A Modern Chronicle, Book I
by Winston Churchill
A Modern Chronicle, Book I,
Book II, Book III
CHAPTER IV. OF
CHAPTER V. IN
HONORA HAS A
GLIMPSE OF THE
CHAPTER VII. THE
CHAPTER VIII. A
CHAPTER IX. IN
CHAPTER X. IN
CHAPTER XI. WHAT
MIGHT HAVE BEEN
WHICH CONTAINS A
CHAPTER I. WHAT'S IN HEREDITY?
HONORA LEFFINGWELL is the original name of our heroine. She was born
in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century, at Nice, in France, and
she spent the early years of her life in St. Louis, a somewhat
conservative old city on the banks of the Mississippi River. Her father
was Randolph Leffingwell, and he died in the early flower of his
manhood, while filling with a grace that many remember the post of
United States Consul at Nice. As a linguist he was a phenomenon, and
his photograph in the tortoise-shell frame proves indubitably, to
anyone acquainted with the fashions of 1870, that he was a master of
that subtlest of all arts, dress. He had gentle blood in his veins,
which came from Virginia through Kentucky in a coach and six, and he
was the equal in appearance and manners of any duke who lingered beside
Honora has often pictured to herself a gay villa set high above the
curving shore, the amethyst depths shading into emerald, laced with
milk-white foam, the vivid colours of the town, the gay costumes; the
excursions, the dinner-parties presided over by the immaculate young
consul in three languages, and the guests chosen from the haute
noblesse of Europe. Such was the vision in her youthful mind, added to
by degrees as she grew into young-ladyhood and surreptitiously became
familiar with the writings of Ouida and the Duchess, and other
literature of an educating cosmopolitan nature.
Honora's biography should undoubtedly contain a sketch of Mrs.
Randolph Leffingwell. Beauty and dash and a knowledge of how to seat a
table seem to have been the lady's chief characteristics; the only
daughter of a carefully dressed and carefully preserved widower,—
likewise a linguist,—whose super-refined tastes and the limited
straits to which he, the remaining scion of an old Southern family, had
been reduced by a gentlemanly contempt for money, led him to choose
Paris rather than New York as a place of residence. One of the
occasional and carefully planned trips to the Riviera proved fatal to
the beautiful but reckless Myrtle Allison. She, who might have chosen
counts or dukes from the Tagus to the Danube, or even crossed the
Channel, took the dashing but impecunious American consul, with a faith
in his future that was sublime. Without going over too carefully the
upward path which led to the post of their country's representative at
the court of St. James, neither had the slightest doubt that Randolph
Leffingwell would tread it.
It is needless to dwell upon the chagrin of Honora's maternal
grandfather, Howard Allison, Esquire, over this turn of affairs, this
unexpected bouleversement, as he spoke of it in private to his friends
in his Parisian club. For many years he had watched the personal
attractions of his daughter grow, and a brougham and certain other
delights not to be mentioned had gradually become, in his mind,
synonymous with old age. The brougham would have on its panels the
Allison crest, and his distinguished (and titled) son-in-law would drop
in occasionally at the little apartment on the Boulevard Haussmann.
Alas, for visions, for legitimate hopes shattered forever! On the day
that Randolph Leffingwell led Miss Allison down the aisle of the
English church the vision of the brougham and the other delights faded.
Howard Allison went back to his club.
Three years later, while on an excursion with Sir Nicholas Baker
and a merry party on the Italian side, the horses behind which Mr. and
Mrs. Leffingwell were driving with their host ran away, and in the
flight managed to precipitate the vehicle, and themselves, down the
side of one of the numerous deep valleys of the streams seeking the
Mediterranean. Thus, by a singular caprice of destiny Honora was
deprived of both her parents at a period which—some chose to believe
- was the height of their combined glories. Randolph Leffingwell lived
long enough to be taken back to Nice, and to consign his infant
daughter and sundry other unsolved problems to his brother Tom.
Brother Tom—or Uncle Tom, as we must call him with Honora—
cheerfully accepted the charge. For his legacies in life had been
chiefly blessings in disguise. He was paying teller of the Prairie
Bank, and the thermometer registered something above 90º Fahrenheit on
the July morning when he stood behind his wicket reading a letter from
Howard Allison, Esquire, relative to his niece. Mr. Leffingwell was at
this period of his life forty-eight, but the habit he had acquired of
assuming responsibilities and burdens seemed to have had the effect of
making his age indefinite. He was six feet tall, broad-shouldered, his
mustache and hair already turning; his eyebrows were a trifle bushy,
and his eyes reminded men of one eternal and highly prized quality—
honesty. They were blue grey. Ordinarily they shed a light which sent
people away from his window the happier without knowing why; but they
had been known, on rare occasions, to flash on dishonesty and fraud
like the lightnings of the Lord. Mr. Isham, the president of the bank,
coined a phrase about him. He said that Thomas Leffingwell was
Although he had not risen above the position of paying teller,
Thomas Leffingwell had a unique place in the city of his birth; and the
esteem in which he was held by capitalists and clerks proves that
character counts for something. On his father's failure and death he
had entered the Prairie Bank, at eighteen, and never left it. If he had
owned it, he could not have been treated by the customers with more
respect. The city, save for a few notable exceptions, like Mr. Isham,
called him Mr. Leffingwell, but behind his back often spoke of him as
On the particular hot morning in question, as he stood in his
seersucker coat reading the unquestionably pompous letter of Mr.
Allison announcing that his niece was on the high seas, he returned the
greetings of his friends with his usual kindness and cheer. In an
adjoining compartment a long-legged boy of fourteen was busily stamping
"Peter," said Mr. Leffingwell, "go ask Mr. Isham if I may see him."
It is advisable to remember the boy's name. It was Peter Erwin, and
he was a favourite in the bank, where he had been introduced by Mr.
Leffingwell himself. He was an orphan and lived with his grandmother,
an impoverished old lady with good blood in her veins who boarded in
Graham's Row, on Olive Street. Suffice it to add, at this time, that he
worshipped Mr. Leffingwell, and that he was back in a twinkling with
the information that Mr. Isham was awaiting him.
The president was seated at his desk. In spite of the thermometer
he gave no appearance of discomfort in his frock-coat. He had scant,
sandy-grey whiskers, a tightly closed and smooth-shaven upper lip, a
nose with a decided ridge, and rather small but penetrating eyes in
which the blue pigment had been used sparingly. His habitual mode of
speech was both brief and sharp, but people remarked that he modified
it a little for Tom Leffingwell. "Come in, Tom," he said. "Anything the
"Mr. Isham, I want a week off, to go to New York."
The request, from Tom Leffingwell, took Mr. Isham's breath. One of
the bank president's characteristics was an extreme interest in the
private affairs of those who came within his zone of influence—and
especially when these affairs evinced any irregularity.
"Randolph again?" he asked quickly.
Tom walked to the window, and stood looking out into the street.
His voice shook as he answered:-
"Ten days ago I learned that my brother was dead, Mr. Isham."
The president glanced at the broad back of his teller. Mr. Isham's
voice was firm, his face certainly betrayed no feeling, but a flitting
gleam of satisfaction might have been seen in his eye.
"Of course, Tom, you may go," he answered.
Thus came to pass an event in the lives of Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary,
that journey to New York (their first) of two nights and two days to
fetch Honora. We need not dwell upon all that befell them. The first
view of the Hudson, the first whiff of the salt air on this unwonted
holiday, the sights of this crowded city of wealth,—all were tempered
by the thought of the child coming into their lives. They were standing
on the pier when the windows were crimson in the early light, and at
nine o'clock on that summer's morning the Albania was docked, and the
passengers came crowding down the gang-plank. Prosperous tourists, most
of them, with servants and stewards carrying bags of English design and
checked steamer rugs; and at last a ruddy-faced bonne with streamers
and a bundle of ribbons and laces—Honora—Honora, aged eighteen
months, gazing at a subjugated world.
"What a beautiful child!" exclaimed a woman on the pier.
Was it instinct or premonition that led them to accost the bonne?
"Oui, Laffingwell!" she cried, gazing at them in some perplexity.
Three children of various sizes clung to her skirts, and a younger
nurse carried a golden-haired little girl of Honora's age. A lady and
gentleman followed. The lady was beginning to look matronly, and no
second glance was required to perceive that she was a person of opinion
and character. Mr. Holt was smaller than his wife, neat in dress and
unobtrusive in appearance. In the rich Mrs. Holt, the friend of the
Randolph Leffingwells, Aunt Mary was prepared to find a more vapidly
fashionable personage, and had schooled herself forthwith.
"You are Mrs. Thomas Leffingwell?" she asked. "Well, I am
relieved." The lady's eyes, travelling rapidly over Aunt Mary's sober
bonnet and brooch and gown, made it appear that these features in
Honora's future guardian gave her the relief in question. "Honora, this
is your aunt."
Honora smiled from amidst the laces, and Aunt Mary, only too ready
to capitulate, surrendered. She held out her arms. Tears welled up in
the Frenchwoman's eyes as she abandoned her charge.
"Pauvre mignonne!" she cried.
But Mrs. Holt rebuked the nurse sharply, in French,—a language
with which neither Aunt Mary nor Uncle Tom was familiar. Fortunately,
perhaps. Mrs. Holt's remark was to the effect that Honora was going to
a sensible home.
"Hortense loves her better than my own children," said that lady.
Honora seemed quite content in the arms of Aunt Mary, who was
gazing so earnestly into the child's face that she did not at first
hear Mrs. Holt's invitation to take breakfast with them on Madison
Avenue, and then she declined politely. While crossing on the steamer,
Mrs. Holt had decided quite clearly in her mind just what she was going
to say to the child's future guardian, but there was something in Aunt
Mary's voice and manner which made these remarks seem unnecessary—
although Mrs. Holt was secretly disappointed not to deliver them.
"It was fortunate that we happened to be in Nice at the time," she
said with the evident feeling that some explanation was due. "I did not
know poor Mrs. Randolph Leffingwell very—very intimately, or Mr.
Leffingwell. It was such a sudden—such a terrible affair. But Mr.
Holt and I were only too glad to do what we could."
"We feel very grateful to you," said Aunt Mary, quietly.
Mrs. Holt looked at her with a still more distinct approval, being
tolerably sure that Mrs. Thomas Leffingwell understood. She had cleared
her skirts of any possible implication of intimacy with the late Mrs.
Randolph, and done so with a master touch.
In the meantime Honora had passed to Uncle Tom. After securing the
little trunk, and settling certain matters with Mr. Holt, they said
good-by to her late kind protectors, and started off for the nearest
street-cars, Honora pulling Uncle Tom's mustache. More than one
pedestrian paused to look back at the tall man carrying the beautiful
child, bedecked like a young princess, and more than one passenger in
the street cars smiled at them both.
CHAPTER II. PERDITA RECALLED
SAINT LOUIS, or that part of it which is called by dealers in real
estate the choice residence section, grew westward. And Uncle Tom might
be said to have been in the vanguard of the movement. In the days
before Honora was born he had built his little house on what had been a
farm on the Olive Street Road, at the crest of the second ridge from
the river. Up this ridge, with clanking traces, toiled the horse-cars
that carried Uncle Tom downtown to the bank and Aunt Mary to market.
Fleeing westward, likewise, from the smoke, friends of Uncle Tom's
and Aunt Mary's gradually surrounded them—building, as a rule, the
high Victorian mansions in favour at that period, which were placed in
the centre of commodious yards. For the friends of Uncle Tom and Aunt
Mary were for the most part rich, and belonged, as did they, to the
older families of the city. Mr. Dwyer's house, with its picture
gallery, was across the street.
In the midst of such imposing company the little dwelling which
became the home of our heroine sat well back in a plot that might
almost be called a garden. In summer its white wooden front was nearly
hidden by the quivering leaves of two tall pear trees. On the other
side of the brick walk, and near the iron fence, was an elm and a
flower bed that was Uncle Tom's pride and the admiration of the
neighbourhood. Honora has but to shut her eyes to see it aflame with
tulips at Eastertide. The eastern wall of the house was a mass of
Virginia creeper, and beneath that another flower bed, and still
another in the back-yard behind the lattice fence covered with cucumber
vine. There were, besides, two maples and two apricot trees, relics of
the farm, and of blessed memory. Such apricots! Visions of hot summer
evenings come back, with Uncle Tom, in his seersucker coat, with his
green watering-pot, bending over the beds, and Aunt Mary seated upright
in her chair, looking up from her knitting with a loving eye.
Behind the lattice, on these summer evenings, stands the militant
figure of that old retainer, Bridget the cook, her stout arms akimbo,
ready to engage in vigorous banter should Honora deign to approach.
"Whisht, 'Nora darlint, it's a young lady ye'll be soon, and the
beaux a-comin' 'round!" she would cry, and throw back her head and
laugh until the tears were in her eyes.
And the princess, a slim figure in an immaculate linen frock with
red ribbons which Aunt Mary had copied from Longstreth's London
catalogue, would reply with dignity:
"Bridget, I wish you would try to remember that my name is Honora."
Another spasm of laughter from Bridget.
"Listen to that now!" she would cry to another ancient retainer,
Mary Ann, the housemaid, whose kitchen chair was tilted up against the
side of the woodshed. "It'll be 'Miss Honora' next, and George Hanbury
here to-day with his eye through a knothole in the fence, out of his
head for a sight of ye."
George Hanbury was Honora's cousin, and she did not deem his
admiration a subject fit for discussion with Bridget.
"Sure," declared Mary Ann, "it's the air of a princess the child
That she should be thought a princess did not appear at all
remarkable to Honora at twelve years of age. Perdita may have had such
dreams. She had been born, she knew, in some wondrous land by the
shores of the summer seas, not at all like St. Louis, and friends and
relatives had not hesitated to remark in her hearing that she resembled
her father,—that handsome father who surely must have been a prince,
whose before-mentional photograph in the tortoise-shell frame was on
the bureau in her little room. So far as Randolph Leffingwell was
concerned, photography had not been invented for nothing. Other records
of him remained which Honora had likewise seen: one end of a
rose-covered villa which Honora thought was a wing of his palace; a
coach and four he was driving, and which had chanced to belong to an
Englishman, although the photograph gave no evidence of this ownership.
Neither Aunt Mary nor Uncle Tom had ever sought—for reasons perhaps
obvious—to correct the child's impression of an extraordinary
Aunt Mary was a Puritan of Southern ancestry, and her father had
been a Presbyterian minister. Uncle Tom was a member of the vestry of a
church still under Puritan influences. As a consequence for Honora,
there were Sunday afternoons—periods when the imaginative faculty, in
which she was by no means lacking, was given full play. She would sit
by the hour in the swing Uncle Tom had hung for her under the maple
near the lattice, while castles rose on distant heights against blue
skies. There was her real home, in a balconied chamber that overlooked
mile upon mile of rustling forest in the valley; and when the wind
blew, the sound of it was like the sea. Honora did not remember the
sea, but its music was often in her ears.
She would be aroused from these dreams of greatness by the
appearance of old Catherine, her nurse, on the side porch, reminding
her that it was time to wash for supper. No princess could have had a
more humble tiring-woman than Catherine.
Honora cannot be unduly blamed. When she reached the "little house
under the hill" (as Catherine called the chamber beneath the eaves),
she beheld reflected in the mirror an image like a tall, white flower
that might indeed have belonged to a princess. Her hair, the colour of
burnt sienna, fell evenly to her shoulders; her features even then had
regularity and hauteur; her legs, in their black silk stockings, were
straight; and the simple white lawn frock made the best of a slender
figure. Those frocks of Honora's were a continual source of wonder -and
sometimes of envy—to Aunt Mary's friends; who returned from the
seaside in the autumn, after a week among the fashions in Boston or New
York, to find Honora in the latest models, and better dressed than
their own children. Aunt Mary made no secret of the methods by which
these seeming miracles were performed, and showed Cousin Eleanor
Hanbury the fashion plates in the English periodicals. Cousin Eleanor
"Mary, you are wonderful," she would say. "Honora's clothes are
better-looking than those I buy in the East, at such fabulous prices,
Indeed, no woman was ever farther removed from personal vanity than
Aunt Mary. She looked like a little Quakeress. Her silvered hair was
parted in the middle and had, in spite of palpable efforts towards
tightness and repression, a perceptible ripple in it. Grey was her only
concession to colour, and her gowns and bonnets were of a primness
which belonged to the past. Repression, or perhaps compression, was her
note, for the energy confined within her little body was a thing to
have astounded scientists. And Honora grew to womanhood and reflection
before she had guessed or considered that her aunt was possessed of
intense emotions which had no outlet. Her features were regular, her
shy eye had the clearness of a forest pool. She believed in
predestination, which is to say that she was a fatalist; and while she
steadfastly continued to regard this world as a place of sorrow and
trials, she concerned herself very little about her participation in a
future life. Old Dr. Ewing, the rector of St. Anne's, while conceding
that no better or more charitable woman existed, found it so
exceedingly difficult to talk to her on the subject of religion that he
had never tried it but once.
Such was Aunt Mary. The true student of human nature should not
find it surprising that she spoiled Honora and strove—at what secret
expense, care, and self-denial to Uncle Tom and herself, none will ever
know—to adorn the child that she might appear creditably among
companions whose parents were more fortunate in this world's goods;
that she denied herself to educate Honora as these other children were
educated. Nor is it astonishing that she should not have understood the
highly complex organism of the young lady we have chosen for our
heroine, who was shaken, at the age of thirteen, by unfulfilled
Very early in life Honora learned to dread the summer, when one by
one the families of her friends departed until the city itself seemed a
remote and distant place from what it had been in the spring and
winter. The great houses were closed and blinded, and in the evening
the servants who had been left behind chattered on the front steps.
Honora could not bear the sound of the trains that drifted across the
night, and the sight of the trunks piled in the Hanburys' hall, in
Wayland Square, always filled her with a sickening longing. Would the
day ever come when she, too, would depart for the bright places of the
earth? Sometimes, when she looked in the mirror, she was filled with a
fierce belief in a destiny to sit in the high seats, to receive homage
and dispense bounties, to discourse with great intellects, to know
London and Paris and the marts and centres of the world as her father
had. To escape—only to escape from the prison walls of a humdrum
existence, and to soar!
Let us, if we can, reconstruct an August day when all (or nearly
all) of Honora's small friends were gone eastward to the mountains or
the seaside. In "the little house under the hill," the surface of which
was a hot slate roof, Honora would awake about seven o'clock to find
old Catherine bending over her in a dun-coloured calico dress, with the
light fiercely beating against the closed shutters that braved it so
unflinchingly throughout the day.
"The birrds are before ye, Miss Honora, honey, and your uncle
waterin' his roses this half-hour."
Uncle Tom was indeed an early riser. As Honora dressed (Catherine
assisting as at a ceremony), she could see him, in his seersucker coat,
bending tenderly over his beds; he lived enveloped in a peace which has
since struck wonder to Honora's soul. She lingered in her dressing,
even in those days, falling into reveries from which Catherine gently
and deferentially aroused her; and Uncle Tom would be carving the
beefsteak and Aunt Mary pouring the coffee when she finally arrived in
the dining room to nibble at one of Bridget's unforgettable rolls or
hot biscuits. Uncle Tom had his joke, and at quarter-past eight
precisely he would kiss Aunt Mary and walk to the corner to wait for
the ambling horse-car that was to take him to the bank. Sometimes
Honora went to the corner with him, and he waved her good-by from the
platform as he felt in his pocket for the nickel that was to pay his
When Honora returned, Aunt Mary had donned her apron, and was
industriously aiding Mary Ann to wash the dishes and maintain the
customary high polish on her husband's share of the Leffingwell silver
which, standing on the side table, shot hither and thither rays of
green light that filtered through the shutters into the darkened room.
The child partook of Aunt Mary's pride in that silver, made for a
Kentucky great-grandfather Leffingwell by a famous Philadelphia
silversmith three-quarters of a century before. Honora sighed.
"What's the matter, Honora?" asked Aunt Mary, without pausing in
her vigorous rubbing.
"The Leffingwells used to be great once upon a time, didn't they,
"Your Uncle Tom," answered Aunt Mary, quietly, "is the greatest man
I know, child."
"And my father must have been a great man, too," cried Honora, "to
have been a consul and drive coaches."
Aunt Mary was silent. She was not a person who spoke easily on
"Why don't you ever talk to me about my father, Aunt Mary? Uncle
"I didn't know your father, Honora."
"But you have seen him?"
"Yes," said Aunt Mary, dipping her cloth into the whiting; "I saw
him at my wedding. But he was very young." "What was he like?" Honora
demanded. "He was very handsome, wasn't he?"
"And he had ambition, didn't he, Aunt Mary?"
Aunt Mary paused. Her eyes were troubled as she looked at Honora,
whose head was thrown back.
"What kind of ambition do you mean, Honora?"
"Oh," cried Honora, "to be great and rich and powerful, and to be
"Who has been putting such things in your head, my dear?"
"No one, Aunt Mary. Only, if I were a man, I shouldn't rest until I
Alas, that Aunt Mary, with all her will, should have such limited
powers of expression! She resumed her scrubbing of the silver before
"To do one's duty, to accept cheerfully and like a Christian the
responsibilities and burdens of life, is the highest form of greatness,
my child. Your Uncle Tom has had many things to trouble him; he has
always worked for others, and not for himself. And he is respected and
loved by all who know him."
"Yes, I know, Aunt Mary. But -"
"But what, Honora?"
"Then why isn't he rich,—as my father was?"
"Your father wasn't rich, my dear," said Aunt Mary, sadly.
"Why, Aunt Mary!" Honora exclaimed, "he lived in a beautiful house,
and owned horses. Isn't that being rich?"
Poor Aunt Mary!
"Honora," she answered, "there are some things you are too young to
understand. But try to remember, my dear, that happiness doesn't
consist in being rich."
"But I have often heard you say that you wished you were rich, Aunt
Mary, and had nice things, and a picture gallery like Mr. Dwyer."
"I should like to have beautiful pictures, Honora."
"I don't like Mr. Dwyer," declared Honora, abruptly. "You mustn't
say that, Honora," was Aunt Mary's reproof. "Mr. Dwyer is an upright,
public-spirited man, and he thinks a great deal of your Uncle Tom."
"I can't help it, Aunt Mary," said Honora. "I think he enjoys being
- well, being able to do things for a man like Uncle Tom."
Neither Aunt Mary nor Honora guessed what a subtle criticism this
was of Mr. Dwyer. Aunt Mary was troubled and puzzled; and she began to
speculate (not for the first time) why the Lord had given a person with
so little imagination a child like Honora to bring up in the straight
and narrow path.
"When I go on Sunday afternoons with Uncle Tom to see Mr. Dwyer's
pictures," Honora persisted, "I always feel that he is so glad to have
what other people haven't, or he wouldn't have any one to show them
Aunt Mary shook her head. Once she had given her loyal friendship,
such faults as this became as nothing.
"And then," said Honora, "when Mrs. Dwyer has dinner-parties for
celebrated people who come here, why does she invite you in to see the
"Out of kindness, Honora. Mrs. Dwyer knows that I enjoy looking at
"Why doesn't she invite you to the dinners?" asked Honora, hotly.
"Our family is just as good as Mrs. Dwyer's."
The extent of Aunt Mary's distress was not apparent.
"You are talking nonsense, my child," she said. "All my friends
know that I am not a person who can entertain distinguished people, and
that I do not go out, and that I haven't the money to buy evening
dresses. And even if I had," she added, "I haven't a pretty neck, so
it's just as well."
A philosophy distinctly Aunt Mary's.
Uncle Tom, after he had listened without comment that evening to
her account of this conversation, was of the opinion that to take
Honora to task for her fancies would be waste of breath; that they
would right themselves as she grew up. "I'm afraid it's inheritance,
Tom," said Aunt Mary, at last. "And if so, it ought to be counteracted.
We've seen other signs of it. You know Honora has little or no idea of
the value of money—or of its ownership."
"She sees little enough of it," Uncle Tom remarked with a smile.
"Sometimes I think I've done wrong not to dress her more simply.
I'm afraid it's given the child a taste for—for self-adornment."
"I once had a fond belief that all women possessed such a taste,"
said Uncle Tom, with a quizzical look at his own exception. "To tell
you the truth, I never classed it as a fault."
"Then I don't see why you married me," said Aunt Mary—a
periodical remark of hers. "But, Tom, I do wish her to appear as well
as the other children, and" (Aunt Mary actually blushed) "the child has
"Why don't you go as far as old Catherine, and call her a
princess?" he asked.
"Do you want me to ruin her utterly?" exclaimed Aunt Mary.
Uncle Tom put his hands on his wife's shoulders and looked down
into her face, and smiled again. Although she held herself very
straight, the top of her head was very little above the level of his
"It strikes me that you are entitled to some little indulgence in
life, Mary," he said.
One of the curious contradictions of Aunt Mary's character was a
never dying interest, which held no taint of envy, in the doings of
people more fortunate than herself. In the long summer days, after her
silver was cleaned and her housekeeping and marketing finished, she
read in the book-club periodicals of royal marriages, embassy balls, of
great town and country houses and their owners at home and abroad. And
she knew, by means of a correspondence with Cousin Eleanor Hanbury and
other intimates, the kind of cottages in which her friends sojourned at
the seashore or in the mountains; how many rooms they had, and how many
servants, and very often who the servants were; she was likewise
informed on the climate, and the ease with which it was possible to
obtain fresh vegetables. And to all of this information Uncle Tom would
listen, smiling but genuinely interested, while he carved at dinner.
One evening, when Uncle Tom had gone to play piquet with Mr. Isham,
who was ill, Honora further surprised her aunt by exclaiming:-
"How can you talk of things other people have and not want them,
"Why should I desire what I cannot have, my dear? I take such
pleasure out of my friends' possessions as I can."
"But you want to go to the seashore, I know you do. I've heard you
say so," Honora protested.
