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BEAUTY’S HOUR

Page with ornament
The Database of Ornament

                                                             CHAPTER V

    THERE was confusion in the Harman’s house the next day.
I did no work, but sat idly with the girls in their sitting-
room, while they talked over the ball. They were full of
the new beauty, Miss Hatherley.

    “And such an odd thing, Mary. Gerald says she reminds
him of you.”

    “Quite impossible,” said I. “But I thank him.”

    “Something in her voice and way of talking,” Betty went on. “You
have a nice voice, you know. Gerald says she is very original ; and good-
ness knows he had opportunity enough of finding out ; he danced with no one
else.”

    I nearly contradicted that statement, but saved myself in time.
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t go,” I said instead. “Did Miss Sturgis enjoy
herself?”

    “And are you really better ?” said Betty. “You didn’t seem ill in the
afternoon. As for Bella——”

    “Oh, Bella !” interrupted Clara. “Bella had best look to her laurels. No
one noticed her while Miss Hatherley was in the room.”
I went on with my questions.

    “Do you suppose Miss Hatherley enjoyed her success ?”

    They laughed.

    “Why, yes, if she’s like other girls.”

    “Perhaps she isn’t. Do all girls enjoy being admired at the expense of
some one else ?”

    Clara looked out of the window, with an assumption of unconsciousness.
Betty, who is more candid, answered at once, “One can’t help liking it.”

    I laughed outright.

    “Does Miss Hatherley seem nice ?” I asked next.

    “Charming,” said Clara. “We have taken quite a fancy to her. Mother

12                              THE SAVOY

    is writing to-day to ask her to dine and go to the theatre with us to-morrow.
That was Gerald’s idea.”

    I received this piece of news in silence.

    “Everyone wants to know her,” Clara went on.”Dr. Trefusis was over-
whelmed with questions and inquiries as to whether people might call, and so
on. She paints all day through ; works quite hard, as though she had to do it.
Odd, isn’t it?”

    “Why odd?” said I. “I suppose she likes it. But a passion for art is
unnecessary in a pretty woman, no doubt.” And Betty broke in with, “Oh,
there you go again, Mary ! Always finding fault with pretty women.”

    “Not with them, my dear, but with the world,” I said, laughing. “You
can’t say I find fault with you, Betty.”

    “Oh, I’m not pretty,” said she, “by Miss Hatherley.”
I was touched by her speech.

    “You’re a generous creature,” I said. ” I have always supposed it a
mistake to think that one pretty girl is jealous of another.”

    Betty put her head on one side, and, with an odd mixture of wisdom and
drollery, answered:

    “Well, we like beauty—and we don’t. We like it because it’s interesting,
and exciting, and successful ; and a pretty girl gives one’s house a certain
reputation. We don’t approve when she annexes people who belong to us,
naturally ; all the same, we can’t help feeling she must do as she pleases—
she’s privileged.”

    “I had no idea you were so profound,” said Clara, a little sharply ; and I
wondered whether it is possible that women are more tenacious of an in-
tellectual than of a physical superiority.

    Betty only laughed.

    “I’m off,” said she. “I promised to meet the Sturgises in the park ; but
Gerald won’t come, and I’m half afraid to face Bella alone. Good-bye, Mary.
We’ll ask you to meet Miss Hatherley when we know her better.”

    When I got home I found that Dr. Trefusis had sent on Lady Harman’s
letter. I sat over it for some time, thinking ; then I wrote and said I would
go. Miss Whateley looked at me wistfully when I told her.

    “I’m afraid you will get into some trouble, Mary,” she said, “and you can’t
possibly wear the ball dress.”

    “I must go,” I retorted. “I am at last seeing life as a woman ought to
see it I can’t give up the privilege ; at least not yet.”

                          BEAUTY’S HOUR                                     13

    “You won’t give it up till you have paid the penalty,” Miss Whateley
answered.

    I shrugged my shoulders, as though I did not believe her.

    “I must have another dress,” I cried.

    Miss Whateley would have given me the clothes off her back, she said ;
but as that would not avail me much, she offered to lend me some money. I
accepted the offer with a recklessness born of my strange position ; and we
went out shopping, after sunset ; Mary Hatherley and Miss Whateley.

    The people in the shops seemed anxious to please me, even when they
found that I could afford to pay but little for what I wanted ; they probably
looked upon me as a good advertisement, and I enjoyed the novelty of being
treated with a deferential consideration.

