They went together in a double chair,
spinning noiselessly over the shell road which wound
through oleander and hibiscus hedges. Great orange
and sulphur-tinted butterflies kept pace with them
as they travelled swiftly southward; the long, slim
shadows of palms gridironed the sunny road, for the
sun was in the west, and already a bird here and there
had ventured on a note or two as prelude to the evening
song, and over the ocean wild ducks were rising in
clouds, swinging and drifting and settling again as
though in short rehearsal for their sunset flight.
“Your hostess is Mrs. Tom O’Hara,”
said the girl; “when you have enough of it look
at me and I’ll understand. And if you try
to hide in a corner with some soulful girl I’ll
look at you if it bores me too much.
So don’t sit still with an infatuated smile,
as Cecile does, when she sees that I wish to make
“I’m so likely to,”
he said, “when escape means that I’ll have
you to myself again.”
There was a trifle more significance
in the unconsidered speech than he had intended.
The girl looked absently straight in front of her;
he sat motionless, uncomfortable at his own words,
but too wise to attempt to modify them by more words.
Other chairs passed them now along
the road there were nods of recognition,
gay salutes, an intimate word or two as the light-wheeled
vehicles flashed past; and in a moment more the tall
coquina gate posts and iron grille of Mrs. Tom O’Hara’s
villa, Tsana Lahni, glimmered under an avenue of superb
The avenue was crowded with the slender-wheeled
basket-bodied chairs gay with the plumage of pretty
women; the scene on the lawns beyond was charming
where an orange and white pavilion was pitched against
the intense green of the foliage, and the pelouse
was all dotted and streaked with vivid colours of
sunshades and gowns.
“Ulysses among the sirens,”
she whispered as they made their way toward their
hostess, exchanging recognition with people everywhere
in the throngs. “Here they are all
of them and there’s Miss Suydam, too
unconscious of us. How hath the House of Hamil
“If you talk that way I won’t
leave you for one second while we’re here!”
he said under his breath.
“Nonsense; it only hurts me,
not my pride. And half a cup of unforbidden tea
will drown the memory of that insolence ”
She bent forward with smiling composure
to shake hands with Mrs. Tom O’Hara, a tall,
olive-tinted, black-haired beauty; presented Hamil
to his hostess, and left him planted, to exchange
impulsive amenities with little Mrs. Ascott.
Mrs. Tom O’Hara, a delicate
living Gainsborough in black and white, was probably
the handsomest woman in the South. She dressed
with that perfection of simplicity which only a few
can afford; she wore only a single jewel at a time,
but the gem was always matchless.
Warm-hearted, generous, and restless,
she loved the character of Lady Bountiful; and, naively
convinced of her own unassailable supremacy, played
very picturesquely the rôle of graciousness and patronage
to the tenants of her great estates and of her social
and intellectual world alike. Hence, although
she went where many of her less fashionable guests
might not have been asked to go, she herself paid self-confident
homage to intellect as she understood it, and in her
own house her entourage was as mixed as her notions
of a “salon” permitted.
She was gracious to Hamil on account
of his aunt, his profession, and himself. Also
her instinct was to be nice to everybody. As hostess
she had but a moment to accord him, but during that
moment she contrived to speak reassuringly of the
Suydam genealogy, the art of landscape architecture,
and impart a little special knowledge from her inexhaustible
reserve, informing him that the name of her villa,
Tsa-na Lah-ni, was Seminole, and meant “Yellow
Butterfly.” And then she passed him sweetly
along into a crush of bright-eyed young things who
attempted to pour tea into him and be agreeable in
various artless ways; and presently he found himself
in a back-water where fashion and intellect were conscientiously
doing their best to mix. But the mixture was a
thin solution thinner than Swizzles and
Caravan, and the experience of the very young girl
beside him who talked herself out in thirty seconds
from pure nervousness and remained eternally grateful
to him for giving her a kindly opportunity to escape
to cover among the feather-brained and frivolous.
Then, close to him, a girl spoke of
the “purple perfume of pétunias,”
and a man used the phrases, “body politic,”
and “the gaiety of nations.”
So he knew he was among the elect,
redundant, and truly precious. A chinless young
man turned to him and said:
“There is nobody to-day who
writes as Bernard Haw writes.”
“Does anybody want to?” asked Hamil pleasantly.
“You mean that this is an age
of trumpery romance?” demanded a heavy gentleman
in dull disdain. “William Dean has erased
all romance from modern life with one smear of his
“The honest thumb that persistently
and patiently rubs the scales from sapphire and golden
wings in order to be certain that the vination of
the Ornithoptera is still underneath, is not the digit
of inspiration,” suggested Hamil.
The disciple turned a dull brick-colour;
but he betrayed neither his master nor himself.
“What, in God’s name,”
he asked heavily, “is an ornithoptera?”
A very thin author, who had been listening
and twisting himself into a number of shapes, thrust
his neck forward into the arena and considered Hamil
with the pale grimace of challenge.
“Henry Haynes?” he inquired “your
appreciation in one phrase, Mr. Hamil.”
