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Title: False Dawn (The 'Forties)
Author: Edith Wharton
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0200571.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted: September 2002
Date most recently updated: September 2002

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      False Dawn (The 'Forties)
Author:     Edith Wharton






PART 1.

1.

HAY, verbena and mignonette scented the languid July day. Large
strawberries, crimsoning through sprigs of mint, floated in a bowl of
pale yellow cup on the verandah table: an old Georgian bowl, with complex
reflections on polygonal flanks, engraved with the Raycie arms between
lions' heads. Now and again the gentlemen, warned by a menacing hum,
slapped their cheeks, their brows or their bald crowns; but they did so
as furtively as possible, for Mr. Halston Raycie, on whose verandah they
sat, would not admit that there were mosquitoes at High Point.

The strawberries came from Mr. Raycie's kitchen garden; the Georgian bowl
came from his great-grandfather (father of the Signer); the verandah was
that of his country-house, which stood on a height above the Sound, at a
convenient driving distance from his town house in Canal Street.

"Another glass, Commodore," said Mr. Raycie, shaking out a cambric
handkerchief the size of a table-cloth, and applying a corner of it to
his steaming brow.

Mr. Jameson Ledgely smiled and took another glass. He was known as "the
Commodore" among his intimates because of having been in the Navy in his
youth, and having taken part, as a midshipman under Admiral Porter, in
the war of 1812. This jolly sunburnt bachelor, whose face resembled that
of one of the bronze idols he might have brought back with him, had kept
his naval air, though long retired from the service; and his white duck
trousers, his gold-braided cap and shining teeth, still made him look as
if he might be in command of a frigate. Instead of that, he had just
sailed over a party of friends from his own place on the Long Island
shore; and his trim white sloop was now lying in the bay below the point.

The Halston Raycie house overlooked a lawn sloping to the Sound. The lawn
was Mr. Raycie's pride: it was mown with a scythe once a fortnight, and
rolled in the spring by an old white horse specially shod for the
purpose. Below the verandah the turf was broken by three round beds of
rose-geranium, heliotrope and Bengal roses, which Mrs. Raycie tended in
gauntlet gloves, under a small hinged sunshade that folded back on its
carved ivory handle. The house, remodelled and enlarged by Mr. Raycie on
his marriage, had played a part in the Revolutionary war as the settler's
cottage were Benedict Arnold had had his headquarters. A contemporary
print of it hung in Mr. Raycie's study; but no one could have detected
the humble outline of the old house in the majestic stone-coloured
dwelling built of tongued-and-grooved boards, with an angle tower, tall
narrow windows, and a verandah on chamfered posts, that figured so
confidently as a "Tuscan Villa" in Downing's "Landscape Gardening in
America." There was the same difference between the rude lithograph of
the earlier house and the fine steel engraving of its successor (with a
"specimen" weeping beech on the lawn) as between the buildings
themselves. Mr. Raycie had reason to think well of his architect.

He thought well of most things related to himself by ties of blood or
interest. No one had ever been quite sure that he made Mrs. Raycie happy,
but he was known to have the highest opinion of her. So it was with his
daughters, Sarah Anne and Mary Adeline, fresher replicas of the lymphatic
Mrs. Raycie; no one would have sworn that they were quite at ease with
their genial parent, yet every one knew how loud he was in their praises.
But the most remarkable object within the range of Mr. Raycie's
self-approval was his son Lewis. And yet, as Jameson Ledgely, who was
given to speaking his mind, had once observed, you wouldn't have supposed
young Lewis was exactly the kind of craft Halston would have turned out
if he'd had the designing of his son and heir.

Mr. Raycie was a monumental man. His extent in height, width and
thickness was so nearly the same that whichever way he was turned one had
an almost equally broad view of him; and every inch of that mighty
circumference was so exquisitely cared for that to a farmer's eye he
might have suggested a great agricultural estate of which not an acre is
untilled. Even his baldness, which was in proportion to the rest, looked
as if it received a special daily polish; and on a hot day his whole
person was like some wonderful example of the costliest irrigation. There
was so much of him, and he had so many planes, that it was fascinating to
watch each runnel of moisture follow its own particular watershed. Even
on his large fresh-looking hands the drops divided, trickling in
different ways from the ridges of the fingers; and as for his forehead
and temples, and the raised cushion of cheek beneath each of his lower
lids, every one of these slopes had its own particular stream, its hollow
pools and sudden cataracts; and the sight was never unpleasant, because
his whole vast bubbling surface was of such a clean and hearty pink, and
the exuding moisture so perceptibly flavoured with expensive eau de
Cologne and the best French soap.

Mrs. Raycie, though built on a less heroic scale, had a pale amplitude
which, when she put on her best watered silk (the kind that stood alone),
and framed her countenance in the innumerable blonde lace ruffles and
clustered purple grapes of her newest Paris cap, almost balanced her
husband's bulk. Yet from this full-rigged pair, as the Commodore would
have put it, had issued the lean little runt of a Lewis, a shrimp of a
baby, a shaver of a boy, and now a youth as scant as an ordinary man's
midday shadow.

All these things, Lewis himself mused, dangling his legs from the
verandah rail, were undoubtedly passing through the minds of the four
gentlemen grouped about his father's bowl of cup.

Mr. Robert Huzzard, the banker, a tall broad man, who looked big in any
company but Mr. Raycie's, leaned back, lifted his glass, and bowed to
Lewis.

"Here's to the Grand Tour!"

"Don't perch on that rail like a sparrow, my boy," Mr. Raycie said
reprovingly; and Lewis dropped to his feet, and returned Mr. Huzzard's
bow.

"I wasn't thinking," he stammered. It was his too frequent excuse.

Mr. Ambrose Huzzard, the banker's younger brother, Mr. Ledgely and Mr.
Donaldson Kent, all raised their glasses and cheerily echoed: "The Grand
Tour!"

Lewis bowed again, and put his lips to the glass he had forgotten. In
reality, he had eyes only for Mr. Donaldson Kent, his father's cousin, a
silent man with a lean hawk-like profile, who looked like a retired
Revolutionary hero, and lived in daily fear of the most trifling risk or
responsibility.

To this prudent and circumspect citizen had come, some years earlier, the
unexpected and altogether inexcusable demand that he should look after
the daughter of his only brother, Julius Kent. Julius had died in
Italy--well, that was his own business, if he chose to live there. But to
let his wife die before him, and to leave a minor daughter, and a will
entrusting her to the guardianship of his esteemed elder brother,
Donaldson Kent Esquire, of Kent's Point, Long Island, and Great Jones
Street, New York--well, as Mr. Kent himself said, and as his wife said
for him, there had never been anything, anything whatever, in Mr. Kent's
attitude or behaviour, to justify the ungrateful Julius (whose debts he
had more than once paid) in laying on him this final burden.

The girl came. She was fourteen, she was considered plain, she was small
and black and skinny. Her name was Beatrice, which was bad enough, and
made worse by the fact that it had been shortened by ignorant foreigners
to Treeshy. But she was eager, serviceable, and good-tempered, and as Mr.
and Mrs. Kent's friends pointed out, her plainness made everything easy.
There were two Kent boys growing up, Bill and Donald; and if this
penniless cousin had been compounded of cream and roses--well, she would
have taken more watching, and might have rewarded the kindness of her
uncle and aunt by some act of wicked ingratitude. But this risk being
obviated by her appearance, they could be goodnatured to her without
afterthought, and to be goodnatured was natural to them. So as the years
passed, she gradually became the guardian of her guardians; since it was
equally natural to Mr. and Mrs. Kent to throw themselves in helpless
reliance on every one whom they did not nervously fear or mistrust.

"Yes, he's off on Monday," Mr. Raycie said, nodding sharply at Lewis, who
had set down his glass after one sip. "Empty it, you shirk!" the nod
commanded; and Lewis, throwing back his head, gulped down the draught,
though it almost stuck in his lean throat. He had already had to take two
glasses, and even this scant conviviality was too much for him, and
likely to result in a mood of excited volubility, followed by a morose
evening and a head the next morning. And he wanted to keep his mind clear
that day, and to think steadily and lucidly of Treeshy Kent.

Of course he couldn't marry her--yet. He was twenty-one that very day,
and still entirely dependent on his father. And he wasn't altogether
sorry to be going first on this Grand Tour. It was what he had always
dreamed of, pined for, from the moment when his infant eyes had first
been drawn to the prints of the European cities in the long upper passage
that smelt of matting. And all that Treeshy had told him about Italy had
confirmed and intensified the longing. Oh, to have been going there with
her--with her as his guide, his Beatrice! (For she had given him a little
Dante of her father's, with a steel-engraved frontispiece of Beatrice;
and his sister Mary Adeline, who had been taught Italian by one of the
romantic Milanese exiles, had helped her brother out with the grammar.)

The thought of going to Italy with Treeshy was only a dream; but later,
as man and wife, they would return there, and by that time, perhaps, it
was Lewis who would be her guide, and reveal to her the historic marvels
of her birthplace, of which after all she knew so little, except in minor
domestic ways that were quaint but unimportant.

The prospect swelled her suitor's bosom, and reconciled him to the idea
of their separation. After all, he secretly felt himself to be still a
boy, and it was as a man that he would return: he meant to tell her that
when they met the next day. When he came back his character would be
formed, his knowledge of life (which he already thought considerable)
would be complete; and then no one could keep them apart. He smiled in
advance to think how little his father's shouting and booming would
impress a man on his return from the Grand Tour...

The gentlemen were telling anecdotes about their own early experiences in
Europe. None of them--not even Mr. Raycie--had travelled as extensively
as it was intended that Lewis should; but the two Huzzards had been twice
to England on banking matters, and Commodore Ledgely, a bold man, to
France and Belgium as well--not to speak of his early experiences in the
Far East. All three had kept a vivid and amused recollection slightly
tinged with disapprobation, of what they had seen--"Oh, those French
wenches," the Commodore chuckled through his white teeth--but poor Mr.
Kent, who had gone abroad on his honeymoon, had been caught in Paris by
the revolution of 1830, had had the fever in Florence, and had nearly
been arrested as a spy in Vienna; and the only satisfactory episode in
this disastrous, and never repeated, adventure, had been the fact of his
having been mistaken for the Duke of Wellington (as he was trying to slip
out of a Viennese hotel in his courier's blue surtout) by a crowd who had
been--"Well, very gratifying in their enthusiasm," Mr. Kent admitted.

"How my poor brother Julius could have lived in Europe! Well, look at the
consequences--" he used to say, as if poor Treeshy's plainness gave an
awful point to his moral.

"There's one thing in Paris, my boy, that you must be warned against:
those gambling-hells in the Pally Royle," Mr. Kent insisted. "I never set
foot in the places myself; but a glance at the outside was enough."

"I knew a feller that was fleeced of a fortune there," Mr. Henry Huzzard
confirmed; while the Commodore, at his tenth glass, chuckled with moist
eyes: "The trollops, oh, the trollops--"

"As for Vienna--" said Mr. Kent.

"Even in London," said Mr. Ambrose Huzzard, "a young man must be on his
look-out against gamblers. Every form of swindling is practised, and the
touts are always on the look-out for greenhorns; a term," he added
apologetically, "which they apply to any traveller new to the country."

"In Paris," said Mr. Kent, "I was once within an ace of being challenged
to fight a duel." He fetched a sigh of horror and relief, and glanced
reassuredly down the Sound in the direction of his own peaceful
roof-tree.

