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Title: Ariel Dances
Author: Eliot, Ethel Cook
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             _Ariel Dances_


                                  _by
                               Ethel Cook
                                 Eliot_


                                _Boston
                             Little, Brown,
                              and Company
                                 1931_

                           _Copyright, 1931_,
                          BY ETHEL COOK ELIOT

                         _All rights reserved_

                        Published February, 1931
                 Reprinted February, 1931 (three times)

                PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


                                  FOR
                               MY MOTHER



                             _Ariel Dances_



                               Chapter I


Ariel, quiet but alert, lay in her steamer chair, one of the most
inconspicuous of the several hundred passengers the _Bermuda_ was
bringing to New York. No one would be likely to look at her twice or
give her a second thought, as she crouched away from the March wind,
insufficiently protected from the cold by her nondescript tweed coat,
and carelessly, casually bare-headed. All about her on the deck were
people of outstanding, vivid types. The thing that had impressed Ariel
about these fellow passengers during the two days of the voyage was
their apparent self-sufficiency,—a gay, bright assurance of their own
significance, and the reasonableness, even the inevitableness, of their
being what and where they were. The very children appeared to take it
quite as a matter of course that they should come skimming over the
Atlantic in a mammoth boat-hotel while they played their games, read
their books and ate their meals,—just like that.

Ariel took nothing as a matter of course, and she never had from the
minute of earliest memory. Her proclivity to wonder and to delight was
as organic as her proclivity to breathe. But now it was neither delight
nor wonder but an aching suspense that quivered at the back of her mind.
She thought, “If Father were here! If it weren’t alone, this adventure!
New York Harbor at last! _I_—Ariel! But it isn’t real. There’s no
substance. It _was_ to have happened and been wonderful, but this is
paler than our imagining of it. The shadow of our imagining. Oh, it’s I
who have died and not Father. Where he is, whatever he is doing, it’s
still real with him. With Father it would be always real,—alive.”

A steward came up the deck, carrying rugs and a book for the woman who
had occupied the chair next to Ariel’s during the two days’ voyage. Two
children with their nurse trailed behind. Ariel’s glance barely touched
the group and returned to New York’s terraced, dream-world sky line. But
she was glad that these people had come up on deck and would be near her
during the little while left of ship life. It did not matter that they
would remain unaware of her until the very end. It was more interesting,
being interested in them, than having them interested in her. And there
was no reason on earth why they should be interested in her. It never
entered Ariel’s head that there was.

Joan Nevin, the woman, was tall, copper haired and eyelashed, and
graceful with a lithe, body-conscious kind of gracefulness, of fashion,
perhaps, more than of nature. Her sleek fur coat, her high-heeled,
elegant pumps—even the close dark hat, flaring back from her copper
eyebrows—these seemed to motivate her gait and her postures. She was,
perhaps, more pliable to them than they to her. But Ariel did not mind
this, although she realized it. It was wonderful, in its way,
fascinating by strangeness.

To tell the truth, Mrs. Nevin interested her more at the moment than the
unknown, beautiful harbor at which she appeared to be gazing. And no
aching longing for her father’s sharing of this interest could turn it
dreamlike, for her father could never share it, alive or dead.
Fashionable women, even at a distance, bored him. But how did a woman
like that feel, Ariel wondered, about her so finished and catered-to
beauty, and her easy self-sufficiency? And how did it feel to have two
burnished, curled children that were one’s very own, to love, to live
for, to play with? How wonderful if Ariel herself had had children of
her own to play with and dance with on their beach, while her father was
alive and she could still have gloried in them, before the sense of
unreality had settled like a thin dust over unshared happiness!

The Nevins and the nurse had come the length of the deck now, and were
standing near her, but not taking their chairs, and oddly silent. Still,
she would not look directly at them to discover the reason. If she
looked into their faces she might become visible to them. So far, these
two past days, Ariel had kept herself wrapped in a cloud of
invisibility, she felt, merely by not meeting other eyes. She was shy of
contacts, ever since her father’s death; and the aching, hurting
suspense at the back of her mind, which was caused by dread of the near
approaching meeting with her father’s friend, had only intensified her
desire for invisibility.

As for Mrs. Nevin, until this instant she had been nearly as unaware of
Ariel as Ariel supposed her to be. She had looked at her once or twice
in the beginning, to wonder whether it was a child, a girl or a woman
who occupied the neighboring chair, but quickly decided that such
speculation was waste of time since the one thing certain was that
Ariel’s age didn’t matter, since she was obviously—nobody. From that
decision she had returned to social obliviousness, lying back for hours
at a time, wrapped up preciously by her eager cabin steward in two
fur-lined rugs, which could not have been hired for the passage but must
be her own expensive property, following with absorption the fine print
of a thick novel by some one named Aldous Huxley. Now and then she would
lift languid but brilliant eyes and gaze for a while at the flying sea.
That was all, for after the first half hour on board she had not thought
it worth her while to waste that brilliant languid gaze on any other
fellow-passenger more than on Ariel.

But now she remained standing by Ariel’s chair, as though with some
intention, and Ariel had finally to look up and meet, for the first
time, in a direct exchange of glance, those brilliant, mahogany-colored
eyes set wide apart under their strongly arched coppery brows, and it
was, without doubt, a breathtaking moment. But it was the steward who
was speaking, and his tone was seriously accusatory. “You are occupying
the lady’s chair.”

He was right. In the excitement of at last being almost in, so near the
landing, Ariel had neglected to make sure of her own name—Ariel Clare—on
the slip of pink cardboard stuck into the holder on the chair’s back.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered, rose and was off like a bird. The steward’s
eyelids just flickered as she brushed past him in exquisite, smooth
flight. But the flicker was not because the steward had recognized that
the nondescript, pale, young girl had turned exquisite with motion. He
blinked merely because her decision to depart and the departure had been
so strangely, almost weirdly, simultaneous.

“Tuck it in at the foot more, please. Very well. That will do. Thank
you.” Ariel, out by the deck rail, heard Mrs. Nevin’s low, but carrying
voice directing and dismissing her eager slave. “It was unkind and
perfectly needless,” she thought. “Any chair would have done her just as
well for the next few minutes until we land. It doesn’t matter, though.
I won’t care.”

But she decided to go for a last time up to the sun deck. She could
watch the boat docking from there just as well—better than from here—and
discover her father’s friend among the crowds on the dock just as
easily. She was through with deck chairs and pink cards and haughty
neighbors, for this voyage, anyway. But she wished she could wipe out
from her memory forever those brilliant, indifferent eyes.

She found the sun deck surprisingly clear of passengers. The deck chairs
there had been almost all gathered up and were now being stacked into
corners to wait for the return voyage and new voyagers. Ariel crossed to
the rail and began to search, eyes narrowed against the cold sunlight
glinting from cold waves, for her father’s friend in the dark mass at
the edge of the pier over there, which only now was beginning to show
itself as separate individuals waiting for the docking of the _Bermuda_.

“When I care so much that just a stranger scorns me and finds me in the
way, how am I going to help caring terribly if the Weymans don’t like
me?” she asked herself, baffled that by no act of will could she slow
the beating of her excited heart or cool the fire she felt in her
cheeks. “Hugh’s so tall I must soon make him out, if he’s really come to
meet me. I’ll wave when he catches sight of me.... Forget myself....
Wave for Father.... Pretend it’s Father seeing Hugh after all these
years, and not I. _I will not be strange and shy._”

She imagined her father in her place, leaning on the rail,—blond,
blue-eyed, chuckling softly and searching with anticipatory eagerness
for the high-held dark head of his friend which would stand out any
minute now above the crowd of people. And Gregory Clare was so living,
so vibrant with life and joy in life, that when the people on the pier,
looking up, first caught sight of him, not a soul of them but would ask
himself “Who’s that rather wonderful-looking person?” and an involuntary
light, a contagion of life, would ripple answeringly in the lifted
faces.

The wind whipped a strand of Ariel’s hair smartingly across her eyes.
She shut them against the pain for an instant, and when she opened them
again her father had gone. She was alone. She was only herself now, shy,
trivial, pale,—a worm that wondered about the impression she was going
to make on her father’s friend and his family. And all the time there
was New York’s sky line to glory in.

Well, even though she was so mean a person, so little and mean in her
hidden self, perhaps she could do something to improve the outward girl.
She could at least put on her hat, stand straight—not flattened against
the rail like a weak piece of straw in the wind,—hold her chin up—her
chin that was like her father’s, pointed, but firm. She pulled out the
hat from one of the pockets of the tweed coat, pushed her blown hair up
under its brim and pulled it well down on her head. It was a notable
hat, once well on, and whatever it did for the inner girl, it certainly
changed the whole air of the outer, visible girl. It was French felt of
an exceptionally fine quality, and green, the shade of Bermuda waters
when they are stillest. Her father had bought it for her one day in St.
George’s. He said he had got it for a song at a stupid sale. It was one
of the very few hats of her life, as it happened, because her father
thought hats in general ridiculous and more suitable for monkeys than
for men and women. But this hat was different. He realized that, when he
caught it from the corner of his eye, passing the shop window. It sang
Ariel. And he had got it for a “song.” But not the feather that was
tacked to the brim, ruffling jewel notes in the wind. That had dropped
_from_ a song, not been bought at all. He had picked it up on the beach
almost at their door as he came back one afternoon, not many weeks ago,
from what was to prove his last swim. No bird from which this feather
could have dropped had ever been seen on the island, so far as any
ornithologist knew. But here was the feather, in spite of that. It was
magic, then. And it magic’d the hat. It pointed the fact that Ariel’s
eyes, rather narrow, but nice friendly eyes, and free as the day from
the malice that one sometimes detects even in the pleasantest children’s
eyes, were as green as itself,—as green as Bermuda waters.

Now those eyes had discerned one head that did top all the other heads
on the approaching pier, and it very probably was Hugh’s. But she had
decided last night, or early this morning—she had slept very little—that
she would begin, at least, by calling him “Mr. Weyman.” For it was five
years and a few months over since they had seen each other. His father
too had died, since that far-away time, and he had left law school to
become the support of his mother and younger brother and sister. At
twenty-five, still a student without responsibilities, when they had
entertained him at the studio, he had seemed a boy. But at thirty now,
and having, as she had, encountered death, could he be the same at all,
any more than she was the same fourteen-year-old girl that he must be
remembering? She thought not; and whether she was shaking with chill
from the March wind or from apprehension of change in her father’s
friend, she did not know. But she was shaking, miserably, and a strand
of hair had escaped again and was stinging her eyes.



                               Chapter II


He had been in Bermuda that time for part of his Christmas holidays,
along with his mother and young sister. But the mother and sister had
never appeared on the Clares’ beach, never come with Hugh to the studio.
Hugh’s own arrival there was the merest accident. One mid-morning he
came pushing his rented bicycle across the fields to their beach, which
he had glimpsed from a high spot on the road to St. George’s, intending
a solitary swim in the shadow of their rocks. Only he did not know that
they were their rocks or that there was a house at all, hidden away on
the slope of purple cedars. He passed within a few yards of the studio,
without sensing its presence, and went coolly down to the beach with the
intention of undressing for his swim in the very seclusion where Gregory
Clare was at the moment in the middle of painting a picture.

The artist, hearing the careless approach to the sacred privacy of his
working place, rose wrathfully to drive the intruder away. But it turned
out that he did not resume his brushes and his palette again until he
had joined the young man in a noon-hour swim in the emerald waters. For
Hugh had succeeded in doing more that morning than blunder on to private
property and interrupt the creation of a picture; he had blundered into
a friendship with Gregory Clare, the artist, Ariel’s father.

The sudden friend knew next to nothing about painting. That was
evidenced by his awkward silences once he had come into the studio and
stood looking with unconcealed bewilderment at the dozens of canvases
stacked around the walls and against the chairs and tables. But the
young man’s ignorance did not hinder Gregory Clare from talking art to
him. He dragged forward the canvases, one after another, making rapid
and brilliant criticisms of them himself in the face of Hugh’s blank
silences, propounding exactly what it was that made each picture’s
strength or weakness in its stab at beauty. And all the while Hugh
looked from the artist to his paintings and listened, dark head slightly
bent, but with a hawklike alertness in its poise that gave Clare, and
even Ariel, watching, a sense of balanced keenness.

Ariel and her father prepared the studio meals by turns, and this day of
Hugh’s appearance happened to be Ariel’s day as cook. Hugh was more
articulate about food, it soon transpired, than about art, and had
intelligent praise for pungent soup and crisp salad. But though that was
what he was at ease about and could speak of, his real interest was,
Ariel saw, all in Gregory Clare and his rushing passionate talk
concerning the paintings. He seemed scarcely conscious of Ariel, the
lanky young girl in a faded green smock, with hair a pale wave on her
shoulders, who had cooked the luncheon and soon so quietly cleared the
table and then disappeared, dissolving, so far as he was concerned,
perhaps, into the white, hot Bermuda afternoon. She knew that he was
glad to be left alone with her wonderful father.

After that, for the remaining days of his vacation on the island, Hugh
was constantly at the studio. He must have entirely deserted his mother
and sister, and he never bothered to speak of them again, after his
first mention of the fact that there were such persons with him at the
hotel in Hamilton. Even the morning that his boat was to sail he
appeared at the studio, inviting himself to breakfast with the Clares,
in spite of having had a farewell dinner with them the night before. And
that morning, at last, he commented on Gregory Clare’s work, or at least
on one of his canvases. It was time for him to go, they had told him, if
he was to make his boat; but he delayed. And suddenly, in an embarrassed
manner he turned back from the door, when they really thought he was
off, and standing in front of an easel with a just finished painting on
it blurted, “I really like this one, ‘Noon,’ the best of the lot, Clare,
if you don’t mind my saying so. It’s the light that makes it so
extraordinary, isn’t it? It beats out on you. Makes you squint. It’s the
first time I ever saw light, or even felt it; I’m sure of that. Your
picture has taught me what the sun hasn’t!” He laughed,
self-depreciatively, and added almost defiantly, “It’s great stuff, I
think!”

Ariel’s father said nothing. He stood by the table in the wide window
where they had just breakfasted, jingling some coin in the pockets of
his white duck trousers, and kept a smiling silence. Ariel wanted to
cry, “Oh, do go; hurry, Hugh, now, or you’ll miss your boat!” But Hugh
seemed to be waiting for something, wanting to say more, and she kept
still. After a minute he got it out, “I’d like awfully to take this
picture home with me, Clare. Now. I’ve written out a check for a
thousand dollars—did it last night—just on the chance you’d sell. I
don’t know anything, of course, about the prices you put on your stuff.
But this is exactly one quarter of my year’s allowance, and all the
actual cash I can put my hands on now. If you _will_ sell, and the price
is higher—and you can wait for the rest—”

Hugh was not looking at the artist or at Ariel or even at the picture by
this time. His abashed gaze was toward the sea, while he waited for
Gregory Clare to answer.

The painting was the one that Hugh’s intrusion on their beach had
interrupted. It was a bit of a corner of the beach seen at high noon.
Everything was sun-stilled, even the water, except for the figure of
Ariel herself, who was dancing in the violet heat-glow above the rocks.
But although it was Clare’s daughter, the artist had not seen her as
human, since he placed her dancing feet on air, not earth. And the faded
smock—the smock she was wearing the day Hugh had first come to the
studio—in the painting had found its vanished color at the same time
that the hot sunlight struck all color from her partly averted face.
Gregory Clare might have called this painting “Ariel Dances,” but
instead he called it “Noon.” And it was Noon, actually. Ariel was only
the heart-pulse at the center of the otherwise still, white light.

But one thousand dollars! The listening girl was stunned, strangely
taken aback. Her father, however, did not show even surprise. He merely
chuckled and jingled the coins in his pockets like music.

“I congratulate you, Hugh,” he murmured, after a minute. “You show your
taste. ‘Noon’ is my best, quite easily my best, so far. I’m awfully glad
that you see it. I’ve felt all along, though, that you were seeing an
awful lot, really. And to sacrifice one fourth of your year’s income to
beauty won’t hurt you. Indeed, it might very well happen to save your
soul. Even so, I advise you to take more time. Think it over. Write me.
I can always ship you the thing. I won’t part with it for less than the
thousand, though.”

But the fledgling art connoisseur was not to be put off. Until now he
had been in regard to the studio, the people in it, and the paintings,
the soaring, silent hawk. This, however, was his instant of darting and
seizing. He had carried ‘Noon’ off with him, under his arm, unwrapped,
and made the boat without a second to lose. And amazingly soon
thereafter Gregory Clare and his daughter had got themselves to Europe,
which meant Paris; and once in Paris, Gregory swept Ariel straight to
the Louvre, where she sat or promenaded with him as long as Hugh’s
thousand dollars lasted, gazing on cold, dim old pictures, but with her
father’s warm, vibrant artist’s hand often on hers. It had been Ariel’s
one adventure beyond Bermuda, until this present adventure: alone, and
her father dead.

Hugh had never come back to Bermuda and his letters were infrequent.
Gregory Clare’s own letters were, from the beginning, almost
non-existent, because that was his casual way with friends. One of
Hugh’s first letters told them of the sudden death of his father, and
that Hugh’s plan for making himself a lawyer was frustrated by the
necessity of getting as quickly as was possible into his father’s niche
in the business world. But Hugh did not use the term “frustration,” and
there was, indeed, no touch of bitterness in the communication. The hint
of a real grief was there, and a suggestion, somehow, that his father
could not have been so exceptional in business capacity as in
personality and character, since at the time of his death he had pretty
well gone through his inheritance and was leaving his family little but
a name. The name, however, was not clouded by his purely financial
inability and was now of invaluable assistance to Hugh, who was being
quite spoiled—according to his own account—by Wall Street associates of
his father who had taken him into a big bond house on a floor several
stories removed from the bottom.

After that the studio heard from Hugh Weyman, bond salesman, at longer
and longer intervals. Clare was afraid that his friend was absorbed by
business, a dire calamity to befall a young man who had once been
rejoiced to spend one fourth of his year’s income on the pigment
splashed on a four foot by three foot bit of canvas. And now, for a year
past, no word of any sort had come from Hugh, until the morning of the
artist’s death. And although her father seemed actually to have held his
death at bay those last few days, merely in the hope of that last
letter, he did not show it to Ariel. But he explained to her, faintly
and with an odd, smiling satisfaction, after he had read it to himself,
and she had carefully burned it under his direction in the studio
fireplace, that it was an answer to a letter from himself written within
the week.

His letter had told Hugh that he was near death, and asked him to invite
Ariel to visit the Weymans for the latter part of the winter, while
Charlie Frye, a young disciple of Clare’s, who had spent the last few
months in Bermuda working with him, was arranging for an exhibition and
sale of Clare’s paintings in New York. Ariel was being left only a very
few hundred dollars, but the sale of the pictures ought to carry her
through any number of farther years, until, in any case, she should
either have married or have prepared herself for some profession. Their
doctor, here in Bermuda, would be Ariel’s actual guardian in law.
Charlie Frye would be her business manager in a practical sense. Would
Hugh make himself her host and friend for the coming difficult period?
Neither the kindly doctor, nor the young and enthusiastic Frye seemed to
Clare quite the man to do precisely this for his girl.

That was the substance of the artist’s letter as told to Ariel, and
Hugh’s reply had been an instant promise to receive Ariel and with his
mother’s help do anything for her that was in his power. Gregory could
rely on his friend. Only, the doctor must keep him informed of his
patient’s health, and it had better be the doctor who should arrange for
Ariel’s coming to New York if the end that Clare had prophesied did
transpire.

That was the substance of Hugh’s letter. And Gregory Clare had finished
explaining it all to Ariel as she stood watching the last scraps of it
curl into charred blackness in the grate.

“You mustn’t worry, darling,” he gasped, when her silence had become
prolonged, “for when you remember that the only picture I ever even
thought of selling brought us one thousand dollars ... and now there are
two hundred of them soon to be up for sale in New York ... where there’s
so much wealth ... I’ve marked those Charlie’s to drown out beyond the
reef to-morrow—the ones that aren’t really good enough, you know—and it
leaves, even at that, _two hundred_ pictures. Suppose they only bring
half the price of the first one each.... Why, even that is wealth, my
dear....”

“Oh, don’t, Father! What does it matter?” She was dismayed that his last
strength was being given to such trivialities.

But he struggled on, with harshly drawn breaths. “Funny why I’m trusting
you to Hugh, beyond every one else! I suppose it’s because he saw that
‘Noon’ was the best of the lot.... He did see, remember? And he
sacrificed something for that seeing. A quarter of his income, wise boy!
He understood ‘Noon’—so he’ll understand you, Ariel, darling, my
dearest—sweetest. He may have changed, but hardly so much—for

    ‘... Fortunate they
  Who, though once only and then far away,
  Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.’

Beauty’s sandal, that was. Do you remember the sonnet? Well—Hugh’s one
of those Fortunate.... I’ve never seen in any one else’s face what I saw
in his that morning when he stood, looking at ‘Noon’ and saying it
showed him what the sun hadn’t....”

“Oh, Father! Hush! Don’t try to speak any more. Rest!” Ariel was
kneeling by his bed, pressing his hands, hot with her tears for all
their waning life, against her cheeks. “Everything will be all right.
There is _nothing_, nothing at all to worry about. Only never forget me.
Don’t go so far that you forget me. Don’t go far. Not far....”

He understood all that she meant, all that was beyond saying, and he
promised with a gesture never to let death’s freedom intrigue him into
adventure that would leave the memory and the love of his girl out. But
he looked over her head at the doctor who had been standing all these
minutes in the window, and the doctor nodded. The nod seemed a signal
for something the two men had previously agreed on, as it was. And
Gregory Clare, acting on the signal, which had come finally and at last,
said to Ariel in the voice of authority which he so seldom had used
during their life together, “Now, beloved, it is time you went away. Go
down to the beach, please. Give my love and my farewell to the light, to
earth light, and to our beach. I shall be gone when you come back, and
you are not to see me die.”

Ariel rose to obey. There was no question about obedience for it was the
voice of Death itself which had commanded her. But at the door her
father spoke again, and she had thought never to hear him speak again,
and it was the voice of Life.

“No— No. I was wrong. We made a mistake, Doctor. A woman is bound to
have plenty to do with pain—before she’s through. I think, Ariel, we’ll
have this pain together.... If you like—darling. I won’t send you out of
it. Doctor, I want to be with my girl when she bears her first
anguish—which will be my agony, as it happens. It’s yourself, Friend, I
want away. No more need of you till it’s over. Ariel will help me. Your
arm under my shoulder, dear. That’s—that’s—right....” But he had not
sent the doctor with his love and his farewell to their beach and the
earth light, for not every one can take such a message, and Ariel would
do it later.

The doctor sat down in the loggia, within hearing if Ariel should cry
out for him. He smoked cigarettes for an hour, throwing their stubs
angrily one after another out into the roses, and did not approve; for
Ariel seemed only a child to him, and this was terrible. Perhaps she had
been a child when he, the doctor, had been made to leave her face to
face with physical agony and final death in the studio. But when, at
last, he saw her coming out into the strong white sunlight and knew that
she brought with her the stark word he waited, she was a woman. The
doctor would have been blind not to have recognized the mark of that
maturity on her face. And this forced and sudden growth had happened to
the girl because of her father’s colossal selfishness, he believed,
stumbling forward to his feet and reaching both his hands for hers. But
when they were close in his, those young, live hands, the doctor knew
nothing for certain any more about the business; it might be imagination
in Clare—colossal imagination—that had made him act so, not a grain of
selfishness in it. For to his amazed relief the slight hands he held
were steadier, stronger, at the moment, than his own.



                              Chapter III


She would certainly call him Mr. Weyman, not Hugh. And the first thing
she would say would be a “thank you” for his invitation to visit him;
for she had not written the note of acceptance herself but left it to
Doctor Hazzard. And now she thought that if only she had written
herself, it would somehow have prepared the way better for the instant,
almost reached now, when the boat would be close enough to the pier for
the tall man to discern her, to meet her eyes, and for her to wave a
greeting.

And then, suddenly, she woke to the fact that that was not Hugh at all.
The sun on the water had dazzled her. It was an older man, heavily
bearded, foreign looking. He was taller, and certainly much broader than
Hugh would ever be. She had never seen any one, except perhaps her
father, stand out from a crowd as this man was standing out from it.
Even from a distance his personality had reached her, impressed itself,
and this had nothing to do with his unusual bulk and height. No, it was
personality, bodiless, that reached across the water, and absorbed her
attention.

The big man had pushed his way through the crowd and soon stood right
out at the edge of the pier, his head thrown back, eagerly scanning the
_Bermuda’s_ decks. Then, as the ship sidled a few yards nearer, he
raised his big, long arms straight above his head in sudden cyclonic
greeting, and laughed up a big laugh of gleaming white teeth almost into
Ariel’s face. But it couldn’t be herself he was so ardently saluting,
and she turned quickly to see who was near her, here on the sun deck.

It was Mrs. Nevin again. She was there, with her children, almost at
Ariel’s shoulder. And she was smiling down at the bearded man. But the
children were looking at Ariel. She had so plainly refrained from
inviting their acquaintance during the voyage that they had not once
tried to force a contact. She had seemed to their sensitive child
perceptions to be out with the flying fish and the dip of the waves,
more than in her steamer chair beside their mother, for that was where
her gaze had lived. But the small green feather, which fluttered its
down incessantly against the brim of her hat, had all the while had a
life, they felt, quite apart from its wearer’s. It had been a veritable
fairy flag, waving recognition and good will to them whenever their play
brought them near. And now Ariel had turned so quickly that she had
caught the children’s glances of camaraderie with the feather. And
suddenly she took in _their_ magic, realized it, as they had from the
very first recognized and taken in the magic of the feather her father
had found and given her. She was aware of the children—really aware—at
last.

That was all that it needed. They saw her face lose its abstraction,
come as alive as the wind-dancing feather. Ariel’s eyes and lips smiled.
Everything went golden. The children’s hearts fluttered as though _they_
were magic feathers.

But even now when Ariel’s smile had taught them all that there was to
know about her the children did not rush upon her. They came slowly,
with sensitive delicacy, as children will,—but for all the delicacy,
with an air of deep, almost frightening assurance. Each child, taking
one of Ariel’s cold, ungloved hands, pressed close.

“We’ll be in, in another minute,” Ariel faltered, tremulously and almost
beneath her breath, as if to warn them of the unreasonableness of this
sudden, overwhelming intimacy which must be lost almost as soon as
consummated. “Look. There goes the gangplank. And there’s some one—some
one I know.” Suddenly, and when she had really forgotten his very
existence, she had seen Hugh.

To her relief this first sight assured her that he had not changed in
the five years. He was the same Hugh, her father’s eager, quiet friend
of the hawklike dark head, poised, alert, on shoulders that for all
their breadth had an indefinable air of elegance about them. In his
darkness and poise he was in direct contrast to the blond-bearded person
gesticulating to Mrs. Nevin. Hugh stood beside this giant, looking up at
the decks of the _Bermuda_ as he was looking up, but with a difference.
Without excitement, but rapidly, his eyes were traveling along the tiers
of decks and the bending faces. In another minute he would get to the
last deck and find what he sought, Ariel. Their eyes would meet and in
the meeting remember everything of that sunlit week of five years ago.
Under one arm she saw that he was carrying, tucked there as though it
might be any ordinary parcel, a big bunch of English violets. They were
for her, of course. So why had she ever been shy, afraid? She had
forgotten the children and was bending forward over the rail, waiting
with genuine gayety now the moment of his recognition.

But just before his glance, in its methodical journey, came to her deck,
she had her first sense of change in him. After all, he was different, a
little, from the Bermuda days. There was a moody hunger in his eyes, and
something gaunt, unfed, in the face that she had remembered only as
keen, without shadows. But his face would light up in the old way when
he discovered her. This might be his look when alone and unaware of
friends near.

The light, however, when it came, was not for Ariel. It was Mrs. Nevin
his searching glance was halted by, and the glory that transfigured the
dark, uplifted face took away Ariel’s breath.

Mrs. Nevin laughed down a greeting, and murmured above her breath, so
that Ariel caught the words, “Now how’d he know I was coming?”

It flashed through Ariel’s mind that much reading of Aldous Huxley
during the voyage, if that was the author’s name, must have dulled Mrs.
Nevin’s perceptions, if she did not see that it had needed surprise as
well as joy, so to shatter Hugh’s reserve.

Mrs. Nevin called to her children, who still pressed against Ariel,
holding her hands, “There’s Uncle Hugh, darlings. Wave to him. See, he
has found us. Isn’t it nice of him to meet our boat!”

Hugh returned the children’s obedient salutes, but the light was gone.
Was it merely habitual reserve returning to duty, or had the sudden
delight really as suddenly died? Ariel knew instantly and intuitively
that these children were not related to Hugh, although Mrs. Nevin had
called him uncle. Now he had to see herself, wedged in between the
children. She tried to smile down at him, to help him to his
recognition, but her lips were as cold as the wind in her face. She
could not smile. His glance was passing her by as casually as it had
passed a hundred other bending faces above the deck rails. After a
little farther search it returned to Mrs. Nevin who bent forward, held
out her gloved hands, and called down, “Toss, Hugh! Toss! I can
catch!”—laughing.

For just an instant Hugh appeared puzzled. Then he remembered the
violets jammed under his arm, and tossed them up to the waiting hands.
It was an expert toss, and Ariel remembered how her father had once
drawn her attention to the fact that all Hugh’s motions were expert,
effective. The smell of the violets, so near now, was dizzying her with
nostalgia. She wanted to cry out, “They are mine, not yours. He brought
them for me. He never even knew you were on the boat!” But instead, she
loosened the children’s hands from hers and turned her back to the pier.
Through the darkness of tears she moved away toward the stairs, with the
intention of making sure that her baggage had left her stateroom. It
would be time enough to identify herself to Hugh, who had forgotten her,
when she came off the ship.

She was almost the last person down the gangway. Hugh was there at the
foot, looking anxious, for he had begun to be afraid he had missed Ariel
Clare in the disembarking crowd. But even when she stopped by him and
with head back, so that he might see her face plainly under the brim of
her green hat, said, “I’m Ariel, Mr. Weyman. It’s kind of you to have me
and to meet me,” he looked doubtful.

“You!” he murmured, obviously taken aback and surprised. “Why, I thought
you were the twins’ nurse!” But even as he spoke he saw that it was
indeed Ariel, standing with the look that she used to wear sometimes
before vanishing away into hot, white sunlight, years and years ago when
he was young and she was an unreal fairy creature, hovering almost
unnoticed somewhere on the edges of his first deep experience of
friendship. Of course this was she; how hadn’t he known? “But the twins
were clinging to you like burrs, weren’t they!” he insisted, explaining
his stupidity. “It looked, you know, as if you belonged, body and soul,
to Persis and Nicky. But of course it’s you.”

Yet even now when he was at last shaking hands with her Hugh was looking
over her head at a group of people a few yards away, with Mrs. Nevin at
its center. The big man, the foreign-looking, bearded personage who had
come to meet Mrs. Nevin, was beside her, his hand on her arm. He was
possessive in his bearing, and openly exuberant that the lady had landed
and was for the moment, at least, under his protection. And now a great
sheaf of yellow roses in Mrs. Nevin’s arms quite obscured the violets,
if, indeed, she still had them. Ariel was conscious that Hugh returned
his attention to herself with an almost painful effort.

“Your luggage will be under C,” he unnecessarily informed her, and then
added with a sudden access of responsibility, “This is the way. We’ll do
our best to speed things up in spite of the unlucky popularity of your
letter. We’ll grab tea somewhere then, and get right along to Wild
Acres, where Mother and Anne are waiting for us. They would have come in
to meet you with me—Anne would, anyway—but we’ve got another visitor
with us—Prescott Enderly, the novelist. Know his stuff?” And all the
while he was skillfully guiding her through a milling crowd of
over-anxious people.



                               Chapter IV


The younger Weymans had been skiing most of that afternoon with their
guest, Prescott Enderly. Although Enderly was Glenn Weyman’s intimate at
Yale and only a year or so older, he was a novelist of some notoriety.
He had written only one novel, it is true, but during the past
summer—the book was published in the spring—it had skyrocketed to fame.
Its publishers described it in their advertising as an honest and
fearless description of the private life of almost any averagely
intelligent college man. Its author was now—except for the necessity of
doing some classwork if he were to graduate this year, and taking time
out for being a lion—working on a second novel.

It was late in the afternoon when they returned home from their skiing
in the snowy country around the Weymans’ estate on the Hudson. Glenn
went up to his room to lounge and read until dinner time, but Anne
staggered with an exaggerated air of fatigue into the library, and
Enderly followed her. A fire, recently lighted, blazed its invitation
from the far end of the long room, and although it was not yet quite
dark outside, the heavy velvet curtains had already been drawn across
the windows and several table lamps were glowing through rich,
soft-colored shades. Enderly, without asking Anne’s leave, went the
round of the lamps, turning off their lights. But even without the lamps
the freshly lighted fire kept the room alive and awake. Anne threw
herself into the exact center of the deep divan which was drawn up
before the fireplace, and Enderly, without hesitation or a word, settled
himself close at her side. She leaned her head against the back of the
divan, shut her eyes, and murmured “Hello. Where’d you come from?” as
though already half asleep. Her voice was oddly, boyishly deep, but with
a slight catch in it which turned it thrillingly feminine. Enderly liked
Anne’s voice: it was the thing that had attracted him to her in the
beginning, when he had met her at a house party in New Haven.

“Why, I’ve been tobogganing, darling.”

“So’ve I. Funny. There was a creature along with us,—name of Prescott
Enderly. Thinks he’s a novelist and quite important, you know. Perhaps
he can write, but he’s not so good in the snow.”

“Really? Well, darling, you are magnificent in the snow, so it doesn’t
matter about me. You were a gorgeous red bird, always flying somewhere
ahead in the face of a dead, white world. Beautiful!”

Anne opened her eyes and glanced down at her flannel skirt, ruby in the
firelight. “But yesterday, Pressy, you insisted I was a flame. I’d
really rather be a flame than a bird. Aren’t I more a flame? Say,
‘yes’!”

He laid his hand over her two hands which were clasped on her crossed
knees. But he laid it casually, looking into the fire. Her eyelids
flickered at the contact, but her hands did not stir or tremble. “You’re
a flame in the house—now. Close like this.... But a bird in the open.
How’s that? Satisfied?” His cheek just brushed hers.

“No, not satisfied,” she insisted huskily,—and then pretended to yawn,
because huskiness was a symptom of feeling with her, and Prescott knew
it. “They all say ‘flame.’ It isn’t because it’s original with you that
I like it. Think it was?”

His hand pressed harder on her clasped hands. “Why do you want to remind
me there are others?” he asked. “One takes that for granted with
a—flame, you know. It’s been some time, darling, though, since there
were others for me. Perhaps I’d better look around. If there were a
little competition you might be nicer. How about Ariel Clare?”

Anne threw off his hand, sat bolt upright and cried “Ariel Clare! Good
Heavens! I’d forgotten all about the creature. Hugh was bringing her out
after lunch. Where’s she now, do you s’pose?”

“I heard your mother telling some one on the telephone, I think, that
the _Bermuda_ was several hours late. But I wonder whether she’ll have
any—flaming qualities!”

“Nobody knows anything about that in this household, except Hugh, and
he’s been persistently uncommunicative ever since Mother hit the ceiling
the morning he informed us that such a person was about to descend upon
us to be a second daughter of the house for an indefinite period. Mother
came down—from the ceiling, you know—almost at once, but she’d said
enough to shut Hugh’s mouth. He merely says we’ll see for ourselves when
Ariel gets here what she’s like. But he’s justified in his
high-handedness. It’s he who runs the house—his money, I mean. So if he
wants to have a guest, he’s a perfect right. Any kind of a guest, even
the awfullest.”

“But she may be all right. Why not? I don’t see—”

The click of a lamp being turned on startled them. Mrs. Weyman, home
from her Shakespeare Club meeting in Tarrytown, had come into the room
unnoticed. Enderly sprang to his feet and in a second was slipping his
hostess’ coat from her shoulders, taking her gloves. “We didn’t hear
you,” he said needlessly and added, “We were discussing the expected
guest. Anne and I are wondering what she’ll be like.” He carried the
coat, hat and gloves swiftly out to the hall, deposited them in good
order there on a chair, and came back. Mrs. Weyman had sat down beside
her daughter and was leaning forward, holding chilled hands to the
blaze, rubbing them slightly. They were long, essentially aristocratic
hands, Enderly noted, like Anne’s.

Mrs. Weyman glanced up. “Hugh has invited her to visit us because of his
friendship for her father,” she explained. “She was only a little girl
when he knew her. We shall have to wait to see what she is like now.”

“Clare was an artist, wasn’t he? Didn’t Glenn tell me?”

“He called himself one. But no one has ever heard of him. Or have you,
perhaps?” There was a sudden access of hope in Mrs. Weyman’s modulated
voice.

But Enderly shook his head. “Not I. But that doesn’t signify. What I
don’t know about art—”

Mrs. Weyman stopped him. “You’d have at least heard the name. No. Hugh’s
the only one who ever did hear about this particular artist, I suspect.
But they were great friends. And it’s that that matters.”

“Of course. But I didn’t realize that Hugh cared so much about art, that
he was interested—”

Anne laughed, a laugh throaty and hesitant as her speaking voice. “He
isn’t,” she exclaimed, snatching Enderly’s attention from her mother.
“Joan Nevin squashed all that promptly on its first appearance. You see,
Joan does know a thing or two about art, and artists too. They swarm at
her house, Holly, and she’s a patroness of exhibitions and a godmother
in general to the aspiring. She knows all the big painters, the
important fellows, here and abroad, and she has a collection of her own
that’s A1,—but you know all about her, of course. Hugh’s always been in
love with her. His devotion is almost as famous as her private
collection. So when, all on his own, he discovered this artist in
Bermuda, he proudly bought and lugged home one of his paintings to her.
But she—”

Mrs. Weyman touched her daughter’s arm warningly. This was an Anne who
distressed and embarrassed her. But Enderly, for the minute too
genuinely interested to be tactful, said, “Oh! So Mrs. Nevin has a
painting by this unheard-of artist. I’d like to see it.”

“No, Mrs. Nevin hasn’t it,” Mrs. Weyman corrected him, her fingers by
now firmly pressing Anne’s arm. “I don’t know how Anne knows that Hugh
even intended it as a present for her. He never said so. He merely got
her over here to see it, as I remember, and she wasn’t very much
impressed.”

“So it’s here?” Enderly was looking about as though actually expecting
to find the picture on one of the library walls.

“In the attic. Hugh lost no time in stowing it way after Joan had
laughed at it. He knew that she knew, you see. But Hugh is loyal to his
friends. He doesn’t count the cost of friendship. And Ariel Clare may be
charming, no matter how much a failure her father was as an artist.”

Mrs. Weyman got up, snapped on another light or two and started out to
dress for dinner. But Enderly, clinging to his tactlessness, detained
her by inquiring, “Where’d she go to school? Do you know? England?”

Mrs. Weyman turned in the doorway to answer but Anne, released from the
restraining pressure of the maternal fingers, got ahead of her with: “We
have no evidence of any education whatever having happened to Ariel.
It’s one thing Hugh doesn’t try to claim. What she’s really been doing
all these years is being a model—her father’s model, of course—and that
may have taken all her time, poor thing. Hugh tells us that he never
painted a picture without putting her in. Where most artists put their
signature he put his daughter, do you see. Not the subject of the
picture, just a sort of afterthought, off at the side, or in the air or
in the water,—a kind of sprite or accompanying angel. Sweet idea. And—”

Mrs. Weyman interposed. “I wouldn’t go on embroidering, Anne. It’s time
to dress for dinner, and Ariel is to be our guest. I mean to remember
that, and you must, too. By the way, Joan’s back. Came on the _Bermuda_
to-day, with Ariel Clare, but didn’t notice any one she thought would be
she. I saw Holly lighted up and stopped in to say ‘Hello.’ She’s coming
over after dinner—”

“Oh, that’s a shame!” Anne cried, persisting in clashing with her
mother. “She’s been gone so long Hugh’s almost begun to take an interest
in other things. And here she’s back to spoil it all. Why can’t she
leave him alone?”

Enderly followed Mrs. Weyman into the hall. “Frankly, I’ve been
palpitating to meet your Mrs. Joan Nevin for a long while,” he was
saying. “In New York every one has promised it. Party after party they
are almost sure of her, and then, for some reason or other, she isn’t
there. I shall think myself in luck to-night, if she actually does come
here, and isn’t, as I’d begun to suspect, a lady of fable merely,—an
intriguing legend. Wild Acres is really a delicious place to visit!”

Enderly was working into Mrs. Weyman’s hands at last. She paused, turned
back to him, and replied, “So nice of you to think so. And Mrs. Nevin is
very worth meeting, of course. But one forgets her fame as a collector
and all that. At least, I do. To me she’s just a very dear girl whom
I’ve known practically all her life. A lovely person. She’s been away
most of the winter, and I’ve missed her. All of us have.”

Anne, already at the foot of the stairs, put in, “Huh! I’d be willing to
miss her permanently, for Hugh’s sake. But come along, Mum. Let’s not be
caught downstairs by Hugh and his incuba. Better to take her first along
with dinner. Food may sustain us over the first shocks.”

“I’ll go up too, and write a paragraph, perhaps,” Enderly said, behind
Mrs. Weyman and her daughter on the stairs. “My publishers are
tiresomely inconsiderate, keeping at me about the new book. They’re
following me even here with urgent telegrams. They don’t hope for
miracles—they expect ’em.”

“Is the lamp in your room right for writing, and is it warm enough
there?” Mrs. Weyman asked, her hand on the knob of her bedroom door.
Genuine concern for his comfort was mingled with the satisfaction in her
mind that Glenn had such a worth-while friend at college and had
succeeded in bringing him home for the holidays.

Enderly assured his hostess of the complete comfort of her arrangements
for him. “They’ve laid a very handsome fire for me ready to light. I’ll
start it now and be most particularly luxurious,” he said. “You’re very
good to me.”

Then the bedroom doors were closed, and quiet reigned upstairs and down
in the big, rambling house.



                               Chapter V


Hugh and Ariel, arriving, were met by the stillness. Hugh passed Ariel
and looked in at the library. He surveyed the unoccupied room with some
disconcertion. He hadn’t asked his mother to be on hand to greet Ariel,
and Anne was probably off somewhere with Glenn and Prescott Enderly.
There was no actual cause for complaint, but he was concerned for the
impression the absence of welcome might make on the girl standing there
at his back, pale and wordless under the brilliant impersonal light of
the hall chandeliers.

“Mother’s probably dressing for dinner.” He spoke with assumed assurance
and liveliness. “I’ll show you your room. I’m pretty sure I know which
’tis. And Anne will come straight there the minute she gets in. She’s
off somewhere skylarking, or—” he looked at his watch and amended,
“probably dressing for dinner too. I’ll look her up in her room.”

He went ahead, carrying the suitcases up the stairs. As he passed his
mother’s and Anne’s doors he said something more, it didn’t matter what,
in the hope that one of the doors would open and some one appear to make
Ariel feel at home. But nothing so fortuitous happened. His resentment
became actual when he had to feel for the electric-light switch in the
guest room allotted to Ariel and was conscious that she had followed him
in and was standing there in the dark as aware of the chill in the room
as was he. They might at least have told Rose, the second maid, to have
the lights turned on, and a fire blazing in the little marble fireplace.
“Now I’ll go and hunt up my kid sister,” he promised, when he had found
the switch. “She’ll be along right away to help you unpack and settle.
Dinner’s very soon. You mustn’t dress for it unless you want to
particularly. All right?”

Ariel assured him that she was all right. And then, when the door closed
on his back she breathed one deep breath of satisfaction. It was good to
be alone, and to have, if only for a few minutes, a reprieve from the
ultimately unavoidable meeting with Hugh’s family. It seemed days and
days ago, not a mere few hours, since Hugh had taken her arm and hurried
her through the jam of people and luggage surging under the great
swinging letter C in the customs shed.

As they had stood with the customs official whom Hugh had captured with
what had every appearance of special secret powers—since although Ariel
was almost the last person off the _Bermuda_, she was certainly the very
first person to have her baggage passed on—Hugh had turned and looked
down at her with his first concentrated attention.

“Are you warm?” he had asked almost sharply.

“No, of course not. It’s very col—d in the States,” she shivered out,
taken unaware.

“Yes. But you keep out the cold, you know, with warm clothes,” he said.
“You don’t look at all warmly enough dressed. Is there another coat, a
big overcoat, anywhere in your baggage? We’ll get it out.”

“But there isn’t,” Ariel told him. “I didn’t realize how cold it would
be the beginning of March. I thought March was almost spring here. I was
stupid.” She shivered again,—not with cold this time, but from sheer
nervousness at the intent way Hugh was looking down at what she guessed
were her blue lips and pinched nose.

“Look here,” he was saying. “We’re driving out to Wild Acres, after a
good hot tea, in my open roadster. That means a fur coat for you if we
can pick one up along the way to the ‘Carnation.’ That’s the tearoom.
You’ll need a fur coat in this climate, anyway, and you might as well
get it to-day as to-morrow. I ought to have borrowed Anne’s. _My_
stupidity. They’re expecting me to bring a live, real girl home this
evening, you know, not an imported icicle. An icicle from Bermuda would
be too surprising!”

But Ariel did not laugh. The tone of his humor surprised and confused
her. Sometimes thus she had heard adults banter a child. But she wasn’t
a child, and even if she had been, would have been put off by such
banter. Children are.

“But it is almost spring,” she protested. “And I don’t think I’d better
get a coat now. I’d rather buy a spring coat, you see, a little later.
It would be more—practical.”

Hugh, however, proved domineering. “This isn’t your affair, it’s mine,
since I neglected to bring something warm for you. Besides, I’d rather,
much, buy a pretty fur coat for you this afternoon than a handsome
coffin for you day after to-morrow.”

Ariel said nothing farther. That word “coffin” which Hugh had uttered so
lightly had shut her throat tight like fingers around it. Three weeks
ago she had watched a coffin lowered into the ground.... So she went
with Hugh dumbly, numbed by the noise and the crowds of the city as much
as by the unaccustomed cold, a walk of several blocks to the place where
his roadster stood parked.

“We’ll cut out to Fifth Avenue,” he told her, opening the car door,
“cruise down it until we see a fur sale in some window or other, bundle
you up in the best-looking one, and be at the ‘Carnation’ in time for
four o’clock tea.”

The seat of the roadster was swung so low and the wind-shield stood so
high that Ariel felt protected from both wind and hurrying crowds the
minute she was in. Hugh did not speak again while he picked his way out
through jostling traffic over bumpy pavements to Ariel’s first sight and
experience of Fifth Avenue. She sensed that Hugh’s silence had nothing
to do with the difficulties of driving. Glancing up at his profile, she
felt that he had forgotten her, and that his skillful maneuvering of the
car was automatic. He was deep in thoughts of his own, in his own inner
life.

But as they turned into the Avenue he came out of his abstraction to
say, “Watch out for fur coats now, will you, and shout the first window
you see.”

“There’s one there, across the street, a whole window of fur coats,”
Ariel told him.

He parked as soon as he could find a place. And when he came around the
car to open the door on Ariel’s side he stood a moment, aware of her
again as he had been in the customs shed. He said, “It’s going to be fun
picking out this coat for a welcoming present.” He smiled to himself,
for he had resisted the pun “a warm welcome.” He had noticed that she
did not like that sort of fun when he had tried to be humorous before,
and went on seriously, “It will be very sweet of you, Ariel, if you let
me please myself about this.”

Ariel knew in that instant how utterly he was changed. That first sight
of him from the deck had been strangely deceiving. She was sorry for
him, without knowing why. Of course he should please himself about
buying a fur coat for her. She wanted him to be pleased and happy, as he
had been all those days in Bermuda.

Inside the shop door Hugh paused and stood looking about, while salesmen
and salesgirls hovered, watching him with eager curiosity. Then, when he
had come to his decision, he swooped, a clean swoop, seizing on the
proprietor of the shop—how he guessed he was the proprietor and would so
save time and words for them, Ariel did not know—and pointed out a soft
white coat, hanging at the end of a near rack.

“Good afternoon,” he said, with a quick nod. “Will you please try this
on the lady? Thank you.”

In an instant Ariel was turning herself about at the center of a fan of
long mirrors, in the beautiful coat. Its collar rolled away softly at
her neck, its girlishness offsetting the luxuriousness. The garment was
cut straight from shoulder to hem, and its cuffs, narrow and young, like
the collar, rolled softly back at the wrists. It was flexible and light.
It was like being wrapped in swansdown, not fur. Then Hugh stood behind
her and folded it back for her to take in the scarlet silk lining.

“Do you like it?” he asked, meeting her eyes in the mirror. It was
plain, in the mirror, that already the new coat was giving him pleasure,
just as he had promised her it would.

“Of course I like it! I love it,” she cried, poising on her toes, almost
as tall as Hugh now, smiling at his reflected eyes, feeling as if the
coat were wings folded down her body from her shoulders,—soft, lovely
wings, making her tall, light, swift. But then suddenly she forgot the
coat, forgot her pleasure and Hugh’s pleasure. She turned on Hugh Weyman
and threw her head back, meeting his eyes squarely. “But I’d much rather
have had the violets. Much, much rather!” she exclaimed.

He could not think what she meant at first. Then he remembered. Joan
Nevin had held out her hands for the violets, and he had tossed them up
to her. But they were really Ariel’s violets. He had taken them to the
boat for her. _They_ were to have been his welcoming present. He slowly
flushed.

Ariel was sorry and dropped her eyes. After a second Hugh said, “My dear
girl, in a few weeks the woods at Wild Acres will be purple with
violets, banks and banks of them. Yellow violets too, and white. You
shall have your heart’s full. I promise. But this is rather nice just
now. Isn’t it?”

He was teasing her. But he was as sincere as was she. She jammed her
hands into the deep, soft pockets, while her fingers clenched. She had
made a fool of herself. But she didn’t mind much. He was sweet, and
dear, this Hugh she had never known.

Then he moved a little away with the shopman. Ariel surmised that the
price of the coat was now under discussion. The little Jew rubbed his
hands, hesitated, smiled up almost affectionately, and named it. Ariel
did not hear his words, but she saw Hugh come very near to starting,
while his shoulders stiffened. So it was some outrageous price, and Hugh
was surprised and would not think of paying it. But he ought to have
known he was picking out the most expensive thing in the shop. It was
obviously a coat for a princess, a Russian princess in old Petersburg
when the world was kind to princesses. This scarlet lining!... The
deftly rolling, beautiful collar and cuffs! Hugh said something then,
and the shopkeeper raised his voice in replying. “But it is a most
wonderful bargain. Wonderful! And I named you my bottom price on account
of the season. I saw at once that you would buy or leave a thing. So I
did not bother to bargain by naming a price of unreasonableness. If you
do not care for the coat enough—I am sorry.”

The little man was vigorously shrugging his sincerity and his sorrow.
For an instant more Ariel saw Hugh hesitate. Then his eyes narrowed ever
so slightly and he too shrugged—a whimsical submission.

He came toward Ariel. “Better keep it on,” he suggested. “We’ll carry
the tweed one. Excuse me a minute, please, while I go to the office and
establish my credit over their telephone.” He placed a chair for her
with as much manner as if she were indeed the princess the coat made her
out to be, and went down the shop where there was a glass-encased office
booth.

First Hugh spoke into the telephone, then the bookkeeper, and finally
the shopkeeper himself. Ariel watched all that went on behind the glass
with interest but without hearing a word. It took only a very few
minutes for Hugh to prove his financial soundness and then he was back
with her. At the door which he was holding obsequiously and happily open
for them, the shopkeeper murmured, “If madam would like a hat, my
brother next door has some marvelous Parisian models. The finest in New
York. There is an artist there who makes them to one’s head, while one
waits.”

But Hugh shook his head, smiling at the “madam.” Did the man think this
young girl was his wife?

In the car, on their way to the “Carnation,” Ariel said, “I’m afraid,
Mr. Weyman, this cost a great deal. More than it ought. I am sorry.”

“What?” He had forgotten already about the coat. “Oh! Why, yes, more
than I had expected, but I don’t believe more than it’s worth. The only
difficulty was that I thought I had enough with me, but I hadn’t, and so
it meant bothering the people at my office. But it doesn’t matter. And
now, Ariel, I can begin to enjoy your company, without worry.” At the
end of another half block he added, “And you will call me Hugh, please,
or I shall have to Miss-Clare you.”

It was not yet four o’clock when they got to the “Carnation,” so they
had the place almost to themselves. Ariel poured out the tea from a
chubby carnation-painted pot, and felt, almost, that it was five years
ago and she was offering the studio’s hospitality to a hawklike, rather
silent new friend of her father’s. But she had only to look across the
little table at him to remember that it was not so,—to see that all was
different, really. She was noticing how Hugh’s vigorous, close-cropped
hair, which had been black in Bermuda, was now hoar-frosted at temples
and ears. It startled her and made her shy again. This premature
grayness, taken together with an austere tightening of the corners of
his lips, and two deep lines rising from them, frightened Ariel a
little. She felt breathless, almost awe-struck. So much must have
happened to a person to change him like that! Where she had counted on
finding her father’s friend, to-day she had not found him. Everything
had been, from the minute of their meeting on the pier, just between
this man and herself alone, as it had used to be between him and her
father. Was her father, she wondered, hovering on the edge of her
present contact with Hugh as she had hovered on the edge of theirs five
years ago? This was too poignant an idea, and she shut it out.

Hugh was smiling at her across the bouquet of carnations which decorated
the center of their table. He was exclaiming: “Imagine Mr. Schimpler
suggesting a new hat for you from his brother’s shop, with a hat like
that to flaunt in his face! It’s a real hat, Ariel, but I suppose you
know it. And the feather! There are no words for the feather! It has an
insistent personality all its own.”

Ariel lifted her fingers searchingly, up to find the feather. She
started to say, “Father found—” and got no farther than opened lips. But
she tried her best to smile. He must be the one first to name her
father. The next piece of toast that she swallowed, forcing herself,
tasted salt.


Wild Acres, the Weymans’ estate, is on the Hudson near Tarrytown—a
drive, from Forty-Second Street and the “Carnation” tearoom, of
something over an hour and a half. Ariel, snuggled back in her coat for
a princess against the cushions of the roadster’s low seat, observed
alternately the flying white landscape and Hugh’s intent profile. How he
dared push the car along like this over the icy, snowy road she did not
know, but since he did dare she had not even a quiver of doubt of their
safety, for all her instinct shouted confidence in the judgment of this
stranger with the incised lines at the corners of his mouth. He might
not be her father’s friend, have long forgotten that, and there had not
yet been time for him to become hers, but he was a person—of this she
was calmly aware—to trust one’s life to.

