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Meanwhile Cope and Lemoyne refined daily on the details of their new menage and applied themselves with new single-mindedness to their respective interests. Cope had found a subject for his thesis in the great field of English literature,--or, rather, in a narrow bypath which traversed one of its corners. The important thing, as he frequently reminded Lemoyne, was not the thesis itself, but the aid which it might give his future. "It will make a difference, in salary, of three or four hundred dollars," he declared.
Lemoyne himself gave a few hours a week to Psychology in its humbler ranges. There were ways to hold the attention of children, and there were forms of advertising calculated to affect favorably the man who had money to spend. In addition, the University had found out that he could sing as well as act, and something had been said about a place for him in a musical play.
Between-times they brought their quarters into better order; and this despite numerous minor disputes. The last new picture did not always find at once its proper place on the wall; and sometimes there were discussions as to whether it should be toast or rolls, and whether there should be eggs or not. Occasionally sharp tones and quivering nostrils, but commonly amity and peace.
They were seen, or heard of, as going about a great deal together: to lectures, to restaurants, to entertainments in the city. But they went no longer, for the present, to Ashburn Avenue; they took their time to remember Randolph's repeated invitation; and there was, as yet, no further attendance at the studio in the Square,--for any reference to the unfinished portrait was likely to produce sharp tones and quivering nostrils indeed.
Other invitations began to come to Cope,--some of them from people he knew but slightly. He wondered whether his swoon and his shipwreck really could have done so much to make him known. Sometimes when these cards seemed to imply but a simple form of entertainment, at a convenient hour of the late afternoon, he would attend. It did not occur to him to note that commonly Medora Phillips was present: she was always in "active circulation," as he put it; and there he let things lie.
One of these entertainments was an afternoon reception of ordinary type, and the woman giving it had thrown a smallish library into closer communication with her drawing-room without troubling to reduce the library to order: books, pamphlets, magazines lay about in profuse carelessness. And it was in this library that Cope and Medora Phillips met.
"You've been neglecting me," she said.
"But how can I----?" he began.
"Yes, I know," she returned generously. "But after the first of May--Well, he is a young man of decisiveness and believes in quick action." She made a whiff, accompanied by an outward and forward motion of the hands. She was wafting Amy Leffingwell out of her own house into the new home which George Pearson was preparing for her. "After that----"
"Yes, after that, of course."
Mrs. Phillips was handling unconsciously a small pamphlet which lay on the library table. It was a magazine of verse--a monthly which did not scorn poets because they happened to live in the county in which it was published. The table of contents was printed on the cover, and the names of contributors were arranged in order down the right-hand side. Mrs. Phillips, carelessly running her eye over it while thinking of other things, was suddenly aware of the name of Carolyn Thorpe.
"What's this?" she asked. She ran her eye across to the other edge of the cover, and read, "Two Sonnets."
"Well, well," she observed, and turned to the indicated page. And, "When in the world----?" she asked, and turned back to the cover. It was the latest issue of the magazine, and but a day or two old.
"Carolyn in print, at last!" she exclaimed. "Why, isn't this splendid!"
Then she returned to the text of the two sonnets and read the first of them--part of it aloud.
"Well," she gasped; "this is ardent, this is outspoken!"
"That's the fashion among woman poets today," returned Cope, in a matter- of-fact tone. "They've gone farther and farther, until they hardly realize how far they have gone. Don't let them disturb you."
Mrs. Phillips reread the closing lines of the first sonnet, and then ran over the second. "Good heavens!" she exclaimed; "when I was a girl----!"
"I should say so." She looked from the magazine to Cope. "I wonder who 'the only begetter' may be."
"Is that quite fair? So many writers think it unjust--and even obtuse and offensive--if the thing is put on too personal a basis. It's all just an imagined situation, manipulated artistically...."
