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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesGlory Of Youth - Chapter 6. "For Every Man There Is Just One Woman"
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Glory Of Youth - Chapter 6. 'For Every Man There Is Just One Woman' Post by :svesty Category :Long Stories Author :Temple Bailey Date :May 2012 Read :472

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Glory Of Youth - Chapter 6. "For Every Man There Is Just One Woman"

CHAPTER VI. "FOR EVERY MAN THERE IS JUST ONE WOMAN"

When Sophie, having donned a smoke-gray kimono and brushed her shining hair, went down to Diana, she expected to find her pensive. She found her, instead, with various little white jars and silver bottles set before her on her dressing table.

"When a woman takes to cold cream, Sophie," she remarked, as her friend came in, "it's a deadly sign. It shows that she has found her first wrinkle."

"Diana, how can you! You know that you are beautiful without such aids."

"When I was in Paris," Diana continued, "I was persuaded into buying these. I was told that they held the secret of perpetual youth."

"Perpetual youth is from the heart, Diana."

"Then my heart is as old as the ages."

Diana was gazing into the mirror, which reflected her tired face.

"I can't think of anything but that child, dancing in the candle-light. Oh, youth, youth, Sophie; is there anything like it in the whole wide world!"

"Diana," Sophie's voice was sharpened by her solicitude, "come away from that mirror."

Diana obediently turned her back on her dressing table, and presently she said, "I wonder if it was wise to have her here?"

"Bettina?"

"Yes."

Sophie was thoughtful. "I'm not sure. Yet it seemed to me to-night that perhaps--you had been wise----"

"What made you think that?"

"Anthony's face when you played, Diana."

"Oh!" Diana crossed the room and dropped down on the rug at her friend's feet. "Tell me how he looked," she said, softly, with her arm outflung across the other's knees.

"It was just in a flash that I saw his face--under the search-light from the ferry. It was the face of a man who had lost the one woman in the world for him, Diana."

"If I could believe that," said Diana, tensely, "nothing else would matter."

"Yet, believing it, how can it be right for him to marry some one else?"

Diana, with her chin propped between her hands, stared with wide eyes into space. "It isn't right--but she loves him, Sophie."

"Yet she's not the one woman--oh, what a muddle, Diana."

"What a muddle," and for a time they sat in silence.

Then Sophie said, "Perhaps it's because I was so happy in my marriage--that I can see so clearly. I've worked it out this way, dearest, dear--that in all the world there's just one woman for one man. If he meets and marries her, no matter how hard their life may be, they will be drawn together, not separated, by the hardness; no matter how the world may use them, they will cling together against the world. But when a man marries the wrong woman, he goes through life a half-man, crippled in mind and spirit, because of his mistake. Sometimes the man finds the one woman in a second marriage; sometimes he finds her too late; sometimes he is too blind to know that she is the one woman, and he lets her go, to discover afterward that no other can fill his life. That's the pity of it. If Anthony marries Bettina, she will know some day--that she is--the wrong woman----"

Diana rose and moved restlessly about the room. "But she's so slim and white and young--and no man can resist that sort of thing long. She has youth to give him, Sophie, and I, why, soon I'll be middle-aged."

"You--oh, Diana----"

Diana's laugh had a sob in it. "Well, I shall be."

"You'll never be anything but lovely--when you're an old lady you'll be stately and distinguished, and your eyes will shine like stars, and men will still fall in love with you----"

"Oh, Sophie, you're such a comfort----"

* * * * *

The next morning Delia sent up three breakfasts on trays.

"If it wasn't for that pretty child," she said to little Jane Trefry, who helped her in the kitchen, "there wouldn't be any satisfaction in getting things ready. Miss Sophie has learned foreign ways and wants rolls and coffee, and Miss Diana wants grape fruit. I don't know what's the matter with her appetite; she hasn't eaten enough for a bird since she came, and yet that first night she said to me, 'Oh, Delia, I'm just dying for some of your good New England cooking!'"

"Maybe she's in love," said little Jane, who was romantic.

Delia turned her omelette deftly. "Of course she is. Everybody knows she just about worships Dr. Blake, only she won't marry him till she gets good and ready. That's the house he's building for her--up the road, with the red-tiled roof and the wide stone porches. He had the window of her room toward Minot's, so that the light could say, 'I love you' to her at night."