They had sailed along for miles before he spoke at all. Then he asked,
“Were you ever in an automobile before, Ariel? They aren’t allowed in
Bermuda yet, are they?”

“No. Only government trucks. There are a few of those. But in France, of
course, Fa—we taxied quite a lot, just for the fun of it. That was
our—my first motoring. This is the first time I’ve seen snow, though.
But I don’t feel that it is. I’ve imagined it so concretely, I suppose,
and then it’s in so many books, of course. If I picked up a handful now,
or began walking in it, the sensation wouldn’t be a new
sensation,—because of imagination. Do you see?”

“Yes. I know. It was like that when I went West years ago with my
father,” Hugh responded, with sympathetic understanding. “The prairie we
found there was no more real than the prairie I’d lived on and played
over with the gang in Tarrytown the year I was ten, though we’d made
that prairie for ourselves out of reading and imagination. The very
earth had the same feel beneath my feet that it had had under my
moccasined feet when I was ‘Wild Eagle,’ bravest of chiefs. The
moccasins were imagined too, although the headdress was real. There’s
something of a thrill in catching up with these places in our
imagination, isn’t there? By the way, have you got it straight in your
mind, Ariel, about us Weymans, how many and who we all are at Wild
Acres?”

“I think so. There’s your mother. And your sister and brother. Doctor
Hazzard said that your sister and brother would be at home for the
Easter vacation now. But, of course, I don’t know them with my
imagination the way you knew the prairie and I knew the snow.”

They both laughed. He said, “Well, I can’t give you a whole literary and
imaginative background for our household. But you’ve left out the first
and most interesting member. Perhaps I didn’t mention her in my letter
to Doctor Hazzard. It’s my Grandmother Weyman. She lives above us,
literally as well as figuratively, in the attic which she had fixed over
into an exclusive apartment for herself when she returned from her last
winter in Egypt, several years ago. You may or you may not get to know
her really. Perhaps you’ll hardly ever see her. She’s rather
disconcertingly invisible and exclusive. I mean, she’s exclusive even
toward us, the family. Her contacts are with Silence and the
Angels,—that kind of exclusiveness. She’s got it down to a science, how
to be alone when she wants to be alone. You may think her—odd. People
do.”

Ariel was catching a rich, almost secret note of tenderness in Hugh’s
voice. “He adores his grandmother,” she thought. “And he doesn’t think
she’s odd. He thinks she’s perfect.”

“Well, after Grandam, there’s my mother, of course. She’s perfectly
visible, from all sides. And she’ll help you a lot, Ariel, in the—in the
adjustments to a new life you’re in for now, I’m afraid. She’s just the
sort of person to do that,—practical, sensible. Then there’s my kid
sister Anne. Only she won’t seem kid-sisterish to you. She’s a month or
two older than you are, in fact, and you may get to be great friends.
Doctor Hazzard wrote that that was something you’d missed so far,
contemporaries. She is a sophomore at Smith.

“Glenn’s the student of the family. Got it from Grandfather Weyman,
perhaps. He’s older than Anne—a year—and a junior at Yale. But he seems
younger, you’ll see, in spite of reading Spengler and writing Greek
sonnets that have made quite a stir—in the heart of a Greek professor or
two, the only people who can read ’em. He’ll probably be rude to you.
But you mustn’t mind him. He’s rude to us all just now. He’s got an idea
that rudeness has some sort of affinity with intelligence. He drops the
pose only for his friend, Prescott Enderly. Ever heard of him?”

Ariel hadn’t. So Hugh explained about the young man’s fame and that he
was to be Ariel’s fellow-guest for the present at Wild Acres. “When
college opens again, there’ll be just you and mother and I at Wild
Acres, unless you count Grandam, my grandmother, which you probably
won’t. We’re not going to make it before dark, I’m afraid.” The time had
come to switch on the headlights. Gray, cobwebby dusk was settling over
the snowy world.

Ariel, comforted by Hugh’s friendly explanations, warm and at home in
her fur coat, was relaxed and confident at last. She asked, “And those
children, Nicky and Persis? They aren’t related? ‘Uncle’ was only a
manner of speaking?”

The car picked up speed appallingly and Ariel’s confidence in Hugh as a
safe keeper for any life was shattered. The road was icy under the snow
and he was not slowing even for the curves. But when he answered her,
his words came evenly and a little drawled, a strange tempo to speak in
when one is driving at fifty miles an hour on a precarious winter road.
“Yes. If they called me ‘uncle’ that _was_ only a manner of speaking.
Mrs. Nevin’s manner of speaking. Most of her men friends are ‘uncle’ to
the children. Did you gather exactly who _she_ was, on the ship, Ariel?
Her husband was Nevin, the producer,—‘dramaturg,’ he called himself.
Your father would have known.”

It was really a dangerous speed. Never had she realized that bodies
could move so fast through space. Her breath came almost in a sob. It
was only after a mile or more of this agony that Hugh became aware of
her fear, but he slowed down then at once. “Do excuse me,” he muttered
contritely. “You’re right. It isn’t safe. I forgot I wasn’t alone. An
idiocy I won’t repeat.”

“It’s only that I’m not used—” Ariel murmured. Her knees began to
tremble, now that she had no cause for fear and the danger was past. She
hoped he would not feel how she was shaking from head to feet, as with a
chill. If he did, he said nothing about it but asked, “Was Mrs. Nevin
entertaining? Did you enjoy her?”

“Entertaining?” Ariel sounded amazed.

“Well, yes. She can be, you know. She’s rather famous for wit and charm
and brilliance. Didn’t you guess that?”

“But I wouldn’t. We never even spoke to each other, you see. I happened
to have a chair beside hers on deck, but we didn’t speak. Even the
children didn’t. They just happened to stand by me while we were
docking. That was the way it was. Perhaps she’s like your
grandmother—Mrs. Nevin. Keeps her company with silence and the
angels....”

“No. Hers is another sort of exclusiveness altogether,” Hugh answered.
“But I can’t imagine two days, and not a word....”

“There was Aldous Huxley. I think that was the name.”

“Well, I suppose he might have more for her at this stage in her life
than you, Ariel.” His tone was dry. The lines at the corners of his
mouth deepened. But it was too dark for Ariel to see that now. “There’s
Mrs. Nevin’s house,” he said suddenly. “All lighted up. So she’s at home
before us. Ours is the next place.”

Ariel saw a great house, as magnificent as Government House, crowning a
low hill above them with dozens of windows blazing through the dusk.
“That’s Holly. Her husband, Nevin, built it. It’s palatial, isn’t it!
Wild Acres is much humbler. You’ll see in a minute. Or rather in a few
minutes, because there’s a long, very twisty avenue up to our portico
and you don’t really know there’s a house until you practically come,
bump, into the front door. Here’s the entrance.”

The car had turned in through a dark, rather low, stone archway, and the
headlights were cutting a golden shaft up through snow-enchanted, stilly
woods.



                               Chapter VI


Ariel was in no hurry for Anne to come. She pulled the shades at the two
windows, shutting out the dark-white woods whose tree boughs came right
up against the panes. Then she slipped out of her coat and dropped it on
the white counterpane of the bed, scarlet lining upwards. The room was
not warm, for here on the second floor, and more particularly in the
wing where the guest rooms were situated, one needed a fire in the grate
in winter weather. But Ariel had come too freshly in from the cold air
in her face, and was too recently out of the warmth of the fur coat, to
mind the cold yet. She threw herself on the bed beside the coat and
lifting one soft sleeve rubbed it against her face. Silly girl! Her
eyelashes were soaked with tears. The fur grew slowly wet, against her
face.

An odd clumsy noise was coming down the hall outside her door. Some one
walking on stilts? Ariel sprang up from the bed in time for the knock on
the door. The sight of the girl who answered Ariel’s invitation to enter
was more startling than the sound had been. It was Anne, wrapped in a
black silk kimono embossed from shoulder to hem in huge geometrical
figures gone wrong in color and form,—a witch’s dream of color and
design. Her legs were bare, and it was the high heels of the mules
slipped onto her bare feet—green mules decorated with inordinate purple
puffs of feather—which had made the stilt-walking noises in the hall and
still made them in the room. Ariel, who had been promised a meeting with
Hugh’s sister, was taken aback and left wordless at this meeting with a
kimono and mules instead.

It was hard to believe that Anne was real, a girl, and not a doll,
walking. Ariel remembered the hateful dolls which had for some time now
been an offense to her sensibilities and her father’s in gift-shop
windows in Hamilton and St. George’s. This girl brought them vividly to
mind: dangling yard-long legs that could be tied in knots after they
were crossed at the knees, black hair parted in a seam down the exact
middle of the head and whirled into tight sleek buttons over the ears,
crazy outstanding wirelike eyelashes, dead-white cheeks, magenta mouths
warped by the paint brush into an eternal leer. But from these horrid
images you were shielded by the glass of shop windows. Never had Ariel
dreamed that she would become involved with a living one.

The magenta lips opened. Words fell out. “Well, hello, Ariel Clare. Were
you seasick?”

The deep throaty voice with the catch in it only heightened the doll
effect.

Ariel shook her head negatively, and stepping backward, crouched down on
the side of the bed as Anne clumped a step or two nearer.
“Congratulations,” the magenta lips husked on. “It’s almost time for the
dinner gong. Where’s your bag? Oh, there!”

The mules clumpety-clumped to the suitcases which Hugh had unstrapped
for Ariel before he left her, and throwing back their covers Anne began
tossing the things inside about as roughly as the inspector on the pier
had done. “Dinner dress?” she inquired. “You’ve just time to change.”

“There it is. The green!” Ariel spoke hurriedly, to stop the useless
mauling of her delicate possessions.

Anne jerked out the green frock. “Rather nice,” she approved. “Clever.”
As she tossed it to Ariel she caught sight of the coat. “My word! But
you are a gorgeous baby—! What a duck, what a _lamb_ of a coat! You
lucky, lucky girl!” She snatched it up from the bed and held it
ecstatically before her person, and turned to look at it in the mirror
of the door. Ariel did not know what to do. She wanted to tell Anne that
it was a gift from her brother. But she couldn’t. For suddenly, and for
the first time, the gift rather troubled her. It was too much. Hugh
should never have done it.

While Ariel hesitated, Anne had dropped the coat and turned to sit in
front of Ariel’s dressing table. Delicately, with the tips of first the
jewel-nailed little finger of one hand, then the other, she began to
work at the contours of her painted lips, pointing up the cynical
expression. The color was so recently applied that it was still
malleable. As she worked at this delicate bit of art she talked, a
steady flow of words, but thrown out all in that halting, throaty manner
that made it seem not so much real speech from a real person as goblin
talk.

“I don’t envy you, Ariel, being thrown into the middle of our dinner
table for the first time to-night. No wonder Hugh’s worried you’ll feel
‘strange.’ He’s been in my room, begging me tearfully to make you feel
cozy. I love to please Hugh. It’s so easy—like tickling a baby.”

Ariel was slipping the green frock over her head. Anne whirled suddenly
around on her and two brown eyes, for the moment open and even naïve in
their expression, looked her over. What they saw was a thin face with
rather narrow, rather light eyes and coral-faint lips just then emerging
from the green cloud of the dinner frock.

“Hello, Mermaid,” she smiled. “You look just like one. What do I look
like? Don’t be afraid to say.” But, Ariel, looking into the friendly
face, had already forgotten the ugly dolls.

Far away, deep at the heart of the house, three musical notes sounded.
“That’s the dinner gong. And we’re both of us late. You must think it up
and tell me later, what I look like. Appease my mummy. That’s a duck.
She hates unpunctuality. Tell her we got so interested in each other we
forgot the time.”

She was gone. Ariel stooped and found her own reflection in the mirror.
She pushed at her hair with shaking fingers. No time now to look for her
brush in the chaos that Anne had made of the suitcases. She was glad
Anne had liked the frock. Of course it was lovely, for her father had
planned it. It was his creation, like his pictures.


She was standing in the library door, aware of every one at once and of
no one in particular, until a sudden hush fell as they became conscious
of her. Mrs. Weyman—it must be she—came forward down the room and took
Ariel’s hands in hers.

“My dear,” she said, “I am Hugh’s mother. But where’s Anne? Hugh said
she was taking care of you.”

Ariel explained about Anne while she was being led forward toward the
group around the fire. Mrs. Weyman was a surprise to Ariel. How could
any one so young and slight be Hugh’s mother? She looked like a girl, a
very dignified, socially competent girl, but so young! It was not from
her that Hugh and Anne got their soft dark coloring and their clear-cut
features. She was blond, small, and pretty.

“This is Glenn,” Mrs. Weyman introduced her younger son, who tossed a
cigarette into the fire and took Ariel’s hand. He was a long-legged boy,
with a mop of tousled black hair, clever eyes, and an ambiguous, crooked
smile. Very white teeth. His tie, a brilliant orange ribbon, and his
teeth wavered before Ariel’s shaky vision, and then she was turned to
face Prescott Enderly.

The young celebrity was quickly effervescent. In the instant of
introduction he gave everything to Ariel Clare, all the color and
sparkle of his personality. He had liked the back of her green frock and
the way her hair—pale hair, of no color at all by lamplight—curled in at
the back of her neck, before she was turned to him. But the thin cheeks
and the narrow eyes were a disappointment. Even more of a disappointment
was the sense that this girl, even in the instant of being introduced to
himself, was looking past him as if in search of something of more
interest. He was correct; she was looking for “Noon,” and confidently
expecting to find it here on these walls. She was looking for it with
her heart in her eyes. No wonder she disappointed the eager artistic
soul of the young man from whom she had turned away before his glance
released her.

“Noon” was not there. No white sunlight shattered the somber spaces of
the paneled walls. There were only black-and-white etchings, and over
the fireplace a portrait of some ancient Weyman.

“We’re only waiting for Anne now,” Mrs. Weyman murmured. “And here she
is. Grandam’s not coming down.”

Anne had exchanged her kimono for a black velvet, very tight frock,
relieved by a string of scarlet beads, dangling scarlet earrings, and
high-heeled red pumps. They went now, informally, down the hall to the
dining room.

The pictures in the dining room appeared to be _all_ family portraits,
some of them earlier than the Revolution. But Ariel was neither
disappointed nor surprised not to find “Noon” here. For she had come to
the conclusion by this time that it was hung in the drawing-room which
she had glimpsed across the hall from the library, as they came out.
That, after all, would be the appropriate place for it.

Mrs. Weyman took the head of the table, Hugh the foot. The places were
laid rather far apart on the glimmering white damask, and the one little
maid who flitted, a white-and-black moth, in velvety silence from
shoulder to shoulder and back and forth through the ghostly, swinging
pantry door, never seemed to come to rest.

Ariel had a talent: the gift of a graceful, even a gracious silence. And
this night she sat during the long dinner hour at the board of
strangers, scarcely uttering a word, and yet not seeming bored, and
certainly not boring. The talk seemed to flow over her, around her, even
through her, while her silence bent with it but did not dissolve—like
forget-me-nots in a brook.

So thought Glenn, who, sitting next to her, was almost as silent as
herself, but with the thick silence of moodiness and self-centeredness.
To-night, however, he was a little less self-centered than usual, for he
was giving thought to Ariel. And even when his mind turned to something
far away and long ago, Ariel had impelled it in that direction. He was
remembering when he was a little boy, ten—or was it nine?—years old. His
mother was abroad with his father, vacationing, and Grandam had returned
to oversee things at Wild Acres. He, the boy Glenn, had taken the
occasion to come down with scarlet fever. Grandam straightway moved her
things into Hugh’s room, which opened out of Glenn’s, and Hugh’s things
away somewhere into one of the spare rooms. Then had followed
magic,—long days of it. Forget-me-nots flowing with a brook, under
water, yet never away from their roots. But where did forget-me-nots
come in, when he was merely shut away in two rooms with Grandam? And the
crystal water running, running? Wings in the air too? How had all this
got into those shut-away rooms and days? But they had. He remembered
them more vividly than the fever and the headache. Yet why did he
connect the two experiences,—Ariel silent beside him at the commonplace
rite of dinner at Wild Acres, and Grandam sitting beside his bed in the
night, years and years ago? It was two silences he was connecting,—clear
silences, crystal silences, through which at any moment one might hear
the footsteps of beauty coming—coming.... Wasn’t there a poem
somewhere—?

Old Pres was talking. Something about Spengler—no—Walter Lippmann. Glenn
had been missing, had skipped whole gobs of what his brilliant friend
was saying. An important contribution to civilized thinking? Walter
Lippmann’s book? Oh, yes, Glenn agreed with that. Prescott, meeting his
glance, caught the full force of the agreement and regained in a
twinkling the complacency he had been in danger of losing since Glenn
had gone obviously wool-gathering and stopped listening. For Glenn was
the only one here really interested in this sort of thing. The others
were merely polite, pretending agreement and interest. Prescott and
Glenn understood each other, valued each other. The others didn’t
count—except in quite a different way. Anne counted—rather—of course.
But it was Glenn he really addressed himself to.

And Glenn was saying to himself, “I’m following old Pres now—what he’s
saying. I like this dessert, almond flavoring it’s got. And yet it still
holds. There’s magic here—in this silence—something wonderful here....
Like when I was a kid....”

The moth was directed to bring coffee into the drawing-room later, for
Mrs. Nevin was coming to have it with them. A fire was blazing on the
hearth there. The moth had been sent to apply the match during dinner.

The drawing-room contrasted sharply with the hall, the dining room, and
the library. They were dim, big apartments, lighted by richly shaded but
subdued lamps. The drawing-room had creamy walls, spindly gilt
furniture, and turquois blue rugs. An Italian chandelier, a cluster of
glittering bulbs and crystals, outdid the fire and the lamps and made
the room brighter than day.

Anne and Enderly quickly appropriated the little blue and gilt sofa near
the library door, sat uneasily there and looked prepared, at the flick
of an eye, to escape into the romantic, shadowy library. Glenn got a
book, and with the air of being a martyr to his mother’s desires,
settled himself with it in a distant chair, a straight-backed, fragile
piece of furniture which looked as though it had never before in its
history been read on. Hugh, his mother and Ariel were together around
the low table, a little back from the fire, which soon was to hold the
coffee things. Mrs. Weyman, in the glaring white light cast down by the
chandelier, looked more a possible mother of Hugh than she had when
Ariel first saw her, but she was still very pretty.

There was only one picture on the creamy walls of this room. That was a
big panel framed in ebony, which reached from ceiling to floor of the
wall opposite the door from the hall,—a conventionalized, brilliant
shower of garden flowers.

It was beautiful, Ariel thought. _But where was “Noon”?_ Hugh might want
it for his own room of course, but even wanting it, he would never deny
others the satisfaction of living with it too. Ariel couldn’t believe
him so selfish. It might be loaned to some exhibition. But surely Hugh
would explain about it now, any minute. He must know that she was
wondering and longing to see it. She remembered, however, his strange
silence on this matter of the picture in his letters to her father. Her
father had refused to ask when Hugh was silent. His pride was now
Ariel’s. She would not violate it. And Mrs. Weyman was speaking to her,
directly.

“Hugh has told us really very little about you, Ariel. We’d hardly heard
your name a month ago. I’m afraid I don’t even know where you lived,
your family, I mean, originally. And your mother. Have you been long
without her?”

“My family? It was my father. I’ve always lived in Bermuda. Father lived
in Chicago. Was born there. But he went to Bermuda and took me with him
when I was only a few weeks old.”

“Yes? And your mother, then?” Mrs. Weyman prompted. Under the brilliant
glare from the chandelier, Ariel felt how everything ultimately must
come to light. Mrs. Weyman was preparing to see Ariel’s past history as
plainly as Ariel was seeing the big, glittering coffee machine which the
maid, Rose, at this moment, was setting up on the table among them.

“My mother died,—two, three years ago. I’m not certain.”

Mrs. Weyman looked her perplexity and surprise at her son, but he
offered no help. She could not catch his eye. He merely leaned forward
to adjust the alcohol burner under the coffee urn.

“You see, it was like this,” Ariel explained after a minute when the
silence seemed to demand more of her. “My mother didn’t want a baby. She
wanted to marry but she didn’t want babies. But Father didn’t know that.
Not until I was going to be born. They were both teachers in a school
near Chicago. And my mother wanted to go on teaching. She was the
principal of the school, in fact,—made more money than my father and was
above him, although she was so young. She cared more about education
than anything in the world. She read whole libraries of books on
education, gave lectures, and she wrote for magazines about it all the
while. It was a great bother to have a baby.”

Ariel hesitated and the silence closed in on her again. Hugh was opening
a cigarette case, selecting a cigarette, frowning slightly. Mrs. Weyman
was looking at Ariel, smiling, but oddly.

“You can see how it was a great bother. She, my mother, was so much more
important than my father, had a lot more to do really. Worked harder.
And they needed the money she could make. Besides, she loved education,
and—she didn’t love me. But Father did. From the very first. Even from
before I was born.... He loved me....”

Was she going to go down in a storm of weeping? She felt it raging
toward her, a storm of terrible weeping. It did not threaten from her
heart or from herself at all,—from the outside somehow, an impersonal,
objective storm racing toward her. She clutched her fingers into her
palms. She had never cried before anybody in her life. And now of all
times to choose for such a performance! If Hugh would only look at her!
Only steady her! But he did not look up from his cigarette case. He was
feeling its cold silver surfaces. There was no help from him.

At her back Mr. Enderly was laughing. Anne had made him laugh by
something she had been murmuring. They had not heard anything of what
Ariel had said. And then Ariel heard a book close sharply. So Glenn was
listening. He was not reading. She turned to him and went on. She did
not know how but his shutting the book had shut out the storm of
weeping. Like a door closed against a whirlwind.

“So my mother gave me to Father. As soon as she was able to go back to
her work again, she gave me right to him. I was five weeks old. I was
all his, every bit his. Not hers any more. I was as easy as a kitten to
take care of, so tiny, so healthy. I could fit into such small places,
almost into his pocket. He took me to Bermuda. He’d always wanted to
paint. And there, in Bermuda, he began to paint with all his soul. But
the way he supported us was by writing Western stories for Western
magazines. He’d already sold a few while he was still teaching. But in
Bermuda he had much more time. The stories didn’t bring much money. But
we didn’t mind. There was nothing we really wanted that we didn’t
have.—Even Paris.”

Ariel was looking at Hugh now. He would understand about Paris. But he
was regarding her gravely and did not seem able to smile his
understanding of Paris.

“But one has relatives. Aunts? Uncles? Grandmothers? You and your
father,—you weren’t cut quite adrift from your family, were you?” Mrs.
Weyman asked with sympathy.

“Mother and Father were the end of their families. There were no
relatives to be cut adrift from.”

Mrs. Weyman asked one more question. The expression of her face and
voice robbed it of impertinence. “And the paintings? Didn’t that, in
time, take the place of the stories for magazines? Didn’t they pay your
father?”

“Oh, no. Never. He didn’t want them to, didn’t even think about the
possibilities until Hugh—” But again Hugh was frowning to himself, not
coming to her aid with look or word. And she blundered on, “Father did
have an exhibition once in a hotel in Hamilton. But only stupid people
came and nobody bought. So he didn’t bother with that again. He only
thought of it at all because Hugh had put it into his head. But
sometimes other artists who had come to Bermuda to paint, and one or two
artists who lived there, came to the studio and saw the pictures. They
knew how wonderful they were, of course. But most artists are
poor—nearly all artists, I guess—and if they couldn’t sell their own
pictures, how could they buy Father’s? They couldn’t, of course. But
Father was of immense help to them. Because his work was original and he
gave them ideas. Showed them their mistakes. Some of them were really
quite talented. But Father was different. Father is—was—_is_ a
genius....”

Mrs. Weyman was looking surprised at something. At what Ariel had said
last, perhaps. So Ariel added, “But I don’t have to tell you about that.
There’s ‘Noon,’ you see, to prove Father’s genius. Father thought it was
the best thing he ever did. Many of his other pictures were important,
he knew, very important. But ‘Noon,’ Hugh’s picture, is the best. It
satisfied him.”

Mrs. Weyman, not she, had brought up the subject of her father’s
paintings. Now at last Hugh must tell her what he had done with
“Noon”—take her to where it was hung, if it were here in the house and
not loaned to an exhibition. They would get up and go to it together.
Mrs. Weyman might excuse them, or come too. It didn’t matter. When she
stood before it, Ariel would be at home. Her face would be warmed by the
noon sun. Now she was chilly. Cold! She turned to Hugh, pale with
anticipation.

She saw his face suddenly glorified. She had seen it so once before
to-day. But now, as then, it was not for her. Mrs. Nevin had come in
unannounced and stood there under the white radiance of the chandelier,
waiting, with an amused little smile on her lips, for them to become
aware of her.

On the ship Joan Nevin had been muffled in furs. Even then she had
seemed to Ariel the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. But now, in
an orchid-colored dinner gown, her coppery hair uncovered, arms, neck
and bosom bare, she was startlingly beautiful. “Why, it’s she, who has
‘Noon,’” leapt to Ariel’s mind. “That’s where it is. Hugh bought it for
her. Ugh! _Is this hate?_ It _hurts_.” Indeed it did hurt. “God, don’t
let me hate. It _hurts_!”

Prescott Enderly came forward almost with diffidence to be presented. He
was thinking, “I may get to know even Michael Schwankovsky now, if I
only manage at all intelligently. God! This is luck!” But God was
Enderly’s expletive, not his Creator.

And Hugh, after his first glorified look, when first he saw Joan, had
returned to his reserve and silence. He looked at Joan less than at any
one else, and he took almost no part in the quickening of the social
atmosphere which followed her arrival. But Ariel perceived that he could
be well aware of Mrs. Nevin without looking at her, aware of every rise
and fall of her coppery eyelashes. Why, if he had a thousand eyes and
ears he could not have known more of all she said and did, even if he
didn’t look at her.

“Miss Clare? But you were on the _Bermuda_! Your chair was next to mine.
Isn’t that so?”

Ariel remembered the way Mrs. Nevin had let her steward speak to her and
had not offered a word to undo it. And Mrs. Nevin had the violets. But
she, Ariel, should now have revenge. Strange to want revenge! She had
never experienced this dark stab of evil desire before. But all the
world was different lately,—without her father. In the old world, the
world they had had together, revenge and hate had been nothing but
words. Forever remote. But her father was dead, and this was another
world, and she was alone. Besides, revenge would be strangely easy of
attainment. For at dinner Ariel had learned that Mrs. Nevin was a
connoisseur of paintings, and a close friend of Michael Schwankovsky—of
whom Ariel had heard her father speak often; she had not needed the
Weymans to tell her that he was a fabulously wealthy Russian,
naturalized as an American, who not only had a sound taste in the arts,
but expressed it in books and articles in which real artists, like her
father, took delight. Well, since Ariel now took it for granted that
both Mrs. Nevin and her friend, Michael Schwankovsky, knew “Noon,” it
would naturally be something of a shock to her to learn that she had sat
beside the artist’s daughter for two days, ignoring her, except for that
one horrid rudeness. Telling her was to be Ariel’s revenge.

“Yes, it was I,” Ariel responded in her clear, flat voice. “We were just
speaking of ‘Noon’ when you came in. _I am Gregory Clare’s daughter._”

“Yes?”

Mrs. Weyman murmured quickly, “Joan dear, you remember I wrote you about
it? Last week. Ariel is the—one I was telling you about, that she was
coming to visit us.”

“Oh, of course! Only I didn’t put two and two together for a minute.
Stupid of me. Yes, indeed, I do know all about you—Ariel? And do you
know, I consider it rather clever of you to have picked Mr. Weyman for a
guardian.” She just glanced at Hugh. “On the boat I thought you were
only a little girl, truly. You practiced some witchcraft on my babies,
did you know? They were gabbling about you when I tucked them in
to-night.”

But Ariel said again, insisting on her revenge, “_I’m Gregory Clare’s
daughter._ ‘Noon,’ you know.”

Joan was suddenly impressed by the somberness of Ariel’s tone, and her
intent gaze,—almost disconcerted by it. “Gregory Clare?” she asked
tentatively.

“The artist.”

Prescott Enderly laughed aloud, a nervous, meaningless laugh. And
simultaneous with the young novelist’s laugh, Mrs. Nevin did
remember—something, almost everything in fact. “Oh, yes, Mrs. Weyman’s
letter mentioned that your father was an artist. Do you paint too,
Ariel?” But she had remembered more. Wasn’t “Noon” that weird painting
Hugh had brought home with him from Bermuda years ago, and produced for
her inspection, so confident that he’d found, all by himself, a rare
masterpiece? Of course. That picture and this girl, and Hugh’s having
been imposed on by the futile, beach-combing artist of a father! It was
all getting connected. “Have you inherited your father’s—er—talent?” she
asked.

Ariel was baffled. Of course now she saw she had been wrong. Mrs. Nevin
was not in possession of “Noon” and could never even have seen it. But
this was too unreasonable, ununderstandable. Wasn’t she a friend of the
family’s? They had said so, at dinner,—an intimate and old friend, as
well as the next-door neighbor. Then what _had_ Hugh done with “Noon”?
If it were at Wild Acres, Mrs. Nevin would be familiar with it? What had
become of it? What was the mystery?

Hugh also was doing some rapid thinking. “The poor child expects Joan to
know all about her father, and particularly about ‘Noon’! In a minute
she’ll ask me where it is. She must have been looking around for it ever
since she came. What in Heaven’s name did I do with it after—after Joan
laughed at it?”

The hurt of that careless laugh at his mistaken taste in art throbbed
freshly, as if it had never healed. But it had healed, and he had
forgotten it, forgotten and hidden it away with the picture which had
caused the catastrophe to his vanity years and years ago. He’d look the
thing up when he got back from his office to-morrow and give it to Ariel
for her room. But what he would say to explain its whereabouts to-night,
if she should ask, he hadn’t an idea. His selfish stupidity in not
having foreseen this situation shamed him.

Mrs. Weyman was pouring the pungent coffee into an array of little cups
on the silver tray, while Prescott Enderly stood at attention, ready to
pass them.

Glenn came and stood before Ariel.

“You don’t care about coffee, do you?” he asked. “Come along into the
library with me and play chess? Hugh, where’d we leave the men?”

Ariel was glad to escape with Glenn into the library and feel the
familiar, friendly shapes of chessmen under her fingers. She had played
this game endlessly with her father from almost the time of earliest
remembrance. But _could_ one escape from the hurt of hating merely by
leaving the room where the hated person sat?



                              Chapter VII


Ariel stood at her window, that first morning at Wild Acres, for some
time before dressing, and looked out into the black branches of the
snow-floored woods. The trees pressed up to the window panes. So Wild
Acres was really wild. She was curious to look from all the windows and
to explore the big, rambling house from top to bottom. After nine hours
of dreamless sleep, her body warm between sheets and light blankets, her
face deliciously cool in the cold, woodsy air of the little guest room,
Ariel had waked with a sense of happiness. The carpet of snow in the
woods below her was a thin veil, ever so thin, drawn over the
spring-to-come: green leaves, moss, butterflies, birds, hot sunshine,
cool shade and myriads and myriads of _violets_. Hugh had promised her
violets. At any moment the veil might tremble, blow to one side, and
that world of wings and scent and color rise to the window and envelop
her with joy. But meanwhile the white, clear-smelling snow (she had seen
snow before in imagination, as she had told Hugh, but she had never
smelled it), the ebony black of bare tree boles, roots and limbs and
twigs, were all just pictures on a veil over Spring’s face. Ariel was
glad she had come to Wild Acres before the veil blew off. She was so
happy, standing there at the window, still in her nightgown, that she
was frightened of it. It was like too piercingly beautiful a note in
music.

She felt besieged by happiness from every side. Involuntarily she looked
into the actualities of her life for escape. There were avenues enough
there, leading back into loneliness, self-distrusts and that wide, wide
avenue ending at a grave and her grief. But strangely, they closed and
shut her out when she would have entered them. The black trees, the
clear-smelling snow, and all those hidden wings and joys of spring were
opening to her, and grief was shut.

As she bathed and dressed, she remembered with wonder the mood in which
she had gone to bed. She had been lonely and dazed. Too heartsick even
to cry, she had said her prayers lying on her face in bed, without
caring enough to kneel. And then, her mind blunted by misery, she had
fallen on sleep,—as Samurai in Japanese prints fall on their swords.

She brushed at her hair until it glimmered to silver and every curl had
a separate life. She knew that her hair was lovely. Her father had never
tired of praising it and painting it. Ash-colored in some lights, it was
silvery in others, palest gold in others. Sometimes it seemed the
absorption of light itself. And it curled in close, soft curls at her
neck. That blond hair, and her grace of movement, were her claims to
beauty. But at the minute she was seeing her narrow green eyes in the
mirror, and her thin, pale mouth with its pointed corners. She knew that
the Weymans must think her plain, but to-day she would not be bothered
even to care.

The house was very still. Not a sound. Hugh was at his place at the
dining table, reading the _Tribune_ while he waited for Rose to bring
his coffee.

He looked his surprise. “Hello, Ariel! But we should have told you. The
family doesn’t breakfast until eight-thirty. It isn’t eight yet. I’m
catching the eight-fifteen express to town, and I usually do grab
breakfast like this alone. It’s a twenty minutes’ walk to the station.”

He was holding out her chair. She took it quickly so that he might begin
the breakfast which Rose was arranging at his place. “I thought you
drove to New York,” she said. “Don’t you usually?”

“Often, but not usually. Not when Glenn and Anne are at home. It’s
convenient for them to have the car. Well, Rose, what are you going to
scare up for Miss Clare? She mustn’t wait for the others.”

“May I just have some coffee, and one of those rolls, and walk to the
station with you? I should like that so much, if you don’t mind. I won’t
talk and disturb the morning. But I want to get out into the snow and
the woods.”

“Of course you do. But why not talk? You won’t ‘disturb the morning’ any
more than the sunshine or the snow does. You’re that kind of a person.”
He did not feel that he was talking nonsense. The Bermuda Ariel was here
this morning, back after five years.

But in spite of Hugh’s reassurance, Ariel stuck to her bargain and did
not talk, during all their long walk out the path which Hugh’s previous
solitary morning walks had made in the snow through the woods and across
wide fields, and finally down to the big road and the little station.
She was so silent, and her feet went so stilly before or behind his,
just as it happened, that she actually intruded no more on his
consciousness, after the first two or three minutes, than the March
sunshine, which was wreathing the landscape in golden scarfs of light.
Nor was he thinking of the coming busy day in his Wall Street office.
The unexpectedness of Joan Nevin’s return yesterday from her winter
months on the Riviera and in Bermuda had broken down his recently so
carefully built up resistance to her obsession of his mind. She had
swarmed back into possession, as it were, and taken him captive. The
same old tune was on again, jangling his nerves and partially stupefying
his intellect.

“When I get to the office,” he promised himself, “I’ll cut this out,
stop thinking about her. The minute I sit down at my desk I’ll shut her
out. And after this not even her unexpected appearance, or the sudden
hearing her name spoken, will jolt me out of control of my mind again. I
promise myself. I promise myself....”

From the platform of the little station the roofs of Wild Acres could
just be discerned through bare tree branches at the top of a long upward
slope of country. Ariel stood, her hands deep in the pockets of her
wonderful coat, her chin lifted, looking back over the way they had
come. Hugh, suddenly remembering her, followed her eyes, and said,
“That’s Wild Acres roof. Did you think we’d come so far? And those
windows in the attic are Grandam’s. If I were going to be at home this
morning, I’d take you up to her, whether she invited us or not, first
thing. Probably, as it is, you won’t see her till dinner to-night,—if
then. But if Grandam does appear before I get back don’t let her scare
you. She’s not really mysterious and awesome. Quite an ordinary human
being. Remember that. And you might tell Mother that I’ll try to get out
rather early this afternoon. Good-by, Ariel, and thanks for your
company. It’s very pleasant being seen off like this!”

From the steps of the moving train he looked back at her. It was
pleasant, in all conscience—now that he had at the last minute possible
waked up to it,—having a friendly girl, with a friendly, sympathetic
light in her green eyes, smiling from under a green hat, waving him off.
And the green feather on the hat, as the train rushed away, seemed as
smiling and friendly as the eyes. Ariel and her green feather! There was
something sympathetic among the three of them, Ariel, the green feather,
and Hugh himself. Something living and vital. And how glad he was that
he had hit on that particular coat for her! It went with the fairy-tale
hat, the fairy-tale eyes. He took joy in his gift.

After the train had rushed out of the landscape, Ariel stood on the
platform for a moment longer, the only visible sentient thing in the
whole morning world,—a morning world that cried, “Come, Come, Come.
Dive, swim, run through me, come into my heart! I love you as your beach
at home loves you, as the sea loves you. Come quickly. Every step since
you left Wild Acres’ door you have been getting nearer. Come all the way
now. Into my heart. Into the heart within my heart. Into its
_beat_!”—Oh, Ariel was happy!

She had made her bed and arranged her possessions in closets and drawers
before going downstairs. She saw no reason now why she should return to
the house. The moth, no doubt, would tell Mrs. Weyman that she had
accompanied Hugh to the station, and when she did not come back, they
would understand that she had gone for a walk, and not bother about her.
She started down the stairs from the train platform slowly, and then,
more quickly, walked away into March sunlight.



                              Chapter VIII


“The children and their guest are still sleeping. Hugh’s guest got up
early, and went to the station with him. She hasn’t come back yet, and
it’s nearly eleven. But that’s all right, I suppose. It’s a difficult
position Hugh’s put us in.”

Mrs. Weyman was paying her daily visit to Grandam in the attic
apartment. Usually she went up soon after lunch, because Grandam liked
her mornings clear. Clear for what, no one in the family, except Grandam
herself, could have said; not even Miss Peters, her nurse-attendant, who
might, if any one, be supposed to know how she spent the solitude she so
highly prized. But Miss Peters herself was banished for hours every
morning and she was neither prying nor curious.

“You don’t mind my coming up so early, do you?” Mrs. Weyman inquired
belatedly. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” It was obvious that
she wasn’t. She had found Grandam lying on her daybed, exquisitely
costumed for the day, as usual, looking down across the woods to the
Hudson. She hadn’t even a book in her hand. “I felt suddenly in need of
sympathy.”

She said it charmingly, and settled down in a low chair, which she had
drawn close to the daybed. “It’s the girl I want to talk about, of
course. Hugh’s Ariel Clare.”

“And I’m interested, of course. What’s she like?”

“Not bad. Well bred. Better bred than Anne, in fact. But that’s not
putting it strongly enough, for Anne’s manners these days are barbarous.
It’s nothing about Ariel herself that bothers me. It’s what we are to do
with her! The only gauche thing about her is a seeming obsession about
her father. She takes it for granted he was a great artist and that this
exhibition of his paintings, when it comes off, will edify the entire
art world. But Joan assures us it’s all nonsense. The exhibition, if it
comes through, will be a farce. And what are we to do then? I don’t
believe Ariel has enough actual cash to take her back to Bermuda when
it’s all over. And even if she has, she probably won’t want to go. So
far as one can discover she hasn’t a relative and hardly a friend in the
world,—and no education, no training for anything in particular. That’s
what’s so appalling, my dear.”

“But Hugh means to help her to something, doesn’t he? Her father surely
expected—”

“Hugh! That’s just it! Oh, Mother Weyman! Why should Hugh have this
absurd sense of responsibility toward a stranger! Hasn’t he enough on
his shoulders, poor dear! And what can he do for her, anyway? He’s not
wealthy. We spend pretty well what he makes each month. It’s dreadful.”

“But he might manage to send her to business school for a year or two.
He spoke of that, I believe, if the exhibition should be a
disappointment.”

“And where would she live? Here? And go in on the early train with Hugh,
I suppose! But I won’t let such an absurdity happen. She can’t live
here. And Hugh _mustn’t_ finance her. Why should he? It’s too unfair!”

Grandam looked at her daughter-in-law with some surprise. Hortense was
rarely so intense or emphatic about anything, even big things. And the
present problem, if it was a problem, seemed so far, at least, not
really serious.

“You’re rather crossing bridges, aren’t you?” she asked, but not without
sympathy. “The exhibition has yet to prove itself a failure, no matter
what Joan has said. How can she be so sure? She hasn’t anything to do
with it, has she? It’s some one else entirely. One of the young Frye’s.
I knew his father and his uncle, by the way.”

“Did you? But Joan says that he, this boy, doesn’t amount to anything.
That Ariel can’t count on him. He’s a lightweight.”

“Oh? Well, Joan herself is in a position to do something, isn’t she? Why
doesn’t _she_ take the exhibition in hand? Make it a success? Or is she
diffident about putting her influence to the actual test?”

The last few words were spoken not without malice, but Mrs. Weyman
passed that over. “Joan wouldn’t touch it, of course. The only work of
this man Clare’s she ever saw was a picture Hugh brought home, years
ago. It wasn’t any good. Freakish as well as amateurish, if I remember
what she said then. She laughed at it, anyway, and Hugh gave up being a
collector on the spot and hid the thing away in the attic. Every spring
cleaning since, I’ve been in two minds whether to send it off to the
dump or give it to some rummage sale or other. I haven’t liked to do
either without speaking to Hugh, and it happens he’s never around at the
time. So there it stands against the chimney,—an æsthetic treat to the
spiders, no doubt. And that’s that for Ariel’s father as an artist, I’m
afraid.”

Grandam wasn’t deeply impressed. “Perhaps it’s one of his poorer
things,” she suggested. “Or he may have improved during the years. Or
Joan might have been wrong. So far, I don’t see that it’s at all final.”

“Oh, my dear! I do wish you had been down last night! Ariel solemnly
informed us that the hour her father died he was still proclaiming
Hugh’s sample of her father’s work his masterpiece. The other paintings
are wonderful, of course, but not quite so wonderful. Even so, they are
to bring in several hundreds of dollars a canvas, and Ariel confidently
expects to have a fortune from them. It isn’t the child’s fault, of
course. It’s the father’s. He must have been an extraordinarily
conceited and stupid person.”

Grandam at this outburst of strong feeling withdrew her
gaze—reluctantly, it seemed—from the sun-spangled, snowy world beyond
her windows, and gave her more concentrated attention to her
daughter-in-law. “How does Hugh himself feel about the situation?” she
asked.

“Hugh’s in no position to judge,” Hortense responded impatiently. “It’s
Joan’s opinion I trust. She’s just home from six weeks at St. George’s,
and among all her artist friends staying there she never even heard the
name of Gregory Clare once. That in itself is enough, isn’t it? Joan
says that impossible would-be artists and writers and people like that
often do think themselves geniuses, no matter what the world tells them
to the contrary; but it’s seldom their families are tainted with the
same megalomania. And this Ariel’s not just tainted. She’s poisoned.
Why, she’s not _sane_ on the subject.”

“Is all of that Joan? She hasn’t spared Hugh’s friend or the friend’s
daughter, has she!”

Mrs. Weyman regained her poise. “Oh, of course you don’t like Joan. I
keep forgetting that. You even hope she won’t marry Hugh. After all
these years of his devotion, and their truly wonderful friendship! But
even feeling as you do, it isn’t like you to be so prejudiced. Joan does
know about painting and painters. She’d see this Ariel Clare business
and the problems involved more clearly than anybody else we happen to
know. Besides, she’s ready to help Hugh with it, if only he’ll be a
little tactful. I can see that. She has interested herself in working
girls and their problems for years. She would, with a little
encouragement from us, get Ariel into a good working girls’ home or
club, I know, and find a way for her to earn money at the same time that
she was learning a trade. But there has to be all this time wasted
waiting for the exhibition, and Hugh’s absurd heroics about Gregory
Clare’s having been his great friend, and having entrusted Ariel to him.
It’s too tiresome. And not exactly fair to the family—this family—do you
think?”

“It’s Joan who constitutes a problem, to my mind. My dear Hortense,
really, why do you want Hugh to marry a stupid woman like that?”

Mrs. Weyman did not wince. She even replied in a humoring voice, because
her mother-in-law, wonderful as she was in some ways, was peculiar
enough in others, every one knew. “Joan stupid!” she laughed. “She’s
absolutely brilliant!”

“Brilliant, yes, and stupid, yes. But why do you want Hugh to marry a
brilliant-stupid woman, then, like Mrs. Nevin? Hugh’s not brilliant, and
neither is he stupid. So both ways he’d be embarrassed with her. He’s
much too simple and ordinary for Joan. He’d be miserable.”

Mrs. Weyman’s humoring of her mother-in-law turned almost into
merriment. “Hugh’s as far from ordinary as dear Joan herself,” she
affirmed. “But it’s not because of either of their gifts or brains or
anything of the sort that I want him to get her, if he can. It’s because
he happens to be in love with her. He’s been that way ever since she was
fourteen and he fifteen, when she came to Tarrytown with her parents,
and they bought the Manor from the Careys. You were in India and China
those years? It was charming, that boy and girl romance. We thought—we
took it for granted—they’d marry the minute they were old enough, and
Hugh had a profession. Till Nevin appeared. What girl wouldn’t have her
head turned by the attentions of a man like that! Untold wealth,
world-famous, and looking like a Greek God. Even being Hugh’s mother
didn’t make me blame Joan. It was infatuation, not love, though. She has
always loved Hugh. Not been in love with him. Perhaps never that. But
loved him. Something deeper than infatuation or mere passion. I have
seen it. I know more about Joan than she knows about herself. Hugh’s the
first person she always turns to, thinks of. Yesterday, for instance,
Michael Schwankovsky met her at the docks and brought her out to Holly.
He and two or three other people, almost as important and interesting,
are at Holly over the week-end. But just the same, last night she came
to us after dinner and stayed an hour or more. She didn’t leave her
guests to see _me_, I assure you. It was Hugh. It’s rather wonderful,
watching it.”

Grandam stirred restlessly among her pillows. “You’ve never spoken quite
so plainly before. My dear Hortense, do you seriously want Joan Nevin,
after having married some one else, had two children by him, and
inherited his wealth, to marry Hugh now? If she’d taken him the year
after Nevin died or even the second year, they might have made something
of it. But certainly the time for that has passed. She’s picked him up
and thrown him down too many times. It amuses her, of course. No, it’s
much deeper than amusement. It feeds her. She’s gorged her vanity on it
for years. That’s what she loves in Hugh, his food-value! His romantic,
silent, dark devotion. Other people are always falling in love with her,
of course. But there’s no one quite like Hugh. There wouldn’t be in the
twentieth century. His unchanging passion is the _pièce de résistance_
of her gluttonous vanity. And Joan’s vanity, I’ve noticed, has become
herself. It’s absorbed the soul she was born with. I don’t know which is
more stupid: to think you’re a great painter when you aren’t even a
little artist—or to think you are a real person, a worthy human being,
when you are nothing but a mass of festering vanity. If you really want
Hugh to marry that, and wake up too late, or never wake up at all, and
so prove himself an imbecile—”

But Hortense would not listen to more. She had pushed back her chair and
was at the door. “You’re almost horrifying, Mother Weyman! Joan is a
friend of mine. I admire her and I’m deeply fond of her. You know that
very well. I’m sorry I interrupted your morning retreat. It would have
been much better if I hadn’t.”

She smiled, but wholly artificially, into the glare of March sunshine
with the blur, somewhere at the center of it, which was Grandam, before
shutting the door with careful softness between them.


Ariel was enjoying her solitary explorations in Wild Acres’ woods. The
snow was not deep, and by following paths part of the time, and keeping
to ridges the rest of the time, she avoided going too often over her
rubbers. Woods in March! The stillness of them! The mystery! Beauty
dumb. But not Beauty inarticulate. A girl had leapt a brook whose summer
loveliness was stilled to ice, and stood on the other side, circled by
beauty that was making itself articulate in her very veins—no need for
sight, touch or smell. Winter woods have communications that can
overleap the senses altogether on their avenues to the soul.

Whenever Ariel came to a rise of ground she looked for the house, in
order to keep her bearings, and because the attic windows, which Hugh
had pointed out from the station platform, fascinated her. She noticed
that although they were dormer windows they were of an unusual height
and width. After a while she had almost a sense of the windows being
eyes that followed her, knew and cared about her adventures with the
woods.

Twice Hugh had warned her, once on the drive out from New York, and
again this morning at the station, that his grandmother was not
_mysterious_. But why emphasize it so? Ariel would never have thought of
mystery in connection with the old lady up there if it hadn’t been for
these protests. Some hint of mysteriousness had showed even in Mrs.
Weyman’s face last night, when she said in answer to a question from
Joan that the shawl she was knitting was for Grandam, and even more in
the faces of the others. At the words, a ripple of incredulity had gone
over the room. Why, if Mrs. Weyman had said “This shawl? Oh, it’s for
Spring. I thought she might be chilly, if she gets here early, dear
Spring,”—they wouldn’t have looked more incredulous for just that
instant. And then, when any one had spoken of the likelihood or
unlikelihood of Grandam’s coming downstairs to join them after dinner,
they might as well have been asking, “Will the wind blow? Will it rain?
Do you think a bird may fly across the window?” It was like that.

And as Ariel went on, stealing, running, walking, and jumping across
brooks and over hollows, she began, almost, to hope to come upon this
mysterious person, this elusive house fairy of a grandmother, out here
at some turn in the lovely stillness. She might discover her standing,
leaning an arm against the other side of that dark tree bole just
beyond,—or lying asleep among these feathery snowy plumes of bush which
she had been about to pass with too careless a glance.—Will it snow?
Will a bird start from this thicket if I make a noise? When shall I see
Grandam?

Then she heard laughter. But it was sudden, human laughter. Not for an
instant did she think that it might be Grandam, mysteriously laughing.
For she knew that it was children’s voices, and children she had heard
laughing before on the _Bermuda_. Nicky and Persis must be somewhere not
far away, playing in these woods. Perhaps, she, Ariel, was a trespasser
and had got over into the grounds of Holly without realizing it.

Around the next tree she saw them. They were beneath her, in an open
hollow at the foot of what might be a rock garden when spring came. And
yes, up beyond the garden there were rolling stretches of white lawn and
hedges marking off other gardens. But the house was not in sight.
Perhaps that grove of fir trees stood at just the angle to conceal it.
At any rate, there were the children, in navy blue coats with brass
buttons, scarlet sashes around their waists, and scarlet tam-o’-shanters
on their heads, pushing at a big snowball, higher than themselves, which
they had rolled up in the hollow.

The snow there was just right, melted by the sun to a perfect
consistency for packing. And everywhere that the white ball had
traveled, the earth was left bare in wet, brown, leaf-mold patches.

“Hello,” Ariel called, going down toward them. Their recognition was
instantaneous. “It’s the green feather!” Persis exclaimed, running to
meet her. But Nicky stayed where he was and merely said, when she came
to him, “Hello. We thought you’d come, soon.”

Ariel dug a toe of her rubber into the leaf mold and stirred it up. The
pungent scent of earth assailed her. “Oh,” she cried. “Oh!” And then,
meeting Nicky’s glad-grave eyes, exclaimed, “That’s Summer! Or Spring?
Anyway, _I smell violets_. Big purple ones, long green-stemmed violets.
Little pearly white ones too. And yellow ones.”

“Yes,” Persis agreed, jumping around her. “In the spring there are
bushels and tons and _quarts_ of violets right here. A whole valley of
’em. Mother leaves it wild. She didn’t plant ’em. They came. But you
can’t smell them yet. Even the leaves aren’t through yet.”

“But I do smell them. Anyway, I feel them coming. Let’s dance. Come,
let’s dance to meet them.” Ariel’s happiness was overflowing, bubbling
up before these children. All the morning, since waking and discovering
that happiness had come to her in sleep, she had held it still, within
herself. But now this unexpected meeting with the children, and more
particularly Nicky’s glad-grave eyes, had broken down her reserve. She
was at one with the children, as spontaneous as they in what she said
and did. “Come, dance,” she laughed, wrinkling her eyes like a merry
little girl, eyes very narrow, very green in the sunlight, and snatched
at their hands.

But they were new at this game. _They_ did not dance as easily as they
laughed or sang to express their happiness. And their clumsy overshoes
dragged over the ground. Ariel let them go. Stood for a minute, let down
by them.

“You dance!” Persis cried. “Dance like your feather danced in the wind
on deck. Be a feather. Nicky says you and the feather are really twins,
only the feather has been magic’d.”

“No,” Nicky denied calmly, and still grave. “I said _she_ had been
magic’d into a human. She and the fairy feather were twins before the
magicking. You are mixed up, Persis.”

“Oh, no,” Ariel assured them quickly. “I’m a real girl. I haven’t been
magic’d from something else. Truly. But I’ll dance.”

She slipped out of her coat, tossed it behind her into the snowy woods
whence she had appeared to the children. It lay in a heap there on the
wet snow, hardly distinguishable from snow in its own whiteness. But a
touch of the scarlet lining—it might have been crushed red
winterberries, though—gave it away. She threw her green hat down
somewhere else. Kicked her rubbers off anywhere. And began to dance.

She danced to meet the violets. She danced right through the leaf mold
into their golden mysterious hearts. And the music she danced to was the
unheard rhythms of earth and sky and woods. But sometimes she hummed,
beelike, beneath her breath. Her clinging green jersey frock etched her
figure sharply against the black-violet-white background of the woods.
Two hairpins slipped down her neck, and then her hair was of the rhythm.
Pale gold on the air. Like March sunshine.

Soon the patterns of the rhythms she was attuned to took her in wider
and wider circles. Then crescents. Then stars. The children backed away
farther and farther from the reach of the dance, but never for an
instant did their fascinated eyes leave the heart of the lovely patterns
of music and stars and moons, the heart that was the dancing Ariel. They
knew that she was dancing happiness, that all this glamour and
beautifulness of motion and that low humming they heard sometimes
through it all, were happiness. But they thought it came from their own
hearts. They scarcely separated their happiness, while she danced, from
the dancer’s. She was their happiness come out of their hearts into form
and motion.

So, when the dance slowed, it was as though the world and even the
firmament and their own hearts were all slowing down together. Then she
was standing perfectly still. As before, Persis and Nicky had never
taken part in beautiful motion, so now they had never taken part in such
lovely stillness. This Ariel was smiling at them. A smile of poignant
sympathy. It was a smile that pointed the corners of her lips brightly
like little darts of silver flame. She held out her hands to them again.
They came to her as they had come yesterday morning on the sun deck,
with perfect assurance, but sensitive delicacy. Slowly, their hands in
hers, with clumsy but happy feet, they walked a circle with her.



                               Chapter IX


That night Hugh did not return to dinner, in spite of his message
delivered by Ariel. Already, before she had returned to the house after
her wood’s adventure with Persis and Nicky, Hugh had telephoned from his
office in New York that sudden and important business was taking him to
Chicago, and asked that Glenn bring him a bag to the Grand Central with
enough clothes in it for a week at least.

