“Travelling, sir,” a curt parlour-maid announced from Mrs. Donald Paul’s threshold in Kensington; adding, as young Willis French’s glance slipped over her shoulder down a narrow and somewhat conventional perspective of white panelling and black prints: “If there’s any message you’d like to write” —
He did not know if there were or not; but he instantly saw that his hesitation would hold the house-door open a minute longer, and thus give him more time to stamp on his memory the details of the cramped London hall, beyond which there seemed no present hope of penetrating.
“Could you tell me where?” he asked, in a tone implying that the question of his having something to write might be determined by the nature of the answer.
The parlour-maid scrutinized him more carefully. “Not exactly, sir: Mr. and Mrs. Paul are away motoring, and I believe they’re to cross over to the continent in a day or two.” She seemed to have gathered confidence from another look at him, and he was glad he had waited to unpack his town clothes, instead of rushing, as he had first thought of doing, straight from the steamer train to the house. “If it’s for something important, I could give you the address,” she finally condescended, apparently reassured by her inspection.
“It is important,” said the young man almost solemnly; and she handed him a sheet of gold-monogrammed note-paper across which was tumbled, in large loose characters: “Hotel Nouveau Luxe, Paris.”
The unexpectedness of the address left Willis French staring. There was nothing to excite surprise in the fact of the Donald Pauls having gone to Paris; or even in their having gone there in their motor; but that they should be lodged at the Nouveau Luxe seemed to sap the very base of probability.
“Are you sure they’re staying there?”
To the parlour-maid, at this point, it evidently began to look as if, in spite of his reassuring clothes, the caller might have designs on the umbrellas.
“I couldn’t say, sir. It’s the address, sir,” she returned, adroitly taking her precautions about the door.
These were not lost on the visitor, who, both to tranquillize her and to gain time, turned back toward the quiet Kensington street and stood gazing doubtfully up and down its uneventful length.
All things considered, he had no cause to regret the turn the affair had taken; the only regret he allowed himself was that of not being able instantly to cross the threshold hallowed by his young enthusiasm. But even that privilege might soon be his; and meanwhile he was to have the unforeseen good luck of following Mrs. Donald Paul to Paris. His business in coming to Europe had been simply and solely to see the Donald Pauls; and had they been in London he would have been obliged, their conference over, to return at once to New York, whence he had been sent, at his publisher’s expense, to obtain from Mrs. Paul certain details necessary for the completion of his book: The Art of Horace Fingall. And now, by a turn of what he fondly called his luck — as if no one else’s had ever been quite as rare — he found his vacation prolonged, and his prospect of enjoyment increased, by the failure to meet the lady in London.
Willis French had more than once had occasion to remark that he owed some of his luckiest moments to his failures. He had tried his hand at several of the arts, only to find, in each case, the same impassable gulf between vision and execution; but his ill-success, which he always promptly recognized, had left him leisure to note and enjoy all the incidental compensations of the attempt. And how great some of these compensations were, he had never more keenly felt than on the day when two of the greatest came back to him merged in one glorious opportunity.
It was probable, for example, that if he had drawn a directer profit from his months of study in a certain famous Parisian atelier, his labours would have left him less time in which to observe and study Horace Fingall, on the days when the great painter made his round among the students; just as, if he had written better poetry, Mrs. Morland, with whom his old friend Lady Brankhurst had once contrived to have him spend a Sunday in the country, might have given him, during their long confidential talk, less of her sweet compassion and her bracing wisdom. Both Horace Fingall and Emily Morland had, professionally speaking, discouraged their young disciple; the one had said “don’t write” as decidedly as the other had said “don’t paint”; but both had let him feel that interesting failures may be worth more in the end than dull successes, and that there is range enough for the artistic sensibilities outside the region of production. The fact of the young man’s taking their criticism without flinching (as he himself had been thankfully aware of doing) no doubt increased their liking, and thus let him farther into their intimacy. The insight into two such natures seemed, even at the moment, to outweigh any personal success within his reach; and as time removed him from the experience he had less and less occasion to question the completeness of the compensation.
Since then, as it happened, his two great initiators had died within a few months of each other, Emily Morland prematurely, and at the moment when her exquisite art was gaining new warmth from the personal happiness at last opening to her, and Horace Fingall in his late golden prime, when his genius also seemed to be winged for new flights. Except for the nearness of the two death dates, there was nothing to bring together in the public mind the figures of the painter and the poet, and Willis French’s two experiences remained associated in his thoughts only because they had been the greatest revelations of temperament he had ever known. No one but Emily Morland had ever renewed in him that sense of being in the presence of greatness that he had first felt on meeting Horace Fingall. He had often wondered if the only two beings to whom he owed this emotion had ever known each other, and he had concluded that, even in this day of universal meetings, it was unlikely. Fingall, after leaving the United States for Paris toward his fortieth year, had never absented himself from France except on short occasional visits to his native country; and Mrs. Morland, when she at last broke away from her depressing isolation in a Staffordshire parsonage, and set up her own house in London, had been drawn from there only by one or two holiday journeys in Italy. Nothing, moreover, could have been more unlike than the mental quality and the general attitude of the two artists. The only point of resemblance between them lay in the effect they produced of the divine emanation of genius. Willis French’s speculations as to the result of a meeting between them had always resulted in the belief that they would not have got on. The two emanations would have neutralized each other, and he suspected that both natures lacked the complementary qualities which might have bridged the gulf between them. And now chance had after all linked their names before posterity, through the fact that the widow of the one had married the man who had been betrothed to the other! . . .
French’s brief glimpses of Fingall and Mrs. Morland had left in him an intense curiosity to know something more of their personal history, and when his publisher had suggested his writing a book on the painter his first thought had been that here was an occasion to obtain the desired light, and to obtain it, at one stroke, through the woman who had been the preponderating influence in Fingall’s art, and the man for whom Emily Morland had written her greatest poems.
That Donald Paul should have met and married the widow of Horace Fingall was one of the facts on which young French’s imagination had always most appreciatively dwelt. It was strange indeed that these two custodians of great memories, for both of whom any other marriage would have been a derogation, should have found the one way of remaining on the heights; and it was almost equally strange that their inspiration should turn out to be Willis French’s opportunity!