"I should like to see the open ocean before I die," admitted Aunt
Mary, unexpectedly. "I saw New York harbour once, when we went to meet
you. And I know how the salt water smells—which is as much, perhaps,
as I have the right to hope for. But I have often thought it would be
nice to sit for a whole summer by the sea and listen to the waves
dashing upon the beach, like those in the Chase picture in Mr. Dwyer's
Aunt Mary little guessed the unspeakable rebellion aroused in
Honora by this acknowledgment of being fatally circumscribed. Wouldn't
Uncle Tom ever be rich?
Aunt Mary shook her head—she saw no prospect of it.
But other men, who were not half so good as Uncle Tom, got rich.
Uncle Tom was not the kind of man who cared for riches. He was
content to do his duty in that sphere where God had placed him.
Poor Aunt Mary. Honora never asked her uncle such questions: to do
so never occurred to her. At peace with all men, he gave of his best to
children, and Honora remained a child. Next to his flowers, walking was
Uncle Tom's chief recreation, and from the time she could be guided by
the hand she went with him. His very presence had the gift of
dispelling longings, even in the young; the gift of compelling delight
in simple things. Of a Sunday afternoon, if the heat were not too
great, he would take Honora to the wild park that stretches westward of
the city, and something of the depth and intensity of his pleasure in
the birds, the forest, and the wild flowers would communicate itself to
her. She learned all unconsciously (by suggestion, as it were) to take
delight in them; a delight that was to last her lifetime, a never
failing resource to which she was to turn again and again. In winter,
they went to the botanical gardens or the Zoo. Uncle Tom had a passion
for animals, and Mr. Isham, who was a director, gave him a pass through
the gates. The keepers knew him, and spoke to him with kindly respect.
Nay, it seemed to Honora that the very animals knew him, and offered
themselves ingratiatingly to be stroked by one whom they recognized as
friend. Jaded horses in the street lifted their noses; stray, homeless
cats rubbed against his legs, and vagrant dogs looked up at him
trustfully with wagging tails.
Yet his goodness, as Emerson would have said, had some edge to it.
Honora had seen the light of anger in his blue eye—a divine ray. Once
he had chastised her for telling Aunt Mary a lie (she could not have
lied to him) and Honora had never forgotten it. The anger of such a man
had indeed some element in it of the divine; terrible, not in volume,
but in righteous intensity. And when it had passed there was no
occasion for future warning. The memory of it lingered.
CHAPTER III. CONCERNING PROVIDENCE
WHAT quality was it in Honora that compelled Bridget to stop her
ironing on Tuesdays in order to make hot waffles for a young woman who
was late to breakfast? Bridget, who would have filled the kitchen with
righteous wrath if Aunt Mary had transgressed the rules of the house,
which were like the laws of the Medes and Persians! And in Honora's
early youth Mary Ann, the housemaid, spent more than one painful
evening writing home for cockle shells and other articles to propitiate
our princess, who rewarded her with a winning smile and a kiss, which
invariably melted the honest girl into tears. The Queen of Scots never
had a more devoted chamber woman than old Catherine, who would have
gone to the stake with a smile to save her little lady a single
childish ill, and who spent her savings, until severely taken to task
by Aunt Mary, upon objects for which a casual wish had been expressed.
The saints themselves must at times have been aweary from hearing
Not to speak of Christmas! Christmas in the little house was one
wild delirium of joy. The night before the festival was, to all outward
appearances, an ordinary evening, when Uncle Tom sat by the fire in his
slippers, as usual, scouting the idea that there would be any Christmas
at all. Aunt Mary sewed, and talked with maddening calmness of the news
of the day; but for Honora the air was charged with coming events of
the first magnitude. The very furniture of the little sitting-room had
a different air, the room itself wore a mysterious aspect, and the
cannel-coal fire seemed to give forth a special quality of unearthly
light. "Is to-morrow Christmas?" Uncle Tom would exclaim. "Bless me!
Honora, I am so glad you reminded me."
"Now, Uncle Tom, you knew it was Christmas all the time!"
"Kiss your uncle good night, Honora, and go right to sleep, dear,"
- from Aunt Mary.
The unconscious irony in that command of Aunt Mary's!—to go right
to sleep! Many times was a head lifted from a small pillow, straining
after the meaning of the squeaky noises that came up from below! Not
Santa Claus. Honora's belief in him had merged into a blind faith in a
larger and even more benevolent (if material) providence: the kind of
providence which Mr. Meredith depicts, and which was to say to
Beauchamp "Here's your marquise;" a particular providence which, at the
proper time, gave Uncle Tom money, and commanded, with a smile, "Buy
this for Honora—she wants it." All sufficient reason! Soul-satisfying
philosophy, to which Honora was to cling for many years of life. It is
amazing how much can be wrung from a reluctant world by the mere belief
in this kind of providence.
Sleep came at last, in the darkest of the hours. And still in the
dark hours a stirring, a delicious sensation preceding reason, and the
consciousness of a figure stealing about the room. Honora sat up in
bed, shivering with cold and delight.
"Is it awake ye are, darlint, and it but four o'clock the morn!"
"What are you doing, Cathy?"
"Musha, it's to Mass I'm going, to ask the Mother of God to give ye
many happy Christmases the like of this, Miss Honora." And Catherine's
arms were about her.
"Oh, it's Christmas, Cathy, isn't it? How could I have forgotten
"Now go to sleep, honey. Your aunt and uncle wouldn't like it at
all at all if ye was to make noise in the middle of the night—and
it's little better it is."
Sleep! A despised waste of time in childhood. Catherine went to
Mass, and after an eternity, the grey December light began to sift
through the shutters, and human endurance had reached its limit.
Honora, still shivering, seized a fleecy wrapper (the handiwork of Aunt
Mary) and crept, a diminutive ghost, down the creaking stairway to the
sitting-room. A sitting-room which now was not a sitting-room, but for
to-day a place of magic. As though by a prearranged salute of the gods,
at Honora's entrance the fire burst through the thick blanket of fine
coal which Uncle Tom had laid before going to bed, and with a little
gasp of joy that was almost pain, she paused on the threshold. That one
flash, like Pizarro's first sunrise over Peru, gilded the edge of
Needless to enumerate them. The whole world, as we know, was in a
conspiracy to spoil Honora. The Dwyers, the Cartwrights, the Haydens,
the Brices, the Ishams, and I know not how many others had sent their
tributes, and Honora's second cousins, the Hanburys, from the family
mansion behind the stately elms of Wayland Square—of which something
anon. A miniature mahogany desk, a prayer-book and hymnal which the
Dwyers had brought home from New York, endless volumes of a more
secular and (to Honora) entrancing nature; roller skates; skates for
real ice, when it should apppear in the form of sleet on the sidewalks;
a sled; humbler gifts from Bridget, Mary Ann, and Catherine, and a
wonderful coat, with hat to match, of a certain dark green velvet. When
Aunt Mary appeared, an hour or so later, Honora was surveying her
magnificence in the glass.
"Oh, Aunt Mary!" she cried, with her arms tightly locked around her
aunt's neck, "how lovely! Did you send all the way to New York for it?"
"No, Honora," said her aunt, "it didn't come from New York." Aunt
Mary did not explain that this coat had been her one engrossing
occupation for six weeks, at such times when Honora was out or tucked
away safely in bed.
Perhaps Honora's face fell a little. Aunt Mary scanned it rather
anxiously. "Does that cause you to like it any less, Honora?" she
"Aunt Mary!" exclaimed Honora, in a tone of reproval. And added
after a little, "I suppose Mademoiselle made it."
"Does it make any difference who made it, Honora?"
"Oh, no indeed, Aunt Mary. May I wear it to Cousin Eleanor's
"I gave it to you to wear, Honora."
Not in Honora's memory was there a Christmas breakfast during which
Peter Erwin did not appear, bringing gifts. Peter Erwin, of whom we
caught a glimpse doing an errand for Uncle Tom in the bank. With the
complacency of the sun Honora was wont to regard this most constant of
her satellites. Her awakening powers of observation had discovered him
in bondage, and in bondage he had been ever since: for their
acquaintance had begun on the first Sunday afternoon after Honora's
arrival in St. Louis at the age of eighteen months. It will be
remembered that Honora was even then a coquette, and as she sat in her
new baby-carriage under the pear tree, flirted outrageously with Peter,
who stood on one foot from embarrassment.
"Why, Peter," Uncle Tom had said slyly, "why don't you kiss her?"
That kiss had been Peter's seal of service. And he became, on
Sunday afternoons, a sort of understudy for Catherine. He took an
amazing delight in wheeling Honora up and down the yard, and up and
down the sidewalk. Brunhilde or Queen Elizabeth never wielded a power
more absolute, nor had an adorer more satisfactory; and of all his
remarkable talents, none were more conspicuous than his abilities to
tell a story and to choose a present. Emancipated from the
perambulator, Honora would watch for him at the window, and toddle to
the gate to meet him, a gentleman-in-waiting whose zeal, however
arduous, never flagged.
On this particular Christmas morning, when she heard the gate slam,
Honora sprang up from the table to don her green velvet coat. Poor
Peter! As though his subjugation could be more complete!
"It's the postman," suggested Uncle Tom, wickedly.
"It's Peter!" cried Honora, triumphantly, from the hall as she
flung open the door, letting in a breath of cold Christmas air out of
It was Peter, but a Peter who has changed some since perambulator
days,—just as Honora has changed some. A Peter who, instead of
fourteen, is six and twenty; a full-fledged lawyer, in the office of
that most celebrated of St. Louis practitioners, Judge Stephen Brice.
For the Peter Erwins of this world are queer creatures, and move
rapidly without appearing to the Honoras to move at all. A great many
things have happened to Peter since he held been a messenger boy in the
Needless to say, Uncle Tom had taken an interest in him. And,
according to Peter, this fact accounted for all the good fortune which
had followed. Shortly before the news came of his brother's death,
Uncle Tom had discovered that the boy who did his errands so willingly
was going to night school, and was the grandson of a gentleman who had
fought with credit in the Mexican War, and died in misfortune: the
grandmother was Peter's only living relative. Through Uncle Tom, Mr.
Isham became interested, and Judge Brice. There was a certain
scholarship in the Washington University which Peter obtained, and he
worked his way through the law school afterwards.
A simple story, of which many a duplicate could be found in this
country of ours. In the course of the dozen years or so of its
unravelling the grandmother had died, and Peter had become, to all
intents and purposes, a member of Uncle Tom's family. A place was set
for him at Sunday dinner; and, if he did not appear, at Sunday tea.
Sometimes at both. And here he was, as usual, on Christmas morning, his
arms so full that he had had to push open the gate with his foot.
"Well, well, well, well!" he said, stopping short on the doorstep
and surveying our velvet-clad princess, "I've come to the wrong house."
The princess stuck her finger into her cheek.
"Don't be silly, Peter!" she said; "and Merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas!" he replied, edging sidewise in at the door and
depositing his parcels on the mahogany horsehair sofa. He chose one,
and seized the princess—velvet coat and all!—in his arms and kissed
her. When he released her, there remained in her hand a morocco-bound
diary, marked with her monogram, and destined to contain high matters.
"How could you know what I wanted, Peter?" she exclaimed, after she
had divested it of the tissue paper, holly, and red ribbon in which he
had so carefully wrapped it. For it is a royal trait to thank with the
same graciousness and warmth the donors of the humblest and the
There was a paper-knife for Uncle Tom, and a work-basket for Aunt
Mary, and a dress apiece for Catherine, Bridget, and Mary Ann, none of
whom Peter ever forgot. Although the smoke was even at that period
beginning to creep westward, the sun poured through the lace curtains
into the little dining-room and danced on the silver coffee-pot as Aunt
Mary poured out Peter's cup, and the blue china breakfast plates were
bluer than ever because it was Christmas. The humblest of familiar
articles took on the air of a present. And after breakfast, while Aunt
Mary occupied herself with that immemorial institution,—which was to
lure hitherwards so many prominent citizens of St. Louis during the
day,—eggnogg, Peter surveyed the offerings which transformed the
sitting-room. The table had been pushed back against the bookcases, the
chairs knew not their time-honoured places, and white paper and red
ribbon littered the floor. Uncle Tom, relegated to a corner, pretended
to read his newspaper, while Honora flitted from Peter's knees to his,
or sat cross-legged on the hearthrug investigating a bottomless
"What in the world are we going to do with all these things?" said
"We?" cried Honora. "When we get married, I mean," said Peter,
smiling at Uncle Tom. "Let's see!" and he began counting on his
fingers, which were long but very strong—so strong that Honora could
never loosen even one of them when they gripped her. "One—two—three
- eight Christmases before you are twenty-one. We'll have enough things
to set us up in housekeeping. Or perhaps you'd rather get married when
you are eighteen?"
"I've always told you I wasn't going to marry you, Peter," said
Honora, with decision.
"Why not?" He always asked that question.
"I'll make a good husband," said Peter; "I'll promise. Ugly men are
always good husbands."
"I didn't say you were ugly," declared the ever considerate Honora.
"Only my nose is too big," he quoted; "and I am too long one way
and not wide enough."
"You have a certain air of distinction in spite of it," said
Uncle Tom's newspaper began to shake, and he read more
industriously than ever.
"You've been reading—novels!" said Peter, in a terrible judicial
Honora flushed guiltily, and resumed her inspection of the
stocking. Miss Rossiter, a maiden lady of somewhat romantic tendencies,
was librarian of the Book Club that year. And as a result a book called
"Harold's Quest," by an author who shall be nameless, had come to the
house. And it was Harold who had had "a certain air of distinction."
"It isn't very kind of you to make fun of me when I pay you a
compliment," replied Honora, with dignity.
"I was naturally put out," he declared gravely, "because you said
you wouldn't marry me. But I don't intend to give up. No man who is
worth his salt ever gives up."
"You are old enough to get married now," said Honora, still
considerate. "But I am not rich enough," said Peter; "and besides, I
One of the first entries in the morocco diary—which had a lock
and key to it—was a description of Honora's future husband. We cannot
violate the lock, nor steal the key from under her pillow. But this
much, alas, may be said with discretion, that he bore no resemblance to
Peter Erwin. It may be guessed, however, that he contained something of
Harold, and more of Randolph Leffingwell; and that he did not live in
St. Louis. An event of Christmas, after church, was the dinner of which
Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary and Honora partook with Cousin Eleanor Hanbury,
who had been a Leffingwell, and was a first cousin of Honora's father.
Honora loved the atmosphere of the massive, yellow stone house in
Wayland Square, with its tall polished mahogany doors and thick
carpets, with its deferential darky servants, some of whom had been the
slaves of her great uncle. To Honora, gifted with imagination, the
house had an odour all its own; a rich, clean odour significant, in
later life, of wealth and luxury and spotless housekeeping. And she
knew it from top to bottom. The spacious upper floor, which in ordinary
dwellings would have been an attic, was the realm of young George and
his sisters, Edith and Mary (Aunt Mary's namesake). Rainy Saturdays,
all too brief, Honora had passed there, when the big dolls' house in
the playroom became the scene of domestic dramas which Edith rehearsed
after she went to bed, although Mary took them more calmly. In his
tenderer years, Honora even fired George, and riots occurred which took
the combined efforts of Cousin Eleanor and Mammy Lucy to quell. It may
be remarked, in passing, that Cousin Eleanor looked with suspicion upon
this imaginative gift of Honora's, and had several serious
conversations with Aunt Mary on the subject.
It was true, in a measure, that Honora quickened to life everything
she touched, and her arrival in Wayland Square was invariably greeted
with shouts of joy. There was no doll on which she had not bestowed a
history, and by dint of her insistence their pasts clung to them with
all the reality of a fate not by any means to be lived down. If George
rode the huge rocking-horse, he was Paul Revere, or some equally
historic figure, and sometimes, to Edith's terror, he was compelled to
assume the rôle of Bluebeard, when Honora submitted to decapitation
with a fortitude amounting to stoicism. Hide and seek was altogether
too tame for her, a stake of life and death, or imprisonment or
treasure, being a necessity. And many times was Edith extracted from
the recesses of the cellar in a condition bordering on hysterics, the
day ending tamely with a Bible story or a selection from "Little Women"
read by Cousin Eleanor.
In autumn, and again in spring and early summer before the annual
departure of the Hanbury family for the sea, the pleasant yard with its
wide shade trees and its shrubbery was a land of enchantment threatened
by a genie. Black Bias, the family coachman, polishing the fat carriage
horses in the stable yard, was the genie; and George the intrepid
knight who, spurred by Honora, would dash in and pinch Bias in a part
of his anatomy which the honest darky had never seen. An ideal genie,
for he could assume an astonishing fierceness at will.
"I'll git you yit, Marse George!"
Had it not been for Honora, her cousins would have found the
paradise in which they lived a commonplace spot, and indeed they never
could realize its tremendous possibilities in her absence. What would
the Mediterranean Sea and its adjoining countries be to us unless the
wanderings of Ulysses and Æneas had made them real? And what would
Cousin Eleanor's yard have been without Honora? Whatever there was of
romance and folklore in Uncle Tom's library Honora had extracted at an
early age, and with astonishing ease had avoided that which was dry and
uninteresting. The result was a nomenclature for Aunt Eleanor's yard,
in which there was even a terra incognita wherefrom venturesome
travellers never returned, but were transformed into wild beasts or
Although they acknowledged her leadership, Edith and Mary were
sorry for Honora, for they knew that if her father had lived she would
have had a house and garden like theirs, only larger, and beside a blue
sea where it was warm always. Honora had told them so, and colour was
lent to her assertions by the fact that their mother, when they
repeated this to her, only smiled sadly, and brushed her eyes with her
handkerchief. She was even more beautiful when she did so, Edith told
her,—a remark which caused Mrs. Hanbury to scan her younger daughter
closely; it smacked of Honora. "Was Cousin Randolph handsome?" Edith
Mrs. Hanbury started, so vividly there arose before her eyes a
brave and dashing figure, clad in grey English cloth, walking by her
side on a sunny autumn morning in the Rue de la Paix. Well she
remembered that trip abroad with her mother, Randolph's aunt, and how
attentive he was, and showed them the best restaurants in which to
dine. He had only been in France a short time, but his knowledge of
restaurants and the world in general had been amazing, and his
acquaintances legion. He had a way, which there was no resisting, of
taking people by storm.
"Yes, dear," answered Mrs. Hanbury, absently, when the child
repeated the question, "he was very handsome."
"Honora says he would have been President," put in George. "Of
course I don't believe it. She said they lived in a palace by the sea
in the south of France, with gardens and fountains and a lot of things
like that, and princesses and princes and eunuchs -"
"And what!" exclaimed Mrs. Hanbury, aghast. "I know," said George,
contemptuously, "she got that out of the 'Arabian Nights.'" But this
suspicion did not prevent him, the next time Honora regaled them with
more adventures of the palace by the summer seas, from listening with a
rapt attention. No two tales were ever alike. His admiration for Honora
did not wane, but increased. It differed from that of his sisters,
however, in being a tribute to her creative faculties, while Edith's
breathless faith pictured her cousin as having passed through as many
adventures as Queen Esther. George paid her a characteristic
compliment, but chivalrously drew her aside to bestow it. He was not
one to mince matters.
"You're a wonder, Honora," he said. "If I could lie like that, I
wouldn't want a pony."
He was forced to draw back a little from the heat of the
conflagration he had kindled.
"George Hanbury," she cried, "don't you ever speak to me again!
Never! Do you understand?"
It was thus that George, at some cost, had made a considerable
discovery which, for the moment, shook even his scepticism. Honora
believed it all herself.
Cousin Eleanor Hanbury was a person, or personage, who took a deep
and abiding interest in her fellow-beings, and the old clothes of the
Hanbury family went unerringly to the needy whose figures most
resembled those of the original owners. For Mrs. Hanbury had a wide but
comparatively unknown charity list. She was, secretly, one of the many
providences which Honora accepted collectively, although it is by no
means certain whether Honora, at this period, would have thanked her
cousin for tuition at Miss Farmer's school, and for her daily tasks at
French and music concerning which Aunt Mary was so particular. On the
memorable Christmas morning when, arrayed in green velvet, she arrived
with her aunt and uncle for dinner in Wayland Square, Cousin Eleanor
drew Aunt Mary into her bedroom and shut the door, and handed her a
sealed envelope. Without opening it, but guessing with much accuracy
its contents, Aunt Mary handed it back. "You are doing too much,
Eleanor," she said.
Mrs. Hanbury was likewise a direct person.
"I will take it back on one condition, Mary. If you will tell me
that Tom has finished paying Randolph's debts."
Mrs. Leffingwell was silent.
"I thought not," said Mrs. Hanbury. "Now Randolph was my own
cousin, and I insist."
Aunt Mary turned over the envelope, and there followed a few
moments' silence, broken only by the distant clamour of tin horns and
other musical instruments of the season.
"I sometimes think, Mary, that Honora is a little like Randolph,
and—Mrs. Randolph. Of course, I did not know her."
"Neither did I," said Aunt Mary.
"Mary," said Mrs. Hanbury, again, "I realize how you worked to make
the child that velvet coat. Do you think you ought to dress her that
"I don't see why she shouldn't be as well dressed as the children
of my friends, Eleanor."
Mrs. Hanbury laid her hand impulsively on Aunt Mary's.
"No child I know of dresses half as well," said Mrs. Hanbury. "The
trouble you take -"
"Is rewarded," said Aunt Mary.
"Yes," Mrs. Hanbury agreed. "If my own daughters were half as good
looking, I should be content. And Honora has an air of race. Oh, Mary,
can't you see? I am only thinking of the child's future."
"Do you expect me to take down all my mirrors, Eleanor? If she has
good looks," said Aunt Mary, "she has not learned it from my lips."
It was true. Even Aunt Mary's enemies, and she had some, could not
accuse her of the weakness of flattery. So Mrs. Hanbury smiled, and
dropped the subject.
CHAPTER IV. OF TEMPERAMENT
WE have the word of Mr. Cyrus Meeker that Honora did not have to learn
to dance. The art came to her naturally. Of Mr. Cyrus Meeker, whose
mustaches, at the age of five and sixty, are waxed as tight as ever,
and whose little legs to-day are as nimble as of yore. He has a memory
like Mr. Gladstone's, and can give you a social history of the city
that is well worth your time and attention. He will tell you how, for
instance, he was kicked by the august feet of Mr. George Hanbury on the
occasion of his first lesson to that distinguished young gentleman; and
how, although Mr. Meeker's shins were sore, he pleaded nobly for Mr.
George, who was sent home in the carriage by himself,—a punishment,
by the way, which Mr. George desired above all things.
This celebrated incident occurred in the new ballroom at the top of
the new house of young Mrs. Hayden, where the meetings of the dancing
class were held weekly. Today the soot, like the ashes of Vesuvius,
spouting from ten thousand soft-coal craters, has buried that house and
the whole district fathoms deep in social obscurity. And beautiful Mrs.
Hayden—what has become of her? And Lucy Hayden, that doll-like
darling of the gods?
All this belongs, however, to another history, which may some day
be written. This one is Honora's, and must be got on with, for it is to
be a chronicle of lightning changes. Happy we if we can follow Honora,
and we must be prepared to make many friends and drop them in the
Shortly after Mrs. Hayden had built that palatial house (which had
a high fence around its grounds and a driveway leading to a
porte-cochère) and had given her initial ball, the dancing class began.
It was on a blue afternoon in late November that Aunt Mary and Honora,
with Cousin Eleanor and the two girls, and George sulking in a corner
of the carriage, were driven through the gates behind Bias and the fat
horses of the Hanburys.
Honora has a vivid remembrance of the impression the house made on
her, with its polished floors and spacious rooms filled with a new and
mysterious and altogether inspiring fashion of things. Mrs. Hayden
represented the outposts in the days of Richardson and Davenport—had
Honora but known it. This great house was all so different from
anything she (and many others in the city) had ever seen. And she stood
gazing into the drawing-room, with its curtains and decorously drawn
shades, in a rapture which her aunt and cousins were far from guessing.
"Come, Honora," said her aunt. What's the matter, dear?"
How could she explain to Aunt Mary that the sight of beautiful
things gave her a sort of pain—when she did not yet know it herself?
There was the massive stairway, for instance, which they ascended,
softly lighted by a great leaded window of stained glass on the first
landing; and the spacious bedrooms with their shining brass beds and
lace spreads (another innovation which Honora resolved to adopt when
she married); and at last, far above all, its deep-set windows looking
out above the trees towards the park a mile to the westward, the
ballroom,—the ballroom, with its mirrors and high chandeliers, and
chairs of gilt and blue set against the walls, all of which made no
impression whatever upon George and Mary and Edith, but gave Honora a
thrill. No wonder that she learned to dance quickly under such an
And how pretty Mrs. Hayden looked as she came forward to greet them
and kissed Honora! She had been Virginia Grey, and scarce had had a
gown to her back when she had married the elderly Duncan Hayden, who
had built her this house and presented her with a checkbook,—a
check-book which Virginia believed to be like the widow's cruse of oil
- unfailing. Alas, those days of picnics and balls; of dinners at that
recent innovation, the club; of theatre-parties and excursions to
baseball games between the young men in Mrs. Hayden's train (and all
young men were) who played at Harvard or Yale or Princeton; those days
were too care-free to have endured.
"Aunt Mary," asked Honora, when they were home again in the
lamplight of the little sitting-room, "why was it that Mr. Meeker was
so polite to Cousin Eleanor, and asked her about my dancing—instead
Aunt Mary smiled. "Because, Honora," she said, "because I am a
person of no importance in Mr. Meeker's eyes."
"If I were a man," cried Honora, fiercely, "I should never rest
until I had made enough money to make Mr. Meeker wriggle."
"Honora, come here," said her aunt, gazing in troubled surprise at
the tense little figure by the mantel. "I don't know what could have
put such things into your head, my child. Money isn't everything. In
times of real trouble it cannot save one."
"But it can save one from humiliation!" exclaimed Honora,
unexpectedly. Another sign of a peculiar precociousness, at fourteen,
with which Aunt Mary was finding herself unable to cope. "I would
rather be killed than humiliated by Mr. Meeker."