"Oh, a duel," laughed the Commodore. "A man can fight duels here. I
fought a dozen when I was a young feller in New Erleens." The Commodore's
mother had been a southern lady, and after his father's death had spent
some years with her parents in Louisiana, so that her son's varied
experiences had begun early. "'Bout women," he smiled confidentially,
holding out his empty glass to Mr. Raycie.

"The ladies--!" exclaimed Mr. Kent in a voice of warning.

The gentlemen rose to their feet, the Commodore quite as promptly and
steadily as the others. The drawing-room window opened, and from it
emerged Mrs. Raycie, in a ruffled sarsenet dress and Point de Paris cap,
followed by her two daughters in starched organdy with pink spencers. Mr.
Raycie looked with proud approval at his womenkind.

"Gentlemen," said Mrs. Raycie, in a perfectly even voice, "supper is on
the table, and if you will do Mr. Raycie and myself the favour--"

"The favour ma'am," said Mr. Ambrose Huzzard, "is on your side, in so
amiably inviting us."

Mrs. Raycie curtsied, the gentlemen bowed, and Mr. Raycie said: "Your arm
to Mrs. Raycie, Huzzard. This little farewell party is a family affair,
and the other gentlemen must content themselves with my two daughters.
Sarah Anne, Mary Adeline--"

The Commodore and Mr. John Huzzard advanced ceremoniously toward the two
girls, and Mr. Kent, being a cousin, closed the procession between Mr.
Raycie and Lewis.

Oh, that supper table! The vision of it used sometimes to rise before
Lewis Raycie's eyes in outlandish foreign places; for though not a large
or fastidious eater when he was at home, he was afterward, in lands of
chestnut-flour and garlic and queer bearded sea-things, to suffer many
pangs of hunger at the thought of that opulent board. In the centre stood
the Raycie epergne of pierced silver, holding aloft a bunch of June roses
surrounded by dangling baskets of sugared almonds and striped
peppermints; and grouped about this decorative "motif" were Lowestoft
platters heavy with piles of raspberries, strawberries and the first
Delaware peaches. An outer flanking of heaped-up cookies, crullers,
strawberry short-cake, piping hot corn-bread and deep golden butter in
moist blocks still bedewed from the muslin swathings of the dairy, led
the eye to the Virginia ham in front of Mr. Raycie, and the twin dishes
of scrambled eggs on toast and broiled blue-fish over which his wife
presided. Lewis could never afterward fit into this intricate pattern the
"side-dishes" of devilled turkey-legs and creamed chicken hash, the
sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, the heavy silver jugs of butter-coloured
cream, the floating-island, "slips" and lemon jellies that were somehow
interwoven with the solider elements of the design; but they were all
there, either together or successively, and so were the towering piles of
waffles reeling on their foundations, and the slender silver jugs of
maple syrup perpetually escorting them about the table as black Dinah
replenished the supply.

They ate--oh, how they all ate!--though the ladies were supposed only to
nibble; but the good things on Lewis's plate remained untouched until,
ever and again, an admonishing glance from Mr. Raycie, or an entreating
one from Mary Adeline, made him insert a languid fork into the heap.

And all the while Mr. Raycie continued to hold forth.

"A young man, in my opinion, before setting up for himself, must see the
world; form his taste; fortify his judgment. He must study the most
famous monuments, examine the organization of foreign societies, and the
habits and customs of those older civilizations whose yoke it has been
our glory to cast off. Though he may see in them much to deplore and to
reprove--" ("Some of the gals, though," Commodore Ledgely was heard to
interject)--"much that will make him give thanks for the privilege of
having been born and brought up under our own Free Institutions, yet I
believe he will also"--Mr. Raycie conceded it with magnanimity--"be able
to learn much."

"The Sundays, though," Mr. Kent hazarded warningly; and Mrs. Raycie
breathed across to her son: "Ah, that's what _I_ say!"

Mr. Raycie did not like interruption; and he met it by growing visibly
larger. His huge bulk hung a moment, like an avalanche, above the silence
which followed Mr. Kent's interjection and Mrs. Raycie's murmur; then he
crashed down on both.

"The Sundays--the Sundays? Well, what of the Sundays? What is there to
frighten a good Episcopalian in what we call the Continental Sunday? I
presume that we're all Churchmen here, eh? No puling Methodists or
atheistical Unitarians at my table tonight, that I'm aware of? Nor will I
offend the ladies of my household by assuming that they have secretly
lent an ear to the Baptist ranter in the chapel at the foot of our lane.
No? I thought not! Well, then, I say, what's all this flutter about the
Papists? Far be it from me to approve of their heathenish doctrines--but,
damn it, they go to church, don't they? And they have a real service, as
we do, don't they? And real clergy, and not a lot of nondescripts dressed
like laymen, and damned badly at that, who chat familiarly with the
Almighty in their own vulgar lingo? No, sir"--he swung about on the
shrinking Mr. Kent--"it's not the Church I'm afraid of in foreign
countries, it's the sewers, sir!"

Mrs. Raycie had grown very pale: Lewis knew that she too was deeply
perturbed about the sewers. "And the night-air," she scarce-audibly
sighed.

But Mr. Raycie had taken up his main theme again. "In my opinion, if a
young man travels at all, he must travel as extensively as his--er--means
permit; must see as much of the world as he can. Those are my son's
sailing orders, Commodore; and here's to his carrying them out to the
best of his powers!"

Black Dinah, removing the Virginia ham, or rather such of its bony
structure as alone remained on the dish, had managed to make room for a
bowl of punch from which Mr. Raycie poured deep ladlefuls of perfumed
fire into the glasses ranged before him on a silver tray. The gentlemen
rose, the ladies smiled and wept, and Lewis's health and the success of
the Grand Tour were toasted with an eloquence which caused Mr. Raycie,
with a hasty nod to her daughters, and a covering rustle of starched
flounces, to shepherd them softly from the room.

"After all," Lewis heard her murmur to them on the threshold, "your
father's using such language shows that he's in the best of humour with
dear Lewis."


2.

IN spite of his enforced potations, Lewis Raycie was up the next morning
before sunrise.

Unlatching his shutters without noise, he looked forth over the wet lawn
merged in a blur of shrubberies, and the waters of the Sound dimly seen
beneath a sky full of stars. His head ached but his heart glowed; what
was before him was thrilling enough to clear a heavier brain than his.

He dressed quickly and completely (save for his shoes), and then,
stripping the flowered quilt from his high mahogany bed, rolled it in a
tight bundle under his arm. Thus enigmatically equipped he was feeling
his way, shoes in hand, through the darkness of the upper story to the
slippery oak stairs, when he was startled by a candle-gleam in the
pitch-blackness of the hall below. He held his breath, and leaning over
the stair-rail saw with amazement his sister Mary Adeline come forth,
cloaked and bonneted, but also in stocking-feet, from the passage leading
to the pantry. She too carried a double burden: her shoes and the candle
in one hand, in the other a large covered basket that weighed down her
bare arm.

Brother and sister stopped and stared at each other in the blue dusk: the
upward slant of the candle-light distorted Mary Adeline's mild features,
twisting them into a frightened grin as Lewis stole down to join her.

"Oh--" she whispered. "What in the world are you doing here? I was just
getting together a few things for that poor young Mrs. Poe down the lane,
who's so ill--before mother goes to the store-room. You won't tell, will
you?"

Lewis signalled his complicity, and cautiously slid open the bolt of the
front door. They durst not say more till they were out of ear-shot. On
the doorstep they sat down to put on their shoes; then they hastened on
without a word through the ghostly shrubberies till they reached the gate
into the lane.

"But you, Lewis?" the sister suddenly questioned, with an astonished
stare at the rolled-up quilt under her brother's arm.

"Oh, I--. Look here Addy--" he broke off and began to grope in his
pocket--"I haven't much about me...the old gentleman keeps me as close as
ever...but here's a dollar, if you think that poor Mrs. Poe could use
it...I'd be too happy...consider it a privilege..."

"Oh, Lewis, Lewis, how noble, how generous of you! Of course I can buy a
few extra things with it...they never see meat unless I can bring them a
bit, you know...and I fear she's dying of a decline...and she and her
mother are so fiery-proud..." She wept with gratitude, and Lewis drew a
breath of relief. He had diverted her attention from the bed-quilt.

"Ah, there's the breeze," he murmured, sniffing the suddenly chilled air.

"Yes; I must be off; I must be back before the sun is up," said Mary
Adeline anxiously, "and it would never do if mother knew--"

"She doesn't know of your visits to Mrs. Poe?"

A look of childish guile sharpened Mary Adeline's undeveloped face. "She
DOES, of course; but yet she doesn't...we've arranged it so. You see, Mr.
Poe's an Atheist; and so father--"

"I see," Lewis nodded. "Well, we part here; I'm off for a swim," he said
glibly. But abruptly he turned back and caught his sister's arm. "Sister,
tell Mrs. Poe, please, that I heard her husband give a reading from his
poems in New York two nights ago--"

("Oh, Lewis--YOU? But father says he's a blasphemer!")

"--And that he's a great poet--a Great Poet. Tell her that from me, will
you, please, Mary Adeline?"

"Oh, brother, I couldn't...we never speak of him," the startled girl
faltered, hurrying away.

In the cove where the Commodore's sloop had ridden a few hours earlier a
biggish rowing-boat took the waking ripples. Young Raycie paddled out to
her, fastened his skiff to the moorings, and hastily clambered into the
boat.

From various recesses in his pockets he produced rope, string, a
carpet-layer's needle, and other unexpected and incongruous tackle; then
lashing one of the oars across the top of the other, and jamming the
latter upright between the forward thwart and the bow, he rigged the
flowered bed-quilt on this mast, knotted a rope to the free end of the
quilt, and sat down in the stern, one hand on the rudder, the other on
his improvised sheet.

Venus, brooding silverly above a line of pale green sky, made a pool of
glory in the sea as the dawn-breeze plumped the lover's sail...

On the shelving pebbles of another cove, two or three miles down the
Sound, Lewis Raycie lowered his queer sail and beached his boat. A clump
of willows on the shingle-edge mysteriously stirred and parted, and
Treeshy Kent was in his arms.

The sun was just pushing above a belt of low clouds in the east,
spattering them with liquid gold, and Venus blanched as the light spread
upward. But under the willows it was still dusk, a watery green dusk in
which the secret murmurs of the night were caught.

"Treeshy--Treeshy!" the young man cried, kneeling beside her--and then, a
moment later: "My angel, are you sure that no one guesses--?"

The girl gave a faint laugh which screwed up her funny nose. She leaned
her head on his shoulder, her round forehead and rough braids pressed
against his cheek, her hands in his, breathing quickly and joyfully.

"I thought I should never get here," Lewis grumbled, "with that
ridiculous bed-quilt--and it'll be broad day soon! To think that I was of
age yesterday, and must come to you in a boat rigged like a child's toy
on a duck-pond! If you knew how it humiliates me--"

"What does it matter, dear, since you're of age now, and your own
master?"

"But am I, though? He says so--but it's only on his own terms; only while
I do what he wants! You'll see...I've a credit of ten thousand
dollars...ten...thou...sand...d'you hear?...placed to my name in a London
bank; and not a penny here to bless myself with meanwhile...Why, Treeshy
darling, why, what's the matter?"

She flung her arms about his neck, and through their innocent kisses he
could taste her tears. "What IS it, Treeshy?" he implored her.

