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    Souls Belated

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    Chapter 4
    Previous Chapter
    Their railway-carriage had been full when the train left Bologna; but at
    the first station beyond Milan their only remaining companion--a courtly
    person who ate garlic out of a carpet-bag--had left his crumb-strewn seat
    with a bow.

    Lydia's eye regretfully followed the shiny broadcloth of his retreating
    back till it lost itself in the cloud of touts and cab-drivers hanging
    about the station; then she glanced across at Gannett and caught the same
    regret in his look. They were both sorry to be alone.

    "_Par-ten-za!_" shouted the guard. The train vibrated to a sudden slamming
    of doors; a waiter ran along the platform with a tray of fossilized
    sandwiches; a belated porter flung a bundle of shawls and band-boxes into
    a third-class carriage; the guard snapped out a brief _Partensa!_ which
    indicated the purely ornamental nature of his first shout; and the train
    swung out of the station.

    The direction of the road had changed, and a shaft of sunlight struck
    across the dusty red velvet seats into Lydia's corner. Gannett did not
    notice it. He had returned to his _Revue de Paris,_ and she had to rise
    and lower the shade of the farther window. Against the vast horizon of
    their leisure such incidents stood out sharply.

    Having lowered the shade, Lydia sat down, leaving the length of the
    carriage between herself and Gannett. At length he missed her and looked
    up.

    "I moved out of the sun," she hastily explained.

    He looked at her curiously: the sun was beating on her through the shade.

    "Very well," he said pleasantly; adding, "You don't mind?" as he drew a
    cigarette-case from his pocket.

    It was a refreshing touch, relieving the tension of her spirit with the
    suggestion that, after all, if he could _smoke_--! The relief was only
    momentary. Her experience of smokers was limited (her husband had
    disapproved of the use of tobacco) but she knew from hearsay that men
    sometimes smoked to get away from things; that a cigar might be the
    masculine equivalent of darkened windows and a headache. Gannett, after a
    puff or two, returned to his review.

    It was just as she had foreseen; he feared to speak as much as she did. It
    was one of the misfortunes of their situation that they were never busy
    enough to necessitate, or even to justify, the postponement of unpleasant
    discussions. If they avoided a question it was obviously, unconcealably
    because the question was disagreeable. They had unlimited leisure and an
    accumulation of mental energy to devote to any subject that presented
    itself; new topics were in fact at a premium. Lydia sometimes had
    premonitions of a famine-stricken period when there would he nothing left
    to talk about, and she had already caught herself doling out piecemeal
    what, in the first prodigality of their confidences, she would have flung
    to him in a breath. Their silence therefore might simply mean that they
    had nothing to say; but it was another disadvantage of their position that
    it allowed infinite opportunity for the classification of minute
    differences. Lydia had learned to distinguish between real and factitious
    silences; and under Gannett's she now detected a hum of speech to which
    her own thoughts made breathless answer.

    How could it be otherwise, with that thing between them? She glanced up at
    the rack overhead. The _thing_ was there, in her dressing-bag,
    symbolically suspended over her head and his. He was thinking of it now,
    just as she was; they had been thinking of it in unison ever since they
    had entered the train. While the carriage had held other travellers they
    had screened her from his thoughts; but now that he and she were alone she
    knew exactly what was passing through his mind; she could almost hear him
    asking himself what he should say to her....

    * * * * *

    The thing had come that morning, brought up to her in an innocent-looking
    envelope with the rest of their letters, as they were leaving the hotel at
    Bologna. As she tore it open, she and Gannett were laughing over some
    ineptitude of the local guide-book--they had been driven, of late, to
    make the most of such incidental humors of travel. Even when she had
    unfolded the document she took it for some unimportant business paper sent
    abroad for her signature, and her eye travelled inattentively over the
    curly _Whereases_ of the preamble until a word arrested her:--Divorce.
    There it stood, an impassable barrier, between her husband's name and
    hers.

    She had been prepared for it, of course, as healthy people are said to be
    prepared for death, in the sense of knowing it must come without in the
    least expecting that it will. She had known from the first that Tillotson
    meant to divorce her--but what did it matter? Nothing mattered, in those
    first days of supreme deliverance, but the fact that she was free; and not
    so much (she had begun to be aware) that freedom had released her from
    Tillotson as that it had given her to Gannett. This discovery had not been
    agreeable to her self-esteem. She had preferred to think that Tillotson
    had himself embodied all her reasons for leaving him; and those he
    represented had seemed cogent enough to stand in no need of reinforcement.
    Yet she had not left him till she met Gannett. It was her love for Gannett
    that had made life with Tillotson so poor and incomplete a business. If
    she had never, from the first, regarded her marriage as a full cancelling
    of her claims upon life, she had at least, for a number of years, accepted
    it as a provisional compensation,--she had made it "do." Existence in the
    commodious Tillotson mansion in Fifth Avenue--with Mrs. Tillotson senior
    commanding the approaches from the second-story front windows--had been
    reduced to a series of purely automatic acts. The moral atmosphere of the
    Tillotson interior was as carefully screened and curtained as the house
    itself: Mrs. Tillotson senior dreaded ideas as much as a draught in her
    back. Prudent people liked an even temperature; and to do anything
    unexpected was as foolish as going out in the rain. One of the chief
    advantages of being rich was that one need not be exposed to unforeseen
    contingencies: by the use of ordinary firmness and common sense one could
    make sure of doing exactly the same thing every day at the same hour.
    These doctrines, reverentially imbibed with his mother's milk, Tillotson
    (a model son who had never given his parents an hour's anxiety)
    complacently expounded to his wife, testifying to his sense of their
    importance by the regularity with which he wore goloshes on damp days, his
    punctuality at meals, and his elaborate precautions against burglars and
    contagious diseases. Lydia, coming from a smaller town, and entering New
    York life through the portals of the Tillotson mansion, had mechanically
    accepted this point of view as inseparable from having a front pew in
    church and a parterre box at the opera. All the people who came to the
    house revolved in the same small circle of prejudices. It was the kind of
    society in which, after dinner, the ladies compared the exorbitant charges
    of their children's teachers, and agreed that, even with the new duties on
    French clothes, it was cheaper in the end to get everything from Worth;
    while the husbands, over their cigars, lamented municipal corruption, and
    decided that the men to start a reform were those who had no private
    interests at stake.

