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Haldane was all of that. He could "By God, no!" said McAndrew, "she's give his wife everything there was to be interested in the game, just as I am.” given in England provided she could take Then I saw that Vivian's beauty had it. He was so placed that this side of a not deceived McAndrew. He admired it, misalliance his wife could hurt him but desired it, if you like, but for him as little, while the right kind of woman for her it was a means to an end. What could help him as can the wives of public had arrested his attention was the inner men in Europe. I don't think he consid- quality of her spirit. He knew her to be ered that side of it at all, for he seemed as unconquerable as he was himself, and to me in a deep, still sort of way to be as ruthless. Indeed, in the phrase of the very much in love.
day, they had each other's number from It was at that moment McAndrew ap- the first hour of their acquaintance. peared on the scene.
Their spirits had arisen and said to each "I 've come up here to meet Vivian other, "Brother, I salute you!" There Nevers," he told me. “I heard she was was something almost sinister in the way here, and since I was so near I came.” in which they had penetrated the desire Chance and purpose had always walked of each other's hearts. hand in hand with McAndrew. “The Mrs. Nevers came to me one evening cool way she managed that affair of hers
nervous and disquieted; she had aged in always interested me," he explained. the last six years. There was something
I looked at him, and it struck me, as it pathetic about the way she blindly played always had with him, that his air of a game the meaning of which she only half power was too obvious to be pleasant. It realized, and she had played it now to the gave him the effect of being some force of limit of endurance. What she wanted nature. It emphasized itself in his heavy was peace, which to her meant Vivian neck, in the quick intensity of his glance, married. in his expression, slightly lowering and "I thought everything was all settled," heavy despite its look of easy humor. she told me, “and now Haldane has deIt showed itself in the carriage of his clared himself, and Vivian has asked for head, bent forward a little as though he time to think it over." were about to charge, and in the snap- “Well,” I said, “that 's not unreasonping-turtle quality of his mouth,
able.” The second day after he came, he said: “Not unreasonable!" her mother "I 'm going to marry Vivian Nevers.” echoed. “It would be the height of un"Has she said so?" I inquired.
reason if Vivian ever did anything that “Not yet, but I think she must know had n't a reason behind it. Why won't she's going to."
she tell Haldane at once that she 'll marry "She 's as good as engaged to Hal- him? You see, Vivian 's placed in rather dane," I remonstrated.
a peculiar position; there are n't many "I'm the better man,” he announced- people she-she can marry after what 's "the better man for her purpose, I mean; happened.” Thus her mother indicated there will be further horizons with me, that having almost been the wife of a he added.
royal prince there were not many proper Indeed, beside the power McAndrew alliances that such a woman could make. might hope to have,- the almost limitless I would n't allow her this vagueness. power of money, -Haldane's position Remember that I was a very old friend of seemed as circumscribed as an ornamental Marion Nevers and that she irritated me garden.
as profoundly as she held my affection for “The wives of the great business men her. So I said brutally: have had very little to do in the great "You mean there are n’t many margames their husbands are playing. I don't riages that Vivian can make without an think Vivian 's interested in money.” anticlimax."
"Put it any way you like,” she an- virtues and ideals she found no need of swered wearily. "Why has n't she ac- excusing herself to herself. cepted Haldane ?”
McAndrew joined us, and as I stood It was rather a dark question that Mrs. there I wondered if in the hinterland of Nevers put to me, and her tone was Vivian's mind there lurked the thought fraught with distrust. It was as though that they were more like two conspirators I was given a glimpse into the depths of than like potential lovers. There was Vivian's unscrupulous heart seen through already something fixed and stable in their the medium of her mother's troubled relations. Two splendid and predatory vision. I had my answer to the riddle, creatures were what they were, who, if and the answer pointed to a rather murky they formed an alliance, would join it for transaction. Haldane had proposed mar- the despoiling of mankind. As I stood riage, and Vivian had asked for time, and with them and perceived the perfect unthe time she wanted was not to make up derstanding of the situation that lay beher mind concerning him, as he trustingly neath their conventional talk, I realized thought, but concerning McAndrew. She that there was going on between them a had her one bird well in the hand while voiceless battle, Vivian taking the attishe quietly stalked the other in the bush. tude that she was a free and dispassionate
“She 'll never marry if she goes on this agent, while McAndrew assumed calmly way,” Mrs. Nevers said irritably. "Every that the victory was his.
