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detail-work, I mean. Look at the ivory in that fan-the shadows. It 's uncanny. Oh, clever, clever!" She breathed it out in insignificant ecstasy. She made no comment on the portrait as a whole. I wondered wickedly whether perhaps her vocabulary was not up to it. I was perfectly sure she was not, never had been, and never would be, jealous. She was quite content with her rôle. She would have hated being happy.
Adela came up, carrying a small, unframed canvas.
"Yes, the painting is very clever, I believe. Would you like to see this?"
"Clever I should say!" The girl turned away then to look at the sketch Adela held out to her.
"This is the last thing he did-the week before he died. Just the bay from our garden. Do you think it good?"
As I have said before, Adela was incapable of irony; but under the insulting strain of life, she had laid hold on something that made a sufficient substitute.
"Good!" It was simply, for once, Richard Waring's vision of beauty untortured by Richard Waring's intellect. Usually so complicated, so ironic, so lavish of insinuation, of insult even, he had been here magnificently simple. I was overwrought, to be sure; that may have been the reason why I fancied I saw in his mustering of sunset lights over Dalkeith Bay a serene salutation of fate. Though so small, it seemed large; though so slight, it seemed significant. It loosed you from bonds; it let you out of the tangle; it drew you beneficently into itself and out upon the waters. It had nothing to do with Richard Waring's restless art. Was it a foreshadowing of a manner beyond his "latest"? By what conscious - manipulation of line and color he had got his effect I did not know, of course; I have known artists enough to be sure that even the beauty of the Madonna is only some kind of plastic trick. Perhaps the picture was only an idle experiment in technics. My feeling about it may have been sentimental. I had never seen it before. I have never seen it since.
Miss Vance was breathing upon it her strange emotion.
"The last thing he did the last thing he touched? And the bay-O Mrs. Waring! I cannot bear it!"
She passed her handkerchief over her eyes. She evidently expected Adela to bear it; but Adela had not encountered the waves with Richard Waring. There was a show of excuse for the girl's shock. Adela's calm, sweet tones went on:
"Would you like it? I've seemed to gather that you would like some piece of my husband's work."
"Like it?" The girl clutched it. "May I have it? O Mrs. Waring, you do understand! It would mean everything in the world to me. It would make all life different just to have the least inch of anything he 'd done. I may?" She held it to her.
Miss Vance made one more try for the rôle that she may well have seen escaping her.
"I think he would have liked me to have it. He would have loved you for giving it to me-for understanding."
I could have boxed her ears for her impertinence; yet she was only just missing the attitude many women take triumphantly. She was trying to be above convention, made free of the "fine shades and nice distinctions" in some supersocial world. If she had hit it off, she would have been "wonderful"; since she had not, she was merely "impossible." I was all with Adela for sternness.
"I don't know what my husband would have felt. He might have been very angry with me. But I believe, on the whole, that it is right to give it to you; and now that he is gone, it is unfortunately for me to decide. She held out her hand. "Good-by." Then to me, "Alice, will you see that Miss Vance gets off safely?"
Judith Vance measured Adela's beauty for one instant as she put out her hand. At the moment it happened to be overwhelming. There really was not anything left even for her to say; yet she said it.
"Dear Mrs. Waring, don't hate me, though I think you 're too good to hate me. I came because I had to; because I wanted to tell you, because it seemed almost wrong we should n't meet. I did want dreadfully to see you. I was selfish, but I did think perhaps you would like to know how I felt that I was n't ungrateful and careless. I thought it might comfort you."
"Comfort!" Adela was as taken aback as a child before some shattering new event. She stood with lips open for an instant, staring. Then she closed them without speaking again, and turned away. I was left to get rid of Miss Vance, which I did as quickly as I could. She drove away in the rickety cab, clutching her treasure, her black veil streaming rustily behind her in the fresh breeze.
I did not look Adela up; it was obviously for her to look me up. She lunched in her own sitting-room, and I spent the afternoon alone, reading Clement Place's poems. They were rather good, a great relief, at all events, from Judith Vance. Toward the end of the afternoon I felt a sense of activity going on in the house behind me: of footsteps in the corridors; of orders being given; of letters and telegrams being sent off to the village. But I stayed loyally out of sight and waited. Adela and I met at dinner. dressed in white.