“In a Henry Haynes phrase?” asked Hamil
“The same old calumny?”
said the thin author, writhing almost off his chair.
“I’m afraid so; and the
remedy a daily dose of verbifuge until he
gets back to the suffocated fount of inspiration.
I am very sorry if I seem to differ from everybody,
but everybody seems to differ from me, so I can’t
A Swami, unctuous and fat, and furious
at the lack of feminine attention, said something
suavely outrageous about modern women. He was
immediately surrounded by several mature examples who
adored to be safely smitten by the gelatinous and
A little flabby, featureless, but
very fashionable portrait painter muttered to Hamil:
“Orient and Occident! the molluskular and the
muscular. Mr. Hamil, do you realise what
the Occident is?”
“Geographically?” inquired Hamil wearily.
“No, symbolically. It is
that!” explained the painter, doubling his meagre
biceps and punching at the infinite, with a flattened
thumb. “That,” he repeated, “is
America. Do you comprehend?”
The wan young girl who had spoken
of the purple perfume of pétunias said that she
understood. It may be that she did; she reviewed
literature for the Tribune.
Harried and restless, Hamil looked
for Shiela and saw Portlaw, very hot and uncomfortable
in his best raiment, shooting his cuffs and looking
dully about for some avenue of escape; and Hamil, exasperated
with purple perfumes and thumbs, meanly snared him
and left him to confront a rather ample and demonstrative
young girl who believed that all human thought was
precious even sinful thought of
which she knew as much as a newly hatched caterpillar.
However, Portlaw was able to enlighten her if he cared
Again and again Hamil, wandering in
circles, looked across the wilderness of women’s
hats at Shiela Cardross, but a dozen men surrounded
her, and among them he noticed the graceful figure
of Malcourt directly in front of her, blocking any
signal he might have given.
Somebody was saying something about
Mrs. Ascott. He recollected that he hadn’t
met her; so he found somebody to present him.
“And you are the man?”
exclaimed Mrs. Ascott softly, considering him with
her head on one side. “Shiela Cardross wrote
to me in New York about you, but I’ve wanted
to inspect you for my own information.”
“Are you doing it now?” he asked, amused.
“It’s done! Do you
imagine you are complex? I’ve heard various
tales about you from three sources, to-day; from an
old friend, Louis Malcourt from another,
Virginia Suydam and steadily during the
last month including to-day from
Shiela Cardross. But I couldn’t find a
true verdict until the accused appeared personally
before me. Tell me, Mr. Hamil, do you plead guilty
to being as amiable as the somewhat contradictory
“Parole me in custody of this
court and let me convince your Honor,” said
Hamil, looking into the captivatingly cool and humourous
face upturned to his.
Mrs. Ascott was small, and finely
moulded; something of the miniature grande dame in
porcelain. The poise of her head, the lifted chin,
every detail in the polished and delicately tinted
surface reflected cool experience of the world and
of men. Yet the eyes were young, and there was
no hardness in them, and the mouth seemed curiously
unfashioned for worldly badinage a very
wistful, full-lipped mouth that must have been disciplined
in some sad school to lose its cheerfulness in repose.
“I am wondering,” she
said, “why Mr. Portlaw does not come and talk
to me. We are neighbors in the country, you know;
I live at Pride’s Fall. I don’t think
it’s particularly civil of him to avoid me.”
“I can’t imagine anybody,
including Portlaw, avoiding you,” he said.
“We were such good friends I
don’t know he behaved very badly to
me last autumn.”
They chatted together for a moment
or two in the same inconsequential vein, then, other
people being presented, she nodded an amiable dismissal;
and, as he stepped aside, held out her hand.
“There are a lot of things I’d
like to ask you some day; one is about a park for
me at Pride’s Fall oh, the tiniest
sort of a park, only it should be quite formal in
all its miniature details. Will you let Shiela
bring you for a little conference? Soon?”
He promised and took his leave, elated
at the chances of a new commission, hunting through
the constantly arriving and departing throngs for
Shiela. And presently he encountered his aunt.
“You certainly do neglect me,”
she said with her engaging and care-free laugh.
“Where have you been for a week?”
“In the flat-woods. And,
by the way, don’t worry about any snakes.
Virginia said you were anxious.”
“Nonsense,” said his aunt,
amused, “Virginia is trying to plague you!
I said nothing about snakes to her.”
“Didn’t you say there were snakes in my
“No. I did say there
were girls in your district, but it didn’t
His face was so serious that the smile
died out on her own.
“Why, Garret,” she said,
“surely you are not offended, are you?”
“Not with you Virginia
has apparently taken her cue from that unspeakable
Mrs. Van Dieman, and is acting like the deuce toward
Shiela Cardross. Couldn’t you find an opportunity
to discourage that sort of behaviour? It’s
His aunt’s eyelids flickered as she regarded
“Come to see me to-night and
explain a little more fully what Virginia has done,
dear. Colonel Vetchen is hunting for me and I’m
going to let him find me now. Why don’t
you come back with us if you are not looking for anybody
“I’m looking for Shiela Cardross,”
“Oh, she’s over there
on the terrace holding her fascinating court with
Louis Malcourt at her heels as usual.”
