Towards the end of spring Eugene concluded he would rather go up in th_ountains near Christina's bungalow this summer, than back to see Angela. Th_emory of that precious creature was, under the stress and excitement o_etropolitan life, becoming a little tarnished. His recollections of her wer_s delightful as ever, as redolent of beauty, but he was beginning to wonder.
The smart crowd in New York was composed of a different type. Angela was swee_nd lovely, but would she fit in?
Meanwhile Miriam Finch with her subtle eclecticism continued her education o_ugene. She was as good as a school. He would sit and listen to he_escriptions of plays, her appreciation of books, her summing up of curren_hilosophies, and he would almost feel himself growing. She knew so man_eople, could tell him where to go to see just such and such an importan_hing. All the startling personalities, the worth while preachers, the ne_ctors, somehow she knew all about them.
"Now, Eugene," she would exclaim on seeing him, "you positively must go an_ee Haydon Boyd in 'The Signet,'" or—"see Elmina Deming in her new dances,"
or—"look at the pictures of Winslow Homer that are being shown at Knoedler's."
She would explain with exactness why she wanted him to see them, what sh_hought they would do for him. She frankly confessed to him that sh_onsidered him a genius and always insisted on knowing what new thing he wa_oing. When any work of his appeared and she liked it she was swift to tel_im. He almost felt as if he owned her room and herself, as if all that sh_as—her ideas, her friends, her experiences—belonged to him. He could go an_raw on them by sitting at her feet or going with her somewhere. When sprin_ame she liked to walk with him, to listen to his comments on nature and life.
"That's splendid!" she would exclaim. "Now, why don't you write that?" or "wh_on't you paint that?"
He showed her some of his poems once and she had made copies of them an_asted them in a book of what she called exceptional things. So he was coddle_y her.
In another way Christina was equally nice. She was fond of telling Eugene ho_uch she thought of him, how nice she thought he was. "You're so big an_marty," she said to him once, affectionately, pinioning his arms and lookin_nto his eyes. "I like the way you part your hair, too! You're kind o' like a_rtist ought to be!"
"That's the way to spoil me," he replied. "Let me tell you how nice you are.
Want to know how nice you are?"
"Uh-uh," she smiled, shaking her head to mean "no."
"Wait till we get to the mountains. I'll tell you." He sealed her lips wit_is, holding her until her breath was almost gone.
"Oh," she exclaimed; "you're terrible. You're like steel."
"And you're like a big red rose. Kiss me!"
From Christina he learned all about the musical world and musica_ersonalities. He gained an insight into the different forms of music, operatic, symphonic, instrumental. He learned of the different forms o_omposition, the terminology, the mystery of the vocal cords, the methods o_raining. He learned of the jealousies within the profession, and what th_est musical authorities thought of such and such composers, or singers. H_earned how difficult it was to gain a place in the operatic world, ho_itterly singers fought each other, how quick the public was to desert _ading star. Christina took it all so unconcernedly that he almost loved he_or her courage. She was so wise and so good natured.
"You have to give up a lot of things to be a good artist," she said to Eugen_ne day. "You can't have the ordinary life, and art too."
"Just what do you mean, Chrissy?" he asked, petting her hand, for they wer_lone together.
"Why, you can't get married very well and have children, and you can't do muc_n a social way. Oh, I know they do get married, but sometimes I think it is _istake. Most of the singers I know don't do so very well tied down b_arriage."
"Don't you intend to get married?" asked Eugene curiously.
"I don't know," she replied, realizing what he was driving at. "I'd want t_hink about that. A woman artist is in a d— of a position anyway," using th_etter d only to indicate the word "devil." "She has so many things to thin_bout."
"Oh, what people think and her family think, and I don't know what all. The_ught to get a new sex for artists—like they have for worker bees."
Eugene smiled. He knew what she was driving at. But he did not know how lon_he had been debating the problem of her virginity as conflicting with he_ove of distinction in art. She was nearly sure she did not want to complicat_er art life with marriage. She was almost positive that success on th_peratic stage—particularly the great opportunity for the beginner abroad—wa_omplicated with some liaison. Some escaped, but it was not many. She wa_ondering in her own mind whether she owed it to current morality to remai_bsolutely pure. It was assumed generally that girls should remain virtuou_nd marry, but this did not necessarily apply to her—should it apply to th_rtistic temperament? Her mother and her family troubled her. She wa_irtuous, but youth and desire had given her some bitter moments. And here wa_ugene to emphasize it.
"It is a difficult problem," he said sympathetically, wondering what she woul_ventually do. He felt keenly that her attitude in regard to marriage affecte_is relationship to her. Was she wedded to her art at the expense of love?
"It's a big problem," she said and went to the piano to sing.
He half suspected for a little while after this that she might b_ontemplating some radical step—what, he did not care to say to himself, bu_e was intensely interested in her problem. This peculiar freedom of though_stonished him—broadened his horizon. He wondered what his sister Myrtle woul_hink of a girl discussing marriage in this way—the to be or not to be o_t—what Sylvia? He wondered if many girls did that. Most of the women he ha_nown seemed to think more logically along these lines than he did. H_emembered asking Ruby once whether she didn't think illicit love was wron_nd hearing her reply, "No. Some people thought it was wrong, but that didn'_ake it so to her." Here was another girl with another theory.
They talked more of love, and he wondered why she wanted him to come up t_lorizel in the summer. She could not be thinking—no, she was to_onservative. He began to suspect, though, that she would not marry him—woul_ot marry anyone at present. She merely wanted to be loved for awhile, n_oubt.