    To Lydia this view of life had become a matter of course, just as
    lumbering about in her mother-in-law's landau had come to seem the only
    possible means of locomotion, and listening every Sunday to a fashionable
    Presbyterian divine the inevitable atonement for having thought oneself
    bored on the other six days of the week. Before she met Gannett her life
    had seemed merely dull: his coming made it appear like one of those dismal
    Cruikshank prints in which the people are all ugly and all engaged in
    occupations that are either vulgar or stupid.

    It was natural that Tillotson should be the chief sufferer from this
    readjustment of focus. Gannett's nearness had made her husband ridiculous,
    and a part of the ridicule had been reflected on herself. Her tolerance
    laid her open to a suspicion of obtuseness from which she must, at all
    costs, clear herself in Gannett's eyes.

    She did not understand this until afterwards. At the time she fancied that
    she had merely reached the limits of endurance. In so large a charter of
    liberties as the mere act of leaving Tillotson seemed to confer, the small
    question of divorce or no divorce did not count. It was when she saw that
    she had left her husband only to be with Gannett that she perceived the
    significance of anything affecting their relations. Her husband, in
    casting her off, had virtually flung her at Gannett: it was thus that the
    world viewed it. The measure of alacrity with which Gannett would receive
    her would be the subject of curious speculation over afternoon-tea tables
    and in club corners. She knew what would be said--she had heard it so
    often of others! The recollection bathed her in misery. The men would
    probably back Gannett to "do the decent thing"; but the ladies' eye-brows
    would emphasize the worthlessness of such enforced fidelity; and after
    all, they would be right. She had put herself in a position where Gannett
    "owed" her something; where, as a gentleman, he was bound to "stand the
    damage." The idea of accepting such compensation had never crossed her
    mind; the so-called rehabilitation of such a marriage had always seemed to
    her the only real disgrace. What she dreaded was the necessity of having
    to explain herself; of having to combat his arguments; of calculating, in
    spite of herself, the exact measure of insistence with which he pressed
    them. She knew not whether she most shrank from his insisting too much or
    too little. In such a case the nicest sense of proportion might be at
    fault; and how easy to fall into the error of taking her resistance for a
    test of his sincerity! Whichever way she turned, an ironical implication
    confronted her: she had the exasperated sense of having walked into the
    trap of some stupid practical joke.

    Beneath all these preoccupations lurked the dread of what he was thinking.
    Sooner or later, of course, he would have to speak; but that, in the
    meantime, he should think, even for a moment, that there was any use in
    speaking, seemed to her simply unendurable. Her sensitiveness on this
    point was aggravated by another fear, as yet barely on the level of
    consciousness; the fear of unwillingly involving Gannett in the trammels
    of her dependence. To look upon him as the instrument of her liberation;
    to resist in herself the least tendency to a wifely taking possession of
    his future; had seemed to Lydia the one way of maintaining the dignity of
    their relation. Her view had not changed, but she was aware of a growing
    inability to keep her thoughts fixed on the essential point--the point of
    parting with Gannett. It was easy to face as long as she kept it
    sufficiently far off: but what was this act of mental postponement but a
    gradual encroachment on his future? What was needful was the courage to
    recognize the moment when, by some word or look, their voluntary
    fellowship should be transformed into a bondage the more wearing that it
    was based on none of those common obligations which make the most
    imperfect marriage in some sort a centre of gravity.

    When the porter, at the next station, threw the door open, Lydia drew
    back, making way for the hoped-for intruder; but none came, and the train
    took up its leisurely progress through the spring wheat-fields and budding
    copses. She now began to hope that Gannett would speak before the next
    station. She watched him furtively, half-disposed to return to the seat
    opposite his, but there was an artificiality about his absorption that
    restrained her. She had never before seen him read with so conspicuous an
    air of warding off interruption. What could he be thinking of? Why should
    he be afraid to speak? Or was it her answer that he dreaded?

    The train paused for the passing of an express, and he put down his book
    and leaned out of the window. Presently he turned to her with a smile.
    "There's a jolly old villa out here," he said.

    His easy tone relieved her, and she smiled back at him as she crossed over
    to his corner.

    Beyond the embankment, through the opening in a mossy wall, she caught
    sight of the villa, with its broken balustrades, its stagnant fountains,
    and the stone satyr closing the perspective of a dusky grass-walk.

    "How should you like to live there?" he asked as the train moved on.

    "There?"

    "In some such place, I mean. One might do worse, don't you think so? There
    must be at least two centuries of solitude under those yew-trees.
    Shouldn't you like it?"

    "I--I don't know," she faltered. She knew now that he meant to speak.

    He lit another cigarette. "We shall have to live somewhere, you know," he
    said as he bent above the match.

    Lydia tried to speak carelessly. "_Je n'en vois pas la necessite!_ Why not
    live everywhere, as we have been doing?"

    "But we can't travel forever, can we?"

    "Oh, forever's a long word," she objected, picking up the review he had
    thrown aside.

    "For the rest of our lives then," he said, moving nearer.

    She made a slight gesture which caused his hand to slip from hers.

    "Why should we make plans? I thought you agreed with me that it's
    pleasanter to drift."

    He looked at her hesitatingly. "It's been pleasant, certainly; but I
    suppose I shall have to get at my work again some day. You know I haven't
    written a line since--all this time," he hastily emended.

    She flamed with sympathy and self-reproach. "Oh, if you mean _that_--if
    you want to write--of course we must settle down. How stupid of me not to
    have thought of it sooner! Where shall we go? Where do you think you could
    work best? We oughtn't to lose any more time."

    He hesitated again. "I had thought of a villa in these parts. It's quiet;
    we shouldn't be bothered. Should you like it?"

    "Of course I should like it." She paused and looked away. "But I thought--
    I remember your telling me once that your best work had been done in a
    crowd--in big cities. Why should you shut yourself up in a desert?"

    Gannett, for a moment, made no reply. At length he said, avoiding her eye
    as carefully as she avoided his: "It might be different now; I can't tell,
    of course, till I try. A writer ought not to be dependent on his _milieu_;
    it's a mistake to humor oneself in that way; and I thought that just at
    first you might prefer to be--"

    She faced him. "To be what?"

    "Well--quiet. I mean--"

    "What do you mean by 'at first'?" she interrupted.

    He paused again. "I mean after we are married."