“I didn’t know that Malcourt
was usually at her heels,” he said almost irritably.
It was the second time he had heard that comment, and
he found it unaccountably distasteful.
His aunt looked up, smiling.
“Can’t we dine together, Garry?”
“Thank you, dear” faintly
ironical. “So now if you’ll go I’ll
reveal myself to Gussie Vetchen. Stand aside,
my condescending friend.”
He said, smiling: “You’re
the prettiest revelation here. I’ll be at
the hotel at eight.”
And with that they parted just as
the happy little Vetchen, catching sight of them,
came bustling up with all the fuss and demonstration
of a long-lost terrier.
A few minutes later Hamil found Shiela
Cardross surrounded by her inevitable entourage a
jolly, animated circle hemming her in with Malcourt
at her left and Van Tassel Cuyp on her right; and he
halted on the circle’s edge to look and listen,
glancing askance at Malcourt with a curiosity unaccustomed.
That young man with his well-made
graceful figure, his dark hair and vivid tints, had
never particularly impressed Hamil. He had accepted
him at his face value, lacking the interest to appraise
him; and the acquaintance had always been as casual
and agreeable as mutual good-humour permitted.
But now Malcourt, as a type, attracted his attention;
and for a moment he contrasted this rather florid example
with the specimens of young men around him. Then
he looked at Shiela Cardross. Her delicately
noble head was bent a trifle as she listened with
the others to Malcourt’s fluent humour; and it
remained so, though at moments she lifted her eyes
in that straight, questioning gaze which left the
And now she was replying to Malcourt;
and Hamil watched her and listened to her with newer
interest, noting the poise, the subtle reserve under
the gayest provocation of badinage the melody
of her rare laughter, the unaffected sweetness of
her voice, and its satisfying sincerity satisfying
as the clear regard from her lifted eyes.
Small wonder men were attracted; Hamil
could understand what drew them the instinctive
recognition of a fibre finer and a metal purer than
was often found under the surface of such loveliness.
And now, as he watched her, the merriment
broke out again around her, and she laughed, lifting
her face to his in all its youthfully bewildering
beauty, and saw him standing near her for the first
Without apparent reason a dull colour
rose to his face; and, as though answering fire with
fire, her fainter signal in response tinted lip and
It was scarcely the signal agreed
upon for their departure; and for a moment longer,
amid the laughing tumult, she sat looking at him as
though confused. Malcourt bent forward saying
something to her, but she rose while he was speaking,
as though she had not heard him; and Hamil walked
through the circle to where she stood. A number
of very young men looked around at him with hostile
eyes; Malcourt’s brows lifted a trifle; then
he shot an ironical glance at Shiela and, as the circle
about her disintegrated, sauntered up, bland, debonair,
to accept his congé.
His bow, a shade exaggerated, and
the narrowed mockery of his eyes escaped her; and
even what he said made no impression as she stood,
brightly inattentive, looking across the little throng
at Hamil. And Malcourt’s smile became flickering
and uncertain when she left the terrace with Hamil,
moving very slowly side by side across the lawn.
“Such lots of pretty women,”
commented Shiela. “Have you been passably
“Passably,” he replied in a slightly sullen
“Oh, only passably? I rather
hoped that unawakened heart of yours might be aroused
“It has been.”
“Not Mrs. Ascott!” she exclaimed,
“Not Mrs. Ascott.”
“Mrs. Tom O’Hara!
Is it? Every man promptly goes to smash when Mrs.
Tom looks sideways.”
“O Lord!” he said with a shrug.
“That is not nice of you, Mr.
Hamil. If it is not with her you have fallen
in love there is a more civil way of denying it.”
“Did you take what I said seriously?”
he asked “about falling in love?”
“Were you not serious?”
“I could be if you were,”
he said in a tone which slightly startled her.
She looked up at him questioningly; he said:
“I’ve had a stupid time
without you. The little I’ve seen of you
has spoiled other women for me. And I’ve
just found it out. Do you mind my saying so?”
“Are you not a little over-emphatic
in your loyalty to me? I like it, but not at
the expense of others, please.”
They moved on together, slowly and
in step. His head was bent, face sullen and uncomfortably
flushed. Again she felt the curiously unaccountable
glow in her own cheeks responding in pink fire once
more; and annoyed and confused she halted and looked
up at him with that frank confidence characteristic
“Something has gone wrong,” she said.
“I will. I’m telling
myself now.” She laughed, stole a glance
at him, then her face fell.
“I certainly don’t know
what you mean, and I’m not very sure that you
She was right; he did not yet know.
Strange, swift pulses were beating in temple and throat;
strange tumults and confusion were threatening his
common sense, paralyzing will-power. A slow, resistless
intoxication had enveloped him, through which instinctively
persisted one warning ray of reason. In the light
of that single ray he strove to think clearly.
They walked to the pavilion together, he silent, sombre-eyed,
taking a mechanical leave of his hostess, fulfilling
conventions while scarcely aware of the routine or
of the people around him; she composed, sweet, conventionally
faultless and a trifle pale as they turned
away together across the lawn.
