The "Genius"

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After dining joyously, these two returned to the city. Suzanne, as she neared New York proper, was nervous as to what Angela might have done, for she wanted, in case Angela told her mother, to be present, in order to defend herself. She had reached a rather logical conclusion for her, and that was, in case her mother objected too vigorously, to elope with Eugene. She wanted to see just how her mother would take the intelligence in order that she might see clearly what to do. Previously she had the feeling that she could persuade her mother not to interfere, even in the face of all that had been revealed. Nevertheless, she was nervous, and her fears were bred to a certain extent by Eugene's attitude.

In spite of all his bravado, he really did not feel at all secure. He was not afraid of what he might lose materially so much as he was of losing Suzanne. The thought of the coming child had not affected them at all as yet. He could see clearly that conditions might come about whereby he could not have her, but they were not in evidence as yet. Besides, Angela might be lying. Still at odd moments his conscience troubled him, for in the midst of his intense satisfaction, his keenest thrills of joy, he could see Angela lying in bed, the thought of her wretched future before her, the thought of the coming life troubling her, or he could hear the echo of some of the pleas she had made. It was useless to attempt to shut them out. This was a terrible ordeal he was undergoing, a ruthless thing he was doing. All the laws of life and public sentiment were against him. If the world knew, it would accuse him bitterly. He could not forget that. He despaired at moments of ever being able to solve the tangle in which he had involved himself, and yet he was determined to go on. He proposed accompanying Suzanne to her friends, the Almerdings, but she changed her mind and decided to go home. "I want to see whether mama has heard anything," she insisted.

Eugene had to escort her to Staten Island and then order the chauffeur to put on speed so as to reach Riverside by four. He was somewhat remorseful, but he argued that his love-life was so long over, in so far as Angela was concerned, that it could not really make so very much difference. Since Suzanne wanted to wait a little time and proceed slowly, it was not going to be as bad for Angela as he had anticipated. He was going to give her a choice of going her way and leaving him entirely, either now, or after the child was born, giving her the half of his property, stocks, ready money, and anything else that might be divisible, and all the furniture, or staying and tacitly ignoring the whole thing. She would know what he was going to do, to maintain a separate ménage, or secret rendezvous for Suzanne. He proposed since Suzanne was so generous not to debate this point, but to insist. He must have her, and Angela must yield, choosing only her conditions.

When he came to the house, a great change had come over Angela. In the morning when he left she was hard and bitter in her mood. This afternoon she was, albeit extremely sad, more soft and melting than he had ever seen her. Her hard spirit was temporarily broken, but in addition she had tried to resign herself to the inevitable and to look upon it as the will of God. Perhaps she had been, as Eugene had often accused her of being, hard and cold. Perhaps she had held him in too tight leading strings. She had meant it for the best. She had tried to pray for light and guidance, and after a while something softly sad, like a benediction, settled upon her. She must not fight any more, she thought. She must yield. God would guide her. Her smile, kindly and wan, when Eugene entered the room, took him unawares.

Her explanation of her mood, her prayers, her willingness to give him up if need be, even in the face of what was coming to her, moved him more than anything that had ever passed between them. He sat opposite her at dinner, looking at her thin hands and face, and her sad eyes, trying to be cheerful and considerate, and then, going back into her room and hearing her say she would do whatever he deemed best, burst into tears. He cried from an excess of involuntary and uncontrolled emotion. He hardly knew why he cried, but the sadness of everything – life, the tangle of human emotions, the proximity of death to all, old age, Suzanne, Angela, all – touched him, and he shook as though he would rend his sides. Angela, in turn, was astonished and grieved for him. She could scarcely believe her eyes. Was he repenting? "Come to me, Eugene!" she pleaded. "Oh, I'm so sorry! Are you as much in love as that? Oh, dear, dear, if I could only do something! Don't cry like that, Eugene. If it means so much to you, I will give you up. It tears my heart to hear you. Oh, dear, please don't cry."