It was Hugh Ariel’s father had sent her to, to await the exhibition, and
her consent to come had been because it was her father’s plan for her,
and she had taken it for granted that both he and Hugh were in agreement
about its reasonableness. But now that she was here, and Hugh away off
in the States somewhere, Ariel felt that her presence at Wild Acres was
unexplainable, not only to others but to herself. If Hugh had only sent
a message back to her by Glenn, who took him his bag, or if he should
write her a letter from Chicago, it might tie her down, save her from
this sense of floating in her environment without an anchor. But if Hugh
had sent a good-by message by Glenn, Glenn had forgotten to mention it,
and although several times Ariel started to ask him about it, she never
quite brought herself to the point; for if Glenn should be certain that
there was no message, then Ariel was afraid of the desolation which she
would feel. And no letter came by the post.

Anne might have counteracted Ariel’s consciousness of her peculiar
position at Wild Acres but for the fact, which Ariel had discovered for
herself quite soon, that Anne was not here in her home, in any true
sense at all. She might look at you and speak to you, even turn up her
lips in a smile in your direction, but she was no more conscious of you,
really, or of her surroundings, than the grotesque dolls of which she
had at first reminded Ariel. She was alive and conscious in her
relations with one other person only,—Prescott Enderly. It was his voice
and look and touch which controlled the beating of her heart and pulled
the strings of her mechanism. Ariel saw this, and it was rather
frightening to see it.

As a matter of fact Anne had few opportunities for making Ariel feel at
home. She was off with Enderly skiing or teaing or dancing, all day and
most of the nights. They were even included in one or two parties at
Holly. This was plainly very gratifying to Anne, in spite of her dislike
of Joan Nevin, for never before had she even hoped to meet the
celebrities who fluttered around Holly’s hospitality. To become intimate
with such a brilliant and well-known group of people, even though most
of them were, from her point of view, quite aged, was something to talk
about after vacation, back at college. That she owed the privilege of
these contacts to Prescott Enderly only added to the headiness of it.
Already his fame had given Anne a glamour with undergraduates and even
faculty at Smith.

Glenn spent very little time with his friend or any one else. He was
deep in Spengler, adventuring with his own mind, this vacation. He had
expected Prescott, when he invited him to Wild Acres, to read Spengler
with him part of the time and write the rest of the time on that novel
he ought to be getting done. But from the first hour of their arrival
Glenn had seen that opportunity for such occupations was not precisely
the lure which had brought Prescott to the country. That was all right
with Glenn. If Prescott preferred Anne’s company to his, well, he was
fond enough of Prescott to want him to have what he wanted. Besides,
Spengler was enough for Glenn. He felt no need of further stimulation.
Ariel, with whom he would play chess for an hour or two after dinner,
was less a girl to him than an atmosphere, at first. He felt her as one
feels the clear depths of a stream one may be sitting near, or music one
isn’t intellectually following, but which creates a mood all the same.

Mrs. Weyman, those evenings of Hugh’s absence, was deep in books on
psychoanalysis. It was a recent interest with her and apparently
absorbing. She was so occupied just at this time with finding
explanations for the things which had hitherto baffled her in her
children, her friends and even in herself, that she was saved from too
much concern over the stranger under her roof.


“Grandam is coming down for lunch. I’m glad we all happen to be at home,
now that she’s able to join us again. You haven’t met her yet, have you,
Prescott? And Ariel hasn’t.”

It was the third day of Hugh’s absence and Ariel’s loneliness.

Anne laughed. “Well, neither have I, if it comes to that, Mother. Not
this vacation. Do you realize? Each time I’ve tried to go up to say
‘Howdy,’ that old Peters of hers has come across with some excuse or
other. She was asleep. Or away on a journey....”

“Come, now!” Enderly interrupted. “Your grandmother isn’t a heathen god,
is she? You’ve made her pretty mysterious, you and Glenn,—but this is
the first time you’ve been so definite in your implications.”

“She _is_ mysterious. And I didn’t know you knew your Bible, bright boy!
But you might think she’d care to see her only granddaughter, who hasn’t
been at home since Christmas, wouldn’t you? She’s getting so exclusive
there’s no living with her—literally.”

Mrs. Weyman was looking at the clock. Rose had come in to the library
some minutes ago to announce luncheon, and if Grandam was joining them
at last, it did seem as if she might take a little trouble to be on
time. “My mother-in-law is not very strong,” she explained for Enderly’s
benefit. “She’s forced to spend her strength very circumspectly. And
people tire her.”

Glenn shut his book. “Don’t soft pedal so, Mother! We all know that it’s
the people who happen to bore Grandam that tire her. She’s an
everlasting snob.”

Anne laughed again. “You can’t insult your friend, the famous novelist,
if that’s your aim, sonny. Grandam wouldn’t know whether Pressy bored
her until she met him, would she? No. This time health will have to be
accepted as Grandam’s alibi.”

“I wasn’t thinking of Prescott, of course. Of you, dear sister. But
we’re both in the same boat. Mother too. I think every last one of us
bores Grandam, except Hugh. When he gets back, you’ll notice she’ll be
down for lunch _and_ dinner rather frequently.”

“Well, it’s five minutes past now. And Rose sounded the gong in the back
hall, so they know up there that lunch is waiting. Perhaps Grandam has
changed her mind, after all. I think we’ll go in.” Glenn, bringing up
the rear of the procession dining-roomward called out, “Perhaps it’s
Ariel Grandam’s shy of. _She_ isn’t a famous novelist or anything else
famous. She’s not even a member of an old New York family. Grandam may
feel that it’s too much of a chance—”

“Hush, Glenn!” his mother expostulated. “I’m tired of all this rudeness.
Besides, we all know perfectly well that Grandam is more democratic than
any other member of this family.”

Ariel’s face was flushed as Glenn pulled out her chair for her. But it
was Mrs. Weyman, not Glenn, who had hurt her. Glenn, noticing the flush,
was conscious for a minute of Ariel as a girl as well as an atmosphere.
“I’m sorry,” he said, under his breath. “It was my fault. Mother doesn’t
mean a thing. She’s just gauche.”

They were hardly seated when a woman dressed in a gray-and-white
semi-uniform appeared, carrying some violet pillows and with a wide
scarf of violet gossamer floating incongruously from one arm. This was
Miss Peters, Grandam’s attendant. She was neither a nurse nor a maid,
but a combination of the two. For the attendant of a mystery she was
commonplace-looking enough,—strong, wholesome, with pleasantly regular
features and becomingly marcelled hair. She was middle-aged and middle
everything else, one surmised. She went to the foot of the table—Hugh’s
vacant place—and put the cushions one on the seat, two at the back of
the big armed chair there. Now it had the look of a throne. It was very
impressive.

Every one was looking toward the door, even Miss Peters, expectantly.
And Ariel, strangely, experienced again a touch, at least, of the sense
of spring coming, the imminence of personal happiness, she had
experienced and lost again her first morning at Wild Acres. She
remembered the leaf mold where the children had rolled up the snowball
and how she had danced across it into the center of spring-happiness.
Now, while Miss Peters’ sensible profile was turned away toward the
door, and the others waited, napkins half unfolded in their hands, Ariel
looked for veils to blow aside—and wonder to appear. Strange, when it
was just an old lady who was coming, so old and so feeble that she had
to be comforted in her chair with pillows.

Grandam was in the doorway, and every one rose, except Mrs. Weyman.
Introductions were made, and then Mr. Enderly and Miss Peters were both
holding out the throne chair. When Grandam was established, Miss Peters
dropped the scarf over the high back of the throne where it hung like a
trailing wing and quietly withdrew.

Grandam was beautiful.... But Ariel had known she would be all the time,
though no one had ever hinted it, just as she knew that summer in Wild
Acres woods would be beautiful, though it was hidden now from sensible
knowing under snow and rain, and no one spoke of it. She was no age at
all. To think “well preserved” of her would be too stupid. Here was
nothing static, but something glamorously in the process of creation.
Hugh’s mother, whom until now Ariel had thought so surprisingly young,
was flattened and dulled by contrast with her mother-in-law. It was not
Grandam’s clothes or make-up that made her young. They had nothing to do
with it but were merely exquisite accessories to the exhilarating,
lovely person herself. Her eyes, when she met them, took Ariel’s breath.
They were violet, long and enchantingly shaped, under finely drawn, dark
eyebrows, and fringed with straight, dense lashes. Her hair was both
beautiful and strange. It was cut short and dressed into a close-curling
crown that looked like wrought silver in its arbitrary design, a
close-fitting crown, worn low. It was a frame for the exquisite small
face, with its short straight nose, its lovely, poignant mouth, and
those breath-taking, violet, dark-fringed eyes. She was wearing a
red-violet frock—or perhaps it was more the color of fireweed than of
violets—with long deep sleeves like a nun’s, but unlike a nun’s they
were chiffon, and folded her arms like half-spread wings.

Prescott Enderly was as enthralled as Ariel. No one had happened to tell
him, any more than her, that Grandam was beautiful.

Mrs. Weyman was saying, “It’s pleasant, having you down again, Mother
Weyman. The vacation ends in another two days, and Mr. Enderly wanted to
meet you. You will enjoy each other. Mrs. Weyman is a great reader,
Prescott. She knew about your book, from the reviews, before I did, and
said it must be Glenn’s friend.”

Grandam’s violet eyes rested on the young novelist briefly, but she did
not follow her daughter-in-law’s lead and begin speaking of his work.
Instead she passed him by for Anne. “I’m sorry you haven’t come up at a
time when I could see you, Anne,” she said in a voice which surprised
only by being so fitting—a low voice, but light, and casual as a bird’s
flight is casual. “I’m glad you’ve had such a jolly vacation. It isn’t
often, is it, that Smith’s and Yale’s spring vacations coincide?”
Nothing that Grandam said was remarkable, or by the greatest stretch of
the fascinated onlooker’s imagination could be thought important. It was
all talk of the most everyday things—the weather, Glenn’s and Anne’s
plans for the long summer vacation, her daughter-in-law’s plans for some
serious landscape gardening at Wild Acres; and Hugh’s protracted
absence.

She could not have had a very vital interest in any of these things she
talked about and heard talked about during this meal. Yet, when she
spoke to any one or listened to any one in particular, that person had a
sense of vital contact, of swift, actual sympathy. This was not because
Grandam was insincere. Quite the contrary. She was, even in these casual
contacts, as sincere as the flight of a bird is sincere, direct,
absolutely unstudied, intuitional. As it happened that she looked or
listened to Glenn, Mrs. Weyman, Anne, or Prescott, then Glenn, Mrs.
Weyman, Anne or Prescott quickened, grew alive—behaved the way those
Japanese toy flowers behave when dropped into water; their personalities
expanded, took form and pattern. Ariel saw this, and the simile of the
Japanese flowers was hers.

As for herself, Ariel was aware that Grandam was aware of her even when
she seemed most absorbed in the others. Several times the violet eyes
had swept her, lightly but not blindly. And with dessert, when Mrs.
Weyman had succeeded in an attempt she had intermittently been making to
draw Enderly out, during the meal, and show Grandam how much of a person
this guest of theirs really was, and he was in the middle of an anecdote
which had to do with a recent party in a famous New York studio—an
anecdote studded and aglitter with famous and near-famous names—Grandam
suddenly turned to Ariel, and without any real impoliteness to Enderly,
for after all he was sitting beside Mrs. Weyman at the other end of the
table, and had her undivided, individual attention, said, “They tell me
that your father was a painter. Do you care about that? Do you paint or
want to?”

“No. I haven’t talent—of any sort. That is the trouble. (One
instinctively told this lady the trouble, because, no matter what that
casual, low voice of hers actually said, the violet eyes said, ‘Here is
sympathetic understanding of the most poignant, rarest kind. Snatch it.
It has winged your way. Snatch it on the wing.’) But, if one didn’t have
to have a high-school education first, I’d like to get hospital training
as a nurse. That is what I’d like to do, of the things by which one
earns money.”

“And of the things by which one does not—earn money?”

Well! Ariel was plunging now through ether on a very swift flight,
beside Grandam’s flight. Careless flight. So she answered with truth as
winged-casual as Grandam’s own, “A mother. I’d like to have children.
(But she saw them as the age of Nicky and Persis, dancing with her out
of winter into spring.) Or be a lover. Or be a sailor.”

“If you have genius for any one of those three occupations you have
something that will keep you alive all your life. Children. Passion.
Adventure. And you have fairy-tale eyes. Has any one ever told you
that?”

The flight was very swift, very sure. At its height it must burst into a
fountain of song.

“Father has. And he didn’t mind their being narrow and green. Oh,
Grandam! Why didn’t you come down sooner?”

So she might have cried, “Oh, I have been lonely! And you have taken
that away, absolutely.”

No one had heard what they had been saying or noticed anything except
that Grandam had not listened to that amusing anecdote of Enderly’s so
bedecked with famous names. And they were preparing to rise now.
Luncheon was over.

“The sun’s out for the first time in days,” Mrs. Weyman exclaimed.
“Wouldn’t you like Glenn to take you out in Hugh’s car for a while,
Grandam? Anne will run up and bring down your things. Later we’re all
going to a tea-dance over at Holly. Joan’s being very nice to us! But
now I know Glenn would be glad—”

The sun was shining,—windy, gold afternoon sunlight. They all went out
under the portico together to watch Grandam and Glenn off, in Hugh’s
roadster. Anne’s arm was linked carelessly in Ariel’s. As they turned
back into the hall Enderly cried—now that Grandam was out of hearing, he
was the brash young novelist again—“But she’s magnificent, that woman.
Sarah Bernhardt couldn’t have managed it any better! (He meant old age,
of course.) Some one should have prepared me for her beauty, though.
Once she must have been almost too beautiful.”

“Her hair’s always been like that, pure silver ever since I remember,”
Anne told him. And Mrs. Weyman enlarged upon it. “Ever since Anne’s
grandfather died, a few days after Anne’s father was born, it’s been
gray. Grandam was young then, hardly twenty. It happened as it happens
in romances but never supposedly in real life. Her hair went white in a
night.”

“Silver,” Enderly corrected. “There’s nothing white about it. It’s
silver, like bubbles in the sun. Not silver like Ariel’s. Ariel, you’ve
got queer hair. But it’s nice. It’s the color of copper wire to-day.
What turned _your_ hair?”

Ariel laughed, and her fairy-tale eyes squinted to green slits with
merriment. She laughed with them all. She could have danced. Was she
going to be really happy again? Was happiness a wave, buoying up the
whole of her life, a wave that _wouldn’t_ be kept out, that _would_
flood and make a freshet of her heart—even with her father dead? And
buried? Oh, but he was buried in the wave, not in the earth. That was
the secret.

She started up to her room to get her coat. She would get out quickly.
With the sun shining like this, Persis and Nicky must be somewhere near
their playground. She would find them. She couldn’t help finding them,
now when she was so happy.

But she did not open the door to her room. With her hand on the knob, it
came to her: of course Grandam had “Noon.” It was hanging all this time
in her attic apartment. Hugh adored Grandam, and he would never be so
selfish as not to insist that she have the picture up there, where she
lived so constantly alone. How dull Ariel had been not to have guessed
sooner! But no wonder she had looked up at those windows from the woods
day after day with a sense that there was relief from loneliness if she
could only reach up to it. “Noon” had been there, with Grandam, waiting
for her all the while. The beach. The sunlight. The green water. And
Gregory Clare’s love of his daughter made visible, dancing. That is what
herself in her father’s paintings meant to Ariel,—not a picture of
herself, but a picture of his love for her. She saw herself no more when
she looked at his painting than she saw herself when she looked into his
eyes.

But must she wait until Grandam and Glenn get back from their drive to
go up and make sure that, after all her disappointments, “Noon” was
there, safe with Grandam? Miss Peters would let her in.

She had forgotten that Grandam’s first words to her at luncheon had been
“They tell me that your father was a painter.” “Noon” would have made
that speech impossible, if Grandam had the picture. But their flight
together into understanding had followed that opening too swiftly for
Ariel to remember it now.

How did one get to the attic? Were there stairs? She had heard mention
of an elevator. But she wouldn’t know how to run an elevator. There must
be stairs as well. She hurried away to look.



                               Chapter X


Ariel found the attic stairs in the wing opposite hers at the other end
of the house. At the top she came out into a long hall. It was almost
dark up here, the only light coming through two low little dormer
windows at the farthest end. Ariel had never in real life been in an
attic, but she had been in plenty of them in books, and this long, dim
hall with narrow doors in its walls somehow did not seem like her
imagined attics.

Behind which of the several doors would she find Grandam’s living room?
And above all, through which door would she come to “Noon”? No wonder
the dim hall was as fascinating as a fairy-tale’s beginning.

She tried first the door on her right, knocking tentatively. When there
was no answer she opened the door and looked in. Transparent cubes of
gold, which were sunlight aureoling dust, slanted between her and the
low chain of windows out at the base of a far-away sloping roof. This
was the real attic, all that Grandam had left of it, after making her
own apartment. It covered more than half the big house, and trunks,
discarded furniture and files of old magazines were stored here, much as
in all attics. There was the smell of dust and of leather, a glimmer of
cobweb curtains. Spaces. Shadows.

This was, no doubt of it, an attic. And had Ariel expected the lovely
Grandam to live here, in such an environment? To tell the truth, deep in
her heart, though not with her mind, she had. For Grandam had become to
her imagination, even before seeing her this noon at luncheon, and more
vividly since then, a fairy-like, spiritual entity, twin sister to that
other fairy or spirit (who knows which?) the
great-great-great-great-grandmother who was so loved by the princess in
George MacDonald’s true and beautiful allegory, “The Princess and the
Goblins.” So, with her heart, but perhaps not her eyes, Ariel sought for
her here, dreaming her visible, if one only had eyes of the seeing kind,
in a cloud of invisibility.

Hadn’t she seen, a few minutes ago, Grandam driving off with Glenn in
Hugh’s roadster? But that didn’t matter. It was the real, the hidden
Grandam she might find here—the one who would never be out if you needed
her.

But after a minute she turned away from dreams. The next door she
knocked at, got no response, and opened, led into an elevator cage,
about as big as a small closet. So that was the way Grandam and Miss
Peters ascended and descended between the two worlds.

And then her third try brought her to Grandam’s apartment. But no one
answered here either, and so Ariel went in and stood alone, uninvited,
but she felt welcomed, in Grandam’s own place.

It was a big, dove-gray room with a darkly oiled floor of old, wide
boards. Four dormer windows reached from the floor to the raised roof at
one side, and two smaller and higher windows faced the west. On the baby
grand piano near the door Ariel noticed a shallow bowl with hothouse
anemones standing up in it, every flower separate, outlined on the air
with glass-like precision,—mauve, pink, purple, blue, cream.

A low daybed of ivory-colored wood carved all over with flower designs
was drawn up before one of the dormer windows, heaped with violet-red
and silver cushions. Close to the bed, within easy arm’s reach, there
was a bench of the same carved ivory-white wood, with a few books
scattered on it, a crystal lamp with a wide, pale gold shade, and a
glass bowl of hothouse violets. Several bouquets of violets like the one
Hugh had intended for Ariel but given to Joan must have gone into this
bunch in the glass bowl. Their sweetness was almost palpable. Scent came
falling through the air onto Ariel’s eyelids and onto her lips, as if
the very petals of the violets themselves were wings and filling space.

After the anemones and the violets the wood fire blazing away in a small
grate was next alive, throwing rosy shadows over black marble tiling,
and flickering them up onto tiers of books whose backs gave the effect
of rich tapestry hung from ceiling to floor on either side of the
fireplace. The fire seemed to Ariel like another cluster of flowers.
“Roses!” she thought.

Then she closed the door,—and in closing it shut herself into the room.
For it had not entered her head to go away and leave this place until
its mistress should return. She was already welcomed by the flowers, the
fire, and the aura of Grandam herself, which even in her absence seemed
as palpable in the atmosphere here as the scent of the violets. Ariel
stood looking at the door she had closed. On this side it was not a
door; it was a long mirror, crystal clear, and framed with a paneling of
faintly colored flowers and leaves painted on silver. In the mirror,
almost clearer than when looked at directly, was the view from the
windows, the tops of Wild Acres’ trees, the Hudson, the purple
Palisades, and closer—startlingly close and clear—the carved daybed with
its colored cushions, the bowl of violets and, closer and clearer yet,
two upstanding, mauve anemones....

And there, in that reflected world, Ariel looked for “Noon.” For there
was the place to find it, in that crystal unearthly clearness.

She was amazed not to see it at once. Yet she turned about with
confidence only a little dimmed to survey, in order, the four walls,
concrete. But the four walls of Grandam’s room might have been the four
walls of a nun’s cell, they were so bare of decoration, washed with
their dove gray. There was only one small picture in an ebony frame
which hung at the side of the window where the daybed stood. It was a
drawing, in pencil, of a man’s hands, palms meeting, raised in prayer or
adoration. They were arresting hands, beautiful in austerity, the hands
of a great saint—or an archangel. They were life size, and so vivid in
their presentation that one might think, by looking more keenly, to see
the arms and shoulders—the very head itself—of the saint or archangel
outlined against the dove-gray wall.

One piece of wall was obscured by a screen, silver silk stretched on an
ebony frame and embroidered with the same faint flowers as framed the
mirror. Ariel crossed to it and found that it had concealed a door which
was standing open. She went through it and found herself in a dressing
room: Grandam’s, of course, because of the scent and feeling of
violets,—and so _still_. This was a very small, oblong room, the size of
a big closet. A long, low dressing table surmounted by a mirror extended
the length of one wall, and a window filled the other. On the table’s
top crystal-stopped bottles stood in rows. Ivory and jade and silver
boxes clustered everywhere. And bright liquids glowed in vials. The
dressing chair was ivory-colored like the daybed and the bench in the
first room. Over its low back lay, spread out, a swansdown robe with
very wide sleeves. It seemed to stir and come alive in violet scent as
Ariel bent above it.

And out at the far corner of the table lay a silver crown. No, it was a
wig! A replica of Grandam’s curled, short hair. So that too had been a
wig. But Ariel was not repelled. Quite the contrary. She shivered with a
kind of understanding, a delight. It had come to her that this was
Grandam’s materialization room. Or no, it was no room; it was too small
and narrow to be anything but a passageway. It was the passageway
through which Grandam retained her access to the world of time and
space. It was here, sitting in this chair, looking into this mirror,
that she made herself up to become visible, palpable to everyday touch
and sight.

Ariel herself slipped into the chair. Elbows on the table, chin in her
hands, she looked at herself as she appeared in this passageway. And she
saw, for the first time, the Ariel her father had always seen. Green
eyes. Pointed chin. Silver skin. Thin cheeks, beautifully fine in their
drawing. Her heart was beating. Thud—thud—thud.... She turned hurriedly
away from the mirror and the first realization of her peculiar beauty.
It had almost frightened her.

Out of the dressing room, and several times larger, opened the bathroom.
It was green like a pool in deep woods. The door beyond was closed.
Ariel knocked. A voice said “Come.”

As Ariel opened the door in response to the voice which had startled
her, for she had begun to think herself very much alone up here in
Grandam’s “attic,” Miss Peters turned about from a desk where she had
been writing a letter and stared at Ariel as at a ghost. And Ariel
stared back.

“But Miss Clare! It is Miss Clare, isn’t it? Where did you come from?”

“I was looking for—” No, she could not say “Noon”!... She had not
betrayed her expectations and disappointments to any one else at Wild
Acres and she was not going to begin with Miss Peters. So she finished,
after a perceptible pause—“I was looking for something. But it isn’t
here. I’m afraid it isn’t up here at all.”

“Something of your own?” But Miss Peters colored as she asked it. She
hadn’t meant to be insulting to this guest of the Weymans about whom she
knew nothing at all and had heard nothing,—since she was not on
gossiping terms with the two servants. But “the old lady” was away, out
driving with Glenn. It was very odd of Miss Clare, to say the least, to
come prowling through the rooms in her absence. No one, not even Miss
Anne and the two young men and their mother, ever came into the
apartment uninvited.

Ariel realized Miss Peters’ perturbation. She said “No. It isn’t mine,
the thing I hoped to find. And anyway, it’s not up here at all. It isn’t
anywhere at Wild Acres. If it were at Wild Acres it _would_ be here,
though.”

“If I can help you—”

Ariel shook her head. “No, thanks. I’ll just go back.”

“You may use my door, then. You must have come through Mrs. Weyman’s
whole apartment. This goes into the hall.”

Miss Peters was moving toward her door, expecting Ariel to take the
hint. But Ariel was too abstracted to realize. “I’ll go back the way I
came,” she murmured. And Miss Peters knew nothing to do about it.

But back in Grandam’s big room she decided to wait quietly up there for
Grandam’s return from her outing. She was drawn to the daybed, with its
wide view across woodlands to the Palisades. She sat down on the edge of
the bed and absently gathered a scarf which was lying there up into her
beauty-loving fingers. After a minute, she rose to her knees on the bed
and wrapped the scarf about her. It was a silver wing, a silver cloud
which draped her. One could dance in a scarf like this, even in the
house. She wished that Persis and Nicky were here. She would dance for
them, if they were, over the dark floor; she would feel that she was
dancing, really, out in the golden snowy air, because of the magic of
this scarf of Grandam’s. She began to hum,—low humming, with no tune in
it. And she did not hear the door from the hall open and the quick step
that followed. But she heard Mrs. Weyman’s voice when it came. Yet she
did not start. One does not start out of such quiet happiness as had
come to Ariel up here in Grandam’s environment. She looked up quietly
into Mrs. Weyman’s astounded face.

“But, my dear! Has Mrs. Weyman returned?”

“No. Grandam is motoring with Glenn.” But such literalness was childish
and Ariel knew it even as she spoke.

She hurried on, suddenly embarrassed. “I just came up to look for
something. But it isn’t here. Then—the view—”

“But the scarf! Really, Ariel—”

“Would she mind?”

“I think she would. More than most people.”

Ariel unwound herself from the lovely scarf. And in spite of its
gossamer delicacy and the tough texture of her own green jersey frock,
she felt that in coming out of the scarf she was coming out of a sure
protection into a kind of nakedness. She folded the scarf very
carefully, very softly, and laid it on a pillow. As she did this she
murmured, “If it had been Grandam who came in just now instead of you—”

Mrs. Weyman laughed, not unkindly. “My dear girl! If she only _had_ come
in! Found you kneeling on her precious bed, dressing up in her own
precious scarfs! You’d have felt like—about two cents. It’s a gift she
has. You’re lucky it was I!”

Then she grew serious. “Ariel, I don’t want to offend you or hurt your
feelings. I know things must be very strange and difficult for you these
days. But there are a few very simple things I can help you with, I
think. ‘Grandam,’ for instance. Just the family call my mother-in-law
that. It’s a pet name made up by the children when they were little, you
see. You had better call her ‘Mrs. Weyman.’ And then, to simplify
things, you may call me ‘Mrs. John.’ People do, quite often, when
there’s need to distinguish. And let’s both run along now before she
appears. She’d be no more charmed with finding me here than you, even if
I did come up with _this_ scarf which Miss Peters neglected to bring.
And they’ll be back any minute—”



                               Chapter XI


Grandam did not come down to dinner that night. But Mrs. Weyman said
that she rarely did appear for two meals in the same day, even when she
was feeling her best. Ariel suspected that Mrs. Weyman, in emphasizing
this point, was indirectly intending to reassure her and make her feel
that Grandam’s absence had nothing to do with her own visit uninvited to
the attic apartment.

They gathered in the library after dinner. Glenn and Ariel were at one
end of the divan in front of the fire engaged in setting up the
chessmen. Anne and Prescott Enderly were at the other end, waiting for
Mrs. Nevin, who was taking them, that evening, to a dance at the house
of friends of hers in Scarsdale. Mrs. Weyman occupied a low chair near
by, and she was smoking an after-dinner cigarette.

Enderly looked both handsome and distinguished in his evening clothes.
“Much more the accredited novelist than the college boy,” thought Mrs.
Weyman, looking at him through the spiraling smoke of her cigarette,
which was mostly held in her fingers and very rarely in her lips, since
she smoked only to put other smokers at their ease, including her
daughter Anne,—and to keep young. “He’s changed since he came. Seems
more manly, somehow. Firmer. And exhilarated about something too. I
wonder, is it Joan? That she’s almost ten years older wouldn’t
necessarily make any difference. Probably she’s the first woman of the
world he has ever met,—at any rate seen so much of. She would be a
revelation, a dream come true, to a young man of his background.” For
Enderly’s family was totally undistinguished socially. Glenn had told
his mother this, and added that Enderly boasted of the fact, and was
more glad than otherwise not to belong to the “bloated bourgeoisie.”

So, looking rather keenly at the young man through the smoke spiraling
up through her fingers, Mrs. Weyman exclaimed with assumed casualness,
“It’s rather sweet of Mrs. Nevin to be so nice to you young things!
Having you to meet Michael Schwankovsky this afternoon and all! But I
suppose, Prescott, you have unclassed yourself as a young thing by
having produced ‘Stephen’s Fall’ and got famous. Glenn and Anne, of
course, are merely being included along with you. Don’t you find her
very charming?”

Enderly was holding Anne’s hand, for all the decorum of their
appearance, as it lay between them on the divan, under a fold of her
outspread skirt. “Oh, very charming,” he answered, with casualness as
assumed as his hostess’. “Beauty, brains and magnetism, all working
together, make a very high-powered charm. And she must have used the
full force of it on her bootlegger. We don’t get the chance to buy that
quality from ours, do we, Glenn!”

Mrs. Weyman crushed out her cigarette on a tray at her elbow. For the
first time she felt definitely jarred by Enderly’s personality. “You’re
quite wrong,” she said coldly. “Anything that Mrs. Nevin serves would be
legal. Her cellar was stocked by her husband before the war, and it will
last her a lifetime, the way she uses it. She doesn’t drink and give
drinking parties as some society women do. She entertains with the same
dignity and reasonableness that all of our kind of people did before
prohibition. It’s the same with us. Anything you are served here is
legal.” It was important for even a famous novelist to be aware of
impeccability, when he was being entertained by it.

Enderly’s fingers had closed about Anne’s wrist, stifling her heart,
while her mother took such pains with his social education. But he
answered with disarming candor, “Oh, I took that quite for granted,
about you, I mean. But I couldn’t know about Mrs. Nevin, could I? So
many different sorts of people know her, or claim to, and boast of being
entertained at Holly! And although she’s obviously a lady, she’s even
more obviously a person of temperament, genius. I hadn’t associated her
with Puritanism.”

“I didn’t mean you to! Mrs. Nevin is as far removed from anything
Puritanical or priggish as I am. But she has _character_. Aristocracy,
if you like. Self-respecting people must draw the line somewhere, even
to-day. But they needn’t be bigoted. Look at me. I let Anne smoke. I
even smoke with her. But that sort of tolerance doesn’t change one’s
fundamental principles. In things that really matter, our kind of people
are not changed at all. We keep our standards for ourselves and our
associates pretty definite. And Mrs. Nevin is one of us, very much so.”

Glenn had just captured Ariel’s queen, but for all that his smile as he
barged into the conversation at this point was a sardonic smile. “Hadn’t
you got Mother doped out for yourself, Scribbler?” he asked his friend.
“Pity to make her do it for you! Bad commentary on your analytical
powers. Couldn’t you see, at first sight, that she is one of those
simple souls who believe that this jazz-ridden world is as sound at
bottom, possibly sounder, than the lost world of the Good Queen Vic? It
has invented virtues, not lost them. Who ever heard of frankness,
honesty, hatred of shams before our somber decade? We’re less prudish,
of course, but all the more wholesome for precisely that reason. And
though somewhat obscured by the camouflage of ‘petting,’ purity still
reigns supreme in girlish hearts, and honor in manly breasts. At least
in the best families—like ours. Your own novel is only an example,
Prescott. Its obscenity is healthy obscenity. By showing up the visible
and ugly, you suggest all the more vividly the lovely idealism lurking
under it all, invisible. Didn’t Stephen, in the end, after his diverting
but possibly sordid passional experiences, fall in love, in the last
chapters, with a nice girl? He seduced her, of course, but it woke her
stupid parents up to the facts of—er—_life_. It’s a very idealistic
book. Even the old folks got saved. They saw how narrow they’d been—”

“Oh, chuck it, Glenn! I’m in perfect sympathy with your mother. And I
believe—in fact, I believe it passionately—that she is right. What is
moderation and self-control but aristocracy? Our Bohemian pose is too
cheap, too easy. What do you think, Anne?”

What Anne thought no one but Enderly discovered, however, for it was
conveyed to him very simply by the throbbing of a pulse in a delicate,
blue-veined wrist.

At that moment Miss Peters surprisingly made an appearance in the
library door. “Mrs. Weyman Senior would be charmed if Miss Clare would
care to come up to her for a little while this evening.”

Ariel sprang from the divan. “Oh, do you mind, Glenn? I do want to go.”

“Mind!” Glenn exclaimed. “That wouldn’t matter. The Queen has sent her
command. And the elevator waits without. I say! I thought you enjoyed
chess, though!”

Mrs. Weyman beckoned Ariel to her side. “I’m afraid Miss Peters has told
Grandam about—our being in the apartment this afternoon, and that is why
she has sent for you. I’m sorry. Don’t do anything to excite her
unnecessarily, will you, and come away as soon as you can.” Then,
turning to Miss Peters, who stood waiting to escort Ariel to the
elevator, she asked, “How is Mrs. Weyman to-night? I hope the drive
didn’t tire her too much.”

“She is a little tired. But I don’t think it was the drive.” Miss Peters
was looking curiously at Ariel. “I don’t think she’ll keep Miss Clare
long. She ought to be in bed this minute.”

The elevator was waiting for them at the end of the back hall. Miss
Peters ran it very nonchalantly by a mere touching of buttons.

“Oh! That’s the way it works? Next time I can take myself up,” Ariel
said, as they stepped out into the attic hall. Miss Peters, meticulously
closing the sliding door of the cage, remarked, “Oh, the family never
use the elevator. Mrs. Weyman has heart disease, you know, and Mr. Hugh
put it in for her. Then it’s a convenience in carrying trays up and
down, of course. I couldn’t take care of Mrs. Weyman if I had to climb
two flights of stairs each meal.”

The attic hall, by night, was unromantically lighted by ordinary
electric-light bulbs. Ariel regretted the afternoon’s mysterious
twilight. But when Miss Peters had opened Grandam’s door, announced
Ariel, and gone on her way, leaving them alone together, all the romance
of the afternoon poured back, with Grandam added.

Curtains of dim flower pattern were drawn across the windows. But they
did not give the effect of shutting in the room. They were caressing, as
night’s own starry curtains, and they brought distance near. Tall wax
candles glimmered their light down on the piano, over the ivory keys and
the glossy rosewood, and the dish with the anemones. But the anemones
themselves stood up dark in the dusk, their colors lost. At the edge of
the area of light shed by the crystal lamp on the bench, across the
room, lay Grandam, her head elevated, among her pillows. She was wearing
the silver scarf in which Ariel had been discovered by Mrs. Weyman.

A chair was drawn up conveniently near to the daybed in preparation for
Miss Clare’s visit. But Ariel ignored it, or perhaps did not see it. She
went straight to the daybed and sat down on the edge of that, face to
face with Grandam.

Grandam did not waste words. “Miss Peters says you were up here this
afternoon, Ariel, looking for something in my apartment. I have the
liveliest curiosity to know what it was.”

“I was looking for ‘Noon,’ the painting Hugh bought of my father. I
can’t find where they’ve hung it. I couldn’t ask Hugh, since Father
himself wouldn’t,—and anyway, he went away the very first day. But after
you came to lunch I thought Hugh must have given it to you,—that it
would be here. But it isn’t here. Can you tell me where it is? I don’t
mind asking you. Father wouldn’t mind.”

Pity woke in Grandam’s face. Things she had at different times heard of
Ariel and her father and this picture of Hugh’s all suddenly fitted
themselves together into a human pattern. She knew a great deal, all at
once. She was silent.

Ariel, during the silence, noticed that Grandam was not wearing her wig.
This was her own hair, cut short, clipping her small head like a
knight’s helmet. It was even lovelier than the wig, Ariel thought. What
_was_ Grandam? She was not an old lady with heart disease. She was not a
grande dame of a civilization outworn. She was not even Ariel’s
great-great-great-great-grandmother. Whatever she was, she was a friend
of Ariel’s and would have been even more a friend of her father’s, if he
had only known her.

Grandam at last said, “I think I must have been away from Wild Acres,
abroad, when Hugh came back with that picture. And I never have seen it.
But very recently, since you came, in fact, Hortense has mentioned it to
me, told me where it is. You shall have it to-night.”

Ariel was on her feet. “Now?”

“No. Wait. Let’s talk a few minutes first. Sit down again, my dear. Why
are you so—so wild to see this picture? Didn’t you bring any other of
your father’s pictures with you?”

Ariel sat down again on the edge of the bed. Now that Grandam had
promised her a sight of “Noon” she could wait patiently forever, so long
as she waited here with Grandam. “No. I didn’t bring a single canvas,”
she answered. “You see, they are all quite big. But I am keeping out
five for myself. Not letting them be sold—although they will be in the
exhibition, of course. Father thought ‘Noon’ the very best of them all.
And seeing it again now,—well, it will be like going home.”

“Yes, I can understand that. But you look as though you were seeing a
vision, Ariel. What is it?”

Ariel was looking at the picture in the ebony frame beyond Grandam’s
shoulder. “Those hands,” she said. “They make me think of Father’s
to-night, though they didn’t this afternoon when I was up here. And they
aren’t like his really. Father’s hands aren’t so long, and the fingers
aren’t nearly so pointed. Are those an angel’s hands? Or a saint’s?”

Grandam’s expression was veiled. Yet it was not a secretive look that
came into her features, making them enigmatical; it was an illuminative
glow.

“A very fine artist drew those hands,” she said. But her voice was
concealing as much as was her face, and Ariel knew it. “He is dead now.
Piccoli. An Italian. And he had an earthly model, not an angel. At least
he thought so, I suppose. The hands themselves—are the hands of a friend
of mine. He, too, is dead.... How is it with you here at Wild Acres,
Ariel? Are you lonely?”

Ariel bent quickly forward and picking up an end of Grandam’s silver
scarf, kissed it. “I am not lonely now,” she said. “Who could be! And
I’m never really lonely in the woods.” Then she told Grandam about
sensing violets behind the snow that first day at Wild Acres and how she
had found Persis and Nicky in the woods and danced her happiness for
them.

“But at lunch you were saying you had no talent. What about dancing for
a profession, Ariel? Have you thought of that?”

Ariel shook her head. “My dancing is like those hands there in their
adoring. Adoring, and dancing, and loving,—they aren’t professions.”

“Still, dancing can be as much a conscious and cultivated art as
painting. Seriously, Ariel, hadn’t this occurred to you? Or to your
father?”

“No. But, then, I never saw a real dancer. Father has told me about
Isadora Duncan and her wonderful dancing. And there’s Ruth St. Denis,
too! But he liked Isadora better.” She went on then to tell Grandam how
her father had put her, dancing, into all of his pictures. “I’m in
‘Noon’ too,” she said. “But they’re not pictures of me, you understand.
Not portraits. You do understand?”

“Yes, of course, they’re not pictures of you; they are snatches at the
idea of you. But you’ve come just in the nick of time, Ariel. I might
have got away, with you in the house, and never known you.”

“You are going away!” Ariel’s fingers closed again on the scarf, as if
to clutch Grandam back. “Where? How soon?”

“I’m going to die. Quite soon, the doctors think. But you got here
first. And now I can be a messenger to your father from you. You will
bring us together, perhaps. Do you think we shall get along?”

Ariel was not grave. She was merry. Oh, this was no old lady with
dangerous heart disease, but a vibrant, swift-footed friend whom she was
holding back from departure with force, by this piece of clutched
drapery.

“Do you know,” Grandam told her, “when I was a little girl and taken on
train journeys, I’d look out of the windows at other children playing in
dooryards, walking along roads, and sitting on fences waving at my
train. And I’d wonder how they could bear being left behind, not being
in a train. Do all children in trains feel that way, looking out of
coach windows? I suspect they do. Well, Ariel, I’m in the same case now.
I’m on the train, actually off, on a journey, and all the rest of you
are like those other children. The nearest you can come to my adventure
is to sit on the country fences and wave me past. And it’s more glorious
than exciting because at the end of this journey there will be people I
love and haven’t seen for almost a life-time. Those hands—these that you
asked about, Ariel—will be there, I believe, to open the coach door....
Do you wonder that I pity all you children, left behind, out of the
journey? But not you, Ariel! You aren’t left. You are more like a
darting swallow at the train window, keeping up for a little way.”

“Yes,” Ariel cried. “Put out your wrist, Grandam! I’ll light on it. I’ll
stay till the wind blows me off!” Then they smiled at each other and
during the instant of the smile their friendship mellowed as though the
instant had been an entire life-time.

“But we’re forgetting about ‘Noon,’” Grandam reminded Ariel. “I’ll go
with you now to look for it.”

“Look for it? But don’t you know where it is? I thought you said you
knew.”

“It’s in the attic across the hall. It mayn’t be just in plain sight,
though. But we’ll find it and bring it in here and hang it above the
mantel.”

“In the attic! But why?” Ariel could not take it in for a minute. But
strangely, her body was quicker than her brain to react. Her heart had
started an angry pounding and her fingers were curling into her palms,
hard, the nails biting into the flesh. Ariel wondered at her fingers and
at her heart.

She had followed Grandam across the floor toward the hall door. But
Grandam halted by the piano and leaned a hand on it, suddenly supporting
herself. “Wait, Ariel,” she said. “I’ll try to explain it to you a
little. Hugh put ‘Noon’ in the attic because he didn’t want it around
where he could see it. But it isn’t the insult to the painting and to
your father that it seems. I’m sure it isn’t. It is something different
altogether. For the attic, in this case, isn’t the attic at all....”

But Ariel was not to be betrayed into thinking that the attic was the
haunted, magical home of the invisible
great-great-great-great-grandmother which she had almost imagined it on
looking in there this afternoon. Her nails were biting into her palms,
and her mouth was dry. What did Grandam mean, saying the attic was not
an attic?

Grandam was looking down at the anemones. She had stopped looking at
Ariel.

“The attic isn’t an attic—because it is Hugh’s subconscious mind. That’s
what modern psychology, anyway, calls the place where we chuck away the
memories that hurt us. And no more than the attic out there is an attic,
is ‘Noon’ a painting. It was a painting when Hugh bought it, and thought
it so beautiful. But Hugh was in love. And when one is a lover, every
æsthetic joy actually hurts until it can be passed on to the beloved. To
share it would be even more relieving, of course. But in this case there
was no hope of Hugh’s sharing anything very much with Mrs. Nevin. Her
husband was still living and Joan had chosen him in preference to Hugh,
anyway. No. Whatever he could possess of beauty he must give her
outright, not even think of sharing with her.”

Grandam touched the glassy petal of an anemone, so lightly that its
delicate nerves did not feel a tremor.

“Well, he showed ‘Noon’ to Joan without first telling her that it was to
belong to her, because he wanted to tantalize her a little—and enjoy
with her the moment of surprise when he thrust ‘Noon’ into her hands, to
keep. But he never got that far, for Joan merely laughed at the
painting, and the artist, and laughed at all the Bermuda episode. She
wanted to be the source of all his joys.

“From the instant of that laugh ‘Noon’ stopped being a painting to Hugh.
It became the symbol of his love,—sneered at, denied. So he tossed it
into the attic and shut the door on it. Forgot it. A very wholesome
proceeding in spite of the psychoanalysts.... But whether this
explanation, which, to be honest, is not founded on knowledge but merely
surmise, really _is_ an explanation or not needn’t matter to you, I
hope. You’ll be magnanimous.... If one can’t be magnanimous, one had
better be chucked into the attic oneself. I can state that as a fact. No
surmise about it.”

Ariel, too, was looking at the anemone. She addressed it, rather than
Grandam, but to her they were one,—the glassy, heavenly still flower,
and the voice counseling magnanimity.

“I’m going to go now and get that—love, hidden in the attic,” she said.
“Find it. Dust it. Nobody can stop me. You mustn’t come, Grandam. You
look very tired.”

Grandam was more tired than she had known, and glad to be forced, very
nearly carried, over to her daybed by Ariel. She could well afford to
rest now. Ariel was all right.

It took Ariel some long minutes in the cold barnlike place, robbed by
Grandam’s analogy of mystery and charm, to find “Noon.” But at last she
hauled it out from behind a wall of discarded mattresses, a rather large
and heavy unframed canvas, festooned with dusty cobwebs. Not minding at
all the havoc it wreaked on her wispy green evening frock, she brought
it in to Grandam’s room.

“Turn away your face,” she called from the door. “I want to dust it
before you look and I’ll put it up on the mantel with the candles around
it. It’ll be better in daylight, of course, but even candlelight will
give you some idea!”

Grandam turned her face obediently but held out the silver shawl toward
Ariel. “Here’s a duster,” she said, “that’s just the thing for it.”

Without objections or even hesitation, Ariel used that live, lovely
belonging of Grandam’s to dust the cobwebs and the dirt from the face of
“Noon.” But she knew perfectly what it was she was doing. And Grandam
knew that she knew. For the scarf was a rare and unreplaceable thing.
Ariel’s tongue and lips were dry as the dust on the picture over which
she worked and her heart beat heavily, like the waves on her home beach
after a storm.

As she lifted the canvas up to position on the fireplace mantel and then
brought candles from the piano to set either side of it, Grandam, with
her face conscientiously turned away, was saying, “You mustn’t be
disappointed, Ariel, if I don’t find ‘Noon’ so wonderful as Hugh and you
and your father think it. I’m no judge of painting. Know next to nothing
about it. It will be merely a matter of personal taste with me, and of
no account whatever as criticism. But then no individual’s word can make
a final judgment. Not Joan’s certainly. Not even Michael Schwankovsky’s.
Not yours or mine, or your father’s. Least of all your father’s, Ariel.
No one knows anything about his own creative work—whether it’s good or
bad—any more than the soul knows its own state.”

But Ariel scarcely heard her or cared to hear her. The picture was
placed. She moved back into the middle of the room, and looked. _And
looked._

Home.... She had come home! Grandam’s room was a dove-gray wave on which
she had been tossed up onto her and her father’s own beach, and she
stood now in the hollow where her father’s easel had stood the morning
that Hugh interrupted the painting of the masterpiece.... She had come
home. _And her Father was not far off._ Her heart had stopped thudding.
The waves on the beach were stilled in the noon heat. Tears overflowed
onto her cold cheeks with grateful warmth. She tasted salt on her
lips,—and thought it sea spray.

But now that she was blind, Grandam was seeing. Grandam, looking through
white sunlight, saw an edge of curling wave, a white beach, rocks where
the sunlight broke into purple pieces, and in the air just above the
rocks, Ariel dancing. It was the Ariel of five years ago, and still it
was the same Ariel, because the artist’s genius had caught her as she
would be always, through eternity. It was her essence he had caught
there, as surely as her grace. And he had got the beach in the same
way,—the essence of it.

Grandam, in spite of the ignorance she had claimed for herself, knew
perfectly well that anything which could stop her breath, as this
painting did, and then make her life go on with a new tide of richness
and meaning in its flow, as this picture did too, was—_good_.



                              Chapter XII


Hugh, returning from his five days’ sojourn in Chicago, was met by the
thrum of jazz as he turned into Wild Acres avenue. The radio would
hardly be so noisy at this distance from the house, and so he realized
that there was an orchestra of several pieces at work, and a party
forward. Well, of course, it was the last night of “Spring vacation.”
Stupid not to have remembered the probability of festivities under the
circumstances. As he came nearer, the house blazed out at him through
bare trees almost like a bonfire, it was so brilliantly lighted from top
to bottom.

He would get past the library and drawing-room doors if he could,
without being seen, run up to Grandam for as long a visit as she wanted,
and then, leaving a note on his mother’s pillow to let her know that he
had returned, get to bed after snatching a bite in the pantry. But this
simple plan evaporated when, in the act of sliding past the drawing-room
door, his eyes calamitously met Joan Nevin’s. She was dancing with
Prescott Enderly on the edge of the wild young mob in there—Joan! So it
wasn’t a children’s party, after all. But of course it couldn’t be,
quite, with Prescott Enderly the guest of honor.

Hugh went up the stairs two at a time. Joan’s eyes had given him an
invitation, or rather a command. He smiled to himself as he rushed into
evening togs. Usually Joan was more subtle in what she allowed to show
in her face. Was the famous Enderly boring her? Didn’t he quite come up
to his own Stephen as an attraction? It was plainly rescue, anyway, Joan
needed; otherwise she would never have shown such naïve joy at the sight
of himself.

He jerked his tie into trim little wings, bent and gave himself one keen
glance of survey in the mirror of his too low bureau, and was out in the
upper hall. But he did not run down to the party and Joan immediately.
He had never come home from a journey in his life, when his grandmother
was at Wild Acres, without “dropping up” to say a hail to her. But he
congratulated himself for his self-discipline to-night as he ran up a
flight of stairs instead of running down a flight.

Grandam closed a book as if that were the end of that, when he entered.

“Hello, Hugh! You’re welcome. For I’ve as much to tell you this time as
you can possibly have to tell me. And I’m going to have first turn. No,
not the edge of my bed, _please_, Hugh! How many times have I got to
tell you I simply won’t have it? It spoils the mattress. Ariel’s the
only one I’ll allow. She can’t weigh enough to really hurt—”

“Ariel!”

“Yes, Ariel. Who else? Why did you keep her hidden, Hugh? From me, I
mean. It’s Ariel I want to talk about, as I haven’t wanted to talk,—for
years!”

As Grandam repeated the name, it came to Hugh that Ariel, while hardly
in his mind concretely at all during the week of his absence, had never
actually been very far away from it. She had, to his mental
preoccupations, something of the relation she had to the central theme
of her father’s paintings. She did not get mixed up with the works, but
she was there all the same, hovering on the edges,—definite and vital. A
girl with March sunshine squinting her green eyes into Chinesy slits
under the brim of a green hat. A girl with a friendly, pointed-cornered
mouth. A girl in a white coat, looking like a fairy-tale princess...,
too.

As it happened, the visit to Grandam prolonged itself rather
unreasonably. Hugh realized that he had stayed longer than he had meant
to or perhaps than he should, considering Joan’s optical invitation to
the dance. But he did not take out his watch as he finally went down,
and so he was not aware that more than an hour had flown away, while he
and Grandam talked of Ariel.

And then, at the head of the second flight of stairs he was halted by a
laugh, which reached him, like a finger of light, through the blare of
the jazz. It came from the wing where the guest rooms were. Curiosity
drew him in that direction a few steps. Then he heard it again. Two of
the doors in the guest wing were shut, but one stood open upon darkness.
That was the room Ariel was occupying. As he paused, puzzled by this
strange phenomenon of a girl laughing to herself in the dark, Glenn’s
voice impinged on the laugh. Just a word or two, and then Glenn, too,
laughed. Hugh strode to the door.

The light from the hall penetrated the room enough to show him his
brother lying on his elbow across the foot of Ariel’s bed, and the dim
figure of Ariel herself, sitting up against the pillows, the eiderdown
drawn up to her chin like a tent. The windows were open and the little
room was fresh with snowy airiness. Hugh went in. “I say, Glenn, what
are you doing here?” He spoke evenly enough but his voice was
displeased.

“Hello! You back?” Glenn leaned higher on his elbow. “I’m here
entertaining Ariel. You asked me to look out for her when I put you on
your train, and I’ve been doing my duty ever since. You ought to be
gratified to find me at it.”

“It must be late. You’d better be at your dance, hadn’t you? And isn’t
this getting the house cold?”

“Fresh air is the best thing that could happen to this house,” Glenn
responded cryptically. “But if you think Joan may catch cold, shut the
door. We don’t mind, do we Ariel?”

“Well, I want to talk to Ariel myself, since she’s awake. And you do
belong down at your own party.”

Glenn got up. “Oh, I know I’m probably spoiling the party for poor Joan,
absenting myself for so long. I’ll go do my duty by _her_, now that
you’ve relieved me of Ariel. Glad you’re back, Hugh. Good night, Ariel.”

Glenn’s mockery affected Hugh hardly at all. For the minute he was
intent on the things that he must say to Ariel,—at once, now, to-night,
since it had so chanced that he was seeing her to-night. “_May_ I stay a
few minutes?” he asked. “You aren’t sleepy?”

He pushed a chair within a little distance of the bed. Hugh’s
generation, no more than Glenn’s, was patterned to a conventional idea
of manners, but Hugh himself as an individual had never quite attained
the modern casualness. Still, Ariel, tented to her chin in the
eiderdown, her face a mere blur in the starry light, was not exactly a
figure to inspire self-consciousness in him.

“I’ve just been talking with Grandam,” he plunged at once into what was
on his mind. “And I say, Ariel, I am more sorry than I can tell about
‘Noon.’ Why I didn’t have it out, at least, before you got here, I can’t
see now. Grandam considers herself lucky to have acquired it for her
mantel now. But she’ll lend it to the exhibition, of course. I’ll get in
touch with Charlie Frye about that the first minute we hear from him.
And afterwards ‘Noon’ is to be yours. It doesn’t belong to me after the
way I’ve treated it, of course.”

“After Grandam dies”—Ariel said the word without fear—“I’m going to buy
‘Noon’ from you, Hugh Weyman. You must let her keep it till then. I’ve
already told her. She understands, and she’s going to help me so that I
_can_ buy it. She knows about a job she thinks I can get. The minute I
begin to earn, I shall begin to save—toward ‘Noon’ and toward my lovely
white coat.”

“Why, Ariel!”

“Oh! Probably you think it will take me forever. But it won’t. It’s
quite a good job, Grandam says. I’m not counting on the exhibition any
more, do you see! I know that Mrs. Nevin has told you that nothing will
come of it. And Grandam herself says that Father may have been the
greatest of geniuses, but that that doesn’t necessarily mean the world’s
going to admit it. It may take hundreds of years, she says—and it may
take forever—which means never, of course. But Father was (you must
believe me—Grandam does) absolutely certain that rich people with taste
like Mrs. Nevin and Michael Schwankovsky had only to see the exhibition
and they would be glad to pay quite big prices for the pictures. And I’d
be then absolutely independent. He did not dream what an unreasonable
thing he was doing—throwing me onto you and your family, when you were
strangers, not even relations, and—”

Hugh leaned toward her. He found her shoulders through the eiderdown and
shook her, not entirely playfully. “We are not strangers. Your father
was my friend. I loved him. I love him now. There will never be anything
like that again for me. It is only other things—life itself—that made me
blunder so with him, in not writing, or going back all these years, and
in my neglect of you since you’ve been here at Wild Acres. There’s
something that has blinded me, mixed me up. You wouldn’t understand.
Grandam’s the only person in the world who could understand, and I don’t
bother her with it. She thinks I’ve acted like a fool toward you and
toward your father. But all the same, she knows that I loved your
father, and that _I cherish you_.”