When they took their places side by
side in the chair she was saying something perfunctory
concerning the fête and Mrs. Ascott. And as he
offered no comment: “Don’t you think
her very charming and sincere.... Are you listening
to me, Mr. Hamil?”
“Yes,” he said. “Everybody
was very jolly. Yes, indeed.”
“And the girl who
adores the purple perfume of pétunias?”
she asked mischievously. “I think that
same purple perfume has made you drowsy, my uncivil
He turned. “Oh, you heard that?”
“Yes; I thought it best to keep a sisterly eye
He forced a smile.
“You were very much amused,
I suppose to see me sitting bras-dessus-bras-dessous
with the high-browed and precious.”
“Not amused; no. I was
worried; you appeared to be so hopelessly captivated
by her of the purple perfumery. Still, knowing
you to be a man normally innocent of sentiment, I
hoped for Mrs. Ascott and the best.”
“Did I once tell you that there
was no sentiment in me, Calypso? I believe I
“You certainly did, brother,”
she replied with cheerful satisfaction.
“Well, I ”
“ And,” she
interrupted calmly, “I believed you. I am
particularly happy now in believing you.”
A pause and she glanced at him. “In
fact, speaking seriously, it is the nicest thing about
you the most attractive to me, I think.”
She looked sideways at him, “Because, there
is no more sentiment in me than there is in you....
Which is, of course, very agreeable to
He said nothing more; the chair sped
on homeward. Above them the sky was salmon-colour;
patches of late sunlight burned red on the tree trunks;
over the lagoon against the slowly kindling west clouds
of wild-fowl whirled, swung, and spread out into endless
lengthening streaks like drifting bands of smoke.
From time to time the girl cast a
furtive glance toward him; but he was looking straight
ahead with a darkly set face; and an ache, dull, scarcely
perceptible, grew in her heart as they flew on along
the glimmering road.
“Of what are you thinking, brother?”
she asked persuasively.
“Of something I am going to
do; as soon as I reach home; I mean your home.”
“I wish it were yours, too,”
she said, smiling frankly; “you are such a safe,
sound, satisfactory substitute for another brother.”
... And as he made no response: “What
is this thing which you are going to do when you reach
“I am going to ask your mother a question.”
Unquiet she turned toward him, but
his face was doggedly set forward as the chair circled
through the gates and swept up to the terrace.
He sprang out; and as he aided her
to descend she felt his hand trembling under hers.
A blind thrill of premonition halted her; then she
bit her lip, turned, and mounted the steps with him.
At the door he stood aside for her to pass; but again
she paused and turned to Hamil, irresolute, confused,
not even daring to analyse what sheer instinct was
clamouring; what intuition was reading even now in
his face, what her ears divined in his unsteady voice
uttering some commonplace to thank her for the day
spent with him.
“What is it that you are going
to say to my mother?” she asked again.
And at the same instant she knew from
his eyes gazing into them in dread and
“Don’t!” she said
breathlessly; “I cannot let ”
The mounting wave of colour swept her: “Don’t
go to her! don’t ask such a a
thing. I am ”
She faltered, looking up at him with
terrified eyes, and laid one hand on his arm.
The frightened wordless appeal stunned
him as they stood there, confronting one another.
Suddenly hope came surging up within her; her hand
fell from his arm; she lifted her eyes in flushed silence only
to find hopeless confirmation of all she dreaded in
his set and colourless face.
“Mr. Hamil,” she said tremulously, “I
never dreamed ”
“No, you didn’t. I did. It is
all right, Shiela.”
“Oh I I
never, never dreamed of it!” shocked
and pitifully incredulous still.
“I know you didn’t.
Don’t worry.” His voice was very gentle,
but he was not looking at her.
“Is it my fault, Mr. Hamil?”
“Your fault?” he repeated, surprised.
“What have you done?”
“I don’t know.”
He stood gazing absently out into
the flaming west; and, speaking as though unaware:
“From the first I realise it now even
from the first moment when you sprang into my life
out of the fog and the sea Shiela!
Shiela! I ”
“Don’t!” she whispered,
“don’t say it.” She swayed back
against the wall; her hand covered her eyes an instant and
dropped helpless, hopeless.
They faced each other.
“Believe that I am sorry,”
she whispered. “Will you believe it?
I did not know; I did not dream of it.”
His face changed as though something
within him was being darkly aroused.
“After all,” he said,
“no man ever lived who could kill hope.”
“There is no hope to kill ”
“No chance, Shiela?”
“There has never been any chance ”
She was trembling; he took both her hands. They
were ice cold.
He straightened up, squaring his shoulders.
“This won’t do,” he said. “I’m
not going to distress you frighten you again.”
The smile he forced was certainly a credit to him.
“Shiela, you’d love me if you could, wouldn’t
“Y-yes,” with a shiver.
“Then it’s all right and
you mustn’t worry.... Can’t we get
back to the old footing again?”
“N-no; it’s gone.”
“Then we’ll find even firmer ground.”
“Yes firmer ground, Mr. Hamil.”
