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Chapter 1

  • It was when Eugene was at the height of his success that a meeting took plac_etween himself and a certain Mrs. Emily Dale.
  • Mrs. Dale was a strikingly beautiful and intelligent widow of thirty-eight, the daughter of a well-to-do and somewhat famous New York family of Dutc_xtraction—the widow of an eminent banker of considerable wealth who had bee_illed in an automobile accident near Paris some years before. She was th_other of four children, Suzanne, eighteen; Kinroy, fifteen; Adele, twelve, and Ninette, nine, but the size of her family had in no way affected th_ubtlety of her social personality and the delicacy of her charm and manner.
  • She was tall, graceful, willowy, with a wealth of dark hair, which was used i_he most subtle manner to enhance the beauty of her face. She was calm, placi_pparently, while really running deep with emotion and fancies, with manner_hich were the perfection of kindly courtesy and good breeding and with thos_irs of superiority which come so naturally to those who are raised in _ortunate and exclusive atmosphere.
  • She did not consider herself passionate in a marked degree, but freel_dmitted to herself that she was vain and coquettish. She was keen an_bserving, with a single eye to the main chance socially, but with a genuin_ove for literature and art and a propensity to write. Eugene met her throug_olfax, who introduced him to her. He learned from the latter that she wa_ather unfortunate in her marriage except from a money point of view, and tha_er husband's death was no irreparable loss. He also learned from the sam_ource that she was a good mother, trying to bring up her children in th_anner most suitable to their station and opportunities. Her husband had bee_f a much poorer social origin than herself, but her own standing was of th_ery best. She was a gay social figure, being invited much, entertainin_reely, preferring the company of younger men to those of her own age or olde_nd being followed ardently by one fortune hunter and another, who saw in he_eauty, wealth and station, an easy door to the heaven of social supremacy.
  • The Dale home, or homes rather, were in several different places—one a_orristown, New Jersey, another on fashionable Grimes Hill on Staten Island, _hird—a city residence, which at the time Eugene met them, was leased for _erm of years—was in Sixty-seventh Street, near Fifth Avenue in New York City, and a fourth, a small lodge, at Lenox, Massachusetts, which was also rented.
  • Shortly after he met her the house at Morristown was closed and the lodge a_enox re-occupied.
  • For the most part Mrs. Dale preferred to dwell in her ancestral home on State_sland, which, because of its commanding position on what was known as Grime_ill, controlled a magnificent view of the bay and harbor of New York.
  • Manhattan, its lower wall of buildings, lay like a cloud at the north. Th_ocking floor of the sea, blue and gray and slate black by turn, spread to th_ast. In the west were visible the Kill von Kull with its mass of shipping an_he Orange Hills. In a boat club at Tompkinsville she had her motor boat, use_ostly by her boy; in her garage at Grimes Hill, several automobiles. Sh_wned several riding horses, retained four family servants permanently and i_ther ways possessed all those niceties of appointment which make up th_omfortable life of wealth and ease.
  • The two youngest of her girls were in a fashionable boarding school a_arrytown; the boy, Kinroy, was preparing for Harvard; Suzanne, the eldest, was at home, fresh from boarding school experiences, beginning to go ou_ocially. Her début had already been made. Suzanne was a peculiar girl, plump, beautiful, moody, with, at times, a dreamy air of indifference and a smil_hat ran like a breath of air over water. Her eyes were large, of a vagu_lue-gray, her lips rosy and arched; her cheeks full and pink. She had a crow_f light chestnut hair, a body at once innocent and voluptuous in it_utlines. When she laughed it was a rippling gurgle, and her sense of humo_as perfect, if not exaggerated. One of those naturally wise but as yet vagu_nd formless artistic types, which suspect without education, nearly all th_ubtleties of the world, and burst forth full winged and beautiful, but oh, s_ragile, like a butterfly from its chrysalis, the radiance of morning upon it_ody. Eugene did not see her for a long time after he met Mrs. Dale, but whe_e did, he was greatly impressed with her beauty.
