Tải bản đầy đủ

Bella donna


TheProjectGutenbergEBookofBellaDonna,byRobertHichens
ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwith
almostnorestrictionswhatsoever.Youmaycopyit,giveitawayor
re-useitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincluded
withthiseBookoronlineatwww.gutenberg.org

Title:BellaDonna
ANovel
Author:RobertHichens
ReleaseDate:February7,2006[EBook#17698]
Language:English

***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKBELLADONNA***

ProducedbySjaani,SuzanneShellandtheOnlineDistributed
ProofreadingTeamathttp://www.pgdp.net


BELLADONNA
FIFTHEDITION



BellaDonna
ANOVEL
ByROBERTHICHENS
Authorof"TheCallofTheBlood,""TheFruitfulVine,""ASpiritinPrison."
A.L.BURTCOMPANY
PUBLISHERSNEWYORK
COPYRIGHT,1908ByJ.B.LIPPINCOTTCOMPANY
PublishedOctober,1908.


BELLADONNA


I
DoctorMeyerIsaacsonhadgotonasonlyamodernJewwhosehomeisLondon
cangeton,witharapiditythatwasalarming.Heseemedtohavearrivedasa
bulletarrivesinabody.Hewasnotintheheartofsuccess,andlo!hewasinthe
heartofsuccess.Andnoonehadmarkedhisjourney.Suddenlyeveryonewas
speakingofhim—wastalkingofthecureshehadmade,wasadvisingeveryone
elsetogotohim.Forsomemysteriousreasonhisname—anamenoteasilytobe
forgottenonceithadbeenheard—begantopervadetheconversationsthatwere
heldinthesmartdrawing-roomsofLondon.Womenwhowerewell,buthadnot
seenhim,abruptlybecamesufficientlyunwelltoneedaconsultation."Where
doeshelive?InHarleyStreet,Isuppose?"wasaconstantquestion.
ButhedidnotliveinHarleyStreet.Hewasnotthemantolosehimselfinan
avenueofbrassplatesoffellowpractitioners."ClevelandSquare,St.James's,"
wasthestartlingreply;andhishousewasdetached,ifyouplease,and
marvellouslyfurnished.
Thewingedlegendflewthathewasrich,andthathehadgoneintopracticeasa
doctormerelybecausehewasintellectuallyinterestedindisease.Hisgiftfor
diagnosiswassoremarkablethathewasmorallyforcedtoexerciseit.Andhe
hadagreedypassionforstudyinghumanity.Andwhohassuchopportunitiesfor
thestudyofhumanityasthedoctorandthepriest?Patientswhohadbeentohim
spokeenthusiasticallyofhisobservanteyes.Hispersonalityalwaysmadeagreat
impression."There'snoonejustlikehim,"wasafrequentcommentuponDoctor
MeyerIsaacson.AndthatphraseisahighcomplimentuponthelipsofLondon,
thecityofparrotsandofmonkeys.
Hisagewasdebated,andsowashisorigin.Mostpeoplethoughthewas"about


forty";averysafeage,youngenoughtoallowofalmostunlimitedexpectation,
oldenoughtomakeresultsachievednotquiteunnatural,thoughpossibly
startling.Yes,hemustbe"aboutforty."Andhisorigin?"Meyer"suggested
Germany.Asto"Isaacson,"itallowedtheardentimaginationfreeplayover
denationalizedIsrael.Someonesaidthathe"lookedasifhecamefromtheEast,"
towhichacynicmadeanswer,"TheEastEnd."Therewas,perhaps,ahintof
bothintheDoctorofClevelandSquare.Certainitisthatinthecourseofawalk
downBrickLane,ortheadjacentthoroughfares,onewillencountermenofhis


type;menofmiddleheight,ofslightbuild,withthick,close-growinghair
stronglycurling,boldlycurvinglips,largenostrils,prominentcheek-bones,dark
eyesalmostfiercelyshining;menwhoarestartlinglyun-English.DoctorMeyer
Isaacsonwaslikethesemen.Yethepossessedsomethingwhichsethimapart
fromthem.Helookedintenselyvital—almostunnaturallyvital—whenhewas
surroundedbyEnglishpeople,buthedidnotlookfierceandhungry.Onecould
conceiveofhimdoingsomethingbizarre,butonecouldnotconceiveofhim
doinganythinglow.Therewassometimesalightinhiseyeswhichsuggesteda
moraldistinctionrarelytobefoundinthosewhodwellinandaboutBrickLane.
Hisslight,nervoushands,darkincolour,recalledthehandsofhigh-bred
Egyptians.Likesomanyofhisnation,hewasbynatureartistic.Aninstinctive
loveofwhatwasbestinthecreationsofmanraninhisveinswithhisblood.He
caredforbeautifulthings,andheknewwhatthingswerebeautifulandwhat
werenot.Thesecond-ratenevermadeanyappealtohim.Thefirst-ratefoundin
himawelcomingenthusiast.Heneverweariedoflookingatfinepictures,at
noblestatues,atbronzes,atoldjewelledglass,atdelicatecarvings,atperfect
jewels.Hewasgenuinelymovedbygreatarchitecture.Andtomusichewas
almostfanaticallydevoted,asaremanyJews.
IthasbeensaidoftheJewthatheisnearlyalwayspossessedofastreakof
femininity,noteffeminacy.InDoctorMeyerIsaacsonthisstreakcertainly
existed.Hisintuitionswerefeminineintheirquickness,hissympathiesandhis
antipathiesalmostfeminineintheirardour.Heunderstoodwomeninstinctively,
asgenerallyonlyotherwomenunderstandthem.Oftenheknew,without
knowingwhyheknew.Suchknowledgeofwomenis,perhapsfortunately,rare
inmen.Wheremostmenstumbleinthedark,DoctorMeyerIsaacsonwalkedin
thelight.Hewasunmarried.
Bachelorhoodisconsideredbymanytodetractfromadoctor'svalueandto
standinthewayofhiscareer.DoctorMeyerIsaacsondidnotfindthisso.
Althoughhewasnotanervespecialist,hiswaiting-roomwasalwaysfullof
patients.Ifhehadbeenmarried,itcouldnothavebeenfuller.Indeed,heoften
thoughtitwouldhavebeenlessfull.
Suddenlyhebecamethefashion,andhewentonbeingthefashion.
Hehadnospecialpeculiarityofmanner.Hedidnotattracttheworldofwomen
byelaboratebrutalities,orcharmitbysillysuavities.Heseemedalwaysvery
natural,intelligent,alive,andthoroughlyinterestedinthepersonwithwhomhe
was.Thathewasamanoftheworldwascertain.Hewasseenoftenatconcerts,


