He considered her with his faint grave smile. “It’s not necessary, at any rate, that you should do so now. Time and circumstances have made me so harmless—that’s exactly why I’ve dared to venture back. And I wanted to tell you how I rejoice inyour good fortune. It’s the only obstacle between us that I can’t bring myself to wish away.”
Lizzie sat silent, spellbound, as she listened, by the sudden evocation of Mr. Jackson Benn. He stood there again, between herself and Deering, perpendicular and reproachful, but less solid and sharply outlined than before, with a look in his small hard eyes that desperately wailed for reembodiment.
Deering was continuing his farewell speech. “You’re rich now, you’re free. You will marry.” She vaguely saw him holding out his hand.
“It’s not true that I’m engaged!” she broke out. They were the last words she had meant to utter; they were hardly related to her conscious thoughts; but she felt her whole will suddenly gathered up in the irrepressible impulse to repudiate and fling away from her forever the spectral claim of Mr. Jackson Benn.
IT was the firm conviction of Andora Macy that every object in the Vincent Deerings’ charming little house at Neuilly had been expressly designed for the Deerings’ son to play with.
The house was full of pretty things, some not obviously applicable to the purpose; but Miss Macy’s casuistry was equal tothe baby’s appetite, and the baby’s mother was no match for them in the art of defending her possessions. There were moments, in fact, when Lizzie almost fell in with Andora’s summary division of her works of art into articles safe or unsafe for the baby to lick, or resisted it only to the extent of occasionally substituting some less precious or less perishable object for the particular fragility on which her son’s desire was fixed. And it was with this intention that, on a certain fair spring morning—which worethe added luster of being the baby’s second birthday—she had murmured, with her mouth in his curls, and one hand holding a bitof Chelsea above his dangerous clutch: “Wouldn’t he rather have that beautiful shiny thing over there in Aunt Andorra’s hand?”
The two friends were together in Lizzie’s little morning-room—the room she had chosen, on acquiring the house, because, when she sat there, she could hear Deering’s step as he paced up and down before his easel in the studio she had built for him. His step had been less regularly audible than she had hoped, for, after three years of wedded bliss, he had somehow failed to settle downto the great work which was to result from that privileged state; but even when she did not hear him she knew that he was there, above her head, stretched out on the old divan from Passy, and smoking endless cigarettes while he skimmed the morning papers; and the sense of his nearness had not yet lost its first keen edge of bliss.