  • Life sometimes builds an enigma out of common clay, and with a look from _welve-year-old girl, sets a Dante singing. It can make a god of a bull, _ivinity of an ibis, or a beetle, set up a golden calf to be worshipped of th_ultitude. Paradox! Paradox! In this case an immature and yet nearly perfec_ody held a seemingly poetic and yet utterly nebulous appreciation of life—_ody so youthful, a soul so fumbling that one would ask, How should traged_urk in form like this?
  • A fool?
  • Not quite, yet so nebulous, so much a dreamer that difficulty might readil_ollow in the wake of any thoughtless deed.
  • As a matter of fact, favored as she was by nature and fortune, her ver_resence was dangerous—provocative, without thought of being so. If a tru_rtist had painted her, synthesizing her spirit with her body, he might hav_one so showing her standing erect on a mountain top, her limbs outline_midst fluttering draperies against the wind, her eyes fixed on distan_eights, or a falling star. Out of mystery into mystery again, so she came an_ent. Her mind was not unlike a cloud of mist through which the morning sun i_ndeavoring to break, irradiating all with its flushes of pink and gold. Agai_t was like those impearled shells of the South Sea, without design ye_uggestive of all perfections and all beauties. Dreams! dreams!—of clouds, sunsets, colors, sounds which a too articulate world would do its best late_o corrupt. What Dante saw in Beatrice, what Abélard saw in Héloïse, Romeo i_uliet, so some wondering swain could have seen in her—and suffered a lik_ate.
  • Eugene encountered Mrs. Dale at a house party on Long Island one Saturda_fternoon, and their friendship began at once. She was introduced to him b_olfax, and because of the latter's brusque, jesting spirit was under n_llusions as to his social state.
  • "You needn't look at him closely," he observed gaily, "he's married."
  • "That simply makes him all the more interesting," she rippled, and extende_er hand.
  • Eugene took it. "I'm glad a poor married man can find shelter somewhere," h_aid, smartly.
  • "You should rejoice," she replied. "It's at once your liberty and you_rotection. Think how safe you are!"
  • "I know, I know," he said. "All the slings and arrows of Miss Fortune hurtlin_y."
  • "And you in no danger of being hurt."
  • He offered her his arm, and they strolled through a window onto a veranda.
  • The day was just the least bit dull for Mrs. Dale. Bridge was in progress i_he card room, a company of women and girls gambling feverishly. Eugene wa_ot good at bridge, not quick enough mentally, and Mrs. Dale did not care muc_or it.
  • "I have been trying to stir up enough interest to bring to pass a motor ride, but it doesn't work," she said. "They all have the gambling fever today. Ar_ou as greedy as the others?"
  • "I'm greedy I assure you, but I can't play. The greediest thing I can do is t_tay away from the tables. I save most. That sharp Faraday has cleaned me an_wo others out of four hundred dollars. It's astonishing the way some peopl_an play. They just look at the cards or make mystic signs and the wretche_hings range themselves in serried ranks to suit them. It's a crime. It ough_o be a penitentiary offense, particularly to beat me. I'm such an inoffensiv_pecimen of the non-bridge playing family."
  • "A burnt child, you know. Stay away. Let's sit here. They can't come out her_nd rob you."
  • They sat down in green willow chairs, and after a time a servant offered the_offee. Mrs. Dale accepted. They drifted conversationally from bridge t_haracters in society—a certain climber by the name of Bristow, a man who ha_ade a fortune in trunks—and from him to travel and from travel to Mrs. Dale'_xperiences with fortune hunters. The automobile materialized through th_ntervention of others, but Eugene found great satisfaction in this woman'_ompany and sat beside her. They talked books, art, magazines, the making o_ortunes and reputations. Because he was or seemed to be in a position t_ssist her in a literary way she was particularly nice to him. When he wa_eaving she asked, "Where are you in New York?"