attheopera,atdinners,atreceptions,occasionallyevenatagreatball.
EarlyinthemorningherodeinthePark.Onceaweekhegaveadinnerin
ClevelandSquare.Andpeoplelikedtogotohishouse.Theyknewtheywould
notbeboredandnotbepoisonedthere.Menappreciatedhimaswellaswomen,
despitethereminiscenceofBrickLanediscoverableinhim.Hisdirectness,his
cleverness,andhisapparentgood-willsoonovercameanydawninginstinct
summonedupinJohnBullbyhisexoticappearance.
OnlytheunyieldingJew-haterhatedhim.AndsothelinesofthelifeofDoctor
MeyerIsaacsonseemedlaidinpleasantplaces.Andnotafewthoughthimone
ofthefortunateofthisworld.
OnemorningofJunethedoctorwasreturningtoClevelandSquarefromhis
earlyrideinthePark.Hewasalone.Thelivelybayhorseherode—ananimal
thatseemedalmostasfullofnervousvitalityashewas—hadhadagoodgallop
bytheSerpentine,andnowtrottedgentlytowardsBuckinghamPalace,snuffing
inthelanguidairthroughitssensitivenostrils.Thedaywasgoingtobehot.This
factinclinedtheDoctortoidleness,madehimsuddenlyrealisethebondageof
work.InafewminuteshewouldbeinClevelandSquare;andthen,afterabath,
acupofcoffee,aswiftglancethroughtheTimesandtheDailyMail,therewould
starttheprocessionthatuntileveningwouldbepassingsteadilythroughhis
consulting-room.
Hesighed,andpulledinhishorsetoawalk.To-dayhewasreluctantto
encounterthatprocession.
Andyeteachdayitbroughtinterestintohislife,thisprocessionofhispatients.
Generallyhewasakeenman.Hehadnoneedtofeignanardourthathereally
felt.Hehadapassionforinvestigation,andhisprofessionenabledhimtogratify
it.Verymodern,asarule,werethosewhocametohim,onebyone,admitted
eachinturnbyhisJewishman-servant;complex,caughtfastinthenetof
civilizedlife.Helikedtositalonewiththeminhisquietchamber,toseekoutthe
hiddenlinkswhichunitedthephysicaltothementalmanineach,towatchthe
pullofsoulonbody,ofbodyonsoul.Butto-dayherecoiledfromwork.Deep
downinhisnature,hiddengenerallybeneathhisstrongactivity,therewas
somethingthatlongedtositinthesunshineanddreamawaythehours,leaving
allfatesserenely,orperhapsindifferently,betweenthehandsofGod.
"Iwilltakeaholidaysomeday,"hesaidtohimself,"alongholiday.Iwillgofar


awayfromhere,tothelandwhereIamreallyathome,whereIaminmyown
place."
Ashethoughtthis,helookedup,andhiseyesresteduponthebrownfaçadeof
theKing'sPalace,uponthegildedrailingsthatseparateditfromthepublicway,
uponthesentrieswhowereonguard,fresh-faced,alert,staringuponLondon
withtheircalmlyBritisheyes.
"Inmyownplace,"herepeatedtohimself.
Andnowhislipsandhiseyesweresmiling.Andhesawthegreatdramaof
Londonassomethingthataschoolboycouldunderstandataglance.
Wasitreallyidlenesshelongedfor?Hedidnotknowwhy,butabruptlyhis
desirehadchanged.Andhefoundhimselfwishingforevents,tragic,
tremendous,horribleeven—anything,iftheywereunusual,weresuchastoset
themanwhowasinvolvedinthemapartfromhisfellows.Theforeignelement
inhimwokeup,called,perhaps,fromreposebytheunusuallylanguidair,and
Londonseemedmeaninglesstohim,acitywhereamanofhistypecouldneither
dream,noract,withallthelanguor,oralltheenergy,thatwaswithinhim.And
heimagined,assometimescleverchildrendo,adistantcountrywhereall
romancesunwindtheirshiningcoils,wherehewouldfindtheincentivewhich
heneededtocallallhissecretpowers—thepowerswhoseexercisewouldmake
hislifecomplete—intosupremeactivity.
Hegrippedhishorsewithhisknees.Itunderstoodhisdesire.Itbrokeintoa
canter.HepassedinfrontofthegardenofStaffordHouse,turnedtotheleftpast
St.James'sPalaceandMarlboroughHouse,andwassoonathisowndoor.
"Pleasebringupthebookwithmycoffeeintwentyminutes,Henry,"hesaidto
hisservant,ashewentin.
Inhalfanhourhewasseatedinanarm-chairinanupstairssitting-room,sipping
hiscoffee.Thepaperslayfoldedathiselbow.Uponhisknee,open,laythebook
inwhichwerewrittendownthenamesofthepatientswithwhomhehadmade
appointmentsthatday.
Helookedatthem,seekingforonethatpromisedinterest.Thefirstpatientwasa
manwhowouldcomeinonhiswaytothecity.Thenfollowedthenamesof
threewomen,thenthenameofaboy.Hewascomingwithhismother,aladyof
ananxiousmind.TheDoctorhadasheafoflettersfromher.Andsothe


