he felt in her a new quality

here’s tea. But you’d rather have a cocktail?” Mrs. Pulsifer said. They had returned to the circular room; by the fire stood a table with cups of thin porcelain around a shining urn. Vance said he’d rather have tea. No one had ever offered it to him at that hour, and it amused him to watch her slim hands moving over the tray, shaking the tea into the teapot, regulating the flame of the urn. It reminded him of a scene in an English novel he had read at the Willows. He began to think of his own novel again, and had to rouse himself to hear what Mrs. Pulsifer was saying —louis vuitton handbags something hurried and confused about being lonely, and hating her riches because they shut her off from the only people she cared to see . . . and worshipping genius, and wondering if he wouldn’t promise to be her great great friend, and come often to see her, and tell her all her faults, and let her talk to him about herself — which, it seemed to Vance, was just what she had been doing for the last hour. . . . He mumbled that he was ever so grateful, and would be glad if she’d let him come back for another look at the pictures; but she said if it was only to see the pictures that he wanted to come he was like everybody else, and didn’t care for her but for her house, and what she wanted was a friend who would feel the same about her if she lived in a hovel; but she supposed she wasn’t clever enough to interest the only kind of people who interested her, and must just make the best of this dreadful loneliness that her money seemed to condemn her to. . . . Her eyes filled, and for a moment she seemed to break her unreality and become human. “Oh, don’t say that — you mustn’t, you know — ” he b Cheap Louis Vuitton Bags/Shoes/Belts/Luggage/Sunglasses/Wallets UK Sale egan, putting down his cup and moving nearer; but as he did so he caught sight of a clock over her shoulder, and exclaimed: “God, I’ve only just got time to catch my train — Sorry . . . I’ve got to run for it . . . .” Her face changed again, narrowing into distrust and resentment. Why did he have to catch that particular train? Weren’t there plenty of others? She forced a smile to add that people always made excuses like that when they were bored with you, and she supposed she’d bored him . . . or else why wouldn’t he stay? But Vance remembercheap louis vuitton shoesed a promise to get back with a new tonic for Laura Lou. No, he couldn’t, he said; there was no train till much later, and he had his work. . . . “Ah, your work; how I envy people with work, work like yours, I mean . . . .” Her face softened, she left her hand in his. “You’ll really come again soon, won’t you? You’ll come next week? You shall have the pictures all to yourself; I’ll hide away, and you won’t even see me,” she assured him laughingly; and he thanked her and fled.
By the time he reached Paul’s Landing the whole episode had faded into unreality. Were there houses like that, women like that, pictures like that? The chief impression that remained was that she had said he could come back and see the pictures . . . .
Mrs. Tracy was waiting on the threshold, and he handed her the tonic with the satisfaction he felt when he had managed not to forget an errand. How was Laura Lou? Had the day been good? Pretty good — yes; but she was a little tired. He’d better not go up: she was sleeping. He turned in to the dining room and went over to his desk, his mind full of things he wacheap louis vuitton bagsnted to put down while they were hot. But Mrs. Tracy followed, and after straightening the plates on the dinner table came and stood by the desk. “There was someone called to see you,” she said.
“Someone — who?”
“Bunty Hayes.”
The blood rushed to Vance’s forehead. Hayes — the cheek of the fellow’s having followed him here! “I’ll have to fight it out with him after all,” he thought.
“He’s been after me already, at the office. He says he wants to fight me.”
Mrs. Tracy smiled coldly. “He didn’t want to fight you today. cheap louis vuitton bags ukWhat he wanted was his money.”
Vance’s anger exploded. “His money? I’m doing all I can to earn it for him. If I could do it quicker I would.”
“That’s what I told him,” she agreed, still coldly.
“Well, did he go away after that?”
Mrs. Tracy hesitated, and wiped her wasted hands on her apron. “Not right off.”
“Why — what else did he want?”
“To see Laura Lou.”
“Laura Lou? The fellow’s impudence!” Vance laughed indignantly.
“He wasn’t impudent. He was sorry she was so sick. I could see how bad he felt.”
