To cast a glance backward,–it was with a mixture of surprise, chagrin
and growing indignation, that Emil St. Ives took his way from the Maine
coast to tumultuous, brain-inspiring New York. In the hotel at Old
Harbour he lingered over his packing, confident until the last moment,
that some word would arrive from Rachel. She surely would not allow
him to go without seeking to effect a reconciliation. No word came
and, once seated in the train, he stared out at the landscape with
sullen fierceness. But there, in scraggy rocks, stumps of trees,
water, meadows, salt marshes, wind with a tang in it, gold beams poured
from rifted clouds, mist, storm, rolling fog–there was Rachel, the
girl herself. She was dancing, scudding on ahead of the train, wrapped
in a veil. Now he saw the gleam of her eyes; now her serious mouth!
now the curve of a wrist; now a fleeing ankle! Remaining behind, she
yet went with him! Deuce take it, he felt her breath on his face!
He was conscious of an immense weight of sadness in his breast, but it
lessened neither his pique nor his astonishment. Full of mastership,
his ideas of womankind were based chiefly on the devotion accorded him
by his mother, by Annie Lawless, and, until then, by Rachel herself.
Such whole-souled devotion he accepted as his rightful due. Therefore
Rachel’s downright and uncompromising attitude astounded him. Her
anger, when she learned that another young lady was interested in his
affairs, was justified, he admitted. He had not been open with her.
What he could not overlook, however, was her allusion to his mother’s
disappointment if his plans with the lithographers failed to
materialize. If she had cared for him, she would have spared him that
barbed thrust which even in memory caused his nerves to tingle. If she
had cared for him she would have prevented his going. But she had
allowed him to go without a hope of ever seeing him again.
He began to laugh bitterly; presently lifting his long frame out of the
car seat, he went for a drink of water. He stood with the cup in his
hand, forgetting to drink. He could not endure that a woman should
scorn and repudiate him. The quarrel with Rachel shook him all the
more violently, as, with his habits of mind, he was unaccustomed to
such tempests. He returned to his seat and fixed his eyes once more on
the flying landscape.
She had shone upon him like sunlight, and passion had awakened–passion
and interest and something besides. She had stormed at him like a
tempest and finally had mystified him with a fog, best proof of all
that hers was the womanhood for his manhood. But did he understand?
The pebble rolling down a hill has as much comprehension of the force
that summons it–indeed it has more, for the pebble obeys the force and
Emil St. Ives did not obey. Instead he set himself squarely about and
took his way back to New York with a smouldering eye; but a fierce,
surprised bird whose pinions had been clipped might have worn just such
a look, and he kept ruffling the feathers of his vanity, for the wings
of his egotism drooped.
Presently he produced paper and pencil, but still boiling, it was
sometime before he could control his thoughts. Finally, he began to
sketch roughly a plan for an instrument; the next day his humiliation
had so far abated as to permit of his working steadily on the scheme;
and when he reached New York his complacency was practically restored.
On alighting from the train he found awaiting him a little eager,
flushing, paling being in the shape of a woman.
When Emil saw Annie Lawless peering at him from the midst of the crowd
on the platform, a certain new sensation, strong, sweet, but somehow
malign, sprang to life within him. At least Annie was not indifferent
to him. His chagrin disappeared and a desperate hardihood took its
place. It is soothing, as most people will agree, when a golden apple
has been denied us, to have offered for our acceptance a little rosy
plum. Is it amazing then, that Emil stood ready hand and mouth for the
plum, all the more as he reckoned its flavour, on the whole, rather
pleasant? With his worn suit-case in one hand and his precious
_depth-indicator_ in the other, he swung down the platform, and Annie,
followed by the ungainly figure of Ding Dong, advanced to meet him.
Then Emil set down the suit-case and the _depth-indicator_ and received
Annie’s timid anxious glance in his own dark orbs. In it plunged, that
little maiden look, and the earth for Annie rocked, though for Emil it
merely oscillated very slightly,–no more than when one has taken a sip
of wine, piquant and a little heady.
Ding Dong gathered up the traps and fell submissively behind the young
couple, and Annie pressed against Emil and clung to him. What more
natural than that, finding himself unencumbered, he should bend down
and encircle her little figure with his arm? A rosy plum, a sip of
wine, a little bit of a woman with no wits at all and her heart in her
face, such was Annie.