"She'd better look out," stated little Jane, with provincial frankness; "if she waits too long he'll be finding some one else to say 'I love you' to."

"You keep your mind on that toast," Delia was dishing up the omelette, "and don't you forget that Miss Diana isn't the kind that a man goes back on. She could have had a dozen richer men than the doctor. But she didn't want them, and maybe she doesn't want him, but don't you get it into your head that he wants anybody else."

Little Jane sniffed. "You can't tell about men," she said, as she went out of the door with Bettina's tray.

Bettina, sitting up in bed, welcomed little Jane with enthusiasm. She ate everything from strawberries to omelette with a hearty appetite, then she lay comfortably, looking out toward the eastern horizon where the smoky streak of a steamer showed faintly.

Presently Sophie came in with a gown of white serge--of simple lines, with wide collar and cuffs of sheer embroidered muslin. "Diana insisted that I should get some white things in Paris," she said, as she laid it over a chair. "She hoped that I might be induced to dress in something besides black, but I can't, and so I am sure that you will be willing to wear these out for me, my dear."

Bettina put one bare foot on the floor, then the other, then she fluttered across the room like a white butterfly and embraced Mrs. Martens.

"It's lovely, only it doesn't seem quite right for me to take everything."

"It is right. They would lie in my trunks until they were out of fashion. There's a white felt hat that goes with this, and a long white coat, and Diana is going to take you over to town this morning to get white shoes and gloves and a veil."

"I thought we were to lunch on Bobbie Tucker's yacht."

"We were--but Bobbie has just telephoned that his yacht has to go to the yard for repairs--something happened last night--so Justin will take us for a ride."

"Oh," said Bettina. "Mr. Ford?"

"Yes. Justin has put his car at our disposal. He'll drive us to-day, but when he can't there's the chauffeur--it's very kind of him."

"He's awfully good looking," said Bettina in a cool little voice, "but don't you think he's terribly conceited, Mrs. Martens?"

Sophie nodded. "He's been spoiled. But back of it all he's a man. His lightness is on the surface. I know, for he was in Berlin when my husband was living. I saw the other side then. He was poor; it was before he came so unexpectedly into his uncle's money. You know the old man and his son were drowned in a dreadful accident. Justin was studying aviation when we first knew him. He lived in shabby rooms, and ate at shabby little places, and he used to come in the afternoons to call on me, and I'd fill him up with thick bread and butter and coffee, and we'd talk for hours of America. He was lonely poor lad, and I was like a big sister. I shall never forget one bitter cold afternoon, when he came in with his hands all red and rough, and with a hoarse cough, and I had the maid bring him a bowl of soup hot from the kitchen, and he tried to make a joke of it, but his voice broke, and presently he said, 'Dear big sister, some day I can thank you, but not now.'

"And when my husband died," she went on, softly, "he did thank me in a most generous way. He had just received his fortune when he heard of my--trouble. He sent a wonderful cross to mark where my husband sleeps--and I could have afforded only a little stone--and there are flowers every week, even when I am far away, and there will always be flowers because of his great generosity."

Here was a background for the light-hearted young Justin which appealed to Bettina's imagination. "Why, how lovely," she said with her eyes shining; "he didn't seem like that to me. He seemed so--shallow."

"But he isn't," Sophie defended; "if it had not been for him and for Diana I should have lost heart many times--the world knows Justin as a rich young man, ready for a good time, but I know him as the Knight of the Tender Heart."

"How old is he?"

"Twenty-six. I didn't realize until I reached here that he was flying again. He does such dangerous things. I saw the aeroplane yesterday morning, and found out afterward that he was up--and since then my heart seems to stop every time I think of him in the air----"

With all the optimism of youth, Bettina tried to reassure her.

"He said last night that he was very careful. He wants to take me up."

"Oh, don't ever do anything so dreadful."

"I couldn't if I wanted to. Anthony made me promise last night that I wouldn't----"

She said it with a comfortable sense of her lover's care for her; "I'd rather ride any day with Anthony in his little car."

"My dear," Sophie said with some hesitation, "I'm going to suggest that except to Diana and myself, you try not to seem too much interested in--your doctor--the world might suspect--and you don't want to announce your engagement yet, Diana tells me----"

Bettina shrugged her white shoulders. "I don't care if everybody knows," she said; "but Diana thought that Anthony's friends might like to get acquainted with me first. But if you could know what he's been to me, Mrs. Martens--why, when I waked this morning it seemed like a dream to think that I wasn't in the top floor of the old Lane house, with Miss Matthews making her breakfast coffee over an alcohol stove, and a little impatient because I hadn't the toast ready, and with the prospect ahead of me of another lonely day, when I should try to read and try not to think, and miss mother until I nearly died.

