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Title:      The Gods Arrive (1932)
Author:     Edith Wharton
eBook No.:  0400781.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          October 2004
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Title:      The Gods Arrive (1932)
Author:     Edith Wharton







The gods approve
The depth and not the tumult of the soul




For W. V. R. B.



Sunt aliquid manes.

--Propertius




BOOK I



I


One of the stewards of the big Atlantic liner pushed his way among
the passengers to a young lady who was leaning alone against the
taffrail.  "Mrs. Vance Weston?"

The lady had been lost in the effort to absorb, with drawn-up
unseeing eyes, a final pyramidal vision of the New York she was
leaving--a place already so unreal to her that her short-sighted
gaze was unable to register even vaguely its towering signals of
farewell.  She turned back.

"Mrs. Vance Weston?"

"No--" she began; then, correcting herself with a half-embarrassed
smile:  "Yes."

Stupid--incredibly!  But it was the first time the name had been
given to her.  And it was not true; she was not yet Mrs. Vance
Weston, but Halo Tarrant, the still undivorced wife of Lewis
Tarrant.  She did not know when she would be free, and some absurd
old leaven of Lorburn Puritanism (on her mother's side she was a
Lorburn of Paul's Landing) made her dislike to masquerade under a
name to which she had no right.  Yet before her own conscience and
her lover's she was already irrevocably what she called herself:
his wife; supposing one could apply the term irrevocable to any tie
in modern life without provoking Olympian laughter.  She herself
would once have been the first to share in that laughter; but she
had to think of her own situation as binding her irrevocably, or
else to assume that life, in its deepest essence, was as brittle as
the glass globe which the monkeys shatter in the bitter scene of
Faust's visit to the witch.  If she were not Vance Weston's for
always the future was already a handful of splinters.

The steward, handing her a telegram, and a letter inscribed
"urgent," had hurried away on his distribution of correspondence.
On the envelope of the letter she read the name of her lawyer; and
as he was not given to superfluous writing, and as telegrams were
too frequent to be of consequence, she opened the letter first.
"Dear Mrs. Tarrant," she read, "I am sending this by hand to the
steamer in the hope of reaching you in time to persuade you not to
sail.  I have just heard, from a safe source, that your husband
knows of your plans, and is not disposed to consent to your
divorcing him if you persist in leaving the country in the
circumstances of which you have advised me."  (She smiled at this
draping of the facts.)  "Indeed, I suspect he may refuse to take
divorce proceedings himself, simply in order to prevent your re-
marrying.  I should have tried to see you at once if I were not
leaving for Albany on professional business; but I earnestly beg
you, if my messenger reaches you before you are actually off . . ."

Halo Tarrant lifted her eyes from the letter.  No; she was not
actually off.  The decks were still in the final confusion of
goodbyes; friends and relatives were lingering among the passengers
till the landing gong should hurry them ashore.  There was time to
dash down to her cabin, collect her possessions, and descend the
gangplank with the other visitors, leaving a note of explanation
for the companion she was abandoning.  For his sake as well as her
own, ought she not to do it?  What she knew of her husband made her
ready enough to believe that a headlong impulse of reprisals might
make him sacrifice his fixed purpose, his hope of happiness, a
future deliberately willed and designed by himself, to the
satisfaction of hurting and humiliating her.  He was almost capable
of wishing that she WOULD go away with Vance Weston; the mere
pleasure of thwarting her would be keen enough to repay him.  He
was a man who grew fat on resentment as others did on happiness . . .
For an instant her old life rose before her.  This was the man
she had lived with for ten years; he had always been what he was
now, and she had always known it.  The thought frightened her even
now--she had to admit that he could still frighten her.  But the
admission stiffened her will.  Did he really imagine that any
threat of his could still affect her?  That she would give up a
year, perhaps two years, of happiness, of life--life at last!--and
sit in conventual solitude till the divorce, conducted with old-
fashioned discretion and deliberation, permitted him to posture
before his little world as the husband who has chivalrously
"allowed" an unworthy but unblamed wife to gain her liberty?  How
quaint and out-of-date it all sounded!  What did she care if she
divorced him or he divorced her--what, even, if he chose to wreak
his malice on her by preventing any recourse to divorce?  Her life
had struck root in the soul-depths, while his uneasily fluttered on
the surface; and that put her beyond all reach of malice.  She read
the letter twice over, slowly; then with a smiling deliberation she
tore it up, and sent the fragments over the taffrail.

As she did so, she felt a faint vibration through the immense bulk
to which her fate was committed.  It was too late now--really too
late.  The gong had sounded; the steamer was moving.  For better or
worse, she had chosen; and she was glad she had done so
deliberately.

"We're off!" she heard at her side, in a voice of passionate
excitement.  She turned and laid her hand on Vance Weston's; their
eyes met, laughing.  "Now at last you'll have your fill of the
sea," she said.

He shook his head.  "Only a week . . ."

"Ten days to Gibraltar."

"What's that you've got?"

With a little start she looked down at her hand.  "Oh, only a
telegram.  The steward brought it.  I forgot . . ."

"Forgot what?"

"Everything that has to do with that dead world."  She made a
gesture of dismissal toward the dwindling cliffs of masonry.  "The
steward called me Mrs. Vance Weston," she added, smiling.

He responded to her smile.  "Well, you'll have to get used to
that."

They both laughed again, for the mere joy of sipping their laughter
out of the one cup; then she said:  "I suppose I ought to open
it . . ."

"Oh, why?  Now we're off, why not drop it into the sea as a tribute
to old Liberty over there?  We owe her a tribute, don't we?" he
said; and she thought, with a little thrill of feminine submission:
"How strong and decided he seems!  He tells me what to do--he takes
everything for granted.  I'm the weak inexperienced one, after
all."  She ran her finger carelessly under the flap of the
telegram.

Now that they were off, as he said, it did not much matter whether
she opened her telegrams or threw them to the waves.  What
possibility was there in her adventure that she had not already
foreseen, agonized over and finally put out of mind as inevitable
or irrelevant?  With that last letter she had tossed her past
overboard.  Smiling, brooding, still thinking only of himself and
her, enclosed in the impenetrable world of their love, she opened
the telegram under their joint gaze.

They read:  "Happiness is a work of art.  Handle with care."  The
message was unsigned, but no signature was necessary.  "Poor old
Frenny!"  Her first impulse was to smile at the idea that any one,
and most of all an embittered old bachelor like her friend George
Frenside, should think it possible to advise her as to the nature
or management of happiness.  Her eyes met Vance's, and she saw that
they were grave.

"I suppose he remembered something in his own life," Vance said.

"I suppose so."  It made her shiver a little to think that some day
she too might be remembering--THIS.  At the moment, happiness
seemed to have nothing to do with memory, to be an isolating medium
dividing her from the past as completely, as arbitrarily, as this
huge ship had detached her little world of passengers from the
shores of earth.  Suddenly Halo recalled having said to Frenside,
in the course of one of their endless speculative talks:  "Being
contented is so jolly that I sometimes think I couldn't have stood
being happy"; and his grim answer:  "It's a destructive
experience."

Poor Frenside!  Poor herself!  For she had not known then what
happiness was, any more (she supposed) than he did.  Destructive?
When the mounting flood of life was rumouring in her ears like the
sea?  As well call spring destructive, or birth, or any of the
processes of renewal that forever mantle the ancient earth with
promise.

"I wonder what it feels like to remember," she said obscurely.
Vance's smile met hers.  "How extraordinary!" she thought.
"Nothing that I say to him will need explaining . . ."  It gave her
a miraculous winged sense, as though she were free of the bonds of
gravitation.  "Oh, Vance, this--it's like flying!"  He nodded, and
they stood silent, watching the silvery agitation of the waters as
the flank of the steamer divided them.  Up and down the deck people
were scattering, disappearing.  Rows of empty deck-chairs stood
behind the lovers.  The passengers had gone to look up their
cabins, hunt for missing luggage, claim letters, parcels, seats in
the dining-saloon.  Vance Weston and Halo Tarrant seemed to have
the ship to themselves.

It was a day of early September.  Wind-clouds, shifting about in
the upper sky, tinged the unsteady glittering water with tones of
silver, lead and rust-colour, hollowed to depths of sullen green as
the steamer pressed forward to the open.  The lovers were no longer
gazing back on the fading pinnacles of New York; hand clasped over
hand, they looked out to where the sea spread before them in
limitless freedom.

They had chosen a slow steamer, on an unfashionable line, partly
from economy, partly because of Halo's wish to avoid acquaintances;
and their choice had been rewarded.  They knew no one on board.
Halo Tarrant, in the disturbed and crowded days before her
departure, had looked forward with impatience to the quiet of a
long sea-voyage.  Her life, of late, had been so full of
unprofitable agitation that she yearned to set her soul's house in
order.  Before entering on a new existence she wanted to find
herself again, to situate herself in the new environment into which
she had been so strangely flung.  A few months ago she had been
living under the roof of Lewis Tarrant, bound to him by ties the
more unbreakable because they did not concern her private feelings.
She had regarded it as her fate to be a good wife and a devoted
companion to her husband for the rest of their joint lives; it had
never occurred to her that he would wish a change.  But she had
left out of account the uneasy vanity which exacted more, always
more, which would not be put off with anything less than her whole
self, her complete belief, the uncritical surrender of her will and
judgment.  When her husband found she was not giving him this (or
only feigning to give it) he sought satisfaction elsewhere.  If his
wife did not believe in him, his attitude implied, other women did--
women whom this act of faith endued with all the qualities he had
hoped to find in Halo.  To be "understood", for Lewis Tarrant, was
an active, a perpetually functioning state.  The persons nearest
him must devote all their days and nights, thoughts, impulses,
inclinations, to the arduous business of understanding him.  Halo
began to see that as her powers of self-dedication decreased her
importance to her husband decreased with them.  She became first
less necessary, then (in consequence) less interesting, finally
almost an incumbrance.  The discovery surprised her.  She had once
thought that Tarrant, even if he ceased to love her, would continue
to need her.  She saw now that this belief was inspired by the
resolve to make the best of their association, to keep it going at
all costs.  When she found she had been replaced by more ardent
incense-burners the discovery frightened her.  She felt a great
emptiness about her, saw herself freezing into old age unsustained
by self-imposed duties.  For she could not leave her husband--she
regarded herself as bound by the old debt on which their marriage
had been based.  Tarrant had rescued her parents from bankruptcy,
had secured their improvident old age against material cares.  That
deed once done would never be undone; she knew he would go on
supporting them; his very vanity compelled him to persist in being
generous when he had once decreed that he ought to be.  He never
gave up an attitude once adopted as a part of his picture of
himself.

But then--what of her?  She tried not to think of her loneliness;
but there it was, perpetually confronting her.  She was unwanted,
yet she could not go.  She had to patch together the fragments of
the wrecked situation, and try to use them as a shelter.

And then, what would have seemed likely enough had it not been the
key to her difficulty, had after all come to pass.  An infirm old
cousin died, and her will made Halo Tarrant a free woman.  At first
she did not measure the extent of her freedom.  She thought only:
"Now I can provide for my people; they need not depend on Lewis--"
but it had not yet dawned on her that her liberation might come
too.  She still believed that Tarrant's determination to keep
whatever had once belonged to him would be stronger than any other
feeling.  "He'll take the other woman--but he'll want to keep me,"
she reasoned; and began to wonder how she could avoid making her
plea for freedom seem to coincide with her material release.  To
appear to think that her debt could be thus cancelled was to turn
their whole past into a matter of business--and it had begun by
being something else.  She could not have married anybody who
happened to have paid her parents' debts; that Tarrant had done so
seemed at the time merely an added cause for admiration, a
justification of her faith in him.  She knew now that from the
beginning her faith had needed such support . . .  And then, before
she could ask for her freedom, he had anticipated her by asking for
his; and, so abruptly that she was still bewildered by the
suddenness of the change, she found herself a new woman in a new
world . . .



All this she had meant to think over, setting her past in order
before she put it away from her and took up the threads of the
future.  But suddenly she found herself confronted by a new fact
which reduced past and future to shadows.  For the first time in
her life she was living in the present.  Hitherto, as she now saw,
her real existence, her whole inner life, had been either plunged
in the wonders that art, poetry, history, had built into her
dreams, or else reaching forward to a future she longed for yet
dreaded.  She had thought she could perhaps not bear to be happy;
and now she was happy, and all the rest was nothing.  She was like
someone stepping into hot sunlight from a darkened room; she
blinked, and saw no details.  And to look at the future was like
staring into the sun.  She was blinded, and her eyes turned to the
steady golden noon about her.  Ah, perhaps it was true--perhaps she
did not know how to bear happiness.  It took her by the inmost
fibres, burned through her like a fever, was going to give her no
rest, no peace, no time to steady and tame it in her dancing soul.


II


Halo had said:  "Now you'll have your fill of the sea--" and Vance
Weston had smiled at the idea that ten days could be enough of
infinitude.  Hitherto his horizon had been bounded by the prairies
of the Middle West or walled in between the cliffs of the Hudson or
the skyscrapers of New York.  Twice only had he drunk of that
magic, in two brief glimpses which had seemed to pour the ocean
through his veins.  If a lover can separate the joys of love from
its setting, he felt a separate delight in knowing that his first
days and nights with Halo were to be spent at sea.

When his wife's death, and Halo Tarrant's decision to leave her
husband, had brought the two together a few months previously,
Vance had seen no reason for not seizing at once on their
predestined happiness.  But Halo felt differently.  When she went
to him with the news of her freedom she supposed him to be
separated from his wife, and thought that he and she might resume
their fraternal intimacy without offense to Laura Lou.  Then, when
she had run him to earth in a shabby outskirt of New York, she had
discovered that he also was free, freed not by the law but by the
fact that his young wife had just died in the tumble-down bungalow
where Halo had found him.  There she learned that there had been no
lasting quarrel between Vance and Laura Lou, and that they had
never separated.  Expecting to find a deserted husband she had
encountered a mourning widower, and had been paralyzed by the
thought of declaring her love under the roof where Vance's vigil by
his wife's death-bed was barely ended.  Vance had hardly perceived
the barrier that she felt between them.  He lived in a simpler
moral atmosphere, and was quicker at distinguishing the transient
from the fundamental in human relations; but he would have felt
less tenderly toward Halo if she had not been aware of that silent
presence.

"But she's there, dearest--can't you feel it?  Don't you see her
little face, so pleading and puzzled . . . as it was that day when
she was angry with me for going to see her, and turned me out of
her room--do you remember?  Oh, Vance, it was all for love of you--
don't I KNOW?  I understood it even then; I loved her for it.  I
used to envy her for having somebody to worship.  And now I see
her, I feel her near us, and I know we must give her time, time to
understand, time to consent, to learn not to hate me, as she would
hate me at this minute if you and I were to forget her."

Vance had never before thought of the past in that way; but as he
listened Halo's way became his, and her evocation of Laura Lou,
instead of paining or irritating him, seemed like saying a prayer
on a lonely grave.  Such feelings, instinctive in Halo, were
familiar to Vance through the pity for failure, pity for
incomprehension, which glowed in his grandmother's warm blood.  New
York and Euphoria called things by different names, and feelings
which in the older society had become conventionalized seemed to
require formulating and ticketing in the younger; but the same
fibres stirred to the same touch.

Vance and Halo, that spring evening, had parted after a long talk.
Halo had gone to join her parents at Eaglewood, their country place
above Paul's Landing; Vance had returned to his family at Euphoria,
with the idea of settling down there for a year of writing, away
from all the disturbances, material and moral, which had so long
hampered his work.  By the end of the year Halo would have obtained
her divorce, his book (he was sure) would be finished, and a new
life could begin for both.  Vance meant to go on with the
unfinished novel, "Magic," which had been so strangely stimulated
by his wife's illness, so violently interrupted by her death.  That
sad fragment of his life was over, his heart was free to feed on
its new hopes, and he felt that it would be easy, after a few weeks
of rest, to return to his work.

They had all been very kind at Euphoria.  His father's business was
recovering, though his spirits were not.  A younger and more
unscrupulous school of realtors had robbed Mr. Weston of his former
prominence.  Though he retained its faint reflection among his
contemporaries he was a back number to the younger men, and he knew
it, and brooded over the thought that if things had gone
differently Vance might have been one of his successful
supplanters.  Lorin Weston would have liked to be outwitted in
business by his own son.  "I used to think you'd be a smarter
fellow than I ever was," he said wistfully.  "And anyway, if you'd
come back and taken that job they offered you on the 'Free Speaker'
you could have given me enough backing to prevent the Crampton deal
going through without me.  I was a pioneer of Crampton, and
everybody in Euphoria knows it.  But those fellows squared the
'Free Speaker' and so their deal with the Shunts motor people went
through without me.  And it's not much more'n three years ago that
I sold that house your grandmother used to live in for less than
what Harrison Delaney got the year after by the square yard for
that rookery of his down the lane--you remember?"  Vance
remembered.

"Oh, well," interrupted Mrs. Weston, in the nervous tone of one who
knows what is coming, and has heard it too often, "there's no use
your going over that old Delaney deal again.  I guess everybody has
a chance once in their lives--and anyhow, Harrison Delaney's waited
long enough for his."

"Well, he DID wait, and I couldn't afford to.  He smelt out somehow
that Shunts Amalgamated were buying up everything they could lay
their hands on down Crampton way; and he pocketed his million--yes,
sir, one million--and sent for that girl of his, who was on some
job over at Dakin, and the story is they've gone over to Europe to
blow it in--gay Paree!"  Mr. Weston jeered a little mournfully.
"Well, son, I always kinder hoped when you'd worked the literature
out of your system you'd come back and carry on the old job with
me; and if you had I guess we'd be running Crampton today instead
of the Shuntses."

However, the Euphoria boom was not confined to Crampton, and Mr.
Weston's improved situation enabled him to pay Vance's debts
(though the total startled him), and even to promise his son a
small allowance till the latter could get on his feet and produce
that surest evidence of achievement, a best-seller.  "And he will
too, Vanny will; just you folks reserve your seats and wait," his
grandmother Scrimser exulted, her old blue eyes sparkling like
flowers through her tears.

"Well, I guess father'll be prouder of that than what he would of a
real-estate deal," Mae, the cultured daughter, remarked
sententiously.

"I will, the day he gets up to Harrison Delaney's figure," Mr.
Weston grumbled; but he circulated Mrs. Scrimser's prophecy among
his cronies, and Vance's fame spread about through Euphoria.  The
women of the family (his grandmother not excepted) took even more
pride in the prospect of his marrying into one of the "regular
Fifth Avenue families."  "Well, if they wouldn't listen to me I
guess they'll all be listening to YOU some day soon," Mrs. Scrimser
said, humorously alluding to an unsuccessful attempt she had once
made to evangelize fashionable New York.  They all gloated over a
snap-shot of Halo which Vance had brought with him, and his mother
longed to give it to the "Free Speaker" for publication, and to see
Vance, on both literary and social grounds, interviewed, head-lined
and banqueted.  But they were impressed, if disappointed, by his
resolve to defend his privacy.  He had come back home to work, they
explained for him; one of the big New York publishers was waiting
for his new book, and showing signs of impatience; and the house in
Mapledale Avenue was converted into a sanctuary where the family
seer might vaticinate undisturbed.

Never before in Vance's troubled life had he worked with an easy
mind.  He had written the first chapters of "Magic" in an agony of
anxiety.  Fears for his wife's health, despair of his own future,
regrets for his past mistakes, had made his mind a battle-ground
during the months before Laura Lou's death.  Yet through that
choking anguish the fount of inspiration had forced its way; and
now that he sat secure under the Mapledale Avenue roof, heart and
mind at peace, the past at rest, the future radiant, the fount was
dry.  Before he had been at home a week he was starving for Halo,
and stifling in the unchanged atmosphere of Euphoria.  He saw now
that the stimulus he needed was not rest but happiness.  He had
meant to send Halo what he wrote, chapter by chapter; but he could
not write.  What he needed was not her critical aid but her
nearness.  His apprentice days were over; he knew what he was
trying to do better than any one could tell him, even Halo; what he
craved was the one medium in which his imagination could expand,
and that was Halo herself.

For two or three months he struggled on without result; then, after
a last night spent in desperate contemplation of the blank sheets
on his desk, he threw his manuscript into his suit-case and went
down to announce his departure to the family.  He travelled from
Euphoria to Paul's Landing as quickly as changes of train
permitted; and two days later rang the door-bell of Eaglewood, and
said to the Spears' old chauffeur, Jacob, who appeared at the door
in the guise of the family butler:  "Hullo, Jake; remember me--
Vance Weston?  Yes; I've just arrived from out west; and I've got
to see Mrs. Tarrant right off . . ."

That had happened in August; now, barely three weeks later, Halo
sat at his side in a corner of the liner's deck, and the night-sea
encircled them, boundless and inscrutable as their vision of the
future.  There was no moon, but the diffused starlight gave a faint
uniform lustre to the moving obscurity.  The sea, throbbing and
hissing in phosphorescent whirls about the steamer's keel, subsided
to vast ebony undulations as it stretched away to the sky.  The
breeze blew against the lovers' faces purified of all earthly
scents, as if it had circled forever over that dematerialized
waste.  Vance sat with his arm about Halo, brooding over the
mystery of the waters and his own curious inability to feel their
vastness as he had once felt it from a lonely beach on Long Island.
It was as if the sea shrank when no land was visible--as if the
absence of the familiar shore made it too remote, too abstract, to
reach his imagination.  He had a feeling that perhaps he would
never be able to assimilate perfection or completeness.

"It's funny," he said; and when Halo wanted to know what was, he
rejoined:  "Well, when people tell me a story, and say:  'Here's
something you ought to make a good thing out of, if what they tell
me is too perfect, too finished--if they don't break off before the
end--I can't do anything with it.  Snatches, glimpses--the seeds of
things--that's what story-tellers want.  I suppose that's why the
Atlantic's too big for me.  A creek's got more of the sea in it,
for people who want to turn it into poetry."

She pressed closer to him.  "That's exactly the theme of 'Magic',
isn't it?"

"Yes," he assented; and sat silent.  "Do you know, there's another
thing that's funny--"

"What else is?"

"Well, I used to think your eyes were gray."

"Aren't they?"

"They're all mixed with brown, like autumn leaves on a gray
stream."

"Vance, wouldn't it be awful if you found out that everything about
me was different from what you used to think?"

"Well, everything is--I mean, there are all sorts of lights and
shades and contradictions and complications."

"Perhaps I shall be like your subjects.  If you get to know me too
well you won't be able to do anything with me.  I suppose that's
why artists often feel they oughtn't to marry."

"What they generally feel is that they oughtn't to stay married,"
he corrected.

"Well--it's not too late!" she challenged him.

"Oh, but they've got to marry first; artists have.  Or some sort of
equivalent."

"You acknowledge that you're all carnivora?"

He turned and drew her head to his cheek in the dimness.  "I said
perfection was what I hadn't any use for."  Their laughter mixed
with their long kiss; then she loosed herself from his arms and
stood up.

"Come, Vance, let's go and look at the past for a minute."

"What's the past?"

She drew him along the deck, from which the last of the passengers
were descending to the light and sociability below; they retraced
the ship's length till they reached a point at the stern from which
they could see the receding miles of star-strown ocean.  "Look how
we're leaving it behind and how it's racing after us," Halo said.
"I suppose there's a symbol in that.  All the things we've done and
thought and struggled for, or tried to escape from, leagued
together and tearing after us.  Doesn't it make you feel a little
breathless?  I wonder what we should do if they caught up with us."

Vance leaned on the rail, his arm through hers.  The immensity of
the night was rushing after them.  On those pursuing waves he saw
the outstretched arms of his youth, his parents, his grandmother,
Floss Delaney, Mrs. Pulsifer, the girls who had flitted across his
path, and the little white vision of Laura Lou springing like spray
from wave to wave.  He pictured a man suddenly falling over the
ship's side, and seized and torn to pieces by the pack of his
memories--then he felt the current of Halo's blood beating in his,
and thought:  "For a little while longer we shall outrace them."


III


The monumental Spanish sky was full of cloud-architecture.  Long
azure perspectives between colonnades and towers stretched away
majestically above an empty earth.  The real Spain seemed to be
overhead, heavy with history; as if all the pictures, statues,
ecclesiastical splendours that Vance and Halo had come to see were
stored in the air-palaces along those radiant avenues.  The clouds
peopled even the earth with their shadow-masses, creating here a
spectral lake in the dry landscape, there a flock of cattle, or a
hamlet on a hill which paled and vanished as the travellers
approached.  All that Vance had ever read about mirages and desert
semblances rose in his mind as the motor-coach rolled and swayed
across the barren land.

The names of the few villages that they passed meant nothing to
him.  The famous towns and cities of Spain already sang in his
imagination; but there were none on this road, and the clusters of
humble houses on bare slopes could not distract his attention from
that celestial architecture.  At first he had been oppressed by the
emptiness of the landscape, its lack of any relation to the labours
and joys of men.  Stretching away on all sides to the horizon, the
tierras despobladas seemed to lie under a mysterious blight.  But
gradually he ceased to feel their gloom.  Under a sky so packed
with prodigies it began to seem natural that people should turn
their minds and their interests away from the earth.  On the
steamer he had read a little about the Spanish mystics, in one of
the books that Halo had brought; and now he thought:  "No wonder
everything on earth seemed irrelevant, with all those New
Jerusalems building and re-building themselves overhead."

As the sun declined, cloud ramparts and towers grew more massive,
nearer the earth, till their lowest degrees rested like marble
stairways on the hills.  "Those are the ladders that Jacob's angels
went up and down," Vance mused; then the gold paled to ashes, and
the sky-palaces were absorbed into the dusk.  The motor-coach
crossed a bridge and drove into a brown city, through narrow
streets already full of lights.  At a corner Halo asked the
conductor to stop, and entrusted their bags to him.  "Come," she
said; and Vance followed her across a wide court where daylight
still lingered faintly under old twisted trees.  She pushed open a
door in a cliff-like wall, and they entered into what seemed total
darkness to eyes still blinking with Spanish sunshine.  Vance stood
still, waiting for his sight to return.  It came little by little,
helped by the twinkle of two or three specks of flame, immeasurably
far off, like ships' lights in mid-ocean; till gradually he
discerned through the obscurity forms of columns and arches linked
with one another in long radiating perspectives.  "The place is as
big as that sky out there," he murmured.

He and Halo moved forward.  First one colonnade, low-vaulted and
endless, drew them on; then another.  They were caught in a dim
network of architectural forms, perpetually repeated abstractions
of the relation between arch and shaft.  The similarity of what
surrounded them was so confusing that they could not be sure if
they had passed from one colonnade to another, or if the whole
system were revolving with them around some planetary centre still
invisible.  Vance felt as if he had dropped over the brim of things
into the mysterious world where straight lines loop themselves into
curves.  He thought:  "It's like the feel of poetry, just as it's
beginning to be born in you"--that fugitive moment before words
restrict the vision.  But he gave up the struggle for definitions.

The obscure central bulk about which those perpetual aisles
revolved gradually took shape as sculptured walls rising high
overhead.  In the walls were arched openings; lights reflected in
polished marble glimmered through the foliation of wrought-iron
gates.  Vance was as excited and exhausted as if he had raced for
miles over the uneven flagging.  Suddenly he felt the desire to
lift his arms and push back the overwhelming spectacle till he had
the strength to receive it.  He caught Halo's arm.  "Come away," he
said hoarsely.  Through the dimness he saw her look of surprise and
disappointment.  She was used to these things, could bear them.  He
couldn't--and he didn't know how to tell her.  He slipped his arm
through hers, pulling her after him.

"But wait, dearest, do wait.  This is the choir, the high-altar,
the Christian cathedral built inside . . .  It's so beautiful at
this hour. . .  Don't you want . . . ?"

He repeated irritably:  "Come away.  I'm tired," knowing all the
while how he was disappointing her.  He felt her arm nervously
pressed against his.

"Of course, dear.  But what could have tired you?  The hot sun,
perhaps . . .  Oh, where's the door?"  She took a few uncertain
steps.  "There's only one left open.  The sacristan saw us come in,
and is waiting outside.  All the doors are locked at sunset; but
he's watching for us at the one we came in by.  The thing is to
find it."

They began to walk down one of the aisles.  Farther and farther
away in the heart of the shadows they left the great choir and
altar; yet they seemed to get no nearer to the door.  Halo stood
still again.  "No--this way," she said, with the abruptness of
doubt.  "We're going in the wrong direction."  Vance remembered a
passage in the Second Faust which had always haunted him: the scene
where Faust descends to the Mothers.  "He must have wound round and
round like this," he thought.  They had turned and were walking
down another low-vaulted vista toward a glow-worm light at its end.
This led them to a door bolted and barred on the inner side, and
evidently long unopened.  "It's not that."  They turned again and
walked in the deepening darkness down another colonnade.  Vance
thought of the Cretan labyrinth, of Odysseus evoking the mighty
dead, of all the subterranean mysteries on whose outer crust man
loves and fights and dies.  The blood was beating in his ears.  He
began to wish that they might never find the right door, but go on
turning about forever at the dark heart of things.  They walked and
walked.  After a while Halo asked:  "Are you really tired?" like
Eurydice timidly guiding Orpheus back to daylight.

"No; I'm not tired any longer."

"We'll soon be out," she cheered him; and he thought:  "How funny
that she doesn't know what I'm feeling!"  He longed to sit down at
the foot of one of the glimmering shafts and let the immensity and
the mystery sweep over him like the sea.  "If only she doesn't tell
me any more about it," he thought, dreading architectural and
historical explanations.  But she slipped her hand in his, and the
touch melted into his mood.

At last they found the right door, and a key ground in response to
Halo's knock.  Vance felt like a disembodied spirit coming back to
earth.  "I'd like to go and haunt somebody," he murmured.  It was
night outside, but a transparent southern night, not like the thick
darkness in the cathedral.  The court with the old twisted orange-
trees was dim; but in the streets beyond there were lights and
shrill human noises, the smell of frying food and the scent of
jasmine.  When they got back to the hotel and were shown to their
room, Vance said abruptly:  "You go down to dinner alone.  I don't
want anything to eat.  I'd rather stay here . . ."

"You don't feel ill?" she asked; but he reassured her.  "I'm only
overfed with the day . . ."  She tidied her hair and dress, and
went down.  It was exquisite to be with a woman who didn't persist
and nag.  He flung himself on the bed, his nerves tranquillized,
and watched the stars come out through a tree under the window.
Those branches recalled others, crooked and half-bare, outside of
the window of the suburban bungalow where he had nursed his wife in
her last illness.  They were apple-branches; and he remembered how
one day--a day of moral misery but acute spiritual excitement--he
had seen the subject of his new book hanging on that tree like
fruit.  "Magic"--the story he had meant to write as soon as he was
free.  And he had been free for nearly a year, and had not added a
line to it.  But now everything would be different.  With Halo at
his side, and the world opening about him like the multiple vistas
of that strange cathedral, his imagination would have room to range
in.  He shut his eyes and fell asleep.

The opening of the door made him start up, and he tumbled off the
bed as Halo entered.  "It took forever to get anything to eat.  Did
you wonder what had become of me?"

"No.  I must have been asleep.  But I'm as hungry as a cannibal.
Can't we go out somewhere and get supper?"  He felt happy, renewed,
and as famished as a boy who has been sent to bed dinnerless.

The streets hummed with nocturnal chatter.  Gusts of scent blew
over secret garden-walls; and in the narrower thoroughfares of the
old town they caught, through open arch-ways, glimpses of white
courts with hanging lanterns, and plants about fountains, and
gossiping people grouped in willow armchairs.  Halo's Spanish was
fluent enough to make her at ease in the scene, and she found a
little restaurant smelling of olive-oil and garlic, where diners
still lingered, and a saffron mound of rice and fish was set before
Vance.  He revelled in the high-seasoned diet, the thick sunny
wine, the familiarity and noise of the friendly place, the contrast
between the solitude of the cathedral and the crowded common life
at its doors.  He longed to wander from street to street, listening
to the overlapping gramophones, the snatches of hoarse song,
excited talk from door-step to door-step, the wail of muleteers
driving their beasts to the stable, the whine of beggars on the
steps of churches.  It was strange and delicious to be sitting
there at ease with this young woman who knew what everybody was
saying, could talk to them, laugh with them, ask the way, bandy
jokes, and give him the sense of being at home in it all.

After a while they got up and walked on.  "Do you want to see some
dancing?  I daresay we could find a place," Halo suggested, as they
caught a rattle of castanets from a packed café.  But Vance wanted
to stay in the streets.  He liked to wander under the night-blue
sky, and to speculate on what was going on behind the white walls
of the houses, and the gates that were beginning to be shut on the
darkened patios.  They strayed down one street after another,
through little squares shadowed with trees, to the market quarter
around the cathedral, where, at the base of those mute walls, the
shrieking of gramophones contended with the smell of fish and
garlic.  Then they turned the flank of the cathedral, and followed
an unfrequented lane descending between convent-like buildings to
the river.  All was hushed and dim.  They went out to the middle of
the fortified bridge, and leaning on the parapet looked from the
sluggish waters below to the mountain-like mass of the great
church.

Vance gave a chuckle of satiety.  "I don't believe I could bear it
if there was a moon!"

Halo had not spoken for a long while.  "That's what I used to feel
about happiness," she said.

"That you couldn't bear it?"

"Yes."

"Well--and now?"

"Oh, now . . . you'll have to teach me . . ."

"Me?  I never knew what it was, either . . . not this kind . . ."

"Is there any other?"

He pressed her close.  "If there is, I've got no use for it."

They stood listening to the sound of the lazy river.  The darkness
drooped over them, low and burning as the curtains of an Olympian
couch; and Vance, holding his love, thought how little meaning the
scene would have had without her.  He had seen it all before, after
all--in inklings, in scattered visions; at the movies, at the
opera, in the histories and travels he'd read; in "Gil Blas" and
Gautier and "The Bible in Spain"; in sham Spanish cafés and
cabarets; who was going to tell him anything new about Spain?  The
newness, the marvel, was in his arms, under his lips--this girl who
was his other brain, his soul and his flesh.  He longed to tell her
so, in words such as no other woman had heard; but the poverty of
all words came over him.  "See here, let's go home to bed."  They
linked arms, and went back up the hill to the hotel.  It was so
late that even a Spanish porter was hard to rouse--but at length
they climbed the stairs and stole into their room.  Through the
window the smell of frying oil and jasmine flowers blew in on them;
and Vance wondered if in all his life any other smell would be so
mingled for him with the taste of Halo's lips and eyelids.


IV


The next morning Vance announced that he meant to spend at least a
month at Cordova.  He said "_I_ mean," as naturally as if the
decision concerned only himself, and he would not for the world
have restricted his companion's liberty.  But this was not a
surprise to Halo.  She knew the irresistible force which drove him
in pursuit of the food his imagination required.  It was not that
he was forgetful of her, but that, now they were together, his
heart was satisfied, while the hunger of his mind was perpetual and
insatiable.

In spite of herself she was slightly disconcerted by his taking
their plan of travel into his own hands.  She, who had worked it
out so carefully, considering the season, the probable weather, the
number of days to be given to each place, saw that all this meant
nothing to him and reflected with a pang that she had outgrown the
age of impulse.  It was seldom nowadays that she remembered this
difference between them.  At first she had been continually
conscious that he was the younger, and this had kept her from
acknowledging to herself that she was in love with him.  Even
afterward there were times when he had seemed a boy to her; but now
that they were lovers she felt in him a man's authority.  But in
practical matters she was conscious of her greater experience, and
half-vexed at his not perceiving it.

"But, darling, you haven't seen Seville yet--or Murcia or Granada.
And we ought to go up to Ronda before the weather turns cold.
You've no conception of the wonders . . ."

He looked at her with a whimsical smile.  "That's why . . ."

"Why?"

"It takes me such a darned long time to deal with wonders.  I'm
slow, I suppose.  I don't care for more than one course at a meal."

She shrugged a little impatiently.  "Oh, don't use your gastronomic
preferences as an argument, dearest!"

"You mean they're too crude?"

"No; but they contradict your other theory.  The theory that
artists need only a mouthful of each dish."

"Oh, damn artists!  I just want to please Vance Weston," he
rejoined imperturbably, his arm about her shoulder.  She laughed,
and kissed him; but inwardly she thought:  "I must just adapt
myself; I must learn to keep step."

After all, wasn't it what she had wanted to marry him for?  The
absorbing interest of seeing his gift unfold under her care had
been so interwoven with her love that she could not separate them.
But she liked to think that she loved him because she believed in
his genius, not that (as a simpler woman might) she believed in his
genius because she loved him.  Yet here she was, on the point of
letting her petty habits of routine and order interfere with his
inspiration!  What did it matter if they spent the rest of the
autumn at Cordova--or the rest of the year?  "You feel as if you
could write here?" she suggested, remembering how once before his
art had flowered under her influence; and he smiled back at her:
"Just at this minute I feel as if I couldn't write anywhere else."
But they agreed that work would be impossible in their one noisy
room at the hotel, and Halo set out to find quieter and roomier
quarters.  In her young days, before her marriage to Tarrant had
immersed the family in luxury, Mr. and Mrs. Spear had taught their
children that to combine picturesqueness with economy was one of
the pleasures of travel.  Scornful of the tourist who rated
plumbing above local colour, and had to content himself with what
could be asked for in English, the Spears, polylingual and
ingratiating, gloried in the art of securing "amusing" lodgings at
famine prices.  The gifts developed in those nomad years came to
Halo's aid, and before night she had driven a masterly bargain with
the owner of the very quarters she wanted.  The rooms were bare but
clean, and so high above the town that they commanded the jumble of
roofs and towers descending to the bridge, and a glimpse of the
brown hills beyond.  Vance was enchanted, and the unpacking and
settling down turned the lovers into happy children.  Though Vance
lacked Halo's skill in driving nails and mending broken furniture
he shared her love of order, and his good will and stronger muscles
lightened her task.  Before long his room was ready, and at a
carefully consolidated table on which Halo had laid a fresh sheet
of blotting paper and a stack of "author's pads" of a blue that was
supposed to be good for the eyes, he sat down to his novel.

"Nobody ever fixed me up like this before," he said with a
contented laugh.  She remembered the comfortless house in which she
had found him after Laura Lou's death, and wondered what happiness
could equal that of a woman permitted to serve the genius while she
adored the man.

"Do you think it's going to be as good a place for work as the
Willows?"  She coloured at her allusion to the old house on the
Hudson, where she had spent so many hours with Vance while he was
writing "Instead"--the novel the critics had acclaimed, and his
publishers had resented his not consenting to repeat.  All through
one fervid summer the two had met there, unknown to Vance's wife
and to Halo's husband.  At that time she had imagined that she and
Vance were only friends; yet, though she had ceased to meet him
when his sudden outburst of passion broke down the feint, she could
not recall their stolen hours without compunction.  But there was
none in Vance's eyes.

"I'm going to work a thousand per cent better here, because at the
Willows I was always in a fever for you, and you kept getting in
between me and my book."

"What a nuisance I must have been!" she murmured hypocritically;
and added, half laughing, half in earnest:  "And now--I suppose you
already take me for granted?"

Their eyes met, and she saw in his the inward look which sometimes
made him appear so much older than his age.  "Oh, my soul--mayn't
I?" he said; and:  "Vance," she cried out, "what I want is just to
be like the air you breathe . . ."

He lit a cigarette, and leaned back, comfortably surveying the blue
pages.  "That's only the beginning of all the things you're going
to be," he declared.  He held out the bundle of cigarettes, and she
bent to light one from his, and stole to the door, pausing to say:
"Now I'm going to leave you to your work."



She went to her own room to finish her unpacking; then she sat down
in the window, and let the waves of bliss flow over her.  More than
once since she had left New York she had tried to look into the
future and picture her probable destiny; but while her life held
this burning core of passion she could fix her thoughts on nothing
else.  She had been too starved and cold before; now she could only
steep herself in the glow.

No one would understand, she knew; least of all her own family.
Mr. and Mrs. Spear had always regarded themselves as free spirits,
and were certainly burdened with fewer social prejudices than most
of their friends and relations.  Mrs. Spear had specialized in
receiving "odd" people at a time when New York was still shy of
them.  She had welcomed at her house foreign celebrities travelling
with ladies unprovided with a marriage certificate, and had been
equally hospitable to certain compatriots who had broken their
marriage tie when such breaks were a cause of scandal.  But though
she sympathized with "self-expression", and the mystical duty to
"live one's life", and had championed the first adventurers in the
new morality, she had never expected any one belonging to her to
join that band of heroes.  She was a Lorburn of Paul's Landing, and
people of pre-Revolutionary stock, however emancipated their
sympathies, conformed to tradition in their conduct.  Mrs. Spear
had herself conformed.  Her marriage had been a defiance, since she
had married out of her own set, or her own class, as her family
would have put it; but it was a defiance sanctioned by church and
law, and she had never dreamed of her daughter's taking liberties
with those institutions.  Grieved as she was at Halo's leaving her
husband, Mrs. Spear had accepted it as inevitable, and had bowed,
after another struggle, to the further inevitability of her
daughter's re-marriage; but she had been genuinely shocked, and
deeply hurt, by Halo's decision to go away with her lover before
her divorce.  Mrs. Spear had not been violent and denunciatory,
like her husband, whose resentment was doubled by the fact that he
could not air it in the newspapers.  Mrs. Spear knew that the day
was past when parents, especially parents who have coquetted with
Bohemia, can call down curses on a dishonoured daughter.  But she
did feel that Halo was dishonouring herself, and that every
influence should be used to save her.  If the break with Tarrant
was unavoidable, why could not her daughter wait until he had taken
the necessary steps?  "Lewis is always a gentleman.  You must admit
that.  You can count on his assuming all the blame," Mrs. Spear had
pleaded, her beautiful eyes full of persuasion and perplexity.

"But, mother, supposing I'd rather share the blame--why shouldn't I
take the necessary steps for THAT?" Halo rejoined, trying to evade
her mother's entreaties.  Mrs. Spear merely replied:  "Don't talk
like your brother, please"--for Lorry Spear was noted for his habit
of dealing with serious questions flippantly; and Halo, conscious
of the ineffectualness of any argument, could only repeat:
"Mother, I must go with him--I must.  He needs me"--though she knew
that to her mother such a plea was worse than flippancy.

"If he really needs you, dear, he'll have the strength of character
to wait for you for a year.  If he hasn't--"  Mrs. Spear left the
ominous conclusion unspoken.

"Oh, but, mother darling, it's not that . . .  I suppose you're
thinking of other women . . ."  Halo felt herself burning inwardly
at the suggestion.

"It's not an unusual weakness--with artists especially," Mrs. Spear
drily interposed.

"No," Halo conceded; "I suppose we shouldn't have much art without
it . . .  But what I mean is so different . . .  He needs me for
his work . . .  I can help him, I know I can . . ."

"Of course he'll make you think so--oh, it's all so unlike you,
darling!" cried poor Mrs. Spear, feeling herself as short of
arguments as her daughter.

"No, it's like me," Halo exclaimed passionately, "only I've never
really been myself before.  Don't grudge me the chance."  She bent
over, trying to kiss away her mother's tears; and on this
unsatisfactory conclusion they had parted.

At first Halo's view had differed little from Mrs. Spear's.  To
wait till she was divorced, and go to Vance Weston as his wife, had
seemed the natural, the obvious arrangement.  But when Vance came
back from Euphoria, ill-looking, unsettled, unable to work, and
pleading not to have his happiness postponed, she had given way at
once.  She herself hardly knew whether passion or pity had
prevailed; but she felt, as she had said to her mother, that this
was her first chance to be her real self, and that no argument, no
appeal to social expediency or to loftier motives, should deprive
her of it.  Words like dignity and self-respect seemed to belong to
an obsolete language.  Her dignity, her self-respect!  What had
become of them when she had endured to live with a husband she
despised?  Yet she had remained with him for reasons much less
potent than those which called her to her lover.  Was she really
the same woman who, on the steamer a few weeks earlier, had
hesitated over her lawyer's warning letter, and asked herself
whether she ought not to turn back?  Now it was her past that she
was ashamed of, not her present; there were lyric moments when her
flight with Vance seemed like an expiation.

These phases of the struggle were over; she regarded them as
indifferently as if they had belonged to some other woman's story.
It was sweet to her now to know that she had gone to Vance without
hesitating.  "In such a heaven as ours there's no marrying or
giving in marriage," she thought, as she sat there nursing her
happiness; and awed by the perfectness of her well-being she hid
her face in her hands.

"What quiet there is in deep happiness," she mused.  "How little I
ever imagined this lull in the middle of the whirlpool!"  But the
stars still danced about her, and when she tried to disentangle her
mind from their golden whirl she felt a lassitude, a reluctance she
could not explain.  "All that matters is that he's sitting there
next door, tranquil, happy, at work again--and that it's my doing,"
she thought.  She longed to open his door and steal in, as she used
to at the Willows, when he would break off every now and then to
read aloud what he had written.  But she remembered what he had
said of her "getting in between him and his book," and she went
back to her seat, reflecting that their moments together were no
longer numbered, and that her present task was to defend his
privacy, not to invade it.

The room was very still.  The afternoon light, slowly veering, left
in shadow first one group of roofs and towers, then another; the
cloud-masses faded into twilight.  At length Halo got up.  Their
lodging was without electric light, and she was sure Vance would
not know how to light the oil-lamp she had put on his table.  She
was glad of the excuse for joining him . . .

"Vance," she said, opening the door.  No one answered, and she saw
that the room was empty.  The door which led to the landing was
ajar--he had evidently gone out.  Probably he had felt tired after
his hours of writing, and had wandered away without thinking of
telling her.  She lit the lamp and looked about her.  Cigarette
ends strewed the floor, and the blue writing pad on the desk,
immaculate, untouched, looked up at her ironically.  He had not
written a line . . .

She stood struggling with a sense of disappointment.  He had seemed
so sure that he wanted to go on with his work--that this was the
very place where it would come to him without an effort!  Well,
what of that?  Did she still imagine that an artist, a creator,
could always know in advance exactly in what conditions and at what
hour the sacred impulse would come?

She went back for her hat and coat, and descended the dark narrow
stairs.  Slowly she sauntered through the streets that led to the
cathedral, peering with shortsighted eyes to right and left in the
hope of meeting him.  Lamps had begun to twinkle in the houses.
Before long the sacristan would pass on his rounds and close the
cathedral doors.  Halo thought:  "He's surely in there; I must find
him before the place is locked up."  She pushed back the leather
curtain and went in.

At first the darkness confused her.  Each figure straying among the
shadows seemed to have Vance's outline; but as she drew nearer she
found herself mistaken.  From aisle to aisle, from Christian altar
to Moorish mihrab, she explored the baffling distances; but Vance
was not there.  She returned to the outer world, and began to walk
back through the modern quarter; and suddenly, in front of a
glittering café, she found him installed at a table.  He greeted
her with a smile, and said:  "What will you have?  I had to take a
vermouth because it was all I knew how to ask for."

"I've been hunting all over for you--" she began; then broke off,
annoyed by the maternal note in her voice.  "I thought you might
want a Spanish drink, and an interpreter to order it," she added
laughing.

"No.  I got on all right.  I've been all up and down the place;
then I sat down here to watch the crowd."  He waited while she
ordered a cup of coffee, and went on:  "I couldn't write a line
after all."

"What you need is to take a good holiday first, and not bother
about your book."

His remote and happy smile enveloped her.  "I'm not bothering about
anything on God's earth."  He was looking at her curiously.  "Do
you know, you've got just the shape of the head of one of those
statues of the Virgin they carry in the processions--you remember:
the one they showed us yesterday in that chapel?  A little face,
long, and narrowing down softly to the chin--like a fruit or a
violin; the way yours does . . .  God, I wish I could draw!  I
believe I might have . . ."  He leaned across and twisted his
fingers through hers.  "What's the use of sight-seeing, anyhow,
when I've got you to look at?"

The blood rose to Halo's face.  She felt a sudden shyness when he
looked at her with those eyes full of secret visions.  How long
would it be before he had gone her round, and needed new food for
his dream?  She thought:  "Shall I have to content myself with
being a peg to hang a book on?" and found an anxious joy in the
idea.

When she had finished her coffee Vance pushed back the table.
"Come--let's go down to the bridge and listen to the river in the
dark . . .  I don't believe I'll ever write a line again; not in
this place anyway," he declared serenely.


V


Halo wondered at her own folly in imagining that Vance, with a
whole new world pressing on his imagination, would be able to take
up the thread of his work with the composure of a seasoned writer.
Life with him was teaching her more about the creative processes.
She saw that Vance himself had not yet taken his own measure, or
calculated the pressure of new sensations and emotions on his
inventive faculty.  His impulse was either to try to incorporate
every fresh suggestion, visual or imaginative, into the fabric of
his work, or to build a new story with it; but when the impressions
were too abundant and powerful they benumbed him.

For the moment he appeared to have lost even the desire to store up
his sensations.  What he wanted was to study Spanish history and
art, to learn the language, to let the fiery panorama roll past his
idle imagination.  If he had known how to paint, he told Halo, that
might have been an outlet.  It was a pity, he thought, he hadn't
gone in for painting instead of writing--painting, or perhaps
sculpture.  Some palpable flesh-and-blood rendering of life, rather
than the gray disintegration of words.  He recalled the hours he
had spent in New York, on the broken-hinged divan in the studio of
the young woman sculptor, Rebecca Stram, watching her mauling her
clay. . .  "I tell you what it is: words are the last refuge of the
impotent.  Writing is inexcusable in anybody who isn't blind or
paralyzed.  It's an infirmity, a palsy--that's what it is.  The
fellows who 'grab' life, as Goethe called it, are the conquerors
who turn it into form and colour . . .  Damn words; they're just
the pots and pans of life, the pails and scrubbing-brushes.  I wish
I didn't have to think in words . . .  I sometimes feel as if I
had them in my veins instead of blood.  Sometimes I even wish I
didn't have you to talk to, so that I could get away from words
forever . . .  Why don't you tell me just to hold my tongue, and
live?"

This was one mood; but in others he declared that in yielding to it
he had blasphemed against the Holy Ghost.  "The tongue of fire
descends on a man in one form or another, no knowing which; all a
fellow can do is to catch the flame and nurse it, whatever it
happens to produce . . .  The other day I was haranguing you about
the difference between plastic expression and interpreting things
in words.  Utter rubbish, of course.  Why the deuce didn't you tell
me so?  The difference is in the mind, not in the material or the
tool.  If words are a man's tools he's got to paint or model with
THEM . . . or compose symphonies with THEM . . . that's all.  Look
here, Halo--any idea what I've done with vol. three of Prescott?
No--?  I had it with me yesterday when we went out to Medina
Zahara, didn't I?  And my Spanish grammar too!  Lord, did I go and
leave them both out there, do you suppose?"

Halo sighed, and thought that as for the Prescott it didn't really
matter.  She had brought with her all the latest and most erudite
works on Christians and Moors in the peninsula; but after a glance
at Dozy, and a little half-hearted plodding in Hume, he had
disappointed her by rejecting all her authors for Prescott and
Washington Irving.  "But, Vance, dear, they were so undocumented.
Prescott was wonderful for his day, of course; but so much that we
know now was not available then.  And as for Washington Irving . . ."
Vance laughed, and turned over on his face in the grass where
he and Halo were sitting, on the sunburnt downs above Cordova.
"Well, they just roll over me like waves," he said, leaning his
chin on his locked hands and gazing down at the ancient city.  He
lay there in silence, his brows wrinkled against the glare, with
now and then a faint tremor of the nostrils, like the twitching of
a sensitive animal's.  Once he stretched out a hand, stroking the
short grass and plucking at a clump of dwarf herbs that he crushed
against his face.  "Smells like sun and incense--as if it was the
breath of the old place."  He held out the tuft to Halo.  It was
hot and aromatic, full of the flame of a parched earth and the
vibration of bees.  "It's like my happiness," she thought.  She lay
there in an idle ecstasy.  Overhead a great bird of prey circled
against the blue; and Halo remembered how she had once thought of
happiness as something bright-winged, untameable, with radiant
alien eyes.  Now the wings were folded and the strange guest lay
asleep in her heart.  She was no more afraid of it than a young
mother is of her child; only perpetually conscious of it, watching
it with wakeful eyes, as the mother watches while her child sleeps.
And she thought:  "If I could get quite used to it perhaps it would
get used to me too, and never stir.  If only I could learn to stop
watching it."

Vance raised himself on his elbow.  "See here," he broke out, "what
I really want is to write poetry.  From the very first I've always
felt inside of myself that for me it was that or nothing.  All the
rest is just pot-boiling.  Using words to tell stories with is like
paving the kitchen-floor with diamonds.  God!  Words are too
beautiful to be walked over in that way, with muddy feet, like the
hall oil-cloth.  Supposing Keats had used HIS words to write best-
sellers with?  Don't it strike you like turning a Knights of
Pythias picnic loose down there in the cathedral?  Words ought to
be received at the door of the mind with lighted torches and
incense and things--like one of the big church ceremonies you
described to me.  See here, Halo--when did you say they danced
before the altar of the cathedral at Seville?  I wish I could get
that into poetry. . ."

The bright confusion of his mind sometimes charmed and sometimes
frightened her.  She was so much afraid of laying clumsy hands on
his capricious impulses that she felt herself sinking into the
character of the blindly admiring wife.  Yet that had not been her
dream, or his.  She remembered how her frank criticism had guided
and stimulated him while he was writing "Instead", and she did not
quite know why she had become so uncertain and shy in talking with
him of his literary plans, so fearful of discouraging or
misdirecting him.  Sometimes she asked herself if it would not have
been better if they had stayed in America, in some out-of-the-way
place where this tremendous vision of a new world would not have
thrust itself between him and his work.  Yet she felt it must be a
weak talent that could not bear the shock of wonder and the
hardening processes of experience.  Presently the mass of new
impressions would be sorted out and dominated by his indefatigable
mind, and become a part of its material--and meanwhile, what
mattered but that he and she were together, with these waves of
beauty breaking over them?  All she had to do was to hold her
breath and wait.  She slipped her hand in his.  "Do you remember
when you read me your first poetry, that morning up on Thundertop?"



A few days later Vance came in from one of his dreaming rambles
about Cordova, and said, with illuminated eyes:  "I've met a man
who says we're fools not to go straight off to Granada."

Halo could not repress a feint movement of impatience.  It was a
little exasperating to have this information imparted as a novelty.
Vance seemed to have no recollection of her having told him
repeatedly that they ought to get to Granada before the rainy
weather began.

"A man?  What sort of a man?"

"He said his name was Alders," said Vance, as if that settled
everything.

Halo made a hasty mental calculation of the probable cost of
cancelling the lease of their lodgings, which they had had to take
for the rest of the season.  The landlady would certainly be nasty;
but Halo had fought such battles before, and instantly began
sharpening her mental weapons.  "Well, all right.  Do you want me
to get ready?"

"He says we ought to," Vance repeated serenely.

For the next two or three days he vanished frequently to rejoin his
new friend.  Halo gathered that Alders was a wandering American who
wrote--at least he was planning a book on Saint Theresa.  "For the
present he's just letting Spain soak into him," Vance explained.
He did not offer to produce Alders for Halo's inspection, and she
did not suggest that he should.  She was beginning to realize that
in throwing in her lot with Vance's she had entered into an unknown
country--as unknown to her as Spain was to him, and with far
fewer landmarks to guide her.  When Lewis Tarrant made a new
acquaintance, and imparted the fact to his wife, his words at once
situated the person in question, socially and intellectually.  But
Vance could not situate anybody.  He could only say that he liked a
fellow, or didn't like him.  He seemed to think that in some
mysterious way the impressions he could not sum up in words would
be telepathically communicated to Halo; but this was impossible,
for they had no common ground of reference.  Halo tried to bridge
the gulf by declaring cheerfully:  "Well, I'm sure I'll like him if
you do," but Vance answered, with a sort of school-boy vagueness:
"Oh, I dunno that I like him as much as all that," making no
allusion to Halo's possible opinion of Alders.  He seemed to regard
Alders as exclusively his own, as a child might a new toy.

A few more days passed; then Vance suddenly announced that he
thought it would be fun to go over to Granada in the touring car
that was starting the next morning.  Could Halo be ready, did she
think?  After another mental readjustment she said, yes, of course,
if he'd be home in the afternoon in time to pack his things; to
which he cheerfully agreed.

At the tourist agency Vance surprised her by engaging three seats.
Alders, he said, was going to Granada too, and had asked to have
his ticket taken for him.  An exclamation of annoyance was on
Halo's tongue; but she repressed it, and bought the ticket.

The next morning, when they arrived at the square from which the
car started, Vance said:  "Here's Alders," and a nondescript young
man in a shabby gray suit came forward.  He greeted Halo with an
awkward bow, and started to climb to Vance's side; but at the last
moment he bent over to say something to the conductor, as the
result of which he was transferred to a seat several rows behind
them, and a girl with large horn spectacles and a portable
gramophone was pushed into his place.  Vance laughed.  "You scared
him--he's as shy as a hawk."  He seemed content to know that his
new friend was making the journey with them, and bound for the same
destination.

At Granada they went for a night to an hotel in the town, and the
next morning Vance proposed that they should look for rooms in one
of the English pensions on the Alhambra hill.  Alders, who knew the
place well, had given him several addresses; and though Halo was
beginning to resent Alders's occult participation in their affairs,
she agreed to the suggestion.  But half way up the hill Vance
deserted her, captivated by the carolling of fountains under the
elms, and the shadowy invitation of the great Moorish archway.
"See here, Halo--this beats everything.  Do you mind if I wait for
you here while you look for rooms?  I shouldn't be any good
anyway," he said persuasively; and Halo, admitting the fact, went
on alone.

On the hillside below the hotels she wandered about, consulting
Alders's list, till a dusty stony lane ended unexpectedly at a gate
inscribed:  "English Pension.  View.  Afternoon Tea"; and in a
tumble-down house among oranges and pomegranates she was shown two
rooms high up on a roof-terrace.  The rooms were comfortless, and
not too clean; but the terrace overhung the fairest landscape on
earth.  Halo concluded her bargain and hurried back rejoicing to
the Alhambra.  She was impatient to lead Vance up to this magical
proscenium, and hear his cry at first sight of the snow peaks and
green plain.  She found him curled up in a coign of the wall above
the city.  He seemed to have forgotten the errand on which she had
left him, and protested at being obliged to leave his warm corner.
"What's the use of finding such a place if you come and root me out
of it?"  "I've found something even better--come and see!" she
exulted; and reluctantly he let her lead him out of the Alhambra
and up the hill.  But when she introduced him to the terrace he
cried out:  "Say, are we really going to live here?  Why the devil
did you let me waste all that time at Cordova?  Alders TOLD ME--"

Halo laughed ironically.  "I told you long before Alders.  Only
you're so used to the sound of my voice that I don't believe you
hear it any longer."

He was looking at her with beauty-drunk eyes.  "Maybe I don't," he
agreed contentedly, turning back to lean over the parapet.  Halo
could not help being a little vexed that they should owe the
discovery of this vantage-ground to Alders.  She might easily have
found it herself--but it was in pursuance of his indications that
she had turned down that uninviting lane.  She wished she were able
to feel more grateful.

Alders came up to see if they were satisfied.  He himself lodged,
mysteriously, somewhere below in the town; but he was always on the
Alhambra hill.  That first day they asked him to tea, in one of the
little tearooms near the Alhambra, and afterward he walked up with
them to the Generalife.  His shyness in Halo's presence persisted--
or at any rate, his reserve.  For she was never, then or afterward,
sure if he were shy or merely indifferent, any more than she could
decide if he were young or old.  She could barely remember, when he
was out of sight, what he looked like.  There was something shadowy
and indefinite about his whole person.  His dullish sandy hair
merged into the colour of his skin, his thin lips were of the same
tint as his small unkempt moustache.  She had seen straw-coloured
and sand-coloured people, but never any whom protective mimicry had
provided with so complete a neutrality.  His manner was neutral
too, if anything could be called a manner which seemed rather a
resigned endurance of human intercourse.  Judging from Mr. Alders's
attitude one would have supposed that his one aim was to avoid his
fellow beings; but Halo presently discovered that this shrinking
exterior concealed a ravenous sociability.

She recognized in him the roving American with a thin glaze of
culture over an unlettered origin, and a taste for developing in
conversation theories picked up in random reading, or evolved from
an imperfect understanding of art and history.  He told them that
among his friends (he implied that they were few but illustrious)
he was known as "The Scholar Gypsy"--adding that the name (taken,
he smilingly explained, from a poem by Matthew Arnold) had been
conferred on him because of his nomadic habits; perhaps also, he
concluded, of his scholarly tastes.  He made these boasts with such
disarming modesty that Halo could not resent them, though she
failed to understand the impression they produced on Vance.  But
gradually she discovered that under his literary veneer Alders
possessed a miscellaneous accumulation of facts and anecdotes about
places and people.  His mind was like the inside of one of the
humble curiosity-shops on the way up to the Alhambra, where nothing
was worth more than a few pesetas; but these odds and ends of
cosmopolitan experience amused Vance, and excited his imagination,
though Halo noticed that he was less impressed by them than by
Alders's views on Croce or Spengler, or the origin of religious
mysticism in Western Europe.  Vance's ravenous desire to learn more
and more--to learn, all at once, everything that could be known on
every subject--was stimulated by his new friend's allusions and
references, and Halo saw that he ascribed her own lukewarm share in
their talks to feminine inferiority.  "Of course general ideas
always bore women to death," he said in a tone of apology, as they
climbed to their pension after a long afternoon with Alders at the
Alcobazar.  "But you see I was pretty well starved for talk out at
Euphoria--and in New York too.  God!  When I think of the raw lumps
of ignorance those fellows used to feed me, at the Cocoanut Tree
and at Rebecca Stram's . . .  I tell you what, Halo, going round
with a man like Alders, who's got art and philosophy at his
fingers' ends--"

She was on the point of interrupting:  "Yes, but only there--" but
she saw Vance's glowing face, and understood that he was getting
from his new friend something which a scholar like George Frenside
might not have been able to give him.  There was excitement in the
very confusion of Alders's references, and reassurance in their
audacity.  Vance seemed to feel that he too might become a scholar
after a few more talks with Alders, and that the wisdom of the ages
might emerge from a breathless perusal of Samuel Butler and
Havelock Ellis.

It was hard on Halo to have it thought that such flights were
beyond her; but she told herself again that at this stage her
business was to hold her breath and watch.  Though she resented
Alders's incursion into their lives she was relieved that Vance did
not expect her to share in his confabulations with his new friend;
and she came to see how natural it was that to a youth who had
lacked all artistic and intellectual training the other's shallow
culture should seem so deep.  The clever young writers he had known
in New York had read only each other and "Ulysses"; here was a man
full of the curious lore of the past, who could at any rate put the
Cocoanut Tree clan in their true perspective.

This hunger and thirst of Vance's was all the more touching to Halo
because she knew that his eagerness to learn everything at once was
due not to superficiality but to the sense of time lost and of
precious secrets kept from him.  "If only I'd had Alders's
advantages!" he burst out one evening, in passionate retrospection;
and she could not help answering:  "It was funny, though, his
thinking you'd never heard of Matthew Arnold."

"Well, I don't believe those Cocoanut Tree fellows have; or if they
have, they've thrown him overboard without reading him.  They
haven't got time to embalm dead bodies, they say--leave that to the
morticians.  And there they sit and talk endlessly all day long
about nothing!  Look here, Halo--I sometimes think I was meant to
be a student and not a writer; a 'grammarian', like the fellow in
the Browning poem.  Alders was telling me last night how many years
the Jesuit novitiate lasts--he thought at one time of being a
Jesuit.  Well, I tell you what, it gave me a big idea of those old
fellows who weren't afraid of being left behind . . . weren't
always trying to catch up . . . catch up with WHAT?  Why; just with
other fellows who were trying to catch up.  Did you ever think of
the beauty of not giving a damn if you were left behind?"

Yes; in those ways Alders was good for him.  His talk was a blurred
window; but through it the boy caught glimpses of the summits.
Halo could have given him a clearer sight of them; but she
recognized that the distance was yet too great between her
traditional culture and Vance's untutored curiosities.  This
dawdling Autolycus, with his bag of bright-coloured scraps, might
serve as a guide where she was useless.

Luckily there were days when Alders was off on his own mysterious
affairs, and Halo had her lover to herself.  Then life burned with
beauty, and every hour was full of magic.  Vance's successive
declarations that he meant to write poetry, to take up painting, to
immure himself in a scholar's cell, no longer frightened her.  It
was enchanting to watch the tumult of his mind, sun-flecked, storm-
shadowed, subsiding in moonlit calm or leaping sky-ward in sun and
gale.  This journey was a time of preparation from which his
imagination would come forth richer and more vigorous.  Occasionally
she wished his idleness were not so total, for she was afraid the
lost habit of work might be hard to recover; but when she hinted
this, he rejoined that she didn't understand the way the creative
mind was made.  "There's Alders, now--I suppose you might think he
was loafing. . .  Well, he's AMASSING.  A very different thing.  He
told me he might very likely lie fallow another year before he wrote
the first line of his book about the influence of Byzantine art on
El Greco."

"On WHAT?  I thought he was collecting material for a life of St.
Theresa."

Vance frowned impatiently.  "Yes; he was.  But he's put that aside,
because he felt he ought to go into sixteenth century art in Spain
before he tackles mysticism.  He says you can approach spiritual
phenomena only from the outside; the way they manifest themselves
in art and architecture and the whole social structure. . .  If you
don't get that into your system first . . ."

Halo made no answer, and Vance continued, still in a slightly
irritated tone:  "I don't suppose you want me to be like those
fellows that are sent to Europe for a year on a college
scholarship, and are expected by the Faculty to come back with a
masterpiece?  I've heard you on the subject of those masterpieces.
And a novel isn't a thesis anyhow--it's a live thing that's got to
be carried inside of you before it can be born.  I suppose I'm a
trial to you sometimes," he concluded.

"Only when you imagine that I don't understand."  But he protested
that he never did; and side by side on their high-hung terrace they
watched the full moon push up above the Sierra.


VI


Their rooms were not easy to warm, and the October winds began to
rattle the windows; but Halo and Vance were loth to leave, and they
always managed to find a warm corner in the courts of the Alhambra,
or sheltered by the ilexes of the Generalife, where Vance could
"lizard" in the sun, and turn over his dreams like bright-coloured
shells and pebbles.  He had begun again to discuss his literary
plans with Halo; but he only toyed with them as distant
possibilities.  He still seemed to regard his genius as a beautiful
capricious animal, to be fed and exercised when it chose, and by
him alone; and she forbore to remind him of the days when her
nearness had seemed necessary to inspire his work, and her advice
to shape it.  She told herself that in becoming his mistress she
had chosen another field of influence, that to be loved by him, to
feel his passionate need of her, was a rapture above the joys of
comradeship; but in her heart she had dreamed of uniting the two.
She was learning now that the ways of nature were slower and more
devious than her sentimental logic had foreseen; and she tried to
lose herself in the rich reality of her love.

Now and then they spoke of leaving Granada; but the talk did not
reach any practical conclusion.  Their plans offered to Vance as
many alluring alternatives as his literary future, and what he
liked best was to lie stretched out on the warm red wall of the
Alhambra and dream of being elsewhere.

Alders, by his own account, had many friends in Granada--he talked
especially of an old Marquesa who lived in a palace behind the
cathedral, with a statue of a captive Moor over the door.  The old
Marquesa, Alders said, was an authentic descendant of Bobadilla's,
a wonderful woman in whose veins flowed the purest blood of
Castilian and Moorish chivalry.  One met at her house the oddest
and most interesting specimens of the old Andalusian aristocracy.
Regular palæoliths, they were; it would be a wonderful chance for
Weston to document himself in such a prehistoric milieu, especially
as he was thinking of laying the scene of his next novel in
Spain . . .  "Oh, are you?" Halo interrupted, glancing eagerly at
Vance, who said, well, he'd had an idea lately that something
amusing might be done with a young American in the wine business,
sent to study the trade at a Spanish port in the eighteen thirties,
say. . .

Alders declared that the possibilities of such a subject were
immense, and he proposed that he and Vance should go to the
Marquesa's that very evening; the lady, it appeared, still kept up
the picturesque custom of the nightly tertulia, an informal
reception at which people came and went as they pleased till
daylight.  Alders explained this to Halo in his shy halting way,
and though she doubted the antiquity of the Marquesa's lineage, and
even its authenticity, she assumed that Alders naïvely believed in
them, and wondered how, without offending him, she could decline to
be of the party.  But he continued, more and more hesitatingly:
"You don't mind, do you, Mrs. Weston, if I carry off Weston this
once?  It's all in the interest of his work . . . an exceptional
opportunity. . ."  Halo disliked being asked by a man like Alders
if she "minded" anything that Vance chose to do; and her laugh
perhaps betrayed her irritation.  "I'm sure it will amuse you--
you'd better go," she said to Vance, as if it were he who had made
the suggestion.  There were times when she could not help treating
Alders as if she had not noticed that he was there.

The next morning she gathered from Vance that the Marquesa was in
fact a rather splendid figure, in a vast mouldy palace with "huge
things hanging on the walls--you know--," and a lot of people
coming and going, men and women, eating ices and talking a great
deal.  His vague description gave Halo the impression that he had
been among people of the world, and she was annoyed, in spite of
herself, that Vance should have figured as the hanger-on of Alders.

"I'm glad you've had a glimpse of Spanish society; but it's rather
odd that your friend didn't think of asking me to go with you."
The words really reflected her dislike of Alders rather than any
resentment at not being included in the party; but when they were
spoken she felt how petty they sounded.  "Of course," she added
quickly, "I didn't want to go--that sort of thing bores me to
tears; I merely meant that if Alders had known a little more about
the ordinary social rules he would have felt he ought at least . . ."
She stopped, silenced by the colour that rose to Vance's forehead.

"Vance--" she exclaimed, in sudden anger, "do you mean it was
because . . .  Does Alders know that we're not married?"

Vance looked at her in surprise.  "Why, of course he knows.  I told
him the very first thing how splendid you'd been . . . coming to me
straight off, like that . . . he thought it was great of you. . ."

"Oh, don't please!  I mean, I don't need Alders's approval--."  She
could hardly tell why she was so indignant; had she been asked
point-blank if she were Vance Weston's wife she would certainly
have denied it, and have said that she called herself so only for
the convenience of travel.  But this concerned only herself and
Vance, and the discovery that he had been talking her over with a
stranger picked up at a café was intolerable to her.  Alders, of
course, had cross-questioned Vance to satisfy his insatiable
craving for gossip; but how could Vance have fallen into such a
trap?

"Why, you don't mind, do you?  I thought you'd have despised me for
pretending," Vance began; but without heeding him she interrupted:
"That was the reason, then!  He proposed to you to go with him
alone because he knew you were travelling with your mistress, and
he couldn't have asked his Marquesa to receive me?  Was that it?"

Vance reddened again.  "He said how funny and fossilized that kind
of people were . . . but I never thought you'd care; you always
seem to hate seeing new people."

"Of course I don't care; and of course I hate seeing people I don't
know anything about. . ."

"Well, then that's all right," said Vance.

"I don't know what you call all right.  Most men would resent such
a slight--"

"What slight?"

She saw that his perplexity was genuine, but that made it none the
less irritating.  There were moments when Vance's moral simplicity
was more trying than the conventionalities she had fled from.

"Can't you see--?" she began; and then broke off.  "I sometimes
think you keep all your psychology for your books!" she exclaimed
impatiently.

"You mean there are times when you think I don't understand you?"

"You certainly don't at this moment.  I won't speak of the good
taste of discussing our private affairs with a stranger--but that
you shouldn't see that any slight to a woman in my situation. . ."

"What about your situation?" he interrupted.  "I thought you chose
it--freely."

"When I did, I imagined you would know how to spare me its
disadvantages!"

He stood silent, looking down at the rough tiles of their bedroom
floor.  Halo was trembling with the echo of her own words.  The
consciousness that their meaning was not the same to him made her
feel angry and helpless.  An impenetrable wall seemed to have risen
between them.

"You mean that you hate our not being married?" he brought out, as
if the idea were new to him.

"Certainly I do, when you put me in a position that makes it
hateful."

"Like that old woman last night not wanting to receive you?  It
never occurred to me you'd want her to."

"Or that you ought not to have gone yourself, if she didn't want
me?"  His eyes were again full of surprise.  Halo laughed
nervously.

"I don't understand," he went on.  "I thought you didn't care a
straw about that sort of thing."

"I shouldn't if I felt you knew how to protect me."

She saw from his expression that her meaning was still unintelligible
to him, and that he was struggling to piece her words together.

"What is there to protect you from?"

"Vance--if you can't understand!"  She paused, her heart in a
tumult.  "How does your mother feel about the way we're living
together?" she broke out abruptly.

A shade of embarrassment stole over his face.  "How on earth do I
know?"

"Of course you know!  She hates it--and me, probably.  I daresay
she wouldn't receive me if I went to Euphoria with you.  And my
mother hates it quite as much.  My going away with you like this
made her terribly unhappy.  And yet you say you don't understand--!"

"Oh, see here, Halo--if that's what you mean!  Of course I know how
my mother feels about marriage in general.  It's all nonsense about
her not receiving you; but I daresay she's unhappy about our being
together in this way.  The marriage ceremony is a kind of fetish to
her.  And I suppose your mother feels the same.  But I never
thought you would.  I thought that for you our being together like
this--so close and yet so free--was more than any marriage.  I
never dreamed you didn't look at it as I do.  I thought you'd
always felt differently from the people around you about the big
things of life."

Halo was silent.  She was bewildered by his incomprehension, yet
moved by his evident sincerity.  "You're terribly logical--and I
suppose life isn't," she said at length, forcing a smile.

Vance stood before her, his gaze again bent on the floor.  She saw
that he felt the distance between them, and was wondering how to
bridge it over.  "I guess you worry about a lot of things that I
haven't yet learned to take into account.  What do you think we
ought to do?" he asked abruptly.

The blood seemed to stop in her veins.  She looked at him
helplessly.  "To do--to do?"

"I suppose," he interrupted, "the real trouble is that you don't
like Alders."

This flash of insight startled her.  She was beginning to see that
though the conventional rules of life still perplexed him, and
perhaps always would, he was disconcertingly close to its
realities.

"If you don't want me to go around with Alders, I won't, of course.
He said the other day he thought maybe you didn't want me to."

The mention of Alders renewed her irritation.

"How can you think I want to interfere with you in any way?  What I
can't understand is your lowering yourself to talk me over with a
stranger."

There was another silence, and she began to tremble inwardly.  To
discuss things with him was like arguing with some one who did not
use the same speech.

"I guess I'm the stranger here, Halo.  I can't understand your
supposing that I'd speak of you to anybody in a way that could
lower either you or me.  I don't yet know what's made you angry."

"Angry?  I'm not angry!  I can't bear to have you speak of me as if
I were a silly woman with a grievance."

"I suppose everything I say is bound to sound to you like that, as
long as I don't understand what the grievance is."

"When a man says he doesn't understand a woman it's because he
won't take the trouble."

"Or feels it's useless."

"Is that what you feel?"

"Well--maybe I will, soon."