As for that puzzling mid-region between mind and heart, which was the
region affected in Emil, one might as well attempt to mark out paths in
a wilderness as to set up guideposts there. Every thought is tinged
with feeling, every feeling is sullied with thought, and the ways are
hopelessly mixed. But it is a region which stands in no need of
description, for in the range of emotional experience, few people ken
anything beyond this vast temperate zone. And yet they declare, at the
last, that they have lived! Pathetic misapprehension! Nothing is more
uncommon, more unspeakably rare, than a life actually lived. Only a
person who is at once an intrepid explorer and an inexhaustible artist,
appreciating ever the value of extremes and of contrasts, in short a
genius on every side, is capable of life.
Though Emil had a measure of this capacity, he was hopelessly adrift in
a maze of stupidity; for men, save at exceptional moments, are such a
very small part of themselves. So he encircled Annie with his arm and,
bringing his face close to hers, kissed her. And Annie did not utter a
reproach. She forgot the words that would have formed it. She forgot
every word in her vocabulary, except one little word that all but
escaped from the hot panting region of her heart.
But she had formed a plan which she remembered. Dragging Emil into the
waiting room, she indicated two chairs in a quiet corner. When they
were seated, she put one little gloved hand for a moment over his and
pressed it down hard in order to hold his attention, though this
manoeuvre was not in the least necessary, for she was far from
unpleasing to look upon. The colour kept chasing the white on her
cheek, for she was frightened by what she had to say and at a loss how
to say it; the sweet peas, pinned in a bunch on the breast of her
jacket, threatened to fly away like a bevy of butterflies with her
tumultuous breathing, and a fascinating little pulse fluttered in her
neck just above the lace of her collar, and Emil, watching it, knew
that it indicated the wild movements of her heart.
What wonder that he almost recovered his wonted spirits in the air of
adoration that breathed from these two humble people? For Ding Dong,
with his ears like huge excrescences and his legs that seemed to bend
under the weight of his squat body so that he resembled nothing so much
as a grotesque from a cathedral niche,–Ding Dong hung on his look with
exactly as much attention as Annie. Despite the feeling of sadness
that lurked far down in the depths of his being, Emil perceived afresh
that it was a very good sort of world and that New York was a
marvellous city. And his egotism began to spread its wings and his
eyes to flash good humouredly. Being now well beyond the larva stage,
admiration was necessary to him,–it was an air without which he was
unable to exist.
“But how did you know that I would come on this train?” he asked
gently; and, clasping his hands about his knees, he stared at Annie
with a peculiar concentrated interest.
She looked up at him with a faint suggestion of reproach. “I didn’t
know; though I was prepared to wait until you did come,” she said.
“The fact is, Alexander,” she continued, “what Father has done is
shameful. It isn’t right, and as he’s my father, it’s only just–well,
I hope you won’t take it wrong–but I have a little money which was
left me by an aunt to do with just as I choose. I’ve got it all here,
see, in this bag,” and she opened the drawstrings. “It isn’t much,
only a thousand dollars, but I thought perhaps–perhaps you would take
it until you could invent something.”
To save his life Emil could not prevent the joy that flashed in his
eyes. To be free to invent, even for a brief space! It was an
unexpected glimpse straight into Paradise. He peeped in–just one
peep; then greatly to his credit, considering how little of an ordinary
man he was and how much of a genius,–who resembles a bird of heaven in
his freedom from a sense of obligations,–he shut the door on the
He bent forward and took both of Annie’s hands in his. Slowly, very
slowly, he shook his head.
“Oh, please!” she supplicated, and her face puckered. As she looked
straight into his eyes with her own, he saw them suffuse with tears.
The sight of these tears perturbed him so that he was no longer master
“But see here, I can’t!” he said, and the blood darkened his cheek, “I
can’t take money from you; you’re mad!”
“Oh, if that’s the way you consider me–just like a stranger!” And
Annie turned sharply aside and buried her face in a scrap of a
handkerchief from which ascended an odour of subtle feminine appeal.
