When she came again to the studio, she was different,
subdued, evading, avoiding, smiling a little in her flushed diffidence
at his gay ease of manner--or assumption of both ease and gaiety.
He was inclined to rally her, tease her, but her reticence was not all
embarrassment. The lightest contact, the slightest caress from him, added
a seriousness to her face, making it very lovely under its heightened color,
and strangely childlike.
Model and master they would have remained no longer had it been for him
to say, he desiring now to make it a favor and concession on her part to
aid him professionally, she gravely insisting on professionalism as the
basis of whatever entente might develop between them, as well as the only
avowed excuse for her presence there alone with him.
"Please. It's respectable," she insisted her agreeable, modulated
voice. "I had rather the reason for my coming here be business--whatever
"What has happened," he said, balancing a handful of wet clay in one hand
and looking laughingly up at her, where she stood on the model-stand, "is
that a pretty girl strolled in here one day and held up a mirror to a solemn
ass who was stalking theatrically through life. That solemn ass is very
grateful for the glimpse he had of himself. He behaved gratefully, didn't
"Very," she said with a forced smile.
"Do you object to the manner in which he expressed his gratitude?"
She hung her head.
"No," she said.
After a while she raised her eyes, her head still lowered. He was
working, darkly absorbed as usual in the plastic mass under his fingers.
She watched him curiously, not his hands, now, but his lean, intent face,
striving to penetrate that masculine mask, trying to understand. Varying
and odd reflections and emotions possessed her in turn, and passed--wonder,
bewilderment at herself, at him; a slight sense of fear, then a brief and
sudden access of shyness, succeeded by the by glow of an emotion new and
strange and deep. And this, in turn, by vague bewilderment again, in which
there was both a hint of fear, and a tinge of something exquisite.
Within herself she was dimly conscious that a certain gaiety, an irresponsibility
and lightness had died out in her, perhaps permanently, yet leaving no
void. What it was that replaced these she could not name--she only was
conscious that if these had been subdued by a newer knowledge, with a newer
seriousness, this unaccustomed gravity had left her heart no less tender,
and had deepened her capacity for emotion to depths as profound and unexplored
as the sudden mystery of their discovery by herself.
Always, now, while she posed, she was looking at him with a still intentness,
as though he really wore a mask and she, breathlessly vigilant, watched
for the moment when he might forget and lift it.
But during the weeks that followed, if the mask were indeed only the steady
preoccupation that his visage wore, she seemed to learn nothing more about
him when his features lost their dark absorption and he caught her eye
and smiled. No, the smile revealed nothing except another mask under the
more serious cast of concentration--only another disguise that covered
whatever this man might truly be deeper down--this masculine and unknown
invader of frontiers surrendered ere she had understood they were even
And during these weeks in early spring their characteristics, even characters,
seemed to have shifted curiously and become reversed; his was now the light,
irresponsible, half-mocking badinage--almost boyishly boisterous at times,
as, for instance, when he stepped forward after the pose and swung her
laughingly from the model-platform to her corner on the sofa.
"You pretty and clever little thing," he said, "why are you becoming so
serious and absent-minded?"
"Am I becoming so?"
"You are. You oughtn't to: you've made a new and completely different
man of me."
As though that were an admirable achievement, or even of any particular
importance. And yet she seemed to think it was both of these when, resting
against him, within the circle of his arm, still shy and silent under the
breathless poignancy of an emotion which ever seemed to sound within her
But when he said that she had made a new and completely different man of
him, she remembered his low-voiced when that change impended as he held
her by her wrists a moment, then dropped them. He had said, half to himself:
"You should have let me alone!"
Sometimes at noon she remembered this when they went out for luncheon realizing
they would never have been seated together in a restaurant had she not
satisfied her curiosity. She should have let him alone; she knew that.
She tried to wish that she had--tried to regret everything, anything; and
could not, even when within her the faint sense of alarm awoke amid the
softly unchangeable unreality of these last six weeks of spring.
Was this then really love?--this drifting through alternating dreams of
shyness, tenderness, suspense, pierced at moments by tiny flashes of fear,
as lightning flickers, far buried in softly shrouded depths of cloud?
She had long periods of silent and absorbed dreaming, conscious only that
she dreamed, but not of the dream itself.
She was aware, too, of a curious loneliness within her, and dimly understood
that it was the companion of a lifetime she was missing--her conscience.
Where was it? Had it gone? Had it died? Were the little, inexplicable flashes
of fear proof of its disintegration? Or its immortal vitality?
Dead, dormant, departed, she knew not which, she was dully aware of its
loss--dimly and childishly troubled that she could remember nothing to
be sorry for. And there was so much.
Men in his profession who knew him began to look askance at him and her,
amused or otherwise, according to their individual characters.
That Cecile White went about more or less with the sculptor Drene was a
nine days' gossip among circles familiar to them both, and was forgotten--as
are all wonders--in nine days.
Some of his acquaintances recalled what had been supposed to be the tragedy
of his life, mentioning a woman's name, and a man's--Drene's closest friend.
But gossip does not last long among the busy--not that the busy are incapable
of gossip, but they finish with it quickly, having other matters to think
Even Quair, after recovering from his wonder that his own condescending
advances had been ignored, bestowed his fatuously inflammable attentions
He had been inclined to complain one day in the studio, when he and Guilder
visited Drene professionally; and Guilder looked at his dapper confrere
in surprise and slight disgust; and Drene, at first bored, grew irritable.
"What are you talking about?" he said sharply.
"I'm talking about Cecile White," continued Quair, looking rather oddly
at the sculptor out of his slightly prominent eyes. "I didn't suppose you
could be interested in any woman--not that I mind your interfering with
any little affair between Cecile and me--"
"There wasn't any."
