The Price She Paid by David Graham Phillips
That same afternoon Donald Keith, arrived at the top of Mrs. Belloc's steps, met Mildred coming out. Seeing their greeting, one would have thought they had seen each other but a few minutes before or were casual acquaintances. Said she:
"I'm going for a walk."
"Let's take the taxi," said he.
There it stood invitingly at the curb. She felt tired. She disliked walking. She wished to sit beside him and be whirled away--out of the noisy part of the city, up where the air was clean and where there were no crowds. But she had begun the regimen of Lucia Rivi. She hesitated. What matter if she began now or put off beginning until after this one last drive?
"No, we will walk," said she.
"But the streets are in frightful condition."
She thrust out a foot covered with a new and shiny storm-rubber.
"Let's drive to the park then. We'll walk there."
"No. If I get into the taxi, I'll not get out. Send it away."
When they were moving afoot up Madison Avenue, he said: "What's the matter? This isn't like you."
"I've come to my senses," replied she. "It may be too late, but I'm going to see."
"When I called on Mrs. Brindley the other day," said he, "she had your note, saying that you were going into musical comedy with Crossley."
"That's over," said she. "I lost my voice, and I lost my job."
"So I heard," said he. "I know Crossley. I dropped in to see him this morning, and he told me about a foolish, fashionable girl who made a bluff at going on the stage--he said she had a good voice and was a swell looker, but proved to be a regular `four- flusher.' I recognized you."
"Thanks," said she dryly.
"So, I came to see you."
She inquired about Mrs. Brindley and then about Stanley Baird. Finding that he was in Italy, she inquired: "Do you happen to know his address?"
"I'll get it and send it to you. He has taken a house at Monte Carlo for the winter."
"I shall stay here--I think."
"You may join him?"
"It depends"--he looked at her--"upon you."
He could put a wonderful amount of meaning into a slight inflection. She struggled--not in vain--to keep from changing expression.
"You realize now that the career is quite hopeless?" said he.
She did not answer.
"You do not like the stage life?"
"And the stage life does not like you?"
"Your voice lacks both strength and stability?"
"And you have found the one way by which you could get on--and you don't like it?"
"Crossley told you?" said she, the color flaring.
"Your name was not mentioned. You may not believe it, but Crossley is a gentleman."
She walked on in silence.
"I did not expect your failure to come so soon--or in quite that way," he went on. "I got Mrs. Brindley to exact a promise from you that you'd let her know about yourself. I called on Mrs. Belloc one day when you were out, and gave her my confidence and got hers --and assured myself that you were in good hands. Crossley's tale gave me--a shock. I came at once."
"Then you didn't abandon me to my fate, as I thought?"
He smiled in his strange way. "I?--when I loved you? Hardly."
"Then you did interest yourself in me because you cared--precisely as I said," laughed she.
"And I should have given you up if you had succeeded--precisely as I said," replied he.
"You wished me to fail?"
"I wished you to fail. I did everything I could to help you to succeed. I even left you absolutely alone, set you in the right way--the only way in which anyone can win success."
"Yes, you made me throw away the crutches and try to walk."
"It was hard to do that. Those strains are very wearing at my time of life."
"You never were any younger, and you'll never be any older," laughed she. "That's your charm--one of them."
"Mildred, do you still care?"
"How did you know?" inquired she mockingly.
"You didn't try to conceal it. I'd not have ventured to say and do the things I said and did if I hadn't felt that we cared for each other. But, so long as you were leading that fatuous life and dreaming those foolish dreams, I knew we could never be happy."
"That is true--oh, so true," replied she.
"But now--you have tried, and that has made a woman of you. And you have failed, and that has made you ready to be a wife--to be happy in the quiet, private ways."
She was silent.
"I can make enough for us both--as much as we will need or want--as much as you please, if you aren't too extravagant. And I can do it easily. It's making little sums--a small income--that's hard in this ridiculous world. Let's marry, go to California or Europe for several months, then come back here and live like human beings."
She was silent. Block after block they walked along, as if neither had anything especial in mind, anything worth the trouble of speech. Finally he said:
"I can't answer--yet," said she. "Not to-day-- not till I've thought."
She glanced quickly at him. Over his impassive face, so beautifully regular and, to her, so fascinating, there passed a quick dark shadow, and she knew that he was suffering. He laughed quietly, his old careless, indifferent laugh.
"Oh, yes, you can answer," said he. "You have answered."
She drew in her breath sharply.
"You have refused."