He stopped. And Ariel kept still. After a while he went on more calmly,
“So, my dear, we’ll just wait and see what comes of the exhibition. If
nothing comes of it, and there is that possibility, I’m afraid, then we
will put our heads together, yours and Grandam’s and mine, and find some
way to make you independent, for that is, of course, what you would
want. But the coat will remain my gift to you. Why, Ariel, I have had
such fun just thinking about that coat, and you in it! Even if you would
_rather have had violets_.”

“But it cost several hundreds of dollars. It must have. And Anne’s
wearing quite a shabby squirrel-fur. Two years old. And she did love
mine so, the minute she saw it. She kept on admiring it every day until
I had to tell her you had given it to me! She was terribly surprised.
Don’t you see how it was really unkind of you—to her?”

He had not thought of the coat in terms of money until now. In dressing
Ariel up in it he had returned to a forgotten freedom,—to a state where
values were somehow different from his present values. But when had they
shifted? And was the shift a poor or a good thing? Ariel might be right,
and he might have taken a flight into pure selfishness, not into the
free air he had imagined, in spending hundreds of dollars on a beautiful
garment for his friend’s daughter without due consideration.

But he said, “Well, whatever you think and say, and whatever is true or
not true, about that pretty coat and ‘Noon’—you’ll keep them both, now
that I’ve given them to you, and if you ever mention money again to me,
I’ll think you’re not nice enough to be your father’s daughter.” He got
up and went to the windows. The curtains had blown from their ties and
he fastened them back.

“I’m going down to the dance now,” he said. But he came back and stood
for a minute looking at her. With the curtains back he could see her
plainer. He said, more gently, “We’re not going to quarrel, are we?
Grandam promised me you’d be magnanimous.”


Joan was sitting in the lower hall near the front door, wrapped in her
opera cape, while Prescott Enderly knelt at her feet, buckling on her
opera boots. “You’re not going yet. I thought you’d promised me a
dance,” Hugh protested, running down the last few stairs.

“And I had. But you didn’t come for it. It’s not much fun being the only
old woman at a dance. So I’m retreating in good order.”

Enderly chuckled. “Old woman! She’s going in the interests of peace, let
me tell you. Have you been able to keep the same partner for half a
minute, to-night, Mrs. Nevin? This cutting-in business is an
abomination.”

“You see, Joan, I had to dress before I could appear. Then I ran up to
speak to Grandam. She was expecting me home tonight, and she’d be asleep
later, when the party was over. I may take these off, mayn’t I!” Hugh
was down beside Enderly, his fingers on a buckle.

Joan drew back her foot. “Glenn seemed to have an idea it was Miss Clare
you had run to speak to. Grandam is a rival I could have credited. But
Ariel—rather surprises me. Thanks, Prescott. That last buckle doesn’t
matter. It’s always a nuisance.”

So it was “Prescott” already with Joan. Hugh mentally congratulated the
novelist on his quick work, for Joan was notoriously deliberate.

“Why isn’t your Ariel down dancing, Hugh?” she inquired. “Oh, I forgot.
Her father, I suppose. Well, I’m off. Good night.” She was standing,
giving him her hand, smiling at him mockingly. “Was your trip
successful? Did you see anything of my friends, the Weavers? Or Patricia
Wilcox, by any chance?”

Enderly was at the door to open it, and Joan was only asking Hugh these
questions to soften the immediate departure she intended. But Hugh was
not put off so lightly. “If you will go,” he said, “then I’m going with
you.”

Enderly, obedient to Joan’s slightest motion, opened the door, and the
three of them moved out into the portico. Mrs. Nevin’s limousine was
drawn up at the foot of the steps. Her chauffeur waited, dark against
the lighted interior of the car, an erect figure, almost Egyptian in
passivity, until Joan started down the steps, a man at either shoulder.
Then he sprang down to stand at attention at the limousine door.

“I’m coming with you,” Hugh repeated as the door opened.

“Oh, no, sorry, Hugh, really. But I’m in a hurry, and you haven’t an
overcoat.”

“That doesn’t matter. I don’t need more coddling than an orchid, I
hope.” A great spray of orchids was drooping from a crystal vase between
the windows at the far side of the lighted, heated interior of the
luxurious car.

Joan hesitated a perceptible second but then said with a definiteness
which had become distinctly chilly under his aggression: “Positively, I
can’t send Amos back with you. I’ve kept him out till dawn every night
since I came home. He’s going to put the car up now. Good night,
Prescott.” She turned back from the car step and put her ungloved hand
on Enderly’s arm. “Send me those chapters, won’t you? I’ll read them at
once and write you. We’ll see each other too, soon. In New York. _Auf
Wiedersehen._”

Then she brushed past Hugh into the car. But she moved, of necessity, to
the farther end of the seat, for he had followed her. “I’d like nothing
better than the walk back,” he assured her. “Just what I need.” And as
Joan reached a finger to a button which plunged them into immediate
velvet darkness, he added more tensely in a lowered voice, “Joan! It’s
three months, two days and eight hours since we have been alone
together. You must forgive me.”

Joan sighed. “Well, my dear, if it’s worth pneumonia to you and all
that—for Amos _is_ going to bed, I assure you,—I’d like nothing better
than your company. I’ve missed you a—a little—too.”

They were sliding away, soundlessly rolling from under Wild Acres’
portico into the intimate night.



                              Chapter XIII


Hugh slept late the next morning, and instead of being the first down to
breakfast was the last. He had done very well on his business trip to
Chicago, however, and felt that he could afford to sleep as long as he
liked. He had got to bed very late. This was not because Joan had kept
him up. She had not, or had done so only indirectly. He had merely
driven to Holly with her, a drive of less than ten minutes, and
immediately on arrival set out on his walk home. That is, he had started
off in the direction of Wild Acres, but when he came to the entrance of
the avenue he found in himself no desire and, in fact, a repugnance both
for dancing and sleeping. So, overcoatless, hatless and in only thin
patent-leather pumps, he had tramped off for miles up the Hudson and
back.

It had been a simple state of misery that sent him off on the walk. But
it was not Joan’s fault. Neither from his point of view nor hers. She
had been rather unusually nice to him, in fact. The brief minutes alone
with her in her car had begun with silence, but a silence palpitant with
potentialities. There had been many such silences between them before,
scattered sparsely but vividly through the past fifteen years. Out of
one of them, some day, salvation might come. Joan might say, “I love you
enough to marry you, my dear. At last I am sure of it.” For it was these
silences that kept Hugh going, and nourished hope.

He sat, leaning a little forward, watching the road ahead over Amos’
shoulder through the glass which separated them from the driver’s seat.
And Joan, in her corner, her head tilted back, watched him through the
silent few minutes that swept them down the wood road—which was all
their avenue amounted to really—to the wide Post Road. There, on the
highway, by the infrequent lights, she contemplated his clear-cut
profile. But she wanted to see his eyes. She knew that they must be
clouded with miserable hunger, but she had a desire to see, to be sure
once again. Suddenly, the want conquered her whim of displeasure with
him. She drew out of her corner, came nearer, and thrusting an arm
through his elbow found his hand, and their palms met in a slow
pressure. She broke the silence, hardly knowing that she spoke. “Kiss
me, Hugh. Kiss me—”

Whether it was anger or passion that uttered the demand Joan didn’t
know. Perhaps it was merely her old insatiable desire to keep Hugh’s
desire from weakening. Perhaps sometime—perhaps even quite soon—she
would know and understand herself. That was her hope. For she was in the
very middle of being psychoanalyzed. Her doctor had been on the Riviera
and in Bermuda, stopping at hotels conveniently near to her own,
combining work with vacation the past few months. Her sudden and
unexpected return had occurred only because another patient with whom he
had supposedly finished treatment had backslid and sent him an urgent _S
O S_ from New York. Thereupon, Doctor Steiner had persuaded Mrs. Nevin
that the time had come for her to meet her problems face to face, with
no further evasion. And Hugh was the chief of these problems.

The question was: Was she in love with Hugh Weyman enough to marry him?
Doctor Steiner had undertaken to help her discover the answer to this
question by means of a minute and indefatigable research into her
nightly dreams. This process necessitated a two-hour daily séance with
himself,—the two hours being sacredly dedicated to an intimate hashing
over of Joan’s emotional life and history.

Hugh, so far, knew nothing of this. But his mother had known from the
beginning and been interested and sympathetic. Soon now, in all
probability, Joan would decide to talk about it with Hugh himself. For
while she had been able to hold him in a state of uncertainty and
loyalty during the years since her husband had died, her excuses for
indecision were beginning to wear too thin, even to herself. Besides,
Hugh had not written to her once during her entire absence this winter,
in spite of her having sent him two or three very interesting and even
affectionate letters. That he was trying to gain his emotional
independence was evident to her even without Doctor Steiner’s
elucidations. His pride was becoming too deeply involved.

When she took him into her confidence about this business of being
psychoanalyzed she would have to explain how Doctor Steiner had
discovered that she, Joan, was so complicated an individual, so highly
organized emotionally as well as physically, that things were not nearly
so simple and straight for her as for more ordinary and perhaps
fortunate persons,—people like Hugh himself, for instance, who knew so
definitely what he wanted, and had no agonizing conflicts between his
impulses and his actions. When her analysis was completed, she would
tell him, but not till then, she might be able to give herself to a
husband in the whole-hearted and elemental way which Hugh’s type would
demand in a wife. And she might not. The final word really must rest on
Doctor Steiner’s findings.

All this she might reveal to Hugh soon—but not to-night. She was a
little sleepy to-night, and anyway, there was a quicker and simpler way
of snatching him back if he really was pulling at a slightly worn leash
and inhibited by pride. The easier way had also the merits of having
been tested many, many times before on Hugh, and always it had worked
with mathematical certainty. So she had whispered, angrily or
passionately—it didn’t matter which—“Kiss me, Hugh.”

To-night it worked as expected, except for a slight hitch. But the hitch
was, indeed, so slight and so passing that it hardly bothered her at
all. In fact, it added zest. With Hugh’s free hand, the hand not clasped
to the palm of hers, he put her away from him. But his face was so close
that she could almost discern what she had wanted to discern, the hunger
in his dark eyes in the less-dark interior of her speeding motor. His
touch was gentle but his voice was not.

“Joan! It’s got to be more than this. You know how I want you. I’m not
going on playing at love. I’m through. Have been all winter.”

She stayed very still in his repudiating grip. But she smiled. She could
wait, smiling. She had only to wait a minute, however. And it was a
blissful minute, tinglingly electric with her power over him. His arm
went suddenly around her shoulders. She lifted her face. He kissed her
eyes shut before he kissed her slightly parted lips.

Joan could surrender more in a kiss than many women can surrender in a
life-time of more dangerous giving,—for all the complexities and refined
subtilities of her nature. Joan’s desire for Hugh’s desire was fully
satisfied in that long kiss. As for Hugh, flames—a conflagration—roared
against the dark of his mind. This was chaos to him, not satisfaction.
But a shadowy sort of consolation would come to him later in the
realization that once again Joan had loved him a little.

Now he was holding her cheek close against his with the hand that had
held her away a minute ago. Their faces were as close, as hard pressed,
as the palms of their hands.

Not until the motor slowed to a stop and Amos had got down and was
coming around to open the car door did they draw apart. Joan moved then,
and the interior of the car was flooded with light. How could she have
delivered them up so ruthlessly to the glare? Probably for appearances.
But surely Joan was superior to wanting to justify herself to her
chauffeur!

Hugh saw her bright lips smiling, satisfied. His kisses had not crushed
out their brightness. Her eyes, too, were bright and enigmatically
smiling. She barely touched the hand he held to her as she alighted. But
what had he expected! It was like a dream that recurs.... And the waking
was always the same.

They were standing together at her door, but as yet Hugh had not rung
the bell. She did not wait for him to do so, but stretched her own hand,
as she had stretched it to turn on the light that brought desolation in
the car a minute ago, and simultaneously turned to speak to Amos, who
remained at attention by the limousine door. “What are you waiting for,
Amos? That is all for to-night.” But Amos was not the complete automaton
he might appear. He said, “I thought I’d be taking Mr. Weyman back.”

“He prefers to walk. Good night, Amos.” The hall door was opening. Amos
muttered half audibly, but intending Joan to hear, “It’s nothing at all
to drive Mr. Weyman back to Wild Acres. He’s not—dressed for walking!”

Joan was very short with his incivility. “Do as I say,” she commanded
crisply. “And put the car up.”

Then she gave her hand to Hugh. “Good night, Hugh,” she murmured. “Do
run over and see me often, now I’m back, won’t you? We’ve lots to get
caught up with. No end of things.”

She passed the butler, who continued to hold the door open until Hugh
had nodded to him absently and turned away into the night.

Now, after his solitary mid-morning breakfast, Hugh came leisurely out
into the hall, lighting a cigarette. The house had been so quiet ever
since his rising that he wondered where every one was. But here was
Anne, in the hall, under his nose, sitting still as a mouse in the very
chair Joan had glorified last night, while allowing her overshoes to be
buckled. Hugh seemed to remember that when he had gone in to breakfast
half an hour ago Anne had been there. She was smoking cigarettes, and
had, apparently, been some time at it, for the silver letter tray on the
table near was cluttered to overflowing with twisty pale stubs.

“Hello. Still here! What’s up?—I’m looking for Ariel. It looks as if you
were looking for trouble.”

In fact it did. There was an ominous ring about Anne’s quiet, now that
he was within its radius.

Anne inclined her head just slightly toward the library door, which was
shut. “Your Ariel’s in there,” she informed Hugh, in a furious low
voice. “But it would be too unkind to disturb her. She’s busy with her
latest conquest. I should have thought Glenn would have been enough to
begin with!”

Hugh made a movement toward the library door, but Anne intercepted him,
jumping up and grabbing his arm.

“Please _don’t_, Hugh. It’s twenty-five minutes of eleven. The boys’
train goes at five past, if they’re going to be at Professor Barker’s
party this afternoon. I’m simply dying to see whether Ariel’s charms
will make Prescott lose that train. I know he’s crazy about the party
because Masefield’s going to be there. Glenn’s crazy about it too. He’ll
expect Prescott to be packed and all ready now. And he isn’t. And he
won’t be—not if he and Ariel keep it up much longer. Give the girl a
chance! Have a heart—”

Hugh looked at his sister curiously. This was an Anne strange to him.
She was so distrait and altogether unnatural that he was concerned. But
he asked quietly, “How do you know they’re in there, dear? I don’t hear
voices.”

“That’s it. Neither have I, for ages. For an hour or more. I just
happened to see them going in together, that’s all. They didn’t see me.
He shut the door behind them very carefully. It never is shut. He went
to a lot of trouble to get it over the rug. I won’t have them disturbed!
I’m guarding their privacy! That’s what I’m doing.”

“Nonsense, Anne! Of course we’re not going to let him miss the train.
Hello! Here’s a letter for Ariel.” He picked a letter from the floor
which had evidently been thrown there by Anne when she appropriated the
letter tray for her ash tray. “Where’s the rest of the mail?”

“Rose took it up to Mother. There wasn’t anything for you. I took charge
of Ariel’s.”

“You did? Well, I’ll take charge of it now. I’m going to open the door.”

For an instant longer Anne clutched his arm. But he moved forward, and
she gave it up, dropping back.

He stood for some few seconds, Ariel’s letter in his hand, in the open
doorway. Then he turned his head and looked at Anne. She was looking
past him into the quiet room.

Ariel was there, in a chair, feet curled under her, by one of the
farther windows, bent absorbedly above a book on her knees. She was so
absorbed, indeed, that she had not heard the opening door. Enderly was
sunk deep in another chair, the length of the room away. His was a
cushioned, low chair. His legs were sprawled apart, his head was tilted
back, and his arms were dropped over the chair arms, the fingers
brushing the rug,—so total was his relaxation. His mouth, too, was
slightly open. His slumber was profound.

In the direct flood of morning light, seen all unconscious like this,
the boy looked unpleasantly pale and even dissipated, Hugh thought. It
wasn’t a pretty picture, anyway, and with a sense of relief, he turned
his back on it and crossed the room to Ariel. It was only when he
offered her the letter that she woke, with a start, to his presence. But
she cried out with pleasure at sight of the envelope addressed to her.

Enderly was waked by that and sat up. “Hello. What time is it? I’ve been
asleep. I say, _was_ I asleep, Anne?”—For Anne was there, looking down
at him.

“If a little party like last night’s knocks you out, I don’t see what’s
to become of you, old thing! You’ve got two minutes or so to pack in.
Come along and I’ll help.” There was something jagged, hysterical, in
Anne’s voice and her laugh. It worried Hugh.

Ariel was tearing open her letter. “What made Enderly shut the door,
anyway?” Hugh asked, when Anne and the novelist were out of hearing.

“What door?” She was eagerly unfolding her letter, but Hugh did not
notice her excitement. “The door there,” he said dryly. “It never is
shut.”

“Oh? He said it was drafty, I think. He was cold. Wanted to sit by the
fire.” Her eyes were eating up the pages of her letter.

Hugh hesitated by her side another minute, then turned away. Ariel
called him back. “Excuse my rudeness,” she begged. “But you see—this
letter! It’s so awfully important! It’s from Charlie Frye!”

“Oh, is it!” Hugh was very much interested at once. Ariel went to him
and stood so that he could read with her, over her shoulder.

After a minute of following the small, printlike script that was Charlie
Frye’s handwriting, he suddenly cried out himself with pleased
excitement. “But this is stupendous! Do you realize? It’s Michael
Schwankovsky himself!”

“Yes.” Ariel flapped over one sheet and went on to the next. “Of course.
But do you think Charlie ought to hand over the thing to him so
absolutely? Would Father like that?”

“But of course he would. Why, Ariel! It’s the best thing in the world
that could happen to us and to your father’s pictures. Don’t you know?
Don’t you see? If any one can make an exhibit a go, Schwankovsky is that
one. The old boy’s as rich as Crœsus too, and will buy some of them
himself if he’s this interested. And he’ll exhibit in the New Texas
Galleries, I bet you anything! Frye, if he’d been lucky, might have
secured a little space in the Opportunity Gallery perhaps. Yes—I was
right. Here ’tis. The New Texas Galleries. And for one week! Ye gods,
Ariel! Our fortune’s made! And Gregory Clare’s name!”

That the news was, in all truth, stupendous Ariel knew as well as Hugh.
Michael Schwankovsky had by chance seen some of the Gregory Clare
pictures in Charlie’s New York studio, and straightway offered to
sponsor and finance the “whole show.” That meant that he had recognized
her father’s great genius at sight.

She cried, suddenly clapping her hands like a child, “Think of it!
Michael Schwankovsky! And in spite of Mrs. Nevin!”

Hugh looked at Ariel in quick surprise. Now why had she said that? Why
was she so delighted that this great luck had befallen the exhibition
_in spite of Joan_?

But was it in spite of Joan? Now that Ariel had reminded him of her,
Hugh saw that it was Joan who had done it all. Bless her! And it was
rather wonderful of her not to have told him last night. She had sent
her friend, Schwankovsky, to Frye’s studio with just this end in view.

Hugh was exhilarated enough in the good fortune that seemed promised to
the Gregory Clare exhibition now; but he was even more exhilarated that
Joan had been kind enough to use her influence. For what she did for
Ariel she did for Hugh himself. Or so he thought,—in his own mind having
identified Ariel’s good with his. Ariel was as close to his heart as
Anne almost, even in this short time, and he was more responsible for
her than for Anne. For Anne needed only his financial support. That was
easy enough. Ariel needed something infinitely more subtile—and,
yes—more important. Affection which she could count on, and sympathy.
Hugh realized that he had never in his life been vital to any other
living soul in precisely the way Ariel made him feel that he was vital
to her. If Joan had wanted to marry him ten years ago, instead of Nevin,
and Persis and Nicky were his and hers, he might have toward those
children something of this same consoling sense of obligation. It was
what his life had missed even more than it had missed intimate
companionship with the woman he loved. And now, at last, he and Joan
were sharing a living, lovely, common interest—Ariel’s good.

“By the way, you must have already seen this Schwankovsky person, Ariel.
Did you know? He was the bearded creature who met Mrs. Nevin at the
boat. They’re great friends.—So perhaps this isn’t ‘in spite of Mrs.
Nevin.’ See here! Let’s us two go for a walk and celebrate by having
lunch together, just ourselves, at an inn I know near Scarsdale. And, I
say, Ariel, wear your white coat.”



                              Chapter XIV


Mrs. Nevin had been visiting in Philadelphia at a house party a few
days, and Hugh had not the opportunity to thank her for what he was
convinced was the result of her machinations concerning the Clare
pictures. He thought of writing, but decided against it, preferring to
express to her face the gratitude which he felt so deeply. Strange,
sweet gratitude, really. Soon now her voice might come to him on the
telephone either at his office or Wild Acres, to tell him that she was
back and wanted to see him. For because it was Hugh who did most of the
wanting, the initiative had become, gradually, almost entirely Joan’s.
She knew, and he knew that she knew, that he would break an appointment
with heaven itself for a three-minute encounter with her anywhere, any
time. And this being true, the initiative had to be hers, unless he were
to lose her altogether; for if it were his he would only drive her from
his life by constant importunities. The only way to hold Joan, Hugh
knew, was by letting her go.

Her summons came sooner than he had dared hope. The telephone on his
office desk rang joyfully. She was to be in town that evening, she said,
for a dinner at Schwankovsky’s. Afterwards Michael wouldn’t mind a bit
if Hugh turned up there. They’d probably dance.

Hugh went, of course. It was the first time he had ever been invited to
Michael Schwankovsky’s house. And to-night it was not in any sense, he
knew, Schwankovsky’s invitation, but entirely Joan’s.

When he got to the mansion—for Schwankovsky’s house on Riverside Drive
was no less—Hugh was taken up in the house elevator, run by a footman in
Schwankovsky’s livery, to the top floor, where the host and his dinner
guests were dancing in the long gallery. This was—the World knew—where
Schwankovsky’s collection of oils was hung, and Hugh wondered, as the
elevator ascended, whether the connoisseur had perhaps already snaked
out some of the best of the Clare pictures for himself, and whether they
were already up here in the famous gallery. He did not know the ethics
of the business, or whether, indeed, Frye had the right to sell ahead of
the exhibition. But even if he might not purchase them, it was
conceivable that the man who was to finance and advertise the exhibition
could borrow from it ahead, at will, any pictures he wished.

Hugh thought of Ariel. “She’ll want to know every last detail, which
pictures are here, how they look by electric light, everything. I must
take particular pains to notice and remember.”

The elevator let him out directly into the gallery. A dozen couples were
dancing. An electrola was blaring. Joan saw him, left her partner, and
crossed to him at once.

“Nice of you to come. Don’t bother whether you know people or not. Just
cut in and dance with them. Have a drink?”

“No, thanks. But can’t we talk—you and I? Must it be dancing?”

“I’m afraid so, for a while, anyway. We’ve only just begun.”

“Are you going out to Holly to-night? Is your car here?”

“No. I’m not going home till to-morrow morning. I’m staying with Brenda
Loring. You remember her? Be nice to her to-night. She quite betrayed
her girlish heart concerning you in Philadelphia. She was at the house
party.”

Hugh had met Miss Loring several times at Holly, and she was one of the
very few girls among Joan’s acquaintances who cherished the illusion
that he was unattached. She danced past at the moment with Michael
Schwankovsky and smiled brilliantly at Hugh around—she could not
possibly manage it over—the big man’s shoulder.

Hugh noticed Joan’s recently discarded partner, who had seized the
opportunity of Joan’s welcoming Hugh to get himself a drink at the
buffet set up temporarily near the electrola, turning toward them. “Not
yet, you idiot!” he cried inwardly, and took Joan quickly into his arms.
They danced.

“I was going to write you, Joan. But I waited. You can’t know what a
brick I think you’ve been. How I appreciate—”

Joan was exchanging lip and eye signals with her host, who, still with
Brenda Loring, was passing them again, and she barely noticed Hugh’s
words.

“I don’t see any of the pictures up here, though. Perhaps it’s more
advisable to wait and spring them on the public, all at once. Is that
the idea? Knock their eyes out? I must speak to your friend about
‘Noon.’ He’ll want that in the exhibition, of course. I’ve given it to
Ariel.”

“Hugh! What _are_ you talking about? Hold me closer. That’s right. You
haven’t caught on yet, have you? You’ll have to, though. This step has
come to stay. It _is_ a little intricate. But try now. That’s better!”

At least he was holding her closer. But his heart and his pulse found it
hard to keep the slow rhythm. They boomed, pounded, plunged as though he
were one with some cosmic ocean. And the new step Joan wanted him to
learn was mathematically precise, for all that the partner must be held
so very close.

It was naturally, then, some time before Hugh got back to the subject of
the exhibition, and he only returned to it at all—desperately trying to
ignore the mad race of his blood—because of Ariel. He must take news to
her, detailed news, since Frye had neglected to write again in answer to
her instant letter of many eager questions. Joan, of course, could now
tell him all that they wanted to know. He hoped Ariel would be awake
when he got home and thought she would; for he had telephoned her that
he was to see Schwankovsky himself to-night. He had refrained from
mentioning Joan only because Ariel, strangely, seemed to resent Joan’s
part in her amazing good fortune.

“It’s too splendid about Schwankovsky—that he should be so enthusiastic
about the pictures!” he managed finally. “Did you have to do much
persuading—after he had seen them, I mean? And have you seen any of them
yourself yet? Joan! You were a darling to do it!”

There were the other two again, Schwankovsky smiling intimately into
Joan’s passing eyes, Miss Loring into Hugh’s. “Like silly monkeys going
past on a merry-go-round. I wish they’d stop it. Joan won’t listen. She
hasn’t heard a word,” Hugh groaned to himself. And all the time there
was his thundering heart, his pulse to ignore,—holding Joan close like
this in the slow movements of the dance.

“Does Schwankovsky think the exhibition is bound to be a success?”
Hugh’s voice raised itself, insistent, above the electrola’s blare, and
above the thundering of the cosmic sea in his blood. Joan began to pay
attention.

“What exhibition?” she asked. “Which exhibition?”

“Ariel’s.... The Gregory Clare pictures, of course.”

“Oh! So it’s Ariel again. Good Heavens! I keep forgetting that wretched
girl. The wretched artist-father too! Sorry, Hugh. I know you feel
responsible about the stupid business. That you’re worried. Who wouldn’t
be! But it isn’t at all likely that Michael knows anything about that
silly exhibition,—if there is really to be one. Why should he be
bothered?”

“But I thought that Schwankovsky—that you, Joan—that you’d got him to
look at the pictures, and that that was why—”

Joan laughed tolerantly. “Well, I haven’t got him to look at them. I
don’t even know where they are, in fact. And I’m glad I don’t. After the
sample you showed me! But there’s nothing to keep _you_ from pulling
wires for Ariel, if you like. Why, you might even get Michael as a
patron for the event. What a delicious idea!”

Schwankovsky joined them at this point in their conversation of
cross-purposes. The music had fallen mercifully silent for the minute.
Joan took the big man possessively by the arm. “I invited Hugh here
to-night,” she began, explaining to him, “to see me. But he’s not
interested in me. Only in some wretched little artist’s exhibition. I
suspect he means to tackle you next, Michael.—Better first-hand than
second-hand, Hugh.—But I’m warning you, Michael! Hugh’s on the prowl for
strings to pull to-night. He’s all on the make—for the artist’s
daughter.”

Having thus made things, as she thought, simple for her simple friend,
Joan gave herself up to the arms of a new partner simultaneously with
the reawakening of the electrola to a fresh burst of racket.

Hugh had not the slightest idea of how he had managed it, but, plainly,
during their brief moments of contact he had irritated Joan beyond
endurance. And now he must gather up the pieces of himself which she had
left and be coherent for his involuntary host. “It’s only the Clare
pictures I was discussing with Joan,” he explained. “I thought she had
had something to do with your interest in them.”

“The Clare pictures! What do you know about the Clare pictures, if you
please, Mr. Weyman? Or Mrs. Nevin, for the matter of that? Kindly tell
me!”

The big man was openly annoyed.

“What do I know? Well, not much. Except, of course, that you’ve taken
’em on.”

“Who told you that?”

“Charlie Frye wrote it to us. Since then, we’ve heard nothing.”

“Charlie Frye! Young idiot! Now why should he go around telling this,
when I particularly requested that he shouldn’t?”

“Well, of course, he had to let _us_ know! Naturally we—”

“Pff. Since it’s out, it’s out. No matter. Only it was going to be
something of a satisfaction, springing an exhibition like that on New
York. But now you and Joan know! Probably he’s told everybody. Well, I
don’t suppose it really matters—”

He blustered off without another word or look, leaving Hugh stranded.
Didn’t Schwankovsky know that Ariel was at Wild Acres with the Weymans?
That Hugh was her host? Apparently not.

Miss Loring, seeing Hugh so suddenly and unequivocally disengaged,
forsook her own group by the buffet and started to insinuate her way
through the room toward him.

“Got to catch a train,” he thought, to put himself in countenance with
himself. If Miss Loring got to him before the elevator arrived, summoned
by his urgent finger, he would say it aloud. He looked at his watch.
True enough! If he was to catch the hour’s train from the Grand Central,
he must get himself on the inside of a taxi in something less than a
minute. The elevator beat Miss Loring, and Hugh was grateful.

In the taxi he began sorting it out. Schwankovsky had seen Gregory
Clare’s pictures all right, and he had taken the exhibition in charge.
But Joan had had nothing to do with it, and in fact knew nothing about
it. And Schwankovsky himself hadn’t a hint of Hugh’s connection with the
artist or with his daughter. Probably he wasn’t even aware that Joan
herself knew Ariel. Surprising, perhaps, but not unaccountable. Charlie
Frye mightn’t even have mentioned that she had left Bermuda.—And Hugh
decided that his having bolted away from that party didn’t matter. He
couldn’t think that Miss Loring would be unconsolable, and no one else
would even notice. Certainly Joan wouldn’t. Asking him to come had been
the merest impulse—a fragile impulse at that—just a slight flutter of
well-meaningness toward poor old Hugh.

He looked drawn as he paid off his taxi driver at the Grand Central and
mingled his stride with the throngs pouring toward their various locals
on the lower level.

His mother was reading in bed when he got home. She called out to him.
Propped among snowy pillows, swathed in a rosy negligee under a rosy
bedside light, she was reading a book of “Cases,”—collected and edited
by Joan’s Doctor Steiner. For unpleasantness of subject they competed
tolerably with the popular murder mysteries of the day, and for the
ingenuity of their unraveling and denouements they competed not at all,
but superbly surmounted.

“Ariel in bed?” Hugh inquired. Mrs. Weyman closed the book, but kept a
finger in it. “I should hope so,” she exclaimed, just this side of
sharpness, while her welcoming smile changed into an irritated frown.
“Really! Hugh! Don’t you expect quite a lot of me these days? Three
times this week I’ve dined with that girl alone here. We’ve nothing to
say to each other. If Grandam came down, it would help. But no, Ariel
seems to have become my eternal vis-à-vis. Joan’s away. Mrs. Drake and
the Eddingtons and ’most everybody else, for the matter of that, are
still in Florida. Even without Ariel it would be dreary enough—But
_with_ her! And you come rushing in—’_Is Ariel in bed?_’ I can’t stand
it.”

“I’m sorry, Mother. But Joan’s back. You’ll see her to-morrow, probably.
That will help. And the exhibition’s on the way,—less than two months to
wait. After that Ariel might go abroad, or something, with some nice
older woman. Meanwhile—”

“Exactly, Hugh! Meanwhile? It’s appalling! What to do with her! And
how’s she to go abroad, or do anything—without any money?”

“Why, Mother! You’re crying! Why? I hadn’t an idea you were so bothered!
Poor darling!—I’ve an idea. Why don’t _you_ go to Europe right now, this
spring? We can manage it beautifully—”

“And leave you unchaperoned here with this young person, I suppose!”

“That’s ridiculous! Unchaperoned! But if you must be so considerate,
darling, there’s Grandam—”

“Yes? But _is_ there? I sometimes wonder! Grandam might as well be
living in the highest snow of the Andes for all the contact she has with
_us_ these days! Her röle as chaperone wouldn’t have much illusion for
the servants, or even for the world at large, I’m afraid, Hugh dear. But
in any case I don’t want to be driven away, if you please, from my home
and my children and my friends by your Ariel Clare!”

Hugh was utterly taken aback. He had not known that his mother harbored
any resentment whatever toward Ariel. And why in heaven’s name should
she! But he said, after a moment of quick thought, “Look here, Mother!
Ariel can go in to New York with me mornings. There’ll be plenty for her
to do all day, seeing the sights. That’ll get her off your hands. I only
haven’t suggested it before because she’ll need money, batting around by
herself, and the poor girl’s awfully touchy about money right now. If
she weren’t so proud—”

His mother’s strange, suddenly hysterical laugh halted him. “So proud!”
she gibed. “Why don’t you suggest that she pawn the fur coat you gave
her, Hugh! She wouldn’t need any further resources for a long time. She
_could_ go to Europe then, or anywhere else she wanted to—comfortably.
But certainly you’re not to dry-nurse her days in New York. That’s
absurd. Something will come along to solve the problems, I know. It’ll
have to. Thursday, though, I _will_ let you take your turn, since you
suggest it. It’s my day for the Shakespeare Club, and Ariel certainly
wouldn’t fit. So your New York plan will be useful for that one day. You
are a self-sacrificing old dear!”

Hugh, on leaving his mother, walked quietly out to the guest-room wing
and stood for a few seconds before Ariel’s shut door. All was still. So
very still that he actually _sensed_ a girl sleeping. He wanted to go
in, to look at her asleep. Her room, when she was in it, was, he knew,
like a still little corner in the sky, cold, star-filled.... She was
precious to him, this daughter of his friend, every hour more so, as he
came to know her better. Was this tenderness that welled in his heart
merely the automatic tenderness which most people do harbor for what is
helpless and dependent on them, and not really the unique thing he felt
it? He scarcely knew.

But as he turned away from Ariel’s door, he was thinking of Joan. He
felt that he knew to-night, definitely and forever, that she would never
relent, never love him. Her indifference to Ariel and Ariel’s good had
convinced him. It was as if in refusing to share some of his tenderness
for Ariel, Joan had refused to give him a child. This was absurd, on the
surface, he was aware, but it had deep roots of truth somewhere,
strongly reaching down into reality.



                               Chapter XV


Thursday came, and Ariel was prepared to go to town with Hugh. They were
breakfasting together. The day was clear and sunny. Ariel was wearing
her green hat with the magic feather, and her fur coat was lying with
her pocketbook on a near-by chair, ready to be snatched up when they had
finished their toast and coffee.

Ariel put down her cup suddenly. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “We want the
address of Charlie’s studio. I forgot it.” They planned to look Mr. Frye
up at his studio and invite him to lunch with them. His number might not
be obtainable from the New York telephone book, so Hugh let Ariel run up
to her room. He heard her humming on the stairs. His heart smote him a
little. She was so gay, so expectant. An excursion to New York the
cause! Why, he should have given her that excursion days ago,—and
several of them! He heard her voice on the stairs but not her feet.
Somehow that humming put him back five years, into the studio’s loggia,
sitting there smoking with Gregory Clare, steeped in
sunlight,—flower-light too, because the flowers in and around the Clare
studio did give off light of their own. They were so still, Hugh and his
friend, that butterflies crossed and recrossed close before their faces
in their commerce with the flowers. It had been an adventure in
friendship, and he, Hugh Weyman, had not lived up to the riches it
offered him. He had failed. Since Ariel’s coming, and her and Grandam’s
rescue of “Noon” from the attic, Hugh had realized poignantly how he had
turned back at the very beginning of that adventure and let his friend
go on alone with it. Gregory’s last letter to him had proved that he
_had_ gone on with it, only half aware that his friend was not abreast
of him in the golden realm of imagination and love.

So it was from the Bermuda loggia that he was recalled by his mother
surprisingly coming into the dining room at this unusual hour.

He jumped up and pulled a chair from the table for her. “I didn’t see
you, Mother, or hear you.” He was almost abashed at the completeness of
his day-dreaming.

“I’ve had the wretchedest night, Hugh. Hardly slept a wink. Miss Peters
has thrown up her job, or Grandam has fired her. I can’t make out which.
Anyway, she’s going this morning. She told me, quite casually, when I
ran into her in the butler’s pantry last night. She was getting hot milk
for Grandam. And she’s just told Ariel now. On the stairs.”

How her telling Ariel applied to the matter Hugh didn’t at the moment
pause to consider or inquire. He said, reasonably, “Well, there’s always
the agency. I’ll go there first thing—before lunch, anyway. But Miss
Peters will have to stay on, of course, till we do get a good person.
You told her that, I hope.”

“No. Don’t ring.” His mother stopped his hand that would have brought
Rose. “Heaven knows I don’t want breakfast. Not now. Not till
something’s settled. It’s too ridiculous, Hugh, but your grandmother
hasn’t any intention that we shall replace Miss Peters for her. She has
already engaged some one. I thought, possibly, you knew,—thought, in
fact, you _would_ know.”

“Why, no. But then that’s all right. Is the new person coming to-day?”

Mrs. Weyman replied dryly, “She’s here now. But she herself didn’t know
her job began to-day,—not until Miss Peters told her. It’s Ariel.”

“Nonsense! Ariel’s just off to town with me. There’s her coat. Anyway,”
as the significance of it all dawned on him, “it _is_ nonsense.”

“I agree. But it seems that Ariel told Grandam she wanted a job, must
have a job, and Grandam manufactured one for her. That’s the story.
Rather unfair to Miss Peters, I think.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. Miss Peters was about ready, I imagine. It
was wearing pretty thin, both ways. I felt she wasn’t for long. You must
have too, Mother. But it’s no job for Ariel. It’s too difficult. A job
for a strong and experienced woman.” Then he repeated himself
lamely—“It’s nonsense.”

“Of course. But Ariel’s wanting a job isn’t nonsense. I’m rather pleased
with her for that. And you should be too. But this—this that Grandam has
given her—why, it’s work for a husky and sensible woman, as you say. How
Grandam thinks Ariel’s going to be of any use to her, I don’t see. Why,
Miss Peters gets her up, puts her to bed, runs about with heavy trays,
sweeps, dusts, scrubs. Can you visualize Ariel?”

Hugh’s face had grown steadily darker at the picture his mother made so
vivid. “It’s ridiculous of Grandam!” he muttered. “And I shan’t let her
do this to Ariel. Not a chance! We’ll get hold of just the right person
somehow. There must be some one, just the right one. I’ll go to the
agent—”

“You are a comfort, Hugh. Always! And we’ll find something for Ariel,
something more appropriate, quite easily.” His mother wanted now to make
up to Hugh for having been so unpleasant about Ariel the other night.

“Yesterday Joan and I put our heads together over it. So nice having her
at home again! We are deliciously congenial, Hugh, in spite of our
ages.”

She was not looking at her son, but she was intent on his reaction to
this, all the same. She knew from Joan by now that Hugh had been rude to
her,—left rather rudely, without saying good night, a party to which she
had invited him. And Mrs. Weyman had felt that Joan had _cared_, in
spite of her laughter in the telling. So she had begun to hope that Joan
was on the verge of “untangling her complexes” and surrendering to
Hugh’s long devotion.

“Well, what did Joan suggest,—about Ariel, I mean? Does she by any
chance know about Schwankovsky now? What he’s doing for Ariel?”

“Oh, yes. He told her. After you’d left his house so unceremoniously.
She’s quite pleased. But her plan for Ariel has nothing to do with that.
The exhibition’s not till May. Ariel has almost two months to get
through somehow, you see. Joan says the big department stores pay living
wages now. Some of them. One has to have, however, either a college
education or some sort of personal pull, to be taken on, Joan says.
Imagine, in a department store! But Joan can supply the pull, she’s
sure. And even better, Joan thinks she’ll be able to get her into the
American Girls’ Club to live. Joan’s one of the committee _and_ a
trustee. Only twelve dollars a week for a good room, shared with one or
two other girls, and breakfasts and dinners. Lunches they get near their
work, I believe.”

Hugh was staring at his mother in a way that seemed odd to her. And now
he took his watch up from where it had been lying beside his plate and
put it into his pocket with a leisurely finality that seemed to indicate
that time had ceased to matter to him and expresses might go their ways
unnoticed.

“I didn’t know Joan was so keenly interested in Ariel’s affairs,” he
murmured. “But Ariel’s my concern. Nobody else need bother.”

Mrs. Weyman shrugged, ever so slightly. She said, archly, “Don’t be
obtuse, dear boy. Joan isn’t interested in Ariel for Ariel’s sake. How
could she be! Who could be? It’s us, Joan’s concerned for. Me—and you.
Aren’t you grateful?”

“And she thinks she can really get Ariel into the American Girls’ Club?
But she can’t be certain of it, of course. Aren’t they pretty exclusive
down there?”

Mrs. Weyman answered in all good faith. She did not dream how much at
cross purposes they had gotten in the last few seconds, she and her son.
“Yes. They have to be exclusive, of course. Or they’d be overrun with
immigrants. But Ariel’s parents were both American citizens. And morally
she’s all right,—what’s termed in those places, ‘A good girl.’ So I
think Joan can manage it. She can manage most things, you know. I’ll let
Ariel help with Grandam to-day—since Miss Peters really insists on
going—and by to-night you’ll have found a suitable woman. But I’m afraid
you’ll have to get a later train, Hugh, for I do need you to do the
persuading with Grandam. She’ll listen to you. She’ll have to. Why, it
wouldn’t be safe to let her depend on Ariel for care.”

Here Ariel returned. She stood in the doorway and almost burst into song
in Hugh’s direction. “I can’t go into town with you after all! _I’ve got
a job._ The job I told you about. And it’s already begun.”

Hugh went toward her. “Mother has just told me about it. Is it a job you
really like, Ariel? Think you want to give it a try?”

Ariel treated those questions as humor. “Isn’t it wonderful!” she cried.
“Oh, I’m the luckiest girl!”

Hugh appeared to be joining in her transports. Mrs. Weyman was astounded
by the inexplicable right-about-face in Hugh’s attitude she saw taking
place before her eyes.

He was actually saying “I congratulate you. I think you’ll see it
through too,—be a grand nurse and companion, and be as independent as
blazes right up to the day of your picture exhibition, Ariel. After
that, we’ll see what next. But now it appears to be just a matter of
marking time.”

Ariel was standing directly in morning sunlight, where it made a fan on
the floor and laced the door jambs with light. Was she on her toes, just
hovering? It was only for an instant, and might have been illusion
caused by too much white sunlight, but to him she was a spirit dancing
on winter air—as her father would see her, were he here in the Weyman
dining room instead of way off in that dream loggia with the dream
butterflies over the dream sea. Her body seemed elongated, taller with
its upward lift. She was reaching out her arms, not toward the snowy air
and the sky, however, but simply to take the coat and pocketbook which
Hugh had picked up for her from the chair where she had tossed them
before breakfast in readiness for train-catching.

All that Mrs. Weyman felt was that Ariel was pleased over having stolen
a march on herself and Hugh. Then the unaccountable girl was gone.

“Aren’t you a little unreliable, Hugh? You appeared to agree with me
that the whole thing was nonsense. Then, right on top of that, you
congratulated Ariel! Are you or are you not going up to Grandam now and
straighten her out as to what she can and can’t do.”

“I’d rather say _not_. I think we can trust Grandam to go lightly with
Ariel, though it is rather whimsical of her! Not so inappropriate
though, once you get used to the idea. There’s something goddess-like
about Grandam. So she can do with lovely service. And it’s better,
worlds better, than Macy’s and the American Girls’ Club, all thanks to
Joan just the same for her interest—in us.”

“You’re behaving weirdly! But Ariel won’t last with Grandam a week, so
in the end it won’t matter. Anyway, now I can invite people to dinner
without wondering what’s to be done with the child.”


Sunday. A gray dismal afternoon at Wild Acres. Mrs. Weyman was driving
with friends to New York to hear a Philharmonic concert.

Suddenly Hugh, who had passed up the concert, put down the mystery story
he had intended to substitute for it and went, three steps at a time, up
to the attic apartment. He wanted society—Grandam’s and Ariel’s—and
perhaps to sit down at Grandam’s piano and play the mists away from
heart and mind. Yesterday, while he was lunching a man at the Waldorf,
the orchestra had played something of César Franck’s which Hugh had
never heard before. He thought he could remember bits of it, work them
out for Grandam this afternoon. Hugh was musical in a temperamental,
totally undisciplined way, and for years past he had played only for
Grandam or himself. Not even his mother could persuade him. But,
somehow, Ariel’s presence wouldn’t matter to him a bit, he knew. Or
rather it would matter. The very thought of her listening made his
fingers want the keys.

Wood smoke mingled with the smell of the violets which bloomed
perpetually in the glass bowl by the daybed. This mixture of smells had
lifelong association for Hugh. It meant understanding and an atmosphere
of exquisite harmony between two human beings. Grandam was draped in a
red shawl—the red of wild poppies in June fields—and lying in the long
chair under the western windows. Ariel was kneeling on the floor by her
side, and they were reading from a book resting on the arm of the chair,
“The Oxford Book of English Verse.”

Ariel got up when Hugh came in. She looked strange to him, for a minute,
because of a new frock she was wearing. It was the color of wood smoke,
or dim violets. It was, Hugh thought, the mingled smell of violets and
wood smoke run into color and form. It fell in soft pleats from a silver
piping at the base of her throat, was gathered in at her waist by a
silver cord, and from there, still thickly pleated, hung in dense thick
chiffon folds down almost to her ankles. With it she was wearing the
low-heeled silver slippers that went with her green evening frock, and
silver stockings.

So Grandam had already dressed her serving-maid in these first days of
her service. Hugh recognized the material instantly as having come from
one of Grandam’s most notable scarfs, a great square of loveliness with
which he had been familiar from boyhood.

“You’ve come to play, Hugh! Well, I wanted music. Ariel ought to run out
and get the air. I’ve been working her rather hard.”

But Ariel cried, “Not a bit of it! It’s wonderful up here, Hugh!”

“Don’t I know! But have you been out of doors since you began the job?
No? Well, then Grandam’s right and you’d better run along now. If you
drove a car I’d offer you the roadster—” But he was disappointed, all
the same. He really wanted her there, with himself and Grandam—and
music. Then Rose knocked on Grandam’s door and interrupted their
discussion of what Ariel’s outing should be. “A telephone for Mr.
Weyman.”

While Ariel knelt again beside Grandam to finish “The Forsaken Merman,”
he went down to his mother’s room to take the message on the extension
telephone there. Joan was on the wire. And she surprised him by asking
at once, “Is Ariel Clare still at Wild Acres with you, Hugh?”

“Yes. Of course.” Did she think she was at the American Girls’ Club or
the Working Girls’ Home? he asked himself.

“She’s there now, this afternoon? All right. I’m bringing Michael over.
He wants to see her.”

“Well, that will be all right. I’ll tell her.”

The receiver at the other end went up smartly. Thoughtfully, Hugh put
his own instrument back on the table. What next? Well, it was quite in
the course of things, he supposed, that Schwankovsky, having discovered
from Frye or from Joan that the artist’s daughter was at Wild Acres,
wanted to meet her. Hugh didn’t know why he had not thought of that
probability when his mother at dinner had given him the information that
Schwankovsky was week-ending at Holly. It was only Joan’s voice which
puzzled him. So unnaturally crisp. Hugh didn’t believe for an instant
that Joan was taking the trouble to keep up the pretense of being put
out with him for his behavior at Schwankovsky’s the other night. But
obviously she was put out about something.



                              Chapter XVI


“You want to discuss the exhibition with Ariel? She’ll be down in a
minute.” Hugh shook hands with Michael Schwankovsky and lighted Joan’s
cigarette for her.

“The exhibition! No, not at all. It’s already entirely arranged for, and
will be a magnificent success. Mr. Frye has given me _carte blanche_. It
is the dancer I would see, not the lady who is to become rich from the
sale. Yes, here to look with my own eyes on the soul of the paintings,
the dancer herself. I palpitate for one glimpse of that spirit.... When
you spoke to me of the exhibition, Mr. Weyman, at my house the other
night, I did not know that the dancer was in this country, much less
your guest. I knew nothing of your connection with the affair whatever.
But can it be true? She is really here?” He turned in a full circle, his
glance, his hands, sweeping the library with an amazed gesture. “In
these bourgeois surroundings! _Mon Dieu!_ But how is it done? Have you
stuck a pin through her head, Mr. Weyman? Is she mounted on cardboard?”

Hugh chose to treat this, as he hoped it was intended, humorously.
“Gregory Clare was my friend,” he explained what he had not been allowed
a chance to explain at Schwankovsky’s house. “Naturally, I am delighted
that you are interesting yourself in his work. But I do not quite
understand why your enthusiasm should extend itself to his daughter whom
you do not know.”

“_Do not know!_ But remember that I _do_ know the pictures! Ha!” The
huge Russian snatched from his breast pocket a very small flat jade
case, snapped it open, extracted a minute, orange-colored cigarette,
which he stuck into a very long black holder, and began to smoke
ferociously. Out of the astonishing clouds which at once began to drift
from his quivering and expansive nostrils his voice growled and
reverberated huskily.

“Can one see the pictures and not adore the dancer? But, I forget. You,
Mr. Weyman, have seen the pictures, I understand, without allowing
yourself to become at all disturbed by their beauty. You have even seen
the painter himself. Seen him once plain! Alive! In the flesh! Even
called him ‘Friend’! But from you who has ever heard a word of his great
art? How is this? Ha! He had to wait and wait and wait until he was
dying and a little trifler with art, this little Mr. Frye, came along
and thought the paintings pretty. And it is this little dabbler, this
no-account would-be painter, who consoles the dying genius, who promises
that his life’s work shall be shown, shall be recognized. While you, who
knew him for years—Joan says it has been many years—your part has been
kindly, oh, so very, very kindly, to take his daughter, the divine child
of his muse, and employ her as a servant in your household. But you may
intend kindness. One never knows. The certainty is that you are blind.
Your perception of beauty is dead or never existed.... I,—I have come to
see the dancer.”

“Michael! You’re being outrageous. Hugh, he’s not responsible. Don’t
even notice him. He sometimes gets this way.”

Joan was up, moving about restlessly. Suddenly she stopped, swung about,
put a hand on Schwankovsky’s arm.

“Michael!” she spoke as to a sleepwalker, cautiously but firmly. “Wait
till you see your dancer. You may find that all this excitement is sheer
waste, that Hugh is right, and Ariel is quite ordinary. Besides, she
isn’t exactly a servant here. You misunderstood me. She’s a
companion-nurse. There’s quite a little difference.”

Schwankovsky shook off the quieting hand. “Companion-nurse!” he
bellowed. “Good God!” Joan backed away from him, more disconcerted at
his having ignored her hand than by his tone. Schwankovsky, seeing her
expression, obviously made some effort to be more peaceful. “Forgive me,
Joan, my dear. You see I forgot that _you_ had not yet seen the
paintings. You’d know, if you had, what Mr. Weyman has no excuse for not
knowing, that it is madness and folly to pretend that the dancer is a
‘companion-nurse.’ She simply isn’t anything of the sort. She’s the
inspiration, soul, I can say it, of the greatest artist of our times.
She’s the germinating force within the outward and visible expression of
his art. And this force, this _Imagination_, inherent in all true art,
has nowhere else that I know of ever taken form and showed itself
through the actual medium—of paint, or music, or sculpture. So here we
have the unique, the unheard-of. Imagination made visible! In Ariel,
dancing.—But where is she? Why doesn’t she come?”

She was already there, in the doorway.

“Ha!” The Russian charged lumberingly upon her, and fell, kneeling, by
her silver slippers. Grabbing up her hands he kissed them,—the palms,
the backs. Hugh cried, but inaudibly, “Why doesn’t Ariel box his ears?”
Joan languidly sank into a chair, lighting a fresh cigarette.

“Well, Ariel,” she drawled. “The bear there on the rug is Mr. Michael
Schwankovsky. Allow me to present him.”

Schwankovsky bounded up,—turned on Joan. “A totally unnecessary waste of
breath,” he expostulated, and seized Ariel’s hands again. “This divine
child and I have known each other before the creation of the world. It
was she who taught my soul the existence of form while it was yet chaos.
‘Ariel.’ Why did they name you that? It isn’t good enough. But then, you
should be nameless. There _is_ no name.”

Hugh asked of Joan in a low voice, with genuine concern, “Is it all
right? Has he been drinking?”

Joan laughed, but mirthlessly. “Not a bit of it! He’s merely been a
little put out with me lately, and this is the reaction. He couldn’t
take it in why I hadn’t told him Ariel was here. But how could I dream
he’d be interested? That it meant anything to him? And why, in heaven’s
name, Hugh Weyman, didn’t you tell me that he had seen the Clare
pictures and was exhibiting them? I don’t understand your secretiveness.
It wasn’t like you. It was horrid.”

“But you were away. And I thought you knew, of course. I thought it was
you yourself, Joan, who had got the old duffer interested. I was awfully
grateful to you. I tried to tell you _how_ grateful when we danced,
remember? I went over there that night all primed to bless you, and
thank you, for what I supposed, of course, you’d done.”

Joan looked away. She was pale, he noticed, and there were fine lines
around her mouth and between her eyes. Nerves. But he had never before
seen her destitute of the glow of complacency. It took him aback. “If
only I had seen the pictures!” she murmured. “I would have talked them
up to Michael. That goes without saying. He’d be the logical person,
obviously. But you scarcely mentioned them, Hugh. And then Charlie
Frye—the fact of _him_ sponsoring them! That threw me off, naturally.
How could I suspect that he’d stumbled on something really good? I was
absolutely in the dark. And it was you who kept me there.”

“But I—” Hugh began. He was tempted to remind her how he had brought her
“Noon,” the painting which Clare himself, dying, considered his
masterpiece, and that she had laughed at it. But he did not want to
distress her any more than she was already distressed, and so he
hesitated and looked away toward Ariel.

She and the Russian were sitting facing each other on the little gilt
sofa before the windows. They were in profile to the room, knee to knee.
In fact, Ariel’s hands were palm upwards on the big man’s knees, while
his own huge hairy hands held them there. Hugh had no excuse to
interfere, for Ariel seemed contented. He caught words now and then from
their hurried, eager talk: _Gregory Clare_ ... _Clare_ ... _Father_ ...
_Gregory_ ... _Genius_ ... _Studio_ ... _Beauty_ ... _Art_ ... _Color_
... _Sunlight_ ... _Love_ ... _Shells_ ... _Life_ ... _Father_ ...
_Shells_ ... _Wind_ ... _Death_ ... _Genius_....

Joan smoked cigarettes rapidly, lighting one from another, as Anne
sometimes smoked but Joan seldom, and flicked the ashes onto the rug by
her chair, for Hugh had neglected to provide her with an ash tray. He
remained, with head turned, listening, as she too was listening, to the
rough, deep voice mingling with the flattened, clear tones, over by the
windows.