He released her chilled hands, swung
around, and took a thoughtful step or two.
“Firmer, safer ground,”
he repeated. “Once you said to me, ’Let
us each enjoy our own griefs unmolested.’”
He laughed. “Didn’t you say that years
“And I replied years
ago that I had no griefs to enjoy.
Didn’t I? Well, then, if this is grief,
Shiela, I wouldn’t exchange it for another man’s
happiness. So, if you please, I’ll follow
your advice and enjoy it in my own fashion....
Shiela, you don’t smile very often, but I wish
you would now.”
But the ghost of a smile left her
pallor unchanged. She moved toward the stairs,
wearily, stopped and turned.
“It cannot end this way,”
she said; “I want you to know how to
know to know that I am sensible
of w-what honour you have done me. Wait!
I I can’t let you think that I do
not care, Mr. Hamil. Believe that I
do! oh, deeply. And forgive me ”
She stretched out one hand. He took it, holding
it between both of his for a moment, lightly.
“Is all clear between us, Calypso dear?”
“It will be when I have courage to
“Then all’s well with
the world if it’s still under-foot or
somewhere in the vicinity. I’ll find it
again; you’ll be good enough to point it out
to me, Shiela.... I’ve an engagement to
improve a few square miles of it.... That’s
what I need plenty of work don’t
The clear mellow horn of a motor sounded
from the twilit lawn; the others were arriving.
He dropped her hand; she gathered her filmy skirts
and swiftly mounted the great stairs, leaving him to
greet her father and Gray on the terrace.
“Hello, Hamil!” called
out Cardross, senior, from the lawn, “are you
game for a crack at the ducks to-morrow? My men
report Ruffle Lake full of coots and blue-bills, and
there’ll be bigger duck in the West Lagoons.”
“I’m going too,”
said Gray, “also Shiela if she wants to and
four guides and that Seminole, Little Tiger.”
Hamil glanced restlessly at the forest
where his work lay. And he needed it now.
But he said pleasantly, “I’ll go if you
“Of course I say so,”
exclaimed Cardross heartily. “Gray, does
Louis Malcourt still wish to go?”
“He spoke of it last week.”
“Well, if he hasn’t changed
his rather volatile mind telephone for Adams, We’ll
require a guide apiece. And he can have that buckskin
horse; and tell him to pick out his own gun.”
And to Hamil, cordially: “Shiela and Louis
and Gray will probably wander about together and you
and I will do the real shooting. But Shiela is
a shot if she chooses. Gray would
rather capture a scarce jungle butterfly. Hello,
here’s Louis now! Are you glad we’re
going at last?”
“Very,” replied Hamil
as Malcourt strolled up and airily signified his intention
of making one of the party. But as soon as he
learned that they might remain away three days or
more he laughingly demurred.
The four men lingered for a few minutes
in the hall discussing guns, dogs, and guides; then
Hamil mounted the stairs, and Malcourt went with him,
talking all the while in that easy, fluent, amusing
manner which, if he chose, could be as agreeably graceful
as every attitude and movement of his lithe body.
His voice, too, had that engagingly caressing quality
characteristic of him when in good-humour; he really
had little to say to Hamil, but being on such excellent
terms with himself he said a great deal about nothing
in particular; and as he persistently lingered by
Hamil’s door the latter invited him in.
There Malcourt lit a cigarette, seated
lazily astride a chair, arms folded across the back,
aimlessly humourous in recounting his adventures at
the Ascott function, while Hamil stood with his back
to the darkening window, twisting his unlighted cigarette
into minute shreds and waiting for him to go.
“Rather jolly to meet Miss Suydam
again,” observed Malcourt. “We were
great friends at Portlaw’s camp together two
years ago. I believe that you and Miss Suydam
are cousins after a fashion.”
“After a fashion, I believe.”
“She’s tremendously attractive, Hamil.”
“What? Oh, yes, very.”
“Evidently no sentiment lost between you,”
laughed the other.
“No, of course not; no sentiment.”
Malcourt said carelessly: “I’m
riding with Miss Suydam to-morrow. That’s
one reason I’m not going on this duck-hunt.”
“Another reason,” he continued,
intent on the glowing end of his cigarette, “is
that I’m rather fortunate at the Club just now and
I don’t care to disturb any run of luck that
seems inclined to drift my way. Would you give
your luck the double cross?”
“I suppose not,” said Hamil vaguely “if
I ever had any.”
“That’s the way I feel.
And it’s all kinds of luck that’s chasing
me. All kinds, Hamil. One kind, for example,
wears hair that matches my cuff-links. Odd, isn’t
it?” he added, examining the golden links with
Hamil nodded inattentively.
“I am about seven thousand dollars
ahead on the other sort of luck,” observed Malcourt.
“If it holds to-night I’ll inaugurate a
killing that will astonish the brothers B. yonder.
By the way, now that you have your club ticket why
don’t you use it? one way or another.”
“Perhaps,” replied Hamil listlessly.
A few minutes later Malcourt, becoming
bored, genially took his leave; and Hamil turned on
an electric jet and began to undo his collar and tie.