He laid his head on his knees and shook, then seeing her getting up, came over to the bed to prevent her.

"No, no," he said, "it will pass. I can't help it. I'm sorry for you. I'm sorry for myself. I'm sorry for life. God will punish me for this. I can't help it, but you are a good woman."

He laid his head down beside her and sobbed, great, aching sobs. After a time he recovered himself, only to find that he had given Angela courage anew. She would think now that his love might be recovered since he had seemed so sympathetic; that Suzanne might be displaced. He knew that could not be, and so he was sorry that he had cried.

They went on from that to discussion, to argument, to ill-feeling, to sympathetic agreement again by degrees, only to fall out anew. Angela could not resign herself to the thought of giving him up. Eugene could not see that he was called upon to do anything, save divide their joint possessions. He was most anxious to have nothing to do with Angela anymore in any way. He might live in the same house, but that would be all. He was going to have Suzanne. He was going to live for her only. He threatened Angela with dire consequences if she tried to interfere in any way. If she communicated with Mrs. Dale, or said anything to Suzanne, or attempted to injure him commercially, he would leave her.

"Here is the situation," he would insist. "You can maintain it as I say, or break it. If you break it, you lose me and everything that I represent. If you maintain it, I will stay here. I think I will. I am perfectly willing to keep up appearances, but I want my freedom."

Angela thought and thought of this. She thought once of sending for Mrs. Dale and communicating with her secretly, urging her to get Suzanne out of the way without forewarning either the girl or Eugene, but she did not do this. It was the one thing she should have done and a thing Mrs. Dale would have agreed to, but fear and confusion deterred her. The next thing was to write or talk to Suzanne, and because she mistrusted her mood in Suzanne's presence she decided to write. She lay in bed on Monday when Eugene was away at the office and composed a long letter in which she practically gave the history of Eugene's life reiterating her own condition and stating what she thought Eugene ought to do.

"How can you think, Suzanne," she asked in one place, "that he will be true to you when he can ignore me, in this condition? He has not been true to anyone else. Are you going to throw your life away? Your station is assured now. What can he add to you that you have not already? If you take him, it is sure to become known. You are the one who will be injured, not he. Men recover from these things, particularly from an infatuation of this character, and the world thinks nothing of it; but the world will not forgive you. You will be 'a bad woman' after this, irretrievably so if a child is born. You think you love him. Do you really love him this much? Read this and stop and think. Think of his character. I am used to him. I made my mistakes in the beginning, and it is too late for me to change. The world can give me nothing. I may have sorrow and disgust, but at least I shall not be an outcast and our friends and the world will not be scandalized. But you – you have everything before you. Some man will come to you whom you will love and who will not ask and willingly make a sacrifice of you. Oh, I beg you to think! You do not need him. After all, sorry as I am to confess it, I do. It is as I tell you. Can you really afford to ignore this appeal?"

Suzanne read this and was greatly shocked. Angela painted him in a wretched light, as fickle, deceitful, dishonest in his relations with women. She debated this matter in her own room, for it could not help but give her pause. After a time, Eugene's face came back to her, however, his beautiful mind, the atmosphere of delight and perfection that seemed to envelop all that surrounded him. It was as though Eugene were a mirage of beauty, so soft, so sweet, so delightful! Oh, to be with him; to hear his beautiful voice; to feel his intense caresses! What could life offer her equal to that? And, besides, he needed her. She decided to talk it out with him, show him the letter, and then decide.

Eugene came in a day or two, having phoned Monday and Tuesday mornings. He made a rendezvous of the ice house, and then appeared as eager and smiling as ever. Since returning to the office and seeing no immediate sign of a destructive attitude on Angela's part, he had recovered his courage. He was hopeful of a perfect dénouement to all this – of a studio and his lovely Suzanne. When they were seated in the auto, she immediately produced Angela's letter and handed it to him without comment. Eugene read it quietly.