Vance found nothing to say. The remembrance of the crumpled letter on the floor of his wife’s room shot through him with the same pang as before.
“Well, I’ve got to get to work,” he said.
Chapter 27
Laura Lou’s convalescence was slow, her illness expensive. Upton, appealed to by Mrs. Tracy, said all his savings had gone into buying a Ford, and he could do nothing for them for the present. Vance knew that his mother-in-law expected his family to come to his aid. She ascribed Laura Lou’s illness to his imprudence, and felt that, since his endless scribbling brought in so little, he oughlouis vuittont to get help from home. But Vance could not bring himself to ask for money, and his reports of Laura Lou’s illness produced only letters of sympathy from his mother and grandmother, and knitted bed jackets from the girls. His father wrote that times were bad in real estate, and offered again to try and get him a job on the Free Speaker if he would come back to live at Euphoria. And there the matter ended.
At odds with himself, he ground out a dull article on “The cheap louis vuitton beltsNew Poetry,” the result of random reading among the works of the Cocoanut Tree poets; but it satisfied neither him nor the poets. He tried to make a plan for Loot, but it crumbled to nothing. He was too ignorant of that tumultuous metropolitan world to picture it except through other eyes. If he could have lived in it for a while, if somebody like Mrs. Tarrant had let him into its secrets, perhaps he could have made a book of it; but anything he did unaided would have to be borrowed from other books. Besides, he did not want to denounce or to show up, as most of the “society” novelists did, but to take apart the works of the machine, and find out what all those people behind the splendid house fronts signified in the general scheme of things. Until he understood that, he couldn’t write about them. He brought his difficulty to Eric Rauch. “Unless I can think their thoughts it’s no use,” he said. Rauch looked puzzled, and seemedcheap louis vuitton to regard the difficulty as an imaginary one. “Funny to me you can’t get hold of a subject,” he said; and Vance rejoined: “Oh, but I can — hundreds; they swarm. Only they’re all subjects I don’t know enough about to tackle them.” “Well, I guess you’re in the doldrums,” Rauch commented; and the talk ended.
One day someone related in Vance’s presence a tragic episode which had happened in a group of strolling actors. The picturesqueness of it seized on his imagination, and he tried to bring it to life; but here again he lacked familiarity with the conditions, and his ardour flagged. Fellows at the Cocoanut Tree talked a lot about working up a subject, about documentation and so forth; but Vance obscurely felt that he could not go out on purpose to hunt for local colour, and that inspiration must come to him in other ways. Perhaps a talk with a man like Tristram Fynes would given him his clue. He wrote and asked Fynes for an appointment; but he received no answer to his letter.
Mrs. Pulsifer did write again. She asked why he hadn’louis vuitton wholesalet been back to see her, and suggested his coming to dine, giving him the choice of two evenings. The letter reached him on the day when he had taken his watch and his evening clothes to a pawnbroker. He wrote that he couldn’t come to dine, but would call some afternoon; and she wired naming the next day. When he presented himself he found the great drawing rooms empty, and while he waited he wandered from one to another, gazing and dreaming. Art had hitherto figured in his mind as something apart from life, inapplicable to its daily uses; something classified, catalogued, and buried in museums. Here for the first time it became a breathing presence, he saw its relation to life, and caught a glimpse of the use of riches and leisure — advanced even to the assumption that it might be the task of one class to have these things and preserve them, to live like a priestly caste isolated for the purpose. The stuffed dove on the gilt basket, he thought, reverting again to his old symbol of the mysterious utility of the useless. . . . Mrs. Pulsifer’s arrival interrupted his musings, and gave him a surprised sense of the incongruity between the treasures and their custodian.
She looked worried and excited; drew him at once into the circular si cheap louis vuitton tting room, and impetuously accused him of being sorry she’d come back, because now he’d have to talk to her instead of looking at the pictures. Vance had no conversational parries; he could only have kissed her or questioned her about her possessions; the latter course he saw would be displeasing, and he felt no temptation to the former, for she had a cold, and her face, in the spring light, looked sallow and elderly. “I do like wandering about this house first-rate,” he confessed.
