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“I know it. Besides, one doesn't most observers, but the type of break necks any more.”
beauty that is only a hair's breadth "No," she said, “only banks.” from downright ugliness. Before
. She looked up, startled; that had breakfast it was apt to be ugliness popped out before she thought. now; to people who hated her-and One of the high points in Holderness's there were more of them every year career had been the breaking of a -it was perilously near ugliness bank, not at Monte Carlo. (The even when animated by her restless jury, fortunately, had disagreed.) fire.
“See?” he said. “You're utterly The fire was growing fitful; there incurable. Nobody else in the were patches of gray in the dull black world would stand for that sort of hair,hair so notoriously black that thing, but I can. We'd get along.” she didn't dare turn it
she didn't dare turn it coppery with “Perhaps, but-give me a little henna. The figure was still satismore time."
factory, but the face was going. “If you like; but don't take too Rest and luxury and expert care much time. Your charms won't could preserve it for another decade; keep."
but it might go to pieces in three “Then I'd better freshen them up years more of work and worry and before the dance," she said lightly. this constant alertness against ever“Shall I meet you in the lounge?" present animosity.
"I want another cup of coffee. The animosity was her own creaI'll wait for you here."
tion, but it was too late to help that “And I,” she promised, “shall try now. When she was young and to acquire that pursued look.” merry, people had liked her biting
wit; they had spoiled her like a playIn the mirror of the dressing-room fully scratching kitten. And now she stared at her face with the be- the kitten had become a somewhat ginnings of desperation. She had mature pussy who was expected to no active desire to marry anybody- purr on the hearth-rug and had certainly not Holderness. But there never learned how. were mornings when she felt very One by one her admirers had lonely, in her barrack room in a dropped off-all but Holderness. women's hotel. They would come She had always felt obscurely that to more often with each year. Perhaps marry a rich man would be disloyal in another decade
to Ronnie, who might have been But long before then, it would be rich but for her; but she couldn't too late. She knew the tricky qual- marry a poor man. (Not that, rich
( ity of what most people still called or poor, she would marry another her beauty. Analyzed, it was hardly man like Ronnie-soft on the surbeauty at all-a dark brooding face, face, smooth and hard within.)
— black brooding eyes; large arresting There were of course special reafeatures; coarse black bobbed hair
sons for not marrying Holderness. that curled about the big synthetic When he said he had no reputation, pearls on her ears. The effect of the
The effect of the he praised himself too highly. The composition was still beauty, for reputation, and the traits that had
made it, were amusing in a dinner- They were saying, perhaps, that he partner but might become a trifle looked sad; that he must be thinking onerous in a husband. But who of the beautiful women who had else was there? Marriageable men loved him, and married him, and left whom a sophisticated lady of thirty- him. eight might endure are appallingly Mr. Leashe's sadness, in fact, had few, and more appallingly cautious. nothing to do with beautiful women; With her face going, Holderness he was thinking about the poor busimight be her last suitable chance. ness on the road this season and the He knew that; he could afford to troublesome second act of the play play his hand face up on the table. he was writing.
he was writing. He had wanted to He was sure. ...
forget that play at dinner, and at the “No!” Alicia said it aloud, star- Wade Settlement Ball; but Alicia tling the maid out of a doze; then Rayleigh, crossing his line of vision, flushed slowly at the girl's hasty: had brought it back to mind. There
"Did you ask for something, ma- was a woman in the play rather like dame?"
Alicia Rayleigh, a dreadful woman; “Nothing I can get. ... Think I and it was his business to make her look fit to go to a dance?”
sympathetic. “Madame is very distinguished—” Not too sympathetic, of course;
Distinguished! thought Alicia. she mustn't detract from the heroine. My God! Even the maids see it. Miss Dolores Duvetyne, who was to
A dance ... Back home in Mem- create the heroine, would never phis, twenty years ago, something tolerate that. Miss Duvetyne had had always happened at dances. If been rather troublesome about the it didn't happen of its own accord, play already; unduly troublesome, Alicia could make it happen. But considering that she wasn't married that had been twenty years ago.
to him. .. With her evening-cape drawn Matthew Leashe bit through his about her so as to make the best of cigar with a nervous start. Till this her admirable figure, she swept back moment it had never occurred to to Holderness's table.
him that Miss Duvetyne might in“Ready, Edward?”
tend to become the fourth Mrs. “Always, my dear-if you don't Leashe; but now that the horrid make me wait too long."
