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ness was consulting with mounting “Your friends can wait a little impatience, a strolling couple passed longer,” he stated. the alcove where a graceful woman in “Let them wait,said Alicia. black leaned back on a couch while a "Why don't you write a real play-man strode up and down, gesturing what you think, not what Broadway restlessly as he explained his concep- expects of you and the road expects tion of the third and last act.

of Broadway?“Good Heavens! Mattie Leashe He sighed, shivering. and Alicia Rayleigh! Considering

“I'm afraid to, Alicia. If you all that they've said about each knew what I'm really like—” other"

"What, for instance?" "I never believed either of them could think up all those lines alone. Two hours and fifteen minutes by I'll bet they've always collaborated, Holderness's watch. He whispered mapped out their campaigns—you to a bell-boy and vanished into say this, and I'll come back with the coat-room. Whistling, the boy that"

came up to the couch in the alcove, This, however, was a slander. and Matthew Leashe let go of Alicia's The new zest burning in Matthew hand. Leashe was only-he was quite sure “Mr. Holderness's apologies—he's -the delight he always found in dis- been taken ill and has to go home.” covering the hidden virtues of un- "Ill?” said Leashe. “Too bad. sympathetic characters. And the Quite right of him to take care of character that troubled him would himself. ... Then, Alicia, you'll be sympathetic now——too sympa- let me take you home?” thetic to suit Miss Duvetyne.

“Why—” She had called him He sat down on the couch, limp and Bluebeard, the Habitual Widower; exhausted.

he had said that if there ever was “Like it? Think it will get over?another world war it would be her

“What?” Alicia came back from fault. absent musings. “Oh, of course it “Why, yes,” said Alicia. “If you will get over. Your plays always wish.” do. I only wish you'd let a little “If I wish?” Truly this was like more of—yourself get into them.” the old days in Memphis. “Where “They're supposed to be very like do you live? Absurd that I never

knew." “But they're not. You let every

“The Lysistrata. Rather like a one think you're hard-ruthless—”

convent, I suppose, or a barracks of a “It's what people expect. What women's labor battalion, but—" they want."

“It's a shame,” he said vaguely. “Oh, is it?” She was thinking of “What's a shame? If anything Ronnie, so pliant and genial on the isn't as I like it, that's my own fault.

I , surface, so utterly without tender- I know that. And I'm contented—” ness within. . . . She looked

She looked up and “Are you?” Leashe growled, and saw Holderness impatiently passing kissed her. She had known, of the alcove. Leashe saw him too. course, that he was going to kiss her;


but she hadn't known she was going did. . . . You'd better not drop in, to like it so much. She sat up, Matthew. Your aunt and I will distracted.

want to talk.” “My dear Matthew! This is “But you'll have dinner with me,

“This is the life,” said the great of course. . . . Oh, Alicia!” playwright, and felt that he had She expected, upon that, to be emitted his most brilliant line.

swept into his arms; but he stood Wildly she avoided his eyes. She eager and helpless, like a pitiable enknew she looked pursued now; she gaging little boy. Certainly it was felt pursued. It was time to end not the technique of Bluebeard; this nonsense, by one poisoned thrust Alicia couldn't help going into his -something about his habit of mar- arms of her own accord. Despairriage. But the words wouldn't say ingly she recalled a phrase she had themselves.

flung at Holderness: not love, but “You poor little girl,” he said what it does to you; excitement. softly. “You pretend to be hard and There was no doubt about the bitter, but I know better now." excitement.

“I know you better too,” Alicia heard herself saying.

The next day, however, was the She meant to say a great deal more day after. Alicia lunched alone, in a than that, to explain that this had daze; Leashe lunched with three men gone far enough; but his lips silenced at the University Club, in rather hers.

worse than that. “Matthew!" she said presently. “Alicia Rayleigh!” said somebody “You'd better not take me home.” who had just been reading her “Why not?"

column. “That woman is the Black “I want to think.”

Death. To think that all the taxi“What do you have to think cabs in this town keep on missabout?” The dreadful Mrs. Ray- ing her, day after day. Dreadful leigh could manage no more than a woman!" rather helpless smile.