"I...oh, I'd forgotten it was to be our last day together till you spoke
of London--cruel, cruel!" she reproached him; and through the green
twilight of the willows her eyes blazed on him like two stormy stars. No
other eyes he knew could express such elemental rage as Treeshy's.

"You little spitfire, you!" he laughed back somewhat chokingly. "Yes,
it's our last day--but not for long; at our age two years are not so very
long, after all, are they? And when I come back to you I'll come as my
own master, independent, free--come to claim you in face of everything
and everybody! Think of that, darling, and be brave for my sake...brave
and patient...as I mean to be!" he declared heroically.

"Oh, but you--you'll see other girls; heaps and heaps of them; in those
wicked old countries where they're so lovely. My uncle Kent says the
European countries are all wicked, even my own poor Italy..."

"But YOU, Treeshy; you'll be seeing cousins Bill and Donald
meanwhile--seeing them all day long and every day. And you know you've a
weakness for that great hulk of a Bill. Ah, if only I stood six-foot-one
in my stockings I'd go with an easier heart, you fickle child!" he tried
to banter her.

"Fickle? Fickle? ME--oh, Lewis!"

He felt the premonitory sweep of sobs, and his untried courage failed
him. It was delicious, in theory, to hold weeping beauty to one's breast,
but terribly alarming, he found, in practice. There came a responsive
twitching in his throat.

"No, no; firm as adamant, true as steel; that's what we both mean to be,
isn't it, cara?"

"Caro, yes," she sighed, appeased.

"And you'll write to me regularly, Treeshy--long long letters? I may
count on that, mayn't I, wherever I am? And they must all be numbered,
every one of them, so that I shall know at once if I've missed one;
remember!"

"And, Lewis, you'll wear them here?" (She touched his breast.) "Oh, not
ALL," she added, laughing, "for they'd make such a big bundle that you'd
soon have a hump in front like Pulcinella--but always at least the last
one, just the last one. Promise!"

"Always, I promise--as long as they're kind," he said, still struggling
to take a spirited line.

"Oh, Lewis, they will be, as long as yours are--and long long
afterward..."

Venus failed and vanished in the sun's uprising.


3.

THE crucial moment, Lewis had always known, would not be that of his
farewell to Treeshy, but of his final interview with his father.

On that everything hung: his immediate future as well as his more distant
prospects. As he stole home in the early sunlight, over the dew-drenched
grass, he glanced up apprehensively at Mr. Raycie's windows, and thanked
his stars that they were still tightly shuttered.

There was no doubt, as Mrs. Raycie said, that her husband's "using
language" before ladies showed him to be in high good humour, relaxed and
slippered, as it were--a state his family so seldom saw him in that Lewis
had sometimes impertinently wondered to what awful descent from the
clouds he and his two sisters owed their timorous being.

It was all very well to tell himself, as he often did, that the bulk of
the money was his mother's, and that he could turn her round his little
finger. What difference did that make? Mr. Raycie, the day after his
marriage, had quietly taken over the management of his wife's property,
and deducted, from the very moderate allowance he accorded her, all her
little personal expenses, even to the postage-stamps she used, and the
dollar she put in the plate every Sunday. He called the allowance her
"pin-money," since, as he often reminded her, he paid all the household
bills himself, so that Mrs. Raycie's quarterly pittance could be entirely
devoted, if she chose, to frills and feathers.

"And will be, if you respect my wishes, my dear," he always added. "I
like to see a handsome figure well set-off, and not to have our friends
imagine, when they come to dine, that Mrs. Raycie is sick above-stairs,
and I've replaced her by a poor relation in allapacca." In compliance
with which Mrs. Raycie, at once flattered and terrified, spent her last
penny in adorning herself and her daughters, and had to stint their
bedroom fires, and the servants' meals, in order to find a penny for any
private necessity.

Mr. Raycie had long since convinced his wife that this method of dealing
with her, if not lavish, was suitable, and in fact "handsome"; when she
spoke of the subject to her relations it was with tears of gratitude for
her husband's kindness in assuming the management of her property. As he
managed it exceedingly well, her hard-headed brothers (glad to have the
responsibility off their hands, and convinced that, if left to herself,
she would have muddled her money away in ill-advised charities) were
disposed to share her approval of Mr. Raycie; though her old mother
sometimes said helplessly: "When I think that Lucy Ann can't as much as
have a drop of gruel brought up to her without his weighing the
oatmeal..." But even that was only whispered, lest Mr. Raycie's
mysterious faculty of hearing what was said behind his back should bring
sudden reprisals on the venerable lady to whom he always alluded, with a
tremor in his genial voice, as "my dear mother-in-law--unless indeed she
will allow me to call her, more briefly but more truly, my dear mother."

To Lewis, hitherto, Mr. Raycie had meted the same measure as to the
females of the household. He had dressed him well, educated him
expensively, lauded him to the skies--and counted every penny of his
allowance. Yet there was a difference; and Lewis was as well aware of it
as any one.

The dream, the ambition, the passion of Mr. Raycie's life, was (as his
son knew) to found a Family; and he had only Lewis to found it with. He
believed in primogeniture, in heirlooms, in entailed estates, in all the
ritual of the English "landed" tradition. No one was louder than he in
praise of the democratic institutions under which he lived; but he never
thought of them as affecting that more private but more important
institution, the Family; and to the Family all his care and all his
thoughts were given. The result, as Lewis dimly guessed, was, that upon
his own shrinking and inadequate head was centred all the passion
contained in the vast expanse of Mr. Raycie's breast. Lewis was his very
own, and Lewis represented what was most dear to him; and for both these
reasons Mr. Raycie set an inordinate value on the boy (a quite different
thing, Lewis thought from loving him).

Mr. Raycie was particularly proud of his son's taste for letters. Himself
not a wholly unread man, he admired intensely what he called the
"cultivated gentleman"--and that was what Lewis was evidently going to
be. Could he have combined with this tendency a manlier frame, and an
interest in the few forms of sport then popular among gentlemen, Mr.
Raycie's satisfaction would have been complete; but whose is, in this
disappointing world? Meanwhile he flattered himself that, Lewis being
still young and malleable, and his health certainly mending, two years of
travel and adventure might send him back a very different figure,
physically as well as mentally. Mr. Raycie had himself travelled in his
youth, and was persuaded that the experience was formative; he secretly
hoped for the return of a bronzed and broadened Lewis, seasoned by
independence and adventure, and having discreetly sown his wild oats in
foreign pastures, where they would not contaminate the home crop.

All this Lewis guessed; and he guessed as well that these two
wander-years were intended by Mr. Raycie to lead up to a marriage and an
establishment after Mr. Raycie's own heart, but in which Lewis was not to
have even a consulting voice.

"He's going to give me all the advantages--for his own purpose," the
young man summed it up as he went down to join the family at the
breakfast table.

Mr. Raycie was never more resplendent than at that moment of the day and
season. His spotless white duck trousers, strapped under kid boots, his
thin kerseymere coat, and drab piqué waistcoat crossed below a snowy
stock, made him look as fresh as the morning and as appetizing as the
peaches and cream banked before him.

Opposite sat Mrs. Raycie, immaculate also, but paler than usual, as
became a mother about to part from her only son; and between the two was
Sarah Anne, unusually pink, and apparently occupied in trying to screen
her sister's empty seat. Lewis greeted them, and seated himself at his
mother's right.

Mr. Raycie drew out his guillochee repeating watch, and detaching it from
its heavy gold chain laid it on the table beside him.

"Mary Adeline is late again. It is a somewhat unusual thing for a sister
to be late at the last meal she is to take--for two years--with her only
brother."

"Oh, Mr. Raycie!" Mrs. Raycie faltered.

"I say, the idea is peculiar. Perhaps," said Mr. Raycie sarcastically, "I
am going to be blessed with a PECULIAR daughter."

"I'm afraid Mary Adeline is beginning a sick headache, sir. She tried to
get up, but really could not," said Sarah Anne in a rush.

Mr. Raycie's only reply was to arch ironic eyebrows, and Lewis hastily
intervened: "I'm sorry, sir; but it may be my fault--"

Mrs. Raycie paled, Sarah Anne, purpled, and Mr. Raycie echoed with
punctilious incredulity: "Your--fault?"

"In being the occasion, sir, of last night's too-sumptuous festivity--"

"Ha--ha--ha!" Mr. Raycie laughed, his thunders instantly dispelled.

He pushed back his chair and nodded to his son with a smile; and the two,
leaving the ladies to wash up the teacups (as was still the habit in
genteel families) betook themselves to Mr. Raycie's study.

What Mr. Raycie studied in this apartment--except the accounts, and ways
of making himself unpleasant to his family--Lewis had never been able to
discover. It was a small bare formidable room; and the young man, who
never crossed the threshold but with a sinking of his heart, felt it sink
lower than ever. "NOW!" he thought.

Mr. Raycie took the only easy-chair, and began.

"My dear fellow, our time is short, but long enough for what I have to
say. In a few hours you will be setting out on your great journey: an
important event in the life of any young man. Your talents and
character--combined with your means of improving the opportunity--make me
hope that in your case it will be decisive. I expect you to come home
from this trip a man--"

So far, it was all to order, so to speak; Lewis could have recited it
beforehand. He bent his head in acquiescence.

"A man," Mr. Raycie repeated, "prepared to play a part, a considerable
part, in the social life of the community. I expect you to be a figure in
New York; and I shall give you the means to be so." He cleared his
throat. "But means are not enough--though you must never forget that they
are essential. Education, polish, experience of the world; these are what
so many of our men of standing lack. What do they know of Art or Letters?
We have had little time here to produce either as yet--you spoke?" Mr.
Raycie broke off with a crushing courtesy.

"I--oh, no," his son stammered.

"Ah; I thought you might be about to allude to certain blasphemous
penny-a-liners whose poetic ravings are said to have given them a kind of
pothouse notoriety."

Lewis reddened at the allusion but was silent, and his father went on:

"Where is our Byron--our Scott--our Shakespeare? And in painting it is
the same. Where are our Old Masters? We are not without contemporary
talent; but for works of genius we must still look to the past; we must,
in most cases, content ourselves with copies...Ah, here I know, my dear
boy, I touch a responsive chord! Your love of the arts has not passed
unperceived; and I mean, I desire, to do all I can to encourage it. Your
future position in the world--your duties and obligations as a gentleman
and a man of fortune--will not permit you to become, yourself, an eminent
painter or a famous sculptor; but I shall raise no objection to your
dabbling in these arts as an amateur--at least while you are travelling
abroad. It will form your taste, strengthen your judgment, and give you,
I hope, the discernment necessary to select for me a few masterpieces
which shall NOT be copies. Copies," Mr. Raycie pursued with a deepening
emphasis, "are for the less discriminating, or for those less blessed
with this world's goods. Yes, my dear Lewis, I wish to create a gallery:
a gallery of Heirlooms. Your mother participates in this ambition--she
desires to see on our walls a few original specimens of the Italian
genius. Raphael, I fear, we can hardly aspire to; but a Domenichino, an
Albano, a Carlo Dolci, a Guercino, a Carlo Maratta--one or two of
Salvator Rosa's noble landscapes...you see my idea? There shall be a
Raycie Gallery; and it shall be your mission to get together its
nucleus." Mr. Raycie paused, and mopped his flowing forehead. "I believe
I could have given my son no task more to his liking."