At the very outset, the wonder of it was brought home to him by his having to ask for Mrs. Paul at what had once been Mrs. Morland’s house. Mrs. Morland had of course bequeathed the house to Donald Paul; and equally of course it was there that, on his marriage to Mrs. Fingall, Donald Paul had taken his wife. If that wife had been any other, the thought would have been one to shrink from; but to French’s mind no threshold was too sacred for the feet of Horace Fingall’s widow.
Musing on these things as he glanced up and down the quiet street, the young man, with his sharp professional instinct for missing no chance that delay might cancel, wondered how, before turning from the door, he might get a glimpse of the house which was still — which, in spite of everything, would always be — Emily Morland’s.
“You were not thinking of looking at the house, sir?”
French turned back with a start of joy. “Why, yes — I was!” he said instantly.
The parlour-maid opened the door a little wider. “Of course, properly speaking, you should have a card from the agent; but Mrs. Paul did say, if anyone was very anxious — May I ask, sir, if you know Mrs. Paul?”
The young man lowered his voice reverentially to answer: “No; but I knew Mrs. Morland.”
The parlour-maid looked as if he had misunderstood her question. After a moment’s thought she replied: “I don’t think I recall the name.”
They gazed at each other across incalculable distances, and Willis French found no reply. “What on earth can she suppose I want to see the house for?” he could only wonder.
Her next question told him. “If it’s very urgent, sir — ” another glance at the cut of his coat seemed to strengthen her, and she moved back far enough to let him get a foot across the threshold. “Would it be to hire or to buy?”
Again they stared at each other till French saw his own wonder reflected in the servant’s doubtful face; then the truth came to him in a rush. The house was not being shown to him because it had once been Emily Morland’s and he had been recognized as a pilgrim to the shrine of genius, but because it was Mrs. Donald Paul’s and he had been taken for a possible purchaser!
All his disenchantment rose to his lips; but it was checked there by the leap of prudence. He saw that if he showed his wonder he might lose his chance.
“Oh, it would be to buy!” he said; for, though the mere thought of hiring was a desecration, few things would have seemed more possible to him, had his fortune been on the scale of his enthusiasm, than to become the permanent custodian of the house.
The feeling threw such conviction into his words that the parlour-maid yielded another step.
“The drawing-room is this way,” she said as he bared his head.
It was odd how, as he paced up and down the Embankment late that evening, musing over the vision vouchsafed him, one detail continued to detach itself with discordant sharpness from the harmonious blur.
The parlour-maid who had never heard of Mrs. Morland, and who consequently could not know that the house had ever been hers, had naturally enough explained it to him in terms of its new owners’ habits. French’s imagination had so promptly anticipated this that he had, almost without a shock, heard Mrs. Morland’s library described as “the gentleman’s study,” and marked how an upstairs sitting-room with faded Venetian furniture and rows of old books in golden-brown calf had been turned, by the intrusion of a large pink toilet-table, into “the lady’s dressing-room, sir.” It did not offend him that the dwelling should he used as suited the convenience of the persons who lived in it; he was never for expecting life to stop, and the Historic House which has been turned into a show had always seemed to him as dead as a blown egg. He had small patience with the kind of reverence which treats fine things as if their fineness made them useless. Nothing, he thought, was too fine for natural uses, nothing in life too good for life; he liked the absent and unknown Donald Pauls the better for living naturally in this house which had come to them naturally, and not shrinking into the mere keepers of a shrine. But he had winced at just one thing: at seeing there, on the writing-table which had once been Emily Morland’s, and must still, he quickly noted, be much as she had left it — at seeing there, among pens and pencils and ink-stained paper-cutters, halfway between a lacquer cup full of elastic bands and a blotting-book with her initials on it, one solitary object of irrelevant newness: an immense expensively framed photograph of Fingall’s picture of his wife.
The portrait — the famous first one, now in the Luxembourg — was so beautiful, and so expressive of what lovers of Fingall’s art most loved in it, that Willis French was grieved to see it so indelicately and almost insolently out of place. If ever a thing of beauty can give offence, Mrs. Fingall’s portrait on Emily Morland’s writing-table gave offence. Its presence there shook down all manner of French’s faiths. There was something shockingly crude in the way it made the woman in possession triumph over the woman who was gone.
It would have been different, he felt at once, if Mrs. Morland had lived long enough to marry the man she loved; then the dead and the living woman would have faced each other on an equality. But Mrs. Morland, to secure her two brief years of happiness, had had to defy conventions and endure affronts. When, breaking away from the unhappy conditions of her married life, she had at last won London and freedom, it was only to learn that the Reverend Ambrose Morland, informed of her desire to remarry, and of his indisputable right to divorce her, found himself, on religious grounds, unable to set her free. From this situation she sought no sensational escape. Perhaps because the man she loved was younger than herself, she chose to make no open claim on him, to place no lien on his future; she simply let it be known to their few nearest friends that he and she belonged to each other as completely as a man and woman of active minds and complex interests can ever belong to each other when such life as they live together must be lived in secret. To a woman like Mrs. Morland the situation could not be other than difficult and unsatisfying. If her personal distinction saved her from social slights it could not save her from social subserviences. Never once, in the short course of her love-history, had she been able to declare her happiness openly, or to let it reveal itself in her conduct; and it seemed, as one considered her case, small solace to remember that some of her most moving verse was the expression of that very privation.
At last her husband’s death had freed her, and her coming marriage to Donald Paul been announced; but her own health had already failed, and a few weeks later she too was dead, and Donald Paul lost in the crowd about her grave, behind the Morland relations who, rather generously as people thought, came up from Staffordshire for the funeral of the woman who had brought scandal and glory to their name.
So, tragically and inarticulately, Emily Morland’s life had gone out; and now, in the house where she and her lover had spent their short secret hours, on the very table at which she had sat and imperishably written down her love, he had put the portrait of the other woman, her successor; the woman to whom had been given the one great thing she had lacked . . .
Well, that was life too, French supposed: the ceaseless ruthless turning of the wheel! If only — yes, here was where the real pang lay — if only the supplanting face had not been so different from the face supplanted! Standing there before Mrs. Fingall’s image, how could he not recall his first sight of Emily Morland, how not feel again the sudden drop of all his expectations when the one woman he had not noticed on entering Lady Brankhurst’s drawing-room, the sallow woman with dull hair and a dowdy dress, had turned out to be his immortal? Afterward, of course, when she began to talk, and he was let into the deep world of her eyes, her face became as satisfying as some grave early sculpture which, the imagination once touched by it, makes more finished graces trivial. But there remained the fact that she was what is called plain, and that her successor was beautiful; and it hurt him to see that perfect face, so all-expressive and all-satisfying, in the very spot where Emily Morland, to make her beauty visible, had had to clothe it in poetry. What would she not have given, French wondered, just once to let her face speak for her instead?
