined for the high places of the world. Surely you know our points of
view by this time, dear Gräfin. For portionless young men of our
aristocracies must rich young women be found, who thus buy a better
position than the one to which they were born. That is right and just.
And when a young man has the talents and prospects of our friend—Gott!
but he gives far more than he expects, even if he takes possession of
the entire fortune. And in any case, must not girls have husbands?”

“Who is the girl in question?”

“Ah, that I cannot tell you. Personally, I do not know Lady
Bridgminster; but a friend of hers writes me these things. I am assured,
however, that the girl is all that we could wish. Of course he will not
love her, but what of that? He will always be polite to her, and that is
much! much!”

“Why do you think he will not love her?”

“Why—why—” Excellenz was quite positive that he would be quite as
enamoured as any other young husband, during the honeymoon. “Oh, these
young men brought up by married women—they always love women older than
themselves. No doubt it will be you, _ma belle Marguerite_. That will do
him no harm—but make him marry the girl.”

“He will not fall in love with me. I shall see to it that no such idea
enters his head. As he will have to be engineered into love as into
everything else, he is quite safe not to discover my fascinations

“Ah, dear Gräfin, you Americans are so clever! Between us all, I feel
confident that our dear young friend will have one of the most brilliant
careers in Europe. Is it not so?”

“I do not worry in the least,” Styr had responded dryly.

Two days later Princess Nachmeister, satisfied, went off to drink the
waters at her favourite spa; but promptly upon the first day of every
week she received a letter from a member of the bureau of secret police.

                          ONE OF THE POTTERIES

The greater part of Ordham’s reserve melted, as was natural, when he
sprawled on the divan with his coat off on a hot day, and his hostess
sat in her rocking-chair fanning herself and wearing one of those white
lawn wrappers that an American woman would retain in her wardrobe were
she elevated to a throne. By no means frank by temperament, he indulged
in frankness as a sort of luxury where his confidence had been won; and
feeling more intimate with Styr than he had ever felt with anybody, he
talked to her freely about himself, his family, his hopes, desires, and
sentiments toward most things, until Margarethe knew him far better than
either of them realized at the time.

But he was not fond of talking about himself, nor of personalities in
general. Books, the theatre, life, the mysterious back-waters of human
nature, interested him far more. He always brought out his London
newspaper, and being too lazy to read aloud himself, made her read to
him the news of the day and the editorial comment, while he explained
the relationship of the present to the immediate past. Her house was
littered with reviews, the works of the various masters he was obliged
to study, and of the novelists and poets of the day: George Meredith,
Turgénev, Rossetti, Swinburne, Browning. They wrangled across the
dissecting-table of Maupassant, and picked the jewelled bones of

She went often to the theatre with him, sitting behind the curtains of a
box; and, several famous _Gasts_ from other capitals coming to Munich
that summer, there were few pastimes they enjoyed more than this, the
drama being the one subject upon which they were in perfect accord.
Moreover, as the play was a diversion which she had never denied
herself, she experienced no uneasy consciousness of knocking down
outposts of old defences.

It was on the nights after the theatre that he remained until the small
hours; he always returned with her for supper, as she would not go to a
restaurant with him. There are no people wiser in human conduct than
servants, and the comment indulged in between the old butler and the
maids was upon the astonishing impeccancy of the relationship above
stairs. Had it been otherwise, these good Bavarians would have taken it
as a matter of course and made no comment whatever. The ingenuous morals
of the Bavarians were a source of evergreen interest to Styr, who had
been brought up in a country that wore silk over its rags. Upon one
occasion, however, she was more embarrassed than moved to ethical
musings. She was sitting with Ordham in the gallery after the evening
meal, when her housemaid entered and asked permission to leave on the
following morning for Leoni, her native village. Kurt withheld his
consent, so she appealed to her gnädige frau.

“What is the matter that you go so suddenly, and when do you return?”
asked Margarethe, who did not like her household upset.

“I think I cannot return, Frau Gräfin. One of my children is ill, and as
I shall soon have another—which will make three—Heinrich and I have
decided that it will now be cheaper to marry.”

Ordham, who was willing to discuss in the abstract all questions under
the sun, blushed scarlet and dropped out of a window into the garden.
Countess Tann remarked tartly:

“Indeed! It is a pity you did not think of it sooner, and then your
other two children would have had the advantage of legal birth.”

“That matters not, gnädige frau, and we must be sure of children to
support us when we are old and tired, before we marry and perchance have
none. And, then, apart, we can make more money for some years, and the
babies can be farmed until they become too many. Divorce is not easy
with us, gnädige frau, as in America, and we find this arrangement right
and just. It works well.”

Styr, who had never supposed the beer-soaked brain of a Bavarian peasant
to be capable of any reasoning process whatever, looked at the girl with
more interest. She was a plain heavily built creature, but nothing could
be more honest, amiable, and sensible than her face.

“Very well! Tell Kurt to give you a month’s extra wages and to engage a
new maid at once, I hope you will find your child better and have a
merry wedding.”

The girl kissed her hand, protested gratitude, and withdrew.

“After all,” said Margarethe, when Ordham ventured to return, “who shall
say? In Zulu land the biggest liar is king.”

“At least they have the advantage of the support of society! Ours are no
better and are such shocking hypocrites, when no worse—you never hear
of infanticide in this country. Probably most morality could be sifted
down to utility. It is wrapped up in charming and traditional
sentiments, but the kernel is plastic. These peasants find it more
economical after the third discretion to set up an establishment of
their own. For most of us, alas! the straight and narrow way is a more
comfortable fit in the long run.”

“The simplicity and safety of your philosophy is delightful, but I fancy
your temperament has saved you from a good many disasters. And I am told
that you very nearly scorched your fingers not so long ago, and that
only a goitre saved you. Do you ever think of poor little Frau von Wass
dosing and varnishing herself in her lonely castle?”

Ordham scowled, and when he scowled he no longer looked very young. “I
do not think of things I wish to forget,” he said shortly. “What is the

“None whatever! How fortunate you are. No doubt you will forget all this
a month after the inevitable end.”

“Oh! oh! How can you say such a thing?” He shook his finger at her, his
gayety instantly restored. “Besides, I shall never be very far away. I
shall always be coming back to see you. Munich, thank heaven, is in the
middle of Europe. I shall come here often, no matter where I am sent.”

“Suppose you are sent to St. Petersburg or the United States?”

“I shall manage not to be. Great heaven! Fancy not to be able to see you
for months at a time!” He looked appalled.

“What if you marry?”

“What difference will that make?” He moved his head impatiently and
sighed, throwing himself back on the divan and biting a tassel of one of
the cushions. “I dread returning to England. Only this morning I had a
letter from my mother. She has some English girl or other picked out for
me. At first she wrote a lot about an American girl with a fortune, the
daughter of a friend of hers; but now, it seems, these dear friends have
quarrelled, or my mother no longer admires Americans. At all events she
is all for marrying me to some rich English girl of my own class that
she has found.”

“No doubt she is quite right. Please don’t eat up my cushion.”

“I am _so_ sorry!”

“Is the English girl beautiful?”

“I suppose so. My mother would not venture to recommend her otherwise.
She knows that I hate ugliness as she does herself—and am not fond of
English girls.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Let her amuse herself. One
thing is positive: I shall marry to please myself.”

“I wonder?”

“What do you mean by that?” Ordham had eyes capable of a great variety
of expressions. Now they looked large and cold. “Do you fancy I could be
married against my will?”

“Always remember that the cleverest of men is no match for a clever
woman, and if two or three clever women—” She halted, recalling her
compact. “Why should you object to being steered into the matrimonial
harbour by your wise mother? She is far less likely to make a mistake
than you are, for you are too indolent to give such a grave subject the
proper amount of deliberation. And you would soon tire of any girl you
married, for you have the order of mind that demands variety. You can
find that in friendships, so why miss the opportunity of an advantageous

Ordham set his long jaw. “My mother shall not pick out my wife. The very
fact that she insisted upon one of any two girls would make me believe
the other was the better suited to all my requirements. I and my mother
are too like and too unlike to judge for each other.”

                          THE CRACK IN THE JAR

There were times when Margarethe Styr, so long a recluse, felt
embarrassed and awkward in this new and unique intimacy, little as
Ordham suspected it; and there were others when she felt an almost
irresistible longing to practise the arts of the enchantress and unwrap
the lethargy in which her singular young friend appeared to be
swaddled—fold by fold. She hated the brute in man as sullenly as ever;
but personal vanity—which once had driven her to a ferocious love of
power—had been starved for eight years, and, refusing to give up the
ghost, sometimes muttered its rights. She imagined scenes in the gallery
with the windows open to the moonlight and the warm scented vocal night,
when this brilliant but lymphatic young man, under the arts of the
accomplished siren, not one of which she had forgotten, would suddenly
find himself the passionate determined lover. But the temptation rarely
lingered, and finally passed. She indulged in no dream at any time of
response, and any such violent dislocation of their present relations
could only result in rupture. He would never forgive her, and she should
always remember him as looking very young and ridiculous. As it was, she
rarely thought of his age, and it was not long before she realized that
she had in her hands the clay with which to model the one perfect
experience of her life. When she discovered that her mind was revelling
in this new and daily companionship, she wondered it had survived that
long period of loneliness to which she had condemned it. Styr was
essentially a man’s woman. If her brain accepted a mate at all, it must
be a man’s. Had she made intimates among her own sex, they would quickly
have been reduced to satellites or enemies.

And now, for the first time, her brain had found a mate, a fact the more
wonderful and beatific because it was the one glory of which she had
never dreamed even in those days when she took refuge in dreams. She
determined to forge a deep and mysterious bond with the ego of this man,
whom, had she been fifteen years younger and unblackened by life, she
fancied she might have loved and married. She had had everything else;
now she would have only the highest.

At first she could hardly formulate her wants, for the spiritual desires
are very elusive, especially when the brain is fed. Indeed, the line
between the mental and the spiritual desires is so fine that the spirit,
the soul, is, no doubt, merely the brain raised to a higher and more
intense degree both of desire and expression; it has its most
comprehensible illustration in the exalted pitch it sometimes reaches
under the influence of music, of Nature in the major mood, the account
of some stirring and heroical deed. In other words, the soul is the
brain in its best moments, when most nearly free of the flesh. It may be
that these moments illuminate for a second the misty horizon which
obscures the walls of death.

Fortunately there were few if any homely details to dissipate the magic
halo flung around this relationship. After all, Ordham had no real
rights, no authority, save such as she tacitly granted him. Her cook was
a personage of variety and attainments; her household ran on wheels
oiled and invisible; society, with its trivial and levelling
interruptions, was away; the ugly adder of money could never rear its
head between them. If ever the opportunity was granted a woman to snatch
a poem out of the vast prose heap of life, it was Margarethe’s, and she
had never at any time been the woman to oppose a desire that assailed
her in full strength. She would have been the first to make it clear
that if she had “reformed,” it was because she had outgrown the lower
offerings of her nature and found the higher more interesting and

Ordham realized sharply enough later that if he did not love her at this
time it was because she pressed down the eyelids of his drowsy passions,
his indolent senses; but as the weeks passed he vaguely understood that
he was happy, and that only her insistent spurring made him stick to his
studies and prepare for a future in which at times he quite lost
interest, so perfect was the present. Styr had resisted the demoniacal
teasings of her vanity, but she had no intention of denying it rights
both natural and harmless; and being a woman as well versed in man as
Mercator in the surfaces of Earth, she knew exactly how far to go, when
to dazzle and allure him with glimpses of the hidden treasures in both
their natures. To have been always merely the good comrade, sexless, the
artist dwelling in regions remote from the common interests of life,
would have been as fatal as to have laid down all her arms with a sigh
and confessed herself the eternal woman. There were times when they
quarrelled violently; and, indeed, being mistress of many moods, and not
sparing in the use of them, she gave him no opportunity to tire of her
and long for the wide circle in which he had hitherto fed his love of
variety. She even made him accept an occasional invitation to a castle,
and they took many little excursions into the country, where they read
and talked and fell silent under the trees of the woods, or on the
shores of some lake with a chain of Alps glittering in the distance. For
the purposes of a romantic friendship Bavaria is unexcelled!

But if Ordham, owing to his languid temperament and overdeveloped mind,
was immature in character and torpid in those recesses of his
masculinity inaccessible to any currents not sent out by the heart, he
was by no means blind. Although too indolent and too content to analyze
deeply, even as time went on, there were moments, generally as he sat by
his window at midnight, or loitered up the Isar in the small hours, when
he speculated upon the possibility of falling in love with this woman,
when his mind was even briefly lit up with the suspicion that he would
love her now, were she not so supremely indifferent to the unwilling
fascination he had exercised over some other women. But while in other
circumstances this fact alone might have piqued his vanity into storming
that citadel prisoning all the mysteries of her sex, by this time he was
quite determined to marry between his examinations and his first
diplomatic appointment; and the mere thought of a love affair with
Margarethe Styr, rousing him to his depths as it must, and absorbing
every faculty, filled him with terror. She must always be in his life;
no girl and her millions should interfere for a moment with this
wonderful relationship he had established with the most wonderful of
women; but to love her would mean hurricanes and earthquakes in his
inner life, whose mere vision not only alarmed the lotus eater in him,
but cast an ominous cloud of warning over his future. He might forget it
at times, but more and more the uneasy sense of the necessity to provide
for that future before it was too late recurred to him under the renewed
if gentle manipulation of his mother.

Once he went so far as to resolve that if he detected a disposition on
her part to deepen their intimacy, he should leave for England by the
next train. This resolution took form one Sunday afternoon when he was
returning from a visit to Princess Nachmeister, established for a few
weeks in her castle, splendidly poised above lake and woods in the Alps
of Tyrol. There had been a large house party, and he had felt frivolous
and worldly and irresponsible, in all respects much as he had felt
before he met the woman with whom he had found so many more resources
than he had dreamed existed in human intercourse. Nachmeister had made a
lion of him, had informed her guests, among whom were dignitaries of
state, that he was the cleverest young man in Europe, and certain of
wielding the baton in the diplomatic orchestra during her lifetime. He
was fancying himself mightily.

Nevertheless, he went at once to the villa by the Isar, for he never
broke an appointment with its châtelaine. He found Styr in a villanous
temper. She had received a late summons to sing in the Hof at midnight
for the King. When she unceremoniously turned him out, he was glad to
go, and wondered that he could have apprehended sentiment in this
sullen, angry, almost ugly woman, who, after a separation of nearly
three days, had scarcely a word for him. She had communicated with him
in whispers, which forced his own voice down to the same artificial
register, and made him feel as absurd as, no doubt, he looked.

“Good-by,” she had whispered in the hall, where he happened to have met
her (he had his own gate key); “come to-morrow. I am in the right frame
of mind to sing Kundry! I shall pinch Parsifal when I get him under my
mantle, and he won’t dare scream. The idea of commanding a performance
of _Parsifal_ in this weather!”

“Oh, well,” he whispered back consolingly, “you haven’t sung for a
month, and your voice might get rusty.”

“Go away.”

As Ordham, half an hour later, strolled up the Maximilianstrasse,
admiring the brown fairy-like palace on its terraces at the end of the
perspective (which always looked to him as if it might have been dreamed
by some homesick Italian poet), he was pricked by a sudden longing to go
and call on a girl. He cared little for girls as a rule, and was well
content to be approved by women of the world; but, after all, he was
very young, and the mere youth in him moved restlessly now and again as
if with an unappeased, if intermittent, hunger. At Princess
Nachmeister’s castle he had flirted with three or four charming married
women, and upon his return he had hastened to the side of the mortal he
liked best on earth. But—well—he would have loved an hour of nonsense,
a game of tennis, a gay meaningless flirtation with an innocent
light-headed and extravagantly pretty girl. He wondered if the youth in
him would last much longer. Had not Styr petted and spoilt him when the
mood took her he should have felt quite forty. And he would have enjoyed
that extraordinary friendship the more for the occasional relief of a
shallow but charming girl. But girls in Munich were as scarce as praise
from his Lutz. The thought of her was like a sudden bracing wind out of
the northeast. At least he was making progress under her lash that would
enable him to face the board of examiners before the end of the summer
with few misgivings. He also had taken up French again, and he delved
for two hours a day in the other lores prescribed by the guardians of
the diplomatic service; so that after all the time left at his disposal
for regrets and analysis was limited.


On the following day, Styr, who had never been more gracious, asked him
if he would walk with her in the park next morning at four of the clock.
For a moment he felt so blank that his mouth stood ajar; but not only
had he grown accustomed to fall in with her plans, but he had an
immediate vision of himself and the heroine of his romantic friendship
alone in the vast solitudes of the Englischergarten, and assented with
enthusiasm. Margarethe, when not out of temper (when he, too, could be
very sulky and obstinate), never failed to carry him whither she listed;
but this mere tantalizing of the natural romance of youth was to breed
results of which Styr, far-sighted as she commonly was, had no

He went to bed at nine o’clock, an event that had not occurred within
his memory. On the following morning at three he fumbled into his
clothes under the impression that he was a somnambulist, and wished
between prodigious yawns that Frau von Tann had chosen to explore the
mysteries of the Englischergarten by moonlight. But when his gloomy
servant, who had been ordered to rouse him, brought him a cup of strong
coffee, his wits quickened. Further encouraged by the waiting
_droschke_, in whose appearance he had placed little faith, he repaired
to the Schwabing bridge in the proper frame of mind to meet a
dark-browed woman muffled in a long white cloak and with a white veil
floating about her head.

She led him with shining eyes past the lake with its sleeping swans,
past the sweetly smelling fields, through silences as of untrodden
mountain tops. The stars were crowding one another out of the deep cold
blue of the sky; from the earth rose strange subtle perfumes which made
him blush for his decadent Roman love of artificial scents; the shadows
were dark on the open reaches; distant trees stood out black and sharp;
the woods seemed huddled together; even the Isar crawled silently in its

Suddenly Styr flung out her hands, the palms upturned to the flickering
sky. She looked like a priestess about to chant her pæan to the gods.
Off the stage she had never appealed so directly to that artistic and
sensuous side of his nature he had assiduously cultivated, and he gazed
at her, stirred by a formless but eager sense of expectation which he
did not comprehend until long after. He did not even attempt to
formulate the wish that she were a goddess and himself a god, and that
they had floated to a plane where no sound stirred but the music of
Wagner; but as she turned her head and her eyes met his, she looked so
young, and at the same time so different from all women, that
involuntarily he moved a step forward.

“Oh!” she cried. “Do you know that this is the very first time in my
life that I have known—lived—romance? Romance! The mere word is
wonderful. During all the years of my youth I did not even believe in
its existence. To think that once I was
sixteen—twenty—twenty-eight—the ideal age—and that I never once
glanced over the wall into the lovely mysterious gardens of other
women’s youth! It is incredible that I never at least dreamed
of—anticipated it.”

“But if it has come—what matter?”

“No, it does not matter. But oh, poor poets! poor psychologists! That I
can drink this full cup of romance without finding the commonplace dregs
of love at the bottom! All the other senses and appreciations are
intensified, instead of being submerged, as when one is surrendering
ignominiously to the race. I feel that I have attained heights that
other women, silly victims that most of them are, have not even the
power to imagine. My hands are in the secret caskets of life, and all
the jewels are mine! mine!”

She looked so triumphant, so wholly beautiful, so like Isolde, that the
colour mounted to his face, although she frightened him a little, and he
wished he were ten years older. But she never gave him time to feel that
he was not rising to the occasion (although this agonizing sensation
visited him occasionally in the retrospect), any more than she ever
permitted an electrified moment to prolong itself until it had kindled
fire. She came down to earth abruptly.

“Let us walk faster. I want to walk in the woods, and if we loiter we
shall take cold.”

But as they entered those dim glades which might have been the depths of
remote forests, he asked abruptly, “Am I your lover?”

“Yes—in a new fashion!” She spoke gayly. “It is a sort of mental
marriage. Are you content?” She looked at him with the humorous flash in
her eyes which always lit up the breach between their ages.

“I think it is rather odd that I am, you know. I must be as cold as a
fish—or else that woman I told you about so put me off—”

“Well, don’t put your good fortune under a microscope. Be grateful that
when you do awaken you will have preserved the freshness of youth to
give zest and charm to the energy of maturity.”

“Suppose I never do awaken.”

“You will. For long I wondered why you had so many of the qualifications
as well as something of the temperament of genius, without any one of
the creative gifts. But I have come to the conclusion that you have a
very rare gift—that of the supreme lover.”


“It will wake up in due course, that genius of yours—oh, yes.”

“And why not for you?” He was still conscious of no desire to touch her,
but what man could resist flirtation in such surroundings?

“Because neither of us wishes it. We have a perfect thing. Why shatter
it? When you cross that dark threshold, you never know! If I were
fifteen years younger and of your own world—”

“You would not be you. I don’t know—I have a feeling—a
presentiment—that one day I shall love you. I sometimes have a vision
of myself ten years older living with you in Venice.” He spoke with
sudden energy. “I am certain it will come to pass.”

“Venice smells so dreadfully. I had no idea you were given to romantic

“I am not. It is, as I said, a sort of fleeting vision, a presentiment.
I know that you will always be in my life; and naturally I see you where
one can command the greatest seclusion. I do not picture myself wholly
your lover, but I always see you quite alone with me—when I am older,
and, somehow, different.”

“Well, remember that I too shall be older,” she replied with mock
sadness. “By that time, no doubt, Wagner will have ground my voice to
powder, and I shall be playing Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra, or
introducing Ibsen to London and New York.”

She had succeeded in diverting him. “Ah! you would go to America—you
intend to go there some day?”

“Long before my voice has gone, I hope. If I could create a furore in
London I should not hesitate to go to New York at once. And—after
all—it is my own city; as much mine as if I had been born there, for I
went so young. The hatred I felt for it when I left has fled—with the
memory of other things; I dream of it now sometimes, and love every
stone of it. One can never continue to hate one’s own city, which must
always stand out in the memory as one’s best friend. Besides, when you
look down upon the world—Society—from one of its own pedestals,
nothing matters; no one can hurt you.”

“Would any one try to hurt you?” he asked anxiously. “Do you fear any
one now?”

“Not here. But if I went to the land of the free to interpret an
unpopular master unprotected by personal fame,—which, in American eyes,
only London can give, and only New York set the final seal upon,—I
should be hounded into the Hudson River.”

An intonation started him upon a fresh tack. “Did you ever think of

“More than once. No doubt you have yourself. But because you are young
and temperamental. I contemplated putting an end to myself for no such
poetic reasons. There were more reasons than one, and generally it was
the intense vitality of my mind that deterred me, perhaps an insolent
sense of power that would not permit me to lose in the game with life.
Now and again, I loved too much—what I then called love; but the
reflection that no man was worth the sacrifice restored my cynicism, and
cynicism is fatal to that intensity of egoism which counsels
annihilation. Strange to think that I once was hard and cynical!”

“At least you might tell me something of your love attacks.” He
continued artfully, “I shall never feel really in your confidence until
you do.”

“Love affairs of that sort are too commonplace to remember. At first I
loved once or twice out of mere youth and racial instinct. But I soon
got over that. The great affair? Well, he was the conventional hero,
fashioned by satirical Nature for the crudity of youth. He was
handsome—but handsome!—brilliant, charming, above all, inconstant—the
sort of man that keeps a woman questioning, ‘Will he come?’ Such a man
would only incite me to amusement to-day; no type is so ingenuous. But
then—well, I tried to kill him one day. He was too quick and too strong
for me. I was spared the vulgarity of a newspaper scandal; even a
whisper of the attempt never passed my threshold; I took good care that
it should not. The mere vision of half a column of headlines with my
name in letters as black as Pluto did as much later on to extinguish my
love as my separation from the man—I never saw him after. But I had
been possessed with the lust to kill, to annihilate, to whirl him and
myself out of life. And it was long before that rage, which included
everybody and everything on earth, subsided. But at last I came to my
senses. And—who knows?—all my life seems to have been but a schooling
for my art.”

“Then you regret nothing?”

“I waste no time in futilities, and there is nothing of the Magdalene in
my composition.”

“What would you have done if you had not discovered your voice?”

“No doubt I should have discovered in time that I was an actress. Had it
not been for that smouldering mental fire in me which always seemed to
whisper, ‘Wait! wait!’ I should have become the most famous courtesan of
modern times. I had it in me! There were intervals when Cora Pearl
inspired me with envy. It was mere instinct—rather the watch-fires of
genius—that led me to shun the public eye, even when on the stage.”

“You would have been a horrible woman if you had chosen to go that
pace!” he exclaimed, with a sudden access of vision. “You had it in you
to become all bad.”


“Was art your only hope? Suppose you had loved the right sort of man?”

“Such women don’t love the right sort of man. They are born off the key,
and they do not meet the men to inspire them with ideals. Nor women
either. Besides, after that I never wished to love again. The only good
thing about love is the getting over it. Good God!” She flung out her
hands again. “The delight of that recovery, the sense of freedom, the
intoxicating liberty! Love to women of my nature is a hideous slavery,
the sooner we become flint the better. Leave love for the conservators
of the race. But enough of such black subjects this beautiful morning.
The sun climbed the Alps while we were in the woods, and the stars have
gone out. Let us return. I have a make-up for you! After breakfast I
shall take a photograph—but it will flatter you!”

Some time before she had taught him how to use her camera, and he had
taken a series of photographs of her in the costumes and attitudes of
her various rôles. Thus it happens that to-day Bridgminster is the only
person living who can recall Styr without the aid of memory, for even in
London, when she realized the half of her supreme ambition, she would
not be photographed for the public. And as Ordham, in spite of his
laziness, could do most things well that he gave his mind to, these
photographs, some twenty in number, are not only admirable specimens of
the amateur’s art, but such approximate presentments of Styr that it is
to be hoped they will yet find their way into a public gallery.

She let him sleep for two hours after breakfast, then sending for him to
come to her in the garden, dressed him in a flowing wig, a velvet
jacket, a low soft collar, and wandering scarf. Then she stood off.

“Pout out your lips. Make your eyes heavy with sullen dreams. There! You
are Rossetti at nineteen. You look as if about to die of a rose in
aromatic pain. How have you escaped the æsthetic craze, at the very

“I don’t think that I have. Only whereas they think they can do things,
I know that I cannot, and do not propose to make myself ridiculous to no
end. Please hurry. This wig is very warm.”

He sent the photograph later to his mother, and it left her breathless
for quite a moment. As much as she could fall in love with any man, she
had fallen in love with Rossetti. At least he had haunted her girlish
dreams, and perhaps those of her early married life until the world
absorbed her. Of course she had never seen him in his beautiful youth;
and to him—then deeply in love with Elizabeth Siddal—she had been
nothing more than an interesting sitter whom her august papa had not too
graciously allowed him to paint. But stranger things than that have
happened in Nature’s workshop.


The King suffered from toothache. Detesting dentists, and knowing from
bitter experience that it would endure until the nerve died, he
indifferently granted Styr’s request for a month’s leave of absence.
Chaperoned by Fräulein Lutz, she and Ordham went on what they called a
walking tour in the Bavarian Alps. Travelling third class, both for the
picturesque companionship it afforded and to escape awkward rencounters,
they took the train from village to village, and spent several hours of
each day leisurely climbing, driving, wandering in the woods, or
floating on the brilliant waters, as deeply toned as emerald or
sapphire, of Alpine lakes. Avoiding hotels, they lodged on the outskirts
of their villages, and Lutz went to market every morning. They took no
servants with them, and nothing could exceed Ordham’s devotion in
carrying wraps and ordering carriages. But this, they were not long
discovering, was the limit of his usefulness. Either Styr or the
chaperon bought the tickets, found the porters, engaged the rooms,
bargained with guides, ordered the meals, made out the routes, and asked
all necessary questions. On the morning after their arrival in
Oberammergau, Fräulein Lutz almost burst into Styr’s bedroom.

“Mein Gott!” she exclaimed. “But I have just prepared his bath! But I,
Hiobe Lutz! This is the climax. I met him wandering in the hall with his
eyes half opened and seeming to look for something he could not find. He
wore a pink dressing-gown with green facings, and his bare feet were not
even in slippers. I asked him if he were ill. He said, No, that he had
no bath. It never occurred to him to walk downstairs and ask for his
tub, nor even to call out of the window. But he looked so helpless, so
_young_, that I—Himmel!—I ran downstairs and found for that giant baby
his tub, which had been put in the shed. Then, accompanied by the
daughter of the house, I carried it up to his room—then returned again
with jugs of water, hot and cold! He thanked us ‘so much.’ Oh, he has
the prettiest manners. They never fail. But myself, I shall have to
cross the English Channel and pass those examinations for him.”

“You know you are devoted to him.”

“What is it?” asked Lutz with sudden suspicion. “Can it be this
hypnotism they talk about?”

“Charm comes from the same root, I fancy. And then he really is
helpless. How can people, even the rich and great, bring up a boy like

Lutz nodded in sage disgust. “The aristocracy! Ach Gott! What will
become of them when the next French Revolution, so to speak, comes? How
they must have suffered, those poor pampered things! It was not the fear
of death. That was nothing. Race can always meet downfall and death with
an air—an air that sustains them within as without. But before the
scaffold! When they had to dress, to wait on themselves!—to think! Ah,
that was the tragedy. I feel sorry for these poor helpless aristocrats;
but no, I would not abolish the institution, because it gives to us
humble bourgeois the savour that Europe furnishes for America! So, when
I saw that poor helpless boy—who can talk like his grandfather—ach! I
cannot understand him. He is made up of too many parts, contradictions,
for my old brain. On the whole, I should like to spank him.”

Styr laughed and put the finishing touches to her costume of brown
linen, which looked simple and bucolic, but had been cut in Paris, and,
with a hat and veil as soft and rich in their shading as a pheasant’s
wing, was no less artistic and becoming than the white frocks she put on
for supper. A few moments later Ordham entered their common sitting
room, fresh, smiling, unconscious of the comment he had inspired. He had
quite forgotten the episode of the bath.

He shook hands with Countess Tann and Fräulein Lutz in his usual formal
manner, his eyes beaming with pleasure as they always did upon entering
the presence of his chosen friend, unless something had happened to put
him out of temper. As he was so much more amiable and happy even than
usual this morning, Styr suddenly understood how he must have missed his
servant, although he had never referred to the man. He was feeling
pleasantly cared for once more, even if he had ungratefully forgotten
the author of his well-being. No doubt the warm water for his bath had
often failed to appear, and he had none of the national mania for “cold
tubs.” From this time forth, until he was safely deposited in the
Legation once more, Lutz grimly made a nurse of herself. She not only
saw to his bath, but she packed and unpacked his trunk, and discovering
that many objects were mateless, divorced, of course, in the laundry,
she wrote to Hines for a new supply. He accepted all these attentions
with the most charming courtesy, but his lack of emphasis amused Styr,
although poor Lutz took his polite acquiescence in her devotions as a
matter of course.

Upon this morning he went at once out upon the little balcony where they
were to breakfast, and murmured his delight, calling Styr to join him
with an imperious motion of his head. They had arrived after dark and
seen little of the long straggling village on the bank of its narrow
stream. Their lodging was at the very end of the street, where the road
branches to Ettal, and from the balcony they could see the romantic
winding village in the narrow valley, above which towered a peak
surmounted by a cross. There were mills with great wheels on the river,
dilapidated bridges, peasants in costume, the usual church with its
domed steeple high on its terrace, and surrounded by tombs. Even the
roofs of the houses were picturesque, the women working in the narrow
fields. On all sides, covering the mountains, was the forest, and over
all a peace indescribable.

As they had brought their own coffee, and fruit was abundant, they
enjoyed their breakfast even if the bread was sour and the butter
ill-made; luxuries they had dismissed from their minds. When it was
over, leaving Lutz to consult with their hostess, Margarethe and Ordham
strolled through the village. Oberammergau resembled many other Bavarian
and Tyrolean villages up to a certain point, and then its individuality
began. On the plastered façades of the pointed houses were beautiful
religious frescoes as soft and mellow as those of Ghirlandajo, and in
the church, larger and more graceful than many, were two hideous
bedizened skeletons of saints. Protected by glass, and gorgeously
arrayed, their awful skulls and hands, chemically preserved, seemed to
cry out for the last act of death, which would grant them the dust and
oblivion of the grave. The church was half full of men and women,
dropped in for a casual prayer, and all dressed in the picturesque garb
of Ober-Bayern, so rare these few years later.

Even the people of this village of the Passion Play are different from
those of other villages. Bavarian peasants are kindly, but these of
Oberammergau have an exquisite and unfailing courtesy, and every child
greets the stranger with “_Grüss Gott_,” and runs to kiss his hand.
Although it would be several years before the next performance of the
Passion Play, many of the men wore their hair long, for a religious
drama of some sort is given every year. The very expression of these
people indicated a superiority of intelligence and character. All hoped
to be chosen, or rechosen, for the next great performance; and few in
that village, where the light was as searching as ever was turned upon a
throne, but cultivated the best that was in him. It is probably the only
spot on Earth where Christianity is a working success.

Ordham and Margarethe lingered at the windows of the shops, admiring the
wood carving, and bought a number of crucifixes and religious groups for
the servants at home. Finally, they sat down at a table outside one of
the cafés, where the Christus of the last performance, who looked as
much like Christ as any mortal can, was drinking beer and eating a large
piece of black bread and Swiss cheese. Our friends listened for a few
moments to his animated discussion with a neighbour upon the utility of
damming the river, that it might do more good in summer and less harm in
winter. When he had finished his repast he rose, bowed profoundly to the
strangers, and sauntered off, followed by a troop of children that all
hoped to be Christuses in their turn.

“I should think it must be a terrible strain,” said Ordham. “Surely
human nature must break out occasionally.”

“No doubt it does. But these people are saturated with the spirit of the
Passion Play, and so have their ancestors been before them—for three
hundred years. They are not only moral but happy. The first time I came
here, one young woman, whose histrionic talent was remarkable, told me
that she had refused two offers from Berlin managers because life would
be a blank to her if she could not look out of her window every morning
and see the cross on Kochel. This is the only community in the world
which is consistent generation in and out to a high ideal.”

“I wonder if it is a haven of rest to outsiders,” said Ordham, who was
staring at her after his habit, his cigarette cold. “Could you come here
if your voice failed you; if, for any reason, you could not act—come
here and find peace?”

Margarethe shook her head. “For a week—a fortnight. Then I should fly
to the very centres of distraction. This peace is not for the outsider.
It is not sold in the shops with the crucifixes. It takes generations to
make. Even if one brought here a peaceful, even a religious, mind, one
would never feel quite the real thing. And yet I do not believe there is
a self-righteous person in Oberammergau. Alas! Our tête-à-tête is over.
Here comes your grenadier.”

Ordham hastily lit a cigarette as his Lutz strode up, exclaiming: “Did
you think to escape your lesson? We shall have it here. It shall be
conversation and dictation.”

“The morning is so beautiful—you are going away?” Margarethe was
opening her parasol.

“But yes,” said Lutz severely. “Is her place here, to distract your
sufficiently frivolous mind? Ask me a question.”

“Do you prefer chocolate or coffee?” he asked ingratiatingly.

“Chocolate, with thanks. But we are no longer in the Ollendorff stage or
you would not be returning next month to England to face your destiny. I
have thought of ten terrible questions, than which they can construct
nothing more difficult, more ridiculous. I have brought pencil and
paper. Write, while I drink the excellent chocolate.”

And Ordham groaned and resigned himself.

If Lutz was inexorable in her own province she was an irreproachable
chaperon. They saw little of her save at meals, and wandered in the
woods, or, here in Oberammergau, sat for hours beside the cross, high on
Kochel, indulging in those long silences where ego’s wing-tips graze one
another now and again. Often Ordham went frankly to sleep, and Styr
forgot him, and dreamed of conquests in London and New York, such as
Patti herself had never wrung from those blasé publics.

They went on to Berchtesgaden, that strange tumbled mass of peaks and
ledges and rocky walls, with its bit of valley, its castle, its village
dotted all over the scenery it cannot escape. They climbed to the
glacier, explored the salt mine, and spent hours on the great green
lake, Königsee; which looks as if a mountain had been sliced through its
middle, the high walls thrust apart, and waters, from some dark and
sinister depths of Earth, depths where she prepared her demoniacal
schemes to blast surfaces dear to man, had risen and covered the floor
of the gorge. It is a wild primeval landscape, suggestive of centuries
of convulsions, perhaps that the end is not yet. But if the mountains
were terrible, the lake gloomy, the monastery in the tiny valley was
peaceful, and when they climbed into the recesses of these volcanic
masses, they found the peasants, in the little dairy huts, very
hospitable and friendly. But once, when they went out by moonlight,
quite alone on the lake, the great dark expanse between its bare and
menacing walls filled them with terror, and they took hands and ran home
like children.

                           ADIEU TO THE ISAR

All things end, and the day after their return to Munich he appeared at
the villa with a very long face.

“I leave to-night for England,” he groaned, flinging himself on the
divan. “This morning I received a notice that the examinations will
begin next Monday. I did not read the reason. The fact was enough.”

“Desolation!” Styr sat down abruptly, but she kept all sentiment out of
her voice. “What in heaven’s name am I to do without you?”

“I wish I could think that you felt half as badly as I do. But while I
go to untold horrors, you go on a tour to win new laurels.”

“Yes, in hot German cities and hotter concert rooms. And my _Gastspiel_
does not begin until the 25th of August; but I find invitations from
Switzerland—Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne. I shall accept them if the King
consents. Yes,—I have work—but still! Well, you would have gone soon
in any case.”

“I shall return the moment this beastly business is over and I have seen

“But as soon as you pass you are in the service—you must work in the
Foreign Office for six months, and then you will be appointed, no doubt
far from Munich.”

“I shall get a three months’ leave. Influence may not be able to get a
man into the service, but it will do much later. I shall go when and
where I wish. I am determined to spend the autumn in Munich. There will
be that much more, at least. How in heaven’s name shall I ever get on
without you?”

“Do not protest too much.” Styr had no belief that he would fly back to
her, and once more was thankful that she had remade herself. She should
miss him, but it would have been the last straw did she still retain the
capacity to miss any man too much. She added dutifully: “Besides, I want
you to marry.”

He kicked about among the cushions. “That, at least, you need not remind
me of. But if I do, I shall come here on my honeymoon.”

“You might leave her behind.”

“I wish to heaven I could. Why not perfect these commercial marriages?
If I give the girl the position of a married woman, which they all
appear to be dying for, the prospect of a title, and the advantages of
my mother’s protection in London, she might at least give me my complete

“And her money.”

“Of course.”

“And you would come back to Munich and lie on my divan! You are fast
nibbling through the icing of what Excellenz calls the big black cake of
life, my friend, and must now look forward to an attack or two of
indigestion. I have a presentiment that you will not come back to Munich
until it has made you quite ill. Then, indeed, you will want
consolation. I wonder how different you will be?”

He turned upon her large anxious eyes. “Do you really believe I shall
have to go through the mill like other men? I should go to pieces! The
only thing I can think of that I shouldn’t funk if it came to the point
would be war. I shouldn’t hate that, although, no doubt, it would be
dirty and uncomfortable. But the trials of life, petty and big! I hate
the very thought of them, but I shall have them, of course—a few,
anyhow. But I shall always come to you for consolation—always! Promise
that no one shall take my place in the very slightest degree, that you
will never have another intimate friend.”

“That is easy to promise. Do not permit your mind to boil with

“It will.” He looked as placid as a lake. “But no matter what comes, I
can always conjure up this room—this room! Oh, I cannot leave it! I
hate the Civil Service Commission! I hate the diplomatic service! I hate
my creditors! I hate matrimony! And I hate my brother most of all.”

“You will feel much better after dinner. Come, it is ready.”

He remained with her until his servant came to fetch him for the night
train. As he took her hand at parting his boyishness vanished, and his
manner was a mixture of formality and sincere regret. “Good-by,” he
said. “I wish this summer might have lasted forever. You have made it
the most wonderful experience I shall ever have, and you will always be
the most wonderful woman in the world to me.”

They were standing in the hall, before the open door. He suddenly smiled
into her eyes with an expression that was not unlike a kiss. Then he
shook hands with her once more and went out to his cab.

For the first few days she did not miss him at all; once more there was
novelty in loneliness and freedom. When she did begin to miss him, she
found a certain exhilaration in a sensation that was also a novelty.
Then the King, still nursing his tooth, and always kindly, gave her
another leave of absence, and she went to Switzerland.

                               A ROSSETTI

Nothing, save, possibly, a voluntary check from his brother, could have
surprised Ordham more than the information that he had passed his
examinations. With the optimism, not inherent, but veneered upon his
mind by a too fortunate life, he had, up to the moment of his arrival,
taken his success in this ordeal for granted; perhaps it is fairer to
state that he saw himself always, when prefiguring his future, as an
ambassador in Paris or St. Petersburg; but no sooner did he find himself
at the entrance to those forbidding straits which he must traverse to
find the sole agency for his talents, than he descended into the depths
of black despair. He would not pass. How could he? His French was good,
for he had talked it in the nursery, and it had been actively exercised
in Paris. But he had barely brushed up his Latin. He should forget every
date—of course! And how could any man remember a mass of stuff it had
taken Mill and Smith a lifetime to grind out? And German! They laid as
much stress upon it as if England meditated immediate occupation of
middle and southeastern Europe. They would treat him like a witness at a
murder trial. How he hated that hideous language—and how could he have
been so fatuous as to imagine that he could accumulate the necessary
amount in less than a year?—the greater part of which he had wasted.
For once in his life he knew remorse, repentance, wished that he had a
will of iron, and had exercised it during that delightful sojourn in
Munich. It shamed him to reflect that what little he did know he owed to
the interest of one woman and the determined pounding of another.

He appeared before the board of examiners, pale, dejected, resigned,
with no crest whatever, and impressed that formidable body as being at
least a modest youth, high-bred and dignified, who would not be rejected
for personal reasons did he survive the mental ordeal—a finale which
sometimes surprised the cock-sure aspirant for diplomatic honours.

And he had passed! Not brilliantly, but he was launched upon the
diplomatic sea, and he had no apprehension, with his immense family
influence and the talents he was beginning to appreciate, of foundering.
For a few moments he felt an inclination to be wildly jubilant. But this
he sternly repressed, shrugged his shoulders, and reminded himself that
such a commonplace achievement was to be expected of any man who had
brains instead of porridge in his skull. To this succeeded an hour of
irritation and disgust that he had not distinguished himself, put his
rival competitors to the blush, made them wish he had forborne to enter
the lists. But he was generous and philosophical, and this mood also
passed. He wrote a note to Lord Bridgminster, and sent telegrams to
Countess Tann, Princess Nachmeister, Fräulein Lutz, and his mother. Then
he felt that he might dismiss the tiresome matter from his mind, as well
as the harrowing ordeal that awaited him in the north, and settle down
to the enjoyment of such plays as the month of August afforded.

He found the English drama and its interpretations tame and trite after
those highly seasoned performances of the Continent with what were
practically whole star casts, but they were better than visiting
political country houses with his mother; and he slept late, strolled up
and down Piccadilly, and wrote daily notes to Margarethe Styr, whom he
missed quite as much as he had anticipated. It would have been
interesting to abuse the play with her and drive out into the cool green
English country every afternoon. He consoled himself by reading several
new books he had not heard of while abroad, and sending them to her with
colloquial ramblings on the fly-leaves. It was very cool and pleasant in
his mother’s little house in Chesterfield Street, where hitherto he had
passed but a night or two during hasty visits from Paris. He had been
little in England since Lady Bridgminster, shorn of her power, had
departed out of Bridgminster House in St. James’s Square, and made a
nest for herself on the income of a dowager supplemented by a small
annual allowance from her tight-fisted papa, and occasional checks from
the duchess; the latter assisting her to enjoy life after a fashion and
contract new debts.

Ordham had always been vaguely sorry for his mother, and his examination
of the little house, this first time he was alone in it, deepened and
somewhat clarified his sympathy. It seemed to him that she had just
missed everything. She had almost been a great beauty, but although the
general effect she managed to achieve, still made people, particularly
in a ballroom, turn and stare at her, a closer inspection found the
face, in spite of its large blue eyes, almost insignificant. If not born
with a consuming desire for individual recognition, she had planted the
ambition early in life, and consistently cultivated it. But although a
feature in London society, she was not a personality, and there is a
vast difference. Even her position in the political world, towering as
it had been, she owed to her husband, brilliant, fascinating, and one of
the chiefs of his party, as well as to the superb entertainments his
income permitted her to give in St. James’s Square and Yorkshire. She
had facility of speech, of pen, in all _les graces_; but she was devoid
of originality, and almost stopped short of being clever. Distinguished
in manner, she was deficient in charm and made no slaves. With a sincere
love of beauty, she lacked the eye which corresponds to ear in music,
and there was always a want of harmony in the detail of both her dress
and her rooms. Worldly by birth and training, she was bohemian (of a
sort) by instinct, and even when in Bridgminster House had mixed her
parties in a fashion which society, less anxious to be amused at any
cost than it became a few years later, condemned; and although nothing
but indiscretions of which she was incapable could deprive her of the
great position to which she had been born, and had held no less through
her long period as a political hostess than her immense and powerful
connection, she was now merely the faddish daughter of one peer and
widow of another, instead of the personal force she still so ardently
desired to be.

Even the pretty little house (for which, of course, she paid an
exorbitant rent) lacked the individuality to which its rich collection
of blue china and hawthorn jars, Chippendale and old oak furniture, fine
brasses, antique vases, and Venetian mirrors, bits of Italian tapestry
and stained glass, entitled it. The drawing-room, unexpectedly large,
like so many of the drawing-rooms in those little houses in Mayfair,
should have been a memorial sonnet to Rossetti, and it looked like the
embodiment of his first incoherent dreams when groping for the formulæ
of the new art-religion. At the end of this room was the famous portrait
which Rossetti had painted at his own request. He had seen the young
girl at the opera and thought her the living embodiment of Beatrice. One
of his few patrons had been able to persuade the duke that the
fashionably obscure artist was a genius, but more because he would
disdain payment than because of any enthusiasm inspired by pictures
which the duke thought as stiff and outlandish as those ridiculous
formal gardens about Ordham Castle. He was a Briton to his marrow, was
his Grace, and he carried his detestation of all things foreign to such
an extent that he had never paid a second visit to the Continent nor to
any of those country houses which kept green the memories of Palladio
and Inigo Jones. But his daughter, who had also gone to the patron’s
house to see “the Rossettis,” had conceived an immediate passion for the
new school, and sweetly gave her father no peace until he consented to
let the artist paint her. The duke yielded with the utmost
ungraciousness, and stipulated that the man—what was his name?—was to
charge nothing for the honour, and was to present the portrait to Lady
Patricia at once—there should be no public exhibition. As Rossetti
never exhibited, and asked for nothing but the joy of painting this
Renaissance lady who might have served as the original inspiration of
the Brotherhood, he agreed to anything and eagerly awaited the day
appointed for the first sitting.

She had not entered his studio and removed her bonnet before he saw the
mistake he had made. Here was no Beata Beatrix, no mediæval saint, no
about-to-be-murdered spouse of a sixteenth-century Italian, haunting
immense and gloomy chambers, but an excessively thin narrow young
English girl almost six feet in height, with a little white face of no
particular character, immense blue eyes without a particle of
expression, and an extraordinary mass of pale golden hair, which stood
out from her head like wings. But Rossetti was an artist. If his spirits
went down to zero, it was not long before they ascended with a rush. At
least here was material to work on; that hair, that poise of head, that
aristocratic languor were no delusion, and he could conjure up his first
impression of her and the dreams of beauty which had haunted him ever
since. In short, he idealized her, and the long picture (which had been
exhibited to all London society for twenty-five years) was one of the
most characteristic things he had ever done, and, perhaps, had
contributed as much as any cause to Lady Bridgminster’s fatal desire to
express so much more than she could conceive. Against a background of
dull blue tapestry, with full throat strained, the jaw line from chin to
ear salient, with lids slowly drooping, hair that seemed to be an aura
emanating from the pure young fires of her spirit, stood this vision in
diaphanous white clasping against her angelic flatness an upright sheaf
of Annunciation lilies. The thinness was the willow grace of a reed, the
pale complexion the white symbol of maidenly exaltation; the half-opened
eyes, as blue as an Italian lake, were looking straight into paradise.
When this wonderful picture was finished and had been admired by the
artists that worshipped at his shrine, Rossetti, with his tongue in his
cheek, covered the hands and arms with tan-coloured suède gloves. In
that touch, done perhaps, in a moment of unconscious foresight, as of
deliberate sarcasm, Rossetti had epitomized the life of Lady

He had intended to make many sketches of her during these sittings, but
she inspired him no further, as much to her disappointment as to his.
Nevertheless, he liked her well enough, and went to her house after she
married Bridgminster as long as he went anywhere. He had no reason to
regret the acquaintance, for she bought several of his pictures,
patronized the entire Brotherhood, was one of the first to acknowledge
the genius of Burne-Jones, and commissioned the greatest decorator of
modern times to refurnish the state drawing-rooms of Ordham in the style
of the Italian Renaissance.

Lady Bridgminster was superstitious about this picture, and, when moving
from palace to hovel, to use her own expression, took it with her,
refusing the offer of the new millionnaire to whom her step-son had
unaccountably leased the splendid theatre of her triumphs. Not only did
it remind her, that in spite of six sons and what she regarded as a
lifetime of disappointments, she had once been young and romantic like
other women, but she had a fancy that it was her real self, and that did
she let it go out of her keeping she should become but a grey shadow
flitting amongst people who never could be quite sure whether she were
there or not. This was her one imaginative flight, and she cherished it.

“Lady Pat” was little broader and even less covered with flesh than when
the picture was painted a quarter of a century ago. How she had ever
contrived to produce six strapping boys was one of those mysteries which
Nature will explain one day, no doubt, with other paradoxes. But they
had cost her few pains, and nurses and tutors had brought, were
bringing, them up. At Ordham Castle, where they had lived the year
round, until the older boys went to school and the father’s death
consigned the younger to the dower house in Kent, she had complained of
their noise, but as a matter of fact she had not a nerve in her body.
She was as hard and supple as a Toledo blade, with all the brain she
really needed, and an internal organization practically flawless. With
an appearance of the most æsthetic delicacy, she had never had so much
as an attack of indigestion, never succumbed to the blues, when that
malady was raging, and had no more emotional capacity than an incubator.
Oscar Wilde once said of Lady Bridgminster that she would tempt St.
Anthony to keep his vows; and true it was that, although only
thirty-nine at the time of her husband’s death, still reigning as a
beauty, and a great lady of whom any husband might be proud, not even an
ambitious merchant had sought her hand. But by this time she knew her
limitations far better than people fancied, and had neither the hope nor
the wish to marry again. But she was a restless dissatisfied creature,
bitterly regretting Bridgminster House and Ordham, and always flitting
about in search of novelty and distraction. Her son, lying on the sofa
in the drawing-room during the warm hours of the afternoon, contrasted
her with Margarethe Styr, and pitied her, not the woman whose past was
so black that even his imagination dared not lift the curtain.

                      THE EDGE OF THE ABYSS AGAIN

It is possible that Ordham would have delayed paying his respects to his
brother from week to week, had not a flattering paragraph in one of the
newspapers brought upon him the immediate attentions of his creditors.
He ground his teeth, flung their reminders into a drawer of the desk in
his bedroom, ordered a telegram sent to Lord Bridgminster and his boxes
packed, and started for the north next morning.

Of course he reserved a first-class carriage for the all-day journey. He
would have patronized a train de luxe had there been one, or a motor,
had the more brilliant extravagance come into being. To spend less
to-day that he might have more to-morrow was a principle that only a
long period of dire privation could have etched into his creed, and, no
doubt, he would have managed to be a luxurious pauper.

During the journey his uneasy apprehensions were varied with remorseful
memories of three old servants that had adored and spoilt him since he
had come into the world, and to whom he had not given a thought during
the past four years. These were the housekeeper, Mrs. Felt, Biscom, the
butler, and Cobbs, the coachman. The sure instincts of childhood had
driven him to take his little woes, not to his mother’s sterile bosom,
but to the warm and pillowed surfaces of the personage who had inherited
certain of the honours of Ordham, even as Lord Bridgminster had
inherited his. Biscom, sovereign of the pantries, had permitted him to
make himself ill as often as he desired, and Cobbs had taught him how to
ride and had now his dogs in charge. Then there was Craven, the old
gardener—he turned hot and cold at the thought that he had not brought
a present to one of them!

Cobbs, in a rusty livery, awaited him at the little moorland station,
and Ordham made up in the warmth of his greeting for the lack of a more
substantial proof of his affections. There was no footman with the
wagonette, and while Hines was attending to his boxes, he asked Cobbs if
all the old servants were alive and at the castle. He was not surprised
to learn that the immense staff kept during his father’s lifetime had
been reduced to ten, including those within and without. But at least he
should see the older faces, and the prospect cheered him somewhat as he
drove through the purple dusk of the moors. For a wave of homesickness
had swamped his spirits, then regret, anger, astonishment. For twenty
years this beautiful moorland had practically been his, no doubt would
come to him in time; but now, now, in the day of his youth, when he most
wanted lands and riches and power (it is, until decay sets in, always
the immediate time that seems the one desirable period for the great
gifts of life), he came as a suppliant to the brother he detested, a man
who was even too mean to live as became his position, and who, no doubt,
would barely extend to him a welcome. It was a wonder he had sent the
wagonette. Ordham had fully expected to go on to the next town and make
the rest of the journey in a fly.

Cobbs volunteered the information that the shooting was uncommonly good
this year, but Ordham felt no interest in the subject until it occurred
to him that if he wished to accomplish the purpose of his journey he
must take pains to propitiate Bridgminster in every way. At this
detestable thought his haughty crest went up at least two inches. But he
had wise moments, as we have seen, and it was seldom he was not capable
of cool rational thought. He reflected presently that, after all, he was
very young and that it was not only a close relative to whom he had come
to ask a good bit of money, but the head of his house, to whom he stood
next in succession. Bridgminster should have been a father to his brood
of younger brothers, and it was incredible that he did not accept his
obligations. It was time he did, and Ordham felt himself in a temper to
bring him to his senses.

But as the carriage approached the high fell upon whose broad table-land
the castle stood, he felt more keenly still the freak of fortune which
had deprived him of his inheritance. That cold, splendid, formal mass of
white and sculptured stone, a palace of the Italian Renaissance rather
than an English castle, built by Inigo Jones in 1622-26, and raised
above the lofty fell again by a triple terrace, surrounded by Italian
gardens, and over-looking thousands of acres of moorland, woods and
farms, and a hundred little stone villages, was one of the show places
of the north, and it was wasted on a boor whose favourite literature was
_The Pink ‘Un_, and who would not even permit others to enjoy what he
could not appreciate. There had not been a house party at Ordham since
his father’s death, and, no doubt, the lovely gardens were a wilderness,
the superb rooms rat-eaten. To-night there was not a point of light in
the vast façade. Ordham lowered his eyelids until they covered the
unpleasant glitter of his eyes, and drew his lips against his teeth.
Hines, covertly watching him, wondered if he were in pain.

