They found their apartments looking as if they had been struck by a snowstorm-a storm of red and green and yellow, and all the colours that lie between. All day the wagons of fashionable milliners and costumiers had been stopping at the door, and their contents had found their way to Alice's room. The floors were ankle-deep in tissue paper and tape, and beds and couches and chairs were covered with boxes, in which lay wonderful symphonies of colour, half disclosed in their wrappings of gauze. In the midst of it all stood the girl, her eyes shining with excitement.
"Oh, Allan!" she cried, as they entered. "How am I ever to thank you?"
"You're not to thank me," Montague replied. "This is all Oliver's doings."
"Oliver!" exclaimed the girl, and turned to him. "How in the world could you do it?" she cried. "How will you ever get the money to pay for it all?"
"That's my problem," said the man, laughing. "All you have to think about is to look beautiful."
"If I don't," was her reply, "it won't be for lack of clothes. I never saw so many wonderful things in all my life as I've seen to-day."
"There's quite a show of them," admitted Oliver.
"And Reggie Mann! It was so queer, Allan! I never went shopping with a man before. And he's so—so matter-of-fact. You know, he bought me—everything!"
"That was what he was told to do," said Oliver. "Did you like him?"
"I don't know," said the girl. "He's queer—I never met a man like that before. But he was awfully kind; and the people just turned their stores inside out for us—half a dozen people hurrying about to wait on you at once!"
"You'll get used to such things," said Oliver; and then, stepping toward the bed, "Let's see what you got."
"Most of the things haven't come," said Alice. "The gowns all have to be fitted.—That one is for to-night," she added, as he lifted up a beautiful object made of rose-coloured chiffon.
Oliver studied it, and glanced once or twice at the girl. "I guess you can carry it," he said. "What sort of a cloak are you to wear?"
"Oh, the cloak!" cried Alice. "Oliver, I can't believe it's really to belong to me. I didn't know anyone but princesses wore such things."
The cloak was in Mrs. Montague's room, and one of the maids brought it in. It was an opera-wrap of grey brocade, lined with unborn baby lamb—a thing of a gorgeousness that made Montague literally gasp for breath.
"Did you ever see anything like it in your life?" cried Alice. "And Oliver, is it true that I have to have gloves and shoes and stockings—and a hat—to match every gown?"
"Of course." said Oliver. "If you were doing things right, you ought to have a cloak to match each evening gown as well."
"It seems incredible," said the girl. "Can it be right to spend so much money for things to wear?"
But Oliver was not discussing questions of ethics; he was examining sets of tinted crepe de chine lingerie, and hand-woven hose of spun silk. There were boxes upon boxes, and bureau drawers and closet shelves already filled up with hand-embroidered and lace-trimmed creations-chemises and corset-covers, night-robes of "handkerchief linen" lawn, lace handkerchiefs and veils, corsets of French coutil, dressing-jackets of pale-coloured silks, and negligees of soft batistes, trimmed with Valenciennes lace, or even with fur.
"You must have put in a full day," he said.
"I never looked at so many things in my life," said Alice. "And Mr. Mann never stopped to ask the price of a thing."
"I didn't think to tell him to," said Oliver, laughing.
Then the girl went in to dress—and Oliver faced about to find his brother sitting and staring hard at him.
"Tell me!" Montague exclaimed. "In God's name, what is all this to cost?"
"I don't know," said Oliver, impassively. "I haven't seen the bills. It'll be fifteen or twenty thousand, I guess."
Montague's hands clenched involuntarily, and he sat rigid. "How long will it all last her?" he asked.
"Why," said the other, "when she gets enough, it'll last her until spring, of course—unless she goes South during the winter."
"How much is it going to take to dress her for a year?"
"I suppose thirty or forty thousand," was the reply. "I don't expect to keep count."
Montague sat in silence. "You don't want to shut her up and keep her at home, do you?" inquired his brother, at last.
"Do you mean that other women spend that much on clothes?" he demanded.
"Of course," said Oliver, "hundreds of them. Some spend fifty thousand—I know several who go over a hundred."
"It's monstrous!" Montague exclaimed.
"Fiddlesticks!" was the other's response. "Why, thousands of people live by it—wouldn't know anything else to do."
Montague said nothing to that. "Can you afford to have Alice compete with such women indefinitely?" he asked.