morning'staskwasover.Heturnedapageandcametotheafternoon.
"Twoo'clock,Mrs.Lesueur;two-thirty,MissMendish;three,theDeanof
Greystone;three-thirty,LadyCarle;four,MadamedeLys;four-thirty,Mrs.
Harringby;five,SirHenryGrebe;five-thirty,Mrs.Chepstow."
Thelastnamewasthatofthelastpatient.DoctorMeyerIsaacson'sday'swork
wasoveratsix,orwassupposedtobeover.Often,however,hegaveapatient
morethanthefixedhalf-hour,andsoprolongedhislabours.Butnoonewas
admittedtohishouseforconsultationafterthepatientwhosenamewasagainst
thetimeoffive-thirty.
AndsoMrs.Chepstowwouldbethelastpatienthewouldseethatday.
Hesatforamomentwiththebookopenonhisknee,lookingathername.
Itwasanameverywellknowntohim,verywellknowntotheEnglish-speaking
worldingeneral.
Mrs.Chepstowwasagreatbeautyindecline.Herdayofgloryhadbeenfairly
long,butnowitseemedtobeover.Shewaspastforty.Shesaidshewasthirtyeight,butshewasoverforty.Goodness,somesay,keepswomenfresh.Mrs.
Chepstowhadtriedagreatmanymeansofkeepingfresh,butshehadomitted
that.Thestepbetweenæstheticismandasceticismwasonewhichshehadnever
taken,thoughshehadtakenmanysteps,someofthem,unfortunately,falseones.
Shehadbeenawell-borngirl,thedaughterofaristocraticbutimpecuniousand
extravagantparents.Herfather,EverardPage,asonofLordCheam,hadbeen
verymuchathomeintheBankruptcyCourt.Hermother,too,wasrecklessabout
money,saying,wheneveritwasmentioned,"Moneyisgivenustospend,notto
hoard."Solittledidshehoardit,thateventuallyherhusbandpublishedanotice
intheprincipalpapers,statingthathewouldnotberesponsibleforherdebts.It
wasaverylongtimesincehehadbeenresponsibleforhisown.Still,therewasa
certaindignityintheannouncement,asofanhonestmanfranklydeclaringhis
position.
Mrs.Chepstow'slifewasverypossiblyinfluencedbyherparents'pecuniary
troubles.Whenshewasyoungshelearnttobefrightenedofpoverty.Shehad
knownwhatitwastobe"soldup"twicebeforeshewastwenty;andthis
probablyledhertopreferthealternativeofbeingsold.Atanyrate,whenshe
wasinhertwenty-firstyear,soldshewastoMr.WodehouseChepstow,arich
brewer,towhomshehadnoteventakenafancy;andasMrs.Chepstowshe


madeagreatfameinLondonsocietyasabeauty.ShewaschristenedBella
Donna.Shewasphotographed,writtenabout,worshippedbyimportantpeople,
untilhercelebrityspreadfarovertheworld,asthecelebrityevenofawoman
whoisonlybeautifulandwhodoesnothingcanspreadintheeraofthe
paragraph.
Andthenpresentlyshewastheheroineofagreatdivorcecase.
Mr.Chepstow,forgettingthatamongthedutiesrequiredofthemodernhusband
isthefacultyofturningablindeyeuponthepassingfanciesofalovelyanda
generallyadmiredwife,suddenlyproclaimedsomeuglytruths,andcompletely
ruinedMrs.Chepstow'sreputation.Hewonhiscase.Hegotheavydamagesout
ofawell-known,marriedman.Themarriedman'swifewasforcedtodivorce
him.AndMrs.Chepstowwassocially"donefor."Thenbeganthenewperiodof
herlife,aperiodutterlydifferentfromallthathadprecededit.
Shewasatthistimeonlytwenty-six,andinthezenithofherbeauty.Everyone
supposedthatthemantowhomsheowedherruinwouldmarryherassoonasit
waspossible.Unfortunately,hediedbeforethedecreenisiwasmadeabsolute.
Mrs.Chepstow'sfuturehadbeencommittedtotheFates,andtheyhadturned
downtheirthumbs.
Notorious,lovely,nowbadlyoff,stillyoung,shewaslefttoshiftforherselfin
theworld.
Itwasthenthattherecametothesurfaceofhercharacteratraitthatwasnot
beautiful.Shedevelopedaloveofmoney,apassionformaterialthings.This
definitegreedinessdeclareditselfinheronlynowthatshewaspoorandsolitary.
Probablyithadalwaysexistedinher,buthadbeenhidden.Shehiditnolonger.
Shetacitlyproclaimedit,andsheorderedherlifesothatitmightbesatisfied.
Anditwassatisfied,orattheleastformanyyearsappeased.Shebecamethe
famous,ortheinfamous,Mrs.Chepstow.Shehadnochildtobegoodfor.Her
fatherwasdead.HermotherlivedinBrusselswithsomeforeignrelations.For
herEnglishrelationsshetooknothought.Thedivorcecasehadsetthemall
againsther.Sheputonthepanoplyofsteelsooftenassumedbythewomanwho
hasgotintotrouble.Shedefiedthosewhowere"downuponher."Shehadmade
afailureofonelife.Sheresolvedthatshewouldmakeasuccessofanother.And
foralongtimeshewasverysuccessful.Menwereatherfeet,andministeredto
herdesires.Shelivedassheseemedtodesiretolive,magnificently.Shewas
givenmorethanmostgoodwomenaregiven,andsheseemedtorevelinits