The sense of injustice was so strong in him that when he returned to his hotel he went at once to his portmanteau and, pulling out Mrs. Morland’s last volume, sat down to reread the famous love-sonnets. It was as if he wanted to make up to her for the slight of which he had been the unwilling witness . . .
The next day, when he set out for France, his mood had changed. After all, Mrs. Morland had had her compensations. She had been inspired, which, on the whole, is more worth while than to inspire. And then his own adventure was almost in his grasp; and he was at the age when each moment seems to stretch out to the horizon.
The day was fine, and as he sat on the deck of the steamer watching the white cliffs fade, the thought of Mrs. Morland was displaced by the vision of her successor. He recalled the day when Mrs. Fingall had first looked out at him from her husband’s famous portrait of her, so frail, so pale under the gloom and glory of her hair, and he had been told how the sight of her had suddenly drawn the painter’s genius from its long eclipse. Fingall had found her among the art students of one of the Parisian studios which he fitfully inspected, had rescued her from financial difficulties and married her within a few weeks of their meeting: French had had the tale from Lady Brankhurst, who was an encyclopaedia of illustrious biographies.
“Poor little Bessy Reck — a little American waif sent out from some prairie burrow to ‘learn art’ — that was literally how she expressed it! She hadn’t a relation of her own, I believe: the people of the place she came from had taken pity on her and scraped together enough money for her passage and for two years of the Latin Quarter. After that she was to live on the sale of her pictures! And suddenly she met Fingall, and found out what she was really made for.”
So far Lady Brankhurst had been satisfying, as she always was when she trod on solid fact. But she never knew anything about her friends except what had happened to them, and when questioned as to what Mrs. Fingall was really like she became vague and slightly irritable.
“Oh, well, he transformed her, of course: for one thing he made her do her hair differently. Imagine; she used to puff it out over her forehead! And when we went to the studio she was always dressed in the most marvellous Eastern things. Fingall drank cups and cups of Turkish coffee, and she learned to make it herself — it is better, of course, but so messy to make The studio was full of Siamese cats. It was somewhere over near the Luxembourg — very picturesque, but one did smell the drains. I used always to take my salts with me; and the stairs were pitch-black.” That was all.
But from her very omissions French had constructed the vision of something too fine and imponderable not to escape Lady Brankhurst, and had rejoiced in the thought that, of what must have been the most complete of blisses, hardly anything was exposed to crude comment but the stairs which led to it.
Of Donald Paul he had been able to learn even less, though Lady Brankhurst had so many more facts to give. Donald Paul’s life lay open for everybody in London to read. He had been first a “dear boy,” with a large and eminently respectable family connection, and then a not especially rising young barrister, who occupied his briefless leisure by occasionally writing things for the reviews. He had written an article about Mrs. Morland, and when, soon afterward, he happened to meet her, he had suddenly realized that he hadn’t understood her poetry in the least, and had told her so and written another article — under her guidance, the malicious whispered, and boundlessly enthusiastic, of course; people said it was that which had made her fall in love with him. But Lady Brankhurst thought it was more likely to have been his looks — with which French, on general principles, was inclined to agree. “What sort of looks?” he asked. “Oh, like an old picture, you know”; and at that shadowy stage of development the image of Donald Paul had hung. French, in spite of an extensive search, had not even been able to find out where the fateful articles on Mrs. Morland’s verse had been published; and light on that point was one of the many lesser results he now hoped for.
Meanwhile, settled in his chair on deck, he was so busy elaborating his own picture of the couple he was hastening to that he hardly noticed the slim figure of a traveller with a sallow keen face and small dark beard who hovered near, as if for recognition.
“Andre Jolyesse — you don’t remember me?” the gentleman at length reminded him in beautifully correct English; and French woke to the fact that it was of course Jolyesse, the eminent international portrait painter, whose expensively gloved hand he was shaking.
“We crossed together on the Gothic the last time I went to the States,” Monsieur Jolyesse reminded him, “and you were so amiable as to introduce me to several charming persons who added greatly to the enjoyment of my visit.”
“Of course, of course,” French assented; and seeing that the painter was in need of a listener, the young man reluctantly lifted his rugs from the next chair.
It was because Jolyesse, on the steamer, had been so shamelessly in quest of an article that French, to escape his importunities, had passed him on to the charming persons referred to; and if he again hung about in this way, and recalled himself, it was doubtless for a similarly shameless purpose. But French was more than ever steeled against the celebrating of such art as that of Jolyesse; and, to cut off a possible renewal of the request, he managed — in answer to a question as to what he was doing with himself — to mention casually that he had abandoned art criticism for the writing of books.
The portrait painter was far too polite to let his attention visibly drop at this announcement; too polite, even, not to ask with a show of interest if he might know the subject of the work Mr. French was at the moment engaged on.
“Horace Fingall — bigre!” he murmured, as if the aridity of the task impressed him while it provoked his pity. “Fingall — Fingall — ” he repeated, his incredulous face smilingly turned to French, while he drew a cigarette from a gold case as flat as an envelope.
French gave back the smile. It delighted him, it gave him a new sense of the importance of his task, to know that Jolyesse, in spite of Fingall’s posthumous leap to fame, still took that view of him. And then, with a start of wonder, the young man remembered that the two men must have known each other, that they must have had at least casual encounters in the crowded promiscuous life of the painters’ Paris. The possibility was so rich in humour that he was moved to question his companion.
“You must have come across Fingall now and then, I suppose?”
Monsieur Jolyesse shrugged his shoulders. “Not for years. He was a savage — he had no sense of solidarity. And envious —!” The artist waved the ringed hand that held his cigarette. “Could one help it if one sold more pictures than he did? But it was gall and worm-wood to him, poor devil. Of course he sells now — tremendously high, I believe. But that’s what happens: when an unsuccessful man dies, the dealers seize on him and make him, a factitious reputation. Only it doesn’t last. You’d better make haste to finish your book; that sort of celebrity collapses like a soap-bubble. Forgive me,” he added, with a touch of studied compunction, “for speaking in this way of your compatriot. Fingall had aptitudes — immense, no doubt — but no technique, and no sense of beauty; none whatever.”
