S. Weir (Silas Weir) Mitchell.

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" Oh, but that is of no moment."

" You cannot think that. You would lose the power
to know you had lost something. That is the real
evil Others would know it. Men, at least."

"Do you think this really important?"

"Yes, I do."

" Oh, there is mama, and I have not half done."

" Perhaps it is as well, Miss Leigh. You should ask
some one who is not a doctor. Every profession has
its prejudices, and I am constantly in fear of mine.
But, in fact, as to these, the best of us are like people
with cross pet dogs ; we may be puzzled to know what
to do with them, but we do not knock them on the

" Oh, but how a nice frank statement like that com-
forts one. You will not forget that I have as yet said
no word in reply ? "

"No. I shall want to hear I shall very much
want to hear."

As I spoke, Mrs. Leigh entered, large, rosy, hand-
some, and smiling. She was a little blown from the
exertion of mounting the stairs.

" Good morning, Dr. North. I am glad to see you
very glad."

" Let me take your cloak, mama," said Miss Alice, as
I returned the mother's welcome and added that I was
on the wing, and had more than used up my time.
Mrs. Leigh was profusely sorry, but rang the bell, and
I left them.

For some good or bad reason the servant was not
in the hall, and as I went down I was aware that I
had left my hat in the drawing-room. As I went up


again to reclaim it, I heard Mrs. Leigh's voice in quick,
decisive, and rather high tones. I was seized at once
with a violent attack of what I may call the cough
social. The voice fell a little, and I went in, saying,
"I was careless enough to leave my hat, and rash
enough to come back after it."

" I am glad you have come back," said Mrs. Leigh.
" Do give me five minutes j I have been talking to my

"I beg of you, mama Dr. North has an engage-
ment; please not to "

" It is perfectly useless, Alice. Every one is talking
about it. Mrs. Flint asked me if you were going to ,
be a homeopath or a regular."

" Mama ! "

"And old Mr. Ashton asked me if he might send
for you when he had the gout, and that fool, his son,
talked about ' sweet girl graduates.' "

I had to choose swiftly between retreat or a declara-
tion in favor of the mother or the daughter, who stood
white and still before us, her hands clasped together
in front of her.

" Pardon me," I interposed. " I have really but a
moment ; and again a pardon, if I say that this is not
the best way to meet this question. You have flat-
tered me by asking me to share your counsels. I
must have time to think about it. Miss Leigh has
been most frank with me, and, my dear Mrs. Leigh,
speaking for myself, were I Miss Leigh, nothing would
harden me like the ridicule of such women as Mrs.
Flint. She is smart that is the word and ma-
licious, and so confident that she confuses people who


do not know her combination of ill humor and inex-

" I did not quite understand her," said Mrs. Leigh.
" Do you think she could have meant to make fun of
Alice, of us, of me ? "

" Oh, I knew of course you would see through her.
I hope when Miss Leigh attends that hoary sinner
Ashton, she will give him some good old-fashioned
dose. May I beg to be called in consultation ? "

Miss Leigh smiled. Her hands unlocked. " Thank
you," she said. " And do let this matter rest, mama."

" Oh, of course. I wish other people would ; but I
could not expect Dr. North to agree entirely with Mrs.
Flint. She told me"


"I think Dr. North ought to know how she talks
about him."

" Ah, I knew she would justify my character of her.
You have made me happy for the day. Good-by.
Good-by, Miss Leigh."


T. CLAIB, a day later, was in what
Vincent called the indefinite mood.
When in this state he wandered, or
rather drifted, whither the tide of ac-
cidental encounter took him. These
mental states were apt to be followed
by days of impassioned work with the pen or molding-
tool. But when idle, he would drop in upon Vincent
or Clayborne, meander about among books of law
or history, complain with childlike disappointment if
their owners could not go out with him, and at last
slip away silently to feast his eyes on the colors of the
piled-up fruit in the old market-sheds, or to walk for
miles in the country, have what he termed a debauch
of milk at a farm-house, and return home late at night.
About eleven in the morning he found himself (for
it was literally that) in Clayborne's study. The his-
torian looked around. " Take a pipe ? Cigars in the
case ; cigarettes in the drawer ; books on the table. I
am busy."

The final remark was quite useless. " So am I," re-
turned the poet. And this exasperated Clayborne into
attention. He shut a huge folio with such vigor as
to disturb the gathered dust of other lands, and said
savagely :


" Busy ! You don't know what it means."