"I've always meant to go into white sooner or later," she said. It was clear that, after Judith Vance, Adela never would wear black again.
After dinner, in the cool, stone-floored loggia, she put it to me:
'Alice, tell me the truth. What was she like?"
"My dear, she was impossible. You were admirable, and she was the incredible beast in a fable. Don't think of her again."
"Oh, I must think of her!" Adela beat her hands softly together. "Apparently she cared about him. Do you think-" I interrupted her briskly.
"Well, he would have loathed her caring about him. If he had been alive, she would n't have taken the liberty of loving him, you may be sure."
But she did, she says."
"My dear, dear Adela, don't you know that a great many persons build up legends about the dead? I think the creature was perfectly honest in her way; but you don't suppose for a moment, do you, that Richard talked to her seriously about his work? He may have told her what kind of brushes to use."
Adela threw up her lovely head.
"I'm not trying to pry. Richard was perfectly free; he is just as free now.
could n't talk to her for hours; but she may be clever-perhaps Richard could." I rose.
"I won't have Richard defamed, my dear," I said lightly. To say it was a risk, but I took it. It went safely. "Don't you know men well enough to know that they'll talk to any woman who makes a dead set at them? And if Richard had n't talked to all kinds, from the lowest to the highest, where would he have got his almost supernatural knowledge of the modeling of the human face? Think of the types he has done, with his tongue in his cheek! Richard has talked to worse than Judith Vance. But no one need insult Richard by saying that he took her for anything different from what she is. If we can see, we foolish women, do you suppose Richard could n't see even better?" Adela was irrelevant, but her train of thought was clear.
"He was away a great deal those last months. And I 've never told you, Alice, how bad things did sometimes get. I never shall tell you. I always hoped it would come out all right; but-" she looked at me out of honest, unveiled eyes -"perhaps it never would have." Then she hurried on: "And this woman-she annoys me. If she were any one any man could have cared for, even as a friend; but she is n't. I ought, with Richard, to be above annoyance. Some of the things she said were right. I can imagine feeling just like that. But she somehow spoiled everything. She was out of tune with it all here. She was n't even up to the privilege of being nearly drowned with him."
"She certainly was not," I agreed firmly. "Let us forget her." I really did not wish Adela to meditate on Judith Vance too unbrokenly. I was willing she should think Richard insulted by Miss Vance's devotion, but I did not want her pondering on the rightness of anything Miss Vance had said. If Adela once saw that faint, fatal little similarity I had noted, she would not be able to bear it. Of course she never would see it; yet I edged away instinctively from dangerous ground. Adela was suggesting a kind of intelligence she never had indulged in much before. She had got on so far without a sense of humor; if in reality it came to her, it would be a late and dangerous
birth. I preferred her to remain as she
The next week Clement Place arrived to stay with us. Adela announced him carelessly. He was charming, he was even, surprisingly, a little gay. I set myself to study him, oh, discreetly and considerately. I really liked him. Adela still spent hours in the studio, but she was busy chiefly with the superintending of packers. There was to be an exhibition of Warings in the winter, and to my great joy she had consented to lend nearly everything she had. I had been afraid in the early summer that she would not let anything at Dalkeith be disturbed.
Clement Place and I used to talk to each other while Adela was busy. By his third visit I had got a clue to his perplexing gaiety, his unlyric slang. The answer to the riddle of his gaiety was that he really was gay. He was no more like his sonnets than Adela was like her looks. He devoted his sonnets to her, and the rest of him to the rest of her. It was a great light on a dark problem. Once I caught them laughing, like children, to the point of pain, over some silly misadventure in the motor. They had their medieval days, both of them,- those were the days, I suspect, when Clement proposed,-but for the most part they did extraordinarily well without gloom. Adela still talked of Richard when we were left alone together, but never, since the day when that cab crawled up to the door with its burden of musty mourning, had her talk been the same.
By autumn I had made up my mind what was going to happen. Clement told me first.
naïve about it.