Whereupon she flew out of the room and upstairs, where old
Catherine, in dismay, found her sobbing a little later.
Poor Aunt Mary! Few people guessed the spirit which was bound up in
her, aching to extend its sympathy and not knowing how, save by an
unswerving and undemonstrative devotion. Her words of comfort were as
few as her silent deeds were many.
But Honora continued to go to the dancing class, where she treated
Mr. Meeker with a hauteur that astonished him, amused Virginia Hayden,
and perplexed Cousin Eleanor. Mr. Meeker's cringing soul responded, and
in a month Honora was the leading spirit of the class, led the marches,
and was pointed out by the little dancing master as all that a lady
should be in deportment and bearing.
This treatment, which succeeded so well in Mr. Meeker's case,
Honora had previously applied to others of his sex. Like most people
with a future, she began young. Of late, for instance, Mr. George
Hanbury had shown a tendency to regard her as his personal property;
for George had a high-handed way with him,—boys being an enigma to
his mother. Even in those days he had a bullet head and a red face and
square shoulders, and was rather undersized for his age—which was
Honora's. Needless to say, George did not approve of the dancing class;
and let it be known, both by words and deeds, that he was there under
protest. Nor did he regard with favour Honora's triumphal progress, but
sat in a corner with several congenial spirits whose feelings ranged
from scorn to despair, commenting in loud whispers upon those of his
sex to whom the terpsichorean art came more naturally. Upon one
Algernon Cartwright, for example, whose striking likeness to the Van
Dyck portrait of a young king had been more than once commented upon by
his elders, and whose velveteen suits enhanced the resemblance.
Algernon, by the way, was the favourite male pupil of Mr. Meeker; and,
on occasions, Algernon and Honora were called upon to give exhibitions
for the others, the sight of which filled George with contemptuous
rage. Algernon danced altogether too much with Honora,—so George
informed his cousin.
The simple result of George's protests was to make Honora dance
with Algernon the more, evincing, even at this period of her career, a
commendable determination to resent dictation. George should have lived
in the Middle Ages, when the spirit of modern American womanhood was as
yet unborn. Once he contrived, by main force, to drag her out into the
"George," she said, "perhaps, if you'd let me alone—perhaps I'd
like you better."
"Perhaps," he retorted fiercely, "if you wouldn't make a fool of
yourself with those mother's darlings, I'd like you better."
"George," said Honora, "learn to dance."
"Never!" he cried, but she was gone. While hovering around the door
he heard Mrs. Hayden's voice.
"Unless I am tremendously mistaken, my dear," that lady was
remarking to Mrs. Dwyer, whose daughter Emily's future millions were
powerless to compel youths of fourteen to dance with her, although she
is now happily married, "unless I am mistaken, Honora will have a
career. The child will be a raving beauty. And she has to perfection
the art of managing men. "As her father had the art of managing women,"
said Mrs. Dwyer. "Dear me, how well I remember Randolph! I would have
followed him to—to Cheyenne."
Mrs. Hayden laughed. "He never would have gone to Cheyenne, I
imagine," she said.
"He never looked at me, and I have reason to be profoundly thankful
for it," said Mrs. Dwyer.
Virginia Hayden bit her lip. She remembered a saying of Mrs. Brice,
"Blessed are the ugly, for they shall not be tempted."
"They say that poor Tom Leffingwell has not yet finished paying his
debts," continued Mrs. Dwyer, "although his uncle, Eleanor Hanbury's
father, cancelled what Randolph had had from him in his will. It was
twenty-five thousand dollars. James Hanbury, you remember, had him
appointed consul at Nice. Randolph Leffingwell gave the impression of
conferring a favour when he borrowed money. I cannot understand why he
married that penniless and empty-headed beauty."
"Perhaps," said Mrs. Hayden, "it was because of his ability to
borrow money that he felt he could afford to."
The eyes of the two ladies unconsciously followed Honora about the
"I never knew a better or a more honest woman than Mary
Leffingwell, but I tremble for her. She is utterly incapable of
managing that child. If Honora is a complicated mechanism now, what
will she be at twenty? She has elements in her which poor Mary never
dreamed of. I overheard her with Emily, and she talks like a grown-up
Mrs. Hayden's dimples deepened.
"Better than some grown-up women," she said. "She sat in my room
while I dressed the other afternoon. Mrs. Leffingwell had sent her with
a note about that French governess. And, by the way, she speaks French
as though she had lived in Paris."
Little Mrs. Dwyer raised her hands in protest.
"It doesn't seem natural, somehow. It doesn't seem exactly—moral,
my dear." "Nonsense," said Mrs. Hayden. "Mrs. Leffingwell is only
giving the child the advantages which her companions have—Emily has
French, hasn't she?"
"But Emily can't speak it—that way," said Mrs. Dwyer. "I don't
blame Mary Leffingwell. She thinks she is doing her duty, but it has
always seemed to me that Honora was one of those children who would
better have been brought up on bread and butter and jam."
"Honora would only have eaten the jam," said Mrs. Hayden. "But I
"I, too, am fond of the child, but I tremble for her. I am afraid
she has that terrible thing which is called temperament."
George Hanbury made a second heroic rush, and dragged Honora out
"What is this disease you've got?" he demanded.
"Disease?" she cried; "I haven't any disease."
"Mrs. Dwyer says you have temperament, and that it is a terrible
Honora stopped him in a corner.
"Because people like Mrs. Dwyer haven't got it," she declared, with
a warmth which George found inexplicable.
"What is it?" he demanded.
"You'll never know, either, George," she answered; it's soul."
"Soul!" he repeated; "I have one, and its immortal," he added
In the summer, that season of desolation for Honora, when George
Hanbury and Algernon Cartwright and other young gentlemen were at the
seashore learning to sail boats and to play tennis, Peter Erwin came to
his own. Nearly every evening after dinner, while the light was still
lingering under the shade trees of the street, and Aunt Mary still
placidly sewing in the wicker chair on the lawn, and Uncle Tom making
the tour of flowers with his watering pot, the gate would slam, and
Peter's tall form appear. It never occurred to Honora that had it not
been for Peter those evenings would have been even less bearable than
they were. To sit indoors with a light and read in a St. Louis
midsummer was not to be thought of. Peter played backgammon with her on
the front steps, and later on—chess. Sometimes they went for a walk
as far as Grand Avenue. And sometimes—when Honora grew older—she
was permitted to go with him to Uhrig's Cave. Those were memorable
What Saint Louisan of the last generation does not remember Uhrig's
Cave? nor look without regret upon the thing which has replaced it,
called a Coliseum? The very name, Uhrig's Cave, sent a shiver of
delight down one's spine, and many were the conjectures one made as to
what might be enclosed in that half a block of impassible brick wall,
over which the great trees stretched their branches. Honora, from
comparative infancy, had her own theory, which so possessed the mind of
Edith Hanbury that she would not look at the wall when they passed in
the carriage. It was a still and sombre place by day; and sometimes, if
you listened, you could hear the whisperings of the forty thieves on
the other side of the wall. But no one had ever dared to cry "Open,
Sesâmê!" at the great wooden gates.
At night, in the warm season, when well brought up children were at
home or at the seashore, strange things were said to happen at Uhrig's
Honora was a tall slip of a girl of sixteen before it was given her
to know these mysteries, and the Ali Baba theory a thing of the past.
Other theories had replaced it. Nevertheless she clung tightly to
Peter's arm as they walked down Locust Street and came in sight of the
wall. Above it, and under the big trees, shone a thousand glittering
lights: there was a crowd at the gate, and instead of saying, "Open,
Sesâmê," Peter slipped two bright fifty-cent pieces to the red-faced
German ticket-man, and in they went.
First and most astounding of disillusions of passing childhood, it
was not a cave at all! And yet the word "disillusion" does not apply.
It was, after all, the most enchanting and exciting of spots, to make
one's eye shine and one's heart beat. Under the trees were hundreds of
tables surrounded by hovering ministering angels in white, and if you
were German, they brought you beer; if American, ice-cream. Beyond the
tables was a stage, with footlights already set and orchestra tuning
up, and a curtain on which was represented a gentleman making decorous
love to a lady beside a fountain. As in a dream, Honora followed Peter
to a table, and he handed her a programme.
"Oh, Peter," she cried, "it's going to be 'Pinafore'!"
Honora's eyes shone like stars, and elderly people at the
neighbouring tables turned more than once to smile at her that evening.
And Peter turned more than once and smiled too. But Honora did not
consider Peter. He was merely Providence in one of many disguises, and
Providence is accepted by his beneficiaries as a matter of fact.
The rapture of a young lady of temperament is a difficult thing to
picture. The bird may feel it as he soars, on a bright August morning,
high above amber cliffs jutting out into indigo seas; the novelist may
feel it when the four walls of his room magically disappear and the
profound secrets of the universe are on the point of revealing
themselves. Honora gazed, and listened, and lost herself. She was no
longer in Uhrig's Cave, but in the great world, her soul a-quiver with
"Pinafore," although a comic opera, held something tragic for
Honora, and opened the flood-gates to dizzy sensations which she did
not understand. How little Peter, who drummed on the table to the tune
"Give three cheers and one cheer more For the hearty captain of
imagined what was going on beside him! There were two factors in
his pleasure; he liked the music, and he enjoyed the delight of Honora.
What is Peter? Let us cease looking at him through Honora's eyes
and taking him like daily bread, to be eaten and not thought about.
From one point of view, he is twenty-nine and elderly, with a sense of
humour unsuspected by young persons of temperament. Strive as we will,
we have only been able to see him in his rôle of Providence, or of the
piper. Has he no existence, no purpose in life outside of that
perpetual gentleman in waiting? If so, Honora has never considered it.
After the finale had been sung and the curtain dropped for the last
time, Honora sighed and walked out of the garden as one in a trance.
Once in a while, as he found a way for them through the crowd, Peter
glanced down at her, and something like a smile tugged at the corners
of a decidedly masculine mouth, and lit up his eyes. Suddenly, at
Locust Street, under the lamp, she stopped and surveyed him. She saw a
very real, very human individual, clad in a dark nondescript suit of
clothes which had been bought ready-made, and plainly without the
bestowal of much thought, on Fifth Street. The fact that they were a
comparative fit was in itself a tribute to the enterprise of the
Excelsior Clothing Company, for Honora's observation that he was too
long one way had been just. He was too tall, his shoulders were too
high, his nose too prominent, his eyes too deep-set; and he wore a
straw hat with the brim turned up.
To Honora his appearance was as familiar as the picture of the Pope
which had always stood on Catherine's bureau. But to-night, by grace of
some added power of vision, she saw him with new and critical eyes. She
was surprised to discover that he was possessed of a quality with which
she had never associated him—youth. Not to put it too strongly—
"Peter," she demanded, "why do you dress like that?"
"Like what?" he said.
Honora seized the lapel of his coat.
"Like that," she repeated. "Do you know, if you wore different
clothes, you might almost be distinguished looking. Don't laugh. I
think it's horrid of you always to laugh when I tell you things for
your own good."
"It was the idea of being almost distinguished looking that—that
gave me a shock," he assured her repentantly.
"You should dress on a different principle," she insisted.
Peter appeared dazed.
"I couldn't do that," he said.
"Because—because I don't dress on any principle now."
"Yes, you do," said Honora, firmly. "You dress on the principle of
the wild beasts and fishes. It's all in our natural history at Miss
Farmer's. The crab is the colour of the seaweed, and the deer of the
thicket. It's a device of nature for the protection of weak things."
Peter drew himself up proudly.
"I have always understood, Miss Leffingwell, that the king of
beasts was somewhere near the shade of the jungle."
Honora laughed in spite of this apparent refutation of her theory
of his apparel, and shook her head. "Do be serious, Peter. You'd make
much more of an impression on people if you wore clothes that had—
well, a little more distinction."
"What's the use of making an impression if you can't follow it up?"
"You can," she declared. "I never thought of it until to-night, but
you must have a great deal in you to have risen all the way from an
errand boy in the bank to a lawyer."
"Look out!" he cautioned her; "I shall become insupportably
"A little more conceit wouldn't hurt you," said Honora, critically.
"You'll forgive me, Peter, if I tell you from time to time what I
think. It's for your own good."
"I try to realize that," replied Peter, humbly. "How do you wish me
to dress—like Mr. Rossiter?"
The picture evoked of Peter arrayed like Mr. Harland Rossiter, who
had sent flowers to two generations and was preparing to send more to a
third, was irresistible. Every city, hamlet, and village has its
Harland Rossiter. He need not be explained. But Honora soon became
"No, but you ought to dress as though you were somebody, and
different from the ordinary man on the street."
"But I'm not," objected Peter.
"Oh," cried Honora, "don't you want to be? I can't understand any
man not wanting to be. If I were a man, I wouldn't stay here a day
longer than I had to."
Peter was silent as they went in at the gate and opened the door,
for on this festive occasion they were provided with a latchkey. He
turned up the light in the hall to behold a transformation quite as
wonderful as any contained in the "Arabian Nights" or Keightley's
"Fairy Mythology." This was not the Honora with whom he had left the
house scarce three hours before! The cambric dress, to be sure, was
still no longer than the tops of her ankles, and the hair still hung in
a heavy braid down her back. These were positively all that remained of
the original Honora, and the change had occurred in the incredibly
brief space required for the production of the opera "Pinafore." This
Honora was a woman in a strange and disturbing state of exaltation,
whose eyes beheld a vision. And Peter, although he had been the subject
of her conversation, well knew that he was not included in the vision.
He smiled a little as he looked at her. It is becoming apparent that he
is one of those unfortunate unimaginative beings incapable of great
"You're not going!" she exclaimed.
He glanced significantly at the hall clock.
"Why, it's long after bedtime, Honora."
"I don't want to go to bed. I feel like talking," she declared.
"Come, let's sit on the steps awhile. If you go home, I shan't go to
sleep for hours, Peter."
"And what would Aunt Mary say to me?" he inquired.
"Oh, she wouldn't care. She wouldn't even know it."
He shook his head, still smiling.
"I'd never be allowed to take you to Uhrig's Cave, or anywhere
else, again," he replied. "I'll come to-morrow evening, and you can
talk to me then."
"I shan't feel like it then," she said in a tone that implied his
opportunity was now or never. But seeing him still obdurate, with
startling suddenness she flung her arms around his neck—a method
which at times had succeeded marvellously—and pleaded coaxingly:
"Only a quarter of an hour, Peter. I've got so many things to say, and
I know I shall forget them by to-morrow."
It was a night of wonders. To her astonishment the hitherto pliant
Peter, who only existed in order to do her will, became transformed
into a brusque masculine creature which she did not recognize. With a
movement that was almost rough he released himself and fled, calling
back a "good night" to her out of the darkness. He did not even wait to
assist her in the process of locking up. Honora, profoundly puzzled,
stood for a while in the doorway gazing out into the night. When at
length she turned, she had forgotten him entirely.
It was true that she did not sleep for hours, and on awaking the
next morning another phenomenon awaited her. The "little house under
the hill" was immeasurably shrunken. Poor Aunt Mary, who did not
understand that a performance of "Pinafore" could give birth to the
unfulfilled longings which result in the creation of high things, spoke
to Uncle Tom a week later concerning an astonishing and apparently
abnormal access of industry.
"She's been reading all day long, Tom, or else shut up in her room,
where Catherine tells me she is writing. I'm afraid Eleanor Hanbury is
right when she says I don't understand the child. And yet she is the
same to me as though she were my own."
It was true that Honora was writing, and that the door was shut,
and that she did not feel the heat. In one of the bookcases she had
chanced upon that immortal biography of Dr. Johnson, and upon the
letters of another prodigy of her own sex, Madame d'Arblay, whose
romantic debut as an authoress was an inspiration in itself. Honora
actually quivered when she read of Dr. Johnson's first conversation
with Miss Burney. To write a book of the existence of which even one's
own family did not know, to publish it under a nom de plume, and to
awake one day to fêtes and fame would be indeed to live!
Unfortunately Honora's novel no longer exists, or the world might
have discovered a second Evelina. A regard for truth compels the
statement that it was never finished. But what rapture while the fever
lasted! Merely to take up the pen was to pass magically through marble
portals into the great world itself.
The Sir Charles Grandison of this novel was, needless to say, not
Peter Erwin. He was none other than Mr. Randolph Leffingwell, under a
very thin disguise.
CHAPTER V. IN WHICH PROVIDENCE KEEPS
TWO more years have gone by, limping in the summer and flying in the
winter, two more years of conquests. For our heroine appears to be one
of the daughters of Helen, born to make trouble for warriors and others
- and even for innocent bystanders like Peter Erwin. Peter was debarred
from entering those brilliant lists in which apparel played so great a
part. George Hanbury, Guy Rossiter, Algernon Cartwright, Eliphalet
Hopper Dwyer—familiarly known as "Hoppy"—and other young gentlemen
whose names are now but memories, each had his brief day of triumph.
Arrayed like Solomon in wonderful clothes from the mysterious and
luxurious East, they returned at Christmas-tide and Easter from college
to break lances over Honora. Let us say it boldly—she was like that:
she had the world-old knack of sowing discord and despair in the souls
of young men. She was—as those who had known that fascinating
gentleman were not slow to remark—Randolph Leffingwell over again.
During the festival seasons, Uncle Tom averred, they wore out the
latch on the front gate. If their families possessed horses to spare,
they took Honora driving in Forest Park; they escorted her to those
anomalous dances peculiar to their innocent age, which are neither
children's parties nor full-fledged balls; their presents, while of no
intrinsic value—as one young gentleman said in a presentation speech
- had an enormous, if shy, significance.
"What a beautiful ring you are wearing; Honora," Uncle Tom remarked
slyly one April morning at breakfast; "let me see it."
Honora blushed, and hid her hand under the table-cloth. And the
ring—suffice it to say that her little finger was exactly insertable
in a ten-cent piece from which everything had been removed but the
milling: removed with infinite loving patience by Mr. Rossiter, and at
the expense of much history and philosophy and other less important
things, in his college bedroom at New Haven. Honora wore it for a whole
week; a triumph indeed for Mr. Rossiter; when it was placed in a box in
Honora's bedroom, which contained other gifts—not all from him—and
many letters, in the writing of which learning had likewise suffered.
The immediate cause of the putting away of this ring was said to be the
renowned Clinton Howe, who was on the Harvard football eleven, and who
visited Mr. George Hanbury that Easter. Fortunate indeed the tailor who
was called upon to practise his art on an Adonis like Mr. Howe, and it
was remarked that he scarcely left Honora's side at the garden party
and dance which Mrs. Dwyer gave in honour of the returning heroes, on
the Monday of Easter week.
This festival, on which we should like to linger, but cannot, took
place at the new Dwyer residence. For six months the Victorian mansion
opposite Uncle Tom's house had been sightless, with blue blinds drawn
down inside the plate glass windows. And the yellow stone itself was
not so yellow as it once had been, but had now the appearance of soiled
manilla wrapping paper, with black streaks here and there where the
soot had run. The new Dwyer house was of grey stone, Georgian and
palatial, with a picture-gallery twice the size of the old one; a
magnificent and fitting pioneer in a new city of palaces.
Westward the star of Empire—away from the smoke. The Dwyer
mansion, with its lawns and gardens and heavily balustraded terrace,
faced the park that stretched away like a private estate to the south
and west. That same park with its huge trees and black forests that was
Ultima Thule in Honora's childhood; in the open places there had been
real farms and hayricks which she used to slide down with Peter while
Uncle Tom looked for wild flowers in the fields. It had been separated
from the city in those days by an endless country road, like a Via
Claudia stretching towards mysterious Germanian forests, and it was
deemed a feat for Peter to ride thither on his big-wheeled bicycle.
Forest Park was the country, and all that the country represented in
Honora's childhood. For Uncle Tom on a summer's day to hire a surrey at
Braintree's Livery Stable and drive thither was like—to what shall
that bliss be compared in these days when we go to Europe with
And now Lindell Road—the Via Claudia of long ago—had become
Lindell Boulevard, with granitoid sidewalks. And the dreary fields
through which it had formerly run were bristling with new houses in no
sense Victorian, and which were the first stirrings of a national sense
of the artistic. The old horse-cars with the clanging chains had
disappeared, and you could take an electric to within a block of the
imposing grille that surrounded the Dwyer grounds. Westward the star!
Fading fast was the glory of that bright new district on top of the
second hill from the river where Uncle Tom was a pioneer. Soot had
killed the pear trees, the apricots behind the lattice fence had
withered away; asphalt and soot were slowly sapping the vitality of the
maples on the sidewalk; and sometimes Uncle Tom's roses looked as
though they might advantageously be given a coat of paint, like those
in Alice in Wonderland. Honora should have lived in the Dwyers' mansion
- people who are capable of judging said so. People who saw her at the
garden party said she had the air of belonging in such surroundings
much more than Emily, whom even budding womanhood had not made
beautiful. And Eliphalet Hopper Dwyer, if his actions meant anything,
would have welcomed her to that house, or built her another twice as
fine, had she deigned to give him the least encouragement.
Cinderella! This was what she facetiously called herself one July
morning of that summer she was eighteen. Cinderella in more senses than
one, for never had the city seemed more dirty or more deserted, or
indeed, more stifling. Winter and its festivities were a dream laid
away in moth balls. Surely Cinderella's life had held no greater
contrasts! To this day the odour of matting brings back to Honora the
sense of closed shutters; of a stifling south wind stirring their slats
at noonday; the vision of Aunt Mary, cool and placid in a cambric
sacque, sewing by the window in the upper hall, and the sound of fruit
venders crying in the street, or of ragmen in the alley—"Rags,
bottles, old iron!" What memories of endless, burning, lonely days come
rushing back with those words!
When the sun had sufficiently heated the bricks of the surrounding
houses in order that he might not be forgotten during the night, he
slowly departed. If Honora took her book under the maple tree in the
yard, she was confronted with that hideous wooden sign "To Let" on the
Dwyer's iron fence opposite, and the grass behind it was unkempt and
overgrown with weeds. Aunt Mary took an unceasing and (to Honora's
mind) morbid interest in the future of that house.
"I suppose it will be a boarding-house," she would say, "it's much
too large for poor people to rent, and only poor people are coming into
this district now."
"Oh, Aunt Mary!"
"Well, my dear, why should we complain? We are poor, and it is
appropriate that we should live among the poor. Sometimes I think it is
a pity that you should have been thrown all your life with rich people,
my child. I am afraid it has made you discontented. It is no disgrace
to be poor. We ought to be thankful that we have everything we need."
Honora put down her sewing. For she had learned to sew—Aunt Mary
had insisted upon that, as well as French. She laid her hand upon her
"I am thankful," she said, and her aunt little guessed the
intensity of the emotion she was seeking to control, or imagined the
hidden fires. "But sometimes—sometimes I try to forget that we are
poor. Perhaps—some day we shall not be." It seemed to Honora that
Aunt Mary derived a real pleasure from the contradiction of this hope.
She shook her head vigorously.
"We shall always be, my child. Your Uncle Tom is getting old, and
he has always been too honest to make a great deal of money. And
besides," she added, "he has not that kind of ability."
Uncle Tom might be getting old, but he seemed to Honora to be of
the same age as in her childhood. Some people never grow old, and Uncle
Tom was one of these. Fifteen years before he had been promoted to be
the cashier of the Prairie Bank, and he was the cashier to-day. He had
the same quiet smile, the same quiet humour, the same calm acceptance
of life. He seemed to bear no grudge even against that ever advancing
enemy, the soot, which made it increasingly difficult for him to raise
his flowers. Those which would still grow he washed tenderly night and
morning with his watering-pot. The greatest wonders are not at the ends
of the earth, but near us. It was to take many years for our heroine to
Strong faith alone could have withstood the continued contact with
such a determined fatalism as Aunt Mary's, and yet it is interesting to
note that Honora's belief in her providence never wavered. A prince was
to come who was to bear her away from the ragmen and the
boarding-houses and the soot: and incidentally and in spite of herself,
Aunt Mary was to come too, and Uncle Tom. And sometimes when she sat
reading of an evening under the maple, her book would fall to her lap
and the advent of this personage become so real a thing that she
bounded when the gate slammed—to find that it was only Peter.
It was preposterous, of course, that Peter should be a prince in
disguise. Peter who, despite her efforts to teach him distinction in
dress, insisted upon wearing the same kind of clothes. A mild kind of
providence, Peter, whose modest functions were not unlike those of the
third horse which used to be hitched on to the street car at the foot
of the Seventeenth-Street hill: it was Peter's task to help pull Honora
through the interminable summers. Uhrig's Cave was an old story now:
mysteries were no longer to be expected in St. Louis. There was a great
panorama—or something to that effect—in the wilderness at the end
of one of the new electric lines, where they sometimes went to behold
the White Squadron of the new United States Navy engaged in battle with
mimic forts on a mimic sea, on the very site where the country place of
Madame Clément had been. The mimic sea, surrounded by wooden stands
filled with common people eating peanuts and popcorn, was none other
than Madame Clément's pond, which Honora remembered as a spot of
enchantment. And they went out in the open cars with these same people,
who stared at Honora as though she had got in by mistake, but always
politely gave her a seat. And Peter thanked them. Sometimes he fell
into conversations with them, and it was noticeable that they nearly
always shook hands with him at parting. Honora did not approve of this
"But they may be clients some day," he argued—a frivolous answer
to which she never deigned to reply.
Just as one used to take for granted that third horse which pulled
the car uphill, so Peter was taken for granted. He might have been on
the highroad to a renown like that of Chief Justice Marshall, and
Honora had been none the wiser.
"Well, Peter," said Uncle Tom at dinner one evening of that
memorable summer, when Aunt Mary was helping the blackberries, and
incidentally deploring that she did not live in the country, because of
the cream one got there, "I saw Judge Brice in the bank to-day, and he
tells me you covered yourself with glory in that iron foundry suit."
"The Judge must have his little joke, Mr. Leffingwell," replied
Peter, but he reddened nevertheless.
