Puslapio vaizdai

I shrugged my shoulders a little impatiently perhaps. I was thinking far more of Richard Waring than I was of his widow, and young Place's sweet persistency annoyed me. It seemed irrelevant to the point of indecorum. Of course that was unfair. He was living, no doubt, in a bath of fine feelings and subtle silences; he was not saying anything out of the way; and he would have been greatly shocked if he had suspected Betty Carruthers's suspicions. His attitude was purely medieval. He was a young fool, all the same. Yet my sense of humor returned to me-how like Adela it was to be so busy, in the midst of her own tragedy, unconsciously mounting another! I believe that Adela Waring, as a plain woman, would have been nothing short of a saint-a saint in the Protestant sense, I mean, with sturdy clothes and a good rany pampered children. Wholesome plainness and a poor match, those perfect collaborators in the field of virtue, would have polished her qualities and dulled her defects incalculably. It was her beauty that had given her a false start. Though if it has come to calling Richard Waring a false start for any woman, I must pull up and stop psychologizing.

Clement Place did go on the next steamer, and he did not see Adela for many months. She stayed in her convent, and never went farther than the quiet meadows that surrounded the convent wall. She wrote me one or two letters, very calm and concentrated and full of her sorrow, which she objectified with a naïveté that I fancy the nuns had taught her. Adela is very suggestible, though in the end she takes to her own. I expected her to become a Catholic, but she did not, and later I saw that I had been stupid to think of it. None of Rossetti's women ever were real Catholics. There is something immutably pagan in the turn of their throats, and Adela had the Preraphaelite throat.

Then her final letter came. She was ailing; I was to meet her at the steamer and to go straight to Dalkeith with her; I was to make the necessary arrangements; I was positively to give her the whole summer. She was simple and insistent. gave in. It was unnatural for Adela to stay so long away from people; she would certainly need people after two years.


She nearly took my breath away when I did see her, she was so beautiful. There had always been moments when one suspected her of not being authentic-of having been done not by Rossetti himself, but by Du Maurier after Rossetti, perhaps in "Punch." When, after the rush of things, I had time to face her at Dalkeith, I apologized inwardly. This Adela was, beyond the shadow of a doubt, authentic.

Before long she began to explain to me, not so much in deliberate, arranged accounts as in casual sentences dropped here and there. Bit by bit she had reconstructed her romance, so that there was not a break in the pattern. Everything had been perfect; above all, Richard had loved her perfectly. Certainly I never had hinted that he had not, and I wondered whether she was aware of Betty Carruthers.

"It was strained-it seemed strainedthe last months," she said; "but I know now that it was n't, really. I was stupid sometimes, and his wit got beyond me; but I am sure that he never wavered. It has all been made clear to me. I wish I had n't been stupid; I wish there had n't been those strange months when things got bad. He used to go away and see other people,-I used to think it was because I had ceased to suffice to him, but I see now that he merely wanted to give me time to make it out. The silences help. Always we came back to each other with the real understanding, with the old beautiful flame. We never said unkind things to each other, -we could n't have,-but there were times when the kind things sounded dull and forced. Of course we felt them always.


"I used to be afraid sometimes that we ought to go back to town. Now I'm glad we did n't. It would have been a confession of failure-a confession that we needed something besides each other. I think those moments when everything got tense, and Richard used to dash away -they were simply what one has to pay before one is made free, for all time, of the perfect relation. You can't, all at first, get used to the rarefied atmosphere. It takes years; of that I'm sure. You shut your eyes and drop down for a moment, and then you go on to the next height.

"I know people talked about our stay

ing here all the year. They could n't see what we were trying for. Most people know nothing about love. I don't blame those other women-the women who chatter. I've chattered a great deal myself in my time. But I was made for a different thing from them. I'm very old-fashioned, and so was Richard, in spite of his surface."


I heard more of this; always more of it. Her talk was not up to her looks. wanted to gasp out, "But did it never occur to you that he might be bored, my dear child?" Then I smote myself for so much as thinking it. The great heroines The great heroines have had no more sense of humor than Adela, and I do not believe they bored their lovers. Perhaps Adela was right. Perhaps Richard merely did have to stop and rest. Perhaps, in the end, his lungs would have become refined to the upper air. But I would have given a good deal to know how much Adela had unconsciously invented after the fact. There never was a love-affair yet that the two lovers did not eventually believe had begun before the flood.