    It was a very cold night ; as we passed along the freezing, gas-lit streets we
met but few people ; we had to cross the square in which Dr. Trefusis lived on
our way home ; I noticed, before we reached his door, that a man in a fur over-
coat was pacing slowly up and down the pavement. Why did he linger in such
weather? I wondered vaguely. Then I saw it was Gerald Harman. I put my muff
up to my face and passed him by. I knew, too well, that he was waiting on the
chance of seeing Mary Hatherley on herway home from a day’swork at the studio.

    “You do not work very late these foggy days, I suppose ?” he asked me,
tentatively, the next evening at dinner.

    “I make gaslight studies,” said I, shortly.

    “Is it permitted to anybody to go and see you at work ?”

    “Oh no,” I answered, with a smile. “I paint in earnest.”

    “I waited an hour in Dorchester Square last night,” he went on, very low,
“in the hope of seeing you.”

    “That was misplaced heroism,” said I, “in such weather. I should advise
you not to do it again.”

    “I shall do it every evening,” he declared ; and I only laughed a little, as
though the subject were not of the remotest interest, and turned to my neighbour.

    Gerald sat by me at the play. I went so seldom to the theatre that I was
always arrested by the interest of the piece, and of the actors. I sat in the front
of the box by Lady Harman ; who, I was certain, suffered under the uneasy
sensation that she was taking a leap in the dark in encouraging a young
unknown woman, with nothing to recommend her but her looks ; though, on
the other hand, she was upheld by the authoritative voice of society, which had
pronounced a favourable verdict on me.

14                              THE SAVOY

    Behind us were Gerald and Betty. It was such an intimate family party
that I had great difficulty in not using the familiar tone of every day. When
I had only just saved myself from calling Betty by her Christian name, and
pointing out an acquaintance of Gerald’s, whom I knew by sight, in the stalls,
I was sobered.

    Silence fell upon me : I was so acutely aware of Gerald’s presence, which
seemed like a light at which I could not bear to look, that I tried to distract
myself by noting the faces of the other people in the house till the curtain
should rise. Here and there I caught glimpses of a pretty head ; the
graceful turn of a neck ; an expression of happiness or of vivacity ; but the
audience was mostly ugly, dull, and uninteresting : yet I felt sorry for all these
people ; for their inarticulate dumb way of going through life, untouched by
passion, save in its baser aspects, and only apprehending the ideal through
some conventionalized form of religion, or some dim discontent.

    The play was “Romeo and Juliet”: the Juliet was beautiful, but she
could only look the part ; and the young man who acted Romeo was no ideal
lover ; yet the immortal, golden play of youth and passion drew tears, and
quickened heartbeats ; for each woman in the house was Juliet, tasting some
rapture, perhaps lost, perhaps never realized, of first love.

    The curtain dropped : I sat in a dream, and Lady Harman’s voice seemed
to come from very far away.

    “It’s a pretty play,” she said. “But don’t you think it’s rather a muddle ?
I never can make out who is who.”

    “It doesn’t matter,” answered Betty. “Don’t trouble, mother dear.
What a lovely thing it would be for private theatricals, parts of it, that is.
Gerald, wouldn’t Bella make a good Juliet?”

    Her remark might, or might not have been malicious ; but Gerald started.
“Bella!” he ejaculated, and looked at me. His look said plainly what his
lips had not yet dared ; no man had ever yet looked at me with entreaty,
passion, humility, in his eyes. I looked back at him, the soul of Mary Gower
speaking through the eyes of Mary Hatherley. He flushed, and went pale again,
and I regretted what I had done. For the rest of the evening I devoted my-
self to Lady Harman : Gerald seemed lost in thought, and only roused himself
when the carriage stopped at Dr. Trefusis’ door.

    “I shall never see you alone,” said he, as we stood on the doorstep. “I
cannot talk to you—I must write to you,” he ended, with a sort of despairing
impatience.

    “Do not write,” said I : and then the door was opened by the doctor in

                          BEAUTY’S HOUR                                     15

person. Gerald seemed hardly able to speak to him ; when a few words had
passed he went back abruptly to the carriage.

