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Undine. He had been but five months married, and it seemed, after all, rather soon for him to be dropped out of such excursions as unquestioningly as poor Harvey Shallum. He smiled away this first twinge of jealousy, but the irritation it left found a pretext in his displeasure at Undine's choice of companions. Mrs. Shallum grated on his taste, but she was as open to inspection as a shop-window, and he was sure that time would teach his wife the cheapness of what she had to show. Roviano and the Englishmen were well enough too: frankly bent on amusement, but pleasant and well-bred. But they would naturally take their tone from the women they were with; and Madame Adelschein's tone was notorious. He knew also that Undine's faculty of self-defense was weakened by the instinct of adapting herself to whatever company she was in, of copying "the others" in speech and gesture as closely as she reflected them in dress; and he was disturbed by the thought of what her ignorance might expose her to. She came back late, flushed with her long walk, her face all sparkle and mystery, as he had seen it in the first days of their courtship; and the look somehow revived his irritated sense of having been intentionally left out of the party. "You've been gone forever. Was it the Adelschein who made you go such lengths?" he asked her, trying to keep to his usual joking tone. Undine, as she dropped down on the sofa and unpinned her hat, shed on him the nike air max 1 light of her guileless gaze. "I don't know: everybody was amusing. The Marquis is awfully bright." "I'd no idea you or Bertha Shallum knew Madame Adelschein well enough to take her off with you in that way." Undine sat absently smoothing the tuft of glossy cock's-feathers in her hat. "I don't see that you've got to know people particularly well to go for a walk with them. The Baroness is awfully bright too." She always gave her acquaintances their titles, seeming not, in this respect, to have noticed that a simpler form prevailed. "I don't dispute the interest of what she says; but I've told you what decent people think of what she does," Ralph retorted, exasperated by what seemed a wilful pretense of ignorance. She continued to scrutinize him with her clear eyes, in which there was no shadow of offense. "You mean they don't want to go round with her? You're mistaken: it's not true. She goes round with everybody. She dined last night with the Grand Duchess; Roviano told me so." This was not calculated to make Ralph take a more tolerant view of the question. "Does he also tell you what's said of her?" "What's said of her?" Undine's limpid glance rebuked him. "Do you mean that disgusting scandal you told me about? Do you suppose I'd let him talk to me about such things? I meant you're mistaken about her social position. He says she goes everywhere." Ralph laughed impatiently. "No doubt Roviano's an authority; but it doesn't happen to be his business to choose your friends for you." Undine echoed his laugh. "Well, I guess I don't need anybody to do that: I can do it myself," she said, with the good-humoured curtness that was the habitual note of intercourse with the Spraggs. Ralph sat down beside her and laid a caressing touch on her shoulder. "No, you can't, you foolish child. You know nothing of this society you're in; of its antecedents, its rules, its conventions; and it's my affair to look after you, nike air max 90 and warn you when you're on the wrong track." "Mercy, what a solemn speech!" She shrugged away his hand without ill-temper. "I don't believe an American woman needs to know such a lot about their old rules. They can see I mean to follow my own, and if they don't like it they needn't go with me." "Oh, they'll go with you fast enough, as you call it. They'll be too charmed to. The question is how far they'll make you go with THEM, and where they'll finally land you." She tossed her head back with the movement she had learned in "speaking" school-pieces about freedom and the British tyrant. "No one's ever yet gone any farther with me than I wanted!" she declared. She was really exquisitely simple. "I'm not sure Roviano hasn't, in vouching for Madame Adelschein. But he probably thinks you know about her. To him this isn't 'society' any more than the people in an omnibus are. Society, to everybody here, means the sanction of their own special group and of the corresponding groups elsewhere. The Adelschein goes about in a place like this because it's nobody's business to stop her; but the women who tolerate her here would drop her like a shot if she set foot on their own ground." The thoughtful air with which Undine heard him out made him fancy this argument had carried; and as be ended she threw him a bright look. "Well, that's easy enough: I can drop her if she comes to New York." Ralph sat silent for a moment--then he turned away and began to gather up his scattered pages. Undine, in the ensuing days, was no less often with Madame Adelschein, and Ralph suspected a challenge in her open frequentation of the lady. But if challenge there were, he let it lie. Whether his wife saw more or less of Madame Adelschein seemed no longer of much