He was greatly shocked at what he read, for he thought that Angela was more kindly disposed toward him. Still he knew it to be true, all of it, though he was not sure that Suzanne would suffer from his attentions. The fates might be kind. They might be happy together. Anyhow, he wanted her now.


"Well," he said, giving it back, "what of it? Do you believe all she says?"

"It may be so, but somehow when I am with you I don't seem to care. When I am away from you, it's different. I'm not so sure."

"You can't tell whether I am as good as you think I am?"

"I don't know what to think. I suppose all she says about you is true. I'm not sure. When you're away, it's different. When you are here, I feel as though everything must come out right. I love you so. Oh, I know it will!" She threw her arms around him.

"Then the letter doesn't really make any difference?"


She looked at him with big round eyes, and it was the old story, bliss in affection without thought. They rode miles, stopped at an inn for something to eat – Mrs. Dale was away for the day – looked at the sea where the return road skirted it, and kissed and kissed each other. Suzanne grew so ecstatic that she could see exactly how it was all coming out.

"Now you leave it to me," she said. "I will sound mama. If she is at all logical, I think I can convince her. I would so much rather do it that way. I hate deception. I would rather just tell her, and then, if I have to, defy her. I don't think I shall have to, though. She can't do anything."

"I don't know about that," said Eugene cautiously. He had come to have great respect for Suzanne's courage, and he was rather relying on Mrs. Dale's regard for him to stay her from any desperate course, but he did not see how their end was to be achieved.

He was for entering on an illicit relationship after a time without saying anything at all. He was in no hurry, for his feeling for Suzanne was not purely physical, though he wanted her. Because of her strange reading and philosophy, she was defying the world. She insisted that she did not see how it would hurt her.

"But, my dear, you don't know life," said Eugene. "It will hurt you. It will grind you to pieces in all places outside of New York. This is the Metropolis. It is a world city. Things are not quite the same here, but you will have to pretend, anyhow. It is so much easier."

"Can you protect me?" she asked significantly, referring to the condition Angela pleaded. "I wouldn't want – I couldn't, you know, not yet, not yet."

"I understand," he said. "Yes, I can, absolutely."

"Well, I want to think about it," she said again. "I prefer so much to be honest about it. I would so much rather just tell mama, and then go and do it. It would be so much nicer. My life is my own to do with as I please. It doesn't concern anybody, not even mama. You know, if I want to waste it, I may, only I don't think that I am doing so. I want to live as I choose. I don't want to get married yet."

Eugene listened to her with the feeling that this was the most curious experience of his life. He had never heard, never seen, never experienced anything like it. The case of Christina Channing was different. She had her art to consider. Suzanne had nothing of the sort. She had a lovely home, a social future, money, the chance of a happy, stable, normal life. This was love surely, and yet he was quite at sea. Still so many favorable things had happened, consciously favorable, that he was ready to believe that all this was intended for his benefit by a kind, governing providence.

Angela had practically given in already. Why not Suzanne's mother? Angela would not tell her anything. Mrs. Dale was not any stronger than Angela apparently. Suzanne might be able to control her as she said. If she was so determined to try, could he really stop her? She was headstrong in a way and wilful, but developing rapidly and reasoning tremendously. Perhaps she could do this thing. Who could tell? They came flying back along lovely lanes where the trees almost swept their faces, past green stretches of marsh where the wind stirred in ripples the tall green cat grass, past pretty farm yards, with children and ducks in the foreground, beautiful mansions, playing children, sauntering laborers. All the while they were reassuring each other, vowing perfect affection, holding each other close. Suzanne, as Angela had, loved to take Eugene's face between her hands and look into his eyes.

"Look at me," she said once when he had dolefully commented upon the possibility of change. "Look straight into my eyes. What do you see?"

"Courage and determination," he said.

"What else?"


"Do you think I will change?"




"Well, look at me straight, Eugene. I won't. I won't, do you hear? I'm yours until you don't want me anymore. Now will you be happy?"

"Yes," he said.