"No.  Don't be afraid!  I shan't be here then--"

She heard the echo of her own words, and broke off dismayed.  A
longing overcame her to be taken into his arms and soothed like a
foolish child.  Of course that would come in a moment.  She felt
her whole body drawing her to him; but though she waited he did not
move or speak.  He seemed remote, out of hearing, behind the
barrier that divided them.  She thought:  "He's been through scenes
like this with Laura Lou, and he's sick of them. . .  He thought
that with me everything was going to be different. . ."

At length Vance said slowly:  "You must do whatever you want."  She
did not speak, and he added:  "I guess I'll go out for a walk."
His voice sounded cold, almost indifferent.  How could she have
imagined he was waiting to snatch her to his breast?  He was simply
counting the minutes till their senseless discussion was over, and
he could make his escape.  His inflexible honesty was deadly--she
felt herself powerless against it, and could think of nothing to
say.  He took up his hat and went out, carrying her happiness with
him.


VII


Halo sat alone among the ruins.  It was one of the moments when
life seems to turn and mock one's magnanimity.  When she had torn
up her lawyer's letter, and cast in her lot with Vance's, she
fancied she was tearing up all the petty restrictions of her past.
In her new existence the meaner prejudices would no longer reach
her.  All the qualities in her which could serve the man she
loved--her greater experience, her knowledge of the world, her
familiarity with Vance's character, her faith in his genius--seemed
to justify her decision.  It was to be her privilege to give him
what he had always lacked: intellectual companionship and spiritual
sympathy.  And now, for a whim, for nothing, she had risked her
hard-won happiness and dropped to the level of any nagging woman--
all because he had unwittingly offended the very prejudices from
which she imagined he had delivered her!

The worst of it was that she was no untaught girl among the first
pitfalls of passion.  Psyche turning her lamp on the secret face of
love was a novice; Halo Tarrant knew the ways of men, yet at the
first occasion she had repeated Psyche's blunder.  She had found
out now how little importance Vance attached to the idea of
marriage--and she had shown him the social value it had for her.
Everything that she had meant to leave undefined and fluid in their
relation her own act had forced him to define and crystallize, and
thereby she had turned the lamp on her own face.  Yet she could not
help feeling as she had felt.  Her relations with the men she had
grown up among had been regulated by a code of which Vance did not
know the first word, and she now saw how such tacit observances may
be inwoven with the closest human intimacies.

"Laura Lou couldn't understand a word of what he wrote or thought;
but in my place she would have known at once that in discussing her
situation with a stranger he was only proving his admiration for
her."  And she recalled a whimsical axiom of George Frenside's:
"No passion can survive a woman's seeing her lover hold his fork in
the wrong way."

The absurdity of it shook her out of her depression.  Yes, a real
passion could; she meant to prove it!  She would show Vance that
she understood his heart as well as his brain.  She would propose
to him to have Alders to dine that very evening, she would even
suggest Vance's going off on a trip with his new friend if he
wanted to.  She would prove to him that her only happiness was in
knowing that he was happy.  Already she marvelled that anything
else had seemed of the least moment. . .

The hours went by, and she sat alone in the dreary pension room.
Rain-clouds hung low on the Sierra; summer seemed to have passed
with the passing of her unclouded hours.  She recalled Vance's
impulsiveness, his moody fits.  What if he had taken the train and
gone off, heaven knew where, away from her tears and her
reproaches?  He would come back, of course; in her heart she was
sure of him; but meanwhile what irreparable thoughts might he not
be thinking?

She went down alone to lunch; then she rambled out aimlessly,
hoping to run across him in some corner of the Alhambra hill.  But
a bleak wind blew over the ramparts, shaking the leaves from the
elms, and she returned, chilled and discouraged, without having
found him.  She thought to herself:  "I ought to have gone with him
when he went out.  I ought not to have let him carry away that
distorted image of me. . .  I ought to have done something, said
something, that would have blotted it out before his eyes had grown
used to it. . .  And I stood there, and couldn't think of
anything!"

She recalled her differences with Lewis Tarrant, the low-pitched
quiet conflicts from which she always emerged more worn than after
a noisy quarrel.  No doubt Vance was feeling at this moment as she
used to feel after those arid arguments.  He would never say of her
again that she was like the air he breathed!  She sat down and
rested her tired head on her arms.

She was still sitting there when the door opened and he came in.
At the turn of the door-handle she knew he was there, and sprang
up.  "Vance--!"  She stood looking at him, filling her eyes with
his face as if he had come back from the dead.

He gave a shy laugh, and one hand fumbled in his pocket.  "You
liked this the other day--."  He pulled out a little packet.
"Here."  He pushed it into her hand.  She was touched by the
boyishness of the gesture; but instantly she thought:  "He used to
make up his quarrels with Laura Lou by bringing her presents . . ."
and his impulse seemed to lose its spontaneity.

"But, Vance, I didn't want a present--."  Seeing his look of
disappointment she regretted the words.  "Oh, but this is lovely,"
she hurried on, slipping through her fingers an old peasant
necklace of garnets and enamelled gold.  She remembered having
admired it one day in an antiquary's shop.  "I didn't even know you
knew I'd seen it," she said, her voice shaken by the returning rush
of happiness.

"I didn't.  Alders told me; he notices those things more than I
do," said Vance with simplicity.

Halo's heart dropped.  She looked at the necklace with disenchanted
eyes.  Then she thought:  "If he tells me the truth it's because he
still loves me, and doesn't feel that he has to pretend"; and she
slipped the trinket about her neck.  Vance looked at her earnestly.
"You really like it?"

"I love it--but you've been very extravagant, haven't you?"

He laughed and shook his head.  "Call it a wedding present."

Halo echoed the laugh.  "A wedding present?  Oh, please not,
darling; because I want to wear it at once!"

"Well, you won't have to wait long, will you?  Can't we get married
pretty soon now?"  Vance looked at her shyly, as though making the
offer to a young girl he secretly worshipped, but was afraid of
frightening by a too impulsive word.

Halo saw that he was trying to reassure her, to convince her of his
love; he had trembled for their future as she had.  For a moment
she found no words; then they came, quick and passionate.  "No, no!
Don't let's talk of that now.  It won't be soon, at any rate; my
divorce, I mean; probably not for a long time--I don't care if I
never get it.  Nothing can be as perfect as this.  If there's any
way of being happier, I don't want to know it--it would frighten
me!  In heaven there's no marrying or giving in marriage.  Let's
stay in heaven as long as we can."  She went up to him and found
the safety of his arms.



Their second honeymoon had the factitious fervour which marks such
reconstructions.  Halo had grown afraid to take her happiness for
granted, and afraid lest Vance should detect her fears.  The
simplest words they exchanged seemed to connote a background of
artifice.  There were times when the effort to be careless and
buoyant made her feel old and wary; others when the perfection of
the present filled her with a new dread of the future.  There was
hardly an hour when she could yield without afterthought to the
natural joy she had known during her first weeks with her lover.

She had hesitated for a long time before answering the letter her
lawyer had sent to the steamer; now she wrote briefly, thanking him
for his advice, but saying that the affair must take its course.
For her part she would not attempt to interfere.  She was
travelling abroad with Vance Weston, as her husband could easily
assure himself, and he was at liberty to divorce her if he
preferred a scandal, and was unwilling to let her have her liberty
without it.  To her mother, from whom she had received several
letters full of distressful entreaties, she wrote in the same
strain.  "Dearest, dearest, do try to understand me, and be patient
with me if you can't.  I love Vance, I believe in his genius, I
went to him because he was lonely and unhappy and needed me, and I
mean to stay with him as long as he wants me.  If Lewis won't let
me have my divorce on the terms we had agreed on he can easily get
all the evidence he needs and take proceedings against me.  But if
he would rather forego his freedom than give me mine, even on those
conditions, his decision can make no difference to me, for I shall
be proud to live with Vance as his mistress.  Nothing that Lewis
does can really hurt me, and it seems a pity he should sacrifice
his own happiness when he is so powerless to interfere with mine."

The words, as she re-read them, sounded rather theatrical, and she
would have preferred to avoid such a declaration of independence;
but it had the advantage of defining her situation, and cutting off
her retreat.  She would have liked to show the two letters to
Vance, but she refrained lest he should think she was trying to
remind him of what she had given up for him.  Such a reminder might
seem like a claim, and in her heart she was afraid to make it; yet
an instant later she thought:  "Whatever happens, I must keep him
now," and seeing in a flash the desert distances of life without
him she forgot her magnanimous resolve to respect his freedom.

To Vance, it was obvious, the whole episode had been less
important.  He had never even asked her how she knew she would not
be able to obtain her freedom immediately; the question of divorce
and marriage seemed to have dropped out of his mind.  "He takes
what I say so literally," she reflected, "that I daresay he thinks
I really don't care about it"; yet the possibility that he might
think so was a surprise to her.  But no doubt he had had many
lovers' quarrels with Laura Lou, perhaps with other women of her
type, and was used to pacifying them with a kiss and a present.
Probably he regarded such incidents as inevitable interruptions to
his work, and had learned to dismiss them from his mind as soon as
they were over. . .  Ah, if only he were working now!  If she could
have seen any returning impulse of activity, any trace of that
impatience to express himself which had been his torment and
rapture when she had first known him, how eagerly she would have
banished her anxieties, how jealously she would have defended his
privacy!  The hours he spent away from her were not spent in
solitary toil, but in dreaming and dawdling, or in long discursive
sessions with Alders at restaurants and cafés.  She made a fresh
effort to conceal her dislike of Alders, and he sometimes came up
to the pension to dine, and went with them afterward to the tawdry
dances in the gypsy quarter, or to concerts of local music in the
cafés.  But Alders was never wholly at his ease with her, and was
therefore less entertaining to Vance than when the two were alone.
"He gets all wooden when you're around.  I guess he's woman-shy.  I
can see he doesn't amuse you," Vance commented unconcernedly.  Halo
understood the reason; she saw that Alders knew she had taken his
measure, and that he ascribed her lack of cordiality to his not
being exactly in her class.  To Alders, the victim of unsatisfied
social cravings, she was the fashionable woman in whose company he
was not at ease; whereas Vance, for whom social distinctions did
not exist, felt no constraint in her presence because to him she
was as different from every one else as a nymph or an angel.  And
after two or three evenings of heat and noise and bad tobacco in
the sham underworld of gypsies and guitarists she let Vance rejoin
his friend without her.

There was no physical jealousy in the irritation which his absences
caused her.  As a woman she was still sure of her hold; as a
comrade and guide she felt herself superseded.  When he began to
work again he might still need her as audience and critic; but
meanwhile his restless mind was always straying from her.  He had
begun to learn Spanish, and this was the only task he had persisted
in.  His insatiable intellectual curiosity made him chafe at the
obstacle of a strange language; and tramping the streets with
Alders was a quicker method of learning than reciting conjugations
to a snuffy professor.  Meanwhile, with the beginning of the autumn
rains, their rooms had become too cold and damp, and they began to
look about for others.  But one morning Vance abruptly announced
that he wanted to go for a couple of months to some sea-port in the
south--say Malaga or Cadiz--where he could settle down to his new
book in the proper environment.

"Your new book?" Halo echoed, eagerly.

Yes, he said; he was beginning to want to get to work again.  And
he ought to know something about life in a Spanish trading port if
he was to situate his story there, oughtn't he--the story of the
young American sent over from Boston or Salem in the eighteen
thirties, to learn the wine business in Spain: the subject Alders
had first suggested.  He'd been thinking it over a good deal
lately, and gradually it had taken hold of him.  He liked the idea
of a heroine who could be called Pilar--she was to look like that
little Virgin with the pear-shaped face that they'd seen at
Cordova.  Well--hadn't Halo anything to say to the idea? he broke
off, as she continued to listen in silence.

"I thought you meant to go on with 'Magic'," she said at length.

"Well, so I did--but now I don't.  I don't suppose it's any use
trying to make you see. . ."

"I think I see.  It's perfectly natural that new scenes should
suggest new subjects."

He looked at her with a smile of relief.  "I'm glad you feel that--"

"Only you said you'd never do another story like 'Instead'--a
'costume piece', I mean.  I thought you were determined not to go
back to that, but always to do contemporary subjects."

"Oh, these 'neverses' and 'alwayses'!  Who was the gent who talked
about some word or other not being in the lexicon of youth?  I'm
sure the lexicon of art has no hard-and-fast words in it like
always and never.  I do what I'm moved to do; any artist, even the
greatest of 'em, will tell you it's all he CAN do.  It's the
eternal limitation. . .  See here, Halo, I didn't mean to bother
you again with this kind of talk.  Nobody but a writer can
understand--but you must trust me to know what I'm after; what I'm
driven after, as it were."

She recognized the Alders vocabulary, and said with a slight shrug:
"What I do understand is that it will do you good to get to work
again."

Instantly his eyes darkened.  "Ah, that's it!  You're disappointed
in me--you think I've just been losing my time all these months?"

"We shall be able to judge of that better when you begin to write
again," she answered, smiling.

"All right, then.  What do you say to Cadiz?  The climate's better
there, isn't it?  Or I might call her Concepcion, perhaps--that's
even funnier, if she's to be married to a Puritan from Salem.
Don't you think so?"

Halo hesitated.  She had meant, when they left Granada, to propose
that they should go to Florence or Rome for the winter.  She felt
that Vance needed the stimulus of a cultivated society; she would
have suggested Paris if their situation had not made it
embarrassing for her to settle down in a city where, at every turn,
she was sure to run across friends and acquaintances.  Until the
matter of the divorce was settled in one way or another she
preferred to avoid such encounters.  But now she decided that she
must let him have his way, lest he should feel that, at the very
moment when his writing mood returned, she had needlessly
interfered with it.  "By all means, let's try Cadiz," she agreed.

"But you don't believe in my idea for the new novel?"

"I believe in your trying it out, at any rate."

"You're a great girl, Halo," he said joyously.  "I love the way you
look when you hate a thing, and think you can persuade people that
you like it."

It was on the tip of her tongue to answer:  "I suppose you mean the
way I look at Alders--" but she refrained, and merely said with a
laugh:  "It's the first principle of every woman's job."  Inwardly,
she was wondering what had made Vance suddenly decide to go to
Cadiz.  She felt sure that Alders had suggested the change, and
that he had his own reasons for wishing to exchange Granada for the
south.  But the next day Vance asked her if she would mind if
Alders came up to say goodbye.  She minded so little that she had
to bear in mind Vance's remark on her inability to conceal her
feelings.  "Goodbye?  Oh, Alders is off too, is he?  Yes, of course
I'll see him."  But she still felt that, unless Alders had found
some one else to prey on conversationally, this leave-taking was
probably only a feint.

Alders appeared punctually, and overcame his shyness sufficiently
to thank her for her kindness, and mumble something about its being
a privilege he would never forget.  She was on the point of asking
him if he would not be turning up later at Cadiz; but she refrained
lest he should act on the suggestion, and merely remarked that she
supposed he thought the time for leaving Spain had come.

"No, not leaving Spain; I don't expect to do that for some time.
Only leaving Granada."  With increased timidity he explained that
he was joining a big shooting party in Estremadura--rather a
romantic sort of affair, as they were to stay in a fortified castle
among the mountains, a place belonging to the old Marquesa.  Her
sons had organized the party in honour of a young cousin from
Palermo who had come to Spain for the first time, to visit the
Marquesa; and as he didn't know a word of Spanish, and as Alders
spoke Italian, the latter had been invited to join the expedition--
"in the character of interpreter," Alders added, with a fresh
access of modesty which manifestly invited contradiction.

"The poor young man--what a blessing for him to find somebody he
can talk to!" Halo said cordially; and Vance added:  "And somebody
who knows the country inside out, like Alders."

"Oh, he's very much on the spot; he'll make his own discoveries.
But it will be amusing to do what I can.  As a collector of human
antiquities, these great heraldic names always appeal to me."
Alders addressed himself to Halo:  "I once planned out a book on
the relation between heraldry and religious symbolism.  Take the
Babylonian Fish God, for instance, who figures in the Zodiac, and
then in the Roman catacombs as the sacred emblem of the Christ . . .
and finally as the armes parlantes of some great mediæval family.
I am sure you will recall which, Mrs. Weston?  The idea is not
without interest. . .  But you've so many friends in European
society," Alders broke off.  "Very likely you know the Marquesa's
cousin.  It's a great name in Calabria . . . there's a cousinship
with the Spanish Bourbons."  He waited long enough to enjoy the
taste of his own words, and to let Halo enquire the name.  "The
Duke of Spartivento," he replied devoutly.

After Alders had taken his leave, Vance sat indolently swinging his
legs in the window-seat, while Halo returned to the task of sorting
their books and gathering up the odds and ends which had
accumulated in their little sitting-room.  They had engaged places
in the motor-coach for Cadiz, and both were full of the happy
excitement of departure.

"What was that he called his new friend?" Vance mused.  "It sounded
like a thunderclap."

"Spartivento."

"Well, that's some name.  What does it mean?  Windjammer, I
suppose?"

"More like wind-divider, I should say.  It's the name of a big
promontory off the coast of Southern Italy or Sicily.  Calabria,
probably, as the family come from there."

"Why, are there real people called that?  I had an idea Alders had
made it all up.  He gets word-drunk, sometimes."

"Oh, no.  Not this time.  It's really one of the titles of an old
Italian family.  I've often heard of them."

Vance lapsed into a marvelling silence until Halo, looking up from
her work, abruptly accused him of having spirited away Ford's
"Gatherings in Spain".  But he merely declared that he knew where
the book was, and stood staring at her with visionary eyes.  "What
a name!  What a name!  It sounds like that poem of Christopher
Smart's, with every line beginning 'Glorious'.  I should hate to
have to live up to it, though, wouldn't you?"

Halo, absorbed in her task, replied absently that very likely the
owner didn't; and Vance continued to murmur:  "Spartivento--
Spartivento: the wind-divider.  Dividing the winds.  Why, that's
what genius ought to do, isn't it?"

"Genius," Halo replied gaily, "ought first of all to find me
'Gatherings in Spain'."



BOOK II



VIII


On a day of the following September Vance Weston was walking down
the Boulevard Montparnasse.

He seemed to himself a totally different being from the young
ignoramus who had left New York with Halo Tarrant a year
previously.  To begin with, he was the author of a second
successful novel.  "The Puritan in Spain", dashed off in a rush of
inspiration during the previous autumn and winter, had come out in
the spring, and attained immediate popularity.  It was a vivid
tale, sultry and savage as the Spanish landscape--so one reviewer
said.  Another compared it with "Carmen", to Mérimée's disadvantage;
and a third declared that it combined the psychological insight of
Tchekov with the sombre fatalism of Emily Brontë.

Vance did not wholly share these views.  The thing had come too
easily; he knew it had not been fetched up out of the depths.  When
he was among friends and admirers, with the warm breeze of
adulation blowing through him, he remembered that greater geniuses
had suffered from the same dissatisfaction, and his disbelief in
his book grew more intermittent.  But when he was alone he recalled
the passionate groping conviction with which he had written
"Instead", and the beginning of the unfinished novel, "Magic", and
the feeling returned that those two books had been made out of his
inmost substance, while the new one sprang from its surface.  "The
Puritan in Spain" was better written and more adroitly composed
than its predecessors; there were scenes--little Pilar's death, or
young Ralston's return to Salem--that Vance could not re-read
without a certain pleasure.  These scenes had assuredly been
written with the same conviction as those in the earlier books; yet
now he felt only their superior craft.  One half of him was proud
of the book, and believed all that his readers said in praise of
it; but the other half winced at their praise.  "What's the use of
doing anything really big?  If ever I do, nobody'll read it. . .
Well, and what if they don't?  Who am I writing for, anyhow?  Only
the Mothers!" he thought savagely.

He swung along down the Boulevard Montparnasse and the Boulevard
Raspail to the Seine.  The sight of moving waters always arrested
him, and he leaned on the parapet and watched the breeze crisp the
river.  The sun-flecks on the water mimicked the yellowing leaves
of the trees along the banks, and streets and river were dappled
with the same gold.  Vance felt young and happy, and full of power.
"Wait till I get my teeth into the next--" he thought, his joyous
eyes on the river, the boats, the bridges, the gray palaces seen
through fading trees.  He would have liked to spend the rest of his
life in that setting of foliage and buildings; yet he was beginning
to feel that he would never get to work while he remained in Paris.
"The Puritan in Spain" had been written in three months at Cadiz,
in solitude and monotony--for the life there, alone with Halo, had
been desperately monotonous.  They knew no one; his friend Alders
had vanished, and Vance had made no new acquaintances.  He had
imagined that once he was at work Halo's presence would be the only
stimulus he needed; and no doubt it was, since the book had been
written.  But he had not felt her imagination flaming through him
as it had when they used to meet at the Willows.  The dampening
effect of habit seemed to have extinguished that flame.  She
listened intelligently, but she no longer collaborated; and now
that the book was done he knew she did not care for it.  Perhaps
that was the real source of his dissatisfaction; he told himself
irritably that he was still too subject to her judgments.

During their first months together he and she had lived in a deep
spiritual isolation; at times they seemed too close to each other,
seemed to be pressing on each other, pinning down each other's
souls.  With the first intrusion from the outside, with the
appearance of his queer friend Alders, from being too near they had
suddenly become too far apart, at times almost out of sight; and
since Alders had left them, and they had gone to Cadiz, there had
been something strained and self-conscious in their relation,
delicious though certain moments were.

His book finished, Vance was in a fever to get away, not only from
Cadiz but from Spain; and Halo, after suggesting that they should
end the winter in Italy, agreed that Paris might be best.  She
seemed to understand that after their months of solitude he needed
the stimulus of a great city, the contact with conflicting views
and ideas.  He did not have to tell her--one never had to explain
things to her.  At first she had hesitated when he mentioned Paris,
and he remembered her outbreak of resentment at not being invited
to the old Marquesa's, and was reminded that she was sensitive
about meeting strangers to whom her situation had to be explained;
but when he asked her if she would rather go to some quiet place
where they needn't bother with people she said she didn't see why
they should have to do with people who bothered them.  Now that the
book was done, she added, he ought to go about again, and see
something of the literary world; and so they decided on Paris.

Halo, almost at once, found a little flat with a studio, in a
shabby friendly house near the Luxembourg; and her brother Lorry
Spear, who had been living for some years in Paris, helped the pair
to settle down, and introduced them to his friends.  Vance had last
seen Lorry Spear on the day when the latter had borrowed ten
dollars of him.  Lorry had never returned the ten dollars, and had
figured mysteriously in a far more painful episode.  Some valuable
books had disappeared from the library of the Willows, which then
belonged to old Mr. Tom Lorburn, Mrs. Spear's cousin, and Mr.
Lorburn had suspected Vance of stealing and selling them.  They had
eventually been found at a second-hand bookseller's, and brought
back (it was whispered) by Lewis Tarrant; and no more was said, or
suggested, as to Vance's connection with the incident.  But Vance
knew, and so did Halo, that Lorry Spear had been the last person in
the library of the Willows before the books vanished, and that he
had been there alone.

This had left an unpleasant taste in Vance's mouth; but he had
travelled too far from the raw boy of those days to be much
affected by what concerned him; and like everything which did not
strike to the quick, the affair had faded from his mind.  Moreover
he knew that Halo was fond of her brother, though aware of his
weaknesses, and that she was glad to be near him again.

Life in Paris had roused in Vance a thousand new curiosities and
activities.  So far he had chiefly frequented the young men and
women who met at the literary cafés of Montparnasse, and at the
studios of the painters and decorators of the same group.  In this
world Lorry Spear was an important figure.  He had made a
successful start as a theatrical designer (also, it was rumoured,
with Tarrant's aid) and his big studio in the painters' quarter off
the Boulevard Raspail was the centre of an advanced group of
artists and writers.  A young woman with violently red hair and
sharp cheek-bones presided over it when she could spare the time
from a mysterious bookshop in the Latin Quarter, which she and a
girl friend managed.  The red-haired young lady, whose real name
was Violet Southernwood, had been re-christened Jane Meggs when she
threw in her lot with Lorry, who declared himself unable to endure
the sound of so nauseatingly pretty a name.  "A flower and a tree--
southernwood's a shrub, isn't it?  Well, anyway, I don't want
anybody around here who smells of nature to that extent.  And I
should have had to call myself Mossy Stone, which would--what?  Oh,
well, Jane don't mind a joke, do you, my own?"

Miss Meggs said what nauseated HER was having to associate with
anybody who got his jokes out of Wordsworth; but Lorry replied that
Wordsworth was the author of some of the most virulently hideous
lines in English poetry, and would soon be recognized as the
Laureate of the new school of the Ugly-for-the-Ugly--"which is all
ye need to know," he ended, while Miss Meggs groaned:  "Lord--and
he's read Keats too!"

Such pleasantries were too reminiscent of the Cocoanut Tree, and
Rebecca Stram's studio, where Vance had picked up his first
smattering of the new culture, and he preferred Alders's second-
rate learning to this wholesale rejection of the past.  But the
group contained other elements.  Among the young men, would-be
writers and painters, who laughed at Lorry's oracles, and idled
away the hours capping each other's paradoxes, there were a few,
French or English, who had joined the circle out of curiosity, and
the exuberance of youth, but had already taken its measure.  With
two or three of them Vance and Halo had at once made friends, and
founded a little circle of their own.  These young men all
professed the philosophic nihilism which was the creed of their
group; but they were scholarly, analytical, intellectually curious
and the cheap fireworks of Lorry's followers no longer satisfied
them.  What interested Vance, however, was less the nature of their
views than the temper of their minds.  He felt in all of them the
fine edge of a trained intelligence--the quality he had always
groped for without knowing what to call it or how to acquire it.
Now, wherever he went, he seemed to meet it; as though it were as
much a part of Paris as the stately architecture, the beauty of
streets and river, and the sense of that other accumulated beauty
stored behind museum walls.  All through this great visual symphony
he felt the fine vibrations of intelligence, the activity of high-
strung minds.  The young men who sat the night through talking with
him were but obscure participants in this vast orchestration; but
its rumour was always behind their talk.  At first the life
satisfied all Vance's needs.  To look and listen and question was
as stimulating as creation.  Then, as always happened, he began to
feel the need of setting his mind to work on the new material he
had amassed, away from the excitement of discussion.  This rhythmic
recurrence of moods seemed to be a law of his nature, but he did
not know how to formulate it to himself, still less to make it
clear to Halo.  It seemed hopeless to try to explain his sudden
impulses of flight from everything that was delighting his
imagination and expanding his mind.  As he leaned on the parapet in
the September sunshine he was thinking of this, not irritably or
even impatiently, but with a sort of philosophic detachment.
Communion with Halo had once been the completion of his dreams;
now, when his thoughts took flight, she was the obstacle that
arrested them.  When he thought of her he felt almost as hopeless
of explaining himself as he had with Laura Lou.  She, who was alive
and vibrating at so many points, failed to feel the rhythm of his
inner life.  Everything on the surface of his intelligence she
instantly caught up and flashed back; he could laugh and talk with
her by the hour in the freedom of perfect understanding.  But of
the forces stored in him during his solitary wanderings, and his
talks with this group of young men, she guessed nothing, perceived
nothing; and to this he had made up his mind without any feeling of
loneliness or resentment.  He was beginning to discover that he no
longer needed a companion in these explorations of the depths; what
he most wanted then was to be alone.

Now and then he and Halo went off for a weekend, to see some of the
wonderful places she had told him about.  The first time Vance was
alight with fervour and curiosity.  They had chosen Senlis, and
loitered all day around its ramparts, in its ancient streets, and
on the wall overlooking the mossy golden flanks of the cathedral
tower.  Then they went down into the square before the west front
of the cathedral, and stood gazing at the death of the Virgin over
the west portal, and at the saints and prophets poised among the
delicate grasses and lichens of the cornice.  Vance was in the
state of receptiveness into which great impressions steal like
angels.  If he had been alone, and had not had to tell Halo how
beautiful he thought it, his well-being would have been complete.

The experiment was so successful that Halo was eager to repeat it;
and soon afterward they went to Chartres.  She had decided that
they must spend the night there, so that Vance should see the
cathedral in all its aspects, at dusk, at sunrise, under the stars,
and when noonday jewelled its windows; she gave him the impression
that they were going on a kind of spiritual honeymoon.  It was
unlucky that the day before he had been seized by the desire to
plan a new book, and was in that state of inward brooding when the
visible world becomes a blank; but Chartres was Chartres, the
treasury of visions and emotions, the fountain of poetry and
dreams. . .  He only wished he hadn't read and heard so much about
it. . .

And then, when at last he was face to face with the cathedral, he
couldn't see it.  He stood there, a little lump of humanity,
confronting a great lump of masonry; that was as far as he could
get.  All the overwhelmingness left him standing in front of it,
open-eyed and utterly insensible.  Halo led him from one façade to
the other, and at each halt he felt her watching him in tender
expectancy.  At last they went in, and walked slowly about that
vast luminous world--and still he felt nothing, saw nothing.  A
band of trippers dragged by, deaf and vacant-eyed, a guide buzzing
about them with dates and statistics.  Halo gave them a contemptuous
glance; but Vance thought:  "They feel the way I do."  Halo was
elaborately tactful; she waited; she kept silent; she left him to
his emotions; but no emotions came.  He almost wished she would
scream out:  "Well, aren't you going to say SOMETHING?"--and he
thought despairingly:  "When will it be over?"

They went to a little tea-shop and had tea (thank God!), and came
back and saw twilight fall on towers and buttresses, and dusk
deepen to night under the sculpture of the porches.  They dined,
and came back to see the blueish-gray mass shimmering gigantic
under the stars.  Then they wandered through the streets and
stopped at a café for a glass of vermouth.  Vance felt that he
would soon have to say something, and he would have given the world
to slip away before Halo spoke.  "Well, dearest--?"

He emptied his glass, and stared sullenly into it.  "Well, I just
don't see it."

"Don't SEE it?"

"Not a glimmer; not of what you expect me to. . .  It's not my
size, I suppose."

"Not your size?" Halo echoed, in the tone of one who has fitted
Chartres into her cosmogony without an effort.

Vance felt the inadequacy of words.  "I don't SEE it, I tell you.
I don't care for it.  There's too much of it; yet there isn't
anything in it--not for me."

Halo stood up and slipped her arm in his.  "You're simply
overwhelmed by it--as you were that first evening at Cordova.  I
was like that when I came here the first time; but tomorrow . . ."

"Oh, no; I don't want to wait till tomorrow.  I want to go home
now.  Can't we--isn't there a night train?  There's sure to be
one. . ."

He would have liked to tell her that his mind was full of his new
book, passionately grappling with its subject.  If he had, she
would have been full of sympathy and understanding; but he did not
want sympathy and understanding.  He felt sulky and baffled, and
wanted to remain so.  The masculine longing to be left alone was
upper most; he wanted to hate Chartres without having to give any
reason.

"It's not my size," he repeated obstinately.

He saw the immensity of her disappointment.  "I know--I'm a Yahoo.
But let's go home," he pleaded.  They caught a train, and got back
to Paris, tired and heavy-eyed, at daylight; and for some time Halo
proposed no more week-ends.

But one afternoon, a month later, he went off with two of the young
men he had met at Lorry Spear's--a young English painter named
Arthur Tolby, and Savignac, a French literary critic.  They were
not in pursuit of sights; both his companions knew the environs of
Paris well enough to take them for granted.  But they knew of an
inn, fifty miles away, where the food was good enough to satisfy
the Frenchman, and there was a chance of trout-fishing for Vance
and Tolby.  They started in Tolby's rattling motor, hours later
than the time appointed, and toward sunset came to a town of which
Vance was too lazy to ask the name.  As they reached it, a sudden
thunderstorm rolled up and burst above them.  The sky was black,
the roads became riverbeds.  They decided to wait till the worst of
the deluge was over, and Tolby took his car to a garage for a
little tinkering.  The young men dropped Vance under the porch of a
church, and he went in to get shelter.  His thoughts were all
tangled up in his new novel--a big unwieldy subject full of
difficulty and fascination.  When he entered the church in this
unknown town his eyes were closed to the outer world; he simply
wanted to take refuge from the weather.  The church was empty,
immense, and dark as night.  There was a cluster of candles before
a distant shrine, but the nave and aisles were unlit, and the
thunder-cloud hung its pall before the windows.  Vance sat down,
and was listening absently to the roar of the storm when a flash
illuminated the walls of glass, and celestial fields of azure and
rose suddenly embowered him.  In another instant all was dark, as
if obliterated by the thunder following the flash; then the
incandescence began again--a flowering of magical sky-gardens in
which every heavenly hue blossomed against a blue as dazzling as
sunlight; and after each flowering came extinction.

Vance sat among these bursts of glory and passages of darkness as
if alternate cantos of the Paradiso and the Inferno were whirling
through him.  At length his friends came, they scrambled into the
motor, and he left the vision behind.  To his companions he said no
word of it; he did not even ask the name of the town.  They reached
their destination late, and sat half the night in the inn garden,
watching the moon on a placid river, and talking about the new
experiments in painting and literature, about Eddington and
Whitehead, Pure Poetry and Thomism, and the best trout-flies for
the stream they were to fish. . .

These memories flowed through Vance's mind as he sat on the parapet
looking across the Seine.  His months in Paris had been rich in
experience; if his receptivity sometimes failed him when Halo had
most counted on it, he had secreted treasures unsuspected by her,
such as the sights and sounds of the river, or that fragment of
heaven torn from the storm in the unknown church.  Surcharged and
happy, he got up and strolled on.


IX


Halo Tarrant, when she and Vance decided to come to Paris, had
looked forward to the adventure with dread.  Free love, she found,
was not the simple experiment she had imagined.  The coast of
Bohemia might be pleasant to land on for a picnic, yet the interior
of the country prove disappointing.  She had fancied that in the
tolerant air of her brother's studio she would shake off this
feeling.  She knew it was not based on moral scruples (morally
speaking the business was still a labyrinth to her) but on a sort
of inherited dislike of being unclassified, and out of the social
picture.  The social picture, as understood in the Lorburn
tradition, had never existed for Lorry; or so he had led his sister
to suppose.  It had probably never occurred to him to marry Miss
Jane Meggs, or to Miss Meggs to expect or wish that he should.
Almost all the young men of the group stood in the same unfettered
relation to one or more young women; and the few married couples
among them tried to excuse their inferior state by the show of a
larger liberty.

Among such people, Halo told herself, she would certainly lose the
last of her old prejudices.  After the cramping hypocrisy of her
life with Lewis Tarrant it would be refreshing to be among people
who laughed at the idea that there could be any valid tie between
young men and women except that of a passing attraction.  But from
the first she had felt herself an outsider in this world which was
to set her free.  She liked some of the people she met at her
brother's, she was amused and interested by nearly all of them, and
she tried to cultivate a friendly tolerance toward the few she
found least sympathetic.  But she had dropped out of her own
picture without yet fitting into this one.  Just as she imagined
herself to be growing happy and at home among those harum-scarum
people with their hysterical good-nature and their verbal
enormities, she became suddenly aware that her real self was still
ruled by other ideas, and that her new companions all knew it.
Beauty, order and reasonableness grew more and more dear to her in
the noisy anarchy of Lorry's circle, and the audacities she risked,
instead of making her new friends feel that she was one of them,
only caused them a vague embarrassment.  She had wanted Bohemianism
on her own terms, as a momentary contrast to convention; and
finding its laws no less irksome that the others, she bore them
less philosophically because she did not believe in them.

The delay about her divorce did not trouble her greatly.  In that
easy-going world such matters seemed irrelevant, and she smiled to
think how bitterly she had resented Vance's going without her to
the party at Granada.  Since then she had put away childish things,
and whether she and Vance married, or remained as they were, seemed
of no consequence compared to the one vital point: would he weary
of her, or would she be able to hold him?  Sometimes she thought
that if they could be married before he grew tired, their marriage
might consolidate the bond.  But in Lorry's world it would have
occurred to no one that marriage was in itself more permanent than
a casual love-affair; the new generation argued that it was easier
to separate if you were married, since divorce formalities were
easier than a sentimental break.

Nevertheless she clung to the thought of marriage; and soon after
their arrival in Paris she wrote to ask her lawyer the reason of
the delay, and to repeat that, if Tarrant would not let her divorce
him, she hoped he would take proceedings against her at once.  The
answer was not what she had expected.  The lawyer wrote that
Tarrant no longer wished for a divorce.  He not only refused to
take proceedings, but declined on any terms to set Halo free.  No
reasons were given; but the lawyer was satisfied that, for the
present, any appeal against this decision would only harden
Tarrant's resolve.  He advised Halo to wait, in the hope that her
husband's mood might change; and her knowledge of Tarrant made her
accept the advice.

From Frenside and her mother she learned soon afterward that
Tarrant's projected marriage with Mrs. Pulsifer was off, and she
suspected that this wound to his vanity had been the cause of his
sudden opposition.

This new obstacle was a blow to her; but she did not speak of it to
Vance.  She had resolved not to make any allusion to their marriage
unless he raised the question; and since their talk at Granada,
when he had asked her about the delay in her divorce, he seemed to
have dismissed the matter from his mind.  Probably it made no
difference to him if they were married or not; perhaps, even, it
was a relief to feel that the tie between them depended only on
their pleasure.  Whatever happened, she could not tell Vance about
that letter. . .

There were moments when such questions weighed little in the
balance of her daily joys; but these joys became more necessary
because of what they had to replace.  She had to love Vance more
passionately, and to believe in his genius more fervently and
continuously, because she had staked so much on her love and her
faith.  Vance as a lover still filled her life with radiance, and
her tenderness grew with the sense of his eager longing to make her
happy; but it was in the region of thought and imagination that she
had dreamed of a lasting hold over him, and it was in this region
that she found herself least wanted.

She did not begrudge the hours he spent with his new friends.  Men
with quick discerning minds, like Arthur Tolby and young Savignac,
interested her as much as they did Vance, and she was proud of
their appreciation of her lover.  They would never have encouraged
him, as Alders had, to repeat himself by writing an other novel
like "Instead"--a "costume piece" which drew its chief effects from
a tricky use of local colour.  Savignac had told her privately what
he thought of the book; it was ever so pretty--ever so clever--but
what business had a man of Weston's quality to be doing novels like
ladies' fancy-work, or an expensive perfume?  He ought to be
tackling new difficulties, not warming up old successes.  Yes; Halo
knew it all; she did not need to have it pointed out, and there was
a sting in the fact that this clever young man thought that her
affections blinded her, or that her literary standards were less
exacting than his.  She had always known that Alder's cheap
enthusiasms were misleading Vance; but her hints had been wasted.
And now, after an evening with his new friends, he could come back
and say, quite unconsciously:  "Of course I know 'The Puritan' is
just pretty wall-paper--something pasted over the rough stuff of
reality.  Tolby called it that yesterday.  Not an ounce of flesh-
and-blood in it, not a breath of real air.  Don't I know?  Why
didn't you have the nerve to tell me so?  A fellow gets balled up
in his subject, and doesn't see which way he's going.  You might
have told me that I was just re-writing 'Instead' in a new
setting."

A year ago she could hardly have refrained from saying:  "But,
darling, I did tell you, and you wouldn't listen!"  She was too
wise for that now, and she merely replied:  "I'm so glad you've had
these talks with Savignac and Tolby.  A fresh eye is always such a
help--"

"Oh, I oughtn't to need any eye but my own," Vance grumbled
jealously: and she went away smiling to put on her newest hat for
an out-of-door dinner in the Bois.  "The next book--the next book,"
she thought, "will show them all what he really is."  There were
times when she caught herself praying for that next book as lonely
wives pray for a child. . .



All this passed through her mind as she sat one afternoon in her
brother's studio, encumbered with half-finished stage-settings and
models of famous theatres, and waited for him to come in.  She
envied Lorry the place he had made for himself in the busy
experimental world of the arts.  From an idle and troublesome youth
he had turned into a hard-working man, absorbed in his task,
confident of his powers, and preoccupied only by the eternal
problem of getting money enough to execute his costly schemes.  The
last of these, she knew, was a great musical spectacle, to be
expressed entirely in terms of modern industrialism, with racing
motors, aeroplanes and sub-marines as the protagonists, prodigies
of electric lighting, and stage effects of unprecedented
complication.  For the present there was little hope of carrying
out this apocalyptic plan, and only the providential appearance of
a rich American with a craving to be æsthetically up-to-date could
make the dream come true.  Lorry, deserting his impecunious friends
of Montparnasse, had taken to haunting fashionable hotels and
millionaire nightclubs; but hitherto his possible patrons had shied
away from his scheme, and as Halo sat waiting she noticed that the
stage-settings and models for "Factories," which filled the working-
table in the middle of the room, were already gray with dust.

Waiting for Lorry was always an uncertain affair, but Halo seldom
had any engagements, and her unoccupied hours weighed on her less
heavily away from home.  If any one had told her, a year ago, that
a young woman living with her lover in Paris could be lonely, and
find the time long, she would have smiled at the idea as Vance did
at her hints about his work; but now she had given up trying to
conceal the truth from herself.  Before long, perhaps, Vance would
want to begin to write again, and then she would be happy; but
meanwhile even love and Paris were not enough.

At last the door opened, and she heard Lorry's step.  Luckily he
was alone, and they would be able to have a talk before the
afternoon crowd turned up.  He came in whistling a negro spiritual,
said:  "Hullo, child--you there?" and walked with an absent eye
toward the model of the last scene of "Factories".  He stood before
it for a long time, passing from spirituals to the latest Revue
catch, and screwing up his eyes in meditation.  As his sister
watched him she thought how changed he was since he had found the
job he was meant for.  He would always be unreliable about money,
careless as to other people's feelings, sweetly frivolous, gaily
unfeeling; but where his work was concerned he was a rock.  He had
found the right ballast for his flighty nature, and would no doubt
have said that the rest didn't matter.  Halo looked at him with
envy.

"Lorry," she said, "can't you find me a job?"

He swung around and scrutinized her with those handsome ironic eyes
which were a shade too near together for security.

"A job?  Why, I thought you had one!  I thought you'd chucked
everything else for it."

She was on the point of answering, with a touch of bitterness:  "I
thought so too--" but she checked herself.

"Don't be a goose!  What I want is some sort of occupation while
Vance is working.  I've never learnt to be lazy, and I feel at a
loose end, with all the rest of you absorbed in your village
industries.  Why can't I have one too?  Won't Jane take me on as an
apprentice in her book-shop?"

Lorry Spear pulled his hands out of his pockets and ceased his
whistling.  "It's you who are the goose, my dear," he said.  "When
are you going to get married?"

She looked at him in surprise.  It was the last question she had
expected; but she rejoined with a laugh:  "Is that your idea of an
occupation?"

"For you, yes.  A good deal more in your line than selling censored
books in Jane's back shop."

Halo coloured a little.  "I didn't know you were so particular
about either literature or morals."

Lorry's face took on an expression of irritated severity.  "Hang
it, I'm particular about everything--from my own point of view.  I
like things to be in the pattern.  Old Jane's in my pattern--so are
her books.  Naturally a man feels differently about his sister."

Halo was silent, and he continued, in his light sharp voice:  "I
should have thought that as a mere matter of taste a woman like you
wouldn't want to be mixed up with the rabble that come here.  It's
all right for a fugue--I'm all for a night off now and then; but I
don't suppose you're going to settle down among them, as one of
them, are you?  Has it never occurred to you that it leaves a bad
taste in a man's mouth to have to introduce his sister to the kind
of women who come here?  'His sister?  Who is she?  Oh, just one of
us'.  You can't hear them snicker; but I can.  If I haven't spoken
till now it's because I expected, any day, to hear that you and
Weston were to be married."

Halo sat looking at her brother with growing astonishment.  He was
aflame with one of the brief fits of self-righteousness which used
to seize him when he tried to borrow money, or to justify some kind
of doubtful transaction; but she wondered why he had chosen her as
a pretext.

"Oh, no; of course not," he pursued indignantly.  "My feelings are
the last thing you ever think of--how a man likes it when he knows
the fellows he sees are saying behind his back:  'His sister?  Oh,
anybody can have her the day her novelist chucks her.'  Look here,
Halo, I've made myself a situation I'm proud of, and here you come
along and behave as if you wanted to do me all the harm you can--as
if you'd gone out of your way to offend our family pride and
ridicule our traditions!  Of course if Weston had any sense of what
he owes you--"

Halo interrupted him with a laugh.  "Really, Lorry, I suppose I
oughtn't to let you go on.  But all those obsolete words sound so
funny in this atmosphere that I can't take them seriously; and I
don't believe you expect me to.  I don't know that it's any of your
business to ask why I don't marry Vance--it's not a question I
expected to hear under this roof.  As a matter of fact, I suppose
we shall marry when Lewis makes up his mind to let me have my
divorce; but such matters seem so secondary to any one as
blissfully happy as I am--"

Her brother gave an ironic shrug.  "YOU blissfully happy?  Bless
your heart--just go over and look at yourself in the glass!  You're
better looking than ever, but your cheek-bones are coming through
your skin and your eyes look as if you'd tried to rub out the
circles under them with a dirty India rubber.  And then you talk to
me about being happy!"

Halo shrank at the challenge, but met it with a laugh.  "I thought
you liked ravaged beauties--I've been living on lemon juice and raw
carrots on purpose.  But if you want to see me led to the altar by
my seducer you'd better persuade Lewis to let me divorce him, or to
get a divorce from me, if he prefers.  When he does, I daresay
Vance and I will marry."

Lorry stood before her in an attitude of contemplation; at last he
said:  "Look here, Halo--I hold no brief for Lewis, though he did
me a good turn once.  But if a man agrees to let his wife divorce
him, I can understand his feeling that she might wait to join her
lover till she's got her decree."

"No doubt the principle is a good one.  But in my case only one
thing counted.  Vance wanted me; I had to go to him."

Lorry gave an impatient shrug.  "That's so Ibsenish.  Talk of
obsolete words!  Your whole vocabulary is made up of them.  What
was there to prevent your seeing your young friend on the quiet?"
He laid a half-friendly, half-rebuking hand on her shoulder.  "My
poor old girl, when a lady's such a lady, all the night-life and
the adultery won't wipe out the damned spot. . .  I'm sorry; but
you offend me æsthetically; you really do; and that's the worst sin
in my decalogue."

"What a picture, Lorry!  It would be funny if you turned out to be
the most conventional member of our family."

"I'm the most everything of our family, my dear; haven't you found
that out?  I push things to their logical conclusions, while the
rest of you live in a perpetual blur.  That, I may add, is why I
don't marry and found a family."

"And why you enjoin me to?"

"Certainly.  It's the safest way, for people who can't see around
the next corner.  And you're one of them."

Halo sat staring down at the rough cement of the studio floor.  She
felt suddenly weary of the effort of bandying chaff with her
brother.  Weary of that, and of everything else.  What he said had
taken the strength out of her.  It was not the first time that she
had been struck by Lorry's penetration.  No one could see more
clearly into human motives, or drive his argument home more
forcibly when it was worth his while.  For some reason which
escaped her, it was worth his while now; but that did not arrest
her attention, for her mind was riveted on the image of herself
which his words evoked.  She had no need to look in the glass; in
his description her secret anxieties were revealed to her, feature
by feature.  It was true that she would never be at home among
these people whose way of living was not the result of passion but
of the mere quest for novelty.  Contact with the clever mocking
young women who, like herself, were living with their lovers,
seemed to belittle her relation to Vance.  When everything which
was sacred to her in that relation would have appeared to them
incomprehensible or ridiculous, how could she ever imagine herself
one of them?  She had always felt a latent repulsion for them: for
the capable free-spoken Jane, with her thriving trade in forbidden
books and obscene drawings, for her friend and business partner,
Kate Brennan, whose conversation echoed and parodied Jane's, and
for all the other women of the group, with their artistic and
literary jargon, picked up from the brilliant young men whose lives
they shared, and their noisy ostentation of emotions they seldom
felt, and sins they probably did not always commit.  Halo stood up
and looked about her, at the stacked-up stage-settings, the dusty
electrical and photographic apparatuses, the hideous sub-human
faces grimacing from futurist canvases, the huge plaster group of
two women evilly contorting themselves against a background of
theatrical posters.  It had all seemed so free and jolly and
clever--and Lorry's words had crumbled the whole show to dust.

"Well, I'm off," she said.  "If Vance comes, tell him not to wait
for me."

Lorry seemed to feel a touch of compunction.  "Oh, look here, old
girl--" he glanced at his watch a little nervously--"don't go till
I've built you up with a cocktail."

She shook her head with a smile.  "I'm beyond cocktails.  It's this
stuffy weather--I feel so lifeless.  I'm going home to lie down."

She detected a tinge of relief in his eyes as he followed her
toward the door.  "So long, then, my dear.  If Weston turns up I'll
send him back to smooth your pillow."  He laid his hand on hers.
"See here, Halo; why don't you go home--really?"  His eyes looked
into hers simply and kindly, as they used to when he and she were
children.  She pressed his hand and went out without answering.

The studio was at the back of an untidy walled enclosure,
encumbered with the materials of an adjoining carpenter's shop.  As
Halo emerged into the street a glittering motor drove up and
stopped.  The chauffeur, after a glance of doubt and disapproval,
jumped down to open the door, and there descended a heavily built
lady dressed with sober opulence.  It was clearly unusual for her
to set foot to the ground in such a quarter, for she looked as
dubious and disapproving as the chauffeur.  As she surveyed with
lifted nose and eye-glass the unpromising front of the carpenter's
shop, the rifts in the pavement, and the general untidiness of the
half built-up street, Halo thought:  "New York--and Park Avenue!"
An instant later she identified the lady.  "Mrs. Glaisher!  How fat
she's grown.  They all do, when they own opera boxes and Rollses."
She remembered Mrs. Glaisher as one of the chief ornaments of the
old expensive New York group which her parents had belonged to and
broken away from.  Mrs. Glaisher was a necessary evil.  Once in the
winter one had to hear Tristan or the Rosenkavalier from her opera
box, and once to dine off gold plate in her Gothic refectory.  But
for the rest of the year she was the object of proverbial
pleasantry among the clever people who met at Mrs. Spear's.  What
on earth could she be doing here now?  Why, probably looking for
Lorry!  The thought interested Halo, but did not surprise her; she
knew that Mrs. Glaisher was always panting and puffing after what
she called "the latest thing".  Perhaps she had just discovered
Lorry; perhaps--very possibly--it was she on whom he was counting
to finance the costly stage-setting of "Factories".  The idea was
so amusing that Halo forgot her own troubles, and decided that she
would guide Mrs. Glaisher to the studio for the pleasure of hearing
what she and Lorry had to say to each other.  Halo had a high idea
of Lorry's verbal arts, and he would need them all to bridge the
distance between Mrs. Glaisher's extremest mental effort and the
most elementary explanation of "Factories".

Mrs. Glaisher still wavered, as if seeking guidance.
Simultaneously, the two women moved a few steps toward each other;
then Mrs. Glaisher, pausing, appeared to absorb Halo's presence
into her eye-glasses, to turn it over and reject it.  After one
deadly glance of recognition she averted her gaze, and walked on as
if there were no one in her path, and Halo, from the street, was
left to contemplate her broad and disapproving back.  She had been
cut, distinctly and definitely cut, by Mrs. Glaisher.

The idea was so new that she burst into a laugh.  She caught an
expression of surprise on the chauffeur's disdainful face, and then--
could it be?--a fleeting but unconcealable grin.  Mrs. Glaisher's
chauffeur was joining her in her laugh at Mrs. Glaisher.

"But it's all New York that has cut me!" she chuckled to herself;
for she knew that every act and attitude of Mrs. Glaisher's was the
outcome of a prolonged and conscientious study of what her
particular world approved and disapproved of.  The idea of being
excluded, ruled out, literally thought out of existence, by all
those towering sky-scrapers to whose shelter the statue of Liberty
so falsely invites the proscribed and the persecuted, filled Halo
with uncontrollable mirth, and she sped homeward cheerfully
humming:  "I've been cut by Mrs. Glaisher--Mrs. Glaisher--Mrs.
Glaisher. . ."


X


As she unlocked her door Halo heard animated talk in the studio.
The voices were Savignac's and Tolby's; they were speaking with
great vivacity, as if the subject under discussion provoked
curiosity and amusement.  Still humming to herself:  "I've been cut
by Mrs. Glaisher--Mrs. Glaisher--" Halo thought:  "How I shall make
Vance laugh over it!" and she tried to catch his voice among the
others.  But if he were there he was doubtless listening in
silence, stretched out on the brown Bokhara of the divan, his arms
folded under his head, and watching between half-shut lids his
cigarette smoke spiral upward.  "Shall I tell him before the
others?" she thought, with an impulse of bravado.

"Well--!" she cried out gaily from the threshold.  Only Tolby and
Savignac were there; as she turned the door-handle they ceased
talking and her "Well!" rang out in the silence.  Savignac rose,
and Tolby, who was bending over the fire, continued to poke it.
"They were talking of me!" she thought, and Lorry's phrase flashed
through her mind:  "The fellows are saying to themselves:  'His
sister?  Oh, anybody can have her the day her novelist chucks
her'."

That was what these young men, whom she liked, and who were sitting
over her fire waiting for her to come in, were probably saying.  If
not, why should they stop talking so suddenly, and lift such
embarrassed faces?  It had been very comic to be cut by Mrs.
Glaisher; it seemed to put things in their right perspective, and
rid Halo of her last scruples.  But the idea that her lover's
friends had fallen silent on her entrance because they had been
caught discussing her situation did not strike her as comic, and
she felt a sudden childish ache to be back in the accustomed frame-
work of her life.

She came in and shook hands with the young men.  "What have you
done with Vance?" she asked lightly.

Tolby gave a laugh.  "Why, we were talking about him--if that's
what you mean."

"Oh--about VANCE?"  In her relief she could not help stressing the
name.  "Is that why you both look so guilty?"

Tolby laughed again, and Savignac rejoined:  "Yes, it is.  But for
my part I'm going to confess.  I don't like his book--at least not
as much as I want to."

"Oh, I know you don't.  And Tolby doesn't either.  But he had the
courage to tell me so."  Inwardly Halo was thinking:  "What an
idiot I am!  As if these young fellows cared whether Vance and I
are married or not!  They know we love each other, and for them
that's all that counts.  These are the kind of people I want to
live among."  She sat down by the fire, and said:  "One of you
might find the cocktail shaker.  I'm too lazy."

Tolby made the necessary effort, and while they sipped, and lit
their cigarettes, Halo continued gaily:  "But, you know, Vance
doesn't really care for the Spanish novel himself.  Has he shown
you 'Magic', the one he began two years ago?"

"No," Tolby rejoined.  "He said it was no use showing it because it
was definitely discarded; but last night at Savignac's he read us
an outline of this big new thing he's planning.  Derek Fane, of the
'Amplifier', was there, and Weston wanted his opinion.  That's the
book we were talking about."

"Oh--" Halo murmured.  There was a big new book, then; and Vance
hadn't yet seen fit to speak to her about it, much less to read her
the outline with which the young English critic had been favoured.
Why did he no longer talk to her about his work?  The idea that it
must be her fault made her spirits droop again; but she thought:
"I mustn't let them see that I haven't heard of it."  She leaned
back and puffed at her cigarette.  "Well--how does it strike you?"

Tolby gave a shrug.  "Not my job--I'm no critic."

Halo laughed.  "Savignac can't get out of it on that pretext."

"No," Savignac admitted.  "But I can say that I'm a critic only
within certain limits."

"Is this out of your limits?"

"It's out of my scale.  Too big--"

"For human nature's daily food," Tolby interpolated.  "That's my
trouble.  I think the proper measure of mankind is man."

"Well--?"

"Well--did you ever read Maeterlinck on the Bee--or, rather, I
should say, on THE BEE?  Rather before your day, but--you have?
Well, then you'll understand.  When I began to read that book I had
imagined the bee was a small animal--insect, in fact; something to
be spoken of in a whisper, written of in airy monosyllables--an
idea justified by the dimensions of the hives in which, I'm assured
by competent authorities, a whole swarm can be comfortably lodged,
and carry on their complicated civic and domestic affairs. . .
Well, as I read Maeterlinck, the bee grew and grew--like Alice
after eating the cake.  With each adjective--and they rained like
hailstones--that bee grew bigger.  Maeterlinck, in his admiration
for the creature's mental capacity, had endowed it with a giant's
physical proportions.  The least epithet he applied to it would
have fitted a Roman emperor--or an elephant.  That's what the
creature became: a winged elephant.  That bee was afflicted with
giantism, as they say in French.  You didn't know that giantism was
a glandular disease?  Certainly!  And Maeterlinck didn't give his
thyroid piqûres in time--he let the creature swell and swell till
it turned into an earth-shaking megatherium among whose legs rogue
elephants could have romped. . ."  Tolby laughed, refilled his
pipe, and stretched his contented ankles to the fire.  "That's what
I told Weston, in my untutored language."

Halo echoed his laugh; then she said tentatively:  "But I don't
quite see how I'm to apply your analogy."  She was trying to
conceal from them that Vance had never breathed a word to her of
the new book.

Tolby raised himself on an elbow.  "Savignac's the man to give you
the reasons; it's his trade.  But he won't; he's too polite.  I'm
just a blundering brute of a painter, who can't explain himself in
anything but pigments.  And I don't know why I don't like Goliaths,
except that they've always proved so much less paintable than the
Davids."

"But is it the subject you think too big?  Or the characters?"

Savignac plunged in.  "It's the scale of the pattern.  It's all
part of a pattern, subject and characters.  It's to be an attempt
to deal microscopically, with the infinitely little of human
experience, incalculably magnified, like those horrid close-ups of
fever microbes, when you don't know whether you're looking at a
streptococcus or the villain of a Chinese drama.  Till I can find a
reason why the meanest physical reflexes should have an æsthetic
value equal to the windows of Chartres, or the final scenes of
Faust, I shall refuse to believe that they may be legitimately
treated as if they had."

"I should refuse even if I found the reason--but then I'm a mere
empirical Briton," Tolby rejoined.

Halo sat silent, trying to piece together these comments.  She
began to guess why Vance had not talked to her of the book.  He had
evidently caught the literary infection of Jane Meggs's back shop,
and was trying to do a masterpiece according to the new recipe; and
he had guessed that Halo would warn him against the danger of
sacrificing his individuality to a fashion or a school.  Vance was
curiously wary about guarding the secrets of his work from
premature exposure; but hitherto he had seemed to feel that with
her they ran no risk.  Now, instinctively, he had anticipated her
disapproval; and in a certain way it proved her power over him.

For a while she reflected; then she said:  "But if Vance's
elephants are winged, like Maeterlinck's, and use their wings,
won't that justify his subject and his scale?"

Savignac nodded.  "Perfectly."

"Then I suppose all we can do is to wait and see."

"Manifestly.  And in the meantime all we can do is to wait for
Vance," Tolby interrupted.  "He told us to be here by six--we were
to hear the first chapters.  And it's nearly eight now.  Have you
any idea where he is?"

"Not the least."  Halo got up, lit a lamp, drew the heavy linen
curtains.  The studio, as she shut out the dusk, grew smaller and
more intimate.  Tolby threw another log on the hearth, and the
rising flame reminded her of the New York winter evenings when she
and Vance had sat over the library fire, wandering from book to
book, from vision to vision.  "We were nearer to each other then,"
she thought.

Half-past eight struck, and the two young men said they would go
off to dine, and drop in afterward to see if Vance had turned up.
They tried to persuade Halo to accompany them to the restaurant
which the group frequented; but she said she would wait, and join
them later with Vance.  She drew a breath of relief when they left;
she wanted to sit down quietly and think over what they had said of
this new book.

The first chapters were finished, apparently, since Vance had
convoked his friends to hear them read.  She knew where he kept his
papers when he was working; it would have been easy to open a
drawer in the old cabinet against the wall and rummage for the
manuscript.  She longed to see it, to assure herself that Vance's
treatment of his subject would justify itself--that she would
discover in it a promise which Savignac and Tolby had missed.
Their literary judgment, to which she had attached so much
importance, suddenly seemed open to question.  After all, they were
both very young, they belonged to a little clan like the others, a
number of indirect causes might unconsciously affect their opinion.
"Perhaps he's doing something that's beyond their measure," she
thought, fastening on the idea with immediate conviction.  But much
as she desired to confirm it by reading the manuscript she could
not bring herself to open the drawer where she was sure it lay.  It
was the first time that Vance had not taken her into his
confidence; and whatever his reasons were, she meant to respect
them.  If there had been a letter from a woman in that drawer, she
reflected, it would have been almost easier to resist looking at
it.  The relation between herself and Vance had hitherto been so
complete that her imagination was lazy about picturing its
disturbance.  She could not think of him as desiring another woman;
but she suffered acutely from the fact that, for the first time, he
had not sought her intellectual collaboration.

It was the maid's evening out, and there was no food in the house;
but Halo did not feel hungry.  She thought:  "When he turns up,
we'll go out and have supper, as we did that first night at
Cordova, when he couldn't eat for the beauty of it."  That was
only a few months ago; but she was beginning to discover the
arbitrariness of time-measures in the sentimental world.  The
memory seemed to come out of another life.

She stretched herself on the divan, and took up a book to which she
gave only the surface of her thoughts.  Nine struck, then half-
past; almost immediately afterward, it was ten o'clock.  She was
beginning to think of street accidents and other disquieting
possibilities when, toward eleven, the bell rang, and she jumped to
her feet.  Vance always carried his latchkey; but he might have
mislaid or lost it.  She ran to the door and opened it on a
messenger with a telegram.  She fumbled for a franc, and tore open
the message under the faint gaslight of the landing.  It was dated
Paris, and ran:  "Off for a day or two to think over book all right
love Vance."

Nothing more; no explanation; no excuses; no specifying of place or
date.  The baldest and vaguest statement of fact--and no more. . .

Familiar voices rose from below, and she caught sight of Tolby's
faded Homburg hat at the turn of the stair.  "No," she called down
to it, "he's not here, he's not come back; but it's all right.
I've just had a wire.  He had to dash off to see somebody . . . a
publisher, yes, a publisher--in London. . .  Oh, no, thanks; really
not; I'm too sleepy for supper.  When I'm alone I don't keep
Montmartre hours. . .  Thank you, my dears, thank you. . .  No--
don't come up!"



Halo carried the telegram back into the studio and sat down to re-
read it.  The words stared at her with secretive faces that yielded
no hint of the truth.  But why had she so spontaneously fibbed
about the message to those young men?  In the easy world of
Montparnasse everybody came and went without making excuses or
giving reasons; only the old instinct of order and propriety,
reasserting itself in her, had made her invent that silly story
about a London publisher.  Lorry was right; she evidently was not
cut out to be a poet's love!  She smiled defiantly, whispered to
herself:  "We'll see--" and immediately felt it incumbent, in her
new character, to develop a healthy hunger and thirst.  In the
pantry she found cheese and stale biscuits, which she consumed with
the help of a cocktail; then she said:  "Now I'll go to bed, like a
sensible woman--" and, instead, lit a cigarette and threw herself
again on the divan.

The room had grown very still.  The friendly fire burned itself
out, and she was too lazy to get up and light it.  Suddenly it
occurred to her that everything she had done for the last year--
from choosing her hats and dresses to replenishing the fire,
getting the right lamp shades, the right menu for dinner, the right
flowers for the brown jar on Vance's table--everything had been
done not for herself but for Vance.  She had no longer cared to
make her life comely for its own sake; she thought of it only in
relation to her love for Vance.  She understood how a young woman
full of the pride of self-adornment might turn into a slattern if
her lover left her. . .  She must suggest that to Vance for a
story. . .

But now she saw what must have happened.  Alders, she was sure, had
turned up again and persuaded Vance to go on a trip with him.  Poor
Alders knew well enough that he bored her, that she secretly
disliked him; he would prefer to pour his second-rate eloquence
into Vance's uncritical ear.  No doubt he and Vance had gone to
stay with some of Alders's pseudo-fashionable friends; and Vance,
aware of the faint smile with which Halo would greet such a
project, had preferred to go without telling her. . .  Well,
probably she deserved it; she had always been too critical, had
made her likes and dislikes too evident.  As if they mattered, or
anything did, except that she should go on serving and inspiring
this child of genius with whom a whim of the gods had entrusted
her. . .

Yet was it likely that Vance would have gone off on a trip with
Alders?  The friends he had made in Paris, the comrades of these
last stimulating months, had relegated Alders to an obscure corner
of the background.  Vance hardly ever spoke of Alders nowadays--the
only time Halo could remember his mentioning the name, he had said:
"Poor old Alders," with a shrug of comprehension.  "I wonder what's
become of Alders's duke--you remember, the one with the name like
the clanging of shields?"  No; it was not likely that he had gone
away with Alders.

If Tolby and Savignac had not been spending that very evening with
her at Vance's invitation, and in the expectation of hearing the
first pages of his new novel, Halo would have concluded that the
three friends had improvised another trip together.  Tolby and
Savignac were Vance's closest friends nowadays; their companionship
had become such an intellectual necessity to him that Halo would
have been neither surprised nor resentful if he had gone with them
without including her in the party.  But Vance had invited his
friends to his house, and had obviously meant to be there to
receive them; it was after he had made the arrangement that
something had occurred, something mysterious, inexplicable, which
had caused him to change his plans too hurriedly to give Halo any
clearer explanation than this cryptic telegram.  It was not Alders
who had worked that change.

Halo started up in sudden alarm.  Supposing it were not Vance who
had sent the telegram?  Memories of mysterious abductions, of
forged messages from victims already dead, rushed through her
agitated mind.  There was no telephone in the flat, or even in the
concierge's lodge below; the old-fashioned building, like most of
its kind, was without such conveniences.  She would have to go to
the nearest police-station, and say--say what?  That her husband
had not come home for dinner, but that she had had a telegram from
him telling her that he was all right, and would be back in two or
three days.  No--that was scarcely worth carrying to the police.
She decided to wait.

Her glance, wandering about the studio, fell again on the old
walnut cabinet in which she was sure that Vance had put the
manuscript; and suddenly she decided to get it out and read it.
She felt that she had the right to do so.  If he had withdrawn his
confidence from her she must find out about him in other ways. . .
She took up the lamp and carried it across to the cabinet.  She
noticed that her hand was trembling.  "One would think I was a
jealous woman expecting to find a love-letter," she smiled to
herself--and felt the smile harden on her lips.

What a fool she had been!  Why shouldn't there be love-letters in
that drawer?  How was it that never, till that moment, the most
probable reason for Vance's gradual detachment had occurred to her?
Intellectual companionship?  Spiritual union?  Rubbish!  A young
man with a fiery imagination wanted a new woman--a succession of
new women--for his flame to feed on.  The lives of the poets and
artists all proved it--showed how the flame devoured one lovely
victim after another, how many had to be heaped on the pyre of
genius!  If Vance had ceased to talk to her about his work it was
because he was talking about it to some other woman.  Since the
beginning of the world there had been no other clue to the
withdrawal of one lover from another.  All Halo's intellectual
subtleties shrivelled up in the glare of this truth.

She set the lamp down and stood studying the carved doors behind
which the answer to the riddle perhaps lay.  She no longer thought
of the novel--what she saw, through those worm-eaten panels, was a
packet of letters in a woman's writing.  Was the writing known or
unknown to her?  Even that she could not guess.  Her imagination,
racing backward over the last weeks and months, scrutinized one
after another the feminine faces in their group, trying to recall
some significant glance or word of Vance's.  But though these young
women obviously interested and amused him, he seemed to treat them
all with an odd detachment, and she could not remember his having
shown a preference for one above the others.  But how did she know
that in the course of his Parisian wanderings he had not come
across some one she had never seen or even heard of?  The chance
propinquity of a café or a cinema might have sufficed to undo her
life, and put this burning anguish in her heart--this pain so new
that she pressed her hands to her breast and whispered:  "Oh, God,
dear God--only not THAT!  Oh, God, don't let it be that!"

It seemed too cruel for endurance that all the treasures of her
love for Vance, and the passionate year which had been its
flowering, should be at the mercy of some unknown woman's laugh, of
the way her eyelashes grew, or her shoulder sloped as the dress
drooped from it. . .

"But how do I know it's an unknown woman?"  She remembered how long
she and Vance had loved each other without its being suspected; she
recalled all the devices and prevarications that had shielded their
growing passion, and had seemed so natural and necessary.  He might
have been carrying on an intrigue for weeks with some woman they
were meeting constantly at cafés, at dances, at Lorry's. . .  She
broke off, as if her brother's name had brought enlightenment.  At
Lorry's--but of course!  What else was the meaning of Lorry's
unaccountable diatribe against the women who came to his studio?
He had told Halo they were not fit to associate with her; and she
had laughed, and wondered what could be the cause of this new
prudery.  Now she saw how the bits of the puzzle fitted into each
other, and smiled at her own dulness.  What he had obviously been
trying to do was to warn her of Vance's peril.  Perhaps he was
jealous of Vance; perhaps Jane Meggs had been too kind to him.  The
power of such women was so insidious that though Lorry despised
Jane, and laughed at her, he could not do without her, and he had
probably meant Halo to take the warning and pass it on to Vance.

Then again--what was it that Tolby and Savignac had hinted about
the new book?  Why, that it belonged to the type of literature in
which Jane Meggs specialized.  Not the kind she kept in her back
shop; they could hardly have meant that; but that Vance had been
too much influenced by the stream-of-consciousness school which
Jane's group proclaimed to a bewildered public to be the one model
for modern fiction.

Jane Meggs!  How a woman of that sort would know how to flatter
Vance, astonish his inexperience, amuse him by her literary jargon,
fascinate him by her moral perversity.  Even the ugliness which
Jane flaunted as though it were HER kind of beauty, the kind she
wanted and had deliberately chosen, might have a coarse fascination
for him.  Perhaps at this very minute he was with her, in the
little flat to which she boasted that even Lorry had never been
admitted. . .

Halo turned from the cabinet.  She no longer wanted to open its
hidden drawers.  How should she bear the sight of the truth, when
the imaging of it was so intolerable?


XI


Vance, when he left the quay, had meant to turn homeward.  He liked
strolling at twilight through the Luxembourg quarter, where great
doorways opened on courtyards with mouldering plaster statues,
where the tall garden walls were looped with bunches of blueish
ivy, and every yard of the way, behind those secretive walls, a
story hung like fruit for him to gather.  But he found it harder
than ever to leave the Seine.  Each moment, as night fell, and the
lights came out, the face of the river grew more changing and
mysterious.  Where the current turned under the slopes of Passy a
prodigal sunset flooded the brown waves with crimson and mulberry;
at the point where he stood the dusky waters were already sprinkled
with fluctuating lights from barges and steamboats; but toward the
Louvre and Notre-Dame all was in the uncertainty of night.

Tolby and Savignac were to come that afternoon to hear him read the
first chapters of his new novel:  "Colossus".  After pouring out to
them, the night before, his large confused vision of the book,
Vance had suggested their hearing what he had already written; but
he regretted it now, for in the discussion which had followed they
had raised so many questions that he would have preferred not to
show the first pages till he had worked over them a little longer.
Besides, in the excitement of talking over his project, he had
forgotten that if they came for the promised reading Halo would
find out for the first time that he was at work on a new novel.
Vance had not meant to keep his plan a secret from her; in such
matters his action was always instinctive.  His impulse was simply
to talk over what he was doing with whichever listener was most
likely to stimulate the dim creative process; and that listener was
no longer Halo.  Vance was sure that he loved her as much as ever,
was as happy as ever in her company; it was not his fault or hers
if the deep workings of his imagination were no longer roused by
her presence.

This did not greatly trouble him; he took his stimulus where he
found it, as a bee goes to the right flower.  But since Halo's
outburst at Granada, when he had gone to the old Marquesa's without
her, he had felt in her a jealous vigilance which was perhaps what
checked his confidences.  She seemed to resent whatever excluded
her from his pursuits; but though it troubled him to hurt her he
could not give up the right to live his inner life in his own way,
and the conflict disquieted and irritated him.  Of late he had
forgotten such minor problems.  When he was planning a new book the
turmoil of his mind was always enclosed in a great natural peace,
and during those weeks of mysterious brooding he had not once
thought of what Halo would think or say; but now he felt she would
be hurt at his having told Tolby and Savignac of the new book
before she knew of it.

His first idea was to get hold of his friends and put off the
reading; but a glance at his watch showed that they must already be
at the studio awaiting him.  The worst of it was that they had
probably told Halo what they had come for. . .  "Oh, hell," Vance
groaned.  He stood still on the crowded pavement, thinking
impatiently:  "If only I could cut it all--."  Well, why shouldn't
he?  This book possessed him.  What he wanted above everything was
to be alone with it, and away from everybody for a day or two, till
he could clear his mind and get the whole thing back into its right
perspective--just to lie somewhere on a grass-bank in the sun, and
think and think.

He looked up and down the quays, and then turned and signed to a
taxi.  "Gare de Lyon!" he called out.  He felt suddenly hungry, and
remembered that somebody had said you could get a first-rate meal
at the Gare de Lyon.  Dining at a great terminus, in the rush of
arrivals and departures, would give him the illusion of escape; and
the quarter was so remote that by the time he got home his friends
would probably have left, and Halo have gone to bed . . . and the
explanation could be deferred till the next day.

In the station restaurant a crowd of people were eating
automatically in a cold glare of light.  He had meant to order a
good dinner, and then wander aimlessly about the streets, as he
liked to do at night when ideas were churning in him.  But the
sight of all those travellers with their hand-luggage stacked at
their feet, and something fixed and distant in their eyes,
increased his desire to escape, and again he thought:  "Why not?"
He snatched a sandwich from the buffet, and hurried to the
telegraph office to send a message to Halo; then, his conscience
eased, he began to stroll from one platform to another, consulting
the signboards with the names of the places for which the trains
were leaving . . .  Dijon . . . Lyons . . . Avignon . . .
Marseilles . . . Ventimiglia . . . every name woke in him a
different sonority, the deeper in proportion to the mystery.
Lyons, Marseilles--the great cities--called up miles of streets
lined with closely packed houses, and in every house innumerable
rooms full of people, all strange and remote from him, yet all
moved by the common springs of hunger, lust, ambition. . .  That
vision of miles and miles of unknown humanity packed together in
stifling propinquity, each nucleus revolving about its own tiny
orbit, with passions as intractable as those that govern heroes and
overthrow kingdoms, always seized him when he entered a new city.
But other names--Avignon, Ventimiglia, Spezia--sang with sweeter
cadences, made him yearn for their mysterious cliffs and inlets (he
pictured them all as encircled by summer seas).  His geography was
as vague as that of a mediaeval mapmaker; but he was sure those
places must be at least as far off as Cadiz or Cordova, and he
turned reluctantly from the enchanted platform.

On a signboard farther on he saw a familiar name: Fontainebleau.
Though it was so near he had never been there; but he knew there
was a forest there, and he felt that nothing would so fit in with
his mood as to wander endlessly and alone under trees.  He saw that
a train was starting in ten minutes; he bought his ticket and got
in.



A man in the compartment, who said he was an American painter, told
Vance of an inn on the edge of the forest where he would be away
from everybody--especially from the painters, his adviser
ironically added.  He himself was going on to Sens, where they
didn't bother you much as yet. . .  Vance got out at Fontainebleau,
woke up the keeper of the inn, and slept in a hard little bed the
dreamless sleep of the runaway schoolboy.