consequence: she had so amply shown him her ability to protect herself. The pang lay in the completeness of the proof--in the perfect functioning of her instinct of self-preservation. For the first time he was face to face with his hovering dread: he was judging where he still adored. Before long more pressing cares absorbed him. He had already begun to watch the post for his father-in-law's monthly remittance, without precisely knowing how, even with its aid, he was to bridge the gulf of expense between St. Moritz and New York. The non-arrival of Mr. Spragg's cheque was productive of graver tears, and these were abruptly confirmed when, coming in one afternoon, he found Undine crying over a letter nike air footscape free from her mother. Her distress made him fear that Mr. Spragg was ill, and he drew her to him soothingly; but she broke away with an impatient movement. "Oh, they're all well enough--but father's lost a lot of money. He's been speculating, and he can't send us anything for at least three months." Ralph murmured reassuringly: "As long as there's no one ill!"--but in reality he was following her despairing gaze down the long perspective of their barren quarter. "Three months! Three months!" Undine dried her eyes, and sat with set lips and tapping foot while he read her mother's letter. "Your poor father! It's a hard knock for him. I'm sorry," he said as he handed it back. For a moment she did not seem to hear; then she said between her teeth: "It's hard for US. I suppose now we'll have to go straight home." He looked at her with wonder. "If that were all! In any case I should have to be back in a few weeks." "But we needn't have left here in August! It's the first place in Europe that I've liked, and it's just my luck to be dragged away from it!" "I'm so awfully sorry, dearest. It's my fault for persuading you to marry a pauper." "It's father's fault. Why on earth did he go and speculate? There's no use his saying he's sorry now!" She sat brooding for a moment and then suddenly took Ralph's hand. "Couldn't your people do something--help us out just this once, I mean?" He flushed to the forehead: it seemed inconceivable that she should make such a suggestion. "I couldn't ask them--it's not possible. My grandfather does as much as he can for me, and my mother has nothing but what he gives her." Undine seemed unconscious of his embarrassment. "He doesn't give us nearly as much as father does," she said; and, as Ralph remained silent, she went on: "Couldn't you ask your sister, then? I must have some clothes to go home in." His heart contracted as he looked at her. What sinister change came over her when her will was crossed? She seemed to grow inaccessible, implacable--her eyes were like the eyes of an enemy. "I don't know--I'll see," he said, rising and moving away nike free 3.0v2 from her. At that moment the touch of her hand was repugnant. Yes--he might ask Laura, no doubt: and whatever she had would be his. But the necessity was bitter to him, and Undine's unconsciousness of the fact hurt him more than her indifference to her father's misfortune. What hurt him most was the curious fact that, for all her light irresponsibility, it was always she who made the practical suggestion, hit the nail of expediency on the head. No sentimental scruple made the blow waver or deflected her resolute aim. She had thought at once of Laura, and Laura was his only, his inevitable, resource. His anxious mind pictured his sister's wonder, and made him wince under the sting of Henley Fairford's irony: Fairford, who at the time of the marriage had sat silent and pulled his moustache while every one else argued and objected, yet under whose silence Ralph had felt a deeper protest than under all the reasoning of the others. It was no comfort to reflect that Fairford would probably continue to say nothing! But necessity made light of these twinges, and Ralph set his teeth and cabled. Undine's chief surprise seemed to be that Laura's response, though immediate and generous, did not enable them to stay on at St. Moritz. But she apparently read in her husband's look the uselessness of such a hope, for, with one of the sudden changes of mood that still disarmed him, she accepted the need of departure, and took leave philosophically of the Shallums and their band. After all, Paris was ahead, and in September one would have a chance to see the new models and surprise the secret councils of the dressmakers. Ralph was astonished at the tenacity with which she held to her purpose. He tried, when they reached Paris, to make her feel the necessity of starting at once for home; but she complained of fatigue and of feeling vaguely unwell, and he had to yield to her desire for rest. The word, however, was to strike him as strangely misapplied, for from the day of their arrival she was in state of perpetual activity. She seemed to have mastered her Paris by divination, and between the hounds of the Boulevards and the Place Vendome she moved at once with supernatural ease.  