Honora thought winning an iron foundry suit a strange way to cover
one's self with glory. It was not, at any rate, her idea of glory. What
were lawyers for, if not to win suits? And Peter was a lawyer. "In five
years," said Uncle Tom, "the firm will be Brice and Erwin. You mark my
words. And by that time," he added, with a twinkle in his eye, "you'll
be ready to marry Honora."
"Tom," reproved Aunt Mary, gently, "you oughtn't to say such
This time there was no doubt about Peter's blush. He fairly burned.
Honora looked at him and laughed.
"Peter is meant for an old bachelor," she said.
"If he remains a bachelor," said Uncle Tom, "he'll be the greatest
waste of good material I know of. And if you succeed in getting him,
Honora, you'll be the luckiest young woman of my acquaintance."
"Tom," said Aunt Mary, "it was all very well to talk that way when
Honora was a child. But now—she may not wish to marry Peter. And
Peter may not wish to marry her."
Even Peter joined in the laughter at this literal and
characteristic statement of the case.
"It's more than likely," said Honora, wickedly. "He hasn't kissed
me for two years."
"Why, Peter," said Uncle Tom, "you act as though it were warm
to-night. It was only seventy when we came in to dinner."
"Take me out to the park," commanded Honora.
"Tom," said Aunt Mary, as she stood on the step and watched them
cross the street, "I wish the child would marry him. Not now, of
course," she added hastily, a little frightened by her own admission,
"but later. Sometimes I worry over her future. She needs a strong and
sensible man. I don't understand Honora. I never did. I always told you
so. Sometimes I think she may be capable of doing something foolish
Uncle Tom patted his wife on the shoulder.
"Don't borrow trouble, Mary," he said, smiling a little. "The child
is only full of spirits. But she has a good heart. It is only human
that she should want things that we cannot give her." "I wish," said
Aunt Mary, "that she were not quite so good-looking."
Uncle Tom laughed.
"You needn't tell me you're not proud of it," he declared. "And I
have given her," she continued, "a taste for dress."
"I think, my dear," said her husband, "that there were others who
contributed to that."
"It was my own vanity. I should have combated the tendency in her,"
said Aunt Mary.
"If you had dressed Honora in calico, you could not have changed
her," replied Uncle Tom, with conviction.
In the meantime Honora and Peter had mounted the electric car, and
were speeding westward. They had a seat to themselves, the very first
one on the "grip"—that survival of the days of cable cars. Honora's
eyes brightened as she held on to her hat, and the stray wisps of hair
about her neck stirred in the breeze.
"Oh, I wish we would never stop, until we came to the Pacific
Ocean!" she exclaimed.
"Would you be content to stop then?" he asked. He had a trick of
looking downward with a quizzical expression in his dark grey eyes.
"No," said Honora. "I should want to go on and see everything in
the world worth seeing. Sometimes I feel positively as though I should
die if I had to stay here in St. Louis."
"You probably would die—eventually," said Peter.
Honora was justifiably irritated.
"I could shake you, Peter!"
"I'm afraid it wouldn't do any good," he answered.
"If I were a man," she proclaimed, "I shouldn't stay here. I'd go
to New York—I'd be somebody—I'd make a national reputation for
"I believe you would," said Peter sadly, but with a glance of
"That's the worst of being a woman—we have to sit still until
something happens to us."
"What would you like to happen?" he asked, curiously. And there was
a note in his voice which she, intent upon her thoughts, did not
"Oh, I don't know," she said; "anything—anything to get out of
this rut and be something in the world. It's dreadful to feel that one
has power and not be able to use it."
The car stopped at the terminal. Thanks to the early hour of Aunt
Mary's dinner, the western sky was still aglow with the sunset over the
forests as they walked past the closed grille of the Dwyer mansion into
the park. Children rolled on the grass, while mothers and father, tired
out from the heat and labour of a city day, sat on the benches. Peter
stooped down and lifted a small boy, painfully thin, who had fallen,
weeping, on the gravel walk. He took his handkerchief and wiped the
scratch on the child's forehead.
"There, there!" he said, smiling, "it's all right now. We must
expect a few tumbles."
The child looked at him, and suddenly smiled through his tears.
The father appeared, a red-headed Irishman.
"Thank you, Mr. Erwin; I'm sure it's very kind of you, sir, to
bother with him," he said gratefully. "It's that thin he is with the
heat, I take him out for a bit of country air."
"Why, Tim, it's you, is it?" said Peter. "He's the janitor of our
building down town," he explained to Honora, who had remained a silent
witness to this simple scene. She had been, in spite of herself,
impressed by it, and by the mingled respect and affection in the
janitor's manner towards Peter. It was so with every one to whom he
spoke. They walked on in silence for a few moments, into a path leading
to a lake, which had stolen the flaming green-gold of the sky.
"I suppose," said Honora, slowly, "it would be better for me to
wish to be contented where I am, as you are. But it's no use trying, I
Peter was not a preacher.
"Oh," he said, "there are lots of things I want."
"What?" demanded Honora, interested. For she had never conceived of
him as having any desires whatever.
"I want a house like Mr. Dwyer's," he declared, pointing at the
distant imposing roof line against the fading eastern sky.
Honora laughed. The idea of Peter wishing such a house was indeed
ridiculous. Then she became grave again.
"There are times when you seem to forget that I have at last grown
up, Peter. You never will talk over serious things with me."
"What are serious things?" asked Peter.
"Well," said Honora vaguely, "ambitions, and what one is going to
make of themselves in life. And then you make fun of me by saying you
want Mr. Dwyer's house." She laughed again. "I can't imagine you in
"Why not?" he asked, stopping beside the pond and thrusting his
hands in his pockets. He looked very solemn, but she knew he was
"Why—because I can't," she said, and hesitated. The question had
forced her to think about Peter. "I can't imagine you living all alone
in all that luxury. It isn't like you."
"Why 'all alone'?" asked Peter.
"Don't be ridiculous," she said; "you wouldn't build a house like
that, even if you were twice as rich as Mr. Dwyer. You know you
wouldn't. And you're not the marrying kind," she added, with the
superior knowledge of eighteen.
"I'm waiting for you, Honora," he announced.
"You know I love you, Peter,"—so she tempered her reply, for
Honora's feelings were tender. What man, even Peter, would not have
married her if he could? Of course he was in earnest, despite his
bantering tone.—"but I never could-marry you."
"Not even if I were to offer you a house like Mr. Dwyer's?" he
said. A remark which betrayed—although not to her—his knowledge of
certain earthly strains in his goddess.
The colours faded from the water, and it blackened. As they walked
on side by side in the twilight, a consciousness of repressed masculine
force, of reserve power, which she had never before felt about Peter
Erwin, invaded her; and she was seized with a strange uneasiness.
Ridiculous was the thought (which she lost no time in rejecting) that
pointed out the true road to happiness in marrying such a man as he. In
the gathering darkness she slipped her hand through his arm.
"I wish I could marry you, Peter," she said.
He was fain to take what comfort he could from this expression of
good-will. If he was not the Prince Charming of her dreams, she would
have liked him to be. A little reflection on his part ought to have
shown him the absurdity of the Prince Charming having been there all
the time, and in ready-made clothes. And he, too, may have had dreams.
We are not concerned with them.
* * * * * * *
If we listen to the still, small voice of realism, intense longing
is always followed by disappointment. Nothing should have happened that
summer, and Providence should not have come disguised as the postman.
It was a sultry day in early September—which is to say that it was
comparatively cool—a blue day, with occasional great drops of rain
spattering on the brick walk. And Honora was reclining on the hall
sofa, reading about Mr. Ibbetson and his duchess, when she perceived
the postman's grey uniform and smiling face on the far side of the
screen door. He greeted her cordially, and gave her a single letter for
Aunt Mary, and she carried it unsuspectingly upstairs.
"It's from Cousin Eleanor," Honora volunteered.
Aunt Mary laid down her sewing, smoothed the ruffles of her sacque,
adjusted her spectacles, opened the envelope, and began to read.
Presently the letter fell to her lap, and she wiped her glasses and
glanced at Honora, who was deep in her book once more. And in Honora's
brain, as she read, was ringing the refrain of the prisoner:—
"Orléans, Beaugency! Notre Dame de Cléry! Vendôme! Vendôme! Quel
chagrin, quel ennui De compter toute la nuit Les heures, les heures!"
The verse appealed to Honora strangely, just as it had appealed to
Ibbetson. Was she not, too, a prisoner? And how often, during the
summer days and nights, had she listened to the chimes of the Pilgrim
Church near by?
"One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four!"
After Uncle Tom had watered his flowers that evening, Aunt Mary
followed him upstairs and locked the door of their room behind her.
Silently she put the letter in his hand. Here is one paragraph of it:—
"I have never asked to take the child from you in the summer,
because she has always been in perfect health, and I know how lonely
you would have been without her, my dear Mary. But it seems to me that
a winter at Sutcliffe, with my girls, would do her a world of good just
now. I need not point out to you that Honora is, to say the least,
remarkably good looking, and that she has developed very rapidly. And
she has, in spite of the strict training you have given her, certain
ideas and ambitions which seem to me, I am sorry to say, more or less
prevalent among young American women these days. You know it is only
because I love her that I am so frank. Miss Turner's influence will, in
my opinion, do much to counteract these tendencies."
Uncle Tom folded the letter, and handed it back to his wife.
"I feel that we ought not to refuse, Tom. And I am afraid Eleanor
"Well, Mary, we've had her for seventeen years. We ought to be
willing to spare her for—how many months?"
"Nine," said Aunt Mary, promptly. She had counted them. "And
Eleanor says she will be home for two weeks at Christmas. Seventeen
years! It seems only yesterday when we brought her home, Tom. It was
just about this time of day, and she was asleep in your arms, and
Bridget opened the door for us." Aunt Mary looked out of the window.
"And do you remember how she used to play under the maple there, with
her dolls?" Uncle Tom produced a very large handkerchief, and blew his
"There, there, Mary," he said, "nine months, and two weeks out at
Christmas. Nine months in eighteen years."
"I suppose we ought to be very thankful," said Aunt Mary. "But,
Tom, the time is coming soon -"
"Tut tut," exclaimed Uncle Tom. He turned, and his eyes beheld a
work of art. Nothing less than a porcelain plate, hung in brackets on
the wall, decorated by Honora at the age of ten with wild roses, and
presented with much ceremony on an anniversary morning. He pretended
not to notice it, but Aunt Mary's eyes were too quick. She seized a
photograph on her bureau, a photograph of Honora in a little white
frock with a red sash.
"It was the year that was taken, Tom."
He nodded. The scene at the breakfast table came back to him, and
the sight of Catherine standing respectfully in the hall, and of
Honora, in the red sash, making the courtesy the old woman had taught
Honora recalled afterwards that Uncle Tom joked even more than
usual that evening at dinner. But it was Aunt Mary who asked her, at
length, how she would like to go to boarding-school. Such was the
matter-of-fact manner in which the portentous news was announced.
"To boarding-school, Aunt Mary?"
Her aunt poured out her uncle's after-dinner coffee.
"I've spilled some, my dear. Get another saucer for your uncle."
Honora went mechanically to the china closet, her heart thumping.
She did not stop to reflect that it was the rarest of occurrences for
Aunt Mary to spill the coffee.
"Your Cousin Eleanor has invited you to go this winter with Edith
and Mary to Sutcliffe."
Sutcliffe! No need to tell Honora what Sutcliffe was—her cousins
had talked of little else during the past winter; and shown, if the
truth be told, just a little commiseration for Honora. Sutcliffe was
not only a famous girls' school, Sutcliffe was the world—that world
which, since her earliest remembrances, she had been longing to see and
know. In a desperate attempt to realize what had happened to her, she
found herself staring hard at the open china closet, at Aunt Mary's
best gold dinner set resting on the pink lace paper that had been
changed only last week. That dinner set, somehow, was always an augury
of festival—when, on the rare occasions Aunt Mary entertained, the
little dining room was transformed by it and the Leffingwell silver
into a glorified and altogether unrecognizable state, in which any
miracle seemed possible.
Honora pushed back her chair. Her lips were parted.
"Oh, Aunt Mary, is it really true that I am going?" she said.
"Why," said Uncle Tom, "what zeal for learning!"
"My dear," said Aunt Mary, who, you may be sure, knew all about
that school before Cousin Eleanor's letter came, "Miss Turner insists
upon hard work, and the discipline is very strict."
"No young men," added Uncle Tom.
"That," declared Aunt Mary, "is certainly an advantage."
"And no chocolate cake, and bed at ten o'clock," said Uncle Tom.
Honora, dazed, only half heard them. She laughed at Uncle Tom
because she always had, but tears were shining in her eyes. Young men
and chocolate cake! What were these privations compared to that magic
word Change? Suddenly she rose, and flung her arms about Uncle Tom's
neck and kissed his rough cheek, and then embraced Aunt Mary. They
would be lonely.
"Aunt Mary, I can't bear to leave you—but I do so want to go! And
it won't be for long—will it? Only until next spring."
"Until next summer, I believe," replied Aunt Mary, gently; "June is
a summer month—isn't it, Tom?"
"It will be a summer month without question next year," answered
Uncle Tom, enigmatically.
It has been remarked that that day was sultry, and a fine rain was
now washing Uncle Tom's flowers for him. It was he who had applied that
term "washing" since the era of ultra-soot. Incredible as it may seem,
life proceeded as on any other of a thousand rainy nights. The lamps
were lighted in the sitting-room, Uncle Tom unfolded his gardening
periodical, and Aunt Mary her embroidery. The gate slammed, with its
more subdued, rainy-weather sound.
"It's Peter," said Honora, flying downstairs. And she caught him,
astonished, as he was folding his umbrella on the step. "Oh, Peter, if
you tried until to-morrow morning, you never could guess what has
He stood for a moment, motionless, staring at her, a tall figure,
careless of the rain.
"You are going away," he said.
"How did you guess it?" she exclaimed—in surprise. "Yes—to
boarding-school. To Sutcliffe, on the Hudson, with Edith and Mary.
Aren't you glad? You look as though you had seen a ghost."
"Do I?" said Peter.
"Don't stand there in the rain," commanded Honora; "come into the
parlour, and I'll tell you all about it."
He came in. She took the umbrella from him, and put it in the rack.
"Why don't you congratulate me?" she demanded.
"You'll never come back," said Peter.
"What a horrid thing to say! Of course I shall come back. I shall
come back next June, and you'll be at the station to meet me."
"And—what will Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary do—without you?"
"Oh," said Honora, "I shall miss them dreadfully. And I shall miss
"Very much?" he asked, looking down at her with such a queer
expression. And his voice, too, sounded queer. He was trying to smile.
Suddenly Honora realized that he was suffering, and she felt the
pangs of contrition. She could not remember the time when she had been
away from Peter, and it was natural that he should be stricken at the
news. Peter, who was the complement of all who loved and served her, of
Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom and Catherine, and who somehow embodied them
all. Peter, the eternally dependable. She found it natural that the
light should be temporarily removed from his firmament while she should
be at boarding-school, and yet in the tenderness of her heart she
pitied him. She put her hands impulsively upon his shoulders as he
stood looking at her with that queer expression which he believed to be
"Peter, you dear old thing, indeed I shall miss you! I don't know
what I shall do without you, and I'll write to you every single week."
Gently he disengaged her arms. They were standing under that which,
for courtesy's sake, had always been called the chandelier. It was in
the centre of the parlour, and Uncle Tom always covered it with holly
and mistletoe at Christmas.
"Why do you say I'll never come back?" asked Honora. "Of course I
shall come back, and live here all the rest of my life."
Peter shook his head slowly. He had recovered something of his
customary quizzical manner.
"The East is a strange country," he said. "The first thing we know
you'll be marrying one of those people we read about, with more
millions than there are cars on the Olive Street line."
Honora was a little indignant.
"I wish you wouldn't talk so, Peter," she said. "In the first
place, I shan't see any but girls at Sutcliffe. I could only see you
for a few minutes once a week if you were there. And in the second
place, it isn't exactly well—dignified to compare the East and the
West the way you do, and speak about people who are very rich and live
there as though they were different from the people we know here.
Comparisons, as Shakespeare said, are odorous."
"Honora," he declared, still shaking his head, "you're a fraud, but
I can't help loving you." For a long time that night Honora lay in bed
staring into the darkness, and trying to realize what had happened. She
heard the whistling and the puffing of the trains in the cinder-covered
valley to the southward, but the quality of these sounds had changed.
They were music now.
CHAPTER VI. HONORA HAS A GLIMPSE OF
IT is simply impossible to give any adequate notion of the industry of
the days that followed. No sooner was Uncle Tom out of the house in the
morning than Anne Rory marched into the sitting-room and took command,
and turned it into a dressmaking establishment. Anne Rory, who deserves
more than a passing mention, one of the institutions of Honora's youth,
who sewed for the first families, and knew much more about them than
Mr. Meeker, the dancing-master. If you enjoyed her confidence,—as
Aunt Mary did,—she would tell you of her own accord who gave their
servants enough to eat, and who didn't. Anne Rory was a sort of
inquisition all by herself, and would have made a valuable chief of
police. The reputations of certain elderly gentlemen of wealth might
have remained to this day intact had it not been for her; she had a
heaven-sent knack of discovering peccadilloes. Anne Rory knew the
gentlemen by sight, and the gentlemen did not know Anne Rory. Uncle Tom
she held to be somewhere in the calendar of the saints.
There is not time, alas, to linger over Anne Rory or the new
histories which she whispered to Aunt Mary when Honora was out of the
room. At last the eventful day of departure arrived. Honora's new trunk
- her first—was packed by Aunt Mary's own hands, the dainty clothes
and the dresses folded in tissue paper, while old Catherine stood
sniffing by. After dinner—sign of a great occasion—a carriage came
from Braintree's Livery Stable, and Uncle Tom held the horses while the
driver carried out the trunk and strapped it on. Catherine, Mary Ann,
and Bridget, all weeping, were kissed good-by, and off they went
through the dusk to the station. Not the old Union Depot, with its
wooden sheds, where Honora had gone so often to see the Hanburys off,
that grimy gateway to the fairer regions of the earth. This new
station, of brick and stone and glass and tiles, would hold an army
corps with ease. And when they alighted at the carriage entrance, a
tall figure came forward out of the shadow. It was Peter, and he had a
package under his arm. Peter checked Honora's trunk, and Peter had got
the permission—through Judge Brice—which enabled them all to pass
through the grille and down the long walk beside which the train was
They entered that hitherto mysterious conveyance, a sleeping-car,
and spoke to old Mrs. Stanley, who was going East to see her married
daughter, and who had gladly agreed to take charge of Honora.
Afterwards they stood on the platform, but in spite of the valiant
efforts of Uncle Tom and Peter, conversation was a mockery.
"Honora," said Aunt Mary, "don't forget that your trunk key is in
the little pocket on the left side of your bag."
"No, Aunt Mary."
"And your little New Testament at the bottom. And your lunch is
arranged in three packages. And don't forget to ask Cousin Eleanor
about the walking shoes, and to give her my note."
Cries reverberated under the great glass dome, and trains pulled
out with deafening roars. Honora had a strange feeling, as of pressure
from within, that caused her to take deep breaths of the smoky air. She
but half heard what was being said to her: she wished that the train
would go, and at the same time she had a sudden, surprising, and fierce
longing to stay. She had been able to eat scarcely a mouthful of that
festal dinner which Bridget had spent the afternoon in preparing,
comprised wholly of forbidden dishes of her childhood, for which
Bridget and Aunt Mary were justly famed. Such is the irony of life.
Visions of one of Aunt Mary's rare lunch-parties and of a small girl
peeping covetously through a crack in the dining-room door, and of the
gold china set, rose before her. But she could not eat.
"Bread and jam and tea at Miss Turner's," Uncle Tom had said, and
she had tried to smile at him.
And now they were standing on the platform, and the train might
start at any moment.
"I trust you won't get like the New Yorkers, Honora," said Aunt
Mary. "Do you remember how stiff they were, Tom?" She was still in the
habit of referring to that memorable trip when they had brought Honora
home. "And they say now that they hold their heads higher than ever."
"That," said Uncle Tom, gravely, "is a local disease, and comes
from staring at the tall buildings."
Peter presented the parcel under his arm. It was a box of candy,
and very heavy, on which much thought had been spent.
"They are some of the things you like," he said, when he had
returned from putting it in the berth.
"How good of you, Peter! I shall never be able to eat all that."
"I hope there is a doctor on the train," said Uncle Tom.
"Yassah," answered the black porter, who had been listening with
evident relish, "right good doctah—Doctah Lov'ring."
Even Aunt Mary laughed.
"Peter," asked Honora, "can't you get Judge Brice to send you on to
New York this winter on law business? Then you could come up to
Sutcliffe to see me."
"I'm afraid of Miss Turner," declared Peter.
"Oh, she wouldn't mind you," exclaimed Honora. "I could say you
were an uncle. It would be almost true. And perhaps she would let you
take me down to New York for a matinée."
"And how about my ready-made clothes?" he said, looking down at
her. He had never forgotten that.
"You don't seem a bit sorry that I'm going," she replied, a little
breathlessly. "You know I'd be glad to see you, if you were in rags."
"All aboard!" cried the porter, grinning sympathetically.
Honora threw her arms around Aunt Mary and clung to her. How small
and frail she was! Somehow Honora had never realized it in all her life
"Good-by, darling, and remember to put on your thick clothes on the
cool days, and write when you get to New York."
Then it was Uncle Tom's turn. He gave her his usual vigorous hug
"It won't be long until Christmas," he whispered, and was gone,
helping Aunt Mary off the train, which had begun to move.
Peter remained a moment.
"Good-by, Honora. I'll write to you often and let you know how they
are. And perhaps—you'll send me a letter once in a while."
"Oh, Peter, I will," she cried. "I can't bear to leave you—I
didn't think it would be so hard."
He held out his hand, but she ignored it. Before he realized what
had happened to him she had drawn his face to hers, kissed it, and was
pushing him off the train. Then she watched from the platform the three
receding figures in the yellow smoky light until the car slipped out
from under the roof into the blackness of the night. Some faint,
premonitory divination of what they represented of immutable love in a
changing, heedless, selfish world came to her; rocks to which one might
cling, successful or failing, happy or unhappy. For unconsciously she
thought of them, all three, as one, a human trinity in which her faith
had never been betrayed. She felt a warm moisture on her cheeks, and
realized that she was crying with the first real sorrow of her life.
She was leaving them—for what? Honora did not know. There had
been nothing imperative in Cousin Eleanor's letter. She need not have
gone if she had not wished. Something within herself, she felt, was
impelling her. And it is curious to relate that, in her mind, going to
school had little or nothing to do with her journey. She had the
feeling of faring forth into the world, and she had known all along
that it was destined she should. What was the cause of this longing to
break the fetters and fly away? fetters of love, they seemed to her now
- and were. And the world which she had seen afar, filled with sunlit
palaces, seemed very dark and dreary to her to-night.
"The lady's asking for you, Miss," said the porter.
She made a heroic attempt to talk to Mrs. Stanley. But at the sight
of Peter's candy, when she opened it, she was blinded once more. Dear
Peter! That box was eloquent with the care with which he had studied
her slightest desires and caprices. Marrons glacés, and Langtrys, and
certain chocolates which had received the stamp of her approval—and
she could not so much as eat one! The porter made the berths. And there
had been a time when she had asked nothing more of fate than to travel
in a sleeping-car! Far into the night she lay wide awake, dry-eyed,
watching the lamp-lit streets of the little towns they passed, or
staring at the cornfields and pastures in the darkness; thinking of the
home she had left, perhaps forever, and wondering whether they were
sleeping there; picturing them to-morrow at breakfast without her, and
Uncle Tom leaving for the bank, Aunt Mary going through the silent
rooms alone, and dear old Catherine haunting the little chamber where
she had slept for seventeen years—almost her lifetime. A hundred
vivid scenes of her childhood came back, and familiar objects oddly
intruded themselves; the red and green lambrequin on the parlour mantel
- a present many years ago from Cousin Eleanor; the what-not, with its
funny curly legs, and the bare spot near the lock on the door of the
cake closet in the dining room!
Youth, however, has its recuperative powers. The next day the
excitement of the journey held her, the sight of new cities and a new
countryside. But when she tried to eat the lunch Aunt Mary had so
carefully put up, new memories assailed her, and she went with Mrs.
Stanley into the dining car. The September dusk was made lurid by
belching steel furnaces that reddened the heavens; and later, when she
went to bed, sharp air and towering contours told her of the mountains.
Mountains which her great-grandfather had crossed on horseback, with
that very family silver in his saddle-bags which shone on Aunt Mary's
table. And then—she awoke with the light shining in her face, and
barely had time to dress before the conductor was calling out "Jersey
Once more the morning, and with it new and wonderful sensations
that dispelled her sorrows; the ferry, the olive-green river rolling in
the morning sun, alive with dodging, hurrying craft, each bent upon its
destination with an energy, relentlessness, and selfishness of purpose
that fascinated Honora. Each, with its shrill, protesting whistle,
seemed to say: "My business is the most important. Make way for me."
And yet, through them all, towering, stately, imperturbable, a great
ocean steamer glided slowly towards the bay, by very might and majesty
holding her way serene and undisturbed, on a nobler errand. Honora
thrilled as she gazed, as though at last her dream were coming true,
and she felt within her the pulse of the world's artery. That irksome
sense of spectatorship seemed to fly, and she was part and parcel now
of the great, moving things, with sure pinions with which to soar.
Standing rapt upon the forward deck of the ferry, she saw herself, not
an atom, but one whose going and coming was a thing of consequence. It
seemed but a simple step to the deck of that steamer when she, too,
would be travelling to the other side of the world, and the journey one
of the small incidents of life.
The ferry bumped into its slip, the windlasses sang loudly as they
took up the chains, the gates folded back, and Honora was forced with
the crowd along the bridge-like passage to the right. Suddenly she saw
Cousin Eleanor and the girls awaiting her.