He was in no hurry; at times he suspended
operations to pace aimlessly to and fro; and after
a while, half undressed, he dropped into an arm-chair,
clinched hands supporting his temples.
Presently he said aloud to himself:
“It’s absolutely impossible. It can’t
happen this way. How can it?”
His heavy pulse answered the question;
a tense strain, irksome as an ache, dragged steadily
at something within him which resisted; dulling reason
For a long time he sat there inert,
listening for the sound of her voice which echoed
at moments through the stunned silence within him.
And at last he stumbled to his feet like a stricken
man on the firing line, stupefied that the thing had
happened to him; and stood unsteadily, looking
around. Then he went heavily about his dressing.
Later, when he was ready to leave
his room, he heard Malcourt walking through the corridor
outside a leisurely and lightly stepping
Malcourt, whistling a lively air. And, when Malcourt
had passed came Cecile rustling from the western corridor,
gay, quick-stepping, her enchanting laughter passing
through the corridor like a fresh breeze as she joined
Mrs. Carrick on the stairs. Then silence; and
he opened his door. And Shiela Cardross, passing
noiselessly, turned at the sound.
His face must have been easy to read
for her own promptly lost its colour, and with an
involuntary recoil she stepped back against the wall,
staring at him in pallid silence.
“What is the matter?”
he asked, scarcely recognising his own voice.
And striving to shake off the unreality of it all
with a laugh: “You look like some pretty
ghost from dreamland with your white gown
and arms and face. Shall we descend into the
waking world together?”
They stood for a moment motionless,
looking straight at one another; then the smile died
out on his face, but he still strove to speak lightly,
using effort, like a man with a dream dark upon him:
“I am waiting for your pretty ghostship.”
Her lips moved in reply; no sound came from them.
“Are you afraid of me?” he said.
“Of me, Shiela?”
“Of us both. You don’t know you
“Know what, Shiela?”
“What I am what I
have done. And I’ve got to tell you.”
Her mouth quivered suddenly, and she faced him fighting
for self-control. “I’ve got to tell
you. Things cannot be left in this way between
us. I thought they could, but they can’t.”
He crossed the corridor, slowly; she
straightened up at his approach, white, rigid, breathless.
“What is it that has frightened you?”
“What you said to me.”
“That I love you?”
“Why should it frighten you?”
“Must I tell you?”
“If it will help you.”
“I am past help. But it
will end you’re caring for me. And from
making me care for you.
I must do it; this cannot go on ”
She faced him, white as death, looking at him blindly.
“I am trying to think of you because
you love me ”
Fright chilled her blood, killing
pulse and colour. “I am trying to be kind because
I care for you and we must end this before
it ends us.... Listen to my miserable, pitiful,
little secret, Mr. Hamil. I I have I
am not free.”
“I was married two years ago when
I was eighteen years old. Three people in the
world know it: you, I, and the man
“Married!” he repeated, stupefied.
She looked at him steadily a moment.
“I think your love has been
done to death, Mr. Hamil. My own danger was greater
than you knew; but it was for your sake because
you loved me. Good night.”
Stunned, he saw her pass him and descend
the stairs, stood for a space alone, then scarce knowing
what he did he went down into the great living-room
to take his leave of the family gathered there before
dinner had been announced. They all seemed to
be there; he was indifferently conscious of hearing
his own words like a man who listens to an unfamiliar
voice in a distant room.
The rapid soundless night ride to
the hotel seemed unreal; the lights in the cafe, the
noise and movement, the pretty face of his aunt with
the pink reflection from the candle shades on her
cheeks all seemed as unconvincing as himself
and this thing that he could not grasp could
not understand could not realise had befallen
him and her.
If Miss Palliser was sensible of any
change in him or his voice or manner she did not betray
it. Wayward came over to speak to them, limping
very slightly, tall, straight, ruddy, the gray silvering
his temples and edging his moustache.
And after a while Hamil found himself
sitting silent, a partly burnt cigar between his fingers,
watching Wayward and his youthful aunt in half-intimate,
half-formal badinage, elbow to elbow on the cloth.
For they had known one another a long time, and through
many phases of Fate and Destiny.
“That little Cardross girl is
playing the devil with the callow hereabout,”
Wayward said; “Malcourt, house-broken, runs to
heel with the rest. And when I see her I feel
like joining the pack. Only I was never
broken, you know ”
“She is a real beauty,”
said Miss Palliser warmly; “I don’t see
why you don’t enlist, James.”
“I may at that. Garry, are you also involved?”
Hamil said, “Yes yes, of course,”
and smiled meaninglessly at Wayward.
For a fraction of a second his aunt
hesitated, then said: “Garry is naturally
among the devoted when he’s not dog-tired
from a day in the cypress-swamps. Have you been
out to see the work, James? Oh, you should go;
everybody goes; it’s one of the things to do
here. And I’m very proud when I hear people
say, ’There’s that brilliant young fellow,
Hamil,’ or, in a tone which expresses profound
respect, ’Hamil designed it, you know’;
and I smile and think, ‘That’s my boy Garry!’
