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290 CHARACTERISTICS.

noying ; I shall never try to help anybody again. I am furious
at the thought of how right you were. If you bring Mrs. Leigh
any fans I will never speak to you any more.

I reopen this letter to tell you an astonishing piece of news.
St. Clair came in on us to-day, and would we tell him when you
would be at home. Fred said, "Next week." Upon which he
was so sorry, because he was to sail for Europe in four days,
and gone he has. The new statue for Cleveland has to be cast
in Paris. I do not believe it. At first I suspected that Alice
had said "No," but this is not so, for, as I said, he has not been
near her, and the last time they were here they were on pleas-
ant terms enough. I am dying to ask Alice, but she is hardly the
girl to put questions to, and, besides however, you never ap-
preciated her duly, and I do not want to bore you.

She told me to-day that he had called before he left (his first
visit in a month) and that he did nothing but talk about you,
which amused me.

Fred sends his love, and I am as always,

Your friend, A. V.

P. S. I hope that St. Clair wrote to you, but I do not believe
he did. That man is capable of any virtue or any vice. Do
share with me my exasperation.

This letter gave me much to think over as I gladly
left the roses and jasmines of the luckless town, and
rolled away northward. I was annoyed at St. Clair
for the hundredth time, but it was like being vexed
with some charming, thoroughly spoiled girl, and of
course I wrote to him.

Arriving late I found a note from Mrs. Leigh, which
perplexed me.

She said :

I am so glad of your return, because I need you. We have
had Dr. Simpson since our return, but really he has not the
least respect for my judgment, and if I do not know the consti-
tutions of my own children, I should like to know who does or



CHARACTERISTICS. 291

can. Alice is not at all well. She does not know I send for
you, but do come soon. Of course, it is a drawback to have a
single man, but then you are a relative, and no longer young. ^
[I was just thirty-seven.] Come soon, etc.

I dropped the note as I stood j picked it up ; read it
again, and went at once to Mrs. Vincent's, although it
was as late as 11 P. M. Mrs. Vincent had just left her
husband. After we had exchanged warm greetings, I
said, "Won't you ask Mrs. Vincent to come down-
stairs ? And, Fred, let me see her alone a moment ; I
want a little advice."

" Really," he said, "I ought to charge for these con-
sultations. St. Clair was at it last week. Mrs. Vincent
makes a good average for all easy-tongued women by
secretiveness quite exasperating."

"After the consultation," I said, "I will consider the
fee."

"It ought to be large. What do you get for being
rung up at midnight?"

"When you are through perhaps you will ask Mrs.
Vincent if she has gone to bed."

"She has not," cried Mrs. Vincent, entering. "I
heard your voice, and really, I only came down to say
how glad and thankful I am. You look tired, but
then it was a fine thing to do. I was proud of you.
I could not do it 5 my friend could, and oh, I liked
liked it well, and so did Fred. He has bored me to
death about you, and now you are back, and and I
thank God."

She had my two hands while she spoke, and was a
little tearful as she ended, being nothing if not enthu-
siastic as concerned her friends.



292 CHARACTERISTICS.

"I cannot weep," said Fred, "but you are very-
welcome."

"You men are horrid. I shall leave you."

"No ; it is Fred who will go, and you will stay."

"A consultation, Anne. You will find me in the
library."

"And now," said Mrs. Vincent, "this is altogether
too delightful. What can I do for you? It is so
pleasant to know that I can give you anything. But
tell me about Charleston. No, not now ; another time.
What is it that I can do ?"

Now that I was into this grave consultation, I be-
gan to distrust the doctor and myself. I reflected
that I had not enough considered the matter ; that, in
short, I was a f ooL As a result, I put off the fatal
moment.

"Presently we will talk," I said; "but first tell me
all about everybody all my friends."

"Mr. Clayborne has been as fidgety as a fish on a
bank. I think he loves you best of any one on earth
better even than Clayborne. What is your trick of
capturing people?"

"How can you ask? I am your friend; you must
know. And St. Clair ? Of all his crazes, this is the
queerest. To love a man who does everything you
don't expect, and nothing that you do expect alas!
it is hard on men, and on a woman harder. But I
suppose the fancy for Miss Leigh is over, or has it
gone to wreck ? How has it ended ?"

"How cool you are," she replied ; "and how easy to
call it a fancy, and what has come of it. You may
know as well as I."



CHARACTERISTICS. 293

"No, no ; but I must not invite you to violate a pro-
fessional confidence."

" Indeed, it is useless."

"Oh, then you do know?"

"I did not say so. And is all this because you
came here to tell me something, and now repent a
little?"