"Why do you say that, Donald?" she pleaded.
"To hesitate over a proposal is to refuse," said he with gentle raillery. "A man is a fool who does not understand and sheer off when a woman asks for time."
"You know that I love you," she cried.
"I also know that you love something else more. But it's finished. Let's talk about something else."
"Won't you let me tell you why I hesitate?" begged she.
"It doesn't matter."
"But it does. Yes, I do refuse, Donald. I'll never marry you until I am independent. You said a while ago that what I've been through had made a woman of me. Not yet. I'm only beginning. I'm still weak-- still a coward. Donald, I must and will be free."
He looked full at her, with a strange smile in his brilliant eyes. Said he, with obvious intent to change the subject: "Mrs. Brindley's very unhappy that you haven't been to see her."
"When you asked me to marry you, the only reason I almost accepted was because I want someone to support me. I love you--yes. But it is as one loves before one has given oneself and has lived the same life with another. In the ordinary sense, it's love that I feel. But--do you understand me, dearest?--in another sense, it's only the hope of love, the belief that love will come."
He stopped short and looked at her, his eyes alive with the stimulus of a new and startling idea.
"If you and I had been everything to each other, and you were saying `Let us go on living the one life' and I were hesitating, then you'd be right. And I couldn't hesitate, Donald. If you were mine, nothing could make me give you up, but when it's only the hope of having you, then pride and self-respect have a chance to be heard."
He was ready to move on. "There's something in that," said he, lapsed into his usual seeming of impassiveness. "But not much."
"I never before knew you to fail to understand."
"I understand perfectly. You care, but you don't care enough to suit me. I haven't waited all these years before giving a woman my love, to be content with a love seated quietly and demurely between pride and self- respect."
"You wouldn't marry me until I had failed," said she shrewdly. "Now you attack me for refusing to marry you until I've succeeded."
A slight shrug. "Proposal withdrawn," said he. "Now let's talk about your career, your plans."
"I'm beginning to understand myself a little," said she. "I suppose you think that sort of personal talk is very silly and vain--and trivial."
"On the contrary," replied he, "it isn't absolutely necessary to understand oneself. One is swept on in the same general direction, anyhow. But understanding helps one to go faster and steadier."
"It began, away back, when I was a girl--this idea of a career. I envied men and despised women, the sort of women I knew and met with. I didn't realize why, then. But it was because a man had a chance to be somebody in himself and to do something, while a woman was just a--a more or less ornamental belonging of some man's--what you want me to become now."
"As far as possible from my idea."
"Don't you want me to belong to you?"
"As I belong to you."
"That sounds well, but it isn't what could happen. The fact is, Donald, that I want to belong to you-- want to be owned by you and to lose myself in you. And it's that I'm fighting."
She felt the look he was bending upon her, and glowed and colored under it, but did not dare to turn her eyes to meet it. Said he: "Why fight it? Why not be happy?"
"Ah, but that's just it," cried she. "I shouldn't be happy. And I should make you miserable. The idea of a career--the idea that's rooted deep in me and can't ever be got out, Donald; it would torment me. You couldn't kill it, no matter how much you loved me. I'd yield for the time. Then, I'd go back-- or, if I didn't, I'd be wretched and make you wish you'd never seen me."
"I understand," said he. "I don't believe it, but I understand."
"You think I'm deceiving myself, because you saw me wasting my life, playing the idler and the fool, pretending I was working toward a career when I was really making myself fit for nothing but to be Stanley Baird's mistress."
"And you're still deceiving yourself. You won't see the truth."
"No matter," said she. "I must go on and make a career--some kind of a career."
"At grand opera."
"How'll you get the money?"
"Of Stanley, if necessary. That's why I asked his address. I shan't ask for much. He'll not refuse."
"A few minutes ago you were talking of self- respect."
"As something I hoped to get. It comes with independence. I'll pay any price to get it."
"Any price?" said he, and never before had she seen his self-control in danger.
"I shan't ask Stanley until my other plans have failed."
"What other plans?"
"I am going to ask Mrs. Belloc for the money. She could afford to give--to lend--the little I'd want. I'm going to ask her in such a way that it will be as hard as possible for her to refuse. That isn't ladylike, but--I've dropped out of the lady class."
"And if she refuses?"
"Then I'll go one after another to several very rich men I know, and ask them as a business proposition."
"Go in person," advised he with an undisguised sneer.
"I'll raise no false hopes in them," she said. "If they choose to delude themselves, I'll not go out of my way to undeceive them--until I have to."