In their excitement both had risen and Emil spread his massive bulk to
screen her distress from the few people who were seated in the
waiting-room. Never had he been driven into such a net by his own
“See here,” he cried, bending over her and breathing the words into her
ear, “I consider you my only friend”; and his ardour was augmented by
his remembrance of Rachel.
This was devotion, this!
“Friend?” she repeated, lifting her head and gazing at him through her
tears. “I’m more than that. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for
you, and I thought–I thought–”
For an instant Emil saw her judicially. “So that’s it?” he reflected,
but the next instant the male in him was completely glamoured.
For the last time some positive seduction in Annie overcame him. Love
will polish even a plain woman to something approaching brilliancy, and
Annie was by no means plain. Her hair gave out a delicate odour; the
pupils of her eyes, usually small, spilled their black over the blue of
the irises; her little mouth emitted a whole troop of sighs; the stuff
of her waist crackled, as if, though it fitted her body, it compressed
her heart. In truth, that which was the heart in her, the soul in her,
was striving mightily to come to him, and being a man he did not refuse
“Do–do you mean that you would marry me?” he hazarded unsteadily,
“without prospects–nothing? You can see for yourself, everything I
put my hand to turns out wrong,” he added argumentatively.
She nodded. A look of ecstasy overspread her face.
What he experienced chiefly was a profound astonishment.
He moved back a step in order to study her. That she felt in this way
toward him was no news, but that she was ready to take the decisive
step now, when his whole outlook was altered…. In his gaze there
grew a peculiar gentleness and simplicity.
“Yes, but what about your father, what will he say?” he inquired,
dallying dreamily with the consideration.
“Father, oh, he’ll bluster at first, but he’ll forgive us. I know him.
Besides, hasn’t he stolen your invention?”
“So it’s only fair I should steal his daughter; is that it?” This
question, like the other, was an idle playing with the subject, as
though, for the moment, his will went in leash to hers.
Annie lifted her face with a laugh which stirred him strangely. Her
eyes rested questioningly upon him and he was conscious of an ambiguous
emotion of pleasure and confusion. He had a desire to say tender words
to her, to touch her hair; none the less he sighed heavily.
And Annie all at once took his attitude for granted. Timid, yet with
that potency of appeal which belongs often to the weakest women, she
clasped his hand, glancing up at him in such a way that he felt all
resistance expiring within him.
“That poor fellow over there,” she went on happily after a moment,
during which she pressed his fingers once or twice, “every time I’d go
to the factory, he’d make the strangest signs, and at first I couldn’t
understand what he wanted. But after a little, I made out that he was
asking about you. And when Father got in that new man to work on your
machine, Ding Dong, as they call him, just went wild and raged. He
tried to stand guard over the machine and he locked the door of your
shop. But finally they got in and he acted so, they had to get rid of
Emil, who had been admiring the vivacity of her face, caught only the
last words of this speech.
“Ding Dong you say! Yes, a fine fellow,” he agreed with a sparkling
“Well, between us we’ve got everything planned,” Annie continued.
“We’ve found a little apartment–”
“Where you can work and invent,” she added in a voice scarcely above a
“Invent,” he murmured, for she sidled and slunk closer to him so that
with difficulty he resisted an impulse to seize her to his breast.
Explain it who can: in one short hour all the judgments of this man
were reversed. Though he was influenced by selfish motives, he did not
recognize them. Annie was his friend, the one most necessary to him
and to whom he was necessary. It was really downright amazing how much
she cared for him, and seeing her through a mist of gratitude which he
mistook for love, he compared her to the cold Rachel to the latter’s
disadvantage. In love consciously with neither the one nor the other
of these two women and only obscurely aware that his feeling for Rachel
was capable of assuming the character of a dominating passion, he was
really concerned in but one object, his work. He therefore yielded
himself readily to gratified vanity, egotism, enthralled senses, those
potent agents for the smothering of the masculine will.
They were on their way to the office of the Mayor when abruptly Emil
ordered the driver of the cab to halt, while he questioned Annie
anxiously. Did she think it wise–what they were doing? Had she
For answer she put her hands on his shoulders and drew his head to her
breast so vehemently that he had difficulty in breathing.
After that he spoke no more until their destination was reached, but
stared out intently at the people, who passed in carriages and on foot,
with a smile in which there was an uneasy melancholy.
A week later any scales he might have had over his eyes had vanished.