James, it is a very comfortable sensation for an old
lady to experience.” And she looked at
Wayward out of her lovely golden eyes, sweet as a maid
Wayward smiled, then absently bent
his gaze on his wine-glass, lying back in his chair.
Through his spectacles his eyes seemed very intent
on the frail crystal stem of his glass.
“What are you going to do for
the rest of the winter?” she asked, watching
“What I am doing,” he
replied with smiling bitterness. “The Ariani
is yonder when I can’t stand the shore....
What else is there for me to do until I
“Build that house you were going
to build when we were rather younger, Jim.”
“I did; and it fell,”
he said quietly; but, as though she had not heard.
“ Build that house,” she repeated,
“and line it with books the kind of
books that were written and read before the machine-made
sort supplanted them. One picture to a room do
you remember, Jim? or two if you find it
better; the kind men painted before Rembrandt died....
Do you remember your plan? the plans you
drew for me to look at in our front parlour when
New York houses had parlours? You were twenty
and I fourteen.... Garry, yonder, was not....
And the rugs, you recollect? one or two
in a room, Shiraz, Ispahan nothing as obvious
as Sehna and Saraband nothing but Moresque
and pure Persian and one agedly perfect
gem of Asia Minor, and one Tekke, so old and flawless
that only the pigeon-blood fire remained under the
violet bloom.... Do you remember?”
Wayward’s shoulders straightened
with a jerk. For twenty years he had not remembered
these things; and she had not only remembered but was
now reciting the strange, quaint, resurrected words
in their forgotten sequence; the words he had uttered
as he or what he had once been sat
in the old-time parlour in the mellow half light of
faded brocades and rosewood, repeating to a child
the programme of his future. Lofty aim and high
ideal, the cultivated endeavour of good citizenship,
loyalty to aspiration, courage, self-respect, and
the noble living of life; they had also spoken of
these things together there in the golden
gloom of the old-time parlour when she was fourteen
and he master of his fate and twenty.
But there came into his life a brilliant
woman who stayed a year and left his name a mockery:
Malcourt’s only sister, now Lady Tressilvain,
doubtfully conspicuous with her loutish British husband,
among those continentals where titles serve rather
to obscure than enlighten inquiry.
The wretched affair dragged its full
offensive length through the international press;
leaving him with his divorce signed and a future endurable
only when his senses had been sufficiently drugged.
In sober intervals he now had neuritis and a limp
to distract his mind; also his former brother-in-law
with professions of esteem and respect and a tendency
to borrow. And drunk or sober he had the Ariani.
But the house that Youth had built in the tinted obscurity
of an old New York parlour no, he didn’t
have that; and even memory of it were wellnigh gone
had not Constance Palliser spoken from the shadows
of the past.
He lifted his glass unsteadily and
replaced it. Then slowly he raised his head and
looked full at Constance Palliser.
“It’s too late,”
he said; “but I wish I had known that you remembered.”
“Would you have built it, Jim?”
He looked at her again, then shook
his head: “For whom am I to build, Constance?”
She leaned forward, glancing at the
unconscious Hamil, then dropped her voice: “Build
it for the Boy that Was, Jim.”
“A headstone would be fitter and
“I am not asking you to build
in memory of the dead. The Boy who Was is only
asleep. If you could let him wake, suddenly, in
that house ”
A clear flush of surprise stained
his skin to the hair. It had been many years
since a woman had hinted at any belief in him.
“Don’t you know that I
couldn’t endure the four walls of a house, Constance?”
“You have not tried this house.”
“Men such men as I cannot
go back to the House of Youth.”
His hand was shaking as he lifted
it to adjust his spectacles; and impulsively she laid
her hand on his twitching arm:
“Jim, build it! and see what happens.”
“Build it. You will not
be alone and sad in it if you remember the boy and
the child in the parlour. They they
will be good company if you wish.”
He rested his elbows on the table,
head bent between his sea-burned hands.
“If I could only, only do something,”
she whispered. “The boy has merely been
asleep, Jim. I have always known it. But
it has taken many years for me to bring myself to
“Do you think a man can come
back through such wreckage and mire do you
think he wants to come back? What do you know
about it? with your white skin and bright
hair and that child’s mouth of yours What
do you know about it?”
“Once you were the oracle, Jim. May I not
have my turn?”
“Yes but what in God’s name
do you care?”
“Will you build?”
He looked at her dumbly, hopelessly;
then his arm twitched and he relieved the wrist from
the weight of his head, sitting upright, his eyes
still bent on her.
“Because in that
old parlour the child expected it of the
boy,” she said. “And expects it yet.”
Hamil, who, chair pushed back, had
been listlessly watching the orchestra, roused himself
and turned to his aunt and Wayward.
“You want to go, Garry?”
said Constance calmly. “I’ll walk
a little with James before I compose my aged bones
to slumber.... Good night, dear. Will you
come again soon?”
He said he would and took his leave
of them in the long corridor, traversing it without
noticing which direction he took until, awaking from
abstraction, he found himself at the head of a flight
of steps and saw the portico of the railroad station
below him and the signal lamps, green and red and
white, burning between the glistening rails.
