Claudia looked at her slippers. “I surely did. I never wear high shoes in the house. Your mother says you may take dinner with us, but she wants to see you as soon as it is over. Her headache is better, but she doesn’t feel like coming down to-night.”
In a chair of curious carving, his feet on a pile of books which had been unpacked, but for which there was as yet no place, Winthrop Laine leaned back, partly relaxed, partly tense, and with half-shut eyes looked at a picture on the wall opposite. For an hour, two hours, he had sat like this. On his desk was an unfinished article, but “The Punishments of Progress” did not interest to-night, and after vain effort to write he had thrown the pages aside and yielded to the unrest which possessed him.
In his hands was a small calendar, and with it he tapped unconsciously the arm of his chair; but after a while he again looked at it and with his pencil marked the date of the month. It was the fifteenth of December. Miss Keith was going home on the eighteenth. Three days of her visit yet remained, a month of it had passed, and after she went— He stirred uneasily, changed his position, put down the calendar, then got up and began to walk the length of the room backward and forward. A long mirror filled the space between the two southern windows, and for some time as he reached it he avoided the face seen therein; but after a while he stopped in front of it, hands in his pockets, and spoke with smiling bitterness to it.
“Take it off, man, take it off! All men wear masks, but they needn’t go to bed with them. For years you’ve pretended, smiled, sworn, played with all the toys, worked with the best you had, and believed you were content. And you’re finding out at forty what a fool you’ve been. You love her. She isn’t married yet, if she is engaged to another man—and if you’ve no fight in you, go make a hole and get in it!”
In the glass he saw his face whiten, saw the lines on his forehead swell, saw his eyes grow dark with rebellious pain, and, turning away, went to a window, opened it, and let the cold air blow upon him. Few people were on the street, and in the windows opposite was little light. The neighborhood was exclusively correct; and only that evening walking home from the club the man with him had frankly envied his manner of life, his freedom and independence. He closed the window, turned off some of the lights, and went back to his chair. “I am an entirely free and independent person,” he said aloud. “A most desirable condition for a man without a heart.” Why did men have hearts, anyhow, and especially such a queer kind as he had. In the days of his youth he had expected the days of his maturity to find him married, find him with the responsibilities and obligations of other men; but he had strange views of marriage. One by one