    “Mary,” said Dr. Trefusis, “you are a great trouble to me. Now I’ve got
to take you home, and interrupt my studies in Rosenkrantz and the Pope
Honorius, most absorbing old impostors—no, I won’t say that ; for I’m
beginning to think there may be some method in their madness. You have
led me into devious paths, Mary Hatherley. By the way, who’s that good-
looking young fellow?”

    “That’s Gerald Harman,” said I.

    The doctor looked at me with a sort of inquisitive sympathy ; and
shrugged his shoulders. When he left me at my own house, “You are playing
with fire, my dear,” he said ; “and I’m an old fool to help you.”

    “You are helping me to buy the experience that teaches,” I said, “and
it teaches bitter lessons enough : don’t fear for me.”

                                                             CHAPTER VI

    I had never received a love-letter ; and the only scrap of Gerald Harman’s
writing that I possessed was a little note, which said :

    “Dear Miss Gower, my mother asks me to write and tell you that
she will be back to-morrow, and expects you on Thursday as usual. Yours
very truly,

                                                                        “GERALD HARMAN.”

    I sat comparing this letter, with the letter he had written to Mary
Hatherley, and I do not think I have ever known a more miserable moment.

    “I ought to begin by asking you to forgive me,” the letter ran. “I am
afraid of your thinking me too bold in writing ; yet you must know that love
comes sometimes in a sort of flash that makes one see life quite differently in
a moment. That is what happened to me the first time I ever saw you.
Since then I have thought of nothing else. If you would be kind, if you would
care what becomes of me, I might be able to make a better thing of life. I
have been very idle and useless always, and now I feel ashamed of it. I dare
not ask if you could ever care for me—not yet. You know how I love you,
and am ever yours

                                                                        “GERALD HARMAN.”

16                              THE SAVOY

    I was sitting in my bedroom, at the little dressing-table which did duty
for a writing-table too : I looked again into my own eyes in the glass, as I
had done on that memorable evening that seemed such a very long while
ago : we knew one another’s bitterness, my reflection and I, and laughed
aloud.

    “Man’s love,” said I to the face in the glass, “man’s humility, man’s cry of
‘trample on me, and re-mould me,’ what does it all amount to ? Here am I ;
the same woman, with two faces ; the woman counts for nothing ; the face
determines my life. A man can only see inspiration in eyes that are beautiful ;
words can only influence him when the lips that say them have curves and a
smile that delight. I, Mary Gower, could love him, could help him, as far as
my soul and will go ; but he cannot see this : a man sees only with the outer,
never with the inner eye.”

    “Perhaps we are unjust,” I went on again presently. “There are, no doubt,
men to whom the outside of a woman is not the whole ; but they must have
learnt discernment, either through some special suffering, or they are perhaps
lacking in sensuous instincts, and care but little for women at all, either from
the intellectual or the emotional side. Gerald is not one of these ; he is like
other men ; his point of view may be fairly taken as representing a normal one
—and he loves Mary Hatherley !”

    “Come in,” I went on, in answer to a knock at the door. “There’s going
to be no transformation to-night, Whatty. I’m tired of masquerading ; I am
very tired of life ; I was born too serious. I can’t live in the passing hour, and
enjoy it ; I think of yesterday, and of to-morrow. Why can’t I fling all care
to the winds and make merry, with the other Mary’s beautiful face, and all
it brings me !”

    Miss Whateley put her hands on my shoulder, and I turned to her, and
wept.

    I did not answer Gerald’s letter ; nor did I see him till a few days later,
when he strolled into Lady Harman’s study in his usual careless way.

    “I’m out of sorts, Mary,” said he. “Let me sit here, while you talk to me.
I like the sound of your voice.”

    I knew why he liked the sound of my voice, and it hardened me against
him.

    “Why out of sorts?” said I. “Haven’t you eaten, drunk, and been
merry ? What more does a man want ?”

    “I’ve eaten less, drunk considerably more, and not been in the least

                          BEAUTY’S HOUR                                     17

merry,” he answered. “Just now I wish that I might die—to-morrow, or
even to-day.”

    I looked at him with a sudden pity mixed with my anger—that pity
which is at once the root and the flower of love.

    “You are unhappy, really ?” I asked, knowing that Mary Hatherley had
not answered his letter.

    “I’m miserable !” he cried out.

    Then he began walking up and down the room, and I felt, with a quicken-
ing of fear and interest, that he was going to speak to me of her. I yielded
then to a strange impulse, which was almost like jealousy of myself.

