An Open-Eyed Conspiracy (Unabridged)
An Open-Eyed Conspiracy (Unabridged)
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" Well , what did you make of her, my dear?" Mrs. March demanded the instant she was beyond their hearing. "I must say, you didn't spare yourself in the cause; you did bravely. What is she like?"
"Really, I don't know," I answered, after a moment's reflection. "I should say she was almost purely potential. She's not so much this or that kind of girl; she's merely a radiant image of girlhood."
"Now, your chicquing it, you're faking it," said Mrs. March, borrowing the verbs severally from the art editor and the publisher of Every Other Week . "You have got to tell me just how much and how little there really is of her before I go any further with them. Is she stupid?"
"No-no; I shouldn't say stupid exactly. She is-what shall I say?-extremely plain-minded. I suppose the goddesses were plain-minded. I'm a little puzzled by her attitude toward her own beauty. She doesn't live her beauty any more than a poet lives his poetry or a painter his painting; though I've no doubt she knows her gift is hers just as they do."
"I think I understand. You mean she isn't conscious."
"No. Conscious isn't quite the word," I said fastidiously. "Isn't there some word that says less, or more, in the same direction?"
"No, there isn't; and I shall think you don't mean anything at all if you keep on. Now, tell me how she really impressed you. Does she know anything? Has she read anything? Has she any ideas?"
"Really, I can't say whether they were ideas or not. She knew what Every Other Week was; she had read the stories in it; but I'm not sure she valued it at its true worth. She is very plain-minded."
"Don't keep repeating that! What do you mean by plain-minded?"
"Well, honest, single, common-sense, coherent, arithmetical."
"Horrors! Do you mean that she is mannish ?"
"No, not mannish. And yet she gave me the notion that, when it came to companionship, she would be just as well satisfied with a lot of girls as young men."
Mrs. March pulled her hand out of my arm, and stopped short under one of those tall Saratoga shade-trees to dramatise her inference. "Then she is the slyest of all possible pusses! Did she give you the notion that she would be just as well satisfied with you as with a young man!"
"She couldn't deceive me so far as that , my dear."
"Very well; I shall take her in hand myself to-morrow, and find out what she really is."
Mrs. March went shopping the next forenoon with what was left of the Deering party; Deering had taken the early train north, and she seemed to have found the ladies livelier without him. She formed the impression from their more joyous behaviour that he kept his wife from spending as much money as she would naturally have done, and that, while he was not perhaps exactly selfish, he was forgetful of her youth, of the difference in years between them, and of her capacity for pleasures which he could not care for. She said that Mrs. Deering and Miss Gage now acted like two girls together, and, if anything, Miss Gage seemed the elder of the two.
"And what did you decide about her?" I inquired.
"Well, I helped her buy a hat and a jacket at one of those nice shops just below the hotel where they're stopping, and we've started an evening dress for her. She can't wear that white duck morning, noon, and night."
"But her character-her nature?"
"Oh! Well, she is rather plain-minded, as you call it. I think she shows out her real feelings too much for a woman."
"Why do you prefer dissimulation in your sex, my dear?"
"I don't call it dissimulation. But of course a girl ought to hide her feelings. Don't you