The next morning he was up early, and as soon as he could coax a
cup of coffee from the landlady he started off into the forest.  He
did not know till then that he had never before seen a forest.  In
America he had seen endless acres of trees; but they were saplings,
the growth of yesterday.  Here at last was an ancient forest, a
forest with great isolated trees, their branches heavy with memory,
gazing in meditative majesty down glades through which legendary
cavalcades came riding.  For miles he walked on under immense low-
spreading beeches; then a trail through the bracken led him out on
a white sandy clearing full of fantastic rocks, where birch-trees
quivered delicately above cushions of purplish heather.  Still
farther, in another region, he came on hollows of turf brooded over
by ancient oaks, on pools from which waterbirds started up crying,
and grass-drives narrowing away to blue-brown distances like the
background of tapestries.  The forest seemed endless; it enclosed
him on every side.  He could not imagine anything beyond it.  In
its all-embracing calm his nervous perturbations ceased.  Face to
face with this majesty of nature, this great solitude which had
stood there, never expecting him yet always awaiting him, he felt
the same deep union with earth that once or twice in his life he
had known by the seashore.

After a while he grew tired of walking, and lay down to ponder on
his book.  In that immemorial quiet the voice of his thoughts came
to him clear of the other voices entangling it.  He had tried to
explain the book to his two friends, and he knew he had failed,
perhaps because he could not detach his own ideas from the dense
thicket of ideas which flourished in the air of Paris.  Or perhaps
his friends' minds were too well-ordered and logical to tolerate
the amorphous mass he had tried to force into them.  "Colossus"--he
had pitched on the title as expressing that unwieldy bulk.

The endless talks about the arts of expression which went on in the
circle presided over by Lorry and Jane Meggs had roused in Vance a
new tendency to self-analysis.  Especially when they discussed the
writing of fiction--one of their most frequent themes--he felt that
he had been practising blindly, almost automatically, what these
brilliant and intensely aware young people regarded as the most
self-conscious of arts.  Their superior cultivation made it
impossible to brush aside their theories and pronouncements as he
had the outpourings of the young men in Rebecca Stram's studio; he
felt compelled to listen and to examine their arguments, fallacious
as some of them seemed.

When they said that fiction, as the art of narrative and the
portrayal of social groups, had reached its climax, and could
produce no more (citing Raphael and Ingres as analogous instances
in painting)--that unless the arts were renewed they were doomed,
and that in fiction the only hope of renewal was in the exploration
of the subliminal, his robust instinct told him that the surface of
life was rich enough to feed the creator's imagination.  But though
he resisted the new theories they lamed his creative impulse, and
he began to look back with contempt on what he had already done.
The very popularity of "The Puritan in Spain" confirmed his
dissatisfaction.  A book that pleased the public was pretty sure
not to have been worth writing.  He remembered Frenside's saying
that "Instead" was a pretty fancy, but not to be repeated, and he
knew that "The Puritan" was simply a skilful variation on
"Instead".  Evidently he was on the wrong tack, and his clever new
friends must be right. . .

But what was the alternative they proposed?  A microscopic analysis
of the minute in man, as if the highest imaginative art consisted
in decomposing him into his constituent atoms.  And at that Vance
instantly rebelled.  The new technique might be right, but their
application of it substituted pathology for invention.  Man was man
by virtue of the integration of his atoms, not of their dispersal.
It was not when you had taken him apart that you could realize him,
but when you had built him up.  The fishers in the turbid stream-of-
consciousness had reduced their fictitious characters to a bundle
of loosely tied instincts and habits, borne along blindly on the
current of existence.  Why not reverse the process, reduce the
universe to its component dust, and set man whole and dominant
above the ruins?  What landmarks were there in the wilderness of
history but the great men rising here and there above the herd?
And was not even the average man great, if you pictured him as
pitted against a hostile universe, and surviving, and binding it to
his uses?  It was that average man whom Vance wanted to depict in
his weakness and his power.  "Colossus"--the name was not wholly
ironic; it symbolized the new vision, the great firm outline, that
he wanted to project against the petty chaos of Jane Meggs's world.
Only, how was it to be done?

He tried to carry over his gray theory into the golden world of
creation; but the scents and sounds of the forest made him drowsy,
and he lay on a warm slope, gazing upward, and letting the long
drifts of blue sky and snowy cumulus filter between his eyelids.

Presently he grew hungry, and remembered that before starting he
had stuffed his pockets with sandwiches and a flask of wine.  He
made his meal, and continued to lie on the grass-bank, smoking and
dozing, and murmuring over snatches of sylvan poetry, from Faust's
Walpurgis ride to the branch-charmed oaks of Hyperion.

At last he got up, shook the tufts of grass from his coat, and
wandered on.  The afternoon was perfect.  The sun poured down from
a sky banked with still clouds, and the air smelt of fading bracken
and beech-leaves, and the spice of heather bloom.  Why couldn't he
always live near a forest, have this populous solitude at his door?
What were cities and societies for but to sterilize the imagination?
People were of no use to him, even the cleverest, when it came to
his work--what he needed was this tireless renewal of earth's
functions, the way of a forest with the soul. . .

He pulled off his coat and swung along in his shirtsleeves, glowing
with the afternoon warmth of the woods.  It seemed impossible that
outside of those enchanted bounds winds blew, rain fell, and the
earth plunged on toward a decaying year.  He thought of purple
grapes on hot trellises, of the amber fires of Poussin's "Poet and
the Muse", of Keats's mists and mellow fruitfulness, and the blue
lightning-lit windows in the nameless church.  He had lost all
sense of direction, and did not know whether he was near the edge
of the forest, or far from it, when suddenly he came on an open
space flooded with sun, and a bank where a girl lay asleep.  At
least he supposed she was asleep, from the relaxed lines of her
body; but he could not be sure, for she had opened her sunshade and
planted it slantwise in the ground, so that its dome roofed her in,
and hid her face.

Vance stood and looked at her.  She was as sunlit and mysterious as
his mood.  A dress of some thin stuff modelled the long curves of
her body; her ankles were crossed, and the slim arched feet, in
sandal-like shoes, looked as if feathers might grow from them when
she stirred.  But she lay still, apparently unaware of him and of
all the world.

He gazed at the picture in a mood of soft excitement.  He wanted to
lift the sunshade and surprise the wonder in her eyes.  But would
she be surprised?  No; only a little amused, he thought.  Dryads
must be used to such encounters, and she would simply fit him into
her dreams, and put her arms around his neck and her lips to his.

Perhaps every man had his Endymion-hour--only what if Diana,
instead of vanishing in a silver mist, should say:  "Let's go off
together," and give Endymion her address?  No . . . she must remain
a part of his dream, a flicker of light among the leaves. . .

He turned away, still in the nymph's toils.  As he walked on he saw
coming toward him a stoutish common-looking young man with a straw
hat tilted back on his head, and a self-satisfied smile on a coarse
lip.  He wore a new suit of clothes and walked jauntily, swinging
his stick and glancing ahead as if in pleasant expectation--an
ordinary, not unkindly-looking youth, evidently satisfied with
himself and what awaited him.  Was he on his way to meet the
roadside dryad?  Had she fallen asleep as she lay in the sun and
waited?  Vance was annoyed by the thought; in looking at the man's
face he seemed to have seen the girl's, and the world of earthly
things re-entered the forest.  He did not scorn those earthly
things; a common good-natured man kissing a flushed girl under a
tavern arbour was a pleasant enough sight.  But he wanted something
rarer in his memory of the forest, and he turned indifferently from
the meeting of Diana and Endymion.


XII


He got back late to the inn, and after dining went to bed, and to
sleep--the sleep of a young body replete with exercise, and a mind
heavy with visions.  But in the middle of the night, he sat up
suddenly awake.  The moon streamed across his bed and fringed with
a blueish halo the chair and table between himself and the window.
"Diana after all!" he thought, his brain starting into throbbing
activity.  He seemed to be in the forest road again, watching the
sleeping girl; and he asked himself how he could have left her and
gone on.  There she had lain, mysterious goddess of the cross-
roads, one of the wandering divinities a man meets when he is
young, and never afterward; yet he had turned from her, afraid of
disenchantment.  What cowardice--what lack of imagination!  Because
he had seen a common-looking man coming toward her, and had
concluded that she must be like him, he had run away from the magic
of the unknown, the possibilities that lie in the folded hour.  And
now it was too late, and he would never see her again, or recapture
his vanished mood. . .

It was not the fear of hurting Halo which had held him back.  At
the moment he had not even thought of her.  But now he suddenly saw
that, should he ever drift into a casual love-affair, she would
probably suffer far more than poor Laura Lou with all her
uncontrollable fits of suspicion and resentment.  The idea was new
to him; he had always pictured Halo as living above such turmoils,
in the calm upper sphere of reason.  But now he understood that her
very calmness probably intensified her underlying emotions.  There
swept back upon him the physical and mental torture of his jealousy
of Floss Delaney, the girl who had taught him the extremes of joy
and pain, and he was oppressed by the thought that he might have
made Halo suffer in the same way.

He wondered now how he, who vibrated to every pang of the beings he
created, could have been so unperceiving and unfeeling.  His
imagination had matured, but in life he had remained a blundering
boy.  He had left Paris abruptly, without warning or excuse, he had
not even followed up his vague telegram by a letter of explanation.
But how explain, when the explanation would have been:  "Darling, I
love you, but I want to get away from you"?--After all, he mused,
they were both free, and Halo knew that there are times when a man
needs his liberty. . .  But what if "liberty", in such cases, means
the license to do what would cause suffering if found out?  License
to wound, and escape the consequences?  He lay on his bed, and
stared into the future.  How did two people who had once filled
each other's universe manage to hold together as the tide receded?
Why, by the world-old compulsion of marriage, he supposed.
Marriage was a trick, a sham, if you looked at it in one way; but
it was the only means man had yet devised for defending himself
from his own frivolity.

He was struck by something august and mysterious in the fact of
poor humanity's building up this barrier against itself.  To the
Catholic church marriage was a divine institution; but it seemed
to him infinitely more impressive as an emanation of the will of
man. . .  He fell asleep muttering:  "That's it . . . we must be
married . . . must be married at once . . ." and when he woke, Diana
and the moon were gone, and the autumn rain clouded his window.

He woke in a mood of quiet.  It was almost always so: after a phase
of agitation and uncertainty, in which he seemed to have frittered
away his powers in the useless effort to reconcile life and art, at
the moment when he felt his creative faculty slipping away from him
forever, there it stood at his side, as though in mockery of his
self-distrust.  So it had been when Laura Lou was dying, so no
doubt it would be whenever life and art fought out their battle in
him.  He dressed and called for his coffee; then he sat down to
write.

That girl in the forest!  He knew now why she had been put there.
To make his first chapter out of--glorious destiny!  He laughed,
lit a cigarette, and wrote on.  Oh, the freedom, the quiet, the
blessed awayness from all things!  One by one the pages fell from
table to floor, noiseless and regular as the fall of leaves in the
forest.  His isolation seemed invulnerable.  Even the rain on his
window was in the conspiracy, and hung its veil between his too-
eager eyes and the solicitations of the outer world, shutting him
into a magic-making solitude. . .

The day passed in that other-dimensional world of the imagination.
His pen drove on and on.  The very fact that Halo was not there to
pick up the pages, and transfer them to the cool mould of her
Remington, gave a glorious freedom to his periods.  There they lay
on the floor, untrammelled and unwatched as himself.  He recalled
the old days of his poverty and obscurity in New York, when he had
sat alone in his fireless boarding-house room, pouring out prose
and poetry till his brain reeled with hunger and fatigue; and he
knew now that those hours had been the needful prelude to whatever
he had accomplished since.  "You have to go plumb down to the
Mothers to fish up the real thing," he thought exultantly.

Night came, and he turned on the weak electric light and continued
to write.  To his strong young eyes the page was as clear as by
day.  But at last the pen slipped from his hand, and sleep overcame
him.

When he woke he felt chilly and hungry, his wrist was stiff, his
eyes and forehead ached.  The scribbled-over sheets lay at his feet
in a heap--dead leaves indeed!  He had come back to reality, and
the world where he had spent those fervid hours had vanished in
mist.  He thought of Halo, of Paris, of all the interwoven threads
of his life; he felt weak and puzzled as a child.  "I must get
back," he said to himself; and he gathered up his papers.



It was late when he reached Paris; but he took his way home on foot
through the drizzle, down the Boulevard Sebastopol to the Seine,
and through the old streets of the left bank to the Luxembourg.  He
was trying to put off his home-coming; not because he was troubled
by the excuses and explanations he might have to offer, but because
he dreaded the moment when the last frail shreds of his dream
should detach themselves.  After one of these plunges into the
depths he always rose to the surface sore and bewildered; it was a
relief to know that at that hour Halo would probably be in bed and
asleep, and explanations could be deferred till the morrow.
"Unless," he reflected, "she's out--at the theatre, perhaps--or
dancing."  It was the first time since they had been together that
he had pictured Halo as having a life of her own, a personality of
her own, plans, arrangements, perhaps interests and sympathies
unknown to him.  "Funny . . ." he reflected . . . "when I go away
anywhere I always shut up the idea of her in a box, as if she were
a toy; or turn her to the wall, like an unfinished picture. . ."
And he recalled the distant days in New York, when he saw her so
seldom, and when, in their long hours of separation, his feverish
imagination followed her through every moment of her life, stored
up every allusion to her friends, her engagements, hunted out the
addresses of the people she had said she was lunching or dining
with, and tried to picture the houses in which she was being
entertained, what she was saying to the persons about her, and how
her voice sounded when it was not to him that she was speaking. . .

He found his latchkey, and entered the narrow hall.  The door
leading to the studio was half-open.  Through it he saw the lamp on
his desk, a cluster of red dahlias in the brown jar, and a table
near the fire with wineglasses, chafing-dish and a bottle of white
wine.  Such an intimate welcome emanated from the scene that he
drew back with the shyness of an intruder.  She was out; he had
been right; but before starting she had prepared this little supper
for her return.  Supper for two; probably for Tolby and herself.
She had always liked Tolby--the young Englishman was more like the
type of man she had been used to in her own circle of friends.  He
had Tarrant's social ease, the cool bantering manner which Vance
had long since despaired of acquiring.  Yes; she was probably with
Tolby. . .  The thought was curiously distasteful.

A door opened, and from the bedroom Halo came out.  She had flung a
crimson silk dressing-gown over her shoulders, and her dark hair
fell about her temples in soft disordered curls.  She looked
sleepy, happy and unsurprised.  "I thought you'd be back tonight."
She put her arm about his neck, and he plunged with all his senses
into the familiar atmosphere of her perfume, her powder, the mossy
softness of her hair.  "I knew you'd be as hungry as a wolf," she
laughed, drawing him to the table by the fire.  "Do you remember
that night at Cordova?  Come and see if I've provided the right
things."

He looked about him with a low satisfied laugh.  "It's good to get
back," he said, laying a kiss on her bare nape as she stooped above
the chafing-dish.  She turned her face, and he saw that it was all
his, from trembling lashes to parted lips.  "Well, how did the work
go?" she asked, putting him aside while she bent to break the eggs
into the dish; and he answered:  "Oh, great--but the best of going
away is the coming back. . ."

"Look!  Fresh mushrooms!" she cried, uncovering another dish; and
as the warm savour of the cooking filled the air he threw himself
back into his armchair, folding his arms luxuriously behind his
head and said, half-laughing, half-seriously:  "Do you know I could
have sworn I saw you yesterday in the forest, asleep under a white
umbrella?  But your face was hidden, so I couldn't be sure."

"And you didn't look?"

"No, I didn't look."

She tossed him the corkscrew, scooped the smoking mess of eggs and
mushrooms into their two plates, and said laughingly:  "Come."

He uncorked the Chablis, drew his chair up, and fell joyfully upon
the feast.  How she knew how to take a man, to ease off difficult
moments, what to take for granted, what to leave unsaid!  What he
had told her was true; a home-coming like this was even better than
the going away.  A bright hearth, good food, good wine; the sense
of ease, of lifted burdens, and a great inner exhilaration at the
thought of work to come--this was how love repaid him for his
escapade.  He looked at Halo, and surprised her eyes fixed on his;
and suddenly he felt that at the very heart of their intimacy the
old problem lurked, and that never, even in their moments of
closest union, would they really understand each other.  But the
sensation barely brushed his soul.  The next moment it was
expanding in the glow of fire and wine, and Halo's eyes shone with
the old confiding tenderness.  He filled his glass and began to
talk to her about the new book.

How easy it was now to pour out what he had so jealously guarded
before!  The fruit was ripe, and it was sweet to heap it at her
feet as she sat listening in the old way, her lids lowered, her
chin propped in her hand.  Nothing escaped her--she listened with
every faculty, as she used to in the long summer days at the
Willows.  She said little, put few questions; but when she spoke it
was always to single out what he knew was good, or touch
interrogatively on some point still doubtful.  The night was nearly
over when he gathered up his pages.  "Lord--what an hour!  I've
tired you out; and I've never even asked what you've been up to
while I was away."  With sudden compunction he put his arm about
her.

"What I've been up to?  Accepting dinner invitations for you, for
one thing!  You won't mind?  Lorry wants you to dine at the studio
tomorrow: a big blowout for Mrs. Glaisher, who has developed a
sudden interest in theatrical art and may possibly--he thinks
probably--help him to produce his ballet.  You know how hard he's
been trying for it."

"Mrs. Glaisher?  Who on earth's Mrs. Glaisher?"

"Why, don't you remember?  One of the principal characters in your
next-but-one-novel:  'Park Avenue'.  She's waiting to sit to you: a
Museum specimen of the old New York millionairess.  If only she
would subsidize 'Factories' Lorry's future would be assured--or so
he thinks.  And he implores you on his knees to come and help him
out.  Mrs. Glaisher's very particular; she's named her guests, and
the author of 'The Puritan in Spain' was first on the list.  I'm
sorry for you, darling--but you've got to go."

"Oh, shucks," Vance growled.  "I don't believe she ever heard of
me."

"How little you know of the world you're trying to write about!
Mrs. Glaisher has found out that it's the thing for the rich to
patronize the arts, and she means to eclipse Mrs. Pulsifer.
Suppose she should found a prize for the longest novel ever written--
just at the moment when 'Colossus' appears?"  She put her arms
about Vance's neck and laughed up at him.  "You'll go, dear--just
for Lorry?"

"Oh, all right; but don't let's think of boring things now."  He
brushed her hair from her forehead, and looked deeply into her
eyes; then, when she slipped away, he sank into his chair and
abandoned himself to the joy of re-reading the words freshly
illuminated by her praise.

When he pulled himself out of his brooding, and went to bed, Halo
was asleep.  He had carried in the lamp from the studio, and stood
shading it with his hand while he looked down on her.  Usually,
when she slept, her features regained their girlish clearness; and
she was once more the Halo Spear who had lit up the dark old
library at the Willows; but now youth and laughter were gone, her
face was worn and guarded.  "This is the real Halo," he thought;
and he knew it was the effort to hide her anxiety behind a laughing
welcome which had left those furrows between her eyes.

"If only," he mused in a burst of contrition, "I could remember
beforehand not to make her unhappy. . ."


XIII


From the moment of entering Lorry Spear's studio Mrs. Glaisher
dominated it.  Vance was not the only guest conscious of her
prepotency.  She was one of the powerful social engines he had
caught a glimpse of in the brief months of his literary success in
New York, three years earlier; but at that moment his life had been
so packed with anxieties and emotions that he could hardly take
separate note of the figures whirling past him.

The only woman he had known who vied in wealth and worldly
importance with Mrs. Glaisher was the lady who had invited him to
her huge museum-like house, shown him her pictures and tapestries,
and failed, at the last moment, to give him the short-story prize
on which all his hopes depended.  But Mrs. Pulsifer was a shadowy
figure compared with Mrs. Glaisher, a mere bundle of uncertainties
and inhibitions.  Mrs. Glaisher was of more robust material.  She
was as massive as her furniture and as inexhaustible as her bank-
account.  Mrs. Pulsifer's scruples and contradictions would have
been unintelligible to a woman who, for forty years, had hewed her
way toward a goal she had never even faintly made out.

After a long life devoted to the standardized entertaining of the
wealthy, Mrs. Glaisher had suddenly discovered that Grand Opera,
pâté de foie gras, terrapin and Rolls-Royces were no longer the
crowning attributes of her class; and undismayed and unperplexed
she had begun to buy Picassos and Modiglianis, to invite her
friends to hear Stravinsky and Darius Milhaud, to patronize exotic
dancers, and labour privately (it was the hardest part of her task)
over the pages of "Ulysses".

As Vance watched her arrival he guessed in how many strange places
that unblenching satin slipper had been set, and read, in the
fixity of her smile, and the steady gaze of her small inquisitive
eyes, her resolve to meet without wavering any shock that might
await her.  He thought of Halo's suggestion for his next novel, and
was amused at the idea of depicting this determined woman who,
during an indefatigable life-time, had seen almost everything and
understood nothing.

Lorry's studio had been hastily tidied up, as Jane Meggs and her
friend understood the job; but Vance saw Mrs. Glaisher's recoil
from the dusty floor and blotched walls, and the intensity of her
resolve to behave as if Mimi Pinson's garret were her normal
dwelling.  Electric lamps dangling in uncertain garlands lit up a
dinner-table contrived out of drawing-boards and trestles, and the
end of the room was masked by a tall clothes'-horse hung with a
Cubist rug, from behind which peeped the competent face of the
restaurateur charged with the material side of the entertainment;
for Lorry had seen to it that, whatever else lacked, wine and food
should be up to the Park Avenue standard.

With Mrs. Glaisher was a small sharp-elbowed lady, whose lavishly
exposed anatomy showed the most expensive Lido glaze.  Her quick
movements and perpetual sidelong observance of her friend reminded
Vance of a very intelligent little dog watching, without
interfering with, the advance of a determined blind man.  "Oh,
don't you know?  That's Lady Pevensey--the one they all call
'Imp'," Jane Meggs explained to Vance as Lorry led him toward Mrs.
Glaisher.  The others all seemed to know Lady Pevensey, and she
distributed handshakes, "darlings", and "I haven't seen you in
several ages", with such impartial intimateness that Vance was
surprised when Savignac, to whom she had just cried out:  "Tiens,
mon vieux, comme tu es en beauté ce soir!" enquired in a whisper
who she was.

The party consisted of Lorry's trump cards--the new composer,
Andros Nevsky, who, as soon as he could be persuaded to buckle down
to writing the music of "Factories", was to reduce Stravinsky and
"The Six" to back numbers; the poet, Yves Tourment, who, after an
adolescence of over twenty years, still hung on the verge of
success; Sady Lenz, the Berlin ballerina, who was to create the
chief part in Lorry's spectacle; Hedstrom, the new Norse novelist,
and Brank Heff, the coming American sculptor, whom the knowing were
selling their Mestrovics to collect; and, to put a little fluency
and sparkle into this knot of international celebrities, such easy
comrades and good talkers as Tolby, Savignac, and others of their
group.

Vance was so much amused and interested that he had forgotten his
own part in the show, and was surprised when Lorry called him up to
be introduced to Mrs. Glaisher, and he heard that lady declare:  "I
told Mr. Spear I wouldn't dine with him unless he invited you, not
even to meet all the other celebrities in Paris."

"Ah, no: Nosie's so headstrong we couldn't do anything with her,"
Lady Pevensey intervened, startling Vance by putting her arm
through his, and almost as much by revealing that Mrs. Glaisher was
known to her intimates as "Nosie".  "Nosie's been simply screaming
to everybody:  'I MUST have the man who wrote "The Puritan"', and
when Lorry found you'd disappeared without leaving an address Nosie
couldn't be pacified till she heard that you'd turned up.  Lorry,
darling, you've put Vance next to her at table, haven't you?  Oh,
Jane, love, tell him he MUST!  I know she idolizes Nevsky, and
she's been dying for years to meet darling Yves--but she won't be
able to speak a word of French to them, much less Norwegian to
Hedstrom," (this in a tragic whisper to Lorry) "so for God's sake
pacify the Polar Lions somehow, and let Nosie have her Puritan."

But with foreigners as his guests Lorry protested that he could
hardly seat his young compatriot next to the chief guest of the
evening, and Vance was put opposite to Mrs. Glaisher, who sat
between Lorry and the silent and bewildered Norse novelist.  Vance
was amused to see that Lorry had chosen the most inarticulate man
in the room as Mrs. Glaisher's neighbour.  In this way he kept her
to himself, while Lady Pevensey, on his right, was fully engaged
between Yves Tourment and Savignac's sallies from across the table.

Lorry had done his job well.  The food was excellent, the champagne
irreproachable; he had dressed up in the gay rags of Bohemia an
entertainment based on the most solid gastronomic traditions, and
Mrs. Glaisher, eating truffled poularde and langouste à
l'Américaine, was convinced that she was sharing the daily fare of
a band of impecunious artists.

Down the table, Nevsky, in fluent Russian French, was expounding to
Jane Meggs his theory of the effect of the new music on glandular
secretions in both sexes, and Brank Heff, the American sculptor,
stimulated by numerous preliminary cocktails, broke his usual heavy
silence to discuss with Fräulein Sady Lenz her merits as a possible
subject for his chisel.  "What I want is a woman with big biceps
and limp breasts.  I guess you'd do first rate. . .  How about your
calves, though?  They as ugly as your arms?  I guess you haven't
danced enough yet to develop the particular deformity I'm after. . ."

When the conversation flagged Jane Meggs started it up again with a
bilingual scream; and above the polyglot confusion rose Lorry's
masterful voice, proclaiming to Mrs. Glaisher:  "What we want is to
break the old moulds, to demolish the old landmarks. . .  When
Clémenceau pulled down the Colonne Vendôme the fools thought he was
doing it for political reasons . . . the Commune, or some such
drivel.  Pure rot, of course!  He was merely obeying the old human
instinct of destruction . . . the artist's instinct: destroying to
renew.  Why, didn't Christ Himself say:  'I will make all things
new'?  Quite so--and so would I, if I could afford to buy an axe.
Just picture to yourself the lack of imagination there is in
putting up with the old things--things made to please somebody
else, long before we were born, to please people who would have
bored us to death if we'd known them.  Who ever consulted you and
me when the Pyramids were built--or Versailles?  Why should we be
saddled with all that old dead masonry?  Ruins are what we want--
more ruins!  Look what an asset ruins are to the steamship
companies and the tourist agencies.  The more ruins we provide them
with the bigger their dividends will be.  And so with the other
arts--isn't every antiquary simply running a Cook's tour through
the dead débris of the past?  The more old houses and furniture and
pictures we scrap, the more valuable what's left will be, and the
happier we'll make the collectors. . .  If only the lucky people
who have the means to pull down and build up again had the
imagination to do it. . ."

"Ah, that's it: we MUST have imagination," Mrs. Glaisher announced
in the same decisive tone in which, thirty years ago, she might
have declared:  "We MUST have central heating."

"If you say so, dear lady, we shall have it--we shall have it
already!" cried Lorry in an inspired tone, lifting his champagne
glass to Mrs. Glaisher's; while Yves Tourment shrilled in his
piercing falsetto:  "Vive Saint Hérode, roi des iconoclastes!"

Mrs. Glaisher, who had paled a little at her host's Scriptural
allusion, recovered when she saw that the words were not meant to
deride but to justify; and at Yves Tourment's apostrophe she
exclaimed, with beaming incomprehension:  "Who's that whose health
they're drinking?  I don't want to be left out of anything."

Presently the improvised dinner-table was cleared and demolished,
and the guests scattered about the studio, at the farther end of
which a stage had been prepared for Fräulein Lenz.  Mrs. Glaisher,
slightly flushed by her libations to the iconoclasts, and
emboldened by her evident success with the lights of Montparnasse,
stood smilingly expectant while Lorry and Lady Pevensey brought up
the notabilities of the party; but linguistic obstacles on both
sides restricted the exchange of remarks, and Vance, who had stood
watching, and wishing Halo were there to share his amusement, soon
found it his turn to be summoned.

"You're the person she's really come for, you know; do tell her
everything you can think of," Lady Pevensey prompted him: "about
how you write, I mean, and what the publishers pay you--she's
particularly keen about that--and whether you're having an exciting
love-affair with anybody; she adores a dash of heart-interest," she
added, as she pushed Vance toward the divan on which Mrs. Glaisher
throned.

Vance remembered a far-off party at the Tarrants', the first he had
ever been to, and how Halo had dragged him from the book-shelf
where he had run to earth his newly-discovered Russian novelists,
and carried him off to be introduced to Mrs. Pulsifer.  That
evening had been a mere bright blur, to which he was astonished to
find himself contributing part of the dazzle; whereas now he looked
on without bewilderment or undue elation.  But he did think it a
pity that Halo, on the pretext of a headache (though really, she
owned, because such occasions bored her) had obstinately refused to
accompany him.

Mrs. Glaisher's greeting betrayed not only her satisfaction at
capturing a rising novelist but the relief of being able to talk
English, and of knowing his name and the title of one of his books.
She began at once to tell him that on the whole her favourite among
his novels was "Instead", because of its beautiful idealism.  She
owned, however, that "The Puritan in Spain" was a more powerful
work, though there were some rather unpleasant passages in it; but
she supposed that couldn't be avoided if the author wanted to
describe life as it really was.  She understood that novelists
always had to experience personally the . . . the sensations they
described, and she wanted to know if his heroine was somebody he'd
really known, and if he'd been through all those love scenes with
her.  It was ever so much more exciting to know that the characters
in a novel were taken from real people, and that the things
described had actually happened; even, Mrs. Glaisher added,
wrinkling up her innocent eyes, if they were such naughty things as
Mr. Weston wrote about.

Vance's friends had accustomed him to subtler praise, and he only
stared and laughed; but seeing Mrs. Glaisher's bewilderment he
said:  "Well, I suppose we do mix up experience and imagination
without always knowing which is which."

Mrs. Glaisher gave him a coy glance.  "You won't tell me, then?
You mean to leave us all guessing?  What's the use of making a
mystery, as long as you're a free man?  I know all about you; do
you suppose I'd be half as interested in your books if I didn't?
I know the kind of life you young men lead; and your ideas about
love, and the rest of it.  We society women are not quite such
simpletons as you think.  We go around and see--that's what makes
it so exciting to meet you.  I know all about your adventures in
Spain . . . or at least just enough to make me want to hear
more. . ."

Vance reddened uncomfortably.  What did she know, what was she
trying to insinuate?  Her stupidity was so prodigious that it
struck him that it might be feigned . . . but a second glance at
her candid countenance reassured him.  "I've had plenty of castles
in Spain, but no adventures there," he said.

Mrs. Glaisher shook her head incredulously.  "When anybody's as
much in the lime-light as you it's no use thinking you can fool
people. . .  But I see the dancing's beginning. . .  I'm coming!"
she signalled to her host, advancing to the armchair he had pushed
forward for her.  Half-way she turned back to Vance.  "I do delight
in these Bohemian parties, don't you?  Won't you give me one some
day?  Not a big affair, like this; but Imp and I would love it if
you'd let us pop in to tea alone, and see how a famous novelist
lives when he's at home."

Vance hesitated.  Halo always gave him to understand that she was
weary of the world she had grown up in, and particularly of the New
York in which she had figured as Mrs. Lewis Tarrant; but he had
promised her to help out Lorry's party, and he knew the success of
"Factories" might depend on Mrs. Glaisher's enjoyment of her
evening.  No doubt Halo would be willing to offer a cup of tea in
such a case; she might even reproach Vance if he made her miss the
chance of doing her brother a good turn.

"I'm sure Mrs. Weston will be very glad . . . she'll send you a
note," he stammered, embarrassed by the memory of his former
blunders, and of the pain they had caused her.

Mrs. Glaisher swept his face with an astonished eyeglass.  "Mrs.
Weston?  Really--?  I'd no idea. . .  I supposed you were living
alone. . ."

"No," said Vance curtly.

"Do excuse me.  I'm too sorry.  I was told you were a widower. . .
But perhaps you've remarried lately?"

What was the answer to that, Vance wondered, tingling with the
memory of Halo's reproaches.  "I supposed of course Spear must have
told you. . .  I'm to be married to his sister. . .  She and I . . ."
he stopped, his ideas forsaking him under Mrs. Glaisher's frigid
gaze.

"His sister?  But he has only one, and she's married already.  Her
name is Mrs. Lewis Tarrant.  Her husband is in Paris.  He's an old
friend of mine; he came to see me only yesterday.  Poor fellow--in
spite of all he's been through I understand he has a horror of
divorce . . . and I don't suppose," Mrs. Glaisher concluded, rising
from the divan with a pinched smile, "that even in your set a woman
can be engaged to one man while she's still married to another. . .
But please forget my suggestion. . .  SUCH a pity, young man, with
your talent," Mrs. Glaisher sighed, as she turned to enthrone
herself in the armchair facing the stage.

Jane Meggs, Lady Pevensey and Kate Brennan grouped themselves about
her, and the rest of the guests crouched on cushions or squatted
cross-legged on the floor.  Nevsky, at the piano, preluded with a
flourish of discords, and Sady Lenz suddenly leapt from behind
parted curtains in apparel scant enough to enlighten the American
sculptor as to her plastic possibilities.  Vance heard Mrs.
Glaisher give a little gasp; then he turned and slipped toward the
door.  As he reached it Lorry Spear's hand fell on his shoulder.

"Vance.  Not going?  What's up?  This dancing's rather worth while;
and Mrs. Glaisher wanted me to arrange a little party with you
somewhere next week--I could lend you this place, if you like."

"Thank you.  Mrs. Glaisher has already invited herself to our
quarters; but she backed out when she found she might meet Halo."

Lorry's brows darkened; then he gave a careless laugh.  "Oh, well,
what of that?  You know the kind of fool she is.  The sort that
runs after déclassée women in foreign countries, and are scared
blue when they meet somebody from home who doesn't fit into the
conventions.  Why did you tell her about Halo?"

Vance stood with his hands in his pockets, staring down at the
dusty studio floor.  He raised his head and looked into Lorry's
handsome restless eyes.  "You asked Halo to send me here tonight,
didn't you--to help you to amuse Mrs. Glaisher?"

"Of course I did.  You don't seem to realize that you're one of our
biggest cards.  I'm awfully grateful to you--"

"And you told Halo you'd rather she didn't come?"

"Lord, no; I didn't have to.  Halo knows how women like Mrs.
Glaisher behave.  I'd have been sorry to expose her to it.  Not
that she cares--she wouldn't have chucked everything for you if she
had.  But see here, Vance, you can't go back on me like this.  For
the Lord's sake see me through.  Halo promised you would.  And Imp
Pevensey wants to talk to you about going to London next spring and
getting launched among the highbrows.  You need a London boom for
your books, my dear boy.  Damn--what's wrong with the lights?  That
fool Heff swore to me he knew how to manage them. . ."

Lorry dashed back toward the stage, where Fräulein Lenz's posturing
had been swallowed up in darkness.  Vance continued to stand
motionless, his mind a turmoil.  At length the lights blazed up,
and under cover of the applause at Fräulein Lenz's re-embodiment he
made his way out.


XIV


In the courtyard he stood and looked about him.  A cold drizzle was
falling, but he hardly noticed it.  His resentment had dropped.  It
was no use being angry with Lorry, who took his advantage where he
found it, and thought no harm.  What was really wrong was the
situation between Vance and Halo--the ambiguity of a tie which,
apparently, he could neither deny nor affirm without offending her.
What else, for instance, could he have said to Mrs. Glaisher?  How
could he have pretended that he was living alone without seeming to
deny his relation with Halo?  Yet, by not doing so, he had
subjected her--and himself--to a worse humiliation.

Such questions would not have arisen if she had obtained her
divorce at once, as they had expected when they left America.  But
the months had passed, and Vance (as he now became aware) had
hardly given the matter another thought, had in fact been reminded
of it only at the moment of the scene provoked by his going alone
to the old Marquesa's.  He had asked Halo then if they could not
marry soon; she had turned the question with a laugh, and he had
carelessly dismissed it from his mind.

Since then he could not remember having thought of it again till
the night before, in his midnight musings at Fontainebleau.  He had
always considered himself as much pledged to Halo as if the law had
bound them, and would have had a short answer for any one who
hinted the contrary; and the question of marriage or non-marriage
had seemed subsidiary.  In Lorry Spear's group, and that of the
writers and artists who came to Vance's studio, such questions were
seldom raised, since the social rules they implied hardly affected
the lives of these young people.  But now Vance saw, as he had for
a brief instant at Granada, and again at Fontainebleau, that Halo
would never really think and feel as these people did.  She had
sacrificed with a light heart her standing among her own kind; but
something deeper than her prejudices or her convictions, something
she could sacrifice to no one because it was closer to her than
reason or passion, made it impossible for her to feel at ease in
the new life she had chosen.  Only yesterday Vance had imagined
that jealousy might be the cause of her disquietude; now he saw it
was something far harder to dispel.  Whatever he might do to
persuade her of his devotion, to convince her that no other woman
had come between them, her loneliness would subsist; in their
happiest and most confiding moments it would be there, she would be
conscious, between herself and him, of a void the wider because she
knew he could not measure it.

A word of Mrs. Glaisher's had enlightened him.  She had said that
Tarrant (whom she evidently knew well) had a horror of divorce; and
she had doubtless heard this from him recently, since she had
mentioned that he was in Paris, and had been with her the day
before.  Tarrant unwilling to divorce--this, then, must be one of
the sources of Halo's preoccupation!  Vance wondered why she had
kept it from him; perhaps, poor child, because she had feared he
might feel himself less bound to her if he knew there was no
prospect of their marrying.  But that was not like Halo.  More
probably she had kept her secret because she was resolved to let
nothing cloud their happiness.  It would be like her to want him to
know only the joys of her love, without its burdens.

Vance had been astonished to hear from Mrs. Glaisher that Tarrant
was in Paris.  The situation was full of perplexity.  Halo had
often told him that she would never have asked her husband to set
her free, that it was he who had begged her to divorce him,
presumably that he might marry Mrs. Pulsifer.  She had never
alluded to any alteration in Tarrant's view; she had never once
referred to the question.  No doubt she knew of the change; her
lawyers must surely have advised her of it; and if she had
concealed the fact from Vance it was probably because she knew its
cause, and was herself in some way connected with it.  At the idea
the blood rushed to Vance's forehead.  Was it not likely that this
man, who was still Halo's husband, had come to Paris purposely to
see her, to try to persuade her to go back to him?  Moody and
unstable as he was, he might well have wearied of the idea of
marrying another woman, and begun to pine for Halo, once he knew he
had lost her.

For a moment Vance's heart sank; then he reflected that Mrs.
Glaisher's statement might have been based on the merest hearsay.
Why should Tarrant have confided his views to her?  The delay in
the divorce might have been caused by a mere legal technicality,
some point in dispute between opposing lawyers.  And to attach any
particular significance to Tarrant's arrival in Paris was absurd.
He belonged to the type of Europeanized American who is equally at
home on both sides of the Atlantic and accustomed to come and go
continually, for pleasure, for business, or simply from the force
of habit.

Vance wandered down Lorry's street and turned into the Boulevard
Raspail.  The more he considered the question the less probable he
thought it that Tarrant's presence in Paris had to do with his
divorce.  Tarrant never intervened personally when he could get any
one to replace him; whatever his purpose was, he would probably not
wish to meet Halo. . . .  But what had he come for?  Vance was
seized with a sudden determination to find out.  The time had come
when Halo's situation and his own must be settled, and Tarrant held
the key to it.

He walked on through the rain, musing on these problems, and
wishing he could meet Tarrant at once--this very night, before
going home and seeing Halo.  If only he had asked Mrs. Glaisher
where Tarrant was staying!  It would be easy enough to find out the
next day; but Vance's blood was beating too violently for delay.
He wanted to bring Halo some definite word as to her divorce; and
he determined to try to run Tarrant down at once and plead with him
to release her, if it were really true that he was no longer
disposed to.

As he walked on, wondering where he was likely to come across
Tarrant, Vance recalled Halo's pointing out the hotel where she and
her husband had always stayed in Paris.  It was one of the quiet
but discreetly fashionable houses patronized by people who hate the
promiscuity of "Palaces" but cannot do without their comforts.  The
hotel, Vance remembered, was not far from the Boulevard Raspail,
and he decided to go there and enquire.  He knew Tarrant's tendency
to slip into a rut and shrink from new contacts, and thought it
likely that the hotel people might know of his whereabouts even if
he were not under their roof.

The drizzle had turned to a heavy rain, and when he reached the
street he was in search of the façade of the hotel was reflected
from afar in the wet pavement.  But within a few yards of the door
Vance paused.  Even if Tarrant were staying there, and were
actually there at the moment (it was long past midnight), he would
most probably refuse to receive a visitor.  And should Vance leave
a note asking for an appointment, if answered at all, it would
certainly be answered by a refusal.  He had worked long enough
under Tarrant in the office of the "New Hour" to be familiar with
his chiefs tactics.  It was Tarrant's instinct to retreat from the
unknown, the unexpected, to place the first available buffer
between himself and any incident likely to unsettle his nerves or
alter his plans; and if Vance should ask to be received, the
obvious buffer would be his lawyers.

Vance stood irresolute.  How on earth was he to get at the man?  If
he waited till chance brought them together he knew the other's
adroitness would find a way out.  He would cut the scene short and
turn on his heel. . . .  The uselessness of any attempt to reach
him seemed so obvious that Vance turned and walked back toward the
Boulevard.  He had almost reached it when a taxi passed,
approaching from the opposite direction.  As it came abreast of him
a lamp flashed into it, and he saw Tarrant inside.  Vance turned
and raced back toward the hotel.  The taxi stopped at the door and
Tarrant got out and opened his umbrella before he began to hunt for
his fare.  He was in evening dress, and as perfectly appointed as
usual, but in the rainy light he looked paler and older.  Vance
hung back till the carefully counted fare was in the chauffeur's
hand; then he went toward the door.

"Tarrant!" he said, "I--I want to speak to you . . .  I must."

Tarrant turned under his umbrella, and surveyed him with
astonishment.  "I don't--" he began; then Vance saw the colour rush
to his pale face.  "YOU?" he said.  "I've nothing to say to you."
He started to enter the hotel.

Vance stepped in front of him.  "You must let me see you--now, at
once.  Do you suppose I'd ask it if it wasn't necessary?  Please
listen to me, Tarrant--"

Tarrant paused a moment.  Under the umbrella Vance could hardly see
his face, but he caught a repressed tremor in his voice.  "You can
write.  You can write to my lawyers," he said.

"No!  Not to you, and not to your lawyers.  You'd turn me down
every time.  I've only two words to say, but I'm going to say them
now.  I'll say them out here in the street if you don't want me to
come in."

The rain by this time was falling heavily.  Vance had no umbrella,
and his thin overcoat was already drenched.  Tarrant looked down
nervously at his own glossy evening shoes.  "It's impossible," he
said.

"What's impossible?  You can't refuse me--"

He saw Tarrant glance toward the illuminated doors of the hotel,
and meet the eyes of the night porter, whose dingy face peered out
at them with furtive curiosity.

"I don't know why you come here at this hour to make a scene in the
street . . ." Tarrant grumbled over his shoulder.

"I won't make it in the street if you'll let me come in.  I don't
want to make a scene anyhow.  I only want a few minutes' talk with
you; I've got to have it, so we may as well get it over."

Tarrant looked again at his feet, which were splashed with mud.
"I can't stay out here in this deluge," he began.  "If you
insist, you'd better come in; but your forcing yourself on me
is useless . . . and intolerable. . ."

He walked up the steps, and Vance followed.  The revolving doors
swung open and the two men entered the warm brightly lit lounge.  A
few people, evidently just back from the theatre, sat at little
tables, absorbing drinks from tall glasses.  Tarrant turned to the
porter.  "Is there anybody in the reading-room?"  The porter
glanced in, and came back to say that there was a gentleman there
writing letters.

Tarrant seemed to hesitate; then he turned and walked toward the
lift.  Vance followed.  Tarrant did not look back at him or speak
to him.  They entered the lift and stood side by side in silence
while it slowly ascended; when it stopped they got out, and, still
in silence, walked down the dim corridor to a door which Tarrant
unlocked.  He turned an electric switch and lit up a small sitting-
room with pale walls and brocaded curtains.  Vance entered after
him and shut the door.

Tarrant put down his umbrella.  He stood for a moment with his back
to Vance, staring down at the empty hearth.  Then he turned and
said:  "Well?"

His thin high-nosed face with the sharply cut nostrils was drawn
with distress, and the furrows in his forehead had deepened; but
his gray eyes were now quiet and unwavering.  Vance knew that he
had gone through the inevitable struggle with his impulse of
evasion and flight, and that, finding escape impossible, he had
mastered his nerves, and was prepared to play his part fittingly.
Vance felt a secret admiration for the man whose worldly training
had given him this discipline; he knew what mental and physical
distress Tarrant underwent after such an effort of the will.  "Poor
devil," he thought . . . "we're all poor devils. . ."

"Well?" Tarrant repeated.

"Well--I want to speak to you about Halo.  I want you to tell me
what you intend to do."

Tarrant's face darkened; but in a moment he recovered his
expression of rather disdainful indifference.  He took off his hat
and overcoat, and laid them carefully on a table in the corner of
the room; then he turned toward the fireplace and threw himself
down in an armchair.  "You'd better sit down," he said, glancing
coldly toward the chair facing him.

Vance paid no heed; not that he resented the invitation, but
because, in his state of acute inner tension, he was hardly aware
that it was addressed to him.  Tarrant waited for a moment; then,
as his visitor did not move:  "I supposed," he said, "it was for
something of this sort that you'd come, and I can only say again
that it's no use.  I should have thought you'd have understood that
what you have to say had better be said to my lawyers."

Vance flushed.  "I suppose you think you're bound to answer in this
way; but what use is that either?  I've got nothing to say to your
lawyers--or to hear from them.  I'm not here to make a row or a
scene.  I only want to put you a straight question.  I've heard
you've changed your mind about letting Halo divorce you, and I want
to know if it's true.  Is it?"

Tarrant sat with his long, delicately-jointed fingers twisted about
the arms of his chair.  After a moment he turned slightly, reached
out toward a table near by, and took up a packet of cigarettes.  He
drew out a gold-mounted lighter, lit a cigarette, puffed at it once
or twice, and rested his head thoughtfully against the back of the
chair.  Vance stood leaning against the wall, watching every
movement of Tarrant's with a sort of fascinated admiration.  He
knew that each of those quiet and seemingly careless gestures was
the mask of an inner agitation, and envied the schooling which had
put Tarrant in command of such a perfectly disciplined set of
motions.

At length Tarrant spoke.  "When my wife left my house to join you
she must have known that her doing so would make me change my mind
about letting her divorce me."

Vance gave an impatient shrug.  It was the tone he had heard so
often at the office, when Tarrant was trying to shake off an
importunate visitor.  But he reflected that it was only a
protective disguise assumed to hide the moral disarray of the real
man--as his lighting a cigarette had been done to occupy his hands,
lest Vance should notice their nervous twining about the chair-
arms.  And again Vance was filled with a queer pity for his
antagonist.

"You mean to say that, as she's put herself in what's called the
wrong, you're going to refuse to let her get a divorce against you?
Well, it's your technical right, of course.  But there's nothing to
prevent your getting a divorce against HER; there'll be no
difficulty--"  Vance broke off, but Tarrant made no answer.  He sat
in the same attitude of resigned attention, his gaze engrossed with
the cigarette-smoke curling up from his lips.  "That's what I came
here to ask you; do you mean to divorce her?" Vance continued.

Tarrant bent forward to shake the ashes of his cigarette onto the
hearth.  "Is this--" he began, and then broke off.  "Are you here
at--at her request?"

"No.  She had no idea I was coming."

"But you think she wished you to?"

"On the contrary--she would probably have done all she could to
stop me.  That's why I didn't tell her."

During this interrogatory Tarrant's profile was turned toward
Vance, and the latter noticed that the edge of his thinly cut
nostril was white and drawn up, like that of a man in pain.  "After
all, I suppose he did love her once," Vance thought.

Tarrant straightened himself, and moved about so that he faced
Vance.  "You might have spared me this intrusion.  I can't see what
good you thought it would do.  My wife knows I've given up all idea
of divorcing her."

"Or letting her divorce you?"

Tarrant gave a barely audible laugh.

Vance stood silent, still leaning against the wall.  The wetness of
his overcoat began to penetrate to his skin, and he shivered
slightly, and pulled the overcoat off.  As he did so he saw
Tarrant's colour rise.

"I really don't see," Tarrant said, as though answering Vance's
unconscious gesture in removing his coat, "what can be gained by
any more talk.  I've told you what you wanted to know."

Vance shook his head.  "No; it's not enough.  You say you don't
want to get a divorce.  But I don't suppose you've forgotten that
not much more than a year ago it was you who asked your wife to set
you free?  It was then that she left you; not till then."

Tarrant stood up, and took a few steps across the room and back.
His eyes fell on Vance's wet overcoat, and on the shoulder-blades
to which his dress-coat damply clung.  "You're wet through," he
remarked.

"Never mind that.  I want to talk this thing out with you.  You
admit that when Halo left you it was because you asked her to;
because you wanted to be free.  And now you turn round and say you
don't want to be free any longer, and therefore won't let her be
either.  Isn't that it?"

Tarrant went to a small upright cabinet between the windows.  He
took from it a bottle of brandy and a glass, and pouring water into
the glass added some brandy and drank it down.  "I'm subject to
chills; my feet are very wet."  He turned to Vance with a cold
smile.  "I'm not as young as you are. . ."  The restless colour
rose to his face again and he added, with a hesitating gesture
toward the bottle:  "Will you--?"

Vance made a sign of refusal, and Tarrant, as though regretting his
suggestion, drew his lips together, and stood upright, his hands
thrust into his pockets.

"And now you say you don't want to be free, and won't let her be,"
Vance persisted.  "Is that so, or isn't it?"

Tarrant cleared his throat.  "It is so--as far as the external
facts go.  As to my private motives . . . you'll excuse my keeping
them to myself. . ."

Vance uttered a despairing sigh.  Again and again in his short life
he had come upon this curious human inability, in moments of the
deepest stress, to shake off the conventional attitude and the
accepted phrase.  The man opposite him, whose distress he
recognized and could not help pitying, seemed to be struggling in
vain to express his real self, in its helpless vanity, humiliation
and self-deception.  The studied attitude of composure which gave
him a superficial advantage over an untutored antagonist was really
only another bondage.  When a man had disciplined himself out of
all impulsiveness he stood powerless on the brink of the deeper
feelings.  If only, Vance thought, he could help Tarrant to break
through those bonds!  There must be a word that would work this
miracle, if he could find it.  Above all, he reminded himself, he
must try not to be angry or impatient.

"I suppose," he began, "you feel you've got a right to talk like
that.  From the point of view of society, or civilized behavior, or
whatever you call it, you may be right.  But what's the use of it?
I'm not trying to offend you, or to butt in where I don't belong.
Your wife has left you; she's under my care; how can you blame me
for wanting to make things easier for her?  When she came to me she
thought you wanted to marry another woman. . . ."

"If I did," Tarrant broke in, "it may have been because she had
made my home . . . no longer what it should have been. . ."

Vance felt a new wave of discouragement.  There they were, back
again in the old verbal entanglements.  "I wonder how many people--
husbands or wives either--make their homes what they should have
been?  It doesn't seem as if they often pulled it off.  But I don't
pretend it's my business to come here and talk to you about your
wife. . ."

"Ah, you admit that?" Tarrant sneered.

"Certainly.  I'm here to talk to you about the woman I want to take
for a wife myself.  There's a big gap between the two.  Whoever
made the gap, or whatever made it, what does it matter now?"  He
paused a moment to control his voice, and then added:  "See here,
Tarrant, it's hell to see a woman suffering because you can't give
her the place in your life that she ought to have. . .  That's what
I came here to tell you. . ."

Tarrant walked away again, and then came back to the hearth.  He
raised his elbow against the mantelpiece.

"In my opinion she ought to suffer," he said.

"Why--because you do?"  Tarrant was silent, and Vance pressed on:
"There's such a lot of suffering everywhere; what's the use of
adding to it?  For God's sake, can't we both put aside the personal
question and tackle this as if it was just any ordinary human
predicament?  The happiest people, somehow, aren't any too
happy . . . and I can't see that making them more miserable ever
made things pleasanter for the other party . . . at least not
beyond the minute when he's doing it."

Tarrant's face had whitened.  He did not immediately reply; but at
last he said, in a tone of elaborate politeness:  "I suppose I
ought to be very much obliged to you for your advice--though I
didn't ask for it."

"Oh, all right.  You can turn what I say into a sermon, and try to
laugh me out of it, if you choose.  Only I don't see the use of
that either."

"Exactly," said Tarrant.  "Neither do I see the use of your forcing
yourself in on me."

"But, my God, all the use in the world--if only I can make you
understand!  Can't you see the misery it is not to be able to give
Halo the standing and the name she's got a right to?  That woman
tonight--that Mrs. Glaisher--insulted her.  How can I stand by and
see her treated as if she wasn't fit to be touched by the very
people who used to grovel to get asked to her house?"

"MY house," Tarrant interrupted ironically.

Vance's hopes sank.  Up to that moment it had seemed to him that he
might yet find a crack in the surface of the other's icy pride; now
he had exhausted his last argument and knew that he had made no
impression.  "That's all you've got to say to me?"

Tarrant remained silent; Vance saw his lips twitch with the effort
to control his temper.  "I've never had anything to say to you," he
replied.

Vance continued to lean against the door-jamb.  The growing
distress in Tarrant's face seemed to belie the bravado of his
words.  He knew all the accepted formulas; but as he recited them
Vance saw that they no longer corresponded with what he was feeling--
with the agony of envy, jealousy and resentment battling together
in his soul.  And Vance, who knew exactly what he himself wanted to
say, did not know how to say it because he was ignorant of the
language in which men of Tarrant's world have been schooled to
disguise their thoughts.  Here they stood, he reflected, two poor
devils caught in the coil of human incomprehension; but the fact
that he felt the pity of it, and that Tarrant did not, gave him an
advantage over the other.  From the moment when Vance understood
this he became sure of himself, and unperturbed.  "God," he
thought, "when I go away and leave him how cold he'll feel inside
of himself!"

He moved impulsively toward Tarrant.  "See here, I daresay I don't
know how to put things the right way . . . the way you're used
to. . .  But don't let that count against me.  Don't think of you
and me; think only of Halo.  If there's anything I can do to persuade
you to give her her freedom, tell me, and I'll try to do it.  I
suppose I haven't got what people in your crowd call pride; anyhow,
the kind I have got don't count at a time like this.  If there's
anything I can say or do--short of giving her up--that would make
you change your feelings about her, I'll do it now, this very
minute.  God, Tarrant--don't let me go away feeling I've done no
good!  Why should people go on hating each other because once in
their lives their wants and wishes may have crossed?  If you send
me away now it isn't me you'll hate afterward--it's yourself."

Tarrant had moved to the farther end of the hearth.  As if to give
a motive to his withdrawal he took the packet of cigarettes from
the mantel and lit another.  "I really haven't anything more to
say," he repeated.

"Except that you won't divorce."

"Certainly I won't divorce."

"Not on any condition?"

"Not on any condition."

Vance stood in the middle of the room and looked at him.  "I can
remember when I used to think he was a great fellow," he thought.

He turned away and picked up his drenched overcoat.  It had left a
dark pool of moisture on the light damask of the chair he had
thrown it on, and the velvet pile of the carpet beneath.  Tarrant
looked gray and ghastly, standing alone between the illuminated
wall-brackets of that frivolous room.

"Ah--you poor man," Vance thought, as he turned and left him.


XV


Halo, after Vance's return from Fontainebleau, felt the reaction
that follows on a period of inward distress.  When she recalled the
desperate paths her imagination had travelled she shivered; but
looking back at them from safety made the future seem more radiant.

How unworthy, she thought, for the lover and comrade of an artist
to yield to such fears--and a comrade was what she most wanted to
be.  Women who cast in their lot with great men, with geniuses,
even with the brilliant dreamers whose dreams never take shape,
should be armed against emotional storms and terrors.  Over and
over again she told herself that her joys were worth the pain, that
the pain was part of the rapture; but such theories shrivelled to
nothing in the terror that had threatened her very life.  If she
were going to lose her lover--if she had already lost him--she
could only tremble and suffer like other women.  Everybody was
reduced to the same abject level by the big primitive passions,
love and jealousy and hunger; the delicate distinctions and
differences with which security adorned them vanished in the storm
of their approach.

Then Vance came back; and as soon as he appeared her fear was
lifted.  He had not been with another woman; he had gone off to
think over his book.  Her first look in his eyes convinced her that
he had not deceived her; and instantly she swore to herself that
never again, by word or glance, would she betray resentment or
curiosity concerning his comings and goings.  Whenever he wanted to
get away she would accept his disappearance without surprise.  Her
yoke should be so light, her nearness so pleasant, that when he
came back it should never be because he felt obliged to, but
because he was happier with her than elsewhere.  New strength and
cunning seemed to grow in her as she held him in her arms that
night.



The morning after Lorry's banquet Vance went out early; he had
already left the house when Halo woke.  She was not sorry to be
alone; she had not yet finished typing the manuscript he had
brought back from Fontainebleau, and as soon as she had dressed,
and given the bonne the orders for the day, she returned to her
task.  The hours passed in a flash, and she was still trying to
unravel the tangled manuscript when she heard his latchkey.

"What--lunch already?" she exclaimed, without lifting her head.  He
made no answer, and when she stopped typing and looked up at him
she was startled by the change in his face.

"Why, Vance, how tired you look--aren't you well?" she exclaimed.
And instantly the little serpent of jealousy reared its sharp head
again in her breast.  Through her sleep, in the small hours, she
had heard Vance unlock the door, coming back from Lorry's feast, as
she supposed; but after all, how did she know?  It was nearly
daylight when the sound of his latchkey had waked her.  What more
likely than that one of the women at Lorry's had taken him home
with her after the party?  Would there never again be any peace for
her heart, Halo wondered?

Vance stood silently looking down on her.  At length he came up and
laid his arm over her shoulder.  "Look here, Halo--" he said in a
constrained voice.

"Yes?" she questioned, her own voice sounding to her as odd and
uncertain as his.  "NOW--!" she thought with a tremor of
apprehension. . .

Vance continued to look at her.  "I know why you sent me alone to
Lorry's last night.  It was because you knew those New York women
would be rude to you.  Wasn't that it?"

She returned his look in surprise; then the weight slipped from her
heart, and she almost laughed.  "Why, darling, how absurd!  I've
always hated big dinners . . . and I'm so fed up with that crowd at
Lorry's."

"Yes; so am I."

"Well, then, you can't blame me for not going."

"I blame you for not telling me why you wouldn't go.  Lorry told
me.  He said Mrs. Glaisher didn't want to meet you because you've
left your husband and are living with me."

Halo drew back from his arm to smile up at him.  "Why, you
ridiculous boy!  I daresay he's right.  Mrs. Glaisher cut me the
other day when I met her at Lorry's door.  Oh, deliberately--it was
such a funny sensation!  It amused me so much that I meant to tell
you; but I forgot all about it."

"It doesn't amuse me," said Vance with lowering forehead.  "Do you
suppose I want to associate with people who think you're not good
enough for them?  She asked if she could come here to tea with some
of her precious friends, and when I told her you were with me she
had the impudence to say she hadn't known, and of course in that
case she couldn't come.  Before I left I told Lorry what I thought
about his asking me without you."

Halo was still laughing and looking up into his eyes.  "But, Vanny,
it was I who urged Lorry to ask you, because he said the Glaisher
and Lady Pevensey were dying to meet the author of 'The Puritan in
Spain'; and I thought if he got you to come it might induce Mrs.
Glaisher to help him with his ballet."

"I don't care a damn about Lorry's ballet--"

"Well, I do; and I'm very sorry you didn't invite Mrs. Glaisher
here.  Think what fun for me to hide behind the curtains, and hear
what fashionable ladies say to a rising novelist!  I begin to think
you've lost your sense of humour. . ."

But she saw that such pleasantries only perplexed him.  For a long
while he had not understood her sensitiveness about her position;
but now that some one had taken advantage of it to slight her he
was ablaze with resentment.  She put her hand over his.  "Vance--as
if anything mattered but you and me!"

"Everything matters to me that's about you.  I should think you'd
see how I feel."  He walked up and down the room with agitated
steps.  "I don't understand your being so offended about that old
woman in Granada whom you'd never seen; and now, when your own
brother, and people you used to know, behave as if it was a
disgrace to meet you, you just sit and laugh."

Her eyes followed him tenderly.  "But don't you see that it's
simply because being with you has made everything else seem of no
consequence?"

He came back and sat down by her, his brow still gloomy.  "That's
it . . . that's why it makes my blood boil to think that when
people treat you like that I have to sit by and hold my tongue.  I
thought of course we should have been married by this time.  And I
want you to know I've done all I could."

Halo felt a tremor of joy rush through her.  "But I know,
darling . . . of course I know. . ."

"I went to see Tarrant last night--" Vance continued.

She interrupted him with an exclamation of astonishment.  "Lewis?
Do you mean to say Lewis is in Paris?"

"Yes.  I thought perhaps you knew.  That Glaisher woman told me.
And she said he'd never let you have a divorce; he didn't approve
of divorce, she said.  I didn't believe her, because you'd always
told me he wanted to get married himself, and I thought she just
said it to spite me.  But I was bound I'd get at the truth, and so
I hunted him down at his hotel last night, and made him listen to
me."

"Last night?  You mean to say you were with Lewis last night?"

He nodded silently, and the unexpectedness of the announcement
struck Halo silent also.  She had not heard that Lewis Tarrant was
in Paris, or indeed in Europe; and the shock of learning that he
was in the same place as herself, and that only a few hours
earlier, all unsuspected by her, her husband and her lover had been
talking her over, silenced every other emotion.  The vision of that
scene--which, a moment ago, would have appeared too improbable to
call up any definite picture--seized painfully on her imagination.
It seemed to her that she was gazing at herself stripped and
exposed, between these two men who were disputing for her
possession.

"See here, Halo--you're not angry with me, are you?  I couldn't
help trying to see him," she heard Vance pleading; and dropping the
hands she had raised to her face she turned to him.

"Vanny!  Angry?  How could I be?  Only I don't see . . . what in
the world made you think. . ."

"I don't believe I did think.  I felt I had to see him."  Her eyes
filled, and he hurried on nervously:  "Yes, but it was no good.  I
suppose I ought to have known it wouldn't be.  He and I never could
talk to each other long without one of us getting mad, or both."

She looked up in alarm.  "You don't mean to say you had a quarrel?"

"Oh, no; that isn't his way.  We just kept on getting politer and
politer."

"Ah--" she breathed, and covered her eyes again.  If only the
pressure of her hands could blot out the vision he called up, the
vision of Tarrant rigid and sneering, of Vance bewildered,
passionate and helpless!  She thought:  "My darling--he's wrecked
my last chance of freedom . . . and how I love him for it!"

But in a moment she recovered her self-control.  "You must tell me
just what happened, dear."  She drew him down to the chair beside
her, and quietly, her hand in his, listened to what he told her,
weighing every phrase, every syllable, the meaning of which she
knew he had only half-guessed, while to her it lay bare to the
roots.  She had seen at once that any influence she might still
have had over Tarrant must have been forfeited by Vance's rash
intervention.  Tarrant would never believe that she had not known
of it, and his disgust at a proceeding so tactless and indelicate
would be aggravated by the idea that she had connived at it,
perhaps even prompted it.  She could hear him say, with the lift of
the nostril that marked his strongest disapproval:  "Things aren't
done in that way between civilized people."  It was his final form
of condemnation.

She knew that Tarrant never forgave any one who wounded his vanity
and tortured his nerves by forcing from him a definite statement on
a question he was tacitly determined to ignore, and when Vance
ended she sat silent, overcome by the probable consequences of his
blunder.  But she felt that he might misinterpret her silence, and
she faltered out:  "I suppose of course he thought I'd sent you."

"Well, he did at first; but I told him you didn't know anything
about my coming."

She gave a nervous laugh.  "Naturally he didn't believe that."

"Why shouldn't he believe it?"

Her impulse was to say:  "Because he wanted a better reason for
hating me--" but she suppressed the retort.  "When he's angry he
never listens to what any one says," she answered vaguely.

"But why is he so angry?  He wouldn't answer me when I asked him
that."

"You asked him--?"

"I reminded him that it was he who originally wanted you to divorce
him."

"Ah--but there's nothing he hates so much as to be reminded of
things he's finished with!"

Vance, who had stood looking down on her with gathering perplexity,
turned away, and began to wander up and down the room.  "I see you
think I've made a colossal blunder," he said at length.  She could
not think of anything to say, and he went on:  "I ought to have
consulted you first, I suppose."

She took his hand.  "If you had I certainly wouldn't have let you
expose yourself to anything so painful."

"And so useless?  I know what you're thinking.  There might have
been a chance of his coming round if I'd let things alone . . . and
now there's none.  That's it, isn't it?"

"I suppose so.  For the present, at any rate.  But what does it
matter?  Do you mind, dearest--our not being married?" she asked
suddenly, laying her hands beseechingly on his shoulders.

"Yes; I hate it--I hate it every minute!" he burst out.  "At first
I didn't see what it meant for you--it was enough for me that you
and I were together.  But now I wouldn't for the world have you go
through again what you've had to endure this last year."

She drew back, wrinkling up her eyes in the way she knew he liked,
and smiling up into his face.  "How do you know, dearest, that all
I've endured hasn't been a part of our happiness?"

"Not mine--not mine!" he exclaimed impatiently.  "It's poisoned
everything for me; and last night that woman made me wild.  That's
why I couldn't wait another minute.  And now I see my doing what I
did was all a monstrous mistake."  He turned away and resumed his
agitated pacing of the room.  She wondered if he still had
something on his mind, and what it could be; but after the shock of
what he had told her she had no heart to question him further.
After all, she knew the worst now, and must try to come to terms
with that first. . .

Presently he came and sat down beside her.  "Halo--there's one
thing I've got to ask you.  You'll hate it, maybe; but I want you
to give me a straight answer.  Tarrant says you've known all along
about his having refused to get a divorce.  Is that so?"

She made a sign of assent, and he went on:  "Then--then; this is
what I want you to tell me.  Hasn't he refused because he's trying
to get you back?"

She gave a start of surprise, and the blood rushed to her forehead.
"Why, Vance, what an idea!  You must be crazy. . ."

"Why not?  I thought of it the minute I'd left him.  The man was in
agony; I could see that.  He couldn't have hated me so if he hadn't
still been in love with you."

"But, darling, I swear to you--"

He gave a shrug.  "Oh, I daresay he hasn't said anything yet.  He's
feeling his way . . . trying to think of some dodge that'll save
his face. . .  But I'm sure of it, Halo, I'm sure of it!"

She smiled at his boyish violence.  "Well--and what of it?"

"What of it?  Nothing, of course.  Unless--Look here, Halo, we've
been together over a year now.  When we went away I thought we'd be
married in a few months; I wouldn't have dared to urge you to come
if I hadn't been sure of it.  And now there seems no hope of your
being free; and I see what a bad turn I did you, persuading you to
go off before things were settled.  It's too late to mend that; the
harm's done.  But what I want to say is this--"

Halo sprang up, a new apprehension catching at her heart.  "Yes . . .
yes . . . you want to say . . . ?"

"I want to say that you're free . . . free as air. . ."

She gave him a long look, and then broke into a little laugh.
"Free to go back to Lewis if he'll have me?  Is that what you mean?
I'm much obliged to you!"

His head drooped, and he looked away from her.  "I mean, of course,
free to do what you like."

There was a silence, during which neither looked at the other.

"If it comes to that, we're both free," Halo said at last, in a low
voice.  Vance was still silent, and she repeated insistently:
"We're both free.  Is that what you're trying to tell me?  I've
always understood it, I assure you!"  The words were hardly spoken
when she saw how they betrayed the dread she had determined to hide
from him; but already she was being swept away on its current.
"Ah, you make me too unhappy--too unhappy!" she burst out, and
suddenly her hard anguish was loosened, and she fell with long sobs
on his breast.  "Vanny, Vanny. . .  I've never loved you as I do
now!" she heard herself crying; and felt far off, through the
streaming flood of her fears, his hand quietly pushing back her
hair.



BOOK III



XVI


From the balcony of the little pink house Vance Weston looked out
over a shabby garden and a barrier of palms to a bay between plum-
blue headlands.

On this particular day the bay palpitated with glittering cubes of
purple and azure that the waves tossed back and forth like mermaids
playing with their jewels.  To Vance these games of wind and water
were a ceaseless joy.  He was always leaving his work to watch the
waves race in from the open sea, dodge past the guardian
promontories, and fall crying on the beach below his balcony--those
unquiet waves, perpetually escaping from something; cloud-shadows
and sun-javelins, the silver bullets of the rain, the steady drive
of the west wind's flails.  There were other days, very different,
when they were not in flight, but like immense grazing flocks moved
backward and forward over their smooth pastures to a languid secret
rhythm; when a luminous indistinctness falsified the distances, and
the wild bay became a placid land-locked sheet of water.  Divine
days too; but not as inspiriting as those of flight and pursuit, or
as exciting as those when the storm caught the frightened waves and
turned their hollows livid as the olive trees along the shore.

Vance laid down his pen and went out on the balcony.  Coming up the
path of the adjoining Pension Britannique, between untrimmed tea-
roses and tough-leaved yuccas, was the perpendicular form of the
eldest Miss Plummet.  Her hand, cased in a black glove worn blue at
the seams, clutched a string bag, through the interstices of which
were visible some books from the English Chapel library, a bottle
from the chemist's, a handful of mandarins and a tiny bunch of
faded anemones.  Miss Plummet was almost as fascinating to Vance as
the sea and the headlands.  She represented, in all its angular
purity, a vision as new and exotic: the English maiden lady whose
life is spent in continental pensions kept by English landladies,
and especially recommended by the local English chaplain.  The type
was familiar to Halo, so much of whose girlhood had been lived in
continental pensions; but to Vance it was more novel and exciting
than anything that Montparnasse could offer.  "She's got an
outline, an edge; she's representative.  And what she represents is
so colossal," he would explain to Halo, pressing her for further
elucidations about the kind of life that Miss Plummet's family
probably led at home, the kind of house she came out of, her
background, her conception of the universe.

The passing of Miss Plummet always told Vance what time it was.
Precisely at three every afternoon she returned from her shopping
in the one narrow street of Oubli-sur-Mer, the little Mediterranean
town curving its front of blotched pink-and-yellow houses along the
harbour crammed with fishing-boats and guarded by a miniature
jetty.  Oubli-sur-Mer (Halo had explained, when she proposed to him
that they should go there for the winter) was a queer survival: a
pocket past which, since the war, fashion and money, jazz and
cinemas, had swept eastward, leaving stranded in this dent of the
coast, hemmed in by rusty pine-clad hills, the remnant of an old-
fashioned English colony.  The colonists were annually fewer, a
dying race; but though the group had dwindled it held the more
jealously to its habits and traditions, its English chaplain,
English doctor, chemist, parish library, its sacred horror of
"French ways", and inability to understand the humour of "what
French people call funny".

But Vance never could give the proper amount of attention to Miss
Plummet, for almost immediately after she had vanished into the
interior of the Pension Britannique there always emerged from it
Mrs. Dorman, the chaplain's wife.  Mrs. Dorman was spreading where
Miss Plummet was vertical, ambling where the other was brisk.  She
belonged to the generation which had known the south of France to
possess a warm winter climate, and her large mild face looked forth
astonished under a spreading straw hat wreathed with a discouraged
dust-coloured feather, while she grasped a sun-umbrella in one hand
and with the other tightened her fur tippet.  Vance called her the
regional divinity because her dual precautions against the weather
so aptly symbolized the extremes of temperature experienced at
Oubli-sur-Mer in passing from sun to shade.

"I'm afraid the winter climate of the Riviera is not what it used
to be; in old times we never DREAMED of covering up the
Bougainvilleas," Mrs. Dorman would invariably proclaim to new
arrivals at the pension, to the distress of her landlady, Madame
Fleuret, who was the widow of a French Protestant pasteur, but
herself unassailably English.  "If only," Madame Fleuret privately
complained, "she'd leave the new people alone till they've settled
down, and made up their minds to have their letters sent here"--a
view in which the Reverend Mr. Dorman heartily concurred.  "But you
know, dear Madame Fleuret, the Bishop DID agree with me," Mrs.
Dorman would gently protest, thereby recalling to Madame Fleuret's
irritated memory the disastrous visit of the Bishop of Drearbury.
His lordship, having been ordered south by his physicians for a
rest, and having singled out the Pension Britannique after
protracted correspondence with Lady Dayes-Dawes, had arrived on a
mistral day, when the olive trees were turned inside out, the gale
screaming down the chimneys, and the fire smoking furiously in what
Madame Fleuret had lately been trained to call the "lounge"; and it
was at that disastrous moment that Mrs. Dorman had put her
stereotyped question:  "We do so hope you're going to like the
Riviera?" to which the Bishop, whom Mr. Dorman had just brought
back from a good long walk in the teeth of the gale, had hissed
out:  "I'm afraid I don't like your foliage."  ("If at least,"
Madame Fleuret said afterward confidentially to the other ladies,
"Mrs. Dorman would give them time to get used to the olives!  It
took me YEARS, I know; and there's no use trying to hurry people.")

Mrs. Dorman, Vance knew, was on her way to sit with Mrs. Churley,
the wife of the retired Indian cavalry officer who lived up the
hill.  Colonel Churley, a long melancholy mahogany-coloured man
with a drooping white moustache, and white rings under his pale
blue eyes, walked past the pink house every morning to fetch his
letters from the post office, and every afternoon to take a long
tramp by himself along the shore or among the hills.  He walked
slowly, his arms clasped behind his back, his walking stick
dragging through the dust, and looked neither to right nor left,
but kept his stern eyes, under projecting shaggy brows, fixed
steadily ahead of him, as if to avoid being accosted by
acquaintances.  Only when he met the Reverend Mr. Dorman, the short
round chaplain, whose face was as rubicund as the other's was dark,
did Colonel Churley stop for a few words before resuming his
mournful tramp.  Mrs. Churley, crippled with rheumatism and half
blind, lay all day on her sofa at Les Mimosas, the dismal-looking
house up the hill, and Mrs. Dorman and Miss Plummet took turns to
sit with her during her husband's solitary rambles.  Halo had
offered to share their task, but Mrs. Dorman had explained, with
some embarrassment, that the Churleys were very shy and unsociable,
and perhaps it would be best . . . though Mrs. Weston was so very
kind . . . and she would of course give the message . . . but Mrs.
Weston mustn't think it odd . . . even dear Lady Dayes-Dawes had
never been allowed to call. . .