“Well, then, why don’t you come oftener? I know I’m not clever; I can’t talk to you; but if you’d come and dine I’d have just a few of the right people; brilliant people — Frenside, and Lewis and Halo Tarrant, and Sibelius, from the Metropolitan, who’d tell you ever so much more than I can about my pictures.” She became pathetic in her self-effalouis vuitton outletcement, and when she repeated: “Why won’t you come? Why do you always refuse?” he lost his head, and stammered: “I . . . no. . . . I can’t — I can’t dine with you.”
“You mean you’ve got more amusing things to do?” she insinuated; and he answered: “Lord, no, not that. It’s — I’m too poor,” he finally blurted out.
There was a silence.
“Too poor —?” she echoed, with an uncomprehending look.
He laughed. “For one thing I’ve got no evening clothes. I’ve had to pawn them.”
Mrs. Pulsifer, who was sitting near him, and leaning forward in her solicitous way, involuntarily drew back. “Oh — ” she faltered, and he divined that her embarrassment was greater than his. The discovery somehow put him at his ease.
“Oh, you don’t need to look so frightened. It’s a thing that happens to people,” he joked. She murmured: “I’m so sorry,” and her l ips seemed shaping themselves for the expression of further sympathy. She leaned nearer again, and he saw she was feverishly wondering what she ought to say. Her helplessness touched him; in her place he would have known so well! She seemed a creature whose impulses of pity had become atrophied, and who was vainly trying to give him a sign of human feeling across the desert waste of her vast possessions. “I’m so sorry,” she began again, in a whisper, as if her voice was unable to bridge the distance. Vance stood up and took a few steps across the room. If she WAS sorry, really — as sorry as all that. . . . He stopped in front of her, and began to speak in a low confused voice. “Fact is, I’m down and out — oh just temporarily, of course; I’ve had unexpected expenses . . . .” He paused, wondering desperately why he had ever bcheap louis vuitton handbagsegun. Mrs. Pulsifer sat before him without moving. Even her eyes were motionless, and her startled hands. He wondered if no one had ever spoken to her of such a thing as poverty. “Look here,” he broke out, “if you really believe in me, will you lend me two thousand dollars?”
His question echoed through the room as if he had shouted it. A slight tremor passed over Mrs. Pulsifer’s face; then her immobility became rigid. The situation clearly had no parallel in her experience, and she felt herself pitifully unequal to it. The fact exasperated Vance. It was all wrong that these people, the chosen custodians of knowledge and beauty, should be so stupid, so unfitted for their task. He hung before her irresolute, angry with himself and her. “I’d better go,” he muttered at length.
She looked up, disconcerted. “Oh, no . . . please don’t. I’m so sorry . . . .”
The meaningless repetition irritated him. “I don’t suppose you ever before met a fellow who was dead broke, did you? I suppose that young man who opens the door has orders not to let them in,” he jeered, flushed with his own humiliation.
She grew pale, and her hands moved uneasily. “I— oh, you don’t understand; you don’t. I try to . . . to live up to my responsibilities. . . . These things . . . I have advisers . . . a most efficient staff who deal with them. . . . Every case is — is conscientiously investigated.” She seemed to be quoting a social service report.
“Oh, I’m not a case,” Vance interrupted drily. “I thought you acted as if you wanted me for a friend — that’s all.”
“I did — I do. I only mean . . . .” She lifted horrified eyes to his. “You see, there’s the prize. . . . If anyone knew that . . . that you’d come to me for assistance . . . that I . . . .”
“Oh, damn the prize! Excuse me; I’m sorry for my blunder. There are times when a man sees a big ditch in front of him and doesn’t know how he’s going to get across. I’m that man — and I spoke without thinking.”
Her eyes, still on his, grew moist with tears. “It’s so dreadful — your being in such trouble. I had no idea . . . .” She glanced about her, almost furtively, as if the efficient staff who dealt with her “cases” might be listening behind a screen. “I do want to help you if I can,” she went on, hardly above a whisper. “If you’ll give me time I . . . I think I could arrange . . . but of course it would have to be quite privately . . . .”
