Read CHAPTER VI of The Primadonna, free online book, by F. Marion Crawford, on ReadCentral.com.

The position of a successful lyric primadonna with regard to other artists and the rest of the world is altogether exceptional, and is not easy to explain.  Her value for purposes of advertisement apparently exceeds that of any other popular favourite, not to mention the majority of royal personages.  A respectable publisher has been known to bring out a book in which he did not believe, solely because a leading lyric soprano promised him to say in an interview that it was the book of the year.  Countless brands of cigars, cigarettes, wines and liquors, have been the fashion with the flash crowd that frequents public billiard-rooms and consumes unlimited tobacco and drink, merely because some famous ‘Juliet’ or ‘Marguerite’ has ‘consented’ to lend her name to the articles in question; and half the grog-shops on both sides of the Atlantic display to the admiring street the most alarming pink and white caricatures, or monstrously enlarged photographs, of the three or four celebrated lyric sopranos who happen to be before the public at any one time.  In the popular mind those artists represent something which they themselves do not always understand.  There is a legend about each; she is either an angel of purity and light, or a beautiful monster of iniquity; she has turned the heads of kings ­’kings’ in a vaguely royal plural ­completely round on their shoulders, or she has built out of her earnings a hospital for crippled children; the watery-sentimental eye of the flash crowd in its cups sees in her a Phryne, a Mrs. Fry, or a Saint Cecilia.  Goethe said that every man must be either the hammer or the anvil; the billiard-room public is sure that every primadonna is a siren or a martyred wife, or else a public benefactress, unless she is all three by turns, which is even more interesting.

In any case, the reporters are sure that every one wants to know just what she thinks about everything.  In the United States, for instance, her opinion on political matters is often asked, and is advertised with ‘scare-heads’ that would stop a funeral or arrest the attention of a man on his way to the gallows.

Then, too, she has her ‘following’ of ‘girls,’ thousands of whom have her photograph, or her autograph, or both, and believe in her, and are ready to scratch out the eyes of any older person who suggests that she is not perfection in every way, or that to be a primadonna like her ought not to be every girl’s highest ambition.  They not only worship her, but many of them make real sacrifices to hear her sing; for most of them are anything but well off, and to hear an opera means living without little luxuries, and sometimes without necessaries, for days together.  Their devotion to their idol is touching and true; and she knows it and is good-natured in the matter of autographs for them, and talks about ‘my matinee girls’ to the reporters, as if those eleven thousand virgins and more were all her younger sisters and nieces.  An actress, even the most gifted, has no such ‘following.’  The greatest dramatic sopranos that ever sing Brunhilde and Kundry enjoy no such popularity.  It belongs exclusively to the nightingale primadonnas, whose voices enchant the ear if they do not always stir the blood.  It may be explicable, but no explanation is at all necessary, since the fact cannot be disputed.

To this amazing popularity Margaret Donne had now attained; and she was known to the matinee girls’ respectful admiration as Madame Cordova, to the public generally and to her comrades as Cordova, to sentimental paragraph-writers as Fair Margaret, and to her friends as Miss Donne, or merely as Margaret.  Indeed, from the name each person gave her in speaking of her, it was easy to know the class to which each belonged.

She had bought a house in London, because in her heart she still thought England the finest country in the world, and had never felt the least desire to live anywhere else.  She had few relations left and none whom she saw; for her father, the Oxford scholar, had not had money, and they all looked with disapproval on the career she had chosen.  Besides, she had been very little in England since her parents’ death.  Her mother’s American friend, the excellent Mrs. Rushmore, who had taken her under her wing, was now in Versailles, where she had a house, and Margaret actually had the audacity to live alone, rather than burden herself with a tiresome companion.

Her courage in doing so was perhaps mistaken, considering what the world is and what it generally thinks of the musical and theatrical professions; and Mrs. Rushmore, who was quite powerless to influence Margaret’s conduct, did not at all approve of it.  The girl’s will had always been strong, and her immense success had so little weakened her belief in herself, or softened her character, that she had grown almost too independent.  The spirit of independence is not a fault in women, but it is a defect in the eyes of men.  Darwin has proved that the dominant characteristic of male animals is vanity; and what is to become of that if women show that they can do without us?  If the emancipation of woman had gone on as it began when we were boys, we should by this time be importing wives for our sons from Timbuctoo or the Friendly Islands.  Happily, women are practical beings who rarely stray far from the narrow path along which usefulness and pleasure may still go hand in hand; for considering how much most women do that is useful, the amount of pleasure they get out of life is perfectly amazing; and when we try to keep up with them in the chase after amusement we are surprised at the number of useful things they accomplish without effort in twenty-four hours.