"Honora," said Edith, when the greetings were over and they were
all four in the carriage, which was making its way slowly across the
dirty and irregularly paved open apace to a narrow street that opened
between two saloons, "Honora, you don't mean to say that Anne Rory made
that street dress? Mother, I believe it's better-looking than the one I
got at Bremer's."
"It's very simple," said Honora.
"And she looks fairly radiant," cried Edith, seizing her cousin's
hand. "It's quite wonderful, Honora; nobody would ever guess that you
were from the West, and that you had spent the whole summer in St.
Cousin Eleanor smiled a little as she contemplated Honora, who sat,
fascinated, gazing out of the window at novel scenes. There was a
colour in her cheeks and a sparkle in her eyes. They had reached
Madison Square. Madison Square, on a bright morning in late September,
seen for the first time by an ambitious young lady who had never been
out of St. Louis! The trimly appointed vehicles, the high-stepping
horses, the glittering shops, the well-dressed women and well-groomed
men—all had an esprit de corps which she found inspiring. On such a
morning, and amidst such a scene, she felt that there was no limit to
the possibilities of life.
Until this year, Cousin Eleanor had been a conservative in the
matter of hotels, when she had yielded to Edith's entreaties to go to
one of the "new ones." Hotels, indeed, that revolutionized transient
existence. This one, on the Avenue, had a giant in a long blue livery
coat who opened their carriage door, and a hall in yellow and black
onyx, and maids and valets. After breakfast, when Honora sat down to
write to Aunt Mary, she described the suite of rooms in which they
lived,—the brass beds, the electric night lamps, the mahogany French
furniture, the heavy carpets, and even the white-tiled bathroom. There
was a marvellous arrangement in the walls with which Edith was never
tired of playing, a circular plate covered with legends of every
conceivable want, from a newspaper to a needle and thread and a Scotch
At breakfast, more stimulants—of a mental nature, of course.
Solomon in all his glory had never broken eggs in such a dining room.
It had onyx pillars, too, and gilt furniture, and table after table of
the whitest napery stretched from one end of it to the other. The glass
and silver was all of a special pattern, and an obsequious waiter
handed Honora a menu in a silver frame, with a handle. One side of the
menu was in English, and the other in French. All around them were
well-dressed, well-fed, prosperous-looking people, talking and laughing
in subdued tones as they ate. And Honora had a strange feeling of being
one of them, of being as rich and prosperous as they, of coming into a
The mad excitement of that day in New York is a faint memory now,
so much has Honora lived since then. We descendants of rigid Puritans,
of pioneer tobacco-planters and frontiersmen, take naturally to a
luxury such as the world has never seen—as our right. We have
abolished kings, in order that as many of us as possible may abide in
palaces. In one day Honora forgot the seventeen years spent in the
"little house under the hill," as though these had never been. Cousin
Eleanor, with a delightful sense of wrong-doing, yielded to the
temptation to adorn her; and the saleswomen, who knew Mrs. Hanbury,
made indiscreet remarks. Such a figure and such a face, and just enough
of height! Two new gowns were ordered, to be tried on at Sutcliffe, and
as many hats, and an ulster, and heaven knows what else. Memory fails.
In the evening they went to a new comic opera, and it is the music
of that which brings back the day most vividly to Honora's mind.
In the morning they took an early train to Sutcliffe Manors, on the
Hudson. It is an historic place. First of all, after leaving the
station, you climb through the little town clinging to the hillside;
and Honora was struck by the quaint houses and shops which had been
places of barter before the Revolution. The age of things appealed to
her. It was a brilliant day at the very end of September, the air
sharp, and here and there a creeper had been struck crimson. Beyond the
town, on the slopes, were other new sights to stimulate the
imagination; country houses—not merely houses in the country, but
mansions—enticingly hidden among great trees in a way to whet
Honora's curiosity as she pictured to herself the blissful quality of
the life which their owners must lead. Long, curving driveways led up
to the houses from occasional lodges; and once, as though to complete
the impression, a young man and two women, superbly mounted, came
trotting out of one of these driveways, talking and laughing gayly.
Honora took a good look at the man. He was not handsome, but had, in
fact, a distinguished and haunting ugliness. The girls were
straight-featured and conventional to the last degree.
Presently they came to the avenue of elms that led up to the long,
low buildings of the school.
Little more will be necessary, in the brief account of Honora's
life at boarding-school, than to add an humble word of praise on the
excellence of Miss Turner's establishment. That lady, needless to say,
did not advertise in the magazines, or issue a prospectus. Parents were
more or less in the situation of the candidates who desired the honour
and privilege of whitewashing Tom Sawyer's fence. If you were a parent,
and were allowed to confide your daughter to Miss Turner, instead of
demanding a prospectus, you gave thanks to heaven, and spoke about it
to your friends.
The life of the young ladies, of course, was regulated on the
strictest principles. Early rising, prayers, breakfast, studies; the
daily walk, rain or shine, under the watchful convoy of Miss Hood, the
girls in columns of twos; tennis on the school court, or skating on the
school pond. Cotton Mather himself could not have disapproved of the
Sundays, nor of the discourse of the elderly Doctor Moale (which you
heard if you were not a Presbyterian), although the reverend gentleman
was distinctly Anglican in appearance and manners. Sometimes Honora
felt devout, and would follow the service with the utmost attention.
Her religion came in waves. On the Sundays when the heathen prevailed
she studied the congregation, grew to distinguish the local country
families; and, if the truth must be told, watched for several Sundays
for that ugly yet handsome young man whom she had seen on horseback.
But he never appeared, and presently she forgot him.
Had there been a prospectus (which is ridiculous!), the great
secret of Miss Turner's school could not very well have been mentioned
in it. The English language, it is to be feared, is not quite flexible
enough to mention this secret with delicacy. Did Honora know it? Who
can say? Self-respecting young ladies do not talk about such things,
and Honora was nothing if not self-respecting.
"SUTCLIFFE MANORS, October 15th.
"DEAREST AUNT MARY: As I wrote you, I continue to miss you and
Uncle Tom dreadfully,—and dear old Peter, too; and Cathy and Bridget
and Mary Ann. And I hate to get up at seven o'clock. And Miss Hood, who
takes us out walking and teaches us composition, is such a ridiculously
strict old maid—you would laugh at her. And the Sundays are terrible.
Miss Turner makes us read the Bible for a whole hour in the afternoon,
and reads to us in the evening. And Uncle Tom was right when he said we
should have nothing but jam and bread and butter for supper: oh, yes,
and cold meat. I am always ravenously hungry. I count the days until
Christmas, when I shall have some really good things to eat again. And
of course I cannot wait to see you all.
"I do not mean to give you the impression that I am not happy here,
and I never can be thankful enough to dear Cousin Eleanor for sending
me. Some of the girls are most attractive. Among others, I have become
great friends with Ethel Wing, who is tall and blond and good-looking;
and her clothes, though simple, are beautiful. To hear her imitate Miss
Turner or Miss Hood or Dr. Moale is almost as much fun as going to the
theatre. You must have heard of her father—he is the Mr. Wing who
owns all the railroads and other things, and they have a house in
Newport and another in New York, and a country place and a yacht.
"I like Sarah Wycliffe very much. She was brought up abroad, and we
lead the French class together. Her father has a house in Paris, which
they only use for a month or so in the year: an hôtel, as the French
call it. And then there is Maude Capron, from Philadelphia, whose
father is Secretary of War. I have now to go to my class in English
composition, but I will write to you again on Saturday.
"Your loving niece, "HONORA."
The Christmas holidays came, and went by like mileposts from the
window of an express train. There was a Glee Club: there were dances,
and private theatricals in Mrs. Dwyer's new house, in which it was
imperative that Honora should take part. There was no such thing as
getting up for breakfast, and once she did not see Uncle Tom for two
whole days. He asked her where she was staying. It was the first
Christmas she remembered spending without Peter. His present appeared,
but perhaps it was fortunate, on the whole, that he was in Texas,
trying a case. It seemed almost no time at all before she was at the
station again, clinging to Aunt Mary: but now the separation was not so
hard, and she had Edith and Mary for company, and George, a dignified
and responsible sophomore at Harvard.
Owing to the sudden withdrawal from school of little Louise
Simpson, the Cincinnati girl who had shared her room during the first
term, Honora had a new room-mate after the holidays, Susan Holt. Susan
was not beautiful, but she was good. Her nose turned up, her hair
Honora described as a negative colour, and she wore it in defiance of
all prevailing modes. If you looked very hard at Susan (which few
people ever did), you saw that she had remarkable blue eyes: they were
the eyes of a saint. She was neither tall nor short, and her complexion
was not all that it might have been. In brief, Susan was one of those
girls who go through a whole term at boarding-school without any
particular notice from the more brilliant Honoras and Ethel Wings.
In some respects, Susan was an ideal room-mate. She read the Bible
every night and morning, and she wrote many letters home. Her ruling
passion, next to religion, was order, and she took it upon herself to
arrange Honora's bureau drawers. It is needless to say that Honora
accepted these ministrations and that she found Susan's admiration an
entirely natural sentiment. Susan was self-effacing, and she enjoyed
listening to Honora's views on all topics.
Susan, like Peter, was taken for granted. She came from somewhere,
and after school was over, she would go somewhere. She lived in New
York, Honora knew, and beyond that was not curious. We never know when
we are entertaining an angel unawares. One evening, early in May, when
she went up to prepare for supper she found Susan sitting in the window
reading a letter, and on the floor beside her was a photograph. Honora
picked it up. It was the picture of a large country house with many
chimneys, taken across a wide green lawn.
"Susan, what's this?"
Susan looked up.
"Oh, it's Silverdale. My brother Joshua took it."
"Silverdale?" repeated Honora.
"It's our place in the country," Susan replied. "The family moved
up last week. You see, the trees are just beginning to bud."
Honora was silent a moment, gazing at the picture. "It's very
beautiful, isn't it? You never told me about it."
"Didn't I?" said Susan. "I think of it very often. It has always
seemed much more like home to me than our house in New York, and I love
it better than any spot I know."
Honora gazed at Susan, who had resumed her reading.
"And you are going there when school is over."
"Oh, yes," said Susan; "I can hardly wait." Suddenly she put down
her letter, and looked at Honora.
"And you," she asked, "where are you going?"
"I don't know. Perhaps—perhaps I shall go to the sea for a while
with my cousins."
It was foolish, it was wrong. But for the life of her Honora could
not say she was going to spend the long hot summer in St. Louis. The
thought of it had haunted her for weeks: and sometimes, when the other
girls were discussing their plans, she had left them abruptly. And now
she was aware that Susan's blue eyes were fixed upon her, and that they
had a strange and penetrating quality she had never noticed before: a
certain tenderness, an understanding that made Honora redden and turn.
"I wish," said Susan, slowly, "that you would come and stay awhile
with me. Your home is so far away, and I don't know when I shall see
"Oh, Susan," she murmured, "it's awfully good of you, but I'm
She walked to the window, and stood looking out for a moment at the
budding trees. Her heart was beating faster, and she was strangely
"I really don't expect to go to the sea, Susan," she said. "You
see, my aunt and uncle are all alone in St. Louis, and I ought to go
back to them. If—if my father had lived, it might have been
different. He died, and my mother, when I was little more than a year
Susan was all sympathy. She slipped her hand into Honora's.
"Where did he live?" she asked. "Abroad," answered Honora. "He was
consul at Nice, and had a villa there when he died. And people said he
had an unusually brilliant career before him. My aunt and uncle brought
me up, and my cousin, Mrs. Hanbury, Edith's mother, and Mary's, sent me
here to school."
Honora breathed easier after this confession, but it was long
before sleep came to her that night. She wondered what it would be like
to visit at a great country house such as Silverdale, what it would be
like to live in one. It seemed a strange and cruel piece of irony on
the part of the fates that Susan, instead of Honora, should have been
chosen for such a life: Susan, who would have been quite as happy
spending her summers in St. Louis, and taking excursions in the
electric cars: Susan, who had never experienced that dreadful,
vacuum-like feeling, who had no ambitious craving to be satisfied.
Mingled with her flushes of affection for Susan was a certain queer
feeling of contempt, of which Honora was ashamed.
Nevertheless, in the days that followed, a certain metamorphosis
seemed to have taken place in Susan. She was still the same modest,
self-effacing, helpful roommate, but in Honora's eyes she had changed—
Honora could no longer separate her image from the vision of
Silverdale. And, if the naked truth must be told, it was due to
Silverdale that Susan owes the honour of her first mention in those
descriptive letters from Sutcliffe, which Aunt Mary has kept to this
Four days later Susan had a letter from her mother containing an
astonishing discovery. There could be no mistake,—Mrs. Holt had
brought Honora to this country as a baby.
"Why, Susan," cried Honora, "you must have been the other baby."
"But you were the beautiful one," replied Susan, generously. "I
have often heard mother tell about it, and how every one on the ship
noticed you, and how Hortense cried when your aunt and uncle took you
away. And to think we have been rooming together all these months and
did not know that we were really—old friends! And Honora, mother says
you must come to Silverdale to pay us a visit when school closes. She
wants to see you. I think," added Susan, smiling, "I think she feels
responsible for you. She says that you must give me your aunt's
address, and that she will write to her."
"Oh, I'd so like to go, Susan. And I don't think Aunt Mary would
object—for a little while."
Honora lost no time in writing the letter asking for permission,
and it was not until after she had posted it that she felt a sudden,
sharp regret as she thought of them in their loneliness. But the
postponement of her homecoming would only be for a fortnight at best.
And she had seen so little!
In due time Aunt Mary's letter arrived. There was no mention of
loneliness in it, only of joy that Honora was to have the opportunity
to visit such a place as Silverdale. Aunt Mary, it seems, had seen
pictures of it long ago in a magazine of the book club, in an article
concerning one of Mrs. Holt's charities—a model home for indiscreet
young women. At the end of the year, Aunt Mary added, she had bought
the number of the magazine, because of her natural interest in Mrs.
Holt on Honora's account. Honora cried a little over that letter, but
her determination to go to Silverdale was unshaken.
June came at last, and the end of school. The subject of Miss
Turner's annual talk was worldliness. Miss Turner saw signs, she
regretted to say, of a lowering in the ideals of American women: of a
restlessness, of a desire for what was a false consideration and
recognition; for power. Some of her own pupils, alas! were not free
from this fault. Ethel Wing, who was next to Honora, nudged her and
laughed, and passed her some of Maillard's chocolates, which she had in
her pocket. Woman's place, continued Miss Turner, was the home, and she
hoped they would all make good wives. She had done her best to prepare
them to be such. Independence, they would find, was only relative: no
one had it completely. And she hoped that none of her scholars would
ever descend to that base competition to outdo one's neighbours, so
characteristic of the country to-day.
The friends, and even the enemies, were kissed good-by, with
pledges of eternal friendship. Cousin Eleanor Hanbury came for Edith
and Mary, and hoped Honora would enjoy herself at Silverdale. Dear
Cousin Eleanor! Her heart was large, and her charity unpretentious. She
slipped into Honora's fingers, as she embraced her, a silver purse with
some gold coins in it, and bade her not to forget to write home very
"You know what pleasure it will give them, my dear," she said, as
she stepped on the train for New York.
"And I am going home soon, Cousin Eleanor," replied Honora, with a
little touch of homesickness in her voice.
"I know, dear," said Mrs. Hanbury. But there was a peculiar, almost
wistful expression on her face as she kissed Honora again, as of one
who assents to a fiction in order to humour a child.
As the train pulled out, Ethel Wing waved to her from the midst of
a group of girls on the wide rear platform of the last car. It was Mr.
Wing's private car, and was going to Newport.
"Be good, Honora!" she cried.
CHAPTER VII. THE OLYMPIAN ORDER
LYING back in the chair of the Pullman and gazing over the wide Hudson
shining in the afternoon sun, Honora's imagination ran riot until the
seeming possibilities of life became infinite. At every click of the
rails she was drawing nearer to that great world of which she had
dreamed, a world of country houses inhabited by an Olympian order. To
be sure, Susan, who sat reading in the chair behind her, was but a
humble representative of that order—but Providence sometimes makes
use of such instruments. The picture of the tall and brilliant Ethel
Wing standing behind the brass rail of the platform of the car was
continually recurring to Honora as emblematic: of Ethel, in a blue
tailor-made gown trimmed with buff braid, and which fitted her slender
figure with military exactness. Her hair, the colour of the yellowest
of gold, in the manner of its finish seemed somehow to give the
impression of that metal; and the militant effect of the costume had
been heightened by a small colonial cocked hat. If the truth be told,
Honora had secretly idealized Miss Wing, and had found her insouciance,
frankness, and tendency to ridicule delightful. Militant—that was
indeed Ethel's note—militant and positive.
"You're not going home with Susan!" she had exclaimed, making a
little face when Honora had told her. "They say that Silverdale is as
slow as a nunnery—and you're on your knees all the time. You ought to
have come to Newport with me."
It was characteristic of Miss Wing that she seemed to have taken no
account of the fact that she had neglected to issue this alluring
invitation. Life at Silverdale slow! How could it be slow amidst such
beauty and magnificence?
The train was stopping at a new little station on which hung the
legend, in gold letters, "Sutton." The sun was well on his journey
towards the western hills. Susan had touched her on the shoulder.
"Here we are, Honora," she said, and added, with an unusual tremor
in her voice, "at last!"
On the far side of the platform a yellow, two-seated wagon was
waiting, and away they drove through the village, with its old houses
and its sleepy streets and its orchards, and its ancient tavern dating
from stage-coach days. Just outside of it, on the tree-dotted slope of
a long hill, was a modern brick building, exceedingly practical in
appearance, surrounded by spacious grounds enclosed in a paling fence.
That, Susan said, was the Sutton Home.
"Your mother's charity?"
A light came into the girl's eyes.
"So you have heard of it? Yes, it is the thing that interests
mother more than anything else in the world."
"Oh," said Honora, "I hope she will let me go through it."
"I'm sure she will want to take you there to-morrow," answered
Susan, and she smiled.
The road wound upwards, by the valley of a brook, through the
hills, now wooded, now spread with pastures that shone golden green in
the evening light, the herds gathering at the gate-bars. Presently they
came to a gothic-looking stone building, with a mediæval bridge thrown
across the stream in front of it, and massive gates flung open. As they
passed, Honora had a glimpse of a blue driveway under the arch of the
forest. An elderly woman looked out at them through the open half of a
"That's the Chamberlin estate," Susan volunteered. "Mr. Chamberlin
has built a castle on the top of that hill."
Honora caught her breath. "Are many of the places here like that?"
"Some people don't think the place is very—appropriate," she
contented herself with replying.
A little later, as they climbed higher, other houses could be
discerned dotted about the country-side, nearly all of them varied
expressions of the passion for a new architecture which seemed to
possess the rich. Most of them were in conspicuous positions, and
surrounded by wide acres. Each, to Honora, was an inspiration.
"I had no idea there were so many people here," she said.
"I'm afraid Sutton is becoming fashionable," answered Susan.
"And don't you want it to?" asked Honora.
"It was very nice before," said Susan, quietly.
Honora was silent. They turned in between two simple stone pillars
that divided a low wall, overhung from the inside by shrubbery growing
under the forest. Susan seized her friend's hand and pressed it.
"I'm always so glad to get back here," she whispered. "I hope
you'll like it."
Honora returned the pressure.
The grey road forked, and forked again. Suddenly the forest came to
an end in a sort of premeditated tangle of wild garden, and across a
wide lawn the great house loomed against the western sky. Its
architecture was of the '60's and '70's, with a wide porte-cochère that
sheltered the high entrance doors. These were both flung open, a butler
and two footmen were standing impassively beside them, and a neat maid
within. Honora climbed the steps as in a dream, followed Susan through
a hall with a black-walnut, fretted staircase, and where she caught a
glimpse of two huge Chinese vases, to a porch on the other side of the
house spread with wicker chairs and tables. Out of a group of people at
the farther end of this porch arose an elderly lady, who came forward
and clasped Susan in her arms.
"And is this Honora? How do you do, my dear? I had the pleasure of
knowing you when you were much younger."
Honora, too, was gathered to that ample bosom. Released, she beheld
a lady in a mauve satin gown, at the throat of which a cameo brooch was
fastened. Mrs. Holt's face left no room for conjecture as to the
character of its possessor. Her hair, of a silvering blend, parted in
the middle, fitted tightly to her head. She wore earrings. In short,
her appearance was in every way suggestive of momentum, of a force
which the wise would respect.
"Where are you, Joshua?" she said. "This is the baby we brought
from Nice. Come and tell me whether you would recognize her."
Mr. Holt released his daughter. He had a mild blue eye, white
mutton-chop whiskers, and very thin hands, and his tweed suit was
decidedly the worse for wear.
"I can't say that I should, Elvira," he replied; "although it is
not hard to believe that such a beautiful baby should prove to be such
a—er—good-looking young woman."
"I've always felt very grateful to you for bringing me back," said
"Tut, tut, child," said Mrs. Holt; "there was no one else to do it.
And be careful how you pay young women compliments, Joshua. They grow
vain enough. By the way, my dear, what ever became of your maternal
grandfather, old Mr. Allison—wasn't that his name?"
"He died when I was very young," replied Honora.
"He was too fond of the good things of this life," said Mrs. Holt.
"My dear Elvira!" her husband protested.
"I can't help it, he was," retorted that lady. "I am a judge of
human nature, and I was relieved, I can tell you, my dear" (to Honora),
"when I saw your uncle and aunt on the wharf that morning. I knew that
I had confided you to good hands."
"They have done everything for me, Mrs. Holt," said Honora.
The good lady patted her approvingly on the shoulder. "I'm sure of
it, my dear," she said. "And I am glad to see you appreciate it. And
now you must renew your acquaintance with the family."
A sister and a brother, Honora had already learned from Susan, had
died since she had crossed the ocean with them. Robert and Joshua,
Junior, remained. Both were heavy-set, with rather stern faces, both
had close-cropped, tan-coloured mustaches and wide jaws, with blue eyes
like Susan's. Both were, with women at least, what the French would
call difficult—Robert less so than Joshua. They greeted Honora
reservedly and—she could not help feeling—a little suspiciously.
And their appearance was something of a shock to her; they did not,
somehow, "go with the house," and they dressed even more carelessly
than Peter Erwin. This was particularly true of Joshua, whose low,
turned-down collar revealed a porous, brick-red, and extremely virile
neck, and whose clothes were creased at the knees and across the back.
As for their wives, Mrs. Joshua was a merry, brown-eyed little lady
already inclining to stoutness, and Honora felt at home with her at
once. Mrs. Robert was tall and thin, with an olive face and dark eyes
which gave the impression of an uncomfortable penetration. She was
dressed simply in a shirtwaist and a dark skirt, but Honora thought her
The grandchildren, playing on and off the porch, seemed legion, and
they were besieging Susan. In reality there were seven of them, of all
sizes and sexes, from the third Joshua with a tennis-bat to the
youngest who was weeping at being sent to bed, and holding on to her
Aunt Susan with desperation. When Honora had greeted them all, and
kissed some of them, she was informed that there were two more
upstairs, safely tucked away in cribs.
"I'm sure you love children, don't you?" said Mrs. Joshua. She
spoke impulsively, and yet with a kind of childlike shyness.
"I adore them," exclaimed Honora.
A trellised arbour (which some years later would have been called a
pergola) led from the porch up the hill to an old-fashioned
summer-house on the crest. And thither, presently, Susan led Honora for
a view of the distant western hills silhouetted in black against a
flaming western sky, before escorting her to her room. The vastness of
the house, the width of the staircase, and the size of the second-story
hall impressed our heroine.
"I'll send a maid to you later, dear," Susan said. "If you care to
lie down for half an hour, no one will disturb you. And I hope you will
Comfortable! When the door had closed, Honora glanced around her
and sighed, "comfort" seemed such a strangely inadequate word. She was
reminded of the illustrations she had seen of English country houses.
The bed alone would almost have filled her little room at home. On the
farther side, in an alcove, was a huge dressing-table; a fire was laid
in the grate of the marble mantel, the curtains in the bay window were
tightly drawn, and near by was a lounge with a reading-light. A huge
mahogany wardrobe occupied one corner; in another stood a pier glass,
and in another, near the lounge, was a small bookcase filled with
books. Honora looked over them curiously. "Robert Elsmere" and a life
of Christ, "Mr. Isaacs," a book of sermons by an eminent clergyman,
"Innocents Abroad," Hare's "Walks in Rome," "When a Man's Single," by
Barrie, a book of meditations, and "Organized Charities for Women."
Adjoining the bedroom was a bathroom in proportion,—evidently all
her own,—with a huge porcelain tub and a table set with toilet
bottles containing liquids of various colours.
Dreamily, Honora slipped on the new dressing-gown Aunt Mary had
made for her, and took a book out of the bookcase. It was the volume of
sermons. But she could not read: she was forever looking about the
room, and thinking of the family she had met downstairs. Of course,
when one lived in a house like this, one could afford to dress and act
as one liked. She was aroused from her reflections by the soft but
penetrating notes of a Japanese gong, followed by a gentle knock on the
door and the entrance of an elderly maid, who informed her it was time
to dress for dinner.
"If you'll excuse me, Miss," said that hitherto silent individual
when the operation was completed, "you do look lovely."
Honora, secretly, was of that opinion too as she surveyed herself
in the long glass. The simple summer silk, of a deep and glowing pink,
rivalled the colour in her cheeks, and contrasted with the dark and
shining masses of her hair; and on her neck glistened a little pendant
of her mother's jewels, which Aunt Mary, with Cousin Eleanor's
assistance, had had set in New York. Honora's figure was that of a
woman of five and twenty: her neck was a slender column, her head well
set, and the look of race, which had been hers since childhood, was at
nineteen more accentuated. All this she saw, and went down the stairs
in a kind of exultation. And when on the threshold of the drawing-room
she paused, the conversation suddenly ceased. Mr. Holt and his sons got
up somewhat precipitately, and Mrs. Holt came forward to meet her.
