“I knew I was unfit for liberty,” she said, half to herself. “What an ending to my first pleasure!”
“For Heaven’s sake, Geraldine,” he broke out, “don’t take an accident so tragically——”
“I want Kathleen. Do you hear?”
“Very well; I’ll find her.... And, whatever you say or think, I am in love with you,” he added fiercely.
His voice, his words, were meaningless; she was conscious only of the heavy pulse in throat and temple, of the desire for her room and darkness. Lights, music, the scent of dying flowers, laughter, men, all had become abhorrent. Something within her lay bruised and stunned; and, as never before, the vast and terrible phantom of her loneliness rose like a nightmare to menace her.
Later Kathleen came and took her away.
THE YEAR OF DISCRETION
Her first winter resembled, more or less, the first winter of the average debutante.
Under the roof of the metropolitan social temple there was a niche into which her forefathers had fitted. Within the confines of this she expected, and was expected, to live and move and have her being, and ultimately wing upward to her God, leaving the consecrated cubby-hole reserved for her descendants.
She did what her sister debutantes did, and some things they did not do, was asked where they were asked, decorated the same tier of boxes at the opera, appeared in the same short-skirted entertainments of the Junior League, saw what they saw, was seen where they were seen, chattered, danced, and flirted with the same youths, was smitten by the popular “dancing” man, convalesced in average time, smoked her first cigarette, fell a victim to the handsome and horrid married destroyer, recovered with a shock when, as usual, he overdid it, played at being engaged, was kissed once or twice, adored Sembrich, listened ignorantly but with intuitive shudders to her first scandals, sent flowers to Ethel Barrymore, kept Lent with the pure fervour of a conscience troubled and untainted, drove four in the coaching parade, and lunched afterward at the Commonwealth Club, where her name was subsequently put up for election.
Spectacular charities lured her from the Plaza to Sherry’s, from Sherry’s to the St. Regis; church work beguiled her; women’s suffrage, led daintily in a series of circles by Fashion and Wealth, enlisted her passive patronage. She even tried the slums, but the perfume was too much for her.
All the small talk and epigrams of the various petty impinging circles under the social dome passed into and out of her small ears—gossip, epigrams, aphorisms, rumours, apropos surmises, asides, and off-stage observations, subtle with double entendre, harmless and otherwise.
She met people of fashion, of wealth, and both; and now and then encountered one or two of those men and women of real distinction whose names and peregrinations are seldom chronicled in the papers.