"Oh, no, sir, none indeed!" Lewis cried, flushing and paling. He had in
fact never suspected this part of his father's plan, and his heart
swelled with the honour of so unforeseen a mission. Nothing, in truth,
could have made him prouder or happier. For a moment he forgot love,
forgot Treeshy, forgot everything but the rapture of moving among the
masterpieces of which he had so long dreamed, moving not as a mere hungry
spectator but as one whose privilege it should at least be to single out
and carry away some of the lesser treasures. He could hardly take in what
had happened, and the shock of the announcement left him, as usual,
inarticulate.

He heard his father booming on, developing the plan, explaining with his
usual pompous precision that one of the partners of the London bank in
which Lewis's funds were deposited was himself a noted collector, and had
agreed to provide the young traveller with letters of introduction to
other connoisseurs, both in France and Italy, so that Lewis's
acquisitions might be made under the most enlightened guidance.

"It is," Mr. Raycie concluded, "in order to put you on a footing of
equality with the best collectors that I have placed such a large sum at
your disposal. I reckon that for ten thousand dollars you can travel for
two years in the very best style; and I mean to place another five
thousand to your credit"--he paused, and let the syllables drop slowly
into his son's brain: "five thousand dollars for the purchase of works of
art, which eventually--remember--will be yours; and will be handed on, I
trust, to your sons' sons as long as the name of Raycie survives"--a
length of time, Mr. Raycie's tone seemed to imply, hardly to be measured
in periods less extensive than those of the Egyptian dynasties.

Lewis heard him with a whirling brain. FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS! The sum
seemed so enormous, even in dollars, and so incalculably larger when
translated into any continental currency, that he wondered why his
father, in advance, had given up all hope of a Raphael..."If I travel
economically," he said to himself, "and deny myself unnecessary luxuries,
I may yet be able to surprise him by bringing one back. And my
mother--how magnanimous, how splendid! Now I see why she has consented to
all the little economies that sometimes seemed so paltry and so
humiliating..."

The young man's eyes filled with tears, but he was still silent, though
he longed as never before to express his gratitude and admiration to his
father. He had entered the study expecting a parting sermon on the
subject of thrift, coupled with the prospective announcement of a
"suitable establishment" (he could even guess the particular Huzzard girl
his father had in view); and instead he had been told to spend his
princely allowance in a princely manner, and to return home with a
gallery of masterpieces. "At least," he murmured to himself, "it shall
contain a Correggio."

"Well, sir?" Mr. Raycie boomed.

"Oh, sir--" his son cried, and flung himself on the vast slope of the
parental waistcoat.

Amid all these accumulated joys there murmured deep down in him the
thought that nothing had been said or done to interfere with his secret
plans about Treeshy. It seemed almost as if his father had tacitly
accepted the idea of their unmentioned engagement; and Lewis felt half
guilty at not confessing to it then and there. But the gods are
formidable even when they unbend; never more so, perhaps, than at such
moments...


PART 2.

4.

LEWIS RAYCIE stood on a projecting rock and surveyed the sublime
spectacle of Mont Blanc.

It was a brilliant August day, and the air, at that height, was already
so sharp that he had had to put on his fur-lined pelisse. Behind him, at
a respectful distance, was the travelling servant who, at a signal, had
brought it up to him; below, in the bend of the mountain road, stood the
light and elegant carriage which had carried him thus far on his travels.

Scarcely more than a year had passed since he had waved a farewell to New
York from the deck of the packet-ship headed down the bay; yet, to the
young man confidently facing Mont Blanc, nothing seemed left in him of
that fluid and insubstantial being, the former Lewis Raycie, save a
lurking and abeyant fear of Mr. Raycie senior. Even that, however, was so
attenuated by distance and time, so far sunk below the horizon, and
anchored on the far side of the globe, that it stirred in its sleep only
when a handsomely folded and wafered letter in his parent's writing was
handed out across the desk of some continental counting-house. Mr. Raycie
senior did not write often, and when he did it was in a bland and stilted
strain. He felt at a disadvantage on paper, and his natural sarcasm was
swamped in the rolling periods which it cost him hours of labour to bring
forth; so that the dreaded quality lurked for his son only in the curve
of certain letters, and in a positively awful way of writing out, at full
length, the word "Esquire".

It was not that Lewis had broken with all the memories of his past of a
year ago. Many still lingered in him, or rather had been transferred to
the new man he had become--as for instance his tenderness for Treeshy
Kent, which, somewhat to his surprise, had obstinately resisted all the
assaults of English keepsake beauties and almond-eyed houris of the East.
It startled him at times, to find Treeshy's short dusky face, with its
round forehead, the widely spaced eyes and the high cheek-bones, starting
out at him suddenly in the street of some legendary town, or in a
landscape of languid beauty, just as he had now and again been arrested
in an exotic garden by the very scent of the verbena under the verandah
at home. His travels had confirmed rather than weakened the family view
of Treeshy's plainness; she could not be made to fit into any of the
patterns of female beauty so far submitted to him; yet there she was,
ensconced in his new heart and mind as deeply as in the old, though her
kisses seemed less vivid, and the peculiar rough notes of her voice
hardly reached him. Sometimes, half irritably, he said to himself that
with an effort he could disperse her once for all; yet she lived on in
him, unseen yet ineffaceable, like the image on a daguerreotype plate, no
less there because so often invisible.

To the new Lewis, however, the whole business was less important than he
had once thought it. His suddenly acquired maturity made Treeshy seem a
petted child rather than the guide, the Beatrice, he had once considered
her; and he promised himself, with an elderly smile, that as soon as he
got to Italy he would write her the long letter for which he was now
considerably in her debt.

His travels had first carried him to England. There he spent some weeks
in collecting letters and recommendations for his tour, in purchasing his
travelling-carriage and its numerous appurtenances, and in driving in it
from cathedral town to storied castle, omitting nothing, from Abbotsford
to Kenilworth, which deserved the attention of a cultivated mind. From
England he crossed to Calais, moving slowly southward to the
Mediterranean; and there, taking ship for the Piraeus, he plunged into
pure romance, and the tourist became a Giaour.

It was the East which had made him into a new Lewis Raycie; the East, so
squalid and splendid, so pestilent and so poetic, so full of knavery and
romance and fleas and nightingales, and so different, alike in its
glories and its dirt, from what his studious youth had dreamed. After
Smyrna and the bazaars, after Damascus and Palmyra, the Acropolis,
Mytilene and Sunium, what could be left in his mind of Canal Street and
the lawn above the Sound? Even the mosquitoes, which seemed at first the
only connecting link, were different, because he fought with them in
scenes so different; and a young gentleman who had journeyed across the
desert in Arabian dress, slept under goats'-hair tents, been attacked by
robbers in the Peloponnesus and despoiled by his own escort at Baalbek,
and by customs' officials everywhere, could not but look with a smile on
the terrors that walk New York and the Hudson River. Encased in security
and monotony, that other Lewis Raycie, when his little figure bobbed up
to the surface, seemed like a new-born babe preserved in alcohol. Even
Mr. Raycie senior's thunders were now no more than the far-off murmur of
summer lightning on a perfect evening. Had Mr. Raycie ever really
frightened Lewis? Why, now he was not even frightened by Mont Blanc!

He was still gazing with a sense of easy equality at its awful pinnacles
when another travelling-carriage paused near his own, and a young man,
eagerly jumping from it, and also followed by a servant with a cloak,
began to mount the slope. Lewis at once recognized the carriage, and the
light springing figure of the young man, his blue coat and swelling
stock, and the scar slightly distorting his handsome and eloquent mouth.
It was the Englishman who had arrived at the Montanvert inn the night
before with a valet, a guide, and such a cargo of books, maps and
sketching materials as threatened to overshadow even Lewis's outfit.

Lewis, at first, had not been greatly drawn to the newcomer, who, seated
aloof in the dining-room, seemed not to see his fellow-traveller. The
truth was that Lewis was dying for a little conversation. His astonishing
experiences were so tightly packed in him (with no outlet save the meagre
trickle of his nightly diary) that he felt they would soon melt into the
vague blur of other people's travels unless he could give them fresh
reality by talking them over. And the stranger with the deep-blue eyes
that matched his coat, the scarred cheek and eloquent lip, seemed to
Lewis a worthy listener. The Englishman appeared to think otherwise. He
preserved an air of moody abstraction, which Lewis's vanity imagined him
to have put on as the gods becloud themselves for their secret errands;
and the curtness of his goodnight was (Lewis flattered himself) surpassed
only by the young New Yorker's.

But today all was different. The stranger advanced affably, raised his
hat from his tossed statue-like hair, and enquired with a smile: "Are you
by any chance interested in the forms of cirrous clouds?"

His voice was as sweet as his smile, and the two were reinforced by a
glance so winning that it made the odd question seem not only pertinent
but natural. Lewis, though surprised, was not disconcerted. He merely
coloured with the unwonted sense of his ignorance, and replied
ingenuously: "I believe, sir, I am interested in everything."

"A noble answer!" cried the other, and held out his hand.

"But I must add," Lewis continued with courageous honesty, "that I have
never as yet had occasion to occupy myself particularly with the form of
cirrous clouds."

His companion looked at him merrily. "That," he said, "is no reason why
you shouldn't begin to do so now!" To which Lewis as merrily agreed. "For
in order to be interested in things," the other continued more gravely,
"it is only necessary to see them; and I believe I am not wrong in saying
that you are one of the privileged beings to whom the seeing eye has been
given."

Lewis blushed his agreement, and his interlocutor continued: "You are one
of those who have been on the road to Damascus."

"On the road? I've been to the place itself!" the wanderer exclaimed,
bursting with the particulars of his travels; and then blushed more
deeply at the perception that the other's use of the name had of course
been figurative.

The young Englishman's face lit up. "You've been to Damascus--literally
been there yourself? But that may be almost as interesting, in its quite
different way, as the formation of clouds or lichens. For the present,"
he continued with a gesture toward the mountain, "I must devote myself to
the extremely inadequate rendering of some of those delicate aiguilles; a
bit of drudgery not likely to interest you in the face of so sublime a
scene. But perhaps this evening--if, as I think, we are staying in the
same inn--you will give me a few minutes of your society, and tell me
something of your travels. My father," he added with his engaging smile,
"has had packed with my paint-brushes a few bottles of a wholly
trustworthy Madeira; and if you will favour me with your company at
dinner..."

He signed to his servant to undo the sketching materials, spread his
cloak on the rock, and was already lost in his task as Lewis descended to
the carriage.

The Madeira proved as trustworthy as his host had promised. Perhaps it
was its exceptional quality which threw such a golden lustre over the
dinner; unless it were rather the conversation of the blue-eyed
Englishman which made Lewis Raycie, always a small drinker, feel that in
his company every drop was nectar.

When Lewis joined his host it had been with the secret hope of at last
being able to talk; but when the evening was over (and they kept it up to
the small hours) he perceived that he had chiefly listened. Yet there had
been no sense of suppression, of thwarted volubility; he had been given
all the openings he wanted. Only, whenever he produced a little fact it
was instantly overflowed by the other's imagination till it burned like a
dull pebble tossed into a rushing stream. For whatever Lewis said was
seen by his companion from a new angle, and suggested a new train of
thought; each commonplace item of experience became a many-faceted
crystal flashing with unexpected fires. The young Englishman's mind moved
in a world of associations and references far more richly peopled than
Lewis's; but his eager communicativeness, his directness of speech and
manner, instantly opened its gates to the simpler youth. It was certainly
not the Madeira which sped the hours and flooded them with magic; but the
magic gave the Madeira--excellent, and reputed of its kind, as Lewis
afterward learned--a taste no other vintage was to have for him.