French, rejoicing, let the commentary flow on; he even felt the need to stimulate its flow.
“But how about his portrait of his wife — you must know it?”
Jolyesse flung away his cigarette to lift his hands in protest. “That consumptive witch in the Luxembourg? Ah, mais non! She looks like a vegetarian vampire. Voyez vous, si l’on a beaucoup aimé les femmes — ” the painter’s smile was evidently intended to justify his championship of female loveliness. He puffed away the subject with his cigarette smoke, and turned to glance down the deck. “There — by Jove, that’s what I call a handsome woman! Over there, with the sable cloak and the brand new travelling-bags. A honeymoon outfit, hein? If your poor Fin-gall had had the luck to do that kind —! I’d like the chance myself.”
French, following his glance, saw that it rested on a tall and extremely elegant young woman who was just settling herself in a deck-chair with the assistance of an attentive maid and a hovering steward: A young man, of equal height and almost superior elegance, strolled up to tuck a rug over her shining boot-tips before seating himself at her side; and French had to own that, at least as a moment’s ornament, the lady was worth all the trouble spent on her. She seemed, in truth, framed by nature to bloom from one of Monsieur Jolyesse’s canvases, so completely did she embody the kind of beauty it was his mission to immortalize. It was annoying that eyes like forest-pools and a mouth like a tropical flower should so fit into that particular type; but then the object of Monsieur Jolyesse’s admiration had the air of wearing her features, like her clothes, simply because they were the latest fashion, and not because they were a part of her being. Her inner state was probably a much less complicated affair than her lovely exterior: it was a state, French guessed, of easy apathetic good-humour, galvanized by the occasional need of a cigarette, and by a gentle enjoyment of her companion’s conversation. French had wondered, since his childhood, what the Olympian lovers in fashion-plates found to say to each other. Now he knew. They said (he strolled nearer to the couple to catch it): “Did you wire about reserving a compartment?”; and “I haven’t seen my golf-clubs since we came on board”: and “I do hope Marshall’s brought enough of that new stuff for my face,” — and lastly, after a dreamy pause: “I know Gwen gave me a book to read when we started, but I can’t think where on earth I’ve put it.”
It was odd too that, handsome and young as they still were (both well on the warm side of forty), this striking couple were curiously undefinably old-fashioned — in just the same way as Jolyesse’s art. They belonged, for all their up-to-date attire, to a period before the triumph of the slack and the slouching: it was as if their elegance had pined too long in the bud, and its belated flowering had a tinge of staleness.
French mused on these things while he listened to Jolyesse’s guesses as to the class and nationality of the couple, and finally, in answer to the insistent question: “But where do you think they come from?” replied a little impatiently: “Oh, from the rue de la Paix, of course!” He was tired of the subject, and of his companion, and wanted to get back to his thoughts of Horace Fingall.
“Ah, I hope so — then I may run across them yet!” Jolyesse, as he gathered up his bags, shot a last glance at the beauty. “I’ll haunt the dressmakers till I find her — she looks as if she spent most of her time with them. And the young man evidently refuses her nothing. You’ll see, I’ll have her in the next Salon!” He turned back to add: “She might be a compatriot of yours. Women who look as if they came out of the depths of history usually turn out to be from your newest Territory. If you run across her, do say a good word for me. My full lengths are fifty thousand francs now — to Americans.”
All that first evening in Paris the vision of his book grew and grew in French’s mind. Much as he loved the great city, nothing it could give him was comparable, at that particular hour, to the rapture of his complete withdrawal from it into the sanctuary of his own thoughts. The very next day he was to see Horace Fingall’s widow, and perhaps to put his finger on the clue to the labyrinth: that mysterious tormenting question of the relation between the creative artist’s personal experience and its ideal expression. He was to try to guess how much of Mrs. Fingall, beside her features, had passed into her husband’s painting; and merely to ponder on that opportunity was to plunge himself into the heart of his subject. Fingall’s art had at last received recognition, genuine from the few, but mainly, no doubt, inspired by the motives to which Jolyesse had sneeringly alluded; and, intolerable as it was to French to think that snobbishness and cupidity were the chief elements in the general acclamation of his idol, he could not forget that he owed to these baser ingredients the chance to utter his own panegyric. It was because the vulgar herd at last wanted to know what to say when it heard Fingall mentioned that Willis French was to be allowed to tell them; such was the base rubble the Temple of Fame was built of! Yes, but future generations would enrich its face with lasting marbles; and it was to be French’s privilege to put the first slab in place.
The young man, thus brooding, lost himself in the alluring and perplexing alternatives of his plan. The particular way of dealing with a man’s art depended, of course, so much on its relation to his private life, and on the chance of a real insight into that. Fingall’s life had been obdurately closed and aloof; would it be his widow’s, wish that it should remain so? Or would she understand that any serious attempt to analyse so complex and individual an art must be preceded by a reverent scrutiny of the artist’s personality? Would she, above all, understand how reverent French’s scrutiny would be, and consent, for the sake of her husband’s glory, to guide and enlighten it? Her attitude, of course, as he was nervously aware, would greatly depend on his: on his finding the right words and the convincing tone. He could almost have prayed for guidance, for some supernatural light on what to say to her! It was late that night when, turning from his open window above the throbbing city, he murmured to himself: “I wonder what on earth we shall begin by saying to each other?”
Her sitting-room at the Nouveau Luxe was empty when he was shown into it the next day, though a friendly note had assured him that she would be in by five. But he was not sorry she was late, for the room had its secrets to reveal. The most conspicuous of these was a large photograph of a handsome young man, in a frame which French instantly recognized as the mate of the one he had noticed on Mrs. Morland’s writing-table. Well — it was natural, and rather charming, that the happy couple should choose the same frame for each other’s portraits, and there was nothing offensive to Fingall’s memory in the fact of Donald Paul’s picture being the most prominent object in his wife’s drawing-room.
Only — if this were indeed Donald Paul, where had French seen him already? He was still questioning the lines of the pleasant oft-repeated face when his answer entered the room in the shape of a splendidly draped and feathered lady.
“I’m so sorry! The dressmakers are such beasts — they’ve been sticking pins in me ever since two o’clock.” She held out her hand with a click of bracelets slipping down to the slim wrist. “Donald! Do come — it’s Mr. French,” she called back over her shoulder; and the gentleman of the photograph came in after her.