"Good gracious ! what a woman ! How is Fred ?"

" Oh, very well. And if you wish to put off what
you have to say, I shall go to bed at once. I am "

"No ; it may as well be now as at any time."

"Ah, that is better."

"Read that."

"Ah, Mrs. Leigh wants your advice about Alice. I
am so glad. I advised her to send this very morning.
You know I cannot have you myself, but I want every
one else to have you, and now I shall be easy, quite
easy, about Alice. It is only that she is looking pale."

"But I do not mean to go. You know I am only
willing to go in consultation. I do not want practice.
I"

"But this ! Oh, this is different."

"Very. And you who got me into this scrape must
get me out of it. I do not know how you will do it, but
you must manage it, because I do not intend to go."

"You cannot mean that?"

"Yes. Tell Mrs. Leigh that I chanced in, and that
I do not take cases outside of my house. Anything
you like."

"But it is not true; and after all, it is I who ask
you to go, and imagine my making an excuse so ludi-
crous as that to a woman of the world like Mrs. Leigh.



294 CHAKACTERISTICS.

I son. quite willing to do anything sane for you ; but
this! What is your real reason? You do have a
reason for most actions."

"Oh, I don't like that hard old woman. Surely one
may choose one's patients."

"Assuredly. But write and say so. Why come to
me?"

"Then I shall fall ill. I simply will not go."

"I am sorry; I am more than that and after I
took so much trouble. I am well, just a little hurt."

"But I would not annoy you for the world."

"Well, that is a strong phrase. Why do you ?"

"I cannot be Miss Leigh's physician."

"Ah, it is Alice then?"

"Yes ; it is Miss Leigh. Cannot you understand ?"

" I ? No. What do you mean ? "

"Mean ! Cannot you see that I love Alice Leigh ?"

"What a fool I am ! Oh, you dear, delightful man !
The thing I have dreamed about. And now I see it
all. A11 T And how long has it been ? And does she
know?"

"I think I am sure not. And one favor I must
ask. It is that neither by word nor sign do you be-
tray me."

"And I must not help you?"

"No."

"And as to Mrs. Leigh, you are quite too tired to
see patients. You are not well. You wished to leave
it to me to explain, rather than to have to say ab-
ruptly in a note that you cannot come. And that
was so nice of you. But you will dine here with Alice
to-morrow?"



CHARACTERISTICS. 295

"Indeed, I will not."

"But I must tell Fred?"

"No."

"Then good night. I hate yon, and I am so glad."

When I went to see Mrs. Vincent it was only with
a sense of my own difficulties, and a desire to find a
way out, but with no clear idea of how it was to be
done. The note had of a sudden set me face to face
with a grave fact in my life. I cared deeply for a
woman, and had never meant to do so again. At first
this self-knowledge humiliated me, and seemed disloyal
to an ideal I had loved and lost. I am sure that most
deep affection is of gradual growth. I am as sure that
the discovery of it as something victorious over mem-
ory, prejudices, resolutions is often sudden and sur-
prising. It was so to me. I recoiled from the prac-
tical issue of becoming this woman's physician, and in
the recoil, and in the swift self-examination which fol-
lowed, I knew that I loved her.

I walked away but half pleased with myself. It
was plain that I had not dealt fairly as to my friend,
or perhaps with him, and yet I had meant to do so. I
had had, as the Indians say, two hearts about it, or,
as we say, had been half-hearted. I laughed as I
thought that half a heart had been an organ incom-
petent to carry on the nutrition either of love or
friendship.

At last I reached my home, and sat down with a
counseling cigar to think it all over. Emotion had
clouded my mind. Now it became more or less clear
to me. St. Clair had seen through me as I had not
seen through myself. My cigar went out. I relighted
20



296 CHARACTERISTICS.

it. It was rank to the taste. I threw it away. It
was like some other things in life.

As I rose to go to bed I turned over the letters on the
table. There was one from the citizens of Charleston ;
warm thanks for a great service Alice Leigh would
like that. Beneath it was one from Paris in St. Glair's
well-known and careless hand. I read it as I stood :

DEAR OWEN: Sorry to have missed you. I am busy here with
my new studio and the statue group for Cleveland. I want you
to pay the arrears due for rent in my old den in Blank street,
and have what is worth keeping stowed somewhere. My remem-
brances to the Leighs. I left Miss Leigh's rilievo in the front
room. Keep it. I am not sure that the eyes are quite correct.
The upper lids drop straight, or rather in a gentle curve, from
the brows; it gives a look of great purity to the upper part
of the face ; the peculiarity is quite rare, but is to be seen in
Luini's frescos. In fact, the type is medieval. The slight for-
ward droop of the neck is pretty, but not classically perfect as
to form. Also, the head of my charming model is rather large
for the shoulders, which are a trifle out of proportion to the
weight of the head.