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The chill of her tone struck in. This was more than a revolt of the nerves: it was a settled, a reasoned resentment. Ralph found himself groping for extenuations, evasions--anything to put a little warmth into her! "Who knows? Perhaps, after all, it's a mistake." There was no answering light in her face. She turned her head from him wearily. "Don't you think, dear, you may be mistaken?" "Mistaken? How on earth can I be mistaken?" Even in that moment of confusion he was struck by the cold competence of her tone, and wondered how she could be so sure. "You mean you've asked--you've consulted--?" The irony of it took him by the throat. They were the very words he might have spoken in some miserable secret colloquy--the words he was speaking to his wife! She repeated dully: "I know I'm not mistaken." There was another long silence. Undine lay still, her eyes shut, drumming on the arm of the sofa with a restless hand. The other lay cold in Ralph's clasp, and through it there gradually stole to him the benumbing influence of the air max 1 thoughts she was thinking: the sense of the approach of illness, anxiety, and expense, and of the general unnecessary disorganization of their lives. "That's all you feel, then?" he asked at length a little bitterly, as if to disguise from himself the hateful fact that he felt it too. He stood up and moved away. "That's all?" he repeated. "Why, what else do you expect me to feel? I feel horribly ill, if that's what you want." He saw the sobs trembling up through her again. "Poor dear--poor girl...I'm so sorry--so dreadfully sorry!" The senseless reiteration seemed to exasperate her. He knew it by the quiver that ran through her like the premonitory ripple on smooth water before the coming of the wind. She turned about on him and jumped to her feet. "Sorry--you're sorry? YOU'RE sorry? Why, what earthly difference will it make to YOU?" She drew back a few steps and lifted her slender arms from her sides. "Look at me--see how I look--how I'm going to look! YOU won't hate yourself more and more every morning when you get up and see yourself in the glass! YOUR life's going on just as usual! But what's mine going to be for months and months? And just as I'd been to all this bother--fagging myself to death about all these things--" her tragic gesture swept the disordered room--"just as I thought I was going home to enjoy myself, and look nice, and see people again, and have a little pleasure after all our worries--" She dropped back on the sofa with another burst of tears. "For all the good this rubbish will do me now! I loathe the very sight of it!" she sobbed with her face in her hands. Chapter 14 It was one of the distinctions of Mr. Claud Walsingham Popple that his studio was never too much encumbered with the attributes of his art to permit the installing, in one of its cushioned corners, of an elaborately furnished tea-table flanked by the most varied seductions in sandwiches and pastry. Mr. Popple, like all great men, had at first had his ups and downs; but his reputation had been permanently established by the verdict of a wealthy patron who, returning from an excursion into other fields of portraiture, had given it as air max 90 the final fruit of his experience that Popple was the only man who could "do pearls." To sitters for whom this was of the first consequence it was another of the artist's merits that he always subordinated art to elegance, in life as well as in his portraits. The "messy" element of production was no more visible in his expensively screened and tapestried studio than its results were perceptible in his painting; and it was often said, in praise of his work, that he was the only artist who kept his studio tidy enough for a lady to sit to him in a new dress. Mr. Popple, in fact, held that the personality of the artist should at all times be dissembled behind that of the man. It was his opinion that the essence of good-breeding lay in tossing off a picture as easily as you lit a cigarette. Ralph Marvell had once said of him that when he began a portrait he always turned back his cuffs and said: "Ladies and gentlemen, you can see there's absolutely nothing here," and Mrs. Fairford supplemented the description by defining his painting as "chafing-dish" art. On a certain late afternoon of December, some four years after Mr. Popple's first meeting with Miss Undine Spragg of Apex, even the symbolic chafing-dish was nowhere visible in his studio; the only evidence of its recent activity being the full-length portrait of Mrs. Ralph Marvell, who, from her lofty easel and her heavily garlanded frame, faced the doorway with the air of having been invited to "receive" for Mr. Popple. The artist himself, becomingly clad in mouse-coloured velveteen, had just turned away from the picture to hover above the tea-cups; but his place had been taken by the considerably broader bulk of Mr. Peter Van Degen, who, tightly moulded into a coat of the latest cut, stood before the portrait in the attitude of a first arrival. "Yes, it's good--it's damn good, Popp; you've hit the hair off ripplingly; but the pearls ain't big enough," he pronounced. A slight laugh sounded from the raised dais behind the easel. "Of course they're not! But it's not HIS fault, poor man; HE didn't give them to me!" As she spoke Mrs. Ralph Marvell rose from a monumental gilt arm-chair of