May came and with it the end of Christina's concert work and voice study s_ar as New York was concerned. She had been in and out of the city all th_inter—to Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Chicago, St. Paul and now after a winter's har_ork retired to Hagerstown with her mother for a few weeks prior to leavin_or Florizel.
"You ought to come down here," she wrote to Eugene early in June. "There is _ickle moon that shines in my garden and the roses are in bloom. Oh, the odor_re so sweet, and the dew! Some of our windows open out level with the gras_nd I sing! I sing!! I sing!!!"
He had a notion to run down but restrained himself, for she told him that the_ere leaving in two weeks for the mountains. He had a set of drawings t_omplete for a magazine for which they were in a hurry. So he decided to wai_ill that was done.
In late June he went up to the Blue Ridge, in Southern Pennsylvania, wher_lorizel was situated. He thought at first he would be invited to stay at th_hanning bungalow, but Christina warned him that it would be safer and bette_or him to stay at one of the adjoining hotels. There were several on th_lope of adjacent hills at prices ranging from five to ten dollars a day.
Though this was high for Eugene he decided to go. He wanted to be with thi_arvellous creature—to see just what she did mean by wishing they were in th_ountains together.
He had saved some eight hundred dollars, which was in a savings bank and h_ithdrew three hundred for his little outing. He took Christina a ver_andsomely bound copy of Villon, of whom she was fond, and several volumes o_ew verse. Most of these, chosen according to his most recent mood, were sa_n their poetic texture; they all preached the nothingness of life, it_adness, albeit the perfection of its beauty.
At this time Eugene had quite reached the conclusion that there was n_ereafter—there was nothing save blind, dark force moving aimlessly—wher_ormerly he had believed vaguely in a heaven and had speculated as to _ossible hell. His reading had led him through some main roads and some od_y-paths of logic and philosophy. He was an omnivorous reader now and a fairl_ogical thinker. He had already tackled Spencer's "First Principles," whic_ad literally torn him up by the roots and set him adrift and from that ha_one back to Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Spinoza and Schopenhauer—men wh_ipped out all his private theories and made him wonder what life really was.
He had walked the streets for a long time after reading some of these things, speculating on the play of forces, the decay of matter, the fact that thought- forms had no more stability than cloud-forms. Philosophies came and went, governments came and went, races arose and disappeared. He walked into th_reat natural history museum of New York once to discover enormous skeleton_f prehistoric animals—things said to have lived two, three, five millions o_ears before his day and he marvelled at the forces which produced them, th_ndifference, apparently, with which they had been allowed to die. Natur_eemed lavish of its types and utterly indifferent to the persistence o_nything. He came to the conclusion that he was nothing, a mere shell, _ound, a leaf which had no general significance, and for the time being i_lmost broke his heart. It tended to smash his egotism, to tear away hi_ntellectual pride. He wandered about dazed, hurt, moody, like a lost child.
But he was thinking persistently.
Then came Darwin, Huxley, Tyndall, Lubbock—a whole string of British thinker_ho fortified the original conclusions of the others, but showed him a beauty, a formality, a lavishness of form and idea in nature's methods which fairl_ransfixed him. He was still reading—poets, naturalists, essayists, but he wa_till gloomy. Life was nothing save dark forces moving aimlessly.
The manner in which he applied this thinking to his life was characteristi_nd individual. To think that beauty should blossom for a little while an_isappear for ever seemed sad. To think that his life should endure but fo_eventy years and then be no more was terrible. He and Angela were chanc_cquaintances—chemical affinities—never to meet again in all time. He an_hristina, he and Ruby—he and anyone—a few bright hours were all they coul_ave together, and then would come the great silence, dissolution, and h_ould never be anymore. It hurt him to think of this, but it made him all th_ore eager to live, to be loved while he was here. If he could only have _ovely girl's arms to shut him in safely always!
It was while he was in this mood that he reached Florizel after a long night'_ide, and Christina who was a good deal of a philosopher and thinker hersel_t times was quick to notice it. She was waiting at the depot with a daint_ittle trap of her own to take him for a drive.
The trap rolled out along the soft, yellow, dusty roads. The mountain dew wa_till in the earth though and the dust was heavy with damp and not flying.
Green branches of trees hung low over them, charming vistas came into view a_very turn. Eugene kissed her, for there was no one to see, twisting her hea_o kiss her lips at leisure.
"It's a blessed thing this horse is tame or we'd be in for some accident. Wha_akes you so moody?" she said.
"I'm not moody—or am I? I've been thinking a lot of things of late—of yo_rincipally."
"Do I make you sad?"
"From one point of view, yes."
"And what is that, sir?" she asked with an assumption of severity.
"You are so beautiful, so wonderful, and life is so short."
"You have only fifty years to love me in," she laughed, calculating his age.
"Oh, Eugene, what a boy you are!—Wait a minute," she added after a pause, drawing the horse to a stop under some trees. "Hold these," she said, offerin_im the reins. He took them and she put her arms about his neck. "Now, yo_illy," she exclaimed, "I love you, love you, love you! There was never anyon_uite like you. Will that help you?" she smiled into his eyes.
"Yes," he answered, "but it isn't enough. Seventy years isn't enough. Eternit_sn't enough of life as it is now."
"As it is now," she echoed and then took the reins, for she felt what he felt, the need of persistent youth and persistent beauty to keep it as it should be, and these things would not stay.