"And when we get our studio," she went on.

"When we get our studio," he said, "we'll furnish it perfectly, and entertain a little after a while, maybe. You'll be my lovely Suzanne, my Flower Face, my Myrtle Blossom. Helen, Circe, Dianeme."

"I'll be your week-end bride," she laughed, "your odd or even girl, whichever way the days fall."

"If it only comes true," he exclaimed when they parted. "If it only does."

"Wait and see," she said. "Now you wait and see."

The days passed and Suzanne began what she called her campaign. Her first move was to begin to talk about the marriage question at the dinner table, or whenever she and her mother were alone, and to sound her on this important question, putting her pronouncements on record. Mrs. Dale was one of those empirical thinkers who love to philosophize generally, but who make no specific application of anything to their own affairs. On this marriage question she held most liberal and philosophic views for all outside her own immediate family. It was her idea, outside her own family, of course, that if a girl having reached maturity, and what she considered a sound intellectual majority, and who was not by then satisfied with the condition which matrimony offered, if she loved no man desperately enough to want to marry him and could arrange some way whereby she could satisfy her craving for love without jeopardizing her reputation, that was her lookout. So far as Mrs. Dale was concerned, she had no particular objection. She knew women in society, who, having made unfortunate marriages, or marriages of convenience, sustained some such relationship to men whom they admired. There was a subtle, under the surface understanding outside the society circles of the most rigid morality in regard to this, and there was the fast set, of which she was at times a welcome member, which laughed at the severe conventions of the older school. One must be careful – very. One must not be caught. But, otherwise, well, every person's life was a law unto him or herself.

Suzanne never figured in any of these theories, for Suzanne was a beautiful girl, capable of an exalted alliance, and her daughter. She did not care to marry her off to any wretched possessor of great wealth or title, solely for wealth's or title's sake, but she was hoping that some eligible young man of excellent social standing or wealth, or real personal ability, such, for instance, as Eugene possessed, would come along and marry Suzanne. There would be a grand wedding at a church of some prominence, – St. Bartholomew's, very likely; a splendid wedding dinner, oceans of presents, a beautiful honeymoon. She used to look at Suzanne and think what a delightful mother she would make. She was so young, robust, vigorous, able, and in a quiet way, passionate. She could tell when she danced how eagerly she took life. The young man would come. It would not be long. These lovely springtimes would do their work one of these days. As it was, there were a score of men already who would have given an eye to attract Suzanne's attention, but Suzanne would none of them. She seemed shy, coy, elusive, but above all, shy. Her mother had no idea of the iron will all this concealed any more than she had of the hard anarchic, unsocial thoughts that were surging in her daughter's brain.

"Do you think a girl ought to marry at all, mama?" Suzanne asked her one evening when they were alone together, "if she doesn't regard marriage as a condition she could endure all her days?"

"No-o," replied her mother. "What makes you ask?"

"Well, you see so much trouble among married people that we know. They're not very happy together. Wouldn't it be better if a person just stayed single, and if they found someone that they could really love, well, they needn't necessarily marry to be happy, need they?"

"What have you been reading lately, Suzanne?" asked her mother, looking up with a touch of surprise in her eyes.

"Nothing lately. What makes you ask?" said Suzanne wisely, noting the change in her mother's voice.

"With whom have you been talking?"

"Why, what difference does that make, mama? I've heard you express precisely the same views?"

"Quite so. I may have. But don't you think you're rather young to be thinking of things like that? I don't say all that I think when I'm arguing things philosophically. There are conditions which govern everything. If it were impossible for a girl to marry well, or if looks or lack of money interfered, – there are plenty of reasons – a thing like that might possibly be excusable, but why should you be thinking of that?"

"Why, it doesn't necessarily follow, mama, that because I am good looking, or have a little money, or am socially eligible, that I should want to get married. I may not want to get married at all. I see just as well as you do how things are with most people. Why shouldn't I? Do I have to keep away from every man, then?"