"My dear fellow," returned St. Glair, "I am so
happy to-day. Don't moralize. Be glad some fellow
carries his Garden of Eden always with him. No ;
don't consider it affectation. You are a misery-mill j
I am a flower-press. And, really, grumble seems to
be your normal diet. Just now you think you are
unhappy because some other man has said you make
mistakes or come to wrong conclusions. It is a dis-
guised joy. You are not truly unhappy. As for me,
I do not care a cent what any man thinks of my
statues or my verses. I simply live. That is joy. I
am contented. Why not leave me to my happy fol-
lies ? North says I have never achieved moral equi-
librium, and that 's very fine, I dare say."

" I suppose," said Clayborne, after a moment's de-
liberation, " that moral equilibrium means serenity of

"Now is n't that a little feeble?" retorted the poet.

"I rather think you are correct," said Clayborne,
judicially. "I take it that serenity of mind is ac-
quired, and is a state of content intellectually pro-
cured. Whereas you never acquire anything I mean
through experience."

" Quite true, and how nice that is ! With you for
knowledge, Vincent for a conscience, Mrs. Vincent for
a confessor, and North by Q-eorge ! " he cried, rising,
" I wonder if he left a card for me. I asked him to.
You ought to see that woman."

" You are like a book without an index," said the
host " What are you after now ? What woman ? "

" Oh, her figure and serenity ! You should see her


when her face is at rest, and then when it smiles.
And her eyes ! Come and take a walk. It 's Miss
Leigh I mean."

"Oh, that girl, Mrs. Vincent's latest enthusiasm.
My dear boy, take care. I think I see you with Mrs.
Leigh for a mother-in-law. You will need no other
censor. It would be the thing of all others for

" So says Mrs. Vincent. I have several people who
attend to my interests and doctor my morals. And
you will not walk ? Then I think I shall go and call
on the Leighs. I should immensely like to model that

" Best tell Mrs. Leigh so," said Clayborne, with a
grim smile.

" I think I shall," returned St. Glair, simply. "And
now you may demolish that critic ; my malediction on
him. Good-by."

After this he went away, and on the street bought
a lot of roses and went along smelling of them, until
of a sudden he was aware of Mrs. Vincent, who said
as they met, " I suppose these flowers are for me."

" If you like, I was going to call on Miss Leigh."

" And Mrs. Leigh, I trust," said Mrs. Vincent, de-

"And Mrs. Leigh," echoed he, with resignation.
"The stem of the rose." Then he added discon-
nectedly, " Clayborne knows them. I don't like that
woman. I did not know it until I got away the other

"Oh, she is really nice. Don't nurse prejudices;
when they get their growth they become difficulties


and embarrassments. And you see well, I want you
to like them. I mean the Leighs."

" I do. Is n't that girl superb ? Come with me.
If you don't, I will not go at all."

It thus happened that the two found Mrs. Leigh
at home and alone.

"I met Mr. St. Clair on the way to call on you,"
said Mrs. Vincent. "And how are you all ? And my
dear Alice, is she visible ? "

"No; she is out as my Ned says, gone to visit
some of her social cripples."

St. Clair looked up. " What are social cripples ? "

"Oh social cripples."

" I think I must be one," said St. Clair. "And per-
haps Mrs. Vincent could persuade you to consider my
claims. I have some people coming to afternoon tea
at my studio."

" I fear that we are engaged," returned Mrs. Leigh.

" But you do not know the date yet. How can you
be engaged ? n

" Oh, we shall be, I am sure."

"Not for my tea," said Mrs. Vincent. "This is
mine, you know. I permit Mr. St. Clair to lend me
his studio. We will talk it over later. I want your
advice as to some of the arrangements. And now,
about the children." After which there was talk be-
tween the two women, while St. Clair fell into a
reverie, or with mental disapproval considered the
furniture, until, at last, Mrs. Vincent rose, saying,
" And now Mr. St. Clair and I must go. I saw your
carriage at the door."