“What are you thinking?” Joan asked suddenly, but softly. What she
really meant was, “Why don’t you look at me? Listen for my voice, not
Ariel’s? You are thinking about me, only me, aren’t you? It would be
strange if you weren’t.”

Hugh answered her spoken question dryly. “Beauty and the beast! An
obvious and unescapable thought, don’t you agree?”

“Hugh!” She barely moved her lips to whisper the name. But although
scarcely breathed, it was heavy with intended significance. He turned to
her like a shot. Their eyes met. Hers darkened under his gaze, and the
eyelids drooped, while her lips softened, opening just perceptibly. It
was the old call, more sudden and direct than usual, and more
unexpected, given the time and the place,—but effective. Flame glared
against the blackness in Hugh’s suddenly quenched mind. His heart began
its obedient thundering gallop....

Came a crash! The grizzly over by the windows had suddenly sprung to his
feet, turning over a small table in the act. A china box and a marble
figurine lay smashed to bits on the polished floor. Both the marble and
the box were cherished, valuable possessions of Mrs. Weyman’s; but
Schwankovsky’s only apology was a shrug of his great shoulders and a
humorous arching of bushy eyebrows in unwarranted surprise at the
destruction. He came rushing toward Joan and Hugh, sweeping Ariel with
him by a great arm. “She says one of the pictures is here, upstairs,” he
roared. “A picture that Clare thought the best of them all! It’s up in
Grannie’s room she says, old Grannie’s room in the attic! We forgive Mr.
Weyman his unique absence of perceptions, perhaps—but you, Joan
Nevin—_You!_” His scorn choked out his utterance.

“In Grandam’s room? Well, I haven’t seen it. I haven’t been up there for
weeks,” Joan drawled, but her cheeks were dangerously flushed.

“But they’ve had it for years, Ariel says. And you have told me about
this Grannie, my friend,—this old lady. You call on her frequently. More
than once in five years, if I remember. So you _must_ know this picture.
And you never told me, your friend!” His hands were clawing his hair.

Hugh spoke soothingly, “It’s been in the store-room until recently.
Ariel rescued it for us out of the attic. I’d put it there. So Joan
hasn’t seen it—not hung in my grandmother’s room.”

He was giving Joan her way out, if she cared to take it. She could say
now truly enough that she had never seen “Noon” hung, and in a good
light.

But Joan did not take advantage of the way out Hugh had so carefully
prepared for her vanity. And Schwankovsky grew stormier. “In the attic!
You put this picture in the attic? _You_ did? And you boast of it? Then,
when Ariel finds it there, you very, very kindly let her hang it up in
Grannie’s room? Wonderful! This is too wonderful! More and more
wonderful, and still more so!”

Joan kept a silence which masked itself as amusement. As for Hugh, he
nodded, but did not pretend to be entertained by the vaudeville sketch
in bad manners which was being imposed upon them.

Let Schwankovsky think him the fool he pretended. It didn’t matter to
him in the slightest. For Hugh had never, at any period in his life, and
least of all at this minute, aspired to be considered “a man with taste”
in any sense that Schwankovsky would credit. If he had married Joan she,
like so many other American wives, would have had the responsibility for
all that sort of thing. And for the past five years Hugh had come more
and more to consider himself a business man with very little that was
æsthetic in his make-up. He acknowledged to himself now that if to-day
he should see “Noon” for the first time, there was a large likelihood
that he would not even make a stab at coming to any opinion for himself
as to whether it was good or bad. Certainly he would not be pierced to
his soul by the white light—which, then, years ago, when he was young,
had seemed to him to come from some esoteric birth of beauty behind the
light itself. So he neither blamed Schwankovsky for his choking
sputterings nor felt insulted. He had the grace to realize that five
years ago he would even have been in sympathy with him.

But although he did not really mind Schwankovsky’s rage at himself, some
unhappiness was clawing at his inner consciousness, some psychic pain,
unlocated. Was it Joan’s cool, smiling silence? Joan could and should be
defending him against this hot-tempered friend of hers, he realized. If
she began to, he would hush her up, of course; but she was not even
starting.... But perhaps it wasn’t Joan. He didn’t think it _was_. Was
it Ariel? That Ariel should be looking at him as she was now! Her hand
lay on Schwankovsky’s mammoth arm, the fingers clutched and lost in his
great fingers. That was a little sickening to Hugh. But it was her face,
its expression, which actually stabbed. Had Schwankovsky succeeded in
making Ariel believe what was, indeed, the truth—that Hugh had failed
her father?

And what did Joan expect him to do in reply to these taunts from her
friend, anyway? And why didn’t Joan laugh out loud, instead of smiling
that way? But it was Ariel who kept the drama melodramatic. She turned
on Joan.

“Why do you let your friends misunderstand each other so?” she cried.
“Why don’t you stop being amused and set Mr. Schwankovsky straight about
Hugh? Hugh liked ‘Noon’ the best of all the pictures Father had done
when he was in Bermuda. And he _bought_ it. He named his own price, and
_paid_ it. _One thousand dollars._ Hugh had four thousand dollars a year
to spend then. Father knew that. And Father thought it splendid that a
man would spend one fourth of his income on a picture. But no one goes
after beauty for himself or wants it that way. It’s for his friends as
much as himself. Hugh only put ‘Noon’ in the attic because it reminded
him that he couldn’t share it or anything else that was real to him with
you, Mrs. Nevin. No one wants to be reminded of things like that about
any one he loves. Love is more important than art, isn’t it!”

Joan assumed the appearance of looking through Ariel as through clear
glass—something that might not be there at all—but the amusement on her
lips and in her eyes turned genuine. She spoke only to Schwankovsky and
as if both Hugh and Ariel had suddenly vanished. “I’m wild to see this
picture, now that you tell me of it, Michael. And don’t be cut up about
finding it in the grandmother’s apartment. If it weren’t rather fine she
wouldn’t let it remain an instant. She has taste. Let’s go up this
minute. I’m thrilled. Ariel has been misinformed, you can see.”

Hugh stopped them. “I’ll have to get Grandam’s permission, of course.
Joan knows she’s rather strong on etiquette, and that one has to be
announced.”

But Ariel again asserted herself: “Grandam said I might take Mr.
Schwankovsky up. She knew he’d want to see ‘Noon.’ And then, if she can
have Mrs. Nevin too, I’ll come down and say so.”

When Hugh and Joan were left alone he said, by way of saying something
in the face of her disconcerting, aloof silence, “Grandam is devoted to
Ariel. She’d let her do anything she asked, I think.”

“She’s dressed her up, I notice. Quite touching of your grandmother to
be so interested, don’t you think? I do. She’s playing a game with
Ariel, I imagine. Recreating a raw personality. Even a frock like that
can’t work miracles though, and Grandam must know it in her heart. But
life must be getting rather dull for her.”

“Life is never dull for Grandam. At least, to me, she always seems to be
living at a higher rate of vibration than the rest of us.” He smiled at
an idea which leapt in his mind. “Do you know, to me, she’s something
like babies are, under two years at any rate, growing while they sleep,
while your back’s turned, changing like anything, every minute. Think
how marvelously quickly they learn terribly deep and obscure things!
what words mean, for instance, and cause and effect, and all! Grandam is
still like that,—simply rushing along into new perceptions of Life. You
and I have slowed down long ago. We feel and experience. But do we
change? I don’t, much. Not consciously, anyway. But she’s simply
absorbed and exhilarated with her processes of change! She’s—”

But Joan had turned away and was groping for a cigarette in the silver
box on the mantel above the fire, with her back to Hugh. “Oh, come!
That’s enough about your grandmother. This box is empty, drat it! I need
a cigarette.”

“I’ll get some from the library,” he offered, and was gone. As he went,
Joan turned about and looked after his back, astounded. She had thought
him almost at her shoulder—and now he was gone, like that. When he
returned she was nonchalantly settled on the gilt sofa. She waved away
the cigarette she had said she wanted. “I’ve smoked too much to-day,”
she murmured. “Much too much. I’d like to give it up altogether. It’s
become so usual, and it never was exactly a beautiful performance, a
woman smoking!”

Hugh lighted a cigarette for himself and sat down a little ways off.

“It’s rather sweet the way Ariel defended you just now,” Joan commented
absently. “Like a little guinea hen over its chick. And her startling
aphorisms! _Love is more important than art_—and—_No one goes after
beauty for himself_. Now, I ask you!”

But suddenly Joan dropped that note and began talking seriously about
Prescott Enderly. She smoothed out the fingers of her gloves as she went
on, looking from Hugh to them, from them to Hugh. And as the gloves got
smoothed, so her face. Under Hugh’s eyes it bloomed again, gradually,
with its wonted complacency.

It amused her, she told him, when very young men fell in love with her
these days. Men older than herself—sometimes even very much older—she
had come to consider more worthy game. When they were interesting at all
they had had time, you see, to become just that much more interesting.
Michael, for instance! He was over sixty. He looked much younger, of
course. But “Who’s Who” said sixty-two. It was Prescott Enderly,
however, she wanted to discuss with Hugh. The boy had become, almost
over night, something of a problem. She laughed.

“After all, middle-aged people one needn’t worry about, no matter how
desperately infatuated they appear to themselves. One notices they don’t
kill themselves for love. It’s only the very young who have the vitality
to be tragic. Don’t you agree, Hugh? If I weren’t so really fond of your
young novelist friend, I’d be diverted. He’s very dramatic.”

“This is quite new to me,” Hugh told her, as uncomfortably as she could
wish. “I thought Enderly was Anne’s beau. Didn’t know you ever saw him,
in fact, until that night here.—It was Ariel’s first night with us,
remember?”

Ariel’s first night! Joan came near to starting, as much at the voice as
at the words themselves. It had been _Joan’s_ first night, if you like,
back from her winter away, but here was Hugh identifying it by Ariel’s
coming to Wild Acres! And in that rich, low, reminiscent voice!

“Yes, that was the night I met Enderly,” she agreed. “But I’ve seen him
since, you know. Quite a lot. Didn’t I tell you that I got Mrs. Allison
to invite him to her house party in Philadelphia? He was there, very
much so, from Friday to Monday. How he gets away with it at Yale I can’t
say. And he’s at Holly now. He’s reading me all he’s got done of the new
novel to-night. Pris Larkin, by the way, is week-ending too, and your
particular friend, Brenda Loring. So come over for supper, if you like.
Brenda will bless me if you do—” She glanced up at the clock. “They’ll
be expecting us back for tea soon now! Whatever’s keeping Michael up
there all this time? It’s almost half an hour I’ve been boring you with
my conquests. What _is_ keeping Michael?”

“The picture, I should suppose. And getting acquainted with Grandam. Of
course, he’s never met any one like her before. You mustn’t mind her not
sending down for us. Schwankovsky in himself must be as taxing as a
dozen people.”

“Oh, I don’t mind.” But she got up, restlessly, and wandered, Hugh
following her, into the library. There she dropped down on the piano
bench and commenced to play some Debussy. Hugh leaned on the piano and
watched her hands. They were as strong as they were beautiful. She
asked, above the music, “Why is Michael putting himself to such trouble
to annoy me, do you suppose? It’s simply silly of you, my dear, to
suggest your grandmother as my rival.”

“Well, there’s Ariel too! He didn’t appear to be exactly indifferent to
Ariel....”

Joan’s playing gained in subtility of interpretation. “It’s funny, Hugh,
but poor old Michael is madly jealous of Enderly. Last night he was
quite boorish about it. And Pressy understood the situation perfectly.
It was rather delicious, watching, but disgraceful of Michael, all the
same. In some ways Prescott is more sophisticated than Michael. In spite
of his background and youth. Perhaps the really sophisticated mind is an
accident, like genius, and can appear out of nowhere.... Michael’s
jealousy, though, does flatter the boy. How could it not! A man like
_that_ jealous of _him_!... And now, you see, Michael thinks he’s paying
me out....” She dropped her hands from the keys.

“Come on,” she cried, jumping up. “I’ve duties to my other guests. So I
shall have to gratify Michael to the extent of using violence to drag
him home with me, I suppose. Unless he’s to walk, and he’s not so good
at walking as you are, Hugh dear!”

Hugh could only go with her. He could hardly insist that Grandam, who
had kept the noisy, ranting Schwankovsky with her for almost an hour,
was not up to saying “good afternoon and good-by” to an old acquaintance
like Joan.

But Joan was disconcerted almost to the point of awkwardness when they
discovered Schwankovsky in the middle of tea with Grandam and Ariel, and
looking as if he would like nothing better than to stay on all the
afternoon.

Ariel, as they came in, was kneeling up straight at one side of the
hearth, toasting a big slice of graham bread which in its very size and
thickness proclaimed it had been ordered by Schwankovsky for himself. At
the other side of the hearth, at Grandam’s knee, he crouched, waiting
for it, like some giant Tartar on a cushion. Her scarf, falling from a
shoulder, trailed down the giant’s back, and he had drawn the end across
a great knee. It was bright in the firelight, very bright and vital.
Ariel’s face was pure silver, and her eyes emerald green against the
flames.

When Grandam saw the new arrivals she leaned farther back in the long
chair and shut her eyes for an instant. Hugh said with quick concern,
“You are getting too tired! We don’t want tea, Joan and I. Hers is
waiting for her at home, along with a house full of guests who are
expecting her and Mr. Schwankovsky back for it.”

“Well, you will let Michael Schwankovsky finish his fourth cup here,
won’t you, Joan? Now he’s begun it? Do sit down, both of you. Ariel,
please pass the sweets to Joan and Hugh. There’s cheese, Michael
Schwankovsky, in that jar, if you like it on graham toast. Hugh, get a
cup for yourself from the tray.”

Hugh preferred to smoke,—but nothing less than a pipe this time, for he
felt Joan’s strain and confusion; and his well-worn, smooth and
beautiful meerschaum at least gave a superficial air of peace to the
gathering.

Joan sat looking over Grandam’s head to the western windows. She
observed, with something like exasperation, that even out there, far,
far in the western sky, the red-violet light of the clearing evening was
turning the very heavens into a mere extension of Grandam’s apartment.
In the smell of browning toast, the firelight, the laughter, Ariel’s
silver slippers coming and going in Grandam’s hospitality, the smoke
from Hugh’s meerschaum, and the shadows dancing on its bowl, she refused
to take pleasure.

But Schwankovsky would not let her stay out of it whether she felt at
home or not. He sprang to his feet, seized her by the elbows, pulled her
up, and walked her backwards, away from the fireplace into the center of
Grandam’s room. “You haven’t looked at ‘Noon’!” he shouted. “My Ariel
was right. It is the jewel of them all. I admit it. Clare didn’t go
beyond that even in ‘The Shell.’

“But I wonder if it is well, my friend, that you are seeing the best
first! To lead up to it gradually might put less strain upon one’s
understanding of what the artist intends. What do you think of it?
Speak! Say, my friend!”

His excitement, as he watched Joan studying the picture through narrowed
eyes, was childlike in its eager expectancy. But it was a full minute
before she gave him any satisfaction. Then she merely said, with what
appeared to be a quiet sincerity, “Yes. It is _good_. What do you
suppose he used to get that tone in the white? Yet I don’t quite see the
point of the introduction of the figure. I’m distressed for the unity,
Michael.”

“No, no, no, no. See! It is like this—” The big man was off on a
technical exposition of a new, a more subtle idea of unity, as
discovered and used by Gregory Clare. “As for the way he got that
white—well, Charlie Frye has told me in the most particular detail how
Clare mixed his paints,—but only God knows how he moved the brush to get
such effects!

“But you do not expand, Joan!” he halted his dissertation to
expostulate. “You are not convinced?” Hugh was afraid that the Russian
might burst into tears.

“Oh, yes. I am convinced that here we have something really important!”
Joan admitted.

“Ha! You _do_.” He rubbed his hands. “Well, that is enough! All that I
expect from anybody for the next hundred years or so. After that, we
shall see! But there will be those, my friend, who will not admit even
so much. You are aware of the stupidity abounding, particularly here in
your New York. I should like to keep those stupid ones alive a few
centuries, though, just to show them up to themselves. They are going to
insist how the work of this painter is sentimental because of his
insistence on the introduction of the dancer. Clare sentimental! A man
who paints rocks like that, sees them like that! It is obvious that he
is as hard as the rocks he paints. Spiritually hard and firm, a
chiseled-out soul. Sound, through and through, and _formed_!
Sentimental? Pff! But we will speak only technicalities, my friend, when
they begin that rumpus. We will answer them with cold technicalities in
their own jargon—for even there we will have them. And a hundred years
from now, they’ll be groveling, eating from our hands, as it were. Not?”

Joan replied nothing, but went on viewing the painting from various
angles.

“I shall buy you one, Joan,” Schwankovsky promised her. “Not an oil,
perhaps. What you want of the finished work you will choose and invest
in, yourself. At the exhibition. There I would not influence you. But
there’s a sketch of the dancer you’d value. But no. That I must have
myself. Life would be unthinkable, lacking it! Ha! There’s a pencil
drawing of the studio itself. It is beautiful. It has a perfection. And
when one realizes that the artist lived there all his painting years,
and the dancer with him, it becomes too poignant. Perhaps I shall give
you that one, Joan. It will ravish you. You will see!”

All the while Hugh was studying Joan, with narrowed eyes, much as she
was studying “Noon.” He did not question her sincerity in praising the
work at which she had shrugged once. That one grew in appreciation as
well as in accomplishment he knew very well. But he saw that she was
still disturbed, even angry, although she sought to hide it. Hugh’s
problem was: was Joan angry with him or Ariel or her friend,
Schwankovsky, or with herself? He came to the conclusion that she was
angry with herself, and for the first time in his life he felt a motion
of pity toward this woman he loved. He wanted to say to her: “Don’t be
angry because you have grown big enough to grasp Gregory Clare’s
essential spirit. Be glad, darling! No one blames you for changing. I
have nothing to forgive you in this.”

Ah! Until this minute pity and magnanimity had been the elements lacking
in his tormenting love for Joan. Pray God now that nothing more of
poignancy be added to it until he died!


Before he could be torn from Grandam, “Noon” and the attic where he had
found an atmosphere which was an amazement and a delight to him, Michael
Schwankovsky took Ariel straight into his arms and kissed her forehead
and her lips. “We are friends, my child,” he informed her and the world
at large, “for eternity.”

And Hugh saw, somewhat against his will, that Ariel liked Schwankovsky
very much, and that his caresses neither surprised nor embarrassed her.



                              Chapter XVII


To-morrow, Saturday, Ariel (contrary to Mrs. Weyman’s predictions) would
have held her job and given satisfaction for something over a week, and
she was to have a holiday. Grandam had decided that one entire day free,
rather than the two afternoons which had been Miss Peters’, would afford
Ariel more of a break and give her a chance to begin getting acquainted
with New York. Having a job now and money of her own, she could go ahead
at this without loss of pride.

Ariel was finishing getting Grandam to bed for the night. It was nearly
midnight. “I don’t really like leaving you to-morrow,” she was
protesting. “If Mrs. Ridelle doesn’t show up in the morning I shan’t be
sorry.”

“But she always does. She never fails. And you are to get right out and
away the minute we have had breakfast. You’re free until midnight. Don’t
even come in to say good night to me. It’s a totally free day. I want it
that way. My only word of advice is, wear both your slippers home when
you do come, and be in bed at the stroke of twelve. But your overshoes
will secure the slippers.—This is probably the last snowfall we’ll have
this year.” The soft thud of big flakes sounded constantly on the glass
of the panes at the back of the faintly flowered curtains. The sound was
lovely to Ariel. It was whiteness and stillness made sensible.

But there came almost the same soft thud on the door, as Ariel was about
to pull back the curtains, open the windows and let in the snowy night.
“I can’t imagine,” Grandam murmured. “But go see.”

Ariel opened the door into the brightly lighted attic hall. Nothing
there. She stepped out, feeling eerie. Then she saw who had knocked. It
was Anne Weyman, in hat and coat just as she had come from the station,
pressed back against the wall, out of sight of Grandam’s bed. In the
glaring overhead light she looked ghastly. “Ariel Clare,” she whispered,
“I’ve got to see you. How soon can you sneak down to my room? No one but
Rose knows I’m home, and I don’t want they should. Rose said you were up
here!”

“I can’t come down at all,” Ariel whispered back. “I have to keep in
touch with Grandam’s bell, you see. I’m in Miss Peters’ place. Did you
know? But go on into my bedroom and I’ll be there in a minute. Or don’t
you want to speak to Grandam first?”

“No. Absolutely. Don’t tell her I’m here, or anything. Only hurry.”

Ariel shut the door and returned to her final night duties. “It’s
something for me. Very important,” she told Grandam. “But I can’t tell
you. You don’t mind?”

Grandam let her finish and go off to her own room without a single
question, or even any show of surprise; she was a person wise in her
incuriosities. Going, Ariel shut all the doors between herself and
Grandam. The electric bell in the side of Grandam’s bed made that
reasonably safe, and in any case it was always done.

Anne was lying across Ariel’s bed, still in her coat though her hat had
been thrown on the floor, sobbing. Ariel sat down on the edge of the bed
and tried to get her attention, but the wild sobbing only increased. She
knew nothing farther to do but to lie down beside her, throw an arm
tight around her, bulky fur coat and all, and press her cheek to the
burning, drenched one. She had never heard any one cry like this or felt
such convulsions of sobbing through a body. But her pity was more potent
than her surprise and shyness, and she pressed closer and closer,
holding Anne with a steady arm.

Then, gradually, as though quelled by that slender arm which was so
persistent in its steadiness and the cool cheek pressed against her own,
Anne’s sobbing began to die away, the convulsions to lessen, to stop
altogether. After several minutes of comparative quiet Anne disengaged
herself from Ariel’s clasp and sat up. The rouge on her cheeks, if there
had been any, was soaked away. She was white, like a Pierrot, in spite
of all her weeping. When she began speaking, the natural huskiness of
her voice was roughened by past sobs into a raspingness hardly human.

“See here, Ariel! I’ve been thinking about you, coming toward you,
wanting to get to you, hours and hours. Not any girl at Smith. Not
Mother. Nobody but you, Ariel! You are the only one who can help me and
keep me from killing myself.”

Ariel took Anne’s words literally and believed them. She knew that Anne
was here for her to save from death. Why she was the one who had to do
it, didn’t matter. It might be, however, for the simple reason that she
herself was simple enough and real enough to be able to believe in the
stark danger which threatened Anne before it had been demonstrated by
fulfillment.

Tears were streaming down Anne’s face, but she made no more noise of
crying and seemed unaware of the continuing flood. So Ariel took her own
handkerchief and wiped them as they came, while Anne stared into
nothingness. Now the minute had come when Ariel was to have it out with
Death on Anne’s account. Anne was moved away, out of the conflict. Thus
the blind stare, the stopped sobbing. And Ariel knew Death when she was
faced with it. Hadn’t she gotten thoroughly acquainted with its presence
in the studio that last week with her father, while it waited around to
make its final attack? And here it was, back again. Strong and stark as
before. However, there was some difference between Ariel’s two meetings
with the dark wings. Before, they had hovered down slowly, with every
assurance of finding a resting place in the studio, and been content to
stir and rustle from corner to corner, waiting their time. But to-night
they were not so sure of their prey, and not being sure, were insistent,
beating, angry.

Ariel could not pretend to ignore them; but she took both of Anne’s
hands in her own hands,—the hands that Doctor Hazzard had found so firm
after her first Death encounter. They were every bit as firm now. Anne
felt without doubt the strength that the doctor had felt. “What is the
matter, Anne? Tell me?”

The haggard dark eyes made an effort, focused on Ariel’s face. Then went
blank again. And in their blank-dark Ariel saw—was it a wild beating of
black wings? “Look at me!” she cried. “Anne Weyman, stop staring like
that. You’ve got to tell me what is the matter.”

Anne reacted, as if she were under hypnosis, which in fact she was. The
wings beat back and away in the depths of the brown eyes. “It’s
Prescott,” she said. “He’s ended with me.”

“What do you mean? What has happened? Go on. Tell me.” This was forced
confidence, in all conscience, and well for Anne that Ariel had no
compunction about that. Indeed, she no more hesitated in compelling
Anne’s confidence at this minute than she would have hesitated to knock
a child, in danger of drowning, unconscious in order to save it. But the
command in Ariel’s voice knocked Anne into consciousness, not out of it.
She began at once telling Ariel, coherently and with detail, everything.

“Last year,” the ragged parrot-voice croaked out, “I made up my mind to
be like other girls. I didn’t see why I wasn’t popular in the way they
were—with men, I mean. I wanted so much to be. My roommate—and she’s my
best friend, too—said it was because I was prudish. You can’t be
_prudish_ if you want invitations to fraternity dances and things. Patty
told me how she worked it. She said she’d begun herself by not being
very keen on necking, but it grew on you. So she got a few dates for me
through her dates, and I went ahead, trying her plan out. But it didn’t
work. I couldn’t pretend well enough. And then, of course, the dates
didn’t repeat. I didn’t much mind, for if popularity came that way it
wasn’t worth the price, I’d learned, you see. So I went in for Drama
instead, and compensated by trying to make my dent acting. And I got
quite happy again. Patty and I sort of drifted apart. But giving up the
ambition to be popular was like coming out of prison and I could bear
even losing Patty.

“Then all of a sudden, Ariel, the whole works went bang.... Because I
met Prescott. And I had to laugh. For how can you really let a man kiss
you so it counts, until you’re really and truly crazy for him to kiss
you? I ask you?”

This last was no mere slang phrase. Anne was seriously asking Ariel. And
Ariel replied sharply, “You can’t, of course. That’s the whole secret;
anybody knows.”

Anne laughed, if one could call it laughter. It was neither sob nor
speech, at any rate. And went on. “There’s something tremendous about
wanting to be kissed like that. You don’t know whether it’s pain or
bliss. It’s both, I guess, full up to the brim of your heart, really....
When he touched my hand, even by accident, it was like the world coming
to an end. I thought I’d die of it. And it seemed to be like that with
him too.

“Patty said I was coming along,—for I’d won back her respect again,
attracting a man like Prescott. She warned me to be careful, though. But
there has never been any danger. It was Prescott who was careful. So far
as I was concerned he could have had anything he wanted of me. Why not?
After kisses like that?

“But it didn’t affect _him_ that way I guess. Just his loving me as much
as he did was bliss. And I didn’t want him to want to marry me, after he
explained to me his point of view on marriage and I had read ‘Stephen’s
Fall,’ and all. It wouldn’t have been Prescott, you see, married
stodgily to a nice girl! I was glad he was just himself and I was
_proud_ that he could tell me frankly just how much he didn’t care for
me as well as how much he did, if you know what I mean.”

“Yes,” Ariel agreed. “I do know. Loving a person doesn’t mean wanting to
change them, even if changing them would only mean their being able to
love you better. You love them because they are the way they are....”

“Yes. And listen.—The last two days of vacation here, Prescott was
different. Toward me, I mean. If he could manage it, he wasn’t alone
with me. He’d stick around Glenn or you, or Mother. Any one! And he went
for one walk all alone. Pretended he didn’t know I was waiting for him
with my things on in the library. Just slipped out without my knowledge.

“I thought it was you that had changed him, Ariel. Imagine! But then he
did keep saying how graceful you are and what lovely hair you’ve got.
And that last morning when he went to sleep in the library—remember?
That morning I was _sure_ that he was crazy about you.

“I was pretty dumb not to see that it was Joan Nevin all the time, from
the first minute he saw her!

“When he got back to New Haven, after his visit here, he didn’t write.
He’d written every day for months. I nearly went insane watching for
mail. I wrote him at first, pretending everything was the same. But when
he wouldn’t answer, I began calling him up on long distance. He was
always out—they said. I sent telegrams too. I hadn’t any pride. Or I’d
have it one hour, decide I’d let eternal silence on my part show him how
indifferent I was, and the next _minute_, almost, I was calling long
distance again. It was wild, but I didn’t seem to have any will. Then,
to-day, I couldn’t stand it. I _had_ to see him if he was never going to
answer the telephone, never write. So I cut all my classes and went to
New Haven. I’d gone to classes right along. Even studied. Patty never
guessed anything, right in the room with me! I didn’t cry, not once.
Till you came in just now.

“I went right from the train to Prescott’s dorm. And I met him coming
out of the street door. I had meant to go right up to his room, unless
somebody stopped me. But there he was—like Fate. He took me away from
the college into the town to an awful, dirty little eating place, miles
away. It seemed miles. And all the time he talked. He said I was crazy
and he despised me for chasing him like that. He’d made love to dozens
of girls and got through with them. But not one of them had ever done a
crazy thing like coming to his dormitory and trying to throw a scene.
Girls of my sort understood how much necking meant with a man, and _how
little_. If they didn’t, he’d written a book, to help them to, hadn’t
he! If a man of his sort wanted something more serious than necking, he
didn’t usually take it with the sisters of his best friends. Or with my
kind of girl at all. He thought I’d understood that. I’d pretended to
understand, he said.

“And he talked like anything against Mother—sneered—kept saying that in
inviting him to visit us she’d tacitly admitted that she expected me to
be able to take care of myself. Or hadn’t she believed in the sincerity
of ‘Stephen’s Fall’? She had read it, hadn’t she? Well, then—and so on!
He said that she, Mother, expected to have her cake and eat it too. That
she didn’t think straight.

“He said it had come to him here at Wild Acres that in spite of Mother’s
and my stupidity, he didn’t want to go on fooling along with his best
friend’s sister any longer.

“I grabbed his hands. We were in the tearoom. They were building a house
out of matches. He has marvelous hands, do you remember? Just looking at
them stops your heart,—my heart. He pulled them away, and there mine
lay, flat, on the tablecloth. I looked at them and looked at them. They
seemed to have dropped off from my arms and be just lying there, you
know.

“He wouldn’t even look at me any more. His face was all twisted—snarly.
Loathing me. I left my hands on the table and said over and over, ‘I
love you. I love you. What has Glenn got to do with it? Or Mother? I’ll
take all the responsibility. You’re afraid, that’s what’s the matter.
You’re afraid of Glenn. And Mother. Afraid.’

“He got even angrier. He said, ‘Be quiet. Glenn Weyman’s friendship
means more to me than necking with a dozen girls like you, or a hundred.
How couldn’t it! He has a mind I respect. He’s a person. A contemporary
I value. He means something in my life and always will, I hope. And of
course, I’m not afraid of him. He isn’t the sort to let me down because
I’ve kissed his sister a few times without matrimonial intentions. Not
Glenn. Hugh’s in that class, perhaps. Hugh might raise a rumpus, even
now, when we haven’t done anything. So what if we _had_? Doesn’t that
scare _you_?’

“He said he didn’t suppose I was capable of understanding how much more
real satisfaction it was to him to spend his time with a person like
Glenn than to waste it dabbling for hours with me on the edge of a
_slough of sentimentality tainted with sensuality_. The economical and
fastidious thing, he said, was for him to take his intellectual
companionship where he could find it, with fellows like Glenn, and when
he wanted a girl he’d do what Stephen did before he lost his soul and
married the nice daughter of his president.... Yes, Ariel. He said that.

“He said, ‘If I ever do fall romantically in love, it would have to be
with a developed personality, a real woman. Some one who has a life of
her own, and to whom our passion would be just an incident of that life,
not a fulfillment. _Some one like Mrs. Nevin._’

“Then I knew. It was Joan had done it all to him. Some of the very
things he had said, she had said first, and he was just quoting. I
_knew_....

“He took a bill out of his pocketbook and pushed it all mussed up into
my hand. ‘You pay. I’m going,’ he said. I was dizzy. He hated even to
look at me. He got up and walked out of the tearoom. I hadn’t poured the
tea. The toast hadn’t been uncovered. I put the money down on my plate
and walked out too. Walking to the door was like walking in the dark. I
couldn’t see. Felt my way among the chairs. But when I got into the
street the faintness went. I must have run, for I caught up with
Prescott down the block. I took his arm. He jumped as if a leper had
come and taken his arm, almost off the curb. But I got his hand. He hit
me then, I think, and started to run. Whether there were other people on
the street or not, I don’t know. Must have been, though. After a while,
I saw a taxi driver looking at me funnily. He was drawn up by the curb.
He said, ‘Buck up. It’s a great life, kid, if you don’t weaken.’ He was
fine. I liked him. He took me to the station.

“I bought a ticket for Northampton. But I was really headed for the
Connecticut. I was crazy to get down to a place I know—a place he and I
had often been—where the water is deep, and I could slide off into the
blackness under the ice. I didn’t think of Mother or Glenn or Hugh or
Grandam or Patty or any one. I didn’t even think about death. I only
wanted to slip off under the ice.

“But sometime, after a long time, you came, Ariel, like a picture on the
air. You, and your green feather! I remembered how you had lost your
father. I’d never taken it in before, but I did then, on the train. You
had lost him and I had lost Prescott. And then for the first time I knew
that I was crazy, and that my wanting to get into the black water was
part of the craziness. But your green feather was not part of it. It was
the other direction, away from craziness. I don’t understand about that.
But it was the Connecticut for me, or to go where the green feather was.

“So I came home on the first train. And now the craziness has gone....
Every word I’ve said to you, Ariel, has been driving it away. Just
looking at you drives it away. But I don’t see where your feather comes
in, do you? Is it still on your hat? Safe in the closet? There’s
something—_deep_—about that, that I don’t see....”

Again Ariel wiped the tears from Anne’s face; for although she had come
back into occupation of her mentality, she was still almost beyond
physical sensation, and did not even know she was crying.

“Let’s say our prayers,” Ariel said. “That’s all we can do. I don’t
understand about the green feather any more than you. But God is in it
somewhere—and my darling father, for it’s father’s feather. Persis and
Nicky think it’s a magic feather—but I guess there’s something better
than magic about it now.... Deeper ... though we _don’t_ understand.”

They knelt beside the bed.



                             Chapter XVIII


Anne was waked by Ariel putting the breakfast tray down on the bed
beside her.

“Hello. It’s morning. This is my day off, Anne, and I’m going for a long
walk up towards Scarborough. If you want to slip out with me and walk
too, nobody would know, it’s so early, and then you could get back to
college this afternoon, couldn’t you? Want to do that?”

“But when did you get up? Have you had your breakfast? You’re a good
bedfellow, Ariel. You didn’t stir all night.”

“Well, neither did you, or I wasn’t awake to know if you did. I had
breakfast with Grandam. But I haven’t told her that you’re here, since
you asked me not to. Rose maneuvered this tray for me. She’s a good
sport, isn’t she! Grandam is too. She must wonder who came to the door
last night.”

“You’re a good sport yourself now that we’re on the subject, Ariel. A
darned good one.... Many thanks.”

It was still snowing. But one couldn’t believe in the reality of it,
somehow: April was so close behind. This was a mere flurry in her face,
ephemeral. The whole landscape was ablow with snow clusters, like
flowers, like the flowers on Grandam’s curtains masking the night from
her room. So this flower-blowing-curtain shut out spring.

Why Anne was pushing her way through this dream of snow blobs, shoulder
to shoulder with Ariel, on a tramp up the Post Road, she hardly knew. It
was Ariel’s will that was motivating her, perhaps. She felt that Ariel’s
will—or somebody’s, not her own anyway—had steered even her dreams last
night. And hadn’t Ariel undressed her, and brushed her hair and put her
to bed like a baby? Anne thought that she had. And she was still giving
the same sort of service.

For the first hour, or more, the girls scarcely spoke. Anne did at one
time call, “Wait a minute, Ariel. I’ve got snow in my ankle.” And Ariel,
who had not noticed that Anne had dropped back, turned and retraced her
steps to her.

And soon after that Ariel had exclaimed, “There’s a wood road! Look how
the boughs are tangled over it. It’s like a white cloister! Where do you
suppose it goes?” They had followed it, thrilled, up hill through woods
until it ended in a high meadow of trackless snow. It may have
disappointed Ariel, that snow meadow, after the mysterious woods, but it
brought a kind of psychic relief to Anne. Its bare expanse simplified
her, was the last touch to Ariel’s own simplifying influence. Silently,
with something of the snow’s own silence, they returned to the road and
trudged on and on, like two sturdy ponies.

Anne began to be aware that with every increase of weariness to her
trudging legs and feet a bit of mental misery petered out, got dropped
off. Her mind, after a while, even began to function again. Since the
moment when Prescott had struck her—and run away from her on the New
Haven street, her mind had played almost no part in her actions, at
least her conscious mind hadn’t. As she went on beside silent Ariel,
suddenly, unaccountably, she recalled an incident of one of her summers
at the shore. She was at the extreme outer edge of a dock when a sloop
emerged from thick fog before her very face, as if it had taken its form
and motion from the mists themselves. And now it seemed to her that her
thoughts—the vehicle, that is, that made up her thought-feeling-self—was
such a sloop, sailing toward her out of a foggy nothingness, coming
clear, taking shape. But then there must be something else, something
detached from self, that could see self returning—and indeed, something
for self to return to. Any instant now the two would merge. The sloop
would slide alongside the dock, and self would step into self. And when
she did join this self, taking form and moving swiftly upon her now
after absence, would she lose the present sense of detachment? Would she
be whole again—less of self-consciousness and more of self?

But by now physical weariness had increased to a point which seemed
final. If she dragged her feet another step forward through the sticky
snow her legs would snap off at the hips. She came to a dead halt, too
exhausted even to get onto the side of the road out of the path of
possible motors. “Ariel!” she called. “I’m done up. Now what do you
want? What’s next?”

Anne’s tone and the words themselves sounded hopeless, and certainly her
physical self was hopeless. But in the instant of giving in to sheer
physical defeat she had also given in to an eerie kind of delight of the
spirit. She knew that good was coming, coming, coming, creaming up
toward her from every side into a surf of light in her heart.

Ariel turned back to her. “I’m tired too,” she confessed. “How far have
we come, do you suppose? Where are we?”

“A hundred miles or so, and we can’t be any distance at all from
Scarborough, if it’s still on the map and not taking a holiday. If we
can win on to that burg we can get a snack to eat and then catch a local
to New York. But why aren’t there any automobiles out? Too thick a
storm? If we could get picked up! What was exactly your idea, anyway, in
this form of recreation, Ariel? I’m just begun to get brains enough to
inquire into it.”

“I don’t know, myself,” Ariel murmured. “Only, after last night, you
know, I had to walk, run, or swim. It was the only way to—to uncoil it
from me. Let’s start on and pray for a motor to come along, a kind one.”

But very soon they got their second wind. Their legs still felt that
they might break off at hip or knee, but this had gradually become only
an interesting sensation, for their bodies as units began to discount
the thousands of separate fatigue messages sent by separate nerves and
had grown beautifully light. The girls were moving ahead now—on, on, on,
with no need to whip up their wills. If they should learn that they must
walk on like this until night they would not rebel. And they began
talking as freely as without effort they walked.

“I know what you mean about uncoiling it—all that last night’s stuff,”
Anne exclaimed. “Every step uncoils me. But I feel, Ariel, as if my feet
must leave a trail of slimy sticky awfulness behind me in the snow. Only
why should you need to uncoil, Ariel? You weren’t going to slide down
into the dark water to slip out under the ice. _You_ hadn’t separated
from yourself.”

“No. But you’d always horrified me a little. I felt that you were
trapped in some dangerous, dreadful way, when I first saw you. And last
night it all got real for me. It’s more than as if you’d told me, Anne.
It’s as if I’d been in your trap with you and had wanted to die too—and
all. I can’t explain myself. But it’s all uncoiling now, every step we
take, and the snow is blotting it up. Don’t you feel it?”

“Life is strange, isn’t it!” Anne observed, with as fresh a wonder as
though the idea itself were fresh. “Do you know, I hardly was aware of
_you_ at all during vacation except toward the last, when I hated you
so. Before that I only thought of you in your relation with Hugh. I
thought it a pity you weren’t colorful enough to make some sort of a
stab at cutting Joan out with him. Not colorful! Stupid, even! Imagine!
And now I know that you’re the best thing in the Weyman family, except,
possibly, Grandam. But you and Grandam might be sisters. No, not
family—race! You are beings of the same race. That’s it. The angel
race.”

“Oh, hush! How idiotic!” Ariel wasn’t flattered. She was humiliated.

“Ariel! Have you ever been in love?”

“Yes. As much as you....”

“As much? But not like me, I know. You’ve never been lost. You haven’t
been what Prescott said I was—eaten into by love as though love was a
cancer and a destruction. He said that the people who let it take them
like that were disgusting slaves, and not worth anybody’s loving. He was
right. My love was cancerous, not beautiful. You know, yourself. You saw
it without understanding it and you say it horrified you. Then no wonder
Prescott was put off by it. But it’s not like that with you. I can sense
things as well as you can, you see! You’ve stayed yourself, kept the
integrity of your personality. And your pride. I know it. You’re pure,
clear like a diamond. And by ‘pure’ I mean your will is untouched.
Unsmirched. Diamond-hard and diamond-clean. Aren’t I right?”

Ariel responded nothing. And after a while Anne went on, urging her
confidence: “Do you suppose Joan and Prescott have something alike in
them? They’re both so finished, complete in themselves! That’s the sort
of person real people love, isn’t it! How can you expect to be loved if
you’re not living your own life but all the time trying to break through
into another person’s life instead? That’s what I’ve been trying to do
with Prescott. He said so. If I’d any authentic life of my own, then he
mightn’t have got scared at my loving him too much. I wouldn’t have such
terrifying potentialities for being a limpet.... And isn’t that the
trouble between Joan and Hugh! I bet it is! She’s complete, finished
without him. Authentic! And Hugh—Poor dear! He’s always trying to break
through into that authentic, completed circle. If he’d only make a
circle of his own and then loop it on to hers, there might be a chance
for a happy relation between them. But what he’s concentrating on is not
the harmony in his own psyche, but to storm the harmony in hers. He
isn’t fit for love—and I’m not going to pity Hugh now any more than I
pity myself, please God. Neither of us is fit to be loved, or we would
be.”

But then she noticed Ariel’s face, and was silenced as if by a
thunder-clap, although Ariel’s face was as quiet as a stone and shut
like a stone. Still, Anne was awed or frightened—she didn’t know
which—into sudden silence.

After a while Ariel begged, as if Anne hadn’t so carefully shut up, as
if she had gone right on with this subject of Hugh and Joan for the last
completely silent half mile or so, “Don’t say such things about Hugh.
They aren’t so at all. But, oh, Anne! Let us never try to break through
and lose ourselves in any one—unless God. That’s the way to be free.
Let’s run.—Let’s never be slaves—”

Hand in hand the two girls went plunging along the road until they
staggered to a stop, winded. Then, laughing, breathlessly, they kissed
each other on the mouth, kissed through the snow, their faces soaked and
cold with the snow-flower blobs.



                              Chapter XIX


Hugh, who had failed in an effort to discover Ariel’s whereabouts on her
first “Saturday off” and make a real holiday for her in New York as he
had intended, spoke for the following Saturday by the middle of the
week. But he was too late. It was already promised to Joan. This
surprised him and made him uneasy. He had lost his hope for Joan’s
sympathy with Ariel days ago, and now he was past desiring it. For Ariel
and Joan, he had come to see, were essentially antithetical. Ariel had
been wiser than he in knowing it from the beginning. So it gave him no
particular pleasure to learn that Joan was taking Ariel to a Boston
Symphony concert, and afterwards to dine at Michael Schwankovsky’s.

Even in Grandam’s apartment it was not easy to see much of Ariel. For
when he went up there, evenings, she tactfully left him alone with his
grandmother. Monday night when he had protested, “But I’ve come to see
you too,” she had surprisingly explained that she wanted to write a
letter to Anne and would come back if she finished it. But she had not
come back. And why was she writing to Anne? So far as Hugh knew, Anne
had paid literally no attention to Ariel at all when Hugh had wanted her
to, during the holidays.

Of Joan these days it appeared that he could see as much as he liked,
but in most unsatisfactory ways. He found himself hovering on the edges
of her hospitality to watch her dance and gossip with her
kaleidoscopically shifting groups of intimates. From an entire evening
spent in thus shadowing her he might be the richer for only one or two
alluring but enigmatical glances, or if he was supremely lucky, a few
minutes of one-sided intercourse, when Joan drew him out about his
business and his own progress, and he waked too late to realize that he
had not entered into her world of interests nor been encouraged to do
so.

To stay away from her altogether would be best. How often he had come to
this conclusion! But he was incapable of counting the cost of his love;
or at least incapable of acting frugally, once he had counted it. If
Joan wanted his friendship, she should have as much of it as she
requested. And who would not rather die of starvation one day than go
all one’s life without an appetite?

While hungering for Joan, Hugh thought much of Ariel. The time when she
had been a responsibility peculiarly his seemed passing. For Grandam,
Schwankovsky, and now even Joan appeared, suddenly, all inside of a few
days, ready, even eager, to assume it on their own accounts. And twice
already since Monday Hugh had seen Anne’s writing on envelopes addressed
to Ariel.

One morning in the next week, Hugh called Brenda Loring on the telephone
from his office to invite her to lunch with him. This girl, who from his
first meeting with her had made it plain that he interested her, was an
interior decorator with an astonishing vogue, considering her age and
experience. It was only two or three years since she had graduated from
Vassar, and already she had palatial offices of her own on Fifth Avenue,
a dozen or more eager assistants, and an income which must be several
times the size of Hugh’s. Joan had had a hand in her success. But Miss
Loring had been worthy of that patronage, and now she was beyond need of
it.

Hugh could not fail to be gratified by the pleasure which colored Miss
Loring’s voice when she discovered what he wanted of her, and by her
quick acceptance of his luncheon invitation, given in spite of the fact
that she must break a previously made engagement. He had been rather
driven to seeking feminine companionship to-day because he was feeling
particularly lonely and at loose ends. The reasons were various and not
all of them plain even to himself. The uppermost one seemed to be,
however, that it was Ariel’s birthday and that everybody appeared to
have known it, except himself. Joan had, at any rate, and she had
bargained with Grandam for Ariel to have a half-holiday in which to
celebrate it. A party had been arranged and Hugh not been included. Joan
had made an attempt at explaining this anomaly by telling him that the
party was really Schwankovsky’s whole plan and expense, and that she was
not in a position to suggest the guests.—And now Hugh was taking Miss
Loring to lunch.

He went to her offices to pick her up and suggest that she choose the
restaurant. At once she said, “The Jade Swan.” It was in the Village,
she explained, but rather beyond anything the Village had ever produced
before.

“Magnificent, in fact. Every one’s trying it, but it will be my first
try, Hugh. I’m going to call you Hugh, now that you’ve at last begun to
bother about me, and of course I’m Brenda. And let’s have a table in the
balcony where we can see the whole circus. There’ll be plenty of
celebrities to stare at. Writers—artists—editors. But just the terribly
successful ones. The other sort couldn’t afford it, poor dears!”

There were only half a dozen tables in the balcony, and Hugh and his
guest were lucky in securing the last of these. It stood against the
railing and afforded a view of the entire main floor of the restaurant.
All the tables down there were already occupied in spite of the newness
of the place, except one in the very center, which had the appearance of
being reserved for some particularly festive occasion. For while the
other tables all had their centerpieces of poets’ narcissus, this table
flaunted a big shallow jade bowl filled with orchids and white roses.

“That little bouquet cost somebody a fortune,” Brenda murmured. “And
it’s not only expensive. It’s lovely. It’ll be interesting to see whom
it’s to honor.”

And almost simultaneously Hugh knew who had ordered it and in whose
honor, for Schwankovsky’s big voice boomed under the balcony beneath
their feet, and he and his party entered from the street. Ariel and
Joan, and a frail blond young man, made up the group.

“I didn’t know. Honestly I didn’t know they were coming here,” Hugh
exclaimed.

His companion laughed merrily. “But of course you didn’t. Did you think
I was suspecting you of shadowing Joan Nevin, dear fellow? Wasn’t it I
who chose the place?”

Joan had seated herself facing the balcony; but in spite of the
concentrated gaze of all the balcony lunchers on herself and her friends
she did not look up or appear to be aware that there was a balcony. Hugh
realized, as freshly, almost, as if he had never done so before, how
distinguished and unusual as well as beautiful Joan was. Her face glowed
with a purpose and light no other face in that crowded room possessed.
Perhaps it was the effect of the brilliant large eyes set wide under the
coppery-winged sweep of her brows. To-day the burnished hair was
concealed under a purple hat so _à la mode_ that not a glimmer of it
showed at brow or cheek. Few women could wear a hat so daring as that
and preserve at the same time a radiant and feminine beauty. And when
Joan spoke, leaning across the table toward Ariel, her lips moved with
such beauty of precision that one, without need to hear, knew that her
enunciation was perfect.

“Heavens! Joan Nevin is a stunning creature,” Brenda ejaculated, all her
special gift of taste behind the generous words. “So it’s the great
Michael Schwankovsky who invested in the floral piece. Well, if any one
in New York can afford it with the stock market what it is, I suppose he
can. Big blustering Midas! And it’s Joan he’s blustering around to-day.
But that’s quite on the books, isn’t it? The little man, the poor dear,
is Charlie Frye. Nobody of any importance, but amiable, and surprisingly
often seen in company with the great. The other person—” Brenda assumed
her lorgnette, a property she used with discretion and undeniable
distinction for one so young,—“The other person—Lady? Child? Flapper?
Russian Princess? Can’t make out _what_ she is, and I don’t know who she
is. Funny.”

“That’s Ariel Clare. And the party’s in her honor, not Joan’s. Because
it’s her birthday,” Hugh informed his companion—diffidently.

Ariel, thin of cheek and shoulders, emerging with Frye’s help at this
instant from her coat of a princess, was pale and small in contrast with
the radiant Joan. Meager. Thin. Grandam was certainly—Hugh was sure of
it—letting her work far too hard. And so this was Charlie Frye!

But what was Brenda Loring saying with so much animation as she waved a
presumptuously impatient waiter back from Hugh’s elbow. “Not really!
Ariel Clare! The dancer! But how too deliciously interesting to have
this early view of her, ahead of the mob. Getting within radius of Joan,
though, is as good as being behind the scenes, isn’t it! She’s so
frightfully in on everything! But this time you’ve beat Joan. You know
the model intimately. She works for you, doesn’t she? Joan’s awfully
entertaining on the subject. She declares it’s so typical—your keeping
the girl on in that position at Wild Acres now that Schwankovsky himself
is her patron, and the exhibition’s going to make her famous. Joan
thinks your Philistinism delightful. But of course you’re not so
insensible as Joan fondly imagines! I should see through you!”

Joan was talking to the blond young man, while he visibly gloried in her
radiance. “But the radiance is all in herself,” Hugh thought, looking
down on the scene, and for once in his life thinking about Joan
objectively, as a stranger might. Ever since she had come into the
restaurant it had been as if he were at a play, and the four people
sitting around the center table down there the players, to criticize
impersonally and make what one could of. “Yes, that radiance is all
enclosed. It doesn’t light Frye’s way to her, help him forward. It’s not
sympathy. Not really. Now Ariel, although she’s silent and no one is
looking at her, throws a radiance out from herself, all about her. She
stays dim. One hardly thinks of her. But if Frye turned now from Joan to
her, he’d find an illumination in the air between them. _Sympathy_.”

He speculated about Schwankovsky. Had he tenderness for Ariel’s self,
which was so poignantly accessible? Or was it merely self-dramatization
in the big creature that had thrown him to his knees at her feet when
she came into the drawing-room at Wild Acres that Sunday afternoon?
Well, if he had been genuine then—and Hugh thought he was probably much
too egocentric for that to be possible—his enthusiasm seemed to have
dwindled since, for he had looked only at Joan all this time, listened
to her speaking first to Ariel, then to Frye, openly absorbed in her and
proud of her. Hugh wondered what he meant to do with Ariel the rest of
the afternoon, now that he had usurped her birthday, if this was the
extent of his interest in her. “I’ll excuse myself and go down and find
out,” he decided. “Perhaps they’ll hand her over to me after lunch.
She’ll like seeing the office, I think, and our view of the Battery. She
can wait while I finish up the absolutely necessary business, and then
we can walk in the Park, or go to an exhibition, or do anything she’d
like. Joan and Schwankovsky can’t, after all, enjoy playing around with
any one so simple and outside all their interests! My taking her on will
be a relief to them, I imagine.”

But with the next breath his plan and his hope were shattered. For
Schwankovsky suddenly turned to Ariel, until now so unnoticed beside
him, and put his great, hairy hand close down on hers, which lay on the
white cloth, and they smiled at each other. It was over in an instant
but it told Hugh all that he had doubted of understanding and sympathy
between those two. Hugh perceived now—turned almost clairvoyant for the
instant—that although Schwankovsky might look at Joan and listen to her,
world without end, Ariel was all the while in his heart, and that he was
as aware of her as—yes, as a mother is aware of the child in her arms
while she converses with a caller.... So again Ariel had no need of
Hugh.

He returned his attention to Miss Loring, and tried to respond to
something she had been saying. “I don’t exactly see why Joan should be
amused at Ariel’s having a job and sticking at it, until the exhibition,
anyway,” he exclaimed. “What’s funny about that, Miss—I mean Brenda?”

“Nothing, if it were a respectable job, of course. But the idea was, you
see, her being a maid. An odd coat, that, for a maid to be wearing!”

“Oh, but she isn’t a servant. She’s my grandmother’s companion-nurse,
and doing it very well too! You misunderstood Joan.”

“Perhaps.” Brenda had turned around in her chair, and continuing to
pretend that the impatient waiter did not exist, looked down at Ariel
with clever, narrowed eyes. Then she laughed, a keen little ripple of
pure pleasure, and continuing to squint through her lorgnette at the
unconscious Ariel, cried softly, “But I do begin to see—something in
her, anyway. _The dancer._ A cerise veil, a straight, very short purple
tunic. Sheer. Neck, arms, legs, bare. That clean line of shoulder blade
and thigh.... The face doesn’t matter, you know, in dancing. _It’s the
body._”

“_The dancer!_ What do you mean?” Hugh was suddenly as much revolted by
Brenda’s narrowed, discerning eyes taking Ariel in from her head to her
feet as he had been revolted a minute ago by Schwankovsky’s hand
swallowing Ariel’s on the white tablecloth.

Brenda dropped her lorgnette and looked across at Hugh, surprised by his
tone. “Of course. The dancer. Why not? Joan’s crowd are saying it now.
But soon all the world will be shouting it,—if Schwankovsky is right,
and the Clare pictures are all that he thinks them. Isn’t this Ariel in
every one of them, dancing? Isadora Duncan stuff? May Morning stuff?
Well, there’s all the publicity she needs, if she wants to go on the
stage, whether she has any actual talent or not. They say she’s
untrained. But a few weeks of hard work would fix that. Æsthetic dancing
doesn’t require the technique that ballet requires, you know, or even
the vaudeville dancing stunts. All that is necessary is a reasonably
pretty body, some gracefulness, and a lot of feeling. Given these, and a
cerise veil, that girl down there can go as far as she likes—providing
her father’s paintings make a big enough stir. Haven’t you even thought
of that, Hugh? After all, the girl’s in your house, no matter in what
capacity. You might get just a little interested, I should think!”

