Man and maid, p.1
Man and Maid, p.1Elinor Glyn / Romance & Love
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+---------------------------------------------------------------------+| Transcriber's Notes || || 1. Where possible, punctuation has been normalized to contemporary || standards. || 2. Diacritical marks are as they appeared in the printed book, and || may not reflect current usage. || 3. Obvious typographic and spelling errors have been corrected. |+---------------------------------------------------------------------+
Suzette (Renee Adoree) makes the tedious hours of thewounded Sir Nicholas Thormonde (Lew Cody) seem less monotonous. (A scenefrom Elinor Glyn's production "Man and Maid" for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)]
MAN AND MAID
By ELINOR GLYN
A. L. BURT COMPANYPublishers New York
Published by arrangement with J. B. Lippincott CompanyPrinted in U.S.A.
COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY ELINOR GLYN
MAN AND MAID
I am sick of my life--The war has robbed it of all that a young man canfind of joy.
I look at my mutilated face before I replace the black patch over theleft eye, and I realize that, with my crooked shoulder, and the leg gonefrom the right knee downwards, that no woman can feel emotion for meagain in this world.
So be it--I must be a philosopher.
Mercifully I have no near relations--Mercifully I am still very rich,mercifully I can buy love when I require it, which under thecircumstances, is not often.
Why do people write journals? Because human nature is filled withegotism. There is nothing so interesting to oneself as oneself; andjournals cannot yawn in one's face, no matter how lengthy the expressionof one's feelings may be!
A clean white page is a sympathetic thing, waiting there to receiveone's impressions!
Suzette supped with me, here in my _appartement_ last night--When shehad gone I felt a beast. I had found her attractive on Wednesday, andafter an excellent lunch, and two Benedictines, I was able to persuademyself that her tenderness and passion were real, and not the result ofsome thousands of francs,--And then when she left I saw my face in theglass without the patch over the socket, and a profound depression fellupon me.
Is it because I am such a mixture that I am this rotten creature?--AnAmerican grandmother, a French mother, and an English father.Paris--Eton--Cannes--Continuous traveling. Some years of living andenjoying a rich orphan's life.--The war--fighting--a zest hithertoundreamed of--unconsciousness--agony--and then?--well now Paris againfor special treatment.
Why do I write this down? For posterity to take up the threadscorrectly?--Why?
From some architectural sense in me which must make a beginning, even ofa journal, for my eyes alone, start upon a solid basis?
I know not--and care not.
* * * * *
Three charming creatures are coming to have tea with me to-day. They hadheard of my loneliness and my savageness from Maurice--They burn to giveme their sympathy--and have tea with plenty of sugar in it--andchocolate cake.
I used to wonder in my salad days what the brains of women were madeof--when they have brains!--The cleverest of them are generally devoidof a logical sense, and they seldom understand the relative value ofthings, but they make the charm of life, for one reason or another.
When I have seen these three I will dissect them. A divorcee--a warwidow of two years--and the third with a husband fighting.
All, Maurice assures me, ready for anything, and highly attractive. Itwill do me a great deal of good, he protests. We shall see.
_Night._ They came, with Maurice and Alwood Chester, of the American RedCross. They gave little shrill screams of admiration for the room.
"_Quel endroit delicieux!_--What _boiserie_! English?--Yes, of course,English _dix-septieme_, one could see--What silver!--and cleaned--Andeverything of a _chic_!--And the hermit so _seduisant_ with his air_maussade_!--_Hein._"
"Yes, the war is much too long--One has given of one's time in the firstyear--but now, really, fatigue has overcome one!--and surely after thespring offensive peace _must_ come soon--and one must live!"
They smoked continuously and devoured the chocolate cake, then they hadliqueurs.
They were so well dressed! and so lissome. They wore elastic corsets, ornone at all. They were well painted; cheeks of the new tint, ratherapricot coloured--and magenta lips. They had arranged themselves whenthey had finished munching, bringing out their gold looking-glasses andtheir lip grease and their powder--and the divorcee continued toendeavour to enthrall my senses with her voluptuous half closing of theeyes, while she reddened her full mouth.
They spoke of the theatre, and the last _bons mots_ about their _cheresamies_--the last liasons--the last passions--They spoke ofGabrielle--her husband was killed last week--'So foolish of him, sinceone of Alice's 'friends' among the Ministers could easily have got him asoft job, and one must always help one's friends! Alice adoredGabrielle.--But he has left her well provided for--Gabrielle will lookwell in her crepe--and there it is, war is war--_Que voulez vous?_'
"After all, will it be as agreeable if peace does come this summer?--Onewill be able to dance openly--that will be nice--but for the rest? Itmay be things will be more difficult--and there may be complications.One has been very well during the war--very well, indeed--_N'est ce pasma cherie--n'est ce pas?_"
Thus they talked.