suspicion had come to mind there
rushed in a whole swarm of corroboMatthew Leashe, frowning over rative details that had only been waithis cigar, knew that people around ing their cue. Beyond doubt, the the dining-room were pointing him woman meant to marry him; and if out. Leashe the great playwright, she meant to of course she would. two Pulitzer Prizes, four year-long For Matthew Leashe—this was runs on Broadway, two unsuccessful his guarded secret-had always been prosecutions by the Vice Society. helpless with women. He never Perhaps, he mused bitterly, they knew what to say to them, and so he talked of his tragic life; for that too always ended by saying what they was matter of public record. wanted to hear. His brusque man
ner, the hard cynical brilliance of his was the right number. . . . Alicia comedies, had been erected as a Rayleigh crossed his field of vision fortress to cover his weakness, a again, passing out with Holderness. fortress apparently so impregnable Dreadful woman-yet Holderness that it usually discouraged attack. worse. The Mrs. Rayleighs, Only three women had ventured Leashe reflected comfortably, make close enough to discover that the their own hell. That point, astutely formidable stonework of the fortress brought outwas nothing but papier-mâché; and He wished he knew how she feltthese women had all married him. about her work, about the assorted
He knew what people thought of hells she made for herself and others. those three marriages. Bluebeard,
Bluebeard, That was the thing; first-hand inthat damned woman had called formation, the stuff of life. If he him, and the name had stuck. knew how she felt, it might give him But Dolores Duvetyne knew better. an angle; and an angle was the thing, She was extravagant and could find when you were trying to win symuse for a rich husband. She was a pathy for a dreadful woman. clever woman; she knew him. And Dolores, after the play, was coming Miss Regina Van Studdiford, to the Wade Settlement Ball. He stately and serene in her box, looked had meant to go late and meet her. down at the soft-lit dancing-floor. He would have to go; Aunt Regina Silver hair and silver gown, throat expected him. But Mr. Leashe and shoulders revealed where possidecided to go early and leave before ble, hidden where necessary under Miss Duvetyne arrived.
pearls and diamonds, made her a For his Fatal Mood was on him, point of cool icy brilliance in the the mood that recurred like an bright-hued ball-room. The dancers eclipse and almost as exactly calcula- swayed and clustered, moved slowly ble, when the great playwright felt . on, each pair repeating the same patlonesome and helpless, desperately tern-black and white, ivory and a afraid of the world he seemed to brilliant color-coat and shirt-front, bestride. In that mood, three times, shoulders and gown. Patterns, Miss he had been married. Quite often Van Studdiford reflected, had such a enough. ...
way of repeating themselves. He withdrew from thoughts of Miss One pattern in particular. This Duvetyne, back to this part that was the third time she had seen her must be made sympathetic. The nephew Matthew Leashe dancing discovery of good in the worst char- with this dark woman in black. acters was a feature of Mr. Leashe's Incredible; the whole town knew plays which always went big on what Matthew thought and had Broadway, where perhaps most peo- often said about Mrs. Rayleigh. ple needed some reassurance that Yet undeniably he had danced with they were not so bad after all. This her three times, and it was not yet dreadful woman in his play was to be midnight. . . Miss Van Studdiford at least devoted to her husband and could not know that the pair beneath her children. Two children--that her were not the dreadful Mrs. Ray
leigh and the man Mrs. Rayleigh had that she must rejoin Holderness; but called the Habitual Widower, but a at that instant Holderness rose and lady who was trying to show Edward started for the door-the door, the Holderness that he was not the last cloak-room, and the flask left in his man on earth, and a playwright try- overcoat. ing to get an angle on a character "If you like,” she conceded. Then, that must be made sympathetic. to Mrs. Clanranald, “How's Billy?”
