TO REMAIN ON THE FIELD OF BATTLE IS NOT ALWAYS A VICTORY
Mamie, waiting just inside the door as Ariel and Eugene entered, gave the visitor a pale greeting, and, a moment later, hearing the wheels of the brougham crunch the gravel of the carriage-drive, hurried away, down the broad hall, and disappeared. Ariel dropped her parasol upon a marble-topped table near the door, and, removing her gloves, drifted into a room at the left, where a grand piano found shelter beneath crimson plush. After a moment of contemplation, she pushed back the coverlet, and, seating herself upon the plush-covered piano-stool (to match), let her fingers run up and down the key-board once and fall listlessly in her lap, as she gazed with deep interest at three life-sized colored photographs (in carved gilt frames) upon the wall she was facing: Judge Pike, Mamie, and Mrs. Pike with her rubies.
“Please don’t stop playing, Miss Tabor,” said a voice behind her. She had not observed that Eugene had followed her into the room.
“Very well, if you like,” she answered, looking up to smile absently at him. And she began to play a rakish little air which, composed by some rattle-brain at a cafe table, had lately skipped out of the Moulin Rouge to disport itself over Paris. She played it slowly, in the minor, with elfish pathos; while he leaned upon the piano, his eyes fixed upon her fingers, which bore few rings, none, he observed with an unreasonable pleasure, upon the third finger of the left hand.
“It’s one of those simpler Grieg things, isn’t it?” he said, sighing gently. “I care for Grieg.”
“Would you mind its being Chaminade?” she returned, dropping her eyes to cloak the sin.
“Ah no; I recognize it now,” replied Eugene. “He appeals to me even more than Grieg.”
At this she glanced quickly up at him, but more quickly down again, and hastened the time emphatically, swinging the little air into the major.
“Do you play the `Pilgrim’s Chorus’?”
She shook her head.
“Vous name pas Wagner?” inquired Eugene, leaning toward her.
“Oh yes,” she answered, bending her head far over, so that her face was concealed from him, except the chin, which, he saw with a thrill of inexplicable emotion, was trembling slightly. There were some small white flowers upon her hat, and these shook too.
She stopped playing abruptly, rose from the stool and crossed the room to a large mahogany chair, upholstered in red velvet and of hybrid construction, possessing both rockers and legs. She had moved in a way which prevented him from seeing her face, but he was certain of her agitation, and strangely glad, while curious, tremulous half-thoughts, edged with prophecy, bubbled to the surface of his consciousness.
When she turned to him, he was surprised to see that she looked astonishingly happy, almost as if she had been struggling with joy, instead of pain.