“He isn’t like us”
Margaret continued to sit there, her elbows on the dressing-table, her knuckles pressing into her cheeks, the hazel eyes gazing at their reflection in the mirror. “What is it in me,” she said to her image, “that makes me less successful at drawing men to the point than so many girls who are no better looking than I?” And she made an inventory of her charms that was creditably free from vanity. “And men certainly like to talk to me,” she pursued. “The fish bite, but the hook doesn’t hold. Perhaps—probably—I’m not sentimental enough. I don’t simper and pretend innocence and talk tommy rot—and listen to it as if I were eating honey.”
This explanation was not altogether satisfactory, however. She felt that, if she had a certain physical something, which she must lack, nothing else would matter—nothing she said or did. It was baffling; for, there, before her eyes were precisely the charms of feature and figure that in other women, in far less degree, had set men, many men, quite beside themselves. Her lip curled, and her eyes laughed satirically as she thought of the follies of those men—how they had let women lead them up and down in public places, drooling and sighing and seeming to enjoy their own pitiful plight. If that expression of satire had not disappeared so quickly, she might have got at the secret of her “miserable failure.” For, it was her habit of facing men with only lightly veiled amusement, or often frank ridicule, in her eyes, in the curve of her lips, that frightened them off, that gave them the uneasy sense that their assumptions of superiority to the female were being judged and derided.
But time was flying. It was after three; the headache was still pounding in her temples, and her eyes did look almost as haggard and her skin almost as sallow as her grandmother had said. She took an anti-pyrene powder from a box in her dressing-table, threw off all her clothes, swathed herself in a long robe of pale-blue silk. She locked the door into the hall, and went into her bedroom, closed the door between. She put the powder in water, drank it, dropped down upon a lounge at the foot of her bed and covered herself. The satin pillow against her cheek, the coolness and softness of the silk all along and around her body, were deliciously soothing. Her blood beat less fiercely, and somber thoughts drew slowly away into a vague cloud at the horizon of her mind. Lying there, with senses soothed by luxury and deadened to pain by the drug, she felt so safe, so shut-in against all intrusion. In a few hours the struggle, the bitterness would begin again; but at least here was this interval of repose, of freedom. Only when she was thus alone did she ever get that most voluptuous of all sensations—freedom. Freedom and luxury! “I’m afraid I can’t eat my cake and have it, too,” she