2017年06月15日

erhaps fortune would have favored

Coleman Van Duyn appeared and claimed the next dance, which he begged that she would sit out. Jane agreed because it would give her a chance to think. There was little real exertion required in talking to Coley.

What could Nina want to tell her? And where—did she say? In the loggia of the tennis court—at twelve. It must be almost that now Polar.

At five minutes of twelve Nellie Pennington handed Gallatin a note.

“From Nina,” she whispered. “It’s really outrageous, Phil, the way you’re flirting with that trusting child. I’m sure you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”



“Will you answer my question?” he repeated doggedly.

“No. You have no right to question me.”

“I’m assuming the right. Your memory of the past——”

“There is no past. It was the dream of a silly child in another world where men were honest and women clean. I’ve grown older, Mr. Gallatin.”

“Yes, but not in mercy, not in compassion, not in charity.”

“Speak of virtue before you speak of mercy, of pride before compassion, of decency before charity—if you can,” she added contemptuously .

“You’re cruel,” he muttered, “horribly so.”

“I’m wiser than I was. The world has done me that service. And if cruelty is the price of wisdom, I’ll pay it. Baseness, meanness, improbity in business or in morals no longer surprise me. They’re woven into the tissue of life. I can abominate the conditions that cause them, but they are the world. And, until I choose to live alone, I must accept them even if I despise the men and women who practice them, Mr. Gallatin.”

“And you call this wisdom? This disbelief in everything—in everybody, this threadbare creed of the jaded women of the world?”

“Call it what you like. Neither your opinions nor your principles (or the lack of them) mean anything to[307] me. If I had known you were here I should not have come to-night. I pray that we may never meet again.”

He stood silent a long moment, searching her face with his eyes. She was so cold, so white and wraithlike, and her voice was so strange, so impersonal, that he was almost ready to believe that she was some one else. It was the voice of a woman without a soul—a calm, ruthless voice which sought to wound, to injure or destroy. It had been on his lips to speak of the past, to translate into the words the pain at his heart. He had been ready to take one step forward, to seize her in his arms and compel her by the might of his tenderness to return the love that he bore her. If he had done so then, p him—have favored them both; for in the hour of their greatest intolerance women are sometimes most vulnerable. But he could not. Her words chilled him to insensibility, scourged his pride and made him dumb and unyielding .

“If that is your wish,” he said quietly, “I will do my best to respect it. I’d like you to remember one thing, though, and that is that this meeting was not of my seeking. If I’ve detained you, it was with the hope that perhaps you might be willing to listen to the truth, to learn what a dreadful mistake you have made, of the horrible wrong you have done——”



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