He was very
"I never thought she would; I was hopeless. But she says she will, and you can imagine what it makes of life for me."
He broke off, and then continued: "Curiously enough, I don't grudge Waring those years of her, you know. I wish to God I could have had her from the beginning; but I have to admit that it was her feeling for him-the utter beauty of it-that made me adore her. Where is there any other woman who could feel like that? All those months before he died, when she was so unhappy, she was wonderful-like a heroine of romance, like her own incredible beauty."
"Adela never told me that she was unhappy with Richard."
"Oh, she would n't, of course. that just the unbelievable beauty of her? But you can see for yourself how nobly she tried to stick to the idea of their happiness, and how the idea broke downcould n't stand the strain."
I had been present when it broke down, as Clement had not, and I judged it best not to answer. So I very simply and very heartily congratulated him.
It was Adela, an hour later that same evening, who told me the more practical things.
"It's to be very soon and to be very quiet. You'll stay by, Alice? You 've been so wonderful." So I was to have my turn at being wonderful!
I had made up my mind.
"Yes, I'll stay by, and I 'm very glad. He's a dear."
"Is n't he?" She thrilled sweetly to it, and continued: "I can't tell you how perfectly Clement has understood everything. No other man-"
I cut her short.
"My dear, I'm sure of it. May I give you some advice?"
She was twisting one long braid over and under her fingers, like a little girl. "Ah, do-good old Alice!"
"Get a new motor-car, one of the beauties. And then you can travel as fast as you please."
"We 're going to,-a new one, sixtyhorse-power, and go all over France, where you can speed as much as you like." She spoke happily. Then she blushed, a magnificent, prolonged blush. I think that instant saw Adela's nearest approximation in all her life to a sense of humor. "Good night." I kissed her and was off before the blush had faded.
The Places went to France, as they had planned, and I remained to close the Dalkeith house. I rather liked being there alone, to think it all over. I, too, was sailing, and not soon to return. It had been a dance. The day before I left I climbed the little hill to the cemetery, and laid a great wreath on Richard Waring's grave. I sat there alone till sunset, and understood many things. What I seemed chiefly to understand, as I descended in the twilight, was that Richard and I felt alike about it all.
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT WILSON ON BEHALF OF AMERICAN LITERATURE
BY EDWIN BJÖRKMAN
MR. Pour entire career
as student, scholar, educator, and administrator constitutes a guaranty that you deem the spiritual development of a people no less important than its material welfare. It is also a guaranty of your ability to interpret the word "spiritual" in the broadest and most constructive sense. Thus I feel prompted to place before you a question that has been fermenting in my mind for a long time.
Will this nation, as a nation, never do anything for the encouragement or reward of its poets and men of letters?
The problem involved is a vexatious one, for many hold that such recognition ill bestowed is worse than none at all, and genius bears no infallible mark by which it may be known to everybody. Furthermore, genius is at once proud and shy, while unscrupulous mediocrity is ever ready to usurp its place. But no matter how great the difficulty may be, I am convinced that this question must be faced sooner or later, and that some effort must be made to solve the problems connected with it; for the soul of a nation is in its literature.
In pleading for your consideration of this matter, I am not unaware that from time to time a Lowell, a Hawthorne, a Howells has been sent to represent the nation abroad or assigned to some small government position at home. But instances of this kind have been too few. They have mostly been traceable to the action of some person in power rather than to the nation itself. And they represent a form of acknowledgment that must be held equally unsatisfactory to the man appointed and to the service into which he is appointed.
Despite such crumbs, I insist that this nation, as a nation, has done nothing. Officially its poets do not exist, unless it
be as numbers connected with the enforcement of the copyright laws. The several States comprised within the Union have done as little. Even private generosity, ordinarily lavish, has remained singularly indifferent to the needs and claims of literature.
Financial support is not the only thing I have in mind now, although the granting of it to writers of promise represents one of the most important aspects of the question to which I am trying to draw your attention. I am thinking of any and every step that may be taken by this nation in recognition of the services rendered by its men of letters in general, and in particular by its creative, imaginative writers of prose and verse.
