« AnkstesnisTęsti »
of butlers and French governesses; a five
o'clock tea hour that struggles still with a THE critics at large had already too extensive menu; a bitterly contested
spoken, but for Suddeth's Athens social leadership; two settlement houses; the final word was not uttered until Sud- many Arts and Crafts shops; and a more deth, in an address before the Doric club
or less nationally recognized "literary on its annual Guest Day, pronounced the group." And this, in short, is Suddeth's "Letters of a Woman," published anony- Athens. mously, to be the most remarkable com- Vedder Suddeth was a native son of pilation of wit and insight, revelation and Athens, born of parents who had seen him admission, to be found in the world of safely through Harvard, with an extra modern belles-lettres. Suddeth was not two years in the law department. Then, given to untempered enthusiasms, but on to his parents' grief and the satisfied fulthis day he dropped the bridle upon the filling of the prophecy of his father's law neck of his critical Pegasus, and let the partner, he renounced the practice of law, winged creature soar. He devoted the and came home, to turn his hand to a litlatter fourth of his panegyrical tribute to tle of everything but what the neighbora searching investigation into the identity hood pragmatists termed “honest work.” of the author, a secret then known only to He seemed to wish to write, and he did a one member of The Sunrise Publishing little reporting for the Athens "Mail," and Company. That the author of the “Let- a little book reviewing for the Athens “Exters” was sitting that afternoon in the press,” and, after a bit, quite a deal of drafourth row, and that his eyes, during his maticcriticism for the Athens “Sun." While address, rested often on her face, was a at Harvard he had put in valuable time fact unknown at the time to Suddeth or studying the drama from the front and to Athens.
rear of Boston stages, acquiring in the proSuddeth's Athens is a city set on a plain, cess some acquaintance among press-agents lacking therefore mountains in the mass and minor members of casts -- an experiand the sweep of cliff and raging sea. But ence which in Athens, at that time, well-kept farms surround it; a pretty lake amounted to a knowledge of the world, near by sways in its great cup alongside and which raised him at last to the posimany acres of native forest that a wise tion of dramatic editor. Providence has preserved from the tasty Some are born to the manner of omnihand of the landscape gardener; its streets science this was Suddeth's major heriare asphalted from limit to limit, and in
tage. It showed in his carriage, in his spite of its two hundred thousand inhabi- full, rotund tones, and in his smile, untants, it has kept its wealth of trees. It is sneering, altruistic. Naturally, while Suda city of homes, with vegetable gardens deth was young, this smile did not take in the rear; of fine horses as well as motor- among his elders, and there were those of cars; of two Country clubs; a University his own generation who when he apclub; several fine hotels; two publishing proached frivolously said: "Go to; let the houses; some world-famous canning fac- dogs be hushed in their kennels; for here tories; many Japanese servants; a number comes Sir Oracle !"
But Suddeth was unruffled and kind, handful of ragged arrows, symbolical of even behind turned backs. He praised the town's early struggles, and regardless generously and never damned with praise, of any of the gentle laws of heraldry. The big or little -- till many years later! For new seal was an elaborate design by one he had his ambition, as who has not? And of the Art Leaguers of Athens, introducing he never allowed, then or later, personal the civic goddess sitting with the lake on feeling to become a stumbling-block to the her right, the native forests on her left, feet of it. Therefore no sun set that did the Two Forks creek parting in front of not see that ambition at least a pace on its her right toe, and the University chapel, way to his goal-arbiter to all of Athens's the Government building dome, the Art sons.
League façade, and a few smoke-stacks Unless his bridal sun had set in clouds, making the sky-line. About the circle ran unless his marriage were a misstep! This the usual mixture of cannon-balls, sheaves, question was threshed out by Suddeth's laurel, pens, oil lamps, and open books. friends and enemies until it was frayed and And, surrounding all, scurried a Latin
He married quite suddenly a girl motto with a preposition followed by the who was a Wellesley graduate, and who, ablative case. coming to Athens for a visit, remained to Now every Latinist knows that the dabe married to Suddeth at his parents' tive and ablative cases have differences not home. If he mistook her for her cousin always clear to the careless mind. Sudwho was the daughter of a wealthy broker, deth, whose mind was of that woolly texand if she mistook him for her ideal, nei- ture to which the most recondite and forther mistake was ever admitted to the gotten facts clung to be detached at his world, but there were those in Athens pleasure for the confusion of the scholar who affirmed that both these things were and the triumph of the scholiast, proved, the true.
