The Foolish Virgin

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Excerpt CHAPTER I. A FRIENDLY WARNING "Mary Adams, you're a fool!" The single dimple in a smooth red cheek smiled in answer. "You're repeating yourself, Jane——" "You won't give him one hour's time for just three sittings?" "Not a second for one sitting——" "Hopeless!" Mary smiled provokingly, her white teeth gleaming in obstinate good humor. "He's the most distinguished artist in America——" "I've heard so." "It would be a liberal education for a girl of your training to know such a man——" "I'll omit that course of instruction." The younger woman was silent a moment, and a flush of anger slowly mounted her temples. The blue eyes were fixed reproachfully on her friend. "You really thought that I would pose?" "I hoped so." "Alone with a man in his studio for hours?" Jane Anderson lifted her dark brows. "Why, no, I hardly expected that! I'm sure he would take his easel and palette out into the square in front of the Plaza Hotel and let you sit on the base of the Sherman monument. The crowds would cheer and inspire him—bah! Can't you have a little common-sense? There are a few brutes among artists, as there are in all professions—even among the superintendents of your schools. Gordon's a great creative genius. If you'd try to flirt with him, he'd stop his work and send you home. You'd be as safe in his studio as in your mother's nursery. I've known him for ten years. He's the gentlest, truest man I've ever met. He's doing a canvas on which he has set his whole heart." "He can get professional models." "For his usual work, yes—but this is the head of the Madonna. He saw you walking with me in the Park last week and has been to my studio a half-dozen times begging me to take you to see him. Please, Mary dear, do this for my sake. I owe Gordon a debt I can never pay. He gave me the cue to the work that set me on my feet. He was big and generous and helpful when I needed a friend. He asked nothing in return but the privilege of helping me again if I ever needed it. You can do me an enormous favor—please." Mary Adams rose with a gesture of impatience, walked to her window and gazed on the torrent of humanity pouring through Twenty-third Street from the beehives of industry that have changed this quarter of New York so rapidly in the last five years. She turned suddenly and confronted her friend. "How could you think that I would stoop to such a thing?" "Stoop!" "Yes," she snapped, "—pose for an artist! I'd as soon think of rushing stark naked through Twenty-third Street at noon!" The older woman looked at her flushed face, suppressed a sharp answer, broke into a fit of laughter and threw her arms around Mary's neck. "Honey, you're such a hopeless little fool, you're delicious! You know that I love you—don't you?" The pretty lips quivered. "Yes." "Could I possibly ask you to do a thing that would harm a single brown hair of your head?" The firm hand of the older girl touched a rebellious lock with tenderness. "Of course not, from your point of view, Jane dear," the stubborn lips persisted....
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