    She thrust up her chin and turned toward the window. "Thank you!" she
    tossed back at him.

    "Lydia!" he exclaimed blankly; and she felt in every fibre of her averted
    person that he had made the inconceivable, the unpardonable mistake of
    anticipating her acquiescence.

    The train rattled on and he groped for a third cigarette. Lydia remained
    silent.

    "I haven't offended you?" he ventured at length, in the tone of a man who
    feels his way.

    She shook her head with a sigh. "I thought you understood," she moaned.
    Their eyes met and she moved back to his side.

    "Do you want to know how not to offend me? By taking it for granted, once
    for all, that you've said your say on this odious question and that I've
    said mine, and that we stand just where we did this morning before that--
    that hateful paper came to spoil everything between us!"

    "To spoil everything between us? What on earth do you mean? Aren't you
    glad to be free?"

    "I was free before."

    "Not to marry me," he suggested.

    "But I don't _want_ to marry you!" she cried.

    She saw that he turned pale. "I'm obtuse, I suppose," he said slowly. "I
    confess I don't see what you're driving at. Are you tired of the whole
    business? Or was _I_ simply a--an excuse for getting away? Perhaps you
    didn't care to travel alone? Was that it? And now you want to chuck me?"
    His voice had grown harsh. "You owe me a straight answer, you know; don't
    be tender-hearted!"

    Her eyes swam as she leaned to him. "Don't you see it's because I care--
    because I care so much? Oh, Ralph! Can't you see how it would humiliate
    me? Try to feel it as a woman would! Don't you see the misery of being
    made your wife in this way? If I'd known you as a girl--that would have
    been a real marriage! But now--this vulgar fraud upon society--and upon a
    society we despised and laughed at--this sneaking back into a position
    that we've voluntarily forfeited: don't you see what a cheap compromise it
    is? We neither of us believe in the abstract 'sacredness' of marriage; we
    both know that no ceremony is needed to consecrate our love for each
    other; what object can we have in marrying, except the secret fear of each
    that the other may escape, or the secret longing to work our way back
    gradually--oh, very gradually--into the esteem of the people whose
    conventional morality we have always ridiculed and hated? And the very
    fact that, after a decent interval, these same people would come and dine
    with us--the women who talk about the indissolubility of marriage, and who
    would let me die in a gutter to-day because I am 'leading a life of sin'--
    doesn't that disgust you more than their turning their backs on us now? I
    can stand being cut by them, but I couldn't stand their coming to call and
    asking what I meant to do about visiting that unfortunate Mrs. So-and-so!"

    She paused, and Gannett maintained a perplexed silence.

    "You judge things too theoretically," he said at length, slowly. "Life is
    made up of compromises."

    "The life we ran away from--yes! If we had been willing to accept them"--
    she flushed--"we might have gone on meeting each other at Mrs. Tillotson's
    dinners."

    He smiled slightly. "I didn't know that we ran away to found a new system
    of ethics. I supposed it was because we loved each other."

    "Life is complex, of course; isn't it the very recognition of that fact
    that separates us from the people who see it _tout d'une piece?_ If _they_
    are right--if marriage is sacred in itself and the individual must always
    be sacrificed to the family--then there can be no real marriage between
    us, since our--our being together is a protest against the sacrifice of
    the individual to the family." She interrupted herself with a laugh.
    "You'll say now that I'm giving you a lecture on sociology! Of course one
    acts as one can--as one must, perhaps--pulled by all sorts of invisible
    threads; but at least one needn't pretend, for social advantages, to
    subscribe to a creed that ignores the complexity of human motives--that
    classifies people by arbitrary signs, and puts it in everybody's reach to
    be on Mrs. Tillotson's visiting-list. It may be necessary that the world
    should be ruled by conventions--but if we believed in them, why did we
    break through them? And if we don't believe in them, is it honest to take
    advantage of the protection they afford?"

    Gannett hesitated. "One may believe in them or not; but as long as they do
    rule the world it is only by taking advantage of their protection that one
    can find a _modus vivendi."_

    "Do outlaws need a _modus vivendi?"_

    He looked at her hopelessly. Nothing is more perplexing to man than the
    mental process of a woman who reasons her emotions.

    She thought she had scored a point and followed it up passionately. "You
    do understand, don't you? You see how the very thought of the thing
    humiliates me! We are together to-day because we choose to be--don't let
    us look any farther than that!" She caught his hands. "_Promise_ me you'll
    never speak of it again; promise me you'll never _think_ of it even," she
    implored, with a tearful prodigality of italics.

    Through what followed--his protests, his arguments, his final unconvinced
    submission to her wishes--she had a sense of his but half-discerning all
    that, for her, had made the moment so tumultuous. They had reached that
    memorable point in every heart-history when, for the first time, the man
    seems obtuse and the woman irrational. It was the abundance of his
    intentions that consoled her, on reflection, for what they lacked in
    quality. After all, it would have been worse, incalculably worse, to have
    detected any over-readiness to understand her.

    II

    When the train at night-fall brought them to their journey's end at the
    edge of one of the lakes, Lydia was glad that they were not, as usual, to
    pass from one solitude to another. Their wanderings during the year had
    indeed been like the flight of outlaws: through Sicily, Dalmatia,
    Transylvania and Southern Italy they had persisted in their tacit
    avoidance of their kind. Isolation, at first, had deepened the flavor of
    their happiness, as night intensifies the scent of certain flowers; but in
    the new phase on which they were entering, Lydia's chief wish was that
    they should be less abnormally exposed to the action of each other's
    thoughts.

    She shrank, nevertheless, as the brightly-looming bulk of the fashionable
    Anglo-American hotel on the water's brink began to radiate toward their
    advancing boat its vivid suggestion of social order, visitors' lists,
    Church services, and the bland inquisition of the _table-d'hote_. The mere
    fact that in a moment or two she must take her place on the hotel register
    as Mrs. Gannett seemed to weaken the springs of her resistance.

    They had meant to stay for a night only, on their way to a lofty village
    among the glaciers of Monte Rosa; but after the first plunge into
    publicity, when they entered the dining-room, Lydia felt the relief of
    being lost in a crowd, of ceasing for a moment to be the centre of
    Gannett's scrutiny; and in his face she caught the reflection of her
    feeling. After dinner, when she went upstairs, he strolled into the
    smoking-room, and an hour or two later, sitting in the darkness of her
    window, she heard his voice below and saw him walking up and down the
    terrace with a companion cigar at his side. When he came up he told her he
    had been talking to the hotel chaplain--a very good sort of fellow.