"Good-by," said St. Glair, to her amusement and
annoyance. She was afraid to leave him, but never-
theless he stayed, and, as they said a word or two,
surveyed the pictures. Then, being alone with Mrs.
Leigh, who remained standing for a moment, he

"Don't you think pictures are very embarrassing
things ? They are so like acquaintances so welcome
at first, and then after a while one gets tired of them.
Now here is this Corot with its ghosts of trees "

" I never care for Corot," said the hostess ; " and as
for acquaintances, I "

" Oh," he interrupted. " Pardon me, you were go-
ing to say that an acquaintance is a person with
whom we are really not acquainted. Language is
such a fraud. It ought all to be made over and
some other things, manners, for instance n

" I can imagine the need for that sometimes," said
Mrs. Leigh, severely. She felt as if some bad boy had
exploded a pack of fire-crackers under her august pet-

" Oh, I feel it," he went on, laughing. " And if one
could arrange an exchange of manners, it would illus-
trate the idea neatly. Now, if you and I could effect
such an exchange."

" Good Heavens I I prefer to keep my own," said
she, shocked out of conventional propriety, and amused
despite herself.

" But why not ? Then I know you would be sure
to say, ' Of course I shall come to your tea.' And you
will come, I know " ; and he looked at her with a wait-
ing, devoted expression which had been but too often


serviceable. Even Mrs. Leigh relented a little. " We
shall see," she said.

<: Oh, you will come," he said. "And to think of it,
I once stood near you in Paris, and just as I asked to
be presented you went away."

" And where was that, pray ? "

" Oh, at the Comte St. Clair's, a far-away kinsman
of mine. You know or do not know that we were
Irish, and came to France long ago. My branch be-
came Huguenots, more 's the pity."

"Indeed. Why a pity?"

"It lacks picturesqueness. Once it had flavor of
romance. It has none now. I ought to have been a

"And what are you now, may I ask?"

" I am nothing."

" I am sorry to hear it."

"Oh, it has its conveniences. I feel that con-

" I trust so, indeed."

As usual, he took little note of irrelevances, but
went on : "I often like to fit people with the religion
for which they were plainly meant. Really, as Clay-
borne says, or perhaps it was Vincent, the outward
forms of religion are their manners. Some are stately,
some common. But I have kept you. I must go."

Mrs. Leigh did not express regret, and he left her,
with what reflections I could well imagine when St.
Clair, in a mood of amused criticism, related this
astonishing interview to Mrs. Vincent and me. Mrs.
Vincent shook her fan at him. " She will never come
to your tea," she said. " Never."


" Yes, she will. The Count was useful."

" No ; you were never more mistaken. She is not
the least of a snob. There should be a milder word."

" I should fancy," said I, " that she must be the very
ideal of the unexpected. At least, if all I hear be

" No and yes," said Mrs. Vincent. " The great world
has been of use to her. It is a valuable education to
some natures. I often think what she might have
been had she remained at home."

" I think I see," said I. " But certainly she is as
full of social surprises as it is possible for a decently
well-bred woman to be."

" She is like a rocking-chair," cried the poet.

" A what ? " we exclaimed, laughing.

" A rocking-chair. My hostess put one in my bed-
room last fall. I tried it once, and fell over on my
head. If I put a foot on it to lace a boot, it hit me on
the nose. It was always doing queer things. If I
hung clothes on it, it fell over, and if the window was
open, it rocked as if a ghost were making itself com-
fortable. Then it rocked on my toes, and mashed a
sleeve-button, and "

"Don't," cried Mrs. Vincent, quite helpless with
mirth. " I won't have my friends abused." And we
went away.


T. GLAIR'S tea was postponed, and as
the weeks ran by, I often saw Miss
Leigh at Mrs. Vincent's, and now
and then at her own house. No more
was said by me as to her plans. I
less and less liked the subject, and
when she approached it I merely put the matter aside,
saying that it was too late to consider it this year be-
cause the college courses were half over, and would
she let it rest for a time? But at last Mrs. Leigh,
who was irrepressible, urged me to speak again to her
daughter, and, seeing that it was as well to make an
end of it, I put her off until I could talk once more
with Mrs. Vincent.

I learned, of course, that Miss Leigh's plan for a
fresh departure in life had become widely known
through her mother's freedom of talk, and I did what
I could to contradict the gossip. Yet, somehow, the
thing haunted me. I seemed to see this handsome,
high-minded girl with her exquisite neatness and deli-
cacies of sentiment and manner amidst the scenes and
work which belong to the life of the student of med-
icine. And was I not also a man essentially refined
and sensitive ? Had it hurt me ? I knew it had not.
But it is terribly true that a man may do and be that


which is for him inconsistent with his ideal of the
highest type of womanhood. He may puzzle himself
mad with the logic of the thing, and be beaten utterly
by its poetry.