"So this is Mildred Gower?"
"You made that remark before."
"When Stanley showed you a certain photograph of me."
"I remember. This is the same woman."
"It's me," laughed she. "The real me. You'd not care to be married to her?"
"No," said he. Then, after a brief silence: "Yet, curiously, it was that woman with whom I fell in love. No, not exactly in love, for I've been thinking about what you said as to the difference between love in posse and love in esse, to put it scientifically--between love as a prospect and love as a reality."
"And I was right," said she. "It explains why marriages go to pieces and affairs come to grief. Those lovers mistook love's promise to come for fulfillment. Love doesn't die. It simply fails to come--doesn't redeem its promise."
"That's the way it might be with us," said he. "That's the way it would be with us," rejoined she.
He did not answer. When they spoke again it was of indifferent matters. An hour and a half after they started, they were at Mrs. Belloc's again. She asked him to have tea in the restaurant next door. He declined. He went up the steps with her, said:
"Well, I wish you luck. Moldini is the best teacher in America."
"How did you know Moldini was to teach me?" exclaimed she.
He smiled, put out his hand in farewell. "Crossley told me. Good-by."
"He told Crossley! I wonder why." She was so interested in this new phase that she did not see his outstretched hand, or the look of bitter irony that came into his eyes at this proof of the subordinate place love and he had in her thoughts.
"I'm nervous and anxious," she said apologetically. "Moldini told me he had some scheme about getting the money. If he only could! But no such luck for me," she added sadly.
Keith hesitated, debated with himself, said: "You needn't worry. Moldini got it--from Crossley. Fifty dollars a week for a year."
"You got Crossley to do it?"
"No. He had done it before I saw him. He had just promised Moldini and was cursing himself as `weak and soft.' But that means nothing. You may be sure he did it because Moldini convinced him it was a good speculation."
She was radiant. She had not vanity enough where he was concerned to believe that he deeply cared, that her joy would give him pain because it meant forgetfulness of him. Nor was she much impressed by the expression of his eyes. And even as she hurt him, she made him love her the more; for he appreciated how rare was the woman who, in such circumstances, does not feed her vanity with pity for the poor man suffering so horribly because he is not to get her precious self.
It flashed upon her why he had not offered to help her. "There isn't anybody like you," said she, with no explanation of her apparent irrelevancy.
"Don't let Moldini see that you know," said he, with characteristic fine thoughtfulness for others in the midst of his own unhappiness. "It would deprive him of a great pleasure."
He was about to go. Suddenly her eyes filled and, opening the outer door, she drew him in. "Donald," she said, "I love you. Take me in your arms and make me behave."
He looked past her; his arms hung at his sides. Said he: "And to-night I'd get a note by messenger saying that you had taken it all back. No, the girl in the photograph--that was you. She wasn't made to be my wife. Or I to be her husband. I love you because you are what you are. I should not love you if you were the ordinary woman, the sort who marries and merges. But I'm old enough to spare myself--and you--the consequences of what it would mean if we were anything but strangers to each other."
"Yes, you must keep away--altogether. If you didn't, I'd be neither the one thing nor the other, but just a poor failure."
"You'll not fail," said he. "I know it. It's written in your face." He looked at her. She was not looking at him, but with eyes gazing straight ahead was revealing that latent, inexplicable power which, when it appeared at the surface, so strongly dominated and subordinated her beauty and her sex. He shut his teeth together hard and glanced away.
"You will not fail," he repeated bitterly. "And that's the worst of it."
Without another word, without a handshake, he went. And she knew that, except by chance, he would never see her again--or she him.
Moldini, disheveled and hysterical with delight and suspense, was in the drawing-room--had been there half an hour. At first she could hardly force her mind to listen; but as he talked on and on, he captured her attention and held it.
The next day she began with Moldini, and put the Lucia Rivi system into force in all its more than conventual rigors. And for about a month she worked like a devouring flame. Never had there been such energy, such enthusiasm. Mrs. Belloc was alarmed for her health, but the Rivi system took care of that; and presently Mrs. Belloc was moved to say, "Well, I've often heard that hard work never harmed anyone, but I never believed it. Now I know the truth."