"Oh, but we must meet again in Italy--there are many things there that I
could perhaps help you to see," the young Englishman declared as they
swore eternal friendship on the stairs of the sleeping inn.


5.

IT was in a tiny Venetian church, no more than a chapel, that Lewis
Raycie's eyes had been unsealed--in a dull-looking little church not even
mentioned in the guide-books. But for his chance encounter with the young
Englishman in the shadow of Mont Blanc, Lewis would never have heard of
the place; but then what else that was worth knowing would he ever have
heard of, he wondered?

He had stood a long time looking at the frescoes, put off at first--he
could admit it now--by a certain stiffness in the attitudes of the
people, by the childish elaboration of their dress (so different from the
noble draperies which Sir Joshua's Discourses on Art had taught him to
admire in the great painters), and by the innocent inexpressive look in
their young faces--for even the gray-beards seemed young. And then
suddenly his gaze had lit on one of these faces in particular: that of a
girl with round cheeks, high cheek-bones and widely set eyes under an
intricate head-dress of pearl-woven braids. Why, it was Treeshy--Treeshy
Kent to the life! And so far from being thought "plain," the young lady
was no other than the peerless princess about whom the tale revolved. And
what a fairy-land she lived in--full of lithe youths and round-faced
pouting maidens, rosy old men and burnished blackamoors, pretty birds and
cats and nibbling rabbits--and all involved and enclosed in golden
balustrades, in colonnades of pink and blue, laurel-garlands festooned
from ivory balconies, and domes and minarets against summer seas! Lewis's
imagination lost itself in the scene; he forgot to regret the noble
draperies, the exalted sentiments, the fuliginous backgrounds, of the
artists he had come to Italy to admire--forgot Sassoferrato, Guido Reni,
Carlo Dolce, Lo Spagnoletto, the Carracci, and even the Transfiguration
of Raphael, though he knew it to be the greatest picture in the world.

After that he had seen almost everything else that Italian art had to
offer; had been to Florence, Naples, Rome; to Bologna to study the
Eclectic School, to Parma to examine the Correggios and the Giulio
Romanos. But that first vision had laid a magic seed between his lips;
the seed that makes you hear what the birds say and the grasses whisper.
Even if his English friend had not continued at his side, pointing out,
explaining, inspiring. Lewis Raycie flattered himself that the round face
of the little Saint Ursula would have led him safely and confidently past
all her rivals. She had become his touchstone, his star: how insipid
seemed to him all the sheep-faced Virgins draped in red and blue paint
after he had looked into her wondering girlish eyes and traced the
elaborate pattern of her brocades! He could remember now, quite
distinctly, the day when he had given up even Beatrice Cenci...and as for
that fat naked Magdalen of Carlo Dolce's, lolling over the book she was
not reading, and ogling the spectator in the good old way...faugh! Saint
Ursula did not need to rescue him from HER...

His eyes had been opened to a new world of art. And this world it was his
mission to reveal to others--he, the insignificant and ignorant Lewis
Raycie, as "but for the grace of God," and that chance encounter on Mont
Blanc, he might have gone on being to the end! He shuddered to think of
the army of Neapolitan beggar-boys, bituminous monks, whirling prophets,
languishing Madonnas and pink-rumped amorini who might have been
travelling home with him in the hold of the fast new steam-packet.

His excitement had something of the apostle's ecstasy. He was not only,
in a few hours, to embrace Treeshy, and be reunited to his honoured
parents; he was also to go forth and preach the new gospel to them that
sat in the darkness of Salvator Rosa and Lo Spagnoletto...

The first thing that struck Lewis was the smallness of the house on the
Sound, and the largeness of Mr. Raycie.

He had expected to receive the opposite impression. In his recollection
the varnished Tuscan villa had retained something of its impressiveness,
even when compared to its supposed originals. Perhaps the very contrast
between their draughty distances and naked floors, and the expensive
carpets and bright fires of High Point, magnified his memory of the
latter--there were moments when the thought of its groaning board
certainly added to the effect. But the image of Mr. Raycie had meanwhile
dwindled. Everything about him, as his son looked back, seemed narrow,
juvenile, almost childish. His bluster about Edgar Poe, for
instance--true poet still to Lewis, though he had since heard richer
notes; his fussy tyranny of his womenkind; his unconscious but total
ignorance of most of the things, books, people, ideas, that now filled
his son's mind; above all, the arrogance and incompetence of his artistic
judgments. Beyond a narrow range of reading--mostly, Lewis suspected,
culled in drowsy after-dinner snatches from Knight's "Half-hours with the
Best Authors"--Mr. Raycie made no pretence to book-learning; left THAT,
as he handsomely said, "to the professors." But on matters of art he was
dogmatic and explicit, prepared to justify his opinions by the citing of
eminent authorities and of market-prices, and quite clear, as his
farewell talk with his son had shown, as to which Old Masters should be
privileged to figure in the Raycie collection.

The young man felt no impatience of these judgements. America was a long
way from Europe, and it was many years since Mr. Raycie had travelled. He
could hardly be blamed for not knowing that the things he admired were no
longer admirable, still less for not knowing why. The pictures before
which Lewis had knelt in spirit had been virtually undiscovered, even by
art-students and critics, in his father's youth. How was an American
gentleman, filled with his own self-importance, and paying his courier
the highest salary to show him the accredited "Masterpieces"--how was he
to guess that whenever he stood rapt before a Sassoferrato or a Carlo
Dolce one of those unknown treasures lurked near by under dust and
cobwebs?

No; Lewis felt only tolerance and understanding. Such a view was not one
to magnify the paternal image; but when the young man entered the study
where Mr. Raycie sat immobilized by gout, the swathed leg stretched along
his sofa seemed only another reason for indulgence...

Perhaps, Lewis thought afterward, it was his father's prone position, the
way his great bulk billowed over the sofa, and the lame leg reached out
like a mountain-ridge, that made him suddenly seem to fill the room; or
else the sound of his voice booming irritably across the threshold, and
scattering Mrs. Raycie and the girls with a fierce: "And now, ladies, if
the hugging and kissing are over, I should be glad of a moment with my
son." But it was odd that, after mother and daughters had withdrawn with
all their hoops and flounces, the study seemed to grow even smaller, and
Lewis himself to feel more like a David without the pebble.

"Well, my boy," his father cried, crimson and puffing, "here you are at
home again, with many adventures to relate, no doubt; and a few
masterpieces to show me, as I gather from the drafts on my exchequer."

"Oh, as to the masterpieces, sir, certainly," Lewis simpered, wondering
why his voice sounded so fluty, and his smile was produced with such a
conscious muscular effort.

"Good--good," Mr. Raycie approved, waving a violet hand which seemed to
be ripening for a bandage. "Reedy carried out my orders, I presume? Saw
to it that the paintings were deposited with the bulk of your luggage in
Canal Street?"

"Oh, yes, sir; Mr. Reedy was on the dock with precise instructions. You
now he always carries out your orders," Lewis ventured with a faint
irony.

Mr. Raycie stared. "Mr. Reedy," he said, "does what I tell him, if that's
what you mean; otherwise he would hardly have been in my employ for over
thirty years."

Lewis was silent, and his father examined him critically. "You appear to
have filled out; your health is satisfactory? Well...well...Mr. Robert
Huzzard and his daughters are dining here this evening, by the way, and
will no doubt be expecting to see the latest French novelties in stocks
and waistcoats. Malvina has become a very elegant figure, your sisters
tell me." Mr. Raycie chuckled, and Lewis thought: "I KNEW it was the
oldest Huzzard girl!" while a slight chill ran down his spine.

"As to the pictures," Mr. Raycie pursued with growing animation, "I am
laid low, as you see, by this cursed affliction, and till the doctors get
me up again, here must I lie and try to imagine how your treasures will
look in the new gallery. And meanwhile, my dear boy, I need hardly say
that no one is to be admitted to see them till they have been inspected
by me and suitably hung. Reedy shall begin unpacking at once; and when we
move to town next month Mrs. Raycie, God willing, shall give the
handsomest evening party New York has yet seen, to show my son's
collection, and perhaps...eh, well?...to celebrate another interesting
event in his history."

Lewis met this with a faint but respectful gurgle, and before his blurred
eyes rose the wistful face of Treeshy Kent.

"Ah, well, I shall see her tomorrow," he thought, taking heart again as
soon as he was out of his father's presence.


6.

MR. RAYCIE stood silent for a long time after making the round of the
room in the Canal Street house where the unpacked pictures had been set
out.

He had driven to town alone with Lewis, sternly rebuffing his daughters'
timid hints, and Mrs. Raycie's mute but visible yearning to accompany
him. Though the gout was over he was till weak and irritable, and Mrs.
Raycie, fluttered at the thought of "crossing him," had swept the girls
away at his first frown.

Lewis's hopes rose as he followed his parent's limping progress. The
pictures, though standing on chairs and tables, and set clumsily askew to
catch the light, bloomed out of the half-dusk of the empty house with a
new and persuasive beauty. Ah, how right he had been--how inevitable that
his father should own it!

Mr. Raycie halted in the middle of the room. He was still silent, and his
face, so quick to frown and glare, wore the calm, almost expressionless
look known to Lewis as the mask of inward perplexity. "Oh, of course it
will take a little time," the son thought, tingling with the eagerness of
youth.

At last, Mr. Raycie woke the echoes by clearing his throat; but the voice
which issued from it was as inexpressive as his face. "It is singular,"
he said, "how little the best copies of the Old Masters resemble the
originals. For these ARE Originals?" he questioned, suddenly swinging
about on Lewis.

"Oh, absolutely, sir! Besides--" The young man was about to add: "No one
would ever have taken the trouble to copy them"--but hastily checked
himself.

"Besides--?"

"I meant, I had the most competent advice obtainable."

"So I assume; since it was the express condition on which I authorised
your purchases."

Lewis felt himself shrinking and his father expanding; but he sent a
glance along the wall, and beauty shed her reviving beam on him.

Mr. Raycie's brows projected ominously; but his face remained smooth and
dubious. Once more he cast a slow glance about him.

"Let us," he said pleasantly, "begin with the Raphael." And it was
evident that he did not know which way to turn.

"Oh, sir, a Raphael nowadays--I warned you it would be far beyond my
budget."

Mr. Raycie's face fell slightly. "I had hoped nevertheless...for an
inferior specimen..." Then with an effort: "The Sassoferrato, then."

Lewis felt more at his ease; he even ventured a respectful smile.
"Sassoferrato is ALL inferior, isn't he? The fact is, he no longer
stands...quite as he used to..."

Mr. Raycie stood motionless: his eyes were vacuously fixed on the nearest
picture.

"Sassoferrato...no longer...?"

"Well, sir, NO; not for a collection of this quality."

Lewis saw that he had at last struck the right note. Something large and
uncomfortable appeared to struggle in Mr. Raycie's throat; then he gave a
cough which might almost have been said to cast out Sassoferrato.

There was another pause before he pointed with his stick to a small
picture representing a snub-nosed young woman with a high forehead and
jewelled coif, against a background of delicately interwoven columbines.
"Is THAT," he questioned, "your Carlo Dolce? The style is much the same,
I see; but it seems to me lacking in his peculiar sentiment."

