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leges, are now robbing us of our brains. Soon


there will be nothing left but our music and
that they cannot kill." He spoke with passion,
that found a quick response in the dramatic in
stincts of his hearer.

" In these days of indifference your patriotism
fires one," she cried. " You make me want to
help. I am so eager to know more. Oh, I wish
you would tell me about your work and those
who help you. Your stories the other night kept
me awake thinking of the nightly gatherings in
secret and danger, when your devoted comrades
teach their own prohibited tongue and keep alive
the individuality of the race that aliens would
crush out. I could never have believed in such
tyranny if you yourself had not told me. It is
so uncalled for, so cruel ! "

He nodded solemnly. " It is past belief, and
if you questioned a Russian he would emphatically
deny it, either because he was ignorant of the
truth, or because he dare not admit it. Only
those who have lived as I have and seen what I
have, can realize what the suppression of the
Poles really means. The power we are contend
ing with is so great, so secret, so terrible why,



even here I am probably watched by their spies.
I am known to be a contributor to the Educa
tional Society indeed, that is why I came here.
My usefulness at home was ruined by their hav
ing suspected my connection with the work. They
cannot prevent my collecting funds in America,
but they can and will try to prevent their ever
reaching their destination."

"How do you manage?" Philippa begged.

He pulled himself up, as if his enthusiasm had
already outrun his caution.

" That I cannot reveal, even to you. So don t
ask me."

" Are there women connected with the work ? "
she inquired.

" Many ; both teachers and outside workers.
You see, the element we represent is as down on
the bloody and incendiary doctrines of the Nihi
lists as it is on the oppression and cruelty of
the Russians, consequently our membership en
rolls many women, too wise and gentle to be
drawn into anarchy and too devoted and clear-
visioned to be entirely claimed by a life of frivol
ity. Oh, dear lady, I wish you could know some


of them. I am sure you would find them con
genial almost your equals in heart, mind, and

His verbose sentences and elaborate compli
ments somehow became him, and the foreign
accent that accompanied his words was a charm
in itself. Philippa caught herself vaguely wish
ing that the handsome enthusiast were a matri
monial possibility. If only he had Morton s
money and social position! Ah, well, it was all
nonsense; foreigners, however fascinating, were
never certainties.

He had risen restlessly and wandered to the
window. He glanced out, but turned hastily.

" Mr. Conway is crossing the street. Coming
here, I suppose," he said, bitterly. " Tell me,
before we are interrupted, will you go with me
on Monday to Madame Despard s studio, in the
Carnegie a little reunion of grands esprits, a
glimpse of Bohemia? "

Her face lighted. " Yes, indeed, I shall love
it, I know."

A ring at the door-bell announced the new ar



" You like him ? " Valdeck asked, half in ques
tion, half in challenge.

" He is my dearest friend, you know. I have
often thought of him as a sort of Don Quixote
plus intelligence," Philippa plagiarized, soulfully.

He looked admiration at her. " I love the way
you paint a character in a single sentence."

" Mr. Conway," announced the butler.

Valdeck collected his hat, stick, and gloves, and
bowed politely, the two men exchanged perfunc
tory greetings, and the graceful foreigner took his
leave. The newcomer watched him with undis
guised annoyance.

" Philippa, do you like that man? "

She smiled gleefully. " That s just what he
asked about you."

This did not seem to soothe Morton s feelings.
" You are so much in his society. How did you
meet him? "

" He came from New Orleans with a letter
of introduction from one of my old schoolmates,
Clarissa Pointue you know the Pointues of
Louisiana who own Angel Island ? "

" Victoria says that letters of introduction and


confidences are alike they had better not be
given. By the way, she s back, you know."

"Have you seen her?" she asked, with as
sumed indifference, stretching her little trap.

" Of course. I went last night as soon as I
knew where she was. She is one of my oldest
and best friends, that rara avis, a woman-chum."

" She is a dear. She was here a few moments
ago. If you had come a little earlier you would
have been rewarded."

" By finding you two discussing the latest Pa
risian novelties, and having no satisfaction out
of either of you."