Then Mildred went to Hanging Rock to spend Saturday to Monday with her mother. Presbury, reduced now by various infirmities--by absolute deafness, by dimness of sight, by difficulty in walking--to where eating was his sole remaining pleasure, or, indeed, distraction, spent all his time in concocting dishes for him- self. Mildred could not resist--and who can when seated at table with the dish before one's eyes and under one's nose. The Rivi regimen was suspended for the visit. Mildred, back in New York and at work again, found that she was apparently none the worse for her holiday, was in fact better. So she drifted into the way of suspending the regimen for an evening now and then--when she dined with Mrs. Brindley, or when Agnes Belloc had something particularly good. All went well for a time. Then--a cold. She neglected it, feeling sure it could not stay with one so soundly healthy through and through. But it did stay; it grew worse. She decided that she ought to take medicine for it. True, starvation was the cure prescribed by the regimen, but Mildred could not bring herself to two or three days of discomfort. Also, many people told her that such a cure was foolish and even dangerous. The cold got better, got worse, got better. But her throat became queer, and at last her voice left her. She was ashamed to go to Moldini in such a condition. She dropped in upon Hicks, the throat specialist. He "fixed her up" beautifully with a few sprayings. A week--and her voice left her again, and Hicks could not bring it back. As she left his office, it was raining --an icy, dreary drizzle. She splashed her way home, in about the lowest spirits she had ever known. She locked her door and seated herself at the window and stared out, while the storm raged within her. After an hour or two she wrote and sent Moldini a note: "I have been making a fool of myself. I'll not come again until I am all right. Be patient with me. I don't think this will occur again." She first wrote "happen." She scratched it out and put "occur" in its place. Not that Moldini would have noted the slip; simply that she would not permit herself the satisfaction of the false and self-excusing "happen." It had not been a "happen." It had been a deliberate folly, a lapse to the Mildred she had buried the day she sent Donald Keith away. When the note was on its way, she threw out all her medicines, and broke the new spraying apparatus Hicks had instructed her to buy.
She went back to the Rivi regime. A week passed, and she was little better. Two weeks, and she began to mend. But it was six weeks before the last traces of her folly disappeared. Moldini said not a word, gave no sign. Once more her life went on in uneventful, unbroken routine--diet, exercise, singing--singing, exercise, diet--no distractions except an occasional visit to the opera with Moldini, and she was hating opera now. All her enthusiasm was gone. She simply worked doggedly, drudged, slaved.
When the days began to grow warm, Mrs. Belloc said: "I suppose you'll soon be off to the country? Are you going to visit Mrs. Brindley?"
"No," said Mildred.
"Then come with me."
"Thank you, but I can't do it."
"But you've got to rest somewhere."
"Rest?" said Mildred. "Why should I rest?"
Mrs. Belloc started to protest, then abruptly changed. "Come to think of it, why should you? You're in perfect health, and it'll be time enough to rest when you `get there.' "
"I'm tired through and through," said Mildred, "but it isn't the kind of tired that could be rested except by throwing up this frightful nightmare of a career."
"And you can't do that."
"I won't," said Mildred, her lips compressed and her eyes narrowed.
She and Moldini--and fat, funny little Mrs. Moldini --went to the mountains. And she worked on. She would listen to none of the suggestions about the dangers of keeping too steadily at it, about working oneself into a state of staleness, about the imperative demands of the artistic temperament for rest, change, variety. "It may be so," she said to Mrs. Brindley. "But I've gone mad. I can no more drop this routine than--than you could take it up and keep to it for a week."
"I'll admit I couldn't," said Cyrilla. "And Mildred, you're making a mistake."
"Then I'll have to suffer for it. I must do what seems best to me."
"But I'm sure you're wrong. I never knew anyone to act as you're acting. Everyone rests and freshens up."
Mildred lost patience, almost lost her temper. "You're trying to tempt me to ruin myself," she said. "Please stop it. You say you never knew anyone to do as I'm doing. Very well. But how many girls have you known who have succeeded?"
Cyrilla hesitatingly confessed that she had known none.
"Yet you've known scores who've tried."
"But they didn't fail because they didn't work enough. Many of them worked too much."
Mildred laughed. "How do you know why they failed?" said she. "You haven't thought about it as I have. You haven't lived it. Cyrilla, I served my apprenticeship at listening to nonsense about careers. I want to have nothing to do with inspiration, and artistic temperament, and spontaneous genius, and all the rest of the lies. Moldini and I know what we are about. So I'm living as those who have succeeded lived and not as those who have failed."
Cyrilla was silenced, but not convinced. The amazing improvement in Mildred's health, the splendid slim strength and suppleness of her body, the new and stable glories of her voice--all these she knew about, but they did not convince her. She believed in work, in hard work, but to her work meant the music itself. She felt that the Rivi system and the dirty, obscure little Moldini between them were destroying Mildred by destroying all "temperament" in her.
