The Diversions of a Princess/Cosmo Maltravers

from the Idler magazine, Vol. 24 1903-04, pp. 388–390.

IV.—Cosmo Maltravers

" HE has such sweet eyes and such a charming voice!" said Anne.

"It's an actor's trade to charm!" said Wisdom.

"Whatever a man's trade, merit should always be recognised, shouldn't it?" said Anne, rather defiantly; "and Cosmo has achieved the impossible, and made me in love!"

"This is very serious," said Wisdom. "Now do sit down and listen to me for a moment. You've been living in such a whirl the last few weeks, I haven't had a chance!"

"It's no good, whatever you say!" said Anne, firmly; but turning away from the looking-glass, and settling herself in the depths of her "thinking" chair. "I know my own mind at last. I am in love!"

"Very well, dear, granted that you are in love!" said Wisdom. "Now, let's look at the future. This engagement will be much more public than any of your others, won't it? Cosmo is coming for his answer this afternoon."

"Which will be 'yes,'" said Anne, fiercely.

"Exactly," said Wisdom; "and a paragraph will promptly appear, announcing the fact in all the papers to-morrow!"

"Publicity is one of the penalties of fame," said Anne. "However you may hate it, it can't be helped!"

"It can be helped," said Wisdom's still small voice. "How will those paragraphs get in, if someone doesn't send them?"

"Actors have to advertise," said Anne. "The public won't come to see them if they don't! Of course Cosmo hates it!"

"And you absolutely loathe anyone knowing anything about your private affairs, don't you?" said Wisdom. "So the idea of every Tom, Dick, and Harry pointing at you as the girl who's engaged to the famous Cosmo Maltravers, will make you sick with disgust! It is indeed marvellous of you to allow such publicity. Your feelings in the matter will be almost like an offering laid on Cosmo's altar."

"I only wish to serve him," said Anne, beautifully.

"Of course, the worst of making an idol of a person, is that it takes your sacrifices so much as a matter of course," said Wisdom, with a touch of regret. "Indeed, if the idol be a very popular one, it is so used to sacrifices, it doesn't even notice they're there."

"When one is in love, one makes sacrifices for the pleasure of making them," said Anne. "I don't want Cosmo to thank me!"

"That's a good thing," said Wisdom. "An actor's is not a grateful nature, as a rule!"

"Cosmo is extremely grateful to me for my sympathy," said Anne. "He says he can feel himself growing stronger and more inspired each day, and that he has never been able to act so well before!"

"Cosmo certainly appreciates anything which causes his genius to blossom," said Wisdom. "Your ardent and appreciative affection feeds his vanity delightfully."

"That's not the reason why he loves me," said Anne, with tears of indignation in her eyes. "Millions of women are in love with Cosmo. He has letters every day from absolutely unknown girls!"

"And incense isn't exactly a healthy atmosphere to live in, is it?" said Wisdom. "Rather enervating, eh?"

"Cosmo loves me because I don't burn incense, like the others," said Anne, proudly. "He finds it a refreshing change to have to bow down before me!"

"The refreshment of change lies in its novelty," said Wisdom. "I'm afraid it would appear foolish to any man to maintain a kneeling position for ever, when there are a hundred soft-cushioned thrones waiting his pleasure. A kneeling position is rather tiring, you know."

"You mean Cosmo isn't likely to be faithful to me?" said Anne, sitting up in her chair with a sudden gasp.

"That wonderful physical charm which Cosmo undoubtedly possesses attracts every woman he meets just as it attracts you," said Wisdom. "And his profession throws him into close intimacy with all the most beautiful women of the day in society and on the stage. I don't say that he's weaker than other men, but I do say that he has infinitely more temptations."

"But if he loves me—and he does love me—other women would not be temptations," said Anne, desperately.

"I would not back my sole remaining penny on that fact," said Wisdom, thoughtfully. "As you have said yourself, dear Anne, a breath of outside air makes a man appreciate the atmosphere of home life so much——"

"Be quiet!" said Anne, fiercely. "I don't care what Cosmo appreciates or enjoys. I'm thinking of myself. I couldn't bear for Cosmo to look at another woman—even look at her!"

"Don't be silly!" said Wisdom. "If you love a handsome man, you must face the fact that women will look at him, and it's only courteous—not to say human—to look back!"

"Oh, well, I'll face it!" said Anne. "If our happiness can't last—and perhaps it isn't very likely that it will—I think it's worth while having it. After all, I've a commonsensible nature, and when Cosmo gets tired of kneeling, he can rise up, and we will each go our separate ways."

"It's all very well to go your own separate way," said Wisdom, "but shall you enjoy watching Cosmo's perambulations quite so much? Have you realised the humiliation of the position of the wife of a fascinating actor who notoriously pursues his own—er—path?"

"I should be pursuing my own path, too," said Anne, with an unhappy look all the same.

"And where will it lead to? The same end as Cosmo's—the devil?" said Wisdom, politely.

"How dare you!" said Anne, with shining eyes and burning cheeks.

"My dear," said Wisdom, "there are three separate sorts of misery open to you if you marry Cosmo Maltravers, and you had better face them now, and see if any of them is worth while accepting. The first is the misery of humble unrequited faithfulness, the love that suffers all things, and is its own reward—or punishment!"

"Thank you, no!" said Anne, with intense decision.

"Good!" said Wisdom. "It is not a gift I'd recommend to any high-spirited young girl. The second way of misery is that which seeks oblivion in—perdition! As your nature is, on the whole, distinctly moral, your conscience would give you a very bad time. You see, you would not find any pleasure in gilded——"

"I would kill myself rather than risk the chance of that sort of misery!" said Anne, with even greater firmness. "But I couldn't anyway!"

"Continual contact with a nature like Cosmo's, who, you must admit, appreciates the physical joys of life at their full value——" began Wisdom.

"I am beginning to hate the very sound of Cosmo's name," said Anne. "But whatever a man was, he couldn't make me so used to the idea of wickedness that I could find comforting oblivion in it. That way of misery is shut off from me with an iron gate of natural instinct."

"The third alternative is the way of commonsensible resignation," said Wisdom; "matured disillusionment! You will accept Cosmo's little peccadillos and migrations as inevitable, and your wedded life will degenerate into one of, to all intents and purposes, mutual separation. Your existence may be fairly placid, but you will have lost the joy of life, Anne."

"I am not going to marry Cosmo Maltravers," said Anne, and she rose from her chair, and began to fix the bow on her hair becomingly.

"Now don't be hasty," said Wisdom. "Think well. There's the bare chance that he may remain in love with you, and you only."

"Too risky," said Anne, "my nature's so uncertain; it needs a truly strong man to keep on liking me. You see, he would have to keep liking me in spite of myself, and if he had to do it in spite of himself as well, I would not take odds on his success."

"And even if Cosmo did remain faithful," said Wisdom, reflectively, " he would feel he deserved a pedestal. For what is simple duty in an ordinary man becomes a shining virtue in a fascinating actor."

"I have said I am not going to accept Cosmo Maltravers," said Anne, arranging the bow of ribbon some more.

"Mr. Cosmo Maltravers is here, Miss," said the maid at Anne's door.

"I will be with him in a minute," said Anne, politely, and pouring out scent on her handkerchief.

"Don't see him," said Wisdom. "Don't go down! He'll plead his cause so well, and you are so impressionable."

"I have had quite enough advice for to-day, thanks!" said Anne, with an unwilling smile at her own satisfactory reflection in the looking-glass.

"You'll give in if you go," said Wisdom, calling after Anne on her way to the door.

"You stay behind," said Anne, and the door closed.

Now I wonder what will happen!" said Wisdom.