Write me soon and often. I shall not answer, but I shall in-
tend to do so. Love to the Vincents and to the historic giant
from your friend, VICTOR.

For a moment I stood in thought with the letter in
my hand. Then I read it again with care. Had St.
Clair deliberately sacrificed himself to me ? Was his
devotion to Alice Leigh only the expression of his
adoration of an unusual type of human beauty? I
had before seen attacks of this passionate idolatry.
Had he become satisfied that marriage was a contract
he could not honestly enter upon ? That would have
been unlike the man. I was exceedingly perplexed.



XXY.




HE next day I called on Clayborne,
but found him absent, and toward
noon wrote to Mrs. Vincent that I
hoped to find her alone that evening.
The enigma of last night was no
clearer in the morning. A hasty
note bade me feel sure that she would be at home
about ten, and of course she would take care that we
should not be interrupted. After that, and until I
could talk to Mrs. Vincent, I resolutely put my prob-
lem in a corner, and tried to forget it. But despite
my control it turned every now and then like a bad
child and made faces at me, so that I had an uneasy
and very restless day.

I found Mrs. Vincent alone, and quickly saw that
this gracious actress was on for a large role, but just
what was not clear to me. The room had a rather
unusual look. The easy-chairs were not in their
places. A crimson mass of velvet heavy with Eastern
phantasies of color hung in stately folds over the far
end of the grand piano. I knew it well as one of St.
Glair's wildest and most extravagant purchases, the
fruitful text of sad sermons by the friend whom the
naughty poet called Rev. Dr. Clayborne. St. Clair had
sent it to Mrs. Vincent the night he left a royal



298 CHARACTEEISTICS.

gift. I glanced from it with a full heart to the ro?es
which were everywhere in bowls and tall vases, each,
v/ /as I well knew, sedulously arranged as the woman's
perfect sense of harmony in color dictated. She her-
self was dressed with unusual splendor, a style not
after her ordinary habit, which rather inclined to a
certain extravagance as to stuffs, and to great sim-
plicity in outline and forms. Also, she wore two or
three jewels, and these especially flashed a warning to
me as to there being some surprise in store.

As I entered, the house rang with the triumphant
notes of a love-song of Schumann.

"Ah, this is good of you," she cried, rising. "And
now that we shall have a nice talk, I am so happy.
Did you hear how my piano was rejoicing with me 1"

That was so like her, and I said as much.

"Yes," she went on, as I looked about me ; "we are
en fete to-night. And you look so grave, Owen." Once
in a great while she used my first name, being, despite
our extreme and long intimacy, little apt to be familiar
in certain ways.

"Yes," I said; "I am as you say, because I am
troubled."

As I spoke, Vincent entered. "Ah, North," he cried,
"how welcome you are!" and cast a glance of faint
amusement over the room and his wife's costume.
"I have been away since morning, or I should have
called. I met Clayborne on the steps."

The historian carried a book and a stiff bouquet,
which he deposited on the table. "Here," he said,
"are the essays, pretty obvious stuff, and some
flowers."



CHARACTEEISTICS. 299

Mrs. Vincent thanked him profusely. "So good of
you," she said. " What lovely gardenias ! " And pres-
ently she set one in her belt, saying, "A thousand
thanks."

"Why not one?" laughed Vincent. "Why is that
noun only plural ? It ought to have a definite value
one thank. Then one could grade one's gratitude.
Why not thirty-seven, or half a thank on occasions ?"

" Quite true, quite true," said Clayborne. " The nouns
which are only plural must be rare. Hum " and he
fell into a reverie.

" How absurd you are, Fred," remarked his wife.

"Well, the surroundings account for that. Do you
entertain Haroun al Raschid to-night, Anne?"

"I entertain myself," she replied, and I detected
a little ocular telegraphy meant for Vincent alone.
Then Clayborne looked up.

"I can recall no other," he said. "And in French
it is the same, and in Arabic. I must look it up."

"Mrs. Leigh told me to-day that you had been to
see her," said Mrs. Vincent.

"Yes j we are old acquaintances. You know I was
Leigh's executor. That girl must have a pretty fort-
une. There has been a long minority. Why did not
you marry her to St. Clair?"

"I did my best," returned Mrs. Vincent, gaily. "And
there is the mama. Now what could be more fitting
for you?"