He softened at the sight of her distress. “You’re very kind. But I guess we won’t talk of it anymore. I’ve been tired and worried and I started thinking out loud.”
“But it’s so wrong, so cruel, that you, with your genius, should have such worries. I don’t understand.” She drew her brows together in anxious conjecture. “I thought there was such a demand for what you write, and that you had a permanent job in the New Hour.”
“Yes, I have. But they’re just starting and can’t pay much. And I’m pledged to give them whatever I write. But I’d have pulled through all right if other things hadn’t gone wrong. And I will anyhow.” He held his hand out. “You’ve helped me a lot, just letting me look at those pictures. Thank you for it. Good-bye.”
The decision of his manner seemed to communicate itself to her, and she stood up also, pale and almost beautiful under the stress of an unknown emotion. “No, no, not goodbye, I do want to help you — I want you to tell me what it is that’s wrong. . . . I know young men are sometimes foolish.” She laid on his arm a bejewelled hand of which one ring would have bought his freedom.
Vance gave an impatient laugh. “Foolish? Is that what you people call not having enough money to keep alive on? What’s wrong with me is that my wife’s been desperately sick . . . sick for weeks. That costs.”
There was a silence. Mrs. Pulsifer’s hand slipped away. She drew back a step and slowly repeated: “Your wife? You mean to say you’re married?” Vance made a gesture of assent.
“But I don’t understand. You never told me . . . .”
“Didn’t I? Maybe I didn’t.”
She continued to look at him uncertainly. “How could I know? I never thought . . . you never spoke. . . . But perhaps,” she faltered, a curious light of expectancy in her tired eyes, “it’s because your marriage is — unhappy?”
Vance coloured hotly. “God, no! I’m only unhappy because I can’t do all I want for her.” He thought afterward that he had never loved Laura Lou as he did at that moment.
“Oh. . . . I see . . . .” he heard Mrs. Pulsifer murmur; and he was vaguely conscious of the fading of the light from her eyes.
“Well, good-bye,” he repeated. She seemed about to speak, to make some sign to detain him; but her narrowed lips let pass only a faint echo of his good-bye. It drifted mournfully after him as he walked down the endless perspective of tapestried and gilded emptiness to the hall below, where the tall young man in dark clothes and silver buttons was waiting with a perfectly matched twin to throw back the double doors. Vance wondered ironically whether they added to their other mysterious duties that of investigating Mrs. Pulsifer’s cases; but he knew that his own, at any rate, would never be brought up for examination.
One of the fellows at the Cocoanut Tree gave him the name of a moneylender; and a few days later he had a thousand dollars in his pocket. He told Mrs. Tracy he had enough to pay off Hayes, and asked for his address. She gave it without comment, and Vance, thankful to avoid explanations, returned to New York the next day to discharge his debt. He had no idea how he was going to meet the interest on the loan; but he put that out of his mind with the ease of an inexperienced borrower.
The address led to a narrow office building in an uptown street, where, across the front of an upper floor, he read: “STORECRAFT,” and underneath: “Supplies Taste and saves Money.” He was admitted to a small room with roughcast walls, a sham Marie Laurencin, slender marquetry chairs, and a silvered mannequin in a Spanish shawl. There he waited till a fluffy-headed girl in a sports suit introduced him to an inner office, where Bunty Hayes, throned at a desk, was explaining to another girl: “Chanel, six almond-green Engadines: Vionnet, duplicate order apricot charmeuse pyjamas . . . .” He broke off and sat staring. “Patou, six pastel-blue Rivieras — ” he went on automatically; then, with a change of tone: “All right, Gladys; we’ll finish up later.” The girl vanished, and he turned to Vance. “Say, I didn’t see it was you, first off.”
“Maybe you’re too busy,” Vance began.
“No, but I was expecting a fellow with a new style of bust~restrainer. Never mind; sit down.” He pushed a chair forward. His manner was curt and businesslike, but not unfriendly; and Vance felt less at ease than if he had not been met with anathemas.