The carriage drove through the unlighted tunnel into the courtyard. The
old butler, the gardener, and a footman stood at the foot of the grand
staircase, and as Ordham, banishing his gloomy thoughts, descended and
shook hands with them, asking intimate personal questions of each, the
mask of dignified servitude fell from their faces, and they gazed,
smiling and tearful, upon the young man who had lorded it over and
bewitched them for twenty years. Ordham almost laughed outright as he
realized how they yearned to say, “My lord.” He wished to God they
could. There was no affected philosophy about Ordham. He longed as
ardently to be a peer of the realm as he did for the income of the
estates. But after he had convinced them that they had barely left his
thoughts during the years of his exile, he added wistfully that he was
glad to see the old place again and wished that death might have spared
his father. Ordham was always adored by servants. With neither
familiarity nor condescension, always kind (save to Hines, who sometimes
got the benefit of his tempers), with a smile of peculiar sweetness and
an impenetrable reserve, a careless acceptance of devotion, yet with a
tacit admission of a minion’s claim to call himself a man, generous, yet
never so lavish as to suggest that perhaps his was not the divine right
to be waited on hand and foot,—he fulfilled the ideal of the great lord
to the most exacting class of mortals in the world. And these old men
had all the retainer’s pride in his uncommonly fine manners, in which
there was still nothing old-fashioned, in his aristocratic if not
strictly handsome face, in the languid but dignified carriage of his
well-knit figure.

He followed the footman up the wide marble staircase to his old suite,
immense rooms, with lofty frescoed ceilings, and still sparsely
furnished with the mahogany pieces he had carved when a boy. He felt a
thousand years old and sick at heart. When he saw Felt standing there to
greet him, he nearly fell into her great bosom, but contented himself
with taking her hand in both his own and shaking it for a full minute.
She told him (tearfully) that he had grown and improved, and he bade her
invite him for tea in her sitting room on the following day, adding
bitterly that he should feel at home nowhere else.

“I suppose there is no company in the house?” he asked, with intention.

“Oh, no, sir. His lordship never entertains. Come four years now we have
never had a visitor save her ladyship, and she found it so dull she
could never stay long. The first year there was a hunt breakfast, but it
was stiff and sad, Mr. Biscom said, and now the county gentlemen don’t
even call at the castle. It’s not like the old days, Mr. John.”

“What on earth does he do with himself?” He could surrender something of
his reserve to this old woman who had given him many a shaking, and he
was anxious to know more of the brother of whom he had seen so little.

Mrs. Felt shook her head. “He mopes terrible, sir. You wouldn’t think it
of a man who loves a gun and a horse as he does—but those long evenings
all alone! He don’t seem one to read—not like you, Mr. John. He’s
changed a good bit, even since he come—and the last six months or so,
before the shooting began—” She paused significantly.

“Does he drink?” No one can be as blunt as a diplomatist.

“There’d be no hiding it from you, sir. You’d see it in a minute for
yourself. We’ve known he was getting more comfort out of drink these two
years past, and, as I said, these last few months—well, you can’t burn
bottles, and his man, for all his solemn pretending that his lordship is
perfection, don’t take the trouble to bury them, neither. We all have
our suspicions that Mr. Flint drinks with his lordship.”


“No wonder it turns your stomach, sir. It do ours. The Ordhams, begging
your pardon, have never been like that. There’s been wild ones, and most
of them could drink themselves under the table, I’ve heard from my
father and grandfather; but never one that lived familiar with his man
and had naught to do with gentlemen. If his mother hadn’t been such a
young thing when she died, and straight from the schoolroom, we’d have
our suspicions.”

Ordham laughed shortly. “The King of Bavaria, whose royal blood is a
thousand years old, consorts wholly with his lackeys. He has a rotten
spot in his brain, and so, no doubt, has my brother. What else can be
expected of a recluse that never opens a book? He can’t shoot and hunt
the year round.”

Hines entered and Mrs. Felt departed. When Ordham had finished dressing,
half an hour later, the footman knocked, and informing him that all the
rooms on this floor, with the exception of his own and his lordship’s
suites, the dining room, and a small room adjoining, were closed,
escorted him down the long familiar corridors to the sanctum of his
brother. It was a square room, whose old frescoes had been whitewashed,
and furnished with several leather chairs, a couch, a desk, and a table,
the last littered with racing calendars and sporting magazines. It was
empty and Ordham sniffed in disgust; it was the sort of room he
hated—utterly, baldly, savagely masculine. He had supposed that at
least he could console himself in the beautiful rooms devoted to
entertaining, and now felt that even the old boudoir of his paternal
grandmother, done up in “tapestries” worked with her own hands, and
replete with Victorian horrors, would have made him gratefully
sentimental. Again his spirits took a downward plunge. He felt
nauseated. And through what avenue could he approach the man? He was
even more demoralized than he had counted upon.

There was a shuffling step on the hard floor of the passage that led in
from the corridor, and Lord Bridgminster entered. He was a big man who,
once strong and athletic, was now merely heavy. His face was large and
red, his eyes small and dull. He wore a full beard and mustache, which
made him look older than he was and hid but little of the scar that
disfigured the right side of his face. Nor did it lend him any of the
dignity of his younger brother, and he carried his shoulders loosely and
moved his hands incessantly. In his youth he had been handsome, with
well-cut features and the fresh colouring of his race, but not a vestige
of either youth or beauty remained.

“How d’y do?” he said politely enough, extending a limp hand. “I’m a bit
off my feed, but you look fit—why shouldn’t you? Wish I were

They walked into the dining room together, and Ordham, whose languid
eyes missed little, noted a flicker pass between Biscom and Thomas. It
said as plainly as speech, “O lud, what a contrast!” Involuntarily he
drew himself up, and at the same time resented that any brother of his
should be scorned by the very servants as unworthy of the great position
to which he had been born. It was almost as if a changeling had been
slipped into the family cradle, and yet he knew that there were many
like him, for the race is always reverting to its primitive types.

The dinner, served at a small table by an open window, consisted of the
heavy joints and vegetables that Ordham detested; but it surprised him
that his brother, whom he remembered as a man of mighty appetite, barely
picked at it. Nor would he talk. The amenities—as he understood
them—over, he responded with but an occasional grunt to the guest’s
attempts at conversation, and finally the silence became so oppressive
that Ordham lost what little appetite the sight and odours of the repast
had left him. When the pudding appeared, hopeful of starting a congenial
topic, he asked Bridgminster why he did not go up to London and consult
a doctor.

“There are doctors in every town in Yorkshire,” growled his lordship.
“Why should I go to London? Haven’t seen it for eighteen years. Should
lose my way.”

“There are cabs,” suggested his brother, delicately. “Or I should be
happy to guide you. If you have lost your appetite, there must be
something serious the matter.”

“Not at all!” Bridgminster raised his voice shrilly. “There’s nothing
the matter worth mentioning. Can’t a man be a bit off his feed without
taking a day’s journey to pay two guineas to some damned swindler?”

“One can be seriously upset without being threatened with extinction;
and when doctors were invented to keep one fit, why be uncomfortable?”

“I thought you wanted a week’s shooting. Wasn’t that what you said in
that letter you honoured me with after you passed those examinations?”

Ordham blushed at this sarcastic reference to the only excuse he had
been able to think of when inviting himself to the castle of his
fathers. But it must be made to serve. He answered suavely: “One gets so
little of that sort of thing on the Continent. Do you go out every day?”

“Certainly. Am I really to have the pleasure of your company on the
moors from morning till night?”

“Well—a good part of the day. Remember that I am a bit out of practice,
and not as hard as you are.”

“I’m no longer hard, but I go out and potter about. It is a damned sight
better than sitting in the house. And I loved it once! God! how I loved

Ordham glanced at him with a fleeting pity. The creature was mournfully
without resources. No wonder he drank during the long dark winters of
the north. This might be the auspicious moment for the opening of his
campaign; he asked abruptly: “Why don’t you have some of the boys to
stop with you if you don’t like outsiders—”

“They are outsiders so far as I am concerned. I want no one. That’s all
I have to say on the subject.”

Ordham relapsed into silence. After dinner he smoked on the upper
terrace, Lord Bridgminster in his study. They did not meet again even to
part for the night.

But they met at breakfast and went together to the covers. It was a
long, hot, silent, fatiguing, hideous day. And on the morrow followed
its duplicate, and again on the morrow. The bags were small.
Bridgminster’s hand was unsteady, and Ordham more and more indifferent
as to whether he hit a bird or a bush. (The beater kept out of the way.)
Each dinner was a repetition of the first, a cold and tasteless luncheon
was served on the moor, and he had to appear at the early breakfast. On
the third night he went to bed feeling like a weary soldier on the
battle-field, a cow-boy, a day labourer. They were the three most
detestable days of his life; even that period of apprehension induced by
the vagaries of Frau von Wass was as nothing to this unremitting
physical discomfort in the society of a boor that never opened his

On the morning of the fourth day he deliberately remained in bed until
noon, sending his brother word that his wrist was lame. The afternoon he
idled about the park, almost happy in visiting every nook associated
with his boyhood, and lay for an hour on the edge of the pool in the
sunken garden surrounded by its silent rigid pointed trees, reflected
like the spires of a submerged city. He had made a bare dash through
Italy, and determined to visit it during the autumn with Margarethe
Styr. Later he descended into the village at the base of the fell and
renewed many old friendships, and promised to take a hand at cricket on
the green on the following Saturday. But the cordial welcome he received
from these simple folk, who had always regarded themselves as his future
tenants, and their ill-concealed dislike of the man who never gave them
a nod in passing, revived his despondency and futile annoyance with

He learned upon his return to the castle that his brother had not gone
out that day, and when he appeared in the dining room it was apparent
that he had been drinking. He made no response to Ordham’s greeting and
sat through the dinner speechless, his face purple, his breath hot and
fevered, barely touching his food. But when the servants had left for
the last time, he opened his mouth and spoke:

“Should you be willing to break the entail of this property?”

Ordham, by this time in a state of boiling wrath, disgust, and gloom,
which made him wholly reckless, shot a look of contempt at the noble
lord at the head of the table and replied curtly, “Of course not.”

“Then you are a fool. A new millionnaire would pay a cool half million
for it.”

“What do you want of more money? You do not spend nine-tenths of what
you have.”

“The mills are on their last legs. Money is money. What is the use of a
silly ark like this? I have done with it in any case. I’m going back to
my box in Scotland—lived too long in a house. This Italian thing should
be turned into a barrack or a sanatorium. What rot, what insensate
pride, to build a palace too big for the biggest family ever born! I
believe it is haunted anyhow. I hate it—and my own shootings are

“You might lend it to my mother and the boys, with the necessary income
to keep it up.”

Bridgminster merely laughed at this practical suggestion. His laugh was
still well-bred, almost silent, but his loose cheeks shook, his eyes
watered. “As if she did not spend enough as it is. I have no desire to
die a pauper.”

“You seem to forget that you could not. Do you mind telling me who or
what you are saving for? You have no boys to educate, as my father
had—unless you contemplate marrying.”

“Marrying!” He hurled out the word with a coarse violence, which,
however, failed to disgust his next of kin. “I read somewhere that in
America they use Chinamen as house servants. I have a mind to turn out
Felt and the rest of them and put in the pig-tails. I’d never see a
woman if I could help it.” And then he indulged in observations not to
be repeated.

“You are fortunate in being able to indulge your antipathies. There is
nothing for me but to marry some woman with money, and this I must do in
short order whether I like her or not.”

“It doesn’t matter whether you like her or not; you’d hate her before
long.” Hopefully: “She might buy this place.”

“You forget that I have gone in for diplomacy. I shall be little in

“Well, then, help me to dispose of it to this vulgarian for half a
million of money.”

Ordham made no reply, but helped himself to a glass of chartreuse.

“Why don’t you drink port? I didn’t know those silly liqueurs were in
the house.”

“I dislike heavy wines.”

“You aren’t half an Englishman, anyhow. You haven’t eaten a breakfast
since you came. Tea and toast—by God! You might be a woman. No wonder
you can’t shoot. You haven’t answered my question.”

“I answered it at the beginning of this edifying conversation.”

Bridgminster hesitated perceptibly; then, with evident reluctance, but
very clearly, he put another question: “Would you help me to break this
entail if I gave you five thousand pounds?”

Ordham turned upon him his heavy glittering eyes. “Not for the entire
half million.”

“You look upon it as your own, I suppose?”

“I have tried to make you understand that I should not be able to live
here; but if I can help it, it shall never go out of the family. Good
God! Have you no family pride?”

“Family pride! Who cares for it nowadays? Half the peerage is made up of
tradesmen. I want to know that the half million this museum represents
is invested in consols.”

“I don’t fancy that it would all be invested in your name. Did I, as
heir presumptive, give my consent—But I shall not give my consent. If
you will excuse me, I will go out and smoke. And it is likely that I
shall leave in the morning.”

“What did you come here for?”

Ordham had risen; looking down into the disagreeable eyes of his
brother, he answered deliberately: “To ask you for a thousand pounds. I
am in debt for that amount. Also, to ask you to increase my income. I
have not one quarter enough to keep me properly.”

Bridgminster laughed again, and for fully a minute the two men looked
deep into each other’s eyes, unaware, perhaps, of all they revealed.

The older brother, his thick upper lip almost flattened in a leer, spoke
first: “Do you wish I were dead?”

“How can you say such a thing?”

The formula, with which he so long had been wont lightly to extricate
himself from corners, sprang from his lips. He turned on his heel and
walked the length of the room. It was a very long room, and when he
stood before his brother once more, the flutter in his nerves had
subsided. Again the eyes met and held each other, until Ordham said

“I do.”

He had expected that Bridgminster would laugh again, and it had crossed
his mind that if he did the port bottle might fly at his face. But to
his astonishment his brother cowered in his chair, his purple face
paling, and put out his hands with feebly warding motions.

“Don’t say that!” He stammered and his tongue was thick. “I—I fancy I
am superstitious. I’m a bit off my feed—worse than ever to-day. It’s
this damned haunted barrack. I’ll go back to Scotland to-morrow.”

Ordham moved a step closer. Transfixing the wretched man with his cold
contracted eyes, he made no reply. Bridgminster stirred uncontrollably.
“It is a big sum,” he muttered.

Still Ordham made no reply, but his eyes were little more than
glittering lines. Bridgminster’s chest heaved, a flash leaped into his
injected eyes.

“I believe you’d kill me if you got a chance—if you thought you
wouldn’t be found out.”

“I would.”

“And every damned servant in the castle would swear you free,” whimpered
his lordship. “Do you think I can’t see what silly asses they are about
you? They hate me. I haven’t a friend in the world but my man, and he
could be bought by anybody. You’d be a murderer all the same, though.”

“That would not disturb me for a moment.”

Bridgminster felt of his flabby muscles. His jaw fell, his eye rolled.
“Do you mean to murder me?” he gasped.

Ordham hesitated deliberately, never removing his eyes. “No,” he said
finally. “It would be a nasty business. But I want that money.”

Bridgminster rose heavily. “Come into the office,” he said.

Ordham followed the lord of the manor into his shabby sanctuary. The air
was stale, the windows unopened. There was a bottle of Scotch whiskey on
the table. Bridgminster sat down at the desk, and after some fumbling
found his check book and wrote an order for a thousand pounds. The act
seemed to restore his equilibrium for the moment. He tore out the check
and flung it at his brother, who stood negligently beside the desk, but
with nothing of indifference in the eyes into which he seemed to have
thrown the whole weight of his brain.

“There!” he shouted. “Take it and be damned. And not another penny as
long as I live—as long as I live—Oh! I’m off my feed! I’m off my
feed!” He broke down, and flinging his head into his arms, wept aloud.

Ordham, who had had as much as he could endure, left the room and went
up to his own. His forehead was damp and cold, he trembled slightly. He
doubted if ever again he should be equal to a similar concentration of
his faculties, even over a demoralized drunkard; certainly he had no
desire to repeat the hideous experience. Better marry and have done with

He did not go down to the terrace, but sat at his window until long
after midnight. He felt sick and disgusted, little elated at the
successful termination of his visit and the prospect of a year or two’s
peace of mind. A thousand pounds seemed to him a poor compensation for
his descent into those foul depths of human nature where the civilized
brute slays with his mind even if he withhold his hand. It was his
disposition to dwell on the fair and splendid surfaces, harming no man
and ignoring the primal passions that crawled over their sands below.
Had he, upon his majority, realized the expectations of his careless
boyhood, it is doubtful if he ever would have experienced a mean, much
less a criminal, impulse, for, although this may be said of many men,
Ordham had true refinement of mind and a surpassing indolence. He was a
fair sample of all that civilization has yet accomplished for its
aristocracies, and had no desire even to be reminded of elemental
instincts, much less to be their victim. And the wretched want of money,
of a petty thousand pounds, had transformed himself and his brother into
two aboriginals. He might in time banish the sensations and impulses he
had experienced to-night, but he doubted if he could ever forget the
bestial degradation of the head of his house.

And what excuse for such deterioration? His mind flew to Margarethe
Styr, who had lifted herself from untold horrors to the very heights of
character, intellect, fame. Where had she found that strength? What
mysterious arrangement of particles had enabled her to rise from that
abyss in which thousands of her sort burned out their brief lives? Was
it genius alone? Genius availed little those that began life in the dark
back-waters of society unless propelled by force of character, an
indomitable will. She too, in her determined seclusion, lived a selfish
life of a sort, but at least she gave delight to thousands, she spent
freely on promising young singers, and she was an example for all women,
dreaming ambitiously, to follow. More, she was an inspiration. And she
had come out of what? The picture was not to be invoked, but the bare
fact made the man downstairs, who had been born one of the inheritors of
the earth, the more unfit to live.

He realized suddenly that he felt closer to Styr than he had ever felt
before. And she was the one person on earth to whom he could confess the
horrid experience of this night. He made up his mind to return to her at
once, no matter where she was. They could meet in the various cities
where she sang, as freely as in her home, although not, of course, as

Then his mind swung to the future, the future he must face upon his
second return from Munich. He should never willingly exchange a syllable
with his brother again. There was not the faintest hope that
Bridgminster would increase his income. Nor was the man’s health, as far
as he could judge, seriously impaired. He might go mad and be chucked
into an asylum, but lunatics lived forever. True, he might fall on his
gun, or break his neck on the hunting field, but these were mere
contingencies. Meanwhile, save for this passing relief, his own problem
was as serious as ever. He should spend five times his present income in
any capital to which he was accredited, and he could think of nothing he
would not rather do than force his mother into heavy sacrifices. Turn
over the detestable question as often as he might, he could find but one
solution. He had disliked the prospect of matrimony before he knew
Margarethe Styr, and it was doubly hateful now. He did not want to marry
her, nor could he spend his life dawdling at her skirts; but—well—once
more he was forced to admit that he could not have everything in life he
wanted at once. There should be that last long visit to Munich, however,
and then he would return and swallow his medicine.

                       LADY BRIDGMINSTER, POTTER

But he was not to return to Munich and Margarethe Styr at present. That
excellent friend of his, Princess Nachmeister, having ascertained
throughout the summer that, although indefatigable in his attendance
upon the prima donna, he wore neither the hopeless mien of rejected love
nor that of sublime content, had kept her lance in rest. Moreover, she
well knew that the vestal Lutz would never have lent her countenance to
a liaison, neither could it have escaped eyes sharp with an old maid’s
resentful curiosity. Therefore, although uneasy, Excellenz had not
thought it worth while to interfere with his studies; but upon the day
she learned of his departure for London she wrote to Lady Bridgminster,
with whom she had some time since fallen into correspondence, advising
her to prevent her son’s return to Munich. Only he could have resisted
Styr during long months of intimacy, and then only because she had
chosen that he should. But he was growing older every hour, there was no
telling in what moment he might awake and call himself an ass, nor, in
faith, when Styr would recover from her long attack of virtue. Sudden
interruptions in deep but continent intimacies had proved fatal before.
They would not be the first to discover that they could not exist apart.
Better divert his mind at once.

Therefore, when Ordham drove up to his mother’s house on his return from
the north, he was surprised to find the curtains up, the door opened by
a footman instead of the caretaker that had attended to his wants during
his previous visit. He wished that he had driven from Paddington to
Victoria, for he was in no humour to meet any other member of his family
at present; but when the footman informed him that her ladyship would
expect him for tea in the drawing-room in half an hour he summoned what
grace was in him, and sent her word that he would join her as soon as he
had rid himself of soot and dust.

His bath braced him somewhat, and he went downstairs resignedly to
answer his mother’s questions. He hated questions, and she could ask
more than any one he knew. Lady Bridgminster was seated at the
tea-table, and knowing better than to wait for him, had just finished
her first cup. She rose and met him halfway, for it was several years
since she had treated him negligently, and even her kiss, if not too
maternal, was something more than a peck. He told her that she was
looking very handsome, and in that rosy light she seemed little older
than her portrait. She wore clinging trailing garments of smoke-colored
chiffon embroidered with peacocks’ feathers, and long strands of dull
green and blue beads covered her flat chest and were wound through the
mazes of her beautiful silvery blonde hair. She looked as æsthetic as
Wilde himself, and, indeed, he designed more than one of her gowns.

“Glad to see you so fit, Johnny dear,” she said in a very light musical
voice. “It is too delightful that you have passed those tiresome
examinations. How is Bridg?”

“Beastly drunk, probably.”

Lady Bridgminster, who had floated back to her chair, opened her eyes
very wide. She rarely altered her expression, as it was then the belief
that immobility made for perpetual youth, but she allowed her
well-trained orbs to shed forth her astonishment.

“What? Does Bridg drink?”

“Rather.” Ordham had selected the most comfortable chair in the room and
pushed it to the table. He received his cup of tea and disposed himself
in the depths.

“Don’t be tiresome. Has he taken to drink as a habit?”

“He can barely handle a gun, eats next to nothing, and is now quite,
instead of half, a boor. His face is twice its former size. There is no
doubt that he is going the pace in his own quiet way.”

“And his health?”

“Good enough.”

“That accounts for several things I noticed when I was there last, but
never thought of attributing to drink. Of course you did not get the

“I got it.”

Lady Bridgminster drew a deep sigh of relief. “Then those wretched
creditors of yours can be disposed of. The interviews I have had with
them! What is the world coming to? My own are not more vulgar and
impertinent. But this is only a respite, Johnny. Two years hence you
will be in the same predicament; worse, no doubt. Bridg is good for
twenty years yet. Did you persuade him to increase your income?”

“No, and he never will.”

“Then you must marry at once. Let us not beat about the bush.”

“I am not ready to marry. Please remember that I am barely twenty-four.”

“Fiddlesticks! You are forty. You are the sort in whom years count for
next to nothing. Besides, your father was married at twenty-two, my
father when he was six months younger. But that has little to do with
it. There are certain times in life when opportunities seem fairly to
fly at one. Ignore these caprices of Fortune, and you may spend the rest
of your life chasing her. One of the greatest heiresses in England is
dying to marry you. Not only have I carefully prepared her mind, but she
has always been more or less in love with you, although she has not seen
you now for five years.”

“Who can she be?”

“Manlike! Probably you will not even recall her when I tell you her
name, for when she used to come to Ordham with her mother you were
following the yellow curls of Jessie Middleton about her father’s park
and never looked at poor Rosamond.”

A dark flush rose to Ordham’s very hair and he drew his brows together.
“You surely do not mean Rosamond Hayle?”

“Ah! You do remember her?”

“Her front teeth stuck out. Her hair was like tow. Her pasty skin was
covered with green freckles—”

“Oh, that was years ago. She has vastly improved.”

“Time cannot have altered the formation of her upper jaw. I doubt if it
could put colour into her hair. You know quite well that I shall never
marry an ugly woman. I even hate ugly men and children. I don’t set up
to be an æsthetic ass, but beauty I will have if I can command it, and
at least I need not fasten myself for life to a woman whose ugliness is
not even distinguished. As I recall Rosamond Hayle she was the
apotheosis of the commonplace—and that was only five years ago.”

“My son, remember that she has forty thousand a year in her own right.
They discovered coal mines on unentailed lands in Nottinghamshire and
she was the only child.”

“I hope she may enjoy it. What of the American beauty and heiress you
were so keen about?”

“Do you mean Mabel Cutting?” Lady Bridgminster dipped her tones in ice.

“Of course. Are there so many?”

“I thought favourably of her at first; but really, Mrs. Cutting was too
keen. It was indecent. If we must put ourselves up for sale, let us not
admit the fact to these outsiders. Her silly pedantic little daughter
may have more money than Rosamond, but she is not our sort.”

“Pedantic?” Ordham had lost the rest of his mother’s observations. A
vision of the deliciously pretty empty-headed little chatterbox had
risen before him, alluring indeed after the frightful menace of Lady
Rosamond Hayle. “Are we talking of the same person?”

“Rather. When the child first came over I liked her. She was a sweet,
innocent, well-bred little thing, who knew no more than a young girl
should. But the change soon began. Nearly every marriageable man in
London ran after her, which was natural enough. I will do several the
justice to believe that they were really in love with her, irrespective
of the millions. Youth and beauty and sweet manners go far, and I
suppose there is romance left even in London. I did not mind her head
being turned. That also was natural, with artists painting her for the
Academy and all the rest of it—although it was too silly of her to
insist upon having that ridiculous LaLa in every picture. Well—when
after a mere three months of such a success as few girls enjoy, she
suddenly announced herself bored with society, declared that she did not
yet know enough to waste so much time, that men talked only nonsense to
her, and therefore taught her nothing, she forced her unfortunate
mother, who loves society more than any woman I ever met, to retire to
the country with a staff of tutors—oh, I have no patience with such
nonsense. When girls have youth and beauty, the less brains they have
the more attractive they are.”

“Oh?” Ordham had risen to his feet, his eyes very bright.

“Is not that too brief period for enjoyment pure and simple? Intellect
does well enough when everything else has deserted a woman. What a waste
of time and energy before! It has made this little American
insufferable. When I heard yesterday they were in town I went out of
common civility—as well as curiosity—to call. The girl looks
moonstruck. She had not a word to say. No doubt her brains are addled.”

“Then they are in town? I must call to-morrow.”

Lady Bridgminster rose, and, sweeping over to her son’s side (she never
merely walked), laid her hand on his shoulder. Her face was flushed and
there were tears in her voice.

“My son,” she said solemnly, “let these people alone. Their ways are not
our ways. They never make themselves really like us. It was only my
desire to see you care-free in your youth that made me consider Mabel
Cutting for a time. I have always disapproved of these international
marriages. Americans are a thin, passionless, hybrid race, and, I am
sure, vulgar at the core, no matter how deep the veneer. How could it be
otherwise? Marry a woman of your own class and race—”

“Not Rosamond Hayle.”

“Don’t be tiresome.” She almost shook him. “No man knows how his wife
looks six months after he has married her.”

“Think of those six months.”

“And a plain wife is so safe. In a diplomatic career, of all things, you
want no scandals. How should you like being married to a professional

“I should not mind a bit. I should find it insufferable to be the
husband of a wife that every other man rejoiced was not his.”

“No man ever rejoiced that a woman with forty thousand pounds a year was
not his wife.”

“I should if she were ugly.”

“Are you going to Grosvenor Square?”

“Of course. They showed me great politeness in Munich. It is a matter of
common decency.”

“I believe they came up on purpose.” Lady Bridgminster’s well-composed
features were in disarray. “What else would bring them up at this
season? Their excuse, that Mabel wished to attend a series of concerts,
was too silly. I might have suspected at once. You will not be such a
silly little fly as to rush into their parlour?”

“There is no moat and drawbridge about the house in Grosvenor Square, I
suppose? Don’t be foolish, Lady Pat.” (Everlastings rarely train their
children to address them as “mother.”) “I must call on Mrs. Cutting. It
commits me to nothing. If you can find me a beautiful and not
too-English English girl, I will marry her, but not Rosamond Hayle.”

“I don’t know of another English girl of her class with such a fortune.
I know these upstarts will get you!”

“Well, I shall not propose to-morrow,” he said lightly. And then he
changed the conversation so deliberately that his mother sighed and
rested on her arms for the present.


On the following morning he rose at the comparatively early hour of ten,
and, repairing to Piccadilly, bought presents for the servants at Ordham
and even sent them off himself. He had intended to omit this exertion in
favour of Hines, but the morning was so fresh, and he felt so young and
buoyant, particularly after having turned his check into the bank, and
the prospect of meeting the beautiful Mabel once more was so
unexpectedly enlivening, that he was equal to almost any form of energy.

He even sauntered into the Green Park, and there he met Mrs. Cutting,
taking the famous pug for an airing. She dropped the leash when she saw
Ordham, and although there was no warmth in her cold pure eyes, her
smile was dazzling.

“Dear Mr. Ordham! What a pleasure! Lady Bridgminster told me that you
were in England, but I gathered that you intended to remain in the north
and shoot for weeks to come.”

“I do not care for shooting and had rather intended to go back to the
Continent for a time—to perfect myself in languages. It may, however,
be merely an excuse to put off those six months in the F. O. as long as

“But you have passed your examinations!”

“Heaven only knows how. But my French and German are really very bad. I
need the theatres more than anything else.”

“I won’t attempt to conceal my disappointment. To be sure, I was
resigned not to see you for a few weeks—but now that I have seen
you—well, if it must be, at least you will come to us before you leave?
I must show you what I have made of my little girl. She had an enormous
success in society. Just now she thinks she wants to be intellectual,
artistic, musical, although she played far better than most girls
already. It is rather a bore for me, but I am hoping it will pass. I
tell her it is a pity she did not have the seizure while at school. But
I fancy it is merely the reaction from the rush of the season, and a
little too much frivolity, perhaps too many suitors. But I should not
say that!”

“Oh, my mother has told me. I hear she uses her scalps as cotillon

“How like you! But I wish she had fewer.” Mrs. Cutting wrinkled her
brows delicately. “She was so sweetly simple and natural before—do you
remember what a chatterbox she was? And all this adulation has made her
bored, indifferent. I don’t think she is conceited, but I am afraid she
has permitted the idea to take lodgment in that clever little head of
hers that all men are far too easy game, and therefore to be despised. I
have hinted gently that without the bait of her fortune even her beauty
and cleverness might not have made her the belle of a London season, but
you cannot convince eighteen that men are mercenary, and no doubt some
of the poor fellows were sincere enough.”

“Unfortunately, most men cannot afford to be too sincere.” Ordham smiled
grimly. “For instance, I could not dream of marrying a poor girl. And it
must be far easier even to love a pretty rich girl than a pretty poor
one. We have not been brought up on the love-in-a-cottage ideal, and
when we try it generally come a cropper.”

She remembered that he had taken her breath away with his audacious
candour more than once during the fortnight of their previous
acquaintance, and smiled gayly.

“But a rich girl _can_ be loved. That is the point to bear in mind. It
is Mabel’s argument, by the way, and even I believe that a really lovely
woman need not be eclipsed by her money. Of course I am quite aware of
your point of view. But all the same I believe you to be capable of what
the world calls folly.”

“You mean that I would marry a poor girl?”

“You are capable of it.”

“Possibly. But I know of no folly that I have less intention of

“Oh, I don’t say that you will. It is merely your capacity for the
sudden and romantic wrecking of your life that makes you so
interesting.” She stooped and recovered the leash. Her face, when she
stood upright once more, was flushed, but she looked him straight in the
eyes. “I have always hoped that you would marry Mabel,” she said, and
her courage touched his chivalric nerve while it flushed his face. “I
shall be perfectly frank. I wished it from the moment we met. She was
too young to think of such a thing, and you were obliged to remain in
Germany. But now—she has developed quite wonderfully, and you are quite
free. I shall continue to be frank. When I brought Mabel over Lady
Bridgminster took a great fancy to her, and I feel sure that she had
some such idea herself, although naturally we could not speak of it; but
latterly she seems to have taken a dislike to the poor child, and to
have set her heart upon a frightfully plain English heiress—”

“She heard my opinion on that subject last night. I fancy she will not
broach it again.” Ordham spoke ironically, but his blush had deepened
and he moved about nervously.

Mrs. Cutting shook her head with a little absent gesture of despair.
“Your mother is not the woman to relinquish lightly any cherished plan,
and this Lady Rosamond Hayle seems to be a particular friend of hers.
You could never be married against your will—at least I think you could
not. But you will see Lady Rosamond quite intimately, you will become
fascinated with her virtues, which no one can dispute, and forget her

“I have no intention of entering the possibly dangerous zone of her
virtues. But you are very kind. Why on earth have you selected me? There
are bigger fish in this great pond.”

“That is as it may be. But I am very exacting. I want far more than a
title—which, no doubt, you will inherit in due course. You see I am
really frank! I got to know you very well in Munich, remember, and of
all the young men I have ever met you are the only one to whom I care to
intrust my daughter. That is, if you really could love her.”

“Oh! Love!” Ordham’s eyes stared far beyond his companion in a manner
not at all to her taste. She resumed sadly:

“Of course she might not be able to interest you after your experience
of so many complicated European women. And she—well, Mabel is a mystery
even to me—what girl is not a mystery? When we left Munich I fancied
that you had made an indelible impression upon her cloistered little
heart. But now—as I told you—she affects to despise all men; and so
much has happened since then. A girl is no sooner launched in the world
than she grows a year every day. And I did not feel that I should be
justified in keeping your memory green in her mind, for how could I know
that you would not have loved and married before we met again? But I
wish! I wish! If she does not marry you, I hope it will be many years
before she marries at all. Of course there are many fine men in the
world, and she can afford to wait. A fortune hunter shall never have
her. Of that I am determined.”

“There are thousands of fine fellows in the world,” said Ordham,
generously, increasingly desirous of meeting the enigmatic and difficult
Mabel. “When may I call? I should not think of leaving London without
renewing that delightful acquaintance. I had intended to try my luck
this afternoon.”

“Come at five. And perhaps you will dine with us before you go? You
cannot be rushed with engagements at this season, and it will be
pleasant to see a bit of you, even if—”

Ordham laughed and shook hands with the handsome charming woman, who
looked so unconventionally eager in spite of her cool eyes. “I have
never been so flattered in my life, and it is wonderful of you to be so
enchantingly frank. Men must get so sick of transparent angling—I
wonder that anything induces the big fish to bite. Please don’t let Miss
Cutting know that you like me, or she will be sure to hate me. Of course
I shall call at five to-day. And dine with you to-morrow? May I?”

He walked to his club in a very thoughtful mood. Here, no doubt, was the
natural solution of his difficulties. But with the prospect of that easy
escape came a passionate wave of protest, the protest of masculine youth
at paying the price. He had not the faintest idea that he could fall in
love with Mabel Cutting; and were her millions an adequate compensation
for the loss of his precious liberty? He felt that a man’s youth should
last until thirty. Time enough then for shackles: wife—and children! He
blushed angrily at the thought. This cursed question of money! If his
brother would settle two thousand a year on him, he would not consider
matrimony with the most beautiful girl that walked.

And deep down in his heart he heard a murmured demand for the woman by
the Isar. Was this woman, perchance, his mate? He stopped, appalled at
the thought, in the middle of Piccadilly, and was nearly run over by a
hansom cab. To what end? The difference in their ages meant nothing to
him, but he could not ask the various diplomatic circles of the world to
accept Margarethe Styr. Nor was there the least probability that she
would renounce her career to keep house for him and devote her talents
to the advancement of his own. Even if she loved him—and did she?—how
could he demand such a sacrifice? Society would be a poor substitute for
art, for the adulation of the multitude. Moreover, there was the
question of money again. She might possess small fortune, but it would
not go far in his world. To permit her to remain on the stage he would
not consider for a moment. He would neither abandon his career nor would
he live on a woman’s earnings. To marry a girl with a large inheritance
was one thing, but to loaf about while his famous wife sang to a public
ignorant of his very name, that neither might want for the luxuries to
which they were accustomed—good God!

He wondered, as he turned abruptly from the door of his club and
strolled down into St. James’s Park, that the idea of marrying
Margarethe Styr had postulated itself. It had not even occurred to him
before. He had looked forward to seeing her as often as he could manage,
to keeping her in his life, but not even to being her lover. Did he love
her? Had he loved her during those enchanting months, and been too
contented, too occupied, to understand? Had she purposely refrained from
exercising those seductions of which she must be passed mistress,
because she knew that love would devastate the lives of both? For a
moment he seemed to be peering over the edge of a round wall into the
great wells of human nature. He had a passing impression that Margarethe
Styr was Nature herself, that in her bosom were all the mysteries, the
secrets, the treasures of life, and that they were his, whether he could
ever take them or not.

Did he love her? He drew his brows together in the deepest perplexity he
had ever experienced. There was no turbulence of emotion in him, no
madness of passion, no desire. It was a mental longing—that and
something deeper, which he did not pretend to define, but which, so far
at least, did not affect his senses. Were they on fire, with the
instinct of man for his mate, he knew that he should take the next train
for the Continent. But they were not, and the idea suddenly entered his
cool wise young brain that he had better stay away from the Continent
altogether. It was quite possible that a multiplicity of causes, her own
subtle manipulation among them, had delayed his loving this most
complete of all women, and it was on the cards that they both would lose
their heads the moment they met again. Well! They had got through a
dangerous summer safely, and its memory was wholly delightful. He, at
least, would not defy the gods, but steer clear of the siren’s rock.
Aside from motives of prudence, he was by no means sure that he wanted
to experience a tremendous passion; the indolence, the
super-civilization in him shrank from elemental tumults. He had locked
up the memory of the scene with his brother, but he heard the key rattle
for a moment, and his distaste for the primitive increased.

He jerked up the thought of his career and forced his mind to dwell upon
it, succeeding so thoroughly that he felt ambition incarnate as he
headed for home. He would begin his duties in the Foreign Office on the
morrow instead of demanding a leave of absence; that would keep him in
England for six months to come. Then he would manage to be sent to St.
Petersburg or Madrid, instead of to Berlin, as he had contemplated.

At luncheon he was forced to listen to eulogies of a woman he would not
have married had she presented him with a million in the funds, and
revenged himself by talking about Mabel Cutting. But deep down in his
being went on that same mysterious protest, mutter, demand for the
supreme rights of mortal on this imperfect plane called life.

                        EVERY MAN HIS OWN PILOT

Mrs. Cutting had bought, several years since, the lease of one of the
great houses in Grosvenor Square from a bachelor who, late in life, had
inherited it among other properties, and had lived comfortably at his
club too long to move or to think favorably of matrimony. At his
tenant’s tactful suggestion he reserved the ancestral furniture and
pictures, sending them to one of his country houses, and Mrs. Cutting,
in refurnishing, had wisely gone to Paris. Knowing the importance of the
least of individualizations in a city which resents the unorthodox and
is correspondingly fascinated by it, she had, instead of making her
mansion the replica of a thousand other fine houses or even of
permitting herself to be seduced by æstheticism, that bastard of the
Brotherhood, re-created the big heavy rooms into a setting appropriate
for a marquise of the eighteenth century. But too wise, or too
indifferent, to become the slave of any period, her house was merely
light, gay, brilliant, not too full of exquisite furniture gilded and
brocaded; there were pastels in very old frames, costly trifles, the
whole effect infinitely _French_. Everybody pronounced the word vaguely
upon entering the series of reception rooms, drawing-rooms, and
boudoirs, barely noting if the effect were produced by the pale brocades
set in the white and gold of the panelled walls, the polished floors,
the old but beautiful rugs, or by the numberless details, such as the
bluish grey inner blinds, drawn up on either side and in the middle,
that one sees in any modern French house. But the effect was there, that
bright delicate luxurious setting for two beautiful women as dainty and
splendid as ever the aristocracy of France achieved before her people
found themselves; and all London approved and went there to be
refreshed. Although it was now quite three years since the house had
been remodelled and thrown open, the illness and death of her husband,
followed by litigation, had called Mrs. Cutting so often from the city
of her heart that the season just past was the first she had spent
uninterruptedly in London since she had been able to equip herself for
conquest. An outsider, lacking the halo of fame, no matter how wealthy,
cannot impress herself deeply upon a vast and busy society with no more
obvious setting than a house hired from some economical noble. But this
past season was a very pleasant memory to Mrs. Cutting, not only on
account of her daughter’s unqualified success, but because no American
in London could dispute the fact that her house had been the scene of
the most superb and perfectly appointed entertainments with which
dollars had ever defied sovereigns.

Lady Bridgminster, at once the most exclusive and the most independent
of women (her Bohemian protégés belonged to the aristocracies of the art
world), had been her sponsor, and she had met at once many great people,
ordinarily indifferent to or disapproving of rich Americans, whom she
might not have met for years, if ever. She was booked for certain
country houses in the autumn and early winter which she had long felt
she owed it to her American pride to visit, but, even with her already
select acquaintance and social tact, hitherto inaccessible. In
consequence, never had two women been such devoted friends from the
middle of April until the middle of July as “Lady Pat” and Mrs. Cutting,
and society had been considerably amused.

As Ordham was escorted through the immense entrance hall and up to the
reception room at the head of the grand staircase, then left where he
could command a long vista, he felt as if he had entered an enchanted
palace. He had been in many palaces, many fine mansions, but never
before where the wise gift of selection had eliminated the haphazard
accumulations of the centuries, and appropriated all that was beautiful
and artistic in historic houses whose owners could no longer pay their
monthly bills. He knew what this wondrous interior meant to countless
impoverished families whose ancestors had dazzled France. It was the
most complete demonstration of the power of practically unlimited wealth
that he had ever witnessed, and he wondered if rich Americans really
appreciated their good fortune, or if they took it as a matter of course
from the moment they were laid in their golden cradle; he was sure that
American royalties, unlike European, would never condescend to use
merely gilded cradles.

Down at one end of the long vista he saw Mabel Cutting approaching. He
rose, but stood still for a moment, hoping that she had not yet seen
him, and curious to discover what his first impression of her would be
after these eventful months of separation. Moreover, he felt suddenly

His only impression at the moment was that the figure moving toward him
down the bright formal French rooms, was the most graceful he had ever
seen. Styr walked like a goddess. Mabel Cutting had the exquisite
unconscious grace of a highly bred young girl, a grace that suggests a
complete independence of the gravity of the earth. She walked as lightly
as if she had never thought about walking at all; her slender figure had
none of the conscious upstanding dignity of maturity; it was almost
somnambulistic, an effect in harmony with her dreamy large eyes. She
wore a gown and hat of various shades of green, and looked like spring
reappearing for a moment to reproach the excesses of summer. And she was
far more beautiful than when he had seen her last. Oh, no doubt of that.
Beside her trotted LaLa, looking like a gnome.

Ordham stood spellbound before this vision for a moment; then advanced
with even more dignity than usual, that she might not detect his
tremors. Miss Cutting smiled pleasantly and offered her hand.

“How do you do, Mr. Ordham?” Her voice was light, sweet, cold,
undeveloped. “Mother will be down presently and give you a cup of tea.
Shall we sit in here? It is not so formal.”

She preceded him into a large room, which assuredly, thought he, must
have been lifted bodily from some unfortunate royal chateau; but he was
far more interested in the graceful figure before him, in her cool ease
of manner. Where was the chatterbox of six months since? As they seated
themselves beside the tea-table she politely but a little absently asked
him if he was glad to be in England again after so long a sojourn
abroad; then, her curiosity apparently satisfied, left the conversation
in his keeping. He was searching his mind for a new subject to avert an
awkward pause, wondering if the great absent eyes fixed upon him gave
heed to his unprecedented exertions, and growing vaguely angry, when
Mrs. Cutting came brightly in. She shook him warmly by the hand, and
prepared to pour out tea with a smiling alertness that made her daughter
appear the more indifferent by contrast. As Mrs. Cutting ran on, indeed,
Mabel seemed to withdraw more and more into herself, and even while
drinking her tea gave the impression of performing a polite act in which
she took no interest. At all events she made no attempt to enter the
conversation, which, for a time, was all of Ordham’s examinations and
future. Once or twice he sought her eyes in the suddenly remembered
fashion of that fortnight in Munich when they flirted behind “Momma’s”
back; but in vain. Mrs. Cutting was no longer Momma and Mabel was no
longer Mabel. What was she? Being a mere man, it was incomprehensible to
him that even a London season and many admirers, to say nothing of
tutors and books, could transform a beautiful but decidedly commonplace
child into a wondrous creature with the poise of her mother, the mystery
of those maidens the poets invoke from cloudland, and the intellectual
abstraction of a budding genius. She was so perfectfully beautiful, so
provocative in her abstraction, that he was at first merely interested.
But at the end of half an hour, when she had not addressed a remark to
him, but had sat as if she were in front of a camera, he began to grow
really angry. He was not accustomed to disdain. He was quite aware that
if not yet the head of his family, he was more than a match for any
American girl, and had received something more than encouragement from
the young lady’s mamma. Moreover, and here he sat up suddenly and began
talking with animation to Mrs. Cutting, was he not the intimate friend
of one of the greatest women in the world? For the first time he felt
the flattery of the haughty Styr’s selection, and in the present
engagement it gave him a distinct moral advantage that almost visibly
uplifted his chest. He had permitted Mrs. Cutting to sustain the
conversation before; he now turned to her wholly, and, the talk having
drifted to Munich, gave her a brilliant description of Styr’s Isolde,
which should at least display to this absurd young person his knowledge
of the art which had lured her to London in the heats of August.

“It is the disappointment of my life that I have not seen Styr,” said
Mrs. Cutting. “She did not sing while I was in Munich, and I have never
been to Bayreuth. To be frank, I care little for Wagner. When one has
been brought up on Patti and Nilsson, so to speak,—”


Ordham turned with a start. Miss Cutting was regarding her mother with
eyes sparkling disapproval. She moved them to Ordham, and the access of
interest in those profound orbs was unmistakable. “Thank heaven I am not
old-fashioned!” Her voice was so sweet, almost plaintive, that even an
American mother could not feel snubbed. “What little I have heard of
Wagner—almost wholly at orchestral concerts here—makes me long to hear
more—all. Perhaps my English teacher infected me with his own
enthusiasm. And he, too, has heard the great Styr. Is it true, Mr.
Ordham, that you have heard her in all her rôles?”

“Oh, many times.”

“And is she really so great?”

“She is quite the greatest singer and actress in the world.”

“Ah!” Miss Cutting looked him full in the eyes. Her own seemed to say:
“How wonderful you are to love and understand such great things, when
most men at your age prefer the Halls!” Mrs. Cutting interposed in her
cool, smooth, almost aggressively cultivated voice:

“But she, too, has limitations. She could not sing any of the old rôles.
I may be old-fashioned, darling, but I assuredly do prefer Lucia,
Leonora, Violetta, with their marvellous vocalization, to those
declaiming and unmelodious rôles. I sat through _Die Walküre_ once, and
it seemed to me that they merely talked interminably in the singing
register. It was quite a week before I felt rested.”

“But _Die Walküre_ is full of drama!” Miss Cutting looked at her parent
with a soft steadiness of reproach. Ordham had never seen eyes that
revealed and concealed so much. Her small curved mouth, pink and half
parted over the little white teeth, was as innocent as a baby’s, yet
withal had a delightfully sarcastic uplift at the corners. “Dear mother!
There is not a moment when one must not be thrilled by the happenings of
very strange things indeed, and it was Wagner’s object to ennoble
speech; he thought the old trills and roulades—and all—debased it.”

“Yes, darling, but the speeches need not be so long. Think of Fricka
scolding Wotan throughout half of an interminable act; and as for that
duologue in the last act between Wotan and Brünhilde—well, its mere
memory threatens to deprive me of all the patience I possess. But I
foresee my fate. I shall have to take you to Munich next winter.”

“A month at least. I must have that before we go to the Riviera. Oh,
there is so much in the world to see, to learn! I wish I were thirty, so
that I could feel that I had accomplished a little.”

“You have begun,” said Ordham, smiling. His anger and pique had
vanished. “But I hope you like England.”

“It is my second home, of course. Mother has brought me here during most
of my vacations.” But there was no enthusiasm in her tones, and she
added: “I don’t fancy I shall care deeply for any one place until I have
seen a great deal of life. My head feels like an empty house full of
tiny rooms, all vacant behind staring windows. Well, one grows older
every day.”

Ordham looked at that lovely head, with its mass of shining yellow hair,
the full luminous brow, the deep dark eyes, the pure polished whiteness
of the skin. He could imagine no more delightful task than furnishing
those clean empty little rooms. He suddenly felt that he had accumulated
a vast amount in his twenty-four years, and that perhaps it was his duty
to decorate the interior of that shapely skull. But her eyes wandered
from him again as Mrs. Cutting asked him abruptly what he knew of Styr.

“One hears more and more of her every day, over here,” she added. “So
many English people have become convinced that it is their duty to
admire Wagner, and are making conscientious efforts. They not only go to
Bayreuth, but these last two or three years they have taken in Munich on
their way to the Riviera or Italy. Some of the artists, too, come back
raving over her. No doubt they really understand Wagner. Do you meet her
off the stage?”


“Is she supposed to be educated?”

“Educated? She is a highly accomplished woman—has furnished all her
little rooms, I should think.” He smiled and turned to Mabel, who was
feeding the pug.

“Ah! you know her?” Mrs. Cutting’s voice was very smooth. “She is not


“How interesting! And how odd—that she should be—well, like that—and
received. There are stories.” She glanced significantly at the averted
head of her young daughter. It was patent that Mabel was not to be
permitted to furnish any of her vacant cells in the primal colours.

Ordham lifted his shoulders. “She is a great artist. In Munich that
suffices. And now, at least, I fancy that little but her art interests
her. Her life is one long act of devotion and sacrifice.”

“Nevertheless,” said Mrs. Cutting, as Mabel, having boxed the ears of
LaLa for spilling his cream, was escorting him to the door, “she had
better not return to New York.”

Ordham’s eyes, suddenly large and cold, interrogated her.

“It seems that one of the old gossips of the Union Club spent a few days
not long since in Munich and recognized Styr as a woman—well, whom
every New York man once knew by sight, at least. He always spends the
season in London, and now that Styr is becoming famous, it gives him
great satisfaction to add his little quota of scandal.”

“It is quite possible that he mistook her for some one else. She looks
like one woman off the stage, and another on.” Ordham felt an
uncontrollable nervousness in his knees and moved about the room,
staring at the soft pastels.

“He saw her both on and off. There is no doubt, I fancy. She was
supposed to be dead, lost with a cheap company of players on the Pacific
Coast. But he says that no one that had ever seen her could possibly
mistake her for any one else, greatly as she has gone off—he says that
she was a beautiful tigress when she squandered fortunes in New York.
But, as you say, it does not matter in Munich, where, dear souls, they
would worship the devil himself if he could sing. And, of course, she
meditates no social conquest of London or New York. Levering says that
she is very clever!”

“She is quite above thinking of such things.” Then, not wishing to hurt
this charming woman’s feelings, he added hastily: “Art is a very
exalting as well as exacting mistress. Nothing else seems worth while to
so ardent a votary as Frau von Tann. If ever she comes here to sing, I
fancy she will be the one to raise the social defences. You know that we
too can be indifferent to pasts when they are walled off by fame. If
Countess Tann created a furore at Covent Garden, she would be run after
by every lion hunter in London. Remember Bernhardt.”

The colour left Mrs. Cutting’s cheek, and an angry light sprang to her
eyes. But if prompted to deliver her mind of its disgust for the
complaisance of a society in which she found no other fault, she thought
better of it and replied calmly:

“Well—Bernhardt is French. One never expects much of people that have
not had the advantages of the strict tenets of the Anglo-Saxon race; and
when a transgressor is the most famous actress in the world, and has
lived her life in Paris, the most feverish of all lives in the most
feverish of all cities—well, of course, one not only makes allowances,
but looks upon her as such a sheer outsider that one feels justified in
paying tribute to her genius—or further satisfying one’s curiosity,
whichever it may be. But this Styr—ah! here is the carriage. You will
drive with us for an hour in the Park? Of course there will be nobody to
look at, but the air will be delightful.”

He sat opposite the graceful voluble mother and the silent beautiful
daughter with her eyes full of dreams and the hideous pug on her lap;
and not only in the park, but during the drive down to Richmond, where
he persuaded them to go for dinner. Once only, as they drove home
through the twilight, he held Mabel’s eyes for a full minute. There was
none of the old innocent coquetry in them, but they looked as if they
were taking his measure and pronouncing him worth while if not heroic.

Styr’s name was not mentioned again, nor for many a day after.

                               SLOW MAGIC

Lady Bridgminster paid her son a visit next morning while he was still
in bed and drinking his tea. He was but half awake and pretended to no
enthusiasm. But his mother pushed a chair to the bedside and tapped the
coverlet with her long fingers. It was patent that for once in her life
she was nervous.

“I must speak, Johnny,” she exclaimed. “And as I have several
engagements to-day, this is my only opportunity.”

“Where can you have engagements in London at this time of year?”

“I am lunching with Rosamond, and then we visit a flower show, and
afterwards attend a committee meeting—one of her charities—”

“So she is in town?”

“It is no more remarkable that she should come to town in this stifling
weather for the sake of doing good than that little American should
suddenly discover that she must come up for second-rate concerts. It
does not strike you as odd, I suppose?”

“If I for a moment believed that Miss Cutting came up to London in
August on my account, I should be flattered to death; but as a matter of
fact, she quite snubbed me.”


“But she did. I can assure you I have felt a walking tragedy ever

“She was probably in a bad temper about something.”

“She looked precisely like an angel.”

“Well, no doubt angels have their moods, and she is a spoilt child of
fortune. Two millions sterling, and I cannot pay my dressmaker!”

“You wrote me once that an American daughter-in-law would be sure to pay
your bills.”

“So would Rosamond. I do not want American dollars.”

“Am I to understand that Rosamond Hayle has also come up to London in

“She does not know that you are back from the north, poor dear. I lured
her up, pretending interest in her charity.” She leaned forward and took
her son’s hands in the close grasp of her own. “Johnny,” she said
intensely, “promise me that you will not marry this Cutting girl—at
least that you will not propose to her until you have tried to like
Rosamond. That dear English girl has vastly improved. And perhaps I have
done wrong to hurry you. There are other girls growing up that will have
a good bit of their own. I can think of three. If you will not consider
poor Rosamond, at least promise me that you will not fall headlong into
the net of these Americans.”

“Of course.”

“Do you forget that I brought you up?” His mother’s voice rose with her
indignation. “At least pay me the compliment of frankness. And you will
say ‘Of course’ at the altar instead of ‘I will,’ if you are not on your

“Well, then, I won’t. Eliminate Rosamond Hayle at once and forever. I am
not at all sure that I wish to marry Miss Cutting. Before I met her
again yesterday I knew that I should be hard driven indeed to make up my
mind to marry a chatterbox. Now, although she has astonishingly
improved, I do not know that I even like her. But she fascinates and
interests me. I shall certainly see more of her. If I can like her well
enough, and she will look at me—of which I am by no means sure—I
fancy—I don’t know—it may be that I shall marry her. At least she
would do me credit and assist me in my career. She is ideally beautiful,
uncommonly clever, she has the grand air, and she has millions. You are
asking me to marry a woman with less than half her fortune, whom smart
Continental women would laugh at. I’d starve before I married a woman I
should have to apologize for. No doubt I shall end by worrying along
until Bridg drinks himself to death.”

“I don’t believe he is in any immediate danger—with that physique. And
I had a remarkably lucid letter from him this morning. He wants me to
try to persuade you to assist him in breaking the entail of Ordham—some
rich brewer wants to buy it. Of course you will not?”

“I shan’t even discuss the question.”

Lady Bridgminster rose with an impatient jerk of her shoulders. As she
stood there in the dim light, so long and narrow, draped, rather than
dressed like ordinary women, she looked extraordinarily distinguished
and handsome. Ordham’s æsthetic sense stirred, and he put out his hand
and took hers.

“We will pay those bills, somehow,” he said. “I got a thousand from
Bridg, and Hines, who has been adding up, finds that I overestimated my
indebtedness. I will bring you two hundred this afternoon, and if ever I
do marry riches, be sure that you and the boys shall have all you want.”

A dark red tide rose to Lady Bridgminster’s hair. She stooped
impulsively and kissed her son. “You are a dear generous boy!” she
exclaimed. “And we are all cats! cats! Every one of us.”