"Dreadful?” Leashe choked down “Oh-about you.”

his fury. “She's only more clear“Let me help you.”

sighted than the rest of us; that's “No, you go home alone and think all. She sees what people really about me.” He saw she meant it. “All right. Then meet .


He felt the shakiness of his voice, lunch."

for he had been wondering all morn“Can't, my dear. I'm working.” ing what she would think of him, “Then tea."

when she saw what he really was in “I'm having tea at your aunt's.” the bright light of day.

. “That's so. Then I'll drop in. "Well, who the devil are you to .. Good old Aunt Regina! She jump up and defend her? Conbrought me up, you know. She sidering what you've said about knows me. She must have seen

her-" this coming—”

“I never said anything about her “Oh!” said Alicia. “Perhaps she

in my life.”



“Then you've got the credit for a “He hasn't a reputation for relot of good lines you never thought of. luctance,” said Alicia. But I suppose you playwrights are “No, people think he's a Blueused to that.”

beard. You started that too, didn't Leashe glowered, and busied him- you? Well, for once, my dear, you self with lighting a cigar. What he were wrong. Matthew's too selfish had said about her was all on the to want to marry anybody, but he's record. Still, she hadn't seemed to like a cat; if anybody strokes himcare last night.

anybody-he purrs. The boy tries But did she know it? Perhaps, to avoid women in his feeble way; he But that was hopeless. If she

she puts on this mask of cynical harddidn't know it, she soon would. ness, and most women are such fools!

But three of them saw through it and Alicia sipped her tea in Miss Van married him. No doubt it will hapStuddiford's library. They had pen again.” talked about painters and composers, “Oh, surely! He must be disand the decay of morals and manners, illusioned—” and now they had got down to “What of it? The poor simpleton Matthew Leashe.

always makes this same automatic “Poor Mattie!" Miss Van Studdi- response when a woman makes love ford sighed. “An old maid should to him. A purring cat. ... Gwen never try to bring up children. He's -his first wife—well, I hardly blame led a rather miserable life. And yet her. She had heart-trouble and he's made most of his own troubles. knew she couldn't live more than a It makes me furious with him, and year. They had been boy-and-girl yet perhaps if I'd had better judg- sweethearts, and she virtually asked ment- However, those women,him to marry her. Of course he

“But after all, Miss Van Studdi- couldn't resist. But I could have ford, he knows everybody.”

forgiven that if it hadn't given him “He doesn't have to marry every- the habit. body. The Habitual Widower! “Then Phyllida—she played the You have such a talent for piercing lead in his first real success. Of through to the truth, Mrs. Rayleigh. course he identified her with his You make us all squirm sometimes; heroine-read into her everything Matthew was furious when he heard he'd written into the part—" you'd called him that. But he had Pensively Mrs. Rayleigh stirred earned it."

her tea.

Last night, as they talked “It was quite unpardonable, I'm over the new play together, she had afraid."

watched him writing all kinds of “It was perfectly true. . . . And virtues into the part of a Dreadful the worst of it was, he never wanted Woman. to marry any of these women. ...I "Phyllida was killed in an autocouldn't say this to other people, of mobile wreck, wasn't she?” Alicia course, but you are so penetrating; asked hastily when the silence began and it's a relief to find some one with to be audible. whom one need have no reserves." "On her way to Atlantic City with

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another man,” said Miss Van Stud- No sensible woman would live in the diford. “That's a family secret, of same house with him. His wives had course, but you're a person of dis- expected to be able to lie back and rest, cretion. . . . And then Laurette- and when they found they'd have to the third-perhaps you knew her? work as they would at any other job, You've seen her, at least. Wild, to build something up, and with impetuous, high-tempered—the most appallingly little help from Matthew unsuitable woman in the world for --what can you expect?” Matthew. He knew it; he didn't “I

suppose so," Alicia agreed. like her; but she flattered him, and “Besides,” Miss Van Studdiford petted him, and kept after him, and pursued, “his shell is really too thin. presently he began to purr. Thank It excites women to break through Heaven, she became flagrant enough it, but the thrill of triumph doesn't to be divorced."

last. To have broken through the “Such a pity,” said Alicia vaguely. shell no longer seems much of an