  • "Riverside Drive is our present abode," he said.
  • "Why don't you bring Mrs. Witla and come down to see us some week-end? _sually have a few people there, and the house is roomy. I'll name you _pecial day if you wish."
  • "Do. We'll be delighted. Mrs. Witla will enjoy it, I'm sure."
  • Mrs. Dale wrote to Angela ten days later as to a particular date, and in thi_ay the social intimacy began.
  • It was never of a very definite character, though. When Mrs. Dale met Angel_he liked her quite well as an individual, whatever she may have thought o_er as a social figure. Neither Eugene nor Angela saw Suzanne nor any of th_ther children on this occasion, all of them being away. Eugene admired th_iew tremendously and hinted at being invited again. Mrs. Dale was delighted.
  • She liked him as a man entirely apart from his position but particularl_ecause of his publishing station. She was ambitious to write. Others had tol_er that he was the most conspicuous of the rising figures in the publishin_orld. Being friendly with him would give her exceptional standing with al_is editors. She was only too pleased to be gracious to him. He was invite_gain and a third time, with Angela, and it seemed as though they wer_eaching, or might at least reach, something much more definite than a mer_ocial acquaintance.
  • It was about six months after Eugene had first met Mrs. Dale that Angela gav_ tea, and Eugene, in assisting her to prepare the list of invitations, ha_uggested that those who were to serve the tea and cakes should be tw_xceptionally pretty girls who were accustomed to come to the Witla apartment, Florence Reel, the daughter of a well-known author of that name and Marjori_ac Tennan, the daughter of a well-known editor, both beautiful and talented, one with singing and the other with art ambitions. Angela had seen a pictur_f Suzanne Dale in her mother's room at Daleview on Grimes Hill, and had bee_articularly taken with her girlish charm and beauty.
  • "I wonder," she said, "if Mrs. Dale would object to having Suzanne come an_elp serve that day. She would like it, I'm sure, there are going to be s_any clever people here. We haven't seen her, but that doesn't matter. I_ould be a nice way to introduce herself."
  • "That's a good idea, I should say," observed Eugene judicially. He had see_he photo of Suzanne and liked it, though he was not over-impressed. Photos t_im were usually gross deceivers. He accepted them always with reservations.
  • Angela forthwith wrote to Mrs. Dale, who agreed. She would be glad to com_erself. She had seen the Witla apartment, and had been very much pleased wit_t. The reception day came and Angela begged Eugene to come home early.
  • "I know you don't like to be alone with a whole roomful of people, but Mr.
  • Goodrich is coming, and Frederick Allen (one of their friends who had taken _ancy to Eugene), Arturo Scalchero is going to sing and Bonavita to play."
  • Scalchero was none other than Arthur Skalger, of Port Jervis, New Jersey, bu_e assumed this corruption of his name in Italy to help him to success.
  • Bonavita was truly a Spanish pianist of some repute who was flattered to b_nvited to Eugene's home.
  • "Well, I don't care much about it," replied Eugene. "But I will come."
  • He frequently felt that afternoon teas and receptions were ridiculous affairs, and that he had far better be in his office attending to his multitudinou_uties. Still he did leave early, and at five-thirty was ushered into a grea_oomful of chattering, gesticulating, laughing people. A song by Florence Ree_ad just been concluded. Like all girls of ambition, vivacity and imagination, she took an interest in Eugene, for in his smiling face she found a responsiv_leam.
  • "Oh, Mr. Witla!" she exclaimed. "Now here you are and you just missed my song.
  • And I wanted you to hear it, too."
  • "Don't grieve, Florrie," he said familiarly, holding her hand and lookin_omentarily in her eyes. "You're going to sing it again for me. I heard par_f it as I came up on the elevator." He relinquished her hand. "Why, Mrs.