And leaving her son puzzled as much by her unusual demonstration as by
that cryptic arraignment of her sex, she swept her long draperies out of
the room.

Ordham dined that evening in the beautiful house, which, under
artificial light, looked more than ever a palace evoked by the stroke of
a wand for a fairy princess to dwell in. The princess wore misty robes
of white, with green leaves in her hair, her ethereal loveliness
rendered almost nebulous by her mother’s substantial gown of black jet,
and the five big footmen in dark green plush. The dinner might have been
sent over from Bignon’s. Certainly these Americans knew how to spend
their money. Their very newness inspired them to aim at effects that
never would enter the old indifferent heads of the homogeneous races.

Mabel had almost nothing to say. She made no effort whatever, but Mrs.
Cutting, accustomed all her life to lead in conversation, as well as to
keep it from flagging, entertained the guest so conscientiously that he
hardly had time to feel snubbed by the young beauty. Mrs. Cutting’s talk
rarely bored him, for she had a wide range of subjects and never clung
too long to any one of them, after the fashion of some Americans, and he
at least found time to realize that he could not have stood the same
amount of chatter from a miss of one season. Mabel’s new reticence
became her, the more particularly as when she did speak it was to the
point; and it was more and more apparent that she was not the charming
little goose he had thought her in Munich. But he was taken aback, as
they left the dining room, to receive a polite good night from the young
lady, who floated down the long line of rooms and disappeared.

Mrs. Cutting bit her lip and tapped her fan in manifest annoyance as she
led the way to the front drawing-room. “Mabel has a slight headache,”
she said apologetically. “She always droops a little in warm weather.
She wants to return to the country; but I shall continue to be very
frank with you, Mr. Ordham—I am most anxious that you should know one

“It looks as if the less she knows me the better she may like me.”
Ordham spoke with some humour; he was piqued but not angry. “However, I
shall always be grateful to you for letting me look at her.”

“Ah! You do think my chick a beauty?” There was a little break in Mrs.
Cutting’s cultivated voice, but she did not lift her eyes to Ordham’s.

“I have never seen a girl half as beautiful.”

Mrs. Cutting rose and moved about with uncommon restlessness. “Oh, if it
could only be!” she cried. “Why not? Why not? I cannot live forever. The
few relatives I have live in New York, and Mabel is so thoroughly
Europeanized. She must marry. There is no other solution for a dainty
helpless creature like that. Some man must take care of her as well as
of her fortune. I have set my heart upon it, and I have had very few
disappointments in life. I really could not endure the failure of this
darling project. And you two should be as mutually attracted as the
first man and the first woman. I cannot understand it!”

“I can fancy myself feeling the full force of the attraction if
encouraged a bit. But if Miss Cutting will not speak to or look at me—”

“Girls are the eternal enigmas—and the most provoking little beasts
that nature ever invented. She was quite mad about you when we left
Munich. Now she fancies that no man will ever come up to her
ideal—whatever it may be! She has no inordinate social ambitions;
titles here and in France have been offered to her. But let us not talk
about it. Come and see me. I positively refuse to return to the country
and the society of tutors. They can come here. If Mabel droops, she can
take a tonic. I could remain in this London I adore, winter and summer,
autumn and spring. . . . And who knows? All this indifference, this
nonchalance, may be but a ruse to draw you on. No one knows a girl less
than her mother. And as to girls in general—there is no end to their
nonsense and affectations. Fortunately they outgrow them, or what would
become of the race? Do light another cigarette and let us sit on the
balcony. I am too old for moonlight and balconies, and shall only
inspire you with vain regrets—but never mind. At least it will be
pleasant for me, and unselfishness is good for the soul!”

                        WHERE IS ROSAMOND HAYLE?

Ordham was somewhat surprised that his mother did not inflict him with
Rosamond Hayle at luncheon or dinner, and wondered if she had accepted
the two hundred pounds in the nature of a bribe. He was more than
grateful to be spared the sight of that high-born heiress’s prominent
teeth and leaden hair; but beyond forbearing to thrust the young woman
upon him in person, Lady Bridgminster made no effort at self-abnegation.
She talked of her Rosamond’s virtues constantly and even hinted that
hair could be “touched up.” Bony structure was hopeless, but by an
elaborate arrangement of red-brown tresses and large hats, front teeth
could be thrown into the background, particularly when assisted by a
pink and white complexion; and this, she pledged her word, the healthy
English girl now possessed. Nor were her eyes at all bad, and she had
eyebrows, which were a distinct advantage when fixing up a plain girl.
As for figure—what were dressmakers for? Besides, these lovely æsthetic
gowns were invented to make skeletons the fashion.

Ordham acquired a certain adroitness in changing the current of his
mother’s thought by introducing the subject of her poverty. This was
real enough. Her father grew stingier day by day, and her mother, once
the essence of worldliness (she, too, had been a beauty), now
compromising with heaven through the expensive medium of royal
charities, gave her smaller checks every year. How she lived at all
heaven only knew. To be sure she had friends, and, thank God! was
invited for Homburg or the Riviera every season, and never got round to
the same country houses two years in succession. But all that meant
clothes, clothes! Heavens, how things did cost! Sometimes she had wished
that the boys were girls, but think what _they_ would have cost in
clothes. And girls made slaves of their mothers. As to the boys, they
were better off without her and could be kept in the country the year
round. Their health was wonderful. If they had ever had even the measles
or whooping-cough, she had not heard of it. Mortimer (the family
solicitor) paid their bills.

If Lady Bridgminster had a preference for any of her children, for any
mortal, indeed, save herself, it was for her oldest son, whom she
understood in some things so well, and in others not at all. He was
interesting, he never bored her. The other five were fine orthodox
straightforward English boys, who were only happy when out of doors or
satisfying their mighty appetites. She was a little uncomfortable about
her second son, Stanley, now twenty-two, and, no doubt, expecting to be
entertained in town occasionally. But until her brilliant eldest brought
gold to the coffers Stanley must content himself where he was, and there
was plenty of room for him, during his holidays, in the dower house. She
ran down to see him occasionally, as well as to Kent, and the boys were
immensely flattered; Stanley, in particular, when she honoured
Sandhurst, showing her off to his companions with a pride not without
its pathos. She would willingly have showered money on them, poor souls,
and had the youngest up for the pantomimes; but what could she do?

Ordham went one day to visit his brothers. He was fond of them in the
abstract, although after the first half hour he was at a loss for
subjects of conversation and wearied of theirs. They were somewhat in
awe of their magnificent brother, whom they regarded as the head of the
family, Bridgminster being more or less of a myth to them. Ordham upon
this occasion felt pride as ever in their fine manly appearance, but
when the youngest frankly demanded tips was mortified not to be able to
respond generously, and wished that he had not come. To them he stood in
the shoes of their indulgent father; moreover, Ordham was one of those
unfortunate persons who, while possessing the very special gift of
wearing new clothes for the first time as if they had been in his
wardrobe for at least two months, yet impressed the beholder as a young
man of unlimited income, and on the Continent sent the prices up in
every shop he entered. He left the house in Kent so deeply vexed at
being obliged to give his brothers silver instead of gold that he was in
a frame of mind to call on Rosamond Hayle; but in London he found a note
from his mother informing him that she had run down to Brighton for the
night with that paragon, and he dismissed all things disagreeable from
his mind and spent the evening with the Cuttings.

He had lunched or dined or driven with them every day for a fortnight,
always entering the cool exquisite house with a sensation of gratitude,
especially now that he spent his mornings in the Foreign Office, for the
weather continued hot. And this house, with shades drawn and great
bunches of flowers in priceless bowls, always struck him afresh as the
most perfect setting possible for the young châtelaine, always drifting
about in a pale diaphanous gown; she wore a new one every time he saw
her. Mrs. Cutting invariably wore black,—jet, lace, or net,—and he
sometimes wondered if she deliberately were making a foil of herself;
she was still young enough to take pleasure in colours. This question
did not give him pause, however, his mental processes being now wholly
engaged with the riddle of his sentiments toward Mabel Cutting. Was he
on the edge of love, at last? He had gone so far as to resolve to marry
her if she would have him, for wed he must, and never could he hope to
find another girl with so much to recommend her. But he was still
reluctant to give up his liberty; could he but fall a victim to the
grand passion, hesitation would be consumed, and he should count himself
the happiest of mortals—that is, if she would accept him. He forced his
mind to dwell upon her and angrily reproached himself for being as cold
as a fish. That she interested and intrigued him beyond any girl he had
ever met was indisputable, and he increasingly longed for talks alone
with her, that he might explore the tempting by-paths of that mind and
character. But Mrs. Cutting was a stickler for the proprieties and did
not believe in exposing young people to the criticism of servants.
Occasionally Mabel enlivened and talked rapidly and pleasantly about a
new play or a bit of news in the artist or social world, but soon
relapsed into her usual dreamy silence and left the burden of the
conversation to her mother. Once she deliberately picked up a book and
read for an hour; and upon another occasion, when the weather was more
than commonly warm, she took a little gold box from her pocket and
powdered her nose. This Ordham found quite adorable, and was even
fascinated by the independence that prompted her to turn from the
conversation that did not interest her to the literature that did.

Mrs. Cutting was ever bright and entertaining, being a passed mistress
of the art of small talk, but there were times when Ordham hated the
sound of her voice, and was not sure whether his impatience were due to
his desire to talk with the daughter, or to the possible fact that
Margarethe Styr had spoilt him for the conversation of other women.
Although grateful that she was not close enough to divert him from his
purpose, he felt the sudden deprivation of her society; the more as her
letters were brief and unsatisfactory. She was on her _Gastspiel_ and
the weather was very warm; but she promised him long letters upon her
return to Munich—that is, unless he delightfully returned, as he had
promised. This he now knew he should not do until he was safely married;
but he was not the man to give his beloved friend a hint of the
matrimonial state of his mind or the fluid condition of his affections.
Styr pictured him dutifully dancing attendance upon his mother, who, for
reasons, was detained in London.

Once he gently insinuated to Miss Cutting that he should like to read
with her during the long afternoons, or at least discuss with her the
books that occupied her morning hours. But to these hints she was
impervious, and, by way of compensating him, Mrs. Cutting proposed a
game of tennis every morning before his duties commenced. To this bait
Ordham rose like a famished trout, and it somewhat surprised him that
Mabel accepted the suggestion no less eagerly than himself. The three
drove out to a court in Chelsea every morning at half-past eight, and he
played for an hour or two with a radiant vision in a short skirt, a red
jersey, and tumbling yellow hair. Mabel did not play a particularly good
game, but her interest was youthful and eager, and her admiration of his
so outspoken, when her manners, like her toilette, were in déshabillé,
that he wondered if there were no end to the charms of this remarkable


One Saturday morning, while dressing, Ordham received a note from Miss
Cutting, which, in phrases as light and graceful as her handwriting,
conveyed the information that her mother was in bed with a headache, and
that unless dear Lady Bridgminster—who, she feared, no longer liked
them—would consent to act as chaperon, their game of tennis must be
postponed until Monday. He answered that he knew of nothing that would
give his mother more pleasure, but as she always slept until ten he
hesitated to awaken her. He was disconsolate, and so forth, and so
forth. At eleven, he casually presented himself at the familiar door in
Grosvenor Square, and upon being told that Mrs. Cutting was indisposed,
entered, as a matter of course, waved the footman aside, and wended his
way up to the music room, whence issued the strains of Chopin’s
_Impromptu in D_. He stood in the doorway until the unconscious Mabel
had finished, listening critically, for Mabel had always refused to play
for him. Ordham had no technical knowledge of music, but he had heard a
great deal of it because it appealed powerfully to those tracts in his
brain which were not mental; he therefore realized that if Mabel’s
performance lacked the subtle appeals that go with the velvet touch and
depth of expression, there was no doubt of the correctness and
brilliancy of her execution. He was rather gratified than otherwise at
this lack of a quality that belonged to the maturer mind, not to
innocent girlhood. When she had finished, he went forward, and she rose
with a blush, the first with which she had favoured him. She looked
startled, almost frightened.

“Mom—mother—” she began.

“You will forgive me? Please do. I really could not put in the whole day
alone. If you turn me out, I shall be driven to accept an invitation to
the country, and I should hate it. Come and talk to me for a bit.”

His eyes coaxed even more than his voice. She led the way to the front
drawing-room and seated herself in a chair beside the open window, her
poise quite recovered, and talked to him with her inimitable girlish
graciousness about nothing in particular. Her old loquacity was
outgrown, it was evident; but with her mother ill and a guest on her
hands, courtesy demanded that she should make an effort.

But Ordham was determined to seize this opportunity to explore her mind;
he had come for no other purpose. Only for the moment was he content to
sit and admire her, although she had never looked more like a lovely
French princess; that puzzled one, perhaps, who asked why, since the mob
had no bread, they did not eat cake. She wore a white gown with a blue
sash and a blue ribbon in her hair. Her repose was extraordinary in so
young a girl, but once or twice Ordham fancied he detected a nervous
compression of her lips. Her large golden brown eyes, however, from
which the dreams had been politely banished, smiled at him with a
concentration singularly flattering after his many failures to capture
even their wandering attention.

“I wish you would tell me what you read,” he said abruptly; “I have
wondered and wondered if you care for any of my favourites.”

“I should never dare to tell you what mine are, for I am sure you would
despise them. I happen to know what your favourites are—and I have been
permitted to read only a few of the foreign classics—mother does not
think I should. But books were made to be read and studied, not to be
discussed; don’t you think so? I am reading hard in the hope of one day
becoming something more than a butterfly, but I have had so little time!
Don’t examine me!”

Ordham thought this enchantingly modest. “Why should not we read
together? There is so much I should like to get through, but one needs
an incentive in this weather. That would be the strongest!”

An expression singularly like alarm flitted through those radiant orbs,
but the explanation came in her cry: “Not yet! Not yet! When you come
back to England next time. Then I shall know so much more. How perfectly
wonderful of you to have passed those terrible examinations—I don’t
mean that it was wonderful for you, although so many fail, but you have
so much to distract your mind from study. Where do you expect to go

“Oh, St. Petersburg, Rome, Constantinople.”

“It is like you not to want to go back to Paris or to be sent to
Washington. All of those capitals must be so perfectly interesting.”

It was a few moments before he realized that she had deftly led the
conversation far from literature and was making him talk about himself.
He deliberately returned to his exploitations, for nothing in life now
interested him as much as the mind hidden behind that full luminous
brow, those unfathomable eyes. He had taken a long drive the night
before, thinking of Styr and sharply realizing that life without mental
companionship would be insupportable. There had been a return of those
half-comprehended mutterings of a deeper companionship still, and the
whisper that Styr alone held the key to a locked room in his soul; but
he was by no means inclined to force the lock and analyze the contents
of that room, being vaguely but uneasily conscious that if he did he
should suddenly find himself shot out of his present harbour into stormy
seas. He had concluded that if this beautiful and accomplished girl
really possessed an intellect that could be cultivated to understand and
companion his own, and would marry him, he should be an ingrate to ask
more of life.

“Why ‘not yet’? Do you forget that I am only twenty-four? I really know
nothing at all. If it were not for the fact that nobody ever forced me
to study and I put in a good part of the time reading in the library at
Ordham, and again, if I had not happened to be much attracted by the
Continental theatre, I should be quite ignorant.”

“Really?” She opened her eyes at this paradoxical jumble in a fashion
which suggested the old simile, “saucer.” “You have the reputation of
being quite too frightfully clever.”

“I wish I were! It is merely that I am not athletic. All my numerous
relations are, and they think that as I am not, I must have contracted
the vice of brains. But it is all a mistake. I am sure you could teach
me. Let us read Meredith together.”

She looked as if about to cry. “I—I—have been dying to read Meredith,”
she faltered; “but mother does not think he is quite proper. She does
not approve very much of novels, anyway. I console myself with history
and memoirs,—and—and—I—well—”

Her cheeks were stained with a beautiful color. She dropped her long
eyelashes, hesitated for a full minute, during which Ordham—why, he
could not define—held his breath, then raised her eyes to his with a
glance of dazzling, of unmistakable coquetry. Its effect, after her long
period of indifference, was electrical, and the remark which followed
that direct appeal of youth to youth made him turn white.

“Let us talk about that fortnight in Munich,” she almost whispered. “I
was so desperately in love with you, poor little soul; and you—you were
not quite indifferent. You might have written me one little letter.”

“I—I—” he stammered. “I banished your memory. It was my only refuge. I
should not have learned the little German I did. I should have followed

“I am glad that you did not. I was such a little goose—”

“You were enchanting!”

She shook her head. “But only for two weeks! Otherwise, German or not,
you would have followed. Even now, I am afraid you think me stupid; but
at least I have learned not to bore people when they can listen to
mother. Besides, she does not approve of girls talking very much. But I
have thought of ten thousand things I should love to talk to you about.
Books? Oh, that is only one. Of course I cannot think of any of them
now. That is always the way.”

“You might have given me a glance once in a while to let me know you
recognized my existence! I have always been made to feel that I was
exclusively your mother’s friend.”

“Well—” She lifted her shoulder in the French manner which expresses
many words. Then her eyes discarded coquetry and became sombre. “One
hates the idea of being put on exhibition. That was spared me until you
came. But of course you know—you would be a fool if you didn’t—that
mother is dying to have us marry. That is enough to make a girl hate a
man. But now that I can see you don’t care a bit about it, I like you
much better.” And she rewarded him with the sweetest smile he had ever

Ordham was cold from head to foot, but he answered steadily: “But I do
care about it. I want to marry you very much.”

“Oh!” She pouted until her lips looked so kissable that Ordham flushed
darkly. Then she became dignified and reserved once more. It was as if
she dropped a veil before all that was still too young in her, and
became the maiden of many millions and superior mind. But he saw that
she clenched her hands in a fold of her gown to keep them from shaking.

“Are you proposing?” she asked gently.

“Is that the tone you assume when about to refuse a man?”

“I don’t think I ever want to marry.”

“Nor did I until I met you. I hated the thought of it.”

“I don’t mean—I mean that one should love very much to marry. That
seems more difficult than learning Chopin or—or—literature! All girls
dream of the prince—but he does not seem to come to me.”

“You just told me that you were fond of me once.”

“Oh, at that age! It is quite ten years ago. I like to have you come
here—oh, immensely! But love!”

“Then you do not hate me? Sometime I have felt sure that you did.”

“Sometimes I have. As I said—no girl enjoys being thrown at a man’s
head. I feared you would think I had a hand in it.”

“I never flattered myself.”

“Then you really are unlike other men.”

“Do you care for any one else?”

“Oh, no. I have an American cousin, Bobby Driscom, who is arriving in a
week or so from New York. He and his father are bankers and take care of
our affairs. I used to think him handsomer than any god could possibly
be, but I have not seen him for two years.”

Ordham experienced such torments of jealousy that he bit his lips and
beat a tattoo on the floor with his foot. “Does that mean—Tell me—do
you dislike me now that you find I want to marry you? You said that my
only charm—”

“Was that you were not in love with me.”

“But I am!”

“I think you only want to marry me—as you put it before. I won’t say a
word about my horrid money, because I know perfectly well you would not
marry for that alone. But you think I would make a good all-round wife
for a diplomat—”

“How can you say such things?”

“I really think I should. And I am positive that you do not love
me—yet, at all events. I may not be quite nineteen, but I have had a
good many men in love with me, all the same. They began while I was in
short frocks and wore my hair in plaits. If I don’t know much about
anything else, I am not quite a fool on that subject. Ah, here is
luncheon being announced and I cannot ask you to stop. How hateful are
all these little _convenances_ that hedge a girl about!” She rose and
held out her hand. “But we will play tennis on Monday? Meanwhile do not
let us think of such serious things as love and marriage. Youth does not
last so very long. When you are thirty and I am twenty-four, come and
propose to me again. And please, please do not tell mother that you
proposed to me to-day, or I shall not have a happy time. Mother is sweet
and dear, but when she sets her mind upon a thing—Will you promise?”

“Of course. But I don’t intend to wait until I am thirty to propose

He was dismissed with a bewildering, tantalizing smile beneath sad,
unfathomable eyes, that sent him up the wrong street and caused him
nearly to be run down twice by hansom cabs.

                                THE RACE

During the ensuing fortnight he looked as if a blight had passed over
him. His face grew pinched and white, he lost his magnetism, his fine
remote dignified assurance, even his good manners. His mother, in as
superb an outburst of disdain as he had ever witnessed on the stage,
told him that the very cabbies, to say nothing of the servants, must see
that he was in the throes of his calf-love, and that he was even more
odious than young men usually were during that last and worst of
children’s diseases; thanking her stars that she was not forced to
remain under the same roof with him, she flounced off to Paris with
Rosamond Hayle. Ordham, could he have experienced pleasure in anything
during this excruciating period, would have felt delight in being rid of

Alas! he could no longer flatter himself with doubts regarding his
feeling for the young American beauty, indulge in mental analyses. He
had forgotten Styr, his ambitions, his calm belief in himself and his
star. But one woman, one object, existed on this earth for him, and he
only paused to wonder that he had ever thought himself incapable of
love. No man ever got sharper wounds from the archaic darts. He was
sentimentally, passionately, wretchedly in love. He thought of nothing
else. For the first time in his life appetite and sleep were affected.
Several people from whom he had received much hospitality while in Paris
paid a short visit to London and sought him out as a matter of course.
He took no notice of them. Styr, at last, found time to write him a long
letter. He did not even read it. He forgot the existence of the Foreign

Meanwhile, he saw the young lady daily. If she had been merely
indifferent before, she was now almost rude, regretting, no doubt, her
girlish recrudescence. Mrs. Cutting, were it possible, was even more
impressive in her attentions to him. He felt as if tossed between fire
and ice, and although this torment had its fascination, he sometimes
wished that the mother would gratify the daughter and turn him out. Then
he could flee to the ends of the earth, and make some attempt to
extinguish the flames that devoured him. He was quite aware of his
changed appearance, and one morning, while brushing his hair and
scowling at his nervous white face, recalled what Styr had said about
young people in the ferment of first love being the mere victims of the
race, reversions to type. That, no doubt, was what was the matter with
him, and it was no consolation to reflect that it was so much good
passion thrown away. If a man had to undergo such torments, why, in
heaven’s name, didn’t the girl catch the fever? He should not in the
least mind being one of Nature’s victims if he were permitted to be
happy with a fellow-victim. Otherwise, there was no sense in it.

The tennis games were abandoned, as he slept late after his bad nights,
and Hines, after one conscientious attempt to awaken him, declined the
office of mentor a second time. But he spent a part of every day in
Grosvenor Square, from which he could not keep away; although he
believed that no old-time martyr boiling in a cauldron and pinched with
red-hot nippers ever suffered such agonies as his. But at last pride
revolted, his spirit cried out under its crushing load, and he had an
attack of acute indigestion. He pointedly broke an engagement for
luncheon, and presented himself at five o’clock determined to say
good-by and leave England next day. He should not return to Munich, for
he never wanted to see another woman; probably he should go out to India
and remodel himself upon the commonplace family likeness by shooting
tigers and sending home the skins.

The ladies were shopping, he was informed, and he was shown up to the
small drawing-room to await them. But the small drawing-room would not
hold him, and he roamed about the beautiful rooms whose furniture and
decorations had once whispered to him of sweet love-tragedies, as well
as of terrible dramas involving the collapse into blood or obscurity of
the historic families that had loved them. But to-day they had no
confidences for Ordham. He came upon a door ajar. It led into a small
room that he had never seen, but he did not hesitate to enter, as Mrs.
Cutting had made him feel at home long since. He saw at a glance that
this must be Mabel’s boudoir, and drew back. Beyond the threshold,
however, he was powerless to retreat; he stood trembling, fascinated,
feeling himself in the presence of a subtle betrayal of the secrecies of
maidenhood,—such as he sometimes fancied emanated from the young girl
herself. He had never dreamed that a girl could be so sacred and
beautiful, so mysterious a creature. He turned pale and lost his breath.

It was a very simple room to his masculine eye, with its white flowered
silks and white enamelled furniture, but as unmistakably luxurious as
the rest of the house. Suddenly his eye was caught by a bookcase above
the writing table. This temptation was irresistible, and in a moment he
was eagerly scanning the titles of the haughty beauty’s chosen
literature. It was with something of a shock that he discovered the
books to be the essays of Macaulay, the novels of Scott and Dickens, and
a selected volume of Shakspere’s plays, as he had read all of these
works and more in his earliest teens. It could not be possible that this
represented the girl’s idea of erudition, her mother’s disappointment in
her beauty’s untimely development of bookish tastes? But what of it?
Ordham was too far gone in love and despair to be seriously affected by
a minor disappointment, although it might have staggered him a month
earlier. Poor ambitious child! What opportunities at a fashionable
school in Paris, studying “art,” music, and three languages, to delve
into literature! If she had but just begun to read, at least she had not
begun with trash, and that she had begun at all was the vital point.
Again he was turning away, and again he received a shock. The drawer of
the desk was half open. His gaze, as it dropped from the bookcase,
rested upon three letters from his mother. The ink was fresh. The
postmark was conspicuously “Paris.”

He afterwards described his sensations at that moment as of a lighted
torch trying to force its way from the base of his skull through the
dull inert mass of his brain to his upper consciousness. But at a
certain stage love is a disease analogous to death. The brain, if not
disintegrated, is very nearly so, for it is worn out by implacable
thought, despair, brooding on the impossible. It is, after long tension,
a flabby mass, through which the angry watchers in the subconsciousness
can find no avenue, force not a cry of warning. Normally with a brain so
alert that the utmost caution and tact were necessary in the handling of
him, even although his full share of masculine vanity made him as easy
game as most men, the least slip would have roused Ordham’s suspicions
and set him on his guard; but, his brain demoralized by the
greensickness of love, he was as far beyond rescue as if he had been
born a fool.

He was staring stupidly at the letters, mechanically striving to reach
their significance, when a footstep on the polished floor of the
drawing-room made him retreat hastily, trembling at the prospect of
confronting the indignant Mabel and receiving summary dismissal. So
great was his discomposure he did not notice that the footsteps were too
heavy for a woman, and was astonished to confront a young man, an
uncommonly good-looking young man, with a frank well-bred face and an
athletic spare figure. Ordham divined at once that here was the handsome
American cousin whose advent he had dreaded. Unconsciously he threw back
his own shoulders. His eyes became excessively cold, his manner almost
unbearably polite.

“No doubt you are Mr. Driscom,” he said. “Mrs. Cutting has spoken of you
to me.”

“And you are Mr. Ordham, of course.” The American shook the Englishman
warmly by the hand, but received no sort of pressure in response. He
wondered, as he had done during previous visits to London, what American
women could see in Englishmen.

“Mrs. Cutting is my second cousin,” he said. “She has often mentioned
you in her letters. The butler tells me they will be back in a moment. I
suppose we may smoke.”

His voice was agreeable and cultivated, his manner easy and cordial.
Ordham noticed with intense annoyance that there was nothing here to
ridicule and despise. Margarethe Styr had talked to him of this fine
type of the young American, and Driscom reminded him of the gallant
youth who had stood by her to the last on the wrecked steamer. He felt
that in ordinary circumstances he should have warmed to him, but now he
hated and feared him; were thought as potent as one day it may be, poor
Driscom would have expired of poison in every vein.

But the American, who seemed drawn to that courteous smiling exterior,
talked amiably of the yachting news in the evening telegrams, and of
yachting in general, smoking steadily the while. It was manifest that he
felt quite at home, was doing the honors, in fact! No doubt he would be
staying in the house, these Americans were so infernally hospitable.

Fortunately the tête-à-tête was not long enough to exhaust Ordham’s
falling stock of patience. Mrs. Cutting swept into the room, followed by
Mabel and LaLa. Driscom sprang to his feet and kissed his second cousin
warmly. Ordham held his breath, expecting to commit murder were Mabel
also saluted. When the young lady merely held out her hand with a
radiant smile, his apprehension increased. A kiss might have meant
nothing. Were they not cousins and old friends? This formality—before
him—might be portentous.

But Mrs. Cutting gave him little time for thought. She apologized for
being late, dilated upon “their” disappointment at his desertion of them
earlier in the day, and insisted that he remain informally for dinner.
He replied with cold decision, and with a full return of his old
dignity, that he must “wander along,” as he was dining with some friends
and had promised to look in upon others. “People were returning to
town.” He had made up his mind that he would not even tell them of his
intended departure; a note posted at the station would suffice. Mrs.
Cutting, who had regarded him intently, laid her hand firmly on his arm.
“I shall not let you go yet awhile,” she said. “I must confer with Bobby
at once, so that he may cable to-night, and meanwhile please talk to
Mabel until I can come back and pour out the tea.”

She gave him no chance to reply. Taking “Bobby” by the arm, she swept
him out the room, darting a swift look of command at her daughter.

Mabel turned pale, but she came forward with her usual girlish grace.
“Do sit down,” she said. “You look as if you never intended to sit down

“It is not worth while to sit down—to detain you. I really must go.”

“You don’t intend to come back!”

He looked steadily into her dilated eyes, wondering if he hated her, and
betrayed himself. “No,” he said. “I shall not come back.” Then he paused
abruptly, and physically braced himself. She had dropped her eyelashes,
and he was quite prepared for the coquettish net that would float from
those slowly uplifting orbs. But when he met them, he saw only terror
and appeal. Mabel’s face looked suddenly pinched and white. Then she
burst into tears, and he was swept on that flood straight through the
gates of Paradise.

When they descended to earth and were seated on a little sofa in the
remotest corner, he demanded an explanation of the torments imposed upon
him during the past fortnight. “You say you have always loved me,” he
said with automatic masculine logic. “Why, in heaven’s name, didn’t you
accept me the first time?”

“I couldn’t be sure—that you really loved me—you seemed to me to be
taken by surprise. Besides, I think I wanted to punish you for not
having loved me all that long time. I had to be rude and horrid—it was
that or betray myself. I don’t think I ever believed that you really
loved me till just now. I don’t believe you knew it yourself.”

“Oh, yes, I did,” he replied grimly. “I was so far gone that I became
utterly uninteresting.”

“No—but you made me believe that you were miserable because you had
proposed to me impulsively and could not think of a way out of it. My
only consolation was that I had refused you. But I was ashamed every
time I thought of how I had led you on that day—and I had vowed never
to be silly and flirt again. And then—well, it cannot be denied that
mother has thrown me at your head, and that made me really hate you at
times, so that it was easier to be rude.”

“Your mother was beautifully frank.” Ordham was somewhat confused by the
number of apologetic reasons advanced, but wholly happy. They talked
more or less wildly for an hour. Then Ordham, hearing the swish of Mrs.
Cutting’s gown, stood up, flushed and nervous, but so determined not to
look sheepish, that he was as formal as an aged diplomatist when his
future mother-in-law took both his hands and looked at him with eyes
that were really soft. “Thank heaven!” she said with the simplicity
appropriate to great moments. “I know that you will both be happy. And
how grateful I am that you have not put off making up your minds any
longer. Bobby tells me that I must go to New York. It is imperative. But
now I can leave Mabel with you, instead of drying her eyes and
distracting her mind for six months, when I should be giving all my
attention to business.”

Of course he remained to dinner, and before he left he had another
half-hour alone with Mabel. An excellent repast, the interesting
conversation of Driscom, whom he now liked as much as he had hated a few
hours earlier, unruffled bliss, and the prospect of almost immediate
marriage, had clarified and braced his normally acute and steady brain.
They were sitting among the fragrant flowers of the balcony when he told
her abruptly of his incursion into her private little domain, and added:
“As it has excited my curiosity, I may as well tell you at once that I
saw several letters from my mother in the drawer of your desk, and ask
you to explain. I do not want to be annoyed by petty imaginings. You
don’t mind?”

The hand he held had grown cold, but when he turned his head he met
suffused and smiling eyes.

“I might as well confess! I wrote to Lady Bridgminster imploring her to
withdraw her opposition—not to hate me—I know how great her influence
over you is—”

“She has not a particle of influence over me. What did she reply? How
enchanting of you!”

“Oh, she was quite nice. I believe she said that she had washed her
hands of the matter of your marriage, since you would not marry Lady
Rosamond. Should you like to read the letters?” She half rose.

“Of course not.” And knowing somewhat of the fecundity of the feminine
pen, it did not strike him as odd that his mother should have found it
worth while to write this epitome of her disgust three times.

                      ORDHAM CEASES TO BE ORIGINAL

For a day or two Ordham could hardly believe in his good fortune, so
suddenly had it descended upon him. When separated from Mabel he moved
as in a dream, looking preternaturally serious lest he wear a fatuous
grin. But this phase passed and he settled down to the business of being
supremely happy, or as happy as possible while happiness was still
incomplete. He thanked the American fates for the business complications
that called Mrs. Cutting to New York and hastened the wedding, which was
to take place early in October. Lady Bridgminster had written two frigid
letters of congratulation, which Ordham and Mabel smilingly compared;
but, being in Paris, graciously offered to confer with the great
milliner who had the honour of dressing the young beauty, and spare her
and her mother the miseries of crossing the Channel and of French

Ordham had never felt so young. Having cared little for girls and
greatly for women of the world, he had been, and in spite of his
precocity and cleverness, under an unconscious strain for several years
past. He had always been “playing up,” as Hélène Wass once expressed it,
when she may have felt—who knows?—a moment’s pity for him. Now, he had
the sensation that Life, having long cheated him, was making sudden and
wondrous restitution. It was that perfect flower of youth in Mabel that
called to him as potently as her beauty and her high-bred grace and
charm. He no longer cared what she read; she declared herself too happy
to think of books, and he replied that they were writing a great romance
of their own; time enough for other men’s unlifelike vapourings later.
He did not see her often alone, and these sweet brief interviews gave a
romantic intensity to their engagement which London might not have
offered to a pair less severely chaperoned; although, to be sure, that
exotic mansion, with its imported atmosphere of vanished Bourbons and
their reckless nobles, exorcised the memory of grimy London, and was a
poem in itself. Even in imagination he always saw her drifting about the
lovely bright rooms with her eyes full of dreams. She treated him to a
bewildering variety of moods, sometimes even chattering for a few
moments quite like the old Mabel, only to melt insensibly into the
dignified and stately girl he longed to exhibit to every court in
Europe. Not only was he fully roused from the long lethargy of his youth
and alive as he had fancied he might be at thirty, but the romantic
cravings born during his extraordinary experience with Margarethe Styr
were eager, hungry, almost satisfied. Only that wondrous period
prosaically known as the honeymoon could perfect this poem of the prince
and princess of fairy lore.

It never occurred to him to wonder if he could have loved Mabel Cutting
had she been a poor girl and he forced to give up his diplomatic
ambitions and support her, or if he had met her only in commonplace
hotel sitting-rooms. The exquisite creature’s very wealth was a part of
her romantic fascination. It furnished the halo. It created, as with a
magic wand, the poetic setting for her aristocratic beauty and grace. It
moved her aloof from those common mortals whose gilded cages were
stuffed with unpaid bills. That his life with her was to be free of
those vulgar cares which his temperament held in particular abhorrence,
added to the ecstasy, to the belief that they two were of the elect,
chosen to dwell upon a rarefied plane, to experience a superior and
perennial happiness.

It was quite ten days before he remembered Margarethe Styr. Then he sat
down at once to write to her of his engagement, that she might not hear
of it first through the public channels; it was to be announced as soon
as the invitations were engraved. He found this letter the most
difficult he had ever attempted to write. Even as he took up his pen
that something he still did not wish to define stirred in the deeps of
his mind, whispered that he had committed an act of infidelity. Never
until that moment had he realized how close and deep his intimacy with
Styr had been. It was, as she herself had called it, a mental marriage.
There was no doubt that in a sense he had given himself to her, that he
had intended to keep her always and first in his life, that he had
vaguely looked forward to some ultimate union with her. The possibility
of falling in love with the girl possessing the requisite millions had
never occurred to him. But Margarethe Styr had gone out of his life.
There was no possible doubt on that point. He no longer felt the
slightest need of her. Henceforth he should be absorbed in his young
wife and in his career. Mabel would become one of the cleverest women in
Europe and give him all the inspiration he needed in that future of
which she even now talked with such enthusiasm and intelligence.
Friendships with other women would be superfluous and imprudent. Styr
belonged to the past, and while he should cherish her memory, she must
be content to reign in memory alone.

He spent the entire morning groaning at his desk, but finally concocted
a letter that he dared to send to Munich. Far too astute to indulge in
rhapsodies, and at the same time too much in love to be dishonest, he
hedged between an avowal and a denial of his affection for the great
heiress whom he shortly was to have the honour of leading to the altar.
But although it was a very creditable performance, that letter, he was
all youth and love and fire when he wrote it, and his pen conducted more
than one flash from his electrified being. A woman far less keen than
Styr would hardly have been persuaded that he was reluctantly steering
into matrimony through the golden gate, barely conscious of his partner
in the sordid transaction.

                             ISOLDA FURIOSA

From the instant that Isolde raised herself slowly from the couch on the
ship’s deck the great audience that Styr’s performances always called
forth knew that some unusual influence was at work upon the
impersonation. Not even in that first silent moment was there the
reading of a princess whose tormented spirit had not permitted her to
sleep since she had left her father’s shores. At once there was such an
expression of fury, of murderous hate, in those immense pregnant eyes,
such an aura of primal devastating force emanated from the strained
body, the fixed features, that hardly a person in the house but stirred
uncomfortably. This was no indignant princess weary with night-watches,
whose wrongs would gradually set her brain on fire; here was the
infuriated woman out of leash, a woman that might have been suckled by a
tigress and forgotten what little she had ever known of civilization.
“Brangäne” said afterward that she was afraid to approach her; and had
not the audience focussed their attention wholly upon Styr, they might
have noticed that the poor little mezzo sang off the key twice.

When Isolde—who had even lifted herself and shown her face sooner than
was customary, had stared for long insupportable moments while the
sailors sang the careless satirical words of their song, “Oh, Irish
maid! My winsome Irish maid!”—sprang to her feet, crying, “What wight
dares insult me?” her great voice seemed to ring through all Munich.
“Brangäne, ho!” she shouted. “Where sail we?”

Brangäne articulated that bluish stripes were visible in the west, that
the ship fast approached the land. When Isolde bore down upon her,
demanding in a still more terrible voice, “What land?” neither she nor
the audience ever knew whether or not she managed to warble, “Cornwall’s
verdant strand,” for Styr, barely waiting for the line to finish,
towered in the centre of the stage and shrieked in tones of loosed fury
and prophecy, that not even the golden quality of her voice could

“Nevermore! To-day nor to-morrow!”

Then the minion, having given the necessary cue, Isolde hurled forth, in
tones which seemed to express the gnashing of teeth, her wild regret for
those lost arts that would have enabled her to annihilate the earth and
every hated mortal on it. Discarding the cultivated gestures with which
she so subtly suggested repressed power, growing passion, she tossed her
arms aloft, and with eyes burning and face convulsed, declaimed in a
voice that was strangely like a roar:

“Oh, subtle art of sorcery, awake in me once more power of will! Hark to
my bidding, fluttering breezes! Arise and storm in boisterous strife!
With furious rage and hurricane’s hurtle, awaken the sea from its calm!
Rouse up the deep to its devilish deeds. Fling it the prey I gladly

The poverty of Wagner’s literary gift, apart from mere word jugglery,
was never so manifest, nor his sublime faculty of imagining and
delineating character in the terms of music; never had singer, not even
Styr, rendered any words so unnecessary and sent the purport streaming
out from her mind, her throat, with such terrific force. More than one
in that spellbound audience half expected to see the roof of the opera
house come down, at the very least to hear the noise of thunder above
the orchestra. When she gasped: “Air! air! or my heart will choke! Open,
open there wide!” the fine ladies in the _balkon_ felt for their
smelling-salts. When Brangäne, having drawn aside the curtain, and
Isolde, with a face that looked like death set in stone, commanded her
to summon Tristan, that Germanic mass of flesh visibly trembled, and he
asserted afterward that he had hardly dared to disobey her.

“Go! Order him! And _understand it_! I, Isolde, do command it!” The
tones, growing rough and dark, expressed that the limits of endurance
had been reached in a queen holding the power of life and death in her
twitching hands, and it tried the courage of a mere actor to stand
firmly at the helm.

By this time not one in the audience—outside of Italy the most
musically receptive in the world, in spite of the sandwiches in their
petticoat pockets and their unquenchable thirst—was sitting in a
natural position. All were strained forward; all, with what power of
thought was left in them, questioning whether the Styr were giving a new
and sensational rendering of Isolde’s character, or if something had
occurred to excite her beyond bounds and she were venting her anger in
the sympathetic rôle. If so, what was it? Could she be in love with the
tenor, she, the great Styr? And had he, the good devoted husband,
trifled with and flouted her? But these speculations were barely
formulated until later, when they were feverishly discussing the
phenomenon; all were held, thrilled, half fearing that something real
and terrible was about to happen before their eyes, vaguely apprehensive
that never again would a stage performance satisfy their deep and
persistent craving for vicarious emotions.

When Isolde rushed to the back of the pavilion and flung herself against
the curtain to shriek out her curses, she almost swept Brangäne into the
wings, and left but little enthusiasm in that now terrified artist to
“throw herself upon Isolde with impetuous tenderness,” to ejaculate
admiration and consolation. She, at least, knew that Styr was not
deliberately giving an intensified rendering of the great rôle, but was
in a mood to kill somebody. She shivered for her neck; those long
working fingers looked like flexible steel.

“Curse him, the villain! Curses on his head! Vengeance! Death! Death for
both of us!” Styr might have been setting free the pent-up demons in the
hearts of all the women, good and bad, on the surface of the globe, and
perchance those in the audience that had no such blessed means of relief
gave a deep unconscious sigh of satisfaction.

When she gloated over the phial containing the death potion, Brangäne’s
apprehensions were not quelled until she had informed herself that it
was really empty, for by this time she was convinced that there was a
feud to the death between the _hochdramatische_ and the
tenor—tremblingly awaiting his cue without.

There was no subtle hypnotic suggestion of death to-night in Styr’s
gestures. Her art was no longer under the command of her will, but she
radiated death and damnation as Tristan entered, and for years after he
told of his conviction that the _Todesmotif_ in the orchestra was his
own dirge, and resigned himself to die as he lifted the fatal goblet to
his lips. He believed that she had rubbed poison on the rim, whose very
fumes would rise and slay him even although he forbore to touch it; and
his quivering nerves were untranquillized by the knowledge of his
innocence: might she not have loved him long in secret and resented his
virtuous indifference? Even when, the love potion working, she rushed
into his arms, he said that the hate in her eyes never abated for a
second and he expected her to bite or strangle him.

But at last the act, with its insupportable excitement, was over, and
the audience, almost hysterical, forgot their accustomed refreshment as
they stood by their seats or paced the foyer, discussing the
extraordinary performance and wishing their King were present. They
could arrive at no conclusion save that Styr was the greatest actress
even Germany had ever seen, whether something had happened to put her
into an awful temper or not.

In the second act, there being no opportunity to express either hatred
or fury, it would seem that Styr was bent upon demonstrating that the
artist in her could not long be submerged by any turmoil in the woman.
Never had she sung her part in the love duet with a more poignant
sweetness, a more perishing languor, although she would not permit the
tenor to come within a foot of her. She did not rise to real greatness,
however, until the third act, when, in the last lines of the
_Liebestod_, she stood with rigid body and strained upraised face, every
line in both, every round noble vibrant tone, expressing the savage
exultation of that tormented spirit at the approach of death. As she
sank upon Tristan, who had one eye open, King Mark and his men watched
her narrowly, for everybody on the stage was uneasy, half fearing that
this terrifying creature, always an alien in their midst, but awaited
the final moment to wreak her vengeance. When the tenor reached his
stuffy ugly little flat that night he overwhelmed his Frau with
caresses, and sat until nearly morning eating and drinking, the happiest
man in Munich.


Styr locked herself in her gallery and wondered if she were alive or a
walking automaton. Her passion had expended itself, the blood had left
her brain, but she was filled to the brim with a sullen, silent, deadly
rage—curiously mixed with disappointment and regret. For nearly nine
years, in a life ordered to please herself, with not an outer disturbing
force, save only an occasional tilt with the opera house cabal, or a fit
of temper after a performance, quickly forgotten, with not a disturbance
from within, for she had buried the past, trained her powerful will to
banish all such futilities as regret, she had aimed not only to lead an
ideal life but to perfect and ennoble her character. Although she had
been almost a recluse, she had helped many young people with promising
voices, and her purse was always open to the unfortunates in the chorus.
Perhaps she had deliberately kept her humanity alive by these acts of
kindness and sympathy, knowing that there was danger to art in the
drying up of the springs of human nature. Perhaps; she could not tell;
did not care. But at least she had led not only a blameless, a kindly,
an inspiring, a finely mental and nobly artistic life, but she had
achieved what she knew to be happiness, and this by the sealing up of
her inner kingdom.

It is easy to ignore the inner kingdom so long as no man enters it. It
is easy to be impersonal, mental, a consummate devotee of art so long as
the heart and soul and passions encounter no powerful disturbing force.
Nothing so astonished and shocked her in these comparatively calm
moments as the discovery that art was not all, that common primitive
instincts were stronger in the final test than the elevated choice of
the brain supported by genius and will. So profound had been her
contempt for human weakness, her loathing for men, so exalted, so
triumphant her progress in that great sphere to which her voice had
given her the golden key, that she had believed herself to be elevated
permanently to a plane high above the common. She had never closed her
eyes to the very second-rate clay of which most musicians were composed,
both mental and moral, but she had been as serenely aware of her
superior intellectual gifts, of a will stronger than any she had ever
encountered, as she had been of her voice, her dramatic genius; and she
had never even speculated upon a possible descent from that glorious
plane where she dwelt alone with her art. She was a woman, after all,
and she so abhorred herself that, had she possessed the sorceries of
Isolde’s ancestors, she would have obliterated Earth from the cosmic

She had received Ordham’s letter a few moments before departing for the
opera house, and the same post brought a note from Princess Nachmeister,
announcing that “our _jüngling, Gott sei dank_, was really engaged to
the American heiress of forty million marks, and was the more riveted to
his bargain—that charming uncertain youth!—by being madly, nay
absurdly, in love with the ravishing beauty.” Then the blood had gone to
Styr’s head.

Even now she wondered if she really loved Ordham, for she was sensible
of none of that organic craving which once alone would have
distinguished one man from another in her imperial regard. At this
moment, indeed, she did not love him at all; she hated him with a
passion which, if stilled by exhaustion, was none the less volcanic,
eloquent of the tremendous upheaval in her nature. But she was too wise
not to suspect that it was the hatred which is merely love reversed. It
would pass, her very mental balance would see to that; and what then?
Hers had not been the experience of love in its infinite variety, and
she stared out at the dark future with the first real fear of her life.
During her long intimacy with Ordham she had been fully conscious that
she had never liked any one half as well, never drawn as close to any
mortal spirit. When he had gone, she had had time for but a brief
reaction from her perverse feminine exultation in renewed freedom, in
the luxury of missing him, for she had left almost immediately for
Switzerland, then on her second _Gastspiel_. Even so she had missed him,
and had thought of him tenderly, hoped that he would keep his word and
return to Munich. But she had been very busy, very uncomfortable, very
much diverted, and the ovations she received had put all other wants in
her soul to sleep. It was not until she was again in Munich, in the
house which he still pervaded, where she saw him in his characteristic
attitudes, heard his mellow English voice with its languid drawl and
impatient breaks, that her vague sense of loss had grown poignant. But
even that had been tempered before long by a gentle melancholy, a new
sensation and not unpleasant, for the ego likes to run the gamut; and
the certainty that he would return to Munich from time to time had
further mitigated that deep sense of loss. She even hoped, or thought
she did, that he would marry well, be delivered of the belittling
embittering want of money; nothing could interfere with their
friendship, or whatever it was. She, too, was possessed by the uneasy
sense that it was something more, but even as the days passed and she
finally became restless, more and more disturbed, coming out of her
sleep sometimes with a sense of actual terror, she would not permit her
thought to enter the analytical zone, the word love to rise before the
judgment seat.

And had it been love? This was the question which now shook her puzzled
and tortured brain, and banished all hope of sleep. Was it but an
imperious pride outraged, a secure sense of possession shattered, that
had lashed her into a berserk rage? Vanity, perhaps, that had been fed
and watered into an abnormal growth for twenty-four years, first by the
power she wielded over men, then by the far more heady incense of the
public,—could that be it, mere vanity screaming with rage at this
defeat by a silly little American girl? She knew the type, had seen
hundreds of them in her many trips to Paris; moreover, she had seen this
Mabel Cutting several times during the conspicuous beauty’s sojourn in
Munich, she had sat almost beside her at a performance of _Fidelio_ one
night. The girl was beautiful and patrician, no doubt accomplished as
girls ran; she was the sort that the American youth was falling in love
with every hour, but she was not the girl to bewitch John Ordham, for
the type was shallow, vain, soulless, hopelessly unintellectual. If he
had fallen a victim to the race, he must have been engineered by very
clever women. She knew him well enough to be sure that, left to himself,
although he might have thought it best to marry the girl, he never would
have fallen in love with her—the real Mabel Cutting—unless something
besides gold dust had been thrown into his eyes. There had been
extraordinarily clever scheming somewhere. She could but guess its
nature, but she knew Ordham. His mind had artfully been lulled, and his
mere youth and sex manipulated with the modern sorceries of tact and

And the real Ordham belonged to her. The blood rose to her head once
more as she was forced to admit that the fine flower of his awakening
would not be hers, was irretrievably given to a little fool whom he
would hate, not merely tire of, before a year was out.

And this she could have had. She knew it now as she recalled certain
moments when she had caught him looking at her with heavy eyes, or a
strange stare as of something stirring and quivering in the depths of
his being. But she had slurred over these dangerous moments, and without
so much as a flush of self-consciousness. Not only had she finished with
the masculinities, but she was not the woman to want the love she must
rouse, engineer, reveal to itself. With all her tyrannous strength of
will she was woman personified, and she must be wooed and won
imperiously, or she should prefer to love alone.

She ground her teeth and beat the floor with her foot, and reverted to
the vernacular of her youth, as she anathematized her inconsistency, her
dog-in-the-manger attitude. Had Ordham appeared before her at that
moment, she would not even have considered marriage with him, would have
hesitated long before committing herself to the less binding relation.
Not only had she no desire to wreck his career, but she was not sure
even now that she should greatly care if she went to her grave without
having touched his lips. But he was hers. Inside that charming flesh was
a John Ordham that no other woman would ever glimpse, that never would
attain full growth save in contact with the woman so jealously hidden
within her own noncommittal shell.

It was her first definite experience of the sovereign demands of the
soul, of the recognition of the ego, that invisible entity which makes
itself so uncomfortable in its earthly home until released by disease or
decay. Were the needs of this God-in-little more lasting and determined
than those of the affections, the body? Infinite, perhaps? In that case
what should she do? what should she do?

She paced up and down the room as a new thought tormented her. This
girl? What were most girls at that age but little fools, particularly if
pretty and rich? Had not all women once been silly girls? Suppose this
lovely creature, under the tutelage of John Ordham and the brilliant
society in which she was to spend her most plastic years, should develop
into a clever, intellectual, subtle woman? Then, what of her, Margarethe
Styr, a fixture in Munich, an outcast from the circles of which this
girl would become a component part? She stretched out her arms and
opened and shut her long flexible hands. If Mabel Cutting had chanced to
sing the part of Brangäne to-night she would have been strangled in view
of all Munich. Oh, no doubt of that! It was as well indeed that the
young lady was in London.

All these years of proud mental development, of devotion to her art, the
abrupt but uninterrupted sequence to those terrible forty hours in the
bony clutch of death,—all, then, were as naught? The evil, the
appalling passions of her nature, were but the stronger for their long
sleep. All her new life had done for her was to develop a new sort of
love capacity with terrors and torments to which the old were but the
brief aberrations of a superior beast. Love! Love! She had never even
guessed the meaning of the word before. She hated Ordham so desperately
that she would have liked to twist her fingers about his own neck; but
again she realized, with a sharp expulsion of the breath, that this was
but the upheaval of the volcano’s mud and poisonous gases preceding the
liberation of the incandescent fires. But while possibly she might not
fall into rage again, she must pass through other phases whose mere
faint cries for liberty, for birth, terrified her. She was face to face
with the greatest of all the mysteries in the always nebulous region of
love, an experience known to few, either because they are not developed
enough or because they have never met their peer.

She and Ordham were one. He would not appreciate his loss, for he was
young, there was too much life before him, too many phases, the prospect
of greatness which would finally rouse his energies and fill his time.
But she, who was close to the summit of her career, for whom art had no
mysteries, fame no more surprises, what should she do? what should she

But if the woman is sometimes stronger than the artist, the artist never
sits long on the dust heap. Already it was whispering that she would act
better than ever, she would descend into deeper and more intricate
recesses of human nature when pondering upon her heroines, give the
world more complete revelations. Even new forces of expression must be
hers. She had never felt so creative as at that moment when she stopped
short in her tigerish pacing and laughed aloud at the power of art to
make itself heard at such a crisis in the human heart. At that moment,
had art possessed a corporeal body, it too might have been throttled.

But it went on whispering: “Cultivate this berserk mood. Do not forget
it, do not permit the will to stifle it if it fires the brain again.
Continue to love this man, the more hopelessly the better. What is mere
human passion to art; what, indeed, but its necessary but inferior
partner? It is the stimulant, the drink, the food, the fertilizer. Nurse
this! Nurse this!”

And her ambition? Would it not spur that as well? She had been too
luxuriously, too artistically content, in this beautiful city, waiting
for the world to come to her, content to dream of triumphs in its
greater capitals. She had needed a shock, an imperative need of change
of scene, of conquest of Earth itself to mend her riven soul; she might
have idled here until her high notes had turned from gold to brass.

Her long fingers still twitched and curved, her face was as fearful as
that of some dark creature of the Middle Ages poisoning a husband or
rival; but her clearing brain argued pro and con, rejected personal
happiness in favour of her art, finally announced that she still would
have rejected it had the choice been hers. Ordham might have wrought
extraordinary changes in her, but of the two passions that controlled
her, that for him was not the stronger.

When she realized this, she went over to the dining room and disposed of
the cold supper awaiting her. She had little appetite, but she ate
abundantly, nevertheless, even warming the bouillon over the spirit
lamp, for she knew that nothing would so certainly drain the blood from
her head. When she had finished she returned to the gallery, and
lighting a cigarette, sat down to think connectedly.

That she had no impulse to go to London and exert her fascinations upon
Ordham, bring him to his senses, proved to her, that however she might
resent his desertion, regret his loss, love him, in short, her mind
would never permit her to wreck his career or her own. She had no taste
for love in an Italian villa, idle herself, with an idle man on her
hands; she was a worker, an artist; such a life would bore her to
extinction, wither those tender and beautiful shoots that had not been
blasted by the rain of hot ashes in her mind to-night. What she really
wanted was a return of the old conditions, their permanence; and this
she had known all along she could not have, known that it was an
episode, from every moment of which she had deliberately extracted the
full flavour. Did Ordham love and seek her, there were no mortal
conditions in which they could unite. Her past life, which would be
unearthed to the last detail did she seek to enter society as an equal;
her present position, so public as to relegate a husband to the position
of a superior lackey; that insatiable artistic nine-tenths of her
nature,—all precluded marriage with any man that respected himself; any
permanent tie, in fact. She had exulted for eight years in her
aloneness, her aloofness; now was the time to decide that this condition
must exist as long as she did. There was nothing for her but art, art,
art. She uttered the word aloud in her round sonorous voice; she no
longer had the least desire to throttle it. On the contrary it induced
the profoundest sensation of gratitude she had ever known. Without it
where should she be to-night? Where, indeed?