There was a Churley son, it appeared, a youth also said to be
invalidish and unsociable; Vance had not yet seen him, but at times
he was haunted by the thought that a young fellow, perhaps younger
than himself, lived in that dreary house up the lane, in a place as
lacking in youthful life as Oubli-sur-Mer.  Mrs. Dorman had told
Halo that young Churley was said to be "literary," and the ladies
of the Pension Britannique shook their heads when he was mentioned,
as if small good was to be hoped of any one with such tendencies.
The ladies had been shy of Vance too when they learned he was an
author; but Halo had had the happy thought of giving the parish
library a copy of "Instead", his romantic early novel, and Miss
Pamela Plummet, the invalid, who ranked as the leading literary
critic of Oubli-sur-Mer, had pronounced it very pretty; after
which, reassured, the Pension Britannique had taken "Mr. and Mrs.
Weston" to its bosom.

The pension had made the acquaintance of the newcomers through the
accident of their sudden arrival.  Halo and Vance, after the
latter's encounter with Lewis Tarrant, had both felt the desire to
get away from Paris; and Halo, with her usual promptness, had
remembered the obsolete charms of Oubli-sur-Mer, got hold of some
one who knew a house-agent there, and secured the little pink house
after one glance at its fly-blown photograph.  A week later they
had packed up and evacuated the Paris flat; but their arrival in
the south had been too precipitate for Halo to engage servants in
advance.  The restaurants on the quay were too far off, and the
nearness of the Pension Britannique prompted her to seek its
hospitality.  It was against Madame Fleuret's principles to receive
boarders from outside; she was opposed to transients of any kind.
Her established clients, she explained, did not like to be brought
in contact with strangers, people you couldn't tell anything about,
and who might turn out to be "foreigners", or even "peculiar".  But
Halo's persuasiveness, and the good looks and good humour of the
young couple, had broken down her rule, and for a week Vance and
Halo had been suffered to lunch and dine at the pension.  It was
then that Vance had laid in his store of impressions; had listened,
fascinated, to the literary judgments of the invalid Miss Plummet
on "The First Violin" and "Ships that Pass in the Night" (her
favourite works of fiction); had gazed spell-bound on the mushroom
hats and jet-beaded mantle of old Lady Dayes-Dawes, the baronet's
widow, who knew more knitting and crochet stitches than any one
else at Oubli, and whose first cousin was a Colonial Governor; had
hung delighted on the conversation of the Honourable Ginevra
Hipsley, who kept white mice on whose sensibilities she experimented
by means of folk-songs accompanied by the accordion, and about whom
she wrote emotional letters to "Nature" and the "Spectator"; had
followed the Reverend Mr. Dorman's discreet attempts to ascertain if
"Mr. and Mrs. Weston" belonged to the American branch of the Church
of England (as their distinguished appearance made him hope) and
would therefore be disposed to assist in the maintenance of the
Bougainvillea-draped chapel in which he officiated, or whether they
were members of one of the innumerable sects which so deplorably
diversify the religious life of the States; and had gathered various
items of information about the melancholy Churley family and the
other British residents of Oubli-sur-Mer.

It was a little world seemingly given over to illness, poverty and
middle-age; and the contrast between the faded faces and vanished
hopes of its inhabitants and the boisterous setting of sun and gale
that framed their declining days would have been depressing if
Vance had not felt in them a deep-down solidarity of tastes and
principles.  It was enough that they all read the "Times", and did
not like vegetables cooked in the French way; in the rootless
drifting world into which Vance had been born he had never (even
among Halo's friends and family) come across such a solid coral-
isle of convictions.  This little handful of people, elderly,
disappointed and poor, forced by bad health or lack of means to
live away from their country, drifting from pension to pension, or
from one hired villa to another, with interests limited to the
frugal and the trivial, yet managed by sheer community of sentiment
to fit into the pattern of something big and immemorial.  The sense
of the past awakened in Vance by his first sight of the Willows,
that queer old house on the Hudson which embodied a past so recent,
now stirred in him more deeply at the sight of these detached and
drifting fragments of so great a whole.  It was odd, he thought,
looking back: he hadn't felt Chartres, yet he felt Miss Plummet and
Colonel Churley.  Perhaps even Halo wouldn't have understood how it
was that, seen from Euphoria, these human monuments seemed the more
venerable.

Vance stood on the balcony and lit a cigarette.  Behind him was his
writing-table, scattered with the loose sheets of "Colossus";
before him, the joyous temptation of sun and sea.  In the next room
he heard the diligent click of Halo's Remington, re-copying the
third version of Chapter VII.  The work wasn't going as well as he
had hoped; he thought enviously of the pace at which he had reeled
off "The Puritan in Spain" the previous winter at Cadiz.  What he
was at now, of course, was a different matter; no glib tale, but a
sort of compendium of all that life had given him--and received
from him.  He was attempting to transcribe the sum total of his
experience, to do a human soul, his soul, in the round.  At times,
when his inspiration flagged, he told himself ironically that it
looked as though he hadn't had enough experience to fill many
pages.  Yet there were days when a grain of mustard-seed, like an
Indian conjuror's tree, would suddenly shoot up and scale the sky.
He stood on the balcony, thinking restlessly of the sound of the
wind in the pines along the shore, of the smell of lavender and
sage on the hot slopes behind the town, and watching for the figure
of Colonel Churley, gloomily silhouetted against the dazzling bay.
If Miss Plummet were a moment late Vance could always put his watch
right by Colonel Churley.

"Ready for the next!" Halo called.

"Yes.  All right. . ."  Ah, there the Colonel was, dragging his
stick along behind him, punctual and desolate as a winter night.
In another moment he would probably meet Mr. Dorman, and Vance
would watch their two faces, one blankly melancholy, the other a-
twitter with animation.  But today Mr. Dorman was not visible, and
Colonel Churley strode on, aiming for the hills.  Vance shivered
and turned indoors.

"All right.  Only I'm afraid there's nothing more coming," he said.

As Halo looked up he saw a shade of disappointment cross her face
and transform itself into a smile.  "Another holiday?"

"Looks like it.  I believe it's the sea," he said with a shrug.

"Well, you'd better go out and spend the rest of the day with it."

He stood in the doorway, irresolute.  "Come along?"

"I don't believe I will.  I want to go over the first chapters
again."

"What a life for you!"

She laughed.  "Do I look as if I minded?"

"No.  That's what's so trying about you. . ."

They laughed together, and Vance swung joyously down the stairs.

The little house was full of a friendly shabby gaiety.  Halo always
managed to give that air to their improvised habitations.  On the
ground floor, where the kitchen and dining-room were, she had
hidden the dingy papering of the hall under a gay striped cotton,
and had herself repainted and cushioned the tumbledown chairs in
the verandah.  Vance's craving for order and harmony was always
subtly gratified by this exercise of her skill.  He recalled with a
shudder the chronic disorder in which he had struggled through the
weary years of his marriage, the untidy lair into which poor Laura
Lou converted every room she lived in, the litter of unmended
garments, half-empty medicine bottles and leaking hot-water bags
that accumulated about her as lavender-scented linen, fresh window-
curtains, flowers and books did about Halo--poor Laura Lou, who
could never touch a fire without making it smoke, while Halo's
clever hands could coax a flame from the sulkiest log.

Vance, thinking of all this, and of the golden freedom awaiting him
outside, recalled another day as bright and beckoning, when he had
fled from the squalid Westchester bungalow, and the monotony of
Laura Lou's companionship, to wander in the woods and dream of a
book he was never to write.  He thought of the incredible change in
his fortunes since then, of the love and understanding and success
which had come to him together, and wondered why mercies of which
he was so exquisitely aware had never yet stifled his old aching
interrogation of life.  He was glad to be at Oubli-sur-Mer, away
from the incessant stimulus of Paris, in the country quiet which
seemed a necessity to his creative mood.  The queer little
community, so self-contained and shut off from his own agitated
world, gave him the sense of aloofness which his spirit needed; yet
somehow--as so often before--the fulness of the opportunity seemed
to oppress him, his work lagged under the very lack of obstacles.

He picked up his stick and cap, and was just emerging from the
verandah when a young man who walked with a slight limp pushed open
the garden gate.  The visitor, a stranger to Vance, came toward him
with an air of rather jaunty self-confidence.  He had a narrow
dusky face, with an unexpected crop of reddish hair streaked with
amber tumbling over a broad forehead, and dark eyes with the look
of piercing wistfulness that sometimes betrays spinal infirmity.  A
brilliant crimson tie, and a loudly patterned, but faded pull-over
above a pair of baggy flannel trousers, completed his studied make-
up.

"Mr. Weston?  Would you give me an interview?  I don't mean for a
newspaper," the young man began abruptly, in a cultivated but
slightly strident voice.  "I've been asked to do an article for the
'Windmill', and I'd be awfully glad if you'd let me talk with you
for a few minutes."

Vance stood still in the path considering his visitor.  He was not
particularly interested in the idea of being interviewed or
reviewed.  From the outset of his literary career he had been
unusually indifferent to the notoriety attained by personal
intervention.  He remembered the shock he had received, when he was
reviewing for Lewis Tarrant on the "New Hour", on discovering the
insatiable greed for publicity of such successful novelists as
Gratz Blemer.  It was not that Vance was indifferent to success,
but because its achievement seemed to him so entirely independent
of self-advertising.  Halo abounded in this view, partly (he
suspected) from disgust at what she had seen of the inner workings
of the "New Hour", partly from an inborn disdain of any sort of
cheap popularity.  She wanted him to be the greatest novelist who
had ever lived, and was still (Vance felt sure) gloriously certain
of his eventually reaching that pinnacle; but she cared not a rush
for the fame cooked up in editorial kitchens.  As for Vance, though
he had to the full the artist's quivering sensitiveness to praise,
and anguished shrinking from adverse criticism, he felt neither
praise or blame unless it implied recognition of what he had been
striving for.  Random approbation had never, even in the early
days, perceptibly raised his pulse; and his first taste of
popularity had only made him more fastidious.

But the young man in the faded pull-over interested him for other
reasons.  That eager dark face, with its strange shock of bright
hair tossed back from a too prominent forehead, was full of
intellectual excitement.

"I hate interviews--don't see any sense in them," Vance began, but
in a tone so friendly that his visitor rejoined with a laugh:  "Oh,
you're thinking of the heart-to-heart kind, probably.  With a snap-
shot of yourself looking at the first crocus in your garden; or
smoking a pipe, with your arm round a Great Dane."

"Well . . ." Vance acknowledged.  "Transposed into 'Windmill'
terms. . ."

"Yes; I know.  But that's not my line.  Honest to God, it isn't, as
you say in the States."  The young man looked at Vance with a
whimsical smile.  "I wish it were--for my bank-account.  The human
touch is worth its weight in gold, and outlives all the fashions.
But all I care about is ideas; or else the world in which they are
completely non-existent.  And I prefer the latter, only it's too
expensive for me."  He paused, and then added:  "My name's
Christopher Churley, by the way."

"Oh--you live up the hill, then?"

"Well, if you call it living.  I say, can I have my talk now?  The
'Windmill' people are rather in a hurry.  But of course if it's not
convenient--"

Vance was looking at him with compassionate interest.  This was the
sombre Colonel's son.  The sombreness was there--Vance perceived it
instantly, under a surface play of chaff and self-derision that was
sadder than the father's open gloom; but the youth's look of
flaming intelligence had no counterpart in the Colonel's heavy
stare.

"I was going for a tramp.  But if you'd rather come in now and have
a talk--"

"Thanks a lot.  You'll let me, then?"  Chris Churley's eyes were
illuminated.  "But I don't mind walking, you know; not if I can
take it easy, on account of my limp; and if you'll let me take the
landscape for granted."

"Oh, you can, can you?  Take all this for granted?" Vance
interrupted.

"Yes.  Rather a pity, I suppose.  I daresay there are lots of poor
devils looking at cats on a tin roof through a fog who'd expand in
this Virgilian setting.  But I can't.  Give me the tin roof and the
cats, if they're in a metropolis.  Though what I really prefer is
artifice and luxury.  I revel in a beautiful landscape transformed
by the very rich; not just the raw material, like this. . ."  He
waved a contemptuous hand toward the bright sea and fretted coast-
line.  "What I care about, you see, is the landscape of the mind;
the intellectual Alps.  Or else cocottes and oil kings round a
baccarat table."

"Well, you've a wide range," said Vance, somewhat distressingly
reminded of the stale paradoxes dear to Rebecca Stram's familiars
and the satellites of Lorry's studio.

Young Churley flushed up, and Vance saw his eyes darken as if in
physical pain.  "I suppose this sort of talk bores you.  I daresay
you've had everything. . ."

"Oh, have I?  Look here," said Vance good-naturedly, "come
upstairs, and we'll talk shop as much as you like, since Oubli
doesn't provide the other alternatives."  He pulled out his
cigarettes, and offered them to young Churley.  Decidedly the sight
of the Colonel had not prepared him for the Colonel's son.


XVII


On the threshold of the low-ceilinged study, with its rough yellow-
washed walls, Chris Churley stopped to glance curiously about at
the books and papers; the blossoming almond-branch in a big jar,
the old brown Bokhara with the help of which Halo had contrived a
divan piled with brown cushions.  "I say--this is jolly!"

"Not much luxury," Vance grinned, always gratified at the
admiration provoked by Halo's upholstery.

The other shrugged.  "I wish you could see Les Mimosas--no, I
don't," he corrected himself hastily; and immediately drew from his
pocket a letter which he handed to Vance.  It was in a girl's hand,
dated from London, under the letter-head:  "Zélide Spring, Literary
Agent and Adviser."  It ran:  "Darling Chris, the 'Windmill' people
have just rung up to say they hear Vance Weston, who wrote 'The
Puritan in Spain,' is at Oubli, and they'd like an article about
him if you can get it done in time for the next number.  Some one
has failed them, and they want to shove this in at once.  Of course
that means doing it in a rush.  Now, Chris, please, you simply
MUST, or I'll never speak to you again--" and then:  "P.S.  You
must see him, of course, and get him to talk to you about his
books.  How frightfully exciting for you!  Get me an autograph,
darling."

Vance laughed as he returned the letter.  "This means, I suppose,
that you don't like doing things in a rush."

"Do YOU?" said young Churley, looking enviously at the divan.  "The
very word makes me want to go and stretch out over there."

"Well, do," said Vance, tossing a fresh packet of cigarettes in the
direction of the divan.

"Honestly?  You don't mind?  Sprawling here while you're sitting in
a chair makes me feel like a vamp in a talkie.  But then that's the
way I really like to feel--luxurious and vicious," Churley
confessed, shaking up the cushions before he plunged his glowing
head into them.  "Match?  Oh, thanks!  Now, then--I suppose I ought
to begin by asking you about 'The Puritan in Spain'."

"No, don't," said Vance, lighting a cigarette, and dropping into
the chair by his writing-table.  He was beginning to be interested
and stirred by this vivid youth, who set his ideas tumbling about
excitedly, as Savignac had in the early days in Paris.  Sometimes
he felt that he needed a sort of padded cell of isolation to work
in, and then again, when a beam of understanding flashed through
his shuttered solitude, a million sparks of stimulation rushed in
with it.

"Oh, but I've got to!  You said I might," Churley protested.

"I didn't say I'd answer.  Not about 'The Puritan', anyhow."

Young Churley, with a glance of curiosity, raised himself on his
elbow.  "No?  Why?"

"Because I hate it," said Vance carelessly.

"Oh, good!  I mean--well, hang it, now I've seen you, I begin to
wonder . . ."

"Why I did it?  Yes. . .  If I only knew--!  What's that thing in
Tennyson, about 'little flower in the crannied wall', if I knew
what put you there, I'd know all there is to know; or something of
that sort.  Well, I was in Spain, and the subject caught me.  What
I call one of the siren-subjects. . .  I never stir now without
cotton in my ears."

Churley laughed.  "Righto!  Glad I don't have to ask you solemn
questions about the book.  I'm in rather a difficulty about you
American novelists.  Your opportunity's so immense, and . . . well,
you always seem to write either about princesses in Tuscan villas,
or about gaunt young men with a ten-word vocabulary who spend their
lives sweating and hauling wood.  Haven't you got any subject
between the two?  There's really nothing as limited as the
primitive passions--except perhaps those of the princesses.  I
believe the novelist's richest stuff is in the middle class,
because it lies where its name says, exactly in the middle, and
reaches out so excitingly and unexpectedly in both directions.  But
I suppose you haven't a middle class in America, though you do
sometimes have princesses--"

"I rather think we've got a middle class too.  But no one wants to
admit belonging to it, because we all do.  It's not so picturesque--"

"Just so!  There's its immense plastic advantage.  Absolute safety
from picturesqueness--you don't even have to be on your guard
against it.  Why don't you write a novel about the middle class,
and call it 'Meridian'?" cried young Churley, with an inspired wave
of his hand, which closed on the packet of cigarettes.

"Because I'm writing one about all mankind called:  'Colossus'."

"You're not?  I say . . . where have those matches gone?  Thanks.
But that IS a subject!  Does it bore you to talk about your things
while they're on the stocks?"

"N--no," said Vance, hesitatingly.  All at once he felt the
liberating thrill of the question.  Of course it wouldn't bore him
to talk about "Colossus" to anybody with those eager eyes and that
lightning up-take.  Here was a fellow with whom you could argue and
theorize by the hour, and so develop the muscles of your ideas.  It
was queer he should ever have imagined he could grind out a big
book in a smiling desert like Oubli-sur-Mer.  But the desert
animated by one responsive intelligence became exactly what his
mood required.  And he began to talk. . .

Churley listened avidly, his head thrown back, his eyes fixed,
through the curl of incessant cigarettes, on the luminous glitter
beyond the windows.  As Vance talked on he was aware, in his
listener, of a curious mental immaturity combined with flashes of
precocious insight.  Compared with his friend Savignac, in whose
disciplined intelligence there were so few gaps and irregularities,
this youth's impatient brain was as uncertain as the sea; but it
had the sea's bright sallies and sudden irresistible onslaughts.
Arguing with him about "Colossus" reminded Vance of the hour he had
spent in the unknown church during a thunderstorm, when the
obscurity was torn by flashes that never lasted long enough for him
to do more than guess at what they lit up.

Chris Churley was probably not more than three or four years
younger than himself; yet a world seemed to divide them.  Churley
still lived on the popular catchwords of which Vance had already
wearied; yet he appeared to have discarded many of the ideas which
were the very substance of Vance's mind.

They talked on and on, till the radiance faded into dusk and Halo
came with a lamp and the suggestion of tea or cocktails.  Churley,
in her presence, was as easy and natural as with Vance.  "I've come
to make an article out of Mr. Weston for the 'Windmill'," he
explained, smiling; "it's a tremendous chance for me," and Vance
saw that Halo felt, as he had, the happy simplicity of the youth's
manner.  In the last few months he had grown more observant of
Halo's changes of expression, and quicker in divining her response
to the persons they were thrown with.  She was going to like Chris
Churley, Vance thought, listening to her friendly questions, and to
their easy interchange of talk.  The mere fact that the newcomer
was going to write an article about Vance in a review of such
standing as the "Windmill" was a sufficient recommendation to Halo;
but, apart from that, Vance saw that she and Churley talked the
same language, and would always be at ease with each other.

"I was wondering whether you were going to take to that chap or
not," he said, when Churley, roused to the lateness of the hour,
had sprung up exclaiming that he must hurry home and get to work.
"I'll bring the article in a couple of days if I may," he called
back from the threshold.  "It's my chance, you know; if this thing
suits them I hope they'll take me on regularly; and it's just
conceivable that in time that might mean: London!"  He pronounced
the word with a mystical stress that lit up his whole face.

"Of course I take to him," Halo responded to Vance's question.
"Poor boy!  What life at Les Mimosas must be!  I could see how he
shied away from questions, about his family. . .  I suppose they're
miserably poor, and gloomy and ill.  We must have him here as much
as possible; you must do all you can to help him with the article."

Young Churley reappeared punctually in two days; but he did not
bring the article.  It had taken, he explained, more thinking over
than he had foreseen.  And, if Weston didn't mind, there were just
a few more questions he'd like to put.

This was the prelude to another long and exhilarating talk.  The
actual questions were not, as far as Vance could recall, ever put,
either then or later; but the big psychological panorama which he
was attempting in "Colossus" was the point of departure for an
absorbing discussion of the novelist's opportunities and
limitations.  Young Churley seemed to have read everything, and
thought about most things, without ever reaching any intellectual
conclusions; the elasticity of his judgments was as startling to
Vance as his uncanny quickness of apprehension.  Good talk was
doubtless a rare luxury to him, and he was evidently determined to
make the most of his opportunity.  Day after day he returned to the
pink villa, at first apologetically, soon as a matter of course;
and while he lolled on the brown divan, or lay outstretched on the
sand of one of the rocky coves along the bay, every allusion that
Vance made, every point on which he touched, started a new hare for
young Churley's joyful pursuit.  At one moment he seemed full of
interest in Vance's idea of celebrating the splendour and misery of
the average man, and produced a great Pascalian aphorism for his
title-page; but the next he was declaring that the only two things
in the world he really loathed were Oubli-sur-Mer and the
Categorical Imperative, and urging Vance to write a novel about a
wealthy, healthy and perfectly happy young man who murders his best
friend simply to show he is above middle-class prejudices.

Halo, as her way was with Vance's friends, came and went about her
daily occupations, sometimes joining the two on their picnics,
sometimes finding a pretext for remaining at home.  Young Churley
continued to amuse and stimulate her, and she often urged him to
come to dine, and sat late with the young men over the fire of
olive-wood; but Vance noticed that she seemed increasingly anxious,
as the months passed, to make him feel that he was free to come and
go without consulting her, or seeking her company.  Even where his
work was concerned she had relaxed her jealous vigilance.  She no
longer asked how the book was getting on, or playfully clamoured
for fresh copy; she waited till he brought her his manuscript,
betraying neither impatience nor disappointment if the intervals of
waiting were protracted.  At times her exquisite detachment almost
made it seem as if she were quietly preparing for a friendly
parting; once or twice, with a start of fear, he wondered if, as he
had once imagined, her husband were not trying to persuade her to
come back; but whenever she and Vance were alone together she was
so entirely her old self, so simply and naturally the friend and
lover of always, that the possibility became inconceivable.

Meanwhile the days passed, and no more was said of Churley's
article.  Vance himself, in the rapid growth of his new friendship,
had already lost sight of its first occasion; it was Halo who, a
fortnight or so after the youth's first appearance, said one night,
as he took leave:  "Aren't we to be allowed to see the article,
after all?"

"The article--the article?"  Churley's brilliant eyes met hers in
genuine perplexity.  "Oh, that 'Windmill' thing?  Glad you reminded
me!  It ought to have been done long ago, oughtn't it?" he added,
in a tone of disarming confidence.

"Well, you told us it might be a chance--an opening; that if you
could secure a regular job with the 'Windmill' you might be able to
get away."

"Oh--if I could!  If I only could!  You're perfectly right; I DID
say so.  I was all on fire to do the article. . ."  He hesitated,
wrinkling his brows, his eyes still wistfully on hers.  "But the
fact is--I wonder if you'll understand?--I'm in a frightful
dilemma.  I can't write here; and I can't make enough money to get
away unless I do write.  Can you suggest a way out, I wonder?"

Halo laughed.  "The only one, I should say, is that you should want
to get away badly enough to force yourself to write, whether you
want to or not."

His eyes widened.  "Oh, you really think one can force one's self
to write?  That's interesting.  Do you think so too, Weston?" he
asked, turning toward Vance a smile of elfin malice.

Vance reddened.  Halo's answer seemed to him inconceivably stupid.
If only outsiders wouldn't give advice to fellows who were trying
to do things!  But probably you could never cure a woman of that.
All his sympathy, at the moment, was with Churley. . .

"That remark of Halo's was meant for me," he said, laughing.  "But
I suppose if you were to shut yourself up and set your teeth . . .
that is, if you still feel you want to do the article," he added,
remembering that Churley might affect inertia as a pretext for
dropping a subject he was tired of.  The other seemed to guess his
idea.

"Want to do it?  I've got it all blazing away in my head at this
very minute!  I never wanted to do a thing more.  But when I look
out at this empty grimacing sea . . . or think of Miss Pamela
Plummet reading 'Ships That Pass In The Night' for the hundredth
time, or Mrs. Dorman picking up knitting stitches for Lady Dayes-
Dawes--for heaven's sake, Weston, how can a fellow do anything in
this place but lie on his back and curse his God?"  He looked from
one to the other with a comic plaintiveness.  "But there; you think
me a poor thing, both of you.  And so I am--pitiable.  Only, hang
it all, even the worm can turn--can turn out an article!  And so
can I.  You'll see.  Now that I think of it, I had a desperate wire
from Zélide this morning.  The 'Windmill' people say they MUST have
something about you, and they offer to give me till the end of this
week if I'll produce it.  When IS the end of this week?  I had an
idea today was already the beginning of next . . . but that's just
a dastardly pretext for not doing the article. . .  By Jove, I'll
go home and start tonight--and finish it too!  Or at least, I'll do
it this morning, because it's already morning.  I say, Weston, can
I drop in with it tomorrow after dinner?"

Churley did not drop in that evening, nor for the two days
following.  "He's really buckled down to it," Halo hopefully
prophesied; but on the third day he reappeared, and said he had
started writing the article and then torn up the beastly thing
because it read so precisely like what every other literary critic
had already said about every other novelist.  "If only there was a
new language perhaps we'd have new thoughts; if there was a new
alphabet, even!  When I try to harness together those poor broken-
winded spavined twenty-six letters, and think of the millions and
millions of ways they've already been combined into platitudes, my
courage fails me, and I haven't the heart to thrash them onto their
shaky old legs again.  Why on earth don't you inventive fellows
begin by inventing a new language?"

Vance shrugged.  "I guess there'd be people turning out platitudes
in it the very first week."

"Oh, I know what comes next.  You're going to tell me that all the
big geniuses have managed to express themselves in new ways with
the old material.  But, after all, history does show that every now
and then culture has reached a dead level of stagnation, and
then . . ."

"Well, go home now, and write that down!" Vance laughingly
proposed; but Churley laughed too, and said he wasn't in the mood
for writing, and if they were going on a picnic, as Mrs. Weston had
suggested, was there any objection to his going with them?

Late that night Vance, as he often did at that hour, sat on his
balcony looking out over the darkening waters.  He liked these
southern nights without a moon, when the winter constellations
ruled in a dark blue heaven and rained their strong radiance on the
sea.  His inspiration, which had begun to flag before Chris
Churley's appearance, now flowed with a strong regular beat.  The
poor boy's talk had done for Vance what Vance's society had failed
to do for him.  Vance knew that his creative faculty had grown
strong enough to draw stimulus from contradiction instead of being
disturbed by it.  To the purely analytical intelligence such
questions as their talks had raised might be unsettling and
sterilizing; but, as always in the full tide of invention, he felt
himself possessed by a brooding spirit of understanding, some
mystic reassurance which sea and sky and the life of men
transmitted from sources deeper than the reason.  He had never been
able to formulate it, but he had caught, in the pages of all the
great creative writers, hints of that mysterious subjection and
communion, impossible to define, but clear to the initiated as the
sign exchanged between members of some secret brotherhood.  Ah,
they were the happy people--the only happy people, perhaps--these
through whom the human turmoil swept not to ravage but to
fertilize.  He leaned on the balcony, looking out at the sea, and
pondered on his task, and blessed it.


XVIII


A few days later, after one of the unproductive mornings which
often followed on his stretches of feverish work, Vance said to
Halo:  "When you said that the other day to Churley about a man's
forcing himself to write, I suppose you were thinking of me, and
the endless time I'm taking to do this book."

There had been a day when Halo would have protested, and he would
have been sorry that he had spoken; but a new Halo, with steadier
nerves and smoother temper, had replaced the pleasing anxious
spirit of last year, and she only rejoined, with a glance of good-
natured surprise:  "Why, Vance, how absurd!  With a book on the
scale of this one you're bound to take a long time to get to the
top of the hill."

That was sensible enough; but Vance was in the mood to feel that a
sensible answer could only be a transparent attempt to humour him.
"Oh, well--climbing's not bad exercise.  But what you said has
frightened away poor Churley. . ."

"Frightened him--why?"

"Writers don't much care to be told by outsiders to buckle down to
their work.  They generally get enough of that sort of advice in
their own families."

"Oh, poor boy!  I'm sorry!  But how could he have minded?  He's
always joking about his own laziness."

"That's different," Vance retorted; and Halo, without appearing to
notice his tone, suggested that he should go and hunt up his young
friend.  "Perhaps he may have stayed away because he's ill; he
looks spectral at times.  I'm sure it would please him if you
looked him up."

Churley had never suggested his friend's coming to see him, and
Vance thought he might interpret an unsought visit as an attempt to
remind him of the article he perhaps no longer wished to write.  To
a youth so acutely self-conscious it would seem natural that an
author should attach great importance to being reviewed by him.
But the possibility that he might be lying ill in that dreary house
made Vance decide to follow Halo's advice.  As he mounted the hill,
the house, rising above him in its neglected garden with windows
shuttered against the sun, seemed to take the warmth out of the
air, and he felt half inclined to turn back.  While he stood there
the blistered front door was jerked open and Colonel Churley came
out.  The Colonel looked at him with astonishment, and said:
"Oh--" in a voice as sombre as his countenance, but somehow less
forbidding; and on Vance's asking for his son, replied unexpectedly:
"Ah--you're a friend of his, are you?"

Vance hesitated.  "Well, a literary friend . . . yes. . .  We both
write, sir. . ."

The Colonel considered him thoughtfully.  "Ah--you write?  Indeed?
I wish you'd persuade my son to do as much.  But I've no idea where
he is at present; none whatever.  I seldom have any idea where he
is," the Colonel concluded, in a voice more sorrowful than angered;
and he lifted his hat with a gesture which implied that he expected
Vance to precede him to the gate.  If Chris were within his father
evidently did not mean the visitor to know it.  He did not even ask
Vance's name.  At the gate he turned with another bow, and strode
away through the olives.

That evening Chris Churley reappeared.  He looked drawn and
colourless, and flinging himself down on the divan plunged his hand
into Vance's box of cigarettes.  For a while they talked of a new
book that Vance had lent him (and which he had promised to return,
and hadn't); then, when Halo left the room for a moment, he said
abruptly:  "I suppose it was you who looked me up this afternoon."

"Yes.  I met your father at the door.  He said he didn't know where
you were."

"And you told him you were a literary pal?"  Churley laughed.  "He
didn't for a minute believe that.  He thought you were one of my
waster friends come to carry me off on a spree.  My father and
mother always think that, when anybody they don't know comes to see
me."

"Wasters?  I shouldn't think there were many in this place," said
Vance, smiling.

"THEY do.  They think they're everywhere where I am.  My mother's
convinced there's a private gambling hell in one of the houses on
the quay.  I daresay there is--and a filthy hole it must be.  What
my family can't understand is that riotous living, unless it's on
the grand scale, appeals to me no more than getting drunk on cheap
wine at a bistro.  What I want to make me go astray is marble halls
and millions; and Oubli is fairly safe from both."  He sat up and
clutched his tossed red hair in his brown hands.  "Oh, God, Weston,
if I could get away!  If only I could get away!"

Vance was moved at the cry.  Well, why couldn't he get away?  And
where would he go, and what would he do, if he could?

"Go?  Straight to London, by God!"  Churley swung around on the
divan, his eyes dark with excitement under his flaming hair.
"London, of course.  If I could have a month there, with nobody to
nag me, or ask me when I was going to get to work again (I know
what my father told you--I know); if I could have a fortnight,
even, I could write that article about you, and a couple of others
that have occurred to me during our talks; and with those articles
I'd go to the 'Windmill', and from what Zélide says I'm practically
certain they'd take me on permanently.  But what am I to do,
without a penny in my pocket?  That's what my people can't be got
to see.  You must have found, haven't you, that there are places
where a man can work, and places where he can't, though nobody but
an artist can understand, and other people imagine you can say to a
writer:  'Well, how is it you haven't turned out your thousand
words this morning?' as they'd say to a child in the nursery:
'Now, then, down with that cod-liver oil, or I'll know why'."

The appeal reminded Vance of his own ineffectual efforts, the hours
of agonizing inability to express what was in him, and the
intervals when even the craving for expression failed because there
was only emptiness within.  Remembering his good fortune, the
difficulties surmounted, the distinction achieved, the tenderness
and understanding that had silently fostered his talent, he felt
ashamed of the contrast between his fate and Churley's.

"Oh, see here; things may not be as bad as you think; we'll see
what can be done . . ." he began, laying his hand on the other's
shoulder; and at the terrible light in Churley's eyes Vance
understood that he was already pledged to help the flight to
London.

He had been rather afraid of Halo's disapproval when she learned
what he had done.  His earnings from "The Puritan in Spain" had not
been large, for the book had been more fashionable than popular;
and Halo's means were cramped by the necessity of helping her
parents.  Mr. and Mrs. Spear had always been a costly luxury, and
Vance suspected that Lorry had taken advantage of his sister's
being in Paris to extract from her a share of the spoils.  But Halo
was full of sympathy for poor Churley.  "Of course you couldn't do
anything else.  I daresay he's right in saying he can do you better
when he gets you in some sort of perspective."  (This had been
Churley's explanation to Halo, when she had returned to the study
and found the two young men discussing Chris's departure.)  "A
'close-up' must be horribly difficult, unless you're a Boswell; and
I don't believe poor Chris will ever be anybody's Boswell but his
own.  Anyhow, I can see that his only chance is to get into another
atmosphere.  It's just like you, dear, to understand. . ."

The loan, they agreed, could not be less than twenty pounds; with
the trip to London deducted that would barely leave him a carefree
month.  After he had gone Vance said to Halo:  "I wish I'd told him
straight off that I wanted to give him that money.  There are times
when it paralyzes a man to know that the money he's sweating to
earn has got to be passed straight over to somebody else."  He was
thinking of his own early struggles, and of what it would have
meant, at the moment of Laura Lou's illness, to have a friend guess
his distress and help him out.  Churley had already started--he had
caught the first train the morning after his appeal to Vance; but
Vance and Halo decided that as soon as he sent them his London
address Vance should write that he wished the money to be regarded
as a gift.

It was a surprise that the days passed without further news.  After
Chris's jubilant farewells Halo had expected a post-card from
Toulon or Marseilles; but Vance, better acquainted with young men's
ways, pointed out that Chris's chief difficulty seemed to be an
inability to use his pen.  "He'll send his address in time; but he
may not even do that till he's finished the article.  I think he
felt rather uncomfortable at having talked so much about it, and
then not having put a line on paper.  Poor devil--I owe him more
than he does me, for our talks seem to have given me a fresh
start."

And so it proved.  Churley had stirred up many ideas in the course
of their long debates, and Vance's acceleration of energy rushed at
once into the channels of his work.  The weeks passed rapidly
between ardent hours of writing and long loiterings on hill and
shore.  When Vance's brain was in full activity his hours of
idleness acquired a new quality.  It was as though he looked at
everything through the powerful lens of his creative energy, so
that the least detail of the landscape, the faintest fugitive play
of cloud and sun, sufficed to enrich his dream.

With the end of January the southern spring began; clouds of
translucent almond-bloom on rough red terraces, blue patches of
borage in stony fields, the celandine shining in wet leafy hollows,
blackthorn and tamarisk along the lanes; and a few weeks later,
among the hills and above the sea, under the olives and through the
vines, the miraculous snowfall of the daffodils.

Vance and Halo went off daily, staff in hand, prolonging their
wanderings more and more, exploring secret valleys, mounting to
granite mountain-crests or wading and scrambling along miles of red
rock and amber sand, with a peacock sea glittering through the pine-
trunks when they climbed or, when they dropped down to it, lapping
their feet with silver.  Sometimes, when they had planned a long
excursion, Vance was up before sunrise, and got in two or three
hours of writing before they started; and when they came back, at
sunset or under a cool wintry moon, it was good to lie on the
divan, fagged and happy, and dream of tomorrow's work.

The day came when Vance, looking back, understood that at that
moment the Furies had slept, and life given him all it could.  Even
at the time he felt a singular peace and plenitude.  His work was
going well; his heart was quiet, and the sameness of his days
seemed their most exquisite quality.  One evening in particular
when, looking up, he had seen Halo bending over to stir the fire,
her dark head outlined against the flame, he had felt in his breast
a new emotion, clear as that flame, as if out of their loving and
quarrelling, the uneasy blazing and smouldering of their passion,
something winged and immortal had sprung, and brooded over them.

He gave a chuckle of contentment, and Halo's smile questioned him.
"What is it, dear?"

"Oh, I don't know.  Perhaps the peace that passeth understanding. . .
Poor Churley," he added, "I was just thinking of the way he has
of using up things after one look at them.  As if beauty weren't
eternally different every morning."

"Perhaps it is to him, in London," Halo mused; then their talk,
veering from Churley, wandered back to the day's excursion, and to
their plans for the morrow.



Since they had left Paris neither Halo nor Vance had reverted to
the subject of the latter's talk with Lewis Tarrant.  Vance shrank
from touching again on the question of the divorce, and if Halo had
any news to impart she seemed reluctant to communicate it.  The
quiet weeks at Oubli had been a sort of truce of God, a magic
interval of peace which neither ventured to disturb.  But one day,
not long after their happy evening by the fire, Halo, who sat going
over the letters they had found on their return from a long tramp,
uttered an exclamation of surprise.

"What's up?" Vance questioned; and she went over to his desk and
laid before him a cutting from a New York paper.  Vance read:
"Prize-giving Millionairess Announces Marriage to Gratz Blemer.
Mrs. Pulsifer Privately Weds Novelist Who Won Her Ten Thousand
Dollar Best-Novel Prize"; and beneath this headline:  "Society and
literary circles were electrified last night by the announcement
that Mrs. Pulsifer, the wealthy New York fashion-leader and giver
of numerous literary prizes, was privately married two months ago
at Pinehurst, N.C., to Gratz Blemer, the novelist, famous as the
author of 'This Globe', and whose last novel, 'The Rush Hour', was
awarded a few months ago the new Pulsifer Best-Novel prize,
recently founded by the bride.  Mr. and Mrs. Blemer are spending
their honeymoon on the bride's steam-yacht in the Mediterranean."

Halo and Vance looked at each other in silence; then Halo said with
a faint smile:  "That accounts for a great deal."

Vance nodded.  He tried to smile too; but the brief paragraph had
called up a vision of his midnight talk with Tarrant.  He felt as
if the world with its treacheries, shocks and torments had once
again broken into the charmed circle of their lives; and looking up
at Halo he saw the same distress in her eyes.  "Well, we needn't
bother; it's all outside of us, anyhow," he said defiantly; and she
bent over to lay a kiss on his forehead.


XIX


The next day it rained.  Vance, who had given himself a week's
idleness, sat down before "Colossus", and Halo with equal heroism
descended to the verandah to clean the oil lamps.  She was deep in
her task when Mrs. Dorman came up the path, sheltering her
bedraggled straw hat under a dripping umbrella.

It was long since any one from the Pension Britannique had called
at the pink house; Halo concluded that the chaplain's wife had come
to ask for a contribution to the church bazaar, or a subscription
to renew the matting in the porch, and hurriedly calculated what
could be spared from their month's income, already somewhat
depleted by the gift to Chris Churley.

Mrs. Dorman, when she had disposed of her umbrella, and been led
indoors, did not immediately disclose the object of her visit.  She
hoped they were not in for a rainy spring, she said; but she had
warned the new arrivals at Madame Fleuret's that, after the fine
weather they'd had all winter, they must expect a change.  "I saw
dear Madame Fleuret making signs to me to stop," Mrs. Dorman
continued complacently, "but Major Masterman, who was thinking of
hiring a motor-cycle by the month, said he was thankful I'd warned
him, and very likely if the bad weather continued he and Mrs.
Masterman would dash over to the Balearics instead of staying on at
the pension; and they telegraphed to some friends for whom they'd
asked Madame Fleuret to reserve rooms that they'd better go
elsewhere.  So it was really a kindness to tell them, wasn't
it? . . .  But, dear Mrs. Weston, what I've come for is to bring you
a message . . . a private message. . ." Mrs. Dorman continued, her
cheeks filling out and growing pink, as they did when she had
anything painful to impart.  "It's just this: you were kind enough,
some weeks since, to offer to call on Mrs. Churley.  At the time
she couldn't see any one; but she's asked me to say that she'd be
so glad if you'd come up this afternoon . . . at once, if you
could, as the Colonel is rather opposed to her receiving visits,
and she'd like to be sure of his not getting back from his walk
while you're there.  And she begs you, please, not to mention that
I've asked you. . ."

Mrs. Dorman's lowered voice and roseate flush gave her words an
ominous air; and Halo at once thought:  "Chris!"  Her first impulse
was to ask the reason of the summons; but respect for Mrs.
Churley's reserve, whatever it might conceal, made her answer:
"Very well; I'll wash the oil off and come."

As she and Mrs. Dorman climbed the hill, Mrs. Dorman remarked that
the mason had told her the roof of Les Mimosas was certain to fall
in the next time there were heavy rains, and that when she had
notified Colonel Churley he had said those fellows were always
after a job; but thereafter she relapsed into silence, as though
the first glimpse of that barricaded house-front had checked even
her loquacity.

In the vestibule the heavy smell of an unaired house met the two
women.  A crumpled dishcloth trailed on the stairs, and in a corner
stood a broken-handled basket full of rusty garden tools festooned
with cobwebs.  It must have been years since they had been used,
Halo reflected, remembering the untended garden.  Mrs. Dorman, who
had tiptoed up ahead, leaned over and signed to her to follow.  A
door opened, letting out a sickly waft of ether, and Halo found
herself pushed into a darkened room, and heard Mrs. Dorman whisper:
"There she is.  Mind the footstool.  I'll slip down and mount guard
in case he should come back."

Halo paused, trying to make her way among the uncertain shapes of
the furniture; then a shawled figure raised itself from a lounge,
and a woman's voice exclaimed:  "Mrs. Weston, what do you know of
my son?"

Halo's eyes were growing used to the dimness and she saw a small
muffled-up body, and a hollow-cheeked face with tossed white hair
and burning eyes like Chris's.  "She must have been very beautiful--
oh, poor thing!" Halo thought; and the thin plaintive voice went
on:  "Do sit down.  There's a chair there, isn't there?  Please
clear off anything that's on it.  I'm nearly blind--and so unused
to visitors.  And the only thing I can think of is my boy."

"I'm so sorry.  We've been wondering why there's no news of him,"
said Halo, taking the chair.

"Then you've heard nothing either?"  Mrs. Churley, propped up among
her cushions, gazed with a sort of spectral timidity at her
visitor; as though, Halo thought, she were a ghost who feared to
look at the living.

"No; nothing since he left for London."

"For London?" Mrs. Churley echoed, stressing the word.  "Ah, he
told you London too?"

Halo, surprised, said yes; and Mrs. Churley went on:  "My poor
boy . . . it was the only way to get his father to let him go."
She lowered her voice to a whisper.  "He told us he'd been offered
a permanent position on a well-known review--the 'Windmill', I think
they call it--and that the editor wanted him at once, and had sent
him an advance of five pounds.  It was a great opportunity--and of
course his father had to let him go."

"Of course--" Halo murmured.

"And so I said nothing," the mother continued in her distressful
whisper, "though I was sure editors don't often send advances to
beginners; for I suspected that your husband had been generous
enough . . . to . . . you understand. . ."

"Yes . . ."

"And I was so grateful, and so happy at my boy's having a job,
because I hoped--my husband and I hoped--that it would make him
settle down.  You DO think he has talent?"

"I think he's full of talent; we both do.  Though as it happens
we've never actually seen anything he's written. . ."

"Ah--" Mrs. Churley interjected in a stricken murmur, sinking back
against the cushions.

"Only now, I'm sure--with such an opening, and the discipline of an
editorial office. . .  You'll see . . ." Halo went on reassuringly.

"Yes; that's what we thought.  We felt so hopeful; I've never
before seen my husband hopeful."

"Well, you must go on hoping.  You'll hear from Chris as soon as
he's settled."

Mrs. Churley again raised herself on her elbow, her face twisted
with pain by the effort.  "Mrs. Weston," she brought out, "my son
hasn't gone to London."  She paused, watching Halo with startled
dilated eyes.  "I've just heard, from a friend who saw him the
other day, that he's at Nice!"  The words fell into the silence of
the muffled room as if every one rang out the knell of a hope.  "At
Nice, Mrs. Weston--NICE!"

It was an anti-climax, certainly; and Halo, after a first start of
surprise, could not repress a smile.

"But are you sure?  Was your friend sure, I mean?  Did he actually
speak to your son?"

"He didn't speak to him; but he saw him going into a night-club
with a party of dreadfully fast-looking people."  Mrs. Churley
clasped her emaciated hands.  "Mrs. Weston, I'm speaking in the
deepest confidence.  My husband would be very angry if he knew.
He's convinced that Chris is in London, and if he were to find out
that we've been deceived again I dread to think what would happen.
My husband has never understood that people may be unable to resist
temptation--he says: why should they let themselves be tempted?
The artist's nature is incomprehensible to him. . ."  She leaned
forward, and caught Halo's wrist.  "It was from me that my poor boy
inherited that curse.  I used to write poetry--but my husband
thought it unsuitable in an officer's wife. . .  Oh, if you knew
how we'd struggled and fought to keep Chris out of temptation. . .
When my husband was retired we came to Oubli, in the hope that here
our boy would be safe.  He has a real love of literature; he's
always wanted to write.  But something invariably seems to prevent
him . . . the least little thing puts him off.  We hoped he would
choose a steadier profession; but when we saw that was useless we
decided to come here, where there are so few distractions. . ."

"But don't you think that may be the reason?" Halo interposed.
"Young men need distractions--they're part of the artist's
training."

"Part of his training?  Oh, Mrs. Weston!  Forgive my asking: are
those your husband's ideas?"

Halo smiled.  "His idea is that the sooner Chris settles down to
work the better."

"Ah, just so--just so!  You're sure Mr. Weston didn't intend him to
use the money to go to Nice?"

In spite of her pity for the unhappy mother Halo felt a growing
impatience.  "If you wish to know the truth, we did give your son a--
a small sum, but on the understanding that he was going to London
to secure the job he had been promised."

"Oh, my poor Chris--my poor Chris!  And now what is to become of
him?  For years I've been dreading lest he should get money and
escape from us again.  It happened once before."  Mrs. Churley hid
her face in her hands, and broke into stifled sobbing.

Halo knelt down by the lounge.  "Mrs. Churley, please don't be so
distressed.  After all, we must all follow our bent . . . artists
especially. . .  It may be best in the end for Chris to work out
his own salvation. . ."

"Salvation?  Among those dreadful people?  And weak as he is--and
with no health?  When I think it was I who laid on him the curse of
the artist's nature!  Oh, promise me that Mr. Weston will help to
find him, and bring him back before his father knows."

"What is it his father's not to know?" came a tremulous bass voice,
and Colonel Churley stepped into the room, with Mrs. Dorman wailing
in the rear:  "But, dear Colonel Churley, do wait!  I assure you it
may not be as bad as we fear!"

Halo discerned in the Colonel's frowning countenance the same
quiver of distress as in his voice.  "He minds it even more than
she does," she thought, looking from the threatening jut of his
white eyebrows to the troubled blue of his eyes.  "This is an
unexpected honour--my wife is able to see so few people."  The
Colonel bowed stiffly to Halo with a questioning side-glance at
Mrs. Churley, whose eyes were anxiously fixed on him.  "Mrs. Weston
has been so kind.  I wanted to thank her. . ."  Her voice faded
into silence.

"And knowing that visitors are too fatiguing for you, you took
advantage of my absence to do so," the Colonel interposed, lifting
his lean brown forefinger in an attempt at playfulness.

"Oh, Colonel Churley, really . . . there's been no bad news as
yet," Mrs. Dorman protested.

The Colonel turned with a frightened frown; his purplish lips
trembled.  "No bad news?  Has there been any news?  Has Mrs. Weston
brought us news of my son?"

"No, no . . . it was only my idea that dear Mrs. Churley should ask
her if she and Mr. Weston hadn't heard anything," Mrs. Dorman
faltered, her round face red with fright.

The Colonel again bowed.  "Most kind--most thoughtful.  I'm
extremely obliged to all our friends for their interest.  Mrs.
Weston may not know that Chris has gone to London to take up an
editorial position; in the rush of his new duties he has delayed to
write."  He addressed himself to Halo with an apologetic smile.
"My wife is an invalid; I'm afraid the time sometimes hangs heavily
on her, in spite of the kindness you ladies show her--especially so
when her son's away.  She doesn't realize that young men are often
bad correspondents; and knowing that you and Mr. Weston were kind
enough to receive Chris, she fancied you might have heard from
him."

"No," said Halo, "we've heard nothing."

"There, my dear," pursued the Colonel, "you see we've not been less
favoured than others.  The boy will write when he has time."  Mrs.
Churley's weeping had subsided into a little clucking murmur.  The
Colonel turned to Halo.

"I'm sorry you should have come when my wife is more than usually
unequal to receiving company."  He stood looking almost plaintively
at Halo, who thought:

"What he hates most of all is my seeing this untidy neglected
house, and that poor creature in her misery."  She understood, and
wishing Mrs. Churley goodbye turned toward the door.  Colonel
Churley opened it with a shaking hand, and Halo and Mrs. Dorman
went from the room and down the stairs.  Following them as they
descended came the low clucking sound of Mrs. Churley's weeping.


XX


Halo had been so moved by the sight of the ailing woman and the
angry ineffectual old man, left alone in that dismal house to heap
each other with recriminations, that she communicated her emotion
to Vance; and when he proposed going to look for Chris she welcomed
the suggestion.  "The boy haunts me.  To do anything so dishonest
he must be in a bad way; and I feel as if we ought to do what we
can."

"Oh, he never meant to be dishonest.  When he got to Toulon he
probably saw a train starting for Nice, and was tempted by the idea
of a night's fun."

"A night's fun!  But it's a month since he went away, and it was
only a day or two ago that Mrs. Churley's friend saw him."

"Well, it's pretty smart of him to have made the money last as long
as that," Vance rejoined with a laugh; but in reality he too felt a
vague pang at the thought of the irresponsible boy caught in that
sordid whirlpool.

In the train his reflexions grew less emotional.  It was obviously
none of his business to find and reclaim Chris, even supposing the
latter had deliberately deceived them, and used Vance's money to
offer himself a few weeks' amusement; but there was something so
droll in this act of defiance that Vance, in spite of his pity for
the parents, was amused at the idea of being confronted with the
son.

He was also acutely interested in the prospect of seeing for the
first time the pleasure-seeking end of the Riviera.  The contrast
between Oubli-sur-Mer and the succession of white cities reflected
in azure waters emphasized the narrowness and monotony of the life
he had been leading.  Slipping past towering palace hotels, and
villas girt with lawns and pergolas, he recalled the mouldy
blistered fronts of the pink house and the Pension Britannique;
when, at the stations, flower-girls thrust up great sheaves of
freesias and carnations, he saw the handful of wizened anemones
bargained for by Miss Plummet at the market, and brought home to
her invalid sister; and the motors pouring along wide dustless
roads to inviting distances evoked the lurching omnibus crowded
with garlicky peasants which, through clouds of suffocating dust,
carried Oubli-sur-Mer to Toulon or Marseilles.  A few hours earlier
the quiet of Oubli had seemed a spiritual necessity; but already
the new scenes were working their old spell.

These alternations of mood, which he had once ascribed to
instability of aim, no longer troubled him.  He knew now that they
were only the play of the world of images on his creative faculty,
and that his fundamental self remained unchanged under such
shifting impulses.  By the time the train reached Nice he was so
lost in the visionary architecture of his inner world that the
other had become invisible.  He gazed at the big station packed
with gaily dressed people and busy flower-sellers without
remembering that it was there he should have got out; and now the
guard was crying "Monte Carlo", and above the station glittered the
minarets and palms of the Casino.

"Well--why not?" Vance thought.  Chris was as likely to be at Monte
Carlo as at Nice; it was not probable that he would restrict his
pleasure-seeking to one spot.  Vance picked up his suit-case and
jumped out. . .

Past sloping turf, palms imprisoned in bright blue or glaring
magenta cinerarias, borders of hyacinths and banks of glossy
shrubs, he climbed gaily to the polychrome confusion of the Casino.
Stretching up from it to a stern mountain-background were villas
and restaurants, and café-terraces where brightly dressed people
sipped cocktails under orange-and-white umbrellas.  Nearer by were
tall hotels with awninged and flowered balconies; rows of taxis and
private motors between the lawns and flower-beds before the Casino;
young men in tennis flannels and young women in brilliant sports-
suits, and strollers lounging along the balustraded walks.  Among
half-tropical trees a band played a gipsy tune of de Falla's, and
children with lovely flying hair raced ahead of nurses in long blue
veils, who gossiped on the benches or languidly pursued their
charges.

Halo would have called it a super-railway poster.  She always spoke
scornfully of the place, resenting such profanation of the gray
mountain giants above it.  In certain moods Vance might have
agreed; but today the novelty and brightness struck his fancy, and
the trimness of lawns, flowers, houses, satisfied his need of order
and harmony.  Everything wore the fairy glitter of a travelling
circus to a small child in a country town, and the people who
passed him looked as unreal, as privileged and condescending, as
the spangled athletes of his infancy.  He sat down on a bench and
watched them.

The passing faces were not all young or beautiful; the greater
number were elderly, many ugly, some painful or even repulsive; but
almost all wore the same hard glaze of prosperity.  Vance tried to
conjecture what the inner lives of such people could be; he
pictured them ordering rare delicacies in restaurants, buying
costly cigars and jewels in glittering shops, stepping in and out
of deeply-cushioned motors, ogling young women or painted youths,
as sex and inclination prompted.  "Chris's ideal," he murmured.  He
decided to take a look at the gambling-rooms; but it was luncheon-
time, and people were coming out of the Casino, descending the
steps to their motors or the near-by restaurants.  As he stood
there he suddenly caught sight of Lorry Spear; and at the same
instant Lorry recognized him.

"Hullo, Vance--you?  Halo here?  I suppose she's a peg above all
this.  Sent you off on your own, has she?  Very white of her.  Not
staying here, though?  Of course not; nobody does.  I'm over from
Cannes with a party, to lunch on the Gratz Blemers' yacht--the
biggest of her kind, I believe.  You knew Blemer had carried off
Jet Pulsifer under Tarrant's very nose?  Sharp fellow, Blemer . . .
they were secretly married two or three months ago.  That accounts
for Tarrant's turning down the divorce, I suppose," Lorry rattled
on, his handsome uncertain eyes rambling from Vance's face to
search the passing throng.  "I say, though--why not come off to the
yacht with us?  When I say 'us,' I mean Mrs. Glaisher and Imp
Pevensey, with whom I'm staying at Cannes.  Mrs. Glaisher has taken
a villa there, and we're working over the final arrangements for
'Factories'; at least I hope we are," Lorry added with a dubious
grin.  "With the super-rich you never can tell; at the last minute
they're so darned scared of being done.  But if Imp Pevensey can
get Mrs. Blemer to take an interest she's sure that'll excite Mrs.
Glaisher, and make her take the final step.  Almost all their
philanthropy's based on rivalry. . .  Well, so much the better for
us. . .  See here, my boy, come along; they'll jump at the chance
of seeing you. . .  Ah, there's the very young woman I'm on the
look out for!" he exclaimed, darting toward a motor which had
stopped before an hotel facing the Casino.

It was wonderful how Lorry fitted into the scene.  In Montparnasse
he had been keen, restless, careless in dress and manner; here he
wore the same glossy veneer as all the rest.  The very cut of his
hair and his clothes had been adapted to his setting, and as he
slipped through the crowd about the hotel Vance was struck by his
resemblance to the other young men strolling in and out of its
portals.

He had been amused by Lorry's invitation.  He had no intention of
joining Mrs. Glaisher's party, but that Lorry should propose it
after what had passed between them was too characteristic to
surprise him.  Lorry had obviously forgotten the Glaisher episode,
though it had occurred under his own roof; on seeing Vance he had
remembered only that the latter was a good fellow whose passing
celebrity had once been useful to him, and might be again.  As
Vance waited on the curb he thought how jolly it would be to go and
lunch at one of those little terrace-restaurants over the sea that
he had marked down from the train.  After that he would return to
Nice, and devise a way of running down Chris.

"Look here, Vance; you will come?"  Lorry, rejoining him, grasped
his arm with a persuasive hand.  "No?  It's a pity--the yacht's a
wonder.  Not to speak of Blemer and Jet!  As a novelist you
oughtn't to miss them. . .  Well, so long. . .  Oh, by the way;
won't you dine at Cannes tonight instead?  At Mrs. Glaisher's--
Villa Mirifique.  I've just been arranging with that young woman
over there to meet us here on our way back from the yacht.  She's
coming over to spend a day or two with Mrs. Glaisher, and I'm sure
she'd be delighted to drive you to Cannes.  Come along and I'll
introduce you."  Lorry, as he spoke, swept Vance across to the
hotel door, where a young lady who stood with her back to them was
giving an order to her chauffeur.  The motor drove off, and she
turned and faced them.

"Floss," Lorry cried, "here's a friend of mine, a celebrated
novelist, who wants a lift to Mrs. Glaisher's this evening.  Of
course you've heard of Vance Weston--and read 'The Puritan in
Spain'?"

The girl, who had been looking at Lorry, turned interrogatively to
Vance.  Her movements had a cool deliberateness which seemed to
single her out from the empty agitation around her.  She lifted her
dusky eyelids, and for a few seconds she and Vance looked at each
other without speaking; then:  "Why, old Van!" she said, in a warm
voice flattened by the Middle Western drawl.

Vance stood staring.  As through a mist of wine he saw this woman,
become a stranger to his eyes yet so familiar to his blood.  She
was very dark; yes, he remembered; a warm dusky pallor, like the
sound of her voice; glints of red under her skin, and in the gloom
of her hair.  She rarely smiled--he remembered that too--when she
did it was like a fruit opening to the sun.  His veins kept the
feeling of that sultriness. . .

"Hullo!  Old friends, are you?  First-rate!  Monte Carlo's the
place where nobody ever comes any more, yet where you meet
everybody you know.  All right--coming!" Lorry cried, gesticulating
to a group on the other side of the square.  "So long--Villa
Mirifique; bring him along, Floss."

"Oh, I'll bring him," said the girl in her indifferent drawl; and
Lorry vanished.

Vance continued to look at Floss Delaney.  It was not till
afterward that he noticed the quiet elegance of her dress, or
remembered that he had seen her getting out of a private motor and
giving an order to the chauffeur.  He knew that late in life the
shiftless Harrison Delaney of Euphoria had stumbled into wealth as
accidentally, almost, as, years before, he had sunk into poverty.
When Vance had gone home after Laura Lou's death Euphoria was still
ringing with the adventure; Vance remembered the bitterness with
which his father, the shrewd indefatigable little man who had
failed to secure the fortune so often in his grasp, spoke of the
idle Delaney's rise.  "A loafer like that--it's enough to cure a
man of ever wanting to do an honest day's work," Lorin Weston had
growled.  It all came back to Vance afterward; at the moment he was
half-dazed by the encounter with this girl who had been the vehicle
of his sharpest ecstasy and his blackest anguish.  A vehicle; that
was what she'd been; all she'd ever been.  "The archway to the
infinite"--who was it who had called woman that?  It was true of a
boy's first love.  In the days when Floss Delaney had so enraptured
and tortured him she had never had any real identity to his
untaught heart and senses; she had been simply undifferentiated
woman; now for the first time he saw her as an individual, and
perceived her peculiar loveliness.  He gave a little laugh.

"What are you laughing at?" she asked.

"I was thinking I'd nearly shot myself on your account once.
Funny, isn't it?"

"Oh, 'nearly'--that's not much!  If you do it again you must aim
better," she said coolly; but he caught the glitter of pleasure in
her eyes.  "Old Van--only to think of coming across you here!"  She
slipped her hand through his arm, and they walked across the square
and sat down on a bench under overhanging shrubs.  "So you're a
celebrity," she said, her full upper lip lifting in a smile.

"Well, so are you, aren't you?"

"Because father's made all that money?"  She looked at him
doubtfully.  "It's very pleasant," she said, with a defiant tilt of
her chin.

"And what are you going to do with it all?"

"I don't know.  Just go round, I suppose."

"Where's your father?  Is he here with you?"

Yes, she told him; she was travelling with her father; they were
staying at the hotel to which Vance had just seen her driving up.
They had been going around Europe for over a year now: Rome, Paris,
Egypt, St. Moritz--all the places they thought might amuse them.
But her father wasn't easy to amuse.  He was as lazy as ever; he
didn't so much mind travelling, provided they went to places where
he could have a game of cards; but he didn't care to go round with
new people.  She would have preferred to be at Cannes, where most
of her friends were, and everything was ever so much smarter; but
her father had found at Monte Carlo some old cronies whom he had
met the winter before at Luxor, and he liked to be with them, or
else to play baccarat at the Casino.  That day he had gone over to
Nice with some of his crowd; she didn't believe they'd be back till
morning.  He'd be so surprised to see Vance when he got back.
"He's read your books," she added, almost ingratiatingly.

"That means you haven't?"

"Well--I will now."  She glanced about her, and then down at the
little jewelled watch on her wrist.  "I'm on my own today.  Can't
you take me off somewhere to lunch?"

Vance sprang up joyfully.  He felt ravenous for food, and as happy
as a schoolboy on a holiday.  He thought of the terrace-restaurants
he had seen from the train, and wondered if they would be grand
enough for her.  "Let's go somewhere right over the sea," he
suggested, trying to describe the kind of place he meant.  "Not
swell, you know--not a crowd.  Just a little terrace with a few
tables."  Yes, that was exactly what she wanted; away from the
noise, and those awful bands--she knew the very place.  It wasn't
far off; a little way down the road toward Cap Martin; but she was
too hungry to walk.  They took a taxi.

The scene suited her indolent beauty.  She was made for the sunlit
luxury to which she affected such indifference.  At Oubli she would
have been a false note; here she seemed to justify the general
futility by the way it became her.  As he looked at her, the memory
of the Floss Delaney of his boyhood came back to him, struggling
through the ripened and polished exterior of the girl at his side.
After all her face had not changed; it had the same midsummer
afternoon look, as though her penthouse hair were the shade of a
forest, her eyes its secret pools.  A still windless face,
suggesting the note of stock-doves, the hum of summer insects.
Vance had always remembered it so.  She hardly ever smiled; and
when she laughed, her laugh was a faint throat note that did not
affect the repose of her features.  But her body had grown
slenderer yet rounder.  Before it had been slightly heavy, its
movements slow and awkward; now it was as light as a feather.  Halo
had fine lines, but was too thin, the bones in her neck were too
visible; this girl, who must have been about the same age, and had
the same Diana-like curve from shoulder to hip, was more rounded,
and her hands were smaller and plumper than Halo's, though not so
subtle and expressive.

Vance was glad that he could take note of all this, could even
calmly compare Floss Delaney's appearance with that of the woman he
loved; it proved his emotional detachment, and made him feel safe
and at his ease.

They sat under a gay awning, before a red-and-white table-cloth,
and ate Provençal dishes, and drank a fresh native wine.  Floss,
wrinkling her brows against the sun, stole curious glances at him.
"You've changed a lot; you've grown handsome," she said suddenly.

He laughed, and flushed to the roots of his hair; but she went on:
"I heard you were married; are you?"

He wished she had not put the question; yet a moment later he was
glad she had.  It was best that everything should be clear between
them.

"No; I'm not married--yet.  But I expect to be.  To Lorry Spear's
sister."

"Oh," she murmured, with ironic eye-brows.  "She's heard about Halo
and me," he thought; and cursed Mrs. Glaisher.

"Well, I suppose I'll be married too some day," she went on, her
attention wandering back to herself, as it always did after a
moment; and he felt an abrupt shock of jealousy.

"I suppose you've got lots of fellows after you."

"Oh, I don't know.  Anyhow, I'm not going to make up my mind yet; I
like my freedom."  She stressed the word voluptuously, bending her
lips to her glass of pale yellow wine, and as he watched her he
broke out, from some unconscious depth of himself:  "God--how you
made me suffer!"

She looked at him with a sort of amused curiosity.  "You're
thinking of Euphoria?"  He nodded.

"Yes; I was a bad girl, I know--but you were a bad boy; and silly."
Her eyes lingered on him.  "I used to love to kiss you.  Didn't you
love it?  But you didn't understand--"

"What?"

"A girl like me had to look out for herself.  There was nobody to
do it for me.  But let's talk about what we are NOW; what's the use
of going back?  This is ever so much more fun.  Don't you like
being famous?"  She leaned across and laid her brown hand on his.
He looked at the polished red nails, and remembered her blunt dirty
finger-tips, the day he had picked her up in the road after her
bicycle accident.  Even then, he thought, she used to spend every
cent she could get on paint and perfume.  He smiled at himself and
her.


XXI


Over the coffee he proposed their going back to the Casino to
gamble; but she refused.  "Father gambles; that's enough for one
family.  I mean to keep what I've got," she said; and in her
hardening eyes and narrowed lips he detected the reflection of the
lean years at Crampton, and at Dakin, where she had gone (so his
family had told him) as saleswoman in a dry-goods' shop.  Those
days had once been a tormenting mystery; but now he only pitied her
for the background of dark memories overshadowing her brilliant
present.

He had told her he would not go with her to Mrs. Glaisher's, and
had been secretly gratified by her pout of disappointment.  "I
think you might."

"No; I don't like those people.  And anyway, I've got to stop off
at Nice tonight."

Her eyes grew curious.  "I wonder what you've got to do at Nice?"

Half-laughing, he confessed his reason, telling her what he could
of Chris Churley's story without betraying the secret of the boy's
escapade.  "His family are worried; they don't know where he is.
The other day some friend of theirs said he'd seen him at Nice, in
a nightclub; so they asked me if I'd hunt him up."

"Well, that's funny--"

"I know; but they're poor, and sick--at least his mother's sick--
and he's all they've got."

"I don't see how you can find him, rummaging round Nice without an
address."

"Neither do I; but I'll have to try."

She sat with lowered lids, meditating.  "Tell me again what his
name is."

"Chris Churley."

"That's it.  I heard Alders talking about him yesterday."

"Alders?"

"Mrs. Glaisher's secretary.  He always knows about everybody."

"A little man who looks like a freckle?"

"Well--I guess so," she said hesitatingly, as if analogies were
unfamiliar to her.

"Come to think of it, Alders is sure to be Mrs. Glaisher's
secretary.  It's absolutely predestined.  You're certain you heard
him mention Chris Churley?"

She still hesitated, and he recalled that she had never had a good
memory for anything that did not directly concern herself, or hold
out some possible advantage.  "Well, it was something like Churley.
But I hear so many names.  Is he a newspaper man?  There was some
fellow I heard Alders talking about, who wanted to get introduced
to Gratz Blemer, and write about him; Alders was going to fix it
up."  Vance laughed, and she added:  "Do you think that's it?"

"Sounds like it," he said, picturing to himself the bewilderment of
Blemer, who was used to "straight" interviewing, under the cross-
fire of Chris's literary confidences.

They strolled back toward Monte Carlo.  The distance was not great,
and Miss Delaney had declared that she would like to walk; but she
hailed the first taxi.  "I guess I'm through with walking--as long
as there's money enough left to go on wheels," she said; and Vance
thought of her struggling four times a day on her bicycle through
the frozen ruts or the bottomless mud between Euphoria and
Crampton.  He understood why the aspirations of the newly rich were
so often what Halo would have called vulgar.

He was still resolved not to go to Mrs. Glaisher's, but he finally
agreed to join Miss Delaney at her hotel, and motor with her as far
as Nice; and she promised to telephone him if Alders knew where
Chris Churley was to be found.



Vance went to the gambling rooms, risked a small sum, and carried
away enough to pay for his outing.  He was too much engrossed in
the thought of Floss Delaney to lose his head over the game; but
before leaving he made the round of the rooms, and assured himself
that, for the moment, Chris was not in them.

When he came out he remembered that on arriving he had left his
suit-case at the station.  Oh, well, he thought, Floss was sure not
to be on time; he could easily run down the hill and be back before
she was ready to start.  But when he returned to the hotel the hall
porter, after an inspection of the lounge, and a consultation with
the concierge, announced that Miss Delaney had gone.

Vance felt a moment of vexation.  It was only half-past seven.  Had
she left no message?  Not as far as the porter knew.  Vance
repeated the enquiry at the desk.  He thought he detected a faint
smile on the face of the gold-braided functionaries.  How many
times a day must that question be put to them!  "Oh, well--."  He
was relieved to find that after all he didn't much care, though a
twinge of vanity shot through his affected indifference.

On the threshold he was detained by a page-boy with a visiting-
card.  "The concierge thinks perhaps this is for you."

On the back of the card, in an untidily pencilled scrawl, Vance
read:  "Tell him to come after us."  He guessed this cryptic
scribble to be Floss's way of ordering the concierge to send him in
pursuit of her; but, as he had declined to go, the message had no
particular point.  He laughed, and absently turned the card over.
On the back was engraved: Duca di Spartivento.

"Is it meant for you, sir?" the page asked; and Vance, with a
shrug, pocketed the card and went out.

The Duke of Spartivento!  What faint memory-waves did those
sonorous syllables set rippling?  Granada--Alders?  But of course!
This trumpet of a name was that of the young Italian cousin--or
nephew?--of the old Marquesa to whose tertulia Vance had gone with
Alders.  He remembered that the latter, the day he had come to bid
Halo and Vance goodbye, had spoken with his deprecating smirk of
being about to join his Spanish friends for a shooting party in
their cousin's honour, at the Marquesa's castle in Estremadura . . .
it was then that the splendid name had shot before him up like a
rocket.  "Or like a line from the 'Song to David'," he remembered
thinking.

Floss's having written her message on the back of that particular
card seemed part of the fairy-tale enveloping him.  Since his
meeting with her, and their hour in the little restaurant, nothing
that could happen seemed impossible, or even unlikely.  Amusement
conquered his vexation . . . it was all part of the fairy-tale.  In
the darkness already sparkling with lights, he stood wondering
whether he should take the next train to Nice, or treat himself to
a taxi out of his winnings.  He decided on the taxi.

He was about to hail one when he felt another touch on his arm,
and saw at his side a chauffeur in dark livery.  "Are you the
gentleman--?"  Vance stared, and the chauffeur continued in fluent
English:  "Going to Cannes with Miss Delaney, sir?  That's right.
Here's her car.  She's gone on with the others; but she told me to
wait and bring you."  He had his hand on the shining panel of the
motor from which Vance had seen Floss descend that morning; and
Vance obediently got in.  Let the fairy-tale go on as long as it
would. When he got to Nice he'd tell the fellow to drop him at some
quiet hotel. . .

He had no notion which way they were going.  From the train he had
seen the road only in uncertain glimpses, climbing between garden
walls or dropping to the sea; and now darkness made the scene
strange.  They ascended between illuminated houses; then the
streets ceased, and he found himself high up, flashing past dark
wooded heights and looking across a sea of verdure to the other sea
below, its shore thrust forth in black headlands or ravelled into
long sinuous inlets.  The moon had not risen, but the evening star
hung in the sky like a lesser moon, and the early constellations
pushed upward, deepening the night.  But only for a moment; almost
at once they paled and vanished in the spreading of artificial
lights that festooned the coast, crested the headlands, flowed in
golden streamers across bays and harbours, and flashed and revolved
from unseen lighthouses, binding the prone landscape in a net of
fire.

Overhead rose a continuous cliff, wooded and sombre; below a
continuous city sparkled and twisted.  Vance hung over the scene
entranced.  He had no thought of places or distances; as the motor
climbed, descended and rose again, he felt like a bird floating
above the earth, like an errant Perseus swooping down to free this
dark Andromeda from her jewelled chains.  Visions and images
pressed on him.  They mingled with the actual scene, so that what
his eyes saw, and what his fancy made of it, flowed into one
miracle of night and fire.  And now the motor had dropped to the
shore again, and the sea, dim and unbound, swayed away into
blackness.  Vance longed to jump out and dash over the sands into
that moving obscurity; but he felt that the incessant shifting of
the scene was the very source of its magic, and leaned back
satisfied.

Suddenly he was aware that the motor was manoeuvring at a sharp
turn.  They were out in the country again, or in a leafy suburb,
with gate-ways and house-fronts seen through foliage.  "See here--
what about Nice?" he called to the chauffeur.

"Nice?" the latter echoed, busy with his backing; "this is the way
up to Mrs. Glaisher's.  Damned bad corner--"

"Oh, but it's all a mistake.  I meant to get out at Nice.  Can't
you take me back there?"

"Back to Nice?  You never said anything about Nice, sir."  The
chauffeur turned his head reproachfully.  "What time do you suppose
it is?  Nearly half-past nine; and I haven't had no dinner yet.
Have YOU?"  His tone was respectful but aggrieved.  "It's here Miss
Delaney said I was to bring you. . ."  The motor rolled between
illuminated gate-posts and along a drive to a white-pillared
portico.  "This way," said a footman, who seemed to have been
waiting for Vance from the beginning of time; and Vance followed
his suit-case up a broad flight of marble steps.  It was true--he
had forgotten to tell the chauffeur that he wanted to get out at
Nice.

In a hall paved with coloured marbles he saw, redoubled in tall
mirrors, a tired parched-looking self in faded flannel suit and
shabby hat.  Other footmen appeared, eyeing him expectantly yet
uncertainly; had it depended on them, their look implied, he would
never have been included in the party.  Then a familiar falsetto
exclaimed:  "Here he is!  D'you remember Alders?  My dear fellow,
how are you?  Mrs. Glaisher's in the loggia with the others.  Never
mind about not being dressed. . ."  It was the same old Alders,
more brushed-up and sleek in his new evening clothes, but still
timid yet familiar, putting Vance at his ease, gently steering him
in the way he should go.  Vance smilingly submitted.

The loggia was a sort of open-air dining-room.  Arcaded bays of
plate-glass looked out over a dim garden.  In the diffused candle-
glow Vance saw, at a long table, Mrs. Glaisher, Lady Pevensey,
Lorry, and a dozen others: young women with shining shoulder-blades
in soft-coloured dresses, men in evening clothes with bald or
glossily-brushed heads.  He recalled the evening parties to which
the Tarrants used to take him, when he was planning a novel called
"Loot", and absorbed in the faces and fashions of successful
worldlings.  But here the background supplied the element of poetry
for lack of which the theme had ceased to interest him.  The same
trivial, over-dressed and over-fed people acquired a sort of
Titianesque value from the sheer loveliness of their setting;
grouped about the table with its fruit and flowers, framed in the
pink marble shafts of the loggia, above gardens sloping away to the
illuminated curve of the shore, they became as pictorial as their
background, and Vance's first thought was:  "If they only knew
enough not to speak!"

But a plaintive lady in pearls was just declaring:  "What I always
say is:  If you're going to buy a Rolls-Royce, buy TWO . . . it
pays in the end"; and a flushed bald gentleman across the table
affirmed emphatically:  "We've run down a little place AT LAST
where you can really count on the caviar. . ."

Mrs. Glaisher, from the head of the table, shed an untroubled
welcome on Vance.  She too had clearly forgotten that anything had
clouded their previous meeting.  "Mr. Weston!  This is too
delightful."  She held out a fat hand corseted with rings.  "No,
no, of course you mustn't dress. . .  Sit down just as you are--
this is pot-luck with a friend or two. . .  Imp, where's Mr. Weston
to sit?  Floss, darling, can you make room for him?"

