You glean the best from everything. That you should take my little talk about gardens, and fit it to what Ruskin has said, is a gracious act. You speak of that night in the garden. Do you remember that you wore a scarlet wrap of thin silk? I could think of nothing as you came toward me, but of some glorious flower of almost supernatural bloom. All about you the garden was dying. But you were Life—Life as it springs up afresh from a world that is dead.
I know how empty the old house seems to you, without Barry, without Constance, without the beautiful baby whom I have never seen. To me it can never seem empty with you in it. Is the saying of such things forbidden? Please believe that I don’t mean to force them on you, but I write as I think.
By this post Cousin Patty is sending a box of her famous cake, for you and Aunt Isabelle. There’s enough for an army, so I shall think of you as dispensing tea in the garden, with your friends about you—lucky friends—and with the little bronze boy looking on and laughing.
To Mary of the Garden, then, this letter goes with all good wishes.
In Which Porter Plants an Evil Seed Which Grows and Flourishes; and in Which Ghosts Rise and Confront Mary.
As has been said, Porter Bigelow was not a snob, and he was a gentleman. But even a gentleman can, when swayed by primal emotions, convince himself that high motives rule, even while performing acts of doubtful honor.
It was thus that Porter proved to himself that his interest in Roger Poole’s past was purely that of the protector and friend of Mary Ballard. Mary must not throw herself away. Mary must be guarded against the tragedy of marriage with a man who was not worthy. And who could do this better than he?
In pursuance of his policy of protection he took his way one afternoon in July to Colin’s studio.
“I’m staying in town,” Colin told him, “because of Miss Jeliffe. Her father is held by the long Session. I’m painting another picture of her, and fixing up these rooms in the interim—how do you like them?”
In his furnishing, Colin had broken away from conventional tradition. Here were no rugs hung from balconies, no rich stuffs and suits of armor. It was simply a cool little place, with a big window overlooking one of the parks. Its walls were tinted gray, and there were a few comfortable rattan chairs, with white linen cushions. A portrait of Delilah dominated the room. He had painted her in the costume which she had worn at the garden party—in all the glory of cool greens and faint pink, and heavenly blue.
Porter surveying the portrait said, slowly, “You said that you had painted—other women?”
“Yes—but none so satisfactory as Miss Jeliffe.”
“There was the little saint—in red.”