The three stood looking at each other for an interval deeply momentous to French, obviously less stirring to his hosts; then Donald Paul said, in a fresh voice a good deal younger than his ingenuous middle-aged face: “We’ve met somewhere before, surely. Wasn’t it the other day at Brighton — at the Metropole?”
His wife looked at him and smiled, wrinkling her perfect brows a little in the effort to help his memory. “We go to so many hotels! I think it was at the Regina at Harrogate.” She appealed to their visitor for corroboration.
“Wasn’t it simply yesterday, on the Channel?” French suggested, the words buzzing a little in his own ears; and Mrs. Paul instantly remembered.
“Of course! How stupid of me!” Her random sweetness grew more concentrated. “You were talking to a dark man with a beard — Andre Jolyesse, wasn’t it? I told my husband it was Jolyesse. How awfully interesting that you should know him! Do sit down and let me give you some tea while you tell us all about him.”
French, as he took the cup from her hand, remembered that, a few hours earlier, he had been wondering what he and she would first say to each other.
It was dark when he walked away from the blazing front of the Nouveau Luxe. Mrs. Donald Paul had given him two generous hours, and had filled them with talk of her first husband; yet as French turned from the hotel he had the feeling that what he brought away with him had hardly added a grain to his previous, knowledge of Horace Fingall. It was perhaps because he was still too blankly bewildered — or because he had not yet found the link between what had been and what was — that he had been able to sift only so infinitesimal a residue out of Mrs. Paul’s abundance. And his first duty, plainly, if he were ever to thread a way through the tangle, was to readjust himself and try to see things from a different point of view.
His one definite impression was that Mrs. Paul was very much pleased that he should have come to Paris to see her, and acutely, though artlessly, aware of the importance of his mission. Artlessness, in fact, seemed her salient quality: there looked out of her great Sphinx-eyes a consciousness as cloudless as a child’s. But one thing he speedily discovered: she was keenly alive to her first husband’s greatness. On that point French saw that she needed no enlightenment. He was even surprised, sitting opposite to her in all the blatancy of hotel mirrors and gilding, to catch on her lips the echoes of so different a setting. But he gradually perceived that the words she used had no meaning for her save, as it were, a symbolic one: they were like the mysterious price-marks with which dealers label their treasures. She knew that her husband had been proud and isolated, that he had “painted only for himself” and had “simply despised popularity”; but she rejoiced that he was now at last receiving “the kind of recognition even he would have cared for”; and when French, at this point, interposed, with an impulse of self-vindication: “I didn’t know that, as yet, much had been written about him that he would have liked,” she opened her fathomless eyes a little wider, and answered: “Oh, but the dealers are simply fighting for his things.”
The shock was severe; but presently French rallied enough to understand that she was not moved by a spirit of cupidity, but was simply applying the only measure of greatness she knew. In Fingall’s lifetime she had learned her lesson, and no doubt repeated it correctly — her conscientious desire for correctness was disarming — but now that he was gone his teaching had got mixed with other formulas, and she was serenely persuaded that, in any art, the proof and corollary of greatness was to become a best seller. “Of course he was his own worst enemy,” she sighed. “Even when people came to buy he managed to send them away discouraged. Whereas now —!”
In the first chill of his disillusionment French thought for a moment of flight. Mrs. Paul had promised him all the documentation he required: she had met him more than half-way in her lavish fixing of hours and offering of material. But everything in him shrank from repeating the experience he had just been subjected to. What was the use of seeing her again, even though her plans included a visit to Fingall’s former studio? She had told him nothing whatever about Fingall, and she had told him only too much about herself. To do that, she had not even had to open her beautiful lips. On his way to her hotel he had stopped in at the Luxembourg, and filled his eyes again with her famous image. Everything she was said to have done for Fingall’s genius seemed to burn in the depths of that quiet face. It was like an inexhaustible reservoir of beauty, a still pool into which the imagination could perpetually dip and draw up new treasure. And now, side by side with the painter’s vision of her, hung French’s own: the vision of the too-smiling beauty set in glasses and glitter, preoccupied with dressmakers and theatre-stalls, and affirming her husband’s genius in terms of the auction room and the stock exchange!
“Oh, hang it — what can she give me? I’ll go straight back to New York,” the young man suddenly resolved. The resolve even carried him precipitately back to his hotel; but on its threshold another thought arrested him. Horace Fingall had not been the only object of his pilgrimage: he had come to Paris to learn what he could of Emily Morland too. That purpose he had naturally not avowed at the Nouveau Luxe: it was hardly the moment to confess his double quest. But the manifest friendliness of Donald Paul convinced him that there would be no difficulty in obtaining whatever enlightenment it was in the young man’s power to give. Donald Paul, at first sight, seemed hardly more expressive than his wife; but though his last avatar was one so remote from literature, at least he had once touched its borders and even worn its livery. His great romance had originated in the accident of his having written an article about its heroine; and transient and unproductive as that phase of his experience had probably been, it must have given him a sense of values more applicable than Mrs. Paul’s to French’s purpose.
Luck continued to favour him; for the next morning, as he went down the stairs of his hotel, he met Donald Paul coming up.
His visitor, fresh and handsome as his photograph, and dressed in exactly the right clothes for the hour and the occasion, held out an eager hand.
“I’m so glad — I hoped I’d catch you,” he smiled up at the descending French; and then, as if to tone down what might seem an excess of warmth, or at least make it appear the mere overflow of his natural spirits, he added: “My wife rushed me off to say how sorry she is that she can’t take you to the studio this morning. She’d quite forgotten an appointment with her dressmaker — one of her dressmakers!” Donald Paul stressed it with a frank laugh; his desire, evidently, was to forestall French’s surprise. “You see,” he explained, perhaps guessing that a sense of values was expected of him, “it’s rather more of a business for her than for — well, the average woman. These people — the big ones — are really artists themselves nowadays, aren’t they? And they all regard her as a sort of Inspiration; she really tries out the coming fashions for them — lots of things succeed or fail as they happen to look on her.” Here he seemed to think another laugh necessary. “She’s always been an Inspiration; it’s come to be a sort of obligation to her. You see, I’m sure?”
