* * * * *
One Saturday afternoon Hedger was sitting in the window of Eden’s music room. They had been watching the pigeons come wheeling over the roofs from their unknown feeding grounds.
“Why,” said Eden suddenly, “don’t we fix those big doors into your studio so they will open? Then, if I want you, I won’t have to go through the hall. That illustrator is loafing about a good deal of late.”
“I’ll open them, if you wish. The bolt is on your side.”
“Isn’t there one on yours, too?”
“No. I believe a man lived there for years before I came in, and the nurse used to have these rooms herself. Naturally, the lock was on the lady’s side.”
Eden laughed and began to examine the bolt. “It’s all stuck up with paint.” Looking about, her eye lighted upon a bronze Buddah which was one of the nurse’s treasures. Taking him by his head, she struck the bolt a blow with his squatting posteriors. The two doors creaked, sagged, and swung weakly inward a little way, as if they were too old for such escapades. Eden tossed the heavy idol into a stuffed chair. “That’s better,” she exclaimed exultantly. “So the bolts are always on the lady’s side? What a lot society takes for granted!”
Hedger laughed, sprang up and caught her arms roughly. “Whoever takes you for granted—Did anybody, ever?”
“Everybody does. That’s why I’m here. You are the only one who knows anything about me. Now I’ll have to dress if we’re going out for dinner.”
He lingered, keeping his hold on her. “But I won’t always be the only one, Eden Bower. I won’t be the last.”
“No, I suppose not,” she said carelessly. “But what does that matter? You are the first.”
As a long, despairing whine broke in the warm stillness, they drew apart. Caesar, lying on his bed in the dark corner, had lifted his head at this invasion of sunlight, and realized that the side of his room was broken open, and his whole world shattered by change. There stood his master and this woman, laughing at him! The woman was pulling the long black hair of this mightiest of men, who bowed his head and permitted it.
In time they quarrelled, of course, and about an abstraction,—as young people often do, as mature people almost never do. Eden came in late one afternoon. She had been with some of her musical friends to lunch at Burton Ives’ studio, and she began telling Hedger about its splendours. He listened a moment and then threw down his brushes. “I know exactly what it’s like,” he said impatiently. “A very good department-store conception of a studio. It’s one of the show places.”
“Well, it’s gorgeous, and he said I could bring you to see him. The boys tell me he’s awfully kind about giving people a lift, and you might get something out of it.”
Hedger started up and pushed his canvas out of the way. “What could I possibly get from Burton Ives? He’s almost the worst painter in the world; the stupidest, I mean.”