"Oh, but it's not a Carlo Dolce: it's a Piero della Francesca, sir!"
burst in triumph from the trembling Lewis.

His father sternly faced him. "It's a COPY, you mean? I thought so!"

"No, no; not a copy, it's by a great painter...a much greater..."

Mr. Raycie had reddened sharply at his mistake. To conceal his natural
annoyance he assumed a still more silken manner. "In that case," he said,
"I think I should like to see the inferior painters first. Where IS the
Carlo Dolce?"

"There IS no Carlo Dolce," said Lewis, white to the lips.

The young man's next distinct recollection was of standing, he knew not
how long afterward, before the armchair in which his father had sunk
down, almost as white and shaken as himself.

"This," stammered Mr. Raycie, "this is going to bring back my gout..."
But when Lewis entreated: "Oh, sir, do let us drive back quietly to the
country, and give me a chance later to explain...to put my case"...the
old gentleman had struck through the pleading with a furious wave of his
stick.

"Explain later? Put your case later? It's just what I insist upon your
doing here and now!" And Mr. Raycie added hoarsely, and as if in actual
physical anguish: "I understand that young John Huzzard returned from
Rome last week with a Raphael."

After that, Lewis heard himself--as if with the icy detachment of a
spectator--marshalling his arguments, pleading the cause he hoped his
pictures would have pleaded for him, dethroning the old Powers and
Principalities, and setting up these new names in their place. It was
first of all the names that stuck in Mr. Raycie's throat: after spending
a life-time committing to memory the correct pronunciation of words like
Lo Spagnoletto and Giulio Romano, it was bad enough, his wrathful eyes
seemed to say, to have to begin a new set of verbal gymnastics before you
could be sure of saying to a friend with careless accuracy: "And THIS is
my Giotto da Bondone."

But that was only the first shock, soon forgotten in the rush of greater
tribulation. For one might conceivably learn how to pronounced Giotto da
Bondone, and even enjoy doing so, provided the friend in question
recognized the name and bowed to its authority. But to have your effort
received by a blank stare, and the playful request: "You'll have to say
that over again, please"--to know that, in going the round of the gallery
(the Raycie Gallery!) the same stare and the same request were likely to
be repeated before each picture; the bitterness of this was so great that
Mr. Raycie, without exaggeration, might have likened his case to that of
Agag.

"God! God! God! Carpatcher, you say this other fellow's called? Kept him
back till the last because it's the gem of the collection, did you?
Carpatcher--well, he'd have done better to stick to his trade. Something
to do with those new European steam-cars, I suppose, eh?" Mr. Raycie was
so incensed that his irony was less subtle than usual. "And Angelico you
say did that kind of Noah's Ark soldier in pink armour on gold leaf?
Well, THERE I've caught you tripping, my boy. Not AngelicO, AngelicA;
Angelica Kauffman was a lady. And the damned swindler who foisted that
barbarous daub on you as a picture of hers deserves to be drawn and
quartered--and shall be, sir, by God, if the law can reach him! He shall
disgorge every penny he's rooked you out of, or my name's not Halston
Raycie! A bargain...you say the thing was a BARGAIN? Why, the price of a
clean postage stamp would be too dear for it! God--my son; do you realize
you had a TRUST to carry out?"

"Yes, sir, yes; and it's just because--"

"You might have written; you might at least have placed your views before
me..."

How could Lewis say: "If I had, I knew you'd have refused to let me buy
the pictures?" He could only stammer: "I DID allude to the revolution in
taste...new names coming up...you may remember..."

"Revolution! New names! Who says so? I had a letter last week from the
London dealers to whom I especially recommended you, telling me that an
undoubted Guido Reni was coming into the market this summer."

"Oh, the dealers--THEY don't know!"

"The dealers...don't?...Who does...except yourself?" Mr. Raycie
pronounced in a white sneer.

Lewis, as white, still held his ground. "I wrote you, sir, about my
friends; in Italy, and afterward in England."

"Well, God damn it, I never heard of one of THEIR names before, either;
no more'n of these painters of yours here. I supplied you with the names
of all the advisers you needed, and all the painters, too; I all but made
the collection for you myself, before you started...I was explicit
enough, in all conscience, wasn't I?"

Lewis smiled faintly. "That's what I hoped the pictures would be..."

"What? Be what? What'd you mean?"

"Be explicit...Speak for themselves...make you see that their painters
are already superseding some of the better known..."

Mr. Raycie gave an awful laugh. "They are, are they?" In whose
estimation? Your friends', I suppose. What's the name, again, of that
fellow you met in Italy, who picked 'em out for you?"

"Ruskin--John Ruskin," said Lewis.

Mr. Raycie's laugh, prolonged, gathered up into itself a fresh shower of
expletives. "Ruskin--Ruskin--just plain John Ruskin, eh? And who IS this
great John Ruskin, who sets God A'mighty right in his judgments? Who'd
you say John Ruskin's father was, now?"

"A respected wine-merchant in London, sir."

Mr. Raycie ceased to laugh: he looked at his son with an expression of
unutterable disgust.

"Retail?"

"I...believe so..."

"Faugh!" said Mr. Raycie.

"It wasn't only Ruskin, father...I told you of those other friends in
London, whom I met on the way home. They inspected the pictures, and all
of them agreed that...that the collection would some day be very
valuable."

"SOME DAY--did they give you a date...the month and the year? Ah, those
other friends; yes. You said there was a Mr. Brown and a Mr. Hunt and a
Mr. Rossiter, was it? Well, I never heard of any of those names
either--except perhaps in a trades' directory."

"It's not Rossiter, father: Dante Rossetti."

"Excuse me: Rossetti. And what does Mr. Dante Rossetti's father do? Sell
macaroni, I presume?"

Lewis was silent, and Mr. Raycie went on, speaking now with a deadly
steadiness: "The friends I sent you to were judges of art, sir; men who
know what a picture's worth; not one of 'em but could pick out a genuine
Raphael. Couldn't you find 'em when you got to England? Or hadn't they
the time to spare for you? You'd better not," Mr. Raycie added, "tell me
THAT, for I know how they'd have received your father's son."

"Oh, most kindly...they did indeed, sir..."

"Ay; but that didn't suit you. You didn't WANT to be advised. You wanted
to show off before a lot of ignoramuses like yourself. You wanted--how'd
I know what you wanted? It's as if I'd never given you an instruction or
laid a charge on you! And the money--God! Where'd it go to? Buying THIS?
Nonsense--." Mr. Raycie raised himself heavily on his stick and fixed his
angry eyes on his son. "Own up, Lewis; tell me they got it out of you at
cards. Professional gamblers the lot, I make no doubt; your Ruskin and
your Morris and your Rossiter. Make a business to pick up young American
greenhorns on their travels, I daresay...No? Not that, you say?
Then--women? God A'mighty, Lewis," gasped Mr. Raycie, tottering toward
his son with outstretched stick, "I'm no blue-nosed Puritan, sir, and I'd
a damn sight rather you told me you'd spent it on a woman, every penny of
it, than let yourself be fleeced like a simpleton, buying these things
that look more like cuts out o' Foxe's book of Martyrs than Originals of
the Old Masters for a Gentleman's Gallery...Youth's youth...Gad, sir,
I've been young myself...a fellow's got to go through his
apprenticeship...Own up now: women?"

"Oh, not women--"

"Not even!" Mr. Raycie groaned. "All in pictures, then? Well, say no more
to me now...I'll get home, I'll get home..." He cast a last apoplectic
glance about the room. "The Raycie Gallery! That pack of bones and
mummers' finery!...Why, let alone the rest, there's not a full-bodied
female among 'em...Do you know what those Madonna's of yours are like, my
son? Why, there ain't one of 'em that don't remind me of a bad likeness
of poor Treeshy Kent...I should say you'd hired half the sign-painters of
Europe to do her portrait for you--if you could imagine your wanting
it...No, sir! I don't need your arm," Mr. Raycie snarled, heaving his
great bulk painfully across the hall. He withered Lewis with a last look
from the doorstep. "And to buy THAT you overdrew your account?--No, I'll
drive home alone."


7.

MR. RAYCIE did not die till nearly a year later; but New York agreed it
was the affair of the pictures that had killed him.

The day after his first and only sight of them he sent for his lawyer,
and it became known that he had made a new will. Then he took to his bed
with a return of the gout, and grew so rapidly worse that it was thought
"only proper" to postpone the party Mrs. Raycie was to have given that
autumn to inaugurate the gallery. This enabled the family to pass over in
silence the question of the works of art themselves; but outside of the
Raycie house, where they were never mentioned, they formed, that winter,
a frequent and fruitful topic of discussion.

Only two persons besides Mr. Raycie were known to have seen them. One was
Mr. Donaldson Kent, who owed the privilege to the fact of having once
been in Italy; the other, Mr. Reedy, the agent, who had unpacked the
pictures. Mr. Reedy, beset by Raycie cousins and old family friends, had
replied with genuine humility: "Why, the truth is, I never was taught to
see any difference between one picture and another, except as regards the
size of them; and these struck me as smallish...on the small side, I
would say..."

Mr. Kent was known to have unbosomed himself to Mr. Raycie with
considerable frankness--he went so far, it was rumoured, as to declare
that he had never seen any pictures in Italy like those brought back by
Lewis, and begged to doubt if they really came from there. But in public
he maintained that noncommittal attitude which passed for prudence, but
proceeded only from timidity; no one ever got anything from him but the
guarded statement: "The subjects are wholly inoffensive."

It was believed that Mr. Raycie dared not consult the Huzzards. Young
John Huzzard had just brought home a Raphael; it would have been hard not
to avoid comparisons which would have been too galling. Neither to them,
nor to anyone else, did Mr. Raycie ever again allude to the Raycie
Gallery. But when his will was opened it was found that he had bequeathed
the pictures to his son. The rest of his property was left absolutely to
his two daughters. The bulk of the estate was Mrs. Raycie's; but it was
known that Mrs. Raycie had had her instructions, and among them, perhaps,
was the order to fade away in her turn after six months of widowhood.
When she had been laid beside her husband in Trinity church-yard her will
(made in the same week as Mr. Raycie's, and obviously at his dictation)
was found to allow five thousand dollars a year to Lewis during his
life-time; the residue of the fortune, which Mr. Raycie's thrift and good
management had made into one of the largest in New York, was divided
between the daughters. Of these, the one promptly married a Kent and the
other a Huzzard; and the latter, Sarah Ann (who had never been Lewis's
favourite), was wont to say in later years: "Oh, no, I never grudged my
poor brother those funny old pictures. You see, we have a Raphael."

The house stood on the corner of Third Avenue and Tenth Street. It had
lately come to Lewis Raycie as his share in the property of a distant
cousin, who had made an "old New York will" under which all his kin
benefited in proportion to their consanguinity. The neighbourhood was
unfashionable, and the house in bad repair; but Mr. and Mrs. Lewis
Raycie, who, since their marriage, had been living in retirement at
Tarrytown, immediately moved into it.

Their arrival excited small attention. Within a year of his father's
death, Lewis had married Treeshy Kent. The alliance had not been
encouraged by Mr. and Mrs. Kent, who went so far as to say that their
niece might have done better; but as that one of their sons who was still
unmarried had always shown a lively sympathy for Treeshy, they yielded to
the prudent thought that, after all, it was better than having her
entangle Bill.