Memories of Rachel obtruded themselves and he turned from them with
stifled sighs. He was ill at ease and his conscience troubled him. He
was penitent before Annie and redoubled his caresses. But she was not
essential to him, and as time went on he buried himself in his work.
In the choice of the apartment the young girl betrayed the fundamental
practicality of her nature. The rooms were inexpensive and at the same
time attractive and homelike; but at the end of a month, Emil
discovered a sky-lighted loft in the lower part of the city into which
he wished to move. The place would be a more convenient one for his
work. Thither Ding Dong, in the capacity of assistant to the inventor,
accompanied the pair. With him he brought the monkey Lulu.
Largely because of his affection for her, though partly because of his
hatred of his former employers on whom he thought absurdly to revenge
himself, Ding Dong had stolen the little creature from the factory. He
made her a cage, which she seldom occupied, her favourite station being
the sill of the window where Emil had his work-bench. There she
crouched among the tools with her little, worried, half-human face
turned to the inventor, and now and then she reached out a black hand
and laid it questioningly on his sleeve. Seeing his pet thus safely
cared for, Ding Dong was free to spend himself in the service of his
new master. He ran errands, bustled about in a flurry of often useless
activity, and even fitted up the tiny room set apart for Annie. At
first the young wife agreed to everything.
Crushed by a stormy interview with her father in which he had forbidden
her to cross his threshold, in the early days of her marriage Annie
accepted the privations of her new mode of life without a word. She
thought to endear herself to her husband. But Emil, far from
sympathizing with her position, was honestly unconscious of it.
Carried away by the interest of his work, he forgot her. When made
aware of her, bitterness filled his soul. He felt himself guilty
toward her. Never the less, her tears, her letters to her mother,
which he was forced to read and approve, her constant efforts on his
behalf with her father, above all, her insistence that he go back and
accept the situation of expert examiner, which was finally grudgingly
offered him,–all this irked him in the extreme.
“Go back there–after the way he’s treated me?” he cried,–“you ask it?”
“I thought–I thought–” murmured Annie, “we are very miserable.”
“Well?” His significant tone seemed to imply, “Who’s to blame?”
He now perceived clearly that she hampered him, that he could have got
on very much better without her.
“You are not interested in my work,” he cried, blaming her; “a woman is
always like that. No detachment with them is possible. I ought to
have understood this.”
Then Annie broke down, and contrition overcame him. He took her in his
arms where she cuddled like a little kitten.
“I’m no one for you,” he whispered, while a fierce sigh rent him.
But convinced that he suffered by the arrangement more than she did, he
cherished a grudge against her because she interfered with him.
Fearing to disquiet his mother, he allowed several months to pass
before he wrote to her of his marriage. Viewing it coldly, he felt
much cause for shame in the situation.
Quarrels were constant, and as the sight of Annie disquieted him, he
shut himself off from her more and more. He worked, slept and ate in
his shop, and Annie inhabited her lonely little room, weeping and
staring out over the house-tops in acute disgust. As Emil had said,
devotion to an abstract ideal was impossible to her and she was jealous
now of his work as of a rival, so that they had no topic about which
they could talk when together. Everything furnished a subject for
dispute, even Ding Dong and his pet. Ding Dong disgusted her by his
outlandish appearance, and the monkey, she declared, made her nervous.
The day following her meeting with Rachel, Annie spoke of the encounter.
“I met someone you know yesterday,” she said; “a girl from Maine.”
Wrinkling up his brow, Emil paused in his work.
Something in his expression excited and angered his wife.
“Well,” she cried sharply, “do you remember her? What’s her name?”
But Emil, despite his desire to know more, resumed his work without
answering, and the eyes he cast down held the look of a child that
dimly perceives in its suffering the result of its own act.
As she stood in the attic room with its sloping roof and dormer
windows, her little dark head almost touched the ceiling. Old David
surveyed her with pride; then cast a glance at Simon Hart. The driving
rain had modelled the stuff of her dress to her arms and shoulders in
winding folds. As she lifted her hands to remove her hat, from which
drooped the straight lines of a veil, she resembled a Tanagra figurine.
But there was no antique serenity in her expression.
Convinced that she was disconcerted by his presence, Simon Hart began
to explain that he had brought her another order for candle shades.
