Puslapio vaizdai

I've a fancy she is establishing legal resi- Mrs. Hale at the Walton, during which dence of some sort-I'm sure her husband they had played about the subject of idenis n't dead, and there seems so little rhyme tities. She had fenced cleverly-and had · or reason in settling here so detachedly asked Suddeth to tea the next afternoon to and unattached. She seems a homeless lit- look over a poem or two and a bit of prose. tle mystery, and a very clever woman, He had been frank with her about the Veddie, with a mania for belles-lettres. poetry, which means that he had told her Come over to dinner to-morrow night and it was very bad; but he had waxed enthumeet her informally, you and Mrs. Sud- siastic over her prose, which, he declared, deth."

reminded him of something rare, elusiveSuddeth accepted the afterthought of and wonderful. Three evenings later, his wife with a philosophic calm that his when a slip of her tongue—that clever reply explained. “Mrs. Suddeth is going tongue!-- revealed all, he knew that the out to the Country Club for a day or two, prose bit held the elusive charm of the but if you 'll let me come, Margot, I 'll “Letters” themselves. be delighted."

How did you write them!—To whom “Then do- I 'll arrange it with Mrs. could they have been written ?-What of Hale. Entre nous, she was thrilled with life have you lived, oh wonderful woman, your talk this afternoon-oddly affected. I to know life so well!” — These and other wonder if she happens to know the woman incoherencies were poured upon her in of the 'Letters'! What a find for you, Suddeth's frenzy of admiration. She had Veddie, if she does! Everything is stupid sworn him to silence, but the secret was just now; until the new French consul too big for him, and made his days and comes—and perhaps afterward, she is the nights miserable. Finally she had conmost interesting thing in town.”

sented, after hesitation that seemed to him “I recall her face,” Suddeth mused absurd, to be presented before the smallest with the slight heaviness that was his at number of select spirits that his list could times. “There was more in it than could hold, as the woman who wrote the “Lethave been aroused by my poor words of ters" - on the strict condition that these praise. If you chance on anything illumi- would keep the secret inviolate until the nating, tell me. I am growing interested, ban of silence was lifted. by bounds! I shall be with you surely to- It was the most dramatic moment in morrow night."

Athens's entire literary life to date, when
Suddeth, having solemnly sworn the little

group about him to sacred secrecy, stepped THAT Mrs. Hale herself was the author from his place within the curve of Mrs. of the “Letters" came as a revelation not Suddeth's grand piano, and held out his entirely unsuspected. Suddeth said in fact, hand to Florence Woolson Hale. on that memorable night when he intro- “This is she, dear friends," he said exduced her openly, yet under seal of invio- ultantly—“the still publicly unacknowlable secrecy, to Athens's inner circle within ledged author of the 'Letters'; the most the Suddeth salon, that from the moment wonderful creator of the most wonderful that his eye first rested on her, as she sat book since Héloïse !” And he bent his fine beside Mrs. Coyne in the fourth row of head and kissed her, in the spirit of Bothe club auditorium, there was a “some- hemia, where she stood. thing" about her which, confirmed later Athens was conventional, but the salon by many clues, and finally by her forced was not. Suddeth had trained his players admission, made him trace the first seed well, and they all acknowledged that the of his suspicion to that illuminating mo- kiss was well within the spirit of the play. ment of first sight of her.

Yet not one of the comrades gathered Two months had elapsed between that there but stole his or her own swift glance moment and the first presenting of her to at Suddeth's wife. Such pull-backs of an the salon, but for six weeks of that two imperfectly drugged conventional sense are months Suddeth had known that of her common enough in self-made and therefore which he persisted in urging her to reveal, self-conscious Bohemias, and are the joy of under his auspices, to Athens. There had outside scoffers. But no scoffer sat beneath been that first dinner with the Coynes and the roof that night, unless it were Mrs.


[ocr errors]

Suddeth. Athens was always doubtful him that his treasured secret might be perabout Mrs. Suddeth.

haps a secret no longer, at least to me. I She sat through that moment, quite as was answered by Mr. Whitmore himself, much the victim of her own amazement as to whom, of all the firm, the secret of the any salonist present. With the others she identity of the writer of their greatest trileaned forward in her chair, gazing at the umph would most probably be known.” man and woman. And Velma, her young As he unfolded a letter Mrs. Hale daughter, just home from her last year at stepped forward, her lips parted. Wellesley, stared too, with a gasp of de- And he said —” she breathed. lighted surprise at the announcement that “What proves,” said Suddeth, with anwas choked in a gasp of shocked surprise other devoted bow, "that the world is at the kiss. She too took her swift glance small, and that the social affairs of Athens at her mother's quickly masked face, but are not unknown in the East. He says, at hers differed from the other furtive glances the end, in a most guarded manner: 'It is in that it was quite direct and honest. not impossible that the most carefully kept Velma had been away from home much secrets may escape into the open, a fact in these six years of her father's waxing that does not lift the ban of silence from fame, and this was her first direct initia- our lips. It is not improbable however tion into Platonic rites. But her Puri- that you are in the secret, since your possitanic shock faded under her mother's in- ble part in it was a largely determining difference, and it was she, ardent and factor in our acceptance of your poems; glowing, who first reached Mrs. Hale's

one case, my dear sir, where personal inside, and impressed her own young lips fluence overbalanced the undeniable fact upon the other cheek.