So, as the Clanranalds left her “Convalescent and fussy. box, Miss Van Studdiford remarked My son has been having mumps, Mr. languidly:
Leashe.” “If you see Mattie Leashe, ask "Oh, too bad!” But as she left him to come up and talk to his old them he remarked to Alicia: “Lucky aunt a moment. I'm going home to have a son to have mumps, before long.'
though. I wish - You have two chilMrs. Clanranald found them talk- dren, haven't you?” ing at the end of a dance. Across "I? None." She looked rather the room, Holderness stared blandly wistful, and Matthew Leashe didn't at them from an arm-chair. He know that she was remembering didn't seem worried, Alicia noticed gleefully how effective her wistfulwith regret; but perhaps she hadn't ness had been, back in Memphis. acquired that pursued look that he "Oh! Too bad. 1- That is—" found becoming. After all, she had “Too bad in a way,” said Alicia only been dancing with Matthew rather wearily. “But after all, when Leashe, and everybody knew what one supports one's self-I don't see they thought of each other. To be how I could give children a schooling. pursued would be another matter, There isn't much to be said for these though not such an easy matter at jobs of mine.” thirty-eight. Still, she had made “I thought you rather enjoyed a things happen at dances back in chance to say things,” he said dryly. Memphis.
“One tires of saying things. Time to get rid of Leashe, then; Sooner or later, everything worth memories of what they had said saying has been said, and a good deal about each other lay unquenchable that isn't worth saying." between them. He had a simple Miss Van Studdiford smiled hoswistful attraction, quite unlike the pitably as she saw Alicia approaching hard surface manner she had known with him, though she felt like the before to-night; she could under- fire-chief as he turns in the third stand why so many women had mar- alarm. ried him. Still it was time to leave “How delightful you look!” said him—but just then Mrs. Clanranald Alicia, and meant it; she didn't dare appeared.
hope she would look so well at sixty“All right,” Leashe sighed. “Do odd. you mind coming up with me, Mrs.
“The Ruins of the Parthenon," Rayleigh? You're going to dance said Miss Van Studdiford. “Wasn't the next with me, aren't you?” that what you called me once?"
“Oh, 1–” Alicia was about to say. And, as Alicia grasped vainly for an
antidote: “I've always prized that Matthew Leashe. If Alicia hadn't as the supreme compliment. Even started these rumors, she had at in ruins the Parthenon is so much least embroidered them, and spread more sightly than some modern them zealously.
them zealously. . . . So, then, there structures that are only a little past was an element of competition in their prime."
this, the emulous eagerness of sport. Again Alicia was helpless; but More and more it was like the old Matthew Leashe cut in abruptly: days in Memphis. “I've just come to tell you good
Miss Van Studdiford permitted a by, Aunt Regina. I'm leaving." frown to crack her well landscaped
“Leaving before midnight? You face as she saw them strolling toward are not sixty-eight.”
the lounge. She knew Matthew's "Have to get my second act distrait air; the Fatal Mood was on straightened out. The thing's on him. And that dreadful woman! my nerves; I can't amuse myself till Miss Van Studdiford, of course, was
; it's finished.”
unaware that the dreadful woman "Heaven help the woman who was at the moment only a drooping tries to stop you in that mood,” said flower reviving under unaccustomed his aunt. “I haven't seen you for attention; and that Leashe was so long, Mrs. Rayleigh. Can you merely seeking refuge, while the
to tea to-morrow? ... So Fatal Mood was on him, from the nice of you. You know the house- pursuing Miss Duvetyne, a refuge on Seventy-fourth Street?”
that was perfectly safe since he was Certainly she knew the house, with the cynical Mrs. Rayleigh. Alicia reflected as she went down the On a soft couch, out of sight of the stairs with Leashe, but she had ball-room, Alicia leaned her head
-, never been in it. Why now? ... back on the cushions while he held a Good Heavens! Alicia's eyes glint- match to her cigarette. She lay ed; her cheeks were flushed. If back limp and graceful—the figure not to Holderness, if not to herself, of a girl of eighteen, he reflected; yet at least to Matthew Leashe's watch- there was a trace of weariness that ful aunt she looked pursued.
stirred him. ... In fact there was Half-way through the waltz that considerably more than a trace, but a was to be the last before Leashe went trace was all that Alicia felt like home, he faltered, paled, and lost step. displaying. The couch was soft; she
“Dizzy," he stammered uncon- didn't want to dance, didn't want vincingly. “The air's bad in here. to see Holderness; she wanted to rest. Do you mind? I believe there's a But Leashe was nervous, jumpy. lounge down the corridor.”
“How about this play you spoke As they moved toward it she of?” she demanded. "What's the caught a glimpse of a splendid matter with the second act?” personage across the ball-room, sur- That, she reasoned, should be good rounded by black-coated shoulders. for at least half an hour. Alicia knew Miss Dolores Duvetyne; she knew there were unkind rumors An hour and twenty minutes later as to Miss Duvetyne's intentions on by the watch that Edward Holder