"I hope you weren't waiting for me," said Honora, timidly.
"No indeed, my dear," said Mrs. Holt. Tucking Honora's hand under
her arm, she led the way majestically to the dining-room, a large
apartment with a dimly lighted conservatory at the farther end,
presided over by the decorous butler and his assistants. A huge
chandelier with prisms hung over the flowers at the centre of the
table, which sparkled with glass and silver, while dishes of vermilion
and yellow fruits relieved the whiteness of the cloth. Honora found
herself beside Mr. Holt, who looked more shrivelled than ever in his
evening clothes. And she was about to address him when, with a movement
as though to forestall her, he leaned forward convulsively and began a
The dinner itself was more like a ceremony than a meal, and as it
proceeded, Honora found it increasingly difficult to rid herself of a
curious feeling of being on probation. Joshua, who sat on her other
side and ate prodigiously, scarcely addressed a word to her; but she
gathered from his remarks to his father and brother that he was
interested in cows. And Mr. Holt was almost exclusively occupied in
slowly masticating the special dishes which the butler impressively
laid before him. He asked her a few questions about Miss Turner's
school, but it was not until she had admired the mass of peonies in the
centre of the table that his eyes brightened, and he smiled.
"You like flowers?" he asked.
"I love them," said Honora.
"I am the gardener here," he said. "You must see my garden, Miss
Leffingwell. I am in it by half-past six every morning, rain or shine."
Honora looked up, and surprised Mrs. Robert's eyes fixed on her
with the same strange expression she had noticed on her arrival. And
for some senseless reason, she flushed.
The conversation was chiefly carried on by kindly little Mrs.
Joshua and by Mrs. Holt, who seemed at once to preside and to dominate.
She praised Honora's gown, but left a lingering impression that she
thought her overdressed, without definitely saying so. And she made
innumerable—and often embarrassing—inquiries about Honora's aunt
and uncle, and her life in St. Louis, and her friends there, and how
she had happened to go to Sutcliffe to school. Sometimes Honora
blushed, but she answered them all good-naturedly. And when at length
the meal had marched sedately down to the fruit, Mrs. Holt rose and
drew Honora out of the dining room.
"It is a little hard on you, my dear," she said, "to give you so
much family on your arrival. But there are some other people coming
to-morrow, when it will be gayer, I hope, for you and Susan."
"It is so good of you and Susan to want me, Mrs. Holt," replied
Honora, "I am enjoying it so much. I have never been in a big country
house like this, and I am glad there is no one else here. I have heard
my aunt speak of you so often, and tell how kind you were to take
charge of me, that I have always hoped to know you sometime or other.
And it seems the strangest of coincidences that I should have roomed
with Susan at Sutcliffe."
"Susan has grown very fond of you," said Mrs. Holt, graciously. "We
are very glad to have you, my dear, and I must own that I had a
curiosity to see you again. Your aunt struck me as a good and sensible
woman, and it was a positive relief to know that you were to be
confided to her care." Mrs. Holt, however, shook her head and regarded
Honora, and her next remark might have been taken as a clew to her
thoughts. "But we are not very gay at Silverdale, Honora."
Honora's quick intuition detected the implication of a frivolity
which even her sensible aunt had not been able to eradicate.
"Oh, Mrs. Holt," she cried, "I shall be so happy here, just seeing
things and being among you. And I am so interested in the little bit I
have seen already. I caught a glimpse of your girls' home on my way
from the station. I hope you will take me there."
Mrs. Holt gave her a quick look, but beheld in Honora's clear eyes
only eagerness and ingenuousness.
The change in the elderly lady's own expression, and incidentally
in the atmosphere which enveloped her, was remarkable.
"Would you really like to go, my dear?"
"Oh, yes indeed," cried Honora. "You see, I have heard so much of
it, and I should like to write my aunt about it. She is interested in
the work you are doing, and she has kept a magazine with an article in
it, and a picture of the institution."
"Dear me!" exclaimed the lady, now visibly pleased. "It is a very
modest little work, my dear. I had no idea that—out in St. Louis—
that the beams of my little candle had carried so far. Indeed you shall
see it, Honora. We will go down the first thing m the morning."
Mrs. Robert, who had been sitting on the other side of the room,
rose abruptly and came towards them. There was something very like a
smile on her face,—although it wasn't really a smile—as she bent
over and kissed her mother-in-law on the cheek.
"I am glad to hear you are interested in—charities, Miss
Leffingwell," she said.
Honora's face grew warm.
"I have not so far had very much to do with them, I am afraid," she
"How should she?" demanded. Mrs. Holt. "Gwendolen, you're not going
"I have some letters to write," said Mrs. Robert.
"Gwen has helped me immeasurably," said Mrs. Holt, looking after
the tall figure of her daughter-in-law, "but she has a curious,
reserved character. You have to know her, my dear. She is not at all
like Susan, for instance."
Honora awoke the next morning to a melody, and lay for some minutes
in a delicious semi-consciousness, wondering where she was. Presently
she discovered that the notes were those of a bird on a tree
immediately outside of her window—a tree of wonderful perfection, the
lower branches of which swept the ground. Other symmetrical trees, of
many varieties, dotted a velvet lawn, which formed a great natural
terrace above the forested valley of Silver Brook. On the grass,
dew-drenched cobwebs gleamed in the early sun, and the breeze that
stirred the curtains was charged with the damp, fresh odours of the
morning. Voices caught her ear, and two figures appeared in the
distance. One she recognized as Mr. Holt, and the other was evidently a
gardener. The gilt clock on the mantel pointed to a quarter of seven.
It is far too late in this history to pretend that Honora was, by
preference, an early riser, and therefore it must have been the
excitement caused by her surroundings that made her bathe and dress
with alacrity that morning. A housemaid was dusting the stairs as she
descended into the empty hall. She crossed the lawn, took a path
through the trees that bordered it, and came suddenly upon an
old-fashioned garden in all the freshness of its early morning colour.
In one of the winding paths she stopped with a little exclamation. Mr.
Holt rose from his knees in front of her, where he had been digging
industriously with a trowel. His greeting, when contrasted with his
comparative taciturnity at dinner the night before, was almost effusive
- and a little pathetic.
"My dear young lady," he exclaimed, "up so early?"
He held up forbiddingly a mould-covered palm. "I can't shake hands
"I couldn't resist the temptation to see your garden," she said.
A gentle light gleamed in his blue eyes, and he paused before a
trellis of June roses. With his gardening knife he cut three of them,
and held them gallantly against her white gown. Her sensitive colour
responded as she thanked him, and she pinned them deftly at her waist.
"You like gardens?" he said.
"I was brought up with them," she answered; "I mean," she corrected
herself swiftly, "in a very modest way. My uncle is passionately fond
of flowers, and he makes our little yard bloom with them all summer.
But of course," Honora added, "I've never seen anything like this."
"It has been a life work," answered Mr. Holt, proudly, "and yet I
feel as though I had not yet begun. Come, I will show you the peonies—
they are at their best—before I go in and make myself respectable for
Ten minutes later, as they approached the house in amicable and
even lively conversation, they beheld Susan and Mrs. Robert standing on
the steps under the porte-cochère, watching them.
"Why, Honora," cried Susan, "how energetic you are! I actually had
a shock when I went to your room and found you'd gone. I'll have to
write Miss Turner."
"Don't," pleaded Honora; "you see, I had every inducement to get
"She has been well occupied," put in Mr. Holt. "She has been
admiring my garden."
"Indeed I have," said Honora. "Oh, then, you have won father's
heart!" cried Susan. Gwendolen Holt smiled. Her eyes were fixed upon
the roses in Honora's belt.
"Good morning, Miss Leffingwell," she said, simply.
Mr. Holt having removed the loam from his hands, the whole family,
excepting Joshua, Junior, and including an indefinite number of
children, and Carroll, the dignified butler, and Martha, the elderly
maid, trooped into the library for prayers. Mr. Holt sat down before a
teak-wood table at the end of the room, on which reposed a great,
morocco-covered Bible. Adjusting his spectacles, he read, in a mild but
impressive voice, a chapter of Matthew, while Mrs. Joshua tried to
quiet her youngest. Honora sat staring at a figure on the carpet,
uncomfortably aware that Mrs. Robert was still studying her. Mr. Holt
closed the Bible reverently, and announced a prayer, whereupon the
family knelt upon the floor and leaned their elbows on the seats of
their chairs. Honora did likewise, wondering at the facility with which
Mr. Holt worded his appeal, and at the number of things he found to
pray for. Her knees had begun to ache before he had finished.
At breakfast such a cheerful spirit prevailed that Honora began
almost to feel at home. Even Robert indulged occasionally in raillery.
"Where in the world is Josh?" asked Mrs. Holt, after they were
"I forgot to tell you, mother," little Mrs. Joshua chirped up,
"that he got up at an unearthly hour, and went over to Grafton to look
at a cow."
"A cow!" sighed Mrs. Holt. "Oh, dear, I might have known it. You
must understand, Honora, that every member of the Holt family has a
hobby. Joshua's is Jerseys."
"I'm sure I should adore them if I lived in the country," Honora
"If you and Joshua would only take that Sylvester farm, and build a
house, Annie," said Mr. Holt, munching the dried bread which was
specially prepared for him, "I should be completely happy. Then," he
added, turning to Honora, "I should have both my sons settled on the
place. Robert and Gwen are sensible in building."
"It's cheaper to live with you, granddad," laughed Mrs. Joshua.
"Josh says if we do that, he has more money to buy cows."
At this moment a footman entered, and presented Mrs. Holt with some
mail on a silver tray.
"The Vicomte de Toqueville is coming this afternoon, Joshua," she
announced, reading rapidly from a sheet on which was visible a large
crown. "He landed in New York last week, and writes to know if I could
"Another of mother's menagerie," remarked Robert.
"I don't think that's nice of you, Robert," said his mother. "The
Vicomte was very kind to your father and me in Paris, and invited us to
his château in Provence."
Robert was sceptical.
"Are you sure he had one?" he insisted.
Even Mr. Holt laughed.
"Robert," said his mother, "I wish Gwen could induce you to travel
more. Perhaps you would learn that all foreigners aren't
"I've had an opportunity to observe the ones who come over here,
"I won't have a prospective guest discussed," Mrs. Holt declared,
with finality. "Joshua, you remember my telling you last spring that
Martha Spence's son called on me?" she asked. "He is in business with a
man named Dallam, I believe, and making a great deal of money for a
young man. He is just a year younger than you, Robert."
"Do you mean that fat, tow-headed boy that used to come up here and
eat melons and ride my pony?" inquired Robert. "Howard Spence?"
Mrs. Holt smiled.
"He isn't fat any longer, Robert. Indeed, he's quite good-looking.
Since his mother died, I had lost trace of him. But I found a
photograph of hers when I was clearing up my desk some months ago, and
sent it to him, and he came to thank me. I forgot to tell you that I
invited him for a fortnight any time he chose, and he has just written
to ask if he may come now. I regret to say that he's on the Stock
Exchange—but I was very fond of his mother. It doesn't seem to me
quite a legitimate business."
"Why!" exclaimed little Mrs. Joshua, unexpectedly, "I'm given to
understand that the Stock Exchange is quite aristocratic in these
"I'm afraid I am old-fashioned, my dear," said Mrs. Holt, rising.
"It has always seemed to me little better than a gambling place.
Honora, if you still wish to go to the Girls' Home, I have ordered the
carriage in a quarter of an hour."
CHAPTER VIII. A CHAPTER OF CONQUESTS
HONORA's interest in the Institution was so lively, and she asked so
many questions and praised so highly the work with which the indiscreet
young women were occupied that Mrs. Holt patted her hand as they drove
"My dear," she said, "I begin to wish I'd adopted you myself.
Perhaps, later on, we can find a husband for you, and you will marry
and settle down near us here at Silverdale, and then you can help me
with the work."
"Oh, Mrs. Holt," she replied, "I should so like to—help you, I
mean. And it would be wonderful to live in such a place. And as for
marriage, it seems such a long way off that somehow I never think of
"Naturally," ejaculated Mrs. Holt, with approval, "a young girl of
your age should not. But, my dear, I am afraid you are destined to have
many admirers. If you had not been so well brought up, and were not
naturally so sensible, I should fear for you."
"Oh, Mrs. Holt!" exclaimed Honora, deprecatingly, and blushing very
"Whatever else I am," said Mrs. Holt, vigorously, "I am not a
flatterer. I am telling you something for your own good—which you
probably know already."
Honora was discreetly silent. She thought of the proud and
unsusceptible George Hanbury, whom she had cast down from the tower of
his sophomore dignity with such apparent ease; and of certain gentlemen
at home, young and middle-aged, who had behaved foolishly during the
At lunch both the Roberts and the Joshuas were away. Afterwards
they romped with the children—she and Susan. They were shy at first,
especially the third Joshua, but Honora captivated him by playing two
sets of tennis in the broiling sun, at the end of which exercise he
regarded her with a new-born admiration in his eyes. He was thirteen.
"I didn't think you were that kind at all," he said.
"What kind did you think I was?" asked Honora, passing her arm
around his shoulder as they walked towards the house.
The boy grew scarlet.
"Oh, I didn't think you—you could play tennis," he stammered.
Honora stopped, and seized his chin and tilted his face upward.
"Now, Joshua," she said, "look at me and say that over again."
"Well," he replied desperately, "I thought you wouldn't want to get
all mussed up and hot."
"That's better," said Honora. "You thought I was vain, didn't you?"
"But I don't think so any more," he avowed passionately. "I think
you're a trump. And we'll play again to-morrow, won't we?"
"We'll play any day you like," she declared.
It is unfair to suppose that the arrival of a real vicomte and of a
young, good-looking, and successful member of the New York Stock
Exchange were responsible for Honora's appearance, an hour later, in
the embroidered linen gown which Cousin Eleanor had given her that
spring. Tea was already in progress on the porch, and if a hush in the
conversation and the scraping of chairs is any sign of a sensation,
this happened when our heroine appeared in the doorway. And Mrs. Holt,
in the act of lifting the hot-water kettle, put it down again. Whether
or not there was approval in the lady's delft-blue eye, Honora could
not have said. The Vicomte, with the graceful facility of his race, had
differentiated himself from the group and stood before her. As soon as
the words of introduction were pronounced, he made a bow that was a
tribute in itself, exaggerated in its respect.
"It is a pleasure, Mademoiselle," he murmured, but his eyes were
A description of him in his own language leaped into Honora's mind,
so much did he appear to have walked out of one of the many
yellow-backed novels she had read. He was not tall, but beautifully
made, and his coat was quite absurdly cut in at the waist; his mustache
was en-croc, and its points resembled those of the Spanish bayonets in
the conservatory: he might have been three and thirty, and he was what
the novels described as un pen fané—which means that he had seen the
world: his eyes were extraordinarily bright, black, and impenetrable.
A greater contrast to the Vicomte than Mr. Howard Spence would have
been difficult to find. He was Honora's first glimpse of Finance, of
the powers that travelled in private cars and despatched ships across
the ocean. And in our modern mythology, he might have stood for the god
of Prosperity. Prosperity is pink, and so was Mr. Spence, in two
places,—his smooth-shaven cheeks and his shirt. His flesh had a
certain firmness, but he was not stout; he was merely well fed, as
Prosperity should be. His features were comparatively regular, his
mustache a light brown, his eyes hazel. The fact that he came from that
mysterious metropolis, the heart of which is Wall Street, not only
excused but legitimized the pink shirt and the neatly knotted green
tie, the pepper-and-salt check suit that was loose and at the same time
well-fitting, and the jewelled ring on his plump little finger. On the
whole, Mr. Spence was not only prepossessing, but he contrived to give
Honora, as she shook his hand, the impression of being brought a step
nearer to the national source of power. Unlike the Vicomte, he did not
appear to have been instantly and mortally wounded upon her arrival on
the scene, but his greeting was flattering, and he remained by her side
instead of returning to that of Mrs. Robert.
"When did you come up?" he asked.
"Only yesterday," answered Honora.
"New York," said Mr. Spence, producing a gold cigarette case on
which his monogram was largely and somewhat elaborately engraved, "New
York is played out this time of year—isn't it? I dropped in at
Sherry's last night for dinner, and there weren't thirty people there."
Honora had heard of Sherry's as a restaurant where one dined
fabulously, and she tried to imagine the cosmopolitan and blissful
existence which permitted "dropping in at" such a place. Moreover, Mr.
Spence was plainly under the impression that she too "came up" from New
York, and it was impossible not to be a little pleased. "It must be a
relief to get into the country," she ventured.
Mr. Spence glanced around him expressively, and then looked at her
with a slight smile. The action and the smile—to which she could not
refrain from responding—seemed to establish a tacit understanding
between them. It was natural that he should look upon Silverdale as a
slow place, and there was something delicious in his taking for granted
that she shared this opinion. She wondered a little wickedly what he
would say when he knew the truth about her, and this was the birth of a
resolution that his interest should not flag.
"Oh, I can stand the country when it is properly inhabited," he
said, and their eyes met in laughter.
"How many inhabitants do you require?" she asked.
"Well," he said brazenly, "the right kind of inhabitant is worth a
thousand of the wrong kind. It is a good rule in business, when you
come across a gilt-edged security, to make a specialty of it."
Honora found the compliment somewhat singular. But she was prepared
to forgive New York a few sins in the matter of commercial slang: New
York, which evidently dressed as it liked, and talked as it liked. But
not knowing any more of a gilt-edged security than that it was
something to Mr. Spence's taste, a retort was out of the question.
Then, as though she were doomed that day to complicity, her eyes
chanced to encounter an appealing glance from the Vicomte, who was
searching with the courage of despair for an English word, which his
hostess awaited in stoical silence. He was trying to give his
impressions of Silverdale, in comparison to country places abroad,
while Mrs. Robert regarded him enigmatically, and Susan
sympathetically. Honora had an almost irresistible desire to laugh.
"Ah, Madame," he cried, still looking at Honora, "will you have the
kindness to permit me to walk about ever so little?"
"Certainly, Vicomte, and I will go with you. Get my parasol, Susan.
Perhaps you would like to come, too, Howard," she added to Mr. Spence;
"it has been so long since you were here, and we have made many
"And you, Mademoiselle," said the Vicomte to Honora, "you will come
- yes? You are interested in landscape?"
"I love the country," said Honora.
"It is a pleasure to have a guest who is so appreciative," said
Mrs. Holt. "Miss Leffingwell was up at seven this morning, and in the
garden with my husband."
"At seven!" exclaimed the Vicomte; "you American young ladies are
wonderful. For example -" and he was about to approach her to enlarge
on this congenial theme when Susan arrived with the parasol, which Mrs.
Holt put in his hands.
"We'll begin, I think, with the view from the summer house," she
said. "And I will show you how our famous American landscape architect,
Mr. Olmstead, has treated the slope."
There was something humorous, and a little pathetic in the
contrasted figures of the Vicomte and their hostess crossing the lawn
in front of them. Mr. Spence paused a moment to light his cigarette,
and he seemed to derive infinite pleasure from this juxtaposition.
"Got left,—didn't he?" he said.
To this observation there was, obviously, no answer.
"I'm not very strong on foreigners," he declared. "An American is
good enough for me. And there's something about that fellow which would
make me a little slow in trusting him with a woman I cared for."
"If you are beginning to worry over Mrs. Holt," said Honora, "we'd
better walk a little faster."
Mr. Spence's delight at this sally was so unrestrained as to cause
the couple ahead to turn. The Vicomte's expression was reproachful.
"Where's Susan?" asked Mrs. Holt.
"I think she must have gone in the house," Honora answered.
"You two seem to be having a very good time."
"Oh, we're hitting it off fairly well," said Mr. Spence, no doubt
for the benefit of the Vicomte. And he added in a confidential tone,
"Not on the subject of the Vicomte," she replied promptly. "I like
him. I like French people."
"What!" he exclaimed, halting in his steps, "you don't take that
"I haven't known him long enough to take him seriously," said
"There's a blindness about women," he declared, "that's
incomprehensible. They'll invest in almost any old thing if the
certificates are beautifully engraved. If you were a man, you wouldn't
trust that Frenchman to give you change for five dollars."
"French people," proclaimed Honora, "have a light touch of which we
Americans are incapable. We do not know how to relax."
"A light touch!" cried Mr. Spence, delightedly, "that about
describes the Vicomte."
"I'm sure you do him an injustice," said Honora.
"We'll see," said Mr. Spence. "Mrs. Holt is always picking up queer
people like that. She's noted for it." He turned to her.
"How did you happen to come here?"
"I came with Susan," she replied, amusedly, "from boarding-school
She rather enjoyed his surprise.
"You don't mean to say you are Susan's age?"
"How old did you think I was?" she asked.
"Older than Susan," he said surveying her.
"No, I'm a mere child, I'm nineteen."
"But I thought -" he began, and paused and lighted another
Her eyes lighted mischievously.
"You thought that I had been out several years, and that I'd seen a
good deal of the world, and that I lived in New York, and that it was
strange you didn't know me. But New York is such an enormous place I
suppose one can't know everybody there." "And—where do you come from,
if I may ask?" he said.
"St. Louis. I was brought to this country before I was two years
old, from France. Mrs. Holt brought me. And I have never been out of
St. Louis since, except to go to Sutcliffe. There you have my history.
Mrs. Holt would probably have told it to you, if I hadn't."
"And Mrs. Holt brought you to this country?"
Honora explained, not without a certain enjoyment.
"And how do you happen to be here?" she demanded. "Are you a member
of—of the menagerie?"
He had the habit of throwing back his head when he laughed. This,
of course, was a thing to laugh over, and now he deemed it audacity.
Five minutes before he might have given it another name. There is no
use in saying that the recital of Honora's biography had not made a
difference with Mr. Howard Spence, and that he was not a little
mortified at his mistake. What he had supposed her to be must remain a
matter of conjecture. He was, however, by no means aware how thoroughly
this unknown and inexperienced young woman had read his thoughts in her
regard. And, if the truth be told, he was on the whole relieved that
she was nobody. He was just an ordinary man, provided with no sixth
sense or premonitory small voice to warn him that masculine creatures
are often in real danger at the moment when they feel most secure.
It is certain that his manner changed, and during the rest of the
walk she listened demurely when he talked about Wall Street, with
casual references to the powers that be. It was evident that Mr. Howard
Spence was one who had his fingers on the pulse of affairs. Ambition
leaped in him.
They reached the house in advance of Mrs. Holt and the Vicomte, and
Honora went to her room.
At dinner, save for a little matter of a casual remark when Mr.
Holt had assumed the curved attitude in which he asked grace, Mr.
Spence had a veritable triumph. Self-confidence was a quality which
Honora admired. He was undaunted by Mrs. Holt, and advised Mrs. Robert,
if she had any pin-money, to buy New York Central; and he predicted an
era of prosperity which would be unexampled in the annals of the
country. Among other powers, he quoted the father of Honora's
schoolmate, Mr. James Wing, as authority for this prophecy. He sat next
to Susan, who maintained her usual maidenly silence, but Honora, from
time to time, and as though by accident, caught his eye. Even Mr. Holt,
when not munching his dried bread, was tempted to make some inquiries
about the market.
"So far as I am concerned," Mrs. Holt announced suddenly, "nothing
can convince me that it is not gambling."
"My dear Elvira!" protested Mr. Holt.
"I can't help it," said that lady, stoutly; "I'm old-fashioned, I
suppose. But it seems to me like legalized gambling."
Mr. Spence took this somewhat severe arraignment of his career in
admirable good nature. And if there be such a thing as an implied wink,
Honora received one as he proceeded to explain what he was pleased to
call the bona-fide nature of the transactions of Dallam and Spence. A
discussion ensued in which, to her surprise, even the ordinarily
taciturn Joshua took a part, and maintained that the buying and selling
of blooded stock was equally gambling. To this his father laughingly
agreed. The Vicomte, who sat on Mrs. Holt's right, and who apparently
was determined not to suffer a total eclipse without a struggle,
gallantly and unexpectedly came to his hostess' rescue, though she
treated him as a doubtful ally. This was because he declared with
engaging frankness that in France the young men of his monde had a
jeunesse: he, who spoke to them, had gambled; everybody gambled in
France, where it was regarded as an innocent amusement. He had friends
on the Bourse, and he could see no difference in principle between
betting on the red at Monte Carlo and the rise and fall of the shares
of la Compagnie des Métaux, for example. After completing his argument,
he glanced triumphantly about the table, until his restless black eyes
encountered Honora's, seemingly seeking a verdict. She smiled
The subject of finance lasted through the dinner, and the Vicomte
proclaimed himself amazed with the evidences of wealth which confronted
him on every side in this marvellous country. And once, when he was at
a loss for a word, Honora astonished and enchanted him by supplying it.
"Ah, Mademoiselle," he exclaimed, "I was sure when I first beheld
you that you spoke my language! And with such an accent!"
"I have studied it all my life, Vicomte," she said, modestly, "and
I had the honour to be born in your country. I have always wished to
see it again."
Monsieur de Toqueville ventured the fervent hope that her wish
might soon be gratified, but not before he returned to France. He
expressed himself in French, and in a few moments she found herself
deep in a discussion with him in that tongue. While she talked, her
veins seemed filled with fire; and she was dimly and automatically
aware of the disturbance about her, as though she were creating a
magnetic storm that interfered with all other communication. Mr. Holt's
nightly bezique, which he played with Susan, did not seem to be going
as well as usual, and elsewhere conversation was a palpable pretence.
Mr. Spence, who was attempting to entertain the two daughters-in-law,
was clearly distrait—if his glances meant anything. Robert and Joshua
had not appeared, and Mrs. Holt, at the far end of the room under the
lamp, regarded Honora from time to time over the edge of the evening
In his capacity as a student of American manners, an unsuspected if
scattered knowledge on Honora's part of that portion of French
literature included between Théophile Gautier and Gyp at once
dumfounded and delighted the Vicomte de Toqueville. And he was curious
to know whether, amongst American young ladies, Miss Leffingwell was
the exception or the rule. Those eyes of his, which had paid to his
hostess a tender respect, snapped when they spoke to our heroine, and
presently he boldly abandoned literature to declare that the fates
alone had sent her to Silverdale at the time of his visit.