It was the old, old criticism of talent upon genius. Genius has always won in its own time and generation all the world except talent. To talent contemporaneous genius, genius seen at its patient, plodding toil, seems coarse and obvious and lacking altogether in inspiration. Talent cannot comprehend that creation is necessarily in travail and in all manner of unloveliness.
Mildred toiled on like a slave under the lash, and Moldini and the Rivi system were her twin relentless drivers. She learned to rule herself with an iron hand. She discovered the full measure of her own deficiencies, and she determined to make herself a competent lyric soprano, perhaps something of a dramatic soprano. She dismissed from her mind all the "high" thoughts, all the dreams wherewith the little people, even the little people who achieve a certain success, beguile the tedium of their journey along the hard road. She was not working to "interpret the thought of the great master" or to "advance the singing art yet higher" or even to win fame and applause. She had one object --to earn her living on the grand opera stage, and to earn it as a prima donna because that meant the best living. She frankly told Cyrilla that this was her object, when Cyrilla forced her one day to talk about her aims. Cyrilla looked pained, broke a melancholy silence to say:
"I know you don't mean that. You are too intelligent. You sing too well."
"Yes, I mean just that," said Mildred. "A living."
"At any rate, don't say it. You give such a false impression."
"To whom? Not to Crossley, and not to Moldini, and why should I care what any others think? They are not paying my expenses. And regardless of what they think now, they'll be at my feet if I succeed, and they'll put me under theirs if I don't."
"How hard you have grown," cried Cyrilla.
"How sensible, you mean. I've merely stopped being a self-deceiver and a sentimentalist."
"Believe me, my dear, you are sacrificing your character to your ambition."
"I never had any real character until ambition came," replied Mildred. "The soft, vacillating, sweet and weak thing I used to have wasn't character."
"But, dear, you can't think it superior character to center one's whole life about a sordid ambition."
"Merely to make a living."
Mildred laughed merrily and mockingly. "You call that sordid? Then for heaven's sake what is high? You had left you money enough to live on, if you have to. No one left me an income. So, I'm fighting for independence--and that means for self-respect. Is self-respect sordid, Cyrilla!"
And then Cyrilla understood--in part, not altogether. She lived in the ordinary environment of flap- doodle and sweet hypocrisy and sentimentality; and none such can more than vaguely glimpse the realities.
Toward the end of the summer Moldini said:
"It's over. You have won."
Mildred looked at him in puzzled surprise.
"You have learned it all. You will succeed. The rest is detail."
"But I've learned nothing as yet," protested she.
"You have learned to teach yourself," replied the Italian. "You at last can hear yourself sing, and you know when you sing right and when you sing wrong, and you know how to sing right. The rest is easy. Ah, my dear Miss Gower, you will work now!"
Mildred did not understand. She was even daunted by that "You will work now!" She had been thinking that to work harder was impossible. What did he expect of her? Something she feared she could not realize. But soon she understood--when he gave her songs, then began to teach her a role, the part of Madame Butterfly herself. "I can help you only a little there," he said. "You will have to go to my friend Ferreri for roles. But we can make a beginning."
She had indeed won. She had passed from the stage where a career is all drudgery--the stage through which only the strong can pass without giving up and accepting failure or small success. She had passed to the stage where there is added pleasure to the drudgery, for, the drudgery never ceases. And what was the pleasure? Why, more work--always work--bringing into use not merely the routine parts of the mind, but also the imaginative and creative faculties. She had learned her trade--not well enough, for no superior man or woman ever feels that he or she knows the trade well enough--but well enough to begin to use it.
Said Moldini: "When the great one, who has achieved and arrived, is asked for advice by the sweet, enthusiastic young beginner, what is the answer? Always the same: `My dear child, don't! Go back home, and marry and have babies.' You know why now?"
And Mildred, looking back over the dreary drudgery that had been, and looking forward to the drudgery yet to come, dreary enough for all the prospects of a few flowers and a little sun--Mildred said: "Indeed I do, maestro."
"They think it means what you Americans call morals--as if that were all of morality! But it doesn't mean morals; not at all. Sex and the game of sex is all through life everywhere--in the home no less than in the theater. In town and country, indoors and out, sunlight, moonlight, and rain--always it goes on. And the temptations and the struggles are no more and no less on the stage than off. No, there is too much talk about `morals.' The reason the great one says `don't' is the work." He shook his head sadly. "They do not realize, those eager young beginners. They read the story-books and the lives of the great successes and they hear the foolish chatter of common- place people--those imbecile `cultured' people who know nothing! And they think a career is a triumphal march. What think you, Miss Gower--eh?"