“You’re on a new job,” he said tentatively.
Bunty Hayes leaned back, swung around in his swivel chair, and thrust out his legs, displaying perfectly creased trousers. He had grown stouter, and had large yellow horn spectacles and carefully varnished hair. “Why, yes,” he said. “Fact is, there’s more in it. Folks want to tour in the holidays; but they want to shop all the year round, and they all want to shop in New York. Hundred and fifty million of ’em do. Storecraft’s the answer to that. Here: seen one of our cards? We’re going to move to Fifth Avenue next year. If you want to DO big, you got to SEE big. That’s my motto. See here, now; you live in the suburbs: well, we’re the commuter’s Providence. Supply you with everything you like, from your marketing to a picture gallery. We’re going to have an art guild next year: buy your old masters for you, and all you got to do is to drive the hooks into your parlour wall and invite the neighbours.”
Vance had not seated himself. He drew out the money and laid it on the desk. “Here’s what we owe you,” he said.
“Oh, hell — ” said Hayes. The two men faced each other uneasily. At length Hayes nodded and said: “A’right,” and put his hand out toward the money. “Who’ll I make the receipt out to?” he asked, evidently not knowing what to say next. Vance said to Mrs. Tracy, and stood with his hands in his pockets leaning against the door. Hayes wrote the receipt rapidly, blotted and handed it to Vance. “Well, that’s over,” he remarked with an attempt at ease. Vance put the paper in his pocket. As he was turning to go Hayes stood up, and began, in an embarrassed voice: “See here — ”
“I— your wife was sick when I called the other day. I was real sorry. Wish you’d tell her.”
“Sure,” said Vance, nodding and swinging out of the door. On the stairs, it came over him that he had behaved like an oaf, and he was half minded to turn back and tell Hayes — Tell him what? He didn’t know. But he vaguely felt there was a score between them which the money, after all, hadn’t wiped out . . . .
He had never yet spoken to Laura Lou about Hayes. On his return that evening, when he went to her room, he made up his mind to do so. The room looked pleasant. There was a fire in the stove and a bunch of spring flowers on the table. Laura Lou’s bed was neatly made, and she lay on the old steamer chair which he had brought up from the porch. Mrs. Tracy was below, preparing supper, and the house, sometimes so dreary and repellent to him, seemed peaceful and homelike. Laura Lou’s face lit up at his entrance. “Here — I brought you these. They’re good and juicy,” he said, pulling a couple of oranges out of his overcoat pockets. He bent to kiss her, and she pressed her cheek against his. “Oh, they’re beauties, Vanney; but you oughtn’t to have spent all that money.”
He sat down beside her, laughed, and said: “I’ve spent a lot more; I’ve paid off what was owing to Hayes.”
She flushed a tender rose colour. “Oh, Vanny! The whole of it? Isn’t that great?” Her hands tightened in his. “Mother’ll be crazy glad. But it’s such a lot of money; how in the world did you manage?”
“Oh I . . . I fixed it up. It was easy enough. I got an advance.”
The vague answer seemed to satisfy her, and she rested her head against his shoulder and stroked the oranges with her free hand. “Well, that’s just great. I guess they must think the world of you at the office,” she said placidly.
Vance held her to him. After a pause he said: “I always felt sorry for the fellow, somehow.”
Through her deep lashes she looked up, as though wondering a little. “Well, you don’t have to any longer, do you?”
Vance felt as if she had moved away from him; but in reality her light body was pressed more closely to his. “Why, I don’t know,” he said, “I guess we didn’t act any too square to him, apart from the money. I wish now we’d given him warning . . . or something . . .”
She gave a little wriggle of contentment. “Well, yes, I wish we had too; but I guess it was safer, the way we did it.” For her, at least, the old score had been completely wiped out. He wondered, as he clasped her, if anyone would ever feel about the deep invisible things as he did.
To stifle conjecture he bent down and kissed her lids shut, one after the other. That funny lonely woman in the big house, who had imagined he was unhappily married . . .!