possession.Butthoughshelovedmoney,herparents'traitswererepeatedinher.
Shewasaspendthrift,astheyhadbeenspendthrifts.Shelovedmoneybecause
shelovedspending,nothoardingit.Andforyearsshescattereditwithboth
hands.
Then,assheapproachedforty,thefreshnessofherbeautybegantofade.Shehad
beentoowellknown,andhadtoendurethefateofthosewhohavelongbeen
talkedabout.Mensaidofher,"Mrs.Chepstow—oh,she'sbeengoingadeuceof
atime.Shemustbewelloverfifty."Women—goodwomenespecially—
pronouncedhernearersixty.Almostsuddenly,asoftenhappensinsuchcasesas
hers,theroseatehuefadedfromherlifeandagreynessbegantofalloverit.
Shewasseenaboutwithveryyoungmen,almostboys.Peoplesneeredwhen
theyspokeofher.Itwassaidthatshewasnotsowelloffasshehadbeen.Some
shoddymillionairehadputherintoaspeculation.Ithadgonewrong,andhehad
notthoughtitnecessarytopayupherlosses.ShemovedfromherhouseinPark
LanetoaflatinVictoriaStreet,thentoalittlehouseinKensington.Thenshe
gavethatup,andtookasmallplaceinthecountry,andmotoredupanddown,to
andfromtown.Thenshegotsickofthat,andwenttoliveinaLondonhotel.She
soldheryacht.Shesoldaquantityofdiamonds.
Andpeoplecontinuedtosay,"Mrs.Chepstow—oh,shemustbewelloverfifty."
Undoubtedlyshewasfacetofacewithaverybadperiod.Witheverymonththat
passed,lonelinessstaredathermorefixedly,lookedatherintheeyestillshe
begantofeelalmostdazed,almosthypnotized.Adulnesscreptoverher.
Fortystruck—forty-one—forty-two.
Andthen,onemorningofJune,DoctorMeyerIsaacsonsatsippinghiscoffee
andlookingathername,writtenagainstthetime,five-thirty,inhisbookof
consultations.


II
DoctorMeyerIsaacsondidnotknowMrs.Chepstowpersonally,buthehadseen
heroccasionally,atsupperinsmartrestaurants,atfirstnights,ridinginthePark.
Now,ashelookedathername,herealizedthathehadnotevenseenherfora
longtime,perhapsforacoupleofyears.Hehadheardtherumoursofher
decadence,andtakenlittleheedofthem,notbeingspeciallyinterestedinher.
Nevertheless,thismorning,asheshutuphisbookandgotuptogodownstairsto
hiswork,hewasawareofadesiretoheartheclockstrikethehalf-hourafter
five,andtoseeHenryopeningthedoortoshowMrs.Chepstowintohis
consulting-room.Awomanwhohadlivedherlifeandwonherrenown—or
infamy—couldscarcelybeuninteresting.
Asthedayworeon,hewasseveraltimesconsciousofawishtoquickenthe
passingofitsmoments,andwhenSirHenryGrebe,thepenultimatepatient,
provedtobeanelderlymaladeimaginaireofdilatoryhabit,involvedspeech,
anddeterminedmisery,hewasobligedfirmlytocheckarisingdesiretowritea
hastybread-pillprescriptionandflinghiminthedirectionofMarlborough
House.Thehalf-hourchimed,andstillSirHenryexplainedthestrange
symptomsbywhichhewasbeset—thebuzzingsinthehead,thetwitchingsin
theextremities,thecreepings,asofinsectswithicedlegs,abouttherootsofthe
hair.Hiseyesshonewiththeardourofthedeterminedvaletudinariancloseted
withonepaidtoattendtohiscomplaints.
AndMrs.Chepstow?Hadshecome?Wasshesittinginthenextroom,looking
inattentivelyatthenewestbooks?
"Themostextraordinarymatterinmycase,"continuedSirHenry,withuplifted
finger,"isthecoldsweatthat—"
Thedoctorinterruptedhim.
"Myadvicetoyouisthis—"
"ButIhaven'texplainedtoyouaboutthecoldsweatthat—"
"Myadvicetoyouisthis,SirHenry.Don'tthinkaboutyourself;walkforan
houreverydaybeforebreakfast,eatonlytwomealsaday,morningandevening,