"I have no idea of her doing it indefinitely," was Oliver's reply. "I simply propose to give her a chance. When she's married, her bills will be paid by her husband."
"Oh," said the other, "then this layout is just for her to be exhibited in."
"You may say that," answered Oliver,—"if you want to be foolish. You know perfectly well that parents who launch their daughters in Society don't figure on keeping up the pace all their lifetimes."
"We hadn't thought of marrying Alice off," said Montague.
To which his brother replied that the best physicians left all they could to nature. "Suppose," said he, "that we just introduce her in the right set, and turn her loose and let her enjoy herself—and then cross the next bridge when we come to it?"
Montague sat with knitted brows, pondering.' He was beginning to see a little daylight now. "Oliver," he asked suddenly, "are you sure the stakes in this game aren't too big?"
"How do you mean?" asked the other.
"Will you be able to stay in until the show-down? Until either Alice or myself begins to bring in some returns?"
"Never worry about that," said the other, with a laugh.
"But hadn't you better take me into your confidence?" Montague persisted. "How many weeks can you pay our rent in this place? Have you got the money to pay for all these clothes?"
"I've got it," laughed the other—"but that doesn't say I'm going to pay it."
"Don't you have to pay your bills? Can we do all this upon credit?"
Oliver laughed again. "You go at me like a prosecuting attorney," he said. "I'm afraid you'll have to inquire around and learn some respect for your brother." Then he added, seriously, "You see, Allan, people like Reggie or myself are in position to bring a great deal of custom to tradespeople, and so they are willing to go out of their way to oblige us. And we have commissions of all sorts coming to us, so it's never any question of cash."
"Oh!" exclaimed the other, opening his eyes, "I see! Is that the way you make money?"
"It's one of the ways we save it," said Oliver. "It comes to the same thing."
"Do people know it?"
"Why, of course. Why not?"
"I don't know," said Montague. "It sounds a little queer."
"Nothing of the kind," said Oliver. "Some of the best people in New York do it. Strangers come to the city, and they want to go to the right places, and they ask me, and I send them. Or take Robbie Walling, who keeps up five or six establishments, and spends several millions a year. He can't see to it all personally—if he did, he'd never do anything else. Why shouldn't he ask a friend to attend to things for him? Or again, a new shop opens, and they want Mrs. Walling's trade for the sake of the advertising, and they offer her a discount and me a commission. Why shouldn't I get her to try them?"
"It's quite intricate," commented the other. "The stores have more than one price, then?"
"They have as many prices as they have customers," was the answer. "Why shouldn't they? New York is full of raw rich people who value things by what they pay. And why shouldn't they pay high and be happy? That opera-cloak that Alice has—Reval promised it to me for two thousand, and I'll wager you she'd charge some woman from Butte, Montana, thirty-five hundred for one just like it."
Montague got up suddenly. "Stop," he said, waving his hands. "You take all the bloom off the butterfly's wings!"
He asked where they were going that evening, and Oliver said that they were invited to an informal dinner-party at Mrs. Winnie Duval's. Mrs. Winnie was the young widow who had recently married the founder of the great banking-house of Puval and Co.—so Oliver explained; she was a chum of his, and they would meet an interesting set there. She was going to invite her cousin, Charlie Carter—she wanted him to meet Alice. "Mrs. Winnie's always plotting to get Charlie to settle down," said Oliver, with a merry laugh.
He telephoned for his man to bring over his clothes, and he and his brother dressed. Then Alice came in, looking like the goddess of the dawn in the gorgeous rose-coloured gown. The colour in her cheeks was even brighter than usual; for she was staggered to find how low the gown was cut, and was afraid she was committing a faux pas. "Tell me about it," she stammered. "Mammy Lucy says I'm surely supposed to wear some lace, or a bouquet."
"Mammy Lucy isn't a Paris costumier," said Oliver, much amused. "Dear me—wait until you have seen Mrs. Winnie!"
Mrs. Winnie had kindly sent her limousine car for them, and it stood throbbing in front of the hotel-entrance, its acetylenes streaming far up the street. Mrs. Winnie's home was on Fifth Avenue, fronting the park. It occupied half a block, and had cost two millions to build and furnish. It was known as the "Snow Palace," being all of white marble.