Next morning the expressman deposited at the door a big basket with the “Storecraft” label, full of perfumed grapefruit and polished mandarins and boxes of Californian delicacies.
Chapter 28
Vance stopped short. It was three years since he had seen the Willows.
June sunlight lay on the weed-grown lawn. Turrets and balconies showed in uncertain glimpses through layer on layer of overlapping lilac fringes. A breath of sweetness, which would have been imperceptible but for the million of calyxes exhaling it, enveloped the old house as faintly but pervasively as the colour of the wistaria flowers. As he stood there other perfumes stole to him: the purple burden of lilacs, the warm drip of white laburnums, and that haunting syringa smell which was like the noise of bees on a thundery day. On the fluctuations of the breeze they came now from one corner, now another, of the deserted shrubberies, waylaying Vance with their loveliness. But inside the house was that magical room, and all the shadowy power of the past.
He had not been near the Willows since the day when the late Mr. Lorburn had accused him of stealing the books. The place lay on the farther side of Paul’s Landing, and his daily tramp to and from Mrs. Tracy’s took him nowhere near it. He had been forbidden to return there, and if he disobeyed it might cost his mother-in-law her job. Yet there were days when he could hardly trust himself not to scramble over the gate and try for a loose shutter or a broken latch. Those unused books, row on row in the darkness, drew him unbearably; so he walked in other directions.
Mrs. Tracy, some days earlier, had been seized with inflammatory rheumatism. Laura Lou had to wait on her and do the cooking and washing; besides, she had never got back her strength since her illness, and it would have been imprudent to expose her to the cold of an uninhabited house. For two weeks the Willows remained unvisited; and the thought was misery to Mrs. Tracy, who was sure another caretaker would supersede her. Laura Lou said: “Mother, it’s too silly not to send Vanny,” and Vance added jocosely: “Even if I HAD stolen those books, it would be too risky trying it on again.” Mrs. Tracy, turning her face from him, said: “The keys are under the pincushion in the upper right-hand drawer . . . .” And there he stood.
Laura Lou had charged him not to forget what he was there for. He was to open windows and shutters, air the rooms thoroughly, and make sure that no harm had come to the house since Mrs. Tracy’s last visit. The two women prudently refrained from laying other duties on him: for the present the house must go undusted. “Just you tell him to take a good look round, so’t that hired man’ll see somebody’s got his eye on him, and then come straight back here,” was Mrs. Tracy’s injunction to her daughter; who interpreted it: “Darling, all you got to do is to walk round, and tell her everything’s all right.”
Vance decided to begin by a general inspection. He passed from room to room, letting light and warmth into one melancholy penumbra after another, wakening the ghosts in old mirrors, watching the live gold of the sun reanimate the dead gold of picture frames and candelabra. Under the high ceilings of the bedrooms, with their carved bedsteads and beruffled dressing tables, he had now and then an elusive sense of life, of someone slipping through doors just ahead, of a whisper of sandals across flowered carpets, as if his approach had dispersed a lingering congress of memories. In Miss Lorburn’s dressing room he paused before the ornate toilet set with the porcelain swan in a nest of rushes. “She dreamed of Lohengrin, and saw a baby in the bulrushes.” Lorry Spear’s comment came back to him. Funny — he’d never seen Lorry Spear since that day; the fellow owed him ten dollars, too. Vance wondered what had become of him. . . . In the circular boudoir, with the upholstered blue satin armchairs and those gay lithographs of peasants dancing and grape-gathering, he lingered again, trying to imagine the lady in her youth, when the rooms were bright and dustless, and she wore one of those ruffled dresses looped with camellias. . . . “And she ended reading Coleridge all alone . . . .”