; You see we are so intimate," she smiled.
" She came over at once to see me; wasn t it
dear of her?" She hoped Victoria would not
by any chance mention the fact that Philippa,
having seen her from the window, had sent the
butler to stop her and insist on her dropping
in for a moment. However, even if she did, it
didn t amount to much. Philippa argued to her
self that the more praise she lavished on her rival,
the more would any derogatory remark of Vic
toria s concerning herself sound ungrateful and



mean in Morton s ears. She went on, enthusias
tically, " Her home-coming is such a joy to me.
She is one of the few really loyal, honest women,
trustworthy and genuine, w r ho would burn off
their hands rather than hurt a friend ! "

Morton nodded appreciation. " A woman in a
thousand, and I am as glad to see your affection
for her as I am sorry to see you wasting yourself
on a cad like Valdeck."

Philippa saw her chance and took it.

" You have no real reason to dislike him, Mor
ton, and you know it ! "

"Oh, haven t I?"

" It s just because he is here so much, and
you re you re it hurts me to have you
think " She broke off with a plaintive note.

He had never seen her with the bars of her
coquetry down, and his love of her flamed up
with the vision of his hope. He came across
quickly, leaning with both hands on the tea-table.
" I m foolish because I m jealous, because I
love you, Philippa."

She fumbled with the sugar-tongs, her fair head
bent. Forcibly he raised her reluctant chin and


looked into her eyes. What he saw there stung
through him like an electric shock.

" Oh, sweetheart! sweetheart! " he murmured,
kissing her on her uplifted, unresisting mouth.
" Why did you play with me so long? "

There was silence in the little boudoir. Then
she disengaged herself from his enfolding arm
and looked at him fondly. She pushed back his
heavy brown hair, and fingered his cravat, as a
child takes possession of a strange new toy.

" Morton," she said, in a very low voice, " I
I don t want to announce it, dear. Aunt
Lucy has her heart set on my marrying cousin
Gabe, and she s been so good to me I want to
win her over to you without giving her annoyance.
You understand, dear?"

" I hate the deceit of it," he answered, after a
moment s uncomfortable silence. Her instant
desire for concealment hurt him. Philippa looked
pained. He felt like a blundering bore, and
quickly added, " But it s just like you to feel
that way about your aunt, and I love you for it."

She cuddled close to him, holding his hand in
both hers and twisting his plain gold seal as if



it engrossed her whole attention. " You see I m
an orphan. I haven t much money, just barely
enough to give me necessaries. Aunt Lucy has
done everything for me, you can t guess half,
and if I suddenly turn against her for she ll
think it that it will break her heart. She will
call me ungrateful, and, Morton, you know I m
anything but that I I couldn t bear it." A
childish quiver of her lips spoke louder than
words, for the actress in her was " feeling her
part," and her emotion was quite genuine.

" Whatever you think best I ll abide by ; I
couldn t love you so if I didn t trust you abso
lutely," he answered, softly.

The rattle and chink of a stopping carriage
broke in on them.

"There she is now!" Philippa exclaimed, in
a sharp whisper, withdrawing from his embrace
and quickly smoothing her hair.

A slam, a ring, the approach of the butler, a
gust of cold air that swung the curtains, and Mrs.
Pendington Ford entered. A swift glance of her
sharp gray eyes took in her niece s indifference,
Morton s confusion, the dents in the pillows, and


the disarray of the tea-things. Her eyes were
pupilled by two points of interrogation as she
glanced toward Philippa. but she greeted the
caller with formal grace. There was something of
the drum-major about the lady. One expected
to see her swing her gold-knobbed parasol, toss
it above her voluminous head-dress to catch it
again and spin it solemnly on the tip of her too
tightly gloved fingers. She was tall, stout, florid.
If she had been born a century earlier she w r ould
have been a loud-mouthed, gambling duchess;
now she suggested only the drum-major.

Seating herself upon the uttermost edge of a
chair, the better to maintain the upright dignity
of her carriage, she smiled slowly and wisely.

" My dear, a fresh cup, please. I am faint,
positively. I drove round the Park and stopped
at the Tredways. They must get their tea from
a bargain-counter. I really could not touch it."

Philippa, with commendable sang-froid, con
cocted a well-rummed beverage.

" Victoria Claudel has just been here," she
announced, gaily.



" Indeed ! " Mrs. Pendington Ford s voice was
not very cordial. "Where is she stopping?"

" She is sharing Mrs. Testly Durham s suite
at the Carnegie."

"The writer?"

" Yes, Aunt Lucy. They are very intimate

Victoria s stock went up six points, and the
drum-major sipped her tea. " We must have them
to dinner sometime, Philippa. Miss Claudel is
an old friend of yours, is she not, Mr. Con-

" Since we were children," Morton replied,
glad to have a direct question to answer, and
feeling unable to cope with general conversation.

