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Chapter 8

  • Having involved himself thus far, seized upon and made his own this perfec_lower of life, Eugene had but one thought, and that was to retain it. Now, o_ sudden, had fallen from him all the weariness of years. To be in love again.
  • To be involved in such a love, so wonderful, so perfect, so exquisite, it di_ot seem that life could really be so gracious as to have yielded him so much.
  • What did it all mean, his upward rise during all these years? There had bee_eemingly but one triumph after another since the bitter days in Riverwood an_fter. The _World_ , Summerfield's, The Kalvin Company, The United Magazin_orporation, Winfield, his beautiful apartment on the drive. Surely the god_ere good. What did they mean? To give him fame, fortune and Suzanne into th_argain? Could such a thing really be? How could it be worked out? Would fat_onspire and assist him so that he could be free of Angela—or——
  • The thought of Angela to him in these days was a great pain. At bottom Eugen_eally did not dislike her, he never had. Years of living with her ha_roduced an understanding and a relationship as strong and as keen as it migh_ell be in some respects. Angela had always fancied since the Riverwood day_hat she really did not love Eugene truly any more—could not, that he was to_elf-centered and selfish; but this on her part was more of an illusion than _eality. She did care for him in an unselfish way from one point of view, i_hat she would sacrifice everything to his interests. From another point o_iew it was wholly selfish, for she wanted him to sacrifice everything for he_n return. This he was not willing to do and had never been. He considere_hat his life was a larger thing than could be encompassed by any singl_atrimonial relationship. He wanted freedom of action and companionship, bu_e was afraid of Angela, afraid of society, in a way afraid of himself an_hat positive liberty might do to him. He felt sorry for Angela—for th_ntense suffering she would endure if he forced her in some way to releas_im—and at the same time he felt sorry for himself. The lure of beauty ha_ever for one moment during all these years of upward mounting effort bee_tilled.
  • It is curious how things seem to conspire at times to produce a climax. On_ould think that tragedies like plants and flowers are planted as seeds an_row by various means and aids to a terrible maturity. Roses of hell are som_ives, and they shine with all the lustre of infernal fires.
  • In the first place Eugene now began to neglect his office work thoroughly, fo_e could not fix his mind upon it any more than he could upon the affairs o_he Sea Island Company, or upon his own home and Angela's illness. The mornin_fter his South Beach experience with Suzanne and her curious reticence, h_aw her for a little while upon the veranda of Daleview. She was not seemingl_epressed, or at least, not noticeably so, and yet there was a gravity abou_er which indicated that a marked impression of some kind had been made upo_er soul. She looked at him with wide frank eyes as she came out to hi_urposely to tell him that she was going with her mother and some friends t_arrytown for the day.
  • "I have to go," she said. "Mamma has arranged it by phone."
  • "Then I won't see you any more here?"
  • "No."
  • "Do you love me, Suzanne?"
  • "Oh, yes, yes," she declared, and walked wearily to an angle of the wall wher_hey could not be seen.
  • He followed her quickly, cautiously.
  • "Kiss me," he said, and she put her lips to his in a distraught frightene_ay. Then she turned and walked briskly off and he admired the robust swingin_f her body. She was not tall, like himself, or small like Angela, but middl_ized, full bodied, vigorous. He imagined now that she had a powerful soul i_er, capable of great things, full of courage and strength. Once she was _ittle older, she would be very forceful and full of strong, direct thought.
  • He did not see her again for nearly ten days, and by that time he was nearl_esperate. He was wondering all the time how he was to arrange this. He coul_ot go on in this haphazard way, seeing her occasionally. Why she might leav_own for the fall a little later and then what would he do? If her mothe_eard she would take her off to Europe and then would Suzanne forget? What _ragedy that would be! No, before that should happen, he would run away wit_er. He would realize all his investments and get away. He could not liv_ithout her. He must have her at any cost. What did the United Magazin_orporation amount to, anyway? He was tired of that work. Angela might hav_he Sea Island Realty Company's stock, if he could not dispose of i_dvantageously, or if he could, he would make provision for her out of what h_hould receive. He had some ready money—a few thousand dollars. This and hi_rt—he could still paint—would sustain them. He would go to England wit_uzanne, or to France. They would be happy if she really loved him and h_hought she did. All this old life could go its way. It was a dreary thing, anyhow, without love. These were his first thoughts.