    “What has Bella Sturgis been doing?” said I.

    He stopped dead.

    “Bella . . . she seems to have drifted a thousand miles away. She
belongs to the old life, from which I am cut off : there’s a gulf opened between
me and it ; she is on the other side.”

    “I don’t understand, then,” said I.

    “O Mary,” Gerald cried, “I’m very hard hit this time ! Haven’t you
heard of Mary Hatherley ?”

    “Tell me about her,” I said.

    There was a great fire in the room, and I sat close to it ; but my hands
were like ice. Gerald leant against the mantelpiece, and looked down on me.
He was full of that intoxicating spirit of youth and enthusiasm, which carries
such an irresistible appeal to those whose own youth is clouded, and who cannot
rise above a resigned cheerfulness. Even now, when he declared himself to be
miserable, there was an ardour in his discouragement which made it almost a
desirable emotion.

    “Mary Hatherley,” he began, “reminds me in some strange way of you :
she says things so like what you say, and the very voice is like.”

    “But she’s very lovely,” I interposed. “And you’ve fallen seriously in
love at last ?”

    He did not resent my remark.

    “Seriously—at last,” he answered, with a smile.

    “Why have you never fallen in love with me ?” I asked then.

    He began to laugh, with genuine amusement.

    “You’re an amazing person,” said he ; “I shall, if you’re not careful.”

    “Well, but why not?” I persisted. “It’s true that I am only your
mother’s secretary, but you say I’m like Miss Hatherley in my ideas and way
of talking. Is it the face that makes the difference ?”

18                              THE SAVOY

    “I know you are following up something infernally abstruse,” said he,
“that has no relation to the facts of life ; that’s so like you. I daresay the face
does make a difference : it make a difference in the whole personality.”

    “I wanted to find out the facts,” said I. “And you have given me a
fairly direct answer, which can serve as a premise from which I shall draw my
conclusions.”

    “And your conclusions are——?”

    “That justice is an ironical goddess, whose eyes are never really bandaged.”

    “Your vein is too deep for me to-day. I wanted to tell you all my troubles,
and you talk to me as though I were a professor.”

    “I didn’t mean to be unkind,” said I. “If you are really serious, I’m
sorry.”

    “Sorry, why sorry ?” he asked, quickly.

    “It’s such an old story. You fall in love with a girl’s beautiful face—it’s
not the first time you’ve done it ; you endow her with all sorts of qualities ;
you make her into an idol ; and the whole thing only means that your aesthetic
sense is gratified. That’s a poor way of loving.”

    “It’s a very real way,” said Gerald, with some warmth. “I think you are
horribly unsympathetic.”

    “I am in earnest,” I answered. “A very short while ago you were quite
taken up with Bella Sturgis ; you don’t care the least for her feelings ; you
simply follow your impulses, and desert her for a more attractive woman.”

    I do not know what made me espouse Bella’s cause ; perhaps I was hurt,
more than I had time to realize, and seized on the first weapon to my hand.

    “You don’t spare my feelings,” Gerald said, in a low voice. “All I can
say is, that if Mary Hatherley won’t have anything to do with me, I shall go
away ; I shall go and shoot big game—anything to get out of this horrible
place. I am in earnest. I wasn’t in earnest about Bella ; I admired her very
much, and all that, and mother is always urging me to marry ; I should pro-
bably have drifted into marrying her—— ,” he broke off.

    I felt an unreasoning anger against him.

    “Poor Bella !” I cried. “You may drift into marrying her yet.”

    That finished our conversation. He went away without another word,
leaving me alone with my anger and my heartache.

                          BEAUTY’S HOUR                                     19

                                                             CHAPTER VII

    I CONFESS that about this time I was led astray and over-mastered by con-
flicting emotions. My work, and my battles with Lady Harman’s peculiarities,
became unutterably irksome. I forgot how to efface myself; I spoke at the
wrong moment, and on the wrong subject : I did not remember to be sympa-
thetic, and I expected sympathy ; in fact, I confused what was permitted to
Mary Hatherley, with what was permitted to Mary Gower, with the result that
I drank the cup of bitterness each day, the cup of triumph each night.

    At this time I was much sought after ; my devotion to art was supposed
to denote genius, though it was hardly respectable, and wholly unnecessary ;
but people forgave me my persistent refusal to see anyone, or to go anywhere
during the day, and asked me to their houses in the evening.

