Axidava

Elaine

There have been more beautiful girls than Elaine, for I have read about them, and I have utter faith in the printed word.

And I expect my public, a few of whom are—just a second—more than two and a quarter million weekly, to put the same credence in my printed word. When I said there have been more beautiful girls than Elaine I lied. There haven’t been. She was a darb. Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax, her eyebrows were like curved snowdrifts, her neck was like the swan, her face it was the fairest that e’er the sun shone on, she walked in beauty like the night, her lips were like the cherries ripe that sunny walls of Boreas screen, her teeth were like a flock of sheep with fleeces newly washen clean, her hair was like the curling mist that shades the mountain side at e’en, and oh, she danced in such a way no sun upon an Easter day was half so fine a sight! If I may interrupt the poets, I should say she was one pip. She was, I might add, kind of pretty.

Enchantment was hers, and fairyland her exclusive province. I would walk down a commonplace street with her, and it would become the primrose path, and a one-way path at that, with nobody but us on it. If I said it was a nice day—and if I told her that once I told her a hundred times—she would say, “Isn’t it? My very words to Isabel when I telephoned her this morning!” So we had, I said to myself, a lot in common.

And after a conversation like that I would go home and lie awake and think, “If two persons can be in such harmony about the weather, a fundamental thing, a thing that prehistoric religions actually were based upon, what possible discord ever could be between us? For I have known families to be rent by disagreements as to meteorological conditions.

“Isn’t this,” my sister used to say, “a nice day?”

“No,” my reply used to be; “it’s a dreadful day. It’s blowy, and it’s going to rain.” And I would warn my mother that my sister Amy, or that child, was likely to grow up into a liar.

But, as I have tried to hint, beauty was Elaine’s, and when she spoke of the weather I used to feel sorry for everybody who had lived in the olden times, from yesterday back to the afternoon Adam told Eve that no matter how hot it was they always got a breeze, before there was any weather at all.

It wasn’t only the weather. We used to agree on other things. Once when she met a schoolgirl friend in Hyde Park whom she hadn’t seen since a year ago, out in Lake View, she said that it was a small world after all, and I told her she never said a truer word. And about golf—she didn’t think, she said one day, that it was as strenuous as tennis, but it certainly took you out in the open air—well, that was how I felt about it, too. So you see it wasn’t just the weather, though at that time I thought that would be enough.

Well, one day we were walking along, and she looked at me and said, “I wonder if you’d like me so much if I weren’t pretty.”

It came over me that I shouldn’t.

“No,” I said, “I should say not.”

“That’s the first honest thing you ever said to me,” she said.

“No, it isn’t,” I said.

“It is, too,” was her rejoinder.

“It’s nothing of the kind,” I said.

“Yes, it is!” she said, her petulant temper getting the better of her.

So we parted on that, and I often think how lucky I am to have escaped from Elaine’s distrust of honesty, and from her violent and passionate temper.

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