  • Later, he came to have different ones, but this was after he had talked t_uzanne again. It was a difficult matter to arrange. In a fit of desperatio_e called up Daleview one day, and asked if Miss Suzanne Dale was there. _ervant answered, and in answer to the "who shall I say" he gave the name of _oung man that he knew Suzanne knew. When she answered he said: "Listen, Suzanne! Can you hear very well?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Do you recognize my voice?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Please don't pronounce my name, will you?"
  • "No."
  • "Suzanne, I am crazy to see you. It has been ten days now. Are you going to b_n town long?"
  • "I don't know. I think so."
  • "If anyone comes near you, Suzanne, simply hang up the receiver, and I wil_nderstand."
  • "Yes."
  • "If I came anywhere near your house in a car, could you come out and see me?"
  • "I don't know."
  • "Oh, Suzanne!"
  • "I'm not sure. I'll try. What time?"
  • "Do you know where the old fort road is, at Crystal Lake, just below you?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Do you know where the ice house is near the road there?"
  • "Yes."
  • "Could you come there?"
  • "What time?"
  • "At eleven tomorrow morning or two this afternoon or three."
  • "I might at two today."
  • "Oh, thank you for that. I'll wait for you, anyhow."
  • "All right. Good-bye."
  • And she hung up the receiver.
  • Eugene rejoiced at the fortunate outcome of this effort without thinking a_irst of the capable manner in which she had handled the situation. Truly h_aid afterwards she must be very courageous to think so directly and act s_uickly, for it must have been very trying to her. This love of his was s_ew. Her position was so very difficult. And yet, on this first call when sh_ad been suddenly put in touch with him, she had shown no signs o_repidation. Her voice had been firm and even, much more so than his, for h_as nervously excited. She had taken in the situation at once and fallen int_he ruse quite readily. Was she as simple as she seemed? Yes and no. She wa_imply capable, he thought and her capability had acted through her simplicit_nstantly.
  • At two the same day Eugene was there. He gave as an excuse to his secretar_hat he was going out for a business conference with a well-known author whos_ook he wished to obtain, and, calling a closed auto, but one not his own, journeyed to the rendezvous. He asked the man to drive down the road, makin_uns of half a mile to and fro while he sat in the shade of a clump of tree_ut of view of the road. Presently Suzanne came, bright and fresh as th_orning, beautiful in a light purple walking costume of masterly design. Sh_ad on a large soft brimmed hat with long feathers of the same shade whic_ecame her exquisitely. She walked with an air of grace and freedom, and ye_hen he looked into her eyes, he saw a touch of trouble there.
  • "At last?" he said signaling her and smiling. "Come in here. My car is just u_he road. Don't you think we had better get in? It's closed. We might be seen.
  • How long can you stay?"
  • He took her in his arms and kissed her eagerly while she explained that sh_ould not stay long. She had said she was going to the library, which he_other had endowed, for a book. She must be there by half past three or fou_t the least.
  • "Oh, we can talk a great deal by then," he said gaily. "Here comes the car.
  • Let's get in."
  • He looked cautiously about, hailed it, and they stepped in quickly as it dre_p.
  • "Perth Amboy," said Eugene, and they were off at high speed.
  • Once in the car all was perfect, for they could not be seen. He drew th_hades partially and took her in his arms.
  • "Oh, Suzanne," he said, "how long it has seemed. How very long. Do you lov_e?"
  • "Yes, you know I do."
  • "Suzanne, how shall we arrange this? Are you going away soon? I must see yo_ftener."
  • "I don't know," she said. "I don't know what mama is thinking of doing. I kno_he wants to go up to Lenox in the fall."
  • "Oh, Pshaw!" commented Eugene wearily.
  • "Listen, Mr. Witla," said Suzanne thoughtfully. "You know we are running _errible risk. What if Mrs. Witla should find out, or mama? It would b_errible."
  • "I know it," said Eugene. "I suppose I ought not to be acting in this way.
  • But, oh, Suzanne, I am wild about you. I am not myself any longer. I don'_now what I am. I only know that I love you, love you, love you!"
  • He gathered her in his arms and kissed her ecstatically. "How sweet you look.
  • How beautiful you are. Oh, flower face! Myrtle Bloom! Angel Eyes! Divin_ire!" He hugged her in a long silent embrace, the while the car sped on.
  • "But what about us?" she asked, wide-eyed. "You know we are running a terribl_isk. I was just thinking this morning when you called me up. It's dangerous, you know."
  • "Are you becoming sorry, Suzanne?"
  • "No."
  • "Do you love me?"
  • "You know I do."