    "Queer little microcosms, these hotels! Most of these people live here all
    summer and then migrate to Italy or the Riviera. The English are the only
    people who can lead that kind of life with dignity--those soft-voiced old
    ladies in Shetland shawls somehow carry the British Empire under their
    caps. _Civis Romanus sum_. It's a curious study--there might be some good
    things to work up here."

    He stood before her with the vivid preoccupied stare of the novelist on
    the trail of a "subject." With a relief that was half painful she noticed
    that, for the first time since they had been together, he was hardly aware
    of her presence. "Do you think you could write here?"

    "Here? I don't know." His stare dropped. "After being out of things so
    long one's first impressions are bound to be tremendously vivid, you know.
    I see a dozen threads already that one might follow--"

    He broke off with a touch of embarrassment.

    "Then follow them. We'll stay," she said with sudden decision.

    "Stay here?" He glanced at her in surprise, and then, walking to the
    window, looked out upon the dusky slumber of the garden.

    "Why not?" she said at length, in a tone of veiled irritation.

    "The place is full of old cats in caps who gossip with the chaplain. Shall
    you like--I mean, it would be different if--"

    She flamed up.

    "Do you suppose I care? It's none of their business."

    "Of course not; but you won't get them to think so."

    "They may think what they please."

    He looked at her doubtfully.

    "It's for you to decide."

    "We'll stay," she repeated.

    Gannett, before they met, had made himself known as a successful writer of
    short stories and of a novel which had achieved the distinction of being
    widely discussed. The reviewers called him "promising," and Lydia now
    accused herself of having too long interfered with the fulfilment of his
    promise. There was a special irony in the fact, since his passionate
    assurances that only the stimulus of her companionship could bring out his
    latent faculty had almost given the dignity of a "vocation" to her course:
    there had been moments when she had felt unable to assume, before
    posterity, the responsibility of thwarting his career. And, after all, he
    had not written a line since they had been together: his first desire to
    write had come from renewed contact with the world! Was it all a mistake
    then? Must the most intelligent choice work more disastrously than the
    blundering combinations of chance? Or was there a still more humiliating
    answer to her perplexities? His sudden impulse of activity so exactly
    coincided with her own wish to withdraw, for a time, from the range of his
    observation, that she wondered if he too were not seeking sanctuary from
    intolerable problems.

    "You must begin to-morrow!" she cried, hiding a tremor under the laugh
    with which she added, "I wonder if there's any ink in the inkstand?"

    * * * * *

    Whatever else they had at the Hotel Bellosguardo, they had, as Miss
    Pinsent said, "a certain tone." It was to Lady Susan Condit that they owed
    this inestimable benefit; an advantage ranking in Miss Pinsent's opinion
    above even the lawn tennis courts and the resident chaplain. It was the
    fact of Lady Susan's annual visit that made the hotel what it was. Miss
    Pinsent was certainly the last to underrate such a privilege:--"It's so
    important, my dear, forming as we do a little family, that there should be
    some one to give _the tone_; and no one could do it better than Lady
    Susan--an earl's daughter and a person of such determination. Dear Mrs.
    Ainger now--who really _ought_, you know, when Lady Susan's away--
    absolutely refuses to assert herself." Miss Pinsent sniffed derisively. "A
    bishop's niece!--my dear, I saw her once actually give in to some South
    Americans--and before us all. She gave up her seat at table to oblige
    them--such a lack of dignity! Lady Susan spoke to her very plainly about
    it afterwards."

    Miss Pinsent glanced across the lake and adjusted her auburn front.

    "But of course I don't deny that the stand Lady Susan takes is not always
    easy to live up to--for the rest of us, I mean. Monsieur Grossart, our
    good proprietor, finds it trying at times, I know--he has said as much,
    privately, to Mrs. Ainger and me. After all, the poor man is not to blame
    for wanting to fill his hotel, is he? And Lady Susan is so difficult--so
    very difficult--about new people. One might almost say that she
    disapproves of them beforehand, on principle. And yet she's had warnings--
    she very nearly made a dreadful mistake once with the Duchess of Levens,
    who dyed her hair and--well, swore and smoked. One would have thought that
    might have been a lesson to Lady Susan." Miss Pinsent resumed her knitting
    with a sigh. "There are exceptions, of course. She took at once to you and
    Mr. Gannett--it was quite remarkable, really. Oh, I don't mean that
    either--of course not! It was perfectly natural--we _all_ thought you so
    charming and interesting from the first day--we knew at once that Mr.
    Gannett was intellectual, by the magazines you took in; but you know what
    I mean. Lady Susan is so very--well, I won't say prejudiced, as Mrs.
    Ainger does--but so prepared _not_ to like new people, that her taking to
    you in that way was a surprise to us all, I confess."

    Miss Pinsent sent a significant glance down the long laurustinus alley
    from the other end of which two people--a lady and gentleman--were
    strolling toward them through the smiling neglect of the garden.

    "In this case, of course, it's very different; that I'm willing to admit.
    Their looks are against them; but, as Mrs. Ainger says, one can't exactly
    tell them so."

    "She's very handsome," Lydia ventured, with her eyes on the lady, who
    showed, under the dome of a vivid sunshade, the hour-glass figure and
    superlative coloring of a Christmas chromo.

    "That's the worst of it. She's too handsome."

    "Well, after all, she can't help that."

    "Other people manage to," said Miss Pinsent skeptically.

    "But isn't it rather unfair of Lady Susan--considering that nothing is
    known about them?"

    "But, my dear, that's the very thing that's against them. It's infinitely
    worse than any actual knowledge."

    Lydia mentally agreed that, in the case of Mrs. Linton, it possibly might
    be.

    "I wonder why they came here?" she mused.

    "That's against them too. It's always a bad sign when loud people come to
    a quiet place. And they've brought van-loads of boxes--her maid told Mrs.
    Ainger's that they meant to stop indefinitely."

    "And Lady Susan actually turned her back on her in the _salon?_"

    "My dear, she said it was for our sakes: that makes it so unanswerable!
    But poor Grossart _is_ in a way! The Lintons have taken his most expensive
    _suite_, you know--the yellow damask drawing-room above the portico--and
    they have champagne with every meal!"