But, indeed, women are to us very like the moon, which has shown the earth only one side of herself since the beginning, though she has watched and studied our world from all its sides through uncounted ages.  We men are alternately delighted, humiliated, and terrified when women anticipate our wishes, perceive our weaknesses, and detect our shortcomings, whether we be frisky young colts in the field or sober stagers plodding along between the matrimonial shafts in harness and blinkers.  We pride ourselves on having the strength to smash the shafts, shake off the harness, and kick the cart to pieces if we choose, and there are men who can and do.  But the man does not live who knows what the dickens women are up to when he is going quietly along the road, as a good horse should.  Sometimes they are driving us, and then there is no mistake about it; and sometimes they are just sitting in the cart and dozing, and we can tell that they are behind us by their weight; but very often we are neither driven by them nor are we dragging them, and we really have not the faintest idea where they are, so that we are reduced to telling ourselves, with a little nervousness which we do not care to acknowledge, that it is noble and beautiful to trust what we love.

A part of the great feminine secret is the concealment of that independence about which there has been so much talk in our time.  As for suffrage, wherever there is such a thing, the woman who does not vote always controls far more men’s votes than the woman-who goes to the polls, and has only her own vote to give.

Margaret, the primadonna, did not want to vote for or against anything; but she was a little too ready to assert that she could and would lead her own life as she pleased, without danger to her good name, because she had never done anything to be ashamed of.  The natural consequence was that she was gradually losing something which is really much more worth having than commonplace, technical independence.  Her friend Lushington realised the change as soon as she landed, and it hurt him to see it, because it seemed to him a great pity that what he had thought an ideal, and therefore a natural manifestation of art, should be losing the fine outlines that had made it perfect to his devoted gaze.  But this was not all.  His rather over-strung moral sense was offended as well as his artistic taste.  He felt that Margaret was blunting the sensibilities of her feminine nature and wronging a part of herself, and that the delicate bloom of girlhood was opening to a blossom that was somewhat too evidently strong, a shade too vivid and more brilliant than beautiful.

There were times when she reminded him of his mother, and those were some of the most painful moments of his present life.  It is true that compared with Madame Bonanni in her prime, as he remembered her, Margaret was as a lily of the valley to a giant dahlia; yet when he recalled the sweet and healthy English girl he had known and loved in Versailles three years ago, the vision was delicate and fairy-like beside the strong reality of the successful primadonna.  She was so very sure of herself now, and so fully persuaded that she was not accountable to any one for her doings, her tastes, or the choice of her friends!  If not actually like Madame Bonanni, she was undoubtedly beginning to resemble two or three of her famous rivals in the profession who were nearer to her own age.  Her taste did not run in the direction of white fox cloaks, named diamonds, and imperial jade plates; she did not use a solid gold toothbrush with emeralds set in the handle, like Ismail Pacha; bridge did not amuse her at all, nor could she derive pleasure from playing at Monte Carlo; she did not even keep an eighty-horse-power motor-car worth five thousand pounds.  Paul Griggs, who was old-fashioned, called motor-cars ’sudden-death carts,’ and Margaret was inclined to agree with him.  She cared for none of these things.

Nevertheless there was a quiet thoroughgoing luxury in her existence, an unseen private extravagance, such as Rufus Van Torp, the millionaire, had never dreamt of.  She had first determined to be a singer in order to support herself, because she had been cheated of a fortune by old Alvah Moon; but before she had actually made her debut a handsome sum had been recovered for her, and though she was not exactly what is now called rich, she was at least extremely well off, apart from her professional earnings, which were very large indeed.  In the certainty that if her voice failed she would always have a more than sufficient income for the rest of her life, and considering that she was not under the obligation of supporting a number of poor relations, it was not surprising that she should spend a great deal of money on herself.

It is not every one who can be lavish without going a little beyond the finely-drawn boundary which divides luxury from extravagance; for useless profusion is by nature as contrary to what is aesthetic as fat in the wrong place, and is quite as sure to be seen.  To spend well what rich people are justified in expending over and above an ample provision for the necessities and reasonable comforts of a large existence is an art in itself, and the modest muse of good taste loves not the rich man for his riches, nor the successful primadonna for the thousands she has a right to throw away if she likes.