At the curb a man in livery opened the door of the car, and in the vestibule another man in livery bowed the way. Lined up just inside the door was a corps of imposing personages, clad in scarlet waistcoats and velvet knee-breeches, with powdered wigs, and gold buttons, and gold buckles on their patent-leather pumps. These splendid creatures took their wraps, and then presented to Montague and Oliver a bouquet of flowers upon a silver salver, and upon another salver a tiny envelope bearing the name of their partner at this strictly "informal" dinner-party. Then the functionaries stood out of the way and permitted them to view the dazzling splendour of the entrance hall of the Snow Palace. There was a great marble staircase running up from the centre of the hall, with a carved marble gallery above, and a marble fireplace below. To decorate this mansion a real palace in the Punjab had been bought outright and plundered; there were mosaics of jade, and wonderful black marble, and rare woods, and strange and perplexing carvings.
The head butler stood at the entrance to the salon, pronouncing their names; and just inside was Mrs. Winnie.
Montague never forgot that first vision of her; she might have been a real princess out of the palace in the Punjab. She was a brunette, rich-coloured, full-throated and deep-bosomed, with scarlet lips, and black hair and eyes. She wore a court-gown of cloth of silver, with white kid shoes embroidered with jewelled flowers. All her life she had been collecting large turquoises, and these she had made into a tiara, and a neck ornament spreading over her chest, and a stomacher. Each of these stones was mounted with diamonds, and set upon a slender wire. So as she moved they quivered and shimmered, and the effect was dazzling, barbaric.
She must have seen that Montague was staggered, for she gave him a little extra pressure of the hand, and said, "I'm so glad you came. Ollie has told me all about you." Her voice was soft and melting, not so forbidding as her garb.
Montague ran the gauntlet of the other guests: Charlie Carter, a beautiful, dark-haired boy, having the features of a Greek god, but a sallow and unpleasant complexion; Major "Bob" Venable, a stout little gentleman with a red face and a heavy jowl; Mrs. Frank Landis, a merry-eyed young widow with pink cheeks and auburn hair; Willie Davis, who had been a famous half-back, and was now junior partner in the banking-house; and two young married couples, whose names Montague missed.
The name written on his card was Mrs. Alden. She came in just after him—a matron of about fifty, of vigorous aspect and ample figure, approaching what he had not yet learned to call embonpoint. She wore brocade, as became a grave dowager, and upon her ample bosom there lay an ornament the size of a man's hand, and made wholly out of blazing diamonds—the most imposing affair that Montague had ever laid eyes upon. She gave him her hand to shake, and made no attempt to disguise the fact that she was looking him over in the meantime.
"Madam, dinner is served," said the stately butler; and the glittering procession moved into the dining-room—a huge state apartment, finished in some lustrous jet-black wood, and with great panel paintings illustrating the Romaunt de la Rose. The table was covered with a cloth of French embroidery, and gleaming with its load of crystal and gold plate. At either end there were huge candlesticks of solid gold, and in the centre a mound of orchids and lilies of the valley, matching in colour the shades of the candelabra and the daintily painted menu cards.
"You are fortunate in coming to New York late in life," Mrs. Alden was saying to him. "Most of our young men are tired out before they have sense enough to enjoy anything. Take my advice and look about you—don't let that lively brother of yours set the pace for you."
In front of Mrs. Alden there was a decanter of Scotch whisky. "Will you have some?" she asked, as she took it up.
"No, I thank you," said he, and then wondered if perhaps he should not have said yes, as he watched the other select the largest of the half-dozen wine-glasses clustered at her place, and pour herself out a generous libation.
"Have you seen much of the city?" she asked, as she tossed it off—without as much as a quiver of an eyelash.
"No," said he. "They have not given me much time. They took me off to the country—to the Robert Wallings'."
"Ah," said Mrs. Alden; and Montague, struggling to make conversation, inquired, "Do you know Mr. Walling?"
"Quite well," said the other, placidly. "I used to be a Walling myself, you know."
"Oh," said Montague, taken aback; and then added, "Before you were married?"
"No," said Mrs. Alden, more placidly than ever, "before I was divorced."
There was a dead silence, and Montague sat gasping to catch his breath. Then suddenly he heard a faint subdued chuckle, which grew into open laughter; and he stole a glance at Mrs. Alden, and saw that her eyes were twinkling; and then he began to laugh himself. They laughed together, so merrily that others at the table began to look at them in perplexity.