French protested that he saw — and that any other day was as convenient —
“Ah, but that’s the deuce of it! The fact is, we’re off for Biarritz the day after to-morrow; and St. Moritz later. We shan’t be back here, I suppose, till the early spring. And of course you have your plans; ah, going back to America next week? Jove, that is bad.” He frowned over it with an artless boyish anxiety. “And tomorrow — well, you know what a woman’s last day in Paris is likely to be, when she’s had only three of them! Should you mind most awfully — think it hopelessly inadequate, I mean — if I offered to take you to the studio instead?” He reddened a little, evidently not so much at the intrusion of his own person into the setting of his predecessor’s life, as at his conscious inability to talk about Horace Fingall in any way that could possibly interest Willis French.
“Of course,” he went on, “I shall be a wretched substitute . . . I know so little . . . so little in any sense . . . I never met him,” he avowed, as if excusing an unaccountable negligence. “You know how savagely he kept to himself . . . Poor Bessy — she could tell you something about that!” But he pulled up sharp at this involuntary lapse into the personal, and let his smile of interrogation and readiness say the rest for him.
“Go with you? But of course — I shall be delighted,” French responded; and a light of relief shone in Mr. Paul’s transparent eyes.
“That’s very kind of you; and of course she can tell you all about it later — add the details. She told me to say that if you didn’t mind turning up again this afternoon late, she’ll be ready to answer any questions. Naturally, she’s used to that too!”
This sent a slight shiver through French, with its hint of glib replies insensibly shaped by repeated questionings. He knew, of course, that after Fingall’s death there had been an outpouring of articles on him in the journals and the art-reviews of every country: to correct their mistakes and fill up their omissions was the particular purpose of his book. But it took the bloom — another layer of bloom — from his enthusiasm to feel that Mrs. Paul’s information, meagre as it was, had already been robbed of its spontaneity, that she had only been reciting to him what previous interrogators had been capable of suggesting, and had themselves expected to hear.
Perhaps Mr. Paul read the disappointment in his looks, and misinterpreted it, for he added: “You can’t think how I feel the absurdity of trying to talk to you about Fingall!”
His modesty was disarming. French answered with sincerity: “I assure you I shall like nothing better than going there with you,” and Donald Paul, who was evidently used to assuming that the sentiments of others were as genuine as his own, at once brightened into recovered boyishness.
“That’s jolly. — Taxi!” he cried, and they were off.
Almost as soon as they entered the flat, French had again to hail the reappearance of his “luck.” Better, a thousand times better, to stand in this place with Donald Paul than with Horace Fingall’s widow!
Donald Paul, slipping the key into the rusty lock, had opened the door and drawn back to let the visitor pass. The studio was cold and empty — how empty and how cold! No one had lived in the flat since Fingall’s death: during the first months following it the widow had used the studio to store his pictures, and only now that the last were sold, or distributed for sale among the dealers, had the place been put in the hands of the agents — like Mrs. Morland’s house in Kensington.
In the wintry overhead light the dust showed thick on the rough paint-stained floor, on the few canvases leaning against the walls, and the painter’s inconceivably meagre “properties.” French had known that Fin-gall’s studio would not be the upholstered setting for afternoon teas of Lady Brankhurst’s vision, but he had not dared to expect such a scornful bareness. He looked about him reverently.
Donald Paul remained silent; then he gave one of his shy laughs. “Not much in the way of cosy corners, eh? Looks rather as if it had been cleared for a prize fight.”
French turned to him. “Well, it was. When he wrestled with the Angel until dawn.”
Mr. Paul’s open gaze was shadowed by a faint perplexity, and for half a second French wondered if his metaphor had been taken as referring to the former Mrs. Fin-gall. But in another moment his companion’s eyes cleared. “Of course — I see! Like What’s-his-name: in the Bible, wasn’t he?” He stopped, and began again impulsively: “I like that idea, you know; he did wrestle with his work! Bessy says he used to paint a thing over twenty times — or thirty, if necessary. It drove his sitters nearly mad. That’s why he had to wait so long for success, I suppose.” His glance seemed to appeal to French to corroborate this rather adventurous view.
“One of the reasons,” French assented.
His eyes were travelling slowly and greedily about the vast cold room. He had instantly noted that, in Lady Brankhurst’s description of the place, nothing was exact but the blackness of the stairs that led there. The rest she must have got up from muddled memories of other studios — that of Jolyesse, no doubt, among the number. French could see Jolyesse, in a setting of bibelots, dispensing Turkish coffee to fashionable sitters. But the nakedness of Fingall’s studio had assuredly never been draped: as they beheld it now, so it must have been when the great man painted there — save, indeed, for the pictures once so closely covering the walls (as French saw from the number of empty nails) that to enter it must have been like walking into the heart of a sunset.
None were left. Paul had moved away and stood looking out of the window, and timidly, tentatively, French turned around, one after another, the canvases against the wall. All were as bare as the room, though already prepared for future splendours by the hand from which the brush had dropped so abruptly. On one only a few charcoal strokes hinted at a head — unless indeed it were a landscape? The more French looked the less intelligible it became — the mere first stammer of an unuttered message. The young man put it back with a sigh. He would have liked, beyond almost everything, here under Fingall’s roof to discover just one of his pictures.
“If you’d care to see the other rooms? You know he and Bessy lived here,” he heard his companion suggest.
Donald Paul opened a door, struck a match in a dark passage, and preceded him. “Nothing’s changed.”
The rooms, which were few and small, were still furnished; and this gave French the measure of their humbleness — for they were almost as devoid of comfort as the studio. Fingall must have lived so intensely and constantly in his own inner vision that nothing external mattered. He must have been almost as detached from the visible world as a great musician or a great ascetic; at least till one sat him down before a face or a landscape — and then what he looked at became the whole of the visible world to him.
“Rather doleful diggings for a young woman,” Donald Paul commented with a half-apologetic smile, as if to say: “Can you wonder that she likes the Nouveau Luxe?”
French acquiesced. “I suppose, like all the very greatest of them, he was indifferent to lots of things we think important.”
“Yes — and then . . . ” Paul hesitated. “Then they were so frightfully poor. He didn’t know how to manage — how to get on with people, either sitters or dealers. For years he sold nothing, literally nothing. It was hard on her. She saw so well what he ought to have done; but he wouldn’t listen to her!”
“Oh — ” French stammered; and saw the other faintly redden.
“I don’t mean, of course, that an artist, a great creative artist, isn’t always different . . . on the contrary . . . ” Paul hesitated again. “I understand all that . . . I’ve experienced it . . . ” His handsome face softened, and French, mollified, murmured to himself; “He was awfully kind to Emily Morland — I’m sure he was.”