He sat down beside her, dizzy and excited.  "I didn't know you when
I first came in," he said.  He had never before seen her in evening
dress.  For a moment she had been merged in the soft glitter of the
other young women; but now they were all shadowy beside her, she
alone seemed like some warm living substance in a swaying dream.
"I never meant to come," he mumbled, half-laughing.  His throat was
dry with excitement; he emptied the glass of champagne beside his
plate.  "It was all your chauffeur's mistake."

"I'm sorry you think it was a mistake," she said, with a little
lift of her chin; and he laughed back:  "Oh, but I didn't say it
was MINE!"

Alders beamed over at them in his oblique and furtive way.  Vance
felt that Alders regarded him as his property, and the idea added
to the humour of the situation.  But in Floss Delaney's nearness
nothing else seemed real or important, and while he ate and drank,
and now and then touched her hand, or drew into his eyes the curve
of her round throat as she tilted back her head, the chatter about
them grew vague as the buzz of insects--as though the other guests
had been great heavy bees gathering to loot the piled-up fruit and
flowers.

Now and then a fragment of talk detached itself; Lorry haranguing
about the future of the ballet, or Lady Pevensey shrilling out:
"Duke, we won't let you carry off Miss Delaney on the Blemers'
yacht unless you'll promise to land her in London next June.  We've
got to show her London, you know."

Vance did not know who the Duke was.  The dark lean young man on
Mrs. Glaisher's right (of whom Vance was just becoming faintly
aware) gave a dry chuckle, and a large pale man opposite said,
rather self-consciously:  "What London wants is to be shown Miss
Delaney."  Vance concluded that this gentleman was the Duke, and
wished he had looked more like one of the family portraits at the
Marquesa's.

Miss Delaney seemed to think a faint laugh a sufficient answer to
these comments.  Her inarticulateness, which used to make her seem
sullen, had acquired an aesthetic grace.  It suited her small
imperial head, the low brow, the heavily-modelled lids and mouth;
and her silence suggested not lack of ease but such self-confidence
that effort was unnecessary.

"It's funny--you're just the way you used to be, yet being so makes
you so different," he said, with small hope of her understanding;
but she replied with a murmur of amusement:  "I don't believe
anybody really changes."

"You might have waited for me this evening."

"You said nothing would induce you to come."

He laughed:  "I guess you had me abducted, didn't you?" and she
rejoined serenely:  "No; I knew I didn't have to."

"Oh, look--" he exclaimed, laying his hand on her warm brown arm.

Slowly the full moon was lifting her silver round above the trees.
With her rising a subtle alteration transformed the landscape.  The
lights along the shore waned and grew blurred, and the indistinct
foreground of the garden began to detach itself in sculptural
masses: wide-branching trees built up like heavy marble candelabra,
alabaster turf edged with silver balustrades, a jewelled setting of
precious metals that framed the moving silver of the sea.

The talk about the table was struck silent as Mrs. Glaisher's
guests stared at the miracle; but presently some one broke out:
"By Jove, but tonight's the Fête of the Fireworks at the Casino;
who's going down to see it?"

There was stir among the company, like the replete diner's uneasy
effort not to miss the culminating dish; then Lorry Spear broke in
with a laugh:  "Going down to the Casino to see fireworks?  I
should have thought this terrace was the best proscenium we could
find."

The others joined in the laugh, and the diners, when wraps had been
brought, wandered out onto the terrace.  The night was mild and
windless; the younger women, rejecting the suggestion of fur
cloaks, stood about in luminous groups of mother-of-pearl.  Vance
had followed Floss Delaney, but two or three other men joined her,
and he drew back, content to watch her as she leaned on the
balustrade of the terrace, a gauze scarf silvering her shoulders,
her arms shining through it like pale amber.  The beauty of the
night purged his mind of the troubled thoughts his meeting with her
had stirred, and he felt her presence only as part of the general
harmony.

A long "Oh-h" broke from the watchers.  Far below the villa sea and
horizon became suddenly incandescent; then a dawn-like radiance
effaced the fires, and when that vanished every corner of the night
was arched with streamers and rainbows of flashing colour.  Through
them, as they shot up and crossed each other in celestial
trellisings, the moon looked down in wonder.  Now she seemed a
silver fish caught in a golden net, now a great orange on a tree
full of blossoms, or a bird of Paradise in a cage of sapphires and
rubies--yet so aloof, so serenely remote, that she seemed to smile
down goddess-like at the tangle of earthly lights, as though she
were saying:  "Are those multi-coloured sparks really what the
people on that little planet think the stars are like?  Funny earth-
children, amusing themselves down there with a toy-sky while up
here we gods of the night are fulfilling our round unnoticed."  Yet
while she mused, he saw that she too changed colour with the change
of lights, turning now blush-red, now gold, now pearl, like a
goddess who reddens and pales because Actaeon has looked at her. . .
Somehow that wondering moon, going her cool way alone, yet blushing
and faltering in the tangle of earth-lights, suddenly reminded him
of Halo.

"It's getting as cold as Greenland out here," one of the women
exclaimed.  "What's the matter with indoors and bridge?"

The guests trailed back, chattering and laughing, and through the
windows Vance saw the footmen opening the card-tables and laying
out the cards.  He was about to follow when the thin dark young man
who had sat at Mrs. Glaisher's right strolled up, holding out a
cigar-case in a lean family-portrait-like hand.  "Have one?"
Vance's acceptance called to the other's narrow vertical face a
smile lit up by perfect teeth: one would have supposed that in
taking a cigar Vance had done him a quite exceptional favour.  The
smile persisted.  "You make a good deal of money out of your books,
I presume?" the young man continued, speaking English with a
foreign accent to which a marked nasal twang was oddly super-added.
The question jolted Vance out of his dream, and before he could
answer the other continued earnestly:  "Pardon ME if I ask.  Of
course I know of your celebrity; your sales must be colossal--not?
But very often you successful brilliant artists don't know how to
invest your earnings.  If that is your case I should be most happy
to offer you expert advice.  There are a number of opportunities on
the market today for any one who's got the nerve to get in on the
ground floor. . ."

"Duke--Duke!  We're waiting for you to make up Mrs. Glaisher's
table," Imp Pevensey's voice shrilled out across the terrace.

"Oh, hell--" remarked the dark young man, in an untroubled voice;
adding, as he drew a card from his pocket:  "If you require advice
I guess we can fix you up as good as anybody.  What my firm is
after is to cater to the élite, social and artistic.  So long!"  He
pressed the card in Vance's hand, and the latter read on it,
wondering:


                     DUCA DI SPARTIVENTO

                            With
                    ROSENZWEIG AND BLEMP

               Members New York Stock Exchange
                     New York and Paris


XXII


When Vance came down the next morning none of Mrs. Glaisher's other
guests were visible.  Even Alders, no doubt engrossed in
secretarial business, did not show himself; but the night before,
when Vance had questioned him about Chris Churley, he had said
instantly:  "Ah, you know Chris?  So much the better.  I was going
to ask if you wouldn't give him an interview--for an article in the
'Windmill', you know."

Vance laughed.  "Yes, I do know; and I gave him the interview a
good many weeks ago."

Alders wrinkled his brows deprecatingly.  "Ah--there it is!  No
results, I suppose?  A genius--certainly a touch of genius, eh?
But can't be pinned down.  He begged me to get him a chance to see
Gratz Blemer, and though Blemer's shy of publicity at present (or
SHE is, rather) I did persuade them that 'The Rush Hour' ought to
be written about in the 'Windmill', and Chris spent an afternoon on
the yacht--enjoying it immensely, by the way; but as for the
article, nothing came of it.  Blemer keeps on asking me when he's
to see the copy; and what can I answer, when I can't even get hold
of Churley?"

"Ah--you can't get hold of him?"

"Vanished--like an absconding cashier.  Some fellow saw him playing
in the baccarat room at Monte Carlo; but I've looked in two or
three times without finding him.  And of course I don't know his
address.  I daresay, though, he'll bob up when he hears you're
here."

Vance had good reasons for not thinking so; but there seemed
nothing to do but to prosecute his search at Monte Carlo, since it
was there that Chris had last been seen.  A confidential enquiry at
the police-station might possibly give some result; but in a big
city like Nice the boy would be harder to trace.

Vance was still dizzy with the translation from Oubli-sur-Mer to
the Villa Mirifique.  Floss Delaney, unreal as the setting in which
he had found her, seemed the crowning improbability of the
adventure.  But the villa, at any rate, was substantial.  The
morning sun, robbing it of its magic, merely turned it into an
expensive-looking house from which splendour and poetry had fled.
As he paced the terrace above the over-ornamented gardens Vance
asked himself if he should have the same disillusionment when he
saw Miss Delaney again.  On the very spot where he now paused to
light his cigarette he had stood beside her the night before while
the moon turned her bare arms to amber.  He had promised to meet
her, with the rest of the party, that evening at Monte Carlo; they
were to dine, he didn't remember where, with the fat pale man he
had taken for the Duke of Spartivento, and who turned out to be
somebody infinitely more important, an oil or railway king, Alders
explained.

Vance had had only a short exchange of words with Alders when the
party broke up, for the secretary had to hurry away to arrange for
the morrow.  Alders had undergone a curious transformation.  In
spite of all that the best tailoring could do he was as mothlike
and furtive as ever; but under his apologetic manner Vance felt a
new assurance, perhaps founded on financial security.  Alders's
literary earnings, he explained to Vance (who wondered by what they
were produced), had become too precarious; in these uncertain times
his publishers would give him no promise regarding the big book
he had long been planning (Vance would remember?) on Ignatius
Loyola . . . no, on El Greco; and his own small income having
unfortunately diminished, he had accepted the post of secretary to
Mrs. Glaisher rather than become a burden on his friends.  He added
that his wide range of acquaintances enabled him to be of some
service to his employer, who, like the illustrious women of the
Renaissance ("there's something of the Sforzas about her, I always
think,") wanted to know every one eminent in rank or talent, and had
shown herself very appreciative of his guidance.  "Of course,"
Alders explained, in the same tone of timid fastidiousness in which
Vance had heard him dilate on the Valencian primitives, or the
capitals of Santo Domingo de Silos--"of course it's easy, even for
women of Mrs. Glaisher's discernment, to be taken in by the flashy
adventurers who are always trying to force their way into rich
people's houses; and I do my best to protect her.  As you see, the
set she has about her would be distinguished anywhere. . .  Sir
Felix Oster (the stout pale man on her left at dinner; a Napoleonic
head, I often say)--Sir Felix very seldom troubles himself to go to
other people's houses.  We're all dining with him tonight, at the
new restaurant up at La Turbie; and as for my old friend, the Duke
of Spartivento--he was tremendously excited at meeting you, my dear
Weston--told me he'd heard all about your books; well, in the Duke's
case," Alders summed up with his faint sketch of a smile, "I begin
to think that in introducing him here I may have done him an even
bigger service than I have his hostess."  Alders laid his hands
together with the devotional gesture Vance had seen him make in
the presence of works of art.  "An Italian Duke and a grandee of
Spain . . . all I can say is, the prize is worthy of the effort."

At Alders's words a pang shot through Vance.  What was the prize,
and whose was to be the effort?  Instantly he imagined that he had
seen Alders's Duke watching Floss Delaney between his narrowed
lids.  And what was it that Lady Pevensey had said about the Duke's
carrying Floss off for a cruise with the Gratz Blemers?  A wave of
jealousy buzzed in Vance's ears.  Jealousy could outlive love,
then, cling to it like a beast of prey to a carcase for which it no
longer hungered?  He had never loved Floss, in the sense in which
he now understood loving; and he imagined that his fugitive passion
had long since turned to loathing.  Yet that night, while he tossed
between the scented sheets of Mrs. Glaisher's guest-room, he could
not shake off the torment.  Floss Delaney--she was less than
nothing to him!  But the idea that other men coveted her made his
flesh burn though his heart was cold. . .  Why subject himself to
further misery?  What had he and she to do with each other?  If he
had not pledged himself to find Chris Churley he would have jumped
into the first train for Oubli.  Instead, when he had taken leave
of Floss he had agreed to dine the next night with Alders's railway
king in order to have another chance of meeting her.  In the
morning light, after coffee, and a stroll on Mrs. Glaisher's
terrace, the situation seemed less lurid.  He decided that if he
spent the day hunting for Chris he had the right to an amusing
evening, and that there was no reason why Floss's presence should
prevent his taking it.  She was only one pretty woman among the
many at Mrs. Glaisher's; it was long since he had been among the
flower-maidens, and now that the chance had come why should he fly
from them?

He took the first train to Nice and went to the Préfecture de
Police.  Chris's name was unknown there, but Vance's description
was noted down, and the sergeant said that they might have some
information the next day.  Vance continued his journey to Monte
Carlo, where he made the same enquiries; then he decided that, the
lunch hour being at hand, his best chance of finding Chris was to
look for him in the fashionable restaurants.  If he had carried
away any winnings he was pretty sure to be spending them where
caviar and new asparagus were to be had; if not, to be enjoying
these delicacies at the expense of others.  Vance went first to the
restaurant which Floss had pointed out as the most sought after.

It was so full that the guests, overflowing onto the terrace, sat
wedged under bright awnings and umbrellas; but Vance scanned the
crowd in vain for a dark face with a mop of orange-coloured hair.
He was about to seek out a more modest ordinary for himself when an
elderly gentleman in smartly-cut homespun and a carefully assorted
tie began to wave the carte du jour in his direction.

This gentleman, before whom head-waiter and sommelier were
obsequiously drawn up, had a sallow complexion, weak handsome
features and tremulous lids above eyes of the same gray as his
thinnish hair and moustache.  He might have been a long-since-
retired American diplomatist, or the gentlemanly man in a bank who
explains to flustered ladies why they mustn't draw a cheque when
there's nothing to draw against.  He looked either part to
perfection, and Vance was wavering between the two when he heard
himself hailed in a slow southern drawl.  "Why, for the Lord's
sake, if it isn't young Weston!  Come right over here, my son, and
let's open a bottle of wine to celebrate our escape from Crampton!"

It was Harrison Delaney, looking up at him with the same slow
ironic twinkle that was like the reflection of his voice.  Vance
saw him lounging in the dreary room of the little house at
Crampton, between his whisky-bottle, his dog-eared copy of Pope,
and the ledger which lack of use had kept immaculate.  As a real-
estate agent Delaney had been Euphoria's most famous failure.
Lorin Weston used to say that if there hadn't been any other way
for him to lose his money he'd have dug a hole in the ground and
buried it--that is, if he'd ever had the guts to dig.  By the time
Vance was meeting Floss down the lane her father had long since
abandoned the struggle, and Euphoria remembered him only when there
was a distinguished stranger to be received or an oration to be
delivered.  Then, shaved, pomaded and tall-hatted for the occasion,
Delaney was drawn from his obscurity by a community dimly conscious
that, freely as it applied the title, he was in reality its only
gentleman.  After all, a man who quoted Pope and Horace the way
Lorin Weston quoted prices on the Stock Exchange did give his home
town a sort of proprietary satisfaction; and when a fortune
suddenly fell into Delaney's lap the people who were not envious of
him said:  "Well, he'll know how to spend it anyhow."

Apparently he did; at any rate in a way to impress some of the most
eminent head-waiters in Europe.  In the act of discussing the
relative merits of oeufs aux truffes blanches and demoiselles de
Caen he paused and waved Vance to the seat facing him.  "Here,
waiter--where's that wine card?  You choose for yourself, young
fellow.  My palate's too burnt out by whisky to be much good in
selecting Bordeaux or Burgundies.  But champagne, now--what, no
champagne?  Well, this fellow here recommends a white Musigny--
what'd you say the year was, waiter?"

These details being settled in a leisurely and emphatic style, Mr.
Delaney leaned back and scrutinized Vance thoughtfully over his
cocktail.  The impression Vance received was of a man who had
merely transposed the terms of his inactivity.  He had leaned back
in just the same way in his rocking-chair at Crampton, or among his
cronies at the Elkington House or Mandel's grocery, the thumb of
one long distinguished-looking hand thrust into the armhole of his
waistcoat, and a cigar meditatively twirled in the other.  The only
difference was that the hands were now carefully manicured, that
the waistcoat was cut by a master, the cigar heavily belted with
gold.  Mr. Delaney looked out on the world with the same ironic and
disenchanted eye.  He told Vance he was having a good time, but not
as good a time as he'd expected.  Now that they had plenty of money
Floss would insist on dragging him around from one country to
another, though he guessed she found all the places they'd been to
were pretty much the same when you got there; he was sure he did.
He guessed nowadays you could see all there was to see in the world
if you just took a season ticket at the nearest movie-show.  The
only difference he could make out between all the places he'd seen
was the way the barman mixed the cocktails--and the way some of 'em
did it made you think they'd never tasted anything stronger than
their mother's milk.

Florence (Mr. Delaney continued) seemed to think you ought to go
round and see the real places.  When she got to them he didn't
believe she got much of a kick out of it; not unless there were a
lot of fellows for her to dance with; but after the bad time she'd
had when she was growing up he felt he owed it to her to let her
have her way.  As for him, when their tour was over he was going
home to buy back one of the old Delaney farms near Richmond, and
settle down there.  The kind of life he wanted to lead was just
what his father and grandfather had led before him: breed a few
trotting-horses, and have a little shooting behind a couple of good
dogs.  He guessed that was as far as he'd ever got in the way of
ambition. . .

Vance listened curiously.  This man, who had been so familiar a
part of his early memories, now detached himself as an alien being,
never really identified with Euphoria, and nursing an indolent
contempt for place and people even when these most righteously
looked down on him.  "Funny--I never could get any kick out of all
that moral urge," he said with a reminiscent smile.

Vance laughed, and Delaney, his tongue loosened by the Burgundy he
affected not to appreciate, went on more confidentially:  "Fact is,
I see now that I enjoy money as much as any of your model citizens;
the only difference is that I never thought it worth sweating for.
Floss, now--well, she wouldn't agree.  She says money's her god,
and I guess it is. . .  She says it's the only thing that'll get
her what she wants; and what she wants is the earth, or pretty
near.  Anything that stands out, that sticks up so that you can see
it from way off--brains or titles or celebrity.  I guess there's
nothing on God's earth as undemocratic as a good-looking American
girl."  Mr. Delaney paused to go through the agreeable operation of
cutting and lighting a fresh Corona.  "Sometimes I feel like saying
to all these grandees she's got round her:  You think she's all
impulse, do you?  Got to get things the very minute she wants 'em?
Well . . . you wait and see her stow away those impulses if they
interfere with any of her plans.  Sometimes, you know, Weston, I
think the inside of my daughter is a combination of a ticker and a
refrigerator.  Of course I don't say this for her old friends . . .
but when I see these Counts and Marquises getting worked up about
her, well, I have to lean back and laugh."

He did lean back and laugh, fixing his watery eyes on Vance.
Floss, it appeared, the very day he'd made his unexpected turn-
over, had taken command of it--and of him.  Why, Vance wouldn't
believe it maybe, but she'd invested and re-invested that money so
that the capital had already doubled.  And when she brought him the
result of the first year's earnings she made him buy an annuity for
himself, and draw up a deed turning over all the rest to her.
Well, perhaps he'd been a little rash . . . but, as Vance knew, a
quiet life was all he'd ever asked for.  And Floss was a good
daughter--a devoted daughter--if only you let her have her way.
She'd try to break him of his bad habits--whisky and poker--and
when she found she couldn't she just read the riot act, and before
he knew it he'd signed the papers, and now they were on the best of
terms, and she was glad enough to have him around with her.  "Says
it looks better--besides, you know, damn it, the child's fond of
me," Mr. Delaney concluded emotionally.

Vance listened under a painful fascination.  He could not reconcile
Mr. Delaney's picture--or, rather, perhaps, he did not want to--
with the capricious girl, cynical yet passionate, who had set him
aflame in a past already so remote.  But he reflected that
Delaney's was probably a one-sided version.  Floss, aware of her
father's failings, had naturally wanted to put their suddenly
acquired wealth out of his reach, and Delaney, for all his affected
indifference, doubtless resented her domination.  But Vance could
not talk of her with her father.  Too many memories stirred in him;
and when he had finished his coffee he got up and took his leave.
His host seemed surprised and disappointed.  "Off already?  Why,
what's your hurry?" he said plaintively.  "I never know how to get
through these blamed everlasting days.  Nothing doing in the
baccarat rooms before five."  But happily two middle-aged gentlemen
with expensive clothes and red innocent-looking faces came up and
hailed him, and Mr. Delaney, explaining that they were two fellows
from Buffalo that he'd made friends with in Egypt, moved on with
them contentedly to the nearest bar.



Vance had promised Floss to be at her hotel at eight.  She had told
him she would stop there to pick him up on her way from Cannes to
Sir Felix Oster's dinner at La Turbie.  "Unless," she mocked,
"you'd rather go with Mrs. Glaisher?"

"Well, I would, unless you'll promise to have nobody else with
you."  As he spoke, the blood rushed to his temples, and he
thought:  "You fool--what did you say that for?"  But she returned,
in her cool unsmiling way:  "Come and see," and at the challenge
his blood hummed.  After all, if she didn't turn up, or if she had
some of the other men with her, he would just turn on his heel and
go off and dine by himself.  This decision made him feel
extraordinarily resolute and self-confident.

His self-confidence waned during the unavailing search for Chris.
He had decided, in any case, to return to Oubli the next morning,
leaving the quest to the police; and to fortify his resolve had
telegraphed the hour of his arrival to Halo.  But meanwhile the
sense of depending on Floss Delaney's whim made the time weigh on
him as heavily as it did on her father, and long before eight he
was in the lounge of her hotel.

The hour came and passed; but twenty minutes later her motor drove
up, and Vance saw that she was alone.  He was astonished at his own
excitement as he plunged down the steps to meet her.  He saw her
lean forward to wave to him, the porter opened the door, he was at
her side, and they were driving away.  "It won't last ten minutes,"
the pulses in his temples kept dinning into his brain.  He had
found out where La Turbie was, had looked up at the new restaurant
from the Casino square.  On its towering cliff it glittered close
above them like a giant light-house--a few turns of the wheels, and
the motor would be there.  And the next morning he would be on his
way back to Oubli--what a trifle to have made all this fuss about!

"Well--am I a good girl?" his companion said, touching his arm as
the motor began to work its way through the crowd about the Casino.

"When you asked me to go with you I didn't know the place we're
going to was just up that hill," he growled.  "We'll be there
before we can turn round."

"Well, I can't help that, can I?"

"If there'd been a longer way to go you'd have taken one of the
other fellows. . .  Why didn't you wait last night, and drive me to
Mrs. Glaisher's, as you said you would?"

"Why, I wanted to--honest I did.  But Spartivento said I'd promised
to try out his new Bugatti racer with him."

"Promising don't cost you much--never did.  You'd promised me."

"I'll promise now to go off with you tomorrow for the whole
afternoon--just you and me: we'll go wherever you like.  Will that
satisfy you?"

He laughed impatiently.  "It won't make any difference one way or
the other.  I've got to go home tomorrow morning."

"Oh,--HOME," she mimicked, with an undefinable accent in which
irony seemed blent with a just perceptible resentment.

"Yes; home," he repeated with insistence.

She gave a low laugh.  "Why, Van, your voice sounds just the way it
did the days I was late, when we used to meet down by the river.
But I guess you're so celebrated now you don't remember."

"So celebrated--!"  He felt a lump in his throat.  She ought not to
have reminded him of those meetings--she ought not to. . .

"Well, you are celebrated, aren't you?  Everybody's talking about
you.  I don't know why you should remember me; but I want you to."
She leaned nearer, her hand on his.  "Van, don't be cross.  I was
the first, wasn't I?  Say you remember."

"I remember well enough the day I saw you down there with--somebody
else," he said in a choking voice.

"Oh, Van--"  She swung suddenly round on him.  "All I remember is
the days I was there with you.  Those first days . . . how hot it
was that summer . . . and there was a weed or grass that smelt so
good. . .  Van, say you remember!"  Her bare arms were about him,
her lips on his.  The old glory flooded him, and everything was
full of bells chiming, and stars dancing through wind-swayed trees.
"Tomorrow," she said against his lips.


XXIII


The illuminated room, the many faces, whirled about Vance.  Ahead
of him Floss Delaney's brown shoulders flashed like the dryad's in
the Fontainebleau woods; he heard familiar voices, saw Mrs.
Glaisher armoured in diamonds, Lady Pevensey's dry sparkle ("She
looks like a cocktail," the novelist in him noted), and the dull
enigma of Sir Felix Oster's full-moon countenance.

"We thought you two were lost," Mrs. Glaisher simpered; and Alders,
fluttering up, whispered:  "He's here, you know . . . such luck!  I
do hope you'll persuade him to do that Blemer article before they
leave. . ."

And there was Chris.

Clearly he had not expected to meet Vance.  He turned pale under
his sallowness, then flushed to the roots of his orange-tawny hair.
But his disturbance was only skin-deep; his eye remained cool, his
smile undaunted.  This was a new Chris, the man-of-the-world twin
of the unhappy changeling of Oubli: evening clothes, sleeked hair,
the lustre of his linen, transformed him into the ornamental
frequenter of fashionable entertainments.  "We always try to secure
an author or two: Mr. Churley's one of the new literary critics,
isn't he--on the 'Owl', or the 'Windmill', or something?" Lady
Pevensey threw off, catching Vance's signal to Chris.

"Well--so you're here?" said Vance, laughing; and the other
responded glibly:  "Such luck!  When I heard you were coming
tonight I chucked another engagement. . ."  ("Liar!" thought Vance,
more amused than indignant).  "Fact is, you're the very man I want
to get hold of," Chris continued on a tidal rush of assurance.
"You know Blemer, I suppose?  Just as I was starting for London the
'Windmill' wired me that he was at Cannes, and told me to try to
pick up an interview before I left the Riviera.  Lucky job, getting
the wire just as I was shaking the dust of Oubli from my feet," he
grinned complacently.  "But now that I've seen Blemer I--well,
frankly, you might just as well ask a fellow to write an article
about a fountain-pen.  That's all Blemer appears to be: his own
fountain-pen.  Where's the man behind it?  Haven't an idea!  Have
you?  Alders says you know him, and it's a God-send my running
across you, for I was just going to chuck the whole thing and start
for London.  If you'll let me go home with you tonight we might
talk Blemer over, and I could get an inkling of what to say about
him."

Vance was tempted to retort:  "Have you got an inkling from Blemer
of what to say about me?"--but the party was moving toward the lamp-
hung loggia where the tables were set.  "All right--come in
tonight."  He turned to follow his host, and Churley was absorbed
in the group about another table.

Vance was with Lady Pevensey, and a pretty young woman on his right
was soon deluging him with literary raptures.  He had to listen
again to all the old questions: were his novels inspired by things
that had really happened, or did they just "come to him"?  And his
characters--would he mind telling her who the people really were?
Of course she knew novelists always pretended they invented their
characters--but wouldn't he be a darling, and just whisper to her
some of the real names of the people in his books?  And the love-
scenes--she did so long to know how far the novelist had to LIVE
his love-scenes; in "The Puritan in Spain", for instance, there was
that marvellous chapter in Valencia--oh, yes, she knew some people
called it morbid, but she just adored it--where, after being with
the dancer all night, the hero comes out into the street at
daylight, just as the funeral of the woman who'd really loved him
is passing . . .  Had anything as tremendous as that actually
happened in his own life?  Because she'd heard people say that a
novelist couldn't describe such things unless . . .

Across the lights and flowers Vance caught sight of Floss.  She was
at Sir Felix's table with Mrs. Glaisher.  Next to her sat the Duke
of Spartivento; her lids were lowered as he spoke to her.  She wore
a dress of some thin silver tissue, against which her arms and
shoulders looked like sun-warmed marble.  There was a bowl of
silver-white gardenias in the middle of the table, and her
neighbour reached over to it and drew out a cluster which she
fastened on her breast.  At another table Chris, flushed and
handsome, was discoursing to Alders about the art of interviewing.
As Sir Felix's Pommery circulated the spirits of the guests bubbled
up with it, and talk and laughter drowned the pulsations of the
harp and violin in the balcony.  Outside, modelled by the rising
moon, the couchant landscape stretched its Sphinx-like paws upon
the sea.

Vance was seized by the longing to be alone with Floss--chatter
silenced, lights extinguished, only he and she lifted above the
world on a moon-washed height.  But the dinner went on: more
truffles, more champagne, more noise; and when it was over, and the
party trailed out onto the terrace, as they had the night before at
Mrs. Glaisher's, some one exclaimed:  "Oh, but there are no
fireworks tonight, are there?  Don't let's stay out here in the
cold for nothing. . ."

Floss was one of the first to re-enter the illuminated room.
Bridge-tables were being set out where the party had feasted, and
part of the floor had been cleared for dancing.  Two cabaret
professionals were already weaving their arabesques in the centre
of the spectators, and others awaited their turn in the background.
Vance went up to Floss, who stood watching the dancers.

"Don't you hate this?  Aren't you fed up with it?  Why won't you
come away with me now?"

She turned with slightly-lifted brows.  "Why, aren't we all going
away presently?  There's a cabaret down at Monte, something
fearfully exciting, with the new Bali dancers.  You must come
along, of course. . ."

"That's not what I mean.  Come off with me now, up here on the
mountain.  It's heaven out there with the moon--" Sir Felix was
advancing toward them with a dapper gentleman wearing a single eye-
glass.  "Miss Delaney, may I introduce the Marquis d'Apremont?"
"Well, give me one of those gardenias then," Vance persisted
boyishly as she turned with a smile to the newcomer.  She shrugged
her brown shoulders, and he walked away and wandered out alone onto
the terrace.  What was he doing in that rubbishy crowd, and why
didn't he dash down the mountain and take the first train to Oubli?
What a fool he had been to imagine that Floss would leave in the
middle of a party to go out with him alone into the wilderness!
The night air was sharp at that height, and he re-entered the
restaurant, determined to leave as soon as he had had a final word
with Chris.  But Chris was dancing with the pretty woman who was
interested in novelists, and Mrs. Glaisher executing a slow fox-
trot under the accomplished guidance of the Duke of Spartivento.
Vance leaned in the doorway and watched the revolving couples.
Floss was not dancing; she sat in a corner, a group of men about
her; from where Vance stood he noticed that she spoke little,
smiled even more rarely, but sat there, composed, almost
indifferent, while the faces about her shone with curiosity and
admiration.  And he had been fatuous enough to think that she would
exchange that homage for a moonlight ramble with an obscure
scribbler!

When the party began to break up he roused himself to look for
Chris.  "You'll come down to my hotel now?" he suggested; but Chris
gave a deprecating gesture.  "Straight away?  Awfully sorry; but
Mrs. Glaisher's taking us on to the cabaret.  You're not coming?  I
say, that's too bad.  What's your hotel?  Do you mind if I drop in
on you tonight rather latish?  If you're turned in I won't disturb
you--"

"I shan't have turned in; come up, no matter how late it is," Vance
insisted; and the other rejoined with his bright plausibility:
"Thanks a lot!  It'll be the greatest help; somehow or other I've
got to grind out that article. . .  There's Mrs. Glaisher wig-
wagging at us.  Who's driving you down?  Miss Delaney?"

But Vance, plunging out through the swinging doors, strode away
alone.  At the stream of motors flowed by in the moonlight he
recognized Floss Delaney's, and for a mad moment thought she had
seen him and was signing to her chauffeur to stop; but she was only
lifting her little mirror with one hand while with the other she
retouched her lips.  In the shadow he caught the gleam of a shirt-
front, the outline of a man's head; then the motor swept on.

Vance waited in vain for Chris Churley.  He left his door unlocked,
and sat in the darkness smoking and listening; but Chris's was not
among the footsteps passing down the hotel corridor in the small
hours, and toward daylight Vance undressed and fell asleep.

He woke late and gloomily.  The sun, pouring in at his unshuttered
window, roused him to a violent contact with reality.  What had he
hoped and imagined the night before?  A feverish escapade with this
girl who had sent through him the same shock as when he had first
known her?  Only a few hours ago her lips had been on his, her arms
about him, her whole body breathing promises; an hour or two later
she had turned from him with a shrug, without even an allusion to
her own proposal that they should spend the next afternoon
together.  She would never think of that promise again; she had not
even told him where they were to meet, had seen him go without a
word of reminder.  Once she was back at the Villa Mirifique, and
caught up in the old round of pleasure, he would pass out of her
life as he had before.

But while reason argued thus, the thought that his real self was
pursuing was simply:  "Who was the man she drove back with her from
La Turbie?"  At one moment that question was gnawing him, at
another he was saying to himself:  "Well, what of it, and what
business is it of mine?  There's no novelty in finding out again
what she is--I knew it well enough before.  And supposing I'd been
the man she went off with, should I have felt any differently about
her?"  The residue of it all was a sick disgust, a revolt from life
such as he had felt when he had seen her down by the river with his
grandfather.  She seemed to distil a poison such as no other woman
secreted; his veins were so heavy with it that he felt like a man
recovering from a long illness.  "Oh, well, I must get up and get
home," he thought, and dragged himself unwillingly out of bed.

It was not till then that he remembered Chris--Chris, who had not
come the night before, whose address, like a fool, he had forgotten
to take, and who had doubtless given him the slip again.  He
dressed in a cold rage against himself, against the world and
against Chris--and was just turning to leave his room when the
culprit entered.


XXIV


He was not the brilliant Chris of the previous night, but a down-
cast being whose pale face and heavy eyes seemed to reflect Vance's
own distress.  He held out his hand in silence, and Vance asked if
he had breakfasted.

Chris grimaced a refusal.  "But a brandy-and-soda?  Thanks.  Shall
I telephone the order?"

He did so without waiting for the answer; then he threw himself
into the one armchair in the room, lit a cigarette, and looked
absently about him, as though hardly conscious of Vance's presence.
"Not a bad place you've got here."  He puffed at his cigarette, and
added suddenly:  "Funny chap, that Duke of Spartivento.  Who do you
suppose he's out to marry?"

"I don't know--nor much care," Vance replied, with a quick twinge
of apprehension.

"Well--Mrs. Glaisher!  Didn't you see him dancing with her last
night?  I suppose he noticed I was rather chummy with Alders, and
might be likely to know something about the lady's affairs; so he
got me off into a corner to ask about her investments--of course on
the pretext that he represents a stock-broking firm.  Up-to-date
fellow, the Duke.  Naturally I told him I knew all about it; you
ought to have seen his eyes as I piled up the millions!  I wouldn't
have missed it for a good deal."  Chris's own eyes brightened with
the appearance of the brandy-and-soda, and he reached out to pour
himself a stiff draught.

Vance watched him impatiently.  At the moment the boy inspired him
only with contempt.  "Well, suppose we get down to business now,"
he suggested, as Chris leaned back in silent enjoyment of his
drink.

The word seemed to strike a tender nerve.  The blood flooded up
under Chris's sallow skin, as it had the night before when he
caught sight of Vance.  "Business--?"

"Didn't you tell me you wanted me to help you with your article on
Blemer?"

"Oh--THAT?"  Vance caught his look of relief.  "Why, yes, of
course . . . Blemer. . ."  With pleasurable deliberation Chris
helped himself to another brandy-and-soda.  "I haven't written the
first line of that article on Blemer."

"No?"

"Nor of the article on you--"

"No?"

"No--no--no!  Damn it, Weston, I suppose you knew from the
beginning that I never would."  Chris jumped up and began to move
uneasily about the room.  He halted before Vance.  "And it was all
a yarn, you know, what I told you last night about the 'Windmill'
having wired me to come here and interview Blemer.  The purest kind
of a lie.  Much the 'Windmill' cares!  They washed their hands of
me long ago.  I daresay you guessed that too.  You knew I'd taken
the money you lent me to go to London with, and come here to blow
it in--didn't you?"

Vance was silent, and Chris rushed on with twitching lips:  "I
daresay you heard of my being here from Alders or somebody, and
came to look me up and see how I'd invested your loan, eh?"  He
gave a laugh.  "Well, the last penny of it went up the spout last
night."

"It wasn't a loan," said Vance.

Chris broke off with a stare.  "It wasn't--?"

"I hate loans--to myself or others.  The day after you told me you
wanted to go to London I looked you up to tell you so.  You'd
already gone, and I didn't know where to write; but the money was a
present, so there's an end of it.  It's your own look-out how you
spent it; you don't even owe me an explanation."

Chris received this in silence.  He had grown very pale, and his
lower lip trembled.  "I say, Weston--."  He turned away and
throwing himself down sideways in the armchair buried his face in
his crossed arms.  "Oh, God, oh, God!"  It was such an explosion of
misery as had burst from him when he had confessed to Vance his
desperate desire to get away from Oubli.  Vance's contempt gave way
to pity; but he hardly knew how to put it into words without
touching on a live nerve.  Chris looked up again.  "Well, I don't
suppose you're much surprised, are you?  I daresay you knew from
the first that I wasn't serious about the 'Windmill'."

"No; I didn't.  And I still believe you meant to go to London."

"You do?"  The mockery in Chris's eyes vanished in a look of boyish
compunction.  "Well, you're right; I did.  But just as I was
getting my ticket there was a fellow next to me taking his for
Nice.  And the sun was shining . . . and I hate fog and cold . . .
they shrivel me up . . .  Oh, Weston, what am I to do?  I can't
write--I CAN'T.  I can only dream of it.  I knew I'd never earn
enough in London to pay back your twenty pounds, and that with any
kind of luck I might give myself a month's holiday here and settle
my debt besides.  So I came . . . and I did make money enough, or
nearly; only like a fool I blew in part of it the day before
yesterday.  And last night I went back to try and recoup, and come
to you with the cash in my pocket; and I struck my first run of bad
luck, and got cleaned out."  He gave another of his shrill laughs,
stood up and limped across to the mirror over the mantel.  "Pretty
sight I am. . .  I look like an old print of 'The Gamester'.  By
God, I wish I was an old print--I might sell myself for a pound or
two!"  He turned toward Vance.  "The fact is, I was meant to be a
moment's ornament, and you all insist on my being a permanent
institution," he said with a whimsical grin.

"Well, you've ornamented several moments by this time," said Vance.
"The best thing you can do now is to pack up and come back with
me."

"Back--to Oubli?"

"Of course.  All that rot about not writing--why, nobody can write
who doesn't set his teeth and dig himself in.  Your mistake was
ever imagining it was fun.  Come along; you'll write fast enough
when you have to."

Chris stood twirling a cigarette between his fingers.  His hands
shook like an old man's.  "I say, Weston--you've been awfully
decent.  And I wonder if you won't understand--if you won't help me
out this once. . .  Not a big loan; just a few pounds.  It'll be
the last time . . . After that I'll go back."

"You'll come back now.  Your mother's out of her senses worrying
about you; it's not fair to keep her in suspense."

Chris dropped down into the chair again, limp and expressionless as
a marionette with broken wires.  "Look here," Vance began--but the
other interrupted him.  He knew all that Vance was going to say, he
declared; hadn't he said it to himself a thousand times?  But he
was sick of pretending that he ought to buckle down to work, that
he oughtn't to borrow money, that he ought to be kind to his
parents, and not worry them out of their senses.  What was the good
of it all, when he didn't happen to be made that way?  Talk of
ineffectual angels--there were ineffectual devils too, and he was
one of them.  Didn't Vance suppose he knew what he was made for--to
talk well, and make people laugh, and get asked out where there was
jazz and fun and cards?  Some millionaire's hanger-on--that was
what he was meant to be; and yet he wasn't either, because he
couldn't stand being ordered about, or pretend to be amused by
stupid people, or dazzled by vulgar asses, or any of the things you
were expected to do in return for your keep.  In his heart of
hearts he'd rather slave in an editor's office than nigger for rich
morons as poor Alders did--an educated fellow, not half stupid, but
who didn't know how else to earn his living.  For his part, he'd
rather give himself a hypo and be done with it. . .

"You might try slaving in an editor's office before you plump for
the hypo," Vance answered.  His compassion was cooling off.  The
perpetual spring of energy bubbling up in him made such weakness
and self-pity almost incomprehensible.  He could understand the
rich morons getting themselves privately electrocuted, he said;
after a day or two in their company he always wondered why they
didn't.  But to a man like Chris, with eyes and a brain, the mere
everyday spectacle of life ought to. . .

"The wind on the heath?" Chris interpolated drily.

"Well, yes, damn it--the wind. . ."  But the argument died on
Vance's lips.  Life wasn't like that to Chris's decomposing
intelligence.  His eyes and his brain seemed to drain the beauty
out of daily things; there was the bitter core of the enigma.

Vance laid his hand on the boy's shoulder.  "Listen, old man; your
people are awfully unhappy.  Come home; we'll see what can be done
afterward."

Chris looked up with heavy eyes.  "Now--today?"

"By the next train.  I can't think why you're not fed up with this
sort of thing.  I am."

Chris sat staring down at his idle trembling hands.  "You're a
brick, Weston--"

"Oh, stow all that.  Where's your hotel?  Go along and pack up, and
I'll call for you in half an hour."  But suddenly Vance reflected:
"If I let him go, ten to one I'll never find him again.--Look
here," he said, "just wait till I pitch my things into my bag and
we'll go together.  It won't take me ten minutes."

Chris sank more deeply into the armchair.  A look of utter
weariness stole over him.  "Oh, all right--what's the odds?"  His
eyes followed Vance listlessly till the lids closed and he leaned
back in a sort of doze.  Vance, moving about noiselessly, collected
his belongings and jammed them into his suit-case.  He was consumed
with the longing to get away--as much on his own account as on
Chris's.  The glare of the sun, the sparkle of flowers and foliage
outside his window, the strains of Puccini coming up from the
Casino Gardens, all the expensiveness and artificiality of the
place, made him think longingly of Oubli, of the fishermen mending
their nets on the beach, the shabby houses, the peasants ploughing
and pruning.  "Real people in a real place," he mused; and his
heart warmed as he thought of Halo waiting at the station at
Toulon, and their all jogging home in the old omnibus over the
rough dusty roads. . .

As the porter came in to take the things down Chris roused himself.
"Look here, Weston--I know what a worm I am.  But I'm afraid
there's something owing at my hotel.  If you'd lend me enough to go
on with, and I could stay another day, I might come out ahead after
all."

"Come along.  I'll settle with the hotel," Vance retorted,
nervously wondering if his own funds would hold out.  He slipped
his arm through Chris's, and the latter let himself be led to the
lift, and out of the hotel.  As they emerged into the street a
hotel porter came up to Vance with a letter.  "Mr. Weston?"

Vance recognized the untidy scrawl in which Floss Delaney had
written her message on the back of the Duke of Spartivento's card.
"Wait a minute," he said unsteadily.  He turned back into the hotel
and opened the envelope.  There was nothing inside but a bruised
discoloured gardenia.  He stared at the livid flower; then he
pushed it into his pocket, and went out to rejoin Chris.  It meant
goodbye, no doubt. . .

He paid Chris's bill, which was more moderate than he had expected,
helped the youth with his packing, and led him firmly to a waiting
taxi.  "The station!" he ordered.

Chris sat passive.  Vance tried to think of something to say, but
his own brain was in a whirl. . .  That flower--why the devil had
she sent it?  It must mean something, convey some kind of message.
She was always lazy about writing; hardly capable of turning more
than a bald phrase or two . . . shaky about her spelling too,
probably.  But, after all, why should she have written?  She had
made an engagement--a positive engagement--with him for that
afternoon: it had been made at her own suggestion, she had sealed
it with a kiss.  What perversity of self-torture made him suppose
that she would forget it?  She had even remembered his asking her
for the flower she was wearing--and here it was, to remind him of
her promise.  The flower didn't mean "goodbye"--if it meant
anything it meant "remember". . .

But how could he keep the engagement?  And did he even want to now?
The vision of Halo at the Toulon station had quickened other
impulses--at least until the faded gardenia stifled them.
Something within him whispered, half hypocritically, half
cynically:  "I must see this thing through first."

At the station Chris again hung back.  "Look here, Weston . . .
just till tomorrow. . ."

"Tomorrow and tomorrow!  Come, get out, old man. . ."  In dragging
Chris along the platform he seemed to be dragging himself too.  The
train rolled into the station.  They followed the porter.

The train was crowded.  Vance pushed Chris and his bag into a
compartment; but there was no other vacant seat.  "Never mind--I'll
run along and jump in wherever I can."  But as he spoke he felt
another resolution forming in him.  "If I can't find a place," he
called out, his hand on Chris's door, "I'll take a later train.
Let Halo know, will you?  I'll taxi over from Toulon."  He waved
his hand and feigned a dash down the platform.  But the train was
moving; he was left behind.  After all, he had done his duty in
shipping Chris off.

He left his suit-case at the station and went back to the hotel
where Floss had been staying with her father.  From her having sent
him the gardenia he inferred that her visit to Mrs. Glaisher was
over and that she had returned to Monte Carlo and was awaiting an
answer to her message.

The concierge told him she was expected back, but had not yet
arrived.  Vance's spirits rose.  He wrote her name on an envelope,
scribbled on a sheet of paper:  "Where--and when?" and added the
address of his own hotel.  Then he went back there to lunch.  But
he was too much excited to eat, and leaving the restaurant he paced
up and down the narrow lounge, smoking and watching the door.  An
answer was sure to come soon; she had not sent that flower for
nothing. . .

The minutes and the half-hours passed.  It was three o'clock now;
then in a flash it was half-past.  The hours of his precious
afternoon were being blown by him like the petals of a flower
dropping before it can be gathered.  Unable to endure the suspense
he hurried out and walked back to Floss's hotel.  He saw her motor
at the door.  The interior was piled up with bags, and at first he
thought she must have just arrived from Cannes; then he saw a man
in shirt-sleeves lifting a motor-trunk into the trunk-carrier.  He
went up to the chauffeur.  "Is Miss Delaney here?"

The chauffeur said he supposed so.  She hadn't come down yet; but
they were starting in a minute for the harbour.

"The harbour?"

"Yes, sir; for the yacht.  I believe Miss Delaney's going on a
cruise."

Vance did not wait to hear the end.  He pushed past the porters,
and as he re-entered the hotel the door of the lift opened and
Floss stepped out.  She carried a little bag of scarlet morocco
with polished steel mountings and had a fur-collared coat hung over
her arm.  Behind her was a young woman carrying more wraps.  Vance
went toward the lift and Floss stopped and looked at him with
lifted brows and a faint smile.  "Why, Van--"

"Am I late?" he began quickly.

She continued to gaze at him, not embarrassed but merely in gentle
surprise.  "Late--for what?"

"For our engagement.  I came before, but you weren't here.  Are you
coming with me now?"

Her lovely eyebrows still questioned him.  "But, Van, I don't--"

He broke in with a bitter laugh.  "Are you trying to tell me you've
forgotten?"

"What I HAD forgotten was that this is the day I start for a cruise
with the Blemers.  I can never remember the day of the week.  We're
going to Sicily," she explained gently.

"No!" he burst out.

"NO?"

"I say no.  Last night you swore to me--"

She turned and threw her cloak over the maid's arm.  "Put that into
the car.  And my bag."  The girl disappeared, and Floss laid her
hand on Vance's arm.  "Come."  He followed her into the empty
writing-room behind the lounge.  Between two of the little mahogany
writing-desks with green-shaded lamps she paused and stood smiling
up at him.  "Darling--it's such a stupid mistake."

"What's a mistake?"

"About the date.  I'm sorry.  I thought the Blemers weren't
starting till tomorrow.  Honestly I did."

"Well--can't you follow them tomorrow, if you're so bent on going
with them?  You owe me this one day."

She laughed.  "Charter a yacht and give chase?  That's an idea!
But I'm afraid I couldn't find anything fast enough to catch up
with them."

"Why need you go with them at all?  You swore to me--"

Her lids drooped, and her lips also, dangerously.  "Yes; I know.
But please don't be a bore, Vance."

"A bore--?"  He felt his heart stand still.  Her face was as smooth
as marble.  "Why did you send me that flower, then?"

"That flower?  Why--for goodbye. . ."  She held out her hand with a
smile.  "Not for long, though. . .  You'll be in London next
summer?  Father and I are going there in June.--Yes; COMING!" she
called out in a gay voice, signalling to some one in the door
behind him.

Fierce impulses raged in him; he wanted to pinion her by the arms,
to hold her fast.  He caught at her wrist; but she laughed and
shook herself free.  "So long, dear.--Com-ING!" she cried in the
same gay voice as she swept past him into the hall.




BOOK IV



XXV


It had been raining steadily for the three days since Vance's
return to Oubli.  A soft regular rain; it came down on the roof of
the Anglican chapel with a rapping like the rattle of palm-fronds
in an African oasis.  Why had that occurred to him?  He had never
been to Africa, never seen an oasis; but he had heard some one say:
"In the dry season the rattle of palms in the wind sounds just like
rain.  God, it gets up a fellow's thirst!"  Like drift on a swollen
river, all sorts of unrelated thoughts and images jostled each
other in his brain.  He could not clear his mind of them, or fix
it, for more than a moment or two, on the sombre words that Mr.
Dorman, distant and surpliced, was speaking from the chancel.

"Thou makest his beauty to consume away, like as it were a moth
fretting a garment. . .

"As soon as Thou scatterest them they are even as sheep. . .  For
when Thou art angry all our days are gone. . .  O spare me a little
that I may recover my strength, before I go hence and be no more
seen. . ."

Ah, cruel implacable God of Israel, Who, among all the generations
of men, sufferest so few to recover their strength before they go!
What mockery to apply to this poor broken boy the stupendous words
that shake the bones of the saints!

There he lay, under the pall and the wreaths, "turned to
destruction", as Mr. Dorman told them--voluntarily turned to it, as
Vance secretly believed.  The shabby wreath of anemones and stocks
was, of course, Miss Plummet's.  Lady Dayes-Dawes had sent arums.
There was a hideous cushion of white immortelles with "Chris" on it
in yellow--how he would have laughed at it!  Halo had managed to
find violets, heaps and heaps of them, though they were nearly over--
with a spray of cherry-blossom, the first of the year.  Ah,
implacable God of Israel!  But now--listen:

"It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown
in dishonour; it is raised in glory. . ."  What martial music the
Prayer-book made out of the old cry of human mourning!  This sorrow
sown in dishonour, was it indeed to be raised in glory?  A sob from
one of the black-muffled figures in front seemed to ask the same
question.  Then silence again; the rattle of rain; and "Lead,
Kindly Light" from the volunteer choir, with Miss Plummet, in
tears, at the harmonium.

When they came out the rain had stopped.  The coffin was lifted
into the old weak-springed hearse, with its moth-eaten tufts of
black feathers all bent one way.  (How he would have laughed at the
feathers too!)  The procession straggled off.  Oubli could not
provide enough mourning coaches, and its two wheezy Fords closed
the line, noisily resisting their drivers' attempts to keep them in
step with the heavy black horses.  In the English corner of the
hard bare cemetery cypresses and laurestinus had been planted,
green things trained over the graves.  But to get there the
mourners had to walk two by two (Mrs. Churley's weak swollen feet
setting the uncertain pace) through arid rows of French graves with
wreaths of wire and painted tin-foil, and china saints under glass
bells.  Vance remembered Chris's saying that French funeral wreaths
always reminded him of the once-for-all thoughts that the living
think of the dead: rigid indestructible opinions that there is
never any need to renew.

"Inasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God to take out of this world
the soul of our deceased brother--" Mr. Dorman was saying across
the yawning grave.

"Out of the world"; with all its laughing and crying and vain
tumult. . .  "The wind on the heath, brother--"  How Chris had
shrugged away Vance's facile admonitions!  Wind on the heath, wind
in the palms, all the multiple murmurs of life--Chris Churley's
ears were forever closed to them.

Yes; he had been Vance's brother; and how had Vance dealt with him?
"What hast thou done with this thy brother?"  Why, deserted him at
the last moment, shoved him into the train and left him alone with
his self-derision, his bitter consciousness of futility and
failure.  Vance knew well enough what it felt like to be alone in
such a mood, without friends, without hope, without future; he had
been through it all in the early days in New York.  Yet he had not
given it a thought when he shoved Chris into the train and dashed
away on his own crazy errand.  What had he done with his brother?

"Ashes to ashes--dust to dust--"  As Chris was today, so would he
be in his turn, nailed up with his withered dreams. . .

The earth fell on the coffin; somebody piled the wreaths on the
mound.  The sun came out, as if curious to see what this little
group of bowed-down people were about; and in the dazzle of the
indifferent day they crawled back to the carriages.



In the taxi Halo burst into tears.  Vance put his arm about her.
She seldom wept, and her grief moved him, and made him feel ashamed
of his own dry eyes.  But though his soul was heavy he could get no
relief.  Halo wiped away her tears and looked up at him.  "You
still think it wasn't an accident?"

"I'm sure it wasn't."

"But they said he didn't see the other train coming when he got
out.  The people in the other train said so."

"Yes."

"All the same, you think--?"

"Oh, what does it matter?" Vance groaned.

"I'm glad Mr. Dorman was convinced it was an accident.  Otherwise
there couldn't have been a proper funeral. . ."

"I know. . ."

"It would have killed Mrs. Churley if he'd refused."

"Sorrow don't kill people.  It seems to give them a sort of kick.
Look how she walked all the way to the grave and back."

Silence again; she pressed his hand tight.  "Promise me, dearest,
you won't go on thinking yourself to blame."

Vance laughed drearily.  "People have got to think what they can.
I ought to have come back with him. . ."

"What folly!  You put him in the train."

"I ought to have come back," Vance repeated, as if to himself.  The
taxi stopped before the pink house and they got out.



At first Mrs. Churley had refused to see Vance; but two or three
days after the funeral she deputed Mrs. Dorman to ask him to come
up to the villa.  Halo wanted to go instead; she seemed to dread
the meeting between Vance and the Churleys.  Vance, she argued, was
still suffering from the shock of the dreadful news; he had told
her what little there was to tell.  Why not let Mrs. Dorman explain
this to the Churleys, and suggest that Halo should go to them
instead?

Mrs. Dorman pursed up her lips, and her cheeks reddened, as they
did when she saw a chance of imparting unpleasant news.  "It was
Mr. Weston that Mrs. Churley asked for."

"Of course I'll go," Vance roused himself to answer.

When he came back from the Churleys' he went upstairs to the study
and threw himself down on the old divan where Chris had so often
sprawled during the long evenings full of laughter and discussion.
Vance, on his way back from Monte Carlo, had thought longingly of
that room; his old life seemed to hold out healing arms to him.
Then, on his threshold, he had heard the stupefying news of Chris
Churley's death--the accident which had flung him under the wheels
of an incoming express as he was getting out of his own train at
Toulon; and from that moment Oubli and everything about it had
become as hateful to Vance as the scenes from which he had just
fled.

He lay with his eyes shut, reliving the hours since his return, and
feeling as if he too had been flung out of the security and peace
of his life and crushed under the sudden wheels of disaster.  In
the next room Halo was moving about.  She would not come in and
torment him with questions, as another woman might; she would
merely let him know by an occasional sound or movement--the pushing
back of a chair, the click of the Remington--that she wanted him to
be aware of her nearness, and of the silent participation it
implied.

The Remington. . .  If only he could have got back to work!  In the
first horror of seeing Floss Delaney down by the river with his
grandfather his anguish, he remembered, had crystallized itself in
words; the shock had forced his first story out of him.  And all
through the dark weeks before Laura Lou's death he had known the
same mysterious heightening of creative power: as if his talent
were an ogre, and lived on human suffering.  But now he felt only
an inner deadness; he seemed faced by a blank wall against which he
might dash his brains out.  Everything was stale and withered,
without and within; he could almost taste the corruption--the same,
no doubt, that Chris had tasted. . .

He got up and wandered into Halo's room.  She turned as he entered,
feigning surprise.  "Back already?--Well?"

Vance stood beside her, drumming on the lid of the typewriter.
"She knows--"

"Mrs. Churley?  Knows what?"

"That it wasn't an accident."

"Vance!  Did she tell you--?"

"No.  He was there.  But she didn't have to--"

Halo put out her hand and imprisoned his restless fingers.  "Dear,
aren't you just imagining--?"

"God!  I don't have to imagine--"

"Tell me just what she said."

"She said she couldn't bear to have me there.  It didn't last five
minutes."

"Poor, poor woman!"

"I could see she hated the very sight of me.  She thinks I killed
him."

"But what folly--when it was you who gave him his best chance!"

"Did I?  Perhaps they're right and we were wrong.  Anyhow I ought
to have come back with him."

"But surely you told them you couldn't find a place in the train?"

"Yes--I told them."

"Well, dear?"  She lifted her grave eyes to his, and he thought:
"If I told her the truth, would it make any difference?"  For he
knew well enough that what he was suffering from was not so much
the shock of poor Chris's suicide as the dark turmoil in his own
heart.  It was his vanity that was aching, and his pride; in a
sudden craving for self-abasement he longed to cry out his
miserable secret.

"I wish you could get back to work," Halo said.

He made a derisive gesture.  "Get back to work--that was what I
used to tell Chris.  I see now there wasn't much point in it."  He
turned away and threw himself again on the divan.  What was the use
of making some one else unhappy?  His misery was his own; he had no
right to ask any one to share it--least of all this woman who loved
him.



The days dragged by.  Vance, in spite of his curt retort to Halo,
did try to take up his writing; but he could not.  His imagination
was dormant, his fingers seemed almost literally benumbed.  The
weather remained unsettled; day after day raw gales swept the
sullen skies and rain burst from them with fitful violence.  Every
spring, the peasants told him, it stormed at Oubli in cherry-
blossom time; and if the rain persisted it destroyed the fruit
crop, and if it ceased the drought spoilt the early peas.

Vance resumed his long daily tramps.  Halo had caught cold at the
funeral, and in spite of her disregard for wind and weather he
would not let her go with him.  In truth he was glad to be alone.
Some spring in him was broken; he felt like a man driving a motor
with a disabled steering-gear.  When he was with Halo he lived in
dread of not being able to keep himself from some foolish burst of
self-betrayal.  When she said:  "You mustn't let Chris's death make
you so unhappy," he had to fight his impulse to burst out:  "It's
not Chris who's torturing me."  He hardly knew the exact source of
his pain.  Since he had returned to Oubli, and slipped back into
the old familiar life with Halo, everything about the interlude of
Cannes and Monte Carlo had become as unreal as the scenery of a
stage-setting.  He seemed to have been moving in a world of
flippant spectres; only Floss Delaney kept her mordant reality.
And the strange thing was that, from the very moment of their
meeting, she had produced no illusions in him, excited no surprise.
She had appeared, in that opulent environment, neither rarer nor
lovelier than when, as a raw boy, he had worshipped and loathed her
in the maple-grove at Crampton.  It was true that she had not
changed; perhaps, as she had said, no one DOES change; and for that
very reason the common unimaginative girl who had captivated the
untried boy exercised the same spell over the young man from whom a
world of experience divided her.  That was the dangerpoint.  No
alteration of setting or of ideas--not even the profound shock of
Chris Churley's suicide--could shake him out of his unwilling
subjection.  It was because he saw her as she was, and was still
drawn to her, that his plight was hopeless.  Whenever he shut his
eyes there was her bare arm, like amber in the moonlight; the touch
of it burned in him.  It was useless to tell himself that now that
he knew the world he could place her without difficulty, could
class her as the trivial beauty whom any intelligent man would
weary of in a week.  Intelligence had nothing to do with it.  You
might as well say that an intelligent man would weary in a week of
the scent of a certain flower, when there are flower-scents that
all through life work the same magic.  Vance knew there were selves
under selves in him, and that one of the undermost belonged to
Floss Delaney.

Again and again he was tempted to confess himself to Halo; to do so
might break the spell and tranquillize him.  And perhaps it would
not be so difficult.  When his story, "One Day", had been
discovered and published by Lewis Tarrant, and Vance, in an hour of
expansion, had told Halo that he had written it to rid himself of
his first sorrow, he had described Floss to her, and she had
shuddered and sympathized.  He would only have to say:  "You
remember that girl at Euphoria that I told you about?" to have her
sympathy spring up.  Ah--but would it?  That other tale, when he
had told it, already belonged to a distant past; neither he nor
Halo could have dreamed that Floss Delaney would ever reappear in
their lives.  Now it was different.  Intelligent though Halo was,
could he hope to make her understand that a man may love one woman
with all his soul while he is perishing for the nearness of
another?  Some day he might put that story in a novel; fitfully,
even now, the idea came to him, he felt its richness and complexity--
but only for a moment.  The next he was back in the dark coil of
his misery; and he knew that the impulse to confess himself was due
not to any belief that confession would break the spell, but only
to his monstrous craving to talk of Floss to any one, to every one,
even to the woman he might wound to the heart in naming her.  He
thought:  "I've hurt her so often without meaning to.  At least I
can keep myself from doing it with my eyes open."

Since Vance's visit no sign had come from the Churleys.  He
suspected that Halo resented their silence, resented the poor
mother's harsh dismissal of Vance after she had sent for him.  It
was cruel, certainly, for they knew that Vance had tried to
befriend Chris, that Vance's comradeship had been the one
brightness in the boy's last months.  But perhaps that was what
they resented, though Halo refused to admit it.  "They can't be so
wickedly unjust--."  But that was precisely what great sorrow made
of people--didn't Vance know?  Perhaps it even comforted them, the
poor creatures, to have some one against whom they could cherish a
bitter resentment.  Well, let them--!

One day, coming in from a solitary ramble, he found a letter
awaiting him.  He broke the seal and read:  "Dear Mr. Weston, I
have only just learned that my son's visit to Monte Carlo was
brought about by your having lent him twenty pounds.  Pray excuse
my involuntary delay in sending you the enclosed cheque, which I
beg you to accept with my thanks.  Yours very truly, Augustine
Churley."

Vance uttered an angry exclamation.  Halo, who was sorting the
papers on his desk, looked up.  "Oh, Vance--it's Colonel Churley?"
He tossed the letter over to her.

"It wasn't a loan--and Chris knew it!" Vance fumed.  It seemed as
though these people had divined how he hated himself for having
left Chris, and were seizing on every pretext to increase his
misery.

"But how did they know the amount?  Chris must have told them--or
have left a letter."

"Well, I won't take it," said Vance nervously.  "They'll end by
poisoning my memory of him.  I daresay they think my giving him
that money was the cause of his death."

Halo reflected.  "No; you can't take it.  Give it to me; I'll go
and see Mrs. Churley."

"She won't see you."

"I think she will.  Mrs. Dorman will arrange for me to go when her
husband's out.  She couldn't talk to you the other day because he
was there.  But you'll see--"

Vance drew a breath of relief.  He was so used to Halo's smoothing
out the asperities of life that he felt almost as certain as she
did of her ability to cope with Mrs. Churley.  And at least the
question of the money would be effaced from his mind.

The next day he did not get back till late from his walk.  As he
mounted the stairs he caught Halo's voice: she was speaking
excitedly, in a tone of irritation unusual to her.  The study door
was ajar, and he heard Mrs. Dorman replying, in the conciliatory
voice in which she communicated anything likely to give pain:  "I'm
so sorry, Mrs.--Mrs.--.   You must really tell me, you know, what I
ought to call you," she interrupted herself with a faint cough.

Vance strode in.  Halo was standing, her head high, her face pale;
Mrs. Dorman confronted her with excited spots of red on her round
innocent-looking cheeks.  "You mustn't really take it so hard," she
was protesting.

Halo turned to Vance.  Her lips were as pale as her face, and her
arm trembled slightly as she rested it on the desk; but her voice
was quiet.  "Mrs. Dorman tells me that Mrs. Churley would rather
not see me."

Vance guessed instantly what had happened.  Ireful words sprang to
his lips; but Halo's glance checked him.  How right she was--
always!  It would have been a pity to gratify Mrs. Dorman by any
sign of discomfiture.  "Since Mrs. Churley doesn't want to receive
either of us," he rejoined, in a voice as quiet as Halo's, "I don't
see that there's anything more to be said."

Mrs. Dorman looked undefinably disappointed.  "But I didn't mean
that, Mrs. Weston.  On the contrary.  Mrs. Churley's very sorry she
was so overcome when you came the other day; she'd be glad to see
you again.  The message I brought was for Mrs. . . Mrs. . ."

"My name's Weston," Vance interrupted.

"Exactly."  Mrs. Dorman's face grew rounder and rosier.  "And at
first we all supposed . . . naturally. . ."

"Mrs. Dorman," Halo intervened, "has just told me that Mrs.
Churley's reason for not wishing to see me is that she's heard we
were not married."

"I told her I'd always understood that in the States you attach
comparatively little importance to being married . . . that perhaps
we oughtn't to judge you by our standards.  But naturally that's
not the general feeling in England; at least not among Church
people--and Mrs. Churley was dreadfully upset.  You know she always
dreaded any . . . any demoralizing influence on that poor boy; and
I'm afraid she's taken it into her head that his friendship with
Mrs.--Mrs.--"

The red rushed to Vance's forehead.  "This lady's name is Mrs.
Tarrant; but it will be Weston soon.  Please say to Mrs. Churley--"

Halo laid her hand on his arm.  "No, dear; there's nothing more to
say.  Except that we both loved Chris, and that we feel for his
mother with all our hearts."

Mrs. Dorman stared with the bewildered look of one who has lost her
cue.  "But you will come to see her, Mr. Weston?"

"There'd be no object in it.  Mrs. Tarrant has told you all we have
to say."

Mrs. Dorman uttered a baffled sigh.  "It's so very sad," she
murmured.  She gathered up her boa, and Vance opened the door and
silently saw her down the stairs.

"It all falls on you--always!" he broke out indignantly as he
returned to Halo.

She surprised him by a gesture of appeal.  "That poor mother--oh,
Vance, don't be angry with her!  If only there was anything we
could do!  I feel as if you and I were the real debtors--
everybody's debtors; as if, to be as happy as we are, we must have
stolen too many other people's happiness.  Darling, do you suppose
we have?" she burst out, her arms stretched to him.


XXVI


The days passed heavily.  Vance and Halo held no further
communication with the Pension Britannique.  Vance returned the
cheque to Colonel Churley, with a note saying that the twenty
pounds had been a gift to Chris, and that Chris was aware of it;
and the following week a copy of Mr. Dorman's parish bulletin was
left at the pink villa, with an underscored paragraph announcing
that Colonel Churley, in memory of his son, had given twenty pounds
to the Church library (Purchasing Committee: the Chaplain, Lady
Dayes-Dawes, Miss Plummet.)  Vance was diverted at the thought of
the works which would be acquired with this fund; he amused himself
and Halo by drawing up a probable list, and they smiled over the
brilliant additions that Chris would have made to it.

But Vance was still full of disquietude.  Everything in his life
seemed to have gone wrong, to have come to grief.  He asked Halo,
the day after Mrs. Dorman's visit, if she would not like to leave
Oubli; but she said with a smile that she didn't see why they
should alter their plans to suit the Pension Britannique.  They had
taken the villa for a year, and she wanted him to have a taste of
the summer life, the boating and bathing, the long hot days on the
sands.  "There'll be nobody to be scandalized then--the Pension
Britannique closes in summer.  If you suppose I mind what those
poor women say," she added carelessly; and he understood that
nothing could be more distasteful to her than to seem aware that
she was the subject of gossip and criticism.

Vance himself had no feelings of the sort.  He resented furiously
any slight to Halo, but saw no reason for appearing to ignore such
slights.  He supposed it was what he called the "Tarrant pride" in
her; the attitude of all her clan; the same which had helped
Tarrant to stiffen himself against the moral torture of his talk
with Vance, and affect indifference when every nerve was writhing.
It all seemed an obsolete superstition, as dead as duelling; yet
there were moments when Vance admired the stoicism.  He could think
of girls--straight, loyal, decent girls--who, if they loved a man,
and lived with him, would have gloried in the fact, and laughed at
social slights and strictures.  But Halo suffered acutely from
every slight and stricture, yet bore herself with the gayest
indifference.  "All those old institutions--I suppose there was
something in them, a sort of scaffolding, an armour," he thought.
He felt how often his own undisciplined impulses needed the support
of some principle that would not have to be thought out each time.

But if Halo did not want to leave Oubli, he did; and she was not
long in divining it.  There was no longer any question of his
working; the manuscript lay untouched.  If he were ever to finish
"Colossus" he must get away--get away at once.  When he had
lectured Chris on the evils of idleness he had little imagined that
within a few weeks he would be exemplifying them.  "I told him he'd
be able to work fast enough if he had to--such rot!  Look at me
now!" he said bitterly.

"But it's just because of Chris that you can't work.  You're still
suffering too much."

"A good many books have been made out of suffering."

"Perhaps; but not out of tattered nerves.  You've got to get away."
He was silent.  "Why not go to London?" she suggested suddenly.
"It's time you saw your publishers about 'Colossus'.  Go now; it's
just what you need.  You could stay with Tolby, who's so often
invited you."

Vance felt a rush of life in his veins.  London--London!  He
remembered the look in Chris Churley's eyes when he had heard the
magic suggestion.  "I wonder if my eyes look like that to Halo,"
Vance thought with a twinge of compunction; but the twinge was
fleeting.  London, Madrid, Constantinople--it hardly mattered
which.  Freedom was what they all meant--change and freedom!  And
how good to see old Tolby again, and drop back into the current of
their endless talks.  Everything connected with the idea of
departure seemed suddenly easy and inviting.

"You'd really rather stay here?" he faltered.

"I'd rather," she smiled.



In the train, on the boat, and now in Tolby's snug smoky quarters,
Vance felt the same glow of liberation.  With his first step on
English soil had come the sense of being at home and at ease.  The
feeling of sureness and authority underlying the careless
confidence with which life was conducted, soothed his nerves, and
put him quietly yet not unironically in his place--a strangely
small one, he perceived, yet roomy and comfortable as one of
Tolby's armchairs.

Tolby lived off the King's Road, on top of a house divided into old-
fashioned flats.  Attached to his studio were two bedrooms, a
kitchenette and a slit of a bathroom, with a geyser which had to be
managed like a neurasthenic woman.  "When you get to know her it'll
be all right; she'll get tired of trying on her tricks.  She's
always a bit nervous at first," Tolby explained.  No one else in
the flat was nervous.  From the kitchen, at stated intervals, a
broad calm woman (who removed a black bonnet with strings when she
entered the flat), appeared with crisp bacon, kippered herring,
cold beef and large placid puddings.  To Vance the diet was
ambrosial.  He delighted also in the tidiness of the studio, where
everything was shabby and paintless, but neat and orderly, with a
handful of spring flowers on the breakfast table, a pleasant fire
in the grate, and a general seemliness that reminded him of Halo.
"You must be glad to get back to this from Montparnasse," he said
with a sigh of satisfaction.

"Yes; when I've had enough talk."

"Isn't there any talk in London?"

"Yes; but it's not a sport or a career.  It's done in corners--
furtively."

"At any rate," Vance thought, "I'm not likely to hear any of that
drivel that poor Chris ran after."

Little by little the social immensities of London began to dawn on
him, its groups within groups, each, in spite of all the broad-
casting and modern fluidity, so walled in by silence and
indifference, and he became more and more sure that there was no
risk of any communication between Tolby's group and Sir Felix
Oster's.  Among the young painters and writers who came to the
studio he found himself already known, but not what Floss Delaney
would have called celebrated.  These young people had read his
books, and were interested in them but not overwhelmed.  The
discovery roused his slumbering energy, and he said to himself in a
burst of creative enthusiasm:  "They're dead right about what I've
done so far; but wait till they see 'Colossus'--I'll show them!"

His first days were spent in wandering about the streets, alert yet
dreaming, letting the panorama of churches, museums, galleries,
stream through his attentive senses.  Tolby, himself hard at work,
seldom joined him till the evening, and then they either supped
(since dining, in Tolby's group, was out of fashion) with other
pleasant busy people, chiefly writers or painters, or went to hear
old music or to see new dancing.  But by the end of the first week
the desire to write had once more mastered Vance, and he shut
himself up at his desk for long hours of the day.

On Saturdays he and his host went off on their bicycles to some
quiet leafy place where there was an inn with a garden full of
lilacs and tulips, or else they stayed with friends of Tolby's in
low-studded village cottages transformed into bungalows, with black
cross-beams and windows latticed with roses.  But as Vance grew
more absorbed in his work even such outings became disturbing, and
he asked to be left behind when Tolby went away for the next week-
end.

Tolby took this as a matter of course (the blessed way they had in
England of taking things like that!), and the following Saturday
Vance, after his friend's departure, turned with a grin of joy to
his work.

Toward evening the opening of the door broke in on a happy cadence.
The placid woman who purveyed the kippered herrings pronounced:
"Mr. Fane", and Vance's memory added:  "Of the 'Amplifier'."  It
was in fact Derek Fane, the young critic whom Vance had met at
Savignac's the previous autumn, and to whom he had given a verbal
outline of "Colossus".  The book had undergone such changes that
Vance was glad to see Fane again, and allowed the talk to be led
to his work with more affability than he usually showed to
interviewers.  He knew his publishers were anxious that the
"Amplifier" should make the most of his visit to London, and a talk
with a critic like Derek Fane would be very different from the
"third degree" applied by newspaper reporters.  Fane was one of the
quietest men Vance had ever met, even in England.  Everything about
him was muffled and pianissimo; he did his interviewing by
listening.  Vance could hardly recall his having put a question;
but his silence was not only benevolent but acute.  After Vance's
summing-up of the new "Colossus" he merely said:  "It sounds as if
you'd pulled it into shape"; but the remark carried such conviction
that a glow of encouragement rushed through Vance.

The next morning the "Amplifier" had a brilliant survey of Vance's
past work, and a discerning account of his projected book, inserted
into a picturesque impression of the King's Road studio.
Henceforth all literary and fashionable London, if it cared to
know, would be aware of Vance's presence.

The first result was a shower of invitations; one from Lady
Pevensey headed the list.  She besought Vance to climb to her
little flat on the roof of a new West End sky-scraper for the most
informal of after-theatre suppers.  He would find just the people
he liked, and must of course bring his friend Mr. Tolby, whose
pictures everybody was beginning to talk about.  Tolby urged Vance
to accept.  "It's one of the penalties of your profession; you must
go and film the animals in their native habitat.  I can sit still
and wait till they come to be painted--but it's your job to snap
them at their games."

Vance hardly needed urging.  It was not so much the novelty of the
scene that attracted him as its atmosphere.  Being in England felt
like coming back to something known in a happier state, and, as the
hymn said, "lost awhile".  There was nothing like it in his
conscious experience, yet it seemed nearer to him than his actual
life.  He discovered that the sense of security and solidarity
emanating from the group of dowdy exiles at Oubli was the very air
of England.  Wherever he went it looked out of calm eyes and
sounded in calm voices.  Ah, those calm voices, their rich organ-
tones, their still depths of sound!  Vance never tired of them.
Halo's way of speaking, and that of her group, was a thin reminder
of those rich notes; but how staccato and metallic compared with
the brooding English intonations!  "It's the way your voices handle
the words," Vance explained, struggling for a definition.  "The way
a collector touches gems or ivories, not fussily or mincingly, but
surely and softly.  Or the way a girl in a poultry-yard picks up
downy chickens."  Tolby laughed and said he liked the last analogy
best.