Hugh peremptorily beckoned the waiter, by now almost hopeless, and took
up the matter of their lunch with him. After the business was settled to
Brenda’s complete satisfaction, and even more to the waiter’s, whose
respect for Hugh showed to almost a shocking degree in his face as he
received his orders, Hugh asked, “Did Joan put this nonsense into your
head, or Schwankovsky? Anyway, it is utterest nonsense.” He could not
disguise from himself, and even less from Miss Loring, that he was angry
and uncomfortable.

“What? About Ariel Clare? Really, I don’t remember. Why, it’s so obvious
I may even have thought of it myself,” Brenda retorted, laughing.

“Is it true, Hugh,” she went on, still teasingly, “that you yourself
have had one of these Clare pictures for years, the best one at that,
the gem of them all, according to Schwankovsky, in your attic? And did
Schwankovsky and Joan and Ariel go on a still hunt for its recovery? And
is it now hanging in your grandmother’s bedroom, because there’s no
other place you want it at Wild Acres? Or are they only making a good
story?”

“It’s quite true,” Hugh replied seriously. “Except that Ariel got the
picture out herself when she came to us, without help. By the time
Schwankovsky had looked her up at Wild Acres, it was hung over my
grandmother’s mantel. But it belongs to Ariel now, because I’ve given it
to her.”

Brenda stopped laughing. She looked at Hugh with new seriousness and
exclaimed, “Do you know, I’m really, in my heart of hearts, quite
different from Joan and from most of the women she plays with. I’m
willing to have all the cultivation myself, and not expect my men
friends to play up to all that.... Art, you know. Taste. It doesn’t
matter so much as one thinks! And I don’t believe that we so-called
artistic people have all the imagination, either. Men like you, business
men, your imagination is the real thing. You create something out of
nothing. Fortunes out of ideas. Skyscrapers out of thin air. Who am I to
laugh when you show bad taste in judging a painting or prefer jazz to
Debussy? One can’t have things both ways. And your way looks to me to be
the biggest, truly.

“Schwankovsky, for instance, is an entertaining person, and he certainly
has cultivated his taste to an extraordinary and sure degree, and he’s
done a whole lot for art in our benighted country. But he inherited his
millions. His imagination never had to go into the making of _them_.
Only in the spending. He uses his imagination in the spending, you in
the making. Nobody would have time to do both.

“I’d be willing to bet quite a lot, Hugh, that you in this particular
case are the one who’s right. Not about the picture. Schwankovsky’s more
likely to be right about that. But about the girl. Your genius must be
in sizing up people. All business men, successful ones, have to be able
to size up people. That’s obvious. And if you see that Ariel Clare is
just a simple, wholesome girl who happened to have an artist for a
father, but herself is a type to make a good nurse or maid, something
practical and useful, then I think you’re right in sticking to it and
being disgusted at the idea of Joan and her friend Schwankovsky thinking
they can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.... I’d accept your
judgment on a person much quicker than anybody’s down there.”

She waved her cigarette in its long holder in the direction of the
Schwankovsky party.

“Have you _ever_ in your life tasted such onion soup?” she murmured
after a minute of rather stunned silence on Hugh’s part. “How old is
she, by the way? To become a dancer one should start very young.”

“Ariel, you mean? Yes, the soup is very good. She’s twenty to-day. It’s
her birthday.”

As Hugh said this, Ariel caught sight of him for the first time, and
smiled up at the balcony. He bowed to her, and his own smile was rather
constrained. But he felt that a finger of sunshine had suddenly
traversed his heart. He said again, not realizing that he was repeating
himself, “To-day is her birthday. She is twenty.”



                               Chapter XX


Joan telephoned Hugh the next morning early and asked him to pick her up
at Holly if he was driving to town that day. This was not an unusual
request, but for all its usualness Hugh never failed to be delightedly
surprised to the point of suddenly being able to eat no more breakfast.
To-day, however, its effect on him was unusual. He was delighted, it is
true, and decided instantly that he _was_ driving, of course, although
he had intended going in by train and leaving the car for his mother.
The sudden change in plan necessitated hiring a car and driver from a
Tarrytown garage by telephone, writing a note of explanation to his
mother, who was still asleep, and arriving an hour or so late at his
office. This meant nothing to him, or ordinarily would have meant
nothing, compared with the felicity of having Joan’s company on the long
drive. But to-day, on returning from the telephone, he finished his
whole breakfast and told himself that if he drove fast perhaps he
needn’t be much more than an hour late in town. He’d try, anyway.

It had been a long winter. But to-day not so much as a wispy trace of it
was left in the Wild Acres woods. As he drove down the avenue he
marveled how the last patches of snow had melted from the hollows over
night. The woods glistened with red and purple and gold leaf-buds.
To-morrow, or the next day—or the day after that, at the latest,—it
would be a golden-green blaze through here.

  Nature’s first green is gold,
  Her hardest hue to hold—

That was the beginning of a poem of Robert Frost’s. Anne had quoted or
read it to Hugh sometime in the winter. He remembered her coming to him
where he sat at the piano, tentatively searching for some theme he had
heard,—keeping it soft and just for his own ear. He had not wanted to
share his music. But Anne had wanted to share her poem. And how had he
responded? He had listened, his hands raised waiting above the keys, to
that much:

  Nature’s first green is gold,
  Her hardest hue to hold—

and beyond that he remembered nothing. Perhaps his indifference and
self-absorption had discouraged Anne. In any case, she hadn’t gone on
with the poem. But it wasn’t so much his music she had interrupted with
her poetry, that far-away afternoon in winter. It was his thoughts. And
those thoughts, his whole preoccupation, had been Joan ... Joan ...
Joan.... His music was only a path, winding through his preoccupation, a
path through, not a path out.

But now, this morning, noticing the swelling purple and red and gold of
the budded trees which almost before his eyes were rushing upon spring,
the beauty Anne had failed to share so many weeks ago pierced through to
him. And it came to him, as a matter of fact, that things in general
lately had been piercing through to him with more and more persistence.
He saw, felt, tasted, smelled the world this spring as he had not done
for many springs. Joan was in his mind more or less, for he was still in
love with her. But she no longer tinged his perceptions of everything
else as well. Anne, Glenn, his mother, Brenda Loring, his friends at the
office, spring coming,—these held vital places of their own in his new,
sharpened attention.

And Ariel and Grandam? Grandam had never given way to Joan in his
thoughts, any more than she gave way to her in actuality. As for Ariel,
she did not so much enter into as hover about the outer edges of Hugh’s
consciousness, her feet on azure air as in her father’s paintings. Yes.
From her arrival on the same boat with Joan, Ariel had been above and
outside but very present to Hugh’s conscious mind.... So he thought now,
stirred to such thinking by those pointed, sharp buds of the tree
boughs.

Yet after all it wasn’t these buds which had pierced through and touched
his soul. As he turned out from the spring woods onto the Post Road, he
knew that it wasn’t the buds but something corresponding to them. For
all Ariel’s delicate lightness, her tenderness, it was she, her presence
at Wild Acres, which had pierced the harsh coating over his sleeping
soul.

He jammed on his brakes and the big wheels of his car spurted gravel on
Holly’s superbly tended driveway under Holly’s portico. Joan was on the
steps.

She, too, knew that spring had come. From head to foot she was all in
fresh spring raiment. A lettuce-green hat tilted its shade across
glowing eyes. She was drawing on lemon-colored doeskin gloves and
laughing. “I thought you were going to drive right through and out
again! What _were_ you thinking of so dourly, Hugh?”

He waited while she settled in beside him, knees close together, narrow
patent-leather-slippered feet glittering by the accelerator, her
shoulder a careful inch or so from his. “I wasn’t a bit dour. Quite the
contrary. I was thinking of spring.”

Joan opened a huge patent-leather purse, as glittering as her feet,
glanced to make sure of money, tickets, compact, kerchief, snapped the
luxurious receptacle shut, tucked it between them on the seat, and
clasped her gloved hands about her knees, ready.

“Yes? Spring’s really come, hasn’t it! And one begins to make summer
plans. I’ve been flirting with the idea of Switzerland all morning, and
Doctor Steiner’s colony. He wants me to spend July there. Your little
friend, Brenda, may go. And Michael certainly will.”

Hugh threw in the clutch, and they slid away down the broad avenue
between wide, freshly spaded flower-beds glowing with hyacinths. Hugh
was thinking, “Ariel must get spring clothes too. She was still wearing
her fur coat yesterday. No wonder she looked tired! Yesterday was almost
as warm as today.”

Joan went on. “Your engine, Hugh, is as soundless as a gull’s wings
almost, even in first and second. Oh! It’s too delicious! I can think of
nothing but the sea and the mountains. I think I must fall in with
Doctor Steiner’s plan. I’m dreadfully happy and excited ’cause it’s
spring and I’m free to go anywhere, do anything I please!—And you,
Hugh?”

She had given him his cue. She would sense either in his silence or hear
in words what spring, that might take her to the other side of the
world, could mean to him. Loneliness, of course.

But to-day Hugh did not seem to be realizing what spring should mean to
him with Joan already planning to go away because of it. He’d missed his
cue. For he was saying, “Look here, Joan. I want to talk to you about
Ariel. It’s rather a strenuous existence she has with Grandam, you know.
And these New York parties on top of her work might prove a bit too
much. Last night, she turned up completely exhausted. Anybody could see!
Poor kid! So I’ve persuaded her to break her Saturday engagement with
your crowd, or to let me break it for her. I hope you don’t mind, Joan.
I don’t really see how it can do her any good. If she gave up her job
she might manage that sort of thing. But I think she’s right to prefer
to keep the job. I like her pluck. Don’t you, really? And you don’t
mind, do you, not having her along at whatever it is you’ve planned?”

After a breath of surprised silence, Joan exclaimed, “Of course I don’t
mind. She isn’t exactly one of those people who _make_ a party, is she!
It’s only that Michael’s got the bee in his bonnet that Gregory Clare’s
daughter needs a little polishing,—some experience of the world. But I
agree with you that he’s forcing the pace a bit. I was only trying to
help.”

“Yes. I can imagine that. And you’ve been sweet to Ariel these last few
days. I _am_ grateful.”

But Joan pushed away his gratitude. “You’ve got it wrong. It’s Michael
I’m befriending, not Ariel. After an erotic past of thirty or forty odd
years, the poor dear is ripe for the attractions of sheer youth, as are
most of his kind, not? It may be only a flash in the pan, probably is.
But I understand it’s quite real while it lasts. If he goes so far as to
marry the little thing, perhaps you won’t then be so thankful I’m
helping him. For I prophesy he’ll murder her during the second week of
the honeymoon. He’s as fearful of boredom as any creature I ever knew,
and by the second week Ariel will be about as stimulating as a
milk-shake. So in the end it may be accessory before the fact you’ll
accuse me of being.”

If Joan had looked at Hugh then! But she didn’t.

After a while, “Am I meant to take any of that seriously, Joan?” he
asked. “Schwankovsky is sixty-two, you told me. Ariel’s twenty. I don’t
like Schwankovsky. Why should I? He despises me and takes no pains to
hide it. But he’s being very kind to Ariel. I haven’t liked to see the
way he paws her, naturally. But I thought it was just his Bohemian
habit. The artistic temperament. And Ariel doesn’t seem to mind. I
trusted her instinct: thought he must be all right, do you see, since
_she_ wasn’t revolted, no matter what I felt. But if he’s the sort you
suggest, then she’s never to so much as shake hands with him again. I’ll
attend to it.... But it isn’t so. You were—teasing?”

“Teasing! Why should I? But perhaps you misunderstood. The gentleman’s
intentions if he has any, of which I’m not after all certain, are
honorable. And if that’s so, what’s bothering you? Wouldn’t it be rather
a wonderful marriage for such a girl as Ariel? The murder—well, that’ll
probably turn into a divorce. Dear old Michael wouldn’t hurt a fly, you
know, much less a tender young _mädchen_. It seems to me that Ariel has
all to gain.”

“Please don’t. It isn’t funny. And I shall see that they don’t go on
meeting. It’s horrible.”

“And the exhibition?” Joan asked.

Hugh consigned the exhibition to perdition with a breath. “I’ll take
that over,” he said, “and do my best with it.”

“You!” Joan laughed. “You’d make a funny art patron, Hugh! Besides, I’m
afraid that this particular exhibition needs more money as well as more
authority than you happen to be able to bring to it. But if you are as
earnest as you sound, or even half as earnest, I might take sides with
you, push Michael into giving up the exhibition, and separate spring and
winter. How about it? Do you want my help?”

Hugh, half in hope half in distrust, just glanced at his companion’s
cameo-like profile, and surprised on it a gleam which stirred an old and
until now forgotten memory. They were a boy and a girl just come on
their skis to the top of Sparrow Hill in the snow, up above Wild Acres.
Joan was insisting on trying a dangerously steep and tricky slide to
regain her tam-o’-shanter which had blown over and down. Hugh dragged
her back just in time, as he thought, and holding out his arms against
her, shot past and down himself. He saw no surer way to convince Joan of
the absurdity of her intention than to break his own neck in
demonstration. As he went down he carried with him the memory of her
profile. To-day’s very gleam was on it then. A gleam of _elated malice_.
Going down the slide he took the gleam with him, and then with the
snapping of his ankle, for he broke it at the bottom, he forgot it ...
until this instant. And now memory’s revival saved him. He smiled to
himself.

“I’m dull not to know when you’re joking, Joan,—after all these years,”
he said. “Of course, we both know that a man doesn’t love beautiful
things and give his fortune and his time generously to them if he’s
nothing more than a sensualist at heart. Schwankovsky’s devotion to
Ariel is disinterested. He’s fascinated by everything that concerns the
Clare pictures, that’s all. And who can wonder! They are so wonderful!”

“But dear Hugh! If you are so sure that the pictures are wonderful why
did you keep ‘Noon’ in the attic all these years?”

He answered through his teeth. They might just as well have been
fourteen again, and back on their skis up on Sparrow Hill. “You know
very well why I put it in the attic. It was you put it there and not I.
And you know it. But for some reason it amuses you to make me out
stupid. Why? And it isn’t only ‘Noon’ you’ve put in the attic for me,
but most of my æsthetic pleasures. You know perfectly well that I can’t
hear great music or see a sunset without wanting to take them in my bare
hands and rush to lay them in your lap. I can’t adore anything for its
own sake. Even God. Beauty disrupts me, gives me anguish precisely in
proportion to its loveliness, for the simple cause that I can so seldom
share it with you. That’s what’s the matter with me. Or it has been that
way until lately. Lately, thank God, I’ve almost been able to care about
things for their own sakes again, as I did when I was a boy. Getting
‘Noon’ out again has helped, perhaps. I don’t know.”

He was exasperated. Weary. Now let dull misery rise again and entomb him
where the sharp-pointed buds of spring could not pierce through. What
was all their red-purple-gold to him!

  Nature’s first green is gold,
  Her hardest hue to hold ...

But Joan was appeased. Certainties which had quaked lately were stable
again. Hugh adored her. Just now what she usually got only in his eyes
and kisses, he had given her in words. For once and at last he was
articulate, poor darling. Complacency, almost amounting to beatitude,
reëstablished itself in her psyche. But it was a beatitude just tainted,
curdled rather, with scorn. Joan regretted the curdle. But it was
inevitable. For it is a law of the heart, she realized, that love given
so completely as Hugh’s was given, with nothing reserved, can never have
its like in return. “And it’s a pity,” she thought a little bitterly.
“For if I could be absolutely sure of a love like Hugh’s, and return it,
it would be bliss. The trouble is, one can’t. It’s against nature.”
Wistfully, some lines from an Irish poet echoed through her mind.

  Never give all the heart, for love
  Will hardly seem worth thinking of
  To passionate women, if it seem
  Certain, and they never dream
  That it fades out from kiss to kiss.

She pulled off her lemon-colored gloves and reached a warm vital hand,
laying each separate finger exactly on Hugh’s fingers, which were
guiding the wheel now through Fifth Avenue traffic. She measured their
hands thus. And hers were only a little smaller than his. For Joan’s
hands, though beautiful, with their smooth palms and backs, and the long
conical fingers, glistening-tipped, were large and strong. The hand on
Hugh’s shut away the hot, spring sunlight. And it seemed almost, then,
as though his whole body as by infection from the shadowed hand was
darkened slowly. Flames might any instant roar through that dark. But
his expression was unmoved except for straightened lips. His eyes
remained keen for every loophole in the difficult traffic. Even his
hand, under that shut-down vital one on it, vibrated only with the
nuances of steering.

Joan was absorbed like a child in the way her enameled finger nails
reflected the spring sunlight. And then she became aware of how
beautifully shaped and groomed were Hugh’s own almond-shaped nails. By
shifting the tips of her fingers ever so slightly she could see the
moons at the base of his nails, so clear, high and definite.

“You have nice hands, Hugh,” she murmured. “Terribly nice.” And when he
did not respond by look or word she added with sudden generosity, “I’ll
’fess up, dear. I did make an idiotic and totally moronish mistake about
‘Noon’ five years ago when you brought it to me from Bermuda. But don’t
tell on me, please; I am ashamed. And it doesn’t matter to you what any
one thinks of your taste. You don’t pretend to anything, you dear, so
they can’t show you up, do you see!”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” Hugh muttered. He meant, of course, “What does
anything matter compared with your hand on mine, and this darkness and
its flame corroding my body, my mind!”

Presently Joan said, “You can put me down at the next corner, Hugh. I
want to walk twenty blocks or so for exercise before plunging into my
silly spring shopping.”

She did not stir her hand from his until the car was parked against the
curb.


But spring was insistent. Nothing could keep the pointed, delicate buds
from piercing their way through the harsh bark to azure light and air
and sun, and their flowering expression. One afternoon, a few days after
his drive to town with Joan, Hugh returned to Wild Acres rather early
with the idea of persuading Ariel and his grandmother to take a drive
with him, it was such perfect weather. No one answered his knock at the
attic apartment door; so he opened it and went in.

Grandam was not there on the bed nor in the long chair: only Ariel, and
she was kneeling by one of the wide-open windows, her back to the room,
looking out into the tree-tops that in the past few days had foamed into
a sea of green gold. The sunlight slanted down this sea, at the moment
of Hugh’s arrival and Ariel’s watching, in a way that turned it into an
unearthly lightness of gold,—a winged, breathing _wind_ of green gold.
And Ariel knelt upright at the edge of the wind-shaken loveliness like a
wand, stilled, not bent, by the high stir of beauty.

Hugh stopped short. He had come to Grandam’s low table and saw it spread
with brown paper, and on the paper a heap of wild flowers. Hepaticas,
anemones, white and yellow violets, green leaves too, and clumps of rich
brown wood loam,—all in a fragrant tangle. At the edge of the pile
Ariel’s green hat was tossed down, with its green feather.

“Hello! Did you collect all these?” Hugh asked.

At his voice Ariel turned and stood, her body aurora’d by the golden
stream of air and leaves behind her.

“You here? Hello, Hugh! Grandam’s driving with your mother. It’s such a
day! I’ve been in the woods all the afternoon, with Persis and Nicky.
Just got in.”

She moved toward him and stood by the table looking down at the flowers.
Some of the gold from beyond the window had flowed into her hair. And
when she looked up from the flowers Hugh saw it in her eyes too,—green
gold. The woods, Wild Acres woods, beloved of Hugh, were there,
shimmering, in Ariel’s eyes.

She looked her surprise at the expression on Hugh’s face before her. It
was so stirred, so new. Perhaps it was to break the spell and get the
familiar Hugh back again that she lifted her hands, palm upwards,—the
corners of her mouth too, in that sharp delicate lift darted with light,
that was her smile when she danced in the woods for Persis and Nicky—and
remarked, “Spring has come.”

It had indeed. It had come rushing on a broad stream of light and poured
itself along Hugh’s veins. The look in his face increased rather than
diminished. But Ariel had done her best, all she knew, to relieve the
intensity in Hugh’s dark eyes. Her knees began to tremble. She did not
want Hugh to see that she was trembling. She would be utterly ashamed if
he should see. So she sat down suddenly, on the edge of the daybed, and
commenced to part the flowers from the wood loam, and from each other.

Her hands were browned by this one afternoon’s sun and air. They were
narrow hands and small, with rather square-tipped, very straight
fingers. Hugh recalled Joan’s hand above his own on his steering wheel.
It was white and beautiful and exquisitely molded, a sculptor’s dream.
But these little hands—their appeal was in their simplicity, in their
graceful but inconspicuous motions, not in their form and modeling. If
he should put his own hands down over them now they would be quite lost,
all the magic and grace of their movements stilled away, and they would
feel to him like the grubby hands of any little girl who had been out
picking wild flowers in the woods.

He would put his hands down over hers. He would do that. He would find
out how it felt to capture grace like a bird under one’s
fingers,—perhaps to destroy it in the grasp of it and so prove it an
illusion. Not real. Not actual. Not like Joan’s beauty, inescapable. He
would prove that Ariel’s charm for him was something he could always
control, could catch and subdue and hide away from himself, under his
hand.

It was only for a breath or so that he had Ariel’s hands under his own,
crushed down in the medley of spring flowers and damp earth. But the
grace, the charm was not controlled by his will or his hold. It escaped
without a flutter of struggle. It flowed up into the surprised lift of
Ariel’s head, the rising of her eyelids, and spread a shimmer of
green-gold light in the quickly widening pupils of her eyes, raised to
his.

Suddenly he discovered, and she knew that he had discovered it, that she
was trembling. What Ariel did not realize was that Hugh was trembling
too, a little.

He released her hands. “I didn’t mean to hurt the flowers,” he muttered.
“Sorry if I have.” And he commenced to help her in her sorting.

“I’m going to put these shortest-stemmed ones in a saucer,” Ariel
explained. “Isn’t there something special, don’t you think, about little
white and yellow violets? Secret and special? They sort of break my
heart....”

He should hear how her voice didn’t tremble. She repeated the silly
words to make sure that he heard how it didn’t: “They sort of break my
heart.”

“Yes? Well, _spring_ sort of breaks _my_ heart,” Hugh responded.



                              Chapter XXI


Joan heard voices over toward Wild Acres. They came from the top of the
wall which for half a mile or so shut off Holly’s well-kept grounds from
the wildwood tangle of the neighboring estate. Although she was courting
solitude this afternoon, or had intended to, Joan turned that way, out
of curiosity, and in a minute or so four backs were presented to her.
Persis, Nicky, their nurse, Alice, and Ariel Clare were all up on the
wall, their legs swinging over on the Wild Acres side, their faces
wildwood-tangleward, talking. Much overheard talk sounds like monkey
chatter, when the words are indistinguishable, but not this of the two
girls and the two children. With such inflections, such deliberate
tranquillity, the gods might converse on Olympus. Joan drew nearer the
beatitude of intercourse, walking softly on moist spring ground, ears
beginning to catch the words.

The children sat between the two girls. It was Nicky speaking now, but
with a manner of speech Joan had never heard him use before, unhurried
and clear. So many imaginative and sensitive children, when speaking to
an adult, or even to their own contemporaries, have a nervous, anxious
note in their voices, from fear of interruption or misapprehension; and
Nicky was no exception. But now it was different. Now he spoke with
unruffled but expedient precision.

“Yes.... I should stay away as long as I wished. Perhaps until the next
spring. And even then I would not come home unless the pony would come
with me. But he would come. He would come for a year.”

Persis interrupted, but calmly, not startlingly. “Where would he sleep,
Nicky? Would he have to sleep with the horses in the stables?”

“Of course not. Not this pony. He would just walk up the back stairs,
nights, not disturbing anybody. And mornings, long before anybody else
is up, even before the servants are up, he will take me for long rides
on his back, first through Wild Acres, jumping all the lowest trees and
streams, and this wall, and then way beyond even Wild Acres. But Ariel
will be awake. She will lean out of her window and call, ‘Whoa!’ I’ll
pull him up, and we’ll say good morning to each other, and how did we
sleep? When we go on Ariel’ll see us jump the sundial in the rose
garden. But that will be nothing, quite a low jump, compared to some of
the trees we take in our leaps. And during the day, Persis can sometimes
go rides on him if she likes, so long as she’s careful that nobody sees
him, and Alice, you can have him too, often. But Ariel can have him
nights. When there’s starlight. And she’ll wear the hat with the green
feather. And nobody but us four’ll know there is a pony. And that’s
all.... Now it’s Ariel’s turn.”

When before, in Joan’s knowledge, had Nicky ever had a chance to say,
“And that’s all”? She was pricked by a light remorse. Some time she must
be patient, let him say his say through to her, his mother,—and for
reward at the end, hear his “And that’s all,” like a little clear bell
ringing benedictus through a tranquil world.

Ariel’s voice was pitched lower than Nicky’s, flat and clear. It had
little carrying quality. But Joan was so close under the wall that she
heard easily enough.

“I’ll look for a path first. Hunt all around in Wild Acres for the
path.”

“A path! You! Are you sure, Ariel?” Nicky asked, surprised.

“Yes. But not a regular path. Not one we have ever seen in there yet. A
path to take me to the inside of the inside of the woods, you see,
really into faërie. Once there, in faërie, I won’t need a path, of
course.”

Persis leaned forward and looked up into her brother’s face. “Do you
see, Nicky,” she murmured. “A path to the inside of the inside, that’s
what Ariel means. You’d need a path for that. It’s very hard to find it
without.”

Nicky nodded, and Ariel continued. “The path, I think, will begin at a
place where there are little white and yellow violets, where it’s thick
with them. The violets will show me the path. But not with words. They
haven’t voices, and if they had they wouldn’t use them, not at the
beginning of the path, where everything is hush, stiller than stillest
water, airy stillness. And I couldn’t see it with my eyes, either.
They’ll have to tell me in another way, their own way, where it starts
off, and I’ll have to understand without seeing or hearing, at first.”

“But you couldn’t,” Persis objected. “You’d have to see or hear to
follow it. How would the violets tell you, if you can’t see it and they
won’t speak and it’s _hush_?”

Alice, the nurse, spoke up, surprising Joan immensely. “I know, Ariel.
It’s funny about the first wildwood flowers in the spring. They do do
that to you. And it’s the little white and yellow violets that do it
hardest. They show you something, but something not to be seen or heard.
They put a kind of glory over you....”

“Yes. Spring glory. I’ll push away some of last year’s brown leaves,
brown, brown, wet, earth-smelling.... I’ll clear a place for the little
white and yellow violets in the air, so they’ll stand out on the air,
clear, pure.... Then I’ll find where the path starts. I think it will
lead to—”

The children were “hush” themselves, following with Ariel where that
path would lead. But Joan, taking no account of “hush,” put up a hand
from her side of the wall and took hold of Persis’s blue skirt. “It’s a
nice story, I know, ducks, but Miss Clare will finish it for you some
other time perhaps. I want her to come up to the house and have tea with
me now. And Alice, I don’t approve of the children sitting around
quietly like this in the damp. It’s not summer yet. I want them to
exercise. Get them to playing some game at once, or take them for a
walk. I thought I had made it clear.”

Persis was the first to realize the bitterness of their sudden loss. She
wailed, “Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Ariel, when will you finish? Will you come
back? When will you show us the path? Will you dance for us in faërie
when we get there? You do mean to take us with you, don’t you? I thought
soon you would begin to dance. Oh, Ariel! Oh, dear!”

“Please come, Ariel. I’m famished for society. Besides, I’ve special
things I want to talk about.”

Alice had hurried her charges down from the wall. But the children were
walking away backwards, their longing eyes on Ariel. “We’ll look for the
path next time,” she called after them, and it sounded to their ears
like a promise of the sort that keeps itself. “And we’ll all dance in
faërie. Good-by, Alice.”

“I don’t know about having tea,” Ariel looked down at Joan from the wall
doubtfully. “I must be back by five—”

“Oh, that’s all right. We’ll have it now, early. Do come along.”

Joan pulled Ariel’s arm through her own, when she jumped down and stood
beside her in Holly. Then she drew her, not entirely unresisting, up
toward the house.

It had been mere impulse on Joan’s part, but now that for the first time
in their acquaintance she was to have an hour alone with Ariel she would
do what she so well had the power of doing, throw herself, the whole
concentrated weight of her personality, into the contact,—put her own
stamp upon the coin of the moment as Ariel had put hers, Joan rather
rebelliously felt, on her contacts with Persis and Nicky. Now that the
opportunity had practically imposed itself upon her, she was decided,
once for all, to waste no more time about finding Ariel out. She would
discover her charm. Or she would discover what passed for charm with
Schwankovsky, ruthless where personalities were concerned: with Grandam,
so ultra-fastidious: with Joan’s own children, whom until to-day she had
thought rather typical neurotic American products. And even perhaps with
Hugh, so undiscerning, except where she, Joan, was concerned.

She was not jealous of Ariel. How could she be? For Hugh, in particular,
she knew that Ariel’s charm would never shadow her own,—knew it all the
more surely since that recent drive to town when he had so
unprecedentedly expressed his adoration for herself in articulate
sentences. But all the same she felt it might be worth her while to
explore this Ariel a little for herself. There must be something she had
missed. Besides, she was bored. She had kept the afternoon free for a
sun bath on her roof, and a new book on the latest developments in
psychoanalysis which Doctor Steiner had urged on her. But the sun had
been unbenignantly hot, and she had dressed and come out after less than
ten minutes of it. As for the book, which she still carried in her hand,
after all there was nothing very new in it.

Almost unconsciously she decided against having tea served on the
terrace, the place she would naturally choose to-day if she were alone,
but drew Ariel on toward one of the drawing-rooms. Out of doors Ariel
might escape her divining. But against Joan’s own background, in the
green and gold drawing-room which she had recently created with Brenda
Loring’s assistance, with its sharp outlines and definite color
combinations, Ariel must stand out, at least in bas-relief.

As they traversed the wide hall Joan told herself confidently, “It
isn’t, anyway, mere youth that Ariel uses. At least, she can’t use it in
competition with me.” For Joan had glanced at their contrasted
reflections in several long mirrors as they passed through her hall, and
in those clear reflections she found herself more vividly young than the
girl by her side. She saw with something like relief the beautiful,
clean line of her chin and throat, the lithe Diana-ish line of thigh and
leg, the life radiating from her burnished hair, glowing brow, and
lustrous brown eyes. Ariel’s youth, in comparison, was lusterless.
Besides, Ariel had not that added, rather terrible attribute of the
older and experienced woman, consciousness of her power and of how to
use it.

Joan put Ariel into a formal, high-backed chair, facing a window, and
herself sank into the low, luxurious corner of a sofa at right angles to
the same window. A footman appeared—Joan had rung for him as they came
in—and she ordered tea. “And we are in a hurry, please. I’m not at home
to any one else.”

Then she gave her attention to Ariel. “You’re rather a dear to my
babies.” She was looking at Ariel with an expression of affectionate
gratitude. Joan’s charm was a weapon which she used as consciously and
expertly as any master of fencing uses his sword. “They’re utterly
devoted to you. I think some day soon I must invite you to have supper
with them in the nursery. On Nicky’s birthday, perhaps. That’s Sunday.
It would be such a treat to them that I imagine you’ll be willing. You
do love children, don’t you! Any one can see.”

“I like Persis and Nicky, anyway. Very much. But whether Sunday I can
get away for supper—”

“Well, it doesn’t have to be on the birthday, though that would be
nicest. How about to-morrow? That’s your day off, anyway. And you know,
of course, that Hugh has broken your engagement with Michael and me. So
do make the children ecstatic to-morrow. Nursery tea is at five-thirty.
I’ll let him have his birthday cake then.”

“Oh, I’m sorry! I should love to. But I’ve promised Hugh all to-morrow.
We’re going off on a picnic in his car and won’t be back till after
dark, I’m afraid. Too late for the nursery supper, anyway.”

Joan’s smile rather stiffened. “Yes? So that’s why he cried you off with
us? Hugh was looking for a playmate for himself. But it’s unlike Hugh to
be so uncandid. What have you done to him, Ariel?”

Ariel could not dream, and Joan herself was astonished, at how much she
really wanted to know the true answer to this seemingly lightly asked
question.

“No. It wasn’t that, I’m sure,” Ariel answered, too ingenuously, Joan
thought, to be really ingenuous. “He’s not thinking of himself a bit.
He’s worried about me. Says I’m tired. That I ought to be out of doors.”

“Sweet of him. And very self-sacrificing!” Joan was flippant, but there
was something in those brilliant brown eyes—just glimpsed in them—that
rather contradicted flippancy.

Tea came in at the moment. When the silver tray with its silver tea
service and covered dishes was established between them on a table
brought by a second footman, and the men had left the room, Joan sat on
for some seconds, her hands clasped around her crossed knees, looking
down absently at the food and not stirring to officiate as hostess.

But then she laughed abruptly, a delightful, crisp laugh, and drew a cup
toward her. “Well, I’ve known Hugh Weyman many years longer than you
have, you amusing girl. So you can’t tell me anything to surprise me
about the lengths to which his altruism will take him, given a chance.
He’s a martyr to every one, his mother, his grandmother, his brother and
sister, and now I can very easily take your word for it, he is ready to
play the heavy father to you. He thinks he was created to take care of
people, poor dear. And if it comes to that, his Creator seems to think
so too, by the burdens He has put on him. Cream? Lemon? Ah! When you are
a middle-aged old dud like me, Ariel, you’ll take lemon and no sugar,
thank you, just like that.”

She filled Ariel’s cup one third with cream, and added the two lumps of
sugar which Ariel wanted. Then she passed across a dish of hot English
muffins.

“A muffin too, and dripping with butter!” Joan murmured enviously. “My
word, child! While I must content myself with a dry cracker.”

But Ariel, to Joan’s secret annoyance, showed no overt surprise that
Joan’s beautiful figure needed any such disciplining. She ignored the
opportunity for flattery and protested: “Hugh’s not playing father to
me, not at all. He wouldn’t think of it, I’m sure. We’re very good, very
wonderful friends, Mrs. Nevin.”

“Oh! Yes. Friends in a way! But that’s only a little of the story. I’ll
take back the ‘heavy father,’ if you like, but only to change it for
‘grandfather.’ Hugh and I are pretty close, you see. So he has a way of
confiding his joys and troubles to me. And I can tell you something
about him you mayn’t have guessed in your rather brief acquaintance.
It’s this: this guardian of yours is an extremely conventional person.
He has almost great-grandfatherly ideas, in fact, of how young girls
should—shouldn’t, rather—allow old men to pet them, for instance. The
fact is, Ariel, it isn’t your physical health Hugh is concerned for. If
it were, he wouldn’t let his grandmother work you like a slave, as
anybody can see she is doing, would he? You do look dreadfully tired!
It’s your manners and morals Hugh’s bashing himself about.”

Ariel said nothing. So Joan went on with it. “What I can’t make Hugh
see, innocent dear that he is, is that all girls your age are like that
now! Why, I suppose his own sister Anne isn’t so different. Petting may
be as much a matter of course to her as brushing her teeth. But
naturally I don’t drag Anne into things when discussing your situation
with Hugh. I leave him to his illusions where his sister’s concerned.
Why not! But with you it’s different. You’re not quite so vital to
him—not so near home. Still, in spite of my most earnest defense of you,
Ariel, the old dear wasn’t persuaded. He said he was going to arrange
things so that you could have nothing to do with Michael from now on.
And that’s the reason for the simple life and this picnic, and if you
don’t call it grandfatherly, I do!”

This was hardly capturing Ariel’s admiration and affection as Joan had
set out to do, nor was it a very successful method of sounding for
Ariel’s own attractions. It was, of course, a mere baiting of the
girl,—and cheap, really beneath her, Joan knew. But every instant since
Ariel had told Joan about that picnic, when Ariel and Hugh were to be
alone together until “after dark, I’m afraid,” Joan had forgotten her
original direction and purpose in this tête-à-tête. If by using a pin
and scratching or pricking Ariel’s smooth, silvery flesh, she could have
drawn forth the secret of Ariel’s attraction for Hugh, she would happily
have taken that trouble; but for any ways more devious of accomplishing
the end, she simply couldn’t be bothered. She would exert herself now
only to wound. Yet she thought that Ariel was escaping from even her
malice, running through her very fingers as it were,—melting away on a
background of light and air, for all that she had taken such pains about
putting four walls around her.

As a matter of fact, Ariel had not escaped from Joan at all. She was
there in that formal, straight chair, all of her there, cold, and shut
up like a stone. It was quite a minute of silence before she asked, “Why
shouldn’t I see Michael Schwankovsky? What do you and what does Hugh
mean?”

She was looking at the frosted cakes on a Wedgwood plate as she asked
this, and Joan thought, “She’d take one if I’d pass it. She’s thinking
about cake like any greedy schoolgirl. Why am I spending time and
attention like this on a mere chrysalis! If she’s to grow wings some
day, be a woman worth even annoying, that day’s far off.”

“Why shouldn’t you see Michael? But you should, my dear. In fact, if
he’s to go on with this exhibition of your father’s work, you must. It
is only Hugh who thinks you shouldn’t. Though Hugh’s enough to spoil the
chances for the exhibition, if he begins interfering.”

“I simply don’t understand, Mrs. Nevin,—what you are trying to say.”

_Trying to say!_ She! Joan! Well, just for that Joan would say it.

“Simply this. Hugh’s merely decided that if you’re the sort of girl it’s
so easy to be affectionate with, you aren’t safe with a person of
Michael Schwankovsky’s temperament. Anybody can see that Michael can’t
keep his hands off you, and that you would be sorry if he could. But I
told Hugh that it might come to more than petting. Suppose Michael’s
actually thinking of marriage, Ariel!”

Ariel put her cup down on the table and stood up. “Marry Michael
Schwankovsky!” she exclaimed—anger giving place to shock. “Why, he’s old
enough to be my grandfather!” She looked down at Joan, and grew still
again, but this time it was not a stony stillness. It was just sudden
natural relaxation. “You have misunderstood Hugh,” she affirmed. “You’re
as far off about him as you are about Michael. And they were both of
them friends of yours long before I ever knew them. So it’s strange you
can make these mistakes.” She said it in all simplicity and went on,
more relaxed and at peace with every word she uttered, “I’m very fond of
Michael Schwankovsky and very grateful to him. He believes in the
pictures. I’d love him just for that. But I love him for himself. He
means more to me than any one else living except Doctor Hazzard and
Hugh. And he’d no more think of wanting to marry me than Doctor Hazzard
would think of it. And Doctor Hazzard’s a grandfather with eight
grandchildren. So you see.

“And you’ve made just as strange a mistake about Hugh too. Hugh’s very
fond of me. And he’d never, never talk about me unkindly. I know he
wouldn’t. He doesn’t know how to hide things, anyway. His eyes tell you
what he thinks. And he’s never thought any hateful thoughts about me.
_Only very good thoughts!_ Dear thoughts!”

Joan looked up at Ariel, after a pause. “You do reassure me,” she
murmured. “For when the time comes that I stand in a position of second
parent to you, as it were, along with Hugh, I _should_ hate to have him
always fussing, and I do assure you I’d be on your side, not his,
anyway.”

“A second parent to me? You mean a mother?” Ariel laughed, a rather
interesting laugh to Joan because of the hint of wildness in it; but she
held her languid pose in the corner of the couch, while her guest stood.

“Mrs. Nevin, you’re a little too young to be my mother, aren’t you, just
as dear Michael is much too old to be my lover! Hugh doesn’t stand in
the relation to me, either, that you imply. He’s not a guardian, or
anything like that. We are dear friends, as I told you. And now that
I’ve got my job, he isn’t even my host. You’re all mixed up.”

Ariel turned toward the window, which was open, in one swift motion of
flight. But she did not fly. She was civilized. She would say a proper
good-by to her hostess and depart with dignity by the door. Joan stood
up, with slightly delayed protests. Ariel heard her own voice asking a
question that she did not want to ask, but it was as uncontrollable as
her first motion of flight had been. “Mrs. Nevin, are you engaged to
Hugh? Were you meaning that too?”

Joan restrained a smile, but _obviously_ restrained it. “No, dear
child,” she replied. “But I have a refusal. If you know what that means.
It’s a term used largely in real estate, I believe. Must you go?”

“I hope I’m not hurrying you!” Joan and Ariel turned in surprise toward
the unexpected voice. Prescott Enderly had come in soundlessly, and was
just at Ariel’s elbow.

Joan exclaimed, “But how did you get here like this, unannounced? I’m
not at home. Where’s Parks? And what are you doing away from college?”

“One word answers them all,” Enderly replied. “Spring! Parks must be out
somewhere watching the tulips grow. Anyway, the door was unguarded. In
the spring nothing goes according to pattern, even your housekeeping,
Joan.”

Joan gave him her hand. He had nodded at Ariel and she at him. Ariel was
seeing him as the person who had caused Anne all that anguish. His
sea-blue eyes, crinkled now with a forced smile, the lines in his cheeks
that just escaped being dimples and gave sympathy to his face, his eager
sensitive body, his full, sensuous but sensitive lips,—these she was
seeing with Anne’s eyes. But he was shockingly white. The man was simply
beside himself, she felt, with some deep emotion.

Joan was a bit short with him. “I wasn’t meaning to see any one to-day,”
she said. “I’m even dining alone to-night. But yes—you may stay. You’ve
come so far. I’d rather you called first on the telephone, however.
Surprises always put me off a little. Do they you, Ariel? Some people
they do.”

“Joan, you are wonderful not to turn me out. But I’d have come, even if
there was only one chance in ten thousand of your seeing me. If I’d
called on the telephone, there wasn’t even that chance, I felt. You are
a saint to put up with me.”

They seemed hardly aware when Ariel said her polite say about the tea
Joan had given her and departed. She might have used the window after
all and no one noticed. From the door she glanced back and saw them on
the sofa, Enderly bent forward, holding both of Mrs. Nevin’s hands in
his, his eyes blue sea fire, his face still paper white. Neither of them
was speaking.

In her short cut home through the woods, no white and yellow violets
gave to Ariel’s eyes or feet a path into faërie. She had lost faërie for
that day, lost it to quite a bewildering degree.



                              Chapter XXII


The morning of the Gregory Clare exhibition Hugh was waked by the
clangor of birds in Wild Acres woods. The window by Hugh’s bed held the
view like a picture frame. Sleepily, he thought it a pity they couldn’t
hang this in the exhibition. It was quite in the Gregory Clare manner.
But something was missing from it. The painter’s daughter. Where would
he, Hugh, put her, if he were the painter? There at the right, where the
sunlight was silvery in the tops of the giant beech, her head not quite
level with the highest branch, standing still on the breathless,
silvery-green-gold air.

Hugh was to meet his mother in town for lunch and be with her at the New
Texas Galleries in time for the opening of the doors. Joan had offered
to drive Ariel in directly after lunch, and get her there in good time
for the opening also. That was kind of Joan. Remembering and
appreciating this kindness of Joan’s was Hugh’s first thought of her
this morning. He noticed, just in passing, this surprising fact. When
before had he ever been awake for any length of time without thinking of
Joan! And now she had come only in connection with Ariel and the
exhibition. Certainly to sail coolly into town in Joan’s open roadster
would be far better for Ariel than traveling in alone on the stuffy
local. It promised, already, to be a very warm day. Hugh regretted,
however, that Grandam had not taken his suggestion of sending Ariel in
for lunch with his mother and himself. She might be devoted to Ariel,
but working her to death was a strange way of showing it. Ariel had been
very quiet as to what she felt about this great day herself; but Hugh
knew it to be one of the most exciting and exhilarating days of her
life.

He lay down again. It was very early, just past dawn. He half imagined,
half dreamed himself waiting for Ariel in the little anteroom of the
galleries, her arrival, pale with excitement, and his rising to steady
her and share in her feelings of elation and joy. Taking her arm through
his and holding her hand steadily and firmly under his elbow against his
side, they mixed with the crowd which was genuflecting and chattering
before her father’s genius.

No one would guess that the inconspicuous girl on the arm of the
inconspicuous, rather typical New York business man was the dancer of
the pictures. Least of all would any one, now or ever, know that Hugh
had given to the painter his first taste of practical appreciation in
buying “Noon” for one thousand dollars. It would be delightful,
masquerading with Ariel like this, sharing alone in all that crowd their
secrets. For some reason his mother, Schwankovsky, Charlie Frye, even
Joan herself, did not enter into this early morning daydream. But Hugh
did not miss them. In fact, they would have spoiled the point, the
reason of its creation, which was his isolation with Ariel in her first
great happiness.

He went up to the attic as soon as he had had his breakfast. Grandam and
Ariel had been awake and dressed since the crack of dawn. Grandam was as
stirred as Ariel about the significance of the day, and it occurred to
Hugh that that was why she had wanted to keep Ariel with her until the
last possible minute. She, too, had her daydream of sharing happiness
with the dear girl. She was lying in her long chair at the edge of the
almost too warm sunshine which fell through the open tall window. Ariel
was just finishing turning the night bed into a daybed. She placed the
last silver pillow as Hugh came in.

“Noon” was gone from the mantel, but the whole room had taken on its
atmosphere. It seemed that in vanishing it had left its very glamour and
light behind. And it had left the dancer. She was there with a shallow
dish of hepaticas in her hand, a dish that might have been a wide sea
shell, reaching up to place it on the mantel. In an ivory silk blouse,
opened at the throat, and a clinging green skirt, her hair a wave of
light on her neck—and the identical light of the spring morning in her
eyes and at the corners of her uptilted lips, she was the dancer
glorified.

Hugh had a swift sense as he entered that Ariel, Grandam and the room
were all aswim in the clear light that was Gregory Clare’s imagination:
that he was seeing them as they existed only in Gregory Clare’s heart,
not in his, Hugh Weyman’s, dull life. For the moment he knew that his
friend was not dead, that Ariel was still his care, and still moved
through his imagination, the dancer. Almost jealously Hugh came forward,
tried to enter and be where Ariel was, in that realm of imagination and
light.

And he did not entirely fail. For the few minutes he stayed in Grandam’s
apartment the world was fresh and life was winged.


There was a crush in the anteroom of the exhibition when Hugh and his
mother arrived. Schwankovsky had promised them this would be so, and
Hugh’s daydream had previsioned it. Although they had made a point of
being ten minutes early, the room was already full of curious and eager
men and women, and the three elevators in the hall of the building were
steadily discharging more groups of crowding humanity to add to the
discomfort.

There was no question of Hugh finding a chair for his mother while they
waited that ten minutes. They were lucky, they felt, in having and
retaining standing room. As the day had turned out to be an unseasonably
hot day, far more like August at its hottest than mid-May, the room was
almost unbearably close.

Very soon Mrs. Weyman murmured, “Really, Hugh, I shan’t be able to stay.
I’d rather go out and return to-morrow after the first rush. After all,
what is the advantage in being among the first in the stampede for this
show?”

“Oh, do stick it if you can, darling,” Hugh urged. “I’ll find you some
ice-water. Will that help?” He himself was only stimulated to a kind of
elation by the heat and the pressing crowd.

“Of course it will help. But you’re the only person I know, Hugh, who
would so confidently promise ice-water in these circumstances. And the
nice part of it is that I know you’ll manage it somehow. You’re awfully
satisfactory, dear boy.”

He grinned down at her his appreciation of her appreciation, patted her
arm, and vanished like a genie. When he returned through the envious
crowd, steadying a paper cup filled to the brim with ice-water, he found
that Schwankovsky, against all the laws of physics, had made a place for
his great bulk in the room somehow, and was towering above Mrs. Weyman,
talking down at the top of her smart spring hat.

“Warm?” he was booming. “Why, I hadn’t thought so. Hadn’t noticed. Those
pictures in there are more on my mind than the weather. They’re going to
take you by storm, I promise. You never saw sunlight in paint before, on
canvas. It’s epoch-making. You’ll see. It almost blinds you, this Clare
sunlight does.”

Mrs. Weyman shuddered prettily, and gratefully took the drink from
Hugh’s hands. “But didn’t he paint any shade?” she asked. “If not, I
absolutely shall not risk it.”

“Pooh! You wouldn’t miss it for the world. But where’s my Ariel? I
thought she was with you, Weyman. She must be here when the doors are
opened.”

Hugh was annoyed. He felt it very important for Ariel’s peace of mind
and her enjoyment of the victory—if the exhibition was to prove a
victory—that she should be unrecognized, and he expected Schwankovsky to
think of this and be a little careful.

“Joan’s driving Ariel in. They’ll be here any minute,” he replied in as
low a voice as he could use and still be heard.

But the minute hand on the face of Schwankovsky’s absurd little platinum
wristwatch moved on under his anxious gaze, and proved Hugh wrong.
Schwankovsky waited five minutes beyond the announced time of the
opening for Joan and Ariel to make their appearance before, with a
disappointed grunt, he gave the sign to Charlie Frye to slide back the
big doors.

“I’ll wait here for them,” Hugh told his mother. “You go on in, though.
It’ll be cooler there.”

It was very much cooler. The gallery where the Clare pictures were hung
was a huge room covering nearly half a block, and the crowds which had
choked the anteroom, Hugh could observe through the great open doors,
were mere driblets of humanity almost lost in the expanse of floor
space.

He pushed a chair to an open window, where he would find air to breathe
if there was any, and composed himself, outwardly, to wait. People
continued to arrive by the elevators, and even some undaunted and
impatient ones by the stairs. They hesitated in the anteroom to secure
their catalogues from Charlie Frye, who was officiating at the desk
there, and passed quickly on into the gallery, where a babble, as the
minutes passed, was rising gradually higher and higher, with
Schwankovsky’s big voice forever cresting it.

Hugh spent his time between watching the door for the appearance of the
girls and studying the catalogue which Charlie Frye had, unsolicited,
thrust into his hands. It was a good-looking catalogue, engraved on
creamy, thick paper.

“The Shell” ... “Tree in the Sun” ... “Reef” ... “Under the Rock.” ...

Gradually he worked down the list of two hundred odd titles. And
although he knew that the dancer appeared in them all, in no title was
she mentioned. He was vastly relieved by this fact. But then his eye
caught something it had missed. “212. Sketch for the Dancer.” He
remembered Schwankovsky’s mention of this sketch and he was chilled.
Schwankovsky had said that life without it would be unthinkable, or
something as exaggerated.

A finger of shadow fell on “212. Sketch for the Dancer.” Hugh sprang to
his feet, for he was aware of Joan, and had a sense that she had been
standing beside him for some appreciable seconds before she made the
stir that flung the shadow. She gave him her hand. He took it warmly,
but instantly looked beyond her for Ariel. “Where is she?”

If his question had been a slap in Joan’s face a more scarlet stain
would not have whipped her cheeks. She looked at Hugh with astonishment
too profound to hide. But he missed it, still looking for Ariel. Others,
however, were not so unobservant. Art-lovers passing through the
anteroom into the gallery turned their heads, and even paused to look
again at the tall, very beautiful woman who appeared so gloriously
angry. Meanwhile, she controlled her voice, if not her blazing eyes, and
explained about Ariel.

“She isn’t coming. Your grandmother was taken ill, one of her attacks.
In the middle of the morning. The servants got Doctor Bradshaw at once,
and he brought a nurse. Ariel, in the excitement, I suppose, forgot to
call me and explain. So when I went for her she merely came downstairs
and told me about it. I offered to stay in her place and let Amos drive
her in. But she wouldn’t listen. She wouldn’t stay long enough even to
give me the essential details to bring to you. So I insisted on seeing
Doctor Bradshaw. He assured me that the danger was quite past, for this
time. He said, too, that Ariel was not needed now, and could come into
the exhibition of her father’s paintings as well as not. I gathered that
the poor child in her anxiety had been and was still being a trifle
officious and that both doctor and nurse would be glad to have her out
of it. But she was stronger than any of us.—Now I’m killed, sir, in all
this heat, and without a glass of water or anything. Your messenger may
fall dead at any moment. Smiling though, in the heroic manner.”

Hugh did not rally to her humor.

“My dear, you’ll let me take your car, won’t you, and go right out
there? Schwankovsky or somebody will send you home. Where did you leave
it?”

She shook her head. “No. Sorry. But you know I never let any one, even
you, drive my car. You haven’t been into the gallery yet? You must come
in with me for a few minutes, and then I’ll drive you out myself, if you
insist. I assure you Doctor Bradshaw’s not a bit worried, and for this
time the danger to your grandmother is past. But seriously, first I must
cool my throat. Is there water anywhere?”

Michael Schwankovsky, catching sight of them, barged down into their
path, insisting that they produce his Ariel. When he learned that she
was not coming at all to-day, he appeared to be desolated. He took his
beard in his hands and declared it was too bitter. But the next instant
he was dragging Joan and Hugh forward to point out for them with
exuberant joy the canvases that pleased him most.

“Here’s one,” he bellowed. “That ought to be called, ‘The Dancer.’ But
we left Clare’s own titles, of course. This is the painting for which he
made the sketch, ‘The Dancer.’”

It was one of the newer pictures, since Hugh’s visit to Bermuda. And it
must, in fact, be comparatively recent, for there was Ariel as she was
now. It might be a portrait of her, for here, as in not one of the other
paintings, she was the theme. The foreground was a line of tide on a
beach of silver sand. The misty, dewy light said early morning. The
dancer had taken a shell from the fingers of the incoming tide, and she
was straightening from having reached for it. She held it before her
with extended arms, her fingers curling its outward edges, and her
expression of face and body was all of delight and gratitude. The moist
wind bent her hair back from brow and neck. It bent her violet tunic
back against knees and breasts. And for the first time, here in a
painting, Hugh was consciously aware, with an odd pang of recognition,
of what he had seen only half-consciously before,—the beautiful and
naïve shape of her eyelids.

“Well, she’s not dancing!” He heard Joan’s voice as if from a great way
off, although in reality she was close by his side. “Why, Michael, do
you want to call it ‘The Dancer’?”

“Oh, but my friend! Isn’t it plain? She has just found this shell in the
foam, brought to her by the tide. She is the soul of this fragile,
drifting shell. Or the shell is her soul. God knows which is which, but
one is true. All that one does know is that those two hands with those
so deliciously curling fingers will lift the iridescent thing higher and
higher, as her figure comes more and more erect. Finally, with it held
as high as her hands can reach above her head, she will dance, looking
up at it. Slowly. A religious dance of gratitude. It is my Ariel. And
she dances gratitude. Gratitude to God Himself for the gift of her soul
and for life.”

Joan laughed. “Oh, Michael! You aren’t talking art. That’s mystical
mush.”

“Perhaps!” Schwankovsky agreed with good humor. “Probably, in fact. But
my Ariel, even in pictures, has a way of turning me into a mystical
mush. She is so sweet.”

“Horrible! Please spare my sensibilities, and the sensibilities of the
two or three hundred people who are listening to you,” Joan murmured
nervously, for at times being about with Michael Schwankovsky publicly
was embarrassing,—yes, even when as now he was the sole patron of an
exhibition, and every one knew he was the famous Michael Schwankovsky.