He sat down in a blue armchair and closed his eyes. If he should open them on the young Elinor — pale and eager, the dark braids looped along her cheeks! As he sat there, Halo Tarrant’s face substituted itself for the other. Slim and dark-braided, with flowing draperies and sandalled feet, she leaned in the window, looking out through the wistaria fringes for something, for someone. . . . Vance stood up, brushing away the vision. Weren’t we all like Elinor Lorburn, looking out, watching for what never came? Ah, but there were the books — the books that had sufficed her, after all! He moved away, as if with her hand in his — that shy compelling virgin hand — moved through the rooms, down passages and stairs, and across the patterned parquet of the drawing rooms to the library. He reached out to open the shutters, and as he did so Miss Lorburn’s hand slipped from his, and he knew that when he turned she would no longer be beside him, young and wistful, but withdrawn into her frame above the mantelpiece, the mature resigned woman with the chalk lights on forehead and lappets. The woman who read Coleridge alone . . . .
An orderly hand had effaced the traces of his former passage. The books he had taken down were back in their places, the furniture had been straightened. But on the fringed table cover of green velvet the Coleridge still lay open at “Kubla Khan,” the gold~rimmed spectacles across the page. A touch of Halo’s piety . . . .
In the three-year interval much else had happened. Vance had read and studied, new avenues of knowledge had opened to him, linking together many unrelated facts, and Miss Lorburn’s library was now less interesting in itself than because of the sad woman who had lived there. Sad, but not shrunken. He looked up at her, and she looked down with her large full-orbed eyes, the eyes of one who has renounced but not repined. . . . What a subject, if he could do it! He dropped again into the highbacked armchair where he had sat on that first day. “This is the Past — if only I could get back into it . . . .” She must have been lovely when she was young, with a sharp austere loveliness like Halo’s; her long thin hands full of gifts for someone, or else stretched out empty to receive. No one, apparently, had wanted to give her anything, or to receive what she offered; yet instead of withering she had ripened. Her books, and some inner source of life, had kept her warm — he wondered how? And suddenly a queer idea came to him: the idea that Halo Tarrant knew. Was the fancy suggested by some resemblance in their features, or a likeness in expression, something about the eyes and hands? Halo had those same hands, long, like her face, and opening wide when she held them out to you, as if ready to receive or give, while her eyes questioned which it was to be. Yet Halo was married, had presumably fulfilled her destiny. . . . And so, perhaps, had the other woman in her different way. That was what explained the likeness — or else made it all the more obscure. . . . The afternoon shadows wheeled unnoticed across the lawn. Vance continued to sit motionless, letting the secret forces move within him. Whenever he could surrender to his creative fervour it always ended by carrying him to the mysterious point where effort ceased, and he seemed just to have to hold his breath and watch.
He watched . . . .
When he got home, Laura Lou said why’d he been gone so long, and her mother was fretting, and would he go upstairs right away and tell her everything was all right? He stared at her out of his dream, as if she had spoken an unknown language. “Oh, yes — all right . . . everything’s all right . . . .” That night he sat up late, writing, writing . . . .
Mrs. Tracy’s recovery was slow, and she got into the habit of entrusting to Vance the weekly inspection of the Willows. The new owner, old Miss Louisa Lorburn, never came, never asked questions; and the Spear family, since Halo’s marriage, were either in New York, or too busy with weekend parties at Eaglewood to think of policing the Willows. Sometimes Laura Lou went with Vance, accompanied by the woman who helped with the Tracys’ washing: they left Vance in the library, and Laura Lou sang out to him to join her when the cleaning was over. On other days he went by himself; and before long the keys were in his pocket instead of being under Mrs. Tracy’s pincushion . . . .
During those long summer hours in the library he was conscious, for the first time, of a sort of equilibrium between the rush of his words and images and the subject they were to clothe. At first he did not write regularly; he was feeling his way. Much of his time was spent in a state of rich passivity; but the inner travail never ceased. . . . On the days when he had to report at the office he seemed to be walking in his sleep. New York had become a shadow, a mirage, the fermenting activities of his comrades of the Cocoanut Tree as meaningless as dancing to which one cannot hear the music. A subtle transposition had situated his only reality in that silent room among the books. He told Rauch he had started a novel, and on his next visit he was uncomfortably aware of editorial curiosity and impatience; but as yet he could show nothing to satisfy them. “I guess the book’ll be called Instead,” he merely stated; on which Rauch remarked: “Well, it don’t sound exactly incandescent . . . .” Vance drew a breath of relief when, toward the end of the month, he learned that the Tarrants were starting for London and Paris to pick up new stuff for the review . . . .