At last I found leisure to see Mrs. Vincent. "Do
not forget St. Glair's tea," she said; "and come early.
It will be amusing. I really made him do it. And the
Leighs. Mrs. Leigh told me of your talk. Do you
like her?"

"Yes and no. May I speak? She did seem to me
hard and "

"Oh, only in talk. If one has any real trouble, she
is angelic. She likes you. But, then, she likes suc-
cess, as I do. Yes, strange as it may seem to you, she
would make an admirable mother-in-law."

"I should be pitiful of the man," said I.

"No. If he were morally weak she would rule him
for his good, because in all worldly ways, and in busi-
ness matters, no one is more shrewd ; and if he were
a man of eminence and force, she would give up once
for all. She has no real fight in her, none at all."

I smiled.

"Oh, you may laugh."

"I only smiled."

"Yes, I know." And she set her large eyes on me
watchfully. "Now, suppose by any chance our friend
St. Clair were to lose his heart to my friend Miss


"Not at all. He comes here every day to talk about
her. Now, with Alice's good sense and efficiency, and
her mother's "


"Pardon me, what?"

"Oh, her mother's desire to settle Alice, and then
Alice's fortune. Now do you not see how very wise
a thing it would be ?"

"Are you jesting?" I said, seriously.

"I ? Not at all. I lent Alice his last book, and she
is delighted with it. Yesterday she quoted the whole
of that poem of his about the storm. If he could only
hear her recite it, I I fancy he would well "

"May I be there to see ! "

"And he is so handsome," she returned.

"The dear fellow would make any woman hope-
lessly wretched in a year. If I were you (if you are
in earnest, which I doubt a little), I would meddle no
more with this matter. I never thought you less rea-

"And I think I have annoyed you. Why, I cannot
quite see. Am I forgiven?"

"What is there to forgive? Let us talk about the
doctor matter. I told her what I thought."


"No ; not all There are things one cannot discuss
fully. But I said I did not believe it was best either
for the sick or for society for women to be doctors ;
that, personally, women lose something of the natural
charm of their sex in giving themselves either to this
or to the other avocations until now in sole possession
of man."

"|And I am to think that you mean what you have
last said?"

"Yes; most honestly."

"My own mind is hardly clear about it. At all


events, it would not trouble Alice Leigh. At least, I
don't think it would."

"No ; nor any other woman, nor any woman doctor.
They fail to realize what they have lost. The man
who is sensitive to womanly ways sees it. It is worse
than nursing the sick, for even nursing makes some
women hard. Were you with us when we discussed
the influence of avocations upon men? Their effect
upon women is yet to be written."

"I think Alice will study medicine. What men
think of her will in no way disturb her. What the
one man thinks, or will think, may be quite another
thing. I believe I could stop her short by showing
her some duty as imperative. And you laughed at
me, too. But women have, over and over, given their
lives, and lovingly too, to reclaim a sot. Why were it
not a better task to keep straight a man of genius like
St. Clair ? If you fail to convince her "

"Fail ! I do not mean to try. Who cares whether
one pretty woman more or less studies medicine ? I
talked to her and to her mother because you desired
it, but, really, it is of no great moment."

Mrs. Vincent was playing with a paper-knife. Now
she put it down with a certain resoluteness in the small
action, and returned : "Of course ; that is all true, and
let us drop it. What is Alice to me or to you?"

There was a false ring in her phrase, and I said,
"You do not mean that."

"Nor you what you said just now. I don't under-
stand you, and we are both a trifle annoyed, and that
is the reason why you must go away. And remember
to be early at St. Glair's 5 we must make it a success."



"They will comej and now go and repent of your
having been cross to Fred Vincent's wife."

I looked at her reproachfully.

"Oh, but you were, and you would have liked to be
still more unpleasant. Good-by."

At this I did go, and, passing a florist's shop, re-
pented in the form of a basket of lilies to my friend,
and ordered a bushel of cut roses to be sent to St.
Glair's on the Tuesday after.


T was a brilliant snow-clad day near
to the dusk of early twilight as I
met Mrs. Vincent at the door of the
studio, a little before the hour set
for St. Glair's tea.

" The lilies were enough," she said ;
"but never, never be so bad to me again."
"Never. I promise." And we went in.
St. Clair had opened his stores of Eastern stuffs, and
all the dingy chairs and lounges, the camp-stools and
benches, in the molding-room were covered with bro-
cades, priests' robes, and superb Moorish rugs and
embroideries. Two of the statues, now finished in
marble, were uncovered, but not that of the Roman
lady striking with the cestus. Around this St. Clair
had wrapped a vast sheet of worn purple silk heavy
with gold fleurs-de-lis. I knew that he was proud of
this work, and I wondered a little why it was hidden,
but checked myself as I was about to speak. Whether
Mrs. Vincent noticed it I did not know. Few things
escaped her, but she too said nothing.