Mr. Van Torp vaguely understood this, without at all guessing how the great artist spent her money.  He had understood at least enough to hinder him from trying to dazzle her in the beginning of the New York season, when he had brought siege against her.

A week after her arrival in London, Margaret was alone at her piano and Lushington was announced.  Unlike the majority of musicians in real fiction she had not been allowing her fingers to ’wander over the keys,’ a relaxation that not seldom leads to outer darkness, where the consecutive fifth plays hide-and-seek with the falling sub-tonic to superinduce gnashing of teeth in them that hear.  Margaret was learning her part in the Elisir d’Amore, and instead of using her voice she was whistling from the score and playing the accompaniment.  The old opera was to be revived during the coming season with her and the great Pompeo Stromboli, and she was obliged to work hard to have it ready.

The music-room had a polished wooden floor, and the furniture consisted chiefly of a grand piano and a dozen chairs.  The walls were tinted a pale green; there were no curtains at the windows, because they would have deadened sound, and a very small wood fire was burning in an almost miniature fireplace quite at the other end of the room.  The sun had not quite set yet, and as the blinds were still open, a lurid glare came in from the western sky, over the houses on the opposite side of the wide square.  There had been a heavy shower, but the streets were already drying.  One shaded electric lamp stood on the desk of the piano, and the rest of the room was illuminated by the yellowish daylight.

Margaret was very much absorbed in her work, and did not hear the door open; but the servant came slowly towards her, purposely making his steps heard on the wooden floor in order to attract her attention.  When she stopped playing and whistling, and looked round, the man said that Mr. Lushington was downstairs.

‘Ask him to come up,’ she answered, without hesitation.

She rose from the piano, went to the window and looked out at the smoky sunset.

Lushington entered the room in a few moments and saw only the outline of her graceful figure, as if she were cut out in black against the glare from the big window.  She turned, and a little of the shaded light from the piano fell upon her face, just enough to show him her expression, and though her glad smile welcomed him, there was anxiety in her brown eyes.  He came forward, fair and supernaturally neat, as ever, and much more self-possessed than in former days.  It was not their first meeting since she had landed, for he had been to see her late in the afternoon on the day of her arrival, and she had expected him; but she had felt a sort of constraint in his manner then, which was new to her, and they had talked for half an hour about indifferent things.  Moreover, he had refused a second cup of tea, which was a sure sign that something was wrong.  So she had asked him to come again a week later, naming the day, and she had been secretly disappointed because he did not protest against being put off so long.  She wondered what had happened, for his letters, his cable to her when she had left America, and the flowers he had managed to send on board the steamer, had made her believe that he had not changed since they had parted before Christmas.

As she was near the piano she sat down on the stool, while he took a small chair and established himself near the corner of the instrument, at the upper end of the keyboard.  The shaded lamp cast a little light on both their faces, as the two looked at each other, and Margaret realised that she was not only very fond of him, but that his whole existence represented something she had lost and wished to get back, but feared that she could never have again.  For many months she had not felt like her old self till a week ago, when he had come to see her after she had landed.

They had been in love with each other before she had begun her career, and she would have married him then, but a sort of quixotism, which was highly honourable if nothing else, had withheld him.  He had felt that his mother’s son had no right to marry Margaret Donne, though she had told him as plainly as a modest girl could that she was not of the same opinion.  Then had come Logotheti’s mad attempt to carry her off out of the theatre, after the dress rehearsal before her debut, and Madame Bonanni and Lushington between them had spirited her away just in time.  After that it had been impossible for him to keep up the pretence of avoiding her, and a sort of intimacy had continued, which neither of them quite admitted to be love, while neither would have called it mere friendship.