So the ice was broken between them; which filled Montague with a vast relief. But he was still dimly touched with awe—for he realized that this must be the great Mrs. Billy Alden, whose engagement to the Duke of London was now the topic of the whole country. And that huge diamond ornament must be part of Mrs. Alden's million-dollar outfit of jewellery!
The great lady volunteered not to tell on him; and added generously that when he came to dinner with her she would post him concerning the company. "It's awkward for a stranger, I can understand," said she; and continued, grimly: "When people get divorces it sometimes means that they have quarrelled—and they don't always make it up afterward, either. And sometimes other people quarrel—almost as bitterly as if they had been married. Many a hostess has had her reputation ruined by not keeping track of such things."
So Montague made the discovery that the great Mrs. Billy, though. forbidding of aspect, was good-natured when she chose to be, and with a pretty wit. She was a woman with a mind of her own—a hard-fighting character, who had marshalled those about her, and taken her place at the head of the column. She had always counted herself a personage enough to do exactly as she pleased; through the course of the dinner she would take up the decanter of Scotch, and make a pass to help Montague—and then, when he declined, pour out imperturbably what she wanted. "I don't like your brother," she said to him, a little later. "He won't last; but he tells me you're different, so maybe I will like you. Come and see me sometime, and let me tell you what not to do in New York."
Then Montague turned to talk with his hostess, who sat on his right.
"Do you play bridge?" asked Mrs. Winnie, in her softest and most gracious tone.
"My brother has given me a book to study from," he answered. "But if he takes me about day and night, I don't know how I'm to manage it."
"Come and let me teach you," said Mrs. Winnie. "I mean it, really," she added. "I've nothing to do—at least that I'm not tired of. Only I don't believe you'd take long to learn all that I know."
"Aren't you a successful player?" he asked sympathetically.
"I don't believe anyone wants me to learn," said Mrs. Winnie.—"They'd rather come and get my money. Isn't that true, Major?"
Major Venable sat on her other hand, and he paused in the act of raising a spoonful of soup to his lips, and laughed, deep down in his throat—a queer little laugh that shook his fat cheeks and neck. "I may say," he said, "that I know several people to whom the status quo is satisfactory."
"Including yourself," said the lady, with a little moue. "The wretched man won sixteen hundred dollars from me last night; and he sat in his club window all afternoon, just to have the pleasure of laughing at me as I went by. I don't believe I'll play at all to-night—I'm going to make myself agreeable to Mr. Montague, and let you win from Virginia Landis for a change."
And then the Major paused again in his attack upon the soup. "My dear Mrs. Winnie," he said, "I can live for much more than one day upon sixteen hundred dollars!"
The Major was a famous club-man and bon vivant, as Montague learned later on. "He's an uncle of Mrs. Bobbie Walling's," said Mrs. Alden, in his ear. "And incidentally they hate each other like poison."
"That is so that I won't repeat my luckless question again?" asked Montague, with a smile.
"Oh, they meet," said the other. "You wouldn't be supposed to know that. Won't you have any Scotch?"
Montague's thoughts were so much taken up with the people at this repast that he gave little thought to the food. He noticed with surprise that they had real spring lamb—it being the middle of November. But he could not know that the six-weeks-old creatures from which it had come had been raised in cotton-wool and fed on milk with a spoon—and had cost a dollar and a half a pound. A little later, however, there was placed before him a delicately browned sweetbread upon a platter of gold, and then suddenly he began to pay attention. Mrs. Winnie had a coat of arms; he had noticed it upon her auto, and again upon the great bronze gates of the Snow Palace, and again upon the liveries of her footmen, and yet again upon the decanter of Scotch. And now—incredible and appalling—he observed it branded upon the delicately browned sweetbread!