To my knowledge there is no other civilized country that has been guilty of such indifference or lack of foresight. Every Western nation except our own seems to have devised some way of acknowledging promise or proved merit in those building its national poetry. England knights them or places them on its civil list. France gives them the Legion of Honor or elects them to the Academy. My native Sweden has its Academy, too, as well as a system of literary stipends, not to mention the Nobel prize, for which the nation as such can take no credit. Little Norway, which relatively has done more for modern literature during the last fifty years than any other country in the world, has been making annual allowances of public money to struggling young writers since 1863.
I mention these facts not as examples of what must needs be done, but as illustrations of what may be done. I mention them not as ideal solutions of the problem at hand, but as evidence that other nations, wiser than our own, have at least endeavored to solve that problem.
Here there are neither academies nor pantheons, except "self-made" ones,
which, because of their origin, are lacking in the required prestige. There are no hereditary distinctions, no decorations of honor; and we do not want them. There is no laureateship, and no poet's dole to be given before or after achievement. There is not even a Westminster Abbey to which the nation might relegate the bones of its dead poets with some semblance of dignity.
It is easy to answer that a tomb remembered or a tomb forgot will make no difference to the man buried within it. But such is human nature that the mere hope of a final resting-place in some poets' corner becomes not only an incentive, but an actual reward, because the individual member feels himself a participant in the honor accruing to the profession in its entirety.
When a Peary reaches the north pole, Congress feels impelled to take special action for the reward of his deed. But it has apparently never occurred to anybody in Congress or out of it that the conquest of both poles means nothing to us in comparison with the everlasting possession of those delectable lands of fancy discovered by a Mark Twain.
It might almost be said that poetry is the one form of legitimate human activity that has obtained no official recognition for those pursuing it. At this point of my pleading your thought may turn to the Library of Congress. But that otherwise admirable institution does not hold the same relationship to the man of letters that the Department of Agriculture holds to the farmer, or the Department of Commerce and Labor to the merchant and the mechanic. It has been designed for the public, not for the poet, and even his accomplished work will count for little within its walls until he has passed far beyond the trials and triumphs of human life.
Neither in quantity nor in quality can the poetry so far produced by this nation be held commensurate to its greatness in other fields. A connection between this comparative backwardness and the absence of any conscious effort to foster a national poetry will, of course, be hard to prove. But I, for one, believe that such a connection exists. And I believe that we shall never raise our poetry to the level of our other achievements until we, as a nation, try to find some method of provid
ing money for the poet's purse and laurels for his brow.
I believe, too, that any official recognition of the services rendered to the nation by its singers and story-tellers and playwrights and essayists and critics will have additional value as a sign both to the nation itself and to the rest of the world that it has begun to turn in earnest from that preoccupation with material affairs which in the past has been named as one of its worst shortcomings. Whatever its detractors at home and abroad may say to the contrary, this nation is by no means lacking in idealism. It is, indeed, full of lofty dreams and pure ambitions. All it needs is to give this side of itself a chance. That it do so is the ultimate object of my present appeal.
I come to you, Mr. President, with no definite plan of action, with no panaceas of my own or other people's making, with no detailed demands or minutely formulated desires. I am purposely restricting myself to that one general, all-inclusive question, in order that the possible ineffectiveness of my own ideas may not furnish weapons for those who are hostile to the principle itself. There is no personal expectation or private ambition behind my question. I have simply learned by bitter experience what it means to strive for sincere artistic expression in a field where brass is commonly valued above gold. And I should like to see the road made a little less hard, and the goal a little more attractive, lest too many of those that come after lose their courage and let themselves be tempted by the incessant clangor of metal in the marketplace.
My eyes, with those of many others, have been following you from day to day. My faith has been growing steadily as I watched. I have gradually come to feel that in you the country has found that rarest of public servants: a wise man whose wisdom has not lamed his power of acting firmly and strongly. I know that you have studied human nature as it is, as it has been, and as it may become. I know that you understand us, both those who have been born here and those who have come from other countries in search of a keener air and brighter chances. I know that you discern clearly what can and what cannot be done. For