takeatleasteighthours'resteverynight,giveuploungingaboutinyourclub,
occupyyourself—withworkforothers,ifpossible.Ibelievethattobethemost
tonicworkthereis—andIseenoreasonwhyyoushouldnotbeacentenarian."
"I—acentenarian?"
"Whynot!Thereisnothingthematterwithyou,unlessyouthinkthereis."
"Nothing—yousaythereisnothingthematterwithme!"
"Ihaveexaminedyou,andthatismyopinion."
Thefaceofthepatientflushedwithindignationatthisinsult.
"Icametoyoutobetoldwhatwasthematter."
"AndIamgladtoinformyounothingisthematter—withyourbody."
"Doyoumeantoimplythatmymindisdiseased?"
"No.Butyoudon'tgiveitenoughtothinkabout.Youonlygiveityourself.And
thatisn'tnearlyenough."
SirHenryrose,andputatremblingfingerintohiswaistcoat-pocket.
"IbelieveIoweyou—?"
"Nothing.Butifyoucaretoputsomethingintotheboxonmyhalltable,you
willhelpsomepoormantogetawaytotheseasideafteranoperation,andfind
outwhatisthebestmedicineintheworld."
"AndnowforMrs.Chepstow!"theDoctormurmuredtohimself,asthedoor
closedbehindtheoutragedbackofanenemy.
Hesatstillforaminuteortwo,expectingtoseethedooropenagain,theformof
awomanframedinthedoorway.Butnoonecame.Hebegantofeelrestless.He
wasnotaccustomedtobekeptwaitingbyhispatients,althoughheoftenkept
themwaiting.Therewasabellclosetohiselbow.Hetouchedit,andhismanservantinstantlyappeared.
"Mrs.Chepstowisdownforfive-thirty.Itisnow"—hepulledouthiswatch
—"nearlytenminutestosix.Hasn'tshecome?"
"No,sir.Twoorthreepeoplehavebeen,withoutappointments."


"Andyouhavesentthemaway,ofcourse?Quiteright.Well,Ishan'tstayinany
longer."
Hegotupfromhischair.
"AndifMrs.Chepstowshouldcome,sir?"
"ExplaintoherthatIwaitedtilltenminutestosixandthen—"Hepaused.The
halldoor-bellwasringingsharply.
"IfitisMrs.Chepstow,shallIadmithernow,sir?"
Thedoctorhesitated,butonlyforasecond.
"Yes,"hesaid.
Andhesatdownagainbyhistable.
Hehadbeenalmostlookingforwardtothearrivalofhislastpatientofthatday,
butnowhefeltirritatedatbeingdetained.Foramomenthehadbelievedhis
day'sworktobeover,andinthatmomentthehumourforworkhadlefthim.
Whyhadshenotbeenuptotime?Hetappedhisdelicatefingersimpatientlyon
thetable,anddrewdownhisthickbrowsoverhissparklingeyes.Butdirectly
thedoormoved,hisexpressionofserenityreturned,andwhenatallwoman
camein,hewasstandingupandgravelysmiling.
"I'mafraidIamlate."
ThedoorshutonHenry.
"Youaretwentyminuteslate."
"I'msosorry."
Theratherdawdlingtonesofthevoicedeniedthetruthofthewords,andthe
busyDoctorwasconsciousofaslightsensationofhostility.
"Pleasesitdownhere,"hesaid,"andtellmewhyyoucometoconsultme."
Mrs.Chepstowsatdowninthechairheshowedher.Hermovementswererather
slowandcareless,likethemovementsofapersonwhoisquitealoneandhas
nothingtodo.Theysuggestedtothewatchingmanvistasofemptyhours—how
differentfromhisown!Shesettledherselfinherchair,leaningback.Oneofher
handsrestedonthehandleofaparasolshecarried.Theotherheldlightlyanarm


ofthechair.Herheightwasremarkable,andwasmadethemoreapparentbyher
smallwaist,andbythesmallsizeofherbeautifullyshapedhead,whichwas
poisedonalongbutexquisiteneck.Herwholeoutlineannouncedhergentle
breeding.Themostlovelywomanofthepeoplecouldneverbeshapedquitelike
that.AsDoctorIsaacsonrealisedthis,hefeltasuddendifficultyinconnecting
withthewomanbeforehimhernotoriouscareer.Surelypridemustbeadweller
inabodysoexpressiveofrace!
Hethoughtoftheveryyoungmen,almostboys,withwhomMrs.Chepstowwas
seenabout.Wasitpossible?
Hereyesmethis,andinherfacehesawasubtlecontradictionofthemeaning
herformseemedeloquentlytoindicate.
Itwaspossible.
Almostbeforehehadtimetosaythistohimself,Mrs.Chepstow'sfacehad
changed,suddenlyaccordedmoredefinitelywithherbody.
"Whatacleverwoman!"theDoctorthought.
Withanalmostsharpmovementhesatforwardinhischair,bracedup,alert,
vital.Hisirritationwasgonewiththefatigueengenderedbytheday'swork.
Interestinlifetingledthroughhisveins.Hisdaywasnottobewhollydull.His
thoughtofthemorning,whenhehadlookedatthepatients'book,wasnotan
errorofthemind.
"Youcametoconsultmebecause—?"
"Idon'tknowthatIamill,"Mrs.Chepstowsaid,verycomposedly.
"Letushopenot."
"DoyouthinkIlookill?"
"Wouldyoumindturningalittlemoretowardsthelight?"
Shesatstillforaminute,thenshelaughed.
"Ihavealwayssaidthatsolongasoneiswithadoctor,quadoctor,onemust
neverthinkofhimasaman,"shesaid;"but—"
"Don'tthinkofmeasaman."