“Only,” Mrs. Paul’s husband continued with a deepening earnestness, as if he were trying to explain to French something not quite clear to himself, “only, if you’re not a great creative artist yourself, it is hard sometimes, sitting by and looking on and feeling that if you were just allowed to say a word — . Of course,” he added abruptly, “he was very good to her in other ways; very grateful. She was his Inspiration.”
“It’s something to have been that,” French said; and at the words his companion’s colour deepened to a flush which took in his neck and ears, and spread up to his white forehead.
“It’s everything,” he agreed, almost solemnly.
French had wandered up to a book-shelf in what had apparently been Fingall’s dressing-room. He had seen no other books about, and was curious to learn what these had to tell him. They were chiefly old Tauchnitz novels — mild mid-Victorian fiction rubbing elbows with a few odd volumes of Dumas, Maupassant and Zola. But under a loose pile the critic, with beating heart, had detected a shabby sketch-book. His hand shook as he opened it; but its pages were blank, and he reflected ironically that had they not been the dealers would never have left it there.
“They’ve been over the place with a fine-toothcomb,” he muttered to himself.
“What have you got hold of?” Donald Paul asked, coming up.
French continued mechanically to flutter the blank pages; then his hand paused at one which was scribbled over with dots and diagrams, and marginal notes in Fingall’s small cramped writing.
“Tea-party,” it was cryptically entitled, with a date beneath; and on the next page, under the beading: “For tea-party,” a single figure stood out — the figure of a dowdily-dressed woman seated in a low chair, a cup in her hand, and looking up as if to speak to some one who was not yet sketched in. The drawing, in three chalks on a gray ground, was rapidly but carefully executed: one of those light and perfect things which used to fall from Fingall like stray petals from a great tree in bloom. The woman’s attitude was full of an ardent interest; from the forward thrust of her clumsily-shod foot to the tilt of her head and the high light on her eye-glasses, everything about her seemed electrified by some eager shock of ideas.
“Who was talking to her — and what could he have been saying?” was the first thought the little drawing suggested. But it merely flashed through French’s mind, for he had almost instantly recognized the portrait — just touched with caricature, yet living, human, even tender — of the woman he least expected to see there.
“Then she did know him!” he triumphed out aloud, forgetting who was at his elbow. He flushed up at his blunder and put the book in his companion’s hand.
Donald Paul stared at the page.
“She — who?”
French stood confounded. There she sat — Emily Morland — aquiver in every line with life and sound and colour: French could hear her very voice running up and down its happy scales! And beside him stood her lover, and did not recognize her . . .
“Oh — ” Paul stammered at length. “It’s — you mean?” He looked again. “You think he meant it for Mrs. Morland?” Without waiting for an answer he fixed French with his large boyish gaze, and exclaimed abruptly: “Then you knew her?”
“Oh, I saw her only once — just once.” French couldn’t resist laying a little stress on the once.
But Donald Paul took the answer unresentfully. “And yet you recognized her. I suppose you’re more used than I am to Fingall’s way of drawing. Do you think he was ever very good at likenesses? I do see now, of course . . . but, come, I call it a caricature, don’t you?”
“Oh, what does that matter?”
“You mean, you think it’s so clever?”
“I think it’s magnificent!” said French with emotion.
The other still looked at him ingenuously, but with a dawning light of eagerness. It recalled to French the suppressed, the exaggerated warmth of his greeting on the hotel stairs. “What is it he wants of me? For he wants something.”
“I never knew, either,” Paul continued, “that she and Fingall had met. Some one must have brought her here, I suppose. It’s curious.” He pondered, still holding the book. “And I didn’t know you knew her,” he concluded.
“Oh, how should you? She was probably unconscious of the fact herself. I spent a day with her once in the country, years ago. Naturally, I’ve never forgotten it.”
Donald Paul’s eyes continued obscurely to entreat him. “That’s wonderful!”
“What — that one should never forget having once met Emily Morland?” French rejoined, with a smile he could not repress.
“No,” said Emily Morland’s lover with simplicity. “But the coincidence. You see, I’d made up my mind to ask you — .” He broke off, and looked down at the sketch, as if seeking guidance where doubtless he had so often found it. “The fact is,” he began again, “I’m going to write her Life. She left me all her papers — I daresay you know about all that. It’s a trust — a sacred trust; but it’s also a most tremendous undertaking! And yesterday, after hearing something of what you’re planning about Fingall, I realized how little I’d really thought the book out, how unprepared I was — what a lot more there was in that sort of thing than I’d at first imagined. I used to write — a little; just short reviews, and that kind of thing. But my hand’s out nowadays; and besides, this is so different. And then, my time’s not quite my own any longer . . . So I made up my mind that I’d consult you, ask you if you’d help me . . . oh, as much as ever you’re willing . . . ” His smile was irresistible. “I asked Bessy. And she thought you’d understand.”
“Understand?” gasped French. “Understand?”
“You see,” Paul hurried on, “there are heaps and heaps of letters — her beautiful letters! I don’t mean — ” his voice trembled slightly — “only the ones to me; though some of those . . . well, I’ll leave it to you to judge . . . But lots of others too, that all sorts of people have sent me. Apparently everybody kept her letters. And I’m simply swamped in them,” he ended helplessly, “unless you will.”
French’s voice was as unsteady as his. “Unless I will? There’s nothing on earth I’d have asked . . . if I could have imagined it . . . ”
“Oh, really?” Paul’s voice dropped back with relief to its everyday tone. He was clearly unprepared for exaltation. “It’s amazingly kind of you — so kind that I don’t in the least know how to thank you.”
He paused, his hand still between the pages of the sketch-book. Suddenly he opened it and glanced down again at the drawing, and then at French.
“Meanwhile — if you really like this thing; you do?” He smiled a little incredulously and bent his handsome head to give the leaf a closer look. “Yes, there are his initials; well, that makes it all the more . . . ” He tore out the page and handed it to French. “Do take it,” he said. “I wish I had something better of her to give you — but there’s literally nothing else; nothing except the beautiful enlarged photograph she had done for me the year we met; and that, of course — ”
Mrs. Paul, as French had foreseen she would be, was late at their second appointment; later even than at the first. But what did French care? He could have waited contentedly for a week in that blatant drawing-room, with such hopes in his bosom and such a treasure already locked up in his portmanteau. And when at last she came she was just as cordial, as voluble and as unhelpful as ever.