The next day a voice with a different cadence broke in on his toil.
"I'm Margot Crash," it shrilled, and Vance found himself
confronting a slender young lady with a face adorned by movie-star
teeth and eyelashes.  Miss Crash's job, though brilliant, was
probably less lucrative than if she had used her gifts on the
screen: she represented in London the literary page of the Des
Moines "Daily Ubiquity".  Vance started up to protest at the
intrusion; but the teeth and eyelashes mollified him, and in
another moment their owner, snugly ensconced in Tolby's deepest
armchair, was confessing that she was a beginner, and desperately
in earnest about her job.  "If I can get a good write-up off of you
I'm made forever," she declared; "but I'm so scared I guess you'll
have to do it for me.  I'm too crazy about your novels to know how
to talk about them to their author."

"Oh, well," said Vance, "the ones I've already written are still
measurable by human instruments."

She lifted her long lashes with a vague laugh.  "Well, what I want
is to find out all about them--how you write them, I mean, and how
you began writing anyhow.  What made you think of it?  Did you take
a course?"

"A course--?"

"Why, I mean at college.  Or did the idea just come to you?  Did
you educate yourself to be a writer?  Did you begin by studying
your contemporaries?  That's the way they make you do in some
courses."

"No; I believe I began with Mother Goose."

Her lovely stare widened; allusiveness was evidently as
unintelligible to her as irony.  "Oh, do you mean you started by
writing children's books?"  She drew out a little note-book in
which Vance could almost see her inscribing:  "Began by writing for
children."  "Like the Pollyannas, for instance?" she helped him out
enthusiastically.

"Well--something."

She clapped it down.  "But what I want to know is--how did you
learn to write for adults?  Did you pick one of your contemporaries
and work out your style on his, or did you take one of the longer
courses--the ones that go way back to the classics?"

"It depends on what you call the classics."

That puzzled her again, and provoked a lovely frown.  "Well--
Galsworthy, I suppose," she triumphed.

"Oh, no; not as far back as that."  Her face fell, but she wrote on
ardently till he signified to her, as humanely as possible, that
there was really no more to tell, and that he must get back to his
work.

"Oh--your WORK!" she breathed, in awed acquiescence; and then,
putting out her hand:  "You see, I'm trying to write novels myself,
and it just means everything to me to find out from somebody up at
the top what you have to do to get there.  But I don't believe I'll
ever have time to go way back to those old classics," she sighed.

The next day the London edition of the Des Moines "Daily Ubiquity"
brought out a heavily head-lined article on the celebrated young
American novelist who was visiting London for the first time, and
who had acquired mastery in his art by writing children's stories
and taking a college course in adult fiction.  Well, why not?


XXVII


To any one not chained by association to the old low-fronted London
there was magic in looking down from Lady Pevensey's sky-terrace
over the lawns of the Green Park and the distant architectural
masses discerned through shadowy foliage.  In the transparent
summer night Vance leaned there, lost in the unreal beauty, and
recalling another night-piece, under a white moon-washed sky, when
the Mediterranean lay at his feet, and Floss Delaney's bare arm
burned into his.

The momentary disappointment over, he had been glad that Floss was
not among Lady Pevensey's guests.  At first, among those white
shoulders and small luminous heads, he had imagined he felt her
presence; but he was mistaken.  Tonight he was in another of Lady
Pevensey's many sets, and apparently it had not occurred to his
hostess that she might have given him pleasure by inviting Floss.
Did she even remember that the two had met at Cannes?  Vance was
beginning to learn that in this rushing oblivious world one must
jump onto the train in motion, and look about at the passengers
afterward.  As soon as he entered Lady Pevensey's drawing-room he
found himself surrounded, as in old days at the Tarrants', by
charming people who made much of him.  Then he had imagined that
they were throwing open the door of their lives to him; now he knew
they were simply adding a new name to their lists.  They marked him
down as the entomologist does a rare butterfly, and he found the
process not unpleasant, for he was experienced enough to enjoy
watching them while they were observing him, and he liked the
atmosphere of soft-voiced cordiality and disarming simplicity in
which the chase went on.  He recalled with a smile the days when he
had supposed that people in society wanted to hear the answer to
their questions, or to listen to the end of a sentence.  He had
learned that they were really indifferent to every one and
everything outside of their own circle; but he did not care.  They
were a part of the new picture he was studying, and he wanted them
to be as characteristic and self-sufficing as his conception of
them, just as they wanted him to be the young genius with rumpled
hair who says unexpected things and forgets to note down his
engagements.

"But of course you know Octavius, don't you, Vance?"  It was Lady
Pevensey's voice, rousing him from his nocturnal vision to
introduce a small quiet man with a bulging brow, who looked at him,
through the bow-windows of immense horn-rimmed spectacles, with the
expression of an anxious child.

Vance, lost in the tangle of Christian names which were the only
sign-posts of Lady Pevensey's London, tried to make his smile speak
for him.  "By name at least--" Lady Pevensey added, throwing him a
lifebelt as she drifted off to other rescues.

"It's the only way of knowing each other that we have time for
nowadays--knowing each other's Christian names," said the little
man rather sadly, aligning his elbows next to Vance's on the
parapet.  "I know you write books, though," he added benevolently.
"Novels, are they--or popular expositions of the Atom?  It's no use
telling me, for I shouldn't remember.  There's no time for that
either--for remembering what other people write.  Much less for
reading their books.  And if one does, it isn't always easy to tell
if they're novels or biochemistry.  So I stick to my own--my own
writing.  I'm buried in that up to the chin; buried alive, I trust.
But even that one can't be sure of.  It may be that already I'm
just a rosy corpse preserved in a glacier."  He glanced tentatively
at Vance, as if hoping for a protest, but Vance was silenced by the
impossibility of recalling any one named Octavius who had written a
book.  He hedged.

"Why should you call your books a glacier?" he said politely.

The other winced.  "Not my BOOKS; my Book.  One's enough, in all
conscience.  Even with the irreproachable life I lead, and only one
slice of grilled meat three times a week--all the rest vegetarian--
one is always at the mercy of accidents, culinary or other; and I
need a clear stretch of twenty years ahead of me."  Again he fixed
Vance solemnly.  "The day I'm assured of that I'll sit down and
finish my book.  Meanwhile I hope we shall meet again.  Tell Imp to
bring you to Charlie's--I'm nearly always there after midnight."
He nodded and was lost in the throng.

A young lady with a small enamelled face and restless eyes came up
to Vance.  "Was Octavius WONDERFUL?  We're longing to know," she
said breathlessly, indicating a group of young men and damsels in
her wake.  One of the latter interrupted:  "He's never as good
anywhere as he is at Charlie's," but the young lady said curtly:
"Not to YOU perhaps, darling; but he's sure to have been wonderful
to Mr. Weston--" at which her young followers looked properly awed.

Vance turned on them with a burst of candour.  "How can I tell if
he was wonderful, when I don't know who he is?  It all depends on
that, doesn't it?"  The others looked their astonishment and
incredulity, and the leading lady exclaimed indignantly:  "But
didn't that idiot tell you you were talking to Octavius?"

To confess that this meant nothing to him, Vance perceived, would
lower him irretrievably in the estimation of these ardent young
people; and he was struggling for a subterfuge when the group was
joined by a tall bronzed young man whose face was disturbingly
familiar.

"Remember me, Mr. Weston?  Spartivento.  Yes: with Rosenzweig and
Blemp.  We met, I think, at Mrs. Glaisher's."  The Duke turned his
Theocritan eyes on the young lady who had challenged Vance.  "See
here, I guess you folks don't know that in the U.S. people call
each other by all the names they've got.  I presume Mr. Weston's
heard of Octavius Alistair Brant--isn't it?"  He shone softly on
his interlocutor, and then turned back to Vance.  "Mrs. Glaisher is
demanding to see you; she asked me to remind you that she is one of
your most admirative readers.  She has taken Lanchester House for
the season.  You will call up, and give her the pleasure to dine?
So long,--happy to meet you; I am going-gon with Lady Cynthia,"
said the Duke with his perfect smile, eclipsing himself before
Vance could detain him.

The encounter woke such echoes that for the moment the identity of
Octavius Alistair Brant became a minor matter, and it was not till
the next day that Vance, reporting on the party to Tolby, found
himself obliged to confess that he still failed to associate Mr.
Brant's name with any achievement known to fame.

Tolby seemed amused.  "Yes.  How village-pump we all are, after
all!  Brant's a little god; but his reign is circumscribed.  It
extends from Bloomsbury to Chelsea.  He's writing a big book about
some thing or other--I can't remember what.  But everybody agrees
it's going to be cataclysmic--there'll be nothing left standing but
Octavius.  You know his Prime Minister, Charlie Tarlton?  Oh, well,
he's worth while--they both are.  Get Lady Pevensey to take you to
one of Charlie's evenings."

Vance was only half listening.  Mrs. Glaisher had a house in
London!  She wanted him to call her up!  If only he had had the
courage to ask the Duke if Floss Delaney were with her.  But he had
not been able to bring himself to put the question.  And even now,
as he sat looking at Tolby's telephone, he could not make the
decisive gesture.  "If she's here we're sure to meet," he thought;
and he got up and went back to his work.  But it was one thing to
seat himself at his desk, and another to battle against the stream
of associations pouring in on him.  Write?  What did he care about
writing?  The sound of any name connected with Floss Delaney's set
all his wires humming.  He got up again uneasily and strolled back
into the studio, where Tolby sat at his canvas, in happy
unconsciousness of all else.  Vance stood and watched him.

"How do you manage to shut out life when you want to work?" he
questioned.

Tolby glanced up at him, "Life--work?  Where's the antithesis?"  He
touched his canvas with the brush.  "This IS Life; the rest's
simply hygienics," he said carelessly.  Vance returned to his desk
and continued to stare at the blank page.  What a cursed tangle of
impulses he was!  Would he ever achieve the true artist's faculty
of self-isolation?  "Not until I learn to care less about
everything," he thought despondently.



The next night, at the Honourable Charles Tarlton's little dove-
gray house in Westminster, where everybody sat on the floor, and
people came and went in a casual yet intimate way, without giving
their large rosy host any particular attention, or receiving any
from him, Vance had to acknowledge how good Octavius was.

His predominance over the rest of the company made itself felt in
the quietest yet most unmistakeable way.  He was the only person
who did not sit on the floor.  His legs were too short, he
explained; when he got up it was mortifying to see that people
expected him to go ever so much farther.  He was provided with a
horrible sculptured armchair, which had been known to his host's
grandparents as "the Abbotsford", and from this throne Octavius
poured out his wisdom on the disciples at his feet.  Vance thought
with a pang of Chris Churley.  His talk, as it matured, would
probably have been almost as good.  And so, perhaps, would his
unwritten book.  The chief difference was that Octavius had known
how to come to an agreement with life; also that he philosophized
on barley-water, and had the minimum of material needs.  Thus he
had been able to adjust himself comfortably to failure, and make
himself a warm nest in it, like a mouse in a cupboard.

But it was not as a failure that his disciples thought of him; nor
even, in the first instance, as a brilliant talker.  As Tolby had
said, talk was not a career in England, and Octavius Brant had to
be something besides, and preferably an author.  The big book was
his pretext and his justification, and the excuse of his audience
for hanging on his words.  Nobody seemed quite clear as to what it
was to be, and Vance discovered that while there were those who
resented being asked if it were a novel, others, perhaps the more
sophisticated, retorted to his question:  "Why, yes, a novel, of
course!  It's the only formula that's still malleable--" in which
he recognized a dictum of Octavius's.  In fact, according to
Charlie Tarlton, if the book didn't at first seem like a novel,
that would simply mean that Octavius had renewed the formula; that
in future what HE chose to call a novel would BE a novel, whether
you liked it or not.  Charlie Tarlton did not speak often; in
Octavius's presence he was just rosily silent, dispensing cocktails
and cigarettes; but when the great man was late in arriving--and
his hours were incalculable--Charlie, to keep the disciples in a
good humour, would sometimes drop an oracle on the subject of his
work.

"You've read it, then?" Vance one evening blundered into asking;
and the elect looked grieved, and Mr. Tarlton slightly irritated.
"Read it?  Read it?  What exactly does reading a book consist in?
Reading the original manuscript--Octavius writes out every word
with his own hand--or the typescript copy, or the proofs, or the
published book?  Every one of these versions is a different thing,
has its own impact, produces its specific set of reactions.  But
what I've read is better than any of them--the author's brain.
There's where you get the quintessential stuff.  As Octavius says,
it's the butterfly before the colours are brushed off."  Mr.
Tarlton leaned back satisfied, resting comfortable elbows on his
cushiony knees.

"Well--exactly!" murmured a devout disciple, with a glance of
reproof at Vance.

"Exactly what?" questioned Octavius, entering in his hat and
overcoat, and removing his scarf with a leisurely hand.  Charlie's
rosy face became tomato-coloured and he scrambled uneasily to his
feet.

"He was saying that the quintessence of your book is in your
brain," exclaimed another imprudent devotee.  Octavius's small face
withered, and he looked more than ever like an anxious child.  His
glance swept over Charlie, searing him like flame.  "Is that by way
of apology for the book's not being finished?" he exclaimed, his
voice rising to a high falsetto.  "If so, I can only say that I
prefer to do my own apologizing--when I find it necessary."

A pall of silence fell on the fervent group; Charlie stammered:  "I
didn't mean anything of the sort," and Vance, squatting on a
cushion at the great man's feet, ventured boldly:  "You know you
haven't yet told me exactly what it's about."

Octavius's countenance softened.  There was nothing he liked better
than toying with his theme before a newcomer.  "Ah, rash youth," he
murmured, dropping into his armchair, and leaning his little head
back among the knobby heraldic ornaments.  "Rash--rash!"  His eyes
glittered behind their sheltering panes, and his short-fingered
hands caressed each other softly, as if his hearer's hand lay
between them.  But suddenly he shook his head.  "No--no; I won't
yield to the temptation.  The lovely creature is there, swimming to
and fro in the deepest deeps of my consciousness, shimmering like a
chamaeleon, unfolding like a flower.  How can you expect me to drag
it up brutally into the air, to throw it at your feet, limp and
discoloured, and say:  'This is my book!' when it wouldn't be, when
I should be the first to disown it?  My dear fellow--" he leaned
forward, and laid his little hand on Vance's shoulder.  "My dear
fellow, WAIT.  It's worth it."

Vance looked up at him with renewed interest.  "In a way," he
thought, "he's right.  His book is written and I daresay it's as
good as he thinks.  It's the agony of exteriorizing that he dodges
away from.  And meanwhile his creation lives on inside of him, and
is nourished by him and grows more and more beautiful."  At the
thought he felt the stealing temptation to dream his own books
instead of writing them.  What a row of masterpieces they would be!
They die in the process of being written, he mused.  And he thought
what his life might have been if he could have drifted from one
fancy to another, letting each scatter its dolphin-colours unseen
as another replaced it.  "If I'd called up Mrs. Glaisher the other
day, for instance--" and suddenly he was seized with a terrible
fear.  Supposing Floss Delaney had already left England?  Supposing
she had been there, within reach of him, the night he had seen the
Duke of Spartivento at Lady Pevensey's, and had now vanished again,
heaven knew whither?  But surely if she had been in London she
would have heard of his being there, would have telephoned him, or
written.  His world turned ashen at the thought.  What was he doing
in this atmosphere of literary humbug, among the satellites of a
poor fatuous dreamer?  Life, real life, was a million miles away
from these ephemeral word-spinners. . .  The scene crumbled as if a
sorcerer's wand had touched it.  And then, just as he was getting
to his feet, there was a stir on the landing outside, and the sound
of a small high voice saying ingratiatingly to a parlour-maid who
seemed doubtful of the speaker's credentials:  "Mr. Alders--if
you'll please simply say it's MR. ALDERS--"

"Oh, Alders," murmured Charlie Tarlton, with an explanatory hand-
wave to his guests.  "Who was it he'd promised to bring, Octavius?"
The question was answered by the parlour-maid's throwing open the
door.  On the threshold stood Alders, more dust-coloured and
negative than ever, and behind him, like a beacon in the night,
Floss Delaney.  She moved forward with her light unhurried step and
looked about her composedly, as if never doubting that it was she
whom Mr. Tarlton's guests had assembled to behold.

"This is Floss Delaney," some one said, leading her up to Octavius.
For a moment the little man's face took on the drowned look of the
superseded; then pleasure lit it up, and holding out his hand he
murmured:  "Flos florum--I don't know how to say it in this week's
American slang."

Miss Delaney scrutinized him with the cautious friendliness of a
visitor at the Zoo caressing an unknown animal.  She laid her hand
on his arm, as if he and she were facing an expectant camera, and
looked about at the assembled company.  "Isn't he GOR-geous?" she
said in her deep drawl.


XXVIII


Lady Guy Plunder said that if you wanted to hear Octavius talk you
went to Charlie's; but if you wanted to talk yourself you came,
sooner or later, to her.

There was a good deal of truth in it.  Her little house in Mayfair--
even smaller than Charlie's, and mouse-coloured instead of dove--
was packed to the doorstep for her cocktail suppers.  Lady Guy (one
of the rich Blessoms of Birmingham) had started her married career
in a big house with tessellated floors and caryatid mantelpieces;
but when taxes and overproduction had contracted the Blessom
millions she had moved light-heartedly into the compactest
habitation to be found, and Lord Guy had abandoned lawn-tennis
championships for a job in the city.

Lady Guy, Vance had learned, headed one of the numerous groups
within groups that made London such a labyrinthine adventure.  Lady
Pevensey commanded the big omnivorous throng of the rich, the idle
and nomadic.  Her name was known round the world to the echoes of
palace-hotels, and was a sure key to sensational first-nights,
theatrical or pugilistic.  She was the woman who could always get
you a seat for a coronation, a prizefight, a murder trial or a show
proscribed by the censorship; who juggled with movie-stars,
millionaires and musicians, and to whom all were interchangeable
values in the social market.  Lady Guy said that Imp had a social
ticker, and could quote prices in celebrities at any hour.  That
she could float them and boost them there was no denying; but could
she also manufacture them?  No; it took Charlie and Lady Guy to do
that, and at times the rivalry was hot between them.  Lady Guy, a
small woman with quick eyes and a tranquil manner, had, it was
true, failed to capture Octavius, who was admittedly the biggest
haul of post-war London.  Charlie said it was because her
atmosphere was too restless; she retorted that she wasn't going to
be stagnant to oblige anybody.  But the two remained on fairly good
terms, Charlie because he needed Lady Guy's finds to entertain
Octavius, and Lady Guy because she did not despair of luring
Octavius away from him.

It was at Charlie's that she had discovered Vance, and immediately
she had guessed his value.  To the people in Imp Pevensey's set he
was merely the clever new American novelist who had written "The
Puritan in Spain", which was modern enough to make one feel in the
movement, yet full of lovely scenery and rather sticky love-making.
But that would not do for Lady Guy.  She found out about "Colossus"
from Derek Fane, and instantly, whenever Vance was mentioned, the
Plunder set said:  "Oh, 'The Puritan in Spain'?  Y-yes--that
belongs to his pretty-pretty period.  But of course you know about
'Colossus'?  Hasn't Gwen Plunder asked you for next Friday?  He's
promised to read us some fragments . . ." and Vance was immediately
known as the author of "Colossus", that unfinished masterpiece of
which the elect were already cognizant, and which was perhaps to
surpass Octavius's gigantic creation, and probably to appear before
it.

That this was clever of Gwen even her detractors had to admit.  If
she should succeed in deflating Octavius he might have to become
one of her habitués, if only in order to be reinflated.  And
meanwhile there was Vance at her disposal, young, good-looking,
fresh, a novelty to the London palate--while Octavius was already a
staple diet.  Instantly Vance became the most sought-after figure
in literary and artistic London, and certain disdainful personages
who had affected indifference to Lady Guy's previous celebrities
now overwhelmed her with attentions and invitations, all of which
she smilingly accepted without committing herself with regard to
the Friday reading.

Lady Pevensey used her artists and writers as bait for
millionaires, and her millionaires (and especially their females)
as baits for Bohemia.  If a budding society novelist wanted to know
what sort of gowns and jewels were being worn at small dinners that
year, or what young Lord Easterbridge and the Duke of Branksome
really talked about when they were with their own little crowd,
Lady Pevensey instantly arranged a meeting between best-sellers and
best-dressers.  For her parties women put on their emeralds, and
the budding novelist had to come in a white tie.  Lady Guy's policy
was the reverse.  The first inducement she offered you was that you
needn't dress; in fact she besought you not to.  There were few
idlers at her parties, and people were urged to drop in "just as
they were".  The men could wear city clothes, or sweaters and plus-
fours, the women come straight from their studios, old-furniture
shops, manicuring establishments, dress-makers' salons or typists'
desks.  She had thus captured some of Bloomsbury's wildest birds,
and maddened the wearers of tiaras with the unappeased longing to
be invited.

Vance, as he took off his overcoat, and straightened the dark brown
tie which had been carefully chosen to set off his gray striped
flannel, examined his reflection curiously in the glass at the foot
of Lady Guy's stairs.  His selves, as he had long since discovered,
were innumerable, and there were times when each in turn had
something interesting to say to him.  But at the moment only two
were audible: the ironic spectator who stood aside and chuckled,
and the hero of the evening, whose breast was bursting with
triumph.  Lady Guy had run over, carelessly, the names of some of
the people who had asked to be asked; among them were a few for
whose approbation and understanding Vance would have given every
facile success he had ever enjoyed.  And they were awaiting him
now, they wanted to hear what he had to tell them, they believed in
him and in his future.  The ironic spectator shrank into the
background as the laughing hero, besieged by smiles and invitations,
sprang upstairs to greet his hostess.

With the unfolding of the manuscript both these light puppets were
brushed aside, and Vance was the instrument to which the goddess
laid her lips.  He forgot where he was, who was listening, what
judgment this or that oracle was preparing to pronounce on him, and
remembered only that each syllable he spoke had been fed with his
life, and was a part of him.  At first he was aware of reading too
fast, of slurring his words in the way that Halo reproved; then his
voice freed itself and spread wings, and he seemed to hang above
his creation, and to see that it was good.

For the most part he was listened to in silence, but he thought he
felt a subtle current of understanding flowing between him and his
audience, and now and then it escaped in a murmur of approbation
that was like wind in his sails.  Thus urged, he sped on.  The
pages seemed to take life, his figures arose and walked, and he
felt that dizzy sense of power which eternally divides the creator
from the rest of mankind.

As he laid his manuscript down Lady Guy's guests gathered around
him.  Every one had something to say, and at once he divined that
for all of them the important thing was not what he had written but
the epithets they had found to apply to it.  The disenchantment was
immediate.  "It's the same everywhere," he thought, recalling the
literary evenings at the Tarrants', where the flower of New York
culture had praised him for the wrong reasons.  He had learned then
how short a way into an artist's motives the discernment of the
cleverest ever penetrated.  How his visions had dwindled under
their touch--how he had hated them for admiring him for the wrong
reasons, and despised himself for imagining that their admiration
was worth having!

Now it was just the same.  These brilliant sophisticated people,
who had seemed so stimulating and discriminating when they talked
of other people's books--how wide of the mark they went in dealing
with his!  He felt ashamed of his dissatisfaction, which resembled
a voracious appetite for praise, though it was only a timid craving
for such flashes of insight as Frenside and Tolby had once and
again shed on his work.  One or two men--not more; and not one
woman.  Not even Halo, he thought ungratefully. . .

Awkwardly he gathered up his pages.  The cessation of the reading
restored him to self-consciousness, and he wished he could have
escaped at once, like an actor slipping behind the wings.  But his
audience was clustering about him, showering compliments, putting
foolish questions, increasing his longing to be back among the
inarticulate and the unself-conscious.  And suddenly, as he stood
there, accepting invitations and stammering thanks, the door opened
and Floss Delaney came in.

He had met her only once since their chance encounter at Charlie
Tarlton's.  She had urged him, then, to come and see her, and had
named the day and hour; but when he presented himself at the hotel
where she and her father were staying he found her absent-minded
and indifferent, distracted by telephone-calls, by notes to be
answered, and dress-makers to be interviewed, and abandoning him to
the society of her father and Alders.  He swore then that it should
be the end, and assured himself that he was thankful to have had
his lesson.  But when Floss appeared in Lady Guy's drawing-room he
felt a difference in her before which all his resolutions crumbled;
for he knew at once that she had come for him, and him only.

She glanced about her in the cool critical way which always made it
seem as if any entertainment at which she appeared had been planned
in her honour; and to Lady Guy's expression of regret that she
should have missed the reading, she replied lightly:  "Oh, I'm glad
it's over.  I never was much on books."

Her hostess gave a slightly acid laugh.  "That's why I hadn't meant
to invite you, my dear."

"Oh, I know; but it's the reason why I wanted to come.  I mean,
your not wanting me," said Miss Delaney, with her grave
explicitness.  "I always like to see what's going on.  Besides,"
she added, "I've known Vance a good while longer than any of you
people, and it would have been no use pretending to him that I
understood a word of what he was reading."  She went toward him,
and held out her hand.  "You'll have to make the best of it, Vanny.
I came to see you and not your book."

It was as if the crowded room had been magically emptied, and she
and Vance were alone.  He looked at her with enchanted eyes.  Who
else in the world would have known exactly what he longed to have
said to him at that particular moment?  Ah, this was what women
were for--to feel the way to one's heart just when the Preacher's
vanity weighed on it most heavily!

Lady Guy's guests were pouring down the stairs to the dining-room;
as Floss turned to follow she threw a smile at Vance and caught his
hand.  "We'll go down together.  I'm ravenous, aren't you?  Get me
something to eat as quick as you can, darling."

Vance had never seen her so radiant, so sure of herself.  Her very
quietness testified to her added sense of power.  Her dark hair,
parted in a new fashion, clasped her low forehead in dense folds
which a thread of diamonds held in place, and she wore something
light and shining, that seemed an accident of her own effulgence.
In the crowded little dining-room the mere force of that inner
shining--he didn't know how else to describe it--drew the men from
the other women, who were so much quicker and cleverer, and knew so
much what to say.  Vance found himself speedily separated from her
by eager competitors; but he had no feeling of unrest.  For this
one evening he knew she belonged to him, she was not going to
forget him or desert him.

And when the party broke up he found himself again at her side,
found that, as a matter of course, he had her cloak on his arm, and
was following her out into the thin summer night.  He got into the
motor beside her, and the chauffeur looked back for orders.

"Oh, how hot it was in there!  I'm suffocating, aren't you?"  She
lowered the front window.  "We'll drive straight down to Brambles,"
she commanded, and the chauffeur nodded, apparently unsurprised.
They sped away.

"Brambles?  Where's that?" Vance asked, not in the least caring to
know, but merely wanting to fit the new name into his dream.

"It's a little place father's hired for week-ends; somewhere under
Hindhead, I think they call it.  You go over the top of everything.
Don't you think it would be lovely to see the sunrise from the top
of a big hill?  I believe we can make it; there's not much traffic
at this hour.  I'm dead sick of crowds, aren't you?"  Her head sank
back against the cushioned seat.  "I wasn't going to have all those
people think you and I'd never done anything together but talk high-
brow!" she exclaimed, with her low unexpected laugh.  She turned
and kissed him, and then shook him off to light a cigarette.
"Don't bother me--I just want to doze and dream."


XXIX


They flew on through empty streets, through lamplit suburbs and
dark bosky lanes.  They sped under park walls overhung with heavy
midsummer foliage, past gates with guardian lodges just glimmering
into sight, through villages asleep about their duck-ponds, their
shaded commons and sturdy church-towers.  The road wound and wound,
then rose and breasted a wide stretch of open heath, soaring,
soaring.  Vance's heart rose with it, swinging upward to the light.
He sat still, clasping her to him.  She had fallen asleep, and her
little head lay on his shoulder.  As they reached the summit of the
ridge the chauffeur lowered his speed, but without stopping, and
slowly they glided along above shadowy sweeping distances, vales
studded with scattered trees, villages and towns with a spire or
tower starting up into the light from the gray crouching roofs.

"Oh, look, look!" Vance cried out, as far away to the east the day
woke in fire through trails of Channel mist.

Floss opened her eyes reluctantly.  "I'm cold."  She shivered and
drew her cloak about her.  "We must be nearly there," she said
contentedly, and her head fell back on Vance's shoulder.  She had
seen nothing, felt nothing, of the beauty and mystery of the dawn.
There flashed through him the memory of another sunrise, seen from
Thundertop at Halo's side, when he and she were girl and youth, and
their hearts held the same ecstasy.  All that was over--such
ecstasies are seldom shared, and he had grown used to tasting his
sunrises and his poetry alone.  But he felt the beat of life in his
arms, and told himself that thus only can a man reach out of his
solitude and be warm.

And now they were winding down again into the blue night of the
lanes.  The motor turned in at a gate and drew up before a low
house among dewy flowerbeds.  There was a scent of old-fashioned
roses; a lily-pool slept under a gray wall.  Everything had the
gliding smoothness and unreality of a dream.

"I wonder if there'll be anybody up to let us in?  I telephoned; at
least I think I did; but I don't believe they expected us before
daylight.  Oh, boy, aren't the roses just too heavenly?  And what's
that blue stuff that smells so sweet?"  Floss, suddenly awake,
sprang out of the motor and darted across the wet grass to a long
pool edged with lavender.  She knelt and plunged her bare arms
among the sleeping water-lilies.  "I want to wash off London, don't
you?  But I guess a hot bath would do it better."  She jumped up
again and caught him by the hand.  "Come along; we'll come out
again by and by, and pick millions and millions of roses. . ."

A rumpled but respectful housemaid stood at the door.  Another was
hurriedly lighting a fire in the chimney of the low-raftered hall;
and Floss stood on the hearth, laughing and drying her wet arms.

"We didn't expect you, Miss, not till luncheon," the housemaid
said; and Floss retorted gaily:  "Oh, you'll have to get used to
that.  My watch never keeps the same time as other people's.  I
suppose we can have some coffee or something?  And then I want to
go to bed and sleep for hours--"  She stretched her arms above her
head with a happy yawn.

Coffee and toast, bacon and jam, invited them to a table near the
fire, and they feasted there in the early sunshine streaming
through low windows hung with roses.

Floss, it appeared, had meant to come off alone for two days.  She
was exhausted by London hours and the London rush, she wanted to
get away by herself and think; she was like that sometimes, she
explained.  And then, seeing Vance again at Lady Guy's, she had
said to herself how much jollier it would be to have him come with
her--"and just for once pretend it's old times.  Shall we, Vanny?"
She leaned to him with one of her swift caressing touches, and he
sprang up and bent over her, covering her neck and shoulders with
impatient kisses.  But she pushed him back.  "Darling--I'm fagged
out and simply dead with sleep.  I'm going up to my room to bathe
and go to bed.  They'll give you a bed somewhere; and I daresay
they can find some things of father's for you.  Come down at one
and we'll have lunch; and then there'll be the whole heavenly
afternoon . . . the English afternoons are as long as whole days,
aren't they?"  She slipped through his arms, and ran singing up the
stairs.  The appearance of the housemaid on the upper landing
prevented pursuit, and Vance, heavy with well-being, eager yet
content, stood waiting before the fire.  As she said, the English
afternoons were as long as days--and it was hardly an hour after
sunrise.  He followed the housemaid sleepily to the room assigned
to him.



Yes, that afternoon of late July was as long as a whole day; but to
Vance it passed in a flash.  She trailed down late for lunch, in a
pale yellow cotton, a sun-hat on her arm, the heels of her red
sandals clicking on the smooth oak stairs.  They lunched in a
thatched porch, its oak posts hung with clematis; and after coffee
and cigarettes wandered out to explore the garden.  It was full of
bright midsummer flowers against dark hedges, of clumps and cones
of shining holly.  From an upper slope overhung by ancient Scotch
firs they caught, between hills, a glimpse of the wide dappled
country stretching southward.  Then they came down again, and
strolled along a lane to the village, with its low houses hunched
about a duck-pond, and its square-towered church of slaty stone.
The gardens before the houses were brimming with flowers, farm-
horses waded in the pond, geese waddled in a regimental line across
the common.  All else slept in the peace of afternoon.

They came back and sat on a bench under an old mulberry tree, the
long lily-pool before them.  The air was full of the noise of
midsummer insects.  "Summer afternoon--summer afternoon," Vance
murmured, the words humming in his ears like insect-music.

"Darling, you mustn't--they can see us perfectly from the windows,"
Floss exclaimed, slipping from his embrace.

"Let's go where they can't, then," he muttered, trying to draw her
to her feet.

"No; not yet.  It's so lovely here.  Tonight--" she laid her hand
on his arm.  "By and by we'll go in and have tea in the porch.
They have such lovely things for tea in England."

He looked at her without knowing what she said; now she wavered in
the summer light like an apparition, now her nearness burned into
his flesh.

She talked on ramblingly, in her level drawl, always about herself,
telling him of her London experiences, her future plans, the
difficulty she had in managing her father.  "He's getting fidgety--
he wants to go home.  He says he's fed up with swell society.  I
guess he's told you about that old family place down south he wants
to buy back.  Sounds nice from here, don't it--an old family place!
You'd think it was Windsor Castle.  But I know what it would mean
when he got there.  A tumble-down house, and trotting-horses, and
cards and racing, and everybody borrowing from him and swindling
him, and the boys dropping in at all hours for drinks.  And this is
no time to sell out stocks, anyway. . .  I'd have to go back and
look after him."

She leaned her head against her crossed arms, and Vance's eyes
followed the smooth amber of the underarms detaching themselves in
an amphora-curve from her light sleeveless dress.  "I'd rather get
married at once than do that," she grumbled.

But when he asked her, with a forced laugh, whom she thought of
marrying, she said she hadn't made up her mind yet which of the
royal princes she'd settle on; but she'd be sure to let Vance know
in time for him to choose a handsome wedding-present.  "For you're
certain to make a fortune out of your books after your London
success, aren't you, Vanny?  How much do you expect to make out of
this new book?  Forty thousand?  They say Kipling gets fifty.  Who
looks after your money for you, darling?"

Tea was brought out to them under the mulberry, and she fell into
ecstasies over the thick yellow cream, the buttered scones, the
pyramid of late raspberries with a purple bloom on them.  "Didn't I
tell you it would be wicked to miss anything so heavenly?"  She
held one of the raspberries against her neck.  "Wouldn't they make
a lovely necklace--like dark coral?"  She laughed at the crimson
stain on her skin.  But as Vance was bending over to kiss it away
the parlour-maid advanced, a black-coated figure halting discreetly
in her wake.

"The Vicar, please, Miss."

"The Vicar?  Mercy, what's a Vicar?" Floss whispered hastily.  "Oh,
the minister of that church in the village, I suppose."  She rose
with sudden cordiality.  "How lovely of you to call!  Yes--I'm Miss
Delaney.  My father's taken this place for the summer.  This is my
cousin, Vance Weston--the famous American novelist.  I guess you
know him by name, anyhow.  They're wild about his books in London."
As she called Vance her cousin she slid a glance at him under her
lashes.

The Vicar, an elderly man with a long purplish face and shy eyes,
melted under her affability, and sat down on the edge of a garden
chair.  He looked timidly at Vance, and then away from him, as if
famous novelists were too far out of his range to be communicated
with.  Then he remarked to Miss Delaney that the day was warm.  She
replied that he wouldn't think that if he'd been reared in
Euphoria; and as this statement visibly deepened his perplexity she
explained that it was the name of the town where she and her cousin
had been brought up.  She liked the English climate better, she
added, because when you did get a hot day it stood right out from
the others, and you felt it must have cost a lot of money to make.

The conversation rambled on slumberously till the Vicar, with
some circumlocution, put in a modest plea for his parochial
organizations.  Would Miss Delaney perhaps take an interest in
them?  The tenants of Brambles had usually allowed him to hold the
annual parish festival in the gardens.  To Vance's surprise Floss
listened with edifying attention, sitting in one of her quiet
sculptural attitudes while the parochial plans were haltingly and
laboriously set forth.  It almost seemed to Vance that she was
prolonging the conversation with the malicious intent of defrauding
him of what was left of the day, and he got up and walked away,
hoping the Vicar might take the hint and follow.  But from the
farther end of the orchard the intruder could be seen settling
himself with deliberation before a dish of fresh scones, and
another towering pile of raspberries, and Vance, exasperated,
wandered out of the gate and down the lane.

When he returned the garden was empty, and he went into the low-
ceilinged hall, where the light was beginning to fade, though the
day was still so bright outside.  From the armchair in which she
lolled Floss stretched out her hand.

"Darling, why did you run away?  Didn't you think the Vicar was
lovely?  He told me all about School Treats and Mothers' Meetings."
She drew Vance down and wound her arms around his neck.  "I guess
the girls are at supper now, and you can kiss me," she whispered,
laughing.

He knelt beside her, pressing her fast, and throbbing with her
heart-beats.  With other women--even with his poor little wife--
golden strands of emotion had veined the sombre glow; but to hold
Floss Delaney was to plunge into a dark night, a hurrying river.
It was as if her blood and his were the tide sweeping them away.
Everything else was drowned in that wild current.

She freed herself and leaned back.  "Why, Vanny, what a baby you
are!  It's like old times.  Do you remember, down by the river?  Do
you like me better than any of those girls you've been going with
up in London?"

"She's mine--I must keep her!" was his only thought.  But suddenly
the telephone shrilled through their absorption, and Floss started
to her feet.  Vance tightened his hold.  "Don't go . . . don't
go. . .  What does it matter?  Let the thing be damned, can't you?"

She shook him off.  "No, don't stop me.  I must see what it is."
In an instant everything about her was changed: she looked alert
and hard, her lips narrowed to a thin line.  "I'm expecting a
message," she threw back, hurrying across the hall to the passage
where the telephone hung.

Vance sank into the chair she had left; his head felt the warmth
where hers had rested.  He smiled at her veering moods.  At that
moment nothing that she said or did could break the spell; and they
still had the end of the long afternoon, and then the night, before
them.

Through the door into the passage he caught snatches of
question and ejaculation.  "Yes--yes: Floss Delaney.  Yes; I'm
listening. . . .  Oh . . . why, yes. . . .  She did?  She IS? . . .
Oh, gracious! . . .  You're SURE? . . .  Yes . . .  Yes. . . .  I
hear . . ."  The door swung shut, and only the indistinct ups and
downs of her voice came to him.  He was not trying to listen; what
she was saying did not interest him.  His ears were full of their
own music.  "In a minute," he thought, "she'll be back . . ."  His
eyes closed on the vision.

"Well!" she exclaimed, suddenly standing before him.  "Vance, are
you asleep?  Well, what on earth do you think--?"  She dropped down
on a stool before the hearth, and burst into a queer exultant
laugh.  Her eyes shone in the twilight like jewels.  "Well, I know
somebody who's down and out--and serve him right too!"  Her
laughter continued, in short irregular bursts, as if it were an
exercise she was not used to.  "Spartivento!  Our darling Duke's
got left!  Why, yes . . . didn't you know he thought he was going
to marry Mrs. Glaisher?  I supposed Alders had told you.  I thought
everybody knew.  He made a big enough fool of himself--going round
asking everybody about her investments.  I warned him she'd be sure
to hear about it, but he only said: 'Well, what if she did?'  Those
Italians, even if they're the biggest swells in their own country,
don't understand our ideas of delicacy. . .  Well, and what do you
suppose?  Alders telephones that she's announced her engagement to
the Grand Duke Basil!  I had a bet with Spartivento--I told him I
knew he wouldn't pull it off.  I guess I'm a hundred dollars to the
good on this; or would be, if he had the money to pay me--poor old
Spart!"

She threw back her head, and in a leap of firelight Vance saw the
laugh issuing from her throat like stamens from a ruby flower.  He
felt revolted and fascinated.  She was like some one starting up
out of a lethargy; he had never seen her so vivid, so passionate.
What could this sordid story of Mrs. Glaisher and Spartivento
matter to her?  He sprang up and pulled her to her feet.  "What do
I care about those rubbishy people?  Are you trying to tell me
you're in love with the man yourself, and that you thought you'd
lost him?" he burst out, pressing her wrists angrily.  He knew his
anger was ridiculous, yet he could not master it.

"Vance--let me go, Vance!  You hurt--let me go!"  She twisted
furiously in his hold.  "Me in love with Sparti?  Well, you think
of good ones!  Much obliged!"  He dropped her hands, and instantly
she came up and laid her head on his breast.  "You're a nice boy,
you are, when a girl's carried you off with her like this, to
accuse her of being in love with another fellow.  Have I acted as
if I was?"  She lifted her heavy lids and gave him a long look.  He
put his arms about her, trembling with joy.  "Then, darling--come."

"Yes--yes."  She leaned on him a moment; then she drew back softly.
"We can't behave exactly as if there was nobody but us in the
house, can we?  They'll be bringing in dinner soon, and I want to
go to my room first, and have a rest.  I'm beginning to feel that
we started our elopement somewhere about three A.M.--aren't you?"
She rested her warm sleepy gaze on his.  "He was cross with me, was
he, because he thought I wanted mother Glaisher's leavings?  Looks
that way, don't it?  Why, I guess I could have bought her Grand
Duke for myself easily enough if I'd wanted to!  What I DO want,
the worst way, is a hot bath, and a good sleep before dinner."  She
slipped out of his arms, and paused half way up the stairs to wave
back at him.  "So long, darling!"



Well--if she chose to play her old game, let her.  Vance smiled
with the security of the happy lover.  Even her childish excitement
over the Glaisher-Spartivento episode amused him.  It was a mind in
which everything was exactly on the same level of importance.
Hadn't he discovered that long ago?  One didn't ask for
intelligence or sensibility in women of her sort.  He felt light,
detached, pleased with his own objectivity.  What danger was there
in wasting a few hours over her when his judgment remained so
unaffected?

He strolled out into the garden.  The lengthening shadows seemed to
have brought out new scents in the still air.  He looked back and
saw a curtain sway out from an upper window--hers no doubt.  His
heart stirred; the warmth of her beauty seemed to envelop him.

He went out of the gate, and roamed through a network of hushed
lanes.  The softness of the air entered into his veins.  He met a
farm-wagon driving homeward with its load; the hot flanks of the
big slow-footed horses brushed him as they passed.  Farther on, he
heard the soft padding of a flock of sheep, and scrambled up in the
bracken to let them pass.  Mounting upward he reached a stretch of
open moor, where the clear daylight hung as if perpetually
suspended, and threw himself down in the rough heather.

As he lay there his mind wandered back over the day.  From that
height it seemed to lie spread out before him, clear yet distant,
as if its incidents had befallen some one else.  Queer that the
girl's power over him could co-exist with such lucidity!  An hour
or two ago everything had been blurred in his brain; now each
fantastic episode detached itself, standing out in beauty or
absurdity.  The absurdity, of course, was provided by Floss's
excitement at the report of Mrs. Glaisher's betrothal.  Humiliating
as the admission was, Vance had to own that the news had instantly
put him out of her mind.  And why, unless, as he had jokingly
suggested, it gave her the hope of capturing Spartivento?  He had
joked at the moment; but as the scene came back to him he winced.
Yet why was he suddenly measuring poor Floss by standards he had
never before thought of applying to her?  He had always known that
money, flattery and excitement were all she cared for; to make her
forget them for a moment was probably the most he could hope.
Luckily, he reflected, he was still clear-sighted enough not to
sentimentalize the situation.

He sprang up with a laugh.  "Well, it's up to me now.  If I can't
get her away from the other fellow I'm no good!"  He began to
scramble down the hillside in the gathering darkness as if he had
been racing his rival back to Floss's feet.

When he got down into the shade of the lanes, he was bewildered by
the sign-posts with names of unknown villages, and taking a wrong
turning, wasted half an hour in getting back to the point he had
missed.  Under the thick branches the velvet dusk was beginning to
gather, altering the look of things; but as soon as he was on the
right trail again he began to run, and before long he saw the first
roofs of the village, and beyond them the trees of Brambles.  He
pushed open the white gate.  The low windows still stood open;
their welcome streamed out across the lawn.  Vance ran toward them
like a breathless schoolboy.  She might belong to Spartivento
tomorrow, but tonight she was his.  He gave a happy laugh.

At the door he met the parlour-maid who had received them that
morning.  With her black dress and afternoon cap she seemed to have
regained her professional superiority, and he fancied she looked at
him coldly.

"Oh, it's you, sir?"  She seemed surprised.  "Miss Delaney thought
you'd taken the train back."

Vance returned her look blankly.  "The train--?"

"But she said, if not," the parlour-maid continued with manifest
disapproval, "we was to serve dinner for you just as if she'd been
here."

Vance continued to stare at her.  At first her words conveyed no
meaning to him; then his heart gave a dizzy drop.  "What's the
matter?  Isn't she coming down?  Is she--I suppose she's too
tired?"

The parlour-maid stared in her turn.  She did so with an icy
respectfulness.  "Down to dinner, sir?  Miss Delaney left for
London an hour ago."

Vance stood motionless.  The dizziness seemed to have got into his
throat: it was so dry that he could hardly speak.  He repeated:
"London?"

The parlour-maid pursed up her lips and drew aside to let him
enter.  "You'll dine here, then, sir?"

"Left--but why did she leave?  What's happened?"

"I couldn't say, sir.  I was to give you this if you came back."
She took a note from the table, and Vance carried it to the light
and tore it open.

"Don't be cross, Vanny.  I've had a hurry call back to London and
couldn't wait for you to come in.  Didn't we have a lovely day?
The girl will tell you about the trains.  Love and goodbye.  Floss.

"P.S.  No use trying to see me.  I'm not going to be in town for
some days."

He read the note over slowly.  Then he crumpled it up and stood
looking straight ahead of him.  He thought:  "Well, I must go and
pack up my things"; then he remembered that he had come down only
that morning, and had brought nothing with him.  That gave him a
fugitive sense of relief.

"Which way is the station?"

The maid explained that it was about a mile beyond the village, and
that you took the first turn to the left.  "But there's no train
now till eleven."

He had already turned away and was walking down the drive.  He
swung along, the gravel crunching under his feet in the silence.
Now he had passed the pool, then skirted the deep shadows of the
holly-garden; now the gate glimmered white before him.  He went out
of it and turned toward the village.  It was nearly a mile away,
and the dusky lane that led to it was deserted.  A little owl
called wistfully in the twilight.  He walked on to the village,
across the common, past the duck-pond and out onto the road that
led to the station.  That road too was deserted.

Vance walked along at a good pace until he reached the last turn
before the station; then he sat down under the hedgerow and began
to cry.


XXX


Halo Tarrant was at work in the garden of the pink house.  The
seeds she had sown in the spring--phlox, zinnia, larkspur, poppy--
contended in a bonfire of bloom.  As she knelt over it, weeding,
snipping and staking, her shoulder-blades ached and the afternoon
sun burnt through her broad hat-brim and lay like burning lead on
the nape of her neck.

She liked the muscular fatigue and the slight dizziness caused by
the sun; liked, at the end of each long silent day, to stagger back
into the empty house so stupefied by heat and labour that she
hardly knew where she was, and sleep came down on her like a fit of
drunkenness.  In that way the days and the weeks passed, and the
calendar had almost ceased to exist--except when she started up at
the postman's ring.  She supposed she would never be able to cure
herself of that start, or of knowing instinctively when letters
were due, though she was so careful to leave her wrist-watch in her
drawer upstairs.

She had heard from Vance only twice since he had left--a telegram
on arriving ("Everything fine quartered with Tolby"), and about a
week later a short word, in which he apologized for haste and
brevity, explaining that his head was surging with new ideas, that
he had settled down at Tolby's to a long spell of work, and that
she mustn't mind if he didn't write often.  She didn't mind at all--
at first.  She was too thankful to know that he had got back into
the creative mood; there could be no better proof that he was rid
of morbid memories of Chris Churley.  But gradually, as the days
passed, and the silence closed in on her, she felt herself too
cruelly shut out from his adventures and experiences.  Not a word
of how the work was going, no acknowledgement of her letters and
telegrams (all so studiously cheerful and comrade-like), no hint of
regret at her not being with him, no briefest allusion to Oubli--or
to herself!  He had shed all that, had entered on another phase.
Was it just the intoxication of the return to creative activity, of
contact with new people, tapping fresh sources of admiration (there
were times when he liked that more than he was willing to
acknowledge), or was it--was it a new woman?

She remembered her agony of jealousy in Paris, when he had vanished
so unaccountably for three or four days, and had then reappeared
with a stack of manuscript.  She was not going to let herself
suffer such torture again.  It had been unwarranted then, and would
probably prove to be so now.  From time to time he needed a change
of place and people to set the creative engine going: was she still
narrow-minded enough to grudge it him?

No; only the days were so long, and in his place she would have
found it so easy to write a short letter now and then. . .  Well,
men were different.  She couldn't help jumping each time she heard
the postman's step; but she had forced herself not to count the
days since the one letter had come, and really, thanks to hard work
and stupefying sun, she now no longer remembered whether it was
days or weeks since she had heard from him.

She paused in her work, and looked attentively at one of the
flowers.  How exquisitely imagined, how subtly wrought!  What
patient and elaborate artifice had gone to the inventing of its
transient loveliness!  Not so long ago she had scattered seed in
little boxes, and later, dibble in hand, had moved each tiny plant
to its own place.  Other seeds she had sown in the beds, in even
furrows, and watched the plants sprout through the light soil.
Between them now, under their spreading foliage, the brown leaves
of the spring bulbs were decaying and turning into mould.  Season
followed season in blossom and decline; the fresh leaf drooped and
fell, the young face of the flower withered and grew old, the
endless function unrolled its cruel symbolism unheeded by those it
might have warned.

"If only it wasn't for the caterpillars!" Halo groaned, lifting a
riddled leaf against the light.  She knew well enough what the
caterpillars symbolized too: the mean cares, the gnawing anxieties,
that crawl over the fair face of life.  She stood up and stamped
vindictively on a writhing green body.  And then there were the
seeds that failed--and the young shoots the slugs devoured. . .  To
the general rhythm of rise and fall the heart might have adapted
itself; but the accidental ravages, snail-tracks, caterpillar
slime, the disenchantment and failure. . .  "I suppose I've been
too long alone," she mused, suddenly sick of her work and her
thoughts.

Her solitude was self-imposed; for though the Pension Britannique
and the little cluster of villas belonging to the pre-war colony
were, as usual, closed for the summer, life was active on the
farther side of the town, where the long sand beach, once so
lonely, had begun to be fringed with tin-roofed "dancings", cheap
restaurants and mushroom bungalows.  Halo could once have found
plenty of entertainment among the literary and artistic Bohemians
who were already populating this new settlement.  If Vance had been
there it would have amused her to swim and drink cocktails, to sun-
bathe and discuss life and the arts with these boisterous friendly
people who flashed by her in rattling Citroëns or strowed the sands
with naked silhouettes.  But by herself it was different.  Paris
had cured her of artistic Bohemia, and as soon as she was alone she
felt how deeply rooted in her were the old instincts of order and
continuity.  In Vance too they existed--had they not first drawn
him to her out of the sordid confusion of his life with Laura Lou?
But he was young (she had long since discarded the epithet in
thinking of herself), he was impressionable and inexperienced,
above all he had the artist's inexhaustible appetite for
"material".  What more natural than that he should still crave what
for her had lost its savour?  "If you wanted to do the same thing
every day at the same hour for the rest of your life," she told
herself, "you ought to have married a teller in a bank, or a
statistician who had to live within a five minutes' walk of the
British Museum, and not a live-wire novelist."  But the argument,
from frequent reiteration, had lost its force.  "We are what we
are," she thought, "and that's the end of it.  At least I suppose
this time it's the end. . ."

She heard a step in the path, and her heart gave a jump.  It was
not the postman's hour; she needed no watch to tell her that.  But
it might be a telegram, or a registered letter--if he had something
extra-important to tell her--or it might even . . .

She turned quickly, and the garden-scissors dropped from her hand.
It was over two years since she had seen that short thick figure,
always in a dark "business suit" of the same citified cut, and the
blunt Socratic face with its shrewd sceptical eyes guarded by old-
fashioned American pince-nez.  Over two years?  A life-time!
George Frenside came to her out of a dead world.

"Frenny--oh, Frenny!"  She ran to him with outstretched arms.  The
sense of her loneliness rushed over her; the words choked in her
throat.  Her work-roughened hands sank into her friend's, and they
stood and looked at each other.

"Well, it looks to me like the same old Halo," said Frenside with
his short laugh; and she slipped her hand through his arm and drew
him up the path to the house.

She was too surprised and excited to ask him whence or how he had
come.  It was only afterward that she remembered, vaguely, his
alluding to an unexpected holiday in Europe, and to his having been
unable to notify her in advance because his plans depended on those
of a friend with whom he was making a dash to the Mediterranean.
"So I just jumped over from Marseilles on the chance of finding
you," she remembered his ending.  She did not ask his friend's
name; her mind could not fix itself on what he was telling her.
She felt only the comforting warmth of his nearness, the nearness
of an old friend whose memories were so interwoven with hers that
his voice and smile and turns of phrase started up countless
fragments of experience, scenes of her nursery days, of her
girlhood with its fervours and impatiences, and the cold gray years
of marriage.  Through all those phases his shrewd eyes had followed
her; he was the one being who had understood her revolts and her
submissions, her vain sacrifices and her final clutch at happiness.
To see him sitting there in the half-darkened room, his head
slanted back against the shabby armchair, his short legs stretched
out before him, his everlasting cigar between his lips, was to
become again the Halo of Eaglewood and New York, and to measure the
distance between that eager ghost and her new self.  "I wonder
which is the ghostliest," she thought, as she bent over to mix a
lemon-squash for her friend.

He was waiting for her to speak, to give an account of herself; but
how could she?  She had not put her spiritual house in order, she
hardly knew what she was feeling or whither she was drifting.
Solitude had woven its magic passes about her, pouring a blessed
numbness into her veins.  And now, at this sudden contact with the
past, every nerve awoke.

"So you've liked it pretty well down here?" Frenside asked, looking
up at her as he took the glass.

She rallied her scattered wits.  "Oh, immensely.  You see, I was
here in old times with father and mother, and always wanted to come
back.  And we had the luck to find this darling little house--don't
you think it's a darling?  Did you notice the big mulberry at the
door, and the flagging around it?  That was the old threshing-
floor.  They used to make oil here too.  Wouldn't you like to come
down and see the old oil-press in the cellar?"  She chattered on,
smothering him in trivialities, yet knowing all the while that he
would presently emerge from them as alert as ever, and as
determined to have her tell him whatever he wanted to know.

"Thanks.  But I'm too well off here.  I don't think I'll go down
and see the oil-press.  I really came to see you."

"Oh, ME?"  She laughed.  "There's not much novelty about me."

"I didn't come to see a new Halo.  I came to find out if the old
one survived."

"Survived what?" she said captiously.

"Why, the storm and stress."

She gave a little laugh.  "Dear Frenny, you're incorrigibly
romantic!  Being happy is much simpler than people think."

"Well, most of us have to take it on hearsay, so it's excusable if
we're misinformed.  You might give a poor devil some lights on the
subject."

She laughed again, but found no answer.  Under the banter she felt
his thoughts searching hers, and she was frightened, and for the
first time in her life wanted to shut him out, and could not.  To
break the silence she said:  "But at least you'll stay till
tomorrow, won't you?  I can make you very comfortable in Vance's
room."

"I wish I could, my dear; but I've got to get back to Marseilles.
We're off tomorrow."

There was another silence.  Then he went on:  "You said:  'Vance's
room'.  He's away, then?"

Suddenly she became fluent.  "Oh, yes; I forgot to tell you; he's
in London.  I packed him off to see his publishers and talk to
people about his new book.  He's got a big thing under way; you'll
like it better than 'The Puritan in Spain'.  I know without asking
that you didn't care much about that.  It had a good deal of
success . . . but that's no reason. . .  This new book is going to
be--well, rather immense in its way: a sort of primitive torso.  A
fragment of experience dug up out of the sub-conscious. . ."  She
felt that she was talking into the void, and stopped.  "But it's no
use telling you, when you have to take it all on faith."

"But you believe in it yourself?"

"Of course I do!" she cried with angry fervour.

Frenside seemed not to notice the energy of her reply.  The worst
thing about talking with him was that he never did notice the
screens you hung up in front of things.

"Has he been away long?"

"Oh, no; only a few weeks.  I can't remember just how long. . .
It's too hot here to remember dates. . .  He'll be so sorry when he
hears he's missed you."

"And you haven't felt lonely down here all by yourself?"

She paused a moment; then she said quietly:  "I stopped being
lonely two years ago."

"I see."  It was the first time he had taken any notice of her
answers.  For a while he was silent, busy with the relighting of
his cigar.  After a while he said:  "Why didn't you go to London
with him?  You could have helped him to find his way about."

"He doesn't need to have any one find his way about for him.  And I
hate that sort of life."

"Seeing intelligent people, and breathing in ideas?  You didn't use
to."  He threw his cigar impatiently onto the hearth.  He was
visibly embarrassed and irresolute.  "Look here, child; you and I
used to say things straight out, no matter how unpalatable they
were, and this fencing's a waste of time.  I wish to God you and
Weston were married; that's what I came to tell you."

The blood rushed to her forehead; she hoped that in the shaded
light he would not notice it.  "It's so dear of you, Frenny.  But
you know as well as anybody why we're not."

"I know Tarrant has blundered.  Weston went to see him; and I'm
afraid that didn't help."

She lifted her head quickly.  "It ought to have!"

"Certainly, in an ideal world.  It was a fine gesture.  But you
must take into account men's passions and weaknesses."

She was silent for a moment; then she said wearily:  "If you knew
how little it all seems to matter now."

"It ought to matter, child.  At least if I understand the case.
You ought to be Weston's wife."

"Oh, Frenny, don't go on!"  She started to her feet, the need of
avowal overmastering her.  The frozen depths were broken up; she
must lay her troubled heart in a friend's hands.  "You see--it's
not as simple as I said.  Being happy, I mean.  That was bluff."
She gave a faint laugh.  "I used to think marrying him would be the
solution.  I used to think: if only Lewis would set me free!  But
now I don't know--I don't seem to care.  I suppose it's too late;
or perhaps it never would have made any difference.  Perhaps I
wasn't meant for storm and stress, though I was so sure they were
my element!"  She sat down on the arm of his chair and hid her
face, while her old friend's arm embraced her.

"I'll tell you the only thing that's too late in this business,"
Frenside began abruptly.  "It's your marriage.  We most of us need
a frame-work, a support--the maddest lovers do.  Marriage may be
too tight a fit--may dislocate and deform.  But it shapes life too;
prevents growing lopsided, or drifting.  I know you've both felt
that, I know it's not your fault if you're still at loose ends.
I've done my best--"

She bent down and pressed her lips on his frowning forehead.
"Frenny, my darling friend--don't go on."

"How can I help it?  I know it hurts; but let's have the bandage
off--do!"

She sprang up.  "If you mean talking of ways and means, planning to
coax Lewis--I forbid you!  I forbid you to say a word to any one!"

Frenside took off his glasses, rubbed them, put them on again, and
examined her anxiously.  "Take care, Halo!  Don't defy opportunity.
She's a resentful jade."

"What opportunity?"

"The fact of Tarrant's realizing he's been in the wrong, and
wanting to make amends--as soon as possible."

Halo gave a short laugh.  This was so like life that she somehow
felt she had always been expecting it.  "I suppose you're his
ambassador?"

"Well, I suppose so--with the proviso of being disavowed if I don't
succeed."

She threw back her head and closed her eyes as the possibilities he
suggested went rushing through her.

Then she looked at him through eyes screwed up with amusement.
"How you must have hated the job!"

"Not for you."

"Good old Frenny!  Isn't it enough that I'm endlessly grateful?"

"No, it's not."

"Well, then--"  She paused.  "Fren, you remember that old story we
used to like, of Firdusi and the gifts from the Sultan?  They were
magnificent when they finally came; but he was dead."

Frenside nodded.  He took off his glasses, and wiped them again.
"Yes; but it's not really a good allegory, because we never DO know
when we're dead.  I thought I was, years ago; and here I am aching
all over again with your aches."

"Oh, my aches are not bad enough for that.  Only, it's no use your
pleading my cause with Lewis now."

"I'm not here for that.  I'm here to plead Tarrant's cause with
you.  He regrets his attitude; he's honestly sorry to have created
such a situation for you.  That's what I'm here to say."

She threw herself down on the divan, and sat for a while with her
face hidden.  She no longer wanted to conceal anything from
Frenside, but she did not quite know how to put her feeling into
words.  "Even if he were to give me my freedom tomorrow I shouldn't
tell Vance," she murmured.

"Not tell him--for God's sake, why?"

"Because the only thing I care for is HIS freedom.  I want him to
feel as free as air."

"H'm--free as air.  The untrammelled artist.  Well, I don't believe
it's the ideal state for the artist, any more than it is for the
retail grocer.  We all of us seem to need chains--and wings."

She laughed.  "All right--only in Vance's case I'd rather be the
wing-giver."

"How do you know you're not chaining him up all the tighter?  The
defenceless woman, and all that.  If you were his wife, you and
he'd be on a level."

"The defenceless woman?  Bless you, he never thinks of me as that!
He thinks only of his work--and his genius."

"Well, you wanted him to, didn't you?"

"Of course I did.  And I want it still--with all my soul!"

"Then settle your own situation first.  Let me tell Tarrant you'll
bring proceedings at once.  I can almost promise he won't make any
difficulty."

She mused again, something deep down in her still resisting this
belated charity from either husband or lover.  "It would be such a
mockery. . ."

"What would be?"

"The whole business.  If I had my divorce my people would expect me
to marry Vance.  And I can't--I can't.  If there were a divorce I
couldn't prevent his hearing of it, and if he did he'd feel he
ought to marry me--and that might ruin his life, and ruin mine
too."  She forced a faint smile.  "If being happy is simple, being
happy with an artist isn't.  It's been a beautiful adventure, but,
to adopt your bold metaphor, I want it to end before the wings turn
into chains."

She stood up, and Frenside also got to his feet.  They stood and
looked at each other like people signalling out of hearing across a
hurrying river.  At length Frenside spoke.  "There's one thing
more.  You say Weston doesn't worry about your situation--doesn't
think of it at all.  Yet he did his best to get Tarrant to yield
about the divorce."

She returned to the present with a start.  Was it possible, she
thought, that Vance had done that?  It sent a flush of triumph
through her--yet how far away and improbable it all seemed!

"Oh, yes.  He did it because some one had spoken to him rudely
about me.  But he forgot all about it when I pretended I didn't
care."

"Ah--you pretended?"

She shrugged.  "What's loving but pretending?"

Frenside stood looking at her with angry compassionate eyes.  "My
poor girl--if it's come to that, why not crown the affair by the
biggest pretense of all?  Let Weston think you want to be free.  He
won't make any difficulty, will he?"

Halo stood silent, her head sunk, her eyes fixed on the ground.
This cruel surgeon of a Frenside--how straight he had probed to the
central pain!

"Let him think I want to leave him?"

"It's the logical conclusion, isn't it?  The one towering
generosity that will justify the rest?"

She stood before him motionless.  He was speaking to her with her
own inward voice, but she could not bear the words when another
spoke them.  "He may be back now--any day," she brought out.

"And then you'll begin the patching-up business all over again?"

"I suppose so."

Frenside was silent.  The travelling-clock on Vance's desk ticked
with sudden sonority, and she thought:  "For how many weeks now
have I wound it up for him every Saturday?"

Frenside seemed to hear it also.  He pulled out his watch.  "By
Jove, I've got to be off.  My taxi's waiting down by the hotel.
I've just got time to make my train."

She stood rooted to the ground, feeling that with the least word or
movement her great loneliness would break in tears.  He held out
his hand.  "I hate to leave you here, child."

"Thank you, Fren.  But I've got to stay."

He turned away, and she listened to his short steps rapping their
way down the stairs and along the path to the gate.


XXXI


When Frenside had left her Halo tried to collect her thoughts; but
his visit had shaken her too deeply.  He had roused her out of her
self-imposed torpor into a state of hyper-acute sensibility, and
detaching her from the plight in which she was entangled had
compelled her to view it objectively.  What was her present
relation to Vance--what was their future together likely to be?
They had never quarrelled since the day at Granada when she had
reproached him for having gone to the party from which the old
Marquesa had excluded her.  A mere honeymoon flurry; and since then
there had been unbroken outward harmony between them.  Yet how far
they were from each other--much farther than the couples who
quarrelled and kissed again once a week, and to whom quarrelling
and kissing were all in the day's work.  It was her fault, no
doubt.  She had wanted the absolute--and life had handed her one of
its usual shabby compromises, and she had not known what to do with
it.

She shivered at the recollection of Frenside's advice.  Perhaps, as
he said, true magnanimity would consist in leaving Vance; but she
had not strength for it, and the only alternative was the patching-
up business, as he called it.  The patching-up would have to begin
all over again, and this time with little faith, on her part, in
the durability of the repairs.  Was it not unfair to Vance, and
deteriorating to herself, to cling to a relation that had grown
less real than the emptiest marriage?  Ah, marriage--she understood
now!  The maddest of us need a frame-work; perhaps the maddest most
of all. . .  Well, what of it?  Vance would marry her as soon as
she was free; and an hour ago she had received Tarrant's offer to
release her!

At the thought all her doubts and scruples seemed like so much
morbid hair-splitting.  Why should she and Vance not marry and take
their chance with other ordinary people?  They might have a child,
and then there would be something about which to build the frame-
work.  They would become a nucleus, their contradictory cravings
would meet in a common purpose, their being together and belonging
to each other would acquire a natural meaning.  Her heart swelled
with the emotion she had suppressed during her talk with Frenside--
the healing tears ran over.

She sat down and wrote out a telegram to Vance.  Then she tore it
up, and wrote another: this time to Tolby.  Vance had not answered
any of her previous letters and telegrams, he might not answer this
one; it was safer to apply to his friend.  "Fear have lost a letter
from Vance.  If no longer with you please send me his present
address."  She winced at the pretense of the lost letter; but what
did it matter?  Her one object was to have news.

She carried her telegram to the post office, and as she walked
along the glaring sea-front, past the sun-bathers sprawling on the
sand, and the light boats skimming before the breeze that always
sprang up toward sunset, the familiar scene grew suddenly gay and
inviting.  How natural that these young people should be enjoying
it all!  She felt young again herself, her heart beat in tune with
theirs.  As long as one was alert and sound, and could show a fresh
face to one's glass, the world was a holiday place after all.
Tomorrow she was sure to hear from Vance. . .

The morrow, however, brought only a note from Frenside, despatched
from the station at Marseilles.  Apparently, during his visit, he
had told her all his plans, though she had remembered nothing of
the first part of their talk except that he had given her good news
of her parents, and had said something about a trip to Corsica or
Sicily--she didn't know which.  What an unnatural monster she must
have become, to have ears and memory only for her own concerns!
She had been brooding over them too long alone.

Frenside gave an address at Palermo, and added that he would be
returning in a month to Paris, where, if she wished to write, she
could do so in care of his bankers.  She hastily noted both
addresses, and wondered sadly if she would ever see him again.
Suddenly it occurred to her that he was probably travelling with
Tarrant, and that the latter might have been at Marseilles awaiting
her answer, or even--who knows?--at the hotel at Oubli.  She
flushed up at the thought; but it was soon crowded out by anxious
speculations as to Tolby's reply.  That evening seemed the longest
and loneliest she had spent since Vance had gone. . .

The next morning Tolby's telegram came.  It read:  "Vance left
England a fortnight ago.  Gave me no address.  Sorry."  She sat and
puzzled over it till her eyes ached, as if it had been a cipher of
which she had forgotten the key.  "Left England--left England: no
address."  He had vanished into space again, and this time for how
long?  Had it never occurred to him that in his absence something
might happen to her: that she might fall ill, or be suddenly called
home by illness in her family, or, for one reason or another, need
his presence--or at least require to communicate with him?

Idle questions!  The truth was that he had simply forgotten her.
But it is almost unbearable to be forgotten.  The victim invents a
thousand pretexts rather than admit that one fact.  Halo smiled at
her own credulity.  The night Vance had gone off to Fontainebleau
without telling her that he was leaving she had imagined that he
might have had an accident, had thought of applying to the police
to have him traced.  Luckily common-sense had prevailed on that
occasion, and she meant that it should on this.  She would simply
wait and see.  But meanwhile Frenside's counsel returned to her.
This man whom she could no longer make happy, who needed her so
little that he could disappear for weeks without giving her a sign--
how much longer was she going to burden him with her unwanted
devotion?  Had they not reached the hour for a magnanimous
farewell?

She turned the problem over and over, too agitated to examine it,
too possessed by it to think of anything else.  She tried to
rehearse the farewell scene (or the farewell letter--since there
was no knowing when he would come back); she tried to visualize her
solitary return to America, her meeting with her parents, the
painful effort of adapting herself to the new lonely life before
her: a woman without a lover, without a husband, without a child.
But her imagination shrank from the picture, and she lay all day on
the divan in Vance's study, her mind a formless darkness.

Toward evening came the postman's ring, and she dashed out before
the bonne could extricate herself from her saucepans.  Letters?
Yes, there were letters.  Several for Vance, as usual: from
publishers, from news agencies, from his tailor, his dentist.  But
none for her from Vance.  She took the letters up to the study and
added them to the pile already awaiting him.  He had asked her to
forward only his personal correspondence and that was small: most
of the letters were obviously concerned with his work, and these
lay in orderly stacks on his desk.  Many of the envelopes bore the
names of newspaper-cutting agencies.  Vance subscribed to none, but
for that very reason they bombarded him with appeals and tempted
him with specimen paragraphs.  She could never bear to be long
idle, and it occurred to her to go through these envelopes, and
select any cuttings that might interest him, though she knew he
would probably pitch them all in the scrap-basket without a glance.

She went through them one by one, and gradually they built up a
picture of his London life: a much more worldly one than she had
imagined.  While she had thought of him as chained to "Colossus" he
had been ranging from Mayfair to Bloomsbury, spending his week-ends
at fashionable country-houses, and even condescending to let
himself be interviewed.  She smiled at the change in him.  The
Vance she thought she knew would have loathed such publicity. . .

She was more familiar than he with the intricate pattern of social
London, and it began to amuse her to trace his ascent from the
small chafing-dish parties with Tolby's painters and art-critics to
Lady Pevensey's gilded promiscuities, the gathering of the elect at
Charlie Tarlton's, and the final apotheosis of the reading at Lady
Guy Plunder's.  Halo knew all about Lady Guy Plunder and her
rivalry with Charlie Tarlton.  She thought how happy Vance's
publishers would be at the battle the two were waging over the new
celebrity.  How funny to think of Vance as a fashionable novelist!
He had read fragments of "Colossus" at Lady Guy's; the party had
apparently been given for that purpose.  Halo found an account of
it in one of the "society" papers, ran over the list of names, all
well-known, many distinguished, and lit on the closing paragraph:
"Among Mr. Weston's most enthusiastic hearers on this very
exclusive and privileged occasion was his lovely compatriot Miss
Floss Delaney, whose father, Colonel Harrison Delaney of Virginia,
has lately bought back the old Delaney estate, 'Court Pride', on
the James River.  Miss Delaney, who was a childhood friend of the
brilliant novelist's, had the luck to carry him off after the party
to Brambles, the enchanting little place in Surrey which Colonel
Delaney, who is said to lavish millions on his only child, has
hired for her for the summer.  Many were the rival hostesses who
envied her for capturing the author of 'Colossus' for a week-end."

She laid the paper down.  Suddenly, among the other names, familiar
but indifferent, this one glared out at her.  Floss Delaney--?
Halo blinked and tried to see the syllables more clearly.  Her
mind ran back over the rambling distances of Vance's early
recollections.  He had poured them out so profusely during the
first days of their friendship in New York, when talking with her
was his one refuge from loneliness, that she did not immediately
connect any definite association with this particular name.  Then,
abruptly, a memory woke.  Floss Delaney: it was the name of the
girl he had been infatuated with as a boy, the girl he had
surprised one day with his disreputable old grandfather, at the
spot where his own trysts with her had been held.  This girl . . .
this vile creature who had given him his first bitter insight into
life. . .  How his voice had choked as he stammered out the shabby
tale!  Yes; it must be the same.  It was difficult to account for
her sudden transformation into a fashionable London figure; but
Halo remembered that the girl's father was said to have come of a
good southern family, and she also recalled that Vance, returning
from Euphoria just before he and she had left for Europe, had
brought back the fairy-tale of the Delaneys' sudden rise to wealth.
Halo had been too much absorbed in her own happiness to pay much
heed at the time; but gradually the story came back to her, even to
Lorin Weston's resentful comment on it:  "And now the Delaneys have
gone to Europe to blow it all in Gay Paree!"

Yes; it all fitted into the pattern.  Floss Delaney--Vance's
"childhood friend"!  The idea was revolting.  While Halo was
wearing out her soul for him he was spending his days in such
company!  She felt as if she were puzzling over the actions of a
stranger.  The Vance she loved would have recoiled with disgust
from such an encounter.  It was bitter to think that these were the
companions he had chosen, the people who had been sharing his
pleasures, listening to his talk, perhaps receiving his confidences
and laughing at his inflammable enthusiasms, while she, who had
given him her life, sat alone, forgotten, as utterly cut off from
him as if she had never had any share in his existence.

The crowning pretense!  Yes: Frenside was right; it was time to
make it.  She got up, and went into her own room.  She would pack
her things and go--it was so easy: perhaps easier than she had
imagined.  Why not begin at once?  She would wind up everything
decently: pay off the servant, put the house in order, leave the
key with the agent--the old instinct of order reasserted itself
even at such a moment--and then pile her bags into a taxi, and
drive to the station.  It was all perfectly easy. . .

She stood looking about, wondering how to begin.  Her mind was too
tired--she couldn't think.  After all it might be simpler to write.
She would certainly have to leave a letter; she would not appear to
retaliate by walking off without a word.  And it might be less
difficult to take the final step after she had put her reasons on
paper. . .

She went back to Vance's desk and sat with her pen suspended over a
sheet of paper.  Tell Vance that she was leaving him?  It was
unthinkable!  It would be easier to go away than to explain her
going.  She would pack, and take the train to Paris, and just
before sailing she would leave a letter at his bank.  She must get
away before her courage failed her. . .  She crossed the room to
the bookshelves where Vance's few works were ranged, and drew out
the volume of short stories containing the tale he had written
after the discovery of Floss Delaney's betrayal.  "One Day"--Halo
remembered the evening when Tarrant had brought it home, and she
had read it in a rush, her heart beating at the thought that Lewis
had discovered a new genius.  Now the crudeness and awkwardness of
the story struck her; but she was mastered again by the power of
the presentation.  Yes--it must have happened exactly in that way.
And how he must have suffered!  There were phrases like the cries
of a trapped animal. . .  She shut her eyes, unable to read on.  He
had suffered thus agonizingly--as she was suffering now--but by
pouring his suffering into a story he had been able to cleanse his
soul of it.  Ah, happy artists!  No wonder they were careless of
other people's wounds, when they were born with the power to heal
their own so easily. . .

She must have fallen asleep.  The room was dark when she awoke,
roused by a sound in the still house.  The book fell to the floor
and she sat upright, brushing back the hair from her forehead.

