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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter17,part1)

2006-08-28 23:39

    CHAPTER 17

    All sorts of absurd assumptions pass current as fixed and non-debatable standards. We might be free, and we tie ourselves to the slavery of rutted convention. Afraid of ideas, we come to no definite philosophy of life that is the result of clear and pellucid thinking.

    We must get rid of our bonds, but only in order to take on new ones. For our convictions will shackle us. The difference is that then we shall be servants of Truth and not of dead Tradition. ——From the Note Book of a Dreamer.

    THE CHAPERONE EXPLAINS THAT THE REBEL IS IMPOSSIBLE AND THE CHAPERONED BEGS LEAVE TO DIFFER

    PART 1

    "And why mustn't I?" Alice demanded vigorously.

    Her cousin regarded her with indolent amusement. "My dear, you are positively the most energetic person I know. It is refreshing to see with what interest you enter into a discussion."

    Miss Frome, very erect and ready for argument, watched her steadily from the piano stool of their joint sitting room. "Well?"

    "I didn't say you mustn't, my dear. I know better than to deal in imperatives with Miss Alice. What I did was mildly to suggest that you are going rather far. It's all very well to be civil, but——" Mrs. Van Tyle shrugged her shoulders and let it go at that. She was leaning back in an easychair and across its arm her wrist hung. Between the fingers, polished like old ivory to the tapering pink nails, was a lighted cigarette.

    "Why shouldn't I be——pleasant to him? I like him." Her color deepened, but the eyes of the girl did not give way. There was in them a little flare of defiance.

    "Be pleasant to him if you like, and if it amuses you. But——" Again Valencia stopped, but after a puff or two at her cigarette she added presently: "Don't get too interested in him."

    "I'm not likely to," Alice returned with a touch of scorn. "Can't I like a

    man and admire him without wanting to marry him? I think that's a hateful way to look at it."

    "It's your interpretation, not mine," Mrs. Van Tyle answered with perfect good humor. "Of course you couldn't want to marry him under any circumstances. His station in life——his anarchistic ideas——his reputation as a confirmed libertine——all of them make the thought of such a thing impossible."

    Miss Frome's mind seized on only one of the charges. "I don't believe it. I don't believe a word of it. Anybody can throw mud——and some of it is bound to stick. He's a good man. You can see that in his face."

    "You can perhaps. I can't." Valencia studied her beneath a droop of eyelids behind which she was very alert. "Those things aren't said about a man unless they are true. Moreover, it happens we don't have to depend on hearsay."

    "What do you mean?"

    "Do you remember that night we saw the Russian dancers?"

    "Yes."

    "On the way home our car passed him. He was helping a woman out of a cab in front of the building where he rooms. She was intoxicated, and-his arm was round her waist."

    "I don't believe it. It was somebody else," the young woman flamed.

    "His cousin recognized him. So did I."

    "There must be some explanation. I'll ask him."

    "Ask him!" Valencia's level eyebrows lifted "Really, I don't think that will do. Better quietly eliminate him."

    "You mean treat him as if he were guilty when, I am sure he is not."

    Mrs. Van Tyle's little laugh rippled out. "You're quite dramatic about it, my dear. The man's of no importance. He's a _poseur_, a demagogue, and one with a vicious streak in him. I understand, of course, that you're interested only because he different from the other men you know. That merely a part of his pose."

    "I'm sure it isn't."

    "You're romantic, my dear. I'll admit his arrival on this ship was dramatic. No doubt you're imagining him a knight going back to save

    gallantly a day that is lost. He's only a politician, and so far as I can

    understand they are almost all a bad lot."

    "Including Father and Uncle Joe and Ned Merrill?" Alice asked acidly.

    "They are not politicians, but business men. They are in politics merely to protect their interests. But I didn't intend to start a discussion about Mr. Farnum. I ask you to remember that as your chaperone I'm here to represent your father. Would he wish you to be friendly with this man?"

    Alice was silent. What her father would think was not a matter of doubt.

    "The man's impossible," Mrs. Van Tyle went on pleasantly. "And it's just as well to be careful. Not that I'm very prudish myself. But if you're going to marry Ned Merrill——"

    She had struck the wrong note. Like a flash Alice answered.

    "I'm not. That's definitely decided."

    "Really! I thought it was rather arranged," Valencia smiled blandly.

    It was all very well for Alice to protest, but in the end she would be a good girl and do as she was told. Not that her cousin objected to her having a little fling before the fatal day. But why couldn't the girl do her flirting with Beauchamp instead of with this wild socialist?

    Valencia reflected that at any rate she had done her duty.

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