    I was often chaperoned by Lady Harman, sometimes by Dr. Trefusis
himself. I had many admirers, but I only remember them vaguely, like figures
in a dream. The golden key that opened their hearts led me into strange
places ; some had never been tenanted, and were so cold and bare that I felt
they could never be really warm or pleasant ; others had been swept and
garnished, and I was asked to believe that all traces of their former occupants
were gone ; others were full of rust and cobwebs, and old toys broken and
thrust away ; there was no room even for a new plaything. The key unlocked
no sanctuary, with altar-lights and incense burning, waiting for the one
divinity that was to fill its empty shrine. Those who loved me had loved
before, and would love again.

    Women, whose idol is success, worshipped me too, in their curious fashion ;
it became desirable in their eyes to be known as the friend of Mary
Hatherley ; a note of distinction was thus sounded : they were proud to de-
monstrate the fact that they were above jealousy, or fear of rivalry.

    I liked many of them, with a liking tempered by amusement. I am glad
to think now that I did not interfere wantonly with their lovers, their husbands,
or their sons. I was discreet, to the verge of being disagreeable : indeed, had
it not been for my face, I think they might almost have resented my indiffer-
ence to their male belongings ; and taken it as a personal affront.

    I saw a great deal of Gerald, in the character of Mary Hatherley : the
frost held, and he remained in London without a murmur ; he was not much
at home during the day ; and Mary Gower had no speech with him alone.

20                              THE SAVOY

    “Something has happened to Gerald,” Betty said one day. “I mean
besides this business about Mary.” They called her Mary by this time. “He
wanders about picture galleries, I’ve found out ; and some one saw him the
other day in the British Museum. Isn’t that somewhere in the city?”

    “Not quite so bad,” said I. The city had been Betty’s terror, ever since
she had been taken to the Tower as a child. “But isn’t Mr. Harman merely
improving his mind ?”

    “Yes, but why ?” cried his sister. “He’s done very well all these years
without it. It isn’t as though he were the sort of man who could do nothing
else. He can ride and shoot better than any man I know. Why should he
want to improve his mind ?”

    Her somewhat incoherent speech amused me ; and it was true : a super-
ficial culture would have sat oddly on Gerald Harman ; whose charm lay in
his simplicity, and a certain gallant bearing that might have fitted him to be
the hero of a romance of the Elizabethan age ; in which men were either
knights or shepherds ; full of a natural bravery, and keenly susceptible to the
influence of women’s beauty.

    “Miss Hatherley is an artist,” I suggested, in answer to Betty’s remarks.
She shrugged her shoulders.

    “Mary Hatherley’s just flirting with him,” said she.

    This was true : I had answered his letter ; not in writing, nor indeed by
any explicit word of mouth ; but I had been kind, and had let him see that
the letter had not displeased me ; I had also led him to understand that the
time was not yet come for any more open speech on his part. I was
capricious : I used my power with but little mercy : these were days when I
made him miserable ; and days when I knew the world was re-created for him
by my kindness.

    Yet I was more wretched than I had ever been when I was only Mary
Gower : I grew to hate the other Mary’s beautiful face ; her smile ; the gracious
turn of her head ; her shapely hands : I grew to hate all this with a passionate
intensity that frightened me. I seemed to have realized Mary Hatherley in a
strange, objective way, as distinct from myself: she was the woman Gerald
Harman loved ; she was the woman I should have been, and was not ; and
then came a heart-stricken moment when I knew she was the woman who had
done both Gerald and another a wrong that might never be undone.

    It happened in this wise : I had gone down one day to the girls’ sitting-
room to fetch a book I had left there, when I met Gerald on the stairs. He

                          BEAUTY’S HOUR                                     21

passed me by with the briefest possible word ; and with a look of annoyance
on his face, that I was at a loss to account for, till I reached the sitting-room,
and found Bella Sturgis there.

    She was sitting with her face on her arms, by the writing-table, and
I could see that she was crying. My instinct was to leave her ; but I was not
quick enough to escape her notice, and she turned upon me with an angry
movement.

    “Why didn’t you knock?” said she.

    In her confusion and distress she mistook me for a servant : I should have
laughed, had I not been overcome by the conviction that Gerald had just left
her ; and that something had passed between them, which was connected with
Mary Hatherley.