Rauch had said the title didn’t sound incandescent. Well, the book, if it was ever written, wouldn’t be incandescent either. Vance was more and more conscious of some deep-seated difference that cut him off from the circumambient literary “brightness,” or rather left him unsatisfied by it. Perhaps he could have written like those other clever fellows whose novels and stories he devoured as they appeared. He was quick at picking up tricks of language and technique; and his reading had taught him what Frenside had meant by saying he was at the sedulous age. Ape these fellows — yes, he knew he could! He’d tried his hand at it, not always quite consciously; but though he was sometimes rather pleased with the result he always ended by feeling that it wasn’t his natural way of representing things. These brilliant verbal gymnastics — or the staccato enumeration of a series of physical aspects and sensations — they all left him with the sense of an immense emptiness underneath, just where, in his own vision of the world, the deep forces stirred and wove men’s fate. If he couldn’t express that in his books he’d rather chuck it, and try real estate or reporting. . . . Some of the novels people talked about most excitedly — Price of Meat, say, already in its seventieth thousand, or Egg Omelette, which had owed its start to pulpit denunciations and the quarrel of a Prize Committee over its exact degree of indecency — well, he had begun both books with enthusiasm, as their authors appeared to have; and then, at a certain point, had felt the hollowness underfoot, and said to himself: “No, life’s not like that, people are not like that. The real stuff is way down, not on the surface.” When he got hold of Faust at the Willows, and came to the part about the mysterious Mothers, moving in subterranean depths among the primal forms of life, he shouted out: “That’s it — the fellows that write those books are all Motherless!” And Laura Lou, hurrying down duster in hand, rushed in exclaiming: “Oh, Vanny, I thought there were burglars!”
He got into the way of going oftener and oftener to the Willows. He knew that he risked little in doing so. The Tarrants were in Europe, and nobody else was likely to bother him. If he could have carried off the books he wanted the temptation would have been less great; but even so he would have been drawn back by the contrast between the house at Paul’s Landing, where there was neither beauty nor privacy nor peace and this tranquil solitude. On his second visit he brought with him a supply of paper and notebooks. They remained on Miss Lorburn’s table, beside her Coleridge; and the temptation to return was doubled by the knowledge that he would always find them there, not tidied away or mixed up by interfering hands, but orderly and receptive, as he had left them. As soon as he was seated at the table his mind became clear and free, accidental preoccupations fell from it, and he was face to face with his vision.
To explain his daily absences he told Laura Lou that he was needed at the office. Tarrant, he mentioned, had been called to Europe on business, and they were shorthanded. . . . A few months ago he would have been ashamed of deceiving her; now, since her illness, prevarication seemed wiser as well as safe. She mustn’t be worried . . . she wouldn’t understand. . . . He was beginning to see that there might be advantages in a wife who didn’t understand . . . .
Curiously enough, since he had settled down to this view his tenderness for her had increased. It was as though at first he had expected too much of her, and of himself in his relation to her. Since her illness he had learnt to know her better, had found her limitations easier to accept; and now that his intellectual hunger was appeased she satisfied the rest of his nature. The fact that he had so nearly lost her made her more precious, more vividly present to him; he felt in her a new quality which not only enchanted his senses but fed his imagination — if indeed there were any dividing line between the two. For Laura Lou seemed to belong equally to his body and soul — it was only his intelligence that she left unsatisfied. Into the world of his mind, with its consuming curiosities, its fervid joys, she would never enter — would never even discover that it existed. Sometimes, when a new idea grew in him like a passion, he ached to share it with her, but not for long. He had never known that kind of companionship, had just guessed at it through the groping wonder of his first talks with Halo Spear, when every word she spoke was a clue to new discoveries. He knew now that he and she might have walked those flaming ramparts together; but the path he had chosen was on a lower level. And he was happy there, after all; intellectual solitude was too old a habit to weigh on him . . . .

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