" I ! What ! Me ! " cried Clayborne.

"You might let me mention it to the widow."

"Heavens ! " he exclaimed, "I believe you are capa-
ble of that, or or of anything. Let us go and look



300 CHARACTERISTICS.

at the dictionaries, Vincent. Mrs. Leigh ! Ye gods of
sorrow ! n

"WeD, think it over," cried Mrs. Vincent, delighted,
as the historian rose.

"I leave you to your patient, Mrs. Vincent," said her
husband. "Is the case a bad one?"

"Prognosis favorable," returned the wife, laughing
and striking a few gay notes on the piano. "Diagno-
sis certain. Am I professionally correct, Dr. North?"

"I never interfere with other folks's cases," I said,
and we were alone again.

"And now," she said, "what is it? And do look
happier. Fred says I am crazy to-day, and you would
not let me tell him. But what is wrong ? Surely "

"Oh, everything is wrong," I said. "I have been a
fool, and I have helped to break up St. Glair's life, and
I must talk about it to some one."

"Of course. And perhaps I can help you. Only
women know women."

"It is not the woman, it is the man, that troubles
me. To have won a possible happiness at the cost of
a friend, I I"

"But perhaps the happiness is not possible," she
answered.

" That were no better. I should be doubly punished.
Do you think he loved her?"

"I do not know. St. Glair is seemingly so trans-
parent, and then of a sudden you become aware that
they are only surface reflections that reach you. There
are curious depths in that man's nature. Presently, as
Fred says, one is off soundings. I understand you, I
think, and I am sorry for you. And now what is it ?*



CHAKACTERISTICS. 301

"Read this letter," I said.

As she read I saw a faint smile of pleased surprise
gather upon her face. She re-read it. Then slowly
she folded it up, gave it back to me, and took a per-
fect white rosebud from the jar near by, and put it on
the table beside me. I took it up mechanically.

"It is sweet," she said, "and pure, and there is no
canker at the core. The rose is my dear Alice, and
you may take her if you can, and without a pang."

I was accustomed to these little dramas, but this
was too much for me.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"And you read that letter?"

"I did."

"Well," she said, "I never was more fully persuaded
as to the depth of folly, of incapacity, one may find in
a man."

"You are enigmatical."

"Am I indeed ? May I show that letter to Alice r

"What ! You must indeed think me a fool."

"I shall not answer you according to your folly.
And people say you are a student of character and
see through women ! It is past belief ; but trust a
woman's insight for once. Ah, certainly I am at home.
Show Miss Leigh up. Here comes the answer to my
enigma."

" O Mrs. Vincent ! This is one of your little"

"Hush ! Is n't this joyous?" And she struck the
keys again until the glad notes of the love-song rang
through my brain.

"My dear Alice, how good of you to come!" she
cried. "You must have left your dinner-party early.



302 CHARACTERISTICS.

Why, it is only ten. Dr. North has just chanced in,
and now we shall have a quiet talk. You have not
seen Dr. North since he came back. My room is en
fete to welcome him."

"When you give me a chance I shall tell him how
glad all his friends are to see him safe back again."
Her words were quite formally spoken.

"It was worth the price, such as it was," I said, "to
come home and find one has been thought about."
Her formality affected me, and I struck automatically
the same note in reply.

"And now tell us about it," said Mrs. Vincent.
"You were detained by Dr. Roy's illness?"

"Yes; I had to be nurse and physician."

"Well, I want to hear it all everything; but par-
don me a moment, and talk of something else. I must
answer Susan Primrose and two invitations for Fred."

Upon which she retired to a desk in the corner, and
we fell into talk. At last I said, "I did not keep my
engagement. To-day month, I said when we parted,
and now it is "

"Nearly two," she replied.

"Oh, quite two," ejaculated our lady manager from
the corner, rising with notes in her hand. "Excuse
me, I so want to hear that I cannot write ; I have
made two horrid blunders, and I must ask Fred if he
will dine with the Carltons. I shall be back in ten
minutes," and she was gone. Then I began to under-
stand the drama, and was instantly on guard. At
the door she turned back. "Do make that man smile
a little, Alice. I found him too stupid for belief. I
turn him over to you. Half an hour have I spent in



CHARACTERISTICS. 303

trying to make him understand just the simplest thing
conceivable. You may be more fortunate, or well,
more clever." And she was gone. I could have
pinched her.

"And the problem, Dr. North?" said Miss Leigh.

"It was purely personal."

"And troublesome ? Mrs. Vincent has left me heir
to the talk I interrupted."

"Yes, very troublesome."