Hugh said in a low but emphatic voice, “Schwankovsky! I want to buy this
picture. It’s here in the catalogue as ‘The Shell.’ Do I arrange it with
you or Frye?”

But Schwankovsky hummed, deep in his throat. “Um ... Ah ... Um ... This
one, Weyman, we’ve given a rather high figure. I did that, meaning to
get it myself. However, when you take it up with Frye—he’s the business
manager—say I waive my claim, if, hearing the price, you still want it.
No sales are being made until the end of the exhibition, but people are
speaking ahead, of course. The sketch for this painting, let me tell
you, nobody could get for love or money. It’s mine. It’s really finer
than the painting. There’s an exquisiteness, almost supernatural, that
is lost in the paint. And the foot and leg, the turn of that bared
shoulder—it’s spiritually ravishing. But if you can afford to own ‘The
Shell,’ Weyman, you needn’t worry. It’s the pick of all the
paintings—except for ‘Noon.’ That’s—”

He broke off in disgust, suddenly remembering “Noon’s” history, and
Hugh’s connection with it.

“If Frye lets ‘The Shell’ go to you, he’d better see that a contract
goes with it, stating explicitly that you’ll not hang it in your attic
or your cellar. Come to think of it, Weyman, you’re probably an art
sadist!” He turned on Joan. “Would that be possible? You know all about
morbid psychology. Do some men like to torment artists as others like to
torment women?”

Joan shrugged this away. And Hugh was too genuinely moved by the
painting before him, and by his underlying anxiety for his grandmother,
to speculate which Schwankovsky thought himself, humorous or insulting.
Joan took Hugh’s arm and said impatiently, but her impatience was
directed toward Michael Schwankovsky, “Hugh! It’s getting dreadfully
close! Let’s look at the ‘Studio’ Michael’s giving me, and dash off. How
will your mother get home? We must find her and tell her about your
grandmother.”

“You will come back to-morrow and all the days, I trust,” Schwankovsky
commanded them both. “And please take my devoted respects to Mrs.
Weyman. The first minute she will see me I shall beg the privilege. But
she knows this. She’s agreed to send me word when next I may have that
felicity. And give my Ariel my fondest love, fondest kisses, and
describe for her the crowds and the enthusiasm. Our success is already
apparent. Not? But you look tired, Joan, my girl! It is the heat. Insist
on driving, Weyman. She has no business to be your chauffeur, looking
like that!”

When they were down on the Avenue, walking toward the spot where Joan,
by bribing a policeman pretty heavily, had been able to park only half a
block from the galleries, Hugh urged, “Do let me drive, Joan.
Schwankovsky’s right. The heat has got you. I won’t strip the gears, or
anything.”

But Joan autocratically rejected the idea. “It will be cooler the minute
we are out of this ghastly city,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had Amos
put down the top if I’d realized what a blazing day it is. But we won’t
even stop to get it up now. Only I don’t want to worry you, Hugh. You
will tell me if I go too fast?”

Hugh, however, very justly and at all times admired Joan’s driving, and
to-day was no exception. It occurred to him, as they won out of traffic
at last to the open road, where speed was not only possible but safe,
that she would like to frighten him by her use of the accelerator,—that
she wanted him to think her unduly reckless. But he knew, instinctively,
that she would not for an instant endanger her beautiful body and rich
life. So her passenger was safe. This was not a matter of skiing, where
their interests were separated.

“What are you thinking?” she asked, snatching a glance at his profile.

He could scarcely tell her the truth, that he was seeing her, and for
the first time, as a woman who would never under any circumstances be
capable of living dangerously: that she might encourage it in others,
but never if it involved herself. Besides, he imagined that he was still
in love with her, and so he let the sudden unflattering perception slip
from the foreground of his mind even as she asked her question. He said,
what in truth had been very much in his heart all the time, “It’s a
shame Ariel missed the opening. Did she seem dreadfully disappointed? Or
was she too upset by Grandam’s attack to realize?”

“I don’t think she realized. Imagination isn’t exactly Ariel’s long
suit, is it? And of course, she was upset about your grandmother. Pain
isn’t ever pretty—’specially to the young.”

“Her father died that way. Did you know? So it would be all the worse.
Poor girl!”

Joan gripped the wheel. “Now I’m going to make time,” she warned. “Watch
out for motor police, please. Your Ariel’s not a ‘poor girl’ at all. A
supremely lucky one. In one day, without any merit or effort of her own,
she’s become financially independent and perhaps even famous too. The
next question, though, is: will the dear public ever grasp the fact that
Gregory Clare idealized his model beyond conception? Or will they think
her beautiful and talented, hypnotized by the suggestions of the press
and Michael Schwankovsky’s ravings? What will they do to her? Pay her a
fabulous fortune for showing herself to them in the talkies, or go by
the thousands to see her walk around in front of velvet curtains, waving
her arms above her head and kneeling now and then—an æsthetic dancer?
What’s your guess, Hugh?”

Hugh was some time before even trying to answer the cool and slightly
weary voice of his interlocutor. When he did speak, finally, he too
sounded slightly weary. “Personally, I don’t see why the public should
bother about Ariel at all. But you and Brenda Loring seem to take it for
granted that they will, so I’m wrong probably. It’s rather up to us,
isn’t it, to protect her from cheap publicity. It’s in Schwankovsky’s
power, I’m sure. Will you speak to him, Joan?”

Joan shook her head. “Schwankovsky happens to be hypnotized by the ways
Gregory Clare found of putting light on canvas. But some other just as
good critics are going to be even more hypnotized by how a great artist
has been able to take one single model and by changing her postures make
of her a whole symphony of the dance, a kaleidoscopic vision of the
possibilities of beauty in movement of the feminine form.... If only
Ariel had the beauty that Clare has imagined and created there! But she
simply hasn’t any quality which will justify the free publicity she’ll
be getting from all this.

“So I think she _will_ need protection. But _ours_, Hugh, not
Schwankovsky’s. Whatever Michael’s talents are, protecting’s not one of
them. I should think we’d be agreed on that, you and I. No, it’s up to
us, if you think she’s worth the bother. And you do, I know. You’ve been
a darling from the very first about this girl. You are the protector
supreme, my dear. It’s quite your character! Would you be pleased if I
helped a little, took her off your hands? I might even invite her to
Switzerland with me next month. Would that help?”

Hugh knew at once that it would help, immensely. What better could
happen to Ariel this summer than that a woman like Joan should take her
in hand, travel with her? And wasn’t it very wonderful of Joan? Mightn’t
Hugh take hope and heart from the fact that Joan was at last identifying
her interests with his own in this sudden and generous way?

But oddly enough, he took neither hope nor heart. His heart, in fact,
instead of responding joyously, had set up a lonely, almost sullen thud.
He did not want Ariel to go to Switzerland, next month,—even with Joan.

As he was not responding to her wildly generous suggestion, Joan after a
minute of waiting began talking fast, for her, and nervously. “Did you
notice that in all these pictures Clare takes great care to paint Ariel
turned away—or if her face is there, he blurs it with light, or throws a
shadow across it, or bends it down. It seems that he wasn’t so oblivious
of the limitations of his model, then, doesn’t it? Her face, at least,
never touched his imagination. There’s a whole theme for a tragic novel
in that! The tragedy of an artist,—_His muse, full face, is not
beautiful_. Rather subtle, that! Too subtle for you, Hugh, I’m afraid.
But it quite thrills me. Some day I may write it. It would be big,
profound.... Do you remember, Hugh, how you said that Ariel made no
impression on you in Bermuda? How shadowy she was?”

“Did I? Yes, I know I did. Well, she was like some figure in a dream, so
absolutely _quiet_. But surely you are wrong about Clare. He was more
aware than a stupid Philistine like me could ever be. He got it _all_.
Have you forgotten ‘The Shell’? That is his portrait of Ariel.”

“And do you think her beautiful there?” Joan asked, genuinely surprised.
“Those narrow, greenish eyes! The thin, sharp lips!”

“I know. No. She isn’t beautiful by any special standards. But did you
notice her eyelids in that painting? They are astonishingly beautiful,
by _any_ standards.... Their pure corners ... petals ... And her
hair....”

“Hugh! You aren’t convinced! You do think her as beautiful every bit as
Michael does? Is it seeing her in all those pictures this afternoon
that’s made you? You’ve said all along—”

Hugh laughed constrainedly. “This is nonsense. We’re babbling along like
two schoolgirls about another girl! But I do admit and know that of
course Ariel Clare is not a beautiful or even a pretty girl.... All the
same, Beauty itself _has_ her, possesses her. Now you, Joan, dear, have
Beauty. You possess It. Do you see the distinction? It’s a real one.”

“No. Indeed I don’t. Hugh, you are maddening. Are you paying me a
compliment in this new and inimitably mystical way of talking, or are
you laughing at me?”

Hugh put his arm along the seat at Joan’s back. “You’re the most
beautiful girl this poor mortal has ever seen or dreamed of, Joan my
dear. You know that, and God help me. Let’s forget Ariel.”

“Let’s forget Ariel. Let’s forget Ariel. Let’s forget Ariel.” The words
were merely an echo of a thin high cry that had arisen days ago in his
heart.

Imperceptibly but very actually Joan’s strong white hand relaxed on the
glossy wheel. Hugh thought, “Her driving is superb. But I do hope she
keeps up the speed and doesn’t slow down again. If she does keep it up
we’ll be there soon, soon....”

And Joan, though happily unconscious that she was doing so, gratified
his unspoken desire. She drove where it was absolutely safe to do so at
an almost terrific speed, and she did not speak again until she let Hugh
out at his door.



                             Chapter XXIII


In a minute Hugh was standing in the hot attic hallway, among the bowls
and jars of flowers which had been swept with the rest of Grandam’s
personality out of her room. Under his feet, where his haste had almost
broken it, was the wide, shell-like dish of hepaticas he had watched
Ariel put up on the mantel long, long ago, that morning.

He opened the door of the attic apartment cautiously, without knocking.
As twice before when Grandam had had these heart attacks, her
personality had fled the room and left it amazingly bare, even barren.
The daybed was there by the long open window, white and stark, no violet
and silver cushions left to its adornment,—and on it, straight between
white sheets, propped high on white pillows, Grandam lay unstirring.
Ariel sat in a chair on the far side of the bed, facing the door, hands
folded in her lap. There was something in her posture and utter
stillness that said she had been thus immobile a long while.

Hugh came as near to the daybed as he dared. Even then Ariel did not
look up. She was intent on Grandam’s sleeping face. He noticed how tiny
gold freckles stood out on her cheeks and nose, freckles that the
silvery tone of her skin generally concealed but which were shown up now
by pallor. Her hair, as in “The Shell,” was bent back from her
temples,—only now by the air of Death, not of the sea, Hugh thought. And
to him, still under the power and beauty of “The Shell,” she seemed a
figure watching at the edge of the tide of death, wondering how high it
would come, how close to her watching eyes, her folded hands.

Grandam was sleeping with apparent comfort and tranquillity, her face,
airily and delicately mysterious, a face that in its elusive quality had
somehow escaped all the marks of the usual human experiences—old age,
fear, and now even Death.

Hugh ever since he was grown up, and much more since his father’s death,
had realized Grandam’s uniqueness. Her only son, Hugh’s father, had been
her last great love left to her, but when he went Grandam had remained
as now, elusive of suffering. It was when his father died, or soon
after, that Grandam gave herself away to Hugh in confidences, and ever
since the already close bond of sympathy between them had been closer.

She had reminded Hugh that she had married a man twenty years older than
herself. His friends had become her friends; he had a genius for
friendship and the men and women he knew intimately and had drawn to
himself were people of rich lives, spiritually and intellectually. Among
them were poets and painters, saints and humanitarians. Their values
were spiritual. Grandam married when she was seventeen. Hugh’s father
was born when she was twenty; and that same year her husband died.

But in those three short years of a perfect marriage Grandam had made
herself as accepted and loved by her husband’s circle of rare friends as
he was himself.... “My love identified me with him. That is the only way
I can explain such a miracle,” she told Hugh, that one brief hour some
time in the course of their coming together in grief for his father’s
death.

But she never felt worthy of the remarkable friendships. She knew, none
better, that she must fly, race, to keep up with her husband’s friends
and himself in their flight through time and in Eternity.

“The one who has helped me most in this flight, this race, is the
possessor of those hands.” She indicated the drawing of the hands from
which Hugh had never known her to be separated, whether at home or
traveling. Wherever Grandam was, there always in her bedroom hung the
ebony-framed drawing.

“He taught me short cuts. After Hugh died (her husband Hugh, she meant)
I would have lost the race if it hadn’t been for ‘The Saint.’ For if
Hugh was so far ahead of me in Time here, in Eternity he would be
lost—like a star shot into space. But ‘The Saint’ made me have faith
that there are ways of keeping in touch even with shooting stars.

“Well, ‘The Saint’ himself and all my husband’s loves have left Time,
one after another,—and me here in Time. Even my son has left me behind
here. But Time and Eternity are really one in a mysterious way, as ‘The
Saint’ taught me, and so I am racing still, a girl at the tail of the
race, but in it.”

Grandam had ended these confidences concerning her inner life on a
humorous word. “The whole point of this story, Hugh, is that I am _God’s
accident_. He let me into Time twenty years too late. So I’ve just had
to leave time out of my practical life.”

And Hugh knew she had succeeded. Grandam had eluded time. That
constituted the mystery of her elusiveness. And looking down at her now,
there was nothing of the pity of vigorous youth in his glance. Whether
she died to-night or next month didn’t matter. Her death would hardly be
so much as a stumble in the race she was running with that clan of noble
souls!

Ariel had become aware of Hugh’s presence. She came beside him, took his
coat sleeve between a thumb and forefinger, and drew him away from the
bed toward the piano. There, as far from the daybed as they could get,
she whispered.

“It was like Father. This happened to him several times, before the last
one. She was too ill to take the medicine. So I used the hypodermic, as
I had done with Father, and as Doctor Bradshaw had said I should with
Grandam. Rose got him on the telephone. But it was almost over when he
got here. He said that Rose and I and Nora had done everything we could
have done to help her. He brought Miss Freer, the nurse, with him. She’s
down in the kitchen now. She’s very nice and Grandam likes her ...
Grandam was very brave....”

Ariel looked down, away from Hugh’s intent eyes, and her dropped
eyelids, delicately etched, petal-shaped, took his breath with their
loveliness as they had in “The Shell.”

... “She threw her scarf over her face, Hugh, so that I shouldn’t see
the agony of the pain.... Oh, Hugh!”

She lifted eyes, clear of tears, but pitiful. And Hugh had been thinking
of petal eyelids and eerie gold freckles, when it was death and agony
that were here, close by. His beloved Grandam’s death and agony. It was
suddenly Hugh who had tears. His throat ached with them, and the light
went black with them.

Instinctively, he felt for and found Ariel’s wrist and held it hard.
When he could see again, Ariel was still there by his side, but looking
away toward the daybed, a tender patience on her face, keeping watch
over Grandam’s peace. Then Hugh remembered the exhibition. Ariel had not
asked or looked a word about it. And such a little time ago it had meant
so much to her! It was really to have been Ariel’s and her dead father’s
great hour.

“She’s a woman, this girl,” Hugh knew with his whole soul then. “Life
falls into its just proportions before the eyes of her womanhood. She
has forgotten herself. She has even forgotten her father in sharing
Grandam’s suffering.”

He was overwhelmingly rejoiced. He felt that neither life nor death
could ever sadden him again, because one woman was so good, so sweet.



                              Chapter XXIV


“Your line has been busy for the past hour! Big business?” It was Joan’s
voice, coming to Hugh through his office telephone toward noon the
following morning.

He laughed. “Reporters mostly. The papers are on to the exhibition, and
all you prophesied seems to be coming true about the part they’re giving
Ariel in their stories.”

“Yes, of course. They’ve been hectoring us here too. I’m at the gallery
with Michael and Charlie. You can thank me, Hugh, for keeping Michael
from giving them the story about ‘Noon’ in the attic. He’s absolutely
promised now. And Charlie has promised. It’s safe. And your ‘Shell’ is
safe too. Michael’s going to let you have it. I’ve bought you one
myself, Hugh. I’d have wanted you to choose it, but it wouldn’t wait.
Every last painting, even the sketches, have been bid for. The
Metropolitan is going to get the lion’s share. A fortune seems to have
been donated by some dark angel. It will probably come out who, though.
So far, Michael claims it’s not he. ‘Sun and Wind’s’ the painting I’ve
bought for you, Hugh. For your birthday! It’s the only canvas without
the Dancer. If for nothing else that makes it a prize, of course.
Priceless some day. Have the reporters invaded Wild Acres yet? They
know, of course, that Ariel is there. And when _is_ she coming in?
Michael wants to know.”

“Wonderful of you to remember my birthday, Joan. I don’t remember ‘Sun
and Wind.’ But I’m grateful. You shall hang it for me at Wild Acres. But
the attic’s barred....” They both laughed.... “Ariel’s not coming in
till to-morrow afternoon. Grandam clings to her. She’s so very weak. I
wouldn’t be here myself, but there was something that had to be attended
to at the office.... To-morrow Glenn and Anne are getting away from
college to see Grandam, and they’ll take in the exhibition. If Grandam’s
better, Ariel and I’ll meet ’em at the Grand Central, the noon train,
and come right along to the gallery before going out to Wild Acres. Tell
Schwankovsky that, please.”

“Not till to-morrow! Well, he will be disappointed. Ariel might think of
him a little, after all he’s done for her!”

“She does. Of course, Joan. Last night she wrote him a letter, a very
dear one, I imagine. I put a special on it and posted it in the Grand
Central this morning. He’ll have it when he goes home.”

“Yes? Well, that may appease him. Where are you lunching, Hugh?”

“With you if you’ll let me, and why don’t I come right up and get you
now?” But he had little hope of Joan’s acceptance, for it was likely
that she had already arranged to lunch with Schwankovsky. “Only alone.
Please don’t take me up if there’s to be any one else along.”

The pause which followed this at the other end of the wire protracted
itself. Then in a lowered voice, as though not wanting any one at her
end of the wire to hear, Joan replied, “Of course we had made plans. But
I’d rather be with you, Hugh. I’ll have to think of a way out.... Ah!
Well, come for me here then, but not before one o’clock. I know a cool
place, small,—a garden in 33rd Street. We won’t be bothered by any of
our own crowd there.”

This sounded like Hugh’s good fortune. It sounded like that to him, to
his ears, to his brain. But deeper than that—? There were no answering
vibrations deeper. Yet his reply went over the wire in as resonant a
voice as though all his heart were behind it, so strong is habit, “Bless
you. You’re an angel.”


Hugh, Ariel, Glenn and Anne swung up the Avenue through May sunshine,
headed for the New Texas Galleries. As they neared Fifty-ninth Street,
Glenn strode ahead, and by the time the others had come up had bought a
bunch of arbutus from a vender on the corner there. He handed them to
Ariel. She was enchanted.

“But what are you going to do with them?” Hugh asked. To carry them in
her hand for the next few hours would be wasted effort, for they would
be very dead, indeed, by the time the afternoon was over.

“Why, cherish them, of course. I love them,” Ariel responded.

“But they’ll die.”

“No. I don’t think so.” She held them to her nose again, and her
expression seemed one of assurance that anything that thrilled and
delighted her as these pink-and-white-tight Heaven-smelling flowers did
would live forever. Looking down at her, Hugh believed it.

They made rather an arresting group even in the stream of arresting
people which throngs the Avenue on spring afternoons: Hugh, with his
high-held, hawklike, dark head, clean-cut shoulders and long stride;
Anne, buoyantly collegiate; Glenn, hatless, and with hair somewhat long
and unbrushed, free in manner and gesture as if he were walking and
talking in a wilderness instead of in the heart of a great city.

Ariel alone would have passed without comment. She was wearing a
heliotrope felt hat—a present from Mrs. Weyman—which shaded the upper
part of her face, an English tweed suit well enough cut to pass muster
even on the Avenue, and one of her ivory-colored silk blouses, open at
the throat. The only thing to attract attention to her was the fact that
she was being swept along by her three rather striking companions, the
obvious center of their exuberance.

Until they were actually in the gallery. There she cut herself off from
the group, and her quiet was no longer the center of their motion. Hugh
knew, as he watched her walking slowly along the rows of canvases, or
standing back for long minutes to brood on some particular painting,
that she had utterly forgotten him and the other two, for her father’s
companionship. He surmised that Ariel was not actually seeing paintings
at all, neither thinking nor feeling in terms of art. For after all,
what did she really know about the technique of painting, its history or
its criticism! Joan had assured Hugh that Ariel knew and cared
absolutely nothing, in spite of her long association with a great
artist, and Hugh had no reason to disbelieve it. Besides, he remembered
Gregory Clare himself saying in Bermuda that his daughter had inherited
nothing of his gift or interest in art. He had never even tried to give
her instruction in drawing.

Even so, she could be enthralled now by these pictures, seen again after
three months of separation. The sky in the pictures, Hugh imagined, was
actual Bermuda sky to Ariel, and the sea, the ocean curling her own home
beach. The light was dear as her life, home light. She stood, embraced
by shore and sky and wave.

And her own figure up there, dancing in light and shade,—what of that?
It was the word of her father’s love for her. It was merely his voice
saying with the easiness of complete sincerity, “my darling.” And in all
the pictures around the walls the artist’s love echoed itself in the
dancing figure.

So Hugh dreamed, standing near the entrance door and himself neglecting
the paintings to concentrate upon a girl of flesh and blood.

It seemed odd to him that nobody in the crowds which were drifting even
this early in the afternoon through the gallery recognized Ariel as the
dancer of the pictures. Obviously nobody did. If she should take off her
hat, though, if the May sunlight should fall on her pewtery hair, would
they then see? Or was she so rapt away into companionship with her dead
father and his imagination that she had attained a kind of invisibility,
except for those who loved her?

Glenn and Anne kept together in their tour of the walls. Before “Noon,”
given the place of honor—the only painting on one whole expanse of wall
at the farthest end of the gallery—they stopped the longest. “Think of
this being in our attic, just lying there in cobwebs and dust, for the
past five years!” Glenn muttered. “Hugh hasn’t a touch of taste, of
course—he’s the typical Philistine if there ever was one—but it does
seem as if even the Tired Business Man might have an uneasy feeling—a
sense that there was something, even if he couldn’t grasp it, in the
very presence of a thing like this!”

“Oh, be careful!” Anne whispered, pinching his arm and, with apparent
casualness but real concern, glancing around them to see if any one had
overheard Glenn’s mutterings.

Glenn lowered his voice but muttered on: “Can you imagine how Ariel felt
when she found it in the attic? Why, the kid expected, of course, it
would be the first thing her eyes would light on at Wild Acres. And
instead she had to start a hunt for it! It goes beyond imagination that
anybody could do such a thing to it, even after Joan Nevin had sniffed.
Couldn’t Hugh stand up to one little sniff? If he had, he’d be in a
beautiful position of _I told you so_ now!”

“Hugh’s all right,” Anne defended him. “He appreciates Ariel herself, at
any rate. And that takes taste. More than I had. I had to be knocked
down to wake up to it. But I can’t understand what was the matter with
Joan. It seems incredible.”

Glenn didn’t notice Anne’s ambiguous allusion to having been knocked
down. It was her implied opinion of the genuineness of Joan’s taste
which interested him.

“You forget,” he pointed out, with a decided sneer in his voice, “that
no Michael Schwankovsky had spoken authoritatively on him yet, and Clare
wasn’t famous, when Joan had the privilege of first seeing this
masterpiece of his. If anything ever showed that old girl up, this
business does. She’s a four-flusher, that’s what she is, a kowtower, a
sheep, a total washout. If she had any taste, even if she personally
detested Clare’s way of painting, she’d have known this was important.
Just as I detest D. H. Lawrence’s stuff, but even without the critics to
tell me I’d sense he was genuinely a great writer. I hope I would.”

Anne, however, resented all this. She loved Joan less than Glenn did and
with more reason. But if Joan was mean, of little account, then what of
Anne? No. She preferred to think her rival something better than shoddy.
So pride was in it, and pain too, when she answered Glenn hotly, “Joan
_has_ taste, and knows and cares a lot about the things she pretends to
know and care about. Look at her own collection of oils! And how many
people hasn’t she made! Brenda Loring, for instance. And now she’s doing
everything she can to encourage Charlie Frye, they say. This
picture—Well, Hugh probably showed it to her in a bad light and on top
of his hundredth and first proposal. She merely took her boredom out on
‘Noon.’ Doesn’t that explain it?”

“You always stand up for females, Anne, whether you hate the particular
one being criticized or not, I notice. But supposin’ you’re justified
this time,—then why doesn’t the pussy own up now, say she never got a
good look at the thing, instead of howling all over the place that Hugh
never showed it to her at all? Why is Hugh to be the goat! That’s
awfully sporting of her, isn’t it! Why! At college any number of fellows
have tried to razz me about it already! I suppose I owe that to friend
Prescott directly,—to Joan, though indirectly.

“Do you know, Anne, Prescott’s in danger of losing his diploma, I’m
afraid, all on account of Joan? I never see him any more. He’s here in
New York or at Holly every other day or so. And even his new novel has
gone on the rocks. He hasn’t done a stroke for weeks. Perhaps he’s
jealous of Hugh, and that’s why he’s made such a point of spreading this
story about ‘Noon’ and Hugh, since the papers all came out with the
exhibition stuff. Shouldn’t wonder if the press will get hold of it any
minute now! Wouldn’t that be just silly!”

Brother and sister looked very much alike at the moment, absorbed in
their individual angers, hands behind their backs, gazing up unseeingly
at the radiant world in the frame before them.

But the next minute Anne laughed, not without genuine sweetness, and
murmured, “Glenn! Take a glance at Ariel. And forget Joan.”

Ariel was standing not far off, her face lifted toward a picture. But
she seemed not so much a girl viewing a picture in an art gallery, as a
girl who had come down to a beach of yellow sands and was standing
looking out at a reef with spray fountaining against it,—who might, in a
moment, throw herself down there in the sun, and dream. If she did, out
of her body would rise her spirit and dance on the crystal air. Look!
There was the spirit already dancing,—where the sun in the picture above
threw a white haze across the rocks.

Glenn sang, under his breath,

  “Come unto these yellow sands,
    And then take hands:
  Curtsied when you have, and kiss’d
    The wild waves whist,
  Foot it featly here and there;
  And sweet sprites, the burthen bear.”

And Anne whispered,

  “Where should this music be? i’ the air or the earth?”

“Neither,” Glenn told her seriously. “In Gregory Clare’s painting and in
Ariel’s very body.”

Hugh was coming toward them down the gallery, intending to hurry them on
to “The Shell,” which was his, and would soon be hung at Wild Acres. But
he halted. He saw the way Glenn was looking at Ariel. He saw a
tenderness and gravity in his brother’s expression that he had never
caught there before. And he turned away. He did not want to see that
expression on his brother’s face an instant longer. And less than
anything now did he want to stand in front of that portrait of Ariel and
hear what his brother might say about it. He wished, with his whole
soul, that Glenn would never come to it, never in his whole life catch
so much as a glimpse of it.



                              Chapter XXV


“Why, Glenn! I thought it was all arranged. That you had agreed to go as
counselor. I didn’t know you were even looking for anything else.”

“But, Mother! Decker will be better than me as counselor. And Adams
seemed quite glad to get me. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up. I
have written the camp head all about Decker, and the minute he lets me
off I’m to wire Adams. I thought you’d be rather pleased.”

The Weymans were finishing dinner at Wild Acres the night of Anne’s and
Glenn’s and Ariel’s visit to the exhibition. Ariel was dining with
Grandam in the attic apartment. Glenn had surprised the others by
announcing his summer plans and the change he had made in them. In
January he had sought and procured for himself a counselorship at a
summer camp for boys in Canada. But now, it seemed, he wanted to get
onto a paper, and without mentioning it to his family he had negotiated
with Mr. Adams, an editor on the _World_, for a job on his staff, and
landed it. It only remained to get out of the counselorship.

But Mrs. Weyman did not look the “rather pleased” that Glenn had so
confidently expected, and as for Hugh,—Glenn thought to himself that old
Hugh was looking deuced funny.

“I don’t quite understand all this raised eyebrow stuff!” Glenn
protested. “If it’s that you don’t want me around so much, well, I can
board in New York, and still save something toward next year’s expenses,
I suppose.”

“Don’t be silly, Glenn!” Mrs. Weyman was looking at him speculatively.
“Anne and I’ll be in Maine, so you won’t be any burden to us, in any
case. There’ll just be you and Hugh and Grandam here. Unless we persuade
Grandam to go with us. But she won’t be persuaded. So it’ll be you
three. Hugh will be glad enough of your company. I was only thinking of
your obligation to the camp. But if it can be arranged—”

“And don’t you see,” Glenn urged, interrupting in his eagerness, “if I
am going into journalism, Hugh, this will be a much more profitable
summer? Enderly put me on to the idea. He thinks it’ll be invaluable as
experience. I’ll be all the sooner self-supporting if I get some
practical experience behind me.”

“All right,” Hugh agreed. “That is, if you can get out of the camp work
honorably. Grandam and you and I—and Ariel will keep house together.
Ariel seems definitely to have made up her mind to stay by Grandam this
summer. Keep her job.”

“Joan Nevin invited her to go to Switzerland with her. Did you know
that, Glenn? And that she refused?” His mother was looking at him oddly.
“Is that why—did she know you’d be here? Did you and she—” Mrs. Weyman
broke off, but Glenn answered as though she had finished her question.

“No, we didn’t,” he said emphatically. But now it was Hugh who thought
that Glenn was looking deuced funny. At any rate it was the first time
he remembered ever seeing his brother blush.

“Has Joan really invited Ariel to Switzerland with her?” Anne exclaimed.
“And she’s not going! Why, Grandam ought to _insist_ on her going. And
you, Hugh! You must make her go. What a chance! It’s just that Ariel is
too unsophisticated to know what it means, I guess. Think of the
contacts! Does she know about Doctor Steiner’s colony? How tremendously
swank it is?”

“‘Swank’ is very much the wrong word,” Mrs. Weyman protested. “Fashion
and money don’t help one to get in there. Authentic personality and
accomplishment are the open sesame. And of course Ariel doesn’t
understand. How should she! It’s just as well, however, for she’d be
frightfully at a loss. Joan’s even suggesting it was strange. I know
that she did it for you, Hugh. It was very generous. Shall we have
coffee on the terrace?”

“Let’s. And dance,” Glenn was in an astonishingly social mood to-night.
“Let’s get Ariel down and teach her to dance, Anne. Since she’s turned
Joan down, it’s up to us to do something for her education, isn’t it?”

“I’m afraid you can’t,” Mrs. Weyman said, getting up and stepping out of
the long window onto the terrace. “Grandam can’t be left alone for a
minute. And Ariel has proved herself extremely conscientious.”

“Can’t Hugh substitute for a little while? Grandam’s as glad to have him
as Ariel, isn’t she? She’s definitely said good night to Anne and me,
and good-by, too. Told us not to come up in the morning before leaving.
But couldn’t you release Ariel for an hour or so, Hugh? Our one night
home?”

“As soon as I’ve had some coffee I’ll go up and try,” Hugh agreed. But
Glenn thought his voice now was deuced funny. Hugh’s back was to the
lighted dining-room windows, and the stars did not disclose the
expression on his face, but Glenn imagined it as matching in expression
the deuced funny voice. Glenn had never felt like this before at home.
He was aware of tension, not only in his mother and Hugh, but in
himself.

It vanished, however, when Hugh had succeeded in making the exchange of
himself for Ariel with his grandmother, and Ariel appeared on the
terrace.

“Shall we have the victrola, or will you play, Anne?” Glenn asked,
throwing his half-smoked cigarette into the rose bushes, and drawing
Ariel by both hands along the terrace toward the drawing-room windows.

“Oh, I’ll play, since only two can dance at a time. But I don’t know how
Glenn’s going to teach you to dance, Ariel, unless he’s been practicing
himself lately.”

“I have,” Glenn confessed. “You see, I thought I was going to get Ariel
to Prom. So I’ve been brushing up.”

“You’d better take up the rugs in the library and dance there,” Mrs.
Weyman advised, trailing after them, dusky in the dusk. “These flags
aren’t a good floor. ’Specially for a beginner.”

“But it’s cooler out here. And Ariel belongs out of doors on such a
night.”

“Oh, well, if you will be such children! How is Mrs. Weyman to-night,
Ariel? Do you think she’d care to have me go up?”

Ariel hesitated, just a breath, and said, “Hugh seems to rest her the
most. And I know she feels like only one person at a time. It’s all Miss
Freer would let her have, anyway. Miss Freer has gone for a walk.”

“She’s a good nurse,” Mrs. Weyman murmured. “But I don’t see that
Grandam leaves her much to do, Ariel. You seem to be bearing the
burden.”

“That’s only because I rest Grandam,” Ariel replied. “Miss Freer would
really like to do much more. She considers me officious, I can see, and
is put out sometimes. But it’s more important that Grandam should be
contented, isn’t it, than that Miss Freer should approve of me.”

Mrs. Weyman gasped. Miss Freer had spoken to her several times on the
subject of Ariel’s officiousness, but it had not occurred to either of
them that Ariel herself knew how the nurse resented her. Since Ariel had
taken the job of nurse-companion to her mother-in-law, Mrs. Weyman’s
respect for her had, of necessity, grown. Her liking and her interest
had grown as well. Besides, there was Anne, so devoted to Ariel! Mrs.
Weyman sent up almost daily letters addressed to Ariel in Anne’s
sprawling hand. Hugh, too, was fond of her, any one could see. Grandam
was absolutely dependent on her. And Glenn! Mrs. Weyman was disturbed
about Glenn. When had he ever in his whole life before been interested
like this in a girl?

Were she and Joan, then, perhaps wrong? Had they made a mistake from the
very first about this artist’s daughter in thinking her a mere child,
empty in her total lack of experience?

Anne’s spirited jazz came through the library windows. Ariel was dancing
in Glenn’s arms on the starlit terrace. One could not say she was being
taught. From the first step she had merely followed Glenn and the music.
They danced like one person, a dark and a light figure, slim and rather
elegant in the starlight. Glenn was wearing his tux, and patent-leather
pumps. Ariel, Mrs. Weyman noticed, was not small and insignificant as
she had got into the habit of thinking her. She was tallish and
extraordinarily graceful.

“Even so! Glenn mustn’t be serious. It will be years before he even
begins to be self-supporting,” Mrs. Weyman mused. “And Joan is probably
right. Ariel’s charm is merely that of youth and can’t wear. Still, I
don’t like Glenn’s being here all summer. Propinquity does such absurd
things sometimes!”

And upstairs, Hugh was standing in one of the apartment windows,
listening to the faint thrum-thrum of the jazz from below. Heard from
this distance—the library windows were on the other side of the house—it
sounded eerie, faint. And it kept itself going with an elfish
insistence. To Hugh it became the music of a mischievous fairyland,
actually malicious in its pricking at his heart.

Grandam was lying, too weary to talk or to hear Hugh read, half
drowsing. But she was aware of his mood.

“I’m glad Ariel’s having a little fun,” she murmured after a while.
“Aren’t you, really, Hugh? You’re glad?”

“Yes. Of course. That’s what I want for her....” But in the dimness of
her pillows Grandam smiled—a malicious, elfin smile, like the far-away
music with which she was for the minute in harmony. A grating in Hugh’s
voice, the droop of his ordinarily so squared shoulders, was not
unpleasant to her. For Grandam, Saint Paul was contradicted to-night. In
the midst of death she was in life.

However, Ariel’s brief hour of comradeship and fun with Anne and Glenn
was soon over. The next morning they went back to their colleges until
final examinations should release them. A day or two after that Michael
Schwankovsky sailed for Bermuda, hoping to buy the Clare studio from
Doctor Hazzard, who owned it. To Schwankovsky the studio and the beach
where the artist had lived and done all his painting had become sacred.
He wanted it as a retreat for himself, for the present, and ultimately
to endow and present to St. George’s as an altar to Gregory Clare’s
memory. But Doctor Hazzard was not to be hurried in a decision to sell,
and Schwankovsky stayed on in Bermuda, waiting. Joan, since Ariel had
decided against accepting her offer of Switzerland and contact with the
rare souls who would soon be gathering there, paid no more attention to
her.

Now at last was Hugh’s best opportunity to relieve the strain of Ariel’s
rather arduous days and nights with his friendly interest and
companionship. But for a variety of reasons he did not use what might
have been the golden days. Instead he spent longer hours at the business
of making money. He cultivated Brenda Loring’s willingness to lunch,
dine and dance with him in town, and he was meeting and liking many of
her friends. They were mostly people with whom Joan and Schwankovsky
would not have bothered, and of whom certainly they had never
heard—young artists and writers and editors, an architect, a professor
from Columbia and so on. Most of the men were struggling but gifted, and
the women without exception were earning their way and making places for
themselves in the artistic or intellectual life of New York. Hugh felt
at home with these new friends and they were candid in their liking for
his company. After having for so many years been tolerated on the
fringes of Joan’s more sophisticated and glittering world of what his
mother called the “absolutely arrived,” this new experience of
appreciative friendliness was pleasant. And Brenda’s gay friendship and
open admiration were more than pleasant. They were consoling.

So, of Ariel he saw almost nothing. For when he went up to sit with his
grandmother, or play or read to her, as he did as often as he was at
home in the afternoons or evenings, Ariel ran out for air, or into her
own room, in order to leave them together. But Hugh always thought, “She
is going to answer Glenn’s letter that I saw on the hall table this
morning.”

Joan seldom called him up now, and she was hardly ever at home, at
Holly. For the few weeks before leaving for Switzerland she was
accepting invitations to house parties; so Hugh saw little of her.

Then, one day toward the middle of June, he received an invitation to a
week-end house party himself, at Fernly, Mrs. Ronald Hunt-Smith’s place
on Long Island. As he barely knew the lady, having met her only once, at
Holly, and then only for a minute at one of Joan’s larger teas, he
rightly attributed his invitation to Joan’s persuasions. Rather to his
own surprise, he decided against going.

The invitation was in reality, he knew, an indirect promise from Joan
that they should have some long hours together at Fernly, for surely she
would never have bothered to secure so unlikely an invitation for him
unless she meant to manage to give him a good deal of her time there, as
a farewell before her departure for the summer. But even this assurance
did not seem inducement enough to Hugh, in the new directions his life
had taken this spring, to make him willing to face a household of
uncongenial strangers.

Before he had sent his regrets, however, he learned from Brenda that she
too was included in this house party. “I suppose you’re asked for Joan,”
she said, frankly annoyed at the idea. “And I sha’n’t see anything of
you. I don’t believe I’ll go. Oh, yes, but I must, of course. Business!
Mrs. Ronald Hunt-Smith may have a drawing-room or a boudoir that needs
doing over. And there’ll be a dozen or so women of her own sort there, I
suppose, with drawing-rooms just as terrible which I can fix. No. I
can’t afford to turn it down, you see. But, Hugh, will you be a little
decent to me, please? I shall be lost among the bigwigs. They _are_
bigwigs, you know. Not just money, but diplomacy and high finance. All
that. You’ll remember that we’re pals—promise?”

“Oh, but I hadn’t meant to go. I was going to ask you to come out to
Wild Acres for the week-end instead. Mother is writing you to-night. But
you prefer magnificence and bigwigs?”

“You know I don’t. And I’ll come to Wild Acres any other week-end you
ask me, with joy. I think your mother is too lovely, to want me. I
couldn’t take my eyes from her at the Clare exhibition. I think I like
her already without knowing her, Hugh. But you will come to Fernly? Say
you will?”

Her eyes were wistful and pleading. And so, oddly enough, Hugh found
himself yielding to Brenda Loring’s persuasions, where Joan’s invisible
but encouraging beckon had failed. However, if he had allowed himself to
follow his own desires, he would have preferred Wild Acres as a place to
spend any Saturday and Sunday. Yes. Even if Ariel must always be in the
next room, writing letters to Glenn.



                              Chapter XXVI


“And apropos of our little friend Brenda,” Joan murmured, sifting sand
in rhythmical waves through her fingers, “I’m glad she amuses you so
much, Hugh dear. If you’d played around with more girls like her, taken
out more time for play and amusing companionships, I mean, you’d have
been a lot better off. Brenda wakes you up. Any one can see. And waked
up—you are delightful, Hugh. All the women here like you tremendously.
And the men, well, they’d like you anyway. _These_ men. They’d respect
the really clever side of you, the business side, having most of them
come the same road. I did better than I knew when I wheedled Laura into
inviting you. For really, I was selfishly thinking only of myself, as
usual.”

Laura was Mrs. Ronald Hunt-Smith, and Joan and Hugh were out on the
swimming beach at Fernly, lingering on after the Sunday morning’s
general swimming meet in order to be together. Joan was wearing a
sea-green beach cape draped about her shoulders and a wide beach hat.
But Hugh was sprawled in the sun, unprotected, getting his first tan of
the season.

“Brenda’s all right,” Hugh replied nonchalantly. “Every day in every way
I like her better and better. She’s refreshing. And she wears.”

“Yes. And I’m glad I’ve been able to help her as much as I have. Laura
is thinking of redecorating her Riverside house. Or she was thinking of
it before this party. Now she has definitely decided to do it. Told me
so last night. So you see I still think of Brenda and for her.”

“Yes. She owes you this invitation as much as I do, then? Well, she’d be
grateful if she knew. She’s a loyal soul, Brenda.”

“But of course she owes it to me! Brenda has done some lovely places,
her reputation’s grown tremendously. But after all—Laura Hunt-Smith! I
suppose you can’t know what that means! But to be honest, my dear boy,
it wasn’t Brenda’s career I was thinking of this time. Not that alone,
anyway. I wanted to see you two together. Every one else seems to have
been seeing you together, and to have jumped to conclusions. I wanted to
see for myself, that was all.”

She looked at him, smiling, but an open gay smile, not enigmatical.

“And now you’ve seen—” Hugh asked. “Well?”

“I’ve seen that although you two are good friends, you’re not simple
enough for Brenda, simple as you are, darling. I mean she’s a little too
simple for you. It’s too obvious! People are such imbeciles when they
try to evaluate friendships from the outside! But I, where you’re
concerned, Hugh, don’t come in that class, do I? We are so close that I
can evaluate your relations with people from the inside, as it were.
There’s been a _rapport_ built up between us through these most vital
years of our lives,—fifteen to thirty, isn’t it? We don’t fool each
other. And no matter how much you and Brenda flirt, and how openly, I
can only sigh, now that I’ve watched you together here, and see that
your heart isn’t in it. Poor Brenda! And it might have solved
everything.... I mean, you stood some chance of normal happiness if you
could only have found her _simpatica_. But you’ll never bring yourself
to marry any one without that. Oh, you see, I know—I know....”

Hugh leaned up on one elbow and started scooping out a trench in the
sand between himself and Joan. His dark head, silhouetted against the
vivid blue-green of the noon Atlantic, was Grecian, Joan thought, in its
beautiful symmetry. And his shoulders were as classic under the narrow
straps of his damp bathing suit as they appeared when hidden under the
most meticulously tailored of dinner jackets. “Fastidious strength.
Strength to be used fastidiously. Aristocracy of body—as it is hardly
known in the modern world,” Joan mused.

“And he’s mine. I’ve only to reach a finger across this trench. Whisper
one word. What am I waiting for? Why can’t I take him as he is, and not
expect perfection? Why do I want the moon? What do I hope for, better
than this! If Michael and Hugh and Doctor Steiner could only be rolled
into a composite person, that would be ideal. But they can’t. Hugh’s
himself, and couldn’t be himself and have all their qualities added. And
why must I cling to this perfectionist view of my life! Ah! That is
still to be discovered. But why wait to understand myself perfectly? I
needn’t stop being analyzed just because I’m married. And it isn’t as if
marriage were irrevocable. It isn’t. Though of course one does hate to
make mistakes, for marriage is important. At the very least mistakes
with it are a waste of time. But it’s pride, really. I’m as proud as
Lucifer and can’t bear to be caught out in a mistake, important or
unimportant.”

Joan was talking for Doctor Steiner in these musings. She had almost
forgotten the presence of the occasion of them, and Doctor Steiner’s
emaciated face with its piercing but impersonal eyes was before her, in
her imagination, more vivid to her than Hugh in the flesh. He was
probing with herself into the depths of her psyche, watching with a
whole mind’s powerful concentration for the one word that might turn the
lock, explain to them Joan’s inability to live life as the majority of
people do live it, discover the mystery of why she, almost alone in the
world of civilized women, felt that if she could not give herself in her
entirety to a marriage she could not give herself at all: in other
words, that compromise was beneath her.

Doctor Steiner had often drawn her attention to the fact that compromise
is the attitude necessary if one is to lead a normal, rational life. The
gods, if there are gods, may live without it, but not mortals. Joan must
forget her Luciferian pride, learn to be an ordinary mortal, if she
hoped for happiness.

Last night she had dreamed, and written it down with minutest detail in
her dream notebook kept for Doctor Steiner’s eyes alone, something which
might help him to understand, more than any other dream she’d had since
being analyzed, the secret of this inability to stoop to compromise with
life. It was a dream which, given almost any interpretation, flattered
Joan’s soul very much. She could hardly wait for Doctor Steiner to hear
it and by its illumination pierce a little deeper with his so divinely
impersonal vision into her mysterious depths. Indeed, she found herself
looking forward to to-morrow afternoon, and the two hours he would give
her in his office then, with a vast impatience. Would that it were here!
After all, what could Laura Hunt-Smith’s house party offer in
competition with two hours of Doctor Steiner’s active interest in one’s
complicated soul states!

But Doctor Steiner’s keen face was beginning to disintegrate and form
again into Hugh’s obtuse one. Hugh had completed his trench and was
interrupting Joan’s train of absorbing thoughts by talking. And about
Brenda Loring! Stupid of him! Joan was tired of Brenda. She herself had
exhausted that subject, and here was Hugh keeping it up. He was saying,
“There’s no question of sentimentality between us. Brenda and I are
friends. And she has no more designs on me than I have on her. That’s
one of the things I like about her. She’s so finely independent.”

“Perhaps not so independent as you think! She’s only human, dear boy,
even if she does make fifty thousand or so a year out of that way she
has with interiors. But I’m not pretending to understand Brenda. It’s
only you I know so well. And I do think it may be rather a pity that you
can’t bring yourself to be fonder of her.”

He responded nothing to that, and after a little she leaned forward and
destroyed his trench, smoothing it out with her fingers. She was giving
him her attention again, Doctor Steiner practically forgotten. She
decided to speak gravely and simply.

“Hugh, dear! I’ve already lived. Had a life. My adorable children! They
have satisfied the maternal in me. Filled my cup to overflowing. And I
am deeply satisfied. I wouldn’t want more children, even if I married.
That side of me is finished. Perfected. Do you see? Wouldn’t it be
better for you—far better—if you could fall in love with a wholesome,
healthy girl who still wants and needs all that for her development? I
don’t say Brenda. I see she wouldn’t do. She’s not quite wonderful
enough.... But some one quite wonderful.... If you could find her....
Don’t you think it would be kinder of me, even if I loved you, to give
you up once and for all? Today! Now! For your sake?”

She was looking at the smoothed plateau where the trench had been
between them. If Doctor Steiner had been there, actually in the body and
not merely hovering in the background of Joan’s obsessed imagination,
would he have noticed a contradiction between what Joan’s hands had just
done in so ruthlessly destroying Hugh’s trench and the noble womanly
kindness of Joan’s words? And supposing he had noticed the work of
Joan’s hands, would he have called it the outward sign of an inward
conflict; or would he—for even a psychoanalyst, no matter how bigoted,
cannot be totally ignorant of human nature—have thought privately that
here hypocrisy of a very simple order had accidentally symbolized
itself? Perfectly self-conscious hypocrisy, at that?

She was looking at the smoothed plateau and not at Hugh, yet she felt
that his dark gaze was raised, burningly, to her face. But she was
wrong. Hugh was looking neither at her nor at the plateau her beautiful
fingers were still smoothing and smoothing. He was looking into space.
And he asked, with as grave a voice as she had used, and every bit as
quietly, “Do you really and finally mean this, Joan? Are you telling me
to give up hope of you? And would you be glad if I could find some
one—wonderful—and she would be so simple and dear as to marry me, and we
should have children? Do you mean this?”

There was something of a pause. Joan lifted her gaze from the sand with
a slight surprise in it. But Hugh’s face was averted. She guessed the
pain in his eyes. Well, perhaps pain was what she had asked for, more
than passion, in what she had just conveyed to him. She said with an
intended beautiful frankness, “No, my dear. I’m quite normally selfish.
Every one is, you know, but most people are capable of rationalizing
their selfishnesses into looking like nobilities. Well, being
psychoanalyzed destroys in one, if he coöperates with the discipline,
the possibility of this comforting variety of self-deceit. It has
destroyed it in me, at any rate. So I cannot say to you what would only
be a lie. I cannot be so dishonest, Hugh, as to tell you that your
falling in love and marrying and having children by some one you thought
very wonderful—more wonderful than me—would make me glad. How could it?
It’s very pleasant to be adored. And I love your love. This is true of
me emotionally, you understand, my dear. But one cannot act in harmony
with his emotions all the time unless he has the facility, which I,
thank God, have not, of rationalizing them eternally. No, Hugh, dear. It
is the findings of my sane, free mind that I would share with you in
this. And that mind says, ‘He would be far happier married to almost any
one than to you, Joan Nevin. He needs the great experience of having
children of his own, and of being adored, as he adores you.... If you
are generous, you will help him to this deliverance, Joan Nevin.’”

She paused. She put her hand near his hand on the sand. She looked at
it, and finished in a low, quite beautiful intonation, “Dear boy. I love
you enough to be frank with you. And I do believe if you could find such
a woman, and make such a marriage, that our friendship would be only
deepened by it. I love you, in my own way. But, frankly, it is not a way
that is good enough for you. That love, such as it is, you can never
lose. Your marriage with some wonderful person—only she _must_ be
wonderful, Hugh, or I should be unreconcilable—might even deepen it. I
think, Hugh, I could love the very children she gave you, for your
sake.”

“I don’t understand the distinctions you make, Joan, between your sane
mind and your emotions. But you are saying that you want me to give you
up? You are advising it?”

Joan did not hesitate. Although their hands were not touching, she
sensed the vibration of some passionate emotion through his whole body.
And now she was ready for climax. She had built up her scene. She had
used her sane mind in the way that Doctor Steiner admired so much in
her, that beautiful detachment and frankness of which so few women are
capable. Already Doctor Steiner had encored her performance, in her
imagination, and would certainly do so again in actuality when she told
him the whole story to-morrow afternoon. But now she was a little tired
of all that. Life is many-sided. The ideal life is one lived on all its
sides. Rhythm is the fundamental law of life. So now let come emotion.
She would _feel_ again. The sun and the salt air on her lips was not
quite enough of sensuous comfort. She would invite Hugh’s hard,
passionate, bitter kiss. Her veins were hungry for it.

“Yes, Hugh darling. I want you to give me up once and for all. Only I
want it—it would break my heart if you failed to understand
this!—because I do truly love you.”

She bent her head and waited for the storm. But it held off. Hugh had
sat up and was looking out to sea. He said in an even tone—iron control,
Joan thought he was showing—“That is the way you love me? Yes?”

“But it’s a very dear love, Hugh, isn’t it, to put your happiness ahead
of my own?”

Hugh suddenly turned over and lay prone in the sand, stretched to his
full length, his face on his folded arms. There was a space when he
might have been dead. He was lying in the dark. Darkness of body,
darkness of soul, darkness of mind. Time was lost. Then he felt the
shore under him. Earth. And the sun on his back, on his neck. Out of
death he had been tossed up—onto the shore of life. He lay, light as the
dark waves that had swept him here, and buoyant with peace. Clean swept
of all the dark. Purged of desire too. He was on a new shore. A new
existence opened to him, a free man.

“I would rather have had violets.” He remembered Ariel so vividly,
standing before him in the white coat, her voice and face passionately
earnest. It was the only time he had ever seen her passionate about
anything, except that close-shut stone-like passion of anger against
Joan that Sunday, when Joan had brought Schwankovsky to call and had let
him blame Hugh for ‘Noon’s’ having been relegated to the attic, and said
no word about her own part in it. That was passion, if you like, but
shut-in, angry.... “I would rather have had the violets,” that was
passion outflowing. Beautiful.... Daring.... But he had given Joan the
violets, and, he had thought, for all time. Now, however,—glory be! Joan
had tossed them back. Definitely. Finally. They were his to give
again....

Joan touched his shoulder, lightly, pityingly. He started, for he had
forgotten she was there. He looked at her with surprise.

“Gosh! I thought I was alone!” He mumbled it like a boy who is caught
day-dreaming by an elder, and with the same flushed shamedness. And
then, in his more natural voice, “I say, excuse me, Joan.”

The queer expression that swept Joan’s features was not intelligible to
him. But instinctively he knew that he had never seen its like before in
her face. It was the shadow of a strange consternation.

“You forgot I was here!... Hugh!”

“I was imagining things,” he tried to explain, and made it worse than it
need have been. “Kid stuff.... Desert islands, adventure.... New lands,
you know.... I thought—” But he saw that he was offending her, and
struggled for something else to talk about. “See here,” he blurted,
“does this sunlight remind you of Clare’s? It does me. And the green of
that water! It’s Bermudian.”

Joan’s head and shoulders were turned away. He had trouble in catching
her words. She was saying, “Crowell Fuller was telling me last night at
dinner that he thinks we’ve vastly over-rated the importance of Gregory
Clare. He bought two of the paintings himself and grants he’s
important—but not so important. It’s a pity, and Michael will be
disappointed. For Fuller could hold up Michael’s hands so substantially,
if he only saw eye to eye. He’s the one person—over here—in a position
to. And he’s not doing it.”

She was cool, impersonal. She might have been talking to some one she
had just met at a tea, except for that turned-away shoulder, the averted
face.

“But does it really matter—now?” Hugh asked, genuinely surprised. “The
Metropolitan’s bought a bunch of ’em. There were none left untaken after
the third day of the exposition. Ariel has more money from them than
even her father dreamed of,—enough, if it’s managed at all well, to
secure her a free, even opulent life by ordinary standards. So what can
Crowell Fuller or any other person do now to spoil things? You’re
certainly borrowing trouble, Joan.”

She swung on him angrily. At last he had given her a cause for anger
which she could openly acknowledge. And Hugh, obtuse, did not dream that
the fury now directed at his head was not caused by his last remarks at
all, but by what had gone before.