A ray of light was advancing up the stairway; behind it she heard
the bonne clumping up, lamp in hand.

"Monsieur wants to know if Madame will have dinner out-of-doors--
there's a moon. . ."

"Monsieur?"  Halo stared confusedly at the woman, whose coarse good-
natured features were grotesquely foreshortened by the upward slant
of the light.  To Halo the goblin figure seemed a part of her
dream.  What was it saying to her?  Monsieur--?

"Monsieur got back an hour ago.  When I told him that Madame seemed
very tired and had fallen asleep he said not to disturb her, and
he'd go first for a swim.  But he'll be back now, hungry for his
dinner, so I had to wake Madame. . .  There's not much in the
house, but I think I can manage a soufflé.  Shall I carry the table
out into the garden--yes?"

She put the lamp on the desk and clumped down again to her kitchen.
Halo continued to sit on the edge of the divan, only half wakened
out of her exhausting sleep.  She got to her feet at last, looking
about her vaguely.  Then she lifted the lamp and carried it into
her bedroom.  She put it down on a corner of her dressing-table,
and peered at her reflection in the glass.  Her face was almost as
grotesquely illuminated as the servant's; her eyes looked swollen
with sleep, her cheeks drawn and sallow.  "I'm an old woman," she
thought.  "How can he ever care for me again?"

She heard a familiar call from the garden.  "Halo--Ha-LO!" and
jumped up, quivering, one happy heart-beat from head to foot.

"Oh, Vanny!  Coming!"


XXXII


Vance stood in the little study and looked about him.  He had been
gone only a few weeks, yet he felt like a grown man revisiting the
house he has lived in as a child, and finding that the rooms he
thought he had remembered so vividly are unfamiliar, and different
from his recollection.  He looked at Halo, and she too seemed
strange.  Had she always been so pale, with such shadows in the
hollows of her lids?  At the corners of her mouth there were little
lines he had never before noticed.

"You haven't been ill, have you?" he asked with sudden anxiety.

"Ill?  No.  Do I look so?  I suppose the heat's been rather
wearing. . .  But I loved it," she added, as though to quiet his
fears.

"But Sidonie said you'd been lying down all day, and that you don't
eat anything."

"What nonsense!  She's bored because you haven't been here to
devour her bouillabaisse and sea-urchins."

Vance continued to scrutinize her.  "I oughtn't to have left you so
long alone," he said, as if he were speaking to himself.

"Why, Van, how absurd!  You needed the change--and I wanted to
stay.  Now tell me all about 'Colossus'."

It was curious, how strange their voices sounded; his own no less
then hers.  He seemed to be moving in a mist of strangeness,
through which he barely discerned her, remote and ghostly, though
his arm was about her and her shoulder against his.  "This
closeness," he thought desperately, "I suppose it's the only real
distance. . ."

She drew him toward the stairs.  "Come, darling, let's go down.
Sidonie has put the table outside, under the old mulberry."

"Under the mulberry?"  At the word he was again in the garden at
Brambles, assailed by the rush of images against which he had been
battling for three desperate weeks.  He felt tired, bruised,
inarticulate.  Would he ever again learn to fit into this forgotten
life?

"Yes, come; it'll be terribly jolly," he agreed, his arm in hers.

She leaned close, her face lifted, wrinkling her eyes in the way he
liked.  "Oh, Van, you ARE glad to be back?"

"Glad?  You old darling!"  They went down into the garden together.



During his miserable wanderings since he had left England he had
imagined that the healing springs would flow as soon as he got back
to the pink house.  There were days when the longing to be there,
when the blind animal craving for Halo's nearness, was so strong
that only a vague sense of shame and unworthiness kept him away.
He had wanted, in some dim way, to suffer more before he brought
his sufferings to be comforted.  And now he and she were sitting
together under the mulberry in the moonlight, the lights of the
little house blinking out at them, the old whisper of the sea in
their ears, and he was not really there, and the woman opposite to
him was as strange and far away as the scene.

The mere fact that she was so patient with him, didn't nag, didn't
question, didn't taunt, somehow added to the sense of her
remoteness.  Did that curious tolerance make her less woman, less
warm to the touch?  He had been bracing himself for a struggle,
holding himself on the defensive, dreaming of reproaches that
should end in tears and kisses; and her quiet unquestioning
tenderness was like a barrier.  "I shall be better when I get back
to work," he thought.

After dinner they sat on in the garden, under the great warm moon,
and fragments of talk floated between them on a dividing sea of
silence.  At length she asked him if he wasn't tired, and he said
he was, and got up to help her carry the table in under the glazed
porch.  Sidonie had gone to bed, and Halo stayed below to clear
away the dishes while Vance went up to the study.  When he re-
entered it alone the room seemed more familiar, the sense of
constraint and strangeness fell away.  How orderly and welcoming it
all looked--the flowers in the brown jar, the quiet circle of
lamplight on the letters and papers neatly sorted for his
inspection, his old armchair, and the divan where Chris Churley
used to sprawl. . .

Vance began to turn over his correspondence.  He was not in the
mood for letters, but his glance lingered on a bunch of newspaper-
cuttings held together by a clip.  Evidently Halo had sorted them,
and kept those that she thought might interest him.  This proof of
her care gave him a soothing sense of warmth and ease.  He didn't
give a fig for newspaper cuttings, but he liked the thought that
she had prepared them for him.

He detached the clip and his eyes ran over the articles.  He was
still looking at them when she came upstairs, and bent above his
shoulder.  He looked up at her.  "You picked these out for me?"

"Yes.  I know you don't care for them as a rule, but I thought
these few might amuse you."

He continued to look at her.  "They were about the only news you
had of me, weren't they?  I ought to have written oftener--I meant
to."

"What does it matter, now you're back?"

"Yes.  That's the great thing, isn't it?"  He laughed, and pressed
her hand against his cheek.

"Don't sit up too late, Van.  You look awfully tired."

"No.  I'll just go through the rest."  Her hand slipped from his
shoulder, and he heard her cross the floor and go into her own
room.  The sound of her moving about there, as she prepared for the
night, was pleasant to him, like the purr of a fire on the hearth,
the blink of a light through a familiar window.  He turned back to
the articles, and read on, unwilling to admit that they interested
him more than he had suspected.  Formerly, when life and his work
were in harmony, he had been indifferent to this kind of publicity,
contemptuous of it; but now it helped to restore his shaken self-
confidence.  After all, when people talk about a fellow as these
papers did he's not exactly a nonentity, is he?

He read on to the last cutting.  It was the account of his evening
at Lady Guy Plunder's.  The report was cleverly done, and it amused
and excited him to reconstitute the scene.  Halo had read the
notice too, he reflected, and no doubt her pride in him had been
flattered.  He glowed secretly with the reflection of that pride.
And then he came to the last paragraph, that which recounted his
departure for Brambles.  Who could have given that information, he
wondered?  Why, Alders, of course--it was Alders who had telephoned
to Floss.

The blood rushed to Vance's temples.  He concluded instantly that
Halo must have read this article, must have seen his name coupled
with that of the girl of whom he had spoken with such scorn and
self-loathing . . .  He felt mortified at what her judgment of him
must be, and resentful, almost, that she should have exposed him to
divining it.  Had she put that particular cutting there on purpose?
No doubt it was to attract his notice that she had filed it under
the others, let them lead him up to it unsuspectingly.  He felt a
rush of anger at the idea that she knew his weaknesses and was
concealing her real thoughts about him.  He wasn't going to be
pitied by anybody, least of all by her. . .

Hitherto he had never found either consolation or excitement in
drink.  He had seen too much drunkenness all his life to be
shocked, or even actively disgusted, by the sight of it in others;
but he felt a cold contempt for the fools who could blur their
minds and besot their bodies when life was so short, and every
minute of it so packed with marvels.  The sheer waste of
drunkenness was what revolted him.  But now he felt a sudden
longing to blot out at a stroke all the tormenting memories of the
last weeks, and the exasperating sense of his own weakness.  "It's
all a failure--everything I touch is a failure," he thought.  He
went to the cupboard in which Halo kept the bottles of spirits, and
cocktail ingredients, and poured himself out a stiff measure of gin-
and-soda.  He drank it down, and felt better.  He filled another
glass, and drank that too; then he threw himself onto the divan,
heavy with fatigue and sleep.  But in another moment he was sitting
up again, his brain tingling with excitement.  Halo had ceased to
move about in her room; the house had become intensely silent, and
the silence frightened him.  He felt the same awful loneliness as
when, after Laura Lou's death, he had sat in the tumbledown
bungalow while she lay on the other side of the closed door.  He
began to tremble at the memory.  If Halo were dead!  If he were to
open that door and go in, and find her on the bed white and waxen,
like Laura Lou.  He started up, and went to her door and opened it.
She was in bed; over the chair beside her hung her old red silk
dressing-gown, the one she had thrown over her when she had met him
on the night of his return from Fontainebleau.  The hair lay loose
on her forehead, as it had then, and she sat propped against her
pillows, a candle faintly lighting her pale face.

"Not asleep?" he said in a sheepish voice, sitting down by her and
furtively stroking the folds of the dressing gown.

"No; it's too hot."  She looked at him.  "Aren't you going to bed?"

He got up restlessly, and wandered to the window.  "This light'll
bring in mosquitoes."

She blew out the candle and he came back and knelt down beside her.
"Halo, I'm a damned fool--a damned worthless fool."  He hid his
face against the sheet, and felt her hand in his hair.  He melted
at the reassurance of her touch, the feeling that it was drawing
him out of himself and back into the old warm shelter of habit.

"I'd have come back sooner--only I wasn't fit to," he muttered.

"Silly Van!"

"But now I want to get back; take up our old life.  It's not too
late, is it?  Some time I'll tell you--don't ask me to now, will
you?  Just say if it's possible still--if you're not done with
me. . .  If you are, tell me that too--straight out.  I can't sleep
till I know if it's really you here, or only a ghost of you, who's
sorry for me.  I don't want that either. . .  I'd rather get out
now, and go on. . ."  He hardly knew what he was saying; the words
tumbled out as they could.

He felt her lean over and lay her arm on his neck.  She did not
attempt to draw him to her; her arm trembled a little as it touched
him.  "I'm here," she said, so low that he hardly heard.  He buried
his head against her, and was still.

The days that followed passed quietly.  Halo was nervously
conscious of every word and look of Vance's, yet determined that he
should not see she was watching him.  After his outburst of remorse
and tenderness on the night of his return he seemed to have slipped
back into his usual attitude toward her, except that she was aware
of something shy and dependent in him, something that besought her
compassion yet would have resented her showing it.  The thing to
do, she told herself again and again, was just to be natural, to
behave as if nothing were changed; and gradually she felt that he
was becoming used to her, and to the life out of which some
mysterious influence had abruptly wrenched him.

She refrained from questioning him about his weeks in England, and
he never spoke of them except, now and then, to allude to an
encounter with some critic or writer whom she knew he had wished to
meet.  To the social side of the adventure he never referred; nor
did he mention the interval which had elapsed between his taking
leave of Tolby and his reappearance at Oubli.

Tolby thought he had left England--or said so.  But did he know?
Perhaps Vance had simply vanished from Tolby's ken without
revealing his plans.  Why should he have been so secretive about
them unless he had wished to conceal his whereabouts, and what
motive for concealment could he have had except that he had gone
away with some woman?  The riddle continued to revolve in Halo's
brain, but she tried to ignore it; and as the days slipped by, and
she saw Vance gradually settling down into his old habits of work,
the whole matter seemed less important.  Whatever had happened, it
was probably over; he had passed through a phase, and come back to
her--and that was all that mattered.

The summer was coming to an end; the tumultuous sun-bathers were
vanishing from bungalows and restaurants, scattering with their
wireless sets and shrieking motors to all the points of the
compass, and leaving Oubli to the quietness of autumn.  Already the
great arched avenues of planes had turned into golden tunnels, the
kindled vineyards were flushing to flame and embers, the figs
purpling through their fanlike foliage.  The pink house was almost
the only one that had not barred its shutters for the dead interval
between the seasons.  When Halo and Vance went down to bathe they
had the bay almost to themselves; in their rambles through the
olive terraces and among the pine-woods they met no more "hikers",
and the cry of Ford and Citroën grew remoter through the sylvan
hush.

Vance was more silent than of old; but though he had no explosions
of enthusiasm he seemed as sensitive as ever to the beauty about
him.  To Halo he was like some one recovering from a long illness,
and yielding gradually to the returning spell of life; there were
moments when she could hardly help lowering her voice and treading
as if in a sick-room--yet she knew nothing would irritate him more
than any sign of exaggerated sympathy.  "Be natural, be natural,"
she kept repeating to herself, wondering if there were any lesson
in the world as hard to learn.

Sooner than she could have hoped he returned to his work; there
were days when he threw himself into it with such sombre ardour
that she feared for his health and urged him not to write for too
many hours at a stretch.  But he received the suggestion irritably,
and she saw that she must adapt herself to these days and nights of
furious labour, which alternated with others of heavy lassitude.
After a while she noticed that he had begun to drink to make up for
the exhaustion following on his long bouts of writing.  The
discovery was a shock, and half-jokingly she tried to hint her
surprise.  In former times, she knew, Vance would have been
humiliated by any allusion to such a weakness; but he received her
hints with a sort of bantering indifference.  "I know--you women
think God created the universe on lemonade and lettuce sandwiches.
Well, maybe He did; but I can't.  Don't be frightened--you haven't
acquired an habitual drunkard.  But I've got to get this book off
my chest somehow, and I can't do it without being bucked up now and
then.  I wish you'd tell Sidonie to make me a good thermos-ful of
black coffee every night, will you?  She can leave it on my desk
when she goes to bed."

Hitherto he had not spoken of the progress of his book; but Halo
was used to that now.  Since the old days at the Willows he had
never really taken her into his confidence while his work was in
hand.  Even when he was writing "The Puritan in Spain", in the
solitude of their long tête-à-tête at Cadiz, he had used her as an
ear to listen, not as an intelligence to criticize.  And since he
had been in England he had taken to doing his own typing, so that
even her services on the Remington were no longer required, and his
book was a secret garden into which he shut himself away from her
as he might have done into a clandestine love-affair.  But one
afternoon, as they lay under the olives on the hillside, he turned
to her with a half-shy half-whimsical smile.  "See here; I'm
beginning to wonder whether you're going to take to 'Colossus'."

She smiled back at him.  "So am I!"

"Well, I suppose it's about time we tried it out.  I want to know
how it strikes you."

She tried to repress her eagerness, to look friendly yet not too
flattered.  "I want to know too, dear--whenever you feel like it."
As they scrambled down the hill through the golden twilight she
seemed to be carried on wings.  "He's come back to me--he's come
back to me!" she exulted, as if this need of her intellectual help
were a surer token of his return to her than any revival of
passion.

The book had advanced much farther than she had expected.  In spite
of the social distractions of London, Vance had got on with his
writing more rapidly there than during the quiet months at Oubli,
and as Halo looked at the heaped-up pages she asked herself whether
a change of scene--figurative as well as actual--might not be
increasingly necessary to him, and at more frequent intervals.  On
the night of his return he had confessed to her that he had been a
fool, that he would have come back sooner if he had not been
ashamed of his folly; but perhaps the experience he had in mind,
whatever it was, had roused his intellectual activity and fed the
creative fires.  It was all mysterious and unintelligible to Halo,
whose own happiness was so dependent on stability and understanding;
but her intelligence could divine what perplexed her heart.  At any
rate, she thought with secret triumph, he hasn't found any one to
replace me as a listener.

That very evening he began to read the book aloud.  They had meant
to take the chapters in instalments; Halo had stipulated for time
to reflect, and to get the work into its proper perspective.  But
when Vance was in the mood for reading aloud the excitement of
getting a new view of what he had written always swept him on from
page to page, and the joy of listening, and the sense that for the
first time since the writing of "Instead" he needed her not only as
audience but as critic, kept Halo from interrupting him.  By the
time he had finished they were both exhausted, Vance almost
voiceless, and Halo in a state of nervous agitation that made it
difficult for her to speak, though she knew he was impatient for
what she had to say.  He waited a moment; then he gave an uneasy
laugh.  "Well--?"

"Van--" she began; but she broke off, embarrassed.

He was gathering the pages together with affected indifference.
"No reaction--that about it?"

"No; oh, no!  Only--you remember that time I took you to Chartres?"
She smiled, but there was no answering light in his face.  He was
looking down sullenly at the manuscript.

"I remember I was as dead as a mummy.  Couldn't see or feel
anything.  I suppose you're in the same state now?" he suggested
ironically.

"Nonsense; you weren't dead, you were stunned, bewildered.  And so
am I--just at first.  I want more time--I want to re-read it
quietly."

"Oh, the critic who asks for a reprieve has already formed his
opinion."  He laughed again.  "Come--out with it!  What's wrong
with the book?  I don't know why you take me for such a thin-
skinned idiot that I can't bear to be told."

She saw that his lips were twitching, and suddenly suspected that
he himself was not wholly satisfied with what he had written, and
had feared in advance that she might share his dissatisfaction.

"I wish you'd let me sleep over it," she urged good-humouredly.  "I
really don't know yet what I think."

"You mean you don't know how to sugar-coat it," he interrupted.
"Well, don't try!  Just say straight out how the book strikes you.
Remember that an artist is never much affected by amateur
judgments, anyway."

She flushed up at the sneer.  "In that case, mine can surely wait."

"Oh, it doesn't have to!  I know already what you think.  You don't
understand what I'm after, and so you assume that I've muddled it.
That's about it, isn't it?"

The taunt was too great a strain on her patience.  If he had to be
praised at all costs she felt that he was lost; he must be shaken
out of this lethargy of self-appreciation.  "Isn't it rather too
easy to conclude that if your critics are not altogether pleased
it's because they're incapable of understanding you?"

He swung round with an ironic smile.  "Which simply means that
you're not al-to-gether pleased yourself?" he mimicked her.

"No; I'm not.  But I don't think the reason you suggest is the
right one."

"Naturally!"  He caught himself up, and went on more quietly:
"Well, then, what IS the reason?"

Halo's heart was beating apprehensively.  Why was she thus
deliberately risking their newly-recovered understanding?  Was it
worth while to put his literary achievement above her private
happiness--and perhaps his?  She was not sure; but she had to speak
as her mind moved her.  "I'll tell you as well as I can.  I'm a
little bewildered still; but I have an idea you haven't found
yourself--expressed your real self, I mean--in this book as you did
in the others.  You're not . . . not quite as free from other
influences . . . echoes . . ."  As the words formed themselves she
knew they were the most fatal to the artist's self-love, the
hardest for wounded vanity to recover from.  But if she spoke at
all she must speak as truth dictated; she could not tamper with her
intellectual integrity, or with his.

Vance had dropped back into his chair.  "Echoes!" he said with a
curt laugh.  "That's all you see--all you hear, rather?  What sort
of echoes?"

"Of books you've been reading, I suppose; or the ideas of the
people you've been talking to.  I can't speak more definitely,
because I've been with you so little lately, and it's so long since
you've talked to me of your work.  But I feel that you may have let
yourself be too much guided, directed--drawn away from your own
immediate vision."

"In other words, if I'd submitted the book to you page by page I
should have been more likely to preserve what you call my immediate
vision?  Is that it?"

The outbreak was so childish that it restored her balance, and she
smiled.  "I can't tell about that, of course; but if you think such
a consideration would really affect my opinion, I wonder at your
ever caring to hear it."

Vance gave a shrug.  "My dear child--shall I give you the cold
truth, as you've given it to me?  It's simply this: that the artist
asks other people's opinions to please THEM and not to help
himself.  There's only one critic who can help us--that's life!  As
for the rest, it's all bunk . . ."  He pushed the pages into their
folder, and got up, stretching his arms above his head.  "You're
right, anyhow, about our both being too dog-tired to keep up the
discussion now.  It was brutal of me to put you through the third
degree at two in the morning. . ."

Halo's heart sank.  She did not resent his tone; she knew he was
overwrought, and was talking with his nerves and not with his
intelligence; but again she was frightened by the idea that her
over-scrupulous sincerity might check his impulse to turn to her
for advice and sympathy.  "And after all," she reflected, "it's
only sympathy that matters.  He's right, in a sense, when he says
it's about the only thing an artist requires of his friends.  As
for the work itself, self-criticism is all that counts."  She
looked at him gaily.

"It's not two in the morning yet; but I AM tired, and so are you.
I wish you hadn't made me feel that I can't help you.  If only by
listening, by giving you my whole mind, I believe I can; but you'll
be able to tell better tomorrow.  At any rate, you must give me the
chance to explain a little more clearly what I feel."

He looked embarrassed, and half-ashamed of his outburst.  "Of
course, child.  We'll talk it all over when our heads are a little
clearer.  Now I believe I'll go to bed."  He went up to the
cupboard and poured himself out a glass of whisky.  As he emptied
it he turned to her with a laugh and a toss of his head above the
tilted glass.  "Here's to my next book--a best-seller, to be
written under your guidance."  He tapped her on the shoulder and
turned her face toward his for a kiss.


XXXIII


One day he said to her:  "Well, the book's finished."  He spoke in
a low apprehensive voice, as if he had been putting off the
announcement as long as possible, and now that it was made, did not
know what to say next.

Since the night, weeks before, when Halo had ventured her criticism
he had never again proposed to show her what he was doing, never
even asked her to take his dictation or to copy out his manuscript;
he had definitely excluded the subject of "Colossus" from their
talks.  The intellectual divorce between them was increasingly
bitter to Halo.  That the veil of passion must wear through was
life's unescapable lesson; but if no deeper understanding underlay
it, what was left?  Had not Frenside's advice been the only answer?
In the joy of Vance's return, and the peaceful communion of their
first days, when the mere fact of being together seemed to settle
every doubt and lay every ghost, it had been easy to smile at her
old friend's suggestion, and to reflect how little any one could
know of lovers' hearts except the lovers.  But now she understood
on what unstable ground she had rebuilt her happiness, and
trembled.

Vance stood in the window looking out over the bay.  The palms were
wrestling in dishevelled fury with the first autumn gale; rain
striped the panes, and beyond the headlands a welter of green
waters stretched away to the low pall of clouds.  Halo saw him give
a discouraged shrug.  "Good Lord--Miss Plummet!"

The Pension Britannique had reopened its shutters the previous
week, and after a prelude of carpet-shaking and tile-scrubbing
Madame Fleuret's lodgers were taking possession of their old
quarters.  The Anglican chapel was to resume its offices on the
following Sunday; already Halo had encountered Mrs. Dorman, cordial
though embarrassed, and eager to tell her that after the first
rains a bad leak had shown itself in Lady Dayes-Dawes's room, and
that the mason was afraid they would have to rebuild the chimney of
the lounge.

Halo stood by Vance watching Miss Plummet swept homeward by the
south-easterly blast, her umbrella bellying like a black sail.
After she had passed there was an interval during which the
promenade remained empty, like a stage-setting before the leading
actor's entrance; then, punctually as of old, Colonel Churley
stalked into view, his mackintosh flapping, his stick dragging in
the mud, his head thrust out angrily to meet the gale.  Vance
followed his struggling figure with fascinated eyes.  "I suppose
they all think they're alive!" he groaned.

Halo laid her arm on his shoulder.  She knew what thoughts the
sight of Colonel Churley had stirred in him.  "Why should we stay
here any longer?" she said.

Vance drummed on the pane without answering.  His eyes still
followed the bent figure lessening between the palm-trunks.

"Now that your book's finished--"

"Oh, my book!  I don't believe it is a book--just a big dump of
words.  And not mine, anyhow; you've made that clear enough!"  He
gave an irritated laugh.

"I have?  But you only let me hear a few chapters."

"Exactly.  And on those you gave me your judgment of the finished
book.  Without a moment's hesitation.  Look here, child," he added
abruptly, "don't think I was surprised, or that I minded.  Not in
the least.  It's the sign of the amateur critic that he must always
conclude, never leave an opinion in solution."

Halo's arm dropped from his shoulder.  "Then it can't much matter
to the author what the conclusion is."

Vance stood uneasily shifting from one foot to the other, his eyes
bent to the ground.  "If only it didn't matter!  The devil of it is
that when a book's growing the merest stupidest hint may deflect
its growth, deform it. . .  The artist loses confidence, ceases to
visualize. . .  Oh, what's the use of trying to explain?"

"Don't try, dear.  You're too tired, for one thing."

"Tired--tired?  When a man's at the end of his tether a woman
always thinks he's tired.  Why don't you suggest a bottle of
tonic?"

"If you're at the end of your tether it would be more to the point
to suggest new pastures.  Why shouldn't we try some other place?"

He moved away and began his restless pacing; then he came back and
paused before her.  "It's the landscape of the soul I'm fed up
with," he broke out.

She stood silent.  The landscape of the soul!  But that must mean
his nearest surroundings--must mean herself, she supposed.  She
tried to steady the smile on her trembling lips.  "I wish you'd let
me help you as I used to," she began.  "But if I'm of no use to you
in your work, and only in the way at other times, perhaps . . ."
She felt a blur in her eyes, and hurried on.  "Perhaps the real
change you need--" and now she achieved a little laugh--"is not a
new place but a new woman."

The words dropped into a profound silence.  Was he never going to
speak, to deny, to protest at the monstrousness of her suggestion?
He stood in the window, looking out into the rain, for a time that
seemed to her interminable; and when he turned back his face was
expressionless, closed.  She felt as if a door had been shut
against her.  She essayed her little laugh again.  "Is that it?
Don't be afraid to tell me!"

"That?"  He looked at her vaguely.  "Oh--another woman?"  He
stopped, and then began, in a hard embarrassed voice:  "I suppose
you put that newspaper cutting on my desk on purpose the night I
came back?  You wanted me to understand that you knew?"

She returned his look in genuine bewilderment.  The weeks since his
return had been crowded with so many emotions and agitations that
for the moment she had forgotten the paragraph in which Floss
Delaney figured.  Suddenly the memory rushed back on her, and she
stood speechless.  It was that, then--her first instinct had been
right, had led her straight to his secret!  She stiffened herself,
trying to thrust back the intolerable truth.  "What cutting?  You
mean--about that girl?"

"Yes; that girl."

"Oh, Vance . . . you don't . . . you don't mean that it's for
her . . . ?"  There was another silence.  "You mean that when you
left London it was to go away with her?"

He gave an angry laugh.  "It was to go away FROM her--as far as I
could go!  Now do you understand?"

Halo's eyes clung to his labouring face.  Did she understand--dared
she?  She spoke very low.  "To get away from her . . . because you
realized . . . ?  Because it was all over--like a bad dream?  Is
that it?"

"A bad dream, yes; but not over.  I'd rather you knew everything
now. . .  I didn't run away from her. . ."

"Then--?"

"She kicked me out.  Can't you see?  Do I have to put everything in
words of one syllable?"

Halo looked away from him.  "No; you don't have to."  Suddenly her
contracted heart seemed to expand a very little.  "Then those weeks
after you left London--when Tolby said he didn't know what had
become of you--she wasn't with you all that time?"

"Merciful heaven--she?  No!"

"Then where were you, Vance?"

"Somewhere in hell.  I believe they call it Belgium."

"All alone there, all that time?" she cried pityingly.  He mistook
her intonation.

"Do you suppose that as fast as one woman throws me over I hook on
to another--like a sort of limpet?"

"I wasn't thinking of another woman.  I hoped you'd had one of your
friends with you."

"A man's got no friends when he's going through a thing like
that . . ."  He stopped, and then a rush of words broke from him.
"You don't know--how should you?  She threw me out; and I trailed
back after her to London; and she threw me out again.  That time I
had my lesson."

He dropped into his armchair and leaned back, looking up at the
ceiling.  She thought how young his face looked in spite of its
drawn misery, and said to herself:  "He'll get over it and I
shan't.  He'll use it up in a story, and it will go on living in me
and feeding on me."  Aloud she said:  "I'm very sorry for you,
Vance.  I shouldn't have thought--"

"No!  I understand.  You'd have thought it would be any other woman--
only not that one.  Well, it's the other way round.  I'm pitiably
constant."  He continued to lean back, his arms crossed behind his
head.  He no longer looked at her, seemed hardly to know she was
there; yet every word he spoke cut like a blade sharpened to wound
her.  She leaned against the desk, her arms stretched behind her
for support.  She felt a kind of inner rigidity that almost seemed
like strength.  While it lasted, she thought, she must speak.  "If
you feel like that you must marry her.  You're free, dear--you know
that."

He started up with a choking sound in his throat.  "Marry her?
She's going to marry somebody else."  He buried his face in his
hands and sat a long while without speaking.  He was not weeping;
his shoulders did not stir; he just sat there in dark communion
with his grief.  Halo did not move either till she felt a stiffness
in the muscles of her arms; then she turned from the desk and stood
looking out of the window at the storm-darkened world.  As she
stood there Colonel Churley went by, driven back by the storm from
his solitary tramp.  How she had pitied him last winter, when she
and Vance, from the safe shelter of their love, had looked out on
his lonely figure!

Night was falling; soon the lamp-lighter would come along and the
gas-lamps along the promenade flicker into life.  They said the
streets would be lit by electricity next year.  Their landlord had
even spoken of putting in an electric cooker. . .  That reminded
Halo that if they meant to leave Oubli she ought to write at once
and give notice.  You sent your landlord a registered letter, and
then he couldn't say that he hadn't been notified, because there
was his signature.

She turned back into the room, which was already dark, groped for
matches, and lit the two candles in the brass candlesticks on the
chimney.  The fibres of her heart were wound about every object in
that homely friendly room.  How many evenings she and Vance had sat
there, between fire and candles, joking and planning!  One flesh--
they had been one flesh.  And now they were to be divided.  She
felt like some one facing a surgical operation: the kind of which
the surgeons say to the family:  "There HAVE been cases in which it
has proved successful; and if it's not done we refuse to answer for
the consequences."

She tried to picture what her future would be--what she herself
would be--if the operation were to be successful.  Perhaps in the
end she would marry somebody else, have children, live on as a
totally different being, preoccupied about ordering another man's
dinner and bringing up his family, though the same face continued
to look back at her from her mirror.  How odd if in years to come
she should meet Vance somewhere--in the street, in a train--and
they should not recognize each other, and some one, perhaps her
husband, should say afterward:  "You didn't know?  Why, that's the
man who wrote 'Colossus'.  I thought you used to know him.  That
handsome common-looking woman was his wife."

Vance stood up, shook himself and passed his hand over his
forehead.  "I think I'll go out."

Halo moved toward him.  She must make use of her factitious energy
before it flickered out.  "Vance--just a minute.  I want to tell
you . . ."

He stopped unwillingly.  "Yes?"

"You're free as air.  You understand that, don't you?"

He lifted his eyes and looked at her heavily.  "You mean--you want
to make an end?"

Her voice was hardly audible, even to her own ears.  "Hadn't we
better?"

He still looked at her in a wounded suffering way.  "All right,
then; I understand."

"Vance--it's better, isn't it?"

"It's all I'm worth."

She went closer to him.  "Oh, not that--don't say that!  I only
want you to feel that if there's any hope . . . any happiness for
you . . . elsewhere . . . I want you . . ."  Her voice grew
suddenly louder, and then broke into a sob.  The tide of her tears
rushed over her.  She dropped down on the divan and wept as if she
were weeping away all the accumulated agony of the last weeks.  How
brief a way her strength had carried her!  She fought back her
tears, straightened herself, and lifted her face to his.  "This is
nothing--just nervousness.  I suppose I've been alone too long . . ."

He knelt down at her side, and she felt his arms about her.  Their
treacherous warmth melted her resistance away.  "Oh, Van . . . my
Van . . ." while he held her thus, could any other woman come
between them?



BOOK V



XXXIV


From the window of every English bookshop in Paris "Colossus"
stared at Halo.  The book had appeared a few weeks after its last
pages were written, the chapters having been set up as they were
finished, in order to hasten publication.  Otherwise the winter
sales would be missed, and "Colossus" was obviously not a work for
the summer holidays.  Halo suspected that the publishers, while
proud to associate their name with it, were not sanguine as to
pecuniary results.  "Colossus" had most of the faults disquieting
to the book-seller; it was much too long, nothing particular
happened in it, and few people even pretended to know what it was
about.

No reviews had as yet appeared when Halo saw the first copies in
the rue de Rivoli windows, where they must have flowered over
night.  She stood hesitatingly outside the shop; there had come to
be something slow and hesitating in her slightest decisions, in her
movements even.  She found it more and more difficult to make up
her mind even about trifles--more so about trifles than about the
big decisive acts.  The spring of enthusiasm that used to give a
momentary importance to the least event seemed to have run dry in
her.

She went in and asked for a magazine.  While it was being brought
she glanced at the copies of "Colossus" conspicuously aligned on
the New Book counter, and asked the clerk how it was going.

"We've sold a good many already.  Anything by the author of 'The
Puritan in Spain', you understand. . .  Can I do up a copy for
you?"

It was the answer she had expected.  The book would benefit for a
while by its predecessor's popularity; but when that flagged--what?
She paid for the magazine she had asked for, and went out.

It was a cold day of early winter, and Paris, once like home to
her, seemed empty and unfriendly.  She had seen no one since her
arrival.  Lorry, she had learned at his studio, was away.  Both
Mrs. Glaisher and Mrs. Blemer had failed in the end to regard
"Factories" as a profitable venture, and he was negotiating for its
production with a Berlin impresario.  Halo had not the heart to
look up Savignac--again her stealing inertia held her back; and
Tolby, whom she would have been glad to see, was still in London.
Paris had been a feverish desert to her before; now it was a
freezing one.

She walked back through the Tuileries gardens, and across the Seine
to the quiet hotel on the left bank where she was staying.  She had
lingered on alone in Paris for a week or ten days--ever since she
had come there to see Vance off, when he had hurriedly sailed for
New York--and she had a queer feeling that there was no use in
trying to make any further plans, that any change, any new
decision, must be imposed on her from the outside.  It was as
though her central spring were broken . . . yet, in a way, she knew
that her future had already been settled for her.

At her hotel she asked the porter if there were any letters.  She
was sure he would say no; of course there would be none; and when,
after a hunt through the pigeon-holes behind his desk, he handed
her an envelope, she felt suddenly dizzy, and had to sit down on
the nearest chair and leave the letter unopened.  How strange, how
incredible, to see herself addressed as "Mrs. Tarrant" in her
husband's writing!  It reminded her that in spite of all that had
happened she was still Mrs. Tarrant, still his wife--and it was by
his own choice that it was so.  That was the strangest part of it,
the part she could not yet understand.

She had learned of Tarrant's presence in Paris by seeing his name
among the hotel arrivals in a daily paper.  That was two days ago;
and after twenty-four hours of incoherent thinking she had abruptly
decided to move to another hotel, and register there under her real
name--her husband's.  That night she had written to him.  That
night; and here, the very next morning, was his answer!  One might
almost have supposed that he had been waiting for some sign from
her. . .  She sat with her cold hands folded over the letter till
her strength returned; when she could trust herself to her feet she
rose and went up to her room.

The variableness of Tarrant's moods had made her fear that he might
reply harshly, or perhaps not at all.  Even now she thought it
likely that, if he should agree to see her, he would propose their
meeting at his lawyer's; and that would paralyze her, deprive her
of all power to plead her cause.  Over three months had passed
since he had sent Frenside to her on that unsuccessful mission; and
as she looked back on her own attitude at the time it seemed hard
and ungrateful.  In her self-absorption she had forgotten to send
Tarrant a word of thanks, a conciliatory message; and she knew the
importance he attached to such observances.  For her sake he had
humbled his pride, and she had seemed unaware of it.  With his
sensitiveness to rebuffs, and the uncertainty of his impulses, what
chance was there of finding him in the same frame of mind as when
he had made his advance and she had rejected it?  He had a horror
of reopening any discussion which he regarded as closed; might he
not justly say that the message she had sent through Frenside had
been final?  She looked at the unopened envelope and wondered at
her courage--or her folly--in writing to him.

At length she opened the letter, and read the few words within.  In
the extremity of her relief she felt weak again, and had to sit
down and cover her face.  There was no mention of lawyers; there
was nothing curt or vindictive in the tone of the letter.  Tarrant
simply said that he would be glad to see her that afternoon at his
hotel.  The sheet trembled in her hand, and she found herself
suddenly weeping.



The porter said that Mr. Tarrant was expecting her, and the lift
carried her up to a velvet-carpeted corridor.  It was the hotel
where he and she had stayed whenever they were in Paris together;
the narrow white-panelled corridor was exactly like the one leading
to the rooms they usually had.  At its end she was shown into a
stiffly furnished white and gray sitting-room, and Tarrant stood up
from the table at which he had been pretending to write.  He was
extremely pale, and catching her own reflection in the mirror
behind him, she thought:  "We look like two ghosts meeting . . ."

She said:  "Lewis," and held her hand out shyly.  He touched it
with his cold fingers, and stammered:  "You'll have tea?" as though
he had meant to say something more suitable, and had forgotten what
it was.

She shook her head, and he pushed an armchair forward.  "Sit down."
She sat down, and for a few moments he stood irresolutely before
her; then he pulled up a chair for himself and reached out for the
cigarettes on the table.  "You don't mind?"  She shook her head
again.

Suddenly it came over her that this was perhaps the very room in
which, on that unhappy night, Vance had so imprudently pleaded for
her release; and the thought deepened her discouragement.  But she
must conquer these tremors and find herself again.

"Thank you for letting me come," she said at length.  "I ought to
have thanked you before."

He raised his eyebrows with the ironic movement habitual to him
when he wanted to ward off emotional appeals.  "Oh, why--?"

"Because you sent Frenny to me with that offer.  And I didn't thank
you properly."

The blood rose under his sensitive skin.  "Oh, that, really. . .  I
understood that you . . . that at the time you were undecided about
your own future. . ."

"Yes; I was.  But I want to tell you that I was very grateful,
though I may not have seemed so; and that now--now I accept."

Tarrant was silent.  He had regained control of his features, but
Halo could measure the intensity of the effort, and the inward
perturbation it denoted.  After all, he and she had the same
emotional reactions, though his range was so much more limited; in
moments of stress she could read his mind and his heart as she had
never been able to read Vance's.  The thought cast back a derisive
light on her youthful illusions.

After the first months of burning intimacy with Vance, and the
harrowing extremes of their subsequent life, Tarrant had become a
mere shadow to her, and she had not foreseen that his presence
would rouse such searching memories.  But she was one of the women
on whom successive experiences stamp themselves without effacing
each other; and suddenly, in all her veins and nerves, she felt
that this cold embarrassed man, having once been a part of her
life, could never quite cease to be so.  No wonder she had never
been able to adapt herself to the amorous code of Lorry's group!
She sat waiting, her heart weighed down with memories, while
Tarrant considered her last words.

"You accept--?" he repeated at length.

"I--yes.  The divorce, I mean. . .  I understand that you . . ."

"You've decided that you want a divorce?"  She nodded.

He sat with bent head, his unlit cigarette between his fingers.
"You're quite certain . . . now . . . that this is really what you
wish?"

"I--oh, yes, yes," she stammered.

Tarrant continued in contemplation of her words, and she began to
fear that, after all, he might have let her come only for the
bitter pleasure of refusing what she asked.  She had nearly cried
out, appealed to him to shorten her suspense; but she controlled
herself and waited.  He got up, and stood before her.

"I ask the question because--if Frenside gave me a correct account
of your talk--you took the opposite view at that time: you didn't
want to take proceedings because you thought that if you did so
Weston might feel obliged to marry you."  He brought out the words
with difficulty; she felt sorry for the effort it was costing him
to get through this scene, which she might have spared him if she
had accepted Frenside's intervention.  "Are you positively sure
now?" he insisted.

"Yes."

"You wish to divorce me in order to marry your lover?"

"Lewis--!"

He smiled faintly.  "You object to the word?"

"No; but it seems so useless to go into all this again."

He took no notice, but pursued, in the same level voice:  "You and
Weston have come together again, and wish to marry?  Is that it?"

She lowered her eyes, and paused a moment before answering.  "I am
not sure--that we shall ever marry.  I want my freedom."

"Freedom?  Freedom to live without a name, or any one to look after
you?  What sort of a life do you propose to lead if you don't marry
him?  Have you thought of that?"

She hesitated again.  She might have resented his questioning; but
his tone, though cold, was not unkind.  And she knew him so well
that she could detect the latent sympathy behind those measured
phrases.

"I haven't thought of the future yet.  I only know it seems best
that I should take back my own name."

"If you're not to take his--is that what you mean?"

"I'm not sure . . . about anything.  But I want to be free."

He went and leaned against the mantelshelf, looking down on her
with dubious eyes.  "The situation, then, is much the same as when
you saw Frenside; it's only your own attitude that has changed?"

"Well . . . yes . . . I suppose so. . ."

There was a silence which she measured by the nervous knocking of
her heart.  At that moment her knowledge of her husband seemed of
no avail.  She could not guess what his secret motive was; but she
felt dimly that something deep within him had been renewed and
transformed, and that it was an unknown Tarrant who confronted her.
He twisted the cigarette incessantly between his fingers.  "I heard
you'd been unhappy--" he began abruptly.

She flushed and lifted her head.  "No!"

He smiled again.  "You wouldn't admit it, I suppose.  At any rate,
you're alone--at present.  Don't you think that--in the
circumstances--my name is at least a sort of protection?"

The question surprised her so much that she could find no words to
reply; and he hurried on, as if anxious to take advantage of her
silence:  "I've no doubt my attitude, all along, has been
misrepresented to you.  Perhaps it was partly my own fault.  I'm
not good at explaining--especially things that touch me closely.
But for a long time now I've felt that some day you might be glad
to have kept my name. . .  It was my chief reason for not agreeing
to a divorce. . ."  He spoke in the low indifferent tone which
always concealed his moments of deepest perturbation.  "You never
thought of that, I suppose?" he ended, as if reproachfully.

"No--I hadn't."

"H'm," he muttered with a dry laugh.  "Well, it doesn't matter.  My
pride sometimes gets in my way . . . particularly when I think I
haven't been fairly treated.  But that's all over.  I want to help
you. . ."

"Oh, Lewis, thank you."

"No matter about that.  The thing is--look here, can't we talk
together openly?"

She felt her colour rise again; and again her knowledge of him gave
her no clue to what might be coming.  "Certainly--it will be much
better."

"Well, then--."  He broke off, as if the attempt were more
difficult than he had foreseen.  Suddenly he resumed:  "If you and
Weston have parted, as I understand you have . . ."  In the
interval that followed she felt that he was waiting for her to
confirm or deny the assertion.

"He went to America ten days ago--to his own people.  He felt that
he ought to go and see them.  Beyond that we've made no plans. . ."

"You mean that there's no understanding between you as to his
coming back--or as to your future relations?"

"I don't wish that there should be!  He's free--perfectly free.
That's our only understanding," she exclaimed hastily.

"Well--that's what I wanted to be sure of.  If it's that way, I'm
ready to wipe out the past . . . let it be as if nothing had
happened.  It's nobody's business but yours and mine, anyhow. . .
You understand?  I'm ready to take you back."

She sat looking up at him without finding any words; but the weight
in her breast lifted a little--she felt less lonely.  "Thank you,
Lewis . . . thank you . . ." she managed to say.

His lips narrowed; evidently it was not the response he had
expected.  But he went on:  "Of course, at first . . . I can
understand. . .  You might feel that you couldn't come back at
once, take up our life where it broke off--at any rate not in the
old surroundings.  I've thought of that; I shouldn't ask it.  I
should be ready to travel, if you preferred.  For a year--for
longer even.  The world's pretty big.  We could go to India . . .
or to East Africa.  As far as you like.  Explore things. . .  I
don't care what.  By the time we got back people would have
forgotten."  He straightened himself, as though the last words had
slipped out of a furtive fold of his thoughts.  "Not that that
matters.  If _I_ choose, nobody else has a word to say.  And nobody
will!  I--I've missed you, Halo.  I ask you to come back."

She stood silent, oppressed.  On Tarrant's lips, she knew, such an
appeal meant complete surrender.  If he owned that he had missed
her--HOW he must have missed her!  Under all her cares and
perplexities she felt a little quiver of feminine triumph, and it
trembled in her voice as she answered.  "Thank you, Lewis . . . for
saying that . . . I wish things could have been different.  Please
believe that I do."

She caught the gleam of hope in his eyes.  "Well, then--let it be
as if they had been different.  Won't you?"

The talk had led them so far from the real object of her visit that
she began to fear for the result.  If Tarrant, in refusing to
divorce her, had really had in mind the hope of her return, what
chance was there now of his yielding?  It had never been in his
nature to give without taking.  She felt bewildered and at a loss.

"Can things ever be as if they'd never been?  Life would be too
easy!" she said timidly.

His face darkened and the nervous frown gathered between his eyes.
"Is that your answer?"

"I suppose it must be."

"Must be?  Not unless you still expect to marry Weston.  Is that
it?  You owe the truth to me."

She saw instantly that if she said yes her doing so might provoke a
refusal to divorce her; and that if she said no he would go on
insisting, and her final rejection of his offer would be all the
more mortifying to him.  She reflected wearily that the Tarrant she
knew was already coming to the surface.

"I've told you the truth; I don't know any more than you do what my
future will be.  I'm bound to no one. . .  But if I agreed to what
you suggest, how could we avoid unhappiness?  You would always
remember . . . and the differences in our characters probably
haven't grown less. . ."  She went toward him with outstretched
hands.  "Lewis--please!  Let me have my freedom, and let us say
goodbye as friends."

Without noticing her gesture he continued to look at her somberly.
"How easily you settle my future for me!  Your character at any
rate hasn't changed.  Here I've waited for you--waited and waited
for this hour; for I was sure from the first that your crazy
experiment wouldn't last.  And now you tell me it's over, and that
your future's not pledged to anybody else--which means that you're
alone in the world, a woman deserted by her lover (you know as well
as I do that that's what people will say).  And yet you continue to
let your pride stand between us . . . or if it isn't pride, what
is it?  Some idea that things can't be as they were before?
Well, perhaps they can't--entirely.  Perhaps we can neither of
us forget. . .  But if I assure you of my friendship . . . my
devotion. . .  God, Halo, what I'm proposing shows how I feel . . .
there's no use talking . . ."

She caught the cry under his pondered syllables, and saw that he
was struggling with emotions deeper than he had ever known.  The
sight woke her pity, and she thought:  "Am I worth anything better
than this?  Shall I ever be wanted in this way again?"

"Lewis, if you knew how sorry I am!  I AM grateful--I do feel your
generosity.  It's true that I'm alone, and that the future's rather
blank.  But all that can't be helped; nothing can change it now.
You must give me my freedom."

"What I feel is nothing to you, then?"

"No.  It's a great deal."  She looked at him gravely.  "It's
because I might end by being tempted that I mustn't listen to you;
that you must let me go."

"Let you go--when you've confessed that you're tempted?  Listen,
Halo.  You see now how right I was to refuse to divorce you; to
wait; to believe that you'd come back.  Now that you're here, how
can you ask me to give you up?"

She stood motionless, her heart trembling with the weight of his
pleading.  His words piled themselves up on her like lead.  "How
can you, Halo?" he repeated.

"Because I'm going to have a child," she said.

"Oh--" he exclaimed.  He drew back, and lifted his hands to his
face.  Then he turned from her and walked up to the mantelpiece.
He must have caught sight of his own disordered features in the
mirror, for he moved away, and stood in the middle of the room,
livid and silent.

Halo could think of nothing to say.  He forced a little laugh.  "I
see.  And you want a divorce at once, because now you think he'll
have to marry you?"

"I have never thought anything of the sort.  I don't want him to
marry me--I don't want him to know what I've told you . . .  I want
to be free and to shift for myself . . . that's all."

He looked down with knotted brows.  "Then this divorce business--
what's your object?  If what you tell me is true, I don't see what
you want--or why you should care about a divorce, one way or the
other."

She flushed.  "I've no right to give your name to another man's
child.  Isn't that reason enough?  Can't you understand that a
woman should want to be free, and alone with her child?" she burst
out passionately.

She saw the reflection of her flush in his face.  When the blood
rose under his fair skin it burned him to the temples, and then
ebbed at once, leaving him ash-coloured.  He moved about the room
vaguely, and then came back to her.

"I had no idea--"

"No; of course.  But now you must see . . ."

He lifted his eyes to hers.  "There are women who wouldn't have
been so honest--"

"Are there?  I don't know.  Please think of what I've asked you,
Lewis."

She saw that he was no longer listening to what she said.  All his
faculties were manifestly concentrated on some sudden purpose that
was struggling to impose itself on his will.  He spoke again.
"Some women, if only for their child's sake--"

"Would lie?  Is that what you mean?"

"Well--isn't it perhaps your duty?  I mean, to think first of your
child's future?  Consider what I've said from that point of view if
you can . . ."

She returned his gaze with a frightened stare.  What was he hinting
at, trying to offer her?  Her heart shrank from the possibility,
and then suddenly melted.  Lewis--poor Lewis!  What were these
depths she had never guessed in him?  Had she after all known him
so little?  Her eyes filled, and she stood silent.

"Halo--you see, don't you?  I . . . I want you to realize . . . to
think of it in that way.  You'll need help more than ever now.
Halo, why don't you answer?  I'd be good to the child," he said
brokenly.

She went up to him and took his hand.  It was cold and shook in her
touch.  "Thank you for that--most of all.  It can't be as you wish;
but I'll never forget.  Words are stupid--I don't know what to
say."

"To say--to say?  There's nothing to say.  The child . . . the
child would be mine, you understand."

She shook her head.  "I understand.  And I shall always feel that
you're my best friend.  But I can't go back to you and be your
wife.  You'd be the first to regret it if I did.  Don't think me
hard or ungrateful.  Only let me go my way."

He turned and rested his elbows on the mantelpiece, and his head on
his clasped hands.  She saw that he was struggling to recover his
composure before he spoke again.  "Ah, your pride--your pride!" he
broke out bitterly.  She was silent, and he turned back to her with
a burst of vehemence.  "I suppose, though you won't acknowledge it
even to yourself, you really hope Weston will come back and marry
you when he hears of this?"

"If he hears of it he will certainly offer to marry me.  But for
that very reason I don't want him to know--not at present.  I don't
want him to feel under any sort of obligation. . ."

"Has he made you as unhappy as that?"

"Don't we all make each other unhappy, sooner or later--often
without knowing it?  I sometimes think I've got beyond happiness or
unhappiness--I don't feel as if I were made for them any more.  I
have nothing to complain of--or to regret.  But I want to be alone;
to go my own way, without depending on anybody.  I want to be Halo
Spear again--that's all."

Tarrant listened with bent head.  She saw that he was bewildered at
the depth of his own failure.  He had been prepared--perhaps--to
regret his offer; but not to have it refused.  It had never
occurred to him that such an extreme of magnanimity could defeat
itself.  "Is that really all--all you've got to say?"

"Since I can't say what you wish, Lewis--what else is there?"

His white lips twitched.  "No; you're right.  I suppose there's
nothing."  He had grown guarded and noncommittal again; she saw
that to press her point at that moment was impossible.  She held
out her hand.

"It's goodbye, then.  But as friends--as true friends, Lewis?"

"Oh, as friends," he echoed rigidly.

He did not seem to notice her extended hand.  She saw that he
hardly knew where he was, or what he was doing; but some old
instinct of conformity made him precede her to the door, open it
for her, walk silently at her side down the passage to the lift.

"I'd rather walk downstairs," she said; but he insisted gravely:
"It's four flights.  You'd better wait.  In a moment; it will be
here in a moment."

They stood by each other in silence, miles of distance already
between them, while they waited for the preliminary rattle and
rumble from below; then the mirror-lined box shot up, opened its
door, and took her in.


XXXV


The Euphoria "Free Speaker" had expended its biggest head-lines on
the illustrious novelist's return, and Vance, the morning after his
arrival, woke to find himself besieged by reporters, autograph-
collectors, photographers, prominent citizens and organizers of
lecture-tours.

He had forgotten how blinding and deafening America's greeting to
the successful can be, and his first impulse was to fly or to lie
concealed; but he saw that his parents not only took the besieging
of the house for granted, but would have felt there was something
lacking in their son's achievement had it not called forth this
tribute.  Even Grandma Scrimser--now rooted to her armchair by some
paralyzing form of rheumatism--shone on him tenderly and murmured
"The college'll have to give him an honorary degree now," as he
jumped up to receive the fiftieth interviewer, or to answer the
hundredth telephone call.

"You remember, darling, that summer way back, when we sat one day
on the porch at Crampton, and you told me you'd had a revelation of
God--a God of your own was the way you put it?  A sort of something
in you that stretched out and out, and upward and upward, and took
in all time and all space?  I remember it so well, although my
words are not as beautiful as yours.  At the time I was sure it
meant you had a call to the ministry.  But now, sitting here and
reading in the papers what all the big folks say about your books,
I've begun to wonder if it wasn't your Genius speaking in you, and
maybe spreading its wings to carry you up by another way to the One
God--who is Jesus?"  Her great blue eyes, paler but still so
beautiful, filled with the easy tears of the old as she drew Vance
down to her.  And after that she advised him earnestly not to
refuse to address his fellow-citizens from the platform of the new
Auditorium Theatre.  "They've got a right to see you and hear you,
Vanny; they expect it.  It's something you privileged people owe to
the rest of the world.  And besides, it's good business; nothing'll
make your books sell better than folks being able to see what you
look like, and go home and say:  'Vance Weston?  Why, sure I know
him.  I heard him lecture the other day out at Euphoria.  Of course
I'm going to buy his new book'.  It's the human touch you see,
darling."

The human touch, artfully combined with a regard for the main
chance, still ruled in Mrs. Scrimser's world, and her fading blue
eyes shone with the same blend of other-worldliness and business
astuteness as when she had started on her own successful career as
preacher and reformer.  All the family had been brought up in the
same school, without even suspecting that there might be another;
and they ascribed Vance's reluctance to be made a show of to ill-
health and private anxieties.

"It's all that woman's doing.  He's worn to a bone, and I can
hardly get him to touch his food," Mrs. Weston grumbled to her
mother; and Vance, chancing to overhear her, knew that the woman in
question was Halo.  He understood that his life with Halo was
something to be accounted for and explained away, and that the
pride the family had felt in his prospective marriage ("a Park
Avenue affair", as Mrs. Weston had boasted) increased the
mortification of having to own that it had not taken place.  "Some
fuss about a divorce--don't they HAVE divorce in the Eastern
States, anyhow?" she enquired sardonically, as if no lack of
initiative would surprise her in the original Thirteen.  The
explanation was certainly unsatisfactory; and sooner than have it
supposed that Vance might have been thrown over, she let slip that
he and the young woman were living together--"society queen and all
the rest of it.  Of course she won't let him go. . ."  That had not
been quite satisfactory either.  It had arrayed against him the
weightiest section of Mapledale Avenue, and excited in the other,
and more youthful, half, an unwholesome curiosity as to his private
affairs, stimulated by the conviction that the family were "keeping
back" something discreditable, and perhaps unmentionable; since it
was obvious that two people who wanted to live together had only to
legalize their caprice by a trip to Reno.

All this Vance had learned from his sister Mae during a midnight
talk the day after his arrival.  His eldest sister, Pearl, who was
small and plain, and had inherited her mother's sturdy common-
sense, had married well and gone to live at Dakin; but Mae, who was
half-pretty and half-artistic and half-educated, and had thought
herself half engaged to two or three young men who had not shared
her view, had remained at home and grown disillusioned and
censorious.  She did not understand Vance any better than the rest
of the family, and he knew it; but the spirit of opposition caused
her to admire in him whatever the others disapproved of, and for
want of an intelligent ear he had to turn to a merely sympathetic
one.

"The Auditorium's sold out already for your reading; and I know
they're crazy to invite you to the Saturday night dinner-dance at
the new Country Club.  But some of the old cats want to know what
this is about your living abroad with a married woman--that Mrs.
Dayton Alsop, who was divorced twice before she caught old Alsop,
is one of the worst ones, I guess."  Vance laughed, and said he
didn't give a damn for dinner-dances at the Country Club, and Mae,
with sudden bitterness, rejoined:  "I suppose there's nothing out
here you do give a damn for, as far as society goes.  But of course
if you don't go they'll say it's because they wouldn't ask you. . ."

The next day his grandmother seized the opportunity of Mrs.
Weston's morning marketing to ask Vance to come to her room for a
talk; and after the exchange of reminiscences, always so dear to
the old, she put a gentle question about his marriage.  He told her
that he didn't believe he was going to get married, and seeing the
pain in those eyes he could never look at with indifference, he
added:  "It's all my fault; but you mustn't let it fret you,
because Halo, who's awfully generous, understands perfectly, and
agrees that the experiment has probably lasted long enough.  So
that's all there is to it."

"All?"  She returned his look anxiously.  "It seems to me just a
beginning.  A bad beginning, if you like; but so many are.  That
don't mean much.  I understood the trouble was she couldn't get her
divorce--the husband wouldn't let her.  Is that so?"

"Yes.  But I suppose she'd have ended by going out to Reno, though
the crowd she was brought up in hate that kind of thing worse than
poison."

"Hate it--why?"  Mrs. Scrimser looked surprised.  "Isn't it better
than going against God's commandments?"

"Well, maybe.  But they think out there in New York--Halo's kind
do--that when one of the parties has put himself or herself in the
wrong, they've got no right to lie about it in court, and Halo
would have loathed getting a divorce on the pretext that her
husband had deserted her, when the truth was she'd left him because
she wanted to come and live with me."

This visibly increased Mrs. Scrimser's perplexity, but Vance saw
that her native sense of fairness made her wish to understand his
side of the case.

"Well, I always say it's a pity the young people don't bear with
each other a little longer.  I don't think they ought to rush out
and get a divorce the way you'd buy a package of salts of lemon.
It ain't such a universal cure either. . .  But as long as you and
she had decided you couldn't get along without each other--"

"But now we see we can, so it don't matter," Vance interrupted.
His grandmother gave an incredulous laugh.

"Nonsense, child--how can you tell, when you haven't been married?
All the rest's child-play, jokes; the only test is getting married.
It's the daily wear and tear, and the knowing-it's-got-to-be-made-
to-do, that keeps people together; not making eyes at each other by
the moonlight.  And when there's a child to be worried over, and
looked after, and sat up nights with, and money put by for it--oh,
then. . ."  Mrs. Scrimser leaned back with closed eyes and a
reminiscent smile.  "I'd almost say it's the worries that make
married folks sacred to each other--and what do you two know of all
that?"

Vance's eyes filled.  He had a vision of the day when Laura Lou's
mother had entreated him to set her daughter free, when release had
shone before him like a sunrise, and he had turned from it--why?
Perhaps because, as Mrs. Scrimser said, worries made married folks
sacred to each other.  He hadn't known then--he didn't now.  He
merely felt that, in Laura Lou's case, the irritating friction of
familiarity had made separation unthinkable, while in regard to
himself and Halo, their perpetual mutual insistence on not being a
burden to each other, on scrupulously respecting each other's
freedom, had somehow worn the tie thin instead of strengthening it.
This was certainly the case as far as he was concerned, and Halo
appeared to share his view.  Splendid and generous as she had been
when he had come to her with his unhappy confession, their last
weeks at Oubli seemed to have made it as clear to her as to him
that their experiment had reached its term.  It was she who had
insisted on his going to America to see his family and his
publishers; she who had expressly stipulated that they should
separate as old friends, but without any project of reunion.  But
it was useless to try to explain this to his grandmother, whose
experience had been drawn from conditions so much more primitive
that Halo's fine shades of sentiment would have been unintelligible
to her.

Suddenly Mrs. Scrimser laid her hand on his.  "Honour bright, Van--
is it another woman?"

He flushed under her gaze.  "It's a whole complex of things--it's
me as the Lord made me, I suppose: a bunch of ill-assorted odds and
ends.  I couldn't make any woman happy--so what's the use of
worrying about it?"

Mrs. Scrimser put her old withered hands on his shoulders and
pushed him back far enough to scrutinize his face.  "You young
fool, you--as if being happy was the whole story!  It's only the
preface: any woman worth her salt'll tell you that."

He bent over and kissed her.  "The trouble is, Gran, I'm not worth
any woman's salt."

She shook her head impatiently.  "Don't you go running yourself
down, either.  It's the quickest shortcut to losing your self-
respect.  And all your fine writing won't help you if you haven't
got that."  She stretched out her hand for her spectacles, and took
up the last number of "Zion's Spotlight".  "I guess there'll be an
article about you in here next week.  They're sure to send somebody
over to hear your talk at the Auditorium," she called after him
proudly as he left the room.



Vance walked slowly down Mapledale Avenue, and through the centre
of the town to the Elkington House.  The aspect of Euphoria had
changed almost as much as his father's boasts has led him to
expect.  The fabulous development of the Shunts motor industry, and
the consequent growth of the manufacturing suburb at Crampton, had
revived real estate speculation, and the creation of the new
Country Club on the heights across the river was rapidly turning
the surrounding district into a millionaire suburb.  The
fashionable, headed by the Shuntses, were already selling their
Mapledale Avenue houses to buy land on the heights; and a
corresponding spread of luxury showed itself in the development of
the shopping district, the erection of the new Auditorium Theatre,
and the cosmopolitan look of cinemas, garages, and florists' and
jewellers' windows.  Even the mouldy old Elkington House had
responded by turning part of its ground floor into a plate-glass-
fronted lobby with theatre agency, tobacconist and newspaper stall.
Vance paused to study the renovated façade of the hotel; then he
walked up the steps and passed through the revolving doors.  On the
threshold a sudden recoil checked him.  Memory had evoked the night
when, hurriedly summoned from the office of the "Free Speaker", he
had found Grandpa Scrimser collapsed under the glaring electrolier
of the old bar, his legs dangling like a marionette's, his
conquering curls flat on his damp forehead.  Vance heard the rattle
of the ambulance down the street, and saw the men carrying
Grandpa's limp body across the lobby to the door--and it was
hateful to him that, at this moment, the scene should return with
such cruel precision.  It was as if, all those years, Grandpa had
kept that shaft up his ghostly sleeve.

Vance turned to the reception clerk.  "Miss Delaney?" he asked, his
voice sounding thick in his throat.

The clerk took the proper time to consider.  He was showy but
callow, and a newcomer since Vance's last visit to Euphoria.  "I
guess you're Mr. Weston, the novelist?" he queried, his excitement
overcoming his professional dignity.  "Why, yes, Miss Delaney said
she was expecting you.  Will you step right into the reception
room?  You won't be disturbed there.  But perhaps first you'll do
me a great favour--?  Fact is, I'm a member of the Mapledale Avenue
Autograph Club, and your signature in this little book. . ."

Vance's hand shook so that he could hardly form the letters of his
name.  He followed the grateful clerk, who insisted on conducting
him in person to a heavily-gilded reception room with three layers
of window curtains and a sultry smell of hot radiators.  "Why, this
is where the old bar was!" Vance exclaimed involuntarily.  The
reception clerk raised his eyebrows in surprise.  "That must have
been a good while ago," he said disdainfully, as if the new
Elkington did not care to be reminded of the old; and Vance echoed:
"Yes--a good while."

He stood absently contemplating the richly-bound volumes of hotel
and railway advertisements on the alabaster centre-table, the blood
so loud in his ears that he did not hear a step behind him.  "Why,
Van!"  Floss Delaney's voice sounded, and he turned with a start.
"Is it really you?" he stammered, looking at her like a man in a
trance.

"Of course it's me.  Do I look like somebody else?"

"No . . . I only meant. . .  I didn't ever expect to see you
again."  He paused, and she stood listening with her faint smile
while his eyes felt their way slowly over her face.

"But didn't you get my note?" she asked.

"Yes.  I got it.  I only landed last week.  I meant to stay in New
York and see about my new book--the one that's just out.  And then
I saw in the New York papers that you were out here; and so I
came."

She took this halting avowal as if it were her due, but remained
silent, not averted or inattentive but simply waiting, as her way
was, to see what he would say next.  He paused too, finding no
words to utter what was struggling in him.  "The paper I saw said
you'd come out on business."

Her face took on the eager look it had worn at Brambles when Alders
had called her to the telephone.  "Yes, I have.  There's a big deal
going on in that new Country Club district; I guess you've heard
about it from your father.  I got wind of it last summer--just
after that time you were down in the country with me, it must have
been--and I cabled right home, and bought up all the land I could.
And now I've had two or three big offers, and I thought I'd better
come and look over the ground myself.  I've got the Shunts
interests against me; they're trying to buy all the land that's
left, and I stand to make a good thing out of it if I keep my
nerve," she ended, a lovely smile animating her tranquil lips.

Vance looked at her perplexedly.  When he had lit on that paragraph
the day after landing, the idea of seeing her again swept away
every other consideration, and he had thrown over his New York
engagements and hurried out to Euphoria lest he should get there
too late to find her.  But on his arrival a note reassured him; she
had gone to Dakin for two or three days with her lawyer, on some
real-estate business, but would soon be back at the Elkington,
where she asked him to call.  And there she stood in her calm
beauty, actually smiling about that day at Brambles, as if to her
it were a mere happy midsummer memory, and she assumed it to be no
more to him!  Probably the assumption was genuine; she had
forgotten the end of that day, forgotten his desperate attempts to
see her and plead with her in London--as she had no doubt forgotten
the remoter and crueller memories roused by seeing her again at
Euphoria.  It was perhaps the contrast between her statue-like calm
and his own inward turmoil that drew him back to her.  There was
something exasperating and yet mysteriously stimulating in the
thought that she recalled the day when she had deserted him at
Brambles only because it was that on which she had first heard of a
promising real-estate deal.

"Do you know what this room is?" he exclaimed with sudden
bitterness.  "It's the old bar of the hotel."

She lifted her delicately curved eyebrows.  "Oh, is it--?  What of
it?" her look seemed to add.

"Yes; and the last time I was here it was in the middle of the
night, when they rang me up at the 'Free Speaker' to say that my
grandfather'd had a stroke.  There's where the sofa stood where I
saw him lying."  He pointed to a divan of stamped velvet under an
ornate wall-clock.

Her glance followed his.  "I don't believe it's the same sofa--they
seem to have done the whole place up," she said indifferently; and
Vance saw from her cloudy brow that she was annoyed with him for
bringing up such memories.  "I hate to hear about people dying,"
she confessed with a slight laugh; "let's talk about you, shall
we?"  But he knew it was herself and her own affairs that she
wanted to discourse upon; and merely to hear her voice again, and
watch the faint curve of her lips as she spoke, was so necessary to
him that he stammered:  "No--tell me first what you've been doing.
That's what I want to know."

She gave a little murmur of pleasure and dropped down on the divan
under the clock.  Probably she had already forgotten that it was
there that Vance had seen his grandfather lying, as she had also
forgotten, long since, that for her anything painful was associated
with the old man's name.  A soft glow of excitement suffused her.
"Well, I have got heaps to tell you--oceans!  Why do you stand off
there?  Here; come and sit by me. . .  So much seems to have
happened lately, don't it?  So you've got a new book coming out?"
She made way for him on the divan, and shrinking a little at his
own thoughts he sat down at her side, her arm brushing his.  "And
if I can get ahead of the Shuntses, and pull this off. . .  See
here, Van," she interrupted herself, with a glance at the jewelled
dial at her wrist, "I'm afraid I can't let you stay much longer
now; young Honoré Shunts, the son of the one who's trying to buy up
the heights, has asked me to run out with him to the Country Club
presently, and of course it's very important for me to be on good
terms with that crowd just now.  You see that, don't you?"

The dizzy drop of his disappointment left Vance silent.  "Now, at
once?  You're sacking me already?"

"Only for a little while, dear.  Everything depends on this deal.
If I can get young Shunts so I can do what I want with him. . ."
She smiled down mystically on her folded hands.

"Get him to think you're going to marry him, you mean?  I thought
you were engaged to Spartivento when I saw you in London?"

She gathered her brows in the effort to explore those remote
recesses of the past.  "Was I, darling?  Being engaged don't count
much, anyhow--does it?  What I've got to do first is to get this
deal through.  Then we'll see.  But I'm not going to think about
marrying anybody till then."  She looked at her watch again.
"There's somebody coming round from the bank too, with some papers
for me to sign. . .  But couldn't we dine together somewhere,
darling?  Isn't there some place where there's a cabaret, and we
could have a good long talk afterward?  I'm off to New York
tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?  And of course every minute's filled up with business
till then--" he interrupted bitterly.

"Well, business is what I came for.  Anyhow, why can't we dine
together tonight?"

"Because it's just the one night I can't.  I'm engaged to give a
lecture at the Auditorium, with readings from my book."  Black
gloom filled him as he spoke; but her eyes brightened with
interest.  "You are?  Why, Van, how splendid!  Why didn't you tell
me so before?  I've never been inside the Auditorium, have you?
They say it seats two thousand people.  Do you think you'll be able
to fill it?  But of course you will!  Look at the way the smart set
rushed after you in London.  And they told me over there that this
new book was going to be a bigger seller than anything you've done
yet.  Oh, Van, don't it feel GREAT to come back here and have
everybody crowding round because you're so famous?  Do you suppose
there's a seat left--do you think you can get one for me, darling?
Let's go out and ask the ticket-agent right off--"  She was on her
feet, alive and radiant as when they had driven up to Brambles and
she had sprung out to plunge her arms into the lily-pool.

"Oh, I can get you a ticket all right.  I'll get you a box if you
like.  But you hate readings--why on earth should you want to come?
Besides, what does all that matter?  If you're going away tomorrow,
how can I see you again--and when?"

He remembered her talent for eluding her engagements, and was
fiercely resolved to hold her fast to this one.  He had something
to say to her--something that he now felt must be said at any cost,
and without delay.  After that--.  "You must tell me now, before I
go, how I can see you," he insisted.

She drooped her lids a little, and smiled up under them.  "Why, I
guess we can manage somehow.  Can't you bring me back after the
reading?  That would be lovely. . .  I'll wait for you in the lobby
at the Auditorium.  I've got my own sitting-room here, and I think
I can fix it up with the reception clerk to have some supper sent
up.  He was fearfully excited when I told him who you were."  She
looked at him gaily, putting her hands on his shoulders.  "I guess
I owe you that after Brambles--don't I, Van?"


XXXVI


When he got back to the house, his brain reeling with joy, Mae
pounced out at him with a large silver-gray envelope crested with
gold.

"There!  You say you won't fill the Auditorium!  And I told you
myself that Mrs. Dayton Alsop was dead against you on account of--
well, the things we talked about the other night.  And here's what
it is to be a celebrity!  She's invited you to a supper-party after
the reading--she's invited us all.  Mother says she won't go; she's
got no clothes, to begin with.  And I guess father won't, if she
don't.  But I've got my black lace with paillettes.  You won't be
ashamed to be seen with me in that, will you, Van?  I never thought
I'd see the inside of the Alsop house--did you?"  Her sallow
worried face was rejuvenated by excitement and coquetry.

Vance stood gloomily examining the envelope.  "Supper--tonight?"
He thrust the invitation back into her hand.  "Sorry--I can't go.
I've got another engagement.  You'll have to coax father to take
you."

Mae grew haggard again.  "Vance!  Another engagement--tonight?  You
can't have!  Why, the supper's given for you; don't you understand?
Mrs. Dayton Alsop--"

"Oh, damn Mrs. Dayton Alsop!"

His sister's eyes filled.  "I think you're crazy, perfectly
crazy . . . the supper's GIVEN FOR YOU," she repeated plaintively.

"I've told you I'm sorry.  I was never told anything about this
supper. . .  I've got another engagement."

Mae looked at him with searching insistence.  "You can't have an
engagement with anybody that matters as much as Mrs. Dayton Alsop.
Everybody'll say--"

He burst into an irritated laugh.  "Let 'em say what they like!  My
engagement happens to matter to me more than a thousand Mrs.
Alsops."

"You say that just to show how you despise us all!" his sister
reproached him.

"Put it on any ground you please.  The plain fact is that an
engagement's an engagement.  Write and tell her so, will you?  Tell
her I'm awfully sorry, but her invitation came too late."

"But she explains that in her letter.  She got the party up at the
last minute because she wasn't sure if she could get the right
band.  She wanted to make sure of the Dakin Blackbirds.  She always
wants the best of everything at her parties. . .  You'll have to
write to her yourself, Vance."

"Oh, very well."  He flung away and went up to his room.  He knew
that to refuse this invitation would be not only a discourtesy to
Euphoria's ruling hostess but a bitter blow to the family pride.
How could he account to them for his mysterious midnight
engagement?  An evasion which would have passed unnoticed in a big
city would be set all Euphoria buzzing.  Everybody in the place
would know that no other party was being given that evening; it
would be assumed at once that he was going off on a drinking bout
with some low associates, and the slight to his hostess and his
family would be all the greater.  But at that moment he could not
conceive of any inducement or obligation that could have kept him
from meeting Floss after the reading, and going back to the hotel
with her.  It was not only his irresistible longing for her that
impelled him.  He wanted something decisive, final, to come out of
this encounter.  He had reached a point in his bewildered course
when the need to take a definite step, to see his future shape
itself before him in whatever sense, was almost as strong as his
craving for her nearness.  A phrase of his grandmother's:  "Nothing
counts but marriage" returned unexpectedly to his mind, and he
thought:  "It ought to have been Halo--but that's not to be.  And
anyhow I'm not fit for her."  With Floss Delaney it would be
different.  Certain obscure fibres in both their natures seemed
inextricably entangled.  There was a dumb subterranean power in her
that corresponded with his own sense of the forces by which his
inventive faculty was fed.  He did not think this out clearly; he
merely felt that something final, irrevocable, must come out of
their meeting that night.  He took up his pen, and began:  "My dear
Mrs. Alsop--"



Three days later, in the New York train, Vance sat trying to piece
together the fragments of his adventure.  Everything about it was
still so confused and out of focus that he could only put his
recollections together in broken bits, brooding over each, and
waiting for the missing ones to fit themselves in little by little,
and make a picture.

The theatre: gigantic, opening before him light and glaring as the
Mouth of Hell in a mediæval fresco he and Halo had seen in a church
somewhere. . .  Rows and rows of faces, all suddenly individual and
familiar, centered on him in their intense avidity, as if his name
were written in huge letters over each of them. . .  Then, as he
settled his papers on the little table in front of him--in the hush
following the endless rounds of applause which pulled his head
forward at rhythmic intervals, like an invisible wire jerking a
marionette--the sudden stir in a stage box, Mrs. Alsop's box (that
heavy over-blown figure was hers, he supposed, and at her side,
slim and amber-warm, Floss standing up, looking calmly about the
house while her dusky furs slipped from her. . .)

Yes, it was God's own luck, he saw it now, that before he could get
that cursed letter to Mrs. Alsop written Floss had summoned him to
the telephone (ah, Mae's face as she brought the message!) to
announce peremptorily that she couldn't meet him in the lobby after
the theatre because Mrs. Alsop had invited her to the party, and
she was to go to the theatre in Mrs. Alsop's box, and young Honoré
Shunts was going with them . . . and oh, PLEASE, Vance wasn't to
make a fuss, and the party wouldn't last all night, would it, and
afterward what was to prevent--?  And wouldn't he be very very
sweet, and give her just one look--the very last--before he began
his lecture? . . .  Well, no, the party wouldn't last all night, he
supposed. . .