"Do you wonder that I love him?" She came up to Mrs. Martens and put her hands on her shoulders. "He's so wonderful and good--and he loves me----"

Sophie could not meet the frank young eyes. "It's nice that you feel that way," she said, "and I hope you don't mind what I said--it was only that it might save you some future--embarrassment."

"I'll be careful," said Bettina, "only I'm perfectly sure that everybody will know every time I look at Anthony that he's the one man in the world for me. You can't imagine how uninteresting other men seem beside him--and then his manner, isn't it lovely and protecting and--sure?"

Sophie had a sudden sense of the comedy which was intermingled with the tragic of the situation. Diana and Bettina each harped incessantly on one string, "Anthony, Anthony, Anthony," and she must play listener to their ecstatic songs of praise.

During the trip to town, Bettina sat beside Justin.

"Since Bobbie's yacht is out of commission," suggested Justin, "why not extend our ride up the North Shore road? There's a war-ship anchored just off Beverly, and a tea room where we can have lunch."

"I must stop at the sanatorium first," said Diana. "Anthony has a patient there who is to be operated on. She's a little young thing, and she's afraid, and I want to take her some lilacs. I told Jane to pick some and have them ready when we returned, so perhaps you'd better go first to our house, and then to the sanatorium, then we can do as we please----"

"A sanatorium," said Justin to Bettina, "always used to suggest vague horrors. But Dr. Anthony's doesn't. He has a wonderful way with his patients, puts their hands to work, because it's their minds that make them sick; they weave and make pottery. The last time I was there an anxious-eyed, beautifully-gowned woman was working on a rug, with three rabbits as a design. She was having trouble with the bunnies' ears when Dr. Blake came up.

"'I simply can't do it, doctor,' she said, and began to cry.

"Anthony stood very still for a moment, then in his quiet, strong voice, he said, 'Dear lady, it must be done--for your soul's sake.'

"She looked up at him in a startled way. 'Why my soul?' she asked. 'It's my body that's sick.'

"He shook his head. 'It's deeper than that,' he answered; 'you've lost your grip because life has never meant labor to you. The people who work have healthy minds and healthy bodies. Those who do not, waver between weakness and wickedness. That's what's the matter with society to-day--that's what's the matter with you. You must finish your bunnies' ears, therefore, for the sake of your soul--your body will respond----'

"She went back to her loom," Justin continued, "with a different look on her face. The lines were smoothed out from her forehead. Neither of them had seemed to notice that I was there. It was a psychological moment when the doctor had to speak, and it was wonderful to hear him talk like that."

Bettina's puzzled eyes met his. "Oh, but do you think that people have to work to be happy?" she said. "I hate work. I like to be warm and comfortable, and have pretty clothes, and--everything."

"Of course you do," said Justin, responding to her mood, lightly, "but you don't want to get Dr. Blake after you--he preaches a gospel of endeavor."

"Oh!" There was a note of dismay in Bettina's voice. "But not all of us can be bees. Some of us must be the butterflies."

Justin spoke, somewhat seriously: "I've been a butterfly for three years, and I give you my word I'm not getting much out of it. Seeing Mrs. Martens has brought back the days when I worked over there in Germany to get the money to finish my studies. Has she told you how I used to go to her and drink her delicious coffee and eat thick bread and butter, and bask in her sympathy until I got the courage to go on again? Yet I felt all the time that I was getting somewhere, and here I'm stagnating----"

Bettina settled herself back comfortably in her cushioned seat. "Well, I don't think it's anything to worry about. It seems perfectly wonderful to me not to have anything to do--if I had mother back," her voice trembled, "I wouldn't care how much I had to work for her--but after she--left me, everything seemed so--so sordid, and hard--and----Oh, I hated it--and then----" She drew herself up sharply.

"Then----?" Justin prompted her.

"Diana came," she went on, after a moment's hesitation, "and now everything will be different."

Justin had a baffled sense of some mystery from the solution of which he was shut out, but he merely said, heartily, "I hope you'll stay forever," and felt his heart leap as the ends of her white veil fluttered against his lips.

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