hore to shore.
Nick Lansing spoke at last. “Versailles in May would have beenimpossible: all our Paris crowd would have run us down withintwenty-four hours. And Monte Carlo is ruled out because it’sexactly the kind of place everybody expected us to go. So–with all respect to you–it wasn’t much of a mental strain todecide on Como.”His wife instantly challenged this belittling of her capacity.
”It took a good deal of argument to convince you that we couldface the ridicule of Como!””Well, I should have preferred something in a lower key; atleast I thought I should till we got here. Now I see that thisplace is idiotic unless one is perfectly happy; and that thenit’s-as good as any other.”She sighed out a blissful assent. “And I must say that Streffyhas done things to a turn. Even the cigars–who do you supposegave him those cigars?” She added thoughtfully: “You’ll missthem when we have to go.””Oh, I say, don’t let’s talk to-night about going. Aren’t weoutside of time and space …? Smell that guinea-a-bottle stuffover there: what is it? Stephanotis?””Y-yes …. I suppose so. Or gardenias …. Oh, the fire-flies! Look … there, against that splash of moonlight on thewater. Apples of silver in a net-work of gold ….” Theyleaned together, one flesh from shoulder to finger-tips, theireyes held by the snared glitter of the ripples.
”I could bear,” Lansing remarked, “even a nightingale at thismoment ….”A faint gurgle shook the magnolias behind them, and a longliquid whisper answered it from the thicket of laurel abovetheir heads.
”It’s a little late in the year for them: they’re ending justas we begin.”Susy laughed. “I hope when our turn comes we shall say good-byeto each other as sweetly.”It was in her husband’s mind to answer: “They’re not sayinggood-bye, but only settling down to family cares.” But as thisdid not happen to be in his plan, or in Susy’s, he merely echoedher laugh and pressed her closer.
The spring night drew them into its deepening embrace. Theripples of the lake had gradually widened and faded into asilken smoothness, and high above the mountains the moon wasturning from gold to white in a sky powdered with vanishingstars. Across the lake the lights of a little town went out,one after another, and the distant shore became a floatingblackness. A breeze that rose and sank brushed their faces withthe scents of the garden; once it blew out over the water agreat white moth like a drifting magnolia petal. Thenightingales had paused and the trickle of the fountain behindthe house grew suddenly insistent.
When Susy spoke it was in a voice languid with visions. “I havebeen thinking,” she said, “that we ought to be able to make itlast at least a year longer.”Her husband received the remark without any sign of surprise ordisapprobation; his answer showed that he not only understoodher, but had been inwardly following the same train of thought.
”You mean,” he enquired after a pause, “without counting yourgrandmother’s pearls?””Yes–without the pearls.”He pondered a while, and then rejoined in a tender whisper:
”Tell me again just how.””Let’s sit down, then. No, I like the cushions best.” Hestretched himself in a long willow chair, and she curled up ona heap of boat-cushions and leaned her head against his knee.
Just above her, when she lifted her lids, she saw bits ofmoonflooded sky incrusted like silver in a sharp blackpatterning of plane-boughs. All about them breathed of peaceand beauty and stability, and her happiness was so acute that itwas almost a relief to remember the stormy background of billsand borrowing against which its frail structure had been reared.
”People with a balance can’t be as happy as all this,” Susymused, letting the moonlight filter through her lazy lashes.
People with a balance had always been Susy Branch’s bugbear;they were still, and more dangerously, to be Susy Lansing’s.
She detested them, detested them doubly, as the natural enemiesof mankind and as the people one always had to put one’s selfout for. The greater part of her life having been passed amongthem, she knew nearly all that there was to know about them, andjudged them with the contemptuous lucidity of nearly twentyyears of dependence. But at the present moment her animositywas diminished not only by the softening effect of love but bythe fact that she had got out of those very people more–yes,ever so much more–than she and Nick, in their hours of mostreckless planning, had ever dared to hope for.
”After all, we owe them this!” she mused.
Her husband, lost in the drowsy beatitude of the hour, had notrepeated his question; but she was still on the trail of thethought he had started. A year–yes, she was sure now thatwith a little management they could have a whole year of it!
”It” was their marriage, their being together, and away frombores and bothers, in a comradeship of which both of them hadlong ago guessed the immediate pleasure, but she at least hadnever imagined the deeper harmony.
It was at one of their earliest meetings–at one of theheterogeneous dinners that the Fred Gillows tried to think”literary”–that the young man who chanced to sit next to her,and of whom it was vaguely rumoured that he had “written,” hadpresented himself to her imagination as the sort of luxury towhich Susy Branch, heiress, might conceivably have treatedherself as a crowning folly. Susy Branch, pauper, was fond ofpicturing how this fancied double would employ her millions: itwas one of her chief grievances against her rich friends thatthey disposed of theirs so unimaginatively.
