Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 2

Touchstone
by [?]

“She had so few intimate friends . . . that letters will be of special value.” So few intimate friends! For years she had had but one; one who in the last years had requited her wonderful pages, her tragic outpourings of love, humility, and pardon, with the scant phrases by which a man evades the vulgarest of sentimental importunities. He had been a brute in spite of himself, and sometimes, now that the remembrance of her face had faded, and only her voice and words remained with him, he chafed at his own inadequacy, his stupid inability to rise to the height of her passion. His egoism was not of a kind to mirror its complacency in the adventure. To have been loved by the most brilliant woman of her day, and to have been incapable of loving her, seemed to him, in looking back, the most derisive evidence of his limitations; and his remorseful tenderness for her memory was complicated with a sense of irritation against her for having given him once for all the measure of his emotional capacity. It was not often, however, that he thus probed the past. The public, in taking possession of Mrs. Aubyn, had eased his shoulders of their burden. There was something fatuous in an attitude of sentimental apology toward a memory already classic: to reproach one’s self for not having loved Margaret Aubyn was a good deal like being disturbed by an inability to admire the Venus of Milo. From her cold niche of fame she looked down ironically enough on his self-flagellations. . . . It was only when he came on something that belonged to her that he felt a sudden renewal of the old feeling, the strange dual impulse that drew him to her voice but drove him from her hand, so that even now, at sight of anything she had touched, his heart contracted painfully. It happened seldom nowadays. Her little presents, one by one, had disappeared from his rooms, and her letters, kept from some unacknowledged puerile vanity in the possession of such treasures, seldom came beneath his hand. . . .

“Her letters will be of special value–” Her letters! Why, he must have hundreds of them–enough to fill a volume. Sometimes it used to seem to him that they came with every post–he used to avoid looking in his letter-box when he came home to his rooms– but her writing seemed to spring out at him as he put his key in the door–.

He stood up and strolled into the other room. Hollingsworth, lounging away from the window, had joined himself to a languidly convivial group of men to whom, in phrases as halting as though they struggled to define an ultimate idea, he was expounding the cursed nuisance of living in a hole with such a damned climate that one had to get out of it by February, with the contingent difficulty of there being no place to take one’s yacht to in winter but that other played-out hole, the Riviera. From the outskirts of this group Glennard wandered to another, where a voice as different as possible from Hollingsworth’s colorless organ dominated another circle of languid listeners.

“Come and hear Dinslow talk about his patent: admission free,” one of the men sang out in a tone of mock resignation.

Dinslow turned to Glennard the confident pugnacity of his smile. “Give it another six months and it’ll be talking about itself,” he declared. “It’s pretty nearly articulate now.”

“Can it say papa?” someone else inquired.

Dinslow’s smile broadened. “You’ll be deuced glad to say papa to IT a year from now,” he retorted. “It’ll be able to support even you in affluence. Look here, now, just let me explain to you–“

Glennard moved away impatiently. The men at the club–all but those who were “in it”–were proverbially “tired” of Dinslow’s patent, and none more so than Glennard, whose knowledge of its merits made it loom large in the depressing catalogue of lost opportunities. The relations between the two men had always been friendly, and Dinslow’s urgent offers to “take him in on the ground floor” had of late intensified Glennard’s sense of his own inability to meet good luck half way. Some of the men who had paused to listen were already in evening clothes, others on their way home to dress; and Glennard, with an accustomed twinge of humiliation, said to himself that if he lingered among them it was in the miserable hope that one of the number might ask him to dine. Miss Trent had told him that she was to go to the opera that evening with her rich aunt; and if he should have the luck to pick up a dinner-invitation he might join her there without extra outlay.