It occurred to her to wonder that after her life of the past eight years
there was any of the original woman left. What a poor half-born thing
was civilization, with its educations, its spiritual developments, its
thousand magnets for the higher and highly specialized centres of the
brain, when a really great woman could be overwhelmed by passion like
those confidential agents of Nature that swarmed the earth. If she still
was unconscious of any elemental ache for this man, the fact remained
that she had acted for an hour or two to-night with the blind primitive
fury of a jungle beast deprived of its mate. And—it might be—if she
was to continue to love the inner hidden man alone,—that product of the
centuries charged with the electrical fascination of an uncommon
personality which had charmed her out of her happy solitude,—she must
see as little of him as possible. It was on the cards, that once roused,
his progress would be very rapid, his character would overtake his mind.
Then, were they thrown together, the real danger would begin. No doubt,
one thing that had protected her was that the visible man was too young.
She should have felt embarrassed had they taken to love making. But
twenty-five is not young for an Englishman, and she might find him very
wide awake indeed a year hence.

She made up her mind to correspond with him intermittently for a time,
then drop him out of her life. She should miss him, ache for him, be
forced to plod through all the pros and cons again and again, for it is
long before the reiterative heart runs down; but her will had carried
her through great crises before; she could always rely upon it. And
there were worse things than memories to live upon, particularly if
radiant enough to put out the ghastly flickers of others.

She should overlook no opportunity that would lead her to a broader
stage, replete with distraction. There was talk of organizing a Wagner
season in New York as a _pendant_ to the regular season of Italian and
French opera, for the fame of The Master, thanks to Theodore Thomas,
Leopold Damrosch, and other enthusiasts, was steadily growing. She had
met Walter Damrosch in Bayreuth; he had heard her sing many times, and
no doubt would have approached her for this innovation had it not been
for the ten years’ contract she was known to have signed with the
Hof-und-National-Theatre in Munich, and the King’s personal objection
that she should leave Munich for more than a few weeks at a time. If
this coming season of German opera was successful, she should write to
Damrosch and announce her willingness to break her contract if unable to
obtain a leave of absence. It was probable that by that time the King
would be wholly mad; in that case her enemies in the Hof would be her
allies for once. The only shadow on this brilliant future was the
possible confiscation of her villa did she summarily leave without
permission. That would substitute one unhappiness for another, for she
passionately loved the only home she had ever had, and believed that the
acuteness of its later associations would mellow with time. Well, she
had her friends, Princess Nachmeister among others. Let the future take
care of itself. Meanwhile she should demand other rôles here: the
revival of the great operas of Glück—_Alceste_, _Ifigénie en Tauride_,
_Orfeo ed Euridice_. She would sing the great rôle of Dido in _The
Trojan_. All would afford her fine dramatic opportunities and fill her
time with work.

She went to her desk to write to Ordham. The temptation was strong to
betray something of what she felt. He deserved that! And a sentimental
letter, that last indulgence, was a woman’s right. But she did nothing
of the sort, reflecting in time that a man is not open to sentiment from
two sources at once, particularly when in the throes of his puppy love.
She did not even address the man she knew so well, and whom Mabel
Cutting did not know at all, for she felt quite positive that he was
sound asleep. She wrote him a dignified friendly note, telling him that
she had long been prepared for the news, and was sure that he had chosen
wisely. She did not even insert a blunt sting here and there, for she
knew him so well that she could write exactly what, in his present mood,
he most would wish to receive from her. When it was finished, she found
her first real consolation in visualizing it as an impenetrable bulwark
about her pride. She thanked her stars that he had not come in person to
tell her of his engagement, permitting her to divine his passion for the
little fool. No doubt she would have beaten him, and he would have been
too polite to beat her in return! Heaven! what a mess she would have
made of it. She devoutly hoped she had buried Peggy Hill five fathoms
deep at last.

                             HAPPY POTTERS

To Ordham’s astonishment Bridgminster proffered the castle for the
honeymoon. This graceful wedding-present was communicated by Lady
Bridgminster soon after her return to London, and Mabel clapped her
hands when told of it by her lover.

“It has been the dream of my life to see the inside of that heavenly
castle,” she cried. “And now I am going to live there! I cannot believe

“We can stay quite a month, I should think.” Ordham was smiling into her
triumphant face and feeling inanely happy. “I have received private
intimation that I can replace one of the secretaries in Rome—he cannot
stand the climate—and put in my time at the Foreign Office later. No
doubt I can get out of that altogether, especially as I have already
served a year abroad. But I cannot express my delight at spending a
month in that old place as if it really were my own—and with you! with

Mabel did not give her usual ready response to his rare ebullitions. The
more deeply he descended into the depths of sentimentality induced by
this wondrous creature and his general good fortune, the more shy he
became, and Mabel, who had her share of the feminine intuitions,
divining when he was more than commonly surcharged with silent
adoration, teased him into expression of it. This time, however, he had
delivered himself without assistance, and to his surprise she flushed
and bit her lip.

“Oh, do let us stay through the autumn! It is the ambition of my life to
have a succession of house parties at Ordham.” Both eyes and voice
pleaded. “Lady Bridgminster says that your brother doesn’t care how long
we stay—mother had a note from her just before you came in. He never
intends to live there again, and it is good for the house to keep it

“I cannot imagine what induced this fit of generosity in Bridg. It must
have been made in an exuberance of delight in turning his back on
Ordham, which he has always hated. It never fitted him, somehow—”

“But it will us! Say you will stay through the autumn. Please! Please!”

“But—but—I cannot have my way with the Foreign Office forever. My
mother has great influence at present, but a political earthquake and I
am high and dry, unless established first. I might be sent to Persia or
South America! My fate would be all the worse for the liberties I had
taken under the present government.”

Mabel pouted and shook her head. “Don’t talk politics to me. Everybody
says that I was born to be a diplomat’s wife, but thank heaven you are
not in politics. Promise me that you will wait a little while—through
the autumn.”

Ordham looked at her in dismay. Once or twice before a sudden
unaccountable lack of comprehension had given him fleeting pause, but
some new manifestation of charm had banished any inclination to dwell
upon it. Her transitions from a dignified girl of the world to a spoilt
child, even a magpie, were sometimes bewildering, but he always hastened
to remind himself that she was most beautiful, high-bred, desirable,
exquisite. On these gifts he could count even should she disappoint
other hopes. But he was by no means convinced that she would disappoint
him in anything. He believed in her brain, although she showed a strange
determination to give it rest, and he would not have had her less
adorably feminine. But he would have welcomed a trifle more
reasonableness, if only for its convenience. He answered gently:

“But Mabel!” He longed to say “darling,” but starlight or moonlight was
needful to work him up to that pitch; so he reiterated “Mabel” with
increased tenderness of accent. “You are far more interested in my
career than in giving house parties at Ordham, are you not?”

To his infinite delight Mabel leaned forward and gave him an impulsive
little kiss, exclaiming with her grown-up air: “Indeed I am. We will go
to Rome at once, if you wish. That was just an old dream of mine. I have
cherished it since I first set eyes on Ordham three years ago. But if
you want to go right away—”

“Not for worlds. A man is entitled to a month when he marries, and I
shall show up at the Foreign Office every day or so until the ceremony.
The place will be kept for me. How splendid you are!”

And Mabel began at once to speculate upon the vacant palaces in Rome.
How perfectly heavenly it would be to transform some musty old
historical hole, reeking with tragedy, into a nest for two happy little
birds. Mabel’s phraseology was not always on a par with her lofty
bearing and intellectual brow, but sometimes it was, and any man as much
in love as Ordham would forget greater lapses still.

If Mrs. Cutting hastened the wedding that she might be present at the
impending trial in New York, she was quite as determined to make it a
distinguished function as if she had six months before her. And if few
people were in London, nearly everybody was in England, and even
Switzerland and the German baths were no great distance away. She
received few regrets for the ceremony, which was to take place at St.
George’s on the tenth of October. She was very busy and very happy. She
thought it a great pity that her lovely flower should marry at all, for
she was one of those American women that regard matrimony with refined
distaste, an evil to be submitted to for the sake of fashion, position,
protection, and, no doubt, the race. Moreover, with the inevitable
inconsistency of her sex, she would not have liked her lovely flower to
turn sere and yellow, Nature’s revenge on the mateless; but she
sincerely hoped that after an heir had been presented to Ordham Castle,
and, perchance, an understudy, Ordham’s youthful ardour would have
evaporated, and her flower could settle down to the business of becoming
a great lady, a woman of exceptional and undesecrated refinement; an
easy achievement for one fastidiously reared by a fastidious mother. One
reason for Mrs. Cutting’s spontaneous selection of Ordham, and her
adherence, in spite of several brilliant offers, to her original
decision, was because of his apparent lack of animalism, and she grew
more and more convinced that only the wild confusion of first love had
roused him from his lethargy. He would soon revert, and this fact,
coupled with his incomparable manners, would make him the ideal husband
for that rare fine type of womanhood which only her own country at its
topmost civilization could produce. Mrs. Cutting was justly proud of
Mabel, for the adaptable American girl was not only capable of learning
a great many lessons, from a polonaise by Chopin to the tactful
manipulation of a cross but important old dowager, but London society
had pronounced her the one flawless American in its midst, and its midst
was at that time unusually distended with charming and popular
Americans. That she had become one of the belles of the season
independently of the stamp of that Prince for whose favour all ambitious
women, Americans as well as English, sought, but from whom she had been
religiously barricaded, was in itself a stamp of original distinction.
Mrs. Cutting was pronounced equally irreproachable, if somewhat chilly
and invariable, and she too might have purchased a coronet had she
chosen; but she had no taste for the man she must take with it, and left
her daughter to make the marriage which should place her unassailably in
the greatest society of the world.

Ordham was somewhat amused at the renewed intimacy of his mother with
Mrs. Cutting, but accepted her explanation that she was not the woman to
waste her energies opposing the decrees of fate, that she was glad her
son was happy, and that, after all, heiresses were heiresses. Besides,
Rosamond’s front teeth had rather got on her nerves, and she had
unaccountably refused to have her hair touched up. Mabel Cutting was a
beauty and would do the family credit, oh, no doubt of that. So she and
Mrs. Cutting might be seen any morning in Bond Street, shopping, and
looking even more radiant than the young people, who saw little of one
another in these busy last days.

That was a memorable wedding even in London. The church was a vast bower
of maidenhair and orchids. (Nihilists in Russia gnashed their teeth when
they read of it.) Ordham’s connection alone filled half the pews; many
of them had ordered new gowns for the occasion in their amazement at the
millions flowing toward the family coffers, and that the magnet should
be the most indolent and least susceptible of them all. If it had been
Stanley, that splendid type of the orthodox, handsome, athletic,
sanguine Englishman (he supported his brother at the altar), they could
have understood it. But while they impatiently admitted that John was
clever, they resented his radical departure from the type, and his
complete indifference to their disapproval.

The day was warm and mellow. Not a cloud threatened ruin to the fine
costumes with which the church rustled. Royalty honoured the occasion
and occupied the front row of chairs. The bridal party, which had
rehearsed in the American fashion, advanced up the aisle with precisely
the right spacing, that their gowns might be duly appreciated. Lady
Bridgminster wore a small bonnet and a tight gown of pale grey shining
stuff which made her look not unlike a silver poplar. Mrs. Cutting wore
heliotrope velvet and point lace that looked as if it might dissolve
before the end of the ceremony. Princess Nachmeister, in a new brocade
from Paris, resembled a wicked fairy in a beneficent mood. Of the six
bridesmaids, two were Americans, two were French girls who had been
Mabel’s chosen friends in Paris, and two were Ordhams. Their gowns had
been designed by Lady Bridgminster, and if Mrs. Cutting ran to orchids
and ferns, her friend was faithful to the artistic movement to which she
had so long lent the light of her ambitious countenance. These six
graceful girls held up in front long clinging diaphanous gowns of gold
tissue with one hand, and clasped to their bosoms immense sheaves of
lilies with the other. Their sleeves were greatly puffed, and on their
heads were charming caps shaped like sunflowers. The old duchess,
examining them through her lorgnette, and herself apparelled in black
moiré and a mantle trimmed with bugles and fringe, remarked audibly that
they looked like chorus girls; but they received only a passing
attention, for Mabel was as lovely a bride as ever triumphed over a
pitiless noonday sun. Beneath a robe composed entirely of rose point,
and once in the wardrobe of some unfortunate princess, there was a
shimmer as of pale green waters. Mabel had rebelled at looking like a
Morris stained-glass window with Wilde improvements, but had agreed with
Lady Bridgminster that there was no objection to resembling Undine if
she could still be smart. As she advanced up the aisle on the arm of the
American Minister, people stood up to look at her and whispered that did
she remain in London a year or two longer she would reign as a
“professional beauty” and dim the halos of the celebrated group. Ordham,
slinking in from the vestry, terribly frightened but magnificently
dignified, almost lost his breath when he saw her. Oh, there was no
doubt that she had the grand air as well as beauty; and as she walked
down the aisle at the conclusion of the ceremony on the arm of her
princely young husband, her veil thrown back, her cheeks stained an
entrancing pink, her head very high, London set the final seal of its
approval upon her, adopted her as its very own, and hastened enraptured
to the great house in Grosvenor Square, where all, not merely the
family, had been bidden for breakfast.

What a pity that he should take her out of England! Why the diplomatic
service—which might take them to unheard-of places? London was for the
beautiful, the fortunate. And London was the apex of Earth. The
Continent was all very well for baths, and gowns, and scenery, for music
and old masters, or alas! economy. London being the Mecca of the
civilized world, why, in heaven’s name, did any one voluntarily live out
of it? And with millions—

If Ordham heard these comments once, he heard them a dozen times, and
was the more annoyed as he observed that Mabel was irrepressibly
gratified. The chief of all the personages present, finding speech with
her for the first time, went so far as to assure her that the crown of
professional beautyship was hers to grasp, even hinted that she could
count upon his distinguished support. She turned to Ordham with a little
gurgle of sheer happiness; but when she saw the thunder-cloud on the
brow of her lord, replied prettily that she was quite convinced Nature
had not fitted her to fill so exacting a rôle, and that, much as she
adored England, she was quite frantic for the excitement of diplomatic
life. The personage bowed and withdrew.

But these were passing clouds. Ordham carried his bride off to the
country house lent them for the first few days of the honeymoon and was
quite the happiest man on earth.

                          THE PRINCESS PINCHES

As the carriage crossed the moor in the twilight, Ordham saw that not
only was the vast front of the castle illuminated, but that the village
at the base of the fell was also brilliant. He was not surprised that
his humble friends should light their windows in honour of his bride;
but when he was close enough to observe that the village was _en fête_,
that there were three arches in the main street composed almost wholly
of lanterns, and that a torch flared on the roof of every cottage, he
began to feel disquiet, and gave no heed to Mabel’s expressions of
delight; and when a dozen lusty young men made a sudden rush out upon
the moor, and, unharnessing the horses, dragged the carriage into the
village as far as the green, where all the rest of the inhabitants were
assembled, the children in white, with nosegays, he wished that he had
not come; for this demonstration was not merely a compliment to himself,
it was an insult to his brother.

The ancient stone village, built when “Ordham” was prefixed by “de,” and
the Normans were defiling the Saxon well, squat and black under the rude
illuminations, was a sight picturesque enough to gratify the heart of
the most exacting American bride; and Mabel, who had been admitted to
the secret, bowed graciously and won the hearts of the villagers
immediately. She wore a very light grey costume and a big grey hat
covered with feathers, and looked, particularly in the surroundings,
exactly like a fairy princess.

The carriage halted. For some moments the cheering was deafening. Then
there was a sudden expectant hush, and Ordham, who had been smiling into
the faces of his old playmates, turned white and muttered to his radiant
bride: “My God, they expect a speech!”

Mabel, who was not accustomed to strong language, looked shocked, but
recovered herself instantly. “You must, darling,” she whispered
hurriedly. “They always do.”

“They?—Oh, yes, the new lord when he comes home for the first time, or
with his bride, but I am not—Bridg!—Great heaven, what a position!”

“But you must!” Mabel gave him a pinch, which so astonished him that he
was on his feet before he knew it and thanking them as awkwardly as
possible for their delightful kindness. Then he managed to articulate
something of his pleasure in bringing his wife to the home of his
childhood, and sat down amidst shouts of approval, knowing that no man
had ever made a worse speech, but still able to congratulate himself
that he had said nothing in poor taste, nor anything that his brother,
who had consistently been ignored by the tenantry, could find offensive.
He was still so much in love that, although the pinch had filled him
with a sudden unaccountable anger, when they were alone in the dark
avenue rising to the castle, he kissed Mabel and remarked that if he had
been able to make a speech at all upon such a trying occasion, she might
thank herself, not his inadequate intelligence.

“You will always do the right thing,” replied Mabel, complacently, “only
you do need a lot of stirring up,”—a remark that would have created
considerable amusement among the Ordhams could they have overheard it.

The courtyard was illuminated not only by the windows but by torches and
coloured lanterns. All the servants of the castle stood at the foot of
the staircase, and on that imposing feature itself were contributions
from Grosvenor Square in the Ordham livery. Ordham noticed with fleeting
astonishment that the liveries of his brother’s servants also were new.
He went through this ordeal more gracefully, but was glad to find
himself alone with Hines in his old suite. Mabel had been conducted to
the adjoining suite by Mrs. Felt, who remarked, possibly for Ordham’s
benefit, that it was most unusual kind of his lordship to allow those
London decorators to do it over, and that they had done wonders in so
short a time. But Ordham, who was hungry and agitated, did not follow
his bride into the renovated suite, but calling after her that he would
meet her in the octagonal drawing-room, sought solace in his bath and a

Half an hour later he strolled over to the other side of the palace and
through the splendid suites of rooms, now as brilliantly alight as when
his mother had given her great political house parties, but looking, in
their emptiness, dim and Italian and old, with their high, darkly
frescoed ceilings, their panelled walls set with religious paintings, a
few of which were originals, the rest admirable replicas of the Italian
masters, their tapestries, and infrequent but superb pieces of old
Italian furniture, carved and gilded, upholstered with Venetian
brocades,—all so carefully chosen by William Morris. The mantels were
carved with large terminal figures and coats of arms; the fireplace in
the octagonal drawing-room was of stone upheld by male and female
figures and carved above with grinning masques. The cabinets, chests,
and chairs of this room were the most elaborately carved in the palace;
and on the walls, between the carved dado and the painted frieze, was a
tapestry of white velveteen printed with brown acanthus leaves and
powdered as with gold dust, designed by Morris. The hangings seemed to
shed forth the rich and beautiful colours of the Renaissance textile
fabrics; and the silks, brocades, and embroideries of this immense but
sumptuous room, the silken carpet with Persian design, might have been
discovered by the great decorator marvellously preserved instead of
almost as marvellously made in his looms. The furniture, light,
delicate, graceful, and a mass of intricate carving, had really served
the grandees of the Renaissance, who, mayhap, had no such appreciation
of its wonders as moderns have to-day. Even tradition did not whisper of
the original furnishing of Ordham, for Cromwell’s men had left not a
stick; but no doubt it was early and extremely rude Gothic, not to be
compared in either comfort, elegance, or appropriateness with this
interior, as Italian as the palace, or “castle” itself. The paintings
and silver alone had been buried in time, and so escaped the vandals;
nor had they vented their righteous wrath upon the mantels and
panellings of the royalist who was distinguishing himself abominably in
the army of Charles Stuart.

It was all very beautiful, very romantic, and had it been his, Ordham
would have been the proudest young bridegroom in England; but he still
felt in a false position, was oppressed by a sense of unreality mingled
with anger that he should be compelled to experience such emotions.
Commonly he excluded Bridgminster from his mind, for his last interview
with his brother was a memory he would have been glad to obliterate; but
to-night, when he had been forced to play at “make-believe,” he was
filled with resentment once more, and in no mood to regret the news
subtly conveyed to him that Bridg was “in a bad way.” “How fine you do
look, sir,” one of the men in the village had said to him. “His
lordship, now, was that grey when he left you might say he had death
writ in his face, and he sat like an old man and never so much as looked
at one of us when he drove through the village—to make room for you,

But he was young and in love, and turned expectantly toward the door at
the end of the long suite through which his bride must enter. After all,
why should he not be proud to bring this pampered American to his
ancestral castle? And if it were not his now, it would be one of these
days, so why waste emotions upon an interval possibly brief? He shrugged
his shoulders and dismissed them.

There was an almost imperceptible rustling of distant skirts on marble
floors, and Mabel floated down the long vista while he stood and gazed
upon her in expectation of new raptures. But to his surprise he
experienced a shock of disappointment. Mabel was enchantingly dressed as
ever. Her white train followed her like a cloud, and her slender neck
was almost hidden under ropes of pearls; a little wreath of diamonds
rested in the yellow fluff of her hair. But she looked unaccountably
small, out of place, insignificant, in these dim, stately, historical
rooms. The white and gold spaces of Grosvenor Square, light, French,
extravagant, gay, not too large, and with ceilings artfully lowered,
might have been designed to frame her ethereal loveliness, and the idea
crossed Ordham’s mind that perchance they had.

But no misgivings beset Mabel, and as her husband suddenly advanced to
meet her, she cried out, “Isn’t this too lovely, Jackie?” (This fond
nickname was, so far, her only indiscretion in his adoring regard.) “I
feel like an ancient Lady Ordham come to life; and as for this immense
castle, or palace, or whatever you call it,—isn’t it exactly like those
old things in Italy?—I had to send for a footman to pilot me. I never
was so happy in all my life.”

“You should be,” said Ordham, gallantly. “Your capacity for conferring
happiness passes belief.”

Dinner was announced, and to his surprise they were conducted to the
banqueting hall instead of to the dining room.

“This is my first order,” said Mabel, smiling playfully, as they entered
the vast room, whose panels were set with bygone Ordhams, and whose
ceiling, frescoed on wood, panelled and gilded, was in the most
elaborate Italian style. Ordham was amused at his wife’s childishness,
but nothing averse, for the dining room might have revived hideous
memories he chose to forget. In this superb hall there were no memories
for him but of great dinners to the county, hunt breakfasts, house
parties numbering many Englishmen already passed into history. Now it
must always be associated with his first dinner, in the company of his
bride, in this splendid castle of his race.

Mabel, who seemed excited to the point of exhilaration, chattered

“Oh, Jackie! Jackie!” she cried, as the servants finally left the room,
“how simply wonderful this castle must be when it is full of guests.
Your mother says she has had more than a hundred people here at once. If
you _won’t_ stay here, we must return some fall and have a regular
traditional house party—royalties and all the rest of it. It would be
exactly like living in one of Scott’s novels, and as the castle is
Renaissance instead of Elizabethan, we could have a fancy dress ball and
make believe we were in Italy.”

“The Renaissance reached England before Elizabeth,” replied Ordham,
diplomatically. “It is too good of you to feel that you will not have
tired of Italy before we can return here.”

“Oh, I love Italy, although I have malaria in Rome, and there are so
many beggars, and my governess made me look at so many pictures. I am
sure I can’t see what good those miles and miles of tramping through
dark stuffy galleries full of madonnas and saints did me, for I only
remember about three pictures in all Italy. I remember my headaches much

“If you had a guide-book mind, there would be no room in it for anything
else.” Ordham was very indulgent to this bride of nineteen short years
who so often shot him a glance of sweet appeal, or prettily begged him
not to be severe if he discovered that she did not know as much as he
did. “How could a girl just out of school compete with quite the
cleverest young man on earth?” He had already begun to wonder how he
could have expected her to know anything, and still oftener how any
woman could look such unutterable wisdom out of an apparently empty
skull. That bony structure, which included a high intellectual brow,
width between the eyes, and a fine decided nose, was merely the shell
inherited from a long line of able Americans who had made history,
political and financial. It was a perfect and a very roomy shell. He had
also begun to ask himself how long it would take to furnish it, and if
the process would be as interesting as he had fancied. But what
mystified him more than all was that during those weeks of his
courtship, conscious and unconscious, he should have believed her to be
serious, studious, remote, vastly above her sex and age in all respects.
Of course, he reflected, he was in love all the time—no doubt—and
blind from the moment her beauty and grace had dazzled him in that
incomparable setting. He knew now that Mabel had not progressed in her
literary drudgeries beyond Scott and Macaulay, and had by no means
exhausted those prolific authors; indeed, she openly yearned for
abridged editions.

But that she possessed the shrewdness and adaptability of her sex and
race was indisputable. Her brain was active if empty, and he had
observed that during the long hour of the wedding reception she had
talked with ease and volubility to every one, while sacrificing nothing
of her girlish dignity. That she possessed grace, tact, the social
talent, and was brilliantly, if superficially, accomplished, went far
toward reconciling the future diplomatist to her complete indifference
to Balzac, Flaubert, Meredith, Maupassant, Ibsen, and Turgénev. He
chided himself for his unreasonableness in having deliberately created
an ideal, and expected a girl just out of the school-room to fulfil it.
And they had been married only a week. At least, if she had chattered
almost incessantly, she knew when to drop a subject before it drove him
mad, and she had suggested almost every phase of femininity. She had
embroidered a bit one rainy morning when they could not roam in the
woods; she had ridden horseback with him, played tennis and croquet, and
sketched him in twenty different attitudes. Of her accomplishments and
variety there could be no doubt. Nor of her young fascination. As they
rose at the end of the dinner, although he involuntarily noticed again
that the room dwarfed her, he also reminded himself that her cheek was
like the traditional rose leaf, her pink mouth and even little teeth
were worthy of a sonnet, and that she was altogether exquisite and

                           HIS HOUSE OF CARDS

For three weeks they roamed about the beautiful gloomy old park with its
formal gardens, its old-fashioned English rose garden and shrubberies,
and its many groves and alleys. The Italian garden was their favourite
setting for the love drama still in progress; and Ordham could imagine
no more beautiful picture composed by woman and Nature than Mabel
leaning on the moss-grown balustrade above the sunken garden, with the
high rigid cypresses and the setting sun behind her, and her hand
resting lightly on one of the urns. But if Mabel had the gift of making
pictures of herself, she was as often absorbed in the pleasures offered
by perfect country weather. They rode, drove, played tennis and croquet,
received and returned calls and dinners, and even attended a meet. But
one day the weather changed abruptly. They awoke to the sound of a
steady hopeless downpour. This, to married lovers, bent only on being
happy, was but an enchanting variation. They explored the castle,
ransacked trunks in a garret, searched for hidden springs in panels and
secret drawers of cabinets, and, with the aid of a lantern and conducted
by Mrs. Felt, investigated underground rooms that may once have done
duty as dungeons.

Finally, exhausted and chilled, they retreated to the library fire,
where Ordham extended himself on the hearthrug, and Mabel, again a
picture in a red scarf over her white frock and thrown into high relief
by LaLa, lay in a deep easy chair and discoursed of popping corn and
roasting chestnuts. Suddenly she sat erect, struck by a brilliant idea.

“I’ll cable mother to-morrow to bring over a lot of poppers and boxes of
corn. It will be such fun to teach people, and so original.”

“I am afraid there are only tile stoves in Italy,” murmured Ordham,

“Oh! I had forgotten Italy! Dear, darling Jackie, do let us spend six
months at Ordham. With all my dreams I had hardly the ghost of an idea
of how fascinating, how perfectly heavenly, it would be to live here.
And not only the castle—but England, this country life, everything! I
can’t go away!”

“But Mabel—not only am I due in Rome one week from to-day, but we
cannot outstay our welcome. Bridg is not the most generous and
hospitable of mortals. It is a miracle that he lent us the place at all,
and if we stayed too long—What is the matter?”

Mabel was staring down at him with a face deeply flushed and the light
of a terrified defiance in her eyes.

“What is it?” repeated Ordham, uneasily. “You are not ill?”

“Oh, no! Well—it would have to come out pretty soon, anyhow. Jackie, I
have a terrible confession to make.”


“Yes—don’t look as if you thought I was going to say I had been engaged
before, or something. You will be surprised at first, but afterward you
will be perfectly delighted. Oh, Jackie! I have leased Ordham for five

“What?” Ordham rose slowly to his feet. There was a red stain on his
face; he looked as if he had been struck. “What? I don’t understand.”

“I have always wanted it so much! I couldn’t resist when Lady
Bridgminster said your brother was so anxious to break the entail—to
make money out of the place. Of course I was not such a fool as to buy
what will one day be ours, but it was my own idea to lease it, and I
think it a very bright one. My, but he charged a price! Bobby was
furious. But I don’t care if you will only stay. What is money for?
Don’t look at me like that!”

“I am very much surprised.”

Ordham walked slowly to the end of the room and back again. Then he
confronted his wife. “It was my right to be consulted,” he said, with
his elaborate gentle courtesy, which Mabel had yet to learn might cover
a very fury of anger, cold resentment, or the instinct of
self-protection on the alert.

“You would never have consented,” she said ingenuously. “You would have
said, ‘What is the use?’ You were so bent on going abroad.”

“Of course.”

“I am sure that when you have thought it over you will simply love the
idea of this wonderful old castle being really your own instead of
waiting and waiting and waiting for it. It is horrid, waiting for people
to die, anyhow.”

“Much as I should like to possess Ordham, I have no desire to live in
England. I do not care for English life except at rare intervals. There
is nothing of the English country gentleman in me, and I prefer the
Continent. That was one of my reasons for entering the diplomatic

“How can anybody like those down-at-the-heel aristocracies and vulgar
bourgeoisies with all the money when one can have England—the only real
thing? Oh, Jackie dear, please, please stay!” She clasped her hands, and
he noted afresh, sharply displeased with himself, how beautiful she was.
“I know, I know we shall be much happier here. And I haven’t half seen
London, been really a part of its wonderful life.”

“You are talking like a spoilt child, crying for a toy,” he said
pleasantly. “Do you realize that you are asking me to give up my

“Do you really care as much about it as you think? If you had been the
oldest son and inherited four years ago, should you have thought about

He took another turn up and down the room. “Perhaps not,” he said
finally. “But I think a great deal about it at present.”

“I don’t believe you have ever known what you wanted. Somebody
always—Lady Bridgminster says that she and your father chose your
career, that you were always too indolent to plan anything, take any
initiative. Oh, I have heard her discuss you a thousand times. I am sure
that if you settle down here, you will like it a million times better
than that tiresome old Continent. You can run for Parliament if you want
a career. Lady Bridgminster says that you have all sorts of abilities if
you would only wake up, and politics are certainly in your blood.”

A white light was rising in his brain. “I fancy that I am quite the most
dronish man alive. More than once in my life I have had the sensation of
being gently engineered up to or past some crisis—and too
indolent—polite word!—even to attempt to formulate the impression.” He
paused a full minute as if he would repress the question that finally
slipped from his tongue, “Was I engineered into this marriage?”

Mabel flushed again and her eyes expanded, but she clapped her hands
with a fine assumption of gay defiance. “Should you really have thought
of marrying me if the idea had not deliberately been put into your

He gazed at her with heavy veiled eyes, which she misread, and which
covered revolt and fury. “How interesting,” he said softly. “Do tell me
about it. It was your clever mother, of course.”

“And yours! She frightened you and roused all your stubbornness by
threatening you with that dreadful Rosamond Hayle—who was engaged all
the time! Oh, it was too funny!” Mabel, carried away by her little sense
of drama, and completely deceived by her husband’s smiling face, ran on.
“You can’t find any fault with me, at least, for I was frightfully in
love with you—I never thought of any one else from the moment we met in
Munich. Lady Bridgminster, of course, wanted you to marry a fortune, and
Momma was equally set on the match, as she is so hard to please, and you
are as much her ideal as mine. Heavens! how they coached poor little me.
My head nearly burst with the effort even to look intellectual. I had to
play the scornful indifferent beauty lest your lordship wander off in
search of more difficult game. And all the time I was simply dying to
write you a little note and ask you to meet me for a walk in Kensington
Gardens and have it out. That last week I had to take to embroidery in
order to keep my eyes down. If you could see those stitches! But Momma
and Lady Bridgminster said that I must hold off a while longer, that if
I dropped into your hand like a ripe plum, you would find some way of
getting out of it; your mother says that the only time you really rouse
yourself is when you want to get out of something you have let yourself
in for, and then you display positive genius. I was frightened half to
death. Oh, thank heaven, it is all over!”

She made a graceful leap and flung her arms about his neck. “You don’t
mind a bit, do you? It isn’t as if I were a poor girl angling for a rich
man; and I should have been as wild about you if your brother had a
dozen children. Now you can always tell yourself that you didn’t marry
me for my horrid money, but really fell in love. That is much nicer. You
are too funny. You might have fallen in love with me in the course of a
year or two if left to yourself, but in such a short time—without
pilots—oh, never! And now it has turned out so wonderfully for the

“I wonder.” He disengaged himself and walked the length of the room
again. He felt a fool in a world of liars.

Mabel tactfully returned to her chair and bided her time. She had a
shrewd albeit a small brain, and suddenly guessed that he felt some
natural resentment at having been piloted, even for his own happiness.
She had wisely yielded to the impulse to confess what he must have
discovered in time (she had no belief in her ability to keep any secret
for long), and never could man be more complacent than during his
honeymoon. What the silliest woman does not know instinctively up to a
certain point is not worthy of record, and Mabel felt that she had every
reason to be sure of herself. Not only was she beautiful and
accomplished, but she had all the arrogance of new-world wealth. Reared
in luxury, she would have found it difficult to recall an ungratified
wish, save possibly for unlimited sweets, but nevertheless she had a
very keen sense of the value and power of money; and as she watched the
nervous figure of her husband perambulating the upper end of the room
and then glanced slowly about the immense apartment with its thousands
of volumes, many of them priceless, the ceiling with its carved and
pictured panels and gilded rosettes, its gallery supported on Corinthian
pillars, carved in suave and flowing lines, and its stone mantel in
three stories cut with the arms of the house, the upper panel set with a
faded picture of the Ordham that fell at Towton in 1461, she concluded
that no man in his senses would quarrel for long with a ruse that had
given him while still in his first youth one of the greatest properties
in England. Their income was something over four hundred thousand
dollars a year, and Mrs. Cutting’s was at their disposal. To spend such
a sum on the Continent was practically impossible. A mere attaché could
not outshine his chief in the splendour of his establishment; and as for
continental society, Mabel had all that contempt for it peculiar to the
ambitious American who knows nothing of the inner circles of the
European aristocracies and whose Mecca is London. With what might be
called the American dollar instinct she had aimed straight for the top.
To an immediate title she was indifferent, for she knew that
Bridgminster would not marry. With all the strength of her slender
equipment—and youth is always strong—she loved Ordham. She would have
spurned strawberry leaves for his sake; but live in England and be a
great lady and a “beauty” she would. These were legitimate ambitions,
quite compatible with love, and as she had brought so much to her
husband, she was entitled to much in return. Indeed, he should be eager
to give all the equivalent in his power for the fortune that had been
placed at his independent disposal. Mabel would have settled her
ultimate penny on him instead of the solitary million upon which both
sides, without bringing the young people into the sordid discussion, had
agreed; but she was too American not to feel that when a penniless young
man, with no earning capacity whatever, marries a wealthy and generous
girl, he should give her something besides love in return.

It was true that Ordham, supported by his mother, could give her as
definite a place in London society as if his brother were already dead;
but Mabel’s position was already brilliant, no girl had ever received
more flattering attentions, and she was too young to be affected by her
mother’s occasional lament that they did not, even under Lady
Bridgminster’s wing, “go everywhere,” that there were peaks inaccessible
to the Cutting millions and proud descent until some great permanent
connection cleared the way as a matter of course. Nevertheless, that
cool little brain, inherited from money-makers and money-conservers,
reminded Mabel that her Jackie, in not yet being able to make her
Countess of Bridgminster, was not giving value received; therefore
should he live in England and permit her to derive every possible
advantage from this marriage. Mabel’s character was not built about a
deeply embedded steel frame like Ordham’s, but she was thoroughly
spoilt, although so well brought up that she had never dared to snub or
contradict her mother in the vulgar American style. One private little
resource she had, however, which she had often brought to bear when her
doting and unsuspecting parent would have spared her the fatigue of
pleasures beyond her years: she could not only weep beautifully, but
work herself up into a condition bordering upon hysteria; and she had
invariably terrified her parent into submission when driven to this
extreme, as well as her teachers and governesses,—every one, in fact,
whose pleasant duty it was to keep the little feet of the amiable
heiress upon the strait and narrow way that leads to perfect success.

Mabel arranged herself gracefully in her chair and spread out her
voluminous white skirts as a bed for LaLa, complacently sure of her
victory in this engagement with her equally spoilt young husband. In the
course of a few moments he walked down the room and stood before her.

“You are so wonderfully clever,” he said, with his charming smile. “It
only makes me the more confident that you were born to be the wife of a
diplomatist. But I cannot loaf here on your money. You are not the first
American I have known, and I have absorbed a few ideas that might not
have bothered me a year or two ago. I am now all the more disposed to
make a career for myself that I may in a measure balance this great
fortune of yours. Bridg is not yet forty. We are a long-lived race. It
may be twenty, thirty, years before I can offer you any other
equivalence. I hate politics. I have passed my examinations by a
miracle. The diplomatic path is almost as miraculously smoothed for me
by family influence. We have been for generations what is known as one
of the diplomatic families; and just now one of my mother’s cousins is
prime minister and another secretary for the colonies. A year hence and
they may be in opposition. I saw in this morning’s _Times_ that one of
my own cousins has been appointed ambassador to St. Petersburg. He will
do anything for my mother. We can go there if you dislike the idea of
Rome. My promotion should be very rapid. When you are the wife of an
ambassador you will find it vastly more entertaining than giving
tiresome house parties in England.”

“But even if your promotion were rapid, we’d be frightfully old before
you became ambassador—forty-five you’d be at the very least. Lady
Bridgminster—I’ve heard all that discussed—” She had looked at him
steadily during his long speech, at first with smiling incredulity, then
with growing apprehension. For the first time she took note of the long
line of his jaw, of the coldness of which those large ingenuous blue
eyes were capable. Her brain worked rapidly. She recalled Lady
Bridgminster’s amused comments upon the driving of “Johnny” in any
direction by employing the right sort of opposition, that distinguished
dame’s tactical use of Rosamond Hayle. But something deep down within
her trembled a little—hinting of impotence, so new a sensation that she
barely recognized it, although she fully understood that her Jackie had
made up his mind. Therefore, postponing the higher tactics, she did what
all sensible women mated to obstinate men ever do, she burst into tears.

But Ordham had seen women cry easily before, and was not as moved as a
husband of four short weeks should be while his lovely bride wept and
sobbed over the arm of her chair. He was ice-cold with anger; Mabel’s
betrayal of the secret that his mother also was indifferent to his
career was the final indignity; and he reflected cynically that the
sooner a man discovered just how much a woman’s tears were worth the

But he was always courteous. He was also quite aware that underneath his
wrath he was as much in love as ever. He was young and this exquisite
creature was his; he appreciated the force of that subtle argument of
hers, that if she had lent herself to the plot it had been through love
alone. It would be some time before he forgot that she was an
accomplished liar, and that he had been made a fool of by three clever
women; but there was no particular reason why either he or his wife
should be miserable when they still had much to make them happy. But
they should be happy in his way, not hers. So he bent down and patted
her head, somewhat awkwardly, for he felt anything but affectionate, and
said very kindly:

“Don’t cry, Mabel. We will think no more about it.”

“No more about what?” sobbed Mabel. “Do you mean that you will go

“Of course.”

“That means that you hate me.”

“How can you say such a thing?”

“You do! You do! If you didn’t, you wouldn’t refuse the first thing I
ever asked you.”

“But the first thing happens to affect my whole future.”

“You don’t consider that it affects mine, too!” with sobs of increasing
vehemence. “I shall be utterly miserable playing third fiddle to a lot
of horrid old official women that think more of themselves than the
Queen of England, of never being able to get away from the everlasting
cackling of foreign languages, and of always being ill, for I—I—am
never well abroad—”

“Oh? I first met you in Munich, and I never saw even an English girl
with so beautiful a bloom.”

“But I’m never well unless I’m happy!” articulated the desperate Mabel.
“And I hate, hate, hate the Continent. I adore England. I must, must
live my dreams. I have dreamed of this for years. A dozen men could have
given me castles, but I wanted you, and you ought to give me that much
in return.”

“If you love me so much, it seems odd to me that you do not place my
future before those old fairy tales of your childhood,” said the logical
male to his mate.

“I can’t, oh, I can’t!” She raised her face to his. There was a pause.
Ordham stared at her, fascinated, almost forgetting his anger. He had
never seen such big tears. One by one the immense crystal drops welled
from those dark pools and slipped down her flushed cheeks. He felt that
a woman was fortunate indeed to possess such a gift as those beautiful
iridescent spheres, which, no doubt, she could command at
will—irresistibly his thoughts flew to the soap bubbles of his
boyhood—mechanically he began to count them—Mabel suddenly gave a
strangled cry of defeat and rage, sprang to her feet, and fled from the

For two hours he sat by the fire and smoked, depressed and apprehensive,
but determined. Then he went upstairs and knocked at his wife’s door. It
was locked, but in a few moments the maid opened it gently and announced
that Mrs. Ordham, after crying for the past two hours without pause, had
fallen asleep.

On the following morning Hines informed him that mademoiselle—the
maid—was quite worried: her mistress had cried all night, and was now
in such an hysterical condition that she thought of sending for the
doctor. Once more the husband craved admittance and was denied. He went
for a ride, the weather being fine again. Upon his return he was told
that the doctor was with his wife. In real alarm, he posted himself
beside Mabel’s door, and in a few moments the little old man who had
ushered him into the world came out.

“No—no—nothing serious, of course not. That is to say—you understand.
She became alarmingly wrought up at the prospect of leaving England—you
know what fancies—”

Ordham felt as if his very marrow had turned cold. “Not yet—surely not
yet—” he stammered.

The doctor nodded. He rubbed his hands, feeling important and a trifle
excited. “Indulge her for the present. You have the rest of your life
for that career of lies they call diplomacy. Indulge this dear child, or
I won’t answer for the consequences—her maid tells me that even when
crossed in ordinary circumstances her health is menaced—the poor dear
spoilt child of fortune! And so beautiful! I have pledged her my
professional word to persuade you to remain in England for a year, at
least. And what more natural, more beautiful, indeed, than this wish of
hers that your first child should be born at Ordham? Think, too, of
foreign doctors! So, go in, dear boy, and promise her to sit tight. Do,
and she’ll be as fit as a fiddle to-morrow.”

Ordham, baffled and helpless, turned on his heel. “You can tell her that
I will remain in England—of course,” he said. “I will see her in an
hour or two. Just now I wish to go for a walk.”

                          THE WOMAN’S INNINGS

Ordham walked far out on the moor, then returned, not to the house, but
to stroll up and down between the avenue of plane trees that connected
it with the Italian garden. He finally threw himself down on a seat in
his favourite spot. Above the glassy lake was a broken grey balustrade
covered with mould and barely outlined against the stiff old cypresses
beyond. In a dark grove on his right were marble seats, several noseless
fauns and nymphs, the whole scene so reminiscent of Italy that his mind,
always liable to peculiar deflections, experienced once more a sense of
infidelity to Margarethe Styr: so often they had planned together that
month in Italy which he had been the one to suggest, and this had been a
favourite spot for making love to his bride.

He was too indolent to cherish anger for any great length of time, but
resentment lingered, and since his talk with the doctor not only had it
increased, but he felt that old sense of humiliation in not rising to an
occasion. He had a hazy idea that young husbands always flew enraptured
to worship their brides anew when informed that their ego had taken a
fresh lease; but he felt anything but enraptured. Not only was he very
much embarrassed, but, while shrinking from arranging the idea in words,
he felt that Mabel, in her determination to press on to victory at any
cost in this their first battle, had been indelicate in taking advantage
of what could be little more than inference on the part of the doctor
aided by her own canny suggestions. Wild horses would not have dragged
such an admission from him until the last possible moment. How could she
have talked it over with Cresswell—and, no doubt, with her maid? The
ideal Mabel whom he had distractedly worshipped for one interminable
fortnight had trembled more than once on her pedestal during the
intimacy of the honeymoon, but it took this final conscious offence to
sweep her off and leave her standing at the base, still beautiful,
young, and fascinating, but for evermore bereft of illusion.

He resented, too, the sudden loss of that sense of pagan youth that he
had enjoyed from the moment he had met Mabel in London, and which had
been crushed but by no means extinguished during the fortnight of
despair. He recalled the day in the Maximilianstrasse when he had
ungratefully carped at fate for the undue allowance of women of the
world that had fallen to his share. He had come into his inheritance
soon after, and now he felt suddenly dispossessed. He had not the
faintest desire to become a father; the very idea made him hot all over,
then cold. Ten years hence would have been time enough; for the matter
of that, nothing short of a plague could exterminate his family.

It is probable that to-day he had for the first time something more than
a glimpse of the depth and vigour of his egoism, which, heretofore,
polite even to himself, he had ignored. At all events, he realized that
unconsciously he had for years been planning an existence into which the
commonplace and material should as little obtrude as was possible on
this mortal plane; he became aware that one of Mabel’s salient
attractions had been her ability to help him to achieve this ideal
existence with as little trouble to himself as possible. Now that his
career was peremptorily postponed, he wanted it more than ever, and not
for the services he might be able to render to his country—he admitted
this brutally—but that he might live in the congenial atmosphere of
Continental and diplomatic life, the while he dwelt in a romantic and
splendid old palace with his lovely bride. He wanted to buy beautiful
things every day in the treasure-house of Europe. His searching
analytical mind craved the constant refreshment of new peoples, with
their strange customs, their hidden traits, their thousand
differentiations from the people of his own land. He wanted the bright
suns of Europe, the wonderful nights, the light careless brilliancy of
Continental life, the abundant music, the un-British drama from which
every taint of puritanism and philistinism had been banished long since.
While his remarkable poise, not the least of his gifts, had preserved
the health of his mind notwithstanding his insatiable curiosity, still
was it a mind that could only feel quite alive when feeding upon the
unusual, stimulated with a variety not to be found rooted in his own
orthodox soil; with all, indeed, that was covered from common
uncomprehending eyes. To remain in England for a year on end as a
prospective parent and an idle country gentleman, while he hated
increasingly his sporting neighbours with their wolfish appetites, and
was pressed down into the very depths of gloom by leaden skies and
drizzling mists—he was still young and irresponsible enough to think of

But in a little while he faced another side of his problem. He was
married to a girl whose pampered existence had given her a fairly good
substitute for a strong will. It was patent that when she discovered his
was the stronger she would resort to weapons—those enormous tears, for
instance,—which he as a man could not emulate. He wished that he had
something to fling viciously into the lake, but in that well-kept garden
there were neither rocks nor fallen branches. The pebbles of the path
were much too small. Then he laughed aloud as he realized that in one
small tract of his brain he was as much of a child as his wife. Then he
ground his teeth—

He stirred uneasily, turned his head. Mabel was standing there in the
grove. Her hair looked like an offering from the sun to the soft gloom
of ilex and cypress. Surrounded by those ancient trees, those battered
old fauns and nymphs, she looked like the blessed damozel. If she was as
white as her frock, her eyes were shining. She had never been more

Ordham caught his breath. He had a confused sense that the world had
turned over and in the act burst open a shell from which the ideal
Mabel, that Mabel whom he had once seen in a sort of magic reflection,
had really emerged. She stood quite still, gazing at him with soft
appealing eyes, yet holding herself with dignity, and seeming taller
than when under the lofty ceilings of the castle. Once more she looked
the creature of pure romance, the fairy princess. His pulses shook. In
an instant he was the adoring bridegroom, youth revelling in the joy of
having found its mate.

Mabel permitted him to cover the distance, and when he had taken her in
his arms and kissed her many times, with a certain imperious softness
that never became violent, she asked him to sit down, and nestled
against him in a fashion that made him feel very big and strong. Then
she murmured apologies for “going to pieces.” “She had hidden herself to
cry it out, first because she was unhappy and ashamed, and then because
she could not control herself. Brigitte had sent for that dear old
doctor, who had made her well at once.” By common consent the delicate
subject was ignored, and they prattled like happy children themselves.

On the following day she was pink and white once more, in the best of
health and spirits. It was evident that she was to be spared the minor
and more humiliating common-places of maternity. A week later Lady
Bridgminster, who had joined them, was sending out invitations for a
monster house party, while the bridegroom ordered the guns cleaned, the
discharged beaters replaced, the stables replenished, and felt as if he
were hypnotized.

                             STARS AND DUST

Munich was sheathed in ice. The bare trees of the Englischergarten, the
little parks set into the city like so many jewels, the long avenue of
the Leopoldstrasse, the thousand gardens, glittered with the prismatic
radiance of the diamond, while the hard snow was underfoot, and the sky
was like a vast blue and white flag of the House of Wittelsbach. The
lake was frozen, and gay with skating parties. The Isar alone flowed too
swiftly to be caught in the ice grasp. It was intensely cold, clear,
brilliant, tonic. Margarethe opened the window of her tower and stood
looking out at the arctic splendours winter had given to the park beyond
the light green belt of water. Once more she felt something of the
exaltation of spirit that in the old days she had been able almost to
summon at will, and that had never tarried before such inspiration as

But she moved away in a moment with an impatient sigh and returned to
the warm comfort of the gallery. It was now four months since she had
seen Ordham, and she was still unable to break the mental habit of
discussing all things interesting with him, invoking him to share her
pleasure. She had but just now called his attention to the contrast of
the beryl green of the river with the crystal groves beyond. Yesterday
she had caught herself discussing _A Rebours_ with him. Was it not time
to banish this senseless habit?

It was, of course, the effect of living alone, and some time since she
had made up her mind to go constantly into society upon its return,
become a persistent seeker after the lighter distractions of the world.
She sighed again as she thought of that ideal life she had led in this
villa by the Isar for nearly seven years, and which she found it
impossible to renew. But she had opened the gates of her Eden
deliberately, and it was fair that she should pay the price.

She had made no attempt to develop her infrequent interchange of notes
with Ordham into a correspondence, partly because she knew that a young
bridegroom has no reserve fund of sentiment, no active memories of the
past, partly because she had persuaded herself of a firm belief in the
wisdom of severed relations. But yesterday she had received a call from
Princess Nachmeister, who had been flitting about, avoiding her castle
after a brief sojourn in the summer, as she was in an economical temper
and indisposed to entertain a horde of relatives. In Paris she had met
Mrs. Cutting, whose detention in New York had been mercifully brief, and
had gone with her to Ordham Castle. Immediately upon her return to
Munich she had flown to her admirable Styr with news of their
_jüngling_. The Ordhams were entertaining one great house party after
another, and in the most brilliant fashion imaginable. Those Americans!
They cared not what they spent. Mabel received with the aplomb of six
seasons, and was increasingly beautiful, with frocks—But frocks! New
ones came every week from Paris. In spite of a certain expected event,
mercifully distant, she was quite well, and with that tall slender
figure—enfin! The _jüngling_? He was the most perfect host imaginable.
He even sacrificed himself and rode to hounds with his guests; a lazy
careless rider, but often in the lead, nevertheless. Need she ask? So
much exercise and outdoor life had improved him; he was beginning to
have a more lusty look, while losing nothing of that aloof air, that
perfect courtesy. But he glowed. Ah, yes! no doubt with happiness as
well as health. His career? She had had but few words with him on the
subject, for with royalties, she could not sit beside him at dinner; but
once or twice he had managed to place her next to him at luncheon; yes,
she had asked him, and he had said that no doubt he should go abroad
late in the following year, that fortunately these unavoidable delays
would not ruin his prospects. But he had spoken languidly; it was
evident that he was well content. And why not? Gott! but that was a
life. Forty million marks and as much again when dear Adela was gathered
to her American ancestors. Gott! One of the greatest places in England
virtually his own, a broken-down elder brother, and a lovely wife!

“I forgot that I had been so ambitious for him,” continued the old dame,
contritely. “I said: ‘But this is enough. Why fly in the face of
providence by asking all things? And if dear Mabel is so opposed to life
on our Continent—what substitute, indeed, could we offer her, since she
does not mind the climate of this island?’ And he said, in his old
manner: ‘Of course. Why indeed? She is so happy that I am almost in love
with England myself. It is all very wonderful.’ Then when I was gone
from that enchanted scene, I reproached myself. Shall he bury those
great abilities in matrimony, in society, in that country which is
always making great men but very properly sending them elsewhere? Is he
not made to manipulate the destinies of Europe? I should have
remonstrated instead of weakly yielding, almost participating in his
happiness, the charming creature! It was such a delight to hear him jest
and run on in his old fashion, to see him happy as the young should be
happy. We must trust to time. He will wake up. It may be two years,
three. But he was born to be a diplomatist and a great one, and that is
not for nothing. Mabel may rule now, he may be philosophically happy,

Judiciously interrogated, the keen old observer admitted that Mabel was
selfish, spoilt, “American.” She loved Ordham. But yes! Was it not his
lot to be loved? Too much, no doubt. He had the gift, the genius of
charm, and when a young thing was married to him—enfin! Had she, Olivia
Nachmeister, been fifty years younger, she should have married and
worshipped him herself. But Mabel had no real sensuousness in her
nature, none of those strong emotions that make the woman the willing
subject of a resolute man. She loved, yes; but with youth, selfishness,
vanity, romantic sentiment, the instinct of the race. That little brain
would be cool and calculating in its fondest moments. He might win if
ever it came to a great battle of two wills, crush that poor little
butterfly, who fancied herself a personage of vast importance; but he
never would manage her. But never! That was her part, and whether he
recognized that fact, and was resigned, other causes keeping him in
England, or whether he was merely enthralled, she could not say. But he
had a jaw. Ma foi, but a jaw! And Mabel had been indulged like a—well,
an American princess (“Who more disciplined than ours?”), from the
moment she screeched in her cradle. “Some day—well, what matter? Do not
all have their troubles? They are fortunate, those two, but they are not
immortals. Think of our beloved King, and of Rudolph von Hapsburg. But
the future Bridgminster has one talent denied these poor princes, what
you call ‘landing on his feet.’ Through no management of his, perhaps,
but destiny—women?—Yes, shall not we always arrange that he alights in
the safe spot, dry, sound, whole, even if he has whirled through the air
in the heart of what you call a cyclone? What happens to the women? Ah,
many die in this world that a few may live, dear Gräfin.” It was a mere
matter of destiny—of the survival of the strongest—of charm, perhaps?
She was a student of effects, not of causes. It was enough to know the
surface of this terrible world; but dig up the roots and put them under
the microscope? Not she! That was for clever people like Die Styr and
their dear _jüngling_.

To do Excellenz justice, she had not come altogether to torment Styr
with this picture of Ordham’s felicity, for she was still convinced that
there had been but a pleasant summer friendship between the two, whose
only undercurrent was the subtle influence exercised upon Ordham in
behalf of his examinations. To no other woman would she have given the
benefit of the doubt for a moment, but not only had Styr let the young
man go, permitted him to marry, but she looked quite the same as ever.
She was an artist, nothing more. They came to that! What the Nachmeister
had forgotten, possibly because the fact was so glaring that it blinded
her, was that Styr was a great actress. And she was something more, a
woman of magnificent pride, of iron strength of will. Not a tear had she
shed over the loss of Ordham, not a moment’s sleep had she lost since
that night when she had very nearly taken all Munich into her
confidence. She could summon sleep, banish thought, the moment her head
touched the pillow. She had no mind to furnish gossip for Nachmeister,
still less to ruin her own life. If she chose to spend her idler hours
in his imagined society, why not? That was compensation of a sort and
did no harm.