After that, who would not have watched? There were large dishes of rare fruits upon the table—fruits which had been packed in cotton wool and shipped in cold storage from every corner of the earth. There were peaches which had come from South Africa (they had cost ten dollars apiece). There were bunches of Hamburg grapes, dark purple and bursting fat, which had been grown in a hot-house, wrapped in paper bags. There were nectarines and plums, and pomegranates and persimmons from Japan, and later on, little dishes of plump strawberries-raised in pots. There were quail which had come from Egypt, and a wonderful thing called "crab-flake a la Dewey," cooked in a chafing-dish, and served with mushrooms that had been grown in the tunnels of abandoned mines in Michigan. There was lettuce raised by electric light, and lima beans that had come from Porto Rico, and artichokes brought from France at a cost of one dollar each.—And all these extraordinary viands were washed down by eight or nine varieties of wines, from the cellar of a man who had made collecting them a fad for the last thirty years, who had a vineyard in France for the growing of his own champagne, and kept twenty thousand quarts of claret in storage all the time—and procured his Rhine wine from the cellar of the German Emperor, at a cost of twenty-five dollars a quart!
There were twelve people at dinner, and afterward they made two tables for bridge, leaving Charlie Carter to talk to Alice, and Mrs. Winnie to devote herself to Montague, according to her promise. "Everybody likes to see my house," she said. "Would you?" And she led the way from the dining-room into the great conservatory, which formed a central court extending to the roof of the building. She pressed a button, and a soft radiance streamed down from above, in the midst of which Mrs. Winnie stood, with her shimmering jewels a very goddess of the fire.
The conservatory was a place in which he could have spent the evening; it was filled with the most extraordinary varieties of plants. "They were gathered from all over the world," said Mrs. Winnie, seeing that he was staring at them. "My husband employed a connoisseur to hunt them out for him. He did it before we were married—he thought it would make me happy."
In the centre of the place there was a fountain, twelve or fourteen feet in height, and set in a basin of purest Carrara marble. By the touch of a button the pool was flooded with submerged lights, and one might see scores of rare and beautiful fish swimming about.
"Isn't it fine!" said Mrs. Winnie, and added eagerly, "Do you know, I come here at night, sometimes when I can't sleep, and sit for hours and gaze. All those living things; with their extraordinary forms-some of them have faces, and look like human beings! And I wonder what they think about, and if life seems as strange to them as it does to me."
She seated herself by the edge of the pool, and gazed in. "These fish were given to me by my cousin, Ned Carter. They call him Buzzie. Have you met him yet?—No, of course not. He's Charlie's brother, and he collects art things—the most unbelievable things. Once, a long time ago, he took a fad for goldfish—some goldfish are very rare and beautiful, you know—one can pay twenty-five and fifty dollars apiece for them. He got all the dealers had, and when he learned that there were some they couldn't get, he took a trip to Japan and China on purpose to get them. You know they raise them there, and some of them are sacred, and not allowed to be sold or taken out of the country. And he had all sorts of carved ivory receptacles for them, that he brought home with him—he had one beautiful marble basin about ten feet long, that had been stolen from the Emperor."
Over Montague's shoulder where he sat, there hung an orchid, a most curious creation, an explosion of scarlet flame. "That is the odonto-glossum," said Mrs. Winnie. "Have you heard of it?"
"Never," said the man.
"Dear me," said the other. "Such is fame!"
"Is it supposed to be famous?" he asked.
"Very," she replied. "There was a lot in the newspapers about it. You see Winton—that's my husband, you know—paid twenty-five thousand dollars to the man who created it; and that made a lot of foolish talk—people come from all over to look at it. I wanted to have it, because its shape is exactly like the coronet on my crest. Do you notice that?"
"Yes," said Montague. "It's curious."
"I'm very proud of my crest," continued Mrs. Winnie. "Of course there are vulgar rich people who have them made to order, and make them ridiculous; but ours is a real one. It's my own—not my husband's; the Duvals are an old French family, but they're not noble. I was a Morris, you know, and our line runs back to the old French ducal house of Montmorenci. And last summer, when we were motoring, I hunted up one of their chateaux; and see! I brought over this."
Mrs. Winnie pointed to a suit of armour, placed in a passage leading to the billiard-room. "I have had the lights fixed," she added. And she pressed a button, and all illumination vanished, save for a faint red glow just above the man in armour.
"Doesn't he look real?" said she. (He had his visor down, and a battle-axe in his mailed hands.) "I like to imagine that he may have been my twentieth great-grandfather. I come and sit here, and gaze at him and shiver. Think what a terrible time it must have been to live in—when men wore things like that! It couldn't be any worse to be a crab."
"You seem to be fond of strange emotions," said Montague, laughing.
"Maybe I am," said the other. "I like everything that's old and romantic, and makes you forget this stupid society world."