"Unfortunately,thereissomethingaboutyouwhichabsolutelypreventsmefrom
regardingyouasamachine.But—nevermind!"
Sheturnedtothelight,liftedherthinveil,andleanedtowardshim.
"DoyouthinkIlookill?"
Hegazedathersteadily,withascrutinythatwasalmostcruel.Theface
presentedtohimintheboldlightthatflowedinthroughthelargewindownear
whichtheirchairswereplacedstillpreservedelementsofthebeautyofwhich
theworldhadheardtoomuch.Itsshape,liketheshapeofMrs.Chepstow'shead,
wasexquisite.ThelineofthefeatureswasnotpurelyGreek,butitrecalled
thingsGreek,profilesinmarbleseenincalmmuseums.Theoutlineofathing
cansetasensitiveheartbeatingwiththestrange,thealmostpainfullongingfor
anideallife,withidealsurroundings,idealloves,idealrealizations.Itcancallto
theimaginationthatliesdrowsing,yetfulloflife,fardowninthesecretrecesses
ofthesoul.ThecurveofMrs.Chepstow'sface,themodellingofherlowbrow,
andtheundulationsofthehairthatflowedawayfromit—although,alas!that
hairwasobviously,thoughveryperfectly,dyed—hadthispeculiarpowerof
summons,sentforthsilentlythissubtlecall.ThecurveofaDryad'sface,seen
dimlyinthegreenwonderofamagicwood,mightwellhavebeenlikethis,orof
anymph'sbathingbymoonlightinsomeverysecretpool.ButaDryadwould
nothavetouchedherlipswiththisvermilion,anymphhavepaintedbeneathher
laughingeyesthesecloudyshadows,ordrawnabovethemtheseartfullydelicate
lines.Andthewearinessthatlayaboutthesecheeks,andatthecornersofthis
mouth,suggestednoearlyworld,nogoddessesinthespringtimeofcreation,but
anexistencetodistressamoralist,andalackofpleasureinittodisheartenan
honestpagan.TheidealityinMrs.Chepstow'sfacewascontradicted,wasset
almostatdefiance,bysomething—itwasdifficulttosayexactlywhat;perhaps
bythefaintwrinklesaboutthecornersofherlargeandstillluminousblueeyes,
byacertainnotyetharshprominenceofthecheek-bones,byaslightdroopof
thelipsthathintedatpassionlinkedwithcynicism.Therewasasuggestionof
hardnesssomewhere.Freshnesshadleftthisface,butnotbecauseofage.There
areelderly,evenoldwomenwholookalmostgirlish,fragrantwithacharmthat
hasitsrootininnocenceoflife.Mrs.Chepstowdidnotcertainlylookold.Yet
therewasnoyouthinher,nosweetnessofthegirlsheoncehadbeen.Shewas
notyoung,norold,nordefinitelymiddle-aged.
Shewasdefinitelyawomanwhohadstrungmanyexperiencesuponthechainof
herlife,yetwho,incertainaspects,calledupthethoughtof,eventhedesirefor,


thingsideal,thingsveryfarawayfromallthatissordid,ugly,brutal,and
defaced.
Thelookofpride,orperhapsofself-respect,whichDoctorIsaacsonhadseen
bornasifinanswertohisdetrimentalthoughtofher,stayedinthisface,which
wasturnedtowardsthelight.
Herealizedthatinthiswomantherewasmuchwill,perhapsmuchcunning,and
thatshewasapastmistressintheartofreadingmen.
"Well,"shesaid,afteraminuteofsilence,"whatdoyoumakeofit?"
Shehadaveryattractivevoice,notcaressinglybutcarelesslyseductive;avoice
thatsuggestedacreaturebothwarmandlazy,thatwould,perhaps,leavemany
thingstochance,butthatmightatamomentgripclosely,andretain,what
chancethrewinherway.
"Pleasetellmeyoursymptoms,"theDoctorreplied.
"Butyoutellmefirst—doIlookill?"
Shefixedhereyessteadilyuponhim.
"Whatistherealreasonwhythiswomanhascometome?"
ThethoughtflashedthroughtheDoctor'smindashiseyesmethers,andhe
seemedtodivinesomestrangeunder-reasonlurkingfardowninhershrewd
mind,almosttocatchaglimpseofitereitsankawayintocompleteobscurity.
"Certaindiseases,"hesaidslowly,"stampthemselvesunmistakablyuponthe
facesofthosewhoaresufferingfromthem."
"Isanyoneofthemstampeduponmine?"
"No."
Shemoved,asifsettlingherselfmorecomfortablyinherchair.
"ShallIputyourparasoldown?"heasked,stretchingouthishand.
"No,thanks.Ilikeholdingit."
"I'mafraidyoumusttellmewhatareyoursymptoms."
"Ifeelasortofgeneralmalaise."


"Isitaphysicalmalaise?"
"Whynot?"shesaid,almostsharply.
Shesmiled,asifinpityatherownchildishness,andaddedimmediately:
"Ican'tsaythatIsufferactualphysicalpain.Butwithoutthatonemaynotfeel
particularlywell."
"Perhapsyournervoussystemisoutoforder."
"Isupposeeverydayyouhavesillywomencomingtoyoufullofcomplaintsbut
withouttheghostofamalady?"
"Youmustnotaskmetocondemnmypatients.Andnotonlywomenaresillyin
thatway."
HethoughtofSirHenryGrebe,andofhisownprescription.
"Ihadbetterexamineyou.ThenIcantellyoumoreaboutyourself."
Whilehespoke,hefeltasifhewerebeingexaminedbyher.Neverbeforehad
heexperiencedthiscurioussensation,almostofself-consciousness,withany
patient.
"Oh,no,"shesaid,"Idon'twanttobeexamined.Iknowmyheartandmylungs
andsoonaresoundenough."
"Atanyrate,allowmetofeelyourpulse."
"Andlookatmytongue,perhaps!"
Shelaughed,butshepulledoffhergloveandextendedherhandtohim.Heput
hisfingersonherwrist,andlookedathiswatch.Herskinwascool.Herpulse
beatregularlyandstrongly.Fromher,amessagetohislightlytouchingfingers,
flowedsurelydetermination,self-possession,hardihood,evencombativeness.
Ashefeltherpulseheunderstoodthedefianceofherlife.
"Yourpulseisgood,"hesaid,droppingherhand.
Duringtheshorttimehehadtouchedher,heseemedtohavelearntagreatdeal
abouther.
Andshe—howmuchhadshelearntabouthim?