Mrs. Phillips looked straight at him. "Bertram Cope, it's you!" She spoke with elation. These sonnets constituted a tribute. Cope, she knew, had never looked three times, all told, at Carolyn Thorpe; yet here was Carolyn saying that she...
Cope dropped his eyes and slightly flushed.
"I wonder if she knows it's out?" Mrs. Phillips went on swiftly. "Did you?"
"I?" cried Cope, in dismay.
"You were taking it all so calmly."
"'Calmly'? I don't take it at all! Why should I? And why should you think there is any ref----?"
"Because I'm so 'obtuse' and 'offensive,' I suppose. Oh, if I could only write, or paint, or play, or something!"
Cope put his hand wearily to his forehead. The arts were a curse. So were gifted girls. So were over-appreciative women. He wished he were back home, smoking a quiet cigarette with Arthur Lemoyne.
Mrs. Ryder came bustling up--Mrs. Ryder, the mathematical lady who had given the first tea of all.
"I have just heard about Carolyn's poems. What it must be to live in the midst of talents! And I hear that Hortense has finally taken a studio for her portraits."
"Yes," replied Mrs. Phillips. "And she"--with a slight emphasis--"is doing Mr. Cope's picture,"--with another slight emphasis at the end.
Cope felt a half-angry tremor run through him. He was none the less perturbed because Medora Phillips meant obviously no offense. Hortense and Carolyn were viewed as but her delegates; they were doing for her what she would have been glad to be able to do for herself. Clearly, in her mind, there was not to be another Amy.
Well, that was something, he thought. He laughed uneasily, and gave the enthusiastic Mrs. Ryder a few details of the art-world (as she called it), --details which she would not be denied.
"I must call on dear Hortense, some afternoon," she said.
"Do," returned Hortense's aunt. "And mention the place. Let's keep the dear girl as busy as possible."
"If it were only photographs...." submitted Mrs. Ryder.
"That's a career too," Mrs. Phillips acknowledged.
They all drifted out into the larger room. Mrs. Ryder left them,--perhaps to distribute her small change of art and literature through the crowd.
"You're not forgetting Hortense?" Mrs. Phillips herself said, before leaving him.
"By no means," Cope replied.
"I hear you didn't make much of a start."
"We had tea," returned Cope, with satirical intention.
This left Medora Phillips unscathed. "Tea puts on no paint," she observed, and was lost in the press.
It need not be assumed that knowledge of Carolyn Thorpe's verse gained wide currency through University circles, but there was a copy of the magazine in the University library. Lemoyne saw it there. He scarcely knew whether to be pleased or vexed. Finally he decided that there was safety in numbers. If Cope really intended to go to that studio, it was just as well that there should be an impassioned poetess in the background. And it was just as well that Cope should know she was there. Lemoyne took a line not unlike Mrs. Phillips' own.
"I only wish there were more of them," he declared, looking up from his desk. "I'd like a lady barber for your head, a lady shoemaker for your feet, a lady psychologist for your soul----"
"Stop it!" cried Cope. "I've had about all I can stand. If you want to live in peace, as you sometimes say, do your share to keep the peace."
"You are going to have another sitting?"
"I am. How can I get out of it?"
"You don't want to get out of it."
"Well, after all the attentions they've shown us----"
"Me, then. Shall I be so uncivil as to hold back?"
"It might not displease her if you did."
"Your Mrs. Phillips. If I may risk a guess------"
"You may not. Your precious 'psychology' can wait. Don't be in such a damned hurry to use it."
"It had better be used in time."
"It had better not be used at all. Drop it. Think about your new play, or something."
"Oh, the devil!" sighed Lemoyne. "Winnebago seems mighty far off. We got on there, at least." He bent again over his desk.
Cope put down his book and came across. There were tears, perhaps, in his eyes--the moisture of vexation, or of contrition, or of both. "We can get along here, too," he said, with an arm around Lemoyne's shoulder.
"Let's hope so," returned Lemoyne, softening, with his hand pressed on Cope's own.
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