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a childish hatred for Mme. de Vannoz, without whom that thought would never have intruded. She had caught the but terfly of his romance in her strong, ruthless hand, and now that she had released it, its frail wings fluttered only feebly, and showed the disfiguring prints of her fingers. He resented it like a sacrilege, for to him this experience was holy. Younger lads than he might have laughed at his unsophistication. The lovely ladies. of the classics had engrossed his attention to the exclusion of their flesh-and-blood prototypes; and since men are not wont to desire a woman who has ceased to beckon to that desire, his devotion to Mme. de Vannoz from the moment of his arrival had marked no deviation from his custom. Often and deeply as he looked into her eyes unshielded by the lorgnon, it was as a young seer might study the crystal; and she knew, with a deep gladness in the knowledge, that the touch of her hand or even of her lips would no more perturb him than the touch of a page of Dante.
Now his calm world was convulsed by a sudden invasion of reality; for the first time he found himself made aware of his youth and his manhood by a woman's presence. He repeated as in a dream:
"I thrilled to feel her influence near;
The fact that the girl was not greatly addicted to silence did not impress him; he whispered the words to himself now, as he stood on the terrace, and the memory of the evening before quickened to a foreshadowing of the evening that was to come, which was at that moment flushing the white peaks with its rosy beginning. Unsuspected pulses hammered tumultuously in his temples. If this sweet tempest of body and spirit was not love, of what had all the poets sung?
The evening came; but not the moment he hoped for, and yet feared in some remote corner of his subconsciousness. She stayed so near the others that they were never alone together; and yet, somehow, they were always side by side, their hands continually chancing to meet, the warmth and fragrance of her so shaking him that he held his teeth set for fear of their chat
tering. It was like an hour of delirium, wildly painful and as wildly delicious, wholly unreal. She bade him good night with the rest; it was his habit to stay alone on the terrace till late. Musing happily on her swift, backward smile, he saw neither the hand she laid carelessly on the shoulder of her friend's husband, nor the white scarf she had left lying near his own hand. He turned toward the lake, as the door closed on the gay company, without a glance toward the bench whence they had risen; and presently he realized that he was staring at the serene inaccessibility of the Dent du Midi. Eager pity took him by the throat at the thought of Mme. de Vannoz. How cruelly life must have dealt with her to make her see its lovely miracles with such darkened eyes! He felt sure that her husband had been unworthy; only a broken heart, he thought, could speak so bitterly, and he, her friend, had given her nothing better than blind anger! He turned quickly toward her cottage; the windows were still glowing warmly, and a glance at his watch told him it was not yet eleven. She had not dined at the hotel; perhaps she had been dining out, perhaps-perhaps she had been hurt by his resentment, for, after all, she had meant to be kind. Spurred by penitent tenderness, he entered the little garden.
Mme. de Vannoz had not dined out, nor had the memory of Seymour's resentment remained with her long enough to hurt. As she left him, a new idea suddenly unfolded before her in a dazzling completeness; and when she swept into the cottage, her head high, her eyes wide and shining, Nise immediately savored the pleasures of a free evening. Swiftly, expertly, she undid her elaborate work, with only one remark from her mistress: "My warm dressing-gown; I shall work late." It was quite another Mme. de Vannoz about whom the robe of crimson velvet was wrapped; but Nise did not object to that. Different standards of beauty were permissible for the day and for the night. As she sat now at her writing-table, her flushed cheeks and parted lips glowing in the warm light, her white throat softened by the veil of her unbound hair, her shadowy eyes searching far depths, she seemed a girl about to write her first love-letter, thought Nise, not a widow who lived like
the saint over an altar. Never had M. de Vannoz seen her look like that, so happy, so tender, and all for an empty room and an ink-pot! The maid lifted rebellious hands to heaven with one irrepressible outburst, "Mon Dieu, et Madame si ravissante en chemise!" Mme. de Vannoz heard the voice, but not the words, and nodded with an unseeing smile and an automatic: "Good night, Nise. Amuse yourself." With a shrug and a sigh, Nise closed the door.
MME. DE VANNOZ stretched her arms, moving her long, supple fingers, cramped by their tense grasp of the pen. What she had written would come to barely three pages of the "Revue," but every word would etch itself on the reader's memory. She drew a sharp breath of conscious triumph, and taking up her pen, she kissed the smooth tortoise-shell, still warm from her hand. She kissed it at once reverently and passionately, as a conqueror might embrace his proved sword. Her clock struck eleven; she yawned, and went to the French window, pausing a moment before closing the shutters to look into the shining night. Suddenly she bent forward, narrowing her eyes; there unmistakable in the moonlight the girl was fluttering down the steps of the hotel toward the terrace. Mme. de Vannoz's lip curled back unpleasantly.
"It was a fan that we left behind in my day," she thought. "Well, it is not my affair.” She was fond of the boy, and sorry for him; but "it is not my affair," she repeated insistently, and laid hold of the shutter with a hand that was not quite steady. Let him make his own mistakes, and pay for them, as others had done. At that moment she was aware of a movement in the garden. The habit of living alone had made her fearless; drawing the velvet robe more closely about her, she stepped out unhesitatingly among the clipped myrtles of her tiny terrace.