" I remember her mother," Mrs. Ford went on,
" Miss Graves, of Philadelphia, a delightful girl.
Her marriage to Mr. Claudel was considered quite
a brilliant one, but unluckily, he was more of a
scholar than a man of business lost money
constantly. It was really fortunate he died early,
or the family would have been quite impover
ished. As it was, the children and Victoria will
only have barely enough to live on."


" The estate is to be settled now, I think,"
said Philippa. " Bob is of age, if I m not mis

" She came home on that account," Morton put

Mrs. Ford was benign as she rose to her feet.
" Well, Philippa, dear, don t forget you must
dress for the Bentleys dinner. You must excuse
my rudeness, Mr. Conway, but she is such a
scatterbrained girl that if she is having an inter
esting conversation she forgets her engagements,
and is known as the late Miss Ford."

Morton blushed and glanced at his watch. " I
am the one to beg indulgence; it s shockingly
late, I -

Mrs. Ford smiled almost affectionately. " My
dear man, don t apologize for paying us such
a nice indirect compliment. Philippa, dear, you
must invite Mr. Conway when we ask Victoria
and Mrs. Testly Durham to dinner. You ll be
sure to come, won t you ? "

Morton muttered his thanks and took his leave.

As the street door closed the aunt and niece
faced each other.


" It s done, then. My congratulations, dear."
Approval beamed from the majestic presence.

Philippa punched a pillow and shrugged her

" Yes."

" Well, it was about time you came to your
senses and brought things to a crisis. I began to
despair of you," Mrs. Ford coolly commented.

" I can take care of myself."

" No, my love, you can t, as I ve noticed to my
great regret. However, I shall announce the
engagement with great pleasure."

" You ll do nothing of the sort ! " Philippa s
face grew crimson with annoyance.

" What are you up to now ? " her aunt inquired,
with obvious cynicism.

" Nothing. But I don t want it known yet ;
I ve good reasons."

Mrs. Ford went to the core of the matter with
brutal directness. " You have your good-for-
nothing flirtation with that Valdeck on foot, that s
what you have. Now, mark my words, you ll
get into trouble; if you do, don t come to me.
You are a fool if you take chances with Morton


Conway. My advice is, announce your engage
ment at once, marry soon."

" Time enough to settle down," said Philippa,

" My dear," her aunt replied, " please remem
ber that people usually have to settle up before
they can settle down."

" Moralize all you please, aunty, dear," and
Philippa took another tack, " but please don t
go announcing till I tell you. I give you my
word I ll not lose him."

Mrs. Ford spread her sails and swept up the
stairs. " Very well," she said, over her shoulder;
" but don t get too much mixed up with Valdeck."

" What have you against him ? I thought you
prided yourself on the charity of your judg
ment," sneered Philippa, as she followed in her
aunt s rustling wake.

Mrs. Pendington Ford sighed. " I am chari
table in my judgments, because one must have
men for afternoon teas, but I wouldn t risk my
queen to save a crook I mean a rook to
play with. What will you wear to-night? "

Philippa considered. Valdeck would be asked,



and he liked odd things. " The green spangled
one," she answered.

" Oh, is he to be there? " the drum-major in
quired, negligently, as she closed her bedroom

Philippa stamped her foot with vexation and
fairly fled up-stairs to her own sanctuary. There
she flung, or more properly speaking, disposed
herself upon her lounge, and rapidly reviewed the
past crowded hours. She was engaged that
she knew ; she was in love she imagined.
How dreadfully unfortunate that the two state
ments were not the natural sequence of each
other. Pity for herself swept over her. Alas,
for money conditions! cruel, worldly consider
ations! but she must be strong, she must be
wise, and keep this foolish passion in its place.
She pictured herself amid the luxurious surround
ings her future fortune would assure her, and
promptly forgot her peine de cceur in the pleasant
occupation. It was recalled, however, by the
entry of her maid bearing a square envelope,
directed in Valdeck s familiar hand, and a small
box tied with a pink ribbon.


" Madame says," timidly suggested the ser
vant, " that mademoiselle is not to waste time
in dressing. What gown, mademoiselle?"

" Green spangles," Philippa answered, absently,
as she ripped open the note.

