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The Muse’s Tragedy
by [?]

Danyers afterwards liked to fancy that he had recognized Mrs. Anerton at once; but that, of course, was absurd, since he had seen no portrait of her–she affected a strict anonymity, refusing even her photograph to the most privileged–and from Mrs. Memorall, whom he revered and cultivated as her friend, he had extracted but the one impressionist phrase: “Oh, well, she’s like one of those old prints where the lines have the value of color.”

He was almost certain, at all events, that he had been thinking of Mrs. Anerton as he sat over his breakfast in the empty hotel restaurant, and that, looking up on the approach of the lady who seated herself at the table near the window, he had said to himself, “That might be she.”

Ever since his Harvard days–he was still young enough to think of them as immensely remote–Danyers had dreamed of Mrs. Anerton, the Silvia of Vincent Rendle’s immortal sonnet-cycle, the Mrs. A. of the Life and Letters. Her name was enshrined in some of the noblest English verse of the nineteenth century–and of all past or future centuries, as Danyers, from the stand-point of a maturer judgment, still believed. The first reading of certain poems–of the Antinous, the Pia Tolomei, the Sonnets to Silvia,–had been epochs in Danyers’s growth, and the verse seemed to gain in mellowness, in amplitude, in meaning as one brought to its interpretation more experience of life, a finer emotional sense. Where, in his boyhood, he had felt only the perfect, the almost austere beauty of form, the subtle interplay of vowel-sounds, the rush and fulness of lyric emotion, he now thrilled to the close-packed significance of each line, the allusiveness of each word–his imagination lured hither and thither on fresh trails of thought, and perpetually spurred by the sense that, beyond what he had already discovered, more marvellous regions lay waiting to be explored. Danyers had written, at college, the prize essay on Rendle’s poetry (it chanced to be the moment of the great man’s death); he had fashioned the fugitive verse of his own storm-and-stress period on the forms which Rendle had first given to English metre; and when two years later the Life and Letters appeared, and the Silvia of the sonnets took substance as Mrs. A., he had included in his worship of Rendle the woman who had inspired not only such divine verse but such playful, tender, incomparable prose.

Danyers never forgot the day when Mrs. Memorall happened to mention that she knew Mrs. Anerton. He had known Mrs. Memorall for a year or more, and had somewhat contemptuously classified her as the kind of woman who runs cheap excursions to celebrities; when one afternoon she remarked, as she put a second lump of sugar in his tea:

“Is it right this time? You’re almost as particular as Mary Anerton.”

“Mary Anerton?”

“Yes, I never can remember how she likes her tea. Either it’s lemon with sugar, or lemon without sugar, or cream without either, and whichever it is must be put into the cup before the tea is poured in; and if one hasn’t remembered, one must begin all over again. I suppose it was Vincent Rendle’s way of taking his tea and has become a sacred rite.”

“Do you know Mrs. Anerton?” cried Danyers, disturbed by this careless familiarity with the habits of his divinity.

“‘And did I once see Shelley plain?’ Mercy, yes! She and I were at school together–she’s an American, you know. We were at a pension near Tours for nearly a year; then she went back to New York, and I didn’t see her again till after her marriage. She and Anerton spent a winter in Rome while my husband was attached to our Legation there, and she used to be with us a great deal.” Mrs. Memorall smiled reminiscently. “It was the winter.”

“The winter they first met?”