She had persistently refused to sing _Isolde_ again, for not only was
she aware that Munich would demand a repetition of her last performance,
an impossible feat even for her, but, strong as she was, she shrank from
too vivid a reminder of that awful night. She had weathered a storm of
feeling that would have prostrated a weaker or a less seasoned woman;
but avaunt its memory, nevertheless!

The worst was over, yes, but not for a moment did she cease to miss him,
to regret, to long unreasonably for his return. Her mind argued that an
episode of that sort when closed was closed forever, but her heart
ached. True, she had had the perfect experience she deliberately
planned, she possessed a beautiful memory; but she found this cold
comfort, now that she no longer pretended to deny that she loved him,
that her imagination had woven itself all over that Ordham so unknown to
others, until he was almost visibly hers.

This morning she asked herself squarely what she intended to do,
admitting as squarely that from the very first she had had no real
intention of remaining quiescent and forgotten. She could meet him
within a week if she chose, for a prima donna can always develop a
throat and demand a rest. But she was quite positive that the time had
not yet come for their second meeting. She knew that he would tire of
his Mabel, hate her, beyond doubt, and before long; but she did not care
to see him until then. Ordham complacently in love with a pretty doll
might sicken her; she was resigned never to find again the young man she
had known, but she wanted him in his next evolution, not this! not this!

She had remained becalmed, unanalytical, until yesterday, because
nothing had occurred to rouse her from the half melancholy half
pleasurable state of mind into which she had drifted. But Princess
Nachmeister’s gossip had filled her with rage and bitterness. The
sleeping devil she so seldom permitted to assert itself stirred, yawned,
awakened. The little fool had lived in her paradise long enough. She
comprehended the intentions of Mabel Ordham and her mother, for
Excellenz had prattled for quite an hour. They purposed to turn this
brilliant gifted but incomparably lazy young man into the mere husband
of a rich wife, of a professional beauty, manipulating and drugging him
until the springs that carry ambition over discouragement and opposition
had sagged, broken, and he would sink down into his good fortune,
entertaining the great of the land at his castle, proud of the enormous
social importance to which he had attained in his youth; taking the
waters at Carlsbad, growing stouter every year; wintering on the
Riviera; everywhere following his wife at a respectful distance while
her court crowded at her heels; taking out his increasing brood for an
occasional romp in the park—

She sprang to her feet with a hoarse cry of rage and a face that would
have made Excellenz cross and excoriate herself. But before she reached
her desk that other self so assiduously cultivated these last nine years
cried out peremptorily. True, she did take a deep and legitimate
interest in this young man whose future was threatened, but that was not
the impulse which drove her to open a campaign that must shatter his
domestic life. No woman, particularly no woman constantly exercising an
art, occupies herself for long with the future of any man that has not
vitally interested her. Friendship between the sexes is casual, a mere
matter of time and habit, never demonstrating itself during long
absences unless love skulks at the foundations. Had Ordham interested
her no more vitally than he had interested so many others during his
memorable sojourn in Munich his future could have taken care of itself.
But not only was he her chief work, whom she would not renounce
unfinished, but she wanted him to be conscious that his soul, his ego,
was hers. The passions of the body, what were they to the passions of
the heart? There were remedies for the impulses that man shared in
common with the beasts, but none short of death for that imperious
demand of the soul for its mate. It was the one thing that made her give
some credence to religious belief, this insistent desire of the hidden
ego for one other ego out of the billions of egos on Earth alone.
Possibly these two had sought one another since the birth of Time;
perhaps they had been united and severed, united and severed; paying, no
doubt, for sins and crimes for which no other adequate punishment could
be devised even by a resourceful God. If she had committed crimes in
another existence instead of hideous sins as in this, it was possible
that her punishment was that brief tormenting glimpse of her other part,
possible also that she should be just, and accept the natural sequence
as final.

But his secret, invisible life?

She made a last-effort to be “fine,” always a pitiful effort in people
foredoomed by the very strength of their wills and passions, the
anarchistic tendencies of their strong brains, to failure. Let him go!
When he was older! Time might awaken him, ambition call, with no
assistance from her. Let him be happy as long as he could; untroubled.
Let that poor child, whose worst offence, after all, was her love for
this charming young man—bah! Not for nothing was she the greatest of
Isoldes. She went straight to her desk.

                            EUROPE’S BOUQUET

A group of æsthetes—the women in the livery of Burne-Jones, the men in
the satin small-clothes, velvet coat, and silk stockings affected by
Wilde—stood before the great stone mantel in the octagonal drawing-room
of Ordham, permitting the brilliant company to gaze upon them. The only
celebrities present were the reigning professional beauty, that famous
young politician who resembled an intellectual pug, and the great poet
who looked like the reincarnation of Paris and Helen of Troy. The rest
of the distinguished company scattered throughout the endless suites of
state reception rooms were drawn from nearly every old family in the
kingdom, and there were royalties, domestic and foreign. Mrs. Cutting
and Lady Bridgminster had assembled these unrivalled house parties one
after another, the former not only with a proud satisfaction, but with
the complacent sense of fulfilling a patriotic duty, the latter with a
keen relish in handling the income of millions as were it her very own.

Mabel, spared every detail, had only to dress herself exquisitely, sit
at the head of the table in the dining room, or in a high abbot’s chair,
carved and gilded, in one of the salons, look radiant, and chatter. She
did all to perfection.

But these three notable figures, two with inexhaustible wardrobes from
Paris, the other looking alternately like a Burne-Jones or a Rossetti,
to say nothing of the magnificent rooms, now made richer and more
inviting by a thousand subtle touches, were but a background for the
young host. Never for a moment had Ordham been reminded that this lavish
display, this recrudescence of the glory of his house, this skilful
gathering of the most difficult people in England, had been accomplished
with his wife’s money, not with his own delayed inheritance. He had
heard of the unhappy fate of American husbands, but had quite forgotten
that beyond the seas the world was woman’s. In this splendid company he
was the legitimate host, the chief figure; several of the men that ruled
the destinies of Britain might have had long and meaning conferences
with “Lady Pat,” so subtly did they flatter and court him.

The natural modesty of his disposition was deftly overlaid by the as
natural assurance of his birth and bringing up, for not only was he
consulted, flattered, his judgment challenged that it might inevitably
pronounce the last word, by these three women, until he felt older and
more important every day, but his position as host threw him into
intimate association with many of the most eminent men and women in
England. And besides their friendship for Lady Pat, they were much
impressed with the Aladdin-like, yet never vulgar, lavishness of these
entertainments, and really found Ordham as charming and clever as people
always did when he was on his good behaviour.

Nor did Ordham trouble himself to remember that all was not his. The
first party was not over before he had slipped insensibly into the rôle
of hereditary lord of the manor, forgotten the existence of his elder
brother, or remembered him only to feel a passing relief that he need no
longer wish him dead and experience that hateful demoralizing shame.
Some of the guests were dull, notably the most important, but there were
others whose conversation he found delightful; and the perpetual
atmosphere of gayety, brilliancy, life, which now pervaded the castle,
diverted his mind from the Continent. For not even in the old days, when
his father had been a cabinet minister, had Ordham Castle known anything
like this. The family rent-roll was large, but not inexhaustible. It was
all very romantic, enchanting, and his self-love was mightily tickled.
Had he come into his titles and estates upon the death of his father, he
would have been less impressed no doubt; but after a long interval of
petty financial annoyances, this sudden good fortune filled him with an
abiding if complacent sense of enjoyment. One moment of humiliation and
the work would have been undone. But if Mrs. Cutting and Mabel had not
discovered the pride and sensitiveness in that complicated nature, there
was always her ladyship to advise; and day by day the young man who had
accomplished nothing, who had not even been chosen by destiny to succeed
his father, was lifted higher and higher into that rarefied atmosphere
where the nectar of flattery was ever at his lips, in goblets of gold
fashioned to delight the artist within him. Mabel had even renounced the
desire to remain uninterruptedly at Ordham for a year; they were to go
to London as soon as she was no longer equal to house parties; her
husband should continue to be amused in that capital he did not pretend
to despise.

As for the chef at the castle, he had no rival in New York, and received
a higher salary than the American Minister. The wages of the old
servants were increased, and although they disapproved of alien blood,
they were well content to see their idol in his rightful position.
Nevertheless, they longed for the great day when this ancient domain
should really be his, not rented with American dollars. They
corresponded with a servant in the small household of the secluded
Bridgminster and were not as impatient as they might otherwise have
been. American wives were well enough, particularly when high-bred and
inoffensive, but they wanted to see the Ordham coffers carried back to
the castle.

But Ordham cast not a thought to the ancestral coffers, assisted perhaps
by those water-tight compartments with which nature had endowed him, and
more particularly when he strolled among his guests after dinner,
discharging his duties as host with the zest of youth under his languid
manner. It is true that the small and repeated doses of Americanism
administered by Margarethe Styr lingered in his mental system, but they
were kept sternly under. If once or twice they whispered that he was
living on his wife’s fortune, he sharply reminded them that neither Mrs.
Cutting nor Mabel could have assembled parties like this, and that,
apparently, was all they lived for. Lady Bridgminster, although
hospitable to celebrities and artists, when they knew how to behave
themselves, was notoriously one of the most exclusive hostesses in the
kingdom. “New people” had seldom found a permanent place on her visiting
list, never unless they were foreigners. Mrs. Cutting, with her unerring
social instinct, had recognized this fact during her first season in
London, but although she had the good fortune to take her ladyship’s
fancy, she would have been dropped in time had she proved of no material
benefit. Nor could Lady Bridgminster have induced certain personages to
come to an American woman’s house parties until this marriage of the
daughter had placed her in a new and infinitely more important position.
Of all this Ordham as a man of the world was fully conscious, but what
he did not suspect was that his mother also was determined to keep him
in England. Why the diplomatic career, now that he possessed the riches
to which that was to have been but the stepping-stone? Nor would he have
the same opportunities for magnificence on the Continent, certainly not
for being of service to her distinguished self. He was kind and
generous, but he had a habit of forgetting people when out of their
range. And although he had immediately settled an income on herself, as
well as on two of his brothers, that would be a small compensation
indeed for the free hand she now enjoyed.

Many young people were invited to Ordham. If he could not sit beside
them at table, he could play tennis and croquet with them, loiter about
the park and in the woods with girls almost as pretty as his wife, sit
with them in the picturesque ruin of the original castle, occupied by
generations of Ordhams before the tidal wave of the Renaissance reached
England. There was also music, private theatricals, tableaux, and not
too much dancing, which he detested. There were other young men, not all
of them mad on the subject of sport, and always some brilliant figure
from the artistic world like Wilde, then the idol of all the clever
young brains in the empire. Altogether, he thought, as he strolled
through the great rooms of his castle to-night, he felt that life was
quite enchanting and only hoped that he would not grow fat.

He paused beside Mabel, who immediately turned her shoulder upon her
little court and looked up at him with a brilliant smile. She was too
well-bred to display her adoration in public, but at least she might
pretend that he was an illustrious guest. She wore her favourite
shimmering green, with lilies in her girdle. Her golden hair shone like
nebulæ against a dull piece of green tapestry, thrown over the back of a
tall chair by an unerring æsthete.

“Are you bored, Jackie darling?” she whispered.

“Of course not. How can you ask such a thing? No one is bored. It is
quite astonishing how you and the respective maters manage. Even the men
that have been out all day seem to have got hold of the right women and
look almost awake.”

“Lady Pat says that English women are much more amusing than they used
to be, and I adore them, myself. How wonderful it all is, and the most,
most, most wonderful is that I have a husband, although I am only
nineteen, whom all these distinguished and worldly people admire.”

This speech struck him as obscurely pathetic, consequently its flattery
missed the mark. He looked down upon her kindly. “Don’t overdo it,” he
whispered. “I must go now and talk to that old lady with her wig on one
side. Fortunately she is rather amusing, or I might resent being her

“Do you mean the duchess—your grandmother?” asked Mabel, wonderingly.
Why were English people so odd sometimes?

“I believe she is. I only remembered for the moment that she often makes
me laugh.”

Mabel stood watching him as he bent with his formal manner and charming
smile over the old lady of whom she stood in some awe, for there was no
more caustic tongue in England than the old duchess’s, and she lost no
opportunity of informing the Cuttings that they were the first Americans
she had ever met. But it was her husband’s careless words that held
Mabel’s puzzled attention. She understood her own departures from the
truth, because they were deliberate and inevitable; but it was difficult
for the direct and businesslike American mind to comprehend the
casual—or affected?—lie when the truth would have been far less
trouble. Ordham, unless driven to the wall—when he lied as coolly as if
it were a sort of royal prerogative—thought no one worth a deliberate
fabrication. But he had an instinctive dislike of the obvious, and all
the little affectations of his class. He was sometimes audaciously
candid, but he rarely thought in a straight line. The wit of the day
said of him, several years later, that whereas all the English were
liars, the Scotch more liars, and the Irish most liars, Bridgminster was
the only man he had ever met who could lie with the simplicity of a
savage, the grace of an artist, and the blandness of an Oriental.
Therefore when his opportunity came would he prove himself the greatest
diplomatist in Europe.

At eleven o’clock he stood watching the charming procession of women in
their flashing jewels and trailing gowns filing down the long gallery,
candle in hand, when Mabel passed him.

“Shall you come over soon?” she whispered, with her head on one side in
the fashion which seems to be peculiar to American women when begging
their lords not to stay out late. Ordham looked at her in surprise and a
faint sense of displeasure, but he said kindly:

“I am afraid not. The men sit up late—those that have not been out, you
know. I cannot well leave them.”

“You leave them when you are tired of them in the field, fast enough.”
Mabel looked pretty, even when she pouted, but her husband replied

“You should get to sleep as early as possible. I’ll look in later and
see if you are awake, but better put the light out and drop off.”

“I can sleep in the morning, and I hardly see anything of you now that
we have such a lot of company.”

“I thought you wanted house parties.”

“I did—I do. But I did not realize that they would separate us so

It was on the tip of Ordham’s tongue to remark that he did not fancy any
man saw more of his wife, but bethought himself in time that this might
sound ungallant. Nevertheless, he was tired of reiterating his adoration
when he wanted to go to sleep or to talk with people whose minds were
engaged with less personal matters, and he had, perhaps unconsciously,
drifted into the habit of seeking his couch as late as possible. He
often assured himself that he loved Mabel as much as ever (of course),
but love was entitled to vacations, and a man should feel that his soul
was his own, not his wife’s. Mabel had been well coached, and her
woman’s instincts were sharp, her brain calculating, but she loved with
as much passion as her nature was capable of generating, and no woman in
love avoids mistakes. Love made her insistent, demand constant verbal
demonstration, until Ordham sometimes felt that if called upon once more
to reiterate “I love you,” he should give full rein to the sulks which
so often arose in him. But Mabel reasoned that he was hers, he had
received proof that she had married him for love alone, why should not
he seek her every moment when he was off duty as host, instead of
compelling her to resort to wiles, coaxings, tears? She was still
astonished at the discovery that the ceremony of marriage had not put an
end to all effort. Where was the happy ever after?

She drooped a little at his last words, and the change from her grand
air was so sudden that he said contritely, although an angry flush rose
to his face, “You know that it is my duty to take all possible care of
you, but I’ll break loose from the smoking room as soon as I decently
can, and wander over.”

This promise he forgot before she was out of sight. Leaving the men to
take care of themselves, he sought a little room off the library which
his father had used as a den and he had appropriated to himself. He
locked the door behind him, and opening his desk, took out a letter he
had received that morning from Margarethe Styr but had not yet found
time to read.


He had appreciated at once that it was a letter, not the usual note with
which she had infrequently favoured him. Once before he had received a
letter from her. It had arrived while he was in Purgatory and he had not
opened it for a fortnight. Then, absorbed as he was, he had read it
twice, so delightful was its quality. It was evident that not the least
of Styr’s gifts was the epistolary, a common enough gift in her sex, but
reaching the superlative degree when the woman has brains, experience,
subtlety. As he opened this long letter, written on numberless sheets of
thin foreign paper, he suddenly realized that he had looked forward to
the time when he should have leisure to correspond with Margarethe Styr.
Rarely as he faced it, he was still uneasily conscious that he had not
been quite fair to this woman with whom he had enjoyed so deep and
unique an intimacy. He knew there was a bond, that it was not severed,
perhaps never would be. But he believed that he never again should seek
her deliberately, for he had no desire to dislocate the even and, all
things considered, delightful tenor of his present life; moreover, she
was inaccessible save for a day now and again, or during some brief
vacation he might pass in Munich. He was becoming dimly aware of deeper
currents in his nature than those disturbed by his first love storm,
dark and turbulent currents, perhaps, which his wife could never undam;
but this was one reason the more for immuring them. Although his body
had lost something of its inertia in this new life that took him so much
out of doors, still was his hatred of bother, exertion, his dread of
possible upheavals, no whit abated. Moreover, although it was now some
time since he had admitted that he never should find companionship in
his wife, still had he no wish to hurt her. She was, at least, a wife
for pride, and although he had every intention of seeking his mental
companionship elsewhere, still had he no desire to combine it with
intoxications that Mabel must discover. As he stared at Margarethe
Styr’s long letter, still half opened, he admitted, with that blunt
candour of which he was signally capable, that here alone was the woman
who could satisfy not only his mind but those deeper currents which run
and roar in man’s maturer nucleus. This recognition, however, merely
caused him to resolve anew to see no more of her. Correspondence,
however—why not? He should enjoy sitting up after
everybody—particularly his wife—was in bed, and living this purely
mental life that ever had fascinated him in so many of its forms, enjoy
it far more than assuring Mabel absent-mindedly that he loved her—of

He read the letter. It was an extremely artful letter, for Styr was at
all times and above all things—for the present, at least—an artist. It
was so deliberately clever that Ordham smiled again and again in sheer
delight at its spontaneity, its naturalness. She talked irresistibly
this midnight to her absent friend; and how much there was to talk
about, to tell him! The letter was saturated with the atmosphere of
Munich, an atmosphere of art, beauty, indolence, independence; a world
in itself was that city on its lofty plateau, where poverty and
“business” and the rush of modern life were almost unknown; an
aristocratic, exclusive, segregated city, created as with a magic wand
for pleasure, for dreams, not for work. No wonder he had found it
difficult to study there. Never could he repay his debt to Lutz—and to
this most wonderful of women. He sighed for his lost paradise, saw the
gallery with its divan upon which he so often had made himself wholly at
home!—and talked . . . and listened as she read to him . . . or to the
Isar beneath the window, the birds in the green trees beyond . . .

She told him amusing anecdotes of his numerous acquaintance, of the
opera house cabal, of the King. And she was impelled to write to him
upon this particular night, not only because he had been even more than
commonly in her mind all day, but because of the news that he had been
accredited to Rome, and she must express the hope that he travel via
Munich instead of Paris. She had learned a new rôle—Katharine, in _The
Taming of the Shrew_; he must see her in comedy. Perhaps he would not
believe it, but the experiment was a success; the critics, even those
that belonged to the opposite faction, thought her as good as in
tragedy, and her ovation from the public had been tremendous.

He read this letter through eagerly, then again more slowly, the second
time in search of something that had induced a certain uneasiness in his
mind. It did not take a third reading to discover the causes—for they
were two.

She assumed, as a matter of course, that he was about to embark upon
that career for which nature had so consummately equipped him, and to
whose aid fortune had flown as if with a conscious sense of duty. How
often they had discussed that future of his; she was on fire to witness
the beginning of what must be an historical career; it was strange and
delightful to be able to believe that she had played her little part in
his life, and she was almost as excited as before her own début.

But this was the least of the jars, and although it stirred and shamed
him, not in a moment could he be roused from the pleasant sloth into
which he had fallen. She had written little of herself, but that little
upon careful reading assumed a dark significance. The King’s moroseness
and eccentricities increased daily. There were no more midnight
performances in the Hof. And there were hints! He might shortly be
relegated to a deeper obscurity still, and permanently. His expenditures
were passing belief; drastic action by the government might be necessary
to save the state from bankruptcy.

All this meant that Styr had lost her protector. The inimical party in
the opera house, no longer restrained by fear of the King’s wrath, would
conquer, drive her forth. It had required all the influence she
possessed to obtain permission to learn two new rôles, and although her
party was not contemptible, it was not likely that her friends among the
opera house officials would go so far as to threaten Munich with their
own loss were she driven out.

Perhaps the most deeply human trait in Ordham was his quick and sincere
sympathy. He experienced it toward mere acquaintances in trouble or
slighted by fortune. It gushed warmly for those he loved, and only dried
when, sulky and obstinate, he turned his back after they had bored or
otherwise alienated him. Then he could be as cold and unrelenting as if
all his heart instead of that core were flint, and it is doubtful if he
would turn his head to observe the most malignant straits to which the
offender might be reduced. He shared this trait with certain women; the
women whom too much desire has spoilt, and who mete out the extreme
penalty to the man that bores them as coolly and remorselessly as the
law disposes of its criminals.

Ordham was filled with pity and concern for this friend that had given
him nothing but delight, and to whom he felt almost visibly linked by
those latent vitalities which he would not permit to conquer his beloved
inertia. But they shook him to-night. He rose and walked rapidly up and
down the room. Driven from Munich, what would happen to this gifted
unfortunate creature? There were other German capitals, but each had its
_hochdramatisch_, who would use all her influence to exclude such a
rival as Die Styr. She could merely _gast_ about, with no assured
income, while her lovely home was leased or sold. He had wished to think
of her always in those intensely personal rooms which still seemed half
his own, to see her moving about them with her noble pliant grace, or
looking almost like a mere woman in that ugly rocking-chair. He had
wished always to be able to close his eyes and conjure the vision of her
Isolde, the notes of her great golden voice meeting in a rendezvous of
happy birds in the cold classic dome of that opera house he had loved
even before he knew her.

What ailed the world that it was so slow to accept Richard Wagner, one
of the few positive geniuses it had produced? If he could but do
something to rouse the British public at least, create in it a thirst
for The Master, interpreted by the greatest of his pupils, surely that
must add to their happiness. The most ignorant were often quite happy
when surrendering themselves to the seductive charm of music, to that
spell which enmeshes the facile senses and makes no demand upon a brain
often tired out by nightfall. And what master had ever liberated from
those mysterious centres of the musically gifted brain such a voluptuous
perfumed sea of music as Richard Wagner? People that had been educated
on the old barrel-organ operas had only forcibly to be introduced to the
far more satisfying—intoxicating—music to crave it constantly, as the
Germans did.

Suddenly he remembered that he possessed two hundred thousand pounds in
his own right. To what better use could he put a part of it than to
educate the musical taste of his country while assuring the future of
the best of his friends? That a nice ethical point was involved in
spending the gift of one woman upon another he would have dismissed as
unworthy of consideration had it occurred to him. He was without
conscious arrogance, but he had the blood of kings in his veins, as have
all the older families of the British aristocracy, with or without the
bend sinister, for Plantagenets and Tudors had married more than one
daughter to a peer of the realm; and in blood of this order democracy is
but one more affectation, or policy, or manifest of good manners, as the
individual is composed; all tributes, therefore, are his natural due.
Ordham would have shrunk with a hot blush from admitting that his wife
belonged to a nation of upstarts, that her family pretensions were
absurd, and that the god of circumstance had shown uncommon judgment in
sweeping that river of crude American gold across the Atlantic to be
properly enjoyed by one of a mighty people to whom that bundle of states
owed its being; he would have blushed, but, driven to the wall, he would
have set his countenance into the mask of a type, opened his large cold
eyes, and carelessly admitted it.

Therefore did he give no thought whatever to the source of his present
affluence. Besides, not only would he have done as much for one or two
of his old college friends, but he was meditating a great public
service. To hold London by the nose until it swallowed, and assimilated,
and bred an appetite for the greatest music ever written, what signified
it if the artist who should help him to accomplish the miracle happened
to be his dearest friend threatened with disaster? Not that he pretended
to any such sophistry as that he was not thinking quite as much of
Margarethe Styr as of London, more perhaps; but facts were facts.

And he knew that in no more direct fashion would she ever accept aid
from him. Were she driven from one opera house to the next by the
jealousies of the most jealous of all artists, unable to obtain a
permanent position, she could support herself by teaching; no doubt,
too, she had a small private fortune, and the villa was hers. But that
was not the point. She was a great and a very ambitious artist. The
voice was the shortest-lived of all Nature’s gifts, and the voices
devoted to the music of Wagner had an even shorter lease than the
nightingales in the throats of the Violettas and Lucias. Something must
be done at once. On Monday he would go up to London and ask advice of
Hans Richter, who had conducted Wagner concerts with distinguished
success, and whom Styr had met many times in Bayreuth and Munich. It
must be the dream of his life to conduct a season of Wagner opera in
London, and this could be made possible only if the experiment were
privately financed. At this time Covent Garden was not a company; there
was no board of directors to consult. It could be rented by any one that
had the money to put up, so long as its traditions were not violated.
Ordham knew that with Richter behind him, it would be possible to hire
the opera house for a season—the season, were it not already disposed
of; and that Styr could obtain a leave of absence either through the
influence of her friends, or by flying into a rage and goading the
directors to break her contract. He could rely upon many of his
aristocratic and all of his artistic friends to spread the fame of Styr
before her arrival, make her the fashion, fill the house for the first
night with all that prided themselves upon being fad tasters, avid for
new sensations. Let them be manipulated to that extent and Styr would do
the rest. The English might not be able to appreciate the wonder of her
voice, might yawn miserably during those everlasting recitatives, but
they would succumb to her personality, her magic and magnetism; for to
these rare qualities no race is more susceptible; and the mere sweetness
of her voice would enchant them no matter what their lack of artistic

And then! A triumph in London, and New York, already nibbling at Wagner,
would give him at least a season’s hearing and demand the Styr as a
matter of course. Her fortune and greater fame would be assured. Ordham,
as he strode up and down the room, had never felt so enthusiastic, so
energetic, so inspired. He could give to England what Ludwig II had
given to central Europe. He had never been sensible, save when Styr had
deliberately played upon him, of wishing to be of any use to the world;
but in these exalted moments, rattling those thin sheets of foreign
paper (a link in themselves), he felt his first real impulse toward
accomplishment, to stand for something, experienced the real awakening
of that gift for leadership which has raised him so high among men
to-day, but which, so far, had only manifested itself occasionally in an
obstinate determination to have his own way. He felt his power, saw his
future more clearly than he had ever done before.

His mind flashed to the woman who had always roused his higher and
better impulses, while other women sought to make a Lucien de Rubempré
of him; to-night she had transmitted to him out of her own stupendous
energies—Good God! what had they not accomplished?—a tingling shock.
She sent him his first opportunity to use his own energies, to taste the
delights of power. It was something of the rapture of the creative
artist that he felt on that never-to-be-forgotten night, for although no
composition took form in his quickened brain, the genius of his
personality came to life, the fires of his own peculiar gifts crackled
in a mind created for the world’s use. As he finally made his way
through the silent house to his room, he admitted with delight that he
owed those moments of temperamental rapture, this awakening of his vital
forces, which reached far beyond introducing Styr and Wagner to England,
to the mate of that secret part of him the world would never suspect.
His wife’s door was ajar, but he did not even glance at it. He made
haste to get into bed, and, with the functional regularity of youth, was
asleep in five minutes.

                             A FAIRY COMET

Mabel was not a congenital liar. She had, indeed, displayed a fairly
truthful record until John Ordham came into her life. When little, she
had been duly punished for telling the fibs natural to childhood; and,
during the years that followed, those faculties with which the social
unit adapts itself automatically, and economically, to the exigencies of
the moment, had in her case been put to little strain, indulged young
beauty that she was. She was a good girl in all ways, and after turning
on the fountain of those beautiful crystal tears, or terrifying the
parent whose solitary passion she was, she had the grace to be ashamed
of herself, vowing never to repeat the offence. As she grew older, she
broke this vow less and less often.

But the long coaching of her mother and Lady Bridgminster had wrought
its inevitable work. She was merely one more victim of the disabilities
of her sex. She could not go frankly forth and woo the man to whom she
had immediately surrendered her heart; she must scheme, and wait, blow
hot and cold, demoralize her character generally. She had no cleverness
save in female craft, but she was vaguely conscious during those weeks
when Ordham wooed her with a silken rope round his neck and a padded
prod at his back, that the crystalline quality of her girl’s mind was
permanently clouding.

She had assumed, of course, that after marriage her influence would be
paramount. Had not momma ruled poppa? Was not the ascendency of the
American woman one of the truisms of the century? She rode gayly into
the breakers of generalities oblivious of the rocks beneath, whose other
name is facts.

The result of that triumphant little confession in the library had given
her self-confidence a profound shock. As time went on she found her
husband more and more of a mystery, caught blinding glimpses of wants
far beyond her comprehension, of dissimilar tastes, of an almost
world-old brain, and, in spite of his youthful ardours, of an inner
impenetrable reserve. She had almost despised him at times during the
courtship, so easy had been the game, so completely had he been deluded.
But Ordham was not a man to be despised for more than a moment at a
time, and he had won her complete respect on that fatal day in the
library when he had given her to understand that when people were so
simple as to lay their cards on the table no will but his would prevail.
But after the lachrymal attack was over (genuine enough upon this
occasion), she had reflected that the cleverest of men would be no match
for three clever women if they kept their cards out of sight. She had
lost no time calling to her aid Lady Bridgminster and her mother, and a
new campaign of gentle manipulation began. Live on the Continent she
would not; where one could never drink water and the food ruined one’s
complexion, where she must be taken in to dinner by an attaché, instead
of by a prince of the blood, where she must play fourth fiddle to old
frumps with frizzed fronts and bugles and not a tenth part of her
income. Not she. Jackie could have all the career he wanted in England.

She was enchanted at the idea of having a baby, not only because she
possessed all those charming feminine instincts which would have made
her an estimable woman had circumstances permitted, but because it
gratified her to feel one of a line, to be the indispensable connecting
link between one Bridgminster and the next. It is only the well-born
American that is deeply impressed with the antiquity of English blood,
of a descent in which figure historic names; for all these represent
what they feel they have just missed, and to capture them for their
issue is a triumph far more subtle than that experienced by the American
who belongs to the aristocracy of wealth alone. Not that Mabel was
capable of any such analysis, but her mother was; the instinct was in
her, however, and it is doubtful if she would have adored Ordham as
blindly and devoutly as she did had it not been for that long record of
his family in Burke, and the magnificence of Ordham Castle. But, to be
sure, minus these causes, and he would not have been John Ordham.

Once more he was unconsciously demonstrating the inferiority of his sex
when pitted against hers. But like many another, she forgot that there
is a psychological statute of limitations, also that it is impossible to
watch the manœuvres of an enemy whose existence is unknown. She was
pouting in bed late on Sunday night, wondering if her husband intended
to sit up until dawn again, almost hating the social triumphs that so
oddly separated them, when the door between their rooms was pushed
softly open and he entered.

She was lying in a mass of pale green satin and lace; her bedroom had
been done over and looked like Undine’s bower. Her hair, spread over the
shimmering counterpane, might have been the golden fleece. No more
enchanting vision was ever presented to a young husband; but Ordham was
suffering (slightly) from conscience, and the familiar picture did not
appeal to him. He kissed her affectionately, asked her solicitously if
she were shockingly tired, and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“I must not awaken you in the morning,” he remarked. “I thought it
better to run the risk to-night—to tell you that I must go up to London
for a few days. I have some business to attend to.”

“What? Business?” She sat up straight, and she was so astonished that
grievance stood off. “You never had any business in your life. You don’t
know the meaning of the word.”

“But it is time I learned. I wish to consult my solicitors in regard to
certain investments.”

“Well, I never!” She stared at him for a moment. Then she asked
plaintively: “Am I not your wife? I expect to share all your worries,
although I can’t imagine your condescending to have any.” She knew that
he disliked direct questions, but there are moments when no woman can be
diplomatic, and she finally asked him if that were his only reason for
going up to London on the eve of another house party.

He had anticipated glittering spheres, which he would dutifully stanch,
the while administering the lesson that he had not yielded a jot of his
real liberty. But he answered promptly, looking straight into her
surprised but unclouded eyes: “Yes, I have another reason. Quaritch has
some rare books that I am to have a first look at.”

“We go up to London before long, now. Books will keep.”

“Not these, I am afraid. There are many in England quite as keen as I am
on first editions.”

She explored those large ingenuous orbs. Hers was not a jealous nature,
and she had been given ample opportunity to observe how little his
devoted manner and challenging eyes meant, had often laughed at the
girls who took him seriously. So the possibility of a feminine magnet in
London she rejected with disdain, but a sensation of antagonism took
possession of her. It angered her that she could not understand him
better, that he never really deferred to her, that he must be eternally
“managed.” Still more did it incense her that he was indifferently
depriving himself of several days of her society. But she could think of
no ruse to keep him at home unless she whipped up a storm, and against
this indulgence she had been warned by the doctor. As for tears, better
reserve them until the Continent threatened again. Much to his surprise,
she lay back in her pillows and said in the grand manner:

“Nothing that I could say will hold you back if you have made up your
mind to go. I never expect to have the slightest influence over you.”

“I wish you would not say such things!” He looked as uncomfortable as
she intended he should feel. “How can you? I shall be gone only four
days. Please do not make me feel a brute.”

“Four days will seem very long.”

She uttered these artistically simple words with a quiver of her little
pink mouth, which was not altogether deliberate, for although she was
determined not to be commonplace, those four days without her husband
unrolled before her in an endless procession. He felt very contrite, and
kissed her fondly; but he did not retreat from his purpose. The next
night saw him in London, enjoying himself hugely at the theatre, from
which he had been divorced for nearly three months. It so happened that
there were a number of good plays on, and Hans Richter was out of town
when he arrived. Mabel received long impassioned telegrams and brief
impassioned notes, apologies and explanations that would have hoodwinked
a wronged and suspicious wife; but the castle did not see him again for
ten days. Then he was so charming, so repentant, so indignant at a cruel
destiny, and so unfeignedly happy in being with his lovely little wife
once more, that he was not only forgiven, but Mabel, in her joy at
having him again after that dreary watch, was persuaded to move up to
London a month earlier than she had intended.

                            THE GREAT PRIZES

The hopes that rise insistent in the cold discouraging mind when the
first shock and depression have run their course have their origin, no
doubt, in the subterranean chambers of the brain; mean, when it is a
case of outraged love, that the soul is continuing its eternal struggle
for completion with another soul. These are immemorial rights, and do
not endure disintegration and change every seven years.

Margarethe had passed through many phases, not only since the night she
had heard of Ordham’s engagement, but since the beginning of her
deliberate correspondence with him. As is commonly the case, she found
more satisfaction in the writing of her own letters than in the reading
of his; although that excited, hopeful, terrified, tremulous, forlorn
waiting for the post was a new and astounding experience. Men, the
cleverest of them, are indifferent letter writers, and Ordham was no
exception. A woman lets her pen run on with a freedom and felicity which
conscious art but intensifies, the while it exercises selection and
restraint. But men are prone to say what they have to say in the fewest
possible words, rather rejecting all subjects but the essential than
wandering afield in search of others that might make their compositions

Although Styr, in a manner, enjoyed this correspondence even more deeply
than her personal intercourse with the man who had strolled into her
inner kingdom and taken possession (for it gave her a sense of greater
intimacy, liberated her imagination), she was too wise to give alarm to
his limited amount of masculine endurance by writing him twenty pages
when she was artistically capable of packing news, gossip,
personalities, disquisitions upon books, the opera, the drama, and
politics, into ten. Nor, although she longed to write daily, did she
gratify this new passion oftener than once a week; and even so, she
cultivated a certain irregularity, that the assured appearance of a too
familiar envelope on his morning tray might not in time inspire him with
that nervous irritability which so often takes shape in ennui. Not for
nothing had she been forced to accept man as her chief study before
Wagner transposed her from life to art; but she hated these restraints,
longed to be natural. She knew, however, that, given a man of Ordham’s
temperament, only nature heightened by art could hold him, never nature
unbridled and ingenuous.

Ordham’s disposition was so far from frank that although while within
her magnetic radius he had been more confidential and revealing than he
had ever been before, he could not shed his diplomatic shell with
nothing but a sheet of paper before him, headed “Dear Countess Tann.”
Moreover, with all his soul he hated letter writing, and only answered
these fascinating epistles with a reasonable promptness for the sake of
others to come. If she had tacitly agreed to write alone, he would have
been completely happy. And she, of course, wanted a running picture of
his daily life at Ordham, of the companies assembled there, of trivial
but always interesting personalities and incidents. But he could as
easily have written a book; the bare suggestion would have appalled him;
and, while making his letters as short as decency would permit, he
confined himself to a brief comment upon the literary and artistic
people invited to the castle, music, and books—he sent her many new
ones—and devoted the last page to herself, expressing his desire to see
her again, and his regret that their summer had been all too short.
Sometimes she smiled at these laborious epistles, and sometimes she
flung them across the room and stamped her foot. She had to read them
over and over to extract any comfort out of them; then, finally, she
succeeded in reading between the lines, rewrote them, in short, as women

There were times when she intensely disliked him for his apostasy to
herself, his weakness in being blindly steered into a commonplace attack
of puppy love when he should have risen superior to the follies of youth
and gone unscathed till thirty, then loved some one worthy of him. She
hurled him from his pedestal and rolled him in the dirt, announcing that
he belonged there, delighted with the sense of emancipation that
permeated to her finger tips. Not even yet did her mind dwell upon the
possibility of any closer union with him; she dreamed only of the
insatiable mysterious immaterial tie; she indulged herself in attacks of
bitterness, of furious regret that he had not so ordered his life that
she might think of him always as the exceptional man, instead of seeing,
against her will, a vision of a love-sick white-faced youth, idiotically
in love with a pretty girl, then as a fatuous young husband complacent
to all the selfish whims of his bride; drifting with her on a river of
gold that threatened to rise and suffocate what energies he had. If he
must be “managed,” she was the woman for this office, for she would have
steered him to greater goals. She was a thorough woman, was Margarethe
Styr, but her saving grace was that she knew it. When she laughed at
herself, then was Ordham forgiven, excused, dusted off, and restored to
his pedestal, his sovereignty in the realm of the ideal.

When there crept into his letters—after the return of his household to
London—a tinge of sadness, deepening at times into melancholy, more
than a hint of impatience at enforced inertia, at passing opportunities;
when his polite desire to see her again began to vibrate with something
like passion, then did she understand that not only was he tiring of his
wife, but that her own letters, with their insidious but unremitting
spur to his ambitions, were reaping the harvest she had planned. It was
after one of these letters of his, longer than usual, more personal,
asserting that could he but find a decent excuse, could he but exercise
his freedom at this time without brutality, he would take the next train
for Munich, that a voice seemed to cry through her brain: “Let him
alone! Let him alone! In silence and absence men forget.” This spasm of
conscience brought her face to face with a good many possible results
that she had ignored; and as she really loved him and was fairly
consistent in her desire to see him happy and great, she delayed her
answer to this letter, half resolving to drop the correspondence.

Then, a week later, arrived a letter charged with a curious hotchpotch
of anger and jubilance, an astonished sense of semi-defeat and almost
royal triumph. He had not given her a hint of his scheme to organize a
season of Wagner opera at Covent Garden, for, although hopeful at the
first, he had met, upon his return to London, with so many objections
and difficulties, so much ignorance, prejudice, and pharisaical folly,
that he had at times despaired of attaining an object which opposition
fanned into a passion. But, calling to his aid older and more
influential men than himself, the last barrier had finally gone down,
and although he could not hire the opera house for the season, owing to
other contracts, he had succeeded in capturing it for five weeks by
depositing, as a guarantee against failure, twenty thousand pounds with
the committee he had formed. Of this guarantee he naturally made no
mention to Styr, but had he been able to conceal the fact that the
enterprise was his, a letter received in the same mail from the great
conductor would have enlightened her.

She was infinitely touched. If resentments had lingered in her mind,
they were swept out, and they never returned. She knew—who better than
she?—what all this had meant to that indolent nature, steeped in
self-indulgence. For the first time in his life he had really exerted
himself, worked to accomplish an object, and not for himself, but for
her. He wrote with enthusiasm of being the means of educating his
country musically with her assistance, and there was no doubt that he
assumed this responsibility in all sincerity, but he dwelt upon it too
emphatically, in his desire to save her from any sense of obligation.
The deeper tenderness of her nature was stirred; it was the first
poignant sweetness in an affair that had already given her far more joy
than sorrow, pleasure than disappointment. Moreover, there was a new and
a very keen delight in the gratitude she was forced to render to this
noble but torpid nature, which she had revealed to itself, to be the
first object of his energies.

But she hesitated some time before she accepted the formal offer to sing
in London from the first of May until the seventh of June. She vowed
anew to spare Ordham the certain disaster of materializing their bond,
and herself as well. But this offer arrived very opportunely in her
affairs. The King came no more to Munich, summoned her no more to his
castles; and although, owing to her popularity with the public, and the
still potent shadow of Ludwig, the opera house cabal might not dare to
compass her sudden dismissal, they contrived that she sing less and
less, gave her the worst support of which that admirable company was
capable. Their object, of course, was to wean the public by degrees, to
insinuate that the Styr had grown capricious, indifferent to her once
beloved Munich, was losing health and nursing her voice; to tickle the
Bavarian love of variety with as many _Gasts_ as they could command, to
press against her cold resistance until she lost control of her furious
temper and flung her contract in the face of the _intendant_.

This she had no mind to do, and her will was as strong as theirs
combined; but she was worn with the unremitting silent struggle, the
countless mortifications; she knew that the death or deposition of the
King would push her hard against the wall, battling for the supreme
position she had held so easily. Now, through the influence of Princess
Nachmeister, or the Queen-mother, she could obtain the signature
necessary for a leave of absence. Then, London conquered, she knew that
Munich would clamour for her return, and, with or without the support of
the King, her position would be impregnable for a long time to come. For
the matter of that it must be the first step in that greater career
which her ambition had never ceased to picture. She had written to
Damrosch several months since, but had received the reply she had
expected: the artists were already engaged for the first Wagner season
in New York; but it was expressed in a tone of sharp regret that she had
written too late—even, perhaps, for that projected second season, were
the experiment a success; but she had not the least doubt that did she
create a furore in the most musically indifferent of all cities, to
which, however, New York bent the knee, a place during the second season
would be made for her as a matter of course.

And after London, she also would be invited to sing in every capital in
Europe, with the possible exception of Paris; although to be sure she
might sing to the public that still visited their hatred of Germany upon
Wagner, in such rôles as Dido, Aida, Fidelio, Donna Anna, Katharine, in
_The Taming of the Shrew_, and even the Countess, in _The Marriage of
Figaro_; for after all these years of daily vocalization, besides her
stage experience, there was little she could not do with her voice, and
it would be interesting to prove that she could subdue that tremendous
organ to pure melody. She was not even sure that she should not attempt
Carmen, as a tour de force; and she could act it! Great God, how she
could act it! She had only to conjure up Ordham’s marriage in all its

And how she should revel in the conquest of New York, look down with
serenity or laughter from the unassailable position of the season’s idol
upon the mire that had nurtured her, and upon the good respectable
people that held their skirts so high, shuddering at the mere
acknowledgment of the horrors upon which they danced, or lived their
comfortable lives. She wanted no social recognition from that great
city, where so many proud names covered secrets little less appalling
than her own; but to dominate where she had once shrunk far from the
limelight, to be crowned where she had been despised!—little she cared
for the sleuths of the press. Their revelations would but excite the
public the more, for that public almost resents the reflection of their
own necessary virtues in a great prima donna, her failure to indulge the
rights of genius.

But she hesitated, for John Ordham could not be shoved long from the
forefront of her mind,—that young friend who would annihilate her
worries, who had unrolled this glorious future. It would be a poor
return to wreck his life. But was she not sure of herself? That, after
all, was the whole point. She had managed him before, she could manage
him again. She must live in a hotel, she would meet many people, five
weeks pass very quickly. She could strengthen the bond, deepen her
influence, even while she avoided the dangers inherent in mending a
broken intimacy. . . .

Yes, she would go. What was more, she would make sure of his career
before she left London, raze forever his wife’s selfish defences. Little
she cared whether the silly child had married him for love or not; her
possible sufferings were of no consequence whatever. She would not break
up his peace in the common fashion; but give him to Europe she would,
and his wife might console herself with her baby and the great position
for which she had schemed quite as much as for the love of this
exceptional creature to whom she had but the flimsiest, the most
transient rights. Not in nine short years could Margarethe Styr swallow
ten whole commandments.

Nevertheless, perhaps unconsciously, she possessed the large vision, the
contempt of petty detail, of obstructing means, when a great end
promised. There were times when she put even herself out of mind, and
saw Ordham, his fine and peculiar abilities in full flower, moving his
sure hand among the destinies of Europe, making as sure a place for
himself in history. Of what earthly importance was the possible
happiness, or the crushing, of one more American girl in the face of a
great and useful career? She was, in truth, a negligible quantity.

                    THE SPIRIT OF THE RACE MOVES ON

Mabel, seated in a high-back Gothic chair, looking, in her ample flowing
gown of white brocade embroidered with gold, her soft mass of
“harvest-yellow hair” caught on either side with a jewel in an antique
setting, like a cross between Rossetti’s Monna Vanna and his Venus
Verticordia, wondered if this mob of people would never go. It seemed to
her that all London, fashionable and artistic, lived in her mother’s
drawing-rooms, and she wished that it had occurred to her to take a
house of her own. True, the suggestion would have precipitated another
discussion about that tiresome diplomatic future to which “Jackie”
alluded now and again as a matter of course (he had returned to the
Foreign Office), and, no doubt, it was as well to be relieved of all
detail and care at this time: she felt well, but tired. Moreover,
confident as she was in herself, normally, she had discovered that it
was no light task to amuse a man who had been born bored, and that if he
were to be kept in England, he must have its cream served up daily.

She congratulated herself, however, that she was growing cleverer every
minute. Her husband had no suspicion that his departure for the
Continent was to be delayed upon one pretext after another until
pretexts were no longer necessary; did he retain his interest in
diplomacy, the time would surely come when the Foreign Office would have
no more of him. His good humour was unruffled. He was more kind, more
captivating, than ever, and so considerate that his delicate young wife
saw little of him. He sent her to bed early, and took himself off to the
theatre, that “he might not keep her awake by roaming round the house;
he had never gone to bed early in his life.” He made her lie down
immediately after luncheon and remain on her couch until it was time to
dress for the afternoon drive. Between half-past five and seven they had
a crowded salon. He never had luncheon or dined away from home, and,
like the courteous soul he was, entertained formally or familiarly those
whose invitations he and his wife were obliged to decline for the
present. It was the dinners that, for the most part, were informal,
consisting of intimate friends of his mother or the Cuttings, whom he
did not feel obliged to follow up to the drawing-room. The luncheons, or
“breakfasts,” as it was the fashion to call them, were often imposing

Of the impromptu afternoon salon he was even more the gay and
fascinating host than at Ordham. No longer were Mrs. Cutting’s
drawing-rooms the studiously select assemblies of the
ante-Ordham-Bridgminster régime. True, there were many of greater social
importance than she had mustered unaided, as well as that bevy of smart
young American wives of English husbands so famous during the eighties,
but in addition she found herself receiving all the prominent artists,
authors, actors, poets, æsthetes, musicians, and many—discoveries of
her son-in-law—not yet famous but indisputably endowed. It was Ordham’s
grief that Rossetti had died before he was able to do him honour, but he
consoled himself by buying every picture of this consummate painter that
found its way to the market. As they did not harmonize with the light,
almost frivolous, effect of the drawing-rooms, he had them hung in the
stately entrance hall downstairs, which Mrs. Cutting had left untouched
that the effect of the French rooms above might seem the more brilliant
by contrast. They lit up those dim spaces with their living colours, and
Ordham often sat there alone. As available Rossettis were few, and he
had an almost equal admiration for Burne-Jones, several fine paintings
of this artist shared honours with the master. They would accompany him
to the Continent.

Mabel, although at first delighted to be admired by artists, especially
when they told her that she looked like The Blessed Damozel, to deck
herself in Pre-Raphaelite gowns designed by her mother-in-law, and sit
in a Gothic chair, was grown, in this month of March, heartily tired of
it all, and confided to her maid that as soon as she was well again she
should send æsthetic duds to the old-clothes man, order a trousseau from
Paris, such as even she had never possessed before, and become the
smartest woman in London. Her husband might continue to have his artists
if he wanted them, and they would cut their hair, but she had been born
to grace another sphere.

Moreover, she was irritably tired of all this talk about Wagner and that
Munich prima donna; London, always on the alert for a new fad, seemed to
be obsessed. Five weeks of Wagner at Covent Garden! She devoutly hoped
her Jackie would not demand that she sit in the back of his box and
share his raptures. With all her little barrel-organ soul she hated
Wagner; but she had not forgotten those carefully prepared appreciations
of the courtship, and dared not retract them so soon after that first
misguided confession she had worked so hard to obliterate.

At the end of five months she had progressed far in matrimonial tactics.
But what a protracted mental campaign it was! And she had pictured a
rose garden for two light-hearted lovers! Well, there was compensation
in all things; she had become clever, at least. She might have married
some nice, simple, unexacting person like poppa,—a gentleman who had
attended strictly to his own affairs,—and become one of those
undeveloped little American matrons who brought letters to them, and
whose husbands talked of nothing but business or football. She felt her
infinite superiority to all of them, happy and bright as they were;
although there were times when she longed for the mental rest which one
of these fine busy young fellows, whose brains were not crowded with
their ancestors, would have afforded her. And how often she longed to be
natural and free. But she was a true female; she adapted herself readily
enough to her lot, at times thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere of
intrigue in which she felt herself moving, sure that in the long silent
tussle of wills, she, with the superior tact and finesse of woman, must
conquer. If Ordham had been a bold masterful person, such as his brother
Stanley would be one of these days when his shyness had worn off, she
would have knuckled under as a matter of course, enjoyed with all her
feminine soul the battles royal which preceded each sure defeat, while
remaining “good,” and “natural,” and “above board.” But the Machiavelli
in Ordham had pumped to the surface all those obscure currents of
intrigue and deceit which track through every woman’s nature. It was a
strange circumstance, this secret pursuit of John Ordham’s ego, in the
mysterious regions of the spirit, by two women at the same time; but
they hunted on different planes and never met.

The last caller drifted out and down the stair. Ordham returned, and
bending over his wife, asked her solicitously if she was tired.

“Not in the least!” said Mabel, brightly. All the married women she knew
told her that men hated tired women. “How interesting you have made our
salon, darling. Mother, can you imagine how we were ever satisfied with
just smart people before?”

Mrs. Cutting shrugged her shoulders, but smiled indulgently. “We never
receive those people in New York, but no doubt we make a great mistake.
Genius ought to be recognized, and when artists and others are quite
convenable, I certainly think they should be encouraged to remain so.
Besides, it helps them to meet patrons.”

Ordham concealed a smile and replied gently, “I feel greatly honoured
that they should come to my house.” Mrs. Cutting noted with some
amusement that he characteristically assumed that this splendid mansion,
leased, furnished, and supported by the Cutting millions, was his own.
But, although she too had some time since discovered that she knew him
very little, she liked him too well to feel more than a passing
irritation. In her own way she was in love with him, as mothers often
are with a charming young man come suddenly into the family as the
husband of an idolized child. It is the only opportunity a woman has to
love a man with a passion that is not legitimately sexual or maternal,
but a little of both, boned of both danger and responsibilities.

“I might point out,” continued Ordham, “that we are not the first to
receive the great in art, although, naturally, they prefer their own
circles. But even this absurd æsthetic movement has been of service to
London society, for it has popularized art, at least, and permanently
banished antimacassars. It only remains for some culinary genius to
follow in their track to make England almost as inhabitable as Paris or

“Don’t you love your country, Jackie darling?” asked Mabel, wistfully.

“Of course. But I was born, remember, when the Brotherhood, unknown to
the herd, was commanding the attention of the elect, and of these my
mother aspired to be. Naturally I became imbued with a love of change as
well as of beauty; quite as naturally I find it necessary to gratify
both out of England.”

“It is odd that you should be so different from your brothers,”
interposed Mrs. Cutting, hastily.

“Oh, they are all reversions to the ancestral type, Ordhams from marrow
to skin. My father did not like artists, and in time, my mother, being a
dutiful wife, got her gowns from Worth until he died, although permitted
to invite Rossetti and a few others to her big parties. And she had much
political entertaining, political work generally, to do; she had little
leisure to cultivate that side of London.”

“Well, I am rather glad she has followed her natural bent since,” said
Mrs. Cutting, pleasantly. “Those nice Burne-Jones gowns she wears—or
are they Rossettis? Frankly, I can’t tell the pictures of one from the
other, except that Burne-Jones’s women seem to be longer and thinner,
particularly as to neck. I wonder what beauty Rossetti could have found
in incipient goitres.”

Ordham got up suddenly and lit a cigarette some distance away. Less than
a week since he had received a letter from Count Kilchberg, in which
that gentleman, innocently regaling him with the gossip of Munich,
mentioned that Frau von Wass had no goitre, had been shut up by her
husband, suddenly jealous of somebody, no one could discover whom. The
story ran that the Nachmeister had opened the eyes of the Herr
Geheimrath in order to save some friend of her own from the clutches of
the fair Hélène. No key was necessary for Ordham, and his conscience had
given him a bad hour, although it was with a pleasant sense of relief
that he realized he could do nothing. He had accordingly locked up the
memory again, and was irritated with his mother-in-law for liberating
it. But when he turned, he said carelessly:

“That was Rossetti’s chief fault in his last years, and due, no doubt,
to failing eyesight and too much chloral. Talking of throats always
brings to my mind the great Styr’s. That is one of her assets. It really
is as like a column of ivory as mere flesh can be. I have taken a box
for the Wagner season, and hope that both of you will go with me to
every performance.”

He hoped nothing of the sort, but he knew he was quite safe in
expressing himself with propriety, and words never cost him anything.

“How wonderful five whole weeks of Wagner will be!” cried Mabel, with
glittering eyes.

But Mrs. Cutting felt herself at liberty to be quite frank. “The first
night; thank you very much. No doubt it will be a great sight. I
understand the Prince has promised your mother to go, and of course that
means the world. But I have no hesitation in admitting that Wagner bores
me to extinction, no doubt because I cannot appreciate him. But I was
raised on composers whose characters do not talk interminably in a sort
of singing register, and I am too old to be converted. You do not mind
my frankness, I hope?”

“Of course not. But Mabel must come, as she loves all music, and has
heard nothing but _The Mikado_ for months.”

“Occasionally,” said Mrs. Cutting, playfully. “But for a while yet we
must be inflexible guardians.”

“Of course!” Ordham smiled into his wife’s eyes, but in truth was ill at
ease and screwing up his courage. After all, this was not his house, and
there was a point to be settled before Margarethe Styr arrived in
London. He had delayed the inevitable discussion as long as possible,
but now seemed as propitious a time as any; and although he did not
suspect the cause, it had by no means escaped his attention that these
people were at all times anxious to please him. He attributed it to the
fact that he was English and they Americans, but thought it very nice of

He strolled over to the table again and lit another cigarette, came back
to his deep chair, and turned his charming smile and large ingenuous
eyes upon his mother-in-law.

“Did I ever mention that Countess Tann is quite a friend of mine?”

Mrs. Cutting also braced herself. She, too, had anticipated this crisis.
“I think we spoke of her the first time we met again in London,” she
answered vaguely. “But you are such a diplomat! I should hardly know the
name of a single one of your London acquaintance if they did not come to
the house. I don’t think you have ever mentioned any of your Continental
friends. I doubt”—with a brilliant smile—“if your left hand is on
bowing terms with your right.”