The most amazing part of the whole situation was that Margaret had continued to see Logotheti as if he had not actually tried to carry her off in his motor-car, very much against her will.  And in spite of former jealousies and a serious quarrel Logotheti and Lushington spoke to each other when they met.  Possibly Lushington consented to treat him civilly because the plot for carrying off Margaret had so completely failed that its author had got himself locked up on suspicion of being a fugitive criminal.  Lushington, feeling that he had completely routed his rival on that occasion, could afford to be generous.  Yet the man of letters, who was a born English gentleman on his father’s side, and who was one altogether by his bringing up, was constantly surprised at himself for being willing to shake hands with a Greek financier who had tried to run away with an English girl; and possibly, in the complicated workings of his mind and conflicting sensibilities, half Anglo-Saxon and half Southern French, his present conduct was due to the fact that Margaret Donne had somehow ceased to be a ‘nice English girl’ when she joined the cosmopolitan legion that manoeuvres on the international stage of ‘Grand Opera.’  How could a ‘nice English girl’ remain herself if she associated daily with such people as Pompeo Stromboli, Schreiermeyer, Herr Tiefenbach and Signorina Baci-Roventi, the Italian contralto who could pass for a man so well that she was said to have fought a real duel with sabres and wounded her adversary before he discovered that she was the very lady he had lately left for another ­a regular Mademoiselle de Maupin!  Had not Lushington once seen her kiss Margaret on both cheeks in a moment of enthusiastic admiration?  He was not the average young man who falls in love with a singer, either; he knew the stage and its depths only too well, for he had his own mother’s life always before him, a perpetual reproach.

Though Margaret had at first revolted inwardly against the details of her professional surroundings, she had grown used to them by sure and fatal degrees, and things that would once have disgusted her were indifferent to her now.  Men who have been educated in conditions of ordinary refinement and who have volunteered in the ranks or gone to sea before the mast have experienced something very like what befell Margaret; but men are not delicately nurtured beings whose bloom is damaged by the rough air of reality, and the camp and the forecastle are not the stage.  Perhaps nothing that is necessary shocks really sensible people; it is when disagreeable things are perfectly useless and quite avoidable ­in theory ­that they are most repugnant to men like Edmund Lushington.  He had warned Margaret of what was in store for her, before she had taken the final step; but he had not warned himself that in spite of her bringing-up she might get used to it all and end by not resenting it any more than the rest of the professionals with whom she associated.  It was this that chilled him.

‘I hope I’m not interrupting your work,’ he said as he sat down.

‘My work?’

‘I heard you studying when they let me in.’

‘Oh!’

His voice sounded very indifferent, and a pause followed Margaret’s mild ejaculation.

‘It’s rather a thankless opera for the soprano, I always think,’ he observed.  ‘The tenor has it all his own way.’

The Elisir d’Amore?’

‘Yes.’

‘I’ve not rehearsed it yet,’ said Margaret rather drearily.  ’I don’t know.’

He evidently meant to talk of indifferent things again, as at their last meeting, and she felt that she was groping in the dark for something she had lost.  There was no sympathy in his voice, no interest, and she was inclined to ask him plainly what was the matter; but her pride hindered her still, and she only looked at him with an expression of inquiry.  He laid his hand on the corner of the piano, and his eyes rested on the shaded lamp as if it attracted him.  Perhaps he wondered why he had nothing to say to her, and why she was unwilling to help the conversation a little, since her new part might be supposed to furnish matter for a few commonplace phrases.  The smoky sunset was fading outside and the room was growing dark.

‘When do the rehearsals begin?’ he asked after a long interval, and as if he was quite indifferent to the answer.

‘When Stromboli comes, I suppose.’

Margaret turned on the piano stool, so as to face the desk, and she quietly closed the open score and laid it on the little table on her other side, as if not caring to talk of it any more, but she did not turn to him again.

‘You had a great success in New York,’ he said, after some time.

To this she answered nothing, but she shrugged her shoulders a little, and though he was not looking directly at her he saw the movement, and was offended by it.  Such a little shrug was scarcely a breach of manners, but it was on the verge of vulgarity in his eyes, because he was persuaded that she had begun to change for the worse.  He had already told himself that her way of speaking was not what it had been last year, and he felt that if the change went on she would set his teeth on edge some day; and that he was growing more and more sensitive, while she was continually becoming less so.

Margaret could not have understood that, and would have been hurt if he had tried to explain it.  She was disappointed, because his letters had made her think that she was going to find him just as she had left him, as indeed he had been till the moment when he saw her after her arrival; but then he had changed at once.  He had been disappointed then, as she was now, and chilled, as she was now; he had felt that he was shrinking from her then, as she now shrank from him.  He suffered a good deal in his quiet way, for he had never known any woman who had moved him as she once had; but she suffered too, and in a much more resentful way.  Two years of maddening success had made her very sure that she had a prime right to anything she wanted ­within reason!  If she let him alone he would sit out his half-hour’s visit, making an idle remark now and then, and he would go away; but she would not let him do that.  It was too absurd that after a long and affectionate intimacy they should sit there in the soft light and exchange platitudes.