The great difficulty, of course, was that she and her husband were leaving Paris so soon, and that French, for his part, was under orders to return at once to America. “The things I could tell you if we only had the time!” she sighed regretfully. But this left French unmoved, for he knew by now how little she really had to tell. Still, he had a good many more questions to ask, a good many more dates and facts to get at, than could be crowded into their confused hour over a laden tea-table, with belated parcels perpetually arriving, the telephone ringing, and the maid putting in her head to ask if the orange and silver brocade was to go to Biarritz, or to be sent straight on with the furs and the sports clothes to St. Moritz.
Finally, in the hurried parenthesis between these weightier matters, he extracted from her the promise to meet him in Paris in March — March at the latest — and give him a week, a whole week. “It will be so much easier, then, of course,” she agreed. “It’s the deadest season of the year in Paris. There’ll be nobody to bother us, and we can really settle down to work — ” her lovely eyes kindled at the thought — “and I can give you all the papers you need, and tell you everything you want to know.”
With that he had to be content, and he could afford to be — now. He rose to take leave; but suddenly she rose also, a new eagerness in her eyes. She moved toward the door with him, and there her look detained him.
“And Donald’s book too; you can get to work with Donald at the same time, can’t you?” She smiled on him confidentially. “He’s told me that you’ve promised to help him out — it’s so angelically good of you! I do assure you he appreciates it immensely. Perhaps he’s a little too modest about his own ability; but it is a terrible burden to have had imposed on him, isn’t it, just as he and I were having our first real holiday! It’s been a nightmare to him all these months. Reading all those letters and manuscripts, and deciding — . Why don’t authors do those things for themselves?” She appealed to French, half indignantly. “But after all,” she concluded, her smile deepening, “I understand that you should be willing to take the trouble, in return for the precious thing he’s given you.”
French’s heart gave a frightened thump: her smile had suddenly become too significant.
“The precious thing?”
She laughed. “Do you mean to say you’ve forgotten it already? Well, if you have, I don’t think you deserve it. The portrait of Mrs. Morland — the only one, apparently A signed drawing of Horace’s; it’s something of a prize, you’ll admit. Donald tells me that you and he made the discovery of the sketch-book together. I can’t for the life of me imagine how it ever escaped those harpies of dealers. You can fancy how they went through everything . . . like detectives after finger-prints, I used to say! Poor me — they used to have me out of bed every day at daylight! How furious they’d be if they knew what they’ve missed!” She paused and laughed again, leaning in the doorway in one of her long Artemis-attitudes.
French felt his head spinning. He dared not meet her eyes, for fear of discovering in them the unmasked cupidity he fancied he had once before detected there. He felt too sick for any thought but flight; but every nerve in him cried out: “Whatever she says or does, she shall never never have that drawing back!”
She said and did nothing; which made it even more difficult for him. It gave him the feeling that if he moved she would move too — with a spring, as if she herself were a detective, and suspected him of having the treasure in his pocket (“Thank God I haven’t!” he thought). And she had him so entirely at her mercy, with all the Fingall dates and documents still in her hold; there was nothing he could do but go — pick up the portmanteau with the drawing in it, and fly by the next train, if need be!
The idea traversed him in a flash, and then gave way again to the desolating sense of who she was, and what it was that they were manoeuvring and watching each other about. That was the worst of all — worse even than giving up the drawing, or renouncing the book on Fingall. He felt that he must get away at any cost, rather than prolong their silent duel; and, sick at heart, he reached out for the door-knob.
“Oh, no!” she exclaimed, her hand coming down on his wrist.
He forced an answering smile. “No?”
She shook her head, her eyes still on his. “You’re not going like that.” Though she held him playfully her long fine fingers seemed as strong as steel. “After all, business is business, isn’t it? We ordinary mortals, who don’t live in the clouds among the gods, can’t afford to give nothing for nothing . . . You don’t — so why should I?”
He had never seen her so close before, and as her face hovered over him, so warm, persuasive, confident, he noted in it, with a kind of savage satisfaction, the first faint lines of age.
“So why should I?” she repeated gaily. He stood silent, imprisoned; and she went on, throwing her head back a little, and letting her gaze filter down on him through her rich lowered lashes: “But I know you’ll agree with me that it’s only fair. After all, Donald has set you the example. He’s given you something awfully valuable in return for the favour you’re going to do him — the immense favour. Poor darling — there never was anybody as generous as Donald! Don’t be alarmed; I’m not going to ask you to give me a present on that scale.” She drew herself up and threw back her lids, as if challenging him. “You’d have difficulty in finding one — anybody would!”
French was still speechless, bewildered, not daring to think ahead, and all the while confusedly aware that his misery was feeding some obscure springs of amusement in her.
“In return for the equally immense favour I’m going to do you — coming back to Paris in March, and giving you a whole week — what are you going to give me? Have you ever thought about that?” she flung out at him; and then, before he could answer: “Oh, don’t look so miserable — don’t rack your brains over it! I told you I wasn’t grasping — I’m not going to ask for anything unattainable. Only, you see — ” she paused, her face grown suddenly tender and young again — “you see, Donald wants so dreadfully to have a portrait of me, one for his very own, by a painter he really admires; a likeness, simply, you see, not one of those wild things poor Horace used to do of me — and what I want is to beg and implore you to ask Jolyesse if he’ll do me. I can’t ask him myself: Horace despised his things, and was always ridiculing him, and Jolyesse knew it. It’s all very well — but, as I used to tell Horace, success does mean something after all, doesn’t it? And no one has been more of a success than Jolyesse — I hear his prices have doubled again. Well, that’s a proof, in a way . . . what’s the use of denying it? Only it makes it more difficult for poor me, who can’t afford him, even if I dared to ask!” She wrinkled her perfect brows in mock distress. “But if you would — an old friend like you — if you’d ask it as a personal favour, and make him see that for the widow of a colleague he ought to make a reduction in his price — really a big reduction! — I’m sure he’d do it. After all, it’s not my fault if my husband didn’t like his pictures. And I should be so grateful to you, and so would Donald.”
She dropped French’s arm and held out both her shining hands to him. “You will — you really will? Oh, you dear good man, you!” He had slipped his hands out of hers, but she caught him again, this time not menacingly but exuberantly.
“If you could arrange it for when I’m here in March, that would be simply perfect, wouldn’t it? You can, you think? Oh, bless you! And mind, he’s got to make it a full-length!” she called after him joyfully across the threshold.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:56