MY DEAR," said Mrs. Butler, one morning at the breakfast
table, ten days later, as she looked up from her letters to the vision
of blonde loveliness opposite, "here is a note from Mr. Durand--the American
gentleman we met, you remember. He is in Paris, and wishes to call."
"That is pleasant news," Dolores answered, smiling, ''and
I hope you will forward our united permission and compliments by return
"Really, Dolores, you quite astonish me!" ejaculated Mrs.
Butler. "When were you ever known to be so amiably disposed toward any
gentleman before? What spell has Mr. Durand exercised over you, I wonder?"
"The spell of sincerity and good sense!" responded Dolores,
as she sipped her coffee, "Two virtues so rare in mankind that it is no
wonder if they left an indelible impression upon me. Mr. Durand is, almost
without exception, the only gentleman I have met since my uncle died who
did not feel it his duty to express, in words or manner, a disbelief in
the sincerity of my views concerning marriage. You very well know, Mrs.
Butler, how discouraging have been my attempts at friendship with the opposite
sex, owing to this fact."
"Owing to your own charms, rather," Mrs. Butler
corrected, "and to your hatred for the sex. Men are not easily
satisfied with the cold indifference which you term friendship of a woman
as fair as yourself."
''But I am not cold or indifferent to those who treat
my opinions with respect," Dolores insisted. "And I am not a man-hater.
I would like the companionship of men right well. I enjoy their society
more than I enjoy the society of most women. They have broader views; they
get outside of themselves far more than women do; they dwell less in their
own emotions; and are, consequently, more interesting. But the selfishness,
conceit and sensuality of men render them impossible friends for unprotected
"You must not include all men in that sweeping sarcasm,
Dolores. There are exceptions."
"Possibly. I hope Mr. Durand is one. I speak of men as
I have found them. You remember Clarence Walker, and how positive I was
that I had found a loyal friend in him? And you know the result."
''Yes; he became madly in love with you. I do not see
how either of those three condemnatory terms apply to him, however."
"But I do. Since he knew from the outset my firm resolve
to never marry, he ought not to have allowed himself to think of me as
a possible wife. But in his masculine conceit he really believed he could
overcome the principles of a lifetime. Each man considers himself the Prince
Charming, who holds the key to the enchanted palace of a woman's heart.
Positively, the vanity of the sterner sex is colossal in its magnitude.
Then, you know, there was Count D'Estey, with his really charming sister
and picturesque mother. You remember my experience with him?"
"Certainly. He imagined you to be much wealthier than
you are, my dear; and your fortune and your beauty were great temptations.
It is no wonder he made an effort to win you. Foreign counts are born to
be supported by American heiresses."
"And he ruined three delightful friendships by the futile
effort. Yet that was the selfishness of the man's nature. Last of all,
you know the result of my acquaintance with General Veddars?"
"Pardon me; but I do not. I only know that you returned
from their country seat unexpectedly, joined me in London, and never referred
to the subject of your acquaintance with the family again. I confess that
I have often wondered what occurred to break up the intimacy which seemed
so pleasant at one time."
"Well, then, I will tell you what happened," answered
Dolores, with fine scorn in her face and voice. "Because I was outspoken
and frank upon the subject of marriage, because I repeatedly declared that
I should never be the wife of any man, General Veddars, it seems, imagined
I was utterly lacking in mental and moral balance. At all events, he forgot
himself--forgot that he was old enough to be my father, and that his wife
was my devoted friend; and he embarrassed me with his attentions. Is it
any wonder that I left his house, angry, shocked, and with a greater contempt
for men and husbands than ever?"
Mrs. Butler shook her head. "There is no object in life
more disgusting," she said, "than a man who carries the fires of an unlicensed
youth into old age. I confess you have good cause to feel disappointed
in your masculine friends. Let us hope that Mr. Durand will prove a success.
One thing is certain--he comes of an excellent family; and he bears the
best of reputations among men, and while he is not a ladies' man, he is
very popular with our sex."
Dolores laughed lightly.
"The fact that his family is excellent, does not necessarily
speak well for him," she said. "Many a low rascal on earth boasts of his
noble ancestors under ground. And that he hears the best of reputations
among men, is no proof that he may not be the worst companion possible
for a woman. I am relieved to hear you say that he is not a ladies' man.