"Why, Suzanne! I never heard you argue like this before. You must have been talking with someone or reading some outré book of late. I wish you wouldn't. You are too young and too good looking to entertain any such ideas. Why, you can have nearly any young man you wish. Surely you can find someone with whom you can live happily or with whom you would be willing to try. It's time enough to think about the other things when you've tried and failed. At least you can give yourself ample time to learn something about life before you begin to talk such nonsense. You're too young. Why it's ridiculous."

"Mama," said Suzanne, with the least touch of temper, "I wish you wouldn't talk to me like that. I'm not a child any more. I'm a woman. I think like a woman – not like a girl. You forget that I have a mind of my own and some thoughts. I may not want to get married. I don't think I do. Certainly not to any of the silly creatures that are running after me now. Why shouldn't I take some man in an independent way, if I wish? Other women have before me. Even if they hadn't, it would be no reason why I shouldn't. My life is my own."

"Suzanne Dale!" exclaimed her mother, rising, a thrill of terror passing along her heartstrings. "What are you talking about? Are you basing these ideas on anything I have said in the past? Then certainly my chickens are coming home to roost early. You are in no position to consider whether you want to get married or not. You have seen practically nothing of men. Why should you reach any such conclusions now? For goodness' sake, Suzanne, don't begin so early to meditate on these terrible things. Give yourself a few years in which to see the world. I don't ask you to marry, but you may meet some man whom you could love very much, and who would love you. If you were to go and throw yourself away under some such silly theory as you entertain now, without stopping to see, or waiting for life to show you what it has in store, what will you have to offer him. Suzanne, Suzanne" – Suzanne was turning impatiently to a window – "you frighten me! There isn't, there couldn't be. Oh, Suzanne, I beg of you, be careful what you think, what you say, what you do! I can't know all your thoughts, no mother can, but, oh, if you will stop and think, and wait a while!"

She looked at Suzanne who walked to a mirror and began to fix a bow in her hair.

"Mama," she said calmly. "Really, you amuse me. When you are out with people at dinner, you talk one way, and when you are here with me, you talk another. I haven't done anything desperate yet. I don't know what I may want to do. I'm not a child any more, mama. Please remember that. I'm a woman grown, and I certainly can lay out my life for myself. I'm sure I don't want to do what you are doing – talk one thing and do another."

Mrs. Dale recoiled intensely from this stab. Suzanne had suddenly developed in the line of her argument a note of determination, frank force and serenity of logic which appalled her. Where had the girl got all this? With whom had she been associating? She went over in her mind the girls and men she had met and known. Who were her intimate companions? – Vera Almerding; Lizette Woodworth; Cora TenEyck – a half dozen girls who were smart and clever and socially experienced. Were they talking such things among themselves? Was there some man or men unduly close to them? There was one remedy for all this. It must be acted on quickly if Suzanne were going to fall in with and imbibe any such ideas as these. Travel – two or three years of incessant travel with her, which would cover this dangerous period in which girls were so susceptible to undue influence was the necessary thing. Oh, her own miserable tongue! Her silly ideas! No doubt all she said was true. Generally it was so. But Suzanne! Her Suzanne, never! She would take her away while she had time, to grow older and wiser through experience. Never would she be permitted to stay here where girls and men were talking and advocating any such things. She would scan Suzanne's literature more closely from now on. She would viser her friendships. What a pity that so lovely a girl must be corrupted by such wretched, unsocial, anarchistic notions. Why, what would become of her girl? Where would she be? Dear Heaven!


She looked down in the social abyss yawning at her feet and recoiled with horror.

Never, never, never! Suzanne should be saved from herself, from all such ideas now and at once.

And she began to think how she could introduce the idea of travel easily and nicely. She must lure Suzanne to go without alarming her – without making her think that she was bringing pressure to bear. But from now on there must be a new order established. She must talk differently; she must act differently. Suzanne and all her children must be protected against themselves and others also. That was the lesson which this conversation taught her.