    They were silent as Mr. and Mrs. Linton sauntered by; the lady with
    tempestuous brows and challenging chin; the gentleman, a blond stripling,
    trailing after her, head downward, like a reluctant child dragged by his
    nurse.

    "What does your husband think of them, my dear?" Miss Pinsent whispered as
    they passed out of earshot.

    Lydia stooped to pick a violet in the border.

    "He hasn't told me."

    "Of your speaking to them, I mean. Would he approve of that? I know how
    very particular nice Americans are. I think your action might make a
    difference; it would certainly carry weight with Lady Susan."

    "Dear Miss Pinsent, you flatter me!"

    Lydia rose and gathered up her book and sunshade.

    "Well, if you're asked for an opinion--if Lady Susan asks you for one--I
    think you ought to be prepared," Miss Pinsent admonished her as she moved
    away.

    III

    Lady Susan held her own. She ignored the Lintons, and her little family,
    as Miss Pinsent phrased it, followed suit. Even Mrs. Ainger agreed that it
    was obligatory. If Lady Susan owed it to the others not to speak to the
    Lintons, the others clearly owed it to Lady Susan to back her up. It was
    generally found expedient, at the Hotel Bellosguardo, to adopt this form
    of reasoning.

    Whatever effect this combined action may have had upon the Lintons, it did
    not at least have that of driving them away. Monsieur Grossart, after a
    few days of suspense, had the satisfaction of seeing them settle down in
    his yellow damask _premier_ with what looked like a permanent installation
    of palm-trees and silk sofa-cushions, and a gratifying continuance in the
    consumption of champagne. Mrs. Linton trailed her Doucet draperies up and
    down the garden with the same challenging air, while her husband, smoking
    innumerable cigarettes, dragged himself dejectedly in her wake; but
    neither of them, after the first encounter with Lady Susan, made any
    attempt to extend their acquaintance. They simply ignored their ignorers.
    As Miss Pinsent resentfully observed, they behaved exactly as though the
    hotel were empty.

    It was therefore a matter of surprise, as well as of displeasure, to
    Lydia, to find, on glancing up one day from her seat in the garden, that
    the shadow which had fallen across her book was that of the enigmatic Mrs.
    Linton.

    "I want to speak to you," that lady said, in a rich hard voice that seemed
    the audible expression of her gown and her complexion.

    Lydia started. She certainly did not want to speak to Mrs. Linton.

    "Shall I sit down here?" the latter continued, fixing her intensely-shaded
    eyes on Lydia's face, "or are you afraid of being seen with me?"

    "Afraid?" Lydia colored. "Sit down, please. What is it that you wish to
    say?"

    Mrs. Linton, with a smile, drew up a garden-chair and crossed one open-
    work ankle above the other.

    "I want you to tell me what my husband said to your husband last night."

    Lydia turned pale.

    "My husband--to yours?" she faltered, staring at the other.

    "Didn't you know they were closeted together for hours in the smoking-room
    after you went upstairs? My man didn't get to bed until nearly two o'clock
    and when he did I couldn't get a word out of him. When he wants to be
    aggravating I'll back him against anybody living!" Her teeth and eyes
    flashed persuasively upon Lydia. "But you'll tell me what they were
    talking about, won't you? I know I can trust you--you look so awfully
    kind. And it's for his own good. He's such a precious donkey and I'm so
    afraid he's got into some beastly scrape or other. If he'd only trust his
    own old woman! But they're always writing to him and setting him against
    me. And I've got nobody to turn to." She laid her hand on Lydia's with a
    rattle of bracelets. "You'll help me, won't you?"

    Lydia drew back from the smiling fierceness of her brows.

    "I'm sorry--but I don't think I understand. My husband has said nothing to
    me of--of yours."

    The great black crescents above Mrs. Linton's eyes met angrily.

    "I say--is that true?" she demanded.

    Lydia rose from her seat.

    "Oh, look here, I didn't mean that, you know--you mustn't take one up so!
    Can't you see how rattled I am?"

    Lydia saw that, in fact, her beautiful mouth was quivering beneath
    softened eyes.

    "I'm beside myself!" the splendid creature wailed, dropping into her seat.

    "I'm so sorry," Lydia repeated, forcing herself to speak kindly; "but how
    can I help you?"

    Mrs. Linton raised her head sharply.

    "By finding out--there's a darling!"

    "Finding what out?"

    "What Trevenna told him."

    "Trevenna--?" Lydia echoed in bewilderment.

    Mrs. Linton clapped her hand to her mouth.

    "Oh, Lord--there, it's out! What a fool I am! But I supposed of course you
    knew; I supposed everybody knew." She dried her eyes and bridled. "Didn't
    you know that he's Lord Trevenna? I'm Mrs. Cope."

    Lydia recognized the names. They had figured in a flamboyant elopement
    which had thrilled fashionable London some six months earlier.

    "Now you see how it is--you understand, don't you?" Mrs. Cope continued on
    a note of appeal. "I knew you would--that's the reason I came to you. I
    suppose _he_ felt the same thing about your husband; he's not spoken to
    another soul in the place." Her face grew anxious again. "He's awfully
    sensitive, generally--he feels our position, he says--as if it wasn't _my_
    place to feel that! But when he does get talking there's no knowing what
    he'll say. I know he's been brooding over something lately, and I _must_
    find out what it is--it's to his interest that I should. I always tell him
    that I think only of his interest; if he'd only trust me! But he's been so
    odd lately--I can't think what he's plotting. You will help me, dear?"

    Lydia, who had remained standing, looked away uncomfortably.

    "If you mean by finding out what Lord Trevenna has told my husband, I'm
    afraid it's impossible."

    "Why impossible?"

    "Because I infer that it was told in confidence."

    Mrs. Cope stared incredulously.

    "Well, what of that? Your husband looks such a dear--any one can see he's
    awfully gone on you. What's to prevent your getting it out of him?"

    Lydia flushed.

    "I'm not a spy!" she exclaimed.