I had never one, literally everyone, said she might seen her as she was with him. This unhave married the prince if she had only derstanding of her was a new and poihad patience. But no! From one day to gnant experience. She had never asked another she insisted on leaving in spite any one to understand her, and had had a of everything I could say or do."
cynical enjoyment of her mask. As she Well, after this I could only take off was as considerate in small things as she my
hat to Vivian, now that I realized that was ruthless in large, not even women she had had to play her game worse than penetrated her disguise. Now for the single-handed. The only comforting thing first time, before me and before McAnI had to offer was:
drew, the two men who knew her best, "You can only trust that Vivian knows she was spiritually at her ease, as though what she's doing.”
dressed in well-worn clothes. He would Mrs. Nevers shook her head disconso- stop at nothing, just as she would stop at lately; plainly she indicated that since nothing. There was no way in which she "the affair of the prince" she did n't think could shock him. He accepted her absoso any more.
lutely as she was, even in this cold-blooded That evening I had a little talk with balancing of him and Haldane in the Vivian. She talked about McAndrew scales. He did more than accept; he had a tranquilly and speculatively enough, but sardonic approval of her thirst for power. there was an undercurrent of excitement Talking with them, I saw indeed he in her mood.
knew “everything.” I had a moment of "He understands me,” she said, with a deep discomfort. Their understanding, smile that said, “As well as you do.” unspoken as it was, was unseemly. There “Everything ?” I asked her.
simply were no decent pretenses between “Everything-everything I 'm doing.” them.
She was evidently not fooling herself Vivian calmly defied McAndrew to now any more than she ever had. She move the hour of her decision one instant, regarded herself with no tenderness, she and McAndrew let her know that he had had as little indulgence for herself as she already decided. Outside the battle was had for others; but on the whole she re- Haldane, unsuspecting, awaiting Vivian's spected herself. But since she had thrown word. I looked at her to see if there was overboard neck and crop a whole pack of a hint of this hardness and cynicism in
her beauty, and there was n't, not an lose.” Then he smiled at Vivian, and his atom, not a hint. She was extraordinarily smile said, "And neither have you." lovely, a nature as fine and flexible as a The boy was searching for some one tempered sword, and there was even a among the dancers with absorbed earhint of austerity in her expression. Very nestness, as though his seeking was of perfect she was, and I understood better weightiest importance. Then his eyes fell Mrs. Nevers's statement that there were on Vivian, and he advanced toward her n't many possible marriages for a girl like quietly. He moved with a silent, springy Vivian. Ordinary men don't want god- stride, as though he was used to walking desses as wives.
in wide, open spaces. He advanced upon For half an hour I stood with them, her, and with the perfect manners of exheld by a gesture of Vivian, while McAn- treme simplicity he said to her: drew conveyed to her in voice and man- "I 'm Sydney Grayson. Gainsborough ner that her freedom of choice was an il- was going to bring me to you, and now lusion, and Vivian understood this assump- I 've lost him. May I have your next tion with a certainty even more arrogant.
dance?" I would have been willing to stake my He was both shy and wistful. He money on either of their certainties. This seemed unaware that he was doing somewas how matters stood that evening. thing unusual; he had come to her with They had sat through the dance absorbed the directness of a child. in their skirmishing. The music stopped, “Let 's go outside; I want to talk to and the dancers sought their places. It you,” he said next. was really Haldane's cue, I considered, as His voice was soft and insistent, and I followed Vivian's glance across the ball- there was a note of appeal in it. The talk room; but instead of at Haldane, I found seemed so important to him that Vivian's myself looking at a boy standing alone in curiosity was aroused, and she left Mcthe middle of the ball-room floor.