The widow's lover is married, Maurice tells me, and has been able tokeep his wife safely down at their place in Landes, but if peace shouldcome he must be _en famille_, and the wife can very well be disagreeableabout the affair.
The divorcee's three lovers will be in Paris at the same time. Themarried one's husband returned for good--"Yes, certainly, peace willhave its drawbacks--The war knows its compensations--But considerableones!"
When they had departed, promising to return very soon--to dinner thistime, and see all the "exquisite _appartement_," Burton came into theroom to take away the tea things. His face was a mask as he swept up thecigarette ash, which had fallen upon the William and Mary English lactable, which holds the big lamp, then he carefully carried away thesilver ash trays filled with the ends, and returned with them cleaned.Then he coughed slightly.
"Shall I open the window, Sir Nicholas?"
"It is a beastly cold evening."
He put an extra log on the fire and threw the second casement wide.
"You'll enjoy your dinner better now, Sir," he said, and left meshivering.
* * * * *
I wish I were a musician, I could play to myself. I have still my twohands, though perhaps my left shoulder hurts too much to play often. Myone eye aches when I read for too long, and the stump below the knee istoo tender still to fit the false leg on to, and I cannot, because of myshoulder, use my crutch overmuch, so walking is out of the question.These trifles are perhaps, the cause of my ennui with life.
I suppose such women as those who came to-day fulfill some purpose in thescheme of things. One can dine openly with them at the most exclusiverestaurant, and not mind meeting one's relations. They are rather moreexpensive than the others--pearl necklaces--sables--essence for theirmotor cars--these are their prices.--They are so decorative, too, andbefore the war were such excellent tango partners. These three are allof the best families, and their relations stick to them in thebackground, so they are not altogether _declasse_. Maurice says they arethe most agreeable women in Paris, and get the last news out of theGenerals. They are seen everywhere, and Coralie, the married one, wearsa Red Cross uniform sometimes at tea--if she happens to remember to gointo a hospital for ten minutes to hold some poor fellow's hand.
Yes, I suppose they have their uses--there are a horde of them, anyway.
To-morrow Maurice is bringing another specimen to divert me--Americanthis time--over here for "war work." Maurice says one of the cleverestadventuresses he has ever met; and I am still irresistible, he assuresme, so I must be careful--(for am I not disgustingly rich!)
Burton is sixty years old--He is my earliest recollection. Burton knowsthe world.
* * * * *
_Friday_--The American adventuress delighted me. She was so shrewd. Hereyes are cunning and evil--her flesh is round and firm, she is notextremely painted, and her dresses are quite six inches below her knees.
She has two English peers in tow, and any casual Americans of note whomshe can secure who will give her facilities in life. She, also, isposing for a 'lady' and 'a virtuous woman,' and an ardent war worker.
All these parasites are the product of the war, though probably theyalways existed, but the war has been their glorious chance. There is anew verb in America, Maurice says--"To war work"--It means to get toParis, and have a splendid time.
Their _toupe_ is surprising! To hear this one talk one would think sheruled all the politics of the allies, and directed each General.
* * * * *
Are men fools?--Yes, imbeciles--they cannot see the wiles of woman.Perhaps I could not when I was a human male whom they could love!
Love?--did I say love?
Is there such a thing?--or is it only a sex excitement for themoment!--That at all events is the sum of what these creatures know.
Do they ever think?--I mean beyond planning some fresh adventure forthemselves, or how to secure some fresh benefit.
I cannot now understand how a man ever marries one of them, gives hisname and his honour into such precarious keeping. Once I suppose Ishould have been as easy a prey as the rest. But not _now_--I have toomuch time to think, I fear. I seem to find some ulterior motive inwhatever people say or do.
To-day another American lunched with me, a bright girl, an heiress of thebreezy, jolly kind, a good sort before the war, whom I danced withoften. She told me quite naturally that she had a German prisoner'sthigh bone being polished into an umbrella handle--She had assisted atthe amputation--and the man had afterwards died--"A really cutesouvenir," she assured me it was going to be!
Are we all mad--?
No wonder the finest and best "go West."--Will they come again, souls ofa new race, when all these putrid beings have become extinguished bytime? I hope so to God....
These French women enjoy their crepe veils--and their high-heeled shoes,and their short black skirts, even a cousin is near enough for thetrappings of woe.--Can any of us feel woe now?--I think not....
Maurice has his uses--Were I a man once more I should despiseMaurice--He is so good a creature, such a devoted hanger on of the veryrich--and faithful too. Does he not pander to my every fancy, andprocure me whatever I momentarily desire?
How much better if I had been killed outright! I loathe myself and allthe world.
* * * * *
Once--before the war--the doing up of this flat caused me raptures. Toget it quite English--in Paris! Every _antiquaire_ in London hadexploited me to his heart's content. I paid for it through the nose, buteach bit is a gem. I am not quite sure now what I meant to do with itwhen finished, occupy it when I did come to Paris--lend it tofriends?--I don't remember--Now it seems a sepulchre where I can retiremy maimed body to and wait for the end.
