the curtains, and let in the moon light. Jimmy
and that girl were out in it some where, seeking each
other, if not in body, then in thought. And
soon, somehow, somewhere, they would come together—come
together because Fate meant them to! Fate which
had given her young cousin a likeness to herself;
placed her, too, in just such a hopeless position as
appealed to Jimmy, and gave him a chance against younger
men. She saw it with bitter surety. Good
gamblers cut their losses! Yes, and proud women
did not keep unwilling lovers! If she had even
an outside chance, she would trail her pride, drag
it through the mud, through thorns! But she had
not. And she clenched her fist, and struck out
at the night, as though at the face of that Fate which
one could never reach—impalpable, remorseless,
surrounding Fate with its faint mocking smile, devoid
of all human warmth. Nothing could set back
the clock, and give her what this girl had.
Time had “done her in,” as it “did
in” every woman, one by one. And she saw
herself going down the years, powdering a little more,
painting a little more, touching up her hair, till
it was all artifice, holding on by every little device—and
all, to what end? To see his face get colder
and colder, hear his voice more and more constrained
to gentleness; and know that underneath, aversion
was growing with the thought ‘You are keeping
me from life, and love!’ till one evening, in
sheer nerve-break, she would say or do some fearful
thing, and he would come no more. ‘No,
Jimmy!’ she thought; ’find her, and stay
with her. You’re not worth all that!’
And puffing to the curtains, as though with that
gesture she could shut out her creeping fate, she turned
up the light and sat down at her writing table.
She stayed some minutes motionless, her chin resting
on her hands, the dark silk fallen down from her arms.
A little mirror, framed in curiously carved ivory,
picked up by her in an Indian bazaar twenty-five years
ago, hung on a level with her face and gave that face
back to her. ‘I’m not ugly,’
she thought passionately, ’I’m not.
I still have some looks left. If only that girl
hadn’t come. And it was all my doing.
Oh, what made me write to both of them, Edward and
Jimmy?’ She turned the mirror aside, and took
up a pen.
“My dear Jimmy,” she wrote:
“It will be better for us both if you take a
holiday from here. Don’t come again till
I write for you. I’m sorry I made you so
much disturbance to-night. Have a good time,
and a good rest; and don’t worry. “Your—”
So far she had written when a tear dropped on the
page, and she had to tear it up and begin again.
This time she wrote to the end—“Your
Leila.” ‘I must post it now,’
she thought, ’or he may not get it before to-morrow
evening. I couldn’t go through with this
again.’ She hurried out with it and slipped
it in a pillar box. The night smelled of flowers;
and, hastening back, she lay down, and stayed awake
for hours, tossing, and staring at the dark.