    “I am sorry if I disturbed you,” said I. “I have come for a book I left
here.”

    Then she saw her mistake, and flushed red.

    “I beg your pardon ; I really didn’t see—” she said ; and then, as though
bowed down by the weight of her own distress, she dropped her head again
on her hands.

    I did not know what to do : it seemed an intrusion to remain ; and
impossible to go.

    “Forgive me,” I said, at last. “You are in some trouble. I have
intruded upon you unknowingly ; I can’t go away without saying I wish
I could do something for you.”

    She looked up at me, with manifest surprise ; tears shone still upon her
face, and in her eyes : I wondered that Gerald had left her, even for Mary
Hatherley.

    “Why should you care ?” she asked.

    “I’m always sorry for another woman,” I said.

    She looked at me again, with a miserable, uncertain air ; her haughty
self-confidence had gone from her, and I felt emboldened to speak again.

    “You may not know that I am Lady Harman’s secretary. I have been
in the house all day for a long while ; and I can’t help seeing a great deal of
what goes on in it. I know your trouble, Miss Sturgis.”

    She got up at that ; and looked for a moment as though she would have
struck me ; then she suddenly lost her self-control, and burst into tears.
Those tears were dreadful to me : I took her hand, and soothed her as though
she had been a child ; and presently she sat down beside me.

    “How do you know ?” she said. “You can’t know.”

22                              THE SAVOY

    “I’ve heard them talk of Mary Hatherley,” said I.

    “And I suppose they say I’m breaking my heart?” cried she, with a
desperate attempt at scorn.

    “They would not be far wrong,” I answered.

    She gave a long sigh.

    “It hurts,” she said, quite simply.

    Shame and an aching remorse seized me. I had taken him from her ;
and had roused in him a love which must be always barren. I had surely put
a knife into Bella’s heart ; and her simple words stabbed me back. Did I not
know it hurt ! I carried the self-same wound.

    “Do you care for him so much ?” I said.

    At first she would not answer, and frowned, while the tears came into her
eyes ; then she said, brokenly.

    “Yes—but we used to quarrel, and now it’s all over.”

    “Do you think,” I went on, “that if Mary Hatherley were to go away
you could win him back ?”

    She pondered : I watched her beautiful face, and thought that I had
hitherto misjudged her : her pride, the insolence of her beauty, her caprices,
had been but the superficial manifestation of a passionate spirit ; led astray by
a world which cared only for the outer woman. Now that these things had
been flung back in her face, her heart spoke : she lost the sense of her beauty,
and its rights ; and was more lovely than she had ever been, and did not
know it.

    “He used to love me, I’m sure,” she said. “I believe he would again—I
would not be so unkind—Oh, but what’s the use of talking !”

    I hardly heard the sound of my own voice as I answered her ; there was
a singing in my ears.

    “I think he has been led away by a pretty face. I daresay he does not
care for the real Mary Hatherley ; he may return ; be kind to him when he
does.”

    “Oh, I will, I will,” said she. ” You have made me feel happier—I was so
unhappy.”

    She bent forward impulsively, and kissed me. I kissed her back. “I am
so glad,” I said, and left the room hurriedly, to hide my emotion.

    On my way home I went to see Dr. Trefusis. I found him alone, sitting
over a pile of great folio volumes. His study, where I had so often found a
refuge from the ills of life, looked warm and cheerful, with its shelves of books

                          BEAUTY’S HOUR                                     23

from floor to ceiling, and great, open hearth. He appeared to rouse himself
with some difficulty, and I noticed he looked older, and very wearied.

    “I’m not come to disturb you,” said I. “Let me sit by the fire whilst you
read. I have something I want to think out.”

    “It will do me good to talk, child,” he answered. “I’ve been poring over
these books for too long. What is it you have to think over, Mary ?”

    “Only the old thing.”

    He looked at me with a quickened attention.

    ” I’ve been thinking over it too,” he said.

    Then he sat down on the other side of the fire-place ; the room was aglow
with the flames, and the bright light of two lamps ; there seemed also to be a
strange light on Dr. Trefusis’ face.