‘Tom,’ she said, suddenly resolving to break the ice, ’we have been much too good friends to behave in this way to each other.  If something has come between us, I think you ought to tell me ­don’t you?’

‘I wish I could,’ Lushington answered, after a moment’s hesitation.

‘If you know, you can,’ said Margaret, taking the upper hand and meaning to keep it.

‘That does not quite follow.’

‘Oh yes, it does,’ retorted Margaret energetically.  ’I’ll tell you why.  If it’s anything on your side, it’s not fair and honest to keep it from me after writing to me as you have written all winter.  But if it’s the other way, there’s nothing you can possibly know about me which you cannot tell me, and if you think there is, then some one has been telling you what is not true.’

‘It’s nothing against you; I assure you it’s not.’

’Then there is a woman in the case.  Why should you not say so frankly?  We are not bound to each other in any way, I’m sure.  I believe I once asked you to marry me, and you refused!’ She laughed rather sharply.  ‘That does not constitute an engagement!’

‘You put the point rather brutally, I think,’ said Lushington.

’Perhaps, but isn’t it quite true?  It was not said in so many words, but you knew I meant it, and but for a quixotic scruple of yours we should have been married.  I remember asking you what we were making ourselves miserable about, since we both cared so much.  It was at Versailles, the last time we walked together, and we had stopped, and I was digging little round holes in the road with my parasol.  I’m not going to ask you again to marry me, so there is no reason in the world why you should behave differently to me if you have fallen in love with some one else.’

‘I’m not in love with any one,’ said Lushington sharply.

’Then something you have heard about me has changed you in spite of what you say, and I have a right to know what it is, because I’ve done nothing I’m ashamed of.’

‘I’ve not heard a word against you,’ he answered, almost angrily.  ’Why do you imagine such things?’

’Because I’m honest enough to own that your friendship has meant a great deal to me, even at a distance; and as I see that it has broken its neck at some fence or other, I’m natural enough to ask what the jump was like!’

He would not answer.  He only looked at her suddenly for an instant, with a slight pinching of the lids, and his blue eyes glittered a little; then he turned away with a displeased air.

‘Am I just or not?’ Margaret asked, almost sternly.

‘Yes, you are just,’ he said, for it was impossible not to reply.

’And do you think it is just to me to change your manner altogether, without giving me a reason?  I don’t!’

‘You will force me to say something I would rather not say.’

‘That is what I am trying to do,’ Margaret retorted.

‘Since you insist on knowing the truth,’ answered Lushington, yielding to what was very like necessity, ’I think you are very much changed since I saw you last.  You do not seem to me the same person.’

For a moment Margaret looked at him with something like wonder, and her lips parted, though she said nothing.  Then they met again and shut very tight, while her brown eyes darkened till they looked almost black; she turned a shade paler, too, and there was something almost tragic in her face.

‘I’m sorry,’ Lushington said, watching her, ’but you made me tell you.’

‘Yes,’ she answered slowly.  ’I made you tell me, and I’m glad I did.  So I have changed as much as that, have I?  In two years!’

She folded her hands on the little shelf of the empty music desk, bent far forwards and looked down between the polished wooden bars at the strings below, as if she were suddenly interested in the mechanism of the piano.

Lushington turned his eyes to the darkening windows, and both sat thus in silence for some time.

‘Yes,’ she repeated at last, ’I’m glad I made you tell me.  It explains everything very well.’

Still Lushington said nothing, and she was still examining the strings.  Her right hand stole to the keys, and she pressed down one note so gently that it did not strike; she watched the little hammer that rose till it touched the string and then fell back into its place.

‘You said I should change ­I remember your words.’  Her voice was quiet and thoughtful, whatever she felt.  ’I suppose there is something about me now that grates on your nerves.’

There was no resentment in her tone, nor the least intonation of sarcasm.  But Lushington said nothing; he was thinking of the time when he had thought her an ideal of refined girlhood, and had believed in his heart that she could never stand the life of the stage, and would surely give it up in sheer disgust, no matter how successful she might be.  Yet now, she did not even seem offended by what he had told her.  So much the better, he thought; for he was far too truthful to take back one word in order to make peace, even if she burst into tears.  Possibly, of the two, his reflections were sadder than hers just then, but she interrupted them with a question.

‘Can you tell me of any one thing I do that jars on you?’ she asked.  ‘Or is it what I say, or my way of speaking?  I should like to know.’

