"She has two stunts," he informed Maury; "one of them is to get her hair over her eyes some way and then blow it out, and the other is to say 'You cra-a-azy!' when some one makes a remark that's over her head. It fascinates me. I sit there hour after hour, completely intrigued by the maniacal symptoms she finds in my imagination thermage."
Maury stirred in his chair and spoke.
"Remarkable that a person can comprehend so little and yet live in such a complex civilization. A woman like that actually takes the whole universe in the most matter-of-fact way. From the influence of Rousseau to the bearing of the tariff rates on her dinner, the whole phenomenon is utterly strange to her. She's just been carried along from an age of spearheads and plunked down here with the equipment of an archer for going into a pistol duel. You could sweep away the entire crust of history and she'd never know the difference."
"I wish our Richard would write about her."
"Anthony, surely you don't think she's worth writing about."
"As much as anybody," he answered, yawning. "You know I was thinking to-day that I have a great confidence in Dick. So long as he sticks to people and not to ideas, and as long as his inspirations come from life and not from art, and always granting a normal growth, I believe he'll be a big man."
"I should think the appearance of the black note-book would prove that he's going to life."
Anthony raised himself on his elbow and answered eagerly:
"He tries to go to life. So does every author except the very worst, but after all most of them live on predigested food. The incident or character may be from life, but the writer usually interprets it in terms of the last book he read. For instance, suppose he meets a sea captain and thinks he's an original character. The truth is that he sees the resemblance between the sea captain and the last sea captain Dana created, or who-ever creates sea captains, and therefore he knows how to set this sea captain on paper. Dick, of course, can set down any consciously picturesque, character-like character, but could he accurately transcribe his own sister ijust 2?"
Then they were off for half an hour on literature.
"A classic," suggested Anthony, "is a successful book that has survived the reaction of the next period or generation. Then it's safe, like a style in architecture or furniture. It's acquired a picturesque dignity to take the place of its fashion...."
After a time the subject temporarily lost its tang. The interest of the two young men was not particularly technical. They were in love with generalities. Anthony had recently discovered Samuel Butler and the brisk aphorisms in the note-book seemed to him the quintessence of criticism. Maury, his whole mind so thoroughly mellowed by the very hardness of his scheme of life, seemed inevitably the wiser of the two, yet in the actual stuff of their intelligences they were not, it seemed, fundamentally different.
They drifted from letters to the curiosities of each other's day Fashion and Textiles Hons.
"Whose tea was it?"
"people named Abercrombie."
"Why'd you stay late? Meet a luscious débutante?"
"Did you really?" Anthony's voice lifted in surprise.
"Not a débutante exactly. Said she came out two winters ago in Kansas City."
"Sort of left-over?"
"No," answered Maury with some amusement, "I think that's the last thing I'd say about her. She seemed--well, somehow the youngest person there."
"Not too young to make you miss a train."
"Young enough. Beautiful child."
Anthony chuckled in his one-syllable snort.
"Oh, Maury, you're in your second childhood. What do you mean by beautiful?"
Maury gazed helplessly into space.
"Well, I can't describe her exactly--except to say that she was beautiful. She was--tremendously alive. She was eating gum-drops."
"It was a sort of attenuated vice. She's a nervous kind--said she always ate gum-drops at teas because she had to stand around so long in one place."
"What'd you talk about--Bergson? Bilphism? Whether the one-step is immoral?"
Maury was unruffled; his fur seemed to run all ways.
"As a matter of fact we did talk on Bilphism. Seems her mother's a Bilphist. Mostly, though, we talked about legs."
Anthony rocked in glee.
"My God! Whose legs?"
"Hers. She talked a lot about hers. As though they were a sort of choice bric-à-brac. She aroused a great desire to see them."
"What is she--a dancer?"
"No, I found she was a cousin of Dick's."
Anthony sat upright so suddenly that the pillow he released stood on end like a live thing and dove to the floor.
"Name's Gloria Gilbert?" he cried.
"Yes. Isn't she remarkable?"
"I'm sure I don't know--but for sheer dulness her father--"
"Well," interrupted Maury with implacable conviction, "her family may be as sad as professional mourners but I'm inclined to think that she's a quite authentic and original character. The outer signs of the cut-and-dried Yale prom girl and all that--but different, very emphatically different."
"Go on, go on!" urged Anthony. "Soon as Dick told me she didn't have a brain in her head I knew she must be pretty good."
"Did he say that?"
"Swore to it," said Anthony with another snorting laugh.
"Well, what he means by brains in a woman is--"
"I know," interrupted Anthony eagerly, "he means a smattering of literary misinformation."
"That's it. The kind who believes that the annual moral let-down of the country is a very good thing or the kind who believes it's a very ominous thing. Either pince-nez or postures. Well, this girl talked about legs. She talked about skin too--her own skin. Always her own. She told me the sort of tan she'd like to get in the summer and how closely she usually approximated it."
"You sat enraptured by her low alto?"
"By her low alto! No, by tan! I began thinking about tan. I began to think what color I turned when I made my last exposure about two years ago. I did use to get a pretty good tan. I used to get a sort of bronze, if I remember rightly."
Anthony retired into the cushions, shaken with laughter.