It was at this interesting juncture that Mrs. Holt rattled her
newspaper a little louder than usual, arose majestically, and addressed
"Annie, perhaps you will play for us," she said, as she crossed the
room, and added to Honora: "I had no idea you spoke French so well, my
dear. What have you and Monsieur de Toqueville been talking about?"
It was the Vicomte who, springing to his feet, replied nimbly:—
"Mademoiselle has been teaching me much of the customs of your
"And what," inquired Mrs. Holt, "have you been teaching
The Vicomte laughed and shrugged his shoulders expressively.
"Ah, Madame, I wish I were qualified to be her teacher. The
education of American young ladies is truly extraordinary."
"I was about to tell Monsieur de Toqueville," put in Honora,
wickedly, "that he must see your Institution as soon as possible, and
the work your girls are doing."
"Madame," said the Vicomte, after a scarcely perceptible pause, "I
await my opportunity and your kindness."
"I will take you to-morrow," said Mrs. Holt.
At this instant a sound closely resembling a sneeze caused them to
turn. Mr. Spence, with his handkerchief to his mouth, had his back
turned to them, and was studiously regarding the bookcases.
After Honora had gone upstairs for the night she opened her door in
response to a knock, to find Mrs. Holt on the threshold.
"My dear," said that lady, "I feel that I must say a word to you. I
suppose you realize that you are attractive to men."
"Oh, Mrs. Holt."
"You're no fool, my dear, and it goes without saying that you do
realize it—in the most innocent way, of course. But you have had no
experience in life. Mind you, I don't say that the Vicomte de
Toqueville isn't very much of a gentleman, but the French ideas about
the relations of young men and young women are quite different and, I
regret to say, less innocent than ours. I have no reason to believe
that the Vicomte has come to this country to—to mend his fortunes. I
know nothing about his property. But my sense of responsibility towards
you has led me to tell him that you have no dot, for you somehow manage
to give the impression of a young woman of fortune. Not purposely, my
dear—I did not mean that." Mrs. Holt tapped gently Honora's flaming
cheek. "I merely felt it my duty to drop you a word of warning against
Monsieur de Toqueville—because he is a Frenchman."
"But, Mrs. Holt, I had no idea of—of falling in love with him,"
protested Honora, as soon as she could get her breath. "He seemed so
kind—and so interested in everything."
"I dare say," said Mrs. Holt, dryly. "And I have always been led to
believe that that is the most dangerous sort. I am sure, Honora, after
what I have said, you will give him no encouragement."
"Oh, Mrs. Holt," cried Honora again, "I shouldn't think of such a
"I am sure of it, Honora, now that you are forewarned. And your
suggestion to take him to the Institution was not a bad one. I meant to
do so anyway, and I think it will be good for him. Good night, my
After the good lady had gone, Honora stood for some moments
motionless. Then she turned out the light.
CHAPTER IX. IN WHICH THE VICOMTE
CONTINUES HIS STUDIES
MR. ROBERT HOLT, Honora learned at breakfast, had two hobbies. She had
never heard of what is called Forestry, and had always believed the
wood of her country to be inexhaustible. It had never occurred to her
to think of a wild forest as an example of nature's extravagance, and
so flattering was her attention while Robert explained the primary
principles of caring for trees that he actually offered to show her one
of the tracts on the estate which he was treating. He could not, he
regretted to say, take her that morning.
His other hobby was golf. He was president of the Sutton Golf Club,
and had arranged to play a match with Mr. Spence. This gentleman, it
appeared, was likewise an enthusiast, and had brought to Silverdale a
leather bag filled with sticks.
"Won't you come, too, Miss Leffingwell?" he said, as he took a
second cup of coffee.
Somewhat to the astonishment of the Holt family, Robert seconded
"I'll bet, Robert," said Mr. Spence, gallantly, "that Miss
Leffingwell can put it over both of us."
"Indeed, I can't play at all," exclaimed Honora in confusion. "And
I shouldn't think of spoiling your match. And besides, I am going to
drive with Susan."
"We can go another day, Honora," said Susan.
But Honora would not hear of it.
"Come over with me this afternoon, then," suggested Mr. Spence,
"and I'll give you a lesson."
She thanked him gratefully. "But it won't be much fun for you, I'm
afraid," she added, as they left the dining room.
"Don't worry about me," he answered cheerfully. He was dressed in a
checked golf costume, and wore a pink shirt of a new pattern. And he
stood in front of her in the hall, glowing from his night's sleep,
evidently in a high state of amusement.
"What's the matter?" she demanded.
"You did for the Vicomte all right," he said. "I'd give a good deal
to see him going through the Institution."
"It wouldn't have hurt you, either," she retorted, and started up
the stairs. Once she glanced back and saw him looking after her.
At the far end of the second story hall she perceived the Vicomte,
who had not appeared at breakfast, coming out of his room. She paused
with her hand on the walnut post and laughed a little, so ludicrous was
his expression as he approached her.
"Ah, Mademoiselle, que vous êtes mechante!" he exclaimed. "But I
forgive you, if you will not go off with that stock-broker. It must be
that I see the Home sometime, and if I go now it is over. I forgive
you. It is in the Bible that we must forgive our neighbour—how many
"Seventy times seven," said Honora.
"But I make a condition," said the Vicomte, "that my neighbour
shall be a woman, and young and beautiful. Then I care not how many
times. Mademoiselle, if you would but have your portrait painted as you
are, with your hand on the post, by Sargent or Carolus Duran, there
would be some noise in the Salon."
"Is that you, Vicomte?" came a voice from the foot of the stairs—
Mrs. Holt's voice.
"I come this instant, Madame," he replied, looking over the
banisters, and added: "Malheureux que je suis! Perhaps, when I return,
you will show me a little of the garden."
The duty of exhibiting to guests the sights of Silverdale and the
neighbourhood had so often devolved upon Susan, who was methodical,
that she had made out a route, or itinerary, for this purpose. There
were some notes to leave and a sick woman and a child to see, which
caused her to vary it a little that morning; and Honora, who sat in the
sunlight and held the horse, wondered how it would feel to play the
"I am so glad to have you all to myself for a little while,
Honora," Susan said to her. "You are so popular that I begin to fear
that I shall have to be unselfish, and share you."
"Oh, Susan," she said, "every one has been so kind. And I can't
tell you how much I am enjoying this experience, which I feel I owe to
"I am so happy, dear, that it is giving you pleasure," said Susan.
"And don't think," exclaimed Honora, "that you won't see lots of
me, for you will."
Her heart warmed to Susan, yet she could not but feel a secret pity
for her, as one unable to make the most of her opportunities in the
wonderful neighbourhood in which she lived. As they drove through the
roads and in and out of the well-kept places, everybody they met had a
bow and a smile for her friend—a greeting such as people give to
those for whom they have only good-will. Young men and girls waved
their racquets at her from the tennis-courts; and Honora envied them
and wished that she, too, were a part of the gay life she saw, and were
playing instead of being driven decorously about. She admired the trim,
new houses in which they lived, set upon the slopes of the hills.
Pleasure houses, they seemed to her, built expressly for joys which had
been denied her.
"Do you see much of—of these people, Susan?" she asked.
"Not so much as I'd like," replied Susan, seriously. "I never seem
to get time. We nearly always have guests at Silverdale, and then there
are so many things one has to attend to. Perhaps you have noticed," she
added, smiling a little, "that we are very serious and old-fashioned."
"Oh, no indeed," protested Honora. "It is such a wonderful
experience for me to be here!"
"Well," said Susan, "we're having some young people to dinner
to-night, and others next week—that's why I'm leaving these notes.
And then we shall be a little livelier."
"Really, Susan, you mustn't think that I'm not having a good time.
It is exciting to be in the same house with a real French Vicomte, and
I like Mr. Spence tremendously."
Her friend was silent.
"Don't you?" demanded Honora.
To her surprise, the usually tolerant Susan did not wholly approve
of Mr. Spence.
"He is a guest, and I ought not to criticise him," she answered.
"But since you ask me, Honora, I have to be honest. It seems to me that
his ambitions are a little sordid—that he is too intent upon growing
"But I thought all New Yorkers were that way," exclaimed Honora,
and added hastily, "except a few, like your family, Susan."
"You should marry a diplomat, my dear," she said. "After all,
perhaps I am a little harsh. But there is a spirit of selfishness and—
and of vulgarity in modern, fashionable New York which appears to be
catching, like a disease. The worship of financial success seems to be
in every one's blood."
"It is power," said Honora.
Susan glanced at her, but Honora did not remark the expression on
her friend's face, so intent was she on the reflections which Susan's
words had aroused. They had reached the far end of the Silverdale
domain, and were driving along the shore of the lake that lay like a
sapphire set amongst the green hills. It was here that the new house of
the Robert Holts was building. Presently they came to Joshua's dairy
farm, and Joshua himself was standing in the doorway of one of his
immaculate barns. Honora put her hand on Susan's arm.
"Can't we see the cows?" she asked.
Susan looked surprised.
"I didn't know you were interested in cows, Honora."
"I am interested in everything," said Honora. "And I think your
brother is so attractive."
It was at this moment that Joshua, with his hands in his pockets,
demanded what his sister was doing there.
"Miss Leffingwell wants to look at the cattle, Josh," called Susan.
"Won't you show them to me, Mr. Holt," begged Honora. "I'd like so
much to see some really good cattle, and to know a little more about
Joshua appeared incredulous. But, being of the male sex, he did not
hide the fact that he was pleased.
"It seems strange to have somebody really want to see them," he
said. "I tried to get Spence to come back this way, but the idea didn't
seem to appeal to him. Here are some of the records."
"Records?" repeated Honora, looking at a mass of type-written
figures on the wall. "Do you mean to say you keep such an exact account
of all the milk you get?"
Joshua laughed, and explained. She walked by his side over the
concrete paving to the first of the varnished stalls.
"That," he said, and a certain pride had come into his voice, "is
Lady Guinevere, and those ribbons are the prizes she has taken on both
sides of the water."
"Isn't she a dear!" exclaimed Honora; "why, she's actually
beautiful. I didn't know cows could be so beautiful."
"She isn't bad," admitted Joshua. "Of course the good points in a
cow aren't necessarily features of beauty—for instance, these bones
here," he added, pointing to the hips.
"But they seem to add, somehow, to the thoroughbred appearance,"
"That's absolutely true," replied Joshua,—whereupon he began to
talk. And Honora, still asking questions, followed him from stall to
stall. "There are some more in the pasture," he said, when they had
reached the end of the second building.
"Oh, couldn't I see them?" she asked.
"Surely," replied Joshua, with more of alacrity than one would have
believed him capable. "I'll tell Susan to drive on, and you and I will
walk home across the fields, if you like."
"I should love to," said Honora.
It was not without astonishment that the rest of the Holt family
beheld them returning together as the gongs were sounding for luncheon.
Mrs. Holt, upon perceiving them, began at once to shake her head and
"My dear, it can't be that you have captivated Joshua!" she
exclaimed, in a tone that implied the carrying of a stronghold hitherto
Honora blushed, whether from victory or embarrassment, or both, it
is impossible to say.
"I'm afraid it's just the other way, Mrs. Holt," she replied; "Mr.
Holt has captivated me."
"We'll call it mutual, Miss Leffingwell," declared Joshua, which
was for him the height of gallantry.
"I only hope he hasn't bored you," said the good-natured Mrs.
"Oh, dear, no," exclaimed Honora. "I don't see how any one could be
bored looking at such magnificent animals as that Hardicanute."
It was at this moment that her eyes were drawn, by a seemingly
resistless attraction, to Mrs. Robert's face. Her comment upon this
latest conquest, though unexpressed, was disquieting. And in spite of
herself, Honora blushed again.
At luncheon, in the midst of a general conversation, Mr. Spence
made a remark sotto voce which should, in the ordinary course of
events, have remained a secret.
"Susan," he said, "your friend Miss Leffingwell is a fascinator.
She's got Robert's scalp, too, and he thought it a pretty good joke
because I offered to teach her to play golf this afternoon." It
appeared that Susan's eyes could flash indignantly. Perhaps she
resented Mr. Spence's calling her by her first name.
"Honora Leffingwell is the most natural and unspoiled person I
know," she said.
There is, undoubtedly, a keen pleasure and an ample reward in
teaching a pupil as apt and as eager to learn as Honora. And Mr.
Spence, if he attempted at all to account for the swiftness with which
the hours of that long afternoon slipped away, may have attributed
their flight to the discovery in himself of hitherto latent talent for
instruction. At the little Casino, he had bought, from the professional
in charge of the course, a lady's driver; and she practised with
exemplary patience the art of carrying one's hands through and of using
the wrists in the stroke.
"Not quite, Miss Leffingwell," he would say, "but so."
Honora would try again.
"That's unusually good for a beginner, but you are inclined to chop
it off a little still. Let it swing all the way round."
"Oh, dear, how you must hate me!"
"Hate you?" said Mr. Spence, searching in vain for words with which
to obliterate such a false impression. Anything but that!"
"Isn't it a wonderful spot?" she exclaimed, gazing off down the
swale, emerald green in the afternoon light between its forest walls.
In the distance, Silver Brook was gleaming amidst the meadows. They sat
down on one of the benches and watched the groups of players pass. Mr.
Spence produced his cigarette case, and presented it to her playfully.
"A little quiet whiff," he suggested. "There's not much chance over
at the convent," and she gathered that it was thus he was pleased to
In one instant she was doubtful whether or not to be angry, and in
the next grew ashamed of the provincialism which had caused her to
suspect an insult. She took a cigarette, and he produced a gold match
case, lighted a match, and held it up for her. Honora blew it out. "You
didn't think seriously that I smoked?" she asked, glancing at him.
"Why not?" he asked; "any number of girls do."
She tore away some of the rice paper and lifted the tobacco to her
nose, and made a little grimace.
"Do you like to see women smoke?" she asked.
Mr. Spence admitted that there was something cosey about the
custom, when it was well done.
"And I imagine," he added, "that you'd do it well."
"I'm sure I should make a frightful mess of it," she protested
"You do everything well," he said.
"Even golf?" she inquired mischievously.
"Even golf, for a beginner and—and a woman; you've got the swing
in an astonishingly short time. In fact, you've been something of an
eye-opener to me," he declared. "If I had been betting, I should have
placed the odds about twenty to one against your coming from the West."
This Eastern complacency, although it did not lower Mr. Spence in
her estimation, aroused Honora's pride.
"That shows how little New Yorkers know of the West," she replied,
laughing. "Didn't you suppose there were any gentlewomen there?"
"Gentlewomen," repeated Mr. Spence, as though puzzled by the word,
"gentlewomen, yes. But you might have been born anywhere."
Even her sense of loyalty to her native place was not strong enough
to override this compliment.
"I like a girl with some dash and go to her," he proclaimed, and
there could be no doubt about the one to whom he was attributing these
qualities. "Savoir faire, as the French call it, and all that. I don't
know much about that language, but the way you talk it makes Mrs.
Holt's French and Susan's sound silly. I watched you last night when
you were stringing the Vicomte."
"Oh, did you?" said Honora, demurely.
"You may have thought I was talking to Mrs. Robert," he said. "I
wasn't thinking anything about you," replied Honora, indignantly. "And
besides, I wasn't 'stringing' the Vicomte. In the West we don't use
anything like so much slang as you seem to use in New York."
"Oh, come now!" he exclaimed, laughingly, and apparently not the
least out of countenance, "you made him think he was the only pebble on
the beach. I have no idea what you were talking about."
"Literature," she said. "Perhaps that was the reason why you
couldn't understand it."
"He may be interested in literature," replied Mr. Spence, "but it
wouldn't be a bad guess to say that he was more interested in stocks
"He doesn't talk about them, at any rate," said Honora.
"I'd respect him more if he did," he announced. "I know those
fellows—they make love to every woman they meet. I saw him eying you
"I imagine the Vicomte could make love charmingly," she said.
Mr. Spence suddenly became very solemn.
"Merely as a fellow-countryman, Miss Leffingwell -" he began, when
she sprang to her feet, her eyes dancing, and finished the sentence.
"You would advise me to be on my guard against him, because,
although I look twenty-five and experienced, I am only nineteen and
inexperienced. Thank you."
He paused to light another cigarette before he followed her across
the turf. But she had the incomprehensible feminine satisfaction of
knowing, as they walked homeward, that the usual serenity of his
disposition was slightly ruffled.
A sudden caprice impelled her, in the privacy of her bedroom that
evening, to draw his portrait for Peter Erwin. The complacency of New
York men was most amusing, she wrote, and the amount of slang they used
would have been deemed vulgar in St. Louis. Nevertheless, she liked
people to be sure of themselves, and there was something "insolent"
about New York which appealed to her. Peter, when he read that letter,
seemed to see Mr. Howard Spence in the flesh; or arrayed, rather, in
the kind of cloth alluringly draped in the show-windows of fashionable
tailors. For Honora, all unconsciously, wrote literature. Literature
was invented before phonographs, and will endure after them. Peter
could hear Mr. Spence talk, for a part of that gentleman's conversation
- a characteristic part—was faithfully transcribed. And Peter
detected a strain of admiration running even through the ridicule.
Peter showed that letter to Aunt Mary, whom it troubled, and to
Uncle Tom, who laughed over it. There was also a lifelike portrait of
the Vicomte, followed by the comment that he was charming, but very
French; but the meaning of this last, but quite obvious, attribute
remained obscure. He was possessed of one of the oldest titles and one
of the oldest châteaux in France. (Although she did not say so, Honora
had this on no less authority than that of the Vicomte himself.) Mrs.
Holt—with her Victorian brooch and ear-rings and her watchful
delft-blue eyes that somehow haunted one even when she was out of
sight, with her ample bosom and the really kind heart it contained—
was likewise depicted; and Mr. Holt, with his dried bread, and his
garden which Honora wished Uncle Tom could see, and his prayers that
lacked imagination. Joshua and his cows, Robert and his forest, Susan
and her charities, the Institution, jolly Mrs. Joshua and enigmatical
Mrs. Robert—all were there: and even a picture of the dinner-party
that evening, when Honora sat next to a young Mr. Patterson with
glasses and a studious manner, who knew George Hanbury at Harvard. The
other guests were a florid Miss Chamberlin, whose person loudly
proclaimed possessions, and a thin Miss Longman, who rented one of the
Silverdale cottages and sketched.
Honora was seeing life. She sent her love to Peter, and begged him
to write to her.
The next morning a mysterious change seemed to have passed over the
members of the family during the night. It was Sunday. Honora, when she
left her room, heard a swishing on the stairs—Mrs. Joshua, stiffly
arrayed for the day. Even Mrs. Robert swished, but Mrs. Holt, in a
bronze-coloured silk, swished most of all as she entered the library
after a brief errand to the housekeeper's room. Mr. Holt was already
arranging his book-marks in the Bible, while Joshua and Robert, in
black cutaways that seemed to have the benumbing and paralyzing effect
of strait-jackets, wandered aimlessly about the room, as though its
walls were the limit of their movements. The children had a subdued and
touch-me-not air that reminded Honora of her own youth.
It was not until prayers were over and the solemn gathering seated
at the breakfast table that Mr. Spence burst upon it like an aurora.
His flannel suit was of the lightest of grays; he wore white tennis
shoes and a red tie, and it was plain, as he cheerfully bade them good
morning, that he was wholly unaware of the enormity of his costume.
There was a choking, breathless moment before Mrs. Holt broke the
"Surely, Howard," she said, "you're not going to church in those
"I hadn't thought of going to church," replied Mr. Spence, helping
himself to cherries.
"What do you intend to do?" asked his hostess.
"Read the stock reports for the week as soon as the newspapers
"There is no such thing as a Sunday newspaper in my house," said
"No Sunday newspapers!" he exclaimed. And his eyes, as they
encountered Honora's,—who sought to avoid them,—expressed a genuine
"I am afraid," said Mrs. Holt, "that I was right when I spoke of
the pernicious effect of Wall Street upon young men. Your mother did
not approve of Sunday newspapers."
During the rest of the meal, although he made a valiant attempt to
hold his own, Mr. Spence was, so to speak, outlawed. Robert and Joshua
must have had a secret sympathy for him. One of them mentioned the
"The Vicomte is a foreigner," declared Mrs. Holt. "I am in no sense
responsible for him."
The Vicomte was at that moment propped up in bed, complaining to
his valet about the weakness of the coffee. He made the remark (which
he afterwards repeated to Honora) that weak coffee and the Protestant
religion seemed inseparable; but he did not attempt to discover the
whereabouts, in Sutton, of the Church of his fathers. He was not in the
best of humours that morning, and his toilet had advanced no further
when, an hour or so later, he perceived from behind his lace curtains
Mr. Howard Spence, dressed with comparative soberness, handing Honora
into the omnibus. The incident did not serve to improve the cynical
mood in which the Vicomte found himself.
Indeed, the Vicomte, who had a theory concerning Mr. Spence's
churchgoing, was not far from wrong. As may have been suspected, it was
to Honora that credit was due. It was Honora whom Mr. Spence sought
after breakfast, and to whom he declared that her presence alone
prevented him from leaving that afternoon. It was Honora who told him
that he ought to be ashamed of himself. And it was to Honora, after
church was over and they were walking homeward together along the dusty
road, that Mr. Spence remarked by way of a delicate compliment that
"the morning had not been a total loss, after all!"
The little Presbyterian church stood on a hillside just outside of
the village and was, as far as possible, the possession of the Holt
family. The morning sunshine illuminated the angels in the Holt
memorial window, and the inmates of the Holt Institution occupied all
the back pews. Mrs. Joshua played the organ, and Susan, with several
young women and a young man with a long coat and plastered hair, sang
in the choir. The sermon of the elderly minister had to do with beliefs
rather than deeds, and was the subject of discussion at luncheon. "It
is very like a sermon I found in my room," said Honora.
"I left that book in your room, my dear, in the hope that you would
not overlook it," said Mrs. Holt, approvingly. "Joshua, I wish you
would read that sermon aloud to us."
"Oh, do, Mr. Holt!" begged Honora.
The Vicomte, who had been acting very strangely during the meal,
showed unmistakable signs of a futile anger. He had asked Honora to
walk with him.
"Of course," added Mrs. Holt, "no one need listen who doesn't wish
to. Since you were good enough to reconsider your decision and attend
divine service, Howard, I suppose I should be satisfied."
The reading took place in the library. Through the open window
Honora perceived the form of Joshua asleep in the hammock, his Sunday
coat all twisted under him. It worried her to picture his attire when
he should wake up. Once Mrs. Robert looked in, smiled, said nothing,
and went out again. At length, in a wicker chair under a distant tree
on the lawn, Honora beheld the dejected outline of the Vicomte. He was
trying to read, but every once in a while would lay down his book and
gaze protractedly at the house, stroking his mustache. The low song of
the bees around the shrubbery vied with Mr. Holt's slow reading. On the
whole, the situation delighted Honora, who bit her lip to refrain from
smiling at M. de Toqueville. When at last she emerged from the library,
he rose precipitately and came towards her across the lawn, lifting his
hands towards the pitiless puritan skies.
"Enfin!" he exclaimed tragically. "Ah, Mademoiselle, never in my
life have I passed such a day!"
"Are you ill, Vicomte?" she asked.
"Ill! Were it not for you, I would be gone. You alone sustain me—
it is for the pleasure of seeing you that I suffer. What kind of a
ménage is this, then, where I am walked around Institutions, where I am
forced to listen to the exposition of doctrines, where the coffee is
weak, where Sunday, which the bon Dieu set aside for a jour de fête
resembles to a day in purgatory?"
"But, Vicomte," Honora laughed, "you must remember that you are in
America, and that you have come here to study our manners and customs."
"Ah, no," he cried, "ah, no, it cannot all be like this! I will not
believe it. Mr. Holt, who sought to entertain me before luncheon,
offered to show me his collection of Chinese carvings! I, who might be
at Trouville or Cabourg! If it were not for you, Mademoiselle, I should
not stay here—not one little minute," he said, with a slow intensity.
"Behold what I suffer for your sake!"
"For my sake?" echoed Honora.
"For what else?" demanded the Vicomte, gazing upon her with the
eyes of martyrdom. "It is not for my health, alas! Between the coffee
and this dimanche I have the vertigo."
Honora laughed again at the memory of the dizzy Sunday afternoons
of her childhood, when she had been taken to see Mr. Isham's curios.
"You are cruel," said the Vicomte; "you laugh at my tortures."
"On the contrary, I think I understand them," she replied. "I have
often felt the same way."
"My instinct was true, then," he cried triumphantly; "the first
time my eyes fell on you, I said to myself, 'ah, there is one who
understands.' And I am seldom mistaken."
"Your experience with the opposite sex," ventured Honora, "must
have made you infallible."
He shrugged and smiled, as one whose modesty forbade the mention of
"You do not belong here either, Mademoiselle," he said. "You are
not like these people. You have temperament, and a future—believe me.
Why do you waste your time?"
"What do you mean, Vicomte?"
"Ah, it is not necessary to explain what I mean. It is that you do
not choose to understand—you are far too clever. Why is it, then,
that you bore yourself by regarding Institutions and listening to
sermons in your jeunesse? It is all very well for Mademoiselle Susan,
but you are not created for a religieuse. And again, it pleases you to
spend hours with the stock-broker, who is as lacking in esprit as the
bull of Joshua. He is no companion for you."
"I am afraid," she said reprovingly, "that you do not understand
"Par exemple!" cried the Vicomte; "have I not seen hundreds like
him? Do not they come to Paris and live in the great hotels and demand
cocktails and read the stock reports and send cablegrams all the day
long? and go to the Folies Bergères, and yawn? Nom de nom, of what does
his conversation consist? Of the price of railroads,—is it not so? I,
who speak to you, have talked to him. Does he know how to make love?"