    "A spy--a spy? How dare you?" Mrs. Cope flamed out. "Oh, I don't mean that
    either! Don't be angry with me--I'm so miserable." She essayed a softer
    note. "Do you call that spying--for one woman to help out another? I do
    need help so dreadfully! I'm at my wits' end with Trevenna, I am indeed.
    He's such a boy--a mere baby, you know; he's only two-and-twenty." She
    dropped her orbed lids. "He's younger than me--only fancy! a few months
    younger. I tell him he ought to listen to me as if I was his mother;
    oughtn't he now? But he won't, he won't! All his people are at him, you
    see--oh, I know _their_ little game! Trying to get him away from me before
    I can get my divorce--that's what they're up to. At first he wouldn't
    listen to them; he used to toss their letters over to me to read; but now
    he reads them himself, and answers 'em too, I fancy; he's always shut up
    in his room, writing. If I only knew what his plan is I could stop him
    fast enough--he's such a simpleton. But he's dreadfully deep too--at times
    I can't make him out. But I know he's told your husband everything--I knew
    that last night the minute I laid eyes on him. And I _must_ find out--you
    must help me--I've got no one else to turn to!"

    She caught Lydia's fingers in a stormy pressure.

    "Say you'll help me--you and your husband."

    Lydia tried to free herself.

    "What you ask is impossible; you must see that it is. No one could
    interfere in--in the way you ask."

    Mrs. Cope's clutch tightened.

    "You won't, then? You won't?"

    "Certainly not. Let me go, please."

    Mrs. Cope released her with a laugh.

    "Oh, go by all means--pray don't let me detain you! Shall you go and tell
    Lady Susan Condit that there's a pair of us--or shall I save you the
    trouble of enlightening her?"

    Lydia stood still in the middle of the path, seeing her antagonist through
    a mist of terror. Mrs. Cope was still laughing.

    "Oh, I'm not spiteful by nature, my dear; but you're a little more than
    flesh and blood can stand! It's impossible, is it? Let you go, indeed!
    You're too good to be mixed up in my affairs, are you? Why, you little
    fool, the first day I laid eyes on you I saw that you and I were both in
    the same box--that's the reason I spoke to you."

    She stepped nearer, her smile dilating on Lydia like a lamp through a fog.

    "You can take your choice, you know; I always play fair. If you'll tell
    I'll promise not to. Now then, which is it to be?"

    Lydia, involuntarily, had begun to move away from the pelting storm of
    words; but at this she turned and sat down again.

    "You may go," she said simply. "I shall stay here."

    IV

    She stayed there for a long time, in the hypnotized contemplation, not of
    Mrs. Cope's present, but of her own past. Gannett, early that morning, had
    gone off on a long walk--he had fallen into the habit of taking these
    mountain-tramps with various fellow-lodgers; but even had he been within
    reach she could not have gone to him just then. She had to deal with
    herself first. She was surprised to find how, in the last months, she had
    lost the habit of introspection. Since their coming to the Hotel
    Bellosguardo she and Gannett had tacitly avoided themselves and each
    other.

    She was aroused by the whistle of the three o'clock steamboat as it neared
    the landing just beyond the hotel gates. Three o'clock! Then Gannett would
    soon be back--he had told her to expect him before four. She rose
    hurriedly, her face averted from the inquisitorial facade of the hotel.
    She could not see him just yet; she could not go indoors. She slipped
    through one of the overgrown garden-alleys and climbed a steep path to the
    hills.

    It was dark when she opened their sitting-room door. Gannett was sitting
    on the window-ledge smoking a cigarette. Cigarettes were now his chief
    resource: he had not written a line during the two months they had spent
    at the Hotel Bellosguardo. In that respect, it had turned out not to be
    the right _milieu_ after all.

    He started up at Lydia's entrance.

    "Where have you been? I was getting anxious."

    She sat down in a chair near the door.

    "Up the mountain," she said wearily.

    "Alone?"

    "Yes."

    Gannett threw away his cigarette: the sound of her voice made him want to
    see her face.

    "Shall we have a little light?" he suggested.

    She made no answer and he lifted the globe from the lamp and put a match
    to the wick. Then he looked at her.

    "Anything wrong? You look done up."

    She sat glancing vaguely about the little sitting-room, dimly lit by the
    pallid-globed lamp, which left in twilight the outlines of the furniture,
    of his writing-table heaped with books and papers, of the tea-roses and
    jasmine drooping on the mantel-piece. How like home it had all grown--how
    like home!

    "Lydia, what is wrong?" he repeated.

    She moved away from him, feeling for her hatpins and turning to lay her
    hat and sunshade on the table.

    Suddenly she said: "That woman has been talking to me."

    Gannett stared.

    "That woman? What woman?"

    "Mrs. Linton--Mrs. Cope."

    He gave a start of annoyance, still, as she perceived, not grasping the
    full import of her words.

    "The deuce! She told you--?"

    "She told me everything."

    Gannett looked at her anxiously.

    "What impudence! I'm so sorry that you should have been exposed to this,
    dear."

    "Exposed!" Lydia laughed.

    Gannett's brow clouded and they looked away from each other.

    "Do you know _why_ she told me? She had the best of reasons. The first
    time she laid eyes on me she saw that we were both in the same box."

    "Lydia!"

    "So it was natural, of course, that she should turn to me in a
    difficulty."

    "What difficulty?"

    "It seems she has reason to think that Lord Trevenna's people are trying
    to get him away from her before she gets her divorce--"

    "Well?"

    "And she fancied he had been consulting with you last night as to--as to
    the best way of escaping from her."

    Gannett stood up with an angry forehead.

    "Well--what concern of yours was all this dirty business? Why should she
    go to you?"

    "Don't you see? It's so simple. I was to wheedle his secret out of you."

    "To oblige that woman?"

    "Yes; or, if I was unwilling to oblige her, then to protect myself."

    "To protect yourself? Against whom?"

    "Against her telling every one in the hotel that she and I are in the same
    box."

    "She threatened that?"

    "She left me the choice of telling it myself or of doing it for me."

    "The beast!"

    There was a long silence. Lydia had seated herself on the sofa, beyond the
    radius of the lamp, and he leaned against the window. His next question
    surprised her.

    "When did this happen? At what time, I mean?" She looked at him vaguely.

    "I don't know--after luncheon, I think. Yes, I remember; it must have been
    at about three o'clock."

    He stepped into the middle of the room and as he approached the light she
    saw that his brow had cleared.

    "Why do you ask?" she said.