    “You know, Mary,” he began solemnly, “that this case of yours has led
me into strange studies, and strange speculations. They are all wicked ; I am
going to put away my books, for I begin to fear lest they should take me into
places where madness lies, outside the phenomenal, where we were never meant
to penetrate. You have shown me how human longing, if it be powerful
enough, is nearly omnipotent, for evil as well as for good. Here, in these old
books, in the Magia Naturalis of Johannes Faust, in this old Latin of Cornelius
Agrippa, and many others, I learn how spirits ‘can be dragged out of the air’ ;
how alchemy can turn metal to gold : these things have a terrible fascination ;
but it is of the devil ; I shall put them all away. Your longing turned Mary
Gower, whom God made, into Mary Hatherley in whom He has no part.”

    He looked at me, with a shudder.

    “The church put the alchemists to death for a less sin,” he said. “This
power you have brings you nothing but trouble : it may bring trouble to those
you do not wish to injure. Mary, I implore you to stop, before it is too
late.”

    All this in the mouth of Dr. Trefusis ; the keen scientist, the ardent advo-
cate of materialism ; surprised me much. The gravity of his tone, so far
removed from his ordinary carelessness, carried authority. All he said was my
own inward, but unformulated conviction, put into words.

    I asked him why he thought it might bring trouble to others.

    “I have seen enough,” he answered, “to understand your relations with the
Harmans. It won’t do, Mary. That young Harman ought not to be sacrificed
to your love of experimentalizing.”

    At that I got up, and walked about the room.

    “You do me injustice,” said I. “I may have given way to a curiosity

24                              THE SAVOY

    which, taken alone, would not be legitimate, but my heart was concerned in this
matter.”

    “Ah,” said he. “I feared so.”

    I sat down on a stool at his feet, and gave him all my confidence. He
did not interrupt me ; and when I had finished, we were both silent for a long
while.

    “Do you not feel yourself, that such a state of things cannot go on ?” he
said, at last.

    “I am determined to give it up,” I answered. “To-morrow night shall be
Mary Hatherley’s last appearance.”

    “Why let her appear again at all ?” he asked.

    “Because I’m a woman : and I want to say good-bye to Gerald
Harman.”

    The doctor laughed ; I think to cover some emotion.

    “Well, well, well,” he said. “Have it so if you will. But be done with
the thing : it’s unholy : it’s a work of the devil. There are more things in
heaven and earth than ever I dreamt of in my philosophy ; things I dare not
tamper with. Now, Mary, will you climb to the top of the ladder, and put
away Faustus, and Agrippa, and the rest ? I’ve had enough of them.”

    We spent some time putting away the books : strange volumes ; full of
odd, symbolical drawings, and with wonderful titles, such as : “The Golden
Tripod” : “The Glory of the World, or the Gate of Paradise” : “The All-
Wise Doorkeeper.”

    The doctor crossed himself, as I put the last one in its place ; and I
laughed, in spite of my trouble.

    “I’ve one thing more to say,” he cried, turning suddenly on me. “I’m
getting old, Mary, and I want a housekeeper, and a daughter. You refused
me these once ; you shall not refuse again. You and Miss Whateley must
come and take charge of me. I promise you I’ll age rapidly, and then you’ll
feel you are fulfilling a duty—a sensation dear to the soul of woman, I
know.”

    We sat there over the fire for another hour. Before I left him, my promise
had been given.

                          BEAUTY’S HOUR                                     25

                                                             CHAPTER VIII

    I woke the next morning with something of that indifference to life, which
is the secret of so many peaceful deaths.

    Mary Hatherley was condemned ; she had but a brief hour left, and
I knew not how she was to spend it : I only knew that she had to bid good-
bye to Gerald Harman. The present hung before me like a veil ; I could see
the dim future moving behind it ; a spectral army of figures all in gray ; but
they marched, this colourless procession of the years, with a monotony that
grew into peace.

    The thought of Mary Hatherley hardly troubled me ; I did not care ; I
had passed through many deaths since that night when she had been born in
all her beauty ; for is not, “every step we take in life a death in the imagina-
tion” ? I had held Beauty’s sceptre, and had seen men slaves beneath it : I
knew the isolation, the penalty of this greatness. Yet I owned that it was an
empire for which it might well be worth paying : I held no theories based on
mere sentiment ; I owned that beauty might not possess all things ; yet the
woman who has not beauty neither has, nor pays. To this philosophy, or
cynicism, I know not which to call it, had Mary Hatherley’s experiences
brought me.