“How can you say such a thing? How very odd! It seems to me that I must
often have spoken of Countess Tann—she was so very hospitable to me in
Munich. I met her at Neuschwanstein, where we both were guests of that
strangest of all strange mortals, Ludwig of Bavaria. Otherwise, I might
not have met her at all, for although Munich society is at her feet, she
goes about very little. No doubt she opened her doors to me because we
are both such good friends of your own good friend, Princess
Nachmeister, but she certainly showed me marked hospitality, and I shall
be glad to return it here in London.”

There was an ominous silence. Mrs. Cutting fanned herself vehemently, a
bright spot in either cheek. Ordham, his nervousness conquered, looked
at her steadily. Mabel twisted the ears of LaLa until he squealed and
ran off in dudgeon.

Mrs. Cutting spoke at last. “Do you recall any of our conversation on
the subject of—a—Countess Tann?”

“Was anything in particular said? I recall the fact of a conversation,
nothing more.”

“I think I expressed my disapproval of that sort of people. On the
stage, of course, it doesn’t matter; but to ask them under one’s
roof—that is quite another question. Of course, no one knows better
than yourself, dear John, that a man has many acquaintances his family
cannot receive.”

“I don’t think I follow you,” he said wonderingly. “You spoke just now
of feeling it a duty to encourage artists by social recognition. You
surely have no objection to the stage—above all, to the operatic

“Oh, not at all! But I have to this Countess Tann.” Mrs. Cutting, driven
to a defence of her principles, was the woman to fling social
diplomatics to the winds.

“What objections have you to Countess Tann?”

“It is not possible that you have not heard all the—gossip about that

“I have heard gossip of every woman I have ever heard discussed at all.
Gossip is the relaxation of overburdened minds, and most minds are
burdened one way or another. I cannot understand your attitude to
Countess Tann, when you receive—” and he mentioned the names of several
women notorious for more than beauty and fashion.

Mrs. Cutting flushed. “They go everywhere,” she said tartly.
“Nevertheless, I have received them only to please your mother; it has
been under protest, even although nothing against them is proved. In
time I shall tactfully weed them out.”

“There are no proofs against Countess Tann.”

“I am afraid proofs could easily be had. You were in the next room only
this afternoon when Mr. Levering entertained a group of us, not for the
first time, with reminiscences of Margaret Hill. That, he asserts, is
her real name, and he not only saw her year in and out in New York, but
knew her personally.”

“Levering is one of those rheumatic old beaux that sit in club windows
and manufacture scandal. There is no wheat in his chaff. And what a cur
to run about prejudicing people against a woman who has no man to defend
her, a woman so great, for that matter, that it is a presumption to
gossip about her at all! I shall cut him.”

“Dear me, I had no idea you could bring yourself to do anything so
direct and undiplomatic!” Mrs. Cutting laughed, but she was growing
angry. “And do remember that he is not only a very old friend of mine,
but a power even here in London, where he has come every season for
twenty years.”

“I have nothing to fear from Levering,” replied Ordham, coldly. “He is
not even a second-rate Englishman, and these transplanted American men
that have nothing better to do than invent or peddle racy gossip in
order to make sure of being asked every night to meet a title or two at
dinner are not taken very seriously by us.”

Mrs. Cutting made no reply for a moment. She realized that her
son-in-law rude must be very much in earnest. Her American soul rose in
wrath, but she kept Mabel’s happiness steadily before her, and finally
said, in her usual calm even tones: “I am afraid it is all true. We
won’t discuss poor old Levering. I have heard of Styr from other
sources, and although it distresses me greatly to refuse you anything
you wish, I fear I cannot receive her under my roof.”

“Granting that these stories are true, what difference does it make?” No
tones could be more even, more mellifluous, than Ordham’s. “She is a
great artist, many hold the greatest living. Shall we be more provincial
than Munich, which receives the artist with no reference to what she may
have been ten years ago, on the other side of the globe?”

“Why should artists be treated as if they were different from ordinary

“Because they are.”

Mrs. Cutting set her lips in a straight white line. “I recognize only
one code of morals. We Americans are brought up on splendid
old-fashioned principles. Nor do I recall anything in the Bible that
might be construed as exempting genius from the code that is necessary
to preserve society from anarchy.”

Mabel interposed hurriedly. She knew that on certain points her mother
was rigid, and she, too, regarded people that misbehaved themselves with
shocked disapproval. But it was too soon to put her husband on the
defensive. “Mother dear,” she said, in her clear little voice, “don’t
you think you might relax your rule for once, as Countess Tann is a
friend of Jackie’s? Besides, perhaps it is our duty to encourage these
people when they are trying to do right. Both Princess Nachmeister and
Mr. Levering say that her life has been exemplary in Munich. If we
snubbed her, we might drive her to the bad again.”

As she concluded her little effort she looked eagerly at her husband,
expecting a flash of gratitude from his expressive eyes, and not only
for coming to his rescue, but for refraining from the common jealousy of
wives. But Ordham averted his gaze, conscious of a still more intense
irritation. Mabel was not clever enough to play her part in daily
intercourse, little as she suspected it; and there were times when she
quite forgot the rôle she now knew it was necessary to act in order to
reinspire her husband with the belief that he had married the ideal
woman. Few women can spend their lives in full dress. In humbler walks
of life than Mabel’s, the wife exhibits herself to her husband in curl
papers and untidy wrappers. Mabel’s toilettes would have been perfect on
a desert island had her trunks been washed ashore, but to let her mind
run down at the heels was a temptation not to be resisted, now and
again, for had she not bagged her quarry? And although she schemed to
please her husband, adopted all the wise advice of Lady Pat, crossing
him in nothing and surrounding him with diversions, still would she read
no more books, still would she chatter; and she avoided “clever” men and
women as she would the plague. To know how to manage a man was
cleverness enough; what she did not know was that deft management, while
it may achieve certain results, is not always redolent of charm. Ordham
avoided her by the aid of every device his fertile brain could suggest,
for he dreaded the moment when self-restraint would snap and betray him
into wounding the poor little thing. She might be a silly child, but he
appreciated that she loved him devotedly. This uxorious affection,
however, was irritating him in more ways than one. Since their return to
town hardly a day had passed that she had not given him a present.
Extravagant and wealthy, it delighted her to shower costly “trifles” on
her husband; his rooms were littered with superb and superfluous
baubles. The new cigarette case in his pocket was of gold incrusted with
jewels, the old silver necessaries of his dressing-table had been
replaced with gold; he had now five watches, eight cigarette cases and
match boxes, fourteen ash trays, three sets of white pearls of the first
water and one of black, more cuff links than he pretended to count, four
sets of furnishings for his writing table, one of gold, one of Russian
enamel, one of Dresden china, and one of antique silver; and so on, ad
infinitum. Many of these precious objects were inscribed “Jackie.”

Only that morning it had occurred to him that all this stuff represented
a sum far in excess of the wretched thousand pounds which had caused him
so much torment and debasement of spirit, and he had felt not only vexed
at the senseless extravagance, but sick of saying “Thank you”; the
constant repetition of which phrase creates in time a sense of
obligation fatal both in love and friendship. Feeling that if called
upon once more to tell her, upon her daily return from Bond Street, that
she was the most marvellous and the most generous creature in the world,
he should disgrace himself, he had announced with playful decision that
she must waste no more money on him; he could not accustom himself all
at once to such extravagance, had a vague sense of defrauding the
poor—these were the only excuses he could think of. Mabel, who had
heard of his princely expenditures in Paris on an income of £500 a year,
was astonished, but inferred that he still felt the difference in their
fortunes, and had too much humour to return her presents with the money
she had given him. But nothing had been further from Jackie’s mind than
this delicate hair-splitting. The £200,000 he regarded as a right and
proper marriage settlement, not as a present; he had never mentioned the
subject to his wife. And whereas nobody liked making presents better
than himself, he made appropriate ones; and if he gave none to Mabel, it
was because he could think of nothing she did not possess already.

So he avoided her eyes when she flew to his relief, left his seat once
more, and with his back to them ground his teeth. He had himself well in
hand, but he was still too young to have at his absolute command that
gay and impenetrable mask, that perfect suavity of manner, for which he
is celebrated to-day. Nevertheless, he always rallied his unevenly
developed gifts in such crises as these.

“I don’t think it is worth while to discuss the question from an ethical
standpoint,” he said in a moment, turning to his wife with a smile on
his lips and none in his eyes. “Countess Tann, admitting that she ever
dwelt without the pale, will not be driven back by any act of ours. She
has the strongest character of any person I have ever known. The
question is merely this: I feel under certain obligations of hospitality
to her which I should be glad to discharge, and she is a great artist
who gives the world far more than it can ever give her in return.
Granting that she is this Margaret Hill of Levering’s, society is now
too deeply in her debt to consider anything but the interest it must pay
as long as she remains in the position to demand it.”

“I quite agree with you—up to a certain point.” Mrs. Cutting had almost
visibly choked over the largest doses of British insolence she had ever
been called upon to swallow, but she forced her lips to smile. “I am
quite willing to take a box at the opera, show myself often, and lend it
to my friends at other times—there are so many Americans in London just
now. I am not as young and as modern as you are, but at least I should
never dream of boycotting a stage artist in her own sphere; I am as
ready as any one to acknowledge the debt of the ordinary mortal to
genius. And nothing has ever distressed me more than the dreadful tales
of gifted people dying in garrets because a selfish world would not
pause to listen to them. But never, willingly at least, have I received
under my roof a woman of blemished reputation. My mother and my
grandmother were both leaders of society in New York, and that was their
inflexible rule; I was brought up on it. As you English people are so
much more—charitable, let us call it—I have endeavoured to make up my
mind to believe no gossip unproven by the divorce courts; but really,
some things are a bit too flagrant, and one professional beauty, at
least, who was here this afternoon will never come again by invitation.
And if I decline to receive a woman who has fairly blossomed in the
sunshine of royalty, and who is well born and bred, I can hardly be
expected to receive a creature that began life as a social outcast. I do
not assert anything so foolish, of course,” she added hastily, “as that
we have not a certain small percentage of wicked and foolish women in
American society. I am merely emphasizing the standard of the country,
and I for one shall continue to uphold it as a matter both of principle
and inclination.”

“Both are highly commendable, but, it strikes me, a trifle provincial
and inconvenient. In a new country I can understand that you must draw
hard and fast lines, but now that you have come to live among people
that are quite sure of themselves, why not emulate their independence?
It has struck me more than once since I have had the pleasure of knowing
so many Americans, that we have more independence, freedom, under our
old-fashioned monarchy, than you under a form of government where those
words may be worn meaningless with too constant iteration; you seem to
have an idea that their antithesis is aristocratic.”

“I don’t think you see my point.” Mrs. Cutting’s tones were so even that
they were monotonous, and she fixed her eyes on her fan. “You English
aristocrats indulge in the fiction that you are above all laws, are a
law unto yourselves. You are mental and moral anarchists. With us it is
quite different. It may be because we are new, but one thing is quite
positive: our standards are higher than yours, and they are fixed. We
are as free of mind as you are, but we don’t choose to use our freedom
in the same way. We reverence the laws we have accepted from the highest
authority, because they are right and proper laws, because they conduce
to purity of conduct and true happiness. But you—you English might
exist on a planet of your own. And yet you are a mass of contradictions.
Mr. Wilde was lamenting to-day, for the fortieth time, of British
provincialism, respectability, philistinism. Others make the same
lament. I have seen little of it myself. You—I am talking of your
class, of course,—use those characteristics as an excuse when it
happens to be convenient. To be just, I have not the slightest doubt
that most of the women I meet are faithful wives, but it is only because
the reverse does not appeal to them; they would admit, if pushed to the
wall, that the laws made to govern the conduct of common mortals do not
apply to them—certainly not! But if their anarchy—or, shall we say,
their insolence?—does not take that form, it does some other. The only
absolutely well-regulated women, according to the American standard,
that I have met in England, are, it would seem, survivals from your
middle class.”

“It is irresistible, dear Mrs. Cutting, to ask why, since you admire
your own country and despise ours, you have come to live among us?”

Mrs. Cutting raised her cold angry eyes and met the cold impassive eyes
opposite. Even had she been less fond of him, the utter absence of
insolence in his voice and face, the repose and detachment of his
manner, would have compelled her admiration. He continued with a smile:
“It would be a genuine deprivation were you to leave us in a fit of
disgust, but I am afraid you will, one of these days, unless you make up
your mind to take us as we are, swallow us whole.”

“It has occurred to me once or twice of late that I may return to New
York.” She paused a moment and then continued deliberately: “It is an
intensely disagreeable and humiliating conclusion to have come to, but I
believe that I am a snob. It annoys me the more as I have no
justification, like so many of these Americans at present going the pace
in London, wild with delight at being able to address peers of the realm
as ‘Bertie’ and ‘Billy.’ Even the founder of my family in America helped
to model its social structure. What is the secret of this fascination of
England for the well-born of the United States? Perhaps its mere
picturesque contrast to our republican institutions, architecture,
customs. Perhaps some harking back of the blood. Perhaps it is an
unconscious attempt to live the literature of our childhood, where all
the fascinating characters were kings and queens, lords and ladies.
Perhaps the sleepless American instinct to go straight to the top, that
‘the best is none too good for us,’ as our slang so patly expresses it.
Perhaps because you have reached the superlative, while we are still in
the comparative degree. No doubt, however, the reason, or all the
reasons, are given the complete and final expression in that one hideous
little word, ‘snob.’”

Ordham had never felt so much respect and liking for his mother-in-law.
His eyes softened and he said solicitously: “I hope you are not unhappy
here. Surely no American has ever been so well treated.”

“Ah! There is another point. One must live in, not merely visit,
England, to discover that its reasoning runs something like this: ‘We do
not say, of course, that you are not as good as we are—pray, what does
that matter? But you are different, and being different, of course you
are not quite as good.’”

Ordham laughed heartily. “I never heard it so cleverly put!” The warmth
in his voice and eyes brought the colour back to Mrs. Cutting’s face,
the animation to her glance. “Indeed, you must never leave us! We should
miss you too dreadfully. And you are one of us—really!—however some
stupid people may regard the majority of Americans. Is not my mother
devoted to you?”

“How devoted do you think Lady Bridgminster could be to any one?”

“Oh, I was not thinking of affection. She never pretends to much of
that. But with whom else is she so intimate?—and at least you have
never found her rude.”

“Bad manners are not one of her fads, as they are with a good many I
could mention; and, beyond all question, I like her better than any
woman in London, for, in her way, she is genuine; she is, in fact, too
arrogant to be anything else. But that she regards me wholly as her
equal—not for a moment do I believe anything of the sort. And the
position is beginning to gall me.”

“Momma!” Mabel had listened to this conversation appalled, almost
breathless. “Surely, you would not go away and leave me?”

“Not for a while yet, darling—certainly not! But I feel that the time
will come when we shall have to satisfy ourselves with a yearly
interchange of visits.” She looked at Ordham as if bracing herself
again. “Let us have it out. We like each other too well to quarrel, and
it is better to come to a complete understanding now than to be
continually bringing up unpleasant subjects. Nothing disgusts me more
than this English worship of what you call personality. To receive
people that have forfeited their social rights merely because they have
some remarkable personal charm, have painted a picture, or written a
book, is putting a premium upon libertinage, swells the ‘artistic’
hordes that hardly dare be virtuous lest they be thought second-rate.
Nor do I in the least believe in the sincerity of all this kow-towing to
talent. You are a great and bored people, you must have fads; that is
all there is to it!”

“Does all that mean you will not receive Countess Tann?” He stood up,
looking appealingly at his mother-in-law, whom he liked better for
sticking to her little guns, inconvenient as they were to himself. He
drew his arms together, after his fashion when nervous. “Are you really
unrelenting? Will you not call on Countess Tann, and ask her to come
here? I shall feel very awkward if you do not. My mother has promised to
be nice to her, but I am not living in her house.”

“Do, mother,” whispered Mabel.

But on this point Mrs. Cutting was pure steel, although she found it no
easy matter to resist Ordham when he deigned to coax. “No—I am
desperately sorry, but I cannot. You must not ask it of me. If I forced
myself to take that woman by the hand, I should lose my self-control and
be rude to her. But, indeed, to touch her would be a physical as well as
a moral impossibility. I am very sorry. I hate to deny you anything.”

She swept out of the room hastily, and Mabel looked apprehensively at
her husband, who, for the fourth time, was striking a match with his
back to her.


Jackie gritted his teeth, but answered politely, “Well, Mabel?”

“Are you angry with me? It is too severe of mother.”

“Of course not. How can you say such a thing?”

“Well, you have a right to be. But perhaps I can talk mother over.”

“I am sure you cannot. But it doesn’t matter. I fancy Countess Tann will
understand—she is an American! Besides, no doubt we have wasted a lot
of talk and temper over nothing. She will be much too busy for society.
Your mother might have sacrificed her principles by leaving a card. A
Wagner prima donna who is to sing eighteen times in five weeks, besides
rehearsing with a scratch company, would no doubt herself spare you the
indignity of meeting a woman who not only has been as much gossiped
about as some eight or ten that were here to-day, but who hails from the

“Jackie! Please don’t talk as if we were dreadful snobs.”

“On the contrary, I think your mother did herself an injustice. What
more natural than to prefer England to America? Besides, she has the
courage of her opinions—I think nobody, certainly not Americans,
appreciates that sort of courage as much as the English. By the way, you
will not mind if I dine with my mother to-night? I have rather neglected

“Your mother dines out every night of her life! Do you really mean that
you will leave me if I beg you not to?”

“Oh, I am sure you will not do that—you are quite the most charmingly
unselfish person in the world.”

Once more he watched those great crystal tears well up and over. The
sight fascinated him as a phenomenon, but he too was pure steel. Mabel
saw the long line of his jaw grow longer and harder under the fine firm
flesh, stared into the eyes that were veiled to conceal their glitter.
He felt immeasurably older than this poor silly child to whom, under God
knew what delusion, he had fastened himself for life, and he was still
determined to treat her with what kindness and consideration he could
command. He took out his handkerchief and dried her eyes. “I am so
sorry! But you must let me play the dutiful son once in a while. Suppose
you take your dinner in bed. You will feel that much more refreshed

“Will you come home early?” sobbed Mabel.

“Of course!”

                         THE ROOM IN THE TEMPLE

Ordham did dine with his mother, whom he knew to be alone, but he left
her after coffee, and drove to the Temple. He roamed about the gardens
for a time, watching the ghost shadows of the ancient buildings, the
blue-black mystery of the river that it took an American artist to
interpret; then made his way to the Inner Temple and ascended to an
upper floor, opening a door with a latch-key. The gas he lit revealed,
not an office, but a comfortably furnished den, the walls covered with
the red paper dear to the heart of even the exceptional man. There were
several boxes of cigars and cigarettes on a buffet, a tea service, a
roller desk, manifestly locked, and on the walls all the photographs he
had taken of Styr during their summer. They were really creditable
performances, and he had put them under glass, not only for personal
reasons, but because he fully appreciated their unique value, even
though he had no mind that any eyes but his should behold them. The
collection represented Styr in every costume familiar to opera goers: in
her Fedora gowns, in other home toilettes, and in Alpine costume leaning
on her staff against a background of rocks, the cross on Kochel, and the
glacier above Berchtesgaden. Several times Fräulein Lutz had been
induced to snap the camera and take them together.

Ordham had now revelled in this unsuspected refuge for something over
two months. At the castle Mabel had been too much occupied to enter his
rooms save now and then on a sentimental excursion; but in the
comparative seclusion of town and increasing ennui, she not only
wandered in and out of his rooms perpetually, whether he were there or
not, but took an inexplicable pleasure in upsetting and rearranging his
things. This was a phase of matrimony for which Ordham was wholly
unprepared, although he recalled an amusing picture Styr had drawn of
one phase of the American household: the front bedroom the common
sitting room; formality, much less exclusiveness, practically unknown.
He had assumed that among the wealthy classes, accustomed to large
houses, life would be planned on the European scale; but while he was
given his own suite as a matter of course in Grosvenor Square, the
ancient instinct was planted in Mabel, whose ancestors had been simple
democratic folk to whom the traditions of their new country were dear,
despite their social eminence. It never occurred to her that what was
her Jackie’s was not her own, nor was it in her to suspect that she
could fail to be welcome at all hours and seasons.

Ordham had been amused at first, but not for long. When only his
opportune return diverted her from a cabinet which contained Styr’s
letters and photographs, he was so incensed that he nearly ordered her
out instead of gently conducting her forth to admire a new picture.
After a day of black, albeit invisible, sulks, that gift for compromise
which seldom failed him came to his rescue; and a week later found him
installed in The Temple, with solitude within and beauty without, and
only the roar of the Strand in his ears. Here he wrote his letters to
Styr, read and reread hers, smoked, and dwelt upon the happiness of the
past summer, as his eyes travelled from presentment to presentment of
its heroine. He also enjoyed the sensation of deceiving his wife, for he
felt that it was even a duty to balk a gregarious nature like that, and
this secret life that he shared with Styr alone was eminently agreeable
to the future master of the diplomatic art. Too proud to write of his
disappointment to his friend, however her presence might have tempted
confession, the very fact that he had taken this room as a solitary
retreat would have told the whole story to his acute correspondent, even
had not that atmosphere of melancholy superseded the subtle exaltation
of those letters written from Ordham when his energies were humming and
he was excited with a foretaste of power.

He lit the fire and a cigar, and settled himself into the ample Morris
chair, but not with his usual sense of unqualified delight. Heretofore,
when he had entered this room, it was to banish all unpleasant thought,
all haunting doubt; but to-night he intended to open certain water-tight
compartments and look squarely on their contents. He fancied that this
unusual disposition to confront and probe must be inspired by the woman
who had pricked his energies in so many other ways. Certainly, had he
never known her, he would, after some such crisis as this evening’s
understanding with his mother-in-law, have gone at once to the theatre,
postponed indefinitely the admission that his marriage was a mistake.

No man could be more direct, more outspoken, than Ordham when it suited
him, and this was his chief charm for people thrown much in his
society,—betraying, as it did, the cool courage under his listless
habit, furnishing the high lights, as it were, for that formal
indubitably diplomatic nature. To-night he put several facts into the
plainest possible English. He was mortally tired of his wife, hopelessly
disappointed in her. He could have resigned himself to her intellectual
lacks, trusting to time and his own assiduous tutoring to furnish her
skull respectably; but her character was so utterly without variety,
depth, mystery, interest of any sort, that the task of stuffing the
brain was not worth while. Neither time nor determination can create a
personality, and to Ordham’s mind people without strong individual
characteristics were hardly worthy of visibility, no matter how
admirable the shell. He had caught himself staring at Mabel in
wonderment, half fancying he saw behind her that stately romantic
elusive figure of his wooing, suggesting infinite possibilities. Had he
been hypnotized, and where had she gone? True, Mabel was as beautiful as
ever, as tall, her manners retained their grace, her head its lofty
poise; but her features lost their dignity, her eyes their dreams, the
moment she began to chatter; and heavens, how she did chatter!

He was still annoyed and embarrassed at this prospect of early
paternity, still felt that this projection of himself would appropriate
what was left of his youth; but at least it had the merit of causing a
certain tenderness to linger. Not for the world would he have given
Mabel a hint of his present evolution; he had only to remind himself of
her pathetic condition to be delivered of the temptation. But later,
when she was well again, strong, more tactless than ever in her renewed
beauty and social successes, should he hate her? This was the ghost that
had been tapping at his brain for weeks. He had no desire to hate his
wife. It would be demoralizing, inconvenient, a constant source of
irritation. Could he but crowd the world between them, wean her until
she shared his own indifference, he fancied he could accept his lot
philosophically; a well-bred ornamental wife was not to be despised. But
inflict himself with her society and pertinacious affections he would

He realized now why his spirits had gradually sunk below their normal
level, save only when the drawing-rooms were full of kaleidoscopic
guests; moreover, that resentment had steadily grown at the trickery
which had brought him to his present pass, anger at his own unthinkable
stupidity. True, he was now immensely wealthy, but a young Briton’s only
appreciation of money is in the incessant want of it, and, this passed,
Ordham had almost forgotten that checkered interval between his father’s
death and his present affluence. Besides, it was now positive that his
brother had a mortal, if leisurely, disease; his inheritance was but a
matter of time. If these women had not made a fool of him, he should
still be free—young.

But he was not the man to arrest his vision on the surface of his
mistakes. He stared appalled at the sudden and vivid realization of all
that true marriage meant. Mere mating, respectable or otherwise, that
automatic opening of the door to a waiting generation always squatting
on the threshold, was not for men like himself; the world swarmed with
those that asked for nothing better, and cared little whether nature
blindfolded them or not; why could not he have been spared? Marriage—it
was a portentous thing; no mere similarity of tastes due to breeding and
experience, but, for highly organized beings, a thousand points of
contact, mental, physical, spiritual, which compassed an unimaginable
union; mystery and discovery; the quick response to half utterances, the
same enthusiasms in beauties and pleasures forever hidden from the mass
upon whose fertile surfaces grew the exotics of life; passions of soul
and body such as only Styr could suggest when the music of Wagner set
her free; immortality this side of the grave,—that was union in love as
Ordham conceived it. And consciously or not, upon at least half a
thousand points had he met and mingled with Margarethe Styr. The other
half, of course, were not to be commanded in a mere romantic friendship,
wandering silently with the woman in scenes made up of ice and stars,
floating on sinister lakes between Plutonian walls, sitting in a dimly
lit room above the murmuring Isar till dawn—but how wonderful it all
had been! Had he really appreciated it?

When he left her, he had refused to ask himself if she loved him, but he
knew that she did. It breathed in her letters, floated from them in an
almost visible aura. From the faithful Kilchberg he had heard in due
course of her stupendous performance of _Isolde_, knew that she must
have received his letter immediately before it.

Did he love her? It was significant that he did not reply even to
himself, “Of course!” But although he admitted it as frankly as he had
disposed of his sentiments toward his wife, he was as yet conscious of
nothing beyond a vast immaterial longing for that other part of himself,
so full of splendour and terrible mystery. After some dodging he
analyzed this paradox also: he was sitting in the forbidding wreckage of
early matrimonial disillusions, his passions lay so deep under the
torpors he had cultivated that they had been but superficially
disturbed, and he was still very shy. But between himself and Margarethe
Styr there could be every response, every correlation, every analogue.
It only depended upon circumstance or their own wills when that chemical
affinity developed which sooner or later drives all lovers into each
other’s arms. In this hour of cold reasoning, of almost vicious hatred
of all things pertaining to his condition, he hoped it would be late, or
never. He had not the least idea whether he lived for that moment or
wished that Styr had never crossed his orbit. It was his disposition to
live on the surface—there was so much on the surface! A man might
occupy himself with it for a lifetime, and far better than plunging down
to eternal fires. He believed that the wise men of life were its
dilettantes, and to be prince of the dilettantes had nature eminently
equipped him. But alas! . . .

Of course he did not wish he had never met Styr! What nonsense! Not only
did he owe to her all he was or ever should be, not only was he
philosophical by habit and temper, but he should exult in the memory of
her to the end of his days. He strongly doubted, however, if he wanted
to add to those memories, in other words enter upon a different phase.
Had it not been for the great advantages she must reap from this London
season, he could have wished that he had left England to educate itself.
He longed above all things to meet her again, and there was nothing
which he would not have done to avoid it. Could they get through these
thirty-five days in safety? They would be crowded with work and social
engagements; possibly he should see little of her, and prosaic London
was not romantic Bavaria. Did he emerge from this coming ordeal with
that spiritual bond between them still unvitalized, he vowed that he
never would see her again. The moment they ceased to play with love
would be the first real moment of his life, and he had but a confused
idea of what must come after; nor was it comfortable to speculate. It
was not so much that he dreaded the energies of a real passion, as the
recklessness they might breed. He had no wish to sacrifice his career,
to be haled into the divorce courts, to be relegated to that half world
which exists for men as well as for women, particularly for young fools,
there to be known as “Styr’s lover.”

And a career he was determined to have. He was become fully conscious of
his abilities, his gift for leadership, his enjoyment of power. And if
he had thought little or not at all of serving his country when
preparing for the diplomatic career, he thought of it a great deal now.
If much of his careless insolent youth had been buried under
disillusions and ennui these last months, he found himself and life
twice as interesting. Not lightly would he imperil that future which for
the first time seemed vital and full. . . .

But _Styr? Styr? Styr?_ He recalled the young heroes of Balzac and other
veracious French realists, who wept as freely as women when a cruel
destiny dammed up their love secretions. He envied them, but remembered
also that one secret of the supremacy of the British race was that it
used its emotions to feed its energies, and began to act while its more
brilliant but less practical neighbours were spending half their forces
in grief or rage. But this reflection did not abate one whit of his
desire to be alone with this woman once more—he suddenly realized that
it was growing from moment to moment, that his cold analytical temper
had been displaced by throbbing pulses. He rose hastily, walked the
room, lit another cigar, spent an hour reading her letters. They always
translated him from the present, soothed as well as stimulated him,
banished his melancholy, leaving only a pleasant sadness in its wake. He
walked home toward dawn almost happy. Thirty-five days! At least they
would have many talks. Thank God that “dark threshold,” as she once had
phrased it, had never been crossed, would hardly obtrude itself during
this the last of their intimacies. And the antechamber was very large
and of an inexpressible beauty. Not to compare with it were the
commonplace mansions whose every corner was free to so many men, and for
life. He was an ingrate. He would accept the good the gods brought him
and take devilish good care not to cry for more.

When he reached home, he found Mabel asleep on a sofa in his room, with
the stains of tears on her face. He carried her into her own room and
put her to bed. Then, as she inevitably awakened and wanted to talk, he
considerately mixed her a sleeping draught, and saw no more of her until
the luncheon hour.

                       THE ROCKET WITHOUT A STICK

When a great audience assembles with an amiable desire to be pleased,
agreeably titillated with the thought of a new interest in the wide and
often barren ranges of the impersonal life, and with their vanity
pluming itself upon inaugurating a new era, the object of their
distinguished regard must fail ignominiously to convince them that they
have made a mistake.

Covent Garden was filled from stalls to roof on the night of Styr’s
London débût, and the pit and the galleries were crowded with the true
music lovers, who were mainly Germans. Princess Nachmeister, as well as
Ordham and the enthusiasts he had enlisted, both in the fashionable and
artistic world, had pulled the wires so subtly that practically
everybody present fancied himself the discoverer of Styr, and hardly a
person in the stalls and boxes but bore a distinguished name, either
inherited or made. Ordham sat in his box alone. Mabel was ailing and her
mother remained with her. He looked as impassive as he was nervous and
angry; Styr had stolen into London, no one knew when, and he had not had
a glimpse of her in private, although a few moments before he left
Grosvenor Square he had received an invitation to lunch with her on the
following day.

The opera was _Tristan und Isolde_, and Styr, delighted to sing it again
after her long abstinence, gave the great rendering to which Ordham was
accustomed. Although the fashionable part of the audience was reduced
almost to idiocy before the end of the evening, particularly during the
long innings of the tenor—second-rate, of course, on such short notice,
and at this season—in the last act, there was no question of Styr’s
personal triumph. The most bored remained until the end, and then gave
“The Great German Prima Donna” an ovation. She had been called out
repeatedly after the two preceding acts, but only twenty appearances
after the final curtain satisfied an audience proud of its perspicacity,
and generously happy in paying tribute to genius. The Germans shouted
themselves hoarse, particularly when she dragged Richter out with her.
All admired Styr’s manner of receiving homage almost as much as her
voice and acting. It was neither effusive like that of the Latin song
birds to whom they were accustomed; she kissed no bouquets and baskets
of orchids, although these tributes were many: nor was she the haughty
gracious queen of fiction, after the fashion of certain actresses and
prime donne, thoroughly spoilt or qualifying for social incursions. She
merely walked out and showed herself, seeming to tower above them all,
with the cold, calm, grave majesty of the Sphinx. She was Styr. She was
theirs until the opera lights went out. They might look their full. She
bent her head to the royal box only because custom demanded it;
nevertheless, she throbbed with exultation, for she knew that the wires
would carry her triumph that night to every capital in the world. Her
fortune was made. Once she sought Ordham’s eyes, and her own flashed out
the gratitude she felt, then lingered for fully half a minute. When the
ovation subsided, she obeyed a summons to the royal box, repaid
compliments with the suave phrases of long experience, then, ignoring
the crowd gathered about her dressing room, and numerous invitations to
supper, went home to her frugal meal and bed.

                 *        *        *        *        *

Ordham walked restlessly up and down the large private sitting room in
one of the Dover Street hotels where a table was laid for two. The
Countess Tann, he had been informed, was dressing, begged him to accept
her apologies; she would join him in ten minutes.

He roamed about for half an hour, so torn with annoyance, doubt, and
mortification, as well as resentment against the great and capricious
Styr herself, that he was far from that mood of tremulous happiness,
stung with fear, which he had achieved in imagination many times. It was
abominable of Styr to steal into London when he had made up his mind to
rise at four of the clock and meet her at the station. With this heroic
act he had hoped to atone for certain unavoidable derelictions. It was
the bitterest mortification of his life that he was unable to introduce
his friend to London society under his own roof. His mother-in-law had
deftly avoided a renewal of the subject. Mabel had sweetly vowed to
break through that Puritan casing in which her mother dwelt like an
antediluvian mammal (this was Ordham’s image, not Mabel’s); but he had
chanced to overhear a scrap of conversation between the pair which
convinced him that not only did she meditate nothing of the sort, but
had joined forces with her mother and old Levering in acquainting London
society with the variegated, manifold, and heinous iniquities of Styr’s
past. The favourite story, Ordham discovered soon after, was that “Peggy
Hill” had deserted her starving and consumptive mother in the native
mining town to become the squaw of an Indian chieftain, and had worn
paint and feathers and carried pappooses on her back until a Western
millionnaire had chanced along, offered her sealskin and diamonds,
fought a duel unto death with the chieftain—who, wearing only feathers,
had many vulnerable points—and carried the heartless mother to New
York. There she promptly deserted him for a horse jockey, and after
having figured as co-respondent in innumerable divorce suits, had opened
a disreputable resort, over which she had presided affluently (when not
in jail) until ordered once for all out of New York by the police. Then
she had cultivated her voice, and, finding it a gold mine, conserved it
with a fairly consistent exercise of virtue. This richly picturesque
past, in which any prima donna might rejoice, delighted London, but it
was hardly one to open the portals of society. London could stand a good
deal—but really! There are lines! They would applaud her in Covent
Garden, talk about her over every tea cup; but extend to her the
greatest of the world’s hospitalities—hardly! The information that
Munich society was at her feet they treated with the contempt it
deserved. _Munich!_

Ordham had discovered with astonishment and no little humiliation, that
although with money, energy, and finesse, he might import German opera
to London and induce people to hear it, although he was popular,
admired, and wealthy, he had practically no power socially. He reflected
bitterly that this was not to be accounted for only by his youth, his
brother’s durability, the fact that he was not established under an
imposing roof of his own, but that, much as he was liked, he stood for
nothing, would be forgotten before he had lived out of London a month.
He was a second son married to a rich American girl and living in the
house of his mother-in-law. Who was he to presume to dictate to London
society? Had he attempted it, he would have been put in his place as
summarily as had he been an American himself.

And his mother had basely deserted him. Invited to join a driving party
to the châteaux of northern France, she had left London with a hurried
note of explanation to her son, feigning to forget the coming of his
friend, but devoutly thankful for any escape from what was assuming the
contours of a problem. She might rank among the independent women of
London, rather weak on the subject of celebrities; but really! His
grandmother doted on him, and he had approached her in the hope that she
in her great rank and cynical indifference to a criticism that never
could affect her, would help him out of his difficulty, enable him to
return some of those hospitalities now bulking in his tormented
imagination. But he had merely received a reminder of the duke’s
aversion from foreigners and disbursements, and much sound advice
against making mistakes in his youth; society had cast out its own
before. But he had no intention of insulting Styr by entertaining her
without the countenance of his family.

His only success had been among certain personages in the world of art,
letters, and music, who, indeed, did not wait for his gentle
manipulation; they were thankful for the opportunity to do homage to one
of the world’s great artists. Whether the ridiculous stories current
were true or not hardly concerned them, but they assumed as a matter of
course that they were incidental, having suffered more or less
themselves. Styr was certain to receive a social ovation from the sets
that Ordham privately thought the best worth while in London, but that
by no means satisfied him; after all, they were not of his own class,
and it was this class—in the eyes of the world, representative
England—that he had set his heart upon honouring his friend.

As he wandered about, glaring at the walls and furniture, far too
exclusive to be artistic (it was, indeed, early Victorian), he felt his
temper rising every moment; he hated Life, that gave with one hand only
to take with the other, that had contracted the habit of late of balking
his royal pleasure. Nevertheless, he was able to reflect that it was as
well many circumstances had combined to stifle the lover in him for the
moment. This first interview was the only one he had dreaded. Could they
but shoot those breakers even plain speech between them would not be
fraught with danger. He did not need experience to assure him that when
lovers, long inarticulate, meet after a separation not too long, those
brain centres that check and regulate human actions are liable to
suffocation by fire and flood. But, were all barriers razed, he was in
too bad a humour to-day (he had also been forced to swallow effusive
regrets from Mabel before leaving home) to find a corner in him for
ardours. At the same time he sighed at this new evidence of the eternal
contrast between the anticipated and the real; his tremours over this
first meeting had been very sweet.

Nothing perhaps is so eloquent of the artless respectability of the
British race as the composition of its older hotels: drawing-rooms and
bedrooms rarely connect. (And yet an Englishwoman, visiting the United
States for the first time, innocently remarked that she could see the
Americans were a virtuous race, as they used portières instead of
doors!) The only door of Styr’s sitting room in this expensive hostelry
gave entrance to the public corridor. Ordham heard the hissing of
under-flounces for a full minute before the door opened and Styr
entered. Her cheeks were flushed. She wore a Fedora gown of white
camel’s-hair and silk, with a yellow flower in her hair and another in
her girdle. He had never seen her look so lovely off the stage.

“It is too delightful to see you once more!” she cried with the warm
hypocrisy of a woman who longs to fling herself into a man’s arms and
say nothing. “I know I am unforgiven for not letting you come to the
station. But did you really think I should let you see me after
twenty-four hours in train and boat? That was like a man! And now I have
kept you waiting. But of course I expected that you would be late.”

“How can you say such a thing? I wanted above all things to go to that
train. I shall never forgive you.”

“Ah! but had I let you meet me, I never should have forgiven myself.
Shall we sit beside these delightful window boxes? I changed the
luncheon hour to two o’clock—I woke up so late. Oh, tell me that I was
quite wonderful last night. It seemed to me that I never had made a real
effort before. I know that I triumphed, but I want to hear that you were

Ordham muttered what banalities he could summon. It was evident that her
spirits were high, whether artificial or not. She ran on: “Never, never
can I express to you what this sudden and splendid opportunity to sing
in London means to me. You are my good angel. What had I ever done that
you should take so much trouble for me? Those examinations? Yes, for
that I shall take credit till the last of my days. But even so—”

“There was no question of paying any debt.” Ordham was scowling at the
roses in the carpet. “I could not if I would repay you for many things.
I have not the least desire to do so. I wanted you to come here and
force London to accept Wagner. Of course you have become the rage in a
night. You will reconquer some seventeen times during this too brief
visit. It is hardly worth talking about. I wonder if you will like
London. Have you ever been here before? I forget.”

“Never. Think of it! I had often visited the Continent before going
there to live, but for one reason or another I never got to London. I am
as excited at the idea of seeing as of singing to it.”

He had recklessly brought up the subject, but he suddenly felt the
meanness of every excuse he had concocted. Should he tell her the truth?
Why not first as last? She would not be long discovering it. While he
hesitated, she came to his rescue. Before leaving Munich Princess
Nachmeister had casually remarked that she feared dear Adela was too
puritanical to receive a stage artist under her roof; for the matter of
that, the Anglo-Saxon races, compared with the continent of Europe, were
so provincial on many subjects that she never met an English or American
woman who did not make her feel as if she were the mistress of every man
in Europe. But as regarded stage folk, it must be remembered that Munich
was almost exceptional in its catholicity. In Paris, in Rome, in many
other capitals, they were anathema outside their proper spheres.
Therefore was Styr prepared for the dark brow and nervous manner of her
friend. She knew that as he had not written her before this of
receptions arranged in her honour and begging her to reserve certain
dates, his family must have refused point-blank to receive her. She was
hardly disappointed, for she had little of the American’s romantic
weakness for the social citadels of the old world, and she knew Ordham
so well that her sympathy in any case would have been for him, not for
herself. She leaned forward and said impulsively:

“Do promise me one thing! This is not only my first visit to England,
but it may be a long time before I can come again. I want to be a
tourist. I want to see all the sights. And to see them with you! Ah,
fancy! Don’t be haughty and tell me that you scorn sight-seeing. Don’t
tell me that you want me to meet a lot of tiresome people. I have not
time for both. Do you hate the idea?”

“Hate it?” He seized her hand and kissed it in his immense relief. “I
should love it. I have never been inside the Tower, nor the British
Museum, and only once to the Abbey—to a wedding. It will be too
enchanting to have all those hours alone with you. We will go to Windsor
and Hampton Court, Madame Tussaud’s and the National Gallery, exactly
like two American tourists. Promise that you will not go to a single
place with any one else.”

“I do not expect to see any one else except the opera house people.”

“But—of course!—attentions will be showered upon you. It is most
unfortunate that my wife—”

“Oh, do let me forget that you are married. We shall wander about just
as we did in Bavaria, and in this crowded city no one will be the wiser.
Will you take me to the Tower this afternoon?”

“Will I? Rather!”

His good humour was quite restored, and he spent an entirely happy
afternoon, even condescending to share her interest in that mighty
volume of tragic drama, the Tower of London.


Mabel rustled into her husband’s dressing room as he was giving the last
careful strokes to his front locks, which he arranged in a manner
peculiar to himself. He nodded to her absently, longing for the time
when he could ask her bluntly to respect his privacy, since she was
impervious to hints, and she wandered to the window and fingered the
bright flowers in the boxes.

“It is such a heavenly day,” she sighed. “Somehow, I never can grow
accustomed to spending summer in the city. How—how—does Countess Tann
like London?”

“She loves it, of course. Who does not love London at this season?”

“Well, it is certainly much nicer than to sing here in winter. I suppose
she is perfectly wild over her success.”

“She has never had anything else.”

“But I mean in London, where no one, that is only a few, really likes
Wagner. Some one said yesterday that, although Styr’s personal success
was beyond dispute, he feared the Wagner season would be a failure as a
whole; five weeks of Wagner was more than any one not a German could
stand, and if they give the Ring again—”

“They will do nothing so tactless. But _Die Walküre_ is romantic enough
to please the silliest and great enough to entrance those that really do
know music. No other performance of _Götterdämmerung_ will be given,
more’s the pity, for Brünhilde was always one of her two greatest rôles,
and her rendering of it has deepened and even changed somewhat since I
heard it in Munich. But no doubt it would fill the house only once—with
people that want to be able to say they have heard the Ring! Styr has
also consented to sing Elizabeth and Elsa; her voice is rather heavy for
those rôles, but a hundred people will go to hear _Lohengrin_ and
_Tannhäuser_ where one will even show himself at the greater operas a
second time. The enterprise is not in the hands of fools—I know several
members of the committee—and everything has been thought of to insure
the season’s success.”

“How nice! Of course she is quite extraordinary. I am so sorry I could
only sit through one act last night. And what a pity I cannot meet her.
It is too old-fashioned of mother.”

“You could leave a card on her.”

“But, Jackie dear, she would then feel at liberty to come here, and
after all it is mother’s house.”

Ordham turned to her with a rising flush. “Do you mean that you believe
Countess Tann would force herself upon any one? I must have given you a
strange opinion of her.”

“Good heavens, Jackie dear, I hope you have not told her that we—that
mother will not receive her. How dreadful!”

“Certainly I have not. But she does not happen to be a fool. She has now
been in London ten days, and as neither my wife nor my mother-in-law has
left so much as a card on her, don’t you suppose she understands?”

“But surely you told her that I cannot go about?”

“You drive every day. There is no effort involved in leaving a card.”

“But—how like a man! One can hardly go that far and no farther. If this
were only our house!”

Ordham drew his lids together. “If it were, would you receive Countess

But Mabel did not flinch. “Of course I would, Jackie darling. I would
even defy mother—we could go to a hotel—if only I felt up to it. But I
am a wreck and mother takes such care of me.”

Ordham set his teeth and turned away, grimly reflecting that the one
mental trait his wife possessed which compelled his admiration was the
neatness with which she could deliver a lie. She broke off the heads of
several geraniums and then cried out, as if suddenly inspired with a
bright idea: “Let us go to the country to-day. It is too utterly
heavenly to stay in town. Let us take a long drive through Surrey.”

“It is not good for you to take long drives.”

“Oh, it won’t hurt me a bit. We can rest often in those ducky little
inns, and sit in the woods. It would be too delicious.”

“There might be an accident, and I never should forgive myself.”

“Oh! With our horses? One is always thankful when any horses of mother’s
will go off a walk. Say that you will!” She spoke with a charming
girlish eagerness.

“I am afraid that I cannot. I have half a dozen engagements.”

“But, Jackie darling, you ought not to make engagements for a whole day
when you know how lonesome I am without you.” Mabel fell headlong into
the domestic snare, heedless of resolutions and advice from her

He turned to her with the flush gone from his face, and said in the
gentlest manner possible: “Should you mind if I asked you not to call me
Jackie? I have often intended to do so. I hope you don’t mind.”

It was Mabel’s turn to flush, and although her temper was not quick, her
eyes flashed and her lips trembled. “Why?” she demanded. “Do—do you
think it a liberty?”

“How can you say such a thing?” But although he spoke promptly, he was
surprised to discover that she had put a latent resentment into form.

“Why,” stammered Mabel, “you are _English_. I believe mother is right.
But this—this is really too much. I wonder if you could ever understand
that we Americans have exactly as good an opinion of ourselves as you
English have of yourselves? Perhaps we too look down upon all other
nations. We have the right to! United States History is the only history
that English people never seem to know anything about.”

“You look too pretty when you flash with patriotism like that.” Ordham
smiled and kissed her lightly. “But you flew off at a tangent without
giving me time to explain. It merely happens that I have always hated
the nickname of Jack. In fact, I don’t like nicknames at all. It seems
to me that they deindividualize. Men that permit themselves to be called
Bertie and Olly and Sonny might as well shave their heads or wear a
beard. I was christened John, and I feel John, not Johnny or Jackie.”

“Your mother calls you Johnny.”

“My mother goes in for fads. Nobody else has ever dared to call me

Mabel, always easily mollified, put her arms about his unresponsive
neck. “If you had told me before, I never would have called you Jackie,
although I love it, and John is so horridly formal. I shall feel as if I
were addressing my husband’s double, or something. Do you really hate


“Well! . . . I won’t any more. But you must do something for me in
return. You must take me to the country to-day.”

“I really could not take the risk.”

“Then take me to Kensington Gardens.”

“I am so sorry—I think I told you I had several engagements. You
see—you are generally occupied all day, with one thing or another. I
have been thrown on my own resources, and now I cannot get out of these
engagements I have made.”

“But you always used to come home to luncheon.”

“Now that you have so many American friends in London I did not fancy
you would miss me; and as several of my own old friends are in town, I
thought it a good opportunity to show them some attentions.”

“Why don’t you bring them to the house?”

“I could not think of fatiguing you, and men prefer to dine at a club,

The words “Margarethe Styr” were shrieking in Mabel’s brain, but she was
very proud, and rarely impolitic in any but small matters. Her mother
had soothed her growing jealousy by assuring her that the great singer
was far too occupied, now that all artistic London was running after
her, to spare time for any man. Mabel could not crush her natural
suspicions, particularly as she had discovered that he had once more
thrown over the much-enduring Foreign Office, but she was determined not
to alienate this puzzling young Englishman, whom she understood less
every day, by “making scenes.” “Don’t bore him!” Lady Pat had warned her
before leaving for France. “Give him his head and don’t ask him
questions. He would not confide in himself if he could help it. He
worships you and is far too lazy to pursue any woman, or even to respond
to her advances. But don’t bore him.”

Mabel, with all the American girl’s independence of spirit, and firm
belief in the inferiority of man, found such advice little to her taste,
but, loving as she did, was willing to accept any that would help her to
enchain her husband’s languid affections. But more than once of late she
had turned cold as she asked herself if ever she could understand him,
become really intimate with him. And now, kind and thoughtful as he
still was, another fear was whispering. It seemed to her confirmed by
his refusal of her simple request. While she might control the more
direct expressions of her jealousy, the temptation was irresistible to
indulge in the ancient formulæ. She dropped her arms and turned away
with a quivering lip.

“I don’t believe you love me any longer!”

“How can you say such a thing?”

“Do you?”

“Of course.”

She wheeled about and regarded him steadily. It occurred to him that she
looked less vapidly pretty than usual.

“If you ceased to care for me,” she said stammeringly, her eyes widening
with fear, “you would kill me. I never could stand it—never—I think
that is all there is to me.”

“What a dear little thing you are. As if any man could help caring for
the most charming wife in England. But you should have married Stanley,
who is always exactly the same. I am afraid I am not. But as for the
rest—do not be silly. Now I must run. Take care of yourself and don’t
think of going for a drive of more than an hour.”

He tapped her on the cheek, dropped a kiss on her forehead, and departed
in haste lest she think of a new argument. Mabel ran into her own room
and fell on her divan, weeping wildly. But although she luxuriously let
nature have her way for ten minutes or more, she finally drank a
sedative, and then set her childish mouth in a straight hard line. There
were several American women in England that had acquired conspicuous
influence over their husbands—whom, no doubt, they had once had found
as incomprehensible as her wonderful Jackie. If they had succeeded, so
could she. It only required time and patience; and the return of her old
buoyant health, which would enable her to companion him once more. If
necessary, she would study politics and talk to old statesmen. But at
this prospect she shuddered, and at the same moment her eye fell upon a
shelf containing the works of Balzac, Maupassant, Bourget, and several
other French authors, which one of her young married friends of their
race had sent her, bound in white vellum, as a wedding present. They had
been accompanied by a recommendation to read them and soon. She had
never taken one from the shelf upon which her servant had arranged them.


“Ketch ’em alive! Ketch ’em alive!” The fly-paper vender had the note of
spring in his voice, and other and more distant street cries betrayed
the same almost plaintive quickening under the influence of the warmth
and light so long withdrawn. Ordham let himself out of the house looking
as hard as he felt, but in a few moments the pagan beauty of the morning
and the gay face of London in her springtime laughed his ill humor away
and banished the memory of his wife. No city is more beautiful than
London during her brief season of sunshine, with the flower boxes set
like little Italian balconies on her grim old houses, the vivid close
green of parks and squares, the endless processions of open carriages
filled with smartly dressed folk from all parts of the world; some in
the native finery of countries so far from occidental that they give the
scene a touch of opera bouffe. As Ordham walked toward Dover Street he
fancied he could hear the birds singing in Hyde Park—a colony that
dwelt in a tree beside his bedroom window had awakened him early with
their chattering—see the swans sailing on the lake in the park of St.
James. It was good to be alive, good to belong by divine right to the
one really great city in the world, and as he presented six-pence to
several of his friends the crossing sweepers—more for the pleasure of
receiving their blessing than because he had the least idea they needed
it—he smiled at them so radiantly that more than ever they were
convinced he was the sweetest young gentleman that ever gave siller, and
‘oped he would be ‘appy for ever and ever.

Ordham felt that he had every reason to be happy. Were not he and
Margarethe Styr going for a long day in the country, a long unbroken
day? Although they had carried out their programme and visited many
sights, still was it their first whole day together. Rehearsals demanded
by the heterogeneous mass of singers they had been able to borrow from
German cities had stolen many of her free days; she had felt obliged to
attend three receptions arranged in her honour and receive once; and
during the coming week practically all her spare time would be occupied
with rehearsals for _Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_, for she had not sung
the rôles of Elizabeth and Elsa for several years. But these hours they
had snatched together had been wholly delightful, their spirits had been
high to the edge of excitement; both took a nervous delight in playing
with a danger that would soon finish, leave them face to face either
with tragedy or a vast and cynical philosophy. It was tacitly understood
that this was to be their last period of companionship, and although
Ordham alternated between the pit of melancholy when alone and an almost
fierce sensation of happiness while with this woman, whom he found more
surely his than in the old days when his eyes were closed, he refused at
any time to ask more of fate or to dwell upon the future. But that he
was no longer the languid manageable youth of less than a year ago he
knew as well as she. If he too put ambition before love, accepted the
consequences of his marrying, it was because he chose to do so, not
because of the woman’s subtle manipulation. Ordham sometimes found an
added food for sadness in the knowledge that he had left the best of his
youth behind him, but was wise enough to congratulate himself that his
acute attack of racial industry had cleared his blood of blinding

But only to Styr was there any change in his appearance, and as he
entered her sitting room this morning he looked the archetype of
conquering youth, of splendid young English manhood. His mouth, which of
late had often been consciously firm, was as soft and boyish as when
they had met at Neuschwanstein, and his eyes, always luminous, were
sparkling with anticipation. Not the least of his attractions to Styr
was his perfect grooming, for being artist as well as woman, she hated
the sight of “artistic” men. She herself looked very smart, as he
immediately told her, in an entire costume of tan-coloured cloth. As the
day was warm and she could not wear a wrap, and as her tailor was the
best in Paris, her frock followed every line and curve of her perfect
figure. But as she had concluded to ignore the fact that Ordham was man
as well as soul, and circumstances protected them both, she saw no
reason for making herself clumsy and uncomfortable, as if he were a boy
and she his guardian! Moreover, she was not averse from leaving in his
memory as many charming pictures of herself as might be composed.

“How delicious it is merely to be alive!” she exclaimed with that
enthusiasm which, when the sullenness of her face was routed by the mere
pagan joy of living, was not the least of her fascinations. “Where are
we going?” she added, as they entered a hansom.

“I have not the least idea.” But in a moment he lifted the trap and
directed the cabby to drive to Euston Station.

They alighted at Bushey, and, hiring a carriage for the day, drove or
strolled through the old English lanes, with their high scented hedges,
past houses built for subjects of Elizabeth, visited the tomb of Bacon
at St. Albans, and even stared at the splendours of Hatfield House like
veritable tourists, Ordham characteristically neglecting to mention that
he had dined and slept there more than once. They idled on commons and
in woods almost as full of light, lunched at the famous inn of Harrow,
sat on the tomb favoured by Byron in the old town’s churchyard, hung
over high-walled fences to inhale the perfume of flowers that the
island’s moisture makes so rich, and to stare at the immense masses of
pink and white hawthorn; bought fruit of a farmer (grown under glass, of
course!) and sat on his wall to eat it. Few counties in England have
more charms than Hertfordshire, and not its least is that it is
practically undiscovered by the tourist.