pseudo-Venetian design and swept her long draperies to Van Degen's side. "He might, then--for the privilege of painting you!" the latter rejoined, transferring his bulging stare from the counterfeit to the original. His eyes rested on Mrs. Marvell's in what seemed a quick exchange of understanding; then they passed nike air max wright on to a critical inspection of her person. She was dressed for the sitting in something faint and shining, above which the long curves of her neck looked dead white in the cold light of the studio; and her hair, all a shadowless rosy gold, was starred with a hard glitter of diamonds. "The privilege of painting me? Mercy, _I_ have to pay for being painted! He'll tell you he's giving me the picture--but what do you suppose this cost?" She laid a finger-tip on her shimmering dress. Van Degen's eye rested on her with cold enjoyment. "Does the price come higher than the dress?" She ignored the allusion. "Of course what they charge for is the cut--" "What they cut away? That's what they ought to charge for, ain't it, Popp?" Undine took this with cool disdain, but Mr. Popple's sensibilities were offended. "My dear Peter--really--the artist, you understand, sees all this as a pure question of colour, of pattern; and it's a point of honour with the MAN to steel himself against the personal seduction." Mr. Van Degen received this protest with a sound of almost vulgar derision, but Undine thrilled agreeably under the glance which her portrayer cast on her. She was flattered by Van Degen's notice, and thought his impertinence witty; but she glowed inwardly at Mr. Popple's eloquence. After more than three years of social experience she still thought he "spoke beautifully," like the hero of a novel, and she ascribed to jealousy the lack of seriousness with which her husband's friends regarded him. His conversation struck her as intellectual, and his eagerness to have her share his thoughts was in flattering contrast to Ralph's growing tendency to keep his to himself. Popple's homage seemed the, subtlest proof of what Ralph could have made of her if he had "really understood" her. It was but another step to ascribe all her past mistakes to the lack of such understanding; and the satisfaction derived from this thought had once impelled her to tell the artist that he alone knew how to rouse her 'higher self.' He had assured her that the memory of her words would thereafter hallow nike free haven 3.0 his life; and as he hinted that it had been stained by the darkest errors she was moved at the thought of the purifying influence she exerted. Thus it was that a man should talk to a true woman--but how few whom she had known possessed the secret! Ralph, in the first months of their marriage, had been eloquent too, had even gone the length of quoting poetry; but he disconcerted her by his baffling twists and strange allusions (she always scented ridicule in the unknown), and the poets he quoted were esoteric and abstruse. Mr. Popple's rhetoric was drawn from more familiar sources, and abounded in favourite phrases and in moving reminiscences of the Fifth Reader. He was moreover as literary as he was artistic; possessing an unequalled acquaintance with contemporary fiction, and dipping even into the lighter type of memoirs, in which the old acquaintances of history are served up in the disguise of "A Royal Sorceress" or "Passion in a Palace." The mastery with which Mr. Popple discussed the novel of the day, especially in relation to the sensibilities of its hero and heroine, gave Undine a sense of intellectual activity which contrasted strikingly with Marvell's flippant estimate of such works. "Passion," the artist implied, would have been the dominant note of his life, had it not been held in check by a sentiment of exalted chivalry, and by the sense that a nature of such emotional intensity as his must always be "ridden on the curb." Van Degen was helping himself from the tray of iced cocktails which stood near the tea-table, and Popple, turning to Undine, took up the thread of his discourse. But why, he asked, why allude before others to feelings so few could understand? The average man--lucky devil!--(with a compassionate glance at Van Degen's back) the average man knew nothing of the fierce conflict between the lower and higher natures; and even the woman whose eyes had kindled it--how much did SHE guess of its violence? Did she know--Popple recklessly asked--how often the artist was forgotten in the man--how often the man would take the bit between his teeth, were it not that the look in her eyes recalled some sacred memory, some lesson learned perhaps beside his mother's knee? "I say, Popp--was that where you learned to mix this drink? Because it does the old lady credit," Van Degen called out, smacking his lips; while the artist, dashing a nervous hand through his hair, muttered: "Hang it, Peter--is NOTHING sacred to you?" It pleased Undine to feel herself capable of inspiring such emotions. She would have been fatigued by the necessity of maintaining her own talk on Popple's level, but she liked to listen to him, and especially to have others overhear what he said to her.  
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