    I spent a strange day at Lady Harman’s : the familiar place seemed un-
real : in a week or two I should be gone, and all my days there would fade
into the past ; for I knew that I had no real hold on the lives of any of them ;
having come only as it were by accident into their midst ; when they had
treated me with as much kindness as was consistent with their education, their
traditions, and the world in which they lived. Betty would marry one of her
many lovers ; and Clara some one who fed her intellectual vanity. And
Gerald ? I held my heart in check at the thought of Gerald.

    I had met him first, as Mary Hatherley, in a crowd : it seemed like the
logic of fate that I should take leave of him in a crowd ; for our relations
belonged to no world of peace and quietness, but to an order of life where
Beauty, with her attendant pomp and circumstance, moved to the sound of
music, and under the glare of a revealing light.

    That evening we did not dance : there was singing, and stringed instru-
ments ; we moved about white stately rooms, where the music followed us like
a memory. I spoke to many people, and knew nothing of what I said : at my

26                              THE SAVOY

heart was torture, in my soul peace. The rest of the world was blotted out
when I saw Gerald coming to me.

    At first he spoke but little ; he had the desperate air of a man who is
determined to know his fate—and his silence was charged with suggestion.
We stood for a long while near the musicians, and the aching sweetness of one
of Schubert’s melodies pierced me with the sword of pain and pleasure where-
with music wounds her lovers. The whole measure of my grief seemed con-
tained in that searching, divine air ; in the human, passionate note of the
strings ; in the purer, more radiant tone of the flutes and hautboys.

    Then Gerald looked into my eyes, and said, “Let us come away” ; and I
went blindly with him through the rooms, till we reached a door that opened
into a garden.

    The night was hardly cold, and very still ; only a faint throbbing from the
far-away streets lay at the heart of the silence, and troubled it. I could see the
outline of Gerald’s face in the starlight ; he said nothing, but took me suddenly
in his arms and kissed me ; and in that moment I tasted the essence of life.
Then he let me go. “Now send me from you if you can—if you dare,”
said he.

    “‘Tis I who am going,” I said.

    “I am in earnest,” answered he, “and I must have your answer.”

    “Oh, my answer,” I cried, “is easily given. I do not love you. I can add
something to that which you will not acknowledge. You have never loved
me ; you loved my face, but of my heart and soul you have known nothing.”

    I had not meant to say such words to him ; I had meant to let him go
with something like a benediction ; but my bitterness rose up and made me
speak.

    “It is true I love your face,” he said, quite gently. “But more than that.
Why are you so unkind to me ?”

    Then there came a wild moment in which I was near telling him all ; and
asking him if he could not love the soul of me, and take no thought for
my body : but I paused, and remembered I had resolved never to let him
know.

    “I am not as unkind as I seem,” I said. “It is kinder to tell you the
truth. I am not made for love, or to be happy, and have children. I must
live apart : do not ask me why ; I cannot tell you. I shall not forget you ; I
hope you will forget me—at least, think of me without pain. And now, good-
bye.” I moved away.

    “Is this your last word? Are you going to leave me so ?” he cried out.

                          BEAUTY’S HOUR                                     27

    I stopped then, and looked back at him : the notes of a violin came
through the silence like a shaft, and struck at my heart ; they mingled with a
woman’s voice, in a love-song. I went to his side.

    “I have one last word to leave you,” I said to him. “You will forget me.
When I am only a memory, go back to Bella ; for you loved her.”

    He said nothing, and I was glad of the darkness, which covered my face.
I turned back into the house, leaving him standing there ; and went away,
bidding no farewells.

    I sat through that long night, and waited for the dawn ; and when the
dawn came, I kissed the wonderful reflected face of Mary Hatherley, and
wished her a long good-bye.

    “O face of my dreams,” I said, “it is well that you should go back
into nothingness ; your hour is over ; each moment held a possible joy ; a
surer pain : a brief triumph ; a long regret. Let me decline into the lesser
ways of life, where Beauty’s flying feet have never passed ; but where Peace
may be seen stealing, a shadowy figure, with eyes looking towards the sun.”

                                                                                O. SHAKESPEAR.


MLA citation:

Shakespear, O. “Beauty’s Hour: A Phantasy.” The Savoy vol. 5, September 1896, pp. 11-27. Savoy Digital Edition, edited by Christopher Keep and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://1890s.ca/savoyv5-shakespear-beauty/