that poems are a drug on the market. “Why, all of the girls are wild about However we hope for unusual results in you!" she cried. “We 've done nothing the end from your forthcoming book.' all spring but read the 'Letters,' and won- "All of which,” Suddeth added, “makes der about the woman who wrote them. me eager to admit the inspiration of the And to find you, here!"

first poem, which, though written last, less The author of the “Letters” kissed her than six weeks ago, is to be the title poem in return, impulsively.

of the book: 'Egeria!' And when you “How I shall love to meet all your read 'To Egeria' on the dedication page, 'girls,' and talk to them!" And through you of this little group will know the inall the maze of congratulations and voiced spiration is honored in the most fitting astonishment she kept close hold of the way.” girl's hand.

Mrs. Suddeth, standing beside her Mrs. Suddeth was one of the last to daughter and her honored guest during come forward to remark upon her guest's this little scene, turned again to Mrs. achievement, and she did it with her slow Hale. grace and indolent voice that, coupled "It is a wonderful thing to have so farwith her general aloofness, made her the reaching an influence, my dear Mrs. resented enigma she was to Athens. Hale,” she said cordially. “Persuade Ved

“You have done what few women of der to read us his 'Egeria' on the chance the world have had the courage to do, that it may be as new to all of us as it is Mrs. Hale,” she said sweetly. Doubtless to me." she would have added more, but just then "And to me!" broke in Velma sturdily, a her husband spoke to the assembled room- little of her mental shock surging back upon ful.

her, as she gazed honestly at her mother. “I had occasion to write to The Sun- But Mrs. Suddeth's face wore the bored rise Publishing Company,” he remarked, expression habitual to her in public, and "about my own unassuming little book of it did not change during Suddeth's readverse which is to appear next fall, the first ing of a poem which was one flame of delibook of mine, by the way, to bear the cate allusion to the “Letters," and to the 'Sunrise' imprint. And I could not resist enduring power of mental sympathy over the temptation," with a little bow to Mrs. all other human bonds. It was not a great Hale, who turned suddenly from her hos- poem-Suddeth could not write great tess and stood at gaze, "to put it gently to poems—but it was a great attempt, and its


technical composition was almost flawless. Mrs. Suddeth rose to her feet, and Suddeth had trained his salon to a first- slipped her arm about her daughter with hand knowledge of iambics and trochees one of her rare caressings. “My dear lituntil they were all but as quick as he to tle daughter! We shall have our summer detect technical flaws, which was his first here as we have planned it. Then, in the rule of criticism. Technical flawlessness fall, Paris, for the two of us, you and me! was the first great law, and “Egeria" met In that year abroad a good many things

The little salon that had begun by may be solved for all of us that have been honoring Mrs. Hale ended with the shoul- waiting to be solved until you might have der-raising of Suddeth. It was often thus. your share in them. Let it all go, now

wait." IV

"But people looked last night!" the girl “MOTHER!" said Velma the next morn- insisted angrily. “They looked, I tell you. ing, coming unheralded into the music And I won't have them looking at you, room where Mrs. Suddeth sat, running pitying you; perhaps scorning you-" through a new score of sorts. "I want to “I think that no one either pities or talk to you, very frankly."

scorns me,” returned Mrs. Suddeth with Mrs. Suddeth looked up with a little a sudden cool calm.

“Let it all go, now, smile. It was the new generation, assured Velma. We shall talk it over at a better of itself, addressing the elder on debatable time, I promise you." ground, with the unanswerable argument She kissed her daughter again, and all but uttered. Her thought was in her turned back to the piano. Velma stood words as she answered her young daugh- uncertainly for a moment; then she turned ter.

disappointedly and left the room. "Well, the solution, my dear!"

She was crossing the wide hall when a But Velma did not find it so easy to maid, a new one, intercepted her with a begin, and fussed through stacks of music card. Velma had already seen the shadow quite as if she were searching for a definite in the doorway, and when she read the title instead of a definite word. Finally engraved name, "Mr. Henry Whitmore, her convictions conquered her uncertainty, The Sunrise Publishing Company,” she and she blurted out her question:

gave the caller one fluttering glance and "I want to know-if you know—and if then went forward eagerly. you know, how can you seem not to-that “Mr. Whitmore? I am so glad to see Father-I know that Mrs. Hale is per- you.

I am Miss Suddeth- last night my fectly charming and good and all that _" father read a part of your letter to him

She came to a piteous halt. Her mother here-when he presented the author of ran lightly through the rest of the melody, the 'Letters' to us all. Oh, it was charmthen let her hands drop idly in her lap. ing to be allowed to know at last who There was a little silence before she spoke. wrote them. You came to see my father?"