At all events, Adela, it seemed, was fixed for all time at her altitude. She had taken her sorrow up into the high places; she had redeemed it from the valleys and the market-place. Though her emotion at times seemed to be by William Morris out of Wagner, she ended by convincing me. Nothing, however, could prevent me from seeing that it was really Richard's ritual that she was performing-for him. was Richard's love, to which she had not, during his life, done complete justice. None the less, it must have been a deep conviction that could gather and fuse the scattering ideas of that beautiful creature. So I oscillated. In any case, she had builded a romance "to wrench the stars apart." Underneath it all was a faint minor note of remorse. She had been stupid, she had not understood; but now, oh, now for all time she would understand better and better every day.

It seemed clear that Clement Place had no chance. He wrote, he even came, and Adela spent a long afternoon in the garden with him. The salt air and the scent of flowers mingle strangely in the Dalkeith gardens. To add to them unachievable beauty seemed to me hard on any man. I was sorry for Clement Place that

afternoon, and I did not blame him for not coming in to say good-by to me. I saw him go; Adela did not come back to the house with him. She sat gazing out over the maleficent waters of the bay. I felt sure she had talked to Clement' very beautifully about Richard.

Adela said nothing to me that night about Clement Place, and I had no opportunity of telling her how sorry I was for him. She was "wonderful" all the evening. Once or twice I caught myself wishing that Richard could paint her in his latest manner. It would have taken Richard's latest manner to do adequately the remarkable creature that she had become. Her sorrow had improved her in all sorts of subtle ways. He would not have refused to paint her a seventh time, if he could have seen her. Richard Waring never went in for symbolic figures of the old naïve kind; but Adela's beauty was tempered enough then to lend itself even to the intense modernity of his implications.

The next morning I noticed for the first time in her hands a vellum-covered volume that had evidently been Clement Place's pretext for appearing the day before in Dalkeith. Adela thrust it into my hand.

"He asked me months ago whether he might dedicate it to me. I could n't say 'No,' could I? Richard would n't have minded. He liked Clement very much, and of course he knows that, except for dedications, I can't count-for him. I've always been quite honest. Not that he has intruded," she added; "but of course I am not blind. He has been perfect." "May I read them?"

"Why, of course. They're in public print. He merely had this copy bound for me. I really wish you would read them, Alice. Some of them seem to me like big poetry; but of course I'm not literary. I only think that if you have the sense for beauty at all, you can always feel it, if it's there. But you do know about books. I should so much like your critical opinion, and I know that he would."

So I sat in the big loggia with Clement Place's ex-voto, trying to make up my mind to read it. Because I was there, the maid came direct to me when a shabby little cab drew up to the door.

"Will Mrs. Waring see her?"

I looked at the card. "Miss Judith Vance" was engraved on it rather badly. I became aware of a figure in deep mourning. If Adela were on the heights, I thought, as I rose, this dark and drooping person never could pull her down. "Tell Mrs. Waring," I said to Jeannette. Then I introduced myself, and we sat down. Miss Vance obviously did not think that she needed introducing. Nor did she. When a light like Richard Waring's goes out, one does not forget the breath that blew it. This was the girl who had survived.

I had hardly more than time to realize in a shocked, stunned way that her survival was indeed one of the most ironic things that ever had happened when Adela appeared. Evidently she had had no hesitations. So the three of us met; and probably the others braced themselves, as I did.

In a moment I found my hostility to the sacrificer of Richard Waring curiously neutralized by pity. The girl's cheap prettiness showed up very ill, face to face with Adela's flawless looks. She was pretty, after the fashion of the heroines of paper-covered novels: very large dark eyes (I thought of them instinctively as "orbs"); a small, slack mouth, with "cherry" lips; a pallor heightened rather patchily by artificial means; "raven-black" hair that was drawn loosely over her ears; no modeling at all. She had an excellent figure, and her dull-silk dress, though dreadfully designed and trimmed, had been fashioned to suggest every curve of it; there was no esthetic limpness of draperies, such as Adela affected. She had drawn up her crape veil, and was appraising us both in a shy, but competent, way. Despite my sense of humor, I wished myself elsewhere.

Adela began kindly, with a vague little gesture toward her visitor's black attire: "You, too, have suffered a loss?" Miss Vance stared at her. "I? Oh, yes. It's for him." "Him?" Adela hardly more than murmured it.