  • "Then you will help me figure this out?"
  • "I want to. But listen, Mr. Witla, now listen to me. I want to tell yo_omething." She was very solemn and quaint and sweet in this mood.
  • "I will listen to anything, baby mine, but don't call me Mr. Witla. Call m_ugene, will you?"
  • "Well, now, listen to me, Mr.—Mr.—Eugene."
  • "Not Mr. Eugene, just Eugene. Now say it. Eugene," he quoted his own name t_er.
  • "Now listen to me, Mr.—now, listen to me, Eugene," she at last forced hersel_o say, and Eugene stopped her lips with his mouth.
  • "There," he said.
  • "Now listen to me," she went on urgently, "you know I am afraid mama will b_erribly angry if she finds this out."
  • "Oh, will she?" interrupted Eugene jocosely.
  • Suzanne paid no attention to him.
  • "We have to be very careful. She likes you so much now that if she doesn'_ome across anything direct, she will never think of anything. She was talkin_bout you only this morning."
  • "What was she saying?"
  • "Oh, what a nice man you are, and how able you are."
  • "Oh, nothing like that," replied Eugene jestingly.
  • "Yes, she did. And I think Mrs. Witla likes me. I can meet you sometimes whe_'m there, but we must be so careful. I mustn't stay out long today. I want t_hink things out, too. You know I'm having a real hard time thinking abou_his."
  • Eugene smiled. Her innocence was so delightful to him, so naïve.
  • "What do you mean by thinking things out, Suzanne?" asked Eugene curiously. H_as interested in the workings of her young mind, which seemed so fresh an_onderful to him. It was so delightful to find this paragon of beauty s_esponsive, so affectionate and helpful and withal so thoughtful. She wa_omewhat like a delightful toy to him, and he held her as reverently in awe a_hough she were a priceless vase.
  • "You know I want to think what I'm doing. I have to. It seems so terrible t_e at times and yet you know, you know——"
  • "I know what?" he asked, when she paused.
  • "I don't know why I shouldn't if I want to—if I love you."
  • Eugene looked at her curiously. This attempt at analysis of life, particularl_n relation to so trying and daring a situation as this, astonished him. H_ad fancied Suzanne more or less thoughtless and harmless as yet, bi_otentially, but uncertain and vague. Here she was thinking about this mos_ifficult problem almost more directly than he was and apparently with mor_ourage. He was astounded, but more than that, intensely interested. What ha_ecome of her terrific fright of ten days before? What was it she was thinkin_bout exactly?
  • "What a curious girl you are," he said.
  • "Why am I?" she asked.
  • "Because you are. I didn't think you could think so keenly yet. I thought yo_ould some day. But, how have you reasoned this out?"
  • "Did you ever read 'Anna Karénina'?" she asked him meditatively.
  • "Yes," he said, wondering that she should have read it at her age.
  • "What did you think of that?"
  • "Oh, it shows what happens, as a rule, when you fly in the face o_onvention," he said easily, wondering at the ability of her brain.
  • "Do you think things must happen that way?"
  • "No, I don't think they must happen that way. There are lots of cases wher_eople do go against the conventions and succeed. I don't know. It appears t_e all a matter of time and chance. Some do and some don't. If you are stron_nough or clever enough to 'get away with it,' as they say, you will. If yo_ren't, you won't. What makes you ask?"
  • "Well," she said, pausing, her lips parted, her eyes fixed on the floor, "_as thinking that it needn't necessarily be like that, do you think? It coul_e different?"
  • "Yes, it could be," he said thoughtfully, wondering if it really could.
  • "Because if it couldn't," she went on, "the price would be too high. It isn'_orth while."
  • "You mean, you mean," he said, looking at her, "that you would." He wa_hinking that she was deliberately contemplating making a sacrifice of hersel_or him. Something in her thoughtful, self-debating, meditative manner mad_im think so.
  • Suzanne looked out of the window and slowly nodded her head. "Yes," she said, solemnly, "if it could be arranged. Why not? I don't see why."
  • Her face was a perfect blossom of beauty, as she spoke. Eugene wondere_hether he was waking or sleeping. Suzanne reasoning so! Suzanne reading "Ann_arénina" and philosophizing so! Basing a course of action on theorizing i_onnection with books and life, and in the face of such terrible evidence as
  • "Anna Karénina" presented to the contrary of this proposition. Would wonder_ver cease?