Then, as her lack of sophistication grew upon him, he ended by inviting
her and her grandfather to dine with him.
But Rachel looked at him with vague, unseeing eyes, until David nudged
“We’ll like to go very much, won’t we, Rachel?” he said in a voice
which quavered with delight.
Then she understood and forced a smile to her lips.
“But don’t ye forgit to say something to Miss Short, will ye?” the old
man reminded her. “You see,” he added, turning to the visitor, “Miss
Short expected to go somewhere with us to-night for a little
celebration, because of that order–the first one you got, Rachel–and
it’s most kind of you, too, to take such an interest.”
The other waved these last words aside. “Now about this celebration,”
he said, “what do you say to asking Miss Short to go with us?”
Again Rachel forced herself to express pleasure.
When Simon Hart went out to call a carriage, she entered the inner room.
After ridding herself of her wet dress, she sat down before the cracked
looking-glass and began arranging her hair. But almost immediately she
folded her arms on the bureau, bowed her head upon them and fell to
weeping. In the depths of her soul she felt that nothing could alter
her despair. Henceforth the knowledge of Emil’s marriage would lodge
there like a rock heaved into the midst of a stream, and the current of
her life would eddy around it. The approach of Nora Gage caused her to
lift her face and continue coiling her hair.
Simon Hart was not a worldly man. He confined himself closely to the
supervision of his business–the manufacture and sale of jewellery. At
night he returned to his austere house in Washington Square. Of a
painfully reticent disposition, he made few friends, his fastidious and
slightly ironical manner effectually cutting him off from companionship.
The only beings who played any sustained part in his life were the
gaunt mysterious female who served his meals and arranged his
drawing-room as she chose, his old father who moved optical instruments
over the floor of the attic; and, at the shop, Victor Mudge, who
designed special settings for gems. For Victor Mudge, Simon
entertained a particular regard, though he felt sensitively that the
goldsmith disapproved of him. The truth was, these two friendless
men,–the one living in his well-nigh empty house, the other in his
hall bedroom,–criticized each the other’s lonely condition.
The diversion created in the jeweller’s life by the persons just named
was no more than the gnawing of a bevy of mice in an otherwise quiet
cellar. Painfully aware of this, he attempted to enrich his existence
by extending the scope of his intellectual pursuits. He took up the
study of social economics and pursued it diligently. In the same way,
during the season, he forced himself to attend the opera with
conscientious regularity, although he had no real musical taste and
much that he saw and heard was in reality distasteful to him. He felt
a constant need to check in himself a tendency to indulge feelings that
were deeper than those apparently experienced by other men.
Only once had a person penetrated his reserve. Several years before he
had made the acquaintance of a scholarly lady who brought to his shop
for suitable setting an Egyptian scarab. In the course of filling this
simple order Simon had called upon her several times. Subsequent
developments, however, had revealed the fact that the scholarly lady
had a husband, and the acquaintance had languished; though for some
time after the incident he had kept her photograph on his pianola where
he had been in the habit of studying it while he had pedalled evenly.
This photograph had fallen behind a stationary bookcase, and at present
the one brightness in his life was the gleam of the gold and the jewels
in his shop.
Now he stood helpless at the corner of the street. Trusting to her
unique charm to atone for any discrepancy in her dress, he would have
risked Rachel’s appearance in one of the more fashionable restaurants.
But the others? He shook his head.
More keenly sensitive to observation than a man of wider social
experience, he shrank from the attention the group would be likely to
attract. Presently he came to a decision. He would take his guests to
a restaurant in the vicinity of his house, where he made a practice of
dining when the weather was particularly oppressive.
As they quitted the tenement rooms, Nora Gage padded softly out on the
landing in her heelless slippers. Her enormous bust undulated more
than usual and her hands at her waist disappeared beneath overhanging
folds of fat. “Well, I hope you’ll have something good to eat,” she
remarked meaningly. Rachel, her head high, ignored these words; but
old David nodded with smiles and gestures toward his pocket.
Like a child he expressed his delight openly. His white locks moved in
the air, fine as cobwebs, and his face was wreathed in continual smiles
which prolonged the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and deepened
the lines about his mouth to quivering crescents of laughter defining
the rosy hillocks of his cheeks. With a shaking finger he pointed out
the sights in the streets to Emily, who nodded decorously the plumes of
her elaborately-trimmed hat. The hat was destined for one of Mrs.