They dined in the inn at Stanmore, dismissing their carriage, as they
could take the train at this beautiful old town, which invited them to
linger as long as it was light. They soon forsook the enormous joints,
the mess of greens, the peas as round and hard as marbles, and an apple
dumpling like a tunnel filled with the débris of many wrecks, and
wandered forth once more. The streets were very narrow, the houses, of a
dozen centuries, covered with ivy close cut; the church looked as old as
England. At this hour the little town was silent and outwardly deserted,
but one expected every moment to hear the sound of a horn, to see the
London coach dash round a corner, a post-chaise with a lady in powder
and patches at the window. Stanmore is so close to London that it was
the first town reached by the mounted courier galloping through the dawn
to tell the country that Victoria was queen, but it is as old and quiet
and forgotten as if it were lost in one of the great counties of the

Gypsy wagons were halted on one corner of the heath, and the women
cooked supper in the early twilight while the men lay on the ground and
smoked their pipes. Their children, catching sight of two prosperous
strangers, ran without prompting to beg. Ordham and Margarethe gave them
silver, then, declining to have their fortunes told, in other words
getting rid of them, strolled out over the heath. This large piece of
waste land is as wild as anything in America, broken and rough of
surface and covered with tangled grasses and shrubs. Beyond was what
looked to be a black mass of woods, but the glimpse of a gateway
suggested that they might be but the generously planted trees of a park.
A grey church spire of some distant hamlet stood out sharply against a
red band of afterglow. There was an intermittent tinkle of cow-bells,
but no other sound.

They sat down in the very centre of the heath and watched the twilight
gather, that long English twilight without chill or dew which brings
with it something of the mystery of night while still holding in a loose
embrace the safeguards of day. At that hour the flowers smell more
sweetly, the night moths flutter among them, and man feels that his
day’s work is done. A pungent scent rose from the gorse of Stanmore
Heath, but Margarethe, who had felt as exhilarated all day as if she
were a girl unexpectedly alone with a man secretly loved, felt her
spirits drop. She remembered who she was and one of her objects in
coming to London. So far not a word had passed between them concerning
his married life. They had renewed the old intimate friendship in
snatches that made them eager for more, but had found much to talk about
in the monuments they visited, the most tactful programme for Covent
Garden, in many subjects of common impersonal interest. But Margarethe
had determined upon at least one crossed and dotted conversation with
Ordham, and she believed this to be the time.

Ordham, too, was silent, staring straight before him with an expression
which Styr had seen before when words lagged, an expression of mingled
abstraction, astonishment, and apprehension.

“I want the whole story,” she said abruptly.

He turned to her with a start and flush. “The whole story?”

“Yes. All that has happened since we parted in Munich.”

“I thought we were to ignore the subject of my marriage.”

“To ignore is not to forget. I have tormented myself with so many
versions—possibilities—how shall I call it? I want the truth. It will
lay the ghost.”

“I am afraid you will hate me. I was an inconceivable ass.”

“No—it is wonderful that the story should be always the same and always
different! But I hate generalities. I cannot go on confounding you with
millions of other men. I want the specific incidents, your own version.
A man’s viewpoint is always his best excuse.”

“Very well.” And as his love for her had always appealed to the
carefully secluded fount of truth in his nature, for love would be
wholly truth were it not for life, he told the story from beginning to
end, omitting neither the skilful plot he had since unravelled, nor his
own abject surrender.

“I loved Mabel; there can be no doubt of that. I suppose that the long
root of such love is the axis of life. It permits millions to marry
every day that have little or no prospect of educating or even
supporting possible offspring; but if they paused to forecast, in other
words, if their brains were not in a state of toxic poisoning from this
love secretion, whatever it may be, the race would soon put an end to
itself. Perhaps in time the law will step in and forbid marriages before
the man is thirty and the woman twenty-five. As for the turbulence of
desire and suffering—after one has endured the acute stage for a
certain length of time, there is bound to be a decline and reaction. Man
simply cannot suffer and desire at concert pitch forever. Moreover, did
the law forbid the banns, a man would take jolly good care to keep out
of harm’s way. But I know now that even had Mabel been all they made me
believe, all that she looked, I should have ceased to care tuppence for
her, although no doubt rather later. It is not necessary to explain the
reason to you. A man may love many times in his life, but only one woman
takes full and complete possession of his inner kingdom, as you have
called it. Man is a sultan. One woman is his sultana; the others,
absorbing enough during their little hour, are the caprices of his
desultory harem. It is odd that his legal wife should so often be but
one of these casual minor passions, and the woman he may never possess
the one to persuade him of the immortality of love. It is a nice comment
upon the makeshifts of civilization.”

Styr stirred uneasily. She was white, for the story had cut her even
more deeply than she had anticipated. It is not pleasant to hear your
chosen idol draw a picture of his youthful passion, his first abandon
for another woman. She had clenched her long hands, and a blast from the
furnace of her soul sped in the direction of Grosvenor Square. But she
answered judicially: “The first study of civilized nations is every
possible precaution against anarchy. They are doing their little best;
we can only wait until the world grows wiser.” Then she laughed with a
fair assumption of gayety. “It is something more than humorous that I
should be the one to say that, not you: I, Margarethe Styr, and you,
John Ordham, so soon to be a hereditary legislator of the most wisely
governed country on earth. Well! Never mind! I have played many rôles in
my life.”

“Will you not tell me that story now?” he asked eagerly. “You have half
promised, more than once. And I am sick of outrageous concoctions. The
truth could not be worse.”

“The truth is always worse, when there is any foundation for gossip at
all. No!” she said violently, her voice harsh with the revolt let loose
by his own story. “I will never tell you. It is only because I have
lived so much, suffered so much, weathered a thousand storms, that I
have been able to listen to all you have told me to-night without hating
you. Were it otherwise, were I ten years younger, it would be months
before I should want even to look at you again. You could never stand a
similar—a far worse test. This life may not be for us, but at all
events you shall never hear from my lips what would make you—Ah! Bah!”

“Do you believe in another life?” he asked, tactfully ignoring this
outburst, in which he secretly exulted.

“This inner life of ours does not undergo death and resurrection for
nothing,” she replied sullenly. “Nor is imagination a mere offshoot of
the active mind. If it means anything, it means that somewhere, in some
future incarnation, or on some more satisfactory planet, its supernormal
efforts will become the facts of existence. And what then? Still subtler
and more imperative wants that can only be realized in a higher state
still? It makes one incline to Buddhism and Nirvana.”

“Either way of looking at it is a poor compensation for the
disappointments of this life, when you are young, at least; and when you
are old, you don’t care. The trouble is with civilization. We need a new
religion. Perhaps the solution is in a combination of the Eastern and
Western forms. It is as significant that Christianity has converted but
one-third of the Earth’s peoples as that the remaining two-thirds are an
anomaly in this eve of the twentieth century. The last are too
supercilious in their ancient wisdom to borrow anything from us. We are
raw conceited schoolboys, too ignorant, and worse, to help ourselves
from their abundant stores. Perhaps the time will come.”

Margarethe suppressed her feminine resentment at generalities in the
twilight. “Well, that may be one of your many missions. But it was not a
personal craving alone that made me demand the history of these last ten
months. It is an immense relief to me to know that your eyes are opened,
that you are no longer blinded by either love or cunning. I have a
strong suspicion, and so has Excellenz, that they do not intend you
shall go abroad. I have heard since my arrival of your wife’s consuming
ambition to be a beauty in London, of her detestation of Continental
life, the third, or fourth, fiddle she would be forced to play for many
years. They will keep you here if they can.”

“I have heard nothing of all this, but I shouldn’t wonder—and it makes
no difference. As soon as my wife is able to travel, I go to whatever
post is open to me. I should go the day you left London had I not given
my word to remain here until September or thereabouts.”

“And what if she refuses to go with you?”

Ordham smiled grimly. “I have not the faintest idea she will refuse to
go with me when she is persuaded that no argument or threat will keep me
at home. I can understand that she will hate to leave
London,—England,—but she will accompany me. Small doubt of that.”

Margarethe set her teeth. It was with some difficulty that she clung to
the programme she had worked out before arriving in England. To
manipulate him until his wife should be abhorrent and desertion
inevitable, with the consequent scandal and disaster, was not the part
she had set herself to play in his life. But when the rich soil of a
woman’s nature, long covered with the volcanic ashes of old passions,
which conserve and fertilize, is sprouting with the roses and the
toadstools of a new passion, the rôles of operatic masterpieces are mere
play to that of the disinterested friend. Margarethe had come to this
renewal of their intimacy secure in the belief that her passions were
either dead or safely entombed; but they had revealed themselves,
insolent and powerful, when, shaken with the tumults of Isolde, she had
met his eyes that first night in Covent Garden. She was appalled, but
her will lost nothing of its strength, she had practised self-control
for many years; and by one of those profound and obscure contradictions,
ever manifesting themselves in human nature, her idealism recovered from
its late inertia and entered upon a new lease. The more insistently and
unequivocally love spoke, the more determined she grew that descend to
that buried plane set thick with awful corpses she would not, those dead
foul memories that must forever make the materializing of love mean but
one more carnal experience. Once she could have idealized this bond,
even had she known Ordham in her ignorant youth, a thousand times more
had she met him with a mature mind and a past of even comparative
ignorance; but now, the moment she gave herself, all power of idealism
would be slain, and she believed that she should kill herself—perhaps
him as well.

Nor was self-control an unendurable tax. She had passed that first and
best period of reproductiveness, when passion drowns reason, nor had she
reached that age when so many women fatally awaken to the fact that but
a bit of youth remains and they had best make the most of it. Moreover,
perhaps the vitalest point of all, she was a great artist with the world
at her feet. Poor women, that had only their good intentions to bulwark
them! She threw them a passing sympathy.

“Perhaps it is not necessary,” she said abruptly, “but I should like
your promise that you will permit nothing to interfere with your career,
the public exercise of your best energies. I know that you will not
reply, ‘Of course!’ and that if you make me the promise you will keep

“The promise is not necessary, but you shall have it if you wish. What
else have I left? Were it not for that prospect of future usefulness and
activity—I don’t care to think of what I should become—or be doing at
the present moment.”

“Speculation would be throwing away good time, for without the abilities
which are driving you into a career you would not be you. But what you
must husband at present are your opportunities. In some subtle way, your
wife, supported by your mother, who seems to have great political
influence—I believe you told me that two of her cousins or uncles are
in the present cabinet?—might rear obstacles, create postponements,
until the government wiped you off its slate as a trifler who was
blocking the way of more serious men.”

He sat up in a sudden fright. “I’ll go to the F. O. to-morrow and ask
definitely for a post in September, giving my word that nothing less
than a mortal illness shall prevent my departure the moment I get

She leaned forward eagerly, and, taking his hand, held it against her
breast, which was neither cold nor calm. “You promise me that, you swear
it,” she whispered.

He trembled violently, his lids dropped, and he made a sudden movement
as if to take her in his arms. She stood up.

“Gypsies have strong eyes,” she said lightly.

“So much the better,” said Ordham.

“If you kiss me, this will be the last time we shall ever be alone.”

“Again, so much the better. I am going to kiss you, and I am willing to
take the consequences. If you run from me, you will stumble.”

He caught her in his arms and kissed her a great many times. And she
knew that she should be eternally grateful to him for these few moments
of terrified happiness he forced her to admit. But she was grateful also
for the gypsies.

She disengaged herself and stood back a pace. “They are coming this
way,” she said. “You have not given me that other promise.”

He stood before her, whipping one hand with the gloves he held in the
other. His face was so white that it would have looked dead but for the
eyes, which were black and blazing. He answered steadily enough,

“I swear, since you will have it, that, as much to erect a monument to
this love of ours, as to gratify my own ambition and compensate myself
for the bleakness of my personal life, I will do what I can to make a
great and useful man of myself.”

                         THE CONQUEST OF LONDON

If the next twenty-five days passed quickly, it was not because they
were barren of events. It was Ordham’s idea that in the second
performance of _Die Walküre_ Styr should sing, not the vocally
interesting but dramatically unappealing rôle of Brünhilde, but that of
Sieglinde. Knowing that his race was the most remarkable compound on the
globe of respectability and sensuality, he believed that the character
of Sieglinde, portrayed with all the abandon of which Styr, alone of
living singers, was capable, and yet easefully vapourized in the alembic
of music, would give the Wagner season a fresh impetus; and the event
proved him right. Styr, with a new need to give her imprisoned passions
relief, acted the part of the faithless young wife, the incestuous
demigoddess, with an emotionalism so deep and wild that the audience
held their breath, and yet with a poignant sweetness that brought tears
to their eyes, filled them with an immense pity for the captive of the
hideous Hunding who found her mate capriciously caught in the body of a
son of Wotan. After all, demigods were not mortals, they remarked, few
besides the Germans understanding Fricka’s emphatic opinion on the

In the second act Styr portrayed tragedy, delirium, remorse, and the
mere physical weakness of woman, in a fashion that caused even herself
to wonder why she had never essayed this rôle before. When she lay
unconscious between the knees of Siegmund during the long duet between
her lover and Brünhilde, she looked so beautiful that she continued to
hold the attention of all, and Ordham stared at her until his gaze
seemed to burn her eyelids and she stirred uneasily. When Sieglinde was
finally swept off the stage by Brünhilde, the audience, almost to a man,
arose and left the house.

By this time London was “mad over her.” Women whose lives were barren,
great ladies whose passions were faded, men with far less reason but an
equal pleasure, higher types that revelled in the brain behind the
voice, the spiritual suggestion in scenes and music designed to appeal
to the most elevated of mortal ideals, the remotest and shyest of the
soul’s desires, crowded to hear the woman who would be a valuable aid to
the Almighty on the day of resurrection. Styr, exultant and happy, with
the transcendent happiness of the artist in the supreme triumph of her
genius, gave these splendid audiences, so difficult to please with
anything more serious than the wit and paradox to which Wilde was driven
not long after, the greatest that was in her, and wondered if such
intoxication of the mind, such insolence of victory, could be mortal
woman’s a second time.

It is possible that London would have reacted in sheer exhaustion after
more than five weeks of this stimulating banquet, but during that time
Styr reigned unchallenged. Society, determined to meet her personally,
took the shortest way round the scandals they had enjoyed, by professing
not to believe them, rejecting them in toto. One ambitious hostess went
so far as to announce at a large dinner party that she had taken the
trouble to investigate, had even spent a small fortune cabling, and had
learned that Styr had been an actress in New York of unimpeachable
respectability, and that the Margaret Hill of Levering’s tales was lost
in a wreck on the Pacific Coast ten or twelve years since. As a matter
of fact she had done nothing of the sort, but her story was cleverly put
together, and she was quite aware that others besides herself but wanted
an excuse to entertain the greatest artist that had visited England in
their time. The Queen held out and did not invite her to sing at
Windsor, for she thought it crime enough to have inspired such stories,
whether true or not, and more than one old-fashioned great lady,
suspicious of celebrities in any case, fully agreed with her; but they
were lost sight of in the general rush. It was impossible for Styr to
accept more than one out of ten of the invitations showered upon her, or
to show herself for more than a few minutes at a time at the various
afternoon receptions given in her honour. Rehearsals were many and time
was short. And even she, strong woman as she was, had to sleep.
Invitations to supper she steadily refused, and on the day of a
performance never spoke during the afternoon.

Naturally this left her little time for Ordham. They went sight-seeing
no more, but as she rose every morning at ten he called at eleven and
remained until one, although he rarely saw her for a moment alone.
Others had the same privilege, and the impresario, the conductor, and
various members of the company, all more or less desperate, came for
advice and consultation. She practically rehearsed the company, for the
impresario was not too efficient, and Richter had his hands full with
the orchestra.

Reckless, by this time, of gossip, for he had by no means calculated
upon a success so overwhelming as to leave him out in the cold, Ordham
fell into the habit of going with her to rehearsals, and lounging in her
dressing-room, where she came to him for an occasional chat. He went,
when bidden, to every reception, every dinner and breakfast, given in
her honour, that he might at least be in the room with her, receive an
occasional glance and smile; which, beggarly satisfaction as it might
be, was better than striding up and down his room in the Temple. His
domestic habits were sadly out of joint. Mabel’s strained and sometimes
terrified face, his mother-in-law’s speechless indignation, were
unnecessary afflictions. At first he invented all the excuses which his
ingenious brain could devise. “He was Wagner mad.” “As long as his
family would not receive the woman who had showered hospitalities upon
him when he was a harassed student in a strange city, he must do his
best, not only to cover their defection, but to pour balm upon his
conscience.” The secret that he had originated and financed the
enterprise was well kept, but he insisted that he more than any one
should work for its success, as he should owe his own career to the
woman who had—yes, really, he could see it now!—so subtly compelled
him to study and pass those stiff exams. He pretended to believe that
Mabel would have taken a house and been the first to open her doors to
his friend had she been well, for it was no part of his policy to notice
her mounting jealousy. He saw her so little that he was able to be as
charming as ever to her, although she was looking swollen in the face
and coarse, one of the pathetic punishments of woman while fulfilling
the highest of her duties. After excuses failed him he simply ignored
the subject—lunching and dining at home on those alternate days when
Styr was obliged to seclude herself; and after a time, impatient at the
still unuttered disapproval which charged the atmosphere of Grosvenor
Square, he accepted other invitations. He was by no means satisfied with
himself, for he was as far as ever from any desire to make his wife
unhappy; but if she was so unreasonable, so undiplomatic, as to refuse
him his liberty for this short period, if she was bent upon proving
herself unfit to be the wife of a man of the world, let her read her
lesson and profit by it. Perhaps in the depths of his mind, buried under
many layers of modernism but by no means extinct, he looked upon wives
from the royal point of view: sound and vigorous transits for the next
edition of the race. But he was beyond analysis, and had but one desire,
one purpose: to see as much of Margarethe Styr during these racing weeks
as he could manage, although he made no attempt whatever to see her

Mrs. Cutting, angry, frightened, outraged, not only in her maternal
passion, but in those principles which she could so gracefully ignore as
long as society kept its hard bright surface closed, but to which she
would in the last instance have sacrificed social position itself, shut
her lips in Ordham’s presence, fearing to precipitate some unthinkable
climax, and consoling Mabel with talk of the flying days and the
singer’s crowded hours.

“He will follow her,” said Mabel one day.

“I am positive that he will do nothing of the sort,” said Mrs. Cutting,
briskly. “Never was a man less impetuous, less disposed to sacrifice
anything for the sake of a passing flirtation.”

Mabel set her lips. For the moment she looked older than her mother, so
smart and fresh, so alert yet reposeful of carriage. “You have never
loved, and I can tell you that love gives one more than a little joy,
and pain out of all proportion; it gives terrible insights. I stirred
only the youthful shallows of John Ordham. He has depths that no
innocent love could reach, much less satisfy. I say nothing about
brains, although God knows I am well aware how much that mind of his—it
is like an octopus—reaches out for that I cannot give him. But even so,
were I—well, were he my second husband, for instance, I might hold my
own against even clever women.”

“Mabel!” Mrs. Cutting was horrified at this sudden weed of
sophistication in that fair landscape of her daughter’s mind she had so
carefully laid out and tended. “You have been reading too many French
novels of late; I have expressed my disapproval before.”

“It is a pity I did not read them earlier,” said Mabel, dryly. “I should
recommend a course in Balzac, Maupassant, and Bourget to all girls about
to marry—Europeans, at least. To be young and fresh and beautiful and
good may be sufficient if you marry a business man or a scientist, but
you need a good deal more than that to keep a man of the world in the
toils, particularly if he has abundant leisure. That may not be a nice
fact to face, but no _congé_ will dislodge it. If I were only well!”


“Don’t look at me in that puritanical way!” cried Mabel, passionately.
“What do you know about life? You scarcely ever saw father, and you
didn’t love him anyhow. Besides, Americans are not so different from
these Europeans when they have time enough. I got out of Bobby the other
day that father kept a mistress for years, and small blame to him. You
left him deliberately year after year and you would have had no excuse
for righteous wrath had you known. But with us innocent young wives—it
is a very different matter, with the world full of sirens like
Margarethe Styr. And they are not all publicly branded, either. I could
name a dozen that you are proud to know, that are barely gossiped about,
who would take John off my hands in a moment if they had a chance at
him, or he found them seductive. What has saved me so far is that he is
odd, difficult to please, indolent, cold on the surface. But I can tell
you that with a man like John Ordham matrimony is like American
politics: the woman must know every trick of the game and be above
employing none of them. It is horrible, but that makes it none the less

“Mabel, you are outrageous! I’ll listen to no such blasphemy upon
womanhood—American womanhood,” she added as an afterthought. “As for
your father’s infidelity, it may be. I asked no questions, and I am not
the fool you seem to think; but that is quite another matter from
seeking to hold a man with the methods of the courtesan. Better let him

“Not when you love him. I’d give my immortal soul, I’d trample in the
slime all the girlhood innocence—”

“Mabel! At least be careful not to excite yourself.”

This admonition produced some effect; Mabel was silent for a few
moments, and then resumed more calmly: “I am perfectly well aware that
during the next few months I can do nothing but think and plan and try
to cull wisdom from the masters that have put love under a microscope or
on the dissecting table. I am sorry I have been sullen and looked as
miserable as I felt. It was a mistake, as great a mistake as for us to
refuse to meet Styr. We should have had her here morning, noon, and
night. It is too late to alter that, and it is impossible for me to make
myself charming when I look like a fright. But I am resolved to be
hateful and woebegone no longer. I shall hereafter treat John exactly as
if it were the most natural thing in the world for him to amuse himself
while I am so dull. At least he shall not have the faintest excuse to
leave me. This is the critical time. When that woman is far away—and I
am told she is to sing next winter in New York—and I am well again,
I’ll become a coquette, I’ll make a fine art of matrimony; I wouldn’t be
too proud to take hints from the very women of the _trottoir_ if I could
get at them. But win and hold him I will. I am a woman, and my eyes are
wide open.”

“Have you considered that you may be obliged to give up your cherished
plan of living in England? I am convinced by the remarks he drops now
and again that he is more set upon diplomacy than ever.”

“If I fail to keep him in England until he has lost his chances for the
service—yes, I’ll go. There is no sacrifice I won’t make. I’ll watch
him like a cat, and know whether to hold out on that point or give in.
Besides, there is always the chance of his growing impatient at the slow
promotion. No doubt there will be more than one disgusted moment in
which I can induce him to resign and come home to politics. Oh! Oh! that
I were well and beautiful once more!”

Mrs. Cutting sighed deeply. She felt as sad as shocked. It was as if she
saw a little crystal castle of surpassing beauty, every facet
scintillating with a thousand modulated shades of the primal colours,
shivered at her feet. Why had she been in such haste to marry her
exquisite child? Mabel would have remained girlishly beautiful until
twenty-eight; for ten years longer she might have gloried in her
handiwork. As she did not care to listen to any more of Mabel’s
conclusions, she merely remarked:

“You will not look as young at forty as I do, if you let emotions shake
you like this.”

“I am not thinking about when I am forty. The present is all my powers
are equal to. I believe John condescends to lunch at home to-day. I’ll
put on a red and yellow gown that may perhaps throw into the shade my
own sunset tints. Oh, that I were well! That I were well!”

This was a week before Styr’s departure. Ordham, whose mind was by no
means obfuscated by the fever in his blood, began to notice that Mabel
and her mother ceased to treat him to sour looks, subtly to make him
feel a stone and a rake. He was vaguely grateful, for, unknown to Mabel,
but prompted by Mrs. Cutting, the distinguished accoucheur, at present
exercising a benevolent despotism in Grosvenor Square, had given him an
emphatic warning, and he dined almost regularly at home, since he could
not dine alone with Styr, and strove with what grace was in him to hide
his fathomless ennui and amuse Mabel.

But the strain on his powers of self-control grew more formidable daily.
A short while and Styr would have vanished out of London, leaving it as
empty as Sahara. The future appalled him. If he could have obtained a
post, he would have forced Mabel to release him and left London at once,
although he well knew how little work is demanded of an attaché. Still
there would be distractions in the new scene. But there was no vacancy,
would not be for several months. Upon no other pretext could he leave
her—leave London, whose very hansoms would grin at him.

Not the least of the causes which contributed to the waters of his
bitterness, of his agitation and disgust, was the amusement of “the
world” at his patent infatuation for a famous woman who had no time to
waste on men, young or old. Styr no longer encouraged him to come to the
opera house during rehearsals, no longer made the slightest effort to
give him an occasional moment alone. He was unable to determine whether
this final act of cruelty were due to fear or to a real pleasure in
meeting so many of the distinguished and really important men of
England; to whom, at all events, she gave her spare moments. Of coquetry
he was sane enough to acquit her; he had faith in her honesty; but she
could have taken no surer means to fan a passion now so fully recognized
that he sometimes wondered grimly how much he would stake on ambition
when the race came off. He was able to laugh, however, at the diabolical
irony of his position. Of all the men that pursued her, he alone had
been given the opportunity to look ridiculous, he alone suffered, was
wounded in more than vanity. For the first time the source of the lavish
expenditures which had given Styr the greatest of her triumphs occurred
to him, and he reflected that did the Cuttings and “Bobby” know the
truth and were permitted to turn the pages of his mind, they might
justly exult. This did not mean that he felt the least compunction or
even regret, merely that he was beginning to look life more squarely in
the face, give more than a lofty casual glance to cause and effect.

But he had himself well in hand. He had never been more indolent of
manner, more alert in conversation. When he discovered that he was
pitied as an object of hopeless passion, he ceased to be seen constantly
in the wake of the prima donna, deliberately devoted himself to other
women. Puppy love had pinched his face, ruined his manners, bereft him
of pride and self-control; but this slow and complete awakening of his
masculinity matured his character, which his brain had outstripped, and
substituted the sharp violent desires of the man, the arrogance of the
conquering male, for the thin timid blades of spring. To two people only
did he look older, his wife and Styr. From the minds of neither was he
long absent. Styr understood, and for the first time in her knowledge of
him was frightened. There was something portentous in his cool smiling
self-control, like that of a soft-footed tiger biding his time. Mabel
half understood and was terrified but resolute. She believed that he was
infatuated and unfaithful, but knew the power of the wife over the
mistress if able to keep her head and wait, believed that when separated
from Styr he would forget like other men. Her mind was now alert; she
would be amiable and tactful, and she would stand her ground and fight
to the last ditch. She was in no condition to enter upon such an
engagement, and had it not been for the good streak of Dutch obstinacy
in her nature, she might not have proved equal even to spurts of
determination to win or die. When overcome by a physical weariness which
compelled her to lie down for hours instead of pacing the room revolving
plans, she could only reflect bitterly upon the disabilities which made
the game so pitifully uneven. Were she well and beautiful, she would not
have hesitated to feign interest in the most notoriously “successful” of
her admirers,—in royalty itself,—and bring Ordham to terms through his
vanity, and, no doubt, through reawakened passion. Then she wept
bitterly, not only at her present impotence but for her lost ideals. She
might win back her husband, but her love for him would never again be
quite free of that resentment and antagonism, even hatred, inevitable
when the woman has been forced in one way or another to recognize the
remorseless might of sex. Above all, she felt it to be monstrous that
she, with youth and beauty and virtue, wealth and position, the fitness
and the wish to be a good wife and an ornament to society, should be
pitted in a death struggle with a waif from the streets, whose life had
been unprintable, and who had left youth behind her. Such injustice
terrified her, confused her standards. At first she prayed wildly, then
she ceased to pray at all.

                        THE WORLD AND THE CROSS

Styr and her management had been careful to give the antidote of Elsa
and Elizabeth often enough to protect an exhilarated public against
reaction; and by one of those curious paradoxes, known to all that have
had reason to study the public taste, her portrayal of that princess
among virgins, Elizabeth of Thüringen, from her joyous girlhood to that
last mournful scene where she is both saint and woman and wholly lovely,
was quite as popular as of those passionate and lawless heroines, Isolde
and Sieglinde.

In Munich Styr had sung the part of Venus as a matter of course, leaving
the more lyric rôle to the aspiring _jugendlichdramatischen_, but she,
as well as her directors, well knew that to give _Tannhäuser_ the
mounting and accessories which made the first scene of its first act, as
represented in Munich, the most suggestive on the stage, would be going
a step too far even with the British public in its present state of
enthusiasm. And without that rosy atmosphere like the mist of an amorous
dawn, that sumptuous yet mirage-like couch in the background, the
refined yet lascivious dancing of satyrs and nymphs, the visions of Leda
and the swan, Europa and the bull, that first long scene, despite its
delicious music, would mean to the unmusical beholder naught but an
interminable duet between a forward woman in a Greek fillet and baggy
gown, and a sulky man in a leathern jerkin and top-boots. Therefore was
the first scene cut down to little more than a prologue, the part of
Venus sung by an obese German beyond her prime, and fashion entered
boxes and stalls a few moments before Elizabeth ran into the great hall
of her father’s castle with a burst of song as of a bird mounting to the
empyrean after long drooping behind the bars of a cage.

Perhaps Styr had never proved herself a greater actress than when she
stared, incredulous and horrified, at the outbreak of the sophisticated
_Tannhäuser_, disgusted with the provincial virtues of the knights, for
she looked just sixteen; and when Mabel, who had attended the first
performance, saw that dawn of sorrowful womanhood in her eyes, the
impotence of maiden innocence against the subtle sweets of mature vice,
she clutched her salts and nearly fainted. But when in the last act,
Styr, looking as only a pure woman that has never harboured so much as a
sinful thought can look, first brought tears to the eyes of old cynics
by her pitiful examination of every face in the ragged procession of
pilgrims returning from Rome, and then, clinging to the cross, sang her
soul straight up to a waiting heaven, Mabel sniffed audibly and walked
out. She could not have felt more indignant had Styr publicly been
received into the bosom of the Church of Rome and advertised as a beacon
light for mankind. But mental suffering had developed a species of
saturnine humour in her, and when she was in bed she laughed consumedly
at the fool this great actress was making of London.

Before the end of the brief season Elizabeth had won in a race long
disputed, perhaps because Styr managed to convey the impression of a
pure white lily growing out of a baneful swamp, in other words
emphasized the sensuousness of the music, and made her audiences feel
that they loved virtue the more while enjoying vicarious naughtiness
none the less. Perhaps it was an unadmitted desire for vindication that
caused an almost unanimous demand that _Tannhäuser_ should end this
agitating season. It was given, and Styr, eliminating the richness from
her voice, sang with the sexless silvery sweetness of a boy chorister,
which made the tremendous volume of her voice and its noble quality the
more remarkable by contrast. The ovation began when the dead Elizabeth,
looking like a marble angel, was carried in by the weeping pilgrims. It
was too soon to lower the curtain, and as the audience manifested its
complete indifference to the lament of Heinrich, Styr was forced to rise
publicly from her coffin and respond to the plaudits of her admirers. As
this absurd performance smote not only her own sense of humour but that
of her audience, the great Wagner season ended in a hearty burst of
laughter which put everybody in the best possible temper, and made the
unavoidable speech easier to make.

Pelted with bouquets and standing up to her waist in the superb floral
offerings handed over the footlights, Styr thanked London for its
kindness with her usual proud aloofness considerably modified, and
promised to return as soon as her engagements would permit. The
audience, now on its feet, shouted, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” as eagerly as
children, applauded, waved their handkerchiefs, tossed their bouquets
for ten minutes longer. Ordham withdrew to the depths of his box, almost
paralyzed between delight at the triumph of this woman, whom he would
have given the whole round globe, were it his, and an uncontrollable
agitation which made him thankful he was alone in his box. He saw his
hands tremble and felt the tears on his cheeks, and scorned the heroes
of French romance no more.

But he made no effort to see her after she had bowed her final adieu.
There was to be a great supper on the stage, but he left the opera house
with a scribbled word of apology on a card to the host, and walked until
he found himself, at dawn, far out in the country. He went to bed at an
inn, and returned to London when the train for the Continent was halfway
to the coast. He had written Styr the day before that he should make no
further attempt to see her again, that he accepted her manifest decree
for the present, although he was by no means certain that he should not
go to Munich as soon as he was free; the less he saw of her now the
better, no doubt. Then with the utmost courtesy he thanked and
congratulated her. He wrote with such cold precision that Styr was as
convinced as himself that he had arrived at a worldly state of mind
which he meant to be irrevocable, and it was with a grinning brain that
she portrayed with even more than her usual poignance a woman shattered
on the merciless rocks of love.


During the following month Ordham’s large circle of acquaintances quite
forgot his apparent infatuation for the Styr, so gay and debonair was
he, so devoted to their society, so punctilious in his attendance upon
his wife during her daily drives—“poor dear!”—so frankly and
technically did he discuss the voice and histrionics of the prima donna,
still a topic of conversation, so conventionally did he express his
regret that he should be scribbling in the chancery of some embassy
during her next visit to London. Such youthful aberrations as a young
man’s fancy for a fashionable singer are too common to burden the memory
with, and it is not even passing strange that to-day London has as
completely forgotten his devotion to the great Styr as if he had worn an
invisible cap; but, for that matter, they had forgotten it far sooner
than he in his raw abraded vanity suspected; for in the composite drama
of which Styr, during that richly exciting and varied season, was the
chief figure, few minor details stood out.

He was now so correct in his attitude of husband and son-in-law, so
entertaining and amusing, that he rang hard and clear like some finely
constructed machine full of little silver bells. Mrs. Cutting was
charmed, but Mabel was often faint with fear. Her brain might be young
and small and ignorant, but it was in a constant steel-blue glare of
intuitions these days. She had been the bride of a young man
comparatively candid and open despite his diplomatic temperament; she
now felt herself the honoured consort of a man of unthinkable age,
wearing a vizor of youth which might drop at any moment and reveal
unknown horrors, hatreds, diabolical purposes. Ordham played his part
well, but he guessed that the face of the man she married was too deeply
bitten into her memory for his present mask to deceive her. He did not
care. He was doing his best; more could be asked of no man.

Possibly the fascination of the Ordhams of the old civilizations resides
in those deep artificial layers which are the result of centuries of
selection, rejection, experimentation. But deep in these organic
edifications there may be more unbridled human nature than in the newer
races; these, more or less conscious of a certain transparency, are,
warily or intuitively, making and shaping their characters, always
adapting themselves to their shifting conditions. Moreover, the man to
whom leisure is but one more toy for his family lives on his practical
surfaces. In men of Ordham’s class practical surfaces might almost be
said to be nonexistent. When thrown on their own resources and scattered
over an inhospitable globe, they wring a living out of it if their
natural intelligence chimes with opportunity; but they are so generally
failures that it is possible Darwin saw many of them during his voyages,
and they, not the lower forms, suggested the immortal phrase, “survival
of the fittest.” In the Ordhams, protected either by the law of
primogeniture or other kindly energies of fate, those deep and
multitudinous layers are not only full of charm, of delight to
themselves and society, not only do they give them a sense or security
which would betray itself in arrogance were they less well-bred, but, so
deeply buried are such qualities as worthlessness, savagery, brutal
selfishness, that only exceptional circumstances magnetize them to the
surface. And even then it is only some final and terrible impetus that
reveals them to their fellows in all their nakedness. No men are so
protected by circumstance; in other words, by the world’s—their

Ordham, during these four weeks, when, as much from the instinct of
noblesse oblige as pity for his young wife, whose very voice set his
nerves on edge, whose every effort to please him served to remind that
he was tied for life to a woman as transparent as a window-pane, was
unable to stifle an unceasing whisper in the back of his brain that this
could not last, that mortal endurance was not equal to three months more
of this unnatural self-control, of a sullen defiance of desire for the
woman who had made him feel as if he were a masculine Galatea and she a
female Pygmalion. Had he but conceived one of those passions for her to
which men are always liable, he would either have conquered it or have
induced her to remain in England until tired of her. But he had given
her his heart; he was filled not only with the imperious desires of the
predatory male, but his brain, with pitiless logic, portrayed and
reiterated every phase of the perfect union. Two powerful correlated
personalities had met, and each was the helpless victim of the other.

It was still incomprehensible to him that he could fail to obtain
anything he craved, much less what was beginning to seem of more value
to him than life. “More than life,” indeed, was but a phrase; in his
case, “more than career” represented the alternative. The forecasting of
a blighting scandal held him in leash as effectively as his sense of
duty to the girl he had married; married, when all was said, with his
eyes open, for, whether deceived or not in the woman, he knew that he
was yielding his liberty and had not hesitated a moment.

But specious arguments were not wanting half to convince him that both
he and Styr were clever enough to blind the world until truth had
escaped in such vagrant jets that people would have accepted the
situation almost before they knew it existed. Mabel, he was now
convinced, would never get a divorce, and the busy world, unless slapped
in the face, is very lenient to the bearer of a great name, the
dispenser of large hospitalities, and the owner of rare gifts.
Nevertheless, Ordham was able to consider the possible reverse of the
picture and to be thankful that circumstances kept him for the present
in England. He half hoped that by the time he was free his worldly sense
would wholly have conquered the primitive force of this newly realized
passion, or that the latter would sink under his natural indolence and
taste for procrastination. Indeed he had almost concluded that,
intolerable as the strain was, he should emerge triumphant, when he met
his mother entering the house in Grosvenor Square one afternoon as he
was about to leave it. She told him that she had just received a
telegram from Bridgminster’s servant stating that his master believed
himself about to die and had expressed a wish to see her. All that had
been consigned to the deepest pit in Ordham’s mind during the last few
days rose instantly and quite calmly to the surface. He did not even

“Insist that I go with you,” he said, turning to go upstairs with her.
“Insist that you are not able to stand the ordeal alone.”

“But, Johnny—”

“I am going to ring for Hines to pack. Of course you start at once. When
I join you in the family circle, I hope you will have impressed them
with the fact that you cannot go without me.”

She recalled—perhaps it was his cool steady gaze above the sudden
pallor of his face that evoked the memory—that however she may have
managed this son of hers, she had never governed him; shrugging her
shoulders, she went up to inform Mrs. Cutting and Mabel as volubly as a
French woman of her terrible upset over the telegram, and her insistence
to Johnny, whom she had providentially met as he was leaving the house,
that he should go with her.

He had changed his clothes for a travelling suit and was giving his
final directions to the distracted Hines when there was a tap at his
door. He opened it himself, and seeing his mother-in-law, stepped out
and closed it behind him. Mrs. Cutting’s face was pale and there was
fear in her eyes.

“You are not really going!” she exclaimed.

“Has not my mother explained?”

“Your mother can take Stanley with her. It is not possible that you will
leave Mabel now—when—almost any minute—”

“Oh, I shall be gone but a few days. Surely—”

“Mabel, poor child, is persuading herself that you ought to go, but she
overrates her power of endurance. I know—I _know_—that after you are
gone there will be a reaction—she will break down. I would not answer
for the consequences.”

Ordham sighed. He was hardly aware of the woman’s presence, save in so
far as she forced him to talk when he would have preferred not to open
his mouth for twenty-four hours. “Surely you and the doctor—”

“Of course you know practically nothing about such things.” Mrs. Cutting
actually blushed; woman of society as she was, she would be a prude
until the end. “But it is dangerous to agitate—”

“Why in heaven’s name should she be agitated because I absent myself for
a few days? It has struck me that she grows more sensible every day.”

“Oh, men! I repeat that I am convinced that she will break down as soon
as she realizes that she cannot see you constantly,—that you have
actually deserted her at a time like this!”

“Deserted! Dear Mrs. Cutting, is not that rather a strong word? I shall
not be gone more than a week at most.”

“A week! Oh, how shall I make you understand?”

“Perhaps it is because there is really nothing to make clear. You are
agitating yourself for nothing.” There was no nervousness, no
abstraction, even, in his manner. He smiled into her eyes and stood
quite at his ease, with all that blend of charm and formality that had
won her approval the day she met him in Princess Nachmeister’s park. A
memory struggled upward in her mind. It was ghostly, evasive; then it
took form. She recalled that fleeting moment in which she had responded
to the cool ruthless kernel of this young man, so elaborately endowed
for public service. Her own ambitions might be dust before the week was
out, but he—he would survive more than the knowledge that he had been
the death of his young wife. She shook from head to foot in the first
real terror and agitation she had ever known.

“You will kill her,” she stammered. “If there should be any

He ceased to smile and, taking her hand, drew it through his arm and led
her to the door of her own room. “You know that no girl could be
stronger than Mabel,” he said soothingly, and in so impersonal a manner
that Mrs. Cutting felt as if the blood in her veins were freezing. “And
there is nothing in the world as natural as this sort of thing. Think of
the thousands of women that bring their children into the world, every
month in the year, who are in every sort of trouble; from the Brittany
women, whose husbands have gone on the _grand pêche_, and are more
likely than not to return no more, to the poor creatures in Whitechapel,
beaten and kicked up to the last minute. Women were made to bring
children into the world and to survive far worse ordeals than a
separation of a few days from their devoted husbands. What on earth
could I do if I were here? It seems to me, for that matter, rather nicer
that I should not be.”

“Mabel is not inured to suffering like those women,” Mrs. Cutting began,
but Ordham opened her door and gently pushed her in. He went on to the
drawing-room. Mabel, although perhaps a shade sallower than common, was
quite alert and cheerful. He understood her tactics, but if the time was
past when she could deceive him in any way, he was not only grateful to
her now but moved to admiration; for after all she was very young. No
doubt in time she would make a clever woman of sorts. And although he
believed his mother-in-law’s fears to be sheer nonsense, he was quite
aware that Mabel (like all women, of course!) would fancy herself
unhappy during his absence.

“It is too dreadful to think that I must part with you, even for a few
days,” she said brightly. “You keep me up so! But of course if Lady Pat
feels that you are necessary, I gracefully yield. But do make it as
short as possible. You will, won’t you?”

“Of course!” He stooped and kissed her with more warmth than usual.
“Lady Pat is quite right. I don’t fancy Bridg will make a pathetic
death-bed scene and try her nerves; that is not in his line; but there
may be other details—she is quite right. For the matter of that, this
may be but a false alarm—in any case we need not be away too long.”

“No, indeed!” Lady Bridgminster rose. “I shall return in less than a
week. But go I must, and Johnny owes me a filial duty once in a while.
Has your four-wheeler come? Mine was to follow me here.”

“I am quite ready.”

They drove to Paddington station, followed by two four-wheelers with
luggage atop and servant within. “What is your game, Johnny?” asked Lady
Bridgminster, with lively curiosity. “Why inflict yourself with Bridg if
you had to take a holiday? No doubt Mabel, who is a model wife, if she
is a fright at present, would have given you a few days at Ordham. You
never wanted for excuses.”

“I had no intention until you came in of making any excuse.”

“But why Bridg? I doubt if he will be glad to see you.”

“That is not of the slightest consequence.”

Her curiosity was not relieved until she was in her reserved
compartment, and the maid, having arranged her pillows, had gone to her
second-class carriage. Then Ordham closed the door and shook hands
through the window with his mother.

“Good-by for the present,” he said. “I have just time to catch my train
at Victoria.”

“John Ordham!”

“If you write to Mabel or her mother, you might comment upon my hatred
of letter writing. I am going to the Continent and shall remain away
exactly a week. If I think best, I shall write or telegraph Mabel from
there, but it hardly matters. I shall have returned before she will have
had time to think much about it.”

Lady Bridgminster was given no opportunity to remonstrate, for he walked
swiftly to his waiting hansom and drove off. But considering that she
was a lady too philosophical to cut wrinkles in her complexion by
worrying over the inevitable, she looked almost blanched and thoughtful
as she settled herself with a magazine and recalled all she had heard of
her son’s friendship this year and last for Margarethe Styr.

“Johnny!” she thought. “Of all men! It must be serious indeed.”

                             THE LAST CARD

Ordham, having felt himself expelled from those orderly conditions in
which so many men dwell for a lifetime with only an occasional abortive
protest, shot out by the dynamic power of angry human forces too long
accumulating, had no mind to indulge in futile regrets. He did not
pretend to assert that his will was too weak to continue its inhibitions
had he chosen, but he had suddenly realized that he did not choose, and
that was the end of it. Accordingly, he banished the very memory of
Mabel, declared war on menacing fingers shaking over the ramparts still
erect to protect his future, and untormented for the first time in many
weeks, inveigled sleep the moment his head touched the pillow of his
berth. The passage was quiet and he slept until the boat reached
Flushing. He slept again in the train, and, upon being informed in
Cologne that the Munich express was an hour late, he sensibly went to a
hotel and took a bath. The rest of the journey seemed interminable. It
was the season for tourists, the dust and heat were insufferable. But as
the train ambled into the great dépôt of Munich, he forgot discomforts,
and, all his being quivering, he suddenly felt that this beautiful city
of beautiful memories would give him back his youth; he had even a
whimsical idea that he had left it there and she was holding it for him
intact; he had but to ask for it.

He sprang from the carriage almost before the train halted, and without
waiting for Hines to do all the work, walked rapidly up the platform to
secure a cab. He actually had his ticket ready as he passed through the
gate, instead of keeping the mob cursing behind him after his usual
fashion. His head was in the air, he saw no one in the waiting crowd,
until he almost ran over a tall footman who planted himself directly in
his path.

“Sir,” began this person. “I beg your pardon—” He almost fell back, for
the eyes he encountered were like those of a wild beast at bay. Ordham
had recognized the man at once as one of the servants of the British
Legation, and for the first time in his life was possessed with the lust
to slay. But he recovered himself instantly, and although he felt as if
the sudden fire in his veins were falling to ashes with youth and hope
and life itself, he asked the man calmly enough what he wanted.

“Mr. Trowbridge sent three of us, sir, to stand at different points. Six
telegrams have come for you to-day. Thomas has them. He is outside by
the cabs, sir.”

Ordham followed the man, half resolving to tear up the telegrams and
scatter them over the stones of Munich. There was neither pity nor
sympathy in him. He felt pure flint, and had he been suddenly translated
into Mabel’s presence, she would have been welcome to the discovery that
he hated her. But, automatically, noblesse oblige did its work. When the
telegrams were handed to him, he arranged them methodically in the order
of their dates, and read them through. From them he learned that Mabel’s
self-control had deserted her even in the moment of his departure. She
had sent a servant to follow his cab and had discovered that he had
taken the train for the Continent. She had governed her agitation in a
degree until her suspicions were confirmed, but it then had become
uncontrollable, and a somewhat premature confinement was the result.
Then he read that the child was dead, and that, her excitement resisting
all attempts to alleviate it, there was practically no question of her
death unless she could be assured that he would return at once. In the
final telegram Mrs. Cutting humbled herself to the dust. The doctor also
had telegraphed.

Ordham, still acting under the compulsion of that little engine which
civilization has attached to the modern brain, and which so often,
automatically, gets up steam and keeps the track no matter how palsied
the hand or blinding the mists, turned to Hines and told him to send a
telegram to London and reserve a compartment for the train that left at
eleven o’clock. Then he went to a hotel and took another bath and
changed his linen, almost grateful to the grime of the hot and dusty day
which forced him to observe these commonplace formalities. Resolving to
walk to Schwabing, as much to settle his nerves as to avoid Styr’s
supper hour, he left his hotel, which was in the Dinerstrasse, and
strolled along endeavouring to adjust himself to the present. He had
enough to agitate him, aside from the fact that he must leave Munich
that night. As Styr had not sent him a line since her departure, he was
convinced that her frame of mind had been no more enviable than his. He
had subscribed for the principal daily newspapers of Munich and knew
that she had, as ever, compelled the admiration of those critics not in
league with the cabal; but since the first of July the opera house had
been closed and he could appreciate how the sudden idleness must afflict
her. He was not even sure that she was in Munich. She might already have
gone on a _Gastspiel_. If that were the case, he must wait another month
at least—he wondered if he should!

He sauntered along, pausing deliberately to look at the beautiful opera
house, a wing of the Residenz, but dominating the square before it with
its noble proportions, its brilliant blue and gold fresco of Apollo
among the Muses above the portico. His heart beat thickly, and not alone
for Margarethe Styr. How many times had his cab passed the mounted
guard, rolled up the steep incline to the entrance where he was ever
obsequiously received by the tall doorkeeper in livery (with his palm
out)—and then the wide lobby full of late comers, the crush at the
_garde robes_, the big chief of all the important little officials, in
his gorgeous white and blue uniform, his cocked hat and mace, the gay
foyer, and then, and then,—he came to the present abruptly. He wondered
at the fluidity of youth that lingered in him, and walked more quickly
down Perusastrasse.

He saw that the narrow pavements of Theatinerstrasse were crowded, as
was usual at this hour, many, indeed, walking in the street itself. From
five to seven was the fashionable hour for shopping and displaying one’s
best frocks, and although most of the smart people were away, many
remained in that salubrious city the year round, save for brief visits
to Italy or neighbouring points of interest. He, too, had been
accustomed to stroll in Theatinerstrasse at this hour, and he approached
it with some eagerness, hoping that it would banish the present for
another moment. But as he reached the corner he came to an abrupt halt
and nearly lost his breath. Sailing toward him, her plump figure
sheathed and swaddled in crêpe, her head, nay her nose, in the air, her
crêpe veil trailing on the pavement behind her, handsome, insolent,
radiant, was Frau von Wass. Ordham fled into the English drug-store, and
even although he could not be sure that he had escaped the manubial eye
of a lady who looked more bent upon game and conquest than ever
before,—refreshed, rejuvenated, and hungry, after her long
seclusion,—he could not, at a safe distance, resist staring through the
glass of the door. But Frau Hélène had not seen him. She crossed
Theatinerstrasse, not deigning to lift the train of skirt or veil, and
entered a milliner’s shop. Ordham hastily retreated up Perusastrasse,
and took a cab at the post-office. He had no desire to meet and exchange
words with any chance acquaintance, however harmless, and as the cab
sauntered up the Ludwigstrasse he kept his eyes averted from the
pavements and reflected upon the banalities of life, its merciless
anti-climaxes. Apparently there was no such thing as pure tragedy.

He looked at his watch. It was but seven o’clock, Styr’s supper hour. He
told the _kutscher_ to drive in the Englischergarten. Half an hour’s
further respite—he was not averse! He felt dull, hard, nervous. His
head was hot, his hands cold. In the deserted driveway of the park he
took off his hat and leaned back with closed eyes. But the telegrams in
his pocket did not burn him; his mind was on the approaching interview.
He was quite aware that if Styr were in the villa the next hour would be
far more portentous than that of his marriage, and although it never
occurred to him to turn back, he faltered a bit.

But at half-past seven he presented himself at the gate of the villa.
Old Kurt answered his ring and kissed his hand effusively. When told
that the Frau Gräfin was in the gallery, Ordham motioned the man aside
and went rapidly down the hall and opened the door. As he saw the
familiar room in the lamplight, with Styr seated at the farther end
before a table, writing, his head swam, and he hardly noticed that she
almost stumbled to her feet and stood staring at him.

But all she said was, “Oh!”

He cast his hat on one chair, his gloves on another, almost revolved on
his heel, and then went slowly forward. But she held a cold hand across
the table and motioned him to a chair. “Sit down—please. You might have

She almost fell into her own chair, and he saw that her face was thin,
her skin dull, her eyes in dark orbits. He had never seen her look less
handsome or more alluring. But he took the chair, as she desired it. He
had known that many things must be said before the last barrier went
down, that she would never rush into his arms even if taken by surprise.
But he was far from guessing the new barrier she had been educating her
courage to erect in case he came, although she had no mind for it save
as a last resource.

She realized, however, that it would be a waste of time to beat about
the bush, and said, “I fancied that you would either come within a month
or two or not at all.” She spoke coldly, while they eyed each other like
enemies, but he observed that her breath was short.

“I came on a sudden impulse, having quite made up my mind to wait until
Mabel was well again. I must return—very shortly. I arranged matters so
that she would think I had gone north with my mother. But although I
mechanically took every precaution to spare her, no doubt I should have
come if I had been obliged to walk over her dead body.”

“What have you come for?”

“To claim you. To bind you to me forever. I have no longer the least
intention of attempting to live without you. Some way it must be

“It cannot be arranged.”

“It shall be.”

“Do you remember the promise you made me on Stanmore Heath?”

“I remember every word that has passed between us.”

“You cannot have me and your career too.”

“I shall make the attempt. If I fail, the career will have to go.”

“Do you hope for satiety before the end of the period during which a
love affair may, with due precautions, be kept secret—”

“No!” he said violently. “I neither hope nor wish for anything of the
sort. If I could have put you out of my mind, as I have always been able
to banish other memories, I am free to confess that I should have done
so. But I could as easily cease to breathe, and live. I refuse to
contemplate life without you, and have come here sooner than I intended,
because I cannot—will not—wait any longer to enter upon a complete
understanding with you. It took me a long time to wake up; I hesitated
longer than many men would have done. I am almost ashamed that I
hesitated at all. It makes me seem to myself a monster of calculation.
But you stood me off in the first place, and in the second,—well, aside
from my career, I recognized that I had voluntarily assumed
responsibilities that must bind me to a certain extent. With those I
shall compromise as far as possible, but my career, I fancy, will take
care of itself. If you have useful gifts and are willing to exercise
them, life is only too ready to wring the last drop of blood out of your

“And do you fancy,” she cried harshly, “that I shall renounce my own
career in order to follow you about and hide in back streets to be
always at your beck and call? The egoism of man passes comprehension!”

But he neither coloured nor turned pale. He looked at her steadily. “Of
course I expect you to do nothing of the sort. As I am not, thanks to my
stupidity, in a position to marry you, as we are both too proud and
ambitious deliberately to renounce the world after the fashion of those
that have nothing worth speaking of to sacrifice, and as a possibly long
life on this planet apart is unthinkable, we must resort to compromise.
Europe is a small place and I shall see that I am not sent out of it. We
can meet constantly. An attaché has little to do—it will be several
years before I shall be anything more. I have much influence, I can
obtain many leaves of absence. You can _gast_ where I am accredited. I
understand that I am to go to Paris. It is not a day’s journey from
Munich. You could spend at least one week in every month there, and no
one would think of asking what took a prima donna to Paris—any woman,
for that matter!”

“And my New York season?”

“I hope you will go to New York only once. Three months will be an
eternity, but I should be the last to deprive you of that supreme
triumph. I wish it were over—but—well, there will be the long summers
which we shall manage to spend together somewhere.”

“We should be the scandal of Europe in six months. Lord Bridgminster
will not live long. Your inheritance will make you more conspicuous than
ever. All the bishops in England would be writing to the _Times_
protesting against your employment by a virtuous government. A love
affair here, and every servant in Munich would know it. In great cities
I should be watched by more than servants. American correspondents would
sit on my doorstep. Your wife—”

“My wife, when she is well, will, in any case, learn that I shall never
live with her again. She will also learn that to criticise any act of
mine would be as great an impertinence as if she were one of my
relations. She will have everything else that she married me for. In
time she must cease to care for a man that will have none of her.”

“Poor thing!” The pity was involuntary and sincere. “How she will

“Who does not suffer? Let her be thankful that she is made of
thistle-down that any strong wind may blow about, but only from one
pleasant place to another.”

“Thistle-down has been known to scatter in winds too strong. You might
kill her.”

“The fit survive.”

“Oh, you are hard! You are man epitomized.”

“I have put a temporary lid on a devil’s brew. Who has not iron and
steel in his nature if he amounts to anything? It comes out in one
fashion and another. I am showing you my naked soul. I shall never do
that to the child I married—to any one else on earth, for that matter.
Mabel will be let down as easily as possible. I have every wish to spare
her, and she gains in acuteness. Possibly she will let me alone at first
in the hope of slowly winning me back, and meanwhile learn to do without

“You should not have left her now. There is always the possibility of
death in childbirth.”

She saw him turn a shade paler and stir uneasily, but his gaze did not
soften nor waver. She said abruptly:

“How can you tell that were you suddenly free, I should not expect you
to marry me?”

“I should certainly marry you.”

“And what compromise then? Not a woman in diplomatic society would
receive me. I can see them! To shake hands with a famous artist at a
reception and go away and talk about it is one thing; to receive her as
an equal, to forget her scandalous history as well as her public
career—why discuss the obvious? Even were I willing to renounce my
career, you never could stand the position. Loyalty to me and your own
pride would force you to give up the service.”

“Not now. You forget your conquest of London; its conclusion to believe
none of those stories.”

