Susan Lenox Her Fall and Rise Part 157
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He had just gone when a card was brought to her--"Dr. Robert Stevens"--with "Sutherland, Indiana," penciled underneath.
Instantly she remembered, and had him brought to her--the man who had rescued her from death at her birth. He proved to be a quiet, elderly gentleman, subdued and aged beyond his fifty-five years by the monotonous life of the drowsy old town. He approached with a manner of embarrassed respect and deference, stammering old-fashioned compliments. But Susan was the simple, unaffected girl again, so natural that he soon felt as much at ease as with one of his patients in Sutherland.
She took him away in her car to her apartment for supper with her and Clelie, who was in the company, and Sperry. She kept him hour after hour, questioning him about everyone and everything in the old town, drawing him out, insisting upon more and more details. The morning papers were brought and they read the accounts of play and author and players. For once there was not a dissent; all the critics agreed that it was a great performance of a great play. And Susan made Sperry read aloud the finest and the longest of the accounts of Brent himself--his life, his death, his work, his lasting fame now peculiarly assured because in Susan Lenox there had been found a competent interpreter of his genius.
After the reading there fell silence. Susan, her pallid face and her luminous, inquiring violet eyes inscrutable, sat gazing into vacancy. At last Doctor Stevens moved uneasily and rose to go. Susan roused herself, accompanied him to the adjoining room. Said the old doctor.
"I've told you about everybody. But you've told me nothing about the most interesting Sutherlander of all--yourself."
Susan looked at him. And he saw the wound hidden from all the world--the wound she hid from herself as much of the time as she could. He, the doctor, the professional confessor, had seen such wounds often; in all the world there is hardly a heart without one. He said:
"Since sorrow is the common lot, I wonder that men can be so selfish or so unthinking as not to help each other in every way to its consolations. Poor creatures that we are--wandering in the dark, fighting desperately, not knowing friend from foe!"
"But I am glad that you saved me," said she.
"You have the consolations--success--fame--honor."
"There is no consolation," replied she in her grave sweet way.
"I had the best. I--lost him. I shall spend my life in flying from myself."
After a pause she went on: "I shall never speak to anyone as I have spoken to you. You will understand all. I had the best--the man who could have given me all a woman seeks from a man--love, companionship, sympathy, the shelter of strong arms. I had that. I have lost it. So----"
A long pause. Then she added:
"Usually life is almost tasteless to me. Again--for an hour or two it is a little less so--until I remember what I have lost. Then--the taste is very bitter--very bitter."
And she turned away.
She is a famous actress, reputed great. Some day she will be indeed great--when she has the stage experience and the years.
Except for Clelie, she is alone. Not that there have been no friendships in her life. There have even been passions. With men and women of her vigor and vitality, passion is inevitable. But those she admits find that she has little to give, and they go away, she making no effort to detain them; or she finds that she has nothing to give, and sends them away as gently as may be. She has the reputation of caring for nothing but her art--and for the great establishment for orphans up the Hudson, into which about all her earnings go.
The establishment is named for Brent and is dedicated to her mother. Is she happy? I do not know. I do not think she knows. Probably she is--as long as she can avoid pausing to think whether she is or not. What better happiness can intelligent mortal have, or hope for? Certainly she is triumphant, is lifted high above the storms that tortured her girlhood and early youth, the sordid woes that make life an unrelieved tragedy of calamity threatened and calamity realized for the masses of mankind. The last time I saw her----
It was a few evenings ago, and she was crossing the sidewalk before her house toward the big limousine that was to take her to the theater. She is still young; she looked even younger than she is. Her dress had the same exquisite quality that made her the talk of Paris in the days of her sojourn there.
But it is not her dress that most interests me, nor the luxury and perfection of all her surroundings. It is not even her beauty--that is, the whole of her beauty.
Everything and every being that is individual in appearance has some one quality, trait, characteristic, which stands out above all the rest to make a climax of interest and charm.
With the rose it is its perfume; with the bird, perhaps the scarlet or snowy feathers upon its breast. Among human beings who have the rare divine dower of clear individuality the crown and cap of distinction differs. In her--for me, at least--the consummate fascination is not in her eyes, though I am moved by the soft glory of their light, nor in the lovely oval contour of her sweet, healthily pallid face. No, it is in her mouth--sensitive, strong yet gentle, suggestive of all the passion and suffering and striving that have built up her life. Her mouth--the curve of it--I think it is, that sends from time to time the mysterious thrill through her audiences.
And I imagine those who know her best look always first at those strangely pale lips, curved in a way that suggests bitterness melting into sympathy, sadness changing into mirth--a way that seems to say: "I have suffered--but, see!
I have stood fast!"
Can a life teach any deeper lesson, give any higher inspiration?
As I was saying, the last time I saw her she was about to enter her automobile. I halted and watched the graceful movements with which she took her seat and gathered the robes about her. And then I noted her profile, by the light of the big lamps guarding her door. You know that profile? You have seen its same expression in every profile of successful man or woman who ever lived. Yes, she may be happy--doubtless is more happy than unhappy. But--I do not envy her--or any other of the sons and daughters of men who is blessed--and cursed--with imagination.
And Freddie--and Rod--and Etta--and the people of Sutherland--and all the rest who passed through her life and out? What does it matter? Some went up, some down--not without reason, but, alas! not for reason of desert. For the judgments of fate are, for the most part, not unlike blows from a lunatic striking out in the dark; if they land where they should, it is rarely and by sheer chance. Ruth's parents are dead; she is married to Sam Wright. He lost his father's money in wheat speculation in Chicago--in one of the most successful of the plutocracy's constantly recurring raids upon the hoardings of the middle class. They live in a little house in one of the back streets of Sutherland and he is head clerk in Arthur Sinclair's store--a position he owes to the fact that Sinclair is his rich brother-in-law. Ruth has children and she is happier in them than she realizes or than her discontented face and voice suggest. Etta is fat and contented, the mother of many, and fond of her fat, fussy August, the rich brewer. John Redmond--a congressman, a possession of the Beef Trust, I believe--but not so highly prized a possession as was his abler father.
Freddie? I saw him a year ago at the races at Auteuil. He is huge and loose and coarse, is in the way soon to die of Bright's disease, I suspect. There was a woman with him--very pretty, very _chic_. I saw no other woman similarly placed whose eyes held so assiduously, and without ever a wandering flutter, to the face of the man who was paying. But Freddie never noticed her. He chewed savagely at his cigar, looking about the while for things to grumble at or to curse. Rod?
He is still writing indifferent plays with varying success.
He long since wearied of Constance Francklyn, but she clings to him and, as she is a steady moneymaker, he tolerates her.
Brent? He is statelily ensconced up at Woodlawn. Susan has never been to his grave--there. His grave in her heart--she avoids that too, when she can. But there are times--there always will be times----
If you doubt it, look at her profile.
Yes, she has learned to live. But--she has paid the price.
Susan Lenox Her Fall and Rise Part 157
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Susan Lenox Her Fall and Rise Part 157 summary
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