Andrew and me together. Much later I Though there was no outward thing in came on McAndrew again. We smoked his dress that distinguished him from the outside in silence for a while. Then Mcother men, there was something arresting Andrew said reflectively: about him, as if he had worn a tunic and "I 've placed young Grayson. A visionsandals. There was nothing immature in ary young scientist, very talented if only his face, and yet he breathed forth an at- he were practical, but he 's forever fussmosphere of youth and complete inno- ing with some windy theory or other cence. He carried himself with the un- about a new kind of ray.” Thus McAnconscious strength of youth; there was drew, whose wide-flung imaginative visomething untouched about him, as sion had made him what he was. though he had never known evil; some- Mrs. Nevers bustled up to us. thing unhurt about him, as though his “Have you seen Vivian?” she asked youth and beauty had disarmed even life; nervously. something at once so gentle and so wild "She 's in the garden, I think,” McAnthat one had a moment of instinctive pity drew replied. for him. Vivian felt this too, for, as if “Could you find her for me, please ?" thinking aloud, she said :
Her glance included us both. "Poor boy!"
came upon them in the far "Why 'poor boy'?” McAndrew asked. stretch of the rose-garden they looked like “He looks very fortunate, I think.” a white moth and a gray one; they were
"He can't keep that look long; no one's not speaking. It was as though the boy strong enough to keep the look that he had taken her at once past the outposts has long, and it must hurt to lose it.” of friendship to the place where people
"I don't know," McAndrew answered, know each other so well that words are "for I 've never had such innocence to not needed.
Vivian's voice came to us:
allow a third element to enter into the “It 's time to go back.”
already complicated situation would make It was as though she were trying in her seem almost trivial in his eyes. She vain to break through the lyrical beauty had been as open with him, he knew, as of the night and of Grayson's mood, it she had been disingenuous with Haldane.
as though it hung about her like She met the questioning interrogation some heavy enchantment. He held her of his eyes unflinchingly, and, ignoring my there, it seemed, without entreaty. It may be my imagination, but I felt as if "I 'm going to decide everything tofor the first time some force outside her
morrow." self determined her acts. I heard Gray- "I think it would be wise," McAnson's voice in answer. He only said to drew agreed; and then, "still, I don't her, “It 's sweet here," as if that were quite understand the walk,” he told her a supreme argument.
gravely. We loomed dark in the path before “I don't myself,” Vivian answered; "it them, and McAndrew said apologeti- just happened.” cally:
They parted, each one engulfed in his "Your mother sent us for you.” Vivian own thoughts; each of them knew that turned to Grayson.
in life few things “just happened" with "Good night," she said.
Vivian. "You'll walk with me to-morrow at two?” he asked her in a tone as though I saw them go chugging off the next afthey always walked at two.
It was as
ternoon in Grayson's absurd little car. though he bathed in a contentment that They were going to drive to the mountain was as vast as the sea.
and walk there afterward. When very "Yes," Vivian answered; then said, late that afternoon Grayson returned "Good night."
alone, McAndrew and I
were both She did not speak to us, but walked the terrace, and his glance met mine quesalong lost in a sea of thought. At last tioningly. McAndrew said:
It seemed that Vivian had preferred to “Haldane 's been looking for you all stay at a cousin's for the night; but it the evening.”
was n't that that had made McAndrew "Yes?” Vivian replied indifferently. Aash me the unspoken question: it was the “I did n't tell him where you were.” look of still exaltation on Grayson's face.