"I am sorry, and you look so tired. I can under-
stand that one might suffer long in mind and body
after what you have been through. Seriously, I do not
suppose Anne Vincent would have spoken so lightly
about anything that I might not talk of. You once
said that we were friends. Perhaps you do not know
by this time that I take life gravely, even its friend-
ships. Can I help you as a friend?"

"No," I said, grimly.

"Then pardon me. I did not mean to be indiscreet,
or or "

"You are not. You are only and always kind.
But Mrs. Vincent is sometimes carried away by her
moods."

"And you think we should always be responsible
for our moods? I wish I were. It is so pleasant to
coddle them, and I do try not to." Then her eyes
fell on the crimson and gold embroidery. "Have you
heard from Mr. St. Clair? He is very apropos of
moods, is n't he ? "

" Yes ; I had a letter to-day. He is in Paris."

" I wish I had his sense of irresponsibility," she re-
turned. " It must be so nice to have a heart and no



304 CHARACTERISTICS.

conscience. You must miss him, or you will, I am
sure. Every one must."

"Yes, I shall I am fond of him."

"Anne says he will return in the autumn."

"I do not know."

"Do you think he knows?"

"Who can say?"

"I have been wanting so much to see you to talk
again of my plans. Do you not think "

"I don't think," I said. "I prefer not to discuss
the matter. Ask some one else. I am useless."

"How short you are with me. Don't you know
friends are for use?"

"I suppose so. Mine fail me at times."

"Now, do you mean?"

"Yes."

"Well, I must turn you over to Anne Vincent. I
don't wonder she considers you difficult."

"You are certainly the last person to whom I
should go." The situation was fast getting out of
my control.

"That is the worst of friendships between men and
women. Mama says they are impossible. There are
so many limitations. I wish some one would write a
book about friendships. There are so many about
about other things,"

"Your mama is quite right," I said. "Friends
should be kept in their right places, and that is not
always easy. They take liberties. They suppose I
were to ask you an impertinent question?"

"I don't like the word the adjective."

"Well, un-pertinent."



CHAEACTEEISTICS. 305

"That is better. I should try to answer it." But
she glanced uneasily at the door.

"Do you care for Mr. St. Clair?"

"Care?"

"No. Love him?"

"That is a question you have no right to ask."

"I am his friend."

"Then his friend is unwise, and permit me to
say"

"Stop," I said. "Do not hurt me more than you
must. What I ask profoundly concerns my life,
my"

"I would rather you said no more. I beg of you to
say no more."

"I cannot pause here. I must speak. If you love
him, I have been false to him. I have misunderstood.
I have trodden roughly on sacred ground. What I
thought it right to say to him I said without seeing
where I stood."

"But now," she said, "I must understand all this.
I confess I do not. You ask me if I love Mr. St. Clair,
your friend."

"That was what I said."

"And it was more, so much more, than you ought
to have said. But now I will answer you. I do not
think many women would I will. I do not. You
have gone to the limit of friendship, and perhaps be-
yond. And now please to ask Mrs. Vincent to come ;
I must go away. I had only a few minutes."

All this was said with unusual rapidity of speech,
and she rose as she spoke.

"One moment," I said.



306 CHARACTERISTICS.

"Not one," she said with a nervous laugh, taking up
the bud I had left on the table and plucking it to
pieces leaf by leaf. "Oh, not a minute," she repeated.
"Please ring."

"Alice Leigh," I said, and, speaking, caught her
wrist, and felt as I did so the slight start of troubled
maidenhood, "let the poor rose alone. Try to think
it is my life you are busy with. What will you do
with it with me?"

As I spoke, she regarded me a moment with large
eyes, and then sat down as if suddenly weak, her fan
falling on the floor. Some strong emotion was troub-
ling the pure lines of her face. What was it ? Pity
or love ? Then, looking down, she said, as if to her-
self, "And is this the end?"

"Of what?" I said, faintly.

" Of me, of my life, of it. Why did you speak ?
Am I wrong ? Am I right ? Why were you so cruel
as to speak to speak now? You might have seen;
you might have known. I have duties before me ; I
have a life. I I am not fit for for anything else.
I mean to be. Oh, I wish I were not a woman. Then,

en I should know how to do what is best, what is
right." And upon this, to my bewilderment, she burst
into tears and sobbed like a child.

"Alice," I said, "I love you."

"I know, I know," she cried. " And the worst of it
is I I O Owen North, be very good to me. I
meant to have done so much."

"Are you sorry?"

" Yes. No ; a thousand times no."

" Oh, here is Anne Vincent."


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