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“It’s very short.—That’s Miss Self-Reliance you’re holding, Meester Deek. I don’t know whether she likes it.” And again she said in a drowsy whisper, “I don’t know whether she likes it.”She rose and walked over to a pile of parcels which were lying on the piano. As he watched her, the thought of Tom came back. She hadn’t explained those photographs; his pride wouldn’t permit him to ask her.“Ah, that’s different.”“Any child would have done that when a man brought her presents. Then she didn’t say she loved me? No, she wouldn’t say that.”Teddy tried to persuade her to stay a day longer. The country was changing her. Who knew what a few more walks in the silver wood might accomplish? New York meant Fluffy, life jigged to rag-time, and the feverish quest for unsatisfying pleasures.“Tell mother when she comes back that I’m off to Paris. Tell her I’ll write.”

She refused to look at him. With her chin tucked in the palm of her hand, she gazed listlessly to where the dancers whirled and glided. When she spoke, her voice sounded tired, as if with long contending.Combing his fingers through his curly black hair, his father looked on, humorously perplexed by this frantic reunion of his son and the strange lady. She bent tenderly, pressing his hands against her lips and holding him to her breast.She swept by him indignantly up the uncleared path, kilting her skirt. “Could I wake when I haven’t slept?”He couldn’t blame her if other men had loved her first; but he wished they hadn’t. The knowledge had come as a shock.They had come to the great cat’s-cradle of girders that spans the East River.They shook their heads. Ruddy acted spokesman. “No. But let us stay till Mr. Nineveh comes back.”She shook her head. “Not far.—Meester Deek, some day you may learn to hate me, so I want to tell you: until I met you, I believed the worst of every man. I was a little stream in a wilderness; I wanted so to find the sea, and it seemed that I never should. But now——”When he had left, she glanced mischievously across at Teddy. “Why did he call me that?” She knew the answer, but it amused her to embarrass him. womens canada goose coat “No. A telegram.”For many months, as far as Orchid Lodge was concerned, Vashti’s memory was a hand clapped over the mouth of laughter. Harriet broke dishes now only by accident and never in temper. She went about her work without singing. Mrs. Sheerug put away her gay green mantle; after Hal left, she dressed in black. She spoke less about men being shiftless creatures. If she caught herself doing it from habit, she stopped sharply, fearing lest she should be suspected of accusing some one man. Her great theme nowadays was the blighting influence of selfishness. She was always on the look-out for signs of selfishness in Teddy. Once, at parting with him, she refrained from the usual gift of money, saying, “My dear, beware of selfishness. I’m afraid you come here not because you love me, but for what you can get” She spent much of her time in covering page after page of foreign notepaper in the spare-room where the gilded harp stood against the window. She did it in the spare-room because, if it so happened that she wanted to cry, no one could see her there. Questioned by careless persons about Hal, she would answer, “He’s gone to America. He’s doing splendidly. He’ll be back some time. No, I can’t say when.” womens canada goose coat She couldn’t resist. The babies came into her eyes and her finger went up to her mouth. She turned and saw two sleek heads, bobbing and diving among anchored lilies. Beneath the water’s surface, as though buried beneath a sheet of glass, the ghost of the wood lay shrouded. Trees crowded down to the mossy edge to gaze timidly at the wonder of their own reflection. Across the pond flies zigzagged, leaving a narrow wake behind them. A fish leapt joyously and curved in a streak of silver. With his chin resting in the highest branches, the sun stared roundly and smiled a challenge. womens canada goose coat Mrs. Sheerug came over to the fire and gazed down. He could feel that she was gazing and was afraid that she would detect that he was awake. It was a relief when he heard her whisper: “It’s too bad of you, Vashti; he’d just reached the turning-point. You’re as irresponsible as a child when your moods take you.”“When I am married, every day’ll be a new romance. I can live anywhere I like—that’s the beauty of being an artist. I think I shall live in Italy first, somewhere on the Bay of Naples. I and my wife” (how her eyes would twinkle when he said that!), “I and my wife will dress up every evening. We’ll have a different set of costumes for every night in the week, and we’ll dine out in an arbor in our little garden. Sometimes she’ll be a Dresden Shepherdess, and sometimes a Queen Guinevere, and sometimes——-”Seven struck on the clock downstairs. Eight, nine, ten! No message would come till morning now; but he would not let himself believe that she had not sent one. Probably she had given it to Horace, and he had slipped it into his pocket and forgotten. Something like that! Or else, being a girl and afraid to appear forward, she would write a letter on the ship and send it ashore by the pilot. A letter would seem to her so much less important than a telegram.There was an adventure in going to see her, for she only dared to be old in his presence—to the rest of the world it was her profession to be young. As Duke Nineveh was always telling her, appearances had to be kept up.The burden of his longing made him weary. Until he had kissed her, he had had no real understanding of what love meant; she had been to him an idea—an enchanting, disembodied spirit. Now she was white and warm, exquisitely clothed with glowing flesh. It was not the magic cloak any longer, but Desire herself, sweetly perverse and wilfully cold, that he worshiped. womens canada goose coat womens canada goose coat “I’ll write to you, oh, such long letters.” And then, like a little child on the verge of crying: “You said you’d forgive me. You’re not keeping your promise.”“I don’t want any breakfast,” Fluffy pouted ungraciously; “all I want is a place to lie down.”As Hal slipped out, he left the door open and nodded. “She’ll see you.”“Presently. Presently,” he said quickly.“I must.”The End