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The Path of a Star   By: (1861-1922)

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By Mrs. Everard Cotes

(AKA Sara Jeannette Duncan)



She pushed the portiere aside with a curved hand and gracefully separated fingers; it was a staccato movement and her body followed it after an instant's poise of hesitation, head thrust a little forward, eyes inquiring and a tentative smile, although she knew precisely who was there. You would have been aware at once that she was an actress. She entered the room with a little stride and then crossed it quickly, the train of her morning gown it cried out of luxury with the cheapest voice taking folds of great audacity as she bent her face in its loose mass of hair over Laura Filbert, sitting on the edge of a bamboo sofa, and said

"You poor thing! Oh, you POOR thing!"

She took Laura's hand as she spoke, and tried to keep it; but the hand was neutral, and she let it go. "It is a hand," she said to herself, in one of those quick reflections that so often visited her ready made, "that turns the merely inquiring mind away. Nothing but feeling could hold it."

Miss Filbert made the conventional effort to rise, but it came to nothing, or to a mere embarrassed accent of their greeting. Then her voice showed this feeling to be superficial, made nothing of it, pushed it to one side.

"I suppose you cannot see the foolishness of your pity," she said. "Oh Miss Howe, I am happier than you are much happier." Her bare feet, as she spoke, nestled into the coarse Mirzapore rug on the floor, and her eye lingered approvingly upon an Owari vase three feet high, and thick with the gilded landscape of Japan, which stood near it, in the cheap magnificence of the room.

Hilda smiled. Her smile acquiesced in the world she had found, acquiesced, with the gladness of an explorer, in Laura Filbert as a feature of it.

"Don't be too sure," she cried; "I am very happy. It is such a pleasure to see you."

Her gaze embraced Miss Filbert as a person, and Miss Filbert as a pictorial fact, but that was because she could not help it. Her eyes were really engaged only with the latter Miss Filbert.

"Much happier than you are," Laura repeated, slowly moving her head from side to side as if to negative contradiction in advance. She smiled too; it was as if she had remembered a former habit, from politeness.

"Of course you are of course!" Miss Howe acknowledged. The words were mellow and vibrant; her voice seemed to dwell upon them with a kind of rich affection. Her face covered itself with serious sweetness. "I can imagine the beatitudes you feel by your clothes."

The girl drew her feet under her, and her hand went up to the only semi conventional item of her attire. It was a brooch that exclaimed in silver letters "Glory to His Name!" "It is the dress of the Army in this country," she said; "I would not change it for the wardrobe of a queen."

"That's just what I mean." Miss Howe leaned back in her chair with her head among its cushions, and sent her words fluently across the room, straight and level with the glance from between her half closed eyelids. A fine sensuous appreciation of the indolence it was possible to enjoy in the East clung about her. "To live on a plane that lifts you up like that so that you can defy all criticism and all convention, and go about the streets like a mark of exclamation at the selfishness of the world there must be something very consummate in it or you couldn't go on. At least I couldn't."

"I suppose I do look odd to you." Her voice took a curious, soft, uplifted note. "I wear three garments only the garments of my sisters who plant the young shoots in the rice fields, and carry bricks for the building of rich men's houses, and gather the dung of the roadways to burn for fuel. If the Army is to conquer India it must march bare footed and bare headed all the way. All the way," Laura repeated, with a tremor of musical sadness. Her eyes were fixed in appeal upon the other woman's. "And if the sun beats down upon my uncovered head, I think, 'It struck more fiercely upon Calvary'; and if the way is sharp to my unshod feet, I say, 'At least I have no cross to bear... Continue reading book >>

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