”I’d rather have a husband like that than a steam-yacht!” shehad thought at the end of her talk with the young man who hadwritten, and as to whom it had at once been clear to her thatnothing his pen had produced, or might hereafter set down, wouldput him in a position to offer his wife anything more costlythan a row-boat.
”His wife! As if he could ever have one! For he’s not the kindto marry for a yacht either.” In spite of her past, Susy hadpreserved enough inner independence to detect the latent signsof it in others, and also to ascribe it impulsively to those ofthe opposite sex who happened to interest her. She had anatural contempt for people who gloried in what they need onlyhave endured. She herself meant eventually to marry, becauseone couldn’t forever hang on to rich people; but she was goingto wait till she found some one who combined the maximum ofwealth with at least a minimum of companionableness.
She had at once perceived young Lansing’s case to be exactly theopposite: he was as poor as he could be, and as companionableas it was possible to imagine. She therefore decided to see asmuch of him as her hurried and entangled life permitted; andthis, thanks to a series of adroit adjustments, turned out to bea good deal. They met frequently all the rest of that winter;so frequently that Mrs. Fred Gillow one day abruptly and sharplygave Susy to understand that she was “making herselfridiculous.””Ah–” said Susy with a long breath, looking her friend andpatroness straight in the painted eyes.
”Yes,” cried Ursula Gillow in a sob, “before you interfered Nickliked me awfully … and, of course, I don’t want to reproachyou … but when I think ….”Susy made no answer. How could she, when she thought? Thedress she had on had been given her by Ursula; Ursula’s motorhad carried her to the feast from which they were bothreturning. She counted on spending the following August withthe Gillows at Newport … and the only alternative was to go toCalifornia with the Bockheimers, whom she had hitherto refusedeven to dine with.
”Of course, what you fancy is perfect nonsense, Ursula; and asto my interfering–” Susy hesitated, and then murmured: “But ifit will make you any happier I’ll arrange to see him lessoften ….” She sounded the lowest depths of subservience inreturning Ursula’s tearful kiss ….
Susy Branch had a masculine respect for her word; and the nextday she put on her most becoming hat and sought out young Mr.
Lansing in his lodgings. She was determined to keep her promiseto Ursula; but she meant to look her best when she did it.
She knew at what time the young man was likely to be found, forhe was doing a dreary job on a popular encyclopaedia (V to X),and had told her what hours were dedicated to the hateful task.
”Oh, if only it were a novel!” she thought as she mounted hisdingy stairs; but immediately reflected that, if it were thekind that she could bear to read, it probably wouldn’t bring himin much more than his encyclopaedia. Miss Branch had herstandards in literature ….
The apartment to which Mr. Lansing admitted her was a good dealcleaner, but hardly less dingy, than his staircase. Susy,knowing him to be addicted to Oriental archaeology, had picturedhim in a bare room adorned by a single Chinese bronze offlawless shape, or by some precious fragment of Asiatic pottery.
But such redeeming features were conspicuously absent, and noattempt had been made to disguise the decent indigence of thebed-sitting-room.
Lansing welcomed his visitor with every sign of pleasure, andwith apparent indifference as to what she thought of hisfurniture. He seemed to be conscious only of his luck in seeingher on a day when they had not expected to meet. This made Susyall the sorrier to execute her promise, and the gladder that shehad put on her prettiest hat; and for a moment or two she lookedat him in silence from under its conniving brim.
Warm as their mutual liking was, Lansing had never said a wordof love to her; but this was no deterrent to his visitor, whosehabit it was to speak her meaning clearly when there were noreasons, worldly or pecuniary, for its concealment. After amoment, therefore, she told him why she had come; it was anuisance, of course, but he would understand. Ursula Gillow wasjealous, and they would have to give up seeing each other.
The young man’s burst of laughter was music to her; for, afterall, she had been rather afraid that being devoted to Ursulamight be as much in his day’s work as doing the encyclopaedia.
”But I give you my word it’s a raving-mad mistake! And I don’tbelieve she ever meant me, to begin with–” he protested; butSusy, her common-sense returning with her reassurance, promptlycut short his denial.
”You can trust Ursula to make herself clear on such occasions.
And it doesn’t make any difference what you think. All thatmatters is what she believes.””Oh, come! I’ve got a word to say about that too, haven’t I?”Susy looked slowly and consideringly about the room. There wasnothing in it, absolutely nothing, to show that he had
tiffany australia online sale
hore to shore.