" Most sweet lady," it began, " pardon my pre
sumption, but your kindness to-day touched me
greatly. Your offer to help, coming as it did, when
I was racked by fears and perhaps needless ner
vousness, has been as medicine to me. You who
are so kind add one more obligation to the many
you have heaped on me, by accepting the little
gift I send herewith. The pin was my mother s
and my mother s mother s for generations. So it
is rather the sentiment attached to it that makes
it worthy of you than its paltry value. Pray
accept this little keepsake in the spirit of the

" Lucius VALDECK."

As she read, that which stood with Philippa in
the place of conscience smote her that she had for
gotten her devoted knight in the contemplation



of her mundane future. To make amends, and
since the dramatic qualities of the situation seemed
to require it, she kissed the note, carefully avoid
ing the observation of the maid. Next with
swift fingers she unfastened the packet. A little
hot wave of joy broke over her as its contents
lay revealed, An ancient brooch of rose diamonds
set about a splendid emerald, matchless in color,
though flawed. Wound through the design were
two tiny gold dolphins, from whose mouths
swinging pendants hung. A gem of workman
ship, beautiful, priceless. Philippa gazed at it
in delight, then, fearing her aunt s detective
eye and ironic laugh, hastily hid the jewel in her




JVlONDAY," said Victoria, as she tore the
Sunday slip from the calendar. " Let s see what
it says. Lives of great men all remind us
oh, dear, why will they supply us with such
antique quotations ? "

" I shall compose a cynic s calendar," said Mrs.
Durham, from her desk. " A little thing with
quotations from well-known philosophers, notably
Voltaire and Carlyle."

" Dyspeptic s calendar would be better," vol
unteered Miss Claudel. " I ll contribute a prov
erb. It s a strong head that hath no turn-
ing. "

" Oh," said Mrs. Durham, presently, " wouldn t

you like to go over to Madame Despard s studio

this afternoon? She has one of her at homes.

. They are very curious and wholly instructive.



It is the cream of what society thinks is Bo
hemia, an exhibition of genuine Angoras. No
man admitted to the inner circle unless his am
brosial locks sweep his collar the collar gen
erally needs it badly. I go constantly. It s a
morbid craving, but I can t control it."

Victoria discovered a box of chocolates and
fell on them voraciously. " My dear, I ve
seen such a lot of foolishness in the Paris studios
that I must beg to be excused."

Mrs. Durham left her desk and came across
to the seductive sweets. " No, you never saw
anything like this," she insisted, " it has to be
seen to be believed. It is a collection of creatures
impossible in any other society but the great,
gullible American beau monde. Nowhere else
would such a delightful aggregation of side
show freaks be taken seriously. I love them,
I am filled with a fiendish glee whenever I go.
It s like living in a farce comedy. You d better

" All right," Victoria assented. " How does
one dress? "

" Soulfully. Soul is the key-note of these


meetings. If you have anything in the way of
a poem, wear it. The Despard always wears
a poem. The last was a sonnet in solferino."

" I have a ballad in blue, I think, but it s in
the bottom of my trunk," Victoria suggested. "I
might wear a very short golf skirt, and go as
a quatrain; I have been told my feet were cor

" I," said Mrs. Durham, " will disport my
usual lines in a lavender with lace refrain. Mr.
Theodore Trent Gore told me last time it re
minded him of Beethoven s second symphony."

" Who s the gentleman? "

" What ! you don t know the American Mal-
larme ? the Maeterlinckean symbolist of the New

"Alas! no!"

" Nor Stephen McKenzie, who publishes The
Voice, nor Miss Red, who does terpsichorean-
turns-for-the-first-families-only? Oh, my dear,
my dear! put on the ballad in blue, and come at
once! You can t be too early or stay too late
in your pitiable state of ignorance ! "

Victoria obediently disappeared into the depths



of a voluminous trunk. For a moment the air
was thick with flying vesture as she dug diligently
- much as a fox-terrier widens a woodchuck
hole. She emerged with a gown, and held it up
for inspection.

Mrs. Durham nodded. " Very good. Hurry
up now and get beautiful."