Stedenthal’s customers, but Emily had borrowed it for the evening. The
very novelty of the situation diverted Rachel; she became aware of a
dual consciousness–a self that suffered and a self that was vaguely
In the restaurant the waiter uncorked a bottle of champagne and Simon
begged the young girl to taste it. She lifted it to her lips, then
played with the glass.
Simon watched the slim thumb and finger that encircled the fragile stem
of crystal. With unostentatious movements he repeatedly filled his own
glass. Occasionally he ventured to lift a glance to Rachel’s face.
She wore a skirt of dark silk, and a little flowered scarf over a waist
of sheer muslin. The brim of her drooping hat, whenever she leaned
forward, cast its shadow over her shoulders and her scarcely-indicated
breast. When she straightened up, however, it was as if a cloud lifted
and revealed the glow of her cheeks, the line of her lips, the depths
of her eyes where some gloomy thought constantly hovered; for, strive
as she would, summoning to her aid all her furious pride, she could not
conceal the misery and despair that were consuming her heart. From her
round wrists her sleeves fell back in ample folds and the pale yellow
of her scarf repeated the colour of the champagne.
As the dinner progressed Simon refrained more and more from looking at
her. He did not ask himself what was troubling this young girl, he did
not wish to know; perhaps he shrank from anything so absolutely
youthful as her despair. On the other hand, the costume she wore, in
that it was probably of her own fashioning, filled him with a kind of
tenderness. Many trifling peculiarities of people, scarcely noticeable
movements, awakened in him this feeling. It was a kind of pitifulness
in his nature, though he had rarely been moved to the same degree by so
slight a detail.
Life takes on to most men, who by middle age have attained any measure
of success, the character of a long meal of many courses. But to Simon
Hart it seemed like the meal which the traveller takes in a gloomy way
station. Now Rachel appealed to him like the unexpected nuts of a
dessert, the unlooked for “riddle in ribbons,” for he was keen enough
to suspect the riddle hidden in this little smooth-skinned girl.
The thoughts engendered in Emily Short, as she quietly observed the
pair, were as foreign to her mind as the food was to her palate. In
the pauses between the courses she wove a shining romance about Rachel
and her companion and finally installed them in a castle similar in
architecture to that which decorated the china of the service. Old
David, remembering Nora, occupied the moments while the waiter’s back
was turned, in secreting various tidbits in the pocket of his coat. So
slyly did he do this that no one observed his manoeuvres, and he tucked
away crackers, olives and finally a portion of ice-cream which was
served in a little box.
Meanwhile the waiters, bearing steaming viands, hurried to and fro.
They lifted silver dish covers, which reflected the light, and revealed
the red claws of lobsters surrounded by green garnishings, and fowls
steaming in gravy. Leaning between the shoulders of the diners, they
poured out water and wine; and every moment, as they skilfully avoided
trampling the dresses of the ladies, which flowed in rippling folds
around their chairs, or cleared with heavy platters balanced on their
hands the black shoulders of the men,–they cried, “Your pardon,
madam!–In just a moment, sir!” and nothing could equal their dexterity
or the softness of their cat-like tread. Through the restaurant
swelled the penetrating, complicated music of the orchestra. At one
moment a shower of gay notes seemed to be falling, falling everywhere,
and the people broke in upon it with the loud clapping of hands. At
another moment waves of melody, unnoticed, mounted insidiously like a
tide and finally bore with them, like spume and tangled seaweed,
something of the emotion from each overcharged heart.
Turning her head aside, Rachel felt on her cheek the cool freshness of
the night which entered over some plants in a window-box. For moments
together as she listened, it seemed to her that her misery was
expressed poignantly by the music. Then as the _motif_ altered,
insensibly her mood changed. She thought of André from whom she had
received a letter the week before. Captain Daniels, whose animosity
toward the lad increased with the years, in a fit of drunken temper had
broken André’s fiddle. She resolved, as soon as she could, to send him
another. Then Zarah Patch sent word that Buttercup, the cow he had
purchased from David, mistaking the moaning of the fog bell for the
crying of her calf, had floundered into the bay and been drowned.