  • Dale! Delighted, I'm sure. So nice of you. And Arturo Scalchero—hullo, Skalger, you old frost! Where'd you get the Italian name? Bonavita! Fine! Am _oing to hear you play? All over? Alas! Marjorie Mac Tennan! Gee, but you loo_weet! If Mrs. Witla weren't watching me, I'd kiss you. Oh, the pretty bonnet!
  • And Frederick Allen! My word! What are you trying to grab off, Allen? I'm o_o you. No bluffs! Nix! Nix! Why, Mrs. Schenck—delighted! Angela, why didn'_ou tell me Mrs. Schenck was coming? I'd have been home at three."
  • By this time he had reached the east end of the great studio room, farthes_rom the river. Here a tea table was spread with a silver tea service, an_ehind it a girl, oval-faced, radiantly healthy, her full lips parted in _ipe smile, her blue-gray eyes talking pleasure and satisfaction, her forehea_aid about by a silver filigree band, beneath which her brown chestnut curl_rotruded. Her hands, Eugene noted, were plump and fair. She stood erect, assured, with the least touch of quizzical light in her eye. A white, pink- bordered dress draped her girlish figure.
  • "I don't know," he said easily, "but I wager a guess that this is—that thi_s—this is Suzanne Dale—what?"
  • "Yes, this is," she replied laughingly. "Can I give you a cup of tea, Mr.
  • Witla? I know you are Mr. Witla from ma-ma´'s description and the way in whic_ou talk to everybody."
  • "And how do I talk to everybody, may I ask, pleasum?"
  • "Oh, I can't tell you so easily. I mean, I can't find the words, you know. _now how it is, though. Familiarly, I suppose I mean. Will you have one lum_r two?"
  • "Three an thou pleasest. Didn't your mother tell me you sang or played?"
  • "Oh, you mustn't believe anything ma-ma´ says about me! She's apt to sa_nything. Tee! Hee! It makes me laugh"—she pronounced it laaf—"to think of m_laying. My teacher says he would like to strike my knuckles. Oh, dear!" (Sh_ent into a gale of giggles.) "And sing! Oh, dear, dear! That is too good!"
  • Eugene watched her pretty face intently. Her mouth and nose and eye_ascinated him. She was so sweet! He noted the configuration of her lips an_heeks and chin. The nose was delicate, beautifully formed, fat, no_ensitive. The ears were small, the eyes large and wide set, the forehea_aturally high, but so concealed by curls that it seemed low. She had a fe_reckles and a very small dimple in her chin.
  • "Now you mustn't laugh like that," he said mock solemnly. "It's very seriou_usiness, this laughing. In the first place, it's against the rules of thi_partment. No one is ever, ever, ever supposed to laugh here, particularl_oung ladies who pour tea. Tea, Epictetus well says, involves the most seriou_onceptions of one's privileges and duties. It is the high-born prerogative o_ea servers to grin occasionally, but never, never, never under an_ircumstances whatsoever——" Suzanne's lips were beginning to part ravishingl_n anticipation of a burst of laughter.
  • "What's all the excitement about, Witla?" asked Skalger, who had drifted t_is side. "Why this sudden cessation of progress?"
  • "Tea, my son, tea!" said Eugene. "Have a cup with me?"
  • "I will."
  • "He's trying to tell me, Mr. Skalger, that I should never laaf. I must onl_rin." Her lips parted and she laughed joyously. Eugene laughed with her. H_ould not help it. "Ma-ma´ says I giggle all the time. I wouldn't do very wel_ere, would I?"
  • She always pronounced it "ma-ma´."
  • She turned to Eugene again with big smiling eyes.
  • "Exceptions, exceptions. I might make exceptions—one exception—but not more."
  • "Why one?" she asked archly.
  • "Oh, just to hear a natural laugh," he said a little plaintively. "Just t_ear a real joyous laugh. Can you laugh joyously?"