" You re very slangy for a literary light," her
friend observed, as she began a leisurely unhook

A half-hour skilfully employed produced two
very striking chefs d ceuvres, Mrs. Durham,
pretty, slender, and blonde; Victoria, handsome,
wholesome, and richly brunette. They stepped
into the empty resonant corridor, and, after
threading many devious mazes, emerged into a
vestibule from which three doors opened. They
were all ajar, and from beyond emanated a buzz
of conversation and a chink of glasses. Mrs.
Durham took the lead, and, pushing aside the
bamboo curtains, they entered a large room, half
drawing-room, half studio. The upper half,
lighted by an immense glass window, covering
nearly the whole wall space, was more or less


furnished by easels, paint-brushes in ginger jars,
bespattered palettes, and scraps of drapery. The
lower half of the apartment offered a not ill-
disposed assortment of the conventional bibelots
of the cultivated collector. A colored plaster
cast of the " Unknown Lady," and a reproduction
of the "Tete de Cire " attributed to Raphael,
stood on Florentine brackets above the heavy
Empire writing-desk of vast proportions. Every
where hung sketches, mostly unframed and bear
ing well-known signatures. A collection of Jap
anese prints in gray " passepartouts " came next
to the door opening into the adjoining room, and
above the grand piano hung a dozen or more
framed photographs of celebrities, all signed and
bearing more or less complimentary remarks con
cerning their dear and admired Madame Despard.
To any one unaquainted with the habits of celebri
ties, this array was vastly impressive, but it is
such an easy way to repay attentions, that
well, why rob Madame Despard of her greatest

The details of the place only impressed Vic
toria when she had leisure to observe, as every-



thing to a height of six feet was obscured by the
weaving, elbowing, chattering crowd that filled
the room, a kaleidoscope of all feminine textures
and hues, plentifully besprinkled with the sober
colors of the male visitors, for the hostess prided
herself that men were never lacking for her " at
homes." Mrs. Durham darted between the en
tering groups like a busy shuttle in the animated
web, and seized on the attention of a weary-eyed
woman draped in a Spanish shawl.

" Dear madame," she cried, " as wonderful as
ever but you are all so wonderful. I have
brought my very dear friend, Miss Claudel. She
is of the elect."

The hostess enveloped the newcomer in an in
tent, thoughtful gaze. " Such words of praise
from you, dear Muse, more than ensure her sister
hood among us. Miss Claudel, we are a little
circle of souls tightly drawn to one another by
the bonds of the mind and heart. Our welcome
is sincere. Carl ! " she called, dolorously. A long
haired gentleman in 1830 costume rose from his
reclining position over the grand piano, and ad
vanced with Delsartean grace. " Carl, our dear


Muse has brought one of the elect, Miss Claudel.
Find her a comfortable corner and supply her

Mrs. Durham instantly fell into the hands of a
tall blond soul, with wistful eyes, and force was
for Victoria, feeling much confused, to follow
the lead of the 1830 apparition. Escorted to a
cushioned divan under an Oriental canopy, she
settled herself and gazed about her with such
evident interest, that her companion divined her

" Do you see the two men by the window
the one with the Jove-like head, that s Hartly,
the poet, who wrote the Songs of Satan ; a
charming fellow. The man he s talking to is a
fellow named Brown. Does skits and foolish
things for the Lambs Club. I never could
understand why he is tolerated here. I have a
feeling whenever I see him that he does not ap
preciate the spirit of our gatherings. There is
an ironic levity about him that hurts me. But
I must not malign him to you, as he is a great
friend of our dear Muse. They always sit to-



gether at these gatherings and they seem to enjoy
each other vastly."

Victoria longed secretly for the foolish Brown,
whom she began to suspect of a sense of humor,
but dared not voice her desire.

" The lady with the marabouts is the Baroness
Corolla," her Virgil continued, " formerly Mile.
Zulie, the chant euse eccentrique. She wasn t
much of a chanteuse, I hear, but she excelled in
the eccentrique. The thick-set man? Oh, yes,
that s Melville, the music critic. His divorce
has just been granted; we all expect he will
marry the lady over there in black with the white
roses. She s Marion Delplain, the singer, and
quite his affinity. That s his wife over there in
sables and blue velvet oh, dear, yes, they are
great friends. He s a political economist. The
slim girl? That is Miss Red, my sister."

" The lady who dances so wonderfully ? " asked
Victoria. " I have heard of her."

" Indeed? She will be glad. I recite for her
while she poses little things of my own, sug
gested by the music."



" Really ? How I should love to be present

" Perhaps," and he smiled kindly, " we may
give some little trifle this afternoon we are all
under tribute here. In madame s salon one can
not do less than give freely of one s gifts. These

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Online LibraryEthel Watts Mumford GrantWhitewash → online text (page 4 of 13)