day after the hurrah of publication in the After his marriage, it became necessary Athens “Mail," that in this instance the for him to cut off many bachelor extrava- ablative was anathema, ergo, that its spongances, for his salary was intermittent and sors were beneath comment. Two weeks small, and his parents' death left him noth- later, when interviewed concerning the ing but the Suddeth homestead. Here one resignation of the professor of Latin from daughter was born, and here, some years Athens's University, Suddeth said that it later, Suddeth's salon was set up. A was unfortunate that a man's career must salon is usually feminine, but for a long be clouded by ignorance of a fundamental time Suddeth's salon was his. Mrs. Sud- part of his subject, leaving unuttered his deth was an enigma to Athens. Every one sympathy for the large Eastern University conceded her cleverness and a certain which was receiving the late professor of charm, but unlike her husband, she did Latin at Athens with open arms. not fraternize with her peers, patronize her Thus was Vedder Suddeth established inferiors, nor run with the hounds of at last as arbiter of Athens. Velma, aged Athens's forty best families. She belonged fourteen, pursued her Gallic Wars with to three of the city's forty-three clubs - new ardor, and became her class's authorthese three musical organizations. "My ity on all forms of the dative and ablative wife is not literary in her tastes," Suddeth cases. Mrs. Suddeth received congratulawas fond of saying to visiting lions, the tions upon her husband's classic prowess truth of the matter being that the Sud- with the equanimity that distinguished her deth home could not hold at once two at all times, and the lack of enthusiasm philoproteans. At all events Mrs. Sud- that she displayed for everything but her deth kept to the musical side of the Sud- piano, Beethoven, Chopin, and Velma. deth fence, and left the dramatic-poetic- As for Suddeth, he became a member of critical-fictional field to her spouse. the Beefsteak club of Athens, whose un
Velma Suddeth was fourteen when the conventional orgies with steaks and celery, Incident of the City Seal established her sans knives, sans forks, filled with curiosfather at one bound as Athens's foremost ity and envy all those who read the accritic and scholar. There has been great counts of the club dinners; and he became dissatisfaction with the old seal, which was a member of the Marathon club, limited in truth naught but an Indian's head and a in membership to Athens's forty best fami
lies. In other words Suddeth found him- shows a new spirit in literature. I am self the connecting link between conven- tremendously interested in the personality tion and unconvention, between Olympus behind it-that, of course, is what counts and Parnassus, between society and the in intimate literature. The woman in the Bohemia that existed in Athens. It was case-cherchez la femme! I want to find at this time that his salon bloomed in one her- it seems to me that I 've never unnight into the most interesting drawing- derstood a woman so well as I understand room of Athens--on that night when it the author of the 'Letters.' was graced by Mrs. James Coyne, in the As he talked, oratorically as he always full Aush of victory in the social leadership must, he was conscious of the swift growth struggle; and this salon, at the time of his of a new interest that bid fair to bloom address on the "Letters of a Woman," into one of his many tropical friendships was, with Velma, six years older.
with women. He realized also that his wife was coming slowly toward them, and
as he caught her indifferent glance at him, II
and the equally indifferent comprehension As Mrs. Hale, stranger to Athens, slipped that developed as it traveled from him to from the fourth row of chairs into the cen- Mrs. Hale and back again, he resented the ter aisle of Ionia Hall, she glanced back keenness that read him to the dregs of at Suddeth's distinguished figure descend- him. Suddeth never liked to admit that ing the rostrum steps, and then at her there were dregs; these friends of his later friend, whose day guest she was.
years did not find them; it annoyed him “Dear Mrs. Coyne,” she said simply, beyond expression that his wife should "you know Mr. Suddeth? I 've told you make him conscious of his soul's muddy of the little things I scribble now and then sediment. His friendships with women, - I should like to meet him."
to the rest of the world, were Platonic "Surely," smiled Mrs. Coyne. "He enough; it was perhaps his greatest source will come to me first of all, and anything of annoyance with his wife that she too he can do for you he will—Oh Veddie,” called them Platonic, and, with the world, as the arbiter approached, “what a stun- encouraged them. ning little talk! How strange it is that Resentful now of the intuition that caught the woman will not let herself be known. with him the budding of a new flower in Here is another unacknowledged genius his garden of sensations, he covered it with however - Mr. Suddeth, Mrs. Hale! - a charming introduction of the two wowho has come to Athens for a time and men that ended in a cordial invitation to is staying at the Walton. Mrs. Hale the Suddeths' salon, and then Mrs. Sudwrites."
deth passed slowly on, leaving her husband Suddeth glanced appraisingly. Mrs. again alone with the new-comer. There Hale was tall, slender, graceful, very were all but constant interruptions, howlovely, and charmingly gowned. Their ever, for all of literary Athens was clameyes met; hers were clear blue lakes, and oring for a chance to discuss the moot he smiled charmingly.
question of identity; but he found a mo"You 've published? No! But you ment alone with Mrs. Coyne, whose lips write--for technic, expression--what?" were curved in that delicately aloof smile,
"Because I must,” Mrs. Hale said at once all-intelligent and entirely madquietly. Her eyes looked through and be- dening in its promise of obmutescence, yond him. Suddenly she flushed. “That which had won her first place against the is what you said of the 'Letters'--that old, dethroned leader.
old, dethroned leader. Suddeth grinned they were written because they had to appreciatively at her smile, and asked a be — ”
question. “It gave you a feeling of kinship,” “I don't know a thing about her,” Mrs. smiled Suddeth. “Well, frankly, those Coyne answered succinctly. “We are ‘Letters' are the most wonderful expres- staying at the Walton for a few months sion of the mysterious feminine that has now as you know, and we met her through been given out for many years. Touches those pick-me-up Norrises the other evehere and there recall tricks of our few ning. She knows good people in the East great women writers, but as a whole it and evidently has been used to luxury. 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
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.
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 Auence 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 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