“Poor Buttercup!” she thought; then–“Poor André!” And, across the
miles of space that separated them, she seemed to hear again the
breathless words in which the boy had told her of his love.
The orchestra was now executing a fantasy composed entirely of runs
with the repetition of one bass note, and suddenly, without warning,
her agony was once more upon her. Once more, distraught, breathless,
she held that horrible envelope in her hand;–she read its
superscription. The men in the orchestra, puffing at their horns,
fingering their flutes, drawing their fiddle bows, were executing that
final wild movement, not on their instruments, but on her heart.
She looked up and encountered Simon Hart’s eyes. Instantly averting
his gaze, he proposed that they leave the restaurant; when they were
outside, he suggested that they walk through the square which perfumed
the air with the odour of its great trees. But no sooner had they
entered the square, than old David evinced a distaste for locomotion.
“I don’t feel jest like myself somehow,” he confided in a whisper to
Emily Short. “Let’s jest sit down here a minute.” And the little
toy-maker, who had her own reasons for wishing to leave the couple to
themselves, readily complied.
Simon and Rachel walked on. At last, they also seated themselves on
one of the benches. It was after ten o’clock and the square was
deserted. The moon, in its first quarter, caused Washington arch to
throw a black shadow athwart the path; and now and again the swaying
branches of the trees brought out traceries of leaves on Rachel’s white
shoulders and on her sleeves. With his arms folded across his knees so
that his head was on a level with hers, Simon began telling her about a
recently published history of jewels that partly covered the field of a
work he had long been engaged upon. As he spoke she noticed that since
dinner his eyes had lost something of then weary look and that his
nervousness had abated. He spoke with the masculine deliberation which
women ordinarily find so irritating, but which, owing to the state of
her nerves, calmed Rachel.
“However, my book,” he explained, “deals almost exclusively with the
legends connected with jewels. My aim is first and foremost, to
restore to them their lost poetical significance. Plato, for instance,
and the Egyptians, for that matter, believed that they were veritable
beings produced by a sort of fermentation which was the result of a
vivifying spirit descending from the stars. Look up there,” he
exclaimed, pointing to the sky, “then look at this, and tell me if it
doesn’t resemble star-gold condensed into a transparent mass;” and from
his finger he drew a ring and placed it in her palm.
She was more and more comforted. As he enlarged on the theme, which
was evidently a favourite one with him, she watched the gyrations of
the fountain. Outlined to her vision, she beheld a life which seemed
to her infinitely more tranquil than her own.
On their return to the Street of Masts, Emily assisted old David up the
stairs and Rachel remained in the doorway waiting for Simon Hart to
finish an interminable sentence. Weighty, carefully worded, laborious,
his peroration, for the most part, fell on deaf ears. Never the less
she was conscious of an involuntary attraction to him. When at last he
extended his hand, she felt that he was stirred by some emotion he
wished to conceal.
“Now that we have celebrated our newly-formed friendship,” he said with
an attempt at gallantry, “I shall expect you to call upon me should any
matter come up in which I can serve you. Will you promise?”
The kindness was unexpected, her state forlorn. Her lips worked
sensitively. “Yes,” she said.
He lifted her hand to his lips; at once something penetrating and
tender enveloped them.
At that moment the voice of Emily Short reached them from the upper
landing. “Miss Beckett–Rachel!” she called, “come–come right up
here! Your grandfather–something’s wrong!”
In the room under the roof the flaring gas showed old David half
sitting, half lying upon the couch.
Rachel darted to him. “Grandfather–what is it?” she shrieked; and
winding her arms about him, she tried to centre his wild and wandering
glances on herself.
But moaning incessantly, incoherently, he pushed her away with one hand
while clutching her tightly with the other. Constantly his eyes
questioned her–only to reject all help that she or any other could
To her tortured sense it seemed an eternity before those half-human
cries of his were silenced. In reality scarcely ten minutes elapsed
before Simon Hart returned with a doctor.
Without hesitation the physician pronounced old David’s attack a
paralytic shock affecting both the lower limbs, though the disease, he
said, might shift at anytime.
When they removed the old man’s clothing, from the pocket of his coat
rolled a few nuts and a little box of half-melted ice-cream.