That term always suggests to me a frivolous nature, something even more
intolerable in a man than a woman. But really, ma chere, we are
devoting more time to the discussion of this stranger, than is profitable.
If we are to see the World's Fair in detail, as we have determined, allons
a l' Exhibition."
A few hours later, as the two ladies sauntered under the
gorgeous Oriental canopies known as the "India House," they came face to
face with the very subject of their morning dissertation--Mr. Percy Durand.
They exchanged cordial greetings, and it seemed to Mrs.
Butler that a tint as delicate as the first faint hue of dawn, colored
the creamy pallor of Dolores cheek.
"I wonder what it means?" she asked herself. "Marriage
no doubt, that final Nirvana which covers so many theorists with oblivion.
Heaven speed the wooing!"
At the same time Percy was thinking, "How delightful to
meet a lovely and companionable girl who is entirely free to receive your
polite attentions, and whom you positively know expects and desires nothing
more from you. It gives a fellow such a comfortable sensation."
In view of the fact that Mr. Durand had, several times
in his life, been obliged to flee from designing Mammas, and too willing
maidens, we can forgive his somewhat egotistical soliloquy.
Dolores felt an agreeable sense of being perfectly at
ease in the presence of Mr. Durand, and rendered herself unusually charming.
Percy sauntered by the ladies while they visited various departments, and
they finally lunched together. Both he and Dolores were gifted with refined
wit, and ready powers of repartee, and Mrs. Butler was an appreciative
listener to their gay sallies and bright criticisms.
"Positively I feel as if I had known both of you ladies
all my life!" Percy said, as the day wore on. "It would require months,
or years, in our own land to arrive at this pleasant feeling of comradeship.
There is nothing like a rencontre in a foreign country, to break the ice
"Quite true," Mrs. Butler responded. "We enjoy each other's
society better here, too, I think, because we all indulge the vein of Bohemianism
which exists in us, and which we carefully hide from view at home.
For instance : I met a party of staid and respectable men and matrons from
Boston the other day. They had just paid a visit to the Mabille.
'A very wicked place,' they said; 'yet everybody seems to go,
so we went.' These same people would no sooner visit a.concert
garden in America then they would deliberately walk into Purgatory."
"I could relate similar experiences," was Percy's laughing
rejoinder. "When I first came abroad I was accompanied by a very devout
young man. He had often taken me to task for my Club habits. 'A fashionable
club is the ante-room to a gambler's hell,' he said; and so far as I knew,
he lived up to the rigorous code of morals he preached to others. What
was my amazement to find his curiosity fairly unsatiable in regard to the
wicked side of Parisian life.
"Beautiful parks, fine operas, and grand cathedrals and
works of art, were all neglected by him, until he had explored, to his
satisfaction, all the gaming-houses and variety theatres in the city of
Paris. It was very amusing."
When Percy made his adieux to the ladies it was with the
understanding that he should dine with them at their temporary home, on
the Avenue Josephine, the following afternoon, and escort them to the theatre
in the evening.
"Never before, Dolores," said Mrs. Butler, after Percy
had taken his departure, "did I see you so charming as you have been to-day.
Mr. Durand will be a phenomenal sort of man if he remains impervious to
your charms, my dear. But then I have heard that some affair in his early
life quite wrecked his heart. And so, I suppose, he has nothing but friendship
to give any woman, now."
If Mrs. Butler's secret wish was to rouse the woman desire
(latent in almost every feminine heart), to strive for that which is supposed
to be unattainable, it signally failed. Her remark simply gave Dolores
an added sense of freedom and rest in Mr. Durand's society. "Love is like
measles," she reasoned--"not liable to occur the second time."
Meanwhile Percy was saying to himself :
"She is one of the most beautiful of her sex. She pleases
the eye, and entertains the mind, without touching the heart.
"Yet, it is a dangerous situation for any man to assume--this
role of intimate friend to a lovely woman, which seems suddenly to have
fallen to me. It would be wisdom on my part, and save no end of trouble,
probably, if I took refuge in flight at once."
Yet what man ever fled from such sweet danger?