She had no definite idea; all she
craved for was the open or its metropolitan
substitute sunshine, air, the glimpse of
sanely preoccupied faces, the dull, quickening tumult
of traffic. The tumult grew, increasing in her
ears as she crossed Washington Square under the sycamores
and looked up through tender feathery foliage at the
white arch of marble through which the noble avenue
flows away between its splendid arid chasms of marble,
bronze, and masonry to that blessed leafy oasis in
the north the Park.
She took an omnibus, impatient for
the green rambles of the only breathing-place she
knew of, and settled back in her seat, rebellious of
eye, sullen of mouth, scarcely noticing the amused
expression of the young man opposite.
Two passengers left at Twenty-third
Street, three at Thirty-fourth Street, and seven at
Preoccupied, she glanced up at the
only passenger remaining, caught the fleeting shadow
of interest on his face, regarded him with natural
indifference, and looked out of the window, forgetting
him. A few moments later, accidentally aware
of him again, she carelessly noted his superficially
attractive qualities, and, approving, resumed her idle
inspection of the passing throng. But the next
time her pretty head swung round she found him looking
rather fixedly at her, and involuntarily she returned
the gaze with a childlike directness a gaze
which he sustained to the limit of good breeding, then
evaded so amiably that it left an impression rather
agreeable than otherwise.
“I don’t see,” thought
Aphrodite, “why I never meet that sort of man.
He hasn’t art nouveau legs, and his features
are not by-products of his hair.... I have told
my brothers-in-law that I am old enough to go out
without coming out.... And I am.”
The lovely mouth grew sullen again:
“I don’t wish to wait two years and be
what dreadful newspapers call a ‘bud’!
I wish to go to dinners and dances now!...
Where I’ll meet that sort of man.... The
sort one feels almost at liberty to talk to without
anybody presenting anybody.... I’ve a mind
to look amiable the next time he ”
He raised his eyes at that instant;
but she did not smile.
“I I suppose that
is the effect of civilization on me,” she reflected “metropolitan
civilization. I felt like saying, ’For
goodness’ sake, let’s say something’ even
in spite of all my sisters have told me. I can’t
see why it would be dangerous for me to look
amiable. If he glances at me again so
He did; but she didn’t smile.
“You see!” she said, accusing
herself discontentedly; “you don’t dare
look human. Why? Because you’ve had
it so drummed into you that you can never, never again
do anything natural. Why? Oh, because they
all begin to talk about mysterious dangers when you
say you wish to be natural.... I’ve made
up my mind to look interested the next time he turns....
Why shouldn’t he see that I’m quite willing
to talk to him?... And I’m so tired of
looking out of the window.... Before I came to
this curious city I was never afraid to speak to anybody
who attracted me.... And I’m not now....
So if he does look at me ”
The faintest glimmer of a smile troubled
her lips. She thought: “I do
wish he’d speak!”
There was a very becoming color in
his face, partly because he was experienced enough
not to mistake her; partly from a sudden and complete
realization of her beauty.
“It’s so odd,” thought
Aphrodite, “that attractive people consider it
dangerous to speak to one another. I don’t
see any danger.... I wonder what he has in that
square box beside him? It can’t be a camera....
It can’t be a folding easel! It
simply can’t be that he is an artist!
a man like that ”
“Are you?” she asked quite involuntarily.
“What?” he replied, astonished, wheeling
“An an artist.
I can’t believe it, and I don’t wish to!
You don’t look it, you know!”
For a moment he could scarcely realize
that she had spoken; his keen gaze dissected the face
before him, the unembarrassed eyes, the oval contour,
the smooth, flawless loveliness of a child.
“Yes, I am an artist,”
he said, considering her curiously.
“I am sorry,” she said,
“no, not sorry only unpleasantly surprised.
You see I am so tired of art and I thought
you looked so so wholesome ”
He began to laugh a modulated
laugh rather infectious, too, for Aphrodite
bit her lip, then smiled, not exactly understanding
“Why do you laugh?” she
asked, still smiling. “Have I said something
I should not have said?”
But he replied with a question:
“Have you found art unwholesome?”
“I I don’t
know,” she answered with a little sigh; “I
am so tired of it all. Don’t let us talk
about it will you?”
“It isn’t often I talk
about it,” he said, laughing again.
“Oh! That is unusual. Why don’t
you talk about art?”
“I’m much too busy.”
“D doing what? If that is not
“Oh, making pictures of things,” he said,
“Pictures? You don’t talk about art,
and you paint pictures!”
“W what kind? Do you mind my
asking? You are so so very unusual.”
“Well, to earn my living, I
make full-page pictures for magazines; to satisfy
an absurd desire, I paint people things anything
that might satisfy my color senses.” He
shrugged his shoulders gaily. “You see,
I’m the sort you are so tired of ”
“But you paint!
The artists I know don’t paint except
that way ” She raised her
pretty gloved thumb and made a gesture in the air;
and, before she had achieved it, they were both convulsed
“You never do that, do you?” she asked
“No, I never do. I can’t afford to
decorate the atmosphere for nothing!”
“Then then you are not interested
in art nouveau?”
“No; and I never could see that
beautiful music resembled frozen architecture.”
They were laughing again, looking
with confidence and delight upon one another as though
they had started life’s journey together in that
“What is a ’necklace of precious
tones’?” she asked.
“Let me cite, as an example,
those beautiful verses of Henry Haynes,” he
TO BE OR NOT TO BE
I’d rather be a Could Be,
If I can not be an Are;
For a Could Be is a May Be,
With a chance of touching
I had rather be a Has Been
Than a Might Have Been, by
For a Might Be is a Hasn’t Been
But a Has was once
Also an Are is Is and Am;
A Was was all of these;
So I’d rather be a Has Been
Than a Hasn’t, if you
And they fell a-laughing so shamelessly
that the ’bus driver turned and squinted through
his shutter at them, and the scandalized horses stopped
of their own accord.
“Are you going to leave?” he asked as
“Yes; this is the Park,”
she said. “Thank you, and good-by.”
He held the door for her; she nodded
her thanks and descended, turning frankly to smile
again in acknowledgment of his quickly lifted hat.
“He was nice,”
she reflected a trifle guiltily, “and I had a
good time, and I really don’t see any danger