  • "You know," she said after a time, "I think mama wouldn't mind, Eugene. Sh_ikes you. I've heard her say so lots of times. Besides I've heard her tal_his way about other people. She thinks people oughtn't to marry unless the_ove each other very much. I don't think she thinks it's necessary for peopl_o marry at all unless they want to. We might live together if we wished, yo_now."
  • Eugene himself had heard Mrs. Dale question the marriage system, but only in _hilosophic way. He did not take much stock in her social maunderings. He di_ot know what she might be privately saying to Suzanne, but he did not believ_t could be very radical, or at least seriously so.
  • "Don't you take any stock in what your mother says, Suzanne," he observed, studying her pretty face. "She doesn't mean it, at least, she doesn't mean i_s far as you are concerned. She's merely talking. If she thought anythin_ere going to happen to you, she'd change her mind pretty quick."
  • "No, I don't think so," replied Suzanne thoughtfully. "You know, I think _now mama better than she knows herself. She always talks of me as a littl_irl, but I can rule her in lots of things. I've done it."
  • Eugene stared at Suzanne in amazement. He could scarcely believe his ears. Sh_as beginning so early to think so deeply on the social and executive sides o_ife. Why should her mind be trying to dominate her mother's?
  • "Suzanne," he observed, "you must be careful what you do or say. Don't rus_nto talking of this pellmell. It's dangerous. I love you, but we shall hav_o go slow. If Mrs. Witla should learn of this, she would be crazy. If you_other should suspect, she would take you away to Europe somewhere, ver_ikely. Then I wouldn't get to see you at all."
  • "Oh, no, she wouldn't," replied Suzanne determinedly. "You know, I know mam_etter than you think I do. I can rule her, I tell you. I know I can. I'v_one it."
  • She tossed her head in an exquisitely pretty way which upset Eugene'_easoning faculties. He could not think and look at her.
  • "Suzanne," he said, drawing her to him. "You are exquisite, extreme, the las_ord in womanhood for me. To think of your reasoning so—you, Suzanne."
  • "Why, why," she asked, with pretty parted lips and uplifted eyebrows, "wh_houldn't I think?"
  • "Oh, yes, certainly, we all do, but not so deeply, necessarily, Flower Face."
  • "Well, we must think now," she said simply.
  • "Yes, we must think now," he replied; "would you really share a studio with m_f I were to take one? I don't know of any other way quite at present."
  • "I would, if I knew how to manage it," she replied. "Mama is queer. She's s_atchful. She thinks I'm a child and you know I am not at all. I don'_nderstand mama. She talks one thing and does another. I would rather do an_ot talk. Don't you think so?" He stared. "Still, I think I can fix it. Leav_t to me."
  • "And if you can you'll come to me?"
  • "Oh, yes, yes," exclaimed Suzanne ecstatically, turning to him all at once an_atching his face between her hands. "Oh!"—she looked into his eyes an_reamed.
  • "But we must be careful," he cautioned. "We musn't do anything rash."
  • "I won't," said Suzanne.
  • "And I won't, of course," he replied.
  • They paused again while he watched her.
  • "I might make friends with Mrs. Witla," she observed, after a time. "She like_e, doesn't she?"
  • "Yes," said Eugene.
  • "Mama doesn't object to my going up there, and I could let you know."
  • "That's all right. Do that," said Eugene. "Oh, please do, if you can. Did yo_otice whose name I used today?"
  • "Yes," she said. "You know Mr. Witla, Eugene, I thought you might call me up?"
  • "Did you?" he asked, smiling.
  • "Yes."
  • "You give me courage, Suzanne," he said, drawing close to her. "You're s_onfident, so apparently carefree. The world hasn't touched your spirit."
  • "When I'm away from you, though, I'm not so courageous," she replied. "I'v_een thinking terrible things. I get frightened sometimes."
  • "But you mustn't, sweet, I need you so. Oh, how I need you."
  • She looked at him, and for the first time smoothed his hair with her hand.
  • "You know, Eugene, you're just like a boy to me."
  • "Do I seem so?" he asked, comforted greatly.
  • "I couldn't love you as I do if you weren't."
  • He drew her to him again and kissed her anew.
  • "Can't we repeat these rides every few days?" he asked.
  • "Yes, if I'm here, maybe."
  • "It's all right to call you up if I use another name?"
  • "Yes, I think so."
  • "Let's choose new names for each, so that we'll know who's calling. You shal_e Jenny Lind and I Allan Poe." Then they fell to ardent love-making until th_ime came when they had to return. For him, so far as work was concerned, th_fternoon was gone.