Vivian did not answer; she seemed re- Again Mrs. Nevers Auttered up to me. moved from us as by some vast interstel- "Vivian 's just telephoned me. She
wants to know if you can make it conMcAndrew looked at her with grave venient to go over there—she 's at Cousin scrutiny. There was a note in her voice Leonora's-after dinner. Do go; I can't of unsuspected softness. And since he stand it much longer. She 's inexplicable! knew that the personalities of people are There's something amiss, and I have n't strange and shifting things, he studied the slightest idea what it can be.” Vivian with a sudden gravity.
If Mrs. Nevers was upset, Vivian, The weight of his look and his gravity when I found her at “Cousin Leonora's,' made their impression on her. McAn- was composed enough. She greeted me as drew's whole manner showed a realiza- though nothing whatever was the mattion on his part that this, boy had spoken ter, then on the piazza she let a long sito some depth of Vivian's nature of which lence fall between us. The purposefulthey were both ignorant, and that it held ness of her pose, her whole absorbed exits element of danger for all of them. pression, reminded me of the night when There was a mute warning in his glance, I had first come to know her; again she even a certain judgment of her that to seemed to me like the priestess of some
radiant and austere religion, as though started down the mountain-side to find it. she cherished in her heart a sacred flame. Hand in hand they plunged down the
"I want to tell it to you just as it hap- sheer side of the mountain, knee-deep in pened,” she said at last, "step by step, so soft, rotting leaves that had lain there you can understand and so I can."
from one season to another. She told it at length with careful de- No sooner were they in the woods than tail and many deeply reflective pauses. they lost the tree. The smell of the earth
It seems that from the first things had to them. Little wandering airs n't gone as she had planned them. She brought them the smell of the fresh Northhad met Sydney Grayson with a hard ern woods in spring. matter-of-factness that discouragingly de- They went down the mountain to a nied the evening before. She was, her little valley, with a golden-brown thread manner had implied, a young lady whom of brook running at the bottom of it. he scarcely knew punctiliously and in Down at the other side, through an openrather a bored way keeping an engage- ing, they saw their tree waving a white ment she regretted having made. But hand at them. there was a contagion in his happiness Suddenly the breeze brought them, disthat could not be checked or denied. tinct and definite, the smell of apple-blos"It was then it first came to me that I
They turned, and followed the was leaving my other self behind and that wind; then through a little clearing in I was going on a great adventure into a the trees they saw smiling at them an new life and a new land," was her com- apple-tree in full bloom. It stood apart ment. She strove against it, she told me, from the other trees in a soft bit of clearbut the feeling of glamourous enchantment ing. It was an old tree, wide-branched, rose ever higher about her, an unescapable hospitable. golden tide.
“I wanted to ask it," she told me, They found a farm-house where they ‘What are you doing here so far from left the car, and in silence, as if they had
house? How did you stray away like planned it all out before, they started off this?'” It seemed it was the kind of tree over the mountain.
that one associates with a wide farm-house, After a steep ascent they found them- a tree that children would have delighted selves on a rocky table. Far over at the to climb, and of which they would have other side of the valley the Connecticut made a playmate. She explained that, wove its shining, dilatory path through the standing there, with the young forest meadows. Just below them was the bare growing up all about it, it looked as space of shaly rock up which they had though it had started out for the day to scrambled. They looked down on the take a walk, perhaps to follow the chiltops of trees that had tried to climb to dren who had played among its branches the top of the mountain and had been and had moved away, and in its search stopped by the spur of rock.
had got lost in the woods and taken root Then suddenly Vivian's attention was there. arrested by a great mass of flowering I make a great deal of this incident bewhite far down the slope of the mountain. cause she did. She told it as though it It stood out a little apart from the rest explained something. of the forest, a great mass of bloom. “I had the absurd feeling that I had They could n't guess from where they been here with him before; that I had were what sort of tree it could be. It come home at last after having lived an seemed to stand a bit apart from the other exile in strange and uncomfortable countrees, and threw out its branches, covered tries,” was how she put it. with white bloom, like some giant bou- It was the most unlikely place in the quét.
world to tell him what she had promised Moved by a common impulse, they herself she would tell him. She put it