    "Because when I came in, at about half-past three, the mail was just being
    distributed, and Mrs. Cope was waiting as usual to pounce on her letters;
    you know she was always watching for the postman. She was standing so
    close to me that I couldn't help seeing a big official-looking envelope
    that was handed to her. She tore it open, gave one look at the inside, and
    rushed off upstairs like a whirlwind, with the director shouting after her
    that she had left all her other letters behind. I don't believe she ever
    thought of you again after that paper was put into her hand."

    "Why?"

    "Because she was too busy. I was sitting in the window, watching for you,
    when the five o'clock boat left, and who should go on board, bag and
    baggage, valet and maid, dressing-bags and poodle, but Mrs. Cope and
    Trevenna. Just an hour and a half to pack up in! And you should have seen
    her when they started. She was radiant--shaking hands with everybody--
    waving her handkerchief from the deck--distributing bows and smiles like
    an empress. If ever a woman got what she wanted just in the nick of time
    that woman did. She'll be Lady Trevenna within a week, I'll wager."

    "You think she has her divorce?"

    "I'm sure of it. And she must have got it just after her talk with you."

    Lydia was silent.

    At length she said, with a kind of reluctance, "She was horribly angry
    when she left me. It wouldn't have taken long to tell Lady Susan Condit."

    "Lady Susan Condit has not been told."

    "How do you know?"

    "Because when I went downstairs half an hour ago I met Lady Susan on the
    way--"

    He stopped, half smiling.

    "Well?"

    "And she stopped to ask if I thought you would act as patroness to a
    charity concert she is getting up."

    In spite of themselves they both broke into a laugh. Lydia's ended in sobs
    and she sank down with her face hidden. Gannett bent over her, seeking her
    hands.

    "That vile woman--I ought to have warned you to keep away from her; I
    can't forgive myself! But he spoke to me in confidence; and I never
    dreamed--well, it's all over now."

    Lydia lifted her head.

    "Not for me. It's only just beginning."

    "What do you mean?"

    She put him gently aside and moved in her turn to the window. Then she
    went on, with her face turned toward the shimmering blackness of the lake,
    "You see of course that it might happen again at any moment."

    "What?"

    "This--this risk of being found out. And we could hardly count again on
    such a lucky combination of chances, could we?"

    He sat down with a groan.

    Still keeping her face toward the darkness, she said, "I want you to go
    and tell Lady Susan--and the others."

    Gannett, who had moved towards her, paused a few feet off.

    "Why do you wish me to do this?" he said at length, with less surprise in
    his voice than she had been prepared for.

    "Because I've behaved basely, abominably, since we came here: letting
    these people believe we were married--lying with every breath I drew--"

    "Yes, I've felt that too," Gannett exclaimed with sudden energy.

    The words shook her like a tempest: all her thoughts seemed to fall about
    her in ruins.

    "You--you've felt so?"

    "Of course I have." He spoke with low-voiced vehemence. "Do you suppose I
    like playing the sneak any better than you do? It's damnable."

    He had dropped on the arm of a chair, and they stared at each other like
    blind people who suddenly see.

    "But you have liked it here," she faltered.

    "Oh, I've liked it--I've liked it." He moved impatiently. "Haven't you?"

    "Yes," she burst out; "that's the worst of it--that's what I can't bear. I
    fancied it was for your sake that I insisted on staying--because you
    thought you could write here; and perhaps just at first that really was
    the reason. But afterwards I wanted to stay myself--I loved it." She broke
    into a laugh. "Oh, do you see the full derision of it? These people--the
    very prototypes of the bores you took me away from, with the same fenced--
    in view of life, the same keep-off-the-grass morality, the same little
    cautious virtues and the same little frightened vices--well, I've clung to
    them, I've delighted in them, I've done my best to please them. I've
    toadied Lady Susan, I've gossiped with Miss Pinsent, I've pretended to be
    shocked with Mrs. Ainger. Respectability! It was the one thing in life
    that I was sure I didn't care about, and it's grown so precious to me that
    I've stolen it because I couldn't get it in any other way."

    She moved across the room and returned to his side with another laugh.

    "I who used to fancy myself unconventional! I must have been born with a
    card-case in my hand. You should have seen me with that poor woman in the
    garden. She came to me for help, poor creature, because she fancied that,
    having 'sinned,' as they call it, I might feel some pity for others who
    had been tempted in the same way. Not I! She didn't know me. Lady Susan
    would have been kinder, because Lady Susan wouldn't have been afraid. I
    hated the woman--my one thought was not to be seen with her--I could have
    killed her for guessing my secret. The one thing that mattered to me at
    that moment was my standing with Lady Susan!"

    Gannett did not speak.

    "And you--you've felt it too!" she broke out accusingly. "You've enjoyed
    being with these people as much as I have; you've let the chaplain talk to
    you by the hour about 'The Reign of Law' and Professor Drummond. When they
    asked you to hand the plate in church I was watching you--_you wanted to
    accept."_

    She stepped close, laying her hand on his arm.

    "Do you know, I begin to see what marriage is for. It's to keep people
    away from each other. Sometimes I think that two people who love each
    other can be saved from madness only by the things that come between
    them--children, duties, visits, bores, relations--the things that protect
    married people from each other. We've been too close together--that has
    been our sin. We've seen the nakedness of each other's souls."

    She sank again on the sofa, hiding her face in her hands.

    Gannett stood above her perplexedly: he felt as though she were being
    swept away by some implacable current while he stood helpless on its bank.

    At length he said, "Lydia, don't think me a brute--but don't you see
    yourself that it won't do?"

    "Yes, I see it won't do," she said without raising her head.

    His face cleared.

    "Then we'll go to-morrow."

    "Go--where?"

    "To Paris; to be married."

    For a long time she made no answer; then she asked slowly, "Would they
    have us here if we were married?"

    "Have us here?"

    "I mean Lady Susan--and the others."

    "Have us here? Of course they would."

    "Not if they knew--at least, not unless they could pretend not to know."

    He made an impatient gesture.

    "We shouldn't come back here, of course; and other people needn't know--no
    one need know."

    She sighed. "Then it's only another form of deception and a meaner one.
    Don't you see that?"

    "I see that we're not accountable to any Lady Susans on earth!"

    "Then why are you ashamed of what we are doing here?"

    "Because I'm sick of pretending that you're my wife when you're not--when
    you won't be."

    She looked at him sadly.