‘It’s nothing, and it’s everything,’ answered Lushington, taking refuge in a commonplace phrase, ’and I suppose no one else would ever notice it.  But I’m so awfully sensitive about certain things.  You know why.’

She knew why; yet it was with a sort of wonder that she asked herself what there was in her tone or manner that could remind him of his mother; but though she had spoken quietly, and almost humbly, a cold and secret anger was slowly rising in her.  The great artist, who held thousands spellbound and breathless, could not submit easily to losing in such a way the only friendship that had ever meant much to her.  The man who had just told her that she had lost her charm for him meant that she was sinking to the level of her surroundings, and he was the only man she had ever believed that she loved.  Two years ago, and even less, she would have been generously angry with him, and would have spoken out, and perhaps all would have been over; but those two years of life on the stage had given her the self-control of an actress when she chose to exercise it, and she had acquired an artificial command of her face and voice which had not belonged to her original frank and simple self.  Perhaps Lushington knew that too, as a part of the change that offended his taste.  At twenty-two, Margaret Donne would have coloured, and would have given him a piece of her young mind very plainly; Margarita da Cordova, aged twenty-four, turned a trifle paler, shut her lips, and was frigidly angry, as if some ignorant music-hall reporter had attacked her singing in print.  She was convinced that Lushington was mistaken, and that he was merely yielding to that love of finding fault with what he liked which a familiar passage in Scripture attributes to the Divinity, but with which many of us are better acquainted in our friends; in her opinion, such fault-finding was personal criticism, and it irritated her vanity, over-fed with public adulation and the sincere praise of musical critics.  ’If you don’t like me as I am, there are so many people who do that you don’t count!’ That was the sub-conscious form of her mental retort, and it was in the manner of Cordova, and not of Margaret.

Once upon a time, when his exaggerated sense of honour was driving him away, she had said rather foolishly that if he left her she would not answer for herself.  She had felt a little desperate, but he had told her quietly that he, who knew her, would answer for her, and her mood had changed, and she had been herself again.  But it was different this time.  He meant much more than he said; he meant that she had lowered herself, and she was sure that he would not ‘answer’ for her now.  On the contrary, it was his intention to let her know that he no longer believed in her, and perhaps no longer respected or trusted her.  Yet, little by little, during their last separation, his belief in her, and his respect for her, had grown in her estimation, because they alone still connected her with the maidenliness and feminine refinement in which she had grown up.  Lushington had broken a link that had been strong.

She was at one of the cross-roads of her life; she was at a turning point in the labyrinth, after passing which it would be hard to come back and find the right way.  Perhaps old Griggs could help her if it occurred to him; but that was unlikely, for he had reached the age when men who have seen much take people as they find them.  Logotheti would certainly not help her, though she knew instinctively that she was still to him what she had always been, and that if he ever had the opportunity he sought, her chances of escape would be small indeed.

Therefore she felt more lonely after Lushington had spoken than she had ever felt since her parents had died, and much more desperate.  But nothing in the world would have induced her to let him know it, and her anger against him rose slowly, and it was cold and enduring, as that sort of resentment is.  She was so proud that it gave her the power to smile carelessly after a minute’s silence, and she asked him some perfectly idle questions about the news of the day.  He should not know that he had hurt her very much; he should not suspect for a moment that she wished him to go away.

She rose presently and turned up the lights, rang the bell, and when the window curtains were drawn, and tea was brought, she did everything she could to make Lushington feel at his ease; she did it out of sheer pride, for she did not meditate any vengeance, but was only angry, and wished to get rid of him without a scene.

At last he rose to go away, and when he held out his hand there was a dramatic moment.

‘I hope you’re not angry with me,’ he said with a cheerful smile, for he was quite sure that she bore him no lasting grudge.

‘I?’

She laughed so frankly and musically after pronouncing the syllable, that he took it for a disclaimer.

So he went away, shutting the door after him in a contented way, not sharply as if he were annoyed with her, nor very softly and considerately as if he were sorry for her, but with a moderate, businesslike snap of the latch as if everything were all right.

She went back to the piano when she was alone, and sat down on the music-stool, but her hands did not go to the keys till she was sure that Lushington was already far from the house.

A few chords, and then she suddenly began to sing with the full power of her voice, as if she were on the stage.  She sang Rosina’s song in the Barbiere di Siviglia as she had never sung it in her life, and for the first time the words pleased her.

  ‘... una vipera sarò!’

What ‘nice English girl’ ever told herself or any one else that she would be a ‘viper’?