And now he was speaking:  "Ladies and gentlemen, if anybody had
told me in the old days--"  God!  What a flat beginning!  He didn't
pretend to be a professional speaker. . .  But at last the
preliminaries were over, and he found himself in the middle of
"Colossus."  First he read them the fragment about the buried torso
in the desert--the episode which symbolized all that was to
follow. . .  How attentive they were, how hushed!  As usual, the
wings of his imagination lifted him above mortal contingencies, and
his voice soared over the outspread silence.  But gradually he began
to be conscious of the dense nonconductive quality of that silence,
of the fact that not a word he said traversed its impenetrable
medium.  The men were fidgeting in their seats like children in
church; the women were openly consulting their pocket-mirrors.  A
programme dropped from the gallery, and every head was turned to see
it fall. Vance could hear his voice flagging and groping as he
hurried on from fragment to fragment. . .  Which was it now?  Ah:
the descent to the Mothers, the crux, the centre of the book.  He
had put the whole of himself into that scene--and his self had come
out of Euphoria, been conceived and fashioned there, made of the
summer heat on endless wheat-fields, the frozen winter skies, the
bell of the Roman Catholic church ringing through the stillness, on
nights when he couldn't sleep, after the last trolley-rattle had
died out; the plants budding along the ditches on the way to
Crampton, the fiery shade of the elm-grove down by the river . . .
he had been made out of all this, had come out of all this, and
there, in rows before him, sat his native protoplasm, and wriggled
in its seats, and twitched at its collar-buttons, and didn't
understand him. . .  And at last it was over, and the theatre rang
and rang with the grateful applause of the released. . .

And at Mrs. Alsop's, with champagne sparkling and the right band
banging, and flowers and pretty women and white shirt-fronts, how
quickly the boredom was forgotten, the flagging ardour rekindled,
how proud they all were of their home-made genius, how they admired
him and were going to swagger about him--how the President of the
College hinted playfully at an Honorary Degree, and the pretty
women palpitated, and the members of the Culture Club joked about
the bewilderment of the Philistines:  "You've given them something
to take home and think about this time!"  And after that everything
melted again into a golden blur of heat and wine and crowding, out
of which Floss Delaney detached herself, firm and vivid, and while
Mrs. Alsop's guests scattered in a sudden snow-fall, and the Dakin
Blackbirds scuttled away with raised coat-collars under the
leafless elms, Vance had found himself in a motor at her side,
twisting down the new road from the heights, crossing the bridge,
gliding through the snow-white streets to the hotel, and descending
there at a mysterious side-door.  ("I gave the reception clerk my
ticket for the lecture--and here's his private key," she said with
a little laugh.)



He had meant to stay at Euphoria for a week or two longer.  He knew
the bitter disappointment that his hurried departure was causing
his family, and especially his grandmother and Mae, one of whom
had dreamed of further ovations for the genius, the other of
opportunities to be invited to the new houses on the heights.  But
he could not put off seeing Floss again, could not leave the
tormenting ecstasy of their last hours together without a sequel.
Everything drew him on to a dark future shot with wild lightnings
of hope.

Floss had not realized till then what a public figure he was.  The
way people had crowded around him at Mrs. Alsop's seemed to have
struck her even more than his popularity in London.  She admitted
it herself.  "It does feel funny, don't it, Van--you and I being in
the spotlight out here at Euphoria?  In Europe it's different--
don't you suppose I know that not one of the big people over there
care a hoot where we come from as long as we amuse them?  If we'd
served a term they wouldn't care. . .  But out here in Euphoria,
where they know us inside out, and yet have got to kotow to us, and
get up parties for us, and everybody fighting to be introduced, and
people who've only been here since the boom pretending they played
with us when we were children . . .  Yes, I guess that 'dough-
face', as you call him, who was following me round everywhere, WAS
young Shunts.  Looks as if I'd got him running, don't it?  But he's
not half as crazy about me as the President of the College--did you
notice?  Oh, Van, I'd love to make them all feel that way in New
York, wouldn't you?  And I guess it would be a lot easier than at
Euphoria."

Yes; New York was what she wanted now.  And she was sure of it if
only she could pull off her deal, and force the Shuntses to buy her
out at a big figure.  If she could get round that young Shunts, who
knew what might happen?  At daylight, when they parted, she made
Vance promise with her last kiss to come to New York as soon as he
could.  She said she didn't dare try her luck there without an old
friend to back her up; and in a flash of joy and irony he understood
that she was already calculating on the social value of his young
celebrity, on the fact that he could probably "place" her in New
York, get her more quickly into the inaccessible houses that were
the only ones she cared about.  "You will, darling, darling?" . . .
And now he was on his way to keep his promise.

He remembered thinking, before the reading, that when he met Floss
again that night, something final, irrevocable, must come of it.
He meant to make her understand that this was no mere lovers' tryst
without a morrow, but a turning-point in his life, a meeting on
which his whole future depended.  It was as if he could justify his
break with Halo only by creating for himself a new tie, more
binding, more unescapable.  He would have felt ashamed to admit
that anything but the need to stabilize his life, to be in harmony
again with himself and his work, could have forced him to such a
step.  Halo had seen that, he was sure; she had understood it.  If
he was to follow his calling he must be protected from the sterile
agitation of these last years.  Marriage and a home; normal
conditions; that was what he craved and needed.  And Floss Delaney
seemed to personify the strong emotional stimulant on which his
intellectual life must feed.  Intellectual comradeship between
lovers was unattainable; that was not the service women could
render to men.  But the old mysterious bond of blood which seemed
to exist between certain human beings, which youth sought for
blindly, and maturity continued restlessly to crave--that must be
the secret soil in which alone the artist's faculty could ripen.
He saw it all now, looked on it with the wide-open eyes of passion
and disillusionment.  A few years ago he would have plunged into
the adventure blindly, craving only the repetition of its dark
raptures.  But now it seemed to him that while his senses flamed
his intelligence remained cool.  He knew that Floss would always be
what she was--he could no more influence or shape her than he could
bend or shape a marble statue.  But he needed her, and perhaps she
needed him, though for reasons so different; and out of that double
need there might come a union so deep-rooted and instinctive that
neither, having once known it, could do without it.  Perhaps that
was what his grandmother had in mind when she said marriage made
people sacred to each other.  If, after a life-time with Grandpa
Scrimser, she could still believe in the sanctifying influence of
wedlock, then the real unbreakable tie between bodies and soul must
have its origin in depths of which the average man and woman were
hardly conscious, but which the poet groped for and fed on with all
his hungry tentacles.

All this he had meant to make Floss understand--not in the poet's
speech, which would mean nothing to her, but in the plain words of
his passion.  He must make her see that they belonged to each
other, that they were necessary to each other, that their future
meetings could not be left to depend on chance or whim.  He meant
to plead with her, reason with her, dominate her with the full
strength of his will. . .  And all that had come of it was that, as
her arms slipped from his shoulders, and her last kiss from his
lips, he had promised to follow her to New York.


XXXVII


During the two months since Vance's return to New York "Colossus"
had taken the high seas of publicity, and was now off full sail on
its adventurous voyage.  Where would the great craft land?  It had
been reviewed from one end of the continent to the other, and from
across the seas other reviews were pouring in.  The first notices,
as usual in such cases, were made largely out of left-over
impressions of "The Puritan in Spain"; but a few, in the literary
supplements of the big papers, and in the high-brow reviews, were
serious though somewhat bewildered attempts to analyze the new book
and relate it to the author's previous work, and in two or three of
these articles Vance caught a hint of the doubt which had so
wounded him on Halo's lips.  Was this novel, the critics asked--in
spite of the many striking and admirable qualities they recognized
in it--really as original, as personal as, in their smaller way,
its two predecessors had been?  "Instead" and "The Puritan in
Spain", those delicate studies of a vanished society, had an
individual note that the more ambitious "Colossus" lacked. . .  And
the author's two striking short stories--"One Day" and "Unclaimed"--
showed that his touch could be vigorous as well as tender, that
his rendering of the present was as acute and realistic as his
evocations of the past were suffused with poetry. . .  Of this rare
combination of qualities what use had he made in "Colossus"?  On
this query the critics hung their reserves and their regrets.  The
author's notable beginnings had led them to hope that at last a
born novelist had arisen among the self-conscious little essayists
who were trying to substitute the cold processes of the laboratory
for the lightning art of creation.  (The turn of this made Vance
wonder if Frenside had not come back to fiction reviewing.)

It was a pity, they said, that so original a writer had been
influenced by the fashion of the hour (had he then, he wondered,
flushing?) at the very moment when the public, not only the big
uncritical public but the acute and cultivated minority, were
rebelling against these laborious substitutes for the art of
fiction, and turning with recovered appetite to the exquisite
freshness and spontaneity of such books as David Dorr's "Heavenly
Archer", the undoubted triumph of the year.  (David Dorr?  A new
name to Vance.  He sent out instantly for "Heavenly Archer", rushed
through it, and flung it from him with a groan.)

Some books fail slowly, imperceptibly, as though an insidious
disease had undermined them; others plunge from the heights with a
crash, and thus it was with "Colossus ".  Halo had been right--
slowly he was beginning to see it.  "Colossus" was not his own
book, brain of his brain, flesh of his flesh, as it had seemed
while he was at work on it, but a kind of hybrid monster made out
of the crossing of his own imaginings with those imposed on him by
the literary fashions and influences of the day.  He could have
borne the bitterness of this discovery, borne the adverse
criticisms and the uncomfortable evidence of sales steadily
diminishing, as the book, instead of gathering momentum, flagged
and wallowed in the general incomprehension.  All that would have
meant nothing but for two facts; first that in his secret self he
had to admit the justice of the more enlightened strictures, to
recognize that his masterpiece, in the making, had turned into a
heavy lifeless production, had literally died on his hands; and
secondly that its failure must inevitably affect his relations with
Floss Delaney.  He had always known that she would measure his
achievement only by the material and social advantages it brought
her, and that she wanted only the successful about her.  And he was
discovering how soon the green mould of failure spreads over the
bright surface of popularity, how eagerly the public turns from an
idol to which it has to look up to one exactly on its level.
("'Heavenly Archer'--oh, God!" he groaned, and kicked the pitiful
thing across the floor.)

Had he gone back to his old New York world--to Rebecca Stram's
studio and the cheap restaurants where the young and rebellious
gathered--he might have had a different idea of the impression
produced by his book.  These young men, though they had enjoyed his
early ardours and curiosities, had received his first novels with a
shrug; but "Colossus" appealed to them by its very defects.  Like
most artistic coteries they preferred a poor work executed
according to their own formula to a good one achieved without it;
and they would probably have championed Vance and his book against
the world if he had shown himself among them.  But there was no
hope of meeting Floss Delaney at Rebecca Stram's or the Cocoanut
Tree, and Vance cared only to be where she was, and among the
people she frequented.  His return to the New York he had known
when he was on "The Hour" was less of a personal triumph than he
had hoped.  In certain houses where he knew that Floss particularly
wanted to be invited he was less known as the brilliant author of
"The Puritan in Spain" than as the obscure young man with whom Halo
Tarrant had run away, to the scandal of her set; and in groups of
more recent growth, where scandals counted little, celebrity was a
shifting attribute, and his sceptre had already passed to David
Dorr.

David Dorr was a charming young man with smooth fair hair and
gentle manners.  He told Vance with becoming modesty what an
inspiration the latter's lovely story "Instead" had been to him,
and asked if he mightn't say that he hoped Vance would some day
return to that earlier vein; and none of the strictures on
"Colossus" made Vance half as miserable as this condescending
tribute.  "If any of my books are the kind of stuff that fellow
admires--" he groaned inwardly, while he watched Dorr surrounded by
enraptured ladies, and imagined him saying in his offensively
gentle voice:  "Oh, but you know you're not fair to Weston--really
not.  That first book of his--what was it called?--really did have
something in it. . ."

But there were moments when the mere fact of being in the same room
with Floss, of watching her enjoyment and the admiration she
excited, was enough to satisfy him.  Mrs. Glaisher had reappeared
in New York as a Russian Grand Duchess, with Spartivento and the
assiduous Alders in her train, and Floss, under the grandducal
wing, was beginning to climb the glittering heights of the New York
world, though certain old-fashioned doors were still closed to her.
"I told you it'd be harder to get on here than in London.  They
always begin by wanting to know who you are," she complained one
day to Vance.  "I guess I'm as good as any of them; but the only
way to make them believe it is to have something, or to be
somebody, that they've got a use for.  And I mean to pull that off
too; but it takes time."  She had these flashes of dry philosophy,
which reminded Vance of her father's definition of her character.
Mr. Delaney was not in New York with his daughter.  He had been
prudently shipped off to Virginia to negotiate for the re-purchase
of one of the Delaney farms.  "It'll keep him busy," Floss
explained--"and out of the way," her tone implied, though she did
not say it.  But she added reflectively:  "I've told him I'll buy
the place for him if he can get it for a reasonable price.  He'll
want somewhere to go when I'm married."

Vance forced a laugh.  "When are we going to be married?" he wanted
to ask; but he had just enough sense left to know that the moment
for putting that question had not come.  "Have you decided on the
man?" he asked, his heart giving a thump.

She frowned, and shook her head.  "Business first.  Do you suppose
I'm going to risk having to hang round some day and whine for
alimony?  Not me.  I've told you already I'll never marry till I'm
independent of everybody.  Then I'll begin to think about it."  She
looked at him meditatively.  "I wish your new novel wasn't so
dreadfully long," she began.  "I've tried to read it but I can't.
The Grand Duchess told me people thought it was such a pity you
hadn't done something more like your first books--why didn't you?
As long as you'd found out what people wanted, what was the use of
switching off on something different?  You needn't think it's only
because I'm not literary. . .  Gratz Blemer said the other night he
couldn't think what had struck you.  He says you could have been a
best-seller as easy as not if you'd only kept on doing things like
'The Puritan in Spain'.  He doesn't think that Dorr boy's book is
in it with your earlier things."

"Oh, doesn't he?  That's something to be thankful for," Vance
retorted mockingly.

The renewal of his acquaintance with Gratz Blemer had also been a
disappointment.  Vance had always respected Blemer's robust and
patient realism, and his gift of animating and differentiating the
characters of his densely populated works; Vance recalled the shock
he had received when he had first met the novelist at the
Tarrants', and heard him speak of his books as if they were mere
business enterprises.  Now, Vance thought, his greater literary
experience might enable him to learn more from the older man, and
to make allowances for his frank materialism.  No one could do work
of that quality without some secret standard of excellence; perhaps
Blemer was so sick of undiscriminating gush that he talked as he
did to protect himself from silly women and sillier disciples, and
it would be interesting to break through his banter and get a
glimpse of his real convictions.

Vance had seen Blemer one night at the Opera, at the back of his
wife's box, and had been struck by the change in his appearance.
He had always been thick-set, but now he was fat and almost flabby;
he hated music (Vance remembered), and sat with his head against
the wall of the box, his eyes closed, his heavy mouth half open.
They met a few nights afterward in a house where the host was old-
fashioned enough to take the men into a smoking-room after dinner;
and here Blemer, of his own accord, came and sat down by Vance.
"Well," he said heavily, "so you've got a book out."

Vance reddened.  "I'm afraid it's no good," he began nervously.

"Why--isn't it selling?" Blemer asked.  Without waiting for an
answer he continued in a querulous tone:  "I wish to God I'd
brought my own cigars.  I ought to have remembered the kind of
thing they give you in this house."  He waved a fat contemptuous
hand toward the gold-belted rows in their shining inlaid cabinet.
"The main thing is to get square with the reviewers first," he
continued wearily.  "And generally by the time a fellow's enough
authority to do that, he doesn't give a damn what they say."

"I don't think I've ever cared," Vance flashed out.

Blemer drew his thick lids together.  "You don't think they affect
sales, one way or the other?  Well, that's one view--"

"I didn't mean that.  I only care for what I myself think of my
work."  As he spoke, Vance believed this to be true.  But Blemer's
attention had already wandered back to himself.  "I wish I could
get away somewhere.  I hate this New York business--dinners and
dinners--a season that lasts five months!  I'd like to go up the
Nile--clear away to Abyssinia.  Or winter sports--ever tried 'em?
Of course the Engadine's the only place. . .  Write better there?"
he interrupted himself, replying to a question of Vance's.  He gave
a little grumbling laugh.  "Why, I can't write anywhere any more.
Not a page or a line.  That's the trouble with me."  He laughed
again.  "Not that it matters much, as far as the shekels go.  I
guess my old age is provided for. . .  Only--God, the days are
long!  Well, I suppose they're waiting for us to begin bridge."  He
got up with a nod to Vance.  "I wish I was young enough to read
your book--but I hear it's eight hundred pages," he said as he
lumbered back to the drawing-room.



As the weeks passed Vance became aware that he was no nearer the
object for which he had come to New York.  He continued to meet
Floss Delaney frequently, and in public she seemed as glad as ever
to see him.  But on the rare occasions when he contrived to be
alone with her she was often absent-minded, and sometimes impatient
of his attempts at tenderness.  After all, she explained, he was
the only old friend she had in New York, and it did seem hard if
she couldn't be natural with him, and not bother about how she
looked or what she said.  This gave him a momentary sense of
advantage, and made him try to be calm and reasonable; but he knew
he was only one in the throng of young men about her, and not even
among the most favoured.  At first she had made great play of the
fact that he and she came from the same place, and had romped
together as children (a vision of their early intimacy that he was
himself beginning to believe); but she presumably found this boast
less effective than she had hoped, for though she continued to
treat him with sisterly freedom he saw that she was on the verge of
being bored by his importunities, and in his dread of a rebuff he
joined in her laugh against himself.

For a time she talked incessantly about the Euphoria deal, and
boasted of her determination to outwit the Shuntses and make them
buy her out at her own price.  Though Vance had grown up in an
atmosphere of real-estate deals the terminology of business was
always confusing to him, but he saw that she was trying to gain her
end by captivating young Shunts; they were even reported to be
engaged, though the fact was kept secret owing to the opposition of
the young man's family.  But Vance bore with this too, knowing
that, even if the rumour were true, she was not likely to regard a
secret engagement as binding, and trying to believe that in the
long run he was sure to cut out so poor a creature as young Shunts.
Of late she had ceased to speak about Euphoria, and had even
(judging from the youth's lovelorn countenance) lost interest in
Shunts; and this strengthened Vance's hope.  She had said she would
never marry till she had secured her independence; but once that
was done, why should she not marry him sooner than one of the other
men who were hanging about her?

He had always instinctively avoided the street in which the
Tarrants used to live.  He did not know if Tarrant still occupied
the same flat, or even if he were in New York.  He seemed to have
vanished from the worldly circles which Vance frequented, and the
latter had not even heard his name mentioned.  "The Hour", he knew,
had changed hands, and under a more efficient management had kept
just a touch of "highbrow", skilfully combined with a popular
appeal to cinema and sartorial interests.  All this part of Vance's
life had fallen in ruins, and he wished he had not been so haunted
by the fear of stumbling upon them; but his visual associations
were so acute that he had to go out of his way to avoid the sight
of that tall façade with the swinging glass doors and panelled
stone vestibule that used to be the way to bliss.  One night,
however, returning from a dinner where Floss had promised to meet
him, and had failed to come, he was driven along on such a tide of
resentment and bitterness that, without knowing where he was, he
turned a corner and found himself before the Tarrant door.  He was
on the farther side of the street, and looking up he saw a light in
the high window of the library.  It gave him a sharp twist, and he
was standing motionless, without strength to turn away, when the
doors swung open and George Frenside's short clumsy figure issued
from between the plate-glass valves.  Frenside paused, as if
looking for a taxi; then he crossed to Vance's side of the street,
and the two men suddenly faced each other under a lamp.  Vance
noticed Frenside's start of surprise, and the backward jerk of his
lame body; but a moment later he held out his hand.  "Ah, Weston--I
heard you were in New York."

Vance looked at him hesitatingly.  "I'm going home soon--to my own
home, at Euphoria," he explained.  "I've got to be alone and
write," he added, without knowing why.

He saw the ironic lift of Frenside's shaggy brows.  "Already?
You've brought out a magnum opus just lately, haven't you?"

"Yes.  But it's not what I wanted it to be."

"No," said Frenside bluntly.  "I didn't suppose it was."

"So he's read it!" Vance thought, with a sudden flush of
excitement; but Frenside's tone did not encourage further
discussion.  Both men stood silent, as if oppressed by each other's
presence; but just as Frenside was turning away with a gesture of
farewell, Vance brought out precipitately:  "I suppose you see
Halo's people.  Can you tell me how she is?"

Frenside's face seemed to grow harsher and more guarded.  "Quite
well, I believe."

"She. . .  I haven't heard lately. . .  She's not here . . . is
she?"

"In New York?  Not that I'm aware of."  Frenside hesitated and then
said hurriedly:  "If there's any message--"

Vance felt the blood rush to his forehead and then ebb.  His heart
shook against his breast.  "Thank you . . . yes . . . I'll ask
you. . ."

The two men nodded to each other and separated.



Vance walked away with his thoughts in a turmoil.  The meeting with
Frenside had stirred up deep layers of sleeping associations.  It
was only three months since he had said goodbye to Halo in Paris,
but the violent emotional life he had plunged into after their
parting made those days seem infinitely distant.  Gradually, almost
unconsciously, his memories of Halo had taken on the mournful
serenity of death; they lay in the depths of his consciousness,
with closed lips and folded hands, as though to say that they would
never trouble him again.  But his few words with Frenside, and the
mere speaking of Halo's name to some one who had perhaps been with
her or heard from her lately, disturbed the calm of these memories,
and brought Halo back to him as a living suffering creature.  Yes--
suffering, he knew; and by his fault.  For months he had been
trying to shut his eyes and ears to that fact, as sometimes, in
camp as a boy, when he heard a trapped animal crying at night far
off in the woods, he would bury his head under the blankets and try
to think the wail had ceased because he had closed his ears against
it. . .  Ah, well, no use going back to all that now.  It was over
and done, and he must hide his head again, and try to make himself
believe the sound had ceased because he did not want to hear it. . .

Why had Floss not come to the dinner?  His hostess, visibly
annoyed, said she had called up at the last moment, excusing
herself on the plea of a cold; but Vance suspected her of having
found something more amusing to do--where, and with whom?  The
serpent-doubts reared their heads again, hissing in his ears; even
if he had tried to listen for that other faint cry they would have
drowned it.  A cold?  He didn't believe it for a minute. . .  But
it would be a pretext for calling at her hotel to ask.  The hour
was not late, and he would go straight to her sitting-room, without
sending his name up first.  Very likely she would not be there;
almost certainly not.  But he would leave a note for her and then
go away. . .  It seemed to him that even if she were out (as he was
certain she would be) it would quiet him to sit in her room for a
little while, among the things that belonged to her and had her
scent.

The lift shot him up, and in answer to his knock he was surprised
to hear her voice call out:  "Come in."  She lay curled up on a
lounge, in a soft velvet wrapper, her hair tossed back, her feet,
in gossamer stockings and heelless sandals, peeping out under a
Spanish shawl.  The room looked untidy yet unlived in: her fur
cloak, a withered cluster of orchids pinned to it, had been flung
across the piano beside an unwatered and half-dead azalea from
which the donor's card still dangled; and on a gilt table stood an
open box of biscuits, some dried-up sandwiches and an empty cup.
Perhaps it was the fact that he had been thinking of Halo that made
the scene seem so squalid in its luxury.  Floss had none of Halo
Tarrant's gift for making a room seem a part of herself--unless
indeed this cold disorder did reflect something akin to itself in
her own character.

She smiled up at Vance through rings of smoke; but she seemed too
lost in her musings to be either surprised, or otherwise affected,
by his appearance.  "Hullo, Van," she greeted him in a happy purr.

"All that smoke's not the best thing for your throat, is it?" he
said, bending over her; and she answered:  "Throat?  What's the
matter with my throat?"

"Mrs. Stratton said you'd telephoned you couldn't dine with her
because you had a cold--"

"Oh, to be sure--it was the Stratton dinner tonight."  She gave a
little laugh.  "How was it?  Who was there?  Did I miss anything?"

"What were you doing instead?" he retorted; and she pointed toward
an armchair at her elbow.  "Oh, boy--sit down and I'll tell you."
She tossed away her cigarette, and crossing her arms behind her,
sank her head into the nest they made, and lay brooding, a faint
tremor on lips and eyelids.  Vance looked at her as if he were
looking for the first time; there was a veiled radiance in her face
which he had seen in it only once or twice, in moments of
passionate surrender.  "Van," she said slowly, as though the words
were so sweet that she could hardly part with them, "Van, I've
pulled it off.  The cheque's locked up in my bank.  The Shuntses
have bought me out at my own price--I knew they would.  I didn't
knock off a single dollar."  She laughed again and waited, as if
for the approval which was her due.

Vance stood looking at her, his heart in a tumult.  If she were
free, if she were independent, as she called it, perhaps his moment
had come!  He moved forward to snatch her to him, to entreat,
reason, smother her replies against his heart--but something
checked him, warned him it was not yet the moment.  She wanted to
go on talking about herself and her triumph, and if he thwarted her
with his clumsy declaration his last chance might be lost.

He dropped back into the armchair.  "Tell me all about it."

The smile lingered softly on her lips.  "Oh, darling, what a fight
it's been!  I'm half dead with it.  That poor boy's only just left.
I did feel sorry for him--I couldn't help it."

"What poor boy?" Van echoed, his tongue feeling dry in his throat.
But he knew the answer before she made it.

"Why, Honoré Shunts, of course.  That's why I had to throw over the
Stratton dinner.  I had to go out and dine with him--and then he
came back here.  He wouldn't listen to reason; but he had to.  I
never saw anybody cry so.  I told him I couldn't stand it--it was
unmanly of him, don't you think it was?  And I couldn't keep his
letters, could I, when the family were so set on getting them away
from me?  I thought I'd never make him understand. . .  But now I
guess I can take a holiday."  She sank more deeply into her
cushions, her lids drooping, her lips slightly parted, as though
with the first breathings of sleep.  "I'm dead tired, dead. . ."

Vance sat with his eyes fixed on her.  Every word she spoke burned
itself slowly into his consciousness.  He wanted to cry out, to
question her--to fling his indignation and horror into her face.
It was all as clear as day.  She had held the socially ambitious
Shuntses through the boy's letters; she had forced them to buy up
her land at her own price through their dread lest the heir to
their millions should marry her.  By this simple expedient she had
attained fortune and liberty at a stroke--there had been nothing
difficult about it but the boy's crying.  She had thought that
unmanly; an obvious warning to Vance not to repeat the same
mistake.  Floss always liked the people about her to be cheerful;
he knew that.  And after all perhaps she was right.  Was a poor
half-wit like young Shunts worth wasting a pang over?  Yes; but the
boy had cried--that was the worst of it.  Vance seemed to feel
those tears in his own throat; it was so thick with them that he
could hardly bring out his next question.  "Didn't you hate the job--
seeing that poor devil all broken up, I mean?"

"Of course I hated it.  I've told you I did.  It was horrid of him,
not being willing to see how I was placed.  But he's just a spoilt
baby, and I told him so."

"Ah--you told him so."  He stood looking down on her, remarking for
the first time that her cheek-bones were a little too high, that
they gave her a drawn and grimacing look he had never before
noticed.  He thought:  "This is the way she talked about me to the
fellow who kept her at Dakin."  For he no longer believed in the
legend of her having gone to Dakin to get a job in a dry-goods
store.  He felt his strength go from him, and Honoré Shunts's tears
under his lids.  She was not really like that--he couldn't endure
the thought that she was like that.  She must instantly say
something, do something to disprove it, to drag him up out of the
black nightmare of his contempt for her.

He flung himself down beside the lounge.  "Floss, you're joking,
aren't you, about those letters?"

"What do you call joking?  As long as the family wanted them back,
what was I to do with them?"

"Oh, God--not that.  Not that!  You must see. . .  I suppose I
haven't understood. . .  You can't mean you've used his letters
that way . . . not that?"

She lay looking up at him, half-amused, half-ironic; but as she saw
the change in his face her own grew suddenly blank and cold.  "I
don't know what you mean by using them.  It wasn't my fault if he
wrote them; you wouldn't have had me keep them, would you, when his
people wanted them so badly?  I did my duty, that's all.  It isn't
always a pleasant job--and you men don't generally make it easier
for us."

He hardly distinguished the words; her voice poured over him like
an icy flood.  It seemed as if he and she were drowning in it
together.  "Dearest, you're not like that, you're not like that,
say you're not like that," he besought her blindly.

She gave a slight laugh and drew back from his imploring arms.
"I'm dead tired; I've told you so before.  I like people who can
take a hint; don't you, darling?"  She sat up and stretched out her
hand for a cigarette.  "Look here--you needn't look so cross," she
said.  "I'm not throwing you out for good.  You can come back
tomorrow, if you'll try to treat me a little more politely.  But
I'm rather fed up with scenes just now, and I'm going to tumble
straight into bed.  So long, dear."

She reached for her cigarette-lighter and he heard its dry snap as
he got to his feet and turned away from her.


XXXVIII


On the table in his room, when he re-entered it that night, he saw
a telegram; but he left it lying.  Whoever it was from, whatever it
contained, could hardly matter at that moment.  He dropped into a
chair and sat staring ahead of him down a long tunnel of darkness.
Nothing mattered--nothing would ever again matter.  He felt like a
man who has tried to hang himself because life was too hideous to
be faced, and has been cut down by benevolent hands--and left to
face it.  He thought of the day when he had staggered into his
parents' room at Euphoria to find his father's revolver and make an
end--and the revolver had not been there, and he had been thrown
back on life as he was thrown back on it now.  He felt again the
weakness of his legs, the blur in his sick brain, as he staggered
down the passage from one room to the other, groped about among the
familiar furniture like a thief in a strange house, found the
drawer empty, and crawled back again to his own room.  It was
dreadful, the way old memories of pain fed their parasitic growth
on new ones, and dead agonies woke and grew rosy when the Furies
called. . .

The winter daylight came in at the window before he thought of the
telegram again.  Then something struck him about the way it lay
there, alone, insistent, in the smoky dawn, and he reached out and
tore it open.  The message was from his sister Mae and read:
"Grandma has pneumonia wants you badly come as soon as you can."

In the train that was hurrying him homeward it occurred to him for
the first time that the telegram might have been from Halo.  He
wondered why that possibility had never presented itself to his
mind before; but in the moral wreckage of the last hours he had not
seen her struggling and sinking.  She seemed to be hidden away in
some safe shelter, like the Homeric people when a cloud hides them
from mortal peril.  But now the thought of her stole back, he felt
her presence in his distracted soul.  He seemed to lie watching her
between closed lids, as a man on a sick bed watches the gliding
movements of his nurse, and weaves them into the play of light on
the ceiling. . .

At the door of the Mapledale Avenue house, where Mae and his father
met him, some one said:  "She's conscious . . . she'll know
you . . ." and some one added:  "You'd better come into the dining-
room and have some coffee first--or did you get it on the train?"

On the landing upstairs he met his mother.  Mrs. Weston was a
desiccated frightened figure.  They were not used to death at the
Westons', it did not seem to belong to the general plan of life at
Euphoria, it had no language, no ritual, no softening conventions
to envelop it.  Mrs. Weston's grief was dry and stammering.  "The
minister's been with her, but he's gone away.  She says she won't
see anybody now but you," she whispered.

Mrs. Scrimser's room was full of crisp winter sunlight and its
brightness lay across her bed.  She sat up against her smooth
pillows, small but sublime.  All her great billowing expanse of
flesh seemed to have contracted and solidified, as though
everything about her that had roamed and reached out was gathered
close for the narrow passage.  She was probably the only person in
the house who knew anything about death, and Vance felt that she
had already come to an understanding with it.  He knelt down and
pressed his face against the bed.  "Van," she said, "my little
boy. . ."  Her fingers wandered feebly through his hair.  He
remembered that only two nights before he had been kneeling in the
same way, his arms stretched out to snatch at another life that was
slipping from him, not into death but into something darker and more
final; and that other scene lost its tragic significance, became
merely pitiful and trivial.  He put away the memory, pressing his
lips to the wise old hands, trying to exclude from his mind
everything but what his grandmother had been, and still was to him.
For a long time they held each other in silence; then she spoke
softly.  "I've been with you so often lately.  At Crampton, on the
porch. . ."

Yes; to him too those hours were still living.  In some ways she
had been nearer to him than any one else, though he knew it only as
their souls met for goodbye.  He buried his face in those tender
searching hands, feeling the warm current of old memories pass from
her body to his, as if it were she who, in some mystical blood-
transfusion, was calling him back to life.  A door opened, and some
one looked in and stole away.  The clock ticked quietly.  She lay
still.  "Van," she said after a while, in a weaker voice.  He
lifted his head.  "There's something I wanted to say to you.  Stoop
over, darling."  He stood up and bent down so that his ear was
close to her lips.  "Maybe we haven't made enough of pain--been too
afraid of it.  Don't be afraid of it," she whispered.

Apparently it was her final message, for after that she lay back,
quiet and smiling, and though he knew she was conscious of his
presence the only sign she gave him was, now and then, the hardly
audible murmur of his name.  Gradually he became aware that even he
was growing remote to her.  She began to move in the bed uneasily,
with the automatic agitation of the dying, and he rose to call his
mother.  He noticed then that his aunt Sadie Toler had crept in,
and was sitting, a dishevelled stricken figure, in a corner
waiting.  She came to her mother.

When Vance returned to his grandmother's room, twilight had fallen
and the room was quieter than ever.  But now a short convulsive
breathing seemed struggling to keep time with the tick of the
clock.  Some one whispered:  "Oxygen"; some one else stole out and
came back with a heavy bag.  The doctor came, and Vance wandered
out of the room again.  He joined his father, and the two men sat,
aimless and vacant-minded, in Mrs. Weston's bedroom across the
passage.  Mr. Weston said with a nervous laugh:  "That was a big
turnover those Delaneys made the other day--" but Vance was silent.
His father drummed on the table, stealthily drew a cigar from his
pocket, fixed on it a look of longing, and put it back.  "You'd
better go and lie down on the bed and try and have a nap," he
suggested to his son.  To cut short the talk Vance obeyed, and
almost immediately fell into a black pit of sleep.  He seemed to
have lain plunged in it for hours when he was roused by steps in
the room and the flash of electric light in his eyes.  Mae stood
before him.  "Do you want to see her?"

"See her?  Has she asked for me--?"  But before the phrase was
ended he understood, and as he stumbled to his feet he remembered
the agony it had been to go into Laura Lou's room after she was
dead, and look down on the smooth empty shell which some clever
craftsman seemed to have made and put there in her place.  "No,
no!" he cried, and threw himself back on the bed.



Vance sat in the Mapledale Avenue dining-room the day after his
grandmother's funeral.  For a while he had been separated from her
by the long-drawn horror of the burial service, with its throng of
mourners gathered from every field of her beneficence, the white-
haired orators pressing on the vox humana, the bright eye-glassed
women stressing uplift and service, and the wrong it would do their
leader's memory to think of her as dead and not passed over, the
readings from Isaiah and James Whitcomb Riley, intermingled by a
practised hand.

Now the house was silent and deserted, and she could come to him
again.  The strange people who assemble at the call of death had
vanished, the neighbours had called and gone away, the women were
upstairs, busy with their mourning, and Lorin Weston had gone back
to the office.  He had wanted Vance to go with him, had suggested
their running over in the Ford to see the land the Shuntses had
just bought from Floss Delaney; he had evidently been a little hurt
at his son's declining to accompany him.

After Mr. Weston had left the house Vance sat alone and stared into
his future.  He could not stay another day at Euphoria; too many
memories, bitter or sorrowful, started up from every corner of that
featureless place.  But where should he go, how deal with the days
to come?  All thought of returning to New York had vanished.  Those
hours in his grandmother's room seemed to have washed his soul of
its evil accretions.  He felt no heroic inspiration to take up life
again, but only a boundless need to deal with himself, cut a way
through the jungle of his conflicting purposes, work out some sort
of plan from the dark muddle of things.  "Pain--perhaps we haven't
made enough of it."  Those last words of his grandmother's might
turn out to be the clue to his labyrinth.  He didn't want to
expiate--didn't as yet much believe in the possibility or the
usefulness of it; he wanted first of all to measure himself with
his pain, to wrestle alone with the dark angel and see how he came
out of that conflict.

It was Mae who came to his rescue.  He told her he wanted to get
away from everything and everybody, and try to do some work--though
at the moment he didn't believe he would ever write another line.
Mae was impressed, as he intended she should be, by the urgent call
of his genius, and immediately exclaimed:  "That Camp of Hope up at
Lake Belair always has somebody to look after it in winter.  I
guess they'd take you in up there."

The solitude of the northern woods in winter!  A wild longing to be
there at once possessed him.  But he wanted to make sure that there
were no hotels near by, no winter sports, nothing but stark woods
and frozen waters.  Mae knew the man who lived there, and could
reassure him.  He was a poor fellow who, having developed
tuberculosis, had had to give up his career as a school-teacher and
accept this care-taker's job for the sake of the air and the out-
door life.  He had been cured, and might have gone back to his
work; but he had turned into a sort of hermit, and would only take
a summer class in natural history at the camp, returning to his
frozen solitude in winter.  Mae proposed to telegraph to find out
if he would receive Vance as a boarder, or make some other
arrangement for him, and Vance accepted.

Two days later he was on his way to Lake Belair.  After a day's
journey the train left him at dusk at a wayside station, and as he
got out the icy air caught him by the throat and then suddenly
swung him up on wings.  He heard sleigh-bells approaching in the
dark, and a few minutes later the cutter was gliding off with him
into the unknown.


XXXIX


The ex-schoolmaster, Aaron Brail, a thin slow man of halting
speech, seemed neither surprised nor unduly interested by Vance's
coming.  He explained that he sometimes took a boarder in winter to
replenish his scanty funds, and said he hoped Vance wouldn't be
dissatisfied with the food, which was supplied by the wife of one
of the lumbermen from the near-by camp.  Vance was given a small
bare room with a window looking out on vastnesses of snow and
hemlock forest, and Brail and he seldom met except at meals, and
when they smoked their pipes after supper about the living-room
stove.  There was a rough book-shelf against the wall, with a row
of third-rate books on various subjects, chiefly religion and
natural history.  Brail was a half-educated naturalist, and spent
his evenings making laborious excerpts from the books he was
reading.  He was too shortsighted to be a good field-observer, and
his memory was so uncertain that when he was not mislaying the
notes he had made the night before he was hunting for the
spectacles without which he could not re-read them.  But though he
was not interesting the solitude of his life in that austere
setting of hills and forests had given him a kind of primitive
dignity, and his company was not uncongenial.

Every morning early Vance started off on a tramp of exploration
with one of the lumbermen, but he soon dispensed with his guide,
and spent the white-and-gold hours in long lonely rambles.
Sometimes he would pick up a meal in a lumberman's house, but
oftener he carried his provisions with him and ate them on a warm
ledge in the sun.  The hours flowed by with the steady beat of the
sea--there were days when he almost imagined himself lying again on
the winter sands and watching the shoreward march of the waves, as
he had done during his honeymoon with Laura Lou.  His mind
travelled back to his first adventures and discoveries, which
already seemed so remote; he felt like a very old man whose memory,
blurring the intervening years, illuminates the smallest incidents
of youth.  Sometimes he came home so drunk with sunlight and cold
that sleep struck him down in the doorway, and he would throw
himself on his hard bed and not wake till Brail called him to
supper.

At first he paid for these bouts of sleep by lying awake all night,
his brain whirling and buzzing like a gigantic loom.  It was as
though he were watching some obscure creative process, the whirl
and buzz of the cosmic wheels.  The fatigue was maddening, and when
sleep finally came there was no rest in his brief unconsciousness.
Two women peopled these agitated vigils; the one that his soul
rejected and his body yearned for, the other who had once seemed
the answer to all he asked of life, but had now faded to a reproach
and a torment.  The whole question of woman was the agelong
obstacle to peace of spirit and fruitfulness of mind; to get
altogether away from it, contrive a sane and productive life
without it, became the obsession of his sleepless midnights.  All
he wanted was to be himself, solely and totally himself, not
tangled up in the old deadly nets of passion and emotion.

But solitude and hard exercise gradually worked their spell.  His
phases of excited insomnia gave place to a quiet wakefulness, and
he would lie and watch the night skies wheel past his unshuttered
window, and recover again his old sense of the rhythmic beat of the
universe.  The feeling brought a kind of wintry quietude, a laying
on of heavenly hands, and he would fall asleep like a child who
knows that his nurse is near.

On stormy days he lingered in the lumbermen's huts, talking with
them and their families, and he felt refreshed by the contact with
their simple monotonous lives.  But they lived unconsciously in
those cosmic hands in which he felt himself cradled, and as vigour
of mind and body returned he began to crave for a conscious
intelligence, an intelligence not complicated or sophisticated but
moulded on the large quiet lines of the landscape.  He tried to
think that Brail might satisfy this need; but Brail was not so much
uncommunicative as lacking in anything to communicate.  He was not
hostile to Vance, he seemed even, as the weeks passed, to find a
mild pleasure in their evening talks.  But he had a small slack
mind, to which his rudimentary studies as a naturalist had given no
precision; and Vance suspected that his flight to the woods had
been not toward something but away from something.  It was the same
with Vance himself: but as his nerves grew steadier he understood
that he would never be able to rest long in evasion or refusal,
that something precise and productive must come out of each step in
his life.  He began to think of himself less as a small unsatisfied
individual than as an instrument in some mighty hand; and one day
he was seized by the desire to put this rush of returning energy
into words.  On starting for the woods he had snatched up a few old
books left at Euphoria since his college days--an Odyssey and a
Greek grammar among them--and during his sleepless nights he had
laboured over the grammar and refreshed his spirit with glimpses of
the sunlit Homeric world, which was spacious and simple like the
scenes about him.  But with the revival of the desire to write his
studies slackened, and the books lay untouched, with two others
which Mae had taken from the shelf by his grandmother's bed, and
handed to him as he was leaving.  These he had not even looked into--
the mood for books had passed.  He must write, write, write.  But
to his dismay he found he had brought no paper with him.  This
would have been a small misfortune at a season when the general
store was open and the mails came regularly; but a succession of
snowstorms had interrupted the postal service from the nearest
point on the railway, and nobody at the camp had any paper.  Even
Brail could produce only a few sheets of letter-paper, and this
absurd obstacle aggravated Vance's fury to begin.  At length he
coaxed some torn sheets of packing paper from one of the
lumbermen's wives, and set himself to work.  The fact of having
only these coarse crumpled pages at his disposal seemed to
stimulate his imagination, and in those first days he felt nearer
than ever before to the hidden sources of inspiration.

The return to work steadied his nerves, and his tramps over the
frozen hills carried him back into that world of ecstasy from which
he had been so long shut out.  He had written "Colossus" in a
fever, but his new book was shaping itself in a mood of deep
spiritual ardour such as his restless intelligence had never before
attained, and these weeks outside of time gave him his first
understanding of the magic power of continuity.

Now that his energies were all engaged he could let his thoughts
return to his grandmother's death.  At first that misery, so
meaningless in its suddenness, had been unendurable; but now he
could think about her calmly, recognizing that her course was run
and that she would not have wished to outlive herself.  In her way
she had been happy, in spite of ups and downs of fortune, in spite
of Grandpa Scrimser, and of blows (not infrequent, he suspected) to
her pride as an orator and evangelist.  She was too intelligent not
to be aware of her own ignorance, too impulsive to remember it for
long; but he felt that all these contradictions were somehow merged
in a deep central peace.  Vance had always ascribed this to the
optimism he found so irritating in her; but her last word had been
a warning against optimism.  "Maybe we haven't made enough of pain--"
that had been her final discovery, and it completed his image of
her.

One evening, as he brooded over these memories, feeling the warmth
of her soul in his, he remembered the two books that Mae had
brought him as he was leaving Euphoria.  They stood on his table
with the others, and he took them up and glanced at them.  One was
a thumbed anthology of "Daily Pearls", collected by the editor of
"Zion's Spotlight"; the kind of book from which pressed pansies and
scraps of pious verse drop in a shower when they are opened.  The
other volume had obviously been less often consulted.  Vance opened
it and slowly turned the pages.  In a few minutes they had
possession of him, and he read on deep into the night, read till
his oil-lamp had sputtered out and his candle followed it; and when
sunrise came he was sitting up in bed in his old leather coat,
still reading.  "The Confessions of Saint Augustine"--though the
title was familiar the book had never come his way, and he had only
a vague idea of its date and origin.  But before he had read a
dozen pages he saw that it was one of the timeless books with which
chronology is unconcerned.  Who was this man who reached out across
the centuries to speak to him as never man had spoken before?  He
felt his whole life summed up in each of these piercing phrases.
"Come, Lord, and work: arouse us and incite; kindle us, sweep us
onward; teach us to love and to run. . .

"I said:  'Give me chastity and self-control--BUT NOT JUST YET. . .'
I was shaken with a gust of indignation because I could not enter
into Thy Will, yet all my bones were crying out that this was the
way, and no ship is needed for that way, nor chariot, no, nor feet;
for it is not as far from me as from the house to the spot where we
are seated. . .

"And Thou didst beat back my weak sight, dazzling me with Thy
splendour, and I perceived that I was far from Thee, in the land of
unlikeness, and I heard Thy voice crying to me:  'I am the Food of
the full-grown.  Become a man and thou shalt feed on Me'."

The food of the full-grown--of the full-grown!  That was the key to
his grandmother's last words.  "Become a man and thou shalt feed on
Me" was the message of experience to the soul; and what was youth
but the Land of Unlikeness?

Night after night he returned to those inexhaustible pages, again
and again after that first passionate encounter he re-read them
slowly, broodingly, weighing them phrase by phrase in the light of
his brief experience, feeling his soul expand to receive them, and
carrying away each day some fragment of concentrated spiritual food
to nourish him in his lonely rambles.

The thaw came early, with rainy winds and intervals of frost; and
on one of his excursions Vance was caught in a storm of sleet, lost
his way when night fell, and got back to camp exhausted and
shivering.  That night he flamed in fever and shook with coughing,
and the doctor who came over from the nearest town muttered in a
corner with Brail, who looked frightened and bewildered.  Vance was
aware that he must be seriously ill, and that Brail would have
liked him to be taken away; but it was evidently thought
unadvisable to move him, and he felt weakly thankful when he
understood that he was to be left where he was.  Brail and the
lumberman's wife nursed him to the best of their ability, but the
woman was ignorant and clumsy, and Brail in a state of chronic
bewilderment, always mislaying his spectacles, and totally unable
to remember any instructions the doctor had neglected to write
down.  In spite of all this Vance gradually worked his way back to
health, and the weeks wore on slowly but not unhappily till a day
came when he got to his feet again and shambled a little way along
the wet path in the mild spring sun.

After that the time passed pleasantly enough.  The subdued ecstasy
of convalescence was in his veins, and he looked out with eyes
cleansed by solitude on a new world in which everything was
beautiful and important, and seemed to have been created for his
special use.  His physical suffering and helplessness seemed to
have matured his mind, and detached it from the things of the past
like a ripe fruit from the tree.  Saint Augustine's words came back
to him:  "Become a man and thou shalt feed on Me"; and he felt that
at last he was ready to taste of the food of the full-grown,
however bitter to the lips it might be.

He had thought vaguely of staying on at Belair till the Camp of
Hope reopened, and then of hiring a bungalow higher up in the hills
and settling down to his new book.  He had not yet worked out any
plan beyond that, though a plan there must be if he were to regain
a hold on himself.  He wanted first to secure a few months of quiet
for his book, and to watch the advance of spring, and the sudden
blazing up of summer, in that powerful untamed landscape; but he
saw that to recover his bodily strength he must get away to better
care and more food.  It was queer how even a touch of pneumonia did
you in--his legs still rambled away from him like a baby's when he
attempted his daily walk. . .

His family did not know of his illness; he had sworn Brail to
secrecy on the first day, and the timid creature had obeyed, no
doubt privately relieved at not having to provide for other
visitors.  Vance had been touched by Brail's awkward devotion
during his illness.  He had found out that Brail had tramped twenty
miles through the snow to get the doctor, and that his reluctance
to keep Vance at the camp was due merely to the fear of not being
able to give him proper care.  The men had grown to feel more at
ease with each other, and one day Brail, in a burst of confidence,
confessed to Vance that his great desire had been to enter the
ministry, but that he had been discouraged by the difficulties of
theological study.  He had been unable, after repeated attempts, to
pass his examination, and his failure had been a lasting
mortification.  "I never could seem to take to any other
profession, not even zoology," he said mournfully, wiping the mist
from his spectacles.

"Was that what made you decide to stay up here?" Vance questioned
idly; and to his surprise he saw the blood rise under the other's
sallow skin.

"Oh, no," said Brail hastily, turning away to fumble for his
spectacle-case.

Vance lay back in his chair and looked up at the low smoke-
blackened ceiling.  There was a long silence, and his mind had
wandered away to other matters when he became aware that Brail was
still standing before him, his hands in his pockets, his narrow
forehead anxiously wrinkled, "I've been wanting to tell you for
some time," said Brail, through a cough of embarrassment.

"Tell me what?"

Brail bowed his head and spoke low.  "It was a woman," he said.  "I
met her when I was observing animals at a circus.  She was a lion-
tamer," he added with another cough.

Vance stared up at him, convulsed with sudden laughter; but he saw
the other's tortured face, and mastered his muscles in time.  "Well--
isn't that what they all are?" he said.

Brail stared back, blinking down through his spectacles.  "Er--lion-
tamers?  Ah, yes--I see!" he exclaimed, his cautious wrinkled smile
suddenly responding to the pleasantry.  "But I meant it literally,"
he jerked out, and turned in haste from the room.  Vance, lying
back, saw him pass in front of the window and walk away with
mournful strides through the mud.  "The food of the full-grown," he
murmured to himself as Brail disappeared among the hemlocks.

Yes, it was time to eat of that food; time to grow up; time to fly
from his shielded solitude and go down again among the lion-tamers.
He was glad that his possessions were already packed, and that he
was to leave the next morning; but when the cutter stood at the
door, and his bags were stowed under the seat, he turned to Brail
with a final pang of reluctance.  "Well, goodbye.  You may see me
back yet."

Brail blinked and shook his head.  "You'll think so, maybe; but you
won't come," he answered, and stood watching Vance drive away.



The first night in Chicago nearly made Brail's prophecy come true.
Vance had gone there straight from the camp.  Now that his
grandmother was dead he could not face the idea of returning to
Euphoria; and he meant to stay a few days in Chicago and try to
think out some plan for the next months.  But the sudden transition
from the winter silence of the hills to the tumult of the streets
was more than his shaken nerves could bear.  These millions of
little people rushing about their business and pleasure in an
endless uproar of their own making were like strange insects driven
by unintelligible instincts; and he was too tired to be interested
in observing them.  Ah, how tired he was--how unutterably tired!
All the factitious energy accumulated during his last days at
Belair had been lost in the descent to the heavy atmosphere of the
city.  He felt will-less and adrift, and the food of the full-grown
seemed too strong a fare for him.

The next morning he got as far as the telegraph office in the lobby
of the hotel.  He inscribed Brail's name on a telegraph blank, and
was about to write under it:  "Can I come back?" when he was
checked by a vision of the poor man shambling off alone down the
muddy path to the camp, spectrally followed by the limping figure
of Chris Churley.  There went the two deniers, the two fugitives--
poor Chris, poor Brail!  No--that was not the solution to Vance's
difficulty; it lay somewhere ahead of him, in the crowd and the
struggle.  At present he couldn't see just where; but a weak
longing overcame him to be again among familiar faces and in scenes
associated with his past.  It occurred to him that he might have
gone back to Laura Lou's mother if she had still lived at Paul's
Landing, in the tumble-down house above the Hudson where he had
been so happy and so miserable; but doubtless she was still in
California with her son, who had gone out there to work as a
nurseryman.  Vance went up to his room and lay down on the bed.  He
felt too weary to think, or to want anything, or to make any fresh
resolves, since he knew they would be broken. . .  The next morning
he took a ticket for Paul's Landing.


XL


When the train left him at Paul's Landing Vance knew that what had
taken him there was not the wish to see the cottage where he had
lived with Laura Lou.  That past was buried under the dead leaves
of too many seasons.  What he craved for, with a sort of tremulous
convalescent hunger, was a sight of the Willows, the old house
where his real life had begun.

It was less than three years since he had come to Paul's Landing to
implore Halo Tarrant to go away with him, instead of waiting to
obtain her divorce; but on that feverish day he had not given the
Willows a thought, and his last sight of the fantastic old house
and the abandoned garden, though not remote in years, seemed to
belong to his embryonic stage.

The day was soft, the air full of spring scents and the shimmer of
sun through wrinkled leaves.  Vance got into the tram which passed
by the lane leading to the Willows.  The mean outskirts of the town
were meaner than ever; new cottages had been built, but the old
ones had not been repainted.  The suburb, evidently uncertain of
its future, awaited in slatternly unconcern the coming of the land-
speculator or of the municipal park-designer.  But in the lane that
climbed to the Willows Vance felt his boy's heart wake in him.
From the ruts underfoot to the elm boughs overhead, nothing around
him was changed; and when he reached the gate and gazed across the
lawn to the house, its inconsequent turrets and gables showed
uncertainly through the same veil of weeping willows.

So completely was he drawn back into the past that he felt in his
pocket for the key he used to take from his mother-in-law's drawer
when he stole up the lane to meet Halo Spear--and later to meet
Halo Tarrant.  The key was not there, but as he leaned on the gate
in the attitude of the sentimental wanderer he felt it yield to his
pressure, and walked in.

Every fibre of his past was interwoven with that scene.  Long
before he had flown there to his first meetings with Halo, he and
Laura Lou and her brother had ranged through the decaying garden
and waked the echoes of Miss Emily Lorburn's strange old dwelling.
In the arbour at the back of the house Vance had put a first kiss
on Laura Lou's fluttering eyelids; on the doorstep he had sat and
waited through a long afternoon for Halo Spear, who had promised to
meet him and forgotten her promise; among the musty book-shelves of
the library, and under the sad painted gaze of Miss Emily Lorburn,
he had first travelled in the realms of gold, with Halo guiding
him.

In that setting she came suddenly back to him, poised for flight as
he had first known her; then, after her marriage, under a shadow of
disquietude torn by laughter and irony, but never dispelled till he
took her in his arms on the night of their flight.  Thus detached
from the uncertainties and irritations of their life together, her
renovated image leaned to him from that enchanted world where they
had first met.  The memory caught him about the heart, and if she
had come to him across the lawn at that moment all his scruples and
resolves might have been swept away in a flood of tenderness.  But
he was determined not to abandon himself to such dreams.  His
future, wherever it led, was to be ruled by realities, not
illusions.  He had thought he loved her, and he had failed her; she
had accepted the fact, and faced it with her usual ironic courage;
and the one service his unstable heart could do her now was to
leave her in peace and go his way.

He stood for a long time on the lawn, remembering how, when he had
first come there, fresh from the mediocrity and uniformity of
Euphoria, the house had seemed as vast as a Roman villa and as
venerable as a feudal castle.  Through its modest doorway he had
entered into a legendary past; its shingled tower was Sister Anne's
outlook, its bracketed balconies overhung the perilous foam on
which his imagination had voyaged ever since.  The old house had
been his fairy godmother, and it was only now, as he looked at it
again, that he understood.

He went up to the door, studying the shuttered windows, looking for
signs of change, catching at each stray tendril of association.  Of
change he saw little; the family had always kept the house in
decent repair, and its be-gabled front and bracketed balconies
looked hardly more blistered and weather-streaked than when he had
first seen them.  Last year's dead geraniums still dangled from the
fluted iron vases flanking the door; and from the fretwork of the
porch a honeysuckle hung.

On the other side of the house, where the library looked out over a
sloping lawn, the verandah was still clutched and enveloped in the
huge twining arms of the ancient wistaria.  It was already heavy
with budding clusters, and Vance closed his eyes and called up the
June day when from roof to cellar it had poured in a cataract of
silvery lilac.  He noticed that the library windows were open, as
they used to be on cleaning days; and his heart beat fast as he
mounted the verandah steps and looked in.  But the room was empty,
the books stood undisturbed.  He remarked only one change: a sheet
had been hung over Miss Lorburn's portrait, and her sad eyes no
longer looked down on him.  The covering of the picture suggested
that there might be cleaners or painters at work; but all the other
windows were barred, and he heard no sounds within, and saw no one
about.

He turned and looked across the lawn at the broken-down arbour
where he and Laura Lou had sat.  His thoughts went out to it in an
act of piety, as though its broken trellis were arched above her
grave.  But he no longer recognized himself in the boy who had sat
there on that June morning and caressed her frightened eyelids.
His real life had long been elsewhere, and the thought of her
stirred only a shadowy tenderness.  He went a little way down the
lawn and then turned back.

The house, at that distance, looked more than ever like the steel
engraving in the old book on landscape-gardening which he and Halo
had once laughed over--but oddly shrunken and small, as though from
a full-page picture it had dwindled to the ornamental tailpiece of
a chapter.  And that, after all, was what it was, he mused; though
he was still in the twenties the picture of the Willows seemed to
close the chapter of his youth. . .  He walked back to the gate,
and went out.

In the lane a man was repairing the palings.  He looked at Vance,
and the latter asked him if any one was living at the Willows.  The
man said there was generally a caretaker there, but he believed the
place had just been sold, and the new people were moving in.  A
pang went through Vance; he remembered how often he and Halo, in
their European wanderings, had talked of coming back some day to
live at the Willows.  An idle fancy then; but now it had the
poignancy of an unfulfilled dream.  Where were the people from? he
asked.  The man said he was new to the place, and didn't know; but
he'd heard they were from New York, and the carpenter who employed
him had been told to start work that week.  He guessed the old
place needed a good deal done to it to make folks comfortable
there.

Vance walked slowly back to the town.  He had meant to take an
afternoon train to New York; but he felt weak and tired, and the
idea of big cities frightened him--perhaps also the possibility
that in that particular one he might run across Floss Delaney.
When he left Belair he had felt equipped to meet not only old
memories but the people who embodied them; now a singular lassitude
possessed him, and he thought enviously of Brail's figure
retreating alone into the depths of the hemlock forest.  He left
his luggage at the dingy hotel opposite the station, and went out
again.

He wandered through the town in the direction of the road that led
up to Eaglewood, the old house above the Hudson where Halo Spear
had lived before her marriage.  A myriad arms seemed to draw him
along that steep ascent; but half way up he turned, and began to
walk resolutely back to the town.  It came over him that he was
seeking the solace of these old memories as a frightened child runs
to hide its face in its nurse's lap; and in a rush of self-contempt
he strode down the hill to the station.  What he wanted was to
regain his strength and then face life afresh, not to go whining
back to a past from which he had cut himself off by his own choice.


XLI


Halo Tarrant sat on the verandah at Eaglewood, pencil and note-
block in hand.  She murmured over:  "Six enamelled pails, eight
ditto hot-water jugs, a set of aluminium saucepans, ten coal-
scuttles. . .  I suppose some day I may be able to afford central
heating. . .  Oh, Frenny, if you knew how those coal-scuttles bore
me!"

She dropped the note-block to the floor, and leaned back, her eyes
fixed on the great sweep of the river shining far below through the
woodlands.  "If I hadn't had cousin Emily's linen-closet I should
never have the courage to begin. . ."  The words sounded slightly
plaintive, but a smile interrupted them.  "Isn't it providential,
Frenny, that the poor lady's disappointed love affair should have
provided me with those dozens and dozens of unused napery?  I'm
sure napery was what she called it, aren't you?"

Frenside, who had come up to Eaglewood to be with Halo for the week-
end, gave an ironic grunt, and murmured:  "Your sentiments are as
inhuman as they are natural.  But how do you know she had a love
affair?"

Halo lifted her eyebrows in surprise.  "Why, Vance"--she began, and
then broke off, not because she was reluctant to pronounce his
name, but because she realized that in her thoughts the romance he
had woven about Emily Lorburn had gradually substituted itself for
the reality.  "Vance always said she had," she declared, still
smiling.  She had made it a rule from the first to speak of him,
simply and naturally, when the occasion required; at first it had
cost her an effort, but now she could name him without pain, almost
with a melancholy pleasure--as if he were dead, she sometimes
mused.  In truth there was a sense in which all her past had died,
leaving in her the seed of a new vitality--the life of her child.
During the long slow months since she had parted from Vance in
Paris this detachment and reassurance had grown in her with the
child's growth; a kind of calm animal beatitude of which she was at
first ashamed and then glad, as she understood that this was the
season allotted to her by nature for rest and renewal.

Her inward tranquillity had not come to her suddenly.  The first
weeks after Vance had gone to America had been a dark blur of pain.
She had played her part valiantly, affected to accept their
separation as natural, and perhaps only temporary, yet rejected any
definite suggestion of a future reunion.  The future was to take
care of itself; for the moment they both needed a change. . .  She
got through the parting on this note; and then blackness closed in
on her.

After her visit to Tarrant her existence for a time had no
distinguishable features.  She thought the dead in their graves
must be as she was.  But out of that annihilation slowly a new life
had emerged, her own interwoven with her child's.  The numbness
gradually became quietude, the quietude a kind of sober joy, till
she could now look back on that first phase of anguish as mystics
do on the dark passages of their spiritual initiation.  When she
decided to return to America and establish herself at the Willows
she had reached a degree of composure which made it almost easy to
speak of the past, and even to let her mind dwell on it.

The decision to live at the Willows had been her final step toward
recovery.  The thought of the old place drew her back with a
thousand threads of association; and the mere fact that the house
was her own, the only place on earth that she could dispose of as
she chose, made her wish that her child should be born there.  But
for a long time after her return she had postponed her decision.
At first she wondered whether she could face life alone in that
mournful old house; then whether her presence there might not be an
actual embarrassment to her parents.  She had been prepared for her
family's opposition to the plan, but hardly for their dismay at her
return to America.  To be reunited to their darling after such a
long separation was a joy indeed; but it was really incredible that
Halo should not have understood how much simpler it would have been
to . . . to get through the unfortunate business that lay ahead of
her before returning to New York. . .  Her mother would of course
have gone to Europe to join her. . .

"But I want my child to be born at the Willows," Halo quietly
interposed.

"But at the Willows you can't keep it a secret, you can't possibly
keep people from talking--"

She gave a little laugh, and bent to kiss Mrs. Spear's anguished
forehead.  "But I WANT people to talk about my baby; the people I'm
fond of, I mean.  And what do I care for the others?  He's going to
be the most wonderful baby in the world--you don't suppose I'm
going to make a mystery of him, do you?"

Slowly her parents understood that nothing could alter her
attitude, and they accepted the situation, Mrs. Spear secretly
excited at the idea that the defiance she had always longed to
fling at society was actually being flung by her own daughter, Mr.
Spear incurably depressed, but silenced by the fact that here at
last was a grievance he could not ventilate in the newspapers.
Gradually Halo's quiet ascendancy asserted itself over both, and
before she had been at home for many weeks they had fitted into
their lives the new fact that she meant to follow her own way,
neither defiantly nor apologetically, but as if it were of more
concern to herself than it could possibly be to others.  Still, she
understood that her parents would be happier if she went to
Eaglewood as soon as possible, and after staying with them for a
short time in New York she had opened the house and settled herself
there with two servants; and with the approach of summer the desire
to be installed at the Willows before her child was born overcame
her hesitation, and she began to confer with painters and
contractors, and to draw up her housekeeping lists.  The renewed
contact with practical questions seemed to dispel her last
uncertainties, to make her feel that she had a plan of life again,
and was in the salutary hold of habit; and the days which had
dragged by so heavily began to move at a more normal pace.  It was
curious, she thought, how far pots and pans could go toward filling
an empty heart; and she remembered how she had vaguely resented
Vance's faculty for escaping from anxiety and unhappiness by
plunging into his work.  House-making and housekeeping were her
escape, she supposed: she must build up a home for her son. . .

Two or three times her mother had come to spend a day with her, and
now and then Frenside turned up for a week-end; but at other times
she remained by herself, increasingly busy with her child's affairs
and her own, letting her mind wander among the crowding memories of
her own childhood, and watching the slow changes of the familiar
landscape from spring to summer.  There were moments when she
wondered if, after her baby was born, she would lapse from her
state of ruminating calm, and become again the passionate anxious
Halo of old; but it was idle to think of that now, and she put the
question quietly from her.

Frenside had not immediately taken up her allusion to Vance; she
noticed that it still embarrassed him to speak to her on the
subject.  But after a moment he said:  "I've been wanting for some
time to tell you--"

Her heart gave a start at the preamble.  "Yes?"

"Speaking of Weston--I don't believe I ever mentioned that I ran
across him in New York three or four months ago, did I?"

It was the first time that any one had spoken to her of having seen
Vance since he and she had said goodbye in Paris, and the careful
structure of her composure trembled on its base and gave way.  "No;
you didn't." . . .  Her voice failed her.

"Well, there wasn't much point in it--I mean in telling you.  He
wanted to know how you were; he said he might ask me to take you a
message--but he never has.  So I waited."

Halo's heart dilated and then sank back to its usual frozen quiet.
"He never has."  She wondered why Frenside had told her, then?

"Only," Frenside pursued, "I've been wondering, now that your
divorce proceedings are well under way, and everything's clear on
that score, whether I oughtn't--"

Halo reflected for a moment.  "Do you know where he is?"

"Not a notion; I've never laid eyes on him since; but I suppose a
letter to his publisher would be forwarded."

She made no answer to this, and he went on:  "The fact is, I said
nothing at the time because the rumour was that he was in pursuit
of that meteoric young woman--what's her name?  The girl who was
married the other day to the Duke of Spartivento.  People seemed to
think Weston meant to marry her."

"Yes; I know."  She drew a deep breath.  "And now that she's
married, you think--?"

"I think Weston ought to know how things stand with you."

There was another silence; Halo could not bring any order into her
agitation.  But at last she said slowly:  "What does it matter?
I've thought all that out.  If it's not Floss Delaney it will be
some other woman. . ."

"Dichterliebe, eh?  Well, you're probably right.  Most artists are
incurably polygamous.  When they're not it's because they die young--
and their books generally do too.  But I don't know that their
loving so lavishly matters as much in itself as in what it makes of
them; what sort of stuff they turn it into.  I don't pretend to
know yet what Weston's going to turn into.  After all, you can't
squeeze the whole of any human being into an epigram.  But Weston
went to see Tarrant, and said some things to him that came out of
his very soul; and it's not easy to say things that come out of the
soul to Tarrant."

The blood rose to Halo's face, and she bent to pick up her papers
and pencil.  She had disciplined herself to hear Vance blamed and
disparaged, but to hear him spoken of with sympathy and
understanding sent a sudden anguish through her.  She tried to
answer but could not, and sat fluttering her list between her
fingers, and murmuring over to herself:  "A set of aluminium
saucepans--ten coal-scuttles--"

Frenside stood up from his chair; the sun had veered round, leaving
the verandah in shade, and the evening air was chilly.  "My dear,
you're very young to cut your life in two like this.  Won't you let
me try to see him?"

She shook her head.  "Don't think I'm ungrateful.  But don't ask me
again, please; it's useless."

Frenside shrugged, and turned away.  "Let's go in, then; it's
getting cold."

She made no answer, and he left her sitting there and walked into
the drawing-room, where a wood-fire was smouldering.  She meant to
follow him in a moment, but first she must let the troubled waves
subside.  It was too soon, after all, to talk of Vance even with so
old a friend. . .

Presently she felt quieter, and got up to follow Frenside.  But
first she opened the French window into the hall, in order to hang
her cloak on its usual peg under the stairs.  As she crossed the
hall she noticed that the front door was open.  She went forward to
shut it; but when she approached she saw that a man was standing on
the steps, his back to the door.  He must have heard her footfall
on the oak floor, for he turned abruptly, and in the failing light
she recognized Vance.  She gave a little cry, and they stood and
looked at each other.  "Halo--" he began in a dazed voice.

"Oh, Van!  Where did you come from?  How tired you look!  But
you've been ill--you must have been very ill!  What's been the
matter?"  She swept forward on a great rush of pity, but he drew
back, passing a slow bewildered hand over his forehead.  "No--I'm
all right. . .  I'm all right again. . ."

The change in his appearance frightened her, almost made her feel
as if she were speaking to a stranger.  He had grown so thin that
he seemed taller, and his face was changed too.  All its boyishness
was gone; it was drawn and stern, like that of a man who has been
through some inward ordeal which makes everything else remote.  She
felt that she was a part of that remoteness, and the feeling made
her speak to him almost shyly.  "Van--why do you stand there?
Don't you mean to come in?"

"Yes; I'll come in."  His voice was low and automatic; he spoke as
if he were reciting a lesson.  "I didn't intend to come here now,"
he added, as if it were an afterthought.

"Not now?"

He shook his head, and took a few steps into the hall.  "No.  I
really came back just to look at the Willows.  And then they told
me down at the station that you were here."

"At the Willows?  You've been there now?"

"Yes.  I had to. . .  They said you'd sold it, and the contractors
were going to begin work; I came just in time.  I suppose some
instinct told me."

"Sold it?  I'm going to live there myself!" she exclaimed, her
voice trembling with the announcement.

He looked at her with a kind of slow surprise.  "You--at the
Willows?  I hadn't thought of that. . ."

"We used to think of it--don't you remember?"

He gave an uneasy laugh.  "I can't always separate what we've
talked of from what I've imagined."

"That's because you've been ill, Van--"

"Yes; I've been ill."  He stood looking about the hall with timid
unfamilar eyes.  "Is there any place where I can talk to you
alone?"

Halo opened the door of her father's study, and led him in, closing
the door after her.  Vance still looked about him with that odd
estranged look which frightened her more than his thinness and his
pallour.  She felt almost as if he did not see her.  But after a
moment his eyes turned back to hers.  "You see, I wanted to tell
you why I'm not coming back--"

Her heart gave a frightened plunge.  "Not--you're not coming back?"

He shook his head.  "No; not now.  Not for a long time, perhaps.
You see, it's this way; I swore to myself when I was up in the
woods that I must pull myself together first, make something out of
myself, be worth something. . .  You understand, don't you?"

Halo stood looking at him with troubled eyes.  "Up in the woods,
dear?  Where were you?"

"Oh, up at Belair.  It's in Wisconsin.  I went there after my
grandmother died.  She died last winter--you didn't know?  After
that there were things I had to fight out alone.  I was getting
hold of myself, I really was--and then I was knocked out, and had
pneumonia, or something. . ."

"Vance, I knew you'd been terribly ill!"

"I'm all right now--I'm as right as ever.  Only I've got no will
and no purpose.  That's what I wanted you to understand.  I wanted
to come back some day, though I didn't know whether you'd ever have
me.  But I didn't mean to come till afterward, not till I was fit
to know my own mind, and stick to my purpose, and be of some use to
you.  And all that's gone . . . blown away like ashes. . .  I'm
burnt out; I'm just cinders. . ."

As he spoke, Halo's scruples were borne down by a fresh wave of
solicitude.  To see him so powerless and broken made her feel
strong, confident, sure of herself.  Whatever might come later, for
the moment the way was clear.  "But the very time to come back,
dear, was when you needed me.  We can let afterward take care on
itself."

Vance shook his head, his anxious eyes still fixed on her.  "No.
It's not the time; I've got to make good first.  Maybe it's my
pride--I don't know.  Anyway, I wanted to explain to you and then
go off again.  You understand?"

Her hopes sank under a return of perplexity.  Did she understand--
would she ever?  She returned his look with a faint smile.  "Did
you really come all the way to Paul's Landing just to tell me that
you were going away again?"

He flushed feverishly under his drawn pallour.  "No; I came because
I couldn't help myself.  I've been down in hell, and I wanted to
see the stars again.  That's all."

"All?"  She tried to keep the smile on her twitching lips.  "One
glimpse is enough, you mean?"

"No; it's not enough.  But it's more than I've got a right to."  He
straightened his shoulders abruptly.  "Till I'm sure of myself,
anyhow."

Halo hesitated.  The unseen barrier between them seemed as
impenetrable as ever; she felt that she might wound her hands, and
waste her strength against it, in vain.  There might be
subterfuges, tricks--appeals to his emotion by the display of hers.
But that had never been her way; her pride met his with an equal
shock.  If that was his view of their relation, he had a right to
it.  But she was resolved first to make sure that the reason he
gave was the true one.

"Van," she said, "when you say you're not sure of yourself, are you
thinking of Floss Delaney?  I've got a right to ask you that, you
know."

A painful contraction passed over his face, and she wondered if she
had not committed a folly in touching on the wound.  But she was
not good at subterfuges, and it seemed more loyal to repay his
frankness by her own.  "Floss Delaney . . . ?"  He repeated the name
slowly and half-wonderingly, as if asking himself what it signified
to him at that moment.

"If there'd been any likelihood of your marrying her," Halo hurried
on, "I should have been the first to stand aside--you know it was
on that account that I suggested our parting. . .  But now that
she's married. . ."

She saw Vance turn pale, and stretch out his hand to the back of
the armchair against which he was leaning.  "Ah, she's married--?
Up in the woods I hardly ever saw the papers. . .  I didn't
know. . ."  He stood looking down at the floor for a moment or two;
then he raised his head with a nervous laugh.  "She's put through
that deal too, has she?  Spartivento, I suppose. . .  Well, it's
nothing to me. . .  I'd said goodbye to her long before."

A great weight was lifted from Halo's heart; but in another moment
it descended on her again, this time with a more intolerable
oppression.  She looked into his face, and said to herself that
there are farewells which are powerless to separate.  "A real
goodbye, Vance?  Are you sure?"

"God, yes.  All that's ashes. . .  Only, you see, she took
something with her; my belief in things, my old reasons for living
and working.  It's as if my mainspring was broken.  I've got to get
it mended first."  Suddenly he moved toward her with a gesture of
passionate entreaty.  "Don't you see, Halo--CAN'T you see?  I can't
come back to you just because I'm at the end of everything.  To any
other woman--not to you.  But I wasn't strong enough to go away
without telling you; the only strength left to me is the strength
not to pretend, or to invent lying reasons.  And that's not much."

She continued to look at him with something of his own timidity.
"It might be enough--" she began, as if a voice within her had
spoken without her will.

He shook his head, but she hurried on:  "If you say no, it must be
because I'm less to you than any other woman, and not more."

He said slowly:  "It's not being more or less; you're different.
I read something up there in the woods about God . . . or
experience . . . it's the same thing . . . being the food of the
full-grown. That seemed to explain a lot to me.  I'm not fit for
you yet, Halo; I'm only just learning how to walk. . ."

She leaned against the mantelpiece, fighting down the old tremors
in her breast; at length she gave a little laugh.  "But then I
shall have two children to take care of instead of one!"

He raised his eyes to her, and she moved across the room and stood
before him.  With a kind of tranquil gravity she lifted up her arms
in the ancient attitude of prayer.

For a moment his brow kept its deep furrows of bewilderment; then
he gave a start and went up to her with illuminated eyes.

"You see we belong to each other after all," she said; but as her
arms sank about his neck he bent his head and put his lips to a
fold of her loose dress.



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The Gods Arrive by Edith Wharton





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