"I beg your pardon, Drene--"
"There wasn't any!" repeated Drene, with curt contempt. "Don't talk
about her, anyway."
"You mean I'm not to talk about a common artist's model--"
"Not that way."
"Oh. Is she yours?"
"She isn't anybody's, I fancy. Therefore, let her alone, or I'll
throw you out of doors."
Quair said to Guilder after they had departed:
"Fancy old Drene playing about with that girl on a strictly pious basis!
He's doubtless dub enough to waste his time. But what's in it for her?"
"Perhaps a little unaccustomed masculine decency."
"Everybody is decent enough to her as far as I know."
"Certainly, including myself," retorted Quair, adding naively: "Besides,
I knew any attempt at philandering would be time wasted."
"Yet you tried it," mused Guilder, entering his big touring car and depositing
a bundle of blue-prints and linen tracing paper at his own ponderous feet.
Quair followed him and spoke briefly to the chauffeur, then:
"Tried nothing," he said. "A little chaff, that's all. When
it comes to a man like Jack Graylock going so far as to ask her to marry
him, good night, nurse! Nothing doing, even for me."
"Even for you," repeated Guilder in his moderate and always modulated voice.
"Well, if she's escaped you and Graylock, she's beyond any danger from
Drene, I fancy."
Quair smiled appreciatively, as though a delicate compliment had been offered
him. Several times on the way to call on Graylock he insisted on stopping
the car at as many celebrated cafes. Guilder patiently awaited him in the
car and each time Quair emerged from the cafe bar a little more flushed
and a trifle jauntier than when he had entered.
He was a man so perfectly attired and so scrupulously fastidious about
his person that Guilder often speculated as to just why Quair always seemed
to him a trifle soiled.
Now, looking him over as he climbed into the car, unusually red in the
face, breathing out the aroma of spirits through his little, pinched nostrils,
a faint sensation of disgust came over the senior member of the firm as
though the junior member were physically unclean.
"That's about ten drinks since luncheon," he remarked, as the car rolled
on down Fifth Avenue.
Quair, who usually grew disagreeably familiar when mellow, poked his gloved
"You're a merry old cock, aren't you?" he inquired genially, "--like a
pig's wrist! If I hadn't the drinking of the entire firm to do, who'd ever
talk about Guilder and Quair, architects?"
It was common rumor that Quair did his brilliant work only when "soused."
And he never appeared to be perfectly sober, even when he was.
Graylock received them in his office--a big, reckless-eyed, handsome man,
with Broad Street written all over him and "danger" etched in every deepened
line of his face.
"Well, how about that business of mine?" he inquired. "It's all right
to keep me waiting, of course, while you and Quair here match for highballs
at the Ritz."
"I had to see Drene--that's why we are late," explained Guilder.
"We're ready to go ahead and let your contracts for you--"
"Drene?" interrupted Graylock, looking straight at Guilder with a curious
and staring intensity. "Why drag Drene into an excuse?"
"Because we went to his studio," said Guilder. "Now about letting
"Were you at Drene's studio?"
"Yes. He's doing the groups for the new opera for us."
Quair, watching Graylock, was seized with a malicious impulse:
"Neat little skirt he has up there--that White girl," he remarked, seating
himself on Graylock's polished table.
A dull flush stained Graylock's cheekbones, and his keen eyes turned on
Quair. The latter lighted a cigarette, expelled the smoke in two thin streams
from his abnormally narrow nostrils.
"Some skirt," he repeated. "And it looks as though old Drene had
Guilder's level voice interrupted:
"The contracts are ready to be--"
But Graylock, not heeding, and perhaps not hearing, and looking all the
time at Quair, said slowly:
"Drene isn't that kind. . . . Is he?"
"Our kind, you mean?" inquired Quair, with a malice so buried under flippancy
that the deliberate effrontery passed for it with Graylock. Which amused
Quair for a moment, but the satisfaction was not sufficient. He desired
that Graylock should feel the gaff.
"Drene," he said, "is one of those fussers who jellify when hurled on their
necks--the kind that ask that kind of girl to marry them after she's turned
down everything else they suggest."
Graylock's square jaw tightened and his steady eyes seemed to grow even
paler; but Quair, as though perfectly unconscious of this man's record
with the wife of his closest friend, and of the rumors which connected
him so seriously with Cecile White, swung his leg unconcernedly, where
it dangled over the table's edge, and smiled frankly and knowingly upon
"There's always somebody to marry that sort of girl; all mush isn't on
the breakfast table. When you and I are ready to quit, Graylock, Providence
has created a species of man who settles our bills."
He threw back his head, inhaled the smoke of his cigarette, sent two thin
streams through his nose.
"Maybe Drene may marry her himself. But--I don't believe he'll have
to. . . . Now, about those contracts--" he affected a yawn, "--go on and
tell him, Guilder," he added, his words distorted by another yawn.
He stepped down to the floor from his perch on the table, stretched his
arms, looking affably all the while at Graylock, who had never moved a
"I believe you had a run-in with that Cecile girl once, didn't you, Graylock?
Like the rest of us, eh? Oh, well--my hat off to old Drene if he wins out.
I hold no malice. After all, Graylock, what's a woman between friends?"
And he nodded gaily at Graylock and sauntered leisurely to the window.
And kept his back turned, fearful of exploding with laughter in the very
face of the man who had been staring at him out of pale, unchanging eyes
so steadily and so long.
Guilder's patient, bored, but moderate voice was raised once more:
"In regard to the letting of these contracts--"
But Graylock, staring at Quair's back, neither heeded nor heard him, for
his brain was still ringing with the mockery of Quair's words--"What is
a woman between friends?" And now, for the first time, he was beginning
to understand what the answer might be.