Without much caring where he went,
but not desiring to retrace his steps over half a
mile or so of carpet, he went out into the open air
and along the picket fence toward the lake front.
As he came to the track crossing he
glanced across at the Beach Club where lights sparkled
discreetly amid a tropical thicket and flowers lay
in pale carpets under the stars.
Portlaw had sent him a member’s
card; he took it out now and scanned it with faint
curiosity. His name was written on the round-cornered
brown card signed by a “vice-president”
and a “secretary,” under the engraved
notice: “To be shown when requested.”
But when he ascended the winding walk
among the palms and orange blossoms, this “suicide’s
tag,” as Malcourt called it, was not demanded
of him at the door.
The restaurant seemed to be gay and
rather noisy, the women vivacious, sometimes beautiful,
and often respectable. A reek of cigarette smoke,
wine, and orange blossoms hung about the corridors;
the tiny glittering rotunda with its gaming-tables
in a circle was thronged.
He watched them lose and win and lose
again. Under the soft tumult of voices the cool
tones of the house attaches sounded monotonously, the
ball rattled, the wheels spun. But curiosity had
already died out within him; gain, loss, chance, Fate and
the tense white concentration of the man beside him
no longer interested him; nor did a sweet-faced young
girl in the corridor who looked a second too long at
him; nor the handsome over-flushed youth who was with
her and who cried out in loud recognition: “Gad,
Hamil; why didn’t you tell me you were coming?
There’s somebody here who wants to meet you,
but Portlaw’s got her somewhere.
You’ll take supper with us anyway! We’ll
find you a fair impenitent.”
Hamil stared at him coolly. He
was on no such terms with Malcourt, drunk or sober.
But everybody was Malcourt’s friend just then,
and he went on recklessly:
“You’ve got to stay; hasn’t
he, Dolly? Oh, I forgot Miss
Wilming, Mr. Hamil, who’s doing the new park,
you know. All kinds of genius buzzes in his head roulette
wheels buzz in mine. Hamil, you remember Miss
Wilming in the ‘Motor Girl.’ She
was one of the acétylènes. Come on; we’ll
all light up later. Make him come, Dolly.”
Hamil turned to speak to her.
She seemed to be, at a casual glance, the sort of
young girl who usually has a mother somewhere within
ear-shot. Upon inspection, however, her bright
hair was a little too perfectly rippled, and her mouth
a trifle fuller and redder than a normal circulation
might account for. But there remained in the eyes
something as yet unquenched. And looking at her,
he felt a sense of impatience and regret that the
delicate youth of her should be wasted in the flare
and shadow of the lesser world burning
to a spectre here on the crumbling edge of things here
with Malcourt leering at her through the disordered
brilliancy of that false dawn which heralds only night.
They spoke together, smilingly formal.
He had quietly turned his back on Malcourt.
She hoped he would remain and join
them; and her as yet unspoiled voice clashed with
her tinted lips and hair.
He was sorry politely so thanking
her with the natural and unconscious gentleness so
agreeable to all women. And as in his manner there
was not the slightest hint of that half-amused, half-cynical
freedom characteristic of the worldly wise whom she
was now accustoming herself to meet, she looked up
at him with a faint flush of appreciation.
Malcourt all the while was pulling
Hamil by the elbow and talking on at random almost
boisterously, checking himself at intervals to exchange
familiar greetings with new-comers passing the crowded
corridor. His face was puffy and red; so were
his lips; and there seemed to be a shiny quality to
hair and skin prophetic of future coarsening toward
a type, individuals of which swarmed like sleek flies
around the gaming-tables beyond.
As Hamil glanced from the young girl
to Malcourt, who was still noisily importuning him,
a sudden contempt for the man arose within him.
So unreasoningly abrupt was the sensation of absolute
distrust and dislike that it cut his leave-taking
to a curt word of refusal, and he turned on his heel.
“What’s the matter with
you? Aren’t you coming with us?” asked
“No,” said Hamil.
“Good-bye, Miss Wilming. Thank you for asking
She held out her hand, uncertainly;
he took it with a manner so gentle and considerate
that she ventured, hesitatingly, something about seeing
him again. To which he replied, pleasantly conventional,
and started toward the door.
“See here, Hamil,” said
Malcourt sharply, “is there any reason for your
sudden and deliberate rudeness to me?”
“Is there any reason for your
sudden and deliberate familiarity with me?”
retorted Hamil in a low voice. “You’re
Malcourt’s visage crimsoned:
“O hell!” he said, “if your morals
are as lofty as your mincing manners ”
Hamil stared him into silence, hesitated,
then passed in front of him and out of the door.
Vicious with irritation, Malcourt
laid his hand on the girl’s arm: “Take
it from me, Dolly, that’s the sort of citizen
who’ll sneak around to call on your sort Saturday
She flushed painfully, but said nothing.
“As for me,” added Malcourt, “I
don’t think I’ve quite finished with this
nice young man.”
But Dolly Wilming stood silent, head
bent, slender fingers worrying her lips, which seemed
inclined to quiver.