“London felt quite safe in permitting itself to be captivated by the
celebrity of the moment; I asked nothing further of it, encouraged none
of its marriageable men, my stay was brief. If I invaded one of those
Londons _in petto_, a British embassy, demanding to be received as an
equal, do you believe that they would guilelessly accept me? They would
immediately investigate and learn the truth.”

“Anything can be lived down—”

“Not a past like mine.”

“I don’t believe that there would be any investigation, if only because
London first believed those outrageous stories of Levering’s, and then
reacted from them. He overreached himself—”

“Levering was extraordinarily moderate. No doubt it would be as you say,
as long as I remained a mere prima donna, for people are only too
anxious there should be no obstacle between their conscience and the
pleasure of lionizing: but the moment I gave up the stage, married one
of their own—I should be stoned out of the gates and you with me.”

Ordham sprang to his feet, overturning his chair. “Enough of
improbabilities. Mabel has no intention of dying. We have only the
present to consider and we have wasted too many words already. You and I
exist in a void. We have been driven straight toward each other for the
last fourteen months. As well try to escape the morrow’s sun—”

She too had risen and pushed back her chair, but she kept the table
between them. Her face flushed almost black, then turned so white that
he thought her about to faint. But something in her eyes arrested him.
He held his breath. Once more he almost turned on his heel.

“Then listen to the whole story,” she cried, with that hoarse muddle of
accents that banished the very memory of her gift of song. “God! how am
I to say it all? And is it for your sake alone? I wonder? I have vowed
to save you from yourself, give you to public life; but I doubt if I
could bring myself to rip the grave-clothes and show the corpse, if my
own career were not so dear to me, the delight in song, in art, in
holding great publics spellbound, in reigning a queen of sorts—and a
singer’s time is brief enough! I have asked—oh, many times—whether I
loved you or my art most, and the answer has not always been the same,
not by any means. I don’t know! I don’t know!

“But not for a moment do I believe that we could compromise with the
world as you have arranged in your royal manner. It would mean that one
of us would have to go into obscurity, be forgotten by the world, and
that would be my part. You would never give way, and I should hate you
if you did. Good God! Do you think I have thought of anything else since
my return to Munich? I have been tempted to scald my flesh to relieve
the torments of my mind. And I tell you there is no way out, there is
nothing for us in this life but what we have had already, nothing! We
must part, and part to-night, before it is too late, and as there is no
other way to bring you to your senses, I shall tell you that hideous
history, not only to blast your love out of existence, but to inspire
you with a vision of the enthusiasm with which London would receive me
as a peeress, should you ever be free.”

She hurried on as if she feared he might protest, or her own courage
ebb. “I have told you that I was bred in a coal-mining district, where I
never saw a clean face, where I do not recall a fugitive instinct for
cleanliness in myself, where human beings were merely brutes that walked
on two legs instead of four. We threw our dead out into the snow to lie
there until the ground thawed—until a reporter chanced along, wrote a
sensational story for his newspaper, and put our overseer to shame. I
did not know the alphabet; perhaps I did not know there was such a
thing—I forget.

“I was not fifteen when a drummer came to the hamlet, an alert flashy
young man. I think I told you that I wore hopsacking—if your
imagination can picture that material. But in spite of hopsacking, in
spite of a dirty face, the man saw the promise of beauty, and to do the
creature justice he thought me several years older than I was, for I was
already very tall. He made no impression upon me whatever during that
visit, but on his return some months later he brought me candy, ribbons,
many small trinkets which I could hide, and promised me unlimited silk
and diamonds if I would go with him. The men of the district had not
been unkind to me, except that I was made to do double the usual woman’s
work on account of my physique and strength; the father of the family I
lived with had no doubt given me the benefit of his protection, as I was
able to earn almost as much as a boy. As for myself, I was always too
busy or too tired to get into mischief. I do not fancy that the silks
and jewels would have tempted me particularly, for I had never seen any,
and he had some trouble making his meaning clear. But when he promised
me a life of ease, a comfortable home, and a servant, I did not hesitate
a moment. I stole off one night and met him at a flag station where he
gave me a suit of decent clothes to put on, and the train came along
half an hour later. He took me to New York. I ran away from him three
times in the first month. I not only hated him, but I was made to do all
the work in his dingy little flat. But the streets terrified me and I
went back to him. I lived with him a year, and he was often away. During
that year I learned many things. I saw children going to school and knew
what it meant, for he had amused himself teaching me to read and write.
I saw the outside of luxury and pleasure. He gave me good sensible
clothes and took me to the theatre, where we sat in the gallery and
gazed down upon a bewildering world of wealth and fashion. All the women
looked to me like goddesses or angels. So did the actresses!

“The days were very long. No one in the big cheap apartment house ever
spoke to me, and one day the janitress slapped me for spilling milk in
the entrance and called me a name one does not forget. My man was coarse
and violent. I hated him increasingly. There was but one way of escape.
I had often been out with him late at night. I went out one night alone.
By this time I was conscious of my looks, and from some remote recess in
my slowly awakening brain the instinct for dress had crept forth. I did
not return to the flat. I lived the life of the streets with complete
unconcern until I finally picked up an easy-going man of middle age with
a leaning toward benevolence, whom I asked to educate me, and who
consented, much pleased with the element of variety thus introduced into
a somewhat humdrum existence. He put me in a little flat not far from
his own modest brownstone mansion, found me a respectable-looking
harridan to act as chaperon and sent me to a school as his ward. I
disliked him as much as my original protector, but I tolerated him until
I was eighteen, and as well educated as the ordinary girl of a year or
two younger. By this time he had fallen into the habit of bringing men
to the flat to dinner. He was proud of his discovery, I was pert and
sharp and bad-tempered, and amused him and his friends. These evenings
were not very hilarious, but they must have been an immense relief to
the respectable man with a sneaking blackguard in him—a common enough
type—after the dull order of his family circle. They were not even
fashionable; he was a merchant of some standing and a fair income, but
far from being a high liver in any way.

“He looked upon me as a child, a bright waif who naturally desired to
educate herself against the time when beauty should have fled, and she
might aspire to some means of support above service. I made my
deliberate choice of the youngest and least ill-favoured of his friends,
a bachelor with a gay temper and good manners. That was my first
exercise of the art of fascination. Heretofore, hardly dreaming of
anything higher, I had been a mere creature of commerce. I vanquished
him in a week, and transferred my belongings to another retreat. I liked
this man well enough. He surrounded me with luxuries, provided me with
private teachers, and gave me a liberal allowance.

“A year passed. I was bursting with life, with the desire to live. I was
sick of being hidden away. My intellect forged steadily ahead in its
persistent cravings, but other cravings kept pace. I wanted gayety,
society, brilliancy. I wanted admiration. This man brought no other men
to my apartment, took me nowhere. I fancied him in love with me and
asked him to marry me. I shall never forget the expression of his face.
I left him for a man who had followed me about for some time. He was
what is loosely known as a man about town, with no affiliations, nothing
to lose, only too delighted to spend money on a pretty woman and show
her off. I drank the cup of pleasure daily. I met other women of the
same sort, turned night into day, revelled in gorgeous raiment, choice
food, fine wines, and a reasonable number of jewels. The man was coarse,
but good-natured and generous.

“Long before this I had begun to read—literature. I now knew exactly
what I was about, what I was. But the only effect of thought was to
create a disgust for the particular form of vice in which I lived. Its
vulgarity, its obviousness, became hateful to me. Meanwhile I had met,
now and again, men of a far higher social caste, of education, polish.
There was no question in my mind that my preference for men of this sort
was pronounced, but to live with any one of them meant being hidden away
again, and for this I had no taste. I dreaded the ennui, and I loved
excitement, although I wanted it in the society of gentlemen. Suddenly I
conceived the idea of going on the stage. This would give me a _raison
d’être_, as well as a measure of independence. I did so, and soon
transferred myself to a man of fashion and wealth, and a wife who was
one of the handsomest, and, to judge by appearances, one of the sweetest
women in New York society. I found him rather a brute, selfish,
capricious, and extraordinarily mean. But I made a desperate effort to
love this man, for by this time my mating instinct had developed and I
wanted to love. I might as well have tried to love a brownstone front. I
left him for another man of his class, and this man I did love. I tried
to kill him. I once told you. For a time I forswore all men. I sold my
jewels and went to Europe. But everywhere some man recognized me, and I
found that I could make no friends save books, and I was too young for
those to suffice. I returned to New York with a friend of the two last
men that had protected me. I became quite reckless; and as by this time
I was extraordinarily handsome, in a vital splendid way, and with
something like genius in the matter of dress, I was more sought after
among fast men than any woman of my class. I tormented many men to whom
I yielded nothing. That was my revenge.

“Still I read and studied. I had not an illusion about myself. I did not
pretend to excuse myself. I made money in stocks. I could have lived
alone with my books. But I alternately hated and loved the excitement,
the luxury, the senseless extravagance in which I indulged whenever I
found a man weak enough to squander his all upon me. At that time I had
but a glimmer of a belief in my histrionic talent, and even had I
believed in it and been consumed with ambition, I should have met with
but one reply from every manager—I was too tall. True, I might have got
some man to put up the money for a starring tour and acted Lady Macbeth
or some other classic rôle, but I knew that to succeed I must have
practice first, and this I could not get. I was condemned to small parts
in the background, and often would have lost my position altogether but
for influence. Moreover, curiously enough, I avoided the notice of the
public as much as possible. I kept out of the newspapers.

“I had no suspicion that anything could be made of my voice until I had
lived this sort of life for some ten years. Meanwhile, as I told you, I
had fits of horrible disgust, intolerable ennui. All societies save
those peopled with the fast and frivolous were closed to me. Such
unspeakably frivolous women! Many of them, too, were ladies born, but

“I shut myself up once or twice again with my books, but I always went
back. Life without men was no life at all. My brain seemed to be cut in
half with a straight line of cleavage. One-half might contain something
like a real intellect, inherited,—well, that is of no consequence,—the
other was that of the courtesan pure and simple.

“Sometimes the intellectual side went to sleep altogether, especially
when the men I happened to know were more interesting than commonly.
Men, as a whole, are not very interesting. In the abstract, perhaps, but
not to their wives or mistresses. But I was a woman of splendid
lustiness, of insolent determination to cram youth to the lid with all
that life offered to outcasts like myself. Circumstances had made me a
waif. I would make the best of it. Several times good women came and
tried to reclaim me. I argued them out of the house. What had they to
offer in exchange? Would they receive me in their set, find me a
husband, obliterate my reputation? One, I remember, had a sense of
humour, and confessed that plain uncompanioned virtue would seem
somewhat barren to herself after the luxury and beauty, the society of
clever men, which at that moment I enjoyed: as a rule fast men have no
taste for clever men, and they are themselves dull beyond all power of
words to describe; but at this time I was protected by and half loved a
Western millionnaire with a weakness for the arts and a desire to play
the patron; which I encouraged. But he was shot—To return to the lady
who would have reclaimed me; she added astutely that I had better take
the cue from the wise prime donne and retire of my own accord. And she
added, as she left the house, ‘There is always Europe, you know. And you
have a brain.’

“But I had been to Europe; alone and companioned. It was soon after this
that I ceased to blow hot and cold. By imperceptible degrees I came
wholly to hate my life, to loathe it, to grow sick, sick, sick of men.
Compositely they were brutes, the best of them. Life with such women, no
doubt, brings out the worst in them. Perhaps their wives should thank
us. Man in mental and spiritual undress are as disillusionizing as a
certain President of the United States must have been to his household
when hanging over the banisters of the White House in his red flannels
and shouting for hot water.

“But I had lost the money I had made, for I had the stock-gambling
fever. I thought of suicide more than once, for I not only knew of no
way in which I could support myself decently, but I dreaded solitude,
ennui. Suddenly I discovered my voice. That interested me for a time,
although I had no idea it would ever be of any use to me. But my old
teacher was enthusiastic and often inspired me with ambitious dreams,
for he dangled Bayreuth before me, and at times I believed that he knew
what he was talking about; at others it seemed too much like a fairy
story, and I despaired.

“I made money again, this time a considerable sum, and I determined to
gamble no more. I had a good friend in a banker whom I could trust, and
he invested my money. I went West with that travelling company in order
to break with my old connection. In time I should return and devote
myself to music, even if I never went on the operatic stage. My musical
tastes had been developed for several years, and at least I could live
in some German or Italian city and study and enjoy music, no doubt find
companionship in the society of artists.

“Then came the wreck. You know the rest. Whether you now know all,
whether your imagination has carried you into all the dark corners, into
every chamber of horrors—I can tell you the story in outline, but the
details are beyond my strength—I do not know. I hope so. I can only
reiterate that I have lived with more men than I pretend to remember,
whose very names would be unfamiliar should I hear them; that for years
I lived this life with my intelligence wide awake,—for I never drank,
never took a drug in my life,—my literary tastes of the best, my
refinement of mind growing daily; that when I finally abandoned this
existence it was from no desire for reform, to be a good woman; it was
without one atom of remorse. It was simply and only because I hated men,
because that wreck gave me the unique opportunity to begin life over
again, and my voice pointed the way. I have squeezed my character dry of
the woman I was in those days—she is like an old book; I have hardly
thought about her until lately. I do not even now, in this minute, think
upon that time with regret. It is simply not in me to worry over what is
past and done; nor could I appreciate the beauty of life as I do: no
good woman has the profound appreciations that I have. But I recognize
the justice of the retribution. The first departure from principles, or
shall I say the social code, that I never had heard of, was inevitable.
So were the next two or three years. Had I then broken away, gone to
some other city before I became conspicuous, and supported myself
respectably, as, with my varied cleverness, I could have done, no doubt
you would forgive me that childish misstep and love me the more. Nor
could that brief past ever be raked up; at all events it would be next
to impossible. But I persisted in that life for thirteen years: until I
was bored and satiated, until something more satisfactory offered. Were
I penitent now, I might inspire your sympathy, be worthy of it; but I
would not give up one of those years of misery, of vice, of horrors, if
I believed that—as I do—they played their part with the coincidently
progressing brain in developing that depth and intensity of genius which
makes me the greatest Isolde the world will ever see. I regret
nothing—nothing! And for that reason I hold myself to be the worst
woman alive, and am prepared to see you turn your back and walk out
without comment. I shall not ask you to stay!”

Her voice had not faltered for a moment; she had spoken with an
increasing rapidity of utterance. But suddenly she broke off short,
looked helplessly at Ordham, her face, which had looked flushed and full
as she spoke, becoming white and pinched once more, the defiant glare
dying out of her eyes. He had stood motionless during the horrid sordid
story, looking straight at her, his face almost vacant, as if his brain
had emptied itself of every thought, that it might receive to the brim
all she chose to pour into it. So she had seen him many times at a new
or absorbing play. He merely looked paler, his eyes darker. She stopped,
held her breath, then:

“Well?” she stammered. “Well?”—

The colour came back to his face, and with it an intense deepening of
expression. He drew out his watch, then took the six telegrams from his
pocket and laid them on the table between them.

“I am sorry you chose to-night to tell me that story,” he said, in his
ordinary tones, “for, as you will see by reading these telegrams, I must
take the eleven o’clock express, and it is now quarter past ten. Hines
is no doubt at the door—”

But she interrupted him with a cry that was almost a scream. “Good God!
Do you mean to say that it makes no difference? What are you made of?”

“It might have made a difference a year ago. Now it makes none
whatever—or—yes—it is odd you should not have guessed that the more
you made me pity you the more I should love you. And then—I had
imagined very much all you have told me, taken it for granted, at least.
Perhaps it is just as well, after all, that you selected to-night for
the tale, if I had to hear it, for although determined to come to an
understanding with you, I was in no humour for love-making. We have now
wiped the thing off the slate, and, if you don’t mind, when I return we
will not refer to it.”

She glanced at the telegrams, dropped into a chair, and covered her face
with her shaking hands. “Your wife will die,” she moaned, “your wife
will die!”

“I have not the least idea she will die. She is as strong as you are. I
dare not assume that these telegrams were sent merely to frighten me and
bring me back; no doubt excitement has made her ill, and in that case
there may be danger. Besides, she has lost her child. I shall go, of
course. But I shall return at the earliest possible moment. We will then
make our plans as deliberately as more fortunate people do when about to
marry. I am capable of being faithful to one woman for a lifetime, and I
shall be faithful to you. We can be unimaginably happy. But I must not
miss the train.”

He went round the table, and she stood up, shaking. “Not to-night!” she
said. “I cannot kiss you so soon after that story. It has brought the
past too close.”

“Very well.” He took both her hands, however, and bending his face
looked close into her eyes.

“Swear to me that you will be here when I return,” he said.

“Yes, I shall be here.”

His eyes contracted at some hint of irony in her voice, and his grip on
her hands intensified.

“If I thought that you would make way with yourself, I should not leave
you. Unless you swear that you will do nothing so foolish and so cruel,
I shall not return to England, and in that case I may have my wife’s
death on my head.”

She returned his intense gaze for a moment, then, wrenching her hands
away, pushed him from her violently. “Do not worry!” she cried harshly.
“If I kill myself, I’ll take you with me. I am not Isolde for nothing.
But now, for God’s sake, go! I want to be alone.”

                           THE FOOLISH FATES

If Ordham could be very hard, he could also be very soft. When he
received a telegram at Flushing stating that Mabel was still alive, but
that her condition was hopeless, he was moved deeply, the more so,
perhaps, because his sympathies had been so profoundly stirred a few
hours before. At the same time he wished to heaven he were on the other
side of the world. When he reached London, he went hastily to the sick
room, fearing that if he stopped to think his courage might desert him,
for it was his first personal encounter with death. There was a strange
moaning sound from the bed, such as he had heard animals utter in their
last extremity, and he stumbled over a pail of ice. The darkened room
seemed to him full of people and in an indescribable confusion, but he
had barely caught a glimpse of Mrs. Cutting, dishevelled, haggard, when
everybody seemed to disappear simultaneously, leaving him and the dying
creature in the bed alone.

He made his way across the big room and saw Mabel, who looked like
waxwork with enormous glass eyes. He shuddered, but bent over and would
have kissed her had she not pushed him feebly away. He sat down, and his
nervousness, even his horror, fled. He looked at the shrunken pallid
remnant of the beautiful girl he had married and was filled with an
immense pity, which induced one of those rare moments in life, like tiny
islands, that have no space for self. He was also awed, as one must ever
be in the presence of death, but those little green isles in the ocean
of egoism have their atmosphere of unreality; and he felt throughout
this interview, which he has never tried to forget, like a man who
dreams yet believes himself to be awake.

Mabel spoke in a small distant voice. “I am dying and you have killed

“I am afraid I have.”

“That is all I have left—that you should know that. Had I been happy I
might have pulled through, although I had a horrible time, a horrible
time! But my brain, all my blood, was on fire. I don’t know—the doctor
will explain—but I do know that my only chance was mental peace, and I
was like a mad creature from the moment I learned you had gone to that
woman. O God! I am only nineteen. What was I born for?”

She paused a moment and he stared at her with blanched face and mouth
slightly open. His expression was almost vacant, his remarkably
receptive faculty exercising itself unconsciously. To Mabel he looked as
young as when she had first known him, and her expression softened, but
only for a moment. Her face set again, and she went on:

“I don’t mind dying so much, for I am so tired I don’t care, and there
is nothing left to live for. Even the baby deserted me. But I have
lost—lost! And I was so sure I should win! Why should I not have been
confident? I had had everything—always—it is so strange that I should
be ground to powder! I feel as if the huge wheels of one of those old
Roman chariots—conquerors’ chariots!—had crushed me. I was a real
little queen, and now I am nothing! nothing! And only nineteen! Why was
I born?”

She raised herself on her hands; her immense hollow eyes, which had
wandered during her last words, focussed, were piercing for the first
time, probably, since they had met the light. “I think I should not mind
even that—anything—” she was whispering, her voice almost dead—“if I
could only have understood you. But to have been your wife, to have
loved you so, and to die knowing that not for one minute, not for one
second—and even death gives me no insight—”

He fled from the room as she fell back. The doctor, a nurse, and Mrs.
Cutting, were waiting on the threshold. He went hastily to his own room,
and as he closed the door he felt something at his heels. It was LaLa,
and he took him in his arms and sat without moving, almost without
thought, for an hour. At the end of that time there was a tap and he
admitted Mrs. Cutting. As he saw her face he braced himself and all
sense of unreality left him. Her cherished but never harnessed youth had
deserted her. Her face was pinched and yellow and old. Her hair was
streaked with white. Her lips were gray and shaking. But even in her
deep maternal grief, in the one violent blow that life had dealt her,
even in her new hatred of this royal child of fortune, she was unable to
undam her soul and overwhelm him with a fury of scorn and hatred, as she
had dimly imagined she should do when she left Mabel’s room for his. She
could suffer, but not for her were the great tragic emotions, the
splendours, the lightning blasts of expression. As she disciplined her
relaxed mouth and pressed her hand hard against her bosom, Ordham’s mind
vagrantly recalled an observation of Styr’s regarding the best of the
American actors: that they managed to convey the impression of deep
intense emotion, artistically repressed; when as a matter of fact they
had nothing to repress. But that the poor woman suffered to the full
capacity of her meagre nature he could not doubt, and he tried to take
her hand and lead her to a chair. But she, like her daughter, thrust him

“Mabel is dead,” she said.

As his brain whirled it almost cast out the collocations: “Of course!”
“I am so sorry!” and the bathos of it twisted his features into a grin
that was as like a smile as a mask is like the human face; but Mrs.
Cutting fell back in horror.

“You—you—was it not enough to kill her, without laughing—”

“Good God, how can you say such a thing? I feel as hysterical as a
woman. How else could I feel? I am distracted, half out of my mind with
horror and remorse. Give me credit for that much at least.”

“You are still young enough to feel excited at being in the midst of a
tragedy!” Mrs. Cutting spoke almost dryly. “But I doubt if you will long
convince yourself that it is anything more. I hope this may be the last
time I shall ever be obliged to speak to you, and therefore I will say
at once that I wish to take my child and her child to New York for
interment. I don’t think it necessary to give my reasons.”

“You will do everything you wish, of course. I should not think of
opposing you.”

She stared at him in unwilling admiration in spite of her suffering, her
indignation. He had mastered his excitement, and were he a kindly
relative he could not be more courteous, more full of solicitude. She
turned her back on him, thinking of nothing to say but “Thank you,” and
she left the room feeling like an honoured guest reluctantly dismissed.

But the next three days were a nightmare to Ordham. He was determined to
pay all respect to Mabel dead, which, to do him justice, he had, with
brief lapses, managed to pay her living. He even sat beside the bed for
a few moments after they had dressed her and folded her hands, and
filled her arms with lilies. She was less pinched, less shrunken, in
death. A little of her beauty had returned to her, and she looked no
more than sixteen. Again pity possessed him, and he left the room
abruptly and wandered about the darkened house. For three days he barely
went out, and as he could not settle himself to read, and as every
blind, according to that depressing old provincial custom, was down, as
the house seemed to grow more and more silent, darker and darker, until
he thought he should go mad, he took refuge in the attic, where in an
unused room he opened a back window, and, companioned by LaLa, who clung
to him, sat gazing by the hour over the roofs, trying not to think of
the future, but making no bones about wishing the present were over.

Then came the ordeal at which he had to appear as chief mourner; but he
girded up his loins, and, as a matter of fact, very nearly wept as he
followed the long narrow casket out of the house. It was to remain in
the mortuary chapel in Brompton Cemetery until Mrs. Cutting could close
her house and start for New York. There was another short service out
there, and as he was as white as death, and his shoulders sagged, the
distinguished gathering, among whom were many Americans, pitied him

                      WHEN ORDHAM WAS BRIDGMINSTER

Bridgminster was also dead; and on the day following Mabel’s funeral,
Ordham, in company with his mother and two of his brothers, started for
Scotland to escort the body of the late head of their house to Ordham
Castle and bury him in the vault beneath the village church with his

Ordham had endeavoured to forget Margarethe Styr until the last rites
had been paid to his wife, but he sent her a telegram as he was leaving
London, several from Scotland, and another as soon as he arrived at the
castle. When his brother’s funeral was over, his relatives departed, and
he was quite alone—certain matters necessary of adjustment detained him
at Ordham for a few days—he sat down to write a long impassioned letter
to her. But his pen fell from his hand. For the first time in his life
he could have written a great love-letter, abandoned himself recklessly
in words; but he knew that if he made no mention of marriage, Styr, even
if she received the letter in a state of mind absolutely responsive—by
no means certain!—would notice the omission. She loved him as
profoundly as a woman is capable of loving; the terrible confession by
which she purposed to save him was proof enough of that; but she was
also clear-sighted and practical. No subtlety of omission would ever
deceive her, and all arguments against the public relation should come
from her; that was her right. It was not that he had the least doubt she
would continue to make these protests that held his pen, but the doubt
of his own sincerity did he protest in black and white that he intended
to marry her. Not only did this woman still magnetize all the truth that
was in him, but he knew that he could not make that particular protest
as strong as the rest of his letter; she would detect the difference,
and, with feminine inconsistency, be wounded to the quick.

And although he loved her the more for the pity that melted him every
time he thought of that past she was forced to crowd out of her memory
would she live at all, and admired her increasingly that she had risen
to such triumphant heights of character and fortune above that Paphian
ruin, he was appalled at the thought of introducing her into the line of
mothers of the house of Ordham. If Mabel’s boy had only lived! Or if he
could be sure that Styr would have no children. But to have his possible
sons and daughters cower from their fellows under the knowledge that
their mother had been a woman of the streets—he was no longer young and
indolent enough, careless and arrogant enough, to quaff his goblet to
the dregs with no thought of the morrow.

If Styr had been one of the world’s great singers for twenty years, that
would be quite another matter. Ugly facts disappear into the alembic of
Fame to emerge picturesque fiction. In course of time history would
relate that one of the Countesses of Bridgminster had been a famous
prima donna, her descendants would point with pride to her pictures by
Lenbach and Sargent in the gallery of Ordham. But Munich was not the
world, and although Styr had triumphed briefly in London, it was as a
“discovery,” not as a prima donna of established fame. Nor had she more
than a year left in which to make a world-wide reputation, for she must
leave the stage if she married him. He knew that he should win on this
point, if he was able to overcome her scruples and marry her at all; but
the result would be, as she well knew, an immediate—and fatally
easy—disinterring of her past, a past which her brief and narrow career
would by no means annul. And neither wealth nor abilities nor the great
name he now bore would enable him to force his wife upon those circles
which, representing their countries abroad, are compelled to exercise,
or simulate, a rigidity of convention which London and other great
capitals can afford to disdain.

He tortured his mind for a restless day, roaming over the castle and the
moors, but could think of no way out of the difficulty save to leave the
problem to time. In any case, they could not marry for a year; two years
would be more decent still. They might mutually agree to leave the
question unopened for that length of time. During that period many
things might happen; she might become so famous in the Anglo-Saxon world
that, as is often the case, mere time would be annihilated by the dazzle
of her reputation,—people would talk of her as if “they had known her
always”; an experience which has its annoyances for those that resent
having ten or twenty years added to their age, but not without its
compensations. He, also, should be on his way toward establishment; for
although it was not likely that any influence he could bring to bear
would lessen the prescribed term of probation, those two years would
give him opportunities to show his mettle, and he could rise rapidly
enough thereafter. Yes, by degrees, the marriage might be accomplished,
or it was possible they both might fear to disturb a relation in which
they had found happiness; although it was his disposition to do all
honour to the woman he loved, compensate her to the fullest degree for
all she had been made to endure by malignant circumstances; and at the
base of his nature was a love of order, of regularity. Like many another
man, he might enter lightly enough into a liaison; but deliberately to
contemplate one that should last the lifetime of himself and the woman
for whom he felt all the refinements as well as the passions of love
which a man generally reserves for his wife—it seemed to him an ugly
and a grotesque jumble of contradictions. Better renounce diplomacy at
once and seek usefulness in other ways. Moreover, he wanted her constant

But all this could not be written. It would look cold-blooded and
calculating in black and white, a ridiculous postscript to a
love-letter. When they were together once more the subject would
naturally be forgotten for a while; he could assume, without discussion,
the future legalizing of their union, or profess that it was not worth
talking about until the end of his period of public deference to the
memory of his wife. He certainly would marry her if he discovered that
she really wished it—but he trusted to time. Therefore he did not
write, but telegraphed daily, intimating that the attempt to talk to her
on paper made him sick and that he was bending all his energies toward
hastening his departure. He did leave for London in less than a week,
and there he found a long letter from Styr. She made no reference to her
confession, nor to the death of his wife; but it was probably as
passionate a love-letter as man ever received from woman, and it caused
Ordham (as we may as well continue to call him during these remaining
pages devoted to his youth) to ignore both the Foreign Office and his
solicitors, and take the next train for the Continent.

                            LIFE, THE POTTER

Ordham sat alone in the vast black auditorium of the Hof. Old Kurt had
met him at the station with a note from Countess Tann which informed him
briefly that the King had commanded a midnight performance of
_Götterdämmerung_, and that she had without difficulty bribed the
doorkeeper to smuggle in the Englishman so favourably remembered; in
these days there was little awe of the King’s displeasure, but he must
be careful to make no sound. “I shall sing to you, not to the King,” the
note concluded. “Do not forget that, but make no attempt to see me until
to-morrow afternoon at one. It will be dawn before the performance
finishes, and I shall be nothing but a worn-out prima donna with not a
wish on earth but for supper and sleep. I shall hide in one of the
hotels this evening and console myself by writing you a letter, which
you will find at your hotel upon your return. Mind you tell Kurt where
you are stopping.”

Ordham raged at the further delay. But when he had worn his temper down
with a long walk and a German supper, he began to feel agreeably alive
to the adventure. At a quarter before midnight he presented himself at
the side entrance of the Hof. The door was slightly ajar and opened upon
his approach. Reënforcing the hand held out to him in the darkness, he
tiptoed through the vestibule and foyer, then, left inside a door near
the middle of the _parkett_, he fumbled unaided to a seat.

The orchestra was tuning and covered what sound he made. The jets of
light above the scores of its musicians, and the solitary globe in the
box of the King were all that relieved the black vacuum in which he
found himself. He could not make out a feature of the familiar tiers
which always formed a part of the mental picture of this graceful opera
house when he fell to dreaming of it. Dowdy as many of the women might
be, they made a brilliant scene in totality, and there were always
familiar faces, particularly in the _balkon_. And all were music lovers,
come to hear, not to be seen, hardly daring to breathe audibly until the
curtain went down. To-night, Ordham could have sworn the galleries were
full of ghosts, so difficult was it to believe that he was to hear a
performance of _Götterdämmerung_ in an empty house. He turned his head,
whimsically expectant of seeing the space behind the _parkettsitz_
crowded with shadowy forms: the students, men and women, who felt
themselves fortunate in being able to pay for standing room, and to
stand for five hours!

And since he was forced to put an extinguisher on the lover in him until
the morrow and had finished cursing the King, he gave his fancy rein and
found it no effort to imagine himself in some vast underground cavern
watching restless spirits bearing each a tiny torch at the entrance, and
a throne cut in the rock behind him high up toward the dome. In truth
the air in which he sat was damp and cold, although the month was
August; the opera house had been closed since the first of July.

His mind indulged in fantasies but for a few moments however, presently
returning to Styr’s note. He had read it twice and wished he might
strike a match and read it again. Something in it had induced a vague
sensation of uneasiness, of doubt. In spite of her assurance that she
should sing to him alone, it had been abrupt, almost cold. She might be
wise in refusing to see him before the performance; but at least she
could have written something of the regret she might reasonably be
expected to feel; but this omission, no doubt, was due to the ill temper
generally induced by these commands to sing at midnight. Then fear
assailed him. Did she mean to convey some message of renunciation
to-night? Prepare him for her decision in favour of art? He had never
questioned that for this great artist to renounce the stage at the
height of her powers and in the dawn of a world-wide fame would be no
light matter. In his breast pocket were the fiery vows he had received a
few hours before his departure from London. There were no half measures
about Styr; this letter had enveloped him in an electric mist. But her
last note might have been written the summer before. Had she faltered
when she received his last telegram from Cologne?—sternly admonished,
perhaps, by that twin sister of hers in Valhalla, Brynhildr, whose
temporary reincarnations, mayhap, it was that made Ludwig despise the
women of Earth? . . .

Ordham felt his long jaw grow prognathic. Munich was not England. He
forgot the death of his brother. He was in a romantic city, in a
romantic adventure, he was youth on fire, man balked once more in his
desire for the woman he loved with the strength of both youth and
maturity. He vowed to own her in the uninterrupted possession of
marriage if he had to blast the voice in her throat. He felt as
primitive as the characters in the drama about to be presented, as he
sat there, frowning, dogged, almost growling, in the cavernous darkness
of that opera house which he has never set foot in since, nor ever will

The musicians stood up and faced about, standing in an attitude of
extreme respect. Ordham turned his head. The King had entered his box.
He still wore a light overcoat, as if he had but just now stepped from
the carriage that brought him from one of his castles. He also did not
think it worth while to remove his hat, a large soft hat, tipped over
his heavy white face. Altogether he bore little resemblance to the
romantic and brilliant youth, probably the handsomest figure that ever
ornamented a throne, who had witnessed his first exclusive performance
from that box in 1865. He sat down heavily. The musicians took their
places. The overture began.

Ordham felt as if he had dropped gently from a fire-swept plain, haunted
by furies, into a vast warm rhythmic sea whose tides swept sense to
thought and rushed it back again to the senses, until that complete
union was effected of which all mortals dream but only the Ordhams and
Styrs can attain.

Ordham never made any attempt to follow the motives in an overture; that
was not his idea of enjoying music, which he estimated as a gift
bestowed on brains like Wagner’s that the intellect of the hearer might
be awakened and excited only so far as was necessary to liberate the
senses. Nevertheless, to-night he was aware as never before of that deep
undertone of fate below the solemn joy and halleluja of the music of
_Götterdämmerung_. And fate was personified in the first dark scene,
where the three grey Norns sat weaving their ropes and gloomily
foretelling the death of gods too confident and ambitious. But when the
hideous trio disappeared and Brünhilde and Siegfried came forth from the
cave where they had passed their long honeymoon, it needed only Styr’s
first love notes, piercingly sweet, while her eyes deliberately sought
the spot where she knew Ordham must be, to shake him from head to foot
with the reassurance that whatever she might resolve in her cooler
moments, love meant all to her that it had meant to this fallen goddess.

Styr may or may not have read the volumes of criticism devoted to the
heroine of the Niebelungenlied, but it is probable that in any case she
would have penetrated the mists of antiquity and seen the Brynhildr who
reigned there, with her own eyes. In _Die Walküre_ she made her
alternately the jubilant sexless favourite of Wotan, shadowed subtly
with her impending womanhood, and the goddess of aloof and immutable
calm, Will personified, even when moved to pity. In _Götterdämmerung_,
particularly of late, she had portrayed her as woman epitomized, arguing
that all great women had the ichor of the goddess in their veins, and
that primal woman was but the mother of a sex modified (sometimes) but
not remade. In the last act of _Siegfried_ her voice was wholly dramatic
and expressed her delight at coming into her woman’s inheritance in
ecstatic cries, almost shouts, which were never to be forgotten by any
that heard them, and stirred the primal inheritance in the veriest
butterfly of the court. In this beautiful love scene of
_Götterdämmerung_, the last of the tetralogy, her voice was lyric, rich
and round and full, as her voice must always be, but stripped of its
darker quality; and while by no means angelic, a character with which
she could invest it when portraying the virgin Elizabeth, was as sweet
and clear and triumphant as if bent upon giving the final expression to
the first love of woman alloyed with knowledge.

Ordham had heard her in the rôle many times, and he soon appreciated
that she had never made as much of this scene as she did to-night,
realized she meant to convey that Brynhildr, with some echo in her brain
of her old gift of prophecy, took advantage of this last hour of
happiness to gratify her woman’s nature to the core. She was tender,
ineffably so, doubtful, charming, full of fears, superbly passionate.
Her great tones were like golden apples filled with the sharp delicious
juices of her bridal memories; and she was the epitome of the helpmate,
the apotheosis of exalted womanhood when she bade her man go forth and
conquer new worlds, exercise his supreme gifts of strength and courage
as a man should, instead of dallying too long in these flowery meadows
of love. Ordham, watching her through his glass, wondered that even she
could be so beautiful, for her face was illuminated as he had never seen
it before. He had not the least doubt that she kept her word and sang to
him, and when she cried: “Oh, heavenly powers, holy protectors, view
with delight our devotion and love. Apart, who can divide us? Divided,
still we are one!” she bent her head from Siegfried’s neck and looked
once more full at the spot where, it may be, Ordham’s face made a white
blur on the dark.

He paid slight attention to the next scene, although the picturesque
hall of the Gibichungs on the Rhine, with the sinister plot hatched
there, had always delighted him; but his uneasiness recurred, for in
retrospect Styr’s voice and acting were charged with a significance he
felt but could not define. His confidence returned, however, during her
scene with Waltraute, when he could not doubt that her incredulity at
the demand of the gods to give up her bridal ring, and the magnificent
scorn with which she announced herself woman, not that pitiful
half-remembered thing, a demigoddess, were addressed, not to Valhalla,
but to the harrowing demands of an art that still fought for its rights.

“Siegfried loves me! . . . The ring bides with me. . . . get hence to
the gods. . . . Sooner to ruins Valhalla’s splendour may crash,” sang
Brünhilde, much as Styr, if too hard pressed, might have cried: “To the
devil with Art and the world!”

Ordham smiled, then sank the man in the spectator once more as the
hapless Brünhilde repulsed and struggled with the disguised and
unmemoried Siegfried, for here there could be no message; no mortal
would ever come between himself and her; and perhaps that profound
knowledge and faith, at the same time devoid of the subtle sting of
regret for the loss of a suspense always piquant, was the final proof
that, whatever his faults and lacks, as a man he was at least able to
love greatly.

As Brünhilde was driven by the fraudulent Gunther into the cave, she
looked as if the very bones had gone out of her, primitive woman beaten
and captured by the victorious male, bewildered, helpless, sick with
disgust and horror, but too broken, too conscious of the futility of
revolt even to appeal to the relentless brute force behind her. Ordham
recalled Styr’s initiation, and reflected that, although methods had
changed since the primordial era, man had not. And while there was no
resemblance whatever between himself and that prosaic seducer of an
ignorant and beautiful child, bred in a filthy mining town, save in
their common sex, still would he, impelled by that imperious call in his
blood of man for his mate, have resorted to kidnapping, strategy,
bribery, violence, any device old or new, to force this woman into an
indissoluble bond with himself.

By the King’s command, there was a pause of but three minutes between
the first act—close upon an hour and a half in length—and the second.
Ordham’s mind wandered to the morrow until the boat came down the Rhine
with Gunther and his prey. Then, once more he was ready to sink Styr in
Brünhilde, for he had never been able to decide which was the greatest
piece of acting on the world’s stage, Styr’s Isolde in the first act of
_Tristan_, or her Brünhilde in this tremendous scene, where she invoked
the supernormal birthright of the goddess to intensify the fury and
indignation of the outraged woman.

As she stepped from the boat, hanging her head before the throng
awaiting the bride Gunther had ravished from the fire-girt rock, she
looked so forlorn, so beaten, so wholly womanly that Ordham felt tears
in his eyes. Oddly enough his thoughts flew to the lonely coffin in
Brompton Cemetery. Mabel, dead in her youth, was mercifully spared the
maturer suffering of woman. Not that she ever could have reached the
heights and depths so fatally accessible to this woman, but she
symbolized youth, whose unhappiness is but a phase of its egotistical
pleasures, and was gone before she had lived long enough to suffer with
a mind stripped of illusions.

There was no controversy of doubt over Styr’s interpretation of
Brünhilde in this act. She let loose every passion of which her sex when
scorned has yet conceived. After her vain appeal to Siegfried, standing
fatuously beside the Gedrun whose magic potion has bewitched him (more
than ever Ordham wondered that Brünhilde could have given her affections
to this great child), when those long moments of staring incredulity
were over, she burst into such a madness of rage that her voice seemed
to darken visibly, to take on strange tones, as deep and crude as colour
may have been in that morning of the world when goddesses went to sleep
on rocks surrounded by fire and Siegfrieds fought dragons and walked
through flames protected by _tarnhelm_ and ring. When she screamed, her
voice pierced to the marrow, affrighting as that of a wild beast in a
jungle at night. The whole scene was almost unbearable in its intensity;
but never did those beautiful arms make an ungraceful movement, the hand
that clutched the heart as if to tear it out never rose an inch too high
or low. Her audience might be racked and unbreathed, but Styr was always
the absolute artist, vivified but never distracted by the furnace

Nevertheless, those that knew nothing of acting would have vowed that
Styr’s brain was suffocated by Brynhildr’s. To-night when Siegfried and
Gedrun had gone, and, alone with Gunther and Hagen, she stood staring
before her, an immense horror in her eyes, her lips slightly parted, her
arms limp, as if on the edge of the world watching it sink into the
black void of space, Ordham involuntarily glanced behind him at the
King. He had hitched his chair forward, his arms were pressing the rail,
his hat was on the back of his head, his eyes flamed with light. He
looked like a lost immortal, long straying from star to star, who at
last sees the distant gates of Valhalla open, and awaiting him. Ordham
wondered why this poor idealist had never sought out Styr, hoping to
find in her the embodiment of his unearthly dreams; wondered again if it
were because of the knowledge that his mortal career had made it
impossible for him to find the goddess in any woman. His eyes were
filmed with more than common weakness, his senses drugged, dead; he
could but dream of some tier of heaven reserved for great souls like
his, which came to their own only when free of the flesh. But there was
no doubt that Styr in such scenes as this gave him immortal moments.

Brünhilde came out of her stupor, and after a fruitless lament for the
lost arts of her godhood, with which, woman-like, she fancied she might
have held Siegfried against the wiles of a younger woman, deliberately
sentenced him to death. As she described the only vulnerable part of the
mighty Siegfried, that fearless back which he would never show to any
foe, her calm was far more awful than her wrath had been. During her
long meditation, she had divined the trick which had been played upon
the warrior, but that light by no means mitigated the evil; if she could
not possess him neither should Gedrun. It was the primitive woman’s
method of revenge that modern woman has not disdained to follow, but so
grand was her portrayal of a woman conscious that she had once been the
mighty daughter of Wotan, that never for a second did she descend to the
level of Earthians. She was Brünhilde acting according to her lights,
and the lights of her day must have been as blinding as an electric
storm caught in an underground cavern.

The scene shifted. Siegfried drank from the horn into which the ever
malignant Hagen had squeezed the restorative herb, and sang of
Brünhilde, forgetting Gedrun and all that had happened since he left the
rock. With the enchanting strains of the love music of the last act of
the third opera of the tetralogy embracing him—tender and
ecstatic—followed by the slowly unwinding Brünhilde motif, coming as it
did after so much misery, wickedness, and violence, and preceding crime
and the final disaster, Ordham dropped his face into his hands and gave
up his thoughts to the bliss he anticipated. He was recalled by the
deepest sigh he had ever heard. It came down upon him like a gust of
death, dulling the almost excruciating sweetness of the music. He raised
his head and thanked God that he was not Ludwig, King of Bavaria. For
him there was a future on Earth.

The _Trauermarsch_, in which all the dead of not only Earth, but of the
Universe, seem to rise and tramp across the bridge of oblivion, was
finished. Brünhilde entered the hall of the Gibichungs to find Gedrun
wailing over Siegfried’s body, Gunther slain by Hagen. Of late Styr had
played the character consistently through to the end as a woman. But
to-night she appeared to defer once more to Wagner—possibly to the
King—and to be about to symbolize the “negation of the will to live,”
the eternal sacrifice of woman, the immolation of self; although she had
contended, and for that reason sang no more at Bayreuth, that such an
interpretation was absurd as a finale for Brünhilde, no matter what its
beauty and truth in the abstract. The gods were doomed, her renouncement
of life did not save them, and as for the sacrifice of woman to man,
that she had accomplished twice over. Brünhilde died as other women had
died since, and doubtless before, in the hope of uniting with the spirit
of her man, and because life was become abhorrent.

To-night, as she entered the hall, she was so still, so majestic, that
she no longer looked a woman at all, save in so far as her slain
womanhood may have risen to feed the purpose of the daughter of
Wotan—calm, inexorable, the personification of Will. As she stood by
the bier and ordered the funeral pyre built and began that great dirge
which expresses the end of all things mortal, her face was
expressionless, as fixed as that of the beautiful Medusa in the
Glyptothek of Munich. Her head, her body, might have been an organ out
of which rolled such notes as no other audience had ever heard. Ordham
almost stood up, the voice was so sublime, so unearthly; he wondered if
his brain, his senses, had been so unmercifully beaten upon during the
long hours of the opera that he was suffering from delusion. He had not
known that even Styr could sing like that. So must the heroines of the
old Sagas have sung when Europe was still the battleground of gods and
men, so may Brynhildr’s voice have gone up in its mighty swan song
before Valhalla flamed and fell to ashes.

Never on any stage has there been such a picture as Styr always made,
when, standing before the funeral pyre on whose summit lay the body of
Siegfried, with her flaming torch held high in her right hand and her
hair streaming behind her, looking even taller than her own majestic
height, she sang:

    “_Flieght heim, ihr Raben_
     _raun’t es euren Herrn_
     _was hier am Rhein irh gehört!_”

and to-night, as she sang that magnificent pæan to death, she fairly
filled the stage, as if some power of the soul literally permitted her
body to grow to the heroic proportions of that old daughter of the gods.

But all the time the immobility of her face never broke; it was fate
itself. She thrust her torch into the pyre, greeted and unbridled her
horse still with the same awful calm. It was only when the fire was
roaring from floor to ceiling and she was about to mount Grane that her
voice abruptly lost its solemnity and pealed out in the wildest ecstasy:

    “_Fühl’ meine Brust auch,_
     _wie sie entbrennt;_
     _helles Feuer_
     _das Hertz mir erfasst,_
     _ihn zu umschlingen,_
     _umschlossen von ihm,_
     _in mächtigster Minne_
     _vermählt ihm zu sein!_
     _Heiaho! Grane!_
     _grüsse deinem Herrn!_
     _Siegfried! Siegfried! Sieh!_
     _Selig grüsst dich dein Weib!_”

The last line was flung straight into Ordham’s ear, but he did not pause
to reflect upon its significance, holding his breath for this final
moment of Styr’s stupendous acting, Brynhildr’s immolation. She leaped
on her horse, and with head erect and arms uplifted to the smouldering
body on the pyre, dashed straight into the flames. It was over in a
second, but its realism was so intense and affrighting, that, as ever,
Ordham gasped and nearly sprang from his seat, while the King gave a
loud shout of rapture.

Ordham sank back with a deep sigh of amused relief. He knew that those
flames produced by spirits did not really meet, and that Styr’s horse
was too well trained to make a misstep or linger. Still no one else save
Vogel had ever essayed this feat, which could be simulated on the
darkened stage, and overlooked in the simultaneous conflagration of the
castle, the rise of the waters of the Rhine, the vision in the sky of
Valhalla in flames.

The walls began to fall, Hagen and the Rhine maidens to search furiously
for the ring, retainers to fly about in distraction. Ordham had never
seen the confusion as well represented as to-night. The shrieks sounded
genuine, the faces of the survivors were distraught. No doubt these born
artists and loyal Bavarians were always afire when performing for their
King alone. The curtain went down amidst the crash of orchestration.
Ordham, seeing that the King’s box was empty, slipped out, meditating
upon those last words of Brünhilde. “Thy wife!” She had made her final
decision, then, bade her farewell to the stage in that long dirge. It
was indeed her swan song! For the first time he wholly realized the
enormity of the sacrifice, the egoism of love. But he did not care. He
exulted, as inexorably the male as Siegfried or Gunther.

He had half made up his mind to ignore Styr’s injunctions and go to her
dressing-room; but when he reached the open air, he suddenly realized
that he was very tired. The long unbroken strain of an opera which, even
with pauses, makes a severer drain on the nervous system than any opera
ever written, following a sleepless night of travel and many hours of
mental excitement, left him suddenly exhausted, devitalized; he was glad
to fall into the cab which his friend the doorkeeper had had the
forethought to order, and drive to his hotel. The dawn was cold and
grey, a bleak and disheartening contrast to the scene of mysterious
splendour from which he seemed to have been shot straight into the
chilliest stratum of a dismal inhospitable Earth. He shivered, wondered
had it all been a dream, longed for sleep. He did not even glance down
Maximilianstrasse, to the stage door, out of which the performers were
streaming, gesticulating, weeping.

                             THEIR MARRIAGE

When Ordham reached his hotel he found old Kurt awaiting him with the
promised letter. He dismissed him sleepily and when in his room laid it
on the table beside his bed, intending to read it in the morning when he
was in a more appreciative condition. But the preparations for bed
roused him somewhat, and he suddenly opened the letter with the purpose
of glancing at the first page, believing this message was designed to
console him for the taciturn note she had sent to the station. But when
he had read three lines he read on; and when he had finished the letter
he read it again; and then once more.

“After all, I find that I love you more than I love myself.

“Even could I exercise that power of will which has transformed me from
one sort of woman into another during these last nine years of my life,
and forced you to consent to see me no more, and even were I able to
convince you for the moment that I acted in your interest alone, the
time would come when you would resent the strength that enabled me to
annihilate my happiness as well as your own; furthermore, the suspicion
would be irresistible that art was the stronger passion after all. In
time you would hate me, then grow indifferent, then forget. Now, you
will love me always.

“In one’s last hour one must be entirely truthful; it is possible that,
if I renounced my beloved art, my great career, the time would come when
I should regret; when I might, indeed, raven for that lost world of
illusions of which those that never have entered it have no conception
whatever. And this might come to pass even did the world inconceivably
ignore my life as Margaret Hill and I found myself a prop in your
career—instead of assuring that career to you by eradicating myself. In
that case could we continue to be happy? If Love is the Cæsar among the
passions, Art is an imperious atom of God himself. It sits on the mind’s
throne, and although the golden mists of passion may, for a time, hang
like a curtain before it, Art never abdicates. It bides its time, and
that time inevitably comes.

“On the other hand, I find myself forced to believe that I am not the
born artist, deep and inexorable as is the grasp of art on my mind and
soul. The phenomenon of my temperament—its emotional part—can be
explained, no doubt, by the fact that the natural passions of an
uncommonly lusty and highly organized woman were turned back upon
themselves by the accumulated disgust and horrors of those thirteen
years, with all their vitalities unimpaired; rather were they
recuperated, and rushed into the channels of art the moment the sluices
were opened. I profoundly believe that no born artist would sacrifice
her career—which is merely the insatiable activities of the gift
resident in her brain—for any man, give him anything more than the
temporary effervescence of her woman’s nature. To some accident of
organism I owe the purely mechanical gift of a voice; my brain, my will,
the peculiar circumstances of my life, have made me a great actress, a
great artist. That I do not hate you for shattering the dearest delusion
that can possess the human mind, is the final proof of my all-embracing
love for you. For, alas! I am Brynhildr, not that Margarethe Styr
deliberately manufactured upon the ruins of Margaret Hill.

“But if Brynhildr—who, however victimized by the fates, would at any
moment have given her life for Siegfried—is in my soul, a more
irresistible tyrant than the dazzling counterfeit of art in my brain,
still does the fact remain that in this world I have played, and on its
public stage, the horrid and unpardonable rôle of Margaret Hill. For
every infringement of law (on this planet at least), we sooner or later
pay the price. The bill has been presented to me later than I
deserve—possibly because I had something to give the world—but at the
precise moment when my all could be exacted in payment. Still, who shall
say that I am not more fortunate than most?—I have my choice of
retributions: to live and be your ruin, or to die while I can still live
on in your heart, your unappalled imagination, forever. If I am not the
absolute and inalienable artist I so fondly believed, at least I have
not cultivated my soul and my brain to no purpose, and I do not believe
that I really have hesitated a moment.

“Putting all other considerations aside, could I, after the life I led
for thirteen long vile years, continue to exalt you above your sex?
Those numberless ghosts would rise, sit at the banquet, claim you as
their brother. And, alas that it should be so, it is only in dreams that
men are not fatally alike!

“If when you read this you should conceive the mad thought of following
me, please stop and reflect that by that act of cruelty you would make
this sacrifice of mine—for I shall not pretend that I wish to leave
this world—both foolish and useless. Therefore do you owe it to me to
practise as your religion that promise you made me on Stanmore Heath, to
live for the single purpose of developing to the utmost those great
gifts for which I extinguish my own. And believe me when I assure you
that in the constant exercise of great abilities, particularly when
their performances are accompanied by the world’s orchestra, there is
much to console. It is, indeed, the next best thing to the heart’s
happiness; perhaps it should be given the first place, for as long as we
are willing to exercise our gifts and our usefulness, so long are we
masters of our fate. It is only the immortal happiness of mortal love
that Life fears to give us lest we grow stronger than she.

“If I elect to die on the stage, it is not merely because I believe the
stage to be the proper place for the final exit of those artists that
have truly loved her, but because the stage of the Hof has been my best
friend; on it I have known the most triumphant, the most exalted,
moments of my life. Bayreuth was my school, the London experience was an
anti-climax, a tour de force; on this stage alone have I been really
alive, profoundly happy. Therefore do I give her my last breath.

“I shall be, when I pass finally through the gate of that fool’s
paradise in which I have dwelt for the past eight years, a nameless
woman, a waif of the coal pits, of the streets of New York. But I will
not submit to have Margaret Hill engraved on my tombstone, for, however
alloyed, in my veins there is a drop of golden blood. ‘Countess Tann,’
would make the gods on their thrones rock with mirth, and in time the
world would hear and laugh too, and this beloved Bavaria, which has
shown me surpassing kindness, would be put to shame. Therefore have I
ordered my body purified by fire and the ashes cast on the Isar. Then
will it dwell with music forever.

“I bequeath you my Will.

“I dare not see you again.

“_Siegfried! Siegfried! Selig grüsst dich dein Weib!_”

                       THE IVORY TOWER OF ORDHAM

Bridgminster’s manners are almost as famous as his diplomatic gifts and
achievements. They are, indeed, so perfect, that many—notably the women
that have tried to marry him—aver that he is composed wholly of charm
and brain; that his heart, if ever he had one, is buried in the American
grave of his young wife, whom he had the terrible misfortune to lose so
soon after his romantic marriage. That dramatic finale of his youthful
happiness occurred not so long since but that people still gossip about
it, recall his desperate flight to the Continent immediately after the
funeral of the divine Mabel, where he affected the company to tears by
his manifest woe. No one was surprised to hear of his illness—brain
fever?—in one of the British Legations—Munich? Rome? Constantinople?
He has such a vast connection, and details will slip from the best of

When quite well again, however, he threw himself into work with an
ardour! In the course of three or four years, between those gifts the
good Lord had showered upon him, an industry at which his family has not
ceased to marvel, and the influence he was able to command, his
advancement in the diplomatic service was uncommonly rapid. He has gone
on rising ever since, not alone in the service, but in the estimation of
Europe, whose attention he has challenged more than once, and in a
manner which assures him a place in history.

Princess Nachmeister died quite satisfied with him.

No man in Europe is more gay, more brilliant, more constantly in
society. He looks, say those so fond of discussing him, like a man whose
heart is just twenty-five, and theorize that its normal action was
arrested at that age by the loss of his sweet young wife—a marvel of
beauty, and elegance, and cleverness, and grace!—and when the heart
never grows old—well, we all know what happens.

So is Mabel avenged.

But the room in The Temple is Ordham’s still.


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                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES

Mis-spelled words and printer errors have been fixed.

[The end of _The Tower of Ivory_ by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton]

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