    "If I were your wife you'd have to go on pretending. You'd have to pretend
    that I'd never been--anything else. And our friends would have to pretend
    that they believed what you pretended."

    Gannett pulled off the sofa-tassel and flung it away.

    "You're impossible," he groaned.

    "It's not I--it's our being together that's impossible. I only want you to
    see that marriage won't help it."

    "What will help it then?"

    She raised her head.

    "My leaving you."

    "Your leaving me?" He sat motionless, staring at the tassel which lay at
    the other end of the room. At length some impulse of retaliation for the
    pain she was inflicting made him say deliberately:

    "And where would you go if you left me?"

    "Oh!" she cried.

    He was at her side in an instant.

    "Lydia--Lydia--you know I didn't mean it; I couldn't mean it! But you've
    driven me out of my senses; I don't know what I'm saying. Can't you get
    out of this labyrinth of self-torture? It's destroying us both."

    "That's why I must leave you."

    "How easily you say it!" He drew her hands down and made her face him.
    "You're very scrupulous about yourself--and others. But have you thought
    of me? You have no right to leave me unless you've ceased to care--"

    "It's because I care--"

    "Then I have a right to be heard. If you love me you can't leave me."

    Her eyes defied him.

    "Why not?"

    He dropped her hands and rose from her side.

    "Can you?" he said sadly.

    The hour was late and the lamp flickered and sank. She stood up with a
    shiver and turned toward the door of her room.

    V

    At daylight a sound in Lydia's room woke Gannett from a troubled sleep. He
    sat up and listened. She was moving about softly, as though fearful of
    disturbing him. He heard her push back one of the creaking shutters; then
    there was a moment's silence, which seemed to indicate that she was
    waiting to see if the noise had roused him.

    Presently she began to move again. She had spent a sleepless night,
    probably, and was dressing to go down to the garden for a breath of air.
    Gannett rose also; but some undefinable instinct made his movements as
    cautious as hers. He stole to his window and looked out through the slats
    of the shutter.

    It had rained in the night and the dawn was gray and lifeless. The cloud-
    muffled hills across the lake were reflected in its surface as in a
    tarnished mirror. In the garden, the birds were beginning to shake the
    drops from the motionless laurustinus-boughs.

    An immense pity for Lydia filled Gannett's soul. Her seeming intellectual
    independence had blinded him for a time to the feminine cast of her mind.
    He had never thought of her as a woman who wept and clung: there was a
    lucidity in her intuitions that made them appear to be the result of
    reasoning. Now he saw the cruelty he had committed in detaching her from
    the normal conditions of life; he felt, too, the insight with which she
    had hit upon the real cause of their suffering. Their life was
    "impossible," as she had said--and its worst penalty was that it had made
    any other life impossible for them. Even had his love lessened, he was
    bound to her now by a hundred ties of pity and self-reproach; and she,
    poor child! must turn back to him as Latude returned to his cell....

    A new sound startled him: it was the stealthy closing of Lydia's door. He
    crept to his own and heard her footsteps passing down the corridor. Then
    he went back to the window and looked out.

    A minute or two later he saw her go down the steps of the porch and enter
    the garden. From his post of observation her face was invisible, but
    something about her appearance struck him. She wore a long travelling
    cloak and under its folds he detected the outline of a bag or bundle. He
    drew a deep breath and stood watching her.

    She walked quickly down the laurustinus alley toward the gate; there she
    paused a moment, glancing about the little shady square. The stone benches
    under the trees were empty, and she seemed to gather resolution from the
    solitude about her, for she crossed the square to the steam-boat landing,
    and he saw her pause before the ticket-office at the head of the wharf.
    Now she was buying her ticket. Gannett turned his head a moment to look at
    the clock: the boat was due in five minutes. He had time to jump into his
    clothes and overtake her--

    He made no attempt to move; an obscure reluctance restrained him. If any
    thought emerged from the tumult of his sensations, it was that he must let
    her go if she wished it. He had spoken last night of his rights: what were
    they? At the last issue, he and she were two separate beings, not made one
    by the miracle of common forbearances, duties, abnegations, but bound
    together in a _noyade_ of passion that left them resisting yet clinging as
    they went down.

    After buying her ticket, Lydia had stood for a moment looking out across
    the lake; then he saw her seat herself on one of the benches near the
    landing. He and she, at that moment, were both listening for the same
    sound: the whistle of the boat as it rounded the nearest promontory.
    Gannett turned again to glance at the clock: the boat was due now.

    Where would she go? What would her life be when she had left him? She had
    no near relations and few friends. There was money enough ... but she
    asked so much of life, in ways so complex and immaterial. He thought of
    her as walking bare-footed through a stony waste. No one would understand
    her--no one would pity her--and he, who did both, was powerless to come to
    her aid....

    He saw that she had risen from the bench and walked toward the edge of the
    lake. She stood looking in the direction from which the steamboat was to
    come; then she turned to the ticket-office, doubtless to ask the cause of
    the delay. After that she went back to the bench and sat down with bent
    head. What was she thinking of?

    The whistle sounded; she started up, and Gannett involuntarily made a
    movement toward the door. But he turned back and continued to watch her.
    She stood motionless, her eyes on the trail of smoke that preceded the
    appearance of the boat. Then the little craft rounded the point, a dead-
    white object on the leaden water: a minute later it was puffing and
    backing at the wharf.

    The few passengers who were waiting--two or three peasants and a snuffy
    priest--were clustered near the ticket-office. Lydia stood apart under the
    trees.

    The boat lay alongside now; the gang-plank was run out and the peasants
    went on board with their baskets of vegetables, followed by the priest.
    Still Lydia did not move. A bell began to ring querulously; there was a
    shriek of steam, and some one must have called to her that she would be
    late, for she started forward, as though in answer to a summons. She moved
    waveringly, and at the edge of the wharf she paused. Gannett saw a sailor
    beckon to her; the bell rang again and she stepped upon the gang-plank.

    Half-way down the short incline to the deck she stopped again; then she
    turned and ran back to the land. The gang-plank was drawn in, the bell
    ceased to ring, and the boat backed out into the lake. Lydia, with slow
    steps, was walking toward the garden....

    As she approached the hotel she looked up furtively and Gannett drew back
    into the room. He sat down beside a table; a Bradshaw lay at his elbow,
    and mechanically, without knowing what he did, he began looking out the
    trains to Paris....
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