* * * * *
Nina once proposed to stay with me here, no one should know,Nina?--would she come now?--How dare they make this noise at thedoor--what is it?--Nina!
* * * * *
_Sunday_--it was actually Nina herself--"Poor darling Nicholas," shesaid. "The kindest fate sent me across--I 'wangled' a passport--reallyserious war work, and here I am for a fortnight, even in war time one_must_ get a few clothes--"
I could see I was a great shock to her, my attraction for her hadgone--I was just "poor darling Nicholas," and she began to bemotherly--Nina motherly!--She would have been furious at the very ideaonce. Nina is thirty-nine years old, her boy has just gone into theflying corps, she is so glad the war will soon be over.
She loves her boy.
She gave me news of the world, our old world of idle uselessness, whichis now one of solid work.
"Why have you completely cut yourself off from everything and everybody,ever since you first went out to fight?--Very silly of you."
"When I was a _man_ and could fight, I liked fighting, and never wantedto see any of you again. You all seemed rotters to me, so I spent myleaves in the country or here. Now you seem glorious beings, and I therotter. I am no use at all--"
Nina came close to me and touched my hand--
"Poor darling Nicholas," she said again.
Something hurt awfully, as I realized that to touch me now caused her nothrill. No woman will ever thrill again when I am near.
Nina does know all about clothes! She is the best-dressed Englishwoman Ihave ever seen. She has worked awfully well for the war, too, I hear,she deserves her fortnight in Paris.
"What are you going to do, Nina?" I asked her.
She was going out to theatres every night, and going to dine with lotsof delicious 'red tabs' whose work was over here, whom she had not seenfor a long time.
"I'm just going to frivol, Nicholas, I am tired of work."
Nothing could exceed her kindness--a mother's kindness.
I tried to take an interest in everything she said, only it seemed suchaeons away. As though I were talking in a dream.
She would go plodding on at her war job when she got back again, ofcourse, but she, like everyone else, is war weary.
"And when peace comes--it will soon come now probably--what then?"
"I believe I shall marry again."
I jumped--I had never contemplated the possibility of Nina marrying, shehas always been a widowed institution, with her nice little house inQueen Street, and that wonderful cook.
"What on earth for?"
"I want the companionship and devotion of one man."
"Anyone in view?"
"Yes--one or two--they say there is a shortage of men, I have neverknown so many men in my life."
Then presently, when she had finished her tea, she said--
"You are absolutely out of gear, Nicholas--Your voice is rasping, yourremarks are bitter, and you must be awfully unhappy, poor boy."
I told her that I was--there was no use in lying.
"Everything is finished," I said, and she bent down and kissed me as shesaid good-bye--a mother's kiss.
* * * * *
And now I am alone, and what shall I do all the evening? or all theother evenings--? I will send for Suzette to dine.
* * * * *
_Night_--Suzette--was amusing--. I told her at once I did not requireher to be affectionate.
"You can have an evening's rest from blandishments, Suzette."
"_Merci!_"--and then she stretched herself, kicked up her little feet,in their short-vamped, podgy little shoes, with four-inch heels, and lita cigarette.
"Life is hard, _Mon ami_"--she told me--"And now that the English arehere, it is difficult to keep from falling in love."
For a minute I thought she was going to insinuate that I had aroused herreflection--I warmed--but no--She had taken me seriously when I told herI required no blandishments.
That ugly little twinge came to me again.
"You like the English?"
"They are very _bons garcons_, they are clean, and they are fine men,they have sentiment, too--Yes, it is difficult not to feel," she sighed.
"What do you do when you fall in love then, Suzette?"
"_Mon ami_, I immediately go for a fortnight to the sea--one is lost ifone falls in love _dans le metier_--The man tramples then--tramples andslips off--For everything good one must never feel."
"But you have a kind heart Suzette--you feel for me?"
"_Hein?_"--and she showed all her little white pointedteeth--"Thou?--Thou art very rich, _mon chou_. Women will always feelfor thee!"
It went in like a knife it was so true--.
"I was a very fine Englishman once," I said.
"It is possible, thou art still, sitting, and showing the rightprofile--and full of _chic_--and then rich, rich!"
"You could not forget that I am rich, Suzette?"
"If I did I might love you--_Jamais!_"
"And does the sea help to prevent an attack?"--
"Absence--and I go to a poor place I knew when I was young, and I washand cook, and make myself remember what _la vie dure_ was--and would beagain if one loved--Bah! that does it. I come back cured--and ready onlyto please such as thou, Nicholas!--rich, rich!"
* * * * *
And she laughed again her rippling gay laugh--
We had a pleasant evening, she told me the history of her life--or someof it--They were ever the same from Lucien's Myrtale.
* * * * *
When all of me is aching--Shall I too, find solace if I go to the sea?
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