"If I had known I'd not have had the courage, or the vanity, to begin," said she. "And if I could realize what's before me, I probably shouldn't have the courage to go on."
"But why not? Haven't you also learned that it's just the day's work, doing every day the best you can?"
"Oh, I shall go on," rejoined she.
"Yes," said he, looking at her with awed admiration. "It is in your face. I saw it there, the day you came--after you sang the `Batti Batti' the first time and failed."
"There was nothing to me then."
"The seed," replied he. "And I saw it was an acorn, not the seed of one of those weak plants that spring up overnight and wither at noon. Yes, you will win." He laughed gayly, rolled his eyes and kissed his fingers. "And then you can afford to take a little holiday, and fall in love. Love! Ah, it is a joyous pastime-- for a holiday. Only for a holiday, mind you. I shall be there and I shall seize you and take you back to your art."
In the following winter and summer Crossley disclosed why he had been sufficiently interested in grand opera to begin to back undeveloped voices. Crossley was one of those men who are never so practical as when they profess to be, and fancy themselves, impractical. He became a grand-opera manager and organized for a season that would surpass in interest any New York had known. Thus it came about that on a March night Mildred made her debut.
The opera was "Faust." As the three principal men singers were all expensive--the tenor alone, twelve hundred a night--Crossley put in a comparatively modestly salaried Marguerite. She was seized with a cold at the last moment, and Crossley ventured to substitute Mildred Gower. The Rivi system was still in force. She was ready--indeed, she was always ready, as Rivi herself had been. And within ten minutes of her coming forth from the wings, Mildred Gower had leaped from obscurity into fame. It happens so, often in the story books, the newly gloriously arrived one having been wholly unprepared, achieving by sheer force of genius. It occurs so, occasionally, in life--never when there is lack of preparation, never by force of unassisted genius, never by accident. Mildred succeeded because she had got ready to succeed. How could she have failed?
Perhaps you read the stories in the newspapers-- how she had discovered herself possessed of a marvelous voice, how she had decided to use it in public, how she had coached for a part, had appeared, had become one of the world's few hundred great singers all in a single act of an opera. You read nothing about what she went through in developing a hopelessly uncertain and far from strong voice into one which, while not nearly so good as thousands of voices that are tried and cast aside, yet sufficed, with her will and her concentration back of it, to carry her to fame--and wealth.
That birdlike voice! So sweet and spontaneous, so true, so like the bird that "sings of summer in full throated ease!" No wonder the audience welcomed it with cheers on cheers. Greater voices they had heard, but none more natural--and that was Moldini.
He came to her dressing-room at the intermission. He stretched out his arms, but emotion overcame him, and he dropped to a chair and sobbed and cried and laughed. She came and put her arms round him and kissed him. She was almost calm. The great fear had seized her--Can I keep what I have won?
"I am a fool," cried Moldini. "I will agitate you."
"Don't be afraid of that," said she. "I am nerv- ous, yes, horribly nervous. But you have taught me so that I could sing, no matter what was happening." It was true. And her body was like iron to the touch.
He looked at her, and though he knew her and had seen her train herself and had helped in it, he marveled. "You are happy?" he said eagerly. "Surely--yes, you must be happy."
"More than that," answered she. "You'll have to find another word than happiness--something bigger and stronger and deeper."
"Now you can have your holiday," laughed he. "But"--with mock sternness--"in moderation! He must be an incident only. With those who win the high places, sex is an incident--a charming, necessary incident, but only an incident. He must not spoil your career. If you allowed that you would be like a mother who deserts her children for a lover. He must not touch your career!"
Mildred, giving the last touches to her costume before the glass, glanced merrily at Moldini by way of it. "If he did touch it," said she, "how long do you think he would last with me?"
Moldini paused half-way in his nod of approval, was stricken with silence and sadness. It would have been natural and proper for a man thus to put sex beneath the career. It was necessary for anyone who developed the strong character that compels success and holds it. But-- The Italian could not get away from tradition; woman was made for the pleasure of one man, not for herself and the world.
"You don't like that, maestro?" said she, still observing him in the glass.
"No man would," said he, with returning cheerfulness. "It hurts man's vanity. And no woman would, either; you rebuke their laziness and their dependence!"
She laughed and rushed away to fresh triumphs.