The Lewis Raycies had been four years married, and during that time had
dropped out of the memory of New York as completely as if their exile had
covered half a century. Neither of them had ever cut a great figure
there. Treeshy had been nothing but the Kent's Cinderella, and Lewis's
ephemeral importance, as heir to the Raycie millions, had been effaced by
the painful episode which resulted in his being deprived of them.

So secluded was their way of living, and so much had it come to be a
habit, that when Lewis announced that he had inherited Uncle Ebenezer's
house his wife hardly looked up from the baby-blanket she was
embroidering.

"Uncle Ebenezer's house in New York?"

He drew a deep breath. "Now I shall be able to show the pictures."

"Oh, Lewis--" She dropped the blanket. "Are we going to live there?"

"Certainly. But the house is so large that I shall turn the two corner
rooms on the ground floor into a gallery. They are very suitably lighted.
It was there that Cousin Ebenezer was laid out."

"Oh, Lewis--"

If anything could have made Lewis Raycie believe in his own strength of
will it was his wife's attitude. Merely to hear that unquestioning murmur
of submission was to feel something of his father's tyrannous strength
arise in him; but with the wish to use it more humanely.

"You'll like that, Treeshy? It's been dull for you here, I know."

She flushed up. "Dull? With YOU, darling. Besides, I like the country.
But I shall like Tenth Street too. Only--you said there were repairs?"

He nodded sternly. "I shall borrow money to make them. If necessary--" he
lowered his voice--"I shall mortgage the pictures."

He saw her eyes fill. "Oh, but it won't be! There are so many ways still
in which I can economize."

He laid his hand on hers and turned his profile toward her, because he
knew it was so much stronger than his full face. He did not feel sure
that she quite grasped his intention about the pictures; was not even
certain that he wished her to. He went in to New York every week now,
occupying himself mysteriously and importantly with plans, specifications
and other business transactions with long names; while Treeshy, through
the hot summer months, sat in Tarrytown and waited for the baby.

A little girl was born at the end of the summer and christened Louisa;
and when she was a few weeks old the Lewis Raycies left the country for
New York.

"NOW!" thought Lewis, as they bumped over the cobblestones of Tenth
Street in the direction of Cousin Ebenezer's house.

The carriage stopped, he handed out his wife, the nurse followed with the
baby, and they all stood and looked up at the house-front.

"Oh, Lewis--" Treeshy gasped; and even little Louisa set up a sympathetic
wail.

Over the door--over Cousin Ebenezer's respectable, conservative and
intensely private front-door--hung a large sign-board bearing, in gold
letters on a black ground, the inscription:

GALLERY OF CHRISTIAN ART.
OPEN ON WEEK-DAYS FROM 2 TO 4.
ADMISSION 25 CENTS. CHILDREN 10 CENTS.

Lewis saw his wife turn pale, and pressed her arm in his. "Believe me,
it's the only way to make the pictures known. And they MUST be made
known," he said with a thrill of his old ardour.

"Yes, dear, of course. But...to every one. Publicly?"

"If we showed them only to our friends, of what use would it be? Their
opinion is already formed."

She sighed her acknowledgment. "But the...the entrance fee..."

"If we can afford it later, the gallery will be free. But meanwhile--"

"Oh, Lewis, I quite understand!" And clinging to him, the
still-protesting baby in her wake, she passed with a dauntless step under
the awful sign-board.

"At last I shall see the pictures properly lighted!" she exclaimed, and
turned in the hall to fling her arms about her husband.

"It's all they need...to be appreciated," he answered, aglow with her
encouragement.

Since his withdrawal from the world it had been a part of Lewis's system
never to read the daily papers. His wife eagerly conformed to his
example, and they lived in a little air-tight circle of aloofness, as if
the cottage at Tarrytown had been situated in another and happier planet.

Lewis, nevertheless, the day after the opening of the Gallery of
Christian Art, deemed it his duty to derogate from this attitude, and
sallied forth secretly to buy the principal journals. When he re-entered
his house he went straight up to the nursery where he knew that, at that
hour, Treeshy would be giving the little girl her bath. But it was later
than he supposed. The rite was over, the baby lay asleep in its modest
cot, and the mother sat crouched by the fire, her face hidden in her
hands. Lewis instantly guessed that she too had seen the papers.

"Treeshy--you mustn't...consider this of any consequence...," he
stammered.

She lifted a tear-stained face. "Oh, my darling! I thought you never read
the papers."

"Not usually. But I thought it my duty--"

"Yes; I see. But, as you say, what earthly consequence--?"

"None, whatever; we must just be patient and persist."

She hesitated, and then, her arms about him, her head on his breast;
"Only, dearest, I've been counting up again, ever so carefully; and even
if we give up fires everywhere but in the nursery, I'm afraid the wages
of the door-keeper and the guardian...especially if the gallery's open to
the public every day..."

"I've thought of that already, too; and I myself shall hereafter act as
doorkeeper and guardian."

He kept his eyes on hers as he spoke. "This is the test," he thought. Her
face paled under its brown glow, and the eyes dilated in her effort to
check her tears. Then she said gaily: "That will be...very interesting,
won't it, Lewis? Hearing what the people say...Because, as they begin to
know the pictures better, and to understand them, they can't fail to say
very interesting things...can they?" She turned and caught up the
sleeping Louisa. "Can they...oh, you darling--darling?"

Lewis turned away too. Not another woman in New York would have been
capable of that. He could hear all the town echoing with this new scandal
of his showing the pictures himself--and she, so much more sensitive to
ridicule, so much less carried away by apostolic ardour, how much louder
must that mocking echo ring in her ears! But his pang was only momentary.
The one thought that possessed him for any length of time was that of
vindicating himself by making the pictures known; he could no longer fix
his attention on lesser matters. The derision of illiterate journalists
was not a thing to wince at; once let the pictures be seen by educated
and intelligent people, and they would speak for themselves--especially
if he were at hand to interpret them.


8.

FOR a week or two a great many people came to the gallery; but, even with
Lewis as interpreter, the pictures failed to make themselves heard.
During the first days, indeed, owing to the unprecedented idea of holding
a paying exhibition in a private house, and to the mockery of the
newspapers, the Gallery of Christian Art was thronged with noisy
curiosity-seekers; once the astonished metropolitan police had to be
invited in to calm their comments and control their movements. But the
name of "Christian Art" soon chilled this class of sightseer, and before
long they were replaced by a dumb and respectable throng, who roamed
vacantly through the rooms and out again, grumbling that it wasn't worth
the money. Then these too diminished; and once the tide had turned, the
ebb was rapid. Every day from two to four Lewis still sat shivering among
his treasures, or patiently measured the length of the deserted gallery:
as long as there was a chance of any one coming he would not admit that
he was beaten. For the next visitor might always be the one who
understood.

One snowy February day he had thus paced the rooms in unbroken solitude
for above an hour when carriage-wheels stopped at the door. He hastened
to open it, and in a great noise of silks his sister Sarah Anne Huzzard
entered.

Lewis felt for a moment as he used to under his father's glance. Marriage
and millions had given the moon-faced Sarah some of the Raycie awfulness;
but her brother looked into her empty eyes, and his own kept their level.

"Well, Lewis," said Mrs. Huzzard with a simpering sternness, and caught
her breath.

"Well, Sarah Anne--I'm happy that you've come to take a look at my
pictures."

"I've come to see you and your wife." She gave another nervous gasp,
shook out her flounces, and added in a rush: "And to ask you how much
longer this...this spectacle is to continue..."

"The exhibition?" Lewis smiled. She signed a flushed assent.

"Well, there has been a considerable falling-off lately in the number of
visitors--"

"Thank heaven!" she interjected.

"But as long as I feel that any one wishes to come...I shall be here...to
open the door, as you see."

She sent a shuddering glance about her. "Lewis--I wonder if you
realize...?"

"Oh, fully."

"Then WHY do you go on? Isn't it enough--aren't you satisfied?"

"With the effect they have produced?"

"With the effect YOU have produced--on your family and on the whole of
New York. With a slur on poor Papa's memory."

"Papa left me the pictures, Sarah Anne."

"Yes. But not to make yourself a mountebank about them."

Lewis considered this impartially. "Are you sure? Perhaps, on the
contrary, he did if for that very reason."

"Oh, don't heap more insults on our father's memory! Things are bad
enough without that. How your wife can allow it I can't see. Do you ever
consider the humiliation to HER?"

Lewis gave another dry smile. "She's used to being humiliated. The Kents
accustomed her to that."

Sarah Anne reddened. "I don't know why I should stay and be spoken to in
this way. But I came with my husband's approval."

"Do you need that to come and see your brother?"

"I need it to--to make the offer I am about to make; and which he
authorizes."

Lewis looked at her in surprise, and she purpled up to the lace ruffles
inside her satin bonnet.

"Have you come to make an offer for my collection?" he asked her
humorously.

"You seem to take pleasure in insinuating preposterous things. But
anything is better than this public slight on our name." Again she ran a
shuddering glance over the pictures. "John and I," she announced, "are
prepared to double the allowance mother left you on condition that
this...this ends...for good. That that horrible sign is taken down
tonight."

Lewis seemed mildly to weigh the proposal. "Thank you very much, Sarah
Anne," he said at length. "I'm touched...touched and...and
surprised...that you and John should have made this offer. But perhaps,
before I decline it, you will accept MINE: simply to show you my
pictures. When once you've looked at them I think you'll understand--"

Mrs. Huzzard drew back hastily, her air of majesty collapsing. "Look at
the pictures? Oh, thank you...but I can see them very well from here. And
besides, I don't pretend to be a judge..."

"Then come up and see Treeshy and the baby," said Lewis quietly.

She stared at him, embarrassed. "Oh, thank you," she stammered again; and
as she prepared to follow him: "Then it's NO, really no, Lewis? Do
consider, my dear! You say yourself that hardly any one comes. What harm
can there be in closing the place?"

"What--when tomorrow the man may come who understands?"

Mrs. Huzzard tossed her plumes despairingly and followed him in silence.

"What--Mary Adeline?" she exclaimed, pausing abruptly on the threshold of
the nursery. Treeshy, as usual, sat holding her baby by the fire; and
from a low seat opposite her rose a lady as richly furred and feathered
as Mrs. Huzzard, but with far less assurance to carry off her furbelows.
Mrs. Kent ran to Lewis and laid her plump cheek against his, while
Treeshy greeted Sarah Anne.

"I had no idea you were here, Mary Adeline," Mrs. Huzzard murmured. It
was clear that she had not imparted her philanthropic project to her
sister, and was disturbed at the idea that Lewis might be about to do so.
"I just dropped in for a minute," she continued, "to see that darling
little pet of an angel child--" and she enveloped the astonished baby in
her ample rustlings and flutterings.

"I'm very glad to see you here, Sarah Anne," Mary Adeline answered with
simplicity.

"Ah, it's not for want of wishing that I haven't come before! Treeshy
knows that, I hope. But the cares of a household like mine..."

"Yes, and it's been so difficult to get about in the bad weather,"
Treeshy suggested sympathetically.

Mrs. Huzzard lifted the Raycie eyebrows. "Has it really? With two pairs
of horses one hardly notices the weather...Oh, the pretty, pretty,
PRETTY, baby!...Mary Adeline," Sarah Anne continued, turning severely to
her sister, "I shall be happy to offer you a seat in my carriage if
you're thinking of leaving."