Hefoundhimselfwonderinginafashionunorthodoxinadoctor.
"Mrs.Chepstow,"hesaid,speakingratherbrusquely,"Iwishyouwouldkindly
explaintomeexactlywhyyouhavecomehereto-day.Ifyoudon'tfeelill,why
wasteyourtimewithadoctor?Iamsureyouarenotawomantorunabout
seekingwhatyouhave."
"Youmeanhealth!But—Idon'tfeelasIusedtofeel.FormerlyIwasavery
strongwoman,sostrongthatIoftenfeltasifIweresafefromunhappiness,real
unhappiness.ForSchopenhauerwasright,Isuppose,andifone'shealthis
perfect,onerisesabovewhatarecalledmisfortunes.And,youknow,Ihavehad
greatmisfortunes."
"Yes?"
"Youmustknowthat."
"Yes."
"Ididn'treallymindthem—notenormously.EvenwhenIwaswhatIsuppose
nicepeoplecalled'ruined'—aftermydivorce—Iwasquiteabletoenjoylifeand
itspleasures,eatinganddrinking,travelling,yachting,riding,motoring,theatregoing,gambling,andallthatsortofthing.Peoplewhoarebeinguniversally
condemned,orpitied,areoftenhavingaquitesplendidtime,youknow."
"Justaspeoplewhoareuniversallyenviedareoftenmiserable."
"Exactly.ButoflateIhavebegunto—well,tofeeldifferent."
"Inwhatwayexactly?"
"Tofeelthatmyhealthisnolongerperfectenoughtodefendmeagainst—I
mightcallitennui."
"Yes?"
"OrImightcallitdepression,melancholy,infact.NowIdon'twant—Isimply
willnotbethevictimofdepression,assomanywomenare.Doyourealisehow
frightfullywomen—manywomen—suffersecretlyfromdepressionwhenthey—
whentheybegintofindoutthattheyarenotgoingtoremaineternallyyoung?"
"Irealizeit,certainly."
"Iwillnotbethevictimofthatdepression,becauseitruinsone'sappearanceand


destroysone'spower.Iamthirty-eight."
HerlargeblueeyesmettheDoctor'seyessteadily.
"Yes?"
"InEnglandnowadaysthatisn'tconsideredanything.InEngland,ifonehas
perfecthealth,onemaypassforacharmingandattractivewomantilloneisat
leastfifty,orevenmore.Buttoseemyoungwhenoneisgettingon,onemust
feelyoung.Now,Inolongerfeelyoung.Iampositivefeelingyoungisa
questionofphysicalhealth.Ibelievealmosteverythingonefeelsisaquestionof
physicalhealth.Mystics,peoplewhobelieveinmetempsychosis,intheprogress
upwardandimmortalityofthesoul,idealists—theywouldcryoutagainstmeas
arankmaterialist.Butyouareadoctor,andknowtheempireofthebody.AmI
notright?Isn'talmosteverythingonefeelsanemanationfromone'smolecules,
orwhatevertheyarecalled?Isn'titanechoofthechorusofone'satoms?"
"Nodoubtthestateofthebodyaffectsthestateofthemind."
"Howcautiousyouare!"
Arathercontemptuoussmileflickeredoverhertooredlips.
"Andreallyyoumustbeinabsoluteantagonismwiththepriests,theChristian
Scientists,withallthecranksandtheself-deceiverswhoputsoulabovematter,
whopretendthatsoulisindependentofmatter.Why,onlytheotherdayIwas
readingaboutthepsychophysicalinvestigationswiththepneumographandthe
galvanometer,andI'mcertainthat—"Suddenlyshecheckedherself."Butthat's
besidethequestion.I'vetoldyouwhatImean,whatIthink,thathealthtriumphs
overnearlyeverything."
"Youseemtobeveryconvinced,averysincerematerialist."
"Andyou?"
"Despitethediscoveriesofscience,Ithinktherearestilldepthsofmysteryin
man."
"Womanincluded?"
"Oh,dear,yes!Buttoreturntoyourcondition."
"Ah!"


Sheglancedatawatchonherwrist.
"Yourdayofwork,ends—?"
"Atsix,asarule."
"Imustn'tkeepyou.Thetruthisthis.Iamlosingmyzestforlife,andbecauseI
amlosingmyzest,Iamlosingmypoweroverlife.Iambeginningtofeelweary,
melancholy,sometimesapprehensive."
"Ofwhat?"
"Middleage,Isuppose,andtheendingofallthings."
"Andyouwantmetoprescribeagainstmelancholy?"
"Whynot?Whatisadoctorfor?ItellyouIamcertainthesefeelingsinme
comefromabodilycondition."
"Youthinkitquiteimpossiblethattheymayproceedfromaconditionofthe
soul?"
"Quite.Ibelieveitallendshereonthedayonedies.Ifeelascertainofthatasof
mybeingawoman.Andthisbeingmyconviction,Ithinkitofparamount
importancetohaveagoodtimewhileIamhere."
"Naturally."
"Now,awoman'sgoodtimedependsonawoman'spoweroverothers,andthat
powerdependsonherthorough-goingbeliefinherself.Solongassheis
perfectlywell,shefeelsyoung,andsolongasshefeelsyoung,shecangivethe
impressionthatsheisyoung—withtheslightestassistancefromart.Andsolong
asshecangivethatimpression—ofcourseIamspeakingofawomanwhois
whatiscalled'attractive'—itisallrightwithher.Shewillbelieveinherself,and
shewillhaveagoodtime.Now,DoctorIsaacson—rememberthatIconsiderall
confidencesmadetoaphysicianofyoureminence,allthatItellyouto-day,as
inviolablysecret—"
"Ofcourse,"hesaid.
"Latelymybeliefinmyselfhasbeen—well,shaken.Iattributethistosome
failureinmyhealth.SoIhavecometoyou.Trytofindoutifanythinginmy
bodilyconditioniswrong."