"Mr. Waring. Oh, Mrs. Waring, I've felt it so!"

Adela flushed a little proudly. One could not wonder at it.

"My husband? He would have been very sorry that you should suffer. He did

only what any gentleman would have done for any woman. The tragedy of it is for those of us who loved him."

Miss Vance fingered her black sunshade nervously.

"Oh, I know it's you who have all the right, Mrs. Waring; but don't you see it is n't, for me, quite as if he had died saving any one else? That gives me a right to mourn openly. And I think-I think he would have liked to know that I wanted to do it. As you say, he would n't have wanted any one to suffer. But if any one did suffer, he would have believed in her showing it. It's" her ready tears began to come-"my only compensation. If he had lived, I could n't have done anything to show that I cared, could I?"

She was evidently quite sincere; and I remember thinking what a pity it was that even such a lovely thing as sincerity does not make common people any less

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I could not help reflecting that there were probably other women than Miss Vance who regretted Richard Waring passionately. I had often thought, since his death, of those unlicensed mourners. Adela never had given them a thought, probably,-why should she?-though she must have known that other hearts had been shivered by the wind of his passing. It was enough, in all conscience, to be the only woman he loved; even Adela, I felt, could not have expected to be the only woman who loved him. None the less, I resented bitterly, for Adela, this futile invasion of her sorrow.

"I-I am sorry." Adela was evidently desirous to do the right thing, but was unprovided with a reply.

Miss Vance smiled sadly.

"Ah, please don't be sorry, Mrs. Waring!" She turned her head away for a moment, then continued: "I'm not sure he did n't know, he came to us so often that last year. But I mean, of course, I never told him. I kept it back. We were just good comrades-such good comrades!

He used to help me with my sketches; he taught me so much."

Adela was still looking at her, fixing her so intently that she might have been observing every detail of the funereal figure. I was sure, however, that only I really appreciated that pathetically bad


"You paint?" she asked colorlessly.

"Oh, don't call it painting when you think how he painted!" Again the blackedged handkerchief fluttered limply. "But I've worked for years at the art school, and I feel it all so! Some people are like that; they have just knowledge enough to understand the really good people. We used to talk about pictures, he and my brother and I, for hours. If the wonderful things that he said could only be printed!"

I realized that the girl was probably exaggerating, however innocently, and of course she could not know that Richard Waring never talked about art to his wife; but I did wish she would hold her unwelcome tongue.

"We were coming over that afternoon to see your portrait-his masterpiece. He said I ought to see you, that I would understand beauty better all my life if I could see you." Adela flushed, and the girl continued: "He felt he could explain more easily some of the technical things he had been saying if I could see some of his work that had never been exhibited. He wanted me to go on and work, to go to Paris if I could. But I've not been able to do anything-since. Only I thought I ought to do what he advised. There is nothing I can do but that, and I think my brother and I will both go to Paris this winter."

Adela sat quite silent and still. Vance bent forward.


"Don't you see, Mrs. Waring, that it is the only thing left to me? I have n't any illusions about my work, but it's the one thing that will keep me living forever with the idea of him. That is the side of him that I knew. I could n't give up my painting now. It brings me nearer him just to have a brush in my hand. I feel sometimes that, if I paint, he will still help me. He never will be really dead for me."

"I know it is n't quite the thing for me to come like this, but he wanted me to see you. Everything he ever said he wanted me to do I feel I must do. You'll never see me again. I sha'n't come back. I waited as long as I could. Oh, I know what you must think of me, and how you must hate me for it all! I 've hated myself so for two years. I even thought I could n't come. But what I had had from him was too beautiful for me not to live up to. Of course he never dreamed what his talk meant to me, or that the lightest word he ever dropped was sacred. And then I thought that probably I was the only other person in the world who could understand, and that perhaps you would rather I 'd come."

"And you came to tell me this?"