“My dear,” she said at last, "you must "Not your father, Miss Suddeth.” Mr. not do your father any real injustice. I Whitmore smiled. “I sent my card to understand him- thoroughly. He needs

your mother.” the spur of a new face, a new mind, an “You know the author of the 'Letadoring swinger of the chalice, every so ters,'

she persisted eagerly. "Do you often. This taking of fancies is no new know her?" thing-you happen merely to have come "I have never seen her.” on one of them at its full. Try to think “Then,” cried Velma, with the enthuno more of it, except as inconsequent.” siasm of twenty for great moments, “I

"But Mother," Velma protested indig- want to be the one to introduce you-oh, nantly, "that poem last night— 'Egeria!' Mother, here is Mr. Whitmore! You 'll -- it was- I was ashamed - it was so plain wait for a bit, until I telephone—" - it was written for nobody but for the She looked excitedly at Whitmore, as woman who wrote the 'Letters. I think he went quickly toward the door of the it 's a queer crowd that has grown up out music room where Mrs. Suddeth stood here in these years--and I 'm not a prude waiting, and then, stopped midway in her either! I know a great many things—but quick little rush for the telephone at sight I am angry!"

of the little tableau, stared crassly. Whit

[ocr errors]


more was holding her mother's hands with nate honesty, crude and raw, conquered an ardent reverence.

her desire to be dangerous and subtle, and "At last!” he said. “But when is the she added fairly, “Mr. Whitmore, of the world to know ?"

Sunrise Company, is there with her.” Mrs. Suddeth raised her hand in invol- Mrs. Hale stopped short in the dooruntary warning to him, and looked over way, with a sudden clutching of her skirts, his shoulder at Velma. For a few seconds and a face that, on the instant, save for the eyes of mother and daughter were two bright red spots, went absolutely pallocked; then the girl's eyes wavered, and lid. Suddeth, his eyes gleaming, brought she swayed a little as her world rocked his hands together with a soft clap. beneath her feet. Then she turned away "And I have kept him waiting," he said. and went out to the veranda, and, with a “How odd that he did not telegraph me whirling brain, sank into a chair.

he would be here. And you here at this Where was the mistake! Did Mr. Whit- moment! My dear Whitmore-my dear more think he knew, and was he mistaken? fellow - ? or was her father mistaken? or had her His voice came back to them as the girl mother known all along and held her and the woman stared at each other. Mrs. peace? Details of the night before flashed Hale's face did not regain its color, but through her mind with the swiftness of a after one futile betraying step toward the dream, and above every incident rang her walk, her figure regained its poise, and her mother's words, so cordial then, so signifi- shoulders straightened to meet the mocant now: “You have done what few wo- ment. Already the invasion was upon men have had the courage to do!" Was them, for Suddeth with beautiful inforit possible-her mother the author of mality was dragging his guest through the the “Letters”! Mrs. Hale an unscrupu- hall, and after them, her lips set and her lous adventuress! And her father the be- eyes gleaming, came his wife. fooled! Velma said it plainly, and as she "My dear fellow !” he was saying. "So uttered the words, again with the swift- fortuitous! So good of you to let my wife ness of a dream, certain seemingly unex- amuse you until my return! Here is the plainable things in their home life straight- surprise-I know you have never met ened out with astounding clarity. She Mrs. Hale! The wonderful creator of the seemed to know without further words 'Letters.' The‘Egeria’of the poems, who—” just what the problems were that had been Even Suddeth stopped here, minus his waiting for their solution until she could period. Mrs. Hale was standing, tall and share in the solvingof them. “Egeria!" Her ready for the spring, her eyes narrowed, young lips curled with intolerant scorn. her lips drawn away from her white teeth

She sat there for a long time, the mur- until she looked common, and a reversion mur of voices drifting out to her every to the uncultured, uncontrolled primitive now and then from the room where Whit- type. Whitmore, after a glance at Mrs. more and her mother were still talking Suddeth, bowed formally to the lady, and, earnestly. Then, suddenly, looking up, stepping back, without offering his hand, she saw her father and Mrs. Hale coming glanced at Mrs. Suddeth again. She shook up the walk together. Mrs. Hale, as her head, and his lips, already parted, usual, was in blue, that matched her eyes, closed firmly. and made blacker her black hair and brows “What is it?" asked Suddeth. “My and lashes, and redder her clear red cheeks dear fellow, you don't understand — " and lips. Velma watched them with level "Is n't it plain, Father," Velma asked eyes as they approached.

clearly, “that Mr. Whitmore does n't rec"Where is your mother, my dear?" ognize Mrs. Hale?” Suddeth cried. Mrs. Hale and I are "My own stupidity!” amended Sudarranging a little dinner for to-night, and deth promptly. “Florence Woolson was I want her to call up the guests -a little the name under which the letters were aftermath of last night.” He smiled at his submitted — that name will serve, my dear friend, who smiled back almost tenderly. man, to jog your memory!”

“She is in the music room,” the girl But Mr. Whitmore's hands rested on told him, and then, just as he and Mrs. the head of his stick, and he surveyed his Hale were crossing the threshold her in- gloves discreetly.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »