He read on till half-past eight; then he stood up and sauntered to the window. The avenue below it was deserted; not a carriage or motor turned the corner around which he expected Undine to appear, and he looked idly in the opposite direction. There too the perspective was nearly empty, so empty that he singled out, a dozen blocks away, the blazing lamps of a large touring-car that was bearing furiously down the avenue from Morningside. As it drew nearer its speed slackened, and he saw it hug the curb and stop at his door. By the light of the street lamp he recognized his wife as she sprang out and detected a familiar silhouette in her companion's fur-coated figure. Then the motor flew on and Undine ran up the steps. Ralph went out on the landing. He saw her coming up quickly, as if to reach her room unperceived; but when she caught sight of him she stopped, her head thrown back and the light falling on her blown hair and glowing face.   "Well?" she said, smiling up at him.   "They waited for you all the afternoon in Washington Square--the boy never had his birthday," he answered.   Her colour deepened, but she instantly rejoined: "Why, what happened? Why didn't the nurse take him?"   "You said you were coming to fetch him, so she waited."   "But I telephoned--"   He said to himself: "Is THAT the lie?" and answered: "Where from?"   "Why, the studio, of course--" She flung her cloak open, as if to nike air max 1 attest her veracity. "The sitting lasted longer than usual--there was something about the dress he couldn't get--"   "But I thought he was giving a tea."   "He had tea afterward; he always does. And he asked some people in to see my portrait. That detained me too. I didn't know they were coming, and when they turned up I couldn't rush away. It would have looked as if I didn't like the picture." She paused and they gave each other a searching simultaneous glance. "Who told you it was a tea?" she asked.   "Clare Van Degen. I saw her at my mother's."   "So you weren't unconsoled after all--!"   "The nurse didn't get any message. My people were awfully disappointed; and the poor boy has cried his eyes out."   "Dear me! What a fuss! But I might have known my message wouldn't be delivered. Everything always happens to put me in the wrong with your family."   With a little air of injured pride she started to go to her room; but he put out a hand to detain her.   "You've just come from the studio?"   "Yes. It is awfully late? I must go and dress. We're dining with the Ellings, you know."   "I know... How did you come? In a cab?"   She faced him limpidly. "No; I couldn't find one that would bring me--so Peter gave me a lift, like an angel. I'm blown to bits. He had his open car."   Her colour was still high, and Ralph noticed that her lower lip twitched a little. He had led her to the point they had reached solely to be able to say: "If you're straight from the studio, how was it that I saw you coming down from Morningside?"   Unless he asked her that there would be no point in his cross-questioning, and he would have sacrificed his pride without a purpose. But suddenly, as they stood there face to face, almost touching, she became something immeasurably alien and far off, and the question died on his lips.   "Is that all?" she asked with a slight smile.   "Yes; you'd better go and dress," he said, and turned back to his room.   Chapter 16   The turnings of life seldom show a sign-post; or rather, though the nike air max 90 sign is always there, it is usually placed some distance back, like the notices that give warning of a bad hill or a level railway-crossing.   Ralph Marvell, pondering upon this, reflected that for him the sign had been set, more than three years earlier, in an Italian ilex-grove. That day his life had brimmed over--so he had put it at the time. He saw now that it had brimmed over indeed: brimmed to the extent of leaving the cup empty, or at least of uncovering the dregs beneath the nectar. He knew now that he should never hereafter look at his wife's hand without remembering something he had read in it that day. Its surface-language had been sweet enough, but under the rosy lines he had seen the warning letters.   Since then he had been walking with a ghost: the miserable ghost of his illusion. Only he had somehow vivified, coloured, substantiated it, by the force of his own great need--as a man might breathe a semblance of life into a dear drowned body that he cannot give up for dead. All this came to him with aching distinctness the morning after his talk with his wife on the stairs. He had accused himself, in midnight retrospect, of having failed to press home his conclusion because he dared not face the truth. But he knew this was not the case. It was not the truth he feared, it was another lie. If he had foreseen a chance of her saying: "Yes, I was with Peter Van Degen, and for the reason you think," he would have put it to the touch, stood up to the blow like a man; but he knew she would never say that. She would go on eluding and doubling, watching him as he watched her; and at that game she was sure to beat him in the end.   On their way home from the Elling dinner this certainty had become so insufferable that it nearly escaped him in the cry: "You needn't watch me--I shall never again watch you!" But he had held his peace, knowing she would not understand. How little, indeed, she ever understood, had been made clear to him when, the same night, he had followed her upstairs through the sleeping house. She had gone on ahead while he stayed below to lock doors and put out lights, and he had supposed her to be already in her room when he reached the upper landing; but she stood there waiting in the spot where he had waited for her a few hours earlier. She had shone her vividest at dinner, with revolving brilliancy that collective approval always struck from her; and the glow of it still hung on her as she paused there in the dimness, her shining cloak dropped from her white shoulders.   "Ralphie--" she began, a soft hand on his arm. He stopped, and she pulled air max 2013+ him about so that their faces were close, and he saw her lips curving for a kiss. Every line of her face sought him, from the sweep of the narrowed eyelids to the dimples that played away from her smile. His eye received the picture with distinctness; but for the first time it did not pass into his veins. It was as if he had been struck with a subtle blindness that permitted images to give their colour to the eye but communicated nothing to the brain.   "Good-night," he said, as he passed on.   When a man felt in that way about a woman he was surely in a position to deal with his case impartially. This came to Ralph as the joyless solace of the morning. At last the bandage was off and he could see. And what did he see? Only the uselessness of driving his wife to subterfuges that were no longer necessary. Was Van Degen her lover? Probably not--the suspicion died as it rose. She would not take more risks than she could help, and it was admiration, not love, that she wanted. She wanted to enjoy herself, and her conception of enjoyment was publicity, promiscuity--the band, the banners, the crowd, the close contact of covetous impulses, and the sense of walking among them in cool security. Any personal entanglement might mean "bother," and bother was the thing she most abhorred. Probably, as the queer formula went, his "honour" was safe: he could count on the letter of her fidelity. At moment the conviction meant no more to him than if he had been assured of the honesty of the first strangers he met in the street. A stranger--that was what she had always been to him. So malleable outwardly, she had remained insensible to the touch of the heart.   These thoughts accompanied him on his way to business the next morning. Then, as the routine took him back, the feeling of strangeness diminished. There he was again at his daily task--nothing tangible was altered. He was there for the same purpose as yesterday: to make money for his wife and child. The woman he had turned from on the stairs a few hours earlier was still his wife and the mother of Paul Marvell. She was an inherent part of his life; the inner disruption had not resulted in any outward upheaval. And with the sense of inevitableness there came a sudden wave of pity. Poor Undine! She was what the gods had made her--a creature of skin-deep reactions, a mote in the beam of pleasure. He had no desire to "preach down" such heart as she had--he felt only a stronger wish to reach it, teach it, move it to something of the pity that filled his own. They were fellow-victims in the noyade of marriage, but if they ceased to struggle perhaps the drowning would be easier for both...Meanwhile the first of the month was at hand, with its usual batch of bills; and there was no time to think of any struggle less pressing than that connected with paying them...   Undine had been surprised, and a little disconcerted, at her husband's air max 90 hyperfuse acceptance of the birthday incident. Since the resetting of her bridal ornaments the relations between Washington Square and West End Avenue had been more and more strained; and the silent disapproval of the Marvell ladies was more irritating to her than open recrimination. She knew how keenly Ralph must feel her last slight to his family, and she had been frightened when she guessed that he had seen her returning with Van Degen. He must have been watching from the window, since, credulous as he always was, he evidently had a reason for not believing her when she told him she had come from the studio. There was therefore something both puzzling and disturbing in his silence; and she made up her mind that it must be either explained or cajoled away.   These thoughts were with her as she dressed; but at the Ellings' they fled like ghosts before light and laughter. She had never been more open to the suggestions of immediate enjoyment. At last she had reached the envied situation of the pretty woman with whom society must reckon, and if she had only had the means to live up to her opportunities she would have been perfectly content with life, with herself and her husband. She still thought Ralph "sweet" when she was not bored by his good advice or exasperated by his inability to pay her bills. The question of money was what chiefly stood between them; and now that this was momentarily disposed of by Van Degen's offer she looked at Ralph more kindly--she even felt a return of her first impersonal affection for him. Everybody could see that Clare Van Degen was "gone" on him, and Undine always liked to know that what belonged to her was coveted by others. Her reassurance had been fortified by the news she had heard at the Elling dinner--the published fact of Harmon B. Driscoll's unexpected victory. The Ararat investigation had been mysteriously stopped--quashed, in the language of the law--and Elmer Moffatt "turned down," as Van Degen (who sat next to her) expressed it.   "I don't believe we'll ever hear of that gentleman again," he said contemptuously; and their eyes crossed gaily as she exclaimed: "Then they'll give the fancy ball after all?"   "I should have given you one anyhow--shouldn't you have liked that as well?" "Oh, you can give me one too!" she returned; and he bent closer to say: "By Jove, I will--and anything else you want."   But on the way home her fears revived. Ralph's indifference struck her as unnatural. He had not returned to the subject of Paul's disappointment, had not even asked her to write a word of excuse to his mother. Van Degen's way of looking at her at dinner--he was incapable of graduating his glances--had made it plain that the favour she had accepted would necessitate her being more conspicuously in his company (though she was still resolved that it should be on just such terms as she chose); and it would be extremely troublesome if, at this juncture, Ralph should suddenly turn suspicious and secretive.  
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