"Who is there?" she demanded.
sure that I love her, and that I can make you understand. I know I can.”
To him she was only a dark figure, mysterious and immovable, against the lighted window; but she could see him now, his lifted face radiant in the moonlight, beautiful with the purity of unconscious passion. She leaned back against the window-casing, suddenly faint, closing her eyes in a vain effort to shut out that look; but the face that burned through her lids was the face of Julien de Vannoz. Twenty years ago he had lifted such a face to her in the moonlight-to her, such a girl as the one who waited now for Seymour on the terrace, just such a girl as that.
"You know you love her?" she repeated. "Have you told her so?"
"Not yet. I have not been able to see her alone all the evening,"-Mme. de Vannoz smiled grimly,-"but to-morrow" his sudden silence throbbed with masterful promise; then he was the boy again-"I saw your lights, and I could not sleep, wondering if I had hurt youyou who have been so divinely kind to me! And I know that now I can make you understand her."
"Do it, then," she said. She came down the steps to where he stood and laid her hand on his arm. "Make me understand, my friend."
Bewildered, he looked at her. This was the voice he knew, hoarsely tender like the lower notes of a cello; but there was a new and strangely troubling quality in its music, as if a devil and an angel together were drawing the bow across the strings. He drew back half afraid from the intimate beauty of this unaccustomed face, the scent of this loosened hair. Her eyes were deep; he had a fancy that a man might drown in them.
"We have shared so many thoughts, you and I," she went on, with a sudden deepening to tenderness. "Share this also with me, this most wonderful thought of all."
"It 's only Seymour," came the answer. "Seymour?" she was brusk with amazement. "Why are you here?"
A sudden joyous intoxication of completeness caught him; her words had joined for him, with one exquisite touch, his present and his past. It seemed to him that she held out to him the graven
"To ask you to forgive me."
"What! Have you found I was right, cup of his studious dreams, foaming and then?"
"No," he laughed joyously, with a little gulp like a sob,-"but now I am
sparkling with the heady wine of youth. Truly the elixir of life, he thought. To what a miracle it had unsealed his vision!
How had he drawn so near this radiant presence, and remained unaware of all but the calm fellowship of minds? How had he so long conceived her only as a keen, impersonal intellect-this woman, an incarnate perfume among the flowers of the garden, such a passionately human goddess as might have stooped to Endymion in the fragrance of the Latmian night?
She moved as if to rise, and somehow he found her hand crushed between his own. In the hush she heard the steps of the girl on the terrace, but he heard only the beating of his own heart. The steps receded; the girl was going back to the hotel. Now there was silence, and in the silence she, too, heard his heart beating. So she had heard Julien's heart twenty years ago. She caught her breath as with a sob; her eyes drew his; she swayed toward him as if the sheer force of his will compelled her; then she was in his arms.
A hot saltness of tears stung his lips, and suddenly, sick with shame, he slipped to his knees at her feet, hiding his face in the folds of her robe. Silently she drew away from him and stood erect.
"It's you that I love!" he blurted, breathless, desperate. "You understand that you must understand that! You there's nothing but you in the worldwill you marry me?"
"No," she said.
"I know," he whispered brokenly. “You must despise me. What faith could you have in me? And yet can't I prove-" "That is not why," she said. "Listen to me. You can listen now."
Amazed, he looked up at her. He could still taste the bitter sweetness of the tears that were shining on her cheeks, and yet now he could as readily have kissed the summit of the Dent du Midi as that calm, weary mouth.
"Can you say that you love me now?" she asked, with a touch of irony.
"I" he choked; and there was a silence.
"You came here to make me understand how you loved her," she went on quietly. "Do not you yourself understand a little better now?"
"You were playing with me, then?" he asked after a moment.
"If you call it that," she answered. He stood up, staggering a little, and sketched an unsuccessful laugh.
"Well, I congratulate you; you have won your point," he began gallantly, but ended in a cry of frank misery: "Why did you do it? How could you do it? You have killed my faith—”
"My friend," she interrupted sternly, "you know as little what you say now as you did when you spoke of love a while ago. What love is, I do not know, unless it be like what I feel for my work; but I do know, and so henceforth do you, what it is not. As for faith-it is not thus that faith dies; it must be starved to death day by day, hour by hour. I tell you I have made many men suffer as you are suffering now, but I killed the faith of only one. That was my husband."
THE clock struck twelve as Nise opened the door with circumspection and peeped in; then she crossed to the writing-table and touched her mistress gently. Mme. de Vannoz lifted her face from her folded arms, shaking back her hair, and Nise recoiled with a cry of dismay.
"Madame has overtired herself!" she protested.
Mme. de Vannoz's brow contracted with a twitch like pain; then she laid her hand caressingly on the litter of scribbled sheets, and the whimsical twinkle came back to her eyes.
"Tired?" she said. "Par exemple, how should I not be tired? In one hour I have lived twenty years, and written a thing to make the world blink. Do you think that costs nothing? It is not so that one grows younger. Now get me to bed quickly and rub my head. It aches."
AY fairies fashion frocks for you
And filch for you, howe'er he may,
From sunbeam, shadow, dawn, and dew; A fragment of the Milky Way
To scarf you, and bright stars to deck
May goblin gardeners pluck a pair
And then, when you are all arrayed