But though to herself she admitted, and even insisted on, the episodical nature of the experience, on the fact that for Deeringit could be no more than an incident, she was still convinced that his sentiment for her, however fugitive, had been genuine.
His had not been the attitude of the unscrupulous male seeking a vulgar “advantage.” For a moment he had really needed her, andif he was silent now, it was perhaps because he feared that she had mistaken the nature of the need and built vain hopes on its possible duration.
It was of the very essence of Lizzie’s devotion that it sought instinctively the larger freedom of its object; she could not conceive of love under any form of exaction or compulsion. To make this clear to Deering became an overwhelming need, and in a last short letter she explicitly freed him from whatever sentimental obligation its predecessors might have seemed to impose. In thisstudied communication she playfully accused herself of having unwittingly sentimentalized their relation, affirming, in self-defense, a retrospective astuteness, a sense of the impermanence of the tenderer sentiments, that almost put Deering in the fatuous position of having mistaken coquetry for surrender. And she ended gracefully with a plea for the continuance of the friendly regardwhich she had “always understood” to be the basis of their sympathy. The document, when completed, seemed to her worthy of what she conceived to be Deering’s conception of a woman of the world, and she found a spectral satisfaction in the thought of making her final appearance before him in that distinguished character. But she was never destined to learn what effect the appearance produced; for the letter, like those it sought to excuse, remained unanswered.
THE fresh spring sunshine which had so often attended Lizzie Weston her dusty climb up the hill of St.-Cloud beamed on her, some two years later, in a scene and a situation of altered import.
The horse-chestnuts of the Champs-Elysees filtered its rays through the symmetrical umbrage inclosing the graveled space about Daurent’s restaurant, and Miss West, seated at a table within that privileged circle, presented to the light a hat much better able to sustain its scrutiny than those which had sheltered the brow of Juliet Deering’s instructress.
Her dress was in keeping with the hat, and both belonged to a situation rich in such possibilities as the act of a leisurely luncheon at Daurent’s in the opening week of the Salon. Her companions, of both sexes, confirmed and emphasized this impression by an elaborateness of garb and an ease of attitude implying the largest range of selection between the forms of Parisian idleness; and even Andora Macy, seated opposite, as in the place of co-hostess or companion, reflected, in coy grays and mauves, the festal note of the occasion.