"Verywell.Butyoumustallowmetoexamineyou,andImustputtoyoua
numberofpurelymedicalquestionswhichyoumustanswertruthfully."
"Enavant,monsieur!"
Sheputherparasoldownonthefloorbesideher.
"Idon'tbelieveinsubterfuge—withadoctor,"shesaid.


III
Mrs.ChepstowcameoutofthehouseinClevelandSquareastheclockswere
strikingseven,steppedintoataximetercab,andwashurriedoffintothebusy
whirlofSt.James'sStreet,whileDoctorMeyerIsaacsonwentupstairstohis
bedroomtorestanddressfordinner.Hisclotheswerealreadylaidout,andhe
senthisvaletaway.Assoonasthemanwasgone,theDoctortookoffhiscoat
andwaistcoat,hiscollarandtie,satdowninanarm-chairbytheopenwindow,
leanedhisheadagainstacushion,shuthiseyes,anddeliberatelyrelaxedallhis
muscles.Everyday,sometimesatonetime,sometimesatanother,hedidthisfor
tenminutesoraquarterofanhour;andinthesemoments,asherelaxedhis
muscles,healsorelaxedhismind,banishingthoughtsbyaneffortofthewill.So
oftenhadhedonethisthatgenerallyhediditwithoutdifficulty;andthoughhe
neverfellasleepindaylight,hecameoutofthisshortrest-curerefreshedasafter
twohoursofslumber.
Butto-day,thoughhecouldcommandhisbody,hismindwaswilful.Hecould
notclearitoftherestlessthoughts.Indeed,itseemedtohimthathebecameall
mindashesatthere,motionless,lookingalmostlikeadeadman,withhis
stretched-outlegs,hishangingarms,hisdroppedjaw.Hislastpatientwas
fightingagainsthisdesireforcompleterepose,wasdefyinghiswilland
conqueringit.
AfterhisexaminationofMrs.Chepstow,hisseriesofquestions,hehadsaidto
her,"Thereisnothingthematterwithyou."Averyordinaryphrase,butevenas
hespokeit,somethingwithinhimcriedtohim,"Youliar!"Thiswomansuffered
fromnobodilydisease.Buttosaytoher,"Thereisnothingthematterwithyou,"
was,nevertheless,totellheralie.Andhehadaddedthequalifyingstatement,
"thatadoctorcandoanythingfor."Hecouldseeherfacebeforehimnowasit
hadlookedforamomentafterhehadspoken.
Herexquisitehairwasdyedacuriouscolour.Naturallyabrightbrown,ithad
beenchangedbyarttoalighter,lesswarmhue,thatwasneitherflaxennor
golden,butthatheldastrangepallor,distinctive,thoughscarcelybeautiful.It
hadthemeritofmakinghereyeslookveryvividbetweenthepaintedshadows
andthepaintedbrows,andthisfacthadbeennodoubtrealizedbytheartist
responsibleforit.ApparentlyMrs.Chepstowrelieduponthefascinationofa


peculiar,almostanæmicfairness,inthemidstofwhicheyes,lips,andbrows
stoodforciblyouttoseizetheattentionandengrossit.Therewasinthisfairness,
thisblancheddelicacy,somethingalmostpathetic,whichassistedthe
completion,inthemindofanottooastutebeholder,oftheimpressionalready
beguntobemadebythebeautifulshapeoftheface.
WhenDoctorMeyerIsaacsonhadfinishedspeaking,thatfacehadbeenastill
butsearchingquestion;andalmostimmediatelyaquestionhadcomefromthe
redlips.
"Isthereabsolutelynounhealthyconditionofbodysuchasmightbeexpectedto
producelowspirits?YouseehowmedicallyIspeak!"
"Nonewhatever.Youarenotevengouty,andthree-quarters,atleast,ofmy
patientsaregoutyinsomeformorother."
Mrs.Chepstowfrowned.
"Thenwhatwouldyouadvisemetodo?"sheasked."ShallIgotoapriest?Shall
Igotoaphilosopher?ShallIgotoaChristianSciencetemple?Ordoyouthink
agooddoseofthe'NewTheology'wouldbenefitme?"
Shespokesatirically,yetDoctorIsaacsonfeltasifheheard,faroff,faintly
behindthesatire,thedespairofthematerialist,againstwhom,incertain
moments,allavenuesofhopeseeminexorablyclosed.HelookedatMrs.
Chepstow,andtherewasadawningofpityinhiseyesasheanswered:
"HowcanIadviseyou?"
"Howindeed?Andyet—andthat'sacuriousthing—youlookasifyoucould."
"Ifyouarereallyaconvincedmaterialist,anhonestatheist—"
"Iam."
"Well,thenitwouldbeuselesstoadviseyoutoseekpriestsortogotoChristian
Sciencetemples.Icanonlytellyouthatyourcomplaintisnotacomplaintofthe
body."
"Thenisitacomplaintofthesoul?That'sabore,becauseIdon'thappento
believeinthesoul,andIdobelieveverymuchinthebody."
"Iwonderwhatexactlyyoumeanwhenyousayyoudon'tbelieveinthesoul."


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×