Third part of a four-part short story, entitled only “Episodes” written by Sibyl (Croly) (Hanchett) (Schneller), probably during her late teens or early twenties. Unpublished.
The chandelier cast a soft glow over the large room. Underneath it a slender girl in white nestled in the depths of a green plush easy chair. Her chin rested on her hand and she was absolutely motionless. She might have been carved out of marble, except for her eyes — they were quicksilver. Now they turned to her own white reflection in the large mirror. Opposite, now to the long slender curiously knotted fingers of her left hand, a musician’s hand, lying still on her lap, and now to the face of the boy who was sitting beside her reading aloud. His face was dark and mobile, yet between the mobility of his mouth and the varying expression of his forehead, shone his eyes, serene and steady, with the uprightness and self-reliance which would make a great man of him. Just now he was lost in his poem. The girl knew his talent, but even she marvelled at the vital humanity which, with all his youth and inexperience, he had interwoven in his poem. It was a series of pictures, strong and daring, yet blended by a master hand. Even the apparent crudities were effective accents.
She listened, without moving an eyelash, to the very end. Then there was a moment’s silence, while they brought themselves back from war and love and thrilling adventure. The girl drew a long breath and uttered just one word, “Vivid!” Then followed a long discussion of the poem and he asked her which were her favorite passages. She answered, “The poem is like a gold necklace with diamond pendants. This — and this — and this are like the diamonds, but the chain is pure gold.” She believed in him.
He read her an essay he had written on a friend of theirs, and once more the girl was amazed as his wonderful insight.
She got out a little book and showed him some unambitious but pithy little things she had written. He leaned on his elbow, chin in hand, and looked into her eyes, which met his as quicksilver would meet an angle. “Girl,” he said, slowly, “What are you going to do with yourself? You could be anything you want to. Are you going to teach school a few years and then get married?”
She laughed lightly and a trifle bitterly. “Yes,” she answered, “I suppose so. I know I could be anything I wanted to. And,” in a heartsick tone which gave her words the lie, “I am content with the potentiality.”
He squirmed. “Oh, it makes me sore to hear you say that,” he said. Her light laugh lost its bitterness and found a note of surprise. It was unexpected for him to take a keen interest in anybody else’s prospects, and she realized that in this as in other ways, she had been unjust to him in thought.
Their conversation flowed along evenly and with animation. When these two were together there was no dearth of ideas, nor of words to express the ideas. Their talk was on their opinions of generalities, and their own characters. She afterward described the evening as “a revel of egotism.” But the egos were harmonious.
They had talked four hours and then came a slight pause. “What time is it?” he inquired.
“I’ll go and see. The cars have stopped running,” she answered.
Returning she answered, “It is two o’clock.”
Her eyes were shining with the exhilaration of sleeplessness. His were whimsical. “Come out on the porch!” he said, “If you want me to go, say so.”
“I don’t,” she declared, “What’s the use?” She put on a cloak, for the sharp cold of early morning was abroad, and they sat down on the porch and began to talk metaphysics.
The milk-wagon rattled up the street, and the practical sound intensified the unreality of things. At half-past two in the morning, no one is ever quite sane, and of these people remember, one was a genius and the other a potentiality.
“Say,” she began, school-girl fashion, “Wouldn’t it be great —.”
He saw her thought. “It would,” he agreed. “Shake on it!”
Two cold hands met over the insane proposition and they composed themselves to wait for sunrise. “Let’s go in and write letters,” he suggested. When they got inside she remembered that her stationery was in her mother’s bedroom. “Ill try to get it, but if mother says no …”
“Of course,” agreed the genius.
Mother said no — and other things.
The potentiality came back directly to announce the decision, and the genius went.
At half past two in the morning no one is every quite sane — except a girl’s mother.