"Well," exclaimed St. Clair, "do you like it all?
Is n't it pretty ? And these flowers ? Who sent them ?
And what shall we do with them?"

"That is easy," cried Mrs. Vincent, and began to


throw them on to the white marble bases of the
statues, and upon the chairs, and around the tent of
heavy crimson stuffs, within which St. Glair's athletic
figure of Saul leaned in profound dejection against
the tent-pole. On the inner walls of the tent, which
filled all the end of the studio, were Eastern weapons
and spears, swords and shields, of which he had a
curious collection. When we had finished, St. Clair
drew the folds of the tent together, and Clayborne and
Vincent presently came in.

"And you really have come," said St. Clair.

"I ?" said Clayborne. " Tea unlimited, and Mrs. Vin-
cent ? Of course I came."

"Why did you not uncover the Roman lady?" I
said, in an aside to the sculptor.

"I do not know. I did not"

"It is not the nude that troubled you?"

"Oh, no ! We come to be utterly indifferent as to
that even in the living, and wonder at the feelings of
others about it."

"Then why was it?"

"Would you uncover it ? You may."


"And why not?"

"1 do not know."

Then his guests began to drop in, men and women,
society folks, for every one liked him, and no one took
his social failings very seriously. There were half a
dozen artists too, and by and by, to my amusement,
Mrs. Leigh and her daughter. What Mrs. Vincent
had said to the elder woman I never knew, but she
was exceedingly affable to her host. She put up her


eye-glasses, and with a glance at St. Clair, who was
faultlessly dressed, began to admire everything and to
be largely gracious to everybody. As to St. Clair, he
was at his best. His Huguenot blood had long since
lost the gravity it brought out of persecution, and
there were only the French grace and ease along with
the individualized charm which made him always a
delightful companion.

Vincent and I, of course, did our best, and a happy
company wandered about and appropriated the roses,
drank St. Glair's Russian tea and Turkish coffee out
of tiny cups, and chattered around the statues, or rec-
ognized medallions of familiar faces.

Mrs. Leigh soon fell to my share. "Show me the
things," she said. "I had no idea of Mr. St. Glair's
force as a sculptor, and yet I remember De Yisne in
Paris spoke of him with great respect, oh, even with
enthusiasm. And what lovely stuffs ! Is n't he rich ?"

I glanced at the woman. "No; he is as wasteful
as a boy. He could easily make money. He does not
care to."

"What a pity. He needs some strong, sensible

It appeared to me that I had heard this before.

"He is not made for Benedict, the married man."
Then I repented. " It might depend upon the woman.
He is a dear old fellow, and amiable past belief."

" I have great faith in the capacity of women to
manage men." This, too, did not sound home-made,
and as I soon learned, Mrs. Leigh liked to repeat
phrases which pleased her. "And now," she said, "a
chair, and a cup of tea, and some time pray talk again


to Alice about that fad of hers. An old doctor has so
much influence ; not that you are so very old either,
but, you see, as your cousin I can take liberties.
Thanks. Where does the man get his tea T I must
ask him."

Presently I got away, and found Miss Leigh talk-
ing with Clayborne. She was saying, "I have just
finished your book on the 'Influence of the Moor on
European Civilization.' We were in Spain two years
ago, and now I wish I had read it earlier."

"And you liked it?" inquired Clayborne.

"Liked it ? I liked it very much. I envied you the
power to do it, the pleasure of the search, the joy there
must be in such a review of historic or heroic lives.
You must have learned Arabic and Spanish."

"Yes ; that was easy enough. But I ought to tell
you that my friend North says my defect is that I am
not a worshiper of heroes."

"No ; I saw that sometimes you were cold, when I
wanted you to be warm. And Dr. North I should
scarcely take him for a worshiper of heroes. You
might improve under criticism," she added, smiling.

"I will remember next time," he said with rare

At this moment a woman asked him some absurd
question about the statue beside us. I took advantage
of it to call Miss Leigh's attention to a piece of em-
broidery, and began to wander with her to and fro.

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Online LibraryS. Weir (Silas Weir) MitchellCharacteristics → online text (page 16 of 19)