Her voice was splintered with anger, all the lovely intonations
splintered and lost. “I thought Gregory Clare was your friend. After
all, you were the first purchaser he ever had. And now you can so
_stupidly_ say that it doesn’t matter what place he’s to hold among
American painters! Nothing matters, I take it, except the money that his
dear little daughter’s pulled from the sale. I tell you that Gregory
Clare, dead, is worth a million of Ariel Clares living. A
million—million! But now that she won’t have to drudge for a living,
it’s no matter to you what becomes of Clare’s wonderful art. You are
content. Complacent. Very exhilarating!”

She laughed with what sounded like bitterest scorn.

“You put me too much in the wrong, Joan. I won’t take it.” Hugh, too,
could lose his temper. “What I really feel, and _know_, is that you nor
I nor Crowell Fuller nor Schwankovsky nor anybody on God’s earth, in the
last analysis, will have a damned finger in the ultimate fate of Clare’s
work. Justice goes its own ways, with art as with souls. And don’t let
any one tell you it isn’t so! If Clare’s paintings are really important
(God! how I hate that word, used as you patronizing intelligentsia are
using it these days!), the importance will win through for itself,
without your worrying about it. That’s what I believe, anyway. Always
_have_.”

Joan’s jaw dropped perceptibly. But her eyes kept their angry glitter.
“That is a decision, my friend, which I believe even the greatest
philosophers haven’t dared to make. Personally, I have never supposed
that there is a god of art who deals out ultimate justice, willy-nilly.
It looks pretty much a matter of chance—and of friends, and advertising.
I’d say—”

But Hugh interrupted her, still hot. “Well, I wouldn’t. There’s a life,
a soul of its own in a picture like—‘The Shell,’ for instance. It’s a
life that will, come spring, burst through into humanity’s appreciation,
the way buds burst through bark, come their spring, to light and air.
For the imagination is strong, like love.... It is a power.... Yes. I’m
willing to leave my friend’s works to their own destinies. So long as
imagination is organic in them, as it is in Clare’s pictures, then
they’re potent in their own right as is a bolt of electricity. Even if
some poor fool hides ’em away in his attic, or even if fire burns ’em or
water drowns ’em,—justice still works with ’em and for ’em.... For
Beauty is—_must be_—as immortal as goodness.... Though we don’t see how,
or understand.

“It’s the same with people.... With people’s personalities I mean. Their
‘importance,’ since you like the word so well. If they have any
importance—_beauty of spirit_, _Soundness_, are my terms for it—it
bursts a way for itself, like buds in the spring. Environment and
accident haven’t got power over it. Not a bit. It can’t be kept in, held
back, any more than birth itself can be held back, once it gets
going.... And Ariel’s got that thing in her personality,—that
_soundness_, _beauty_, _importance_. Beauty’s organic in her
character....”

Hugh’s whole face was burning, and his words came out staccato, fierce
with conviction. Joan, almost miraculously, she felt, had the insight to
realize that at least part of this amazing passion of conviction was
impersonal. She saw that Hugh was really talking about such things as
imagination, love, personality, abstractly,—out of deep-seated
convictions which had grown in him with his own growth, and which she
had never suspected in him. Why, he was a man with a religion, and she
had never guessed! But she preferred to pretend to think him moved by
personal emotions merely, and asked bitingly, “Then what is your plan
for Ariel when your grandmother dies? Have you changed your mind about
her so utterly as it appears, and you’ll let her be a second Isadora?
Express this wonderful personality, this beauty of spirit of hers, in
some world-shaking way?”

Hugh dropped back to natural. He was ashamed of so having betrayed his
soul’s convictions to Joan’s skepticisms. “I shall have nothing to say
about it; why should I? But of course that wasn’t what I meant at all,
or anything like it. Ariel’s far too ordinary—”

Joan’s mind reeled. “Oh, but surely not. After all you’ve said!
Ordinary?”

“Well, ‘ordinary’s’ the wrong word, of course. But you know very well
what I mean, Joan. She’s not artistic. She has nothing in her of the
genius, or the artist. Or rather, her genius is her personality. I
thought I said it all before. She’s of the spirit.... _Love_—_Life_....
It would be rotten to turn it into dancing. All that _life_.”

“‘Life’ doesn’t seem at all descriptive of that child to me, Hugh. She’s
about the quietest—”

“I’m not talking about liveliness. Well, look at the sun, here on the
back of my hand. Still, isn’t it? Quiet? But it’s life! Ariel’s quiet is
like that.”

Joan was silent, quiet herself for a minute. But not the kind of quiet
Hugh had just explained to her. She asked, finally, “Are you sorry,
then, that her father has advertised Ariel, as he has, in his pictures?
Do you think it is cheapening? And would you think that being a famous
dancer would cheapen her? Is that what you’re afraid of?”

He hesitated. “I’m afraid I used to feel that way,” he acknowledged.
“The first time it was suggested that Ariel might get all this publicity
she has been getting, I did think it a shame. I wanted to protect her
from it. But I’ve outgrown that angle of it. I know now that that’s a
false, inherited attitude. Not sound. You yourself, Joan, let Enderly
and those other literary fellows vote you the most beautiful mother in
the East for the Ideal Perfume Company, Inc., the other day, and your
picture’s even in the subway entrances now, and in the advertising
sections of every magazine, that’s worth the name, I’ve picked up this
month. I’ve had to get over the prejudice, you see. And I’ve succeeded,
I think. No, it isn’t that at all now that convinces me that Ariel
shouldn’t go in for dancing. I—”

But Joan cried, laughing shakily, “So you don’t think publicity is
cheap, and what’s convinced you is because I’ve allowed it? So I still
am a criterion, Hugh? Really?”

“But of course.”

“That’s nice. I’m _glad_. And Hugh, I gave the money to the home for
Crippled Children. That’s what made me consent to the silly
business,—that, and the help it might just possibly be to Prescott’s
sales.”

“Good for you! But I knew it was all right.”

“Only see here, Hugh! Have I been too stupid? You aren’t going to tell
me that that—that girl whose name you can’t keep off your funny old
tongue is the wonderful person we were talking about, when we agreed
that you ought to marry some one else, and have children of your own?
I’m not going to believe that, even if you say so. It simply couldn’t—”

Hugh put out a hand as if to push something strongly away. Joan might
have seen suffering in his face now, if she had known when and how to
look for it. But his voice was his ally. It did not betray him as he
said, “Hardly! Haven’t I told you? It’s Glenn who’s in love with Ariel.
Any one can see....”

He did not need to go on, for she took it up so eagerly. “No, really!
But you’d never let Glenn, would you? Why, your mother would be wild.
And you,—you wouldn’t like it yourself, would you, Hugh?”

“I don’t see why not. You know how I feel about Ariel. And I believe
rather deeply in early marriage. But I doubt whether Glenn realizes
wholly how it is with him yet. You mustn’t say anything, Joan. I trust
you. Youth is so easily—wounded by too many words.”

“Oh, dear! She _should_ have gone to Switzerland with me! It would be
too bad, if you’re right! Glenn’s only twenty! And he’s going to be
dreadfully clever—fascinating, when he grows up!”

A cloud, thin and ragged, was obscuring the sun. Hugh had lost his
desert island where life was new and possibilities unlimited. He did not
slip back into the dark waves. He knew he would never be tossed drifting
there again. He still was free. Life still was new. But the warmth and
the joy were gone.

“Oh! It’s chilly. Come—” Joan was on her sandaled feet first, making a
pretense of pulling him up by his hands. Her peace, so violently
threatened in the past minutes, was established again. She would see
Doctor Steiner at least once more before she made Hugh utterly happy.
But she was—she knew it now—through with being a perfectionist. This
chill in the air! The loss of the sun! It all spoke a word to her which
she had heard but without realizing before. It said that she was thirty,
and that life was running away.

“Come, my dear,” she murmured. “Brenda won’t bless me for monopolizing
you like this. Just the same, let’s steal away for a walk late this
afternoon, do without tea. Shall we? There’s a heavenly walk I know
here, partly through the woods and partly along the shore. And we won’t
quarrel again. I promise. Do you promise?”

She strode beside him like a goddess in the freedom of her bathing
dress, her cape blowing back and away out in the new-sprung, chill wind.
She had pulled off her shade hat, and her hair shone, even in the chill
light, live and beautiful.

Mrs. Ronald Hunt-Smith and Brenda Loring were taking a gossipy stroll in
the rose garden when Hugh and Joan came up from the beach.

“Look, my dear!” Mrs. Ronald Hunt-Smith exclaimed under her breath to
the girl by her side, as the bathers drew near. “Did you ever see
anything so radiantly perfect! They are a Greek god and goddess. And
against that sea! Beautiful! I can’t understand why dear Joan holds off
so. Eventually two creatures like that—so perfectly matched—must come
together. Isn’t it obvious?”

Brenda gave the Greek god and his goddess barely a glance, before
looking beyond them to the sea which was their background.

“Perhaps it’s obvious,” she responded. “Too obvious to be true. Some
things are, you know.”



                             Chapter XXVII


Late afternoon. Glenn walked up the avenue at Wild Acres, back from the
first day of his job on the _World_. It had been a long day, beginning
at seven in the morning. He looked and was weary and disheartened, and
his mouth was set in a rather bitter line. Anne, lying in a long chair
in the square garden, the only patch of ground, except for a bit of
lawn, which was cultivated at Wild Acres, saw him through the screen of
hedge which protected her privacy, and sat up. “Glenn,” she called
softly, “oh, Glenn!”

He responded to the call dispiritedly enough, but came around the hedge
and sat down on the foot of her chair when she had moved her legs to
make room for him. She handed him a cigarette and then held a match for
him. She herself had been smoking for hours, it seemed, for the grass
all around her chair was littered with cigarette stubs thrown carelessly
down.

“How goes it?” she asked.

He hesitated, then looked at her gloomily. “Have you seen the morning
papers?” he asked.

“Yes. The _Times_. But there’s hope for him, it seems. And it may have
been only—only a temporary aberration. I’m upset too, Glenn. But there’s
nothing we can do. Or will you try to see him?”

Brother and sister looked startlingly alike in their anxiety and
disillusionment. There were deep rings under their eyes and the general
pinched and worn look that can come, even to the very young, from a long
day of anguish. The morning papers on their front pages had carried a
blatantly headlined story of the attempted suicide in New York the night
before of the young novelist, Prescott Enderly. Failure in getting his
degree at Yale was the suggested cause, but there were added some
pointed hints at a love affair with an “older woman.” And Glenn had been
assigned to write a more detailed story for the evening edition of his
paper, because he had known Enderly at Yale.

“Adams sent me to the hospital to get the latest on it,” he told Anne.
“They wouldn’t let me see him. He’s delirious, anyway. He may lose one
eye. It was a bell boy who caught him in the act and jogged up his arm.
The bullet just grazed the brow and went through the ceiling. It was the
smoke that got the eye. Ass! Not to lock his door! Some bell boy! Nerve,
that kid had. I got his story too. Don’t know why he had to butt in,
though! Pressy’s not thanking him any.”

Glenn’s face was as white as the petals of the paper narcissus blowing
in the June breeze by the side of the long chair. Anne’s eyes were black
with pain. They were both breathing fast. Short, nervous breaths.

After a minute Anne muttered. “He’ll get over it and be happy yet. He’ll
go on and have a good life. See if he doesn’t! It was Joan, of course.”

“How did you know? Yes, it was. But don’t say it to a soul. Promise? He
saw her in town after he learned he’d lost out at Yale. He said
something to frighten her. Must have, I think. She saw he was desperate,
anyway. And she refused to see him again. Cut him right out. I knew he’d
written since and called her up. He told me this was what he’d do
too,—blow his brains out. But I—fool—couldn’t believe him. Anne, I
laughed at him. Didn’t help him any.... You see I simply can’t imagine
any one being so desperate he’ll do a thing—like this. I can’t yet, as a
matter of fact. But if I’d _had_ the imagination, I might have saved
him. It’s worse now, it seems to me, than as if he’d succeeded. Ghastly
humiliating, unless he tries again and does a clean job next time. I was
a damned fool. I am a damned fool.... I failed him....”

Anne held her cigarette case toward Glenn again, pulling one out for
herself at the same time. Glenn lit his from the stub of the one about
to burn his fingers, and kicked viciously at the clump of paper
narcissus blowing beside them, there in the June garden. Anne’s eyes
followed the kick sympathetically. Her hands, clutching the arms of the
long chair, were shaking. And she had thought she was going to be calm
when Glenn came home!

All that morning, from the time she had happened upon the _Times_
headlines soon after breakfast, she had tramped—she didn’t know where—in
woods and fields. And all the afternoon she had lain here, exhausted,
smoking cigarette after cigarette, watching the light change across the
lawn and garden and the edges of the woods, and waiting for Glenn. Ariel
she had avoided, rather than hunt her out. For Ariel had done for her,
Anne, what there had been nobody to do for Prescott. And Anne almost
resented that she had had an Ariel to go to, when Prescott had had no
one. If Anne herself was any good, Prescott would have had her, as she
had had Ariel.... If she had been understanding.... If she had been able
to break the snare of her own blind, egoistic passion and had not driven
him away from her by clutching at—what never comes for clutching.... How
terrible to be deaf and dumb and blind with passionate love—and to lose
that way all the possibilities of friendship and its salvations!

And now, even if the beloved ever came sane,—and, blind in one eye and
shattered, should undertake to face the world again and its bitterness,
it would never be Anne who would help steady him to it. It would be
Glenn, perhaps. And, looking at the paper narcissus which had sprung
erect again with delicate vitality from Glenn’s kick, she made a
resolution that Glenn must not know to what a degree she was suffering
over the plight of—his friend. Why, one of the reasons for Prescott’s
breaking with her was his desire that Glenn should never know how far
their affair had gone. He had valued Glenn’s comradeship mountains above
Anne’s stupid, egoistic passion of love. And he was right to do so. One
thing she could save from the wreck of what might have become a fine,
even a lovely, human relationship with Prescott: she could save
Prescott’s self-respect with her brother and incidentally, but not
primarily, for truly she was not thinking of herself in the old way any
more, her own self-respect.

“Joan’s called off the dinner to-night, I suppose,” Glenn muttered.

“Not so far as I know,” Anne said, keeping her voice from shaking with
better success than her hands. “And I don’t think she will. In fact, I
hope she won’t. For both Hugh’s and Ariel’s sake. And why should she?
She’ll pretend, don’t you think, to be absolutely out of all this
business?”

“Yes. I suppose she will. But, of course I shan’t go. And you needn’t
either, Anne. After all, you were fond of him too. You can say you’re
cut up, as I shall say.”

Suddenly he turned and looked at her with a sharpness that almost broke
down her defenses. “And I believe you are. Of course you are. You and
Pressy were quite pals. Anyway, I know he liked you tremendously.”

“But I’m going. I’m going, no matter what, Glenn! For Ariel’s and Hugh’s
sake!”

Glenn’s face softened at this repetition of Ariel’s name. “Why for their
sakes?” he asked. “Why should they be so keen on eating dinner at Holly
this particular night?”

“Well, after all, Ariel hasn’t been outside of Wild Acres for several
weeks. She’s getting a little too tired. She’s thin. Anybody can see.
Besides, it’s the poor darling’s last chance to see Michael Schwankovsky
for months. He’s going to Switzerland next week, and then to Russia. And
the party’s a celebration in honor of the exhibition, you know. So, of
course, Ariel must be looking forward to it. And Hugh—Well, Joan’s off
herself, to-morrow, for her Switzerland colony. I have a hunch—have had
it all day—that to-night may be Hugh’s last chance. If she goes away
without their settling anything this time—he might just as well give up.
So—I’m going to the party anyway. You come too, old thing. For Ariel?”

“I’d do anything in life for Ariel,” Glenn responded quietly. “And if
she goes I want to go, anyway.”

“Glenn? Really?”

“Well, yes, it is really. But it oughtn’t to be. It’s so idiotic of me,
isn’t it? Two years more at least before I’ll be making anything decent,
if then. And she deserves a man. Not a boy. If old Prescott had only
gone off his nut for her instead of for Joan, I could’ve understood it.
But then, if he had, I should all the more have wished him better
success with his target practice. Oh, Anne! I am a fool.”

He buried his dark head in his hands. His shoulders shook. Anne prayed
through clenched lips that he would not cry out loud. But she understood
his sudden loss of control. His crying had nothing whatever to do with
Ariel, she knew. The thought of Ariel, whom he would in all probability
win and marry, was only joy to him. It was what he had said about
“target practice” and his friend. He was appalled at his own brutal
words.

She said in a matter-of-fact voice—but her face was set in a womanly and
even noble mask above Glenn’s bent head—“It will be you and I, and
Mother, and Hugh, and Ariel, and Michael, and Charlie Frye and Joan, and
that’s all to-night. If Joan does decide to marry Hugh you’ll have to
forget about her and Prescott, you know. And if she decides not to marry
him, and will only be so kind as to tell him so to-night, then neither
of us need ever have anything to do with the creature again. No reason
to. We can forget her even before she has taken the trouble to forget
us.... Let’s go in and give ourselves good old soapy baths now, doll up,
and see it through. Come along with big sister.”

Contrary to Anne’s and Glenn’s expectations, though, Joan pretended
neither indifference nor ignorance concerning Prescott that night. Her
first words to Glenn were words of sympathy, and she took pains to let
him guess that her hostess manners this night were covering a grieved
and very troubled, even a contrite, heart. Glenn actually found himself
being sorry for her. After all, she had never encouraged Prescott to
think that he counted especially with her. Remembering this, and
Prescott’s open hopelessness as he stated it, Glenn was boy enough and
susceptible enough to be softened by Joan’s beauty and the pathos in her
eyes, as she stood holding his hand that brief minute of their whispered
interchange of troubled words in her wide hall at Holly. “It isn’t your
fault,” he heard himself muttering sincerely. “You couldn’t believe he
meant what he said, any more than I could. If you only knew, Joan,
you’re not so much to blame as I am.”

Hugh was near enough to hear. And Joan turned to him, drawing him into
it. She said with something which had the similitude of harsh grief,
“Youth itself is to be blamed for this terrible thing. Do you remember,
Hugh, weeks, months ago, my telling you that young men in love were
frightening? The middle-aged were safe? They do not kill themselves for
romance. It is your generation, Glenn. Yours—and Anne’s.”

Anne had caught this, and for a minute she thought that Joan had raised
her voice for that very purpose. Had Prescott, then, told Joan that Anne
too had wanted a way out of life, and almost found it, because of youth
and love? But Ariel alone knew that. And Anne’s sordid secret was as
safe with Ariel as it would be with the Wild Acres woods, or with the
sky, had she made her confidences to either. Anne was certain.

She turned away from Joan’s group, hard, austere. Glenn might be won to
Joan by her beauty and charm, in spite of her terrible part in the
tragedy of his friend. Hugh might marry Joan. But Anne knew at that
moment that she herself would never again, after this night, be able to
bear the sight or the sound of her. “She’s horrible,” she thought. “A
glutton of love. A walking sore of vanity. It isn’t jealousy that makes
me see her this way. Even to be loved by Prescott I would not be
anything like Joan Nevin. I’d rather Prescott never gave me a thought
again through eternity than have any touch of that stinking vanity,
scarring my voice and face as it scars Joan’s to-night. I’m the only one
who _sees_. She’s horrid, rotten.” And she went over to stand with
Michael Schwankovsky and Charlie Frye and Ariel before the painting of
Gregory Clare’s which Joan had bought for herself and which now hung
between the long windows in the drawing-room, where the party was to
wait for the announcement of dinner.

But even here she could not escape Joan’s echoes. As Anne joined the
group, Charlie Frye was saying, “... wonderful! Of course, she knows,
just as we all know, that it’s she young Enderly went off his head over.
She goes on with it all, though. Entertains us. It’s magnificent of her,
I think. But she’s pale to-night....”

Anne gripped Ariel’s hand hard and cried with stifled violence, “Merely
a matter of leaving off rouge! Very effective too,”—and wanted to bite
her tongue out when she had said it. Michael Schwankovsky looked at her,
whether disgusted or quizzically she didn’t know. _Or care!_ Charlie
Frye bit his lips to keep an angry retort back, and frowned at the
floor. But Ariel threw an arm about Anne’s shoulder, and Anne felt that
she was trembling in unison with her.

The long windows leading onto the terraced rose-garden were open
throughout dinner. Candlelight, moonlight, rose scents and the glowing
colors of the other women’s evening frocks were all mingled for Ariel in
a web of sensuous pleasure which mixed with a mind almost as anguished
as her friend Anne’s.

Schwankovsky occupied the head of the table, where he played host
spectacularly, with a noisy zeal. Ariel, in whose honor the party had
been planned, was given the place of honor at his right. Mrs. Weyman was
opposite Ariel at his other side.

Glenn on Ariel’s right remembered poignantly the first meal she had had
with them, how she had been as silent as now, but with a different
silence. Then she had bent with the flow of talk as forget-me-nots bent
in a grassy stream, flowing with it, not obstructing it. But to-night
she was withdrawn, on purpose. And she looked often at Anne, Glenn
noticed, with a tender, watchful regard. Why, Glenn could not imagine,
for Anne by this time was entering into everything exuberantly, as she
had promised him and herself she would. Charlie Frye, quite over his
earlier irritation with her, was merry as a grig. Anne was flirting with
him, a little clumsily, perhaps, but effectively, if one judged from the
man’s reactions. What Glenn did not notice, but Ariel did, was that
Anne, on the evening when Joan Nevin had left off her rouge, had painted
her own face most brilliantly.

The talk flowed on. Chatter about summer plans, their own and other
people’s. Gossip about Doctor Steiner who had just been given a degree
by conservative Harvard. Would he go to make his home in Vienna next
year, as he was threatening, or stay to enrich America with his
knowledge and genius? Some desultory discussions, too, of music, plays,
books and painting.

Suddenly, in a way that he intended to be confidential and intimate but
could not make so because of his size and the timbre of his voice which
even when consciously lowered compelled the attention of the whole
table, Schwankovsky leaned to Ariel and took her wrist in his fingers.
“My own darling child, you are _triste_. At this, your own party! But,
believe me, some day very soon, it will be forgotten.... You’ll be rid
of grief.... Your old friend knows.... And grief so pure as yours is
pure, unstained by remorse, leaves no sediment of heaviness when time
has once flowed over it and past. It is a good fortune to have youth and
grief together. Some day you will think so.... This is a very beautiful
aquamarine, Ariel!”

He lifted her hand higher, and looked long and delightedly at the heavy
silver ring with its beautifully colored and flawless stone, which Ariel
was wearing.

Ariel wanted to cry, “Oh, Michael! It isn’t missing my father that makes
me so out of things to-night. And please forgive me for not playing up
when we owe you everything, my father and I,—and you are going away so
soon! It isn’t grief. It’s something else. For I can’t be brave, the way
Anne is brave. I am frightened, do you see?”

She was indeed frightened! For Ariel, like Anne, had a conviction that
to-night things were to be decided between Hugh and Joan. She only said,
however, calmly enough, conscious of the waiting silence of the others,
“Grandam gave me this ring just to-night. The color is wonderful, I
think.”

“And the setting! It’s a rare and beautiful setting! But it is a man’s
ring! It cannot belong to you, my Ariel! It is much too heavy for this
little hand.”

He continued to hold her wrist and stare down, fascinated, at the lovely
ring.

Mrs. Weyman was leaning across the table, amazed. “Grandam gave you her
aquamarine, Ariel! I hadn’t noticed you wearing it. But she values it
above everything she possesses, except that pencil drawing of the hands.
I don’t know what its association for her is, or why she always wears
it. She’s avoided telling us. Did she give it to you, or just let you
wear it, Ariel?”

“She gave it to me,” Ariel replied, but her own words, her answer to the
simple question, rang in her ears like a knell. Her blood went icy. For
suddenly she knew the significance of the ring, and the significance of
Grandam’s having given it to her. And yet no one had told her. This ring
had been worn on one of those pictured hands, on the hand that was to
open the coach door for Grandam when she got out in Eternity. That holy
hand had given the jewel to Grandam as its last act on earth. And now
Grandam had passed it on to Ariel. And all Grandam had said was, “Here’s
a keepsake to match your green feather.”

_Father’s green feather.... Grandam’s and the Saint’s aquamarine!_ Oh,
pray God Grandam hadn’t meant Ariel to understand a swift farewell in
the casual, sacred gift. Pray God! Pray God! Did Grandam think she was
about to die?



                             Chapter XXVIII


Ariel started to rise from her chair, her face gone wan and strange. But
she sank down again. Her heart was beating leaden beats. How _could_ she
know that this ring had belonged to the possessor of those hands, now
dust, and how could she know that Grandam’s time to die had come! It may
have been some glance toward the pictured hands, as Grandam slipped the
ring from her finger and gave it to Ariel, unnoticed then but impressed
somehow all the same on Ariel’s memory, which let her know to whom the
ring belonged. But the conclusion that Grandam had given it to Ariel
because she was now to die—that was unreasonable. Ariel clutched her
napkin in tense fingers and tried to be reasonable.

Mrs. Weyman was saying, “But it’s all right, my dear. It’s only that
I’ve never seen Grandam separated from her ring before. Since she gave
it to you, she wants you to have it. It is only another sign of her
affection....”

Schwankovsky, as well as Mrs. Weyman, had been startled by Ariel’s air
of shock, and now the big man said soothingly, “Every one has affection
for my Ariel. Of the deepest. Old Doctor Hazzard, did you know, is
saving your studio in Bermuda for you? The more I offered him for it,
the surer he became that you, my child, would have need for it in time.
When I told him of the success of the exhibition and tried to show him
that you were financially independent, now, he was not changed. By his
will the studio is to become yours. He says, and perhaps truly, for he
is wise in some ways, that man, that the paintings themselves are the
things to make pilgrimages to, not the place where they were made. He
says that the studio was a home first, and a studio second. I came away
having accomplished nothing.”

Joan, at the foot of the table, shrugged and met Michael’s eyes with
sympathetic humor. “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of
a needle than for one of these Philistines to comprehend the artist’s
mind,” she put in. “Poor Michael! All your journey for nothing! A home
before it was a studio! Lovely!”

“Oh, no. Not for nothing. And not ‘lovely’ either! I had a rather rich
week, Joan. Enlightening. And Doctor Hazzard himself was well worth the
trip. He is coming to visit me this fall. We have become friends. And if
he is a Philistine, then a world of Philistines would be a Utopia.”

“Oh! I misunderstood you. I thought you needed sympathy!” She turned to
Charlie Frye and asked, shutting the rest of the table into the abysses
of outer darkness by the intimate fall of her voice, “Did you know this
Doctor Hazzard when you were in Bermuda?”

Schwankovsky retained Ariel’s hand and stared like a seer into the cold
green clarity of the semi-precious stone. Glenn felt shuddery and
resentful. Why ever did Ariel let the great creature go on petting her
in that absurd way? He might be the great Michael Schwankovsky, famous
for his wealth, his art collections and his books, but Glenn refused to
be hypnotized by such considerations into overlooking his boorishness.
It was hideous of him to have spoken to Ariel about her grief like
that—before everybody! Both insane and inane. He was an old
sentimentalist too. And all this pawing—!

But Ariel seemed to like it. And, in fact, she did. Michael
Schwankovsky’s warm, strong, great hand holding her wrist with such
gentle firmness was regulating those leaden heartbeats back to
normality. Kindness and _soundness_ were transmitted through those
strong, firm fingers to her consciousness. From her very first meeting
with Michael Schwankovsky she had felt at home with him. And by now,
quite simply, she had come to love him very much. Glenn could understand
nothing of this. He sat between Ariel and his brother, trying not to
care that Schwankovsky was keeping Ariel physically prisoner by that
wrist, trying not to hear what seemed to him the mawkish tenderness in
the booming voice that shattered, to his senses, against Ariel’s
delicate reserves so unforgivably.

And Hugh was thinking, “This is going to be an awful evening!” It
stretched away before him, a desert of aridity, where Ariel would be
kept close at Schwankovsky’s side, his mother and Joan would discuss
psychoanalysis and the comparative merits of its different schools
endlessly, and Anne, Glenn and this Frye fellow would keep the radio
going over all. If it fell out that way, he could not go on with it. His
nerves were taut.

And then those taut nerves hummed like telephone wires in a storm as he
caught the look of tortured disgust on Glenn’s features as the boy’s
eyes turned from Ariel’s prisoned wrist. “What right has Glenn to care
like that!” Hugh cried to himself. “He’s too young to know really how to
love her!”

But after dinner, to Hugh’s vast relief, the radio was overlooked. It
was a warm, still, moon-flooded night, and as a matter of course the
entire little party wandered out to the terrace and settled itself in
garden chairs there. Only Joan sat on the balustrade, leaned her
shoulder against an urn, and beckoned Hugh with her lighted cigarette to
come beside her. She was silent, in spite of being hostess, and he was
silent with her for some time, while the others talked. To Joan, the
silence between herself and the figure so close to her side was pregnant
as none of their other silences had ever been. It was the darkness in
which her moment of surrender was germinating. She had told Doctor
Steiner at their final conference on the subject this morning that she
was going to give marriage with Hugh at least its trial.

Mrs. Weyman had taken it upon herself to play hostess for the so
unusually obscured Joan. And Joan blessed her future mother-in-law for
that. But for all her activity, Mrs. Weyman was not so oblivious as she
appeared to be of the two very quiet people withdrawn there from the
social group in the dark shadow of the great urn. Her eyes wandered in
their direction constantly, and she was deeply excited and hopeful. She,
like Anne and Ariel, had her “hunch” that to-night might make Hugh
supremely happy. Meanwhile, she was doing her best to keep the social
atmosphere from requiring Joan’s attentions by being particularly
entertaining herself; and this in spite of Glenn’s unhelpful somberness,
Anne’s staccato and unnatural cheerfulness, and that strange creature
Michael Schwankovsky’s bearish gambolings. Ariel was not counting, so
far as Mrs. Weyman was aware, either for or against her efforts at
harmonizing the little group. She was too elusive out here by moonlight,
where her voice, flat and pebble cool, was heard only now and then in
some quite commonplace, careful answer to somebody’s direct question to
her. In Charlie Frye she found her stand-by. Mrs. Weyman put him down,
once and for all, in her mental notebook this night as a perfect
filler-in for future dinner parties at Wild Acres.

“Come along, Ariel!” Schwankovsky boomed suddenly, interrupting Charlie
Frye in a really amusing anecdote he was telling. “The time has come
when you must dance for me. I will make the music. We shall not be
together again for months. Unbearable to think it! So for my consolation
you are to dance now!”

His arm around her shoulder, he was drawing Ariel into the lighted music
room and toward the piano with him.

“Oh, Ariel! How delicious! Please do,” Anne cried, jumping up and
turning over her chair in her relief at something at last happening in
the breathless atmosphere of the terrace. And she followed them in,
leaving Charlie Frye’s story hanging in mid-air, just as it was, half
told. Mrs. Weyman could do nothing to rescue his anecdote for the
embarrassed young man. She could only get up, with him, and follow the
noise into the drawing-room, where they sat beside each other, two
defeated social captains, on a little Queen Anne sofa, just inside the
long window through which they had entered.

“This may be interesting. Do you suppose she will?” Joan asked, out in
the dark, putting her hand through Hugh’s arm and edging him along the
railing to a better view of the interior.

Schwankovsky was playing MacDowell’s “Water Lily.” Ariel was sitting on
the end of the piano bench, while Anne bent over her, begging her please
to dance, and Glenn stood before her, adding his urgings. Then suddenly
Anne was kneeling before Ariel. She was stripping off Ariel’s silver
slippers and her stockings.

Hugh moved abruptly, and Joan’s hand fell lifeless through his arm and
to her side. Hugh was striding toward the windows.

Ariel was his, in a manner, after all. Her father had given her to him
in a way that made his concern imperative. And this was all simply
crazy. Schwankovsky was just an insufferable buffoon. And Anne and Glenn
were idiots—

But Ariel was standing, straight and unabashed in her violet-blue,
wood-smoke dress that was made from Grandam’s scarf, the folds of the
skirt falling about her bare legs, her high-arched, slim feet very white
against the gray velvet rug that covered the floor in there.

Hugh halted inside the window. Schwankovsky was saying with almost an
hypnotic look and voice, “Forget all about us, my Ariel. Even the music.
Remember your beach, and the smooth floor of sand down between the
rocks. Remember the loggia and the path through the cedars. Remember the
violets and the roses.”

He was playing “The Water Lily” as he talked, but stopped and changed
abruptly into something that might be César Franck’s, but nothing of his
that Hugh knew. Hugh had not realized before that Schwankovsky could
play,—and play like this! The big man was looking beyond Ariel, as if he
himself saw the clouds, the beach, felt the rhythms of earth, sky and
water, that were pouring through his music. Hugh could not go forward.
He dared not break into the Forces of Beauty which even he, Philistine
that he was, could feel gathering in that room.

Ariel started walking away from the piano, slowly. She was coming
directly toward Hugh, but it was obvious that she did not see him, or
the others there, against the wall of the room. She was walking forward
into the world which Schwankovsky had given her back suddenly, when she
was unhappiest and needed it most.

And Mrs. Weyman and Charlie Frye, Anne, Glenn, Hugh, and even Joan—out
on the dark terrace—were being drawn with the slow pacing of those bare
feet over the gray rug into a simple state of harmony with—the cosmic
rhythms? Ariel drew them with her, Ariel and Schwankovsky’s music
together,—drew them forward, forward, out—out—out beyond the confines of
the room, even farther than the boundaries of their individual desires
and passions, into a state of identification with the intentions of the
universe. They were, all of them, pressing forward along with Ariel’s
poised, spiritualized body, her bare, sure feet, and the music,—straight
into the heart of Beauty....

When she began to dance, she did not dance _to_ the music. She danced
_in_ it. In the music, moving in it as if she were the fire at the heart
of its purity, she danced to Life. First it was elemental life, the
rhythms of earth, sky, water. Her face stayed immobile. She was as
impersonal as the music. Only her body spoke. Much of the time her head
was dropped, so that the immobile features were shadowed in her hair, as
in the pictures where her father had painted her dancing. This was at
the beginning of the dance....

But as Ariel had walked from Schwankovsky’s side and out onto her home
beach, and there unified herself with the rhythmical universe, soon she
moved forward again into a new aspect. She danced still from within the
music and at one with rhythms of earth. But now she was dancing before
the Face of Love. She danced before the Face of her love of her father,
who had painted her dancing. She danced before the Face of his present
happiness, in which she believed utterly. She soon danced before the
Face of her own grief and loss.... She danced before the Face of her
love and comradeship with Grandam—Grandam, who now was coming close,
close to the edge of life....

Finally, she danced before the Face of her religion, her belief in love,
in life, in the life beyond death.

This was all so personal and poignant that Hugh would have had to turn
away and not go on watching if it were not that Ariel’s dear face
remained impassive. It might have been carved from still jade, white and
luminous, but impassive. Or, no,—it was like the face of a flower whose
expression a self-enwrapped mortal cannot read. Hugh was grateful with
his whole heart that Ariel’s face was only a flower floating on the
stream of the dance.

The music poured on. Crystal. Exalted. Pure. And fiery.

But the eyes in the white jade face were waking, were getting to be
seeing eyes. The pale mouth trembled. Light trembled at its sharp
uptilted corners....

Hugh was frightened. “You mustn’t. Oh, Ariel!” his heart cried, loud
enough for hers to hear, he should think, “Don’t let it through into
your face. _Don’t let them see your soul!_”

Two children’s heads, one topping the other, peering from a fold in the
hall portières, were what had brought the expression into the dancer’s
face. Persis and Nicky were being naughty. Escaped from Alice’s care—or
perhaps Alice was there too in another fold of the silk hangings—in
their nightgowns, just as they had left their beds, they were watching
Ariel dance in their mother’s very drawing-room, as they had so often
watched her dancing in Wild Acres woods.

Ariel did not look at the children again. She would not give them away.
But that glimpse of them had changed everything. Persis and Nicky had
counted on her finding the beginning of the magic path in the woods for
them, the path which would lead to faërie. It was to begin with a clump
of yellow and white violets. A hidden way. A secret way. The secret of
the yellow and the pearly little flower faces. But she had not found it
yet. Might she find it now? Bless them! She would try.

She knelt in the center of the gray rug, and looked for a clump of white
and yellow violets. She pushed the damp, dead leaves of last summer’s
woods away with firm but not repudiating fingers. And there, behind the
sheen of the flower-faces she had uncovered, she did discover the
secret, hidden way to faërie.

Rising, she turned to take the children’s hands. The path was here, and
they would walk it now together. The three walked out the path through
light and shade, their faces set toward faërie.

The watchers of the dance saw children with Ariel then, as clearly as if
they were really there. And if they did not know exactly that they were
on their way to faërie along with Ariel, they sensed something very like
it.

Ariel and her invisible dance-children came to a sunny clearing. There,
in a circle of happiness, they began walking slowly round and round in
faërie. Until they stopped—to wait and listen in faërie. Then, and then
only Ariel bent her head to look into the faces of her dance children.

But it was not Persis and Nicky’s faces that gave her back her look.
Here were two dark, thinner faces. Greek in their perfection of feature.
High-held, narrow heads, they had. And the dark, soft eyes of their
dream-lighted faces were Hugh’s eyes over again.... _Hugh’s eyes, in
children’s faces_!

The dance went to shatters. Electric light tore away the sunlight from
the clearing. And as though the music had been rays from the dance, it
faded, thinned away.... A drawing-room remained, and a group of moved
and almost unstrung people.

Ariel, standing still, startled by her vision of the dark, aquiline
little faces of those terribly beloved dream children, looked about
almost wildly for Hugh. And she found him leaning against the jamb of
one of the long windows. He was looking at her, waiting for her eyes.

Ariel knew that the others were there somewhere, as well,—even that
Michael was coming toward her from the piano. She knew where she was.
She knew who she was. But in that instant, even with the dance shattered
for her, she was too much at one with her soul to keep her secret
longer. And Hugh’s face, for any one who could bear to look on such
heart’s nakedness, told as much as hers. There flashed between them,
across half the length of a room, terrible and startling as lightning,
the mutual promise of love’s consummation.

Then Ariel blushed. Red swept from the tip of her chin up over her face.
She was no longer a fairy-tale girl. Her cheeks seemed rounder, her
smile for Anne who had rushed upon her with shrieks of praise, was not
light-tipped and eerie. It was warm, merry. Not until Michael
Schwankovsky fell to kissing her forehead and her hands with rapturous
joy over her performance did the blush fade.



                              Chapter XXIX


Every one was exclaiming the same thing. “Genius! Isadora was never so
wonderful! Ariel Clare, why didn’t you do it for us before!” Every one
except Hugh. He had got himself out of the room into the summer night,
and, invisible himself, stood looking through the open window at Ariel,
the center of the charmed, noisy little crowd.

“I’ve been wrong,” Joan was using the occasion to try on generosity, as
an ordinary mortal might try on a new hat. “You know, my dear, I have
been guilty of murmuring that you were just a normal, nice girl for whom
we must find a husband. Your career should be motherhood. And all that.
All the time Persis and Nicky could have told me better. But I thought
your dancing with them was only a game. Now, my dear, I’d pay you
dollars a minute if you’d teach my babies how to walk, kneel, move,
dance. You did intend us to see children there at the end, didn’t you?
Michael! Isn’t she too wonderful!”

“Come along, Ariel. You can put on your stockings and slippers in
private.” Arm through her friend’s arm, Anne was pulling Ariel toward
the open window. They did not see Hugh there as they came out, although
Ariel’s wood-smoke frock actually brushed his knees in her passing. They
sat down at the top of the steps going down from the terrace, while
Ariel put on her stockings and slippers.

“Oh, Ariel! You’re lucky! Lucky! You’ll be a great dancer. You’ll have a
career. So it really won’t matter to you whether your heart breaks or
not. A person with genius like yours is safe, forever and forever. If I
only had some gift, some art! I’d never be afraid again. I know I
wouldn’t!”

“Anne!” Ariel sounded amazed at Anne’s lack of understanding. “I haven’t
any art. And I’m not going to be a dancer. Ever! In there, nobody knows
anything about me. But I thought you knew. As long as I live, I shall
never dance when grown people are around again. Never—Never.... I
shouldn’t have done it....”

The slippers were on. Ariel stood up. “I’m going home now. Do you think
Glenn would drive me, and then come back?” she asked.

“But why? It’s your party, in your honor, and it’s not ten o’clock yet!
Joan will be furious.”

Ariel lifted her hand and pressed the cold aquamarine against her cheek.
“I can’t stay away from Grandam any longer,” she exclaimed. “Not
to-night. She may be needing me.”

“Well, of course Glenn will take you. Your excuse is pretty weak,
though. Rose has often stayed with Grandam before and got along all
right. You haven’t by any chance got a hunch, have you, that Grandam
does literally need you? The air is positively electric to-night. I’ve a
strong hunch myself that Joan and Hugh are at last going to get engaged.
Glenn and I are in cahoots to keep old Schwankovsky and Mother and
Charlie amused, and give Hugh his chance—”

Hugh was suddenly there with them, materialized from the shadows. “I’ll
drive you home,” he said authoritatively.

Although the girls had not known that any one was near them on the
terrace they did not start at the sudden apparition. “I heard you,
Anne,” Hugh added. “And _your_ hunch, at least, is wrong. Joan
definitely ended things last Sunday at the Hunt-Smith’s. As it happens,
we’re both very happy about it. Thank you all the same, and Glenn!”

Although he addressed Anne, he was looking at Ariel, and Anne, even by
moonlight, caught the quality of that look. She drew in her breath
sharply. So that was it. And she hadn’t dreamed. God help Glenn then,
and on this day of all days!

“But of course you’re not going so early!” Joan, visibly non-plused,
refused to see Ariel’s hand held out for good-by. “Why should you, so
early?”

Ariel looked down at her aquamarine. “I’m afraid I have to, Mrs. Nevin.
Grandam may need me.”

“But surely not. Did she ask you to break up the party so early?”

“No—But I must—So, good night. And thank you very much.”

“Oh, very well then. So sorry. Glenn, you’ll drive Ariel home and come
back, won’t you?” Joan put it as a command.

But Michael Schwankovsky boomed, “I shall be very happy to take the rest
of the Weymans home in _my_ car, if Glenn _doesn’t_ get back. Youth,
Joan, youth!—No! This is not our ‘good-by,’ my Ariel. I shall put you
into the car carefully, right beside your young man. Not?”

Joan was trying to catch Hugh’s eyes, but he was looking at Ariel. “I’m
taking Ariel home,” he said. “Sorry, Glenn.” But his voice was vibrant.
His face, his voice—together with Ariel’s pale, victorious face—told a
great deal. But Joan shrank back from understanding what was becoming
plain to most of the others.

She urged sharply, “But you’ll come back. You’ll only be gone ten
minutes or so. I want a long, quiet talk with you to-night, Hugh. Our
last, perhaps, for months!” She was very white. But Hugh did not take
his eyes from the top of Ariel’s head, which was all he could see, for
her face was bent quite down and she was still looking at the
aquamarine. He replied, and it sounded absent-minded and was certainly
casual, “Let’s have that talk to-morrow morning, Joan. Your boat doesn’t
sail till midnight. I’m counting on quite a wonderful walk and talk with
you in the woods to-morrow.”

“Oh! Yes?” Joan knew now, but did not admit to herself, that she had
lost. How could she acknowledge that she had anything to fear from this
pale girl, who stared at her silly ring when she could look up and see
Hugh Weyman’s very heart in his eyes bent on her? Had Hugh ever looked
at herself like that? She could not believe he had. If he had, then she
had been a fool—a fool! She felt her ego shrivel. It was like a spent
dandelion flower, dried into fluffy seed, blowing to the four winds.

When Ariel, after long ages, to Joan’s aching sensibilities, lifted her
gaze from the aquamarine, withdrew herself from those distant, eerie,
Bermudian depths, Joan made no more of her even then; for the eyes she
lifted were crystal,—blind with tears. What in heaven’s name was the
girl crying about? Crying!

Hugh found Glenn beside him when he went to get his car. And suddenly,
as they crossed the wide sweep of gravel toward the parked roadster,
Hugh came to earth again, for a minute. His heart smote him. His love
for Ariel had been gradually, all the spring, making him more sensitive
to the world about him and other people. And now he sensed possible
suffering. He turned on Glenn and gripped his shoulders in the summer
dark. “Glenn, old fellow! Are you in love with Ariel?” he asked.

There was only the hint of a hesitation before Glenn said carefully, as
if he wanted Hugh to hear every word and remember it forever, “Does one
fall in love with a poem? A star? Dawn? Ariel to me is all imagination.
She’s in my soul, somehow. But not as woman.... I saw her look at you,
Hugh.... At the end of the dance, you know. So I know that you two—that
you two—Well! That’s only the shadow of Ariel you’ve got. An accident.
Her earth side. The impersonal and beautiful is left for me. I’m not
jealous. I’m not—suffering....”

“God bless you! Yes. It’s the woman I want, and that I’ve got. The wife.
The mother....”

They went on to the car. Joan was waiting on the lowest stair under the
portico, when they drove it around to the door, and Ariel had not yet
broken away from Michael Schwankovsky’s farewells on the top step. The
big voice was booming, “And next winter we’ll make a dancer of you!
Divine! Better than Isadora ever was!”

Ariel laughed. “No, Michael. No, no. I shall never be a dancer. I may
dance for you, if you will play again. Because you are not grown up and
don’t embarrass me. I don’t mind you any more than I mind Persis and
Nicky. You’ll dance with me. But you can’t ever make me into a dancer.
Dear Michael!”

“We shall see about that. We shall see. When I come back I shall take
care of you. I shall teach you to be ambitious. For the sake of art, I
must do that, my child. Art cannot let you off, let you go. Not with
such genius! I am no artist myself, you see, but I am militant for it
wherever there is cause. It is religion with me. So, as I discover your
father’s pictures, so I discover you. Not?”

Joan drew Hugh into the shadow of a pillar. “Michael’s raving again,”
she whispered intimately, her breath at Hugh’s cheek, her perfumed scarf
falling against the back of his hand, soft, mothlike. “It’s fatherly
raving. _We needn’t worry!_”

With the intimately whispered “We needn’t worry,” Joan was trying
desperately to identify her interest in Ariel with Hugh’s interest. She
was determined to marry Hugh now, not merely resigned to it. And her
cue, she thought, was partnership in his responsibility for Ariel. She
would pretend genuine concern for the girl, even fondness, if she must.
She was ready to do, to be anything—if only in return the scattered
seeds of her vanity and pride could be blown back again into their
brilliant flower pattern.

But Hugh scarcely heard her. He was listening to Ariel’s laughter and to
Schwankovsky’s exuberant flattery and affection up by the door. And
then—oh heavenly!—to Ariel’s voice, pebble-cool:

“No, never on the stage! But always for you, when you want. When you
come to visit us—me.” But she had meant “us,” and Hugh knew that “us”
meant _them_, himself and Ariel.

“... To-morrow then? A walk in the woods? I’ll have something quite
wonderful to tell you, Joan dear.” He had not understood her whispered
surrender. And he was not aware that she had taken the end of her scarf
from his fingers and was wrapping her bare shoulders now as if she were
cold.

She tried only once more. “Hugh! Suppose I don’t go to-morrow! I’m quite
out of the mood to-night. Why should I go? With Holly never so
beautiful, and all my friends, my _dearest_ friends, here?”

His answer to that astounded her, in spite of all that had happened to
her ego this night, by its simple cruelty. “I know it! Why should you
go? It’s heaven on earth right here. Why should any one leave it? This
night is—I never knew a night like this! It is wild—it is _wild_, Joan
dear, with beauty and wonderfulness! I wouldn’t go to heaven to-morrow
if all the angels invited me.”

She stood away from him. “Hugh! Are you aware of me at all?” she cried,
but under her breath. “Do you realize that I said I might give up
Switzerland? _And why I should want to give it up?_”

“Holly, you said, is so beautiful.... But Joan....” He was appalled. But
then, before he allowed himself quite to understand her—and he had very
nearly allowed that misfortune to them both to happen—he said quickly,
“You mustn’t think of me, my dear. Or pity me. Ever! You were awfully
right in all you said at Fernly. Remember? And our friendship, yours and
mine, _is_ going to be deeper and sounder than ever. It is enriched.”
And then, forgetting her again, he exclaimed, “Everything’s enriched.
Even the moonlight. It’s magic, isn’t it, Joan? Wild with loveliness!”

Before he got finally off with his Ariel, Hugh remembered that Glenn had
lost his latchkey lately and not replaced it yet. So he’d better find
him—he seemed to have vanished into the house—and give him his. He did
not interrupt Ariel and Schwankovsky in their protracted farewells up at
the door, but went around by the terrace to enter by the drawing-room
windows.

Frye was at the piano now, in Schwankovsky’s place, his head bowed over
the keys, his eyes shut, playing a blues. Anne and Glenn were dancing to
it. But Hugh did not go in. He stood, struck into wonder by a wholly new
aspect he was suddenly vouchsafed of his brother and sister. They were
not his little brother—his little sister. No. The weird, heart-rending
“blues” had turned them into a type—into its own note, its wail. They
were figurines—pale—beautiful with grief.... Aristocratic, narrow heads
held high.... Their chiseled faces Benda masks. Every motion of foot and
leg and the wandlike bodies was heart-rending with passion and grief’s
restraint....

Perhaps love had turned Hugh clairvoyant. Perhaps acute happiness does
that sometimes. But whatever the cause of the illumination of his
sympathy, he realized Glenn and Anne as noble, beautiful. And for one
flashing instant he saw, typified in them, the pain of Youth itself.

He did no more about the key, but turned back to the car, awed and
quieted. He did not understand precisely what had happened to him by
this quickening in his soul of the power of insight. And above all he
was not conscious of any concrete reason there might be in those two
particular lives for his compassion. All that he knew definitely was
that he had looked with naked eyes on the fortitude of youth.... He
himself had never been so clear-cut as were Anne and Glenn. He had hoped
and pretended his youth away. Glenn and Anne would go on dancing through
their youth, dancing over its pains and anguishes, wand-held, reserved,
with intricate steps.... Their eyes open.... Perfectly
self-conscious.... But dancing still—with all the discipline of a
patterned art.

The minute he was in the car beside Ariel he forgot them. The big house
and all it held was blotted out in shadow at their backs, and their path
cut itself ahead through moonlight. But neither spoke. Ariel sat well
over at her own side of the wide seat. Hugh watched the road and guided
the wheel. As they neared their avenue it never entered Hugh’s head to
suggest, “Let’s go on, up the river.” Although the road was a wide path
of sheer moonlight, and the silvered river raced at their shoulders like
an Angel of Lovers. For he knew that Ariel’s heart held one intention—to
get to Grandam. From the minute when, at dinner, Schwankovsky had drawn
attention to her ring (except for the swift bright period of the dance),
this had been true. So he raced the roadster in under the dark arch and
up the moon-laced wood road through the glimmering birches and beeches,
around the silvery-dark curves to the door. There he spoke the first
words that had been uttered since they were alone together:

“I won’t drive the car around yet, but go up to see Grandam with you,
Ariel.”

As they ascended the steps,—the three, shallow, wide steps to Wild
Acres’ home-promising door,—Hugh was shy of Ariel. He longed that she
should turn her face, look at him, speak to him. But Ariel was afraid of
Hugh. She had said too much. She had said everything there ever would be
to say, with her eyes, when she looked up from those heads of the dark
dream-children, and found his dark eyes—so like, so terribly like—on
hers.

Besides, here was the aquamarine on her finger, clear in the moonlight.
And before she gave herself to Hugh, Grandam, her beloved friend, was to
die. Things must come in their order. If she raised a hand, if she
breathed too deeply, something might be shaken out of God’s beautiful
intended order for it. All life—and birth and death—was so delicately
balanced, it seemed, here, in one girl’s heart!

Hugh had his latchkey in the lock. But the door was not opening.
Surprised at that, Ariel did turn and look up at him.

She stepped back—suddenly—away from what she saw. But he followed and
took her into his arms. She leaned back against his arms, held herself
back and away from his body, but her face remained lifted to his. By
moonlight he saw that it was as expressionless as when she had danced,
expressionless as the face of a flower is expressionless—to mortal
eyes—and strangely silver, bent back this way against his dark coat
sleeve. But although she was leaning back and away from him, he felt no
weight on his arm. Her body was held with the dancer’s self-sustaining
poise. Then he knew what he had only believed before: she was the
eternal dancer, but not to music. Hers was the dance to life. His
beloved’s whole genius was for living.

Gently, he drew the poised, free body toward him. There was no blindness
of engulfing passion here, only two wills, free as day, rushing fleetly
upon one another. No red flames roared against a dark mind-misery. Only
sunrise breaking about the whole circle of his soul’s horizon. Heaven’s
dawn.

Grandam saw their faces and bodies radiant with that dawn when they came
into her room.

“So it is here in time for me to see, and to be happy with you! But just
in time!” she told them with a quick breath.

Rose, who had stayed with Grandam until Ariel’s return, had left; and
now that she was gone, Ariel ran forward and dropped on her knees by the
low bed, and kissed Grandam on the lips. Sunrises, kisses. Hugh sat on
the other side of the bed, and to-night Grandam did not make him get up
and bring a chair. Instead she gave him one of her hands to hold. “How
did you know, Grandam?” he asked. “I never told you we were in love. Did
Ariel?”

“Neither of you told me. And I only hoped. I thank God you’ve got home
in time to make me sure. Ariel! If your messenger should be off
to-night, what message shall she take your father? Make it exact, and
I’ll impress it on my memory. If only one could take a letter!”

Ariel was swept by terror. Her blood ran icy again, as at dinner. She
tore her eyes from Hugh’s startled, puzzled face. Oh, the aquamarine had
told her right. Her darling’s agony and death was coming
swiftly—swiftly—Tears rose in an agony of their own in her throat and
scalded her cheeks. Her sight fought through them for a view of the
beloved face. Already Death was slipping over it the mask for agony. But
no. The mask was carelessly put on—anyhow—askew. Ariel saw this.... And
then, as if her tears were a clarifying medium—as in this case they
were—she saw that under the badly adjusted mask-for-agony Grandam was
smiling.

It was a new sort of smile altogether. It seemed to express
anticipation, a kind of joyous excitement.... Youth.... Love.... An
almost _shy_ love.

But the smile was not for Ariel, nor for Hugh. For some one else
entirely.... Some one whose hands Grandam guessed were about to open the
door of her coach and let her out into Eternity? Or for some one else at
the Saint’s shoulder? Only Death knows.

Through salty lips Ariel was sobbing—“Tell Father that I love him with
my whole heart and that I am happy, happy—”

Hugh knelt. There was no time to get help or to do anything themselves.
He held Grandam up, supported her agony.

“Darling!” he whispered. “Tell Gregory Clare that I will take care of
his girl as long as we both shall live. Tell him that I love Ariel. No!
Tell him _how_ I love Ariel.”

And they knew—_just_—that Grandam caught their messages.


                                THE END



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.





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