There was not a hint of reproach in Adela's tone; it was all sweet civility, but I thought that I detected a note of surprise. Adela was not used to receiving accounts of emotions that did not concern her. Clearly, she did not consider that Miss Vance's emotion concerned her. If the girl had been counting on making an effective leap from her ambush, she must have been disappointed. Indeed, I was not sure how far she would put up with Adela's aloofness. I objected to it all a great deal. Any one who had liked Richard Waring would have objected. Miss Vance's claim could only be a cheap one; and whatever basis it had could be only a cheap basis. Judith Vance was third-rate; I knew, or fancied I knew, what her sort meant by art. I could see her waving an ostentatious cigarette over a mock-Italian table d'hôte, surrounded by a nice assortment of mannerisms in human form. It was proved, none the less, with the authenticity of tragedy that once at least Richard Waring had cared to talk to her. But if a man's worth were judged by the women he liked to talk to, where would our heroes be? Poor Miss Vance! She was histrionic; she was unhappy; she was living a supreme moment, and finding it unexpectedly dull. So at least I read it in the fraction of a minute that I had while she paused to reply.

"Not only this, Mrs. Waring-" "Good heavens! you don't mean to say that there is anything more?" Adela's

Adela was still silent, and still the girl calm had broken at last.

went on:

Judith Vance stared at Adela, a little

out of countenance, as if she had not expected her beautiful emotion to be taken with irritation. Then she appeared to grow patient under it. I was very displeased by her.

"You must forgive me, Mrs. Waring. Of course I can see how dreadfully I must call it all back to you. I would n't have come if it had n't been life and death to me. I want just once, if you would let me, to see the portrait of you—the one with the inlaid fan, the one he had such trouble in getting your fichu right for."

"Oh, you knew about that?"

"Rather! Oh, I learned so much from the history of that portrait! You see, he really thought it his best. And I 've

never seen it. If you would—”

Adela rose.

"I shall have to take you into the studio, Miss Vance. You won't mind?"



It could easily have been said with irony, but not by Adela. I rose to follow them, with many misgivings. cidedly I wished our guest away. Adela had obviously summoned an common mood to meet an uncommon situation. You see, the studio was locked; no one went into it except Adela, and she spent uncounted hours there. No, I did not wholly like her wooden alacrity, for I did not understand it.

The half-hour spent with Adela Waring and Judith Vance in Richard Waring's studio was the most racking period I have ever put through-in America. Adela neglected nothing: she uncovered the great easels; she dragged sketches out of big portfolios; she pulled a carved armchair away from in front of the portrait, where evidently it was its curious custom to stand.

That strange girl was as surprising in her way as Adela herself. She struck attitudes; she took technical points of view; she commented in phrases quite new to me, which I took to be the formulæ of an up-to-date school. The wave of her hand, I confess, associated itself authentically in my mind with paintsmudged fingers. She murmured appreciative unintelligibilities, to which Adela scarcely responded. Adela, indeed, was like an awkward, conscientious show-woman, only without patter. She contrived so to busy and efface herself that even I lost the sense of watching her. Instead,

I found myself building up and storing away the complete image of Miss Vance. I remember still the moment when I realized that her dress was dyed, and how unreasonably it irritated me that any woman should wear dyed mourning for Richard Waring. I remember, too, the precise instant when she became wholly intolerable to me. She was standing at last, having swung round from a group of clever Spanish sketches (I saw us in that instant as three fools who had invaded the privacy of a brilliant, helpless ghost), before the great first portrait of Adela, the one with the inlaid fan.

Adela herself had drawn a curtain, and was looking out over the bay. From her canvas, however, she confronted Miss Vance quite adequately. And like a flash, watching, I saw why the girl was intolerable: she was, tout bonnement, a parody of Adela; and the juxtaposition stung. She had tried unsuccessfully to do for her looks and her feelings what Adela for her own feelings and looks had so successfully done. Both women had had the notion of subduing their flesh to some mad conception of what their souls were; each had done her best to conceive for Richard Waring a grande passion. They were as far apart as China and Peru: one had everything, the other nothing; one was a lady, and the other a disastrous little vulgarian; one convinced you, and from the other you felt a terrible comic revulsion. But the little initial impulse was the same. It did not matter just then that Miss Vance was cheap while Adela was fine; the dreadful fact was that Judith Vance was a penny version, on muddy paper and in the most awful style, of the very tale that Adela so sumptuously told. Both were sentimentalists, and the difference was a mere difference of class. I was far from minimizing even then, under the shock of my comparison, the importance of that difference for one's own purposes. There was everything to choose between them, but if at that moment I chose at all, it was neither of them that I chose it was Richard Waring. What would not Richard have made of the three of us? I half expected to hear melodious. laughter from some cranny.

"It's enormously clever," Miss Vance pronounced at last. 'He did learn a lot from the Preraphaelites, did n't he? In

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