But Mary Adeline was a married woman too. She raised her mild head and
her glance crossed her sister's quietly. "My own carriage is at the door,
thank you kindly, Sarah Anne," she said; and the baffled Sarah Anne
withdrew on Lewis's arm. But a moment later the old habit of
subordination reasserted itself. Mary Adeline's gentle countenance grew
as timorous as a child's, and she gathered up her cloak in haste.

"Perhaps I was too quick...I'm sure she meant it kindly," she exclaimed,
overtaking Lewis as he turned to come up the stairs; and with a smile he
stood watching his two sisters drive off together in the Huzzard coach.

He returned to the nursery, where Treeshy was still crooning over her
daughter.

"Well, my dear," he said, "what do you suppose Sarah Anne came for?" And,
in reply to her wondering gaze: "To buy me off from showing the
pictures!"

His wife's indignation took just the form he could have wished. She
simply went on with her rich cooing laugh and hugged the baby tighter.
But Lewis felt the perverse desire to lay a still greater strain upon her
loyalty.

"Offered to double my allowance, she and John, if only I'll take down the
sign!"

"No one shall touch the sign!" Treeshy flamed.

"Not till I do," said her husband grimly.

She turned about and scanned him with anxious eyes. "Lewis...YOU?"

"Oh, my dear...they're right...it can't go on forever..." He went up to
her, and put his arm about her and the child. "You've been braver than an
army of heroes; but it won't do. The expenses have been a good deal
heavier than I was led to expect. And I...I can't raise a mortgage on the
pictures. Nobody will touch them."

She met this quickly. "No; I know. That was what Mary Adeline came
about."

The blood rushed angrily to Lewis's temples. "Mary Adeline--how the devil
did SHE hear of it?"

"Through Mr. Reedy, I suppose. But you must not be angry. She was
kindness itself: she doesn't want you to close the gallery, Lewis...that
is, not as long as you really continue to believe in it...She and Donald
Kent will lend us enough to go on with for a year longer. That is what
she came to say."

For the first time since the struggle had begun, Lewis Raycie's throat
was choked with tears. His faithful Mary Adeline! He had a sudden vision
of her, stealing out of the house at High Point before daylight to carry
a basket of scraps to the poor Mrs. Edgar Poe who was dying of a decline
down the lane...He laughed aloud in his joy.

"Dear old Mary Adeline! How magnificent of her! Enough to give me a whole
year more..." He pressed his wet cheek against his wife's in a long
silence. "Well, dear," he said at length, "it's for you to say--do we
accept?"

He held her off, questioningly, at arm's length, and her wan little smile
met his own and mingled with it.

"Of course we accept!"


9.

OF the Raycie family, which prevailed so powerfully in the New York of
the 'forties, only one of the name survived in my boyhood, half a century
later. Like so many of the descendants of the proud little Colonial
society, the Raycies had totally vanished, forgotten by everyone but a
few old ladies, one or two genealogists and the sexton of Trinity Church,
who kept the record of their graves.

The Raycie blood was of course still to be traced in various allied
families: Kents, Huzzards, Cosbys and many others, proud to claim
cousinship with a "Signer," but already indifferent or incurious as to
the fate of his progeny. These old New Yorkers who lived so well and
spent their money so liberally, vanished like a pinch of dust when they
disappeared from their pews and their dinner-tables.

If I happen to have been familiar with the name since my youth, it is
chiefly because its one survivor was a distant cousin of my mother's,
whom she sometimes took me to see on days when she thought I was likely
to be good because I had been promised a treat for the morrow.

Old Miss Alethea Raycie lived in a house I had always heard spoken of as
"Cousin Ebenezer's." It had evidently, in its day, been an admired
specimen of domestic architecture; but was now regarded as the hideous
though venerable relic of a bygone age. Miss Raycie, being crippled by
rheumatism, sat above stairs in a large cold room, meagrely furnished
with beadwork tables, rosewood etageres and portraits of pale sad-looking
people in odd clothes. She herself was large and saturnine, with a
battlemented black lace cap, and so deaf that she seemed a survival of
forgotten days, a Rosetta Stone to which the clue was lost. Even to my
mother, nursed in that vanished tradition, and knowing instinctively to
whom Miss Raycie alluded when she spoke of Mary Adeline, Sarah Anne or
Uncle Doctor, intercourse with her was difficult and languishing, and my
juvenile interruptions were oftener encouraged than reproved.

In the course of one of these visits my eye, listlessly roaming, singled
out among the pallid portraits a three-crayon drawing of a little girl
with a large forehead and dark eyes, dressed in a plaid frock and
embroidered pantalettes, and sitting on a grass-bank. I pulled my
mother's sleeve to ask who she was, and my mother answered: "Ah, that was
poor little Louisa Raycie, who died of a decline. How old was little
Louisa when she died, Cousin Alethea?"

To batter this simple question into Cousin Alethea's brain was the affair
of ten laborious minutes; and when the job was done, and Miss Raycie,
with an air of mysterious displeasure, had dropped a deep, "Eleven," my
mother was too exhausted to continue. So she turned to me to add, with
one of the private smiles we kept for each other: "It was the poor child
who would have inherited the Raycie Gallery." But to a little boy of my
age this item of information lacked interest, nor did I understand my
mother's surreptitious amusement.

This far-off scene suddenly came back to me last year, when, on one of my
infrequent visits to New York, I went to dine with my old friend, the
banker, John Selwyn, and came to an astonished stand before the
mantelpiece in his new library. "Hal-LO!" I said, looking up at the
picture above the chimney.

My host squared his shoulders, thrust his hands into his pockets, and
affected the air of modesty which people think it proper to assume when
their possessions are admired. "The Macrino d'Alba? Y-yes...it was the
only thing I managed to capture out of the Raycie collection."

"The only thing? Well--."

"Ah, but you should have seen the Mantegna; AND the Giotto; AND the Piero
della Francesca--hang it, one of the most beautiful Piero della
Francescas in the world...A girl in profile, with her hair in a pearl
net, against a background of columbines; THAT went back to Europe--the
National Gallery I believe. And the Carpaccio, the most exquisite little
St. George...that went to California...LORD!" He sat down with the sigh
of a hungry man turned away from a groaning board. "Well, it nearly broke
me buying THIS!" he murmured, as if at least that fact were some
consolation.

I was turning over my early memories in quest of a clue to what he spoke
of as the Raycie collection, in a tone which implied that he was alluding
to objects familiar to all art-lovers.

Suddenly: "They weren't poor little Louisa's pictures, by any chance?" I
asked, remembering my mother's cryptic smile.

Selwyn looked at me perplexedly. "Who the deuce is poor little Louisa?"
And without waiting for my answer, he went on: "They were that fool Netta
Cosby's until a year ago--and she never even knew it."

We looked at each other interrogatively, my friend perplexed at my
ignorance, and I now absorbed in trying to run down the genealogy of
Netta Cosby. I did so finally. "Netta Cosby--you don't mean Netta Kent,
the one who married Jim Cosby?"

"That's it. They were cousins of the Raycies', and she inherited the
pictures."

I continued to ponder. "I wanted awfully to marry her, the year I left
Harvard," I said presently, more to myself than to my hearer.

"Well, if you had you'd have annexed a prize fool; AND one of the most
beautiful collections of Italian Primitives in the world."

"In the world?"

"Well--you wait till you see them; if you haven't already. And I seem to
make out that you haven't?--that you can't have. How long have you been
in Japan? Four years? I thought so. Well, it was only last winter that
Netta found out.

"Found out what?"

"What there was in old Alethea Raycie's attic. You must remember the old
Miss Raycie who lived in that hideous house in Tenth Street when we were
children. She was a cousin of your mother's, wasn't she? Well, the old
fool lived there for nearly half a century, with five millions' worth of
pictures shut up in the attic over her head. It seems they'd been there
ever since the death of a poor young Raycie who collected them in Italy
years and years ago. I don't know much about the story; I never was
strong on genealogy, and the Raycies have always been rather dim to me.
They were everybody's cousins, of course; but as far as one can make out
that seems to have been their principal if not their only function.
Oh--and I suppose the Raycie Building was called after them; only THEY
didn't build it!

"But there was this one young fellow--I wish I could find out more about
him. All that Netta seems to know (or to care, for that matter) is that
when he was very young--barely out of college--he was sent to Italy by
his father to buy Old Masters--in the 'forties, it must have been--and
came back with this extraordinary, this unbelievable collection...a boy
of that age!...and was disinherited by the old gentleman for bringing
home such rubbish. The young fellow and his wife died ever so many years
ago, both of them. It seems he was so laughed at for buying such pictures
that they went away and lived like hermits in the depths of the country.
There were some funny spectral portraits of them that old Alethea had up
in her bedroom. Netta showed me one of them the last time I went to see
her: a pathetic drawing of the only child, an anaemic little girl with a
big forehead. Jove, but that must have been your little Louisa!"

I nodded. "In a plaid frock and embroidered pantalettes?"

"Yes, something of the sort. Well, when Louisa and her parents died, I
suppose the pictures went to old Miss Raycie. At any rate, at some time
or other--and it must have been longer ago than you or I can
remember--the old lady inherited them with the Tenth Street house; and
when SHE died, three or four years ago, her relations found she'd never
even been upstairs to look at them."

"Well--?"

"Well, she died intestate, and Netta Kent--Netta Cosby--turned out to be
the next of kin. There wasn't much to be got out of the estate (or so
they thought) and, as the Cosby's are always hard up, the house in Tenth
Street had to be sold, and the pictures were very nearly sent off to the
auction room with all the rest of the stuff. But nobody supposed they
would bring anything, and the auctioneer said that if you tried to sell
pictures with carpets and bedding and kitchen furniture it always
depreciated the whole thing; and so, as the Cosbys had some bare walls to
cover, they sent for the whole lot--there were about thirty--and decided
to have them cleaned and hang them up. 'After all,' Netta said, 'as well
as I can make out through the cobwebs, some of them look like rather
jolly copies of early Italian things.' But as she was short of cash she
decided to clean them at home instead of sending them to an expert; and
one day, while she was operating on this very one before you, with her
sleeves rolled up, the man called, who always DOES call on such
occasions; the man who knows. In the given case, it was a quiet fellow
connected with the Louvre, who'd brought her a letter from Paris, and
whom she'd invited to one of her stupid dinners. He was announced, and
she thought it would be a joke to let him see what she was doing; she has
pretty arms, you may remember. So he was asked into the dining-room,
where he found her with a pail of hot water and soap-suds, and THIS laid
out on the table; and the first thing he did was to grab her pretty arm
so tight that it was black and blue, while he shouted out: 'God in
heaven! Not HOT water!'"

My friend leaned back with a sigh of mingled resentment and satisfaction,
and we sat silently looking up at the lovely "Adoration" above the
mantelpiece.

"That's how I got it a little cheaper--most of the old varnish was gone
for good. But luckily for her it was the first picture she had attacked;
and as for the others--you must see them, that's all I can say...Wait;
I've got the catalogue somewhere about..."

He began to rummage for it, and I asked, remembering how nearly I had
married Netta Kent: "Do you mean to say she didn't keep a single one of
them?"

"Oh, yes--in the shape of pearls and Rolls-Royces. And you've seen their
new house in Fifth Avenue?" He ended with a grin of irony: "The best joke
is that Jim was just thinking of divorcing her when the pictures were
discovered."

"Poor little Louisa!" I sighed.



THE END





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