  • She giggled again at this, and he was about to tell her how joyously she di_augh when Angela called him away to hear Florence Reel, who was going to sin_gain for his especial benefit. He parted from Miss Dale reluctantly, for sh_eemed some delicious figure as delicately colorful as Royal Dresden, a_erfect in her moods as a spring evening, as soft, soulful, enticing as _train of music heard through the night at a distance or over the water. H_ent over to where Florence Reel was standing, listening in a sympatheti_elancholy vein to a delightful rendering of "The Summer Winds Are Blowing, Blowing." All the while he could not help thinking of Suzanne—letting his eye_tray in that direction. He talked to Mrs. Dale, to Henrietta Tenmon, to Luk_everas, Mr. and Mrs. Dula, Payalei Stone, now a writer of special articles, and others, but he couldn't help longing to go back to her. How sweet she was!
  • How very delightful! If he could only, once more in his life, have the love o_ girl like that!
  • The guests began to depart. Angela and Eugene bustled about the farewells.
  • Because of the duties of her daughter, which continued to the end, Mrs. Dal_tayed, talking to Arthur Skalger. Eugene was in and out between the studi_nd cloak room off the entry way. Now and then he caught glimpses of Suzann_emurely standing by her tea cups and samovar. For years he had seen nothin_o fresh and young as her body. She was like a new grown wet white lily pod i_he dawn of the year. She seemed to have the texture of the water chestnut an_he lush, fat vegetables of the spring. Her eyes were as clear as water; he_kin as radiant new ivory. There was no sign of weariness about her, nor an_are, nor any thought of evil, nor anything except health and happiness. "Suc_ face!" he thought casually in passing. "She is as sweet as any girl coul_e. As radiant as light itself."
  • Incidentally the personality of Frieda Roth came back, and—long befor_er—Stella Appleton.
  • "Youth! Youth! What in this world could be finer—more acceptable! Where woul_ou find its equal? After all the dust of the streets and the spectacle of ag_nd weariness—the crow's feet about people's eyes, the wrinkles in thei_ecks, the make-believe of rouge and massage, and powder and cosmetics, to se_eal youth, not of the body but of the soul also—the eyes, the smile, th_oice, the movements—all young. Why try to imitate that miracle? Who could?
  • Who ever had?"
  • He went on shaking hands, bowing, smiling, laughing, jesting, making believ_imself, but all the while the miracle of the youth and beauty of Suzanne Dal_as running in his mind.
  • "What are you thinking about, Eugene?" asked Angela, coming to the windo_here he had drawn a rocking-chair and was sitting gazing out on the silve_nd lavender and gray of the river surface in the fading light. Some belate_ulls were still flying about. Across the river the great manufactory wa_ending off a spiral of black smoke from one of its tall chimneys. Lamps wer_eginning to twinkle in its hundred-windowed wall. A great siren cry brok_rom its whistle as six o'clock tolled from a neighboring clock tower. It wa_till late February and cold.
  • "Oh, I was thinking of the beauty of this scene," he said wearily.
  • Angela did not believe it. She was conscious of something, but they neve_uarreled about what he was thinking nowadays. They had come too far along i_omfort and solidity. What was it, though, she wondered, that he was thinkin_bout?
  • Suzanne Dale had no particular thought of him. He was nice—pleasant, good- looking. Mrs. Witla was quite nice and young.
  • "Ma-ma," she said, "did you look out of the window at Mr. Witla's?"
  • "Yes, my dear!"
  • "Wasn't that a beautiful view?"
  • "Charming."
  • "I should think you might like to live on the Drive sometime, ma-ma."
  • "We may sometime."
  • Mrs. Dale fell to musing. Certainly Eugene was an attractive man—young, brilliant, able. What a mistake all the young men made, marrying so early.
  • Here he was successful, introduced to society, attractive, the world reall_efore him, and he was married to someone who, though a charming little woman, was not up to his possibilities.
  • "Oh, well," she thought, "so goes the world. Why worry? Everyone must do th_est they can."
  • Then she thought of a story she might write along this line and get Eugene t_ublish it in one of his magazines.