“The marriage was the pity. achievement, when you know him. She knew that underneath his shell Anybody could have done it. And he was absurdly sensitive, that he before long I suppose some one else could never endure her tongue.” will do it, and then another di

"Why did she marry him, then?” vorce.” The question, Mrs. Rayleigh per- “What a pity!" Alicia mumbled. ceived, was painfully pertinent to “Yes, indeed,” said Miss Van current history; but she had to ask it. Studdiford comfortably. “There,

“Why did they all marry him? now! You've let me ramble on unFor the money they thought he pardonably. I can't talk about had. . . . Well, perhaps not poor Matthew to most people, but it's alGwen, of course. She at least was ways a delight to meet a mind like reasonably disinterested, which is

my own.

A hard mind, that hates one reason why he'll never be able to mush and syrup and cats who purr give any other woman what he gave for anybody. .. Oh, must you

be her. Phyllida and Laurette didn't going, my dear? Do come and see know till they married him that he me, won't you? I get infinite joy spends all he makes, or that my will out of those biting lines of yours. was drawn twenty years ago and It's a wonderful gift; one that leaves everything to hospitals. doesn't pass, either, like the more

“Not that I blame them for not perishable charms. Hard on thingetting along with him. Matthew skinned people like Matthew, but is a perfectly impossible husband, of it's something to be able to say course. He works in bursts. For things that can never be forgotten.' weeks he lies about the house, idle, In which case, thought Alicia as irritable, doing nothing, and letting she came out into the street and the bills pile up; then the fit strikes looked for a taxi, Miss Van Studdihim, and he works like a madman- ford ought to be happy. refuses to go out anywhere, growls like a bear if he's asked to leave the By the time she dressed for dinner typewriter long enough for dinner. with Leashe, she would have cried, if


she hadn't known that her face of course.

of course. That was what made it couldn't stand tears. For all day a luxury-a luxury she owed to she had been going about quite Matthew Leashe. foolishly; the city that for so many They dined at Cadenabbia's, in an years had been black and white and alcove that combined the propriety gray was iridescent for the first time of the public dining-room with the in a decade.

seclusion of a private dining-room. But it wouldn't do. That was Leashe had a gift for planning dinevident now; indeed it had been ners; indeed it was something of a dawning on her even before she gift to be able to dine at Cadenabtalked to Miss Van Studdiford. bia's at all. He might seem poor to ... She knew she looked well this his wealthy aunt, but his income was evening; but for the patches of gray gigantic beside Alicia's. To refuse in her hair she might have been all this was the rarest luxury of all. twenty-eight. Still she felt very She must savor it drop by drop; and sorry for herself; helplessly buf- she was furious as her gourmet's feted

pleasure began to be spoiled by the What was it Holderness had said? reflection that the inevitable refusal A poor frail woman helpless in the wouldn't look like a luxury to Leashe. hands of Fate, compelled to dash Yet she must hurt him; there was no hopes that had been raised by hand escape. till they got to the dashing-point. "Matthew, dear,” she said rather

“He knows me," she reflected dolorously, “I'm afraid it won't do.” cheerlessly. “Certainly he knows “Quite right,” he agreed. “I've me. ... Well!

Well! If I must spend the come to the same conclusion." evening dashing hopes, I might as “What?” She was astounded and well make a thorough job if it.” furious. Was the wretch going to

She sat down at her writing-desk cheat her out of this unique opporand scribbled:

tunity? “Why do you think it

won't do?” “My dear Edward: “No time like the present to break

“Why do you?” he countered. the news that I'm not going to marry

Alicia's lips parted, and closed in

silence. She couldn't bear to tell you. Nor-if it interests you

him that after Aunt Regina's exanybody else.


posure it seemed a little too much

like abduction. Quite unnecessary, she knew; “It would be so preposterous, Holderness would still want her, and she explained lamely. “Everybody when she had got over this madness knows what we've said about each -but she forced herself to drop the other. We'd be laughed out of letter down the mail-chute before town.” she could change her mind. It was He nodded. “But I could stand foolish, utterly mad; but she had that,” he observed. “Let 'em laugh never expected to be able to afford so long as they continue to stand in the luxury of making a fool of herself line at the box-office. Curious—I'd again. .. She couldn't afford it, supposed you could stand it too. I

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