She stood brooding for a moment or two, gazing at the figure. Then she asked, abruptly, "Which do you like best, pictures or swimming?"
"Why," replied the man, laughing and perplexed, "I like them both, at times."
"I wondered which you'd rather see first," explained his escort; "the art gallery or the natatorium. I'm afraid you'll get tired before you've seen every thing."
"Suppose we begin with the art-gallery," said he. "There's not much to see in a swimming-pool."
"Ah, but ours is a very special one," said the lady.—"And some day, if you'll be very good, and promise not to tell anyone, I'll let you see my own bath. Perhaps they've told you, I have one in my own apartments, cut out of a block of the most wonderful green marble."
Montague showed the expected amount of astonishment.
"Of course that gave the dreadful newspapers another chance to gossip," said Mrs. Winnie, plaintively. "People found out what I had paid for it. One can't have anything beautiful without that question being asked."
And then followed a silence, while Mrs. Winnie waited for him to ask it. As he forebore to do so, she added, "It was fifty thousand dollars."
They were moving towards the elevator, where a small boy in the wonderful livery of plush and scarlet stood at attention. "Sometimes," she continued, "it seems to me that it is wicked to pay such prices for things. Have you ever thought about it?"
"Occasionally," Montague replied.
"Of course," said she, "it makes work for people; and I suppose they can't be better employed than in making beautiful things. But sometimes, when I think of all the poverty there is, I get unhappy. We have a winter place down South—one of those huge country-houses that look like exposition buildings, and have rooms for a hundred guests; and sometimes I go driving by myself, down to the mill towns, and go through them and talk to the children. I came to know some of them quite well—poor little wretches."
They stepped out of the elevator, and moved toward the art-gallery. "It used to make me so unhappy," she went on. "I tried to talk to my husband about it, but he wouldn't have it. 'I don't see why you can't be like other people,' he said—he's always repeating that to me. And what could I say?"
"Why not suggest that other people might be like you?" said the man, laughing.
"I wasn't clever enough," said she, regretfully.—"It's very hard for a woman, you know—with no one to understand. Once I went down to a settlement, to see what that was like. Do you know anything about settlements?"
"Nothing at all," said Montague.
"Well, they are people who go to live among the poor, and try to reform them. It takes a terrible lot of courage, I think. I give them money now and then, but I am never sure if it does any good. The trouble with poor people, it seems to me, is that there are so many of them."
"There are, indeed," said Montague, thinking of the vision he had seen from Oliver's racing-car.
Mrs. Winnie had seated herself upon a cushioned seat near the entrance to the darkened gallery. "I haven't been there for some time," she continued. "I've discovered something that I think appeals more to my temperament. I have rather a leaning toward the occult and the mystical, I'm afraid. Did you ever hear of the Babists?"
"No," said Montague.
"Well, that's a religious sect—from Persia, I think—and they are quite the rage. They are priests, you understand, and they give lectures, and teach you all about the immanence of the divine, and about reincarnation, and Karma, and all that. Do you believe any of those things?"
"I can't say that I know about them," said he.
"It is very beautiful and strange," added the other. "It makes you realize what a perplexing thing life is. They teach you how the universe is all one, and the soul is the only reality, and so bodily things don't matter. If I were a Babist, I believe that I could be happy, even if I had to work in a cotton-mill."
Then Mrs. Winnie rose up suddenly. "You'd rather look at the pictures, I know," she said; and she pressed a button, and a soft radiance flooded the great vaulted gallery.
"This is our chief pride in life," she said. "My husband's object has been to get one representative work of each of the great painters of the world. We got their masterpiece whenever we could. Over there in the corner are the old masters—don't you love to look at them?"
Montague would have liked to look at them very much; but he felt that he would rather it were some time when he did not have Mrs. Winnie by his side. Mrs. Winnie must have had to show the gallery quite frequently; and now her mind was still upon the Persian transcendentalists.
"That picture of the saint is a Botticelli," she said. "And do you know, the orange-coloured robe always makes me think of the swami. That is my teacher, you know—Swami Babubanana. And he has the most beautiful delicate hands, and great big brown eyes, so soft and gentle—for all the world like those of the gazelles in our place down South!"
Thus Mrs. Winnie, as she roamed from picture to picture, while the souls of the grave old masters looked down upon her in silence.