"That accomplishment is not thought of very highly in America,"
"It is because you are a new country," he declared. "And you are
mad over money. Money has taken the place of love."
"Is money so despised in France?" she asked. "I have heard—that
you married for it!"
"Touché!" cried the Vicomte, laughing. "You see, I am frank with
you. We marry for money, yes, but we do not make a god of it. It is our
servant. You make it, and we enjoy it. Yes, and you, Mademoiselle—
you, too, were made to enjoy. You do not belong here," he said, with a
disdainful sweep of the arm. "Ah, I have solved you. You have in you
the germ of the Riviera. You were born there."
Honora wondered if what he said were true. Was she different? She
was having a great deal of pleasure at Silverdale; even the sermon
reading, which would have bored her at home, had interested and amused
her. But was it not from the novelty of these episodes, rather than
from their special characters, that she received the stimulus? She
glanced curiously towards the Vicomte, and met his eye.
They had been walking the while, and had crossed the lawn and
entered one of the many paths which it had been Robert's pastime to cut
through the woods. And at length they came out at a rustic summer-house
set over the wooded valley. Honora, with one foot on the ground, sat on
the railing gazing over the tree-tops; the Vicomte was on the bench
beside her. His eyes sparkled and snapped, and suddenly she tingled
with a sense that the situation was not without an element of danger.
"I had a feeling about you, last night at dinner," he said; "you
reminded me of a line of Marcel Prévost, 'Cette femme ne sera pas aimée
que parmi des drames.'"
"Nonsense," said Honora; "last night at dinner you were too much
occupied with Miss Chamberlin to think of me."
"Ah, Mademoiselle, you have read me strangely if you think that. I
talked to her with my lips, yes—but it was of you I was thinking. I
was thinking that you were born to play a part in many dramas, that you
have the fatal beauty which is rare in all ages." The Vicomte bent
towards her, and his voice became caressing. "You cannot realize how
beautiful you are," he sighed.
Suddenly he seized her hand, and before she could withdraw it she
had the satisfaction of knowing the sensation of having it kissed. It
was a strange sensation indeed. And the fact that she did not tingle
with anger alone made her all the more angry. Trembling, her face
burning, she leaped down from the railing and fled into the path. And
there, seeing that he did not follow, she turned and faced him. He
stood staring at her with eyes that had not ceased to sparkle.
"How cowardly of you!" she cried.
"Ah, Mademoiselle," he answered fervently, "I would risk your anger
a thousand times to see you like that once more. I cannot help my
feelings—they were dead indeed if they did not respond to such an
inspiration. Let them plead for my pardon."
Honora felt herself melting a little. After all, there might have
been some excuse for it, and he made love divinely. When he had caught
up with her, his contriteness was such that she was willing to believe
he had not meant to insult her. And then, he was a Frenchman. As a
proof of his versatility, if not of his good faith, he talked of
neutral matters on the way back to the house, with the charming ease
and lightness that was the gift of his race and class. On the borders
of the wood they encountered the Robert Holts, walking with their
"Madame," said the Vicomte to Gwendolen, "your Silverdale is
enchanting. We have been to that little summer-house which commands the
"And are you still learning things about our country, Vicomte?" she
asked, with a glance at Honora.
CHAPTER X. IN WHICH HONORA WIDENS
IF it were not a digression, it might be interesting to speculate upon
the reason why, in view of their expressed opinions of Silverdale, both
the Vicomte and Mr. Spence remained during the week that followed.
Robert, who went off in the middle of it with his family to the
seashore, described it to Honora as a normal week. During its progress
there came and went a missionary from China, a pianist, an English lady
who had heard of the Institution, a Southern spinster with literary
gifts, a youthful architect who had not built anything, and a young
lawyer interested in settlement work.
The missionary presented our heroine with a book he had written
about the Yang-tse-kiang; the Southern lady suspected her of literary
gifts; the architect walked with her through the woods to the rustic
shelter where the Vicomte had kissed her hand, and told her that he now
comprehended the feelings of Christopher Wren when he conceived St.
Paul's Cathedral, of Michael Angelo when he painted the Sistine Chapel.
Even the serious young lawyer succumbed, though not without a struggle.
When be had first seen Miss Leffingwell, he confessed, he had thought
her frivolous. He had done her an injustice, and wished to acknowledge
it before he left. And, since she was interested in settlement work, he
hoped, if she were going through New York, that she would let him know.
It would be a real pleasure to show her what he was doing.
Best of all, Honora, by her unselfishness, endeared herself to her
"I can't tell you what a real help you are to me, my dear," said
that lady. "You have a remarkable gift with people for so young a girl,
and I do you the credit of thinking that it all springs from a kind
In the meantime, unknown to Mrs. Holt, who might in all conscience
have had a knowledge of what may be called social chemistry, a drama
was slowly unfolding itself. By no fault of Honora's, of course. There
may have been some truth in the quotation of the Vicomte as applied to
her—that she was destined to be loved only amidst the play of drama.
If experience is worth anything, Monsieur de Toqueville should have
been an expert in matters of the sex. Could it be possible, Honora
asked herself more than once, that his feelings were deeper than her
feminine instinct and the knowledge she had gleaned from novels led her
It is painful to relate that the irregularity and deceit of the
life the Vicomte was leading amused her, for existence at Silverdale
was plainly not of a kind to make a gentleman of the Vicomte's
temperament and habits ecstatically happy. And Honora was filled with a
strange and unaccountable delight when she overheard him assuring Mrs.
Wellfleet, the English lady of eleemosynary tendencies, that he was
engaged in a study at first hand of Americans.
The time has come to acknowledge frankly that it was Honora he was
studying—Honora as the type of young American womanhood. What he did
not suspect was that young American womanhood was studying him. Thanks
to a national System, she had had an apprenticeship; the heart-blood of
Algernon Cartwright and many others had not been shed in vain. And the
fact that she was playing with real fire, that this was a duel with the
buttons off, lent a piquancy and zest to the pastime which it had
The Vicomte's feelings were by no means hidden processes to Honora,
and it was as though she could lift the lid of the furnace at any time
and behold the growth of the flame which she had lighted. Nay, nature
had endowed her with such a gift that she could read the daily
temperature as by a register hung on the outside, without getting
scorched. Nor had there been any design on her part in thus tormenting
his soul. He had not meant to remain more than four days at Silverdale,
that she knew; he had not meant to come to America and fall in love
with a penniless beauty—that she knew also. The climax would be
interesting, if perchance uncomfortable.
It is wonderful what we can find the time to do, if we only try.
Monsieur de Toqueville lent Honora novels, which she read in bed; but
being in the full bloom of health and of a strong constitution, this
practice did not prevent her from rising at seven to take a walk
through the garden with Mr. Holt—a custom which he had come
insensibly to depend upon. And in the brief conversations which she
vouchsafed the Vicomte, they discussed his novels. In vain he pleaded,
in caressing undertones, that she should ride with him. Honora had
never been on a horse, but she did not tell him so. If she would but
drive, or walk—only a little way—he would promise faithfully not to
forget himself. Honora intimated that the period of his probation had
not yet expired. If he waylaid her on the stairs, he got but little
"You converse by the hour with the missionaries, and take long
promenades with the architects and charity workers, but to me you will
give nothing," he complained.
"The persons of whom you speak are not dangerous," answered Honora,
giving him a look.
The look, and being called dangerous, sent up the temperature
several degrees. Frenchmen are not the only branch of the male sex who
are complimented by being called dangerous. The Vicomte was desolated,
so he said.
"I stay here only for you, and the coffee is slowly deranging me,"
he declared in French, for most of their conversations were in that
language. If there were duplicity in this, Honora did not recognize it.
"I stay here only for you, and how you are cruel! I live for you—how,
the good God only knows. I exist—to see you for ten minutes a day."
"Oh, Vicomte, you exaggerate. If you were to count it up, I am sure
you would find that we talk an hour at least, altogether. And then,
although I am very young and inexperienced, I can imagine how many
conquests you have made by the same arts."
"I suffer," he cried; "ah, no, you cannot look at me without
perceiving it—you who are so heartless. And when I see you play at
golf with that Mr. Spence -!"
"Surely," said Honora, "you can't object to my acquiring a new
accomplishment when I have the opportunity, and Mr. Spence is so kind
and good-natured about it."
"Do you think I have no eyes?" he exclaimed. "Have I not seen him
look at you like the great animal of Joshua when he wants his supper?
He is without esprit, without soul. There is nothing inside of him but
"The most valuable of all machinery," she replied, laughingly.
"If I thought you believed that, Mademoiselle, if I thought you
were like so many of your countrywomen in this respect, I should leave
to-morrow," he declared.
"Don't be too sure, Vicomte," she cautioned him.
If one possessed a sense of humour and a certain knowledge of
mankind, the spectacle of a young and successful Wall Street broker at
Silverdale that week was apt to be diverting. Mr. Spence held his own.
He advised the architect to make a specialty of country houses, and
promised some day to order one: he disputed boldly with the other young
man as to the practical uses of settlement work, and even measured
swords with the missionary. Needless to say, he was not popular with
these gentlemen. But he was also good-natured and obliging, and he did
not object to repeating for the English lady certain phrases which she
called "picturesque expressions," and which she wrote down with a gold
It is evident, from the Vicomte's remarks, that he found time to
continue Honora's lessons in golf—or rather that she found time, in
the midst of her manifold and self-imposed duties, to take them. And in
this diversion she was encouraged by Mrs. Holt herself. On Saturday
morning, the heat being unusual, they ended their game by common
consent at the fourth hole and descended a wood road to Silver Brook,
to a spot which they had visited once before and had found attractive.
Honora, after bathing her face in the pool, perched herself on a
boulder. She was very fresh and radiant.
This fact, if she had not known it, she might have gathered from
Mr. Spence's expression. He had laid down his coat; his sleeves were
rolled up and his arms were tanned, and he stood smoking a cigarette
and gazing at her with approbation. She lowered her eyes.
"Well, we've had a pretty good time, haven't we?" he remarked.
Lightning sometimes fails in its effect, but the look she flashed
back at him from under her blue lashes seldom misses.
"I'm afraid I haven't been a very apt pupil," she replied modestly.
"You're on the highroad to a cup," he assured her. "If I could take
you on for another week -" He paused, and an expression came into his
eyes which was not new to Honora, nor peculiar to Mr. Spence. "I have
to go back to town on Monday."
If Honora felt any regret at this announcement, she did not express
"I thought you couldn't stand Silverdale much longer," she replied.
"You know why I stayed," he said, and paused again—rather
awkwardly, for Mr. Spence. But Honora was silent. "I had a letter this
morning from my partner, Sidney Dallam, calling me back."
"I suppose you are very busy," said Honora, detaching a
copper-green scale of moss from the boulder.
"The fact is," he explained, "that we have received an order of
considerable importance, for which I am more or less responsible.
Something of a compliment—since we are, after all, comparatively
"Sometimes," said Honora, "sometimes I wish I were a man. Women are
so hampered and circumscribed, and have to wait for things to happen to
them. A man can do what he wants. He can go into Wall Street and fight
"WELL, WE'VE HAD A PRETTY GOOD TIME, HAVEN'T WE?"
130 until he controls miles of railroads and thousands and
thousands of men. That would be a career!"
"Yes," he agreed, smilingly, "it's worth fighting for."
Her eyes were burning with a strange light as she looked down the
vista of the wood road by which they had come. He flung his cigarette
into the water and took a step nearer her.
"How long have I known you?" he asked.
"Why, it's only a little more than a week," she said.
"Does it seem longer than that to you?"
"Yes," admitted Honora, colouring; "I suppose it's because we've
been staying in the same house."
"It seems to me," said Mr. Spence, "that I have known you always."
Honora sat very still. It passed through her brain, without
comment, that there was a certain haunting familiarity about this
remark; some other voice, in some other place, had spoken it, and in
very much the same tone.
"You're the kind of girl I admire," he declared. "I've been
watching you—more than you have any idea of. You're adaptable. Put
you down any place, and you take hold. For instance, it's a marvellous
thing to me how you've handled all the curiosities up there this week."
"Oh, I like people," said Honora, "they interest me." And she
laughed a little, nervously. She was aware that Mr. Spence was making
love, in his own manner: the New York manner, undoubtedly; though what
he said was changed by the new vibrations in his voice. He was making
love, too, with a characteristic lack of apology and with assurance.
She stole a glance at him, and beheld the image of a dominating man of
affairs. He did not, it is true, evoke in her that extreme sensation
which has been called a thrill. She had read somewhere that women were
always expecting thrills, and never got them. Nevertheless, she had not
realized how close a bond of sympathy had grown between them until this
sudden announcement of his going back to New York. In a little while
she too would be leaving for St. Louis. The probability that she would
never see him again seemed graver than she would have believed.
"Will you miss me a little?" he asked.
"Oh, yes," she said breathlessly, "and I shall be curious to know
how your—your enterprise succeeds."
"Honora," he said, "it is only a week since I first met you, but I
know my own mind. You are the woman I want, and I think I may say
without boasting that I can give you what you desire in life—after a
while. I love you. You are young, and just now I felt that perhaps I
should have waited a year before speaking, but I was afraid of missing
altogether what I know to be the great happiness of my life. Will you
She sat silent upon the rock. She heard him speak, it is true; but,
try as she would, the full significance of his words would not come to
her. She had, indeed, no idea that he would propose, no notion that his
heart was involved to such an extent. He was very near her, but he had
not attempted to touch her. His voice, towards the end of his speech,
had trembled with passion—a true note had been struck. And she had
struck it, by no seeming effort! He wished to marry her!
He aroused her again.
"I have frightened you," he said.
She opened her eyes. What he beheld in them was not fright—it was
nothing he had ever seen before. For the first time in his life,
perhaps, he was awed. And, seeing him helpless, she put out her hands
to him with a gesture that seemed to enhance her gift a thousand-fold.
He had not realized what he was getting.
"I am not frightened," she said. "Yes, I will marry you."
He was not sure whether—so brief was the moment!—he had held
and kissed her cheek. His arms were empty now, and he caught a glimpse
of her poised on the road above him amidst the quivering, sunlit
leaves, looking back at him over her shoulder. He followed her, but she
kept nimbly ahead of him until they came out into the open golf course.
He tried to think, but failed. Never in his orderly life had anything
so precipitate happened to him. He caught up with her, devoured her
with his eyes, and beheld in marriage a delirium.
"Honora," he said thickly, "I can't grasp it."
She gave him a quick look, and a smile quivered at the corners of
"What are you thinking of?" he asked.
"I am thinking of Mrs. Holt's expression when we tell her," said
Honora. "But we shan't tell her yet, shall we, Howard? We'll have it
for our own secret a little while."
The golf course being deserted, he pressed her arm.
"We'll tell her whenever you like, dear," he replied.
In spite of the fact that they drove Joshua's trotter much too
rapidly in the heat of the day, they were late to lunch.
"I shall never be able to go in there and not give it away," he
whispered to her on the stairs.
"You look like the Cheshire cat in the tree," whispered Honora,
laughing, "only more purple, and not so ghost-like."
"I know I'm smiling," replied Howard, "I feel like it, but I can't
help it. It won't come off. I want to blurt out the news to every one
in the dining-room—to that little Frenchman, in particular."
Honora laughed again. Her imagination easily summoned up the
tableau which such a proceeding would bring forth. The incredulity, the
chagrin, the indignation, even, in some quarters. He conceived the
household, with the exception of the Vicomte, precipitating themselves
into his arms.
Honora, who was cool enough herself (no doubt owing to the superior
training which women receive in matters of deportment), observed that
his entrance was not a triumph of dissimulation. His colour was high,
and his expression, indeed, a little idiotic; and he declared
afterwards that he felt like a sandwich-man, with the news printed in
red letters before and behind. Honora knew that the intense
improbability of the truth would save them, and it did. Mrs. Holt
remarked, slyly, that the game of golf must have hidden attractions,
and regretted that she was too old to learn it.
"We went very slowly on account of the heat," Howard declared.
"I should say that you had gone very rapidly, from your face,"
retorted Mrs. Holt. In relaxing moods she indulged in banter.
Honora stepped into the breach. She would not trust her newly
acquired fiance to extricate himself.
"We were both very much worried, Mrs. Holt," she explained,
"because we were late for lunch once before."
"I suppose I'll have to forgive you, my dear, especially with that
colour. I am modern enough to approve of exercise for young girls, and
I am sure your Aunt Mary will think Silverdale has done you good when I
send you back to her."
"Oh, I'm sure she will," said Honora.
In the meantime Mr. Spence was concentrating all of his attention
upon a jellied egg. Honora glanced at the Vicomte. He sat very stiff,
and his manner of twisting his mustache reminded her of an animal
sharpening its claws. It was at this moment that the butler handed her
a telegram, which, with Mrs. Holt's permission, she opened and read
twice before the meaning of it came to her.
"I hope it is no bad news, Honora," said Mrs. Holt.
"It's from Peter Erwin," she replied, still a little dazed. "He's
in New York. And he's coming up on the five o'clock train to spend an
hour with me."
"Oh," said Susan; "I remember his picture on your bureau at
Sutcliffe. He had such a good face. And you told me about him."
"He is like my brother," Honora explained, aware that Howard was
looking at her. "Only he is much older than I. He used to wheel me up
and down when I was a baby. He was an errand boy in the bank then, and
Uncle Tom took an interest in him, and now he is a lawyer. A very good
one, I believe."
"I have a great respect for any man who makes his own way in life,"
said Mrs. Holt. "And since he is such an old friend, my dear, you must
ask him to spend the night."
"Oh, thank you, Mrs. Holt," Honora answered.
It was, however, with mingled feelings that she thought of Peter's
arrival at this time. Life, indeed, was full of strange coincidences!
There was a little door that led out of the house by the billiard
room, Honora remembered, and contrived, after luncheon, to slip away
and reach it. She felt that she must be alone, and if she went to her
room she was likely to be disturbed by Susan or Mrs. Joshua—or indeed
Mrs. Holt herself. Honora, meant to tell Susan the first of all. She
crossed the great lawn quickly, keeping as much as possible the trees
and masses of shrubbery between herself and the house, and reached the
forest. With a really large fund of energy at her disposal, Honora had
never been one to believe in the useless expenditure of it; nor did she
feel the intense desire which a girl of another temperament might have
had, under the same conditions, to keep in motion. So she sat down on a
bench within the borders of the wood.
It was not that she wished to reflect, in the ordinary meaning of
the word, that she had sought seclusion, but rather to give her
imagination free play. The enormity of the change that was to come into
her life did not appall her in the least; but she had, in connection
with it, a sense of unreality which, though not unpleasant, she sought
unconsciously to dissipate. Howard Spence, she reflected with a smile,
was surely solid and substantial enough, and she thought of him the
more tenderly for the possession of these attributes. A castle founded
on such a rock was not a castle in Spain!
It did not occur to Honora that her thoughts might be more of the
castle than of the rock: of the heaven he was to hold on his shoulders
than of the Hercules she had chosen to hold it.
She would write to her Aunt Mary and her Uncle Tom that very
afternoon—one letter to both. Tears came into her eyes when she
thought of them, and of their lonely life without her. But they would
come on to New York to visit her often, and they would be proud of her.
Of one thing she was sure—she must go home to them at once—on
Tuesday. She would tell Mrs. Holt to-morrow, and Susan to-night. And,
while pondering over the probable expression of that lady's amazement,
it suddenly occurred to her that she must write the letter immediately,
because Peter Erwin was coming.
What would he say? Should she tell him? She was surprised to find
that the idea of doing so was painful to her. But she was aroused from
these reflections by a step on the path, and raised her head to
perceive the Vicomte. His face wore an expression of triumph.
"At last," he cried, "at last!" And he sat down on the bench beside
her. Her first impulse was to rise, yet for some inexplicable reason
"I always suspected in you the qualities of a Monsieur Lecoq," she
remarked. "You have an instinct for the chase."
"Mon dieu!" he said. "I have risked a stroke of the sun to find
you. Why should you so continually run away from me?"
"To test your ingenuity, Vicomte."
"And that other one—the stock-broker—you do not avoid him.
Diable, I am not blind, Mademoiselle. It is plain to me at luncheon
that you have made boil the sluggish blood of that one. As for me -"
"Your boiling-point is lower," she said, smiling.
"Listen, Mademoiselle," he pursued, bending towards her. "It is not
for my health that I stay here, as I have told you. It is for the sight
of you, for the sound of the music of that low voice. It is in the hope
that you will be a little kinder, that you will understand me a little
better. And to-day, when I learn that still another is on his way to
see you, I could sit still no longer. I do not fear that Spence,—no.
But this other—what is he like?"
"He is the best type of American," replied Honora. "I am sure you
will be interested in him, and like him."
The Vicomte shrugged his shoulders.
"It is not in America that you will find your destiny,
Mademoiselle. You are made to grace a salon, a court, which you will
not find in this country. Such a woman as you is thrown away here. You
possess qualities—you will pardon me—in which your countrywomen are
lacking,—esprit, imagination, elan, the power to bind people to you.
I have read you as you have not read yourself. I have seen how you have
served yourself by this famille Holt, and how at the same time you have
kept their friendship."
"Vicomte!" she exclaimed.
"Ah, do not get angry," he begged; "such gifts are rare—they are
sublime. They lead," he added, raising his arms, "to the heights."
Honora was silent. She was, indeed, not unmoved by his voice, into
which there was creeping a vibrant note of passion. She was a little
frightened, but likewise puzzled and interested. This was all so
different from what she had expected of him. What did he mean? Was she
indeed like that?
She was aware that he was speaking again, that he was telling her
of a château in France which his ancestors had owned since the days of
Louis XII; a grey pile that stood upon a thickly wooded height,—a
château with a banquet hall, where kings had dined, with a chapel where
kings had prayed, with a flowering terrace high above a gleaming river.
It was there that his childhood had been passed. And as he spoke, she
listened with mingled feelings, picturing the pageantry of life in such
"I tell you this, Mademoiselle," he said, "that you may know I am
not what you call an adventurer. Many of these, alas! come to your
country. And I ask you to regard with some leniency customs which must
be strange to Americans. When we marry in France, it is with a dot, and
especially is it necessary amongst the families of our nobility."
Honora rose, the blood mounting to her temples.
"Mademoiselle," he cried, "do not misunderstand me. I would die
rather than hurt your feelings. Listen, I pray. It was to tell you
frankly that I came to this country for that purpose,—in order that I
might live as my ancestors have lived, with a hôtel in Paris. But the
château, grace a dieu, is not mortgaged, nor am I wholly impoverished.
I have soixante quinze mille livres de rente, which is fifteen thousand
dollars a year in your money, and which goes much farther in France. At
the proper time, I will present these matters to your guardians. I have
lived, but I have a heart, and I love you madly. Rather would I dwell
with you in Provence, where I will cultivate the soil of my
forefathers, than a palace on the Champs Elysées with another. We can
come to Paris for two months, at least. For you I can throw my
prospects out of the window with a light heart. Honore—how sweet is
your name in my language—I love you to despair."
He seized her hand and pressed it to his lips, but she drew it
gently away. It seemed to her that he had made the very air quiver with
feeling, and she let herself wonder, for a moment, what life with him
would be. Incredible as it seemed, he had proposed to her, a penniless
girl! Her own voice was not quite steady as she answered him, and her
eyes were filled with compassion. "Vicomte," she said, "I did not know
that you cared for me—that way. I thought—I thought you were
"Amusing myself!" he exclaimed bitterly. "And you—were you
"I—I tried to avoid you," she replied, in a low voice. "I am
"Engaged!" He sprang to his feet. "Engaged! Ah, no, I will not
believe it. You were engaged when you came here?"
She was no little alarmed by the violence which he threw into his
words. At the same time, she was indignant. And yet a mischievous
sprite within her led her on to tell him the truth.
"No, I am going to marry Mr. Howard Spence, although I do not wish
For a moment he stood motionless, speechless, staring at her, and
then he seemed to sway a little and to choke.
"No, no," he cried, "it cannot be! My ears have deceived me. I am
not sane. You are going to marry him -? Ah, you have sold yourself."
"Monsieur de Toqueville," she said, "you forget yourself. Mr.
Spence is an honourable man, and I love him."
The Vicomte appeared to choke again. And then, suddenly, he became
himself, although his voice was by no means natural. His elaborate and
ironic bow she remembered for many years.
"Pardon, Mademoiselle," he said, "and adieu. You will be good
enough to convey my congratulations to Mr. Spence."
With a kind of military "about face" he turned and left her
abruptly, and she watched him as he hurried across the lawn until he
had disappeared behind the trees near the house. When she sat down on
the bench again, she found that she was trembling a little. Was the
unexpected to occur to her from now on? Was it true, as the Vicomte had
said, that she was destined to beloved amidst the play of drama?
She felt sorry for him because he had loved her enough to fling to
the winds his chances of wealth for her sake—a sufficient measure of
the feelings of one of his nationality and caste. And she permitted,
for an instant, her mind to linger on the supposition that Howard
Spence had never come into her life; might she not, when the Vicomte
had made his unexpected and generous avowal, have accepted him? She
thought of the romances of her childish days, written at fever heat, in
which ladies with titles moved around and gave commands and rebuked
lovers who slipped in through wicket gates. And to think that she might
have been a Vicomtesse and have lived in a castle!
A poor Vicomtesse, it is true.
CHAPTER XI. WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
HONORA sat still upon the bench. After an indefinite period she saw
through the trees a vehicle on the driveway, and in it a single
passenger. And suddenly it occurred to her that the passenger must be
Peter, for Mrs. Holt had announced her intention of sending for him.
She arose and approached the house, not without a sense of agitation.
She halted a moment at a little distance from the porch, where he
was talking with Howard Spence and Joshua, and the fact that he was an
unchanged Peter came to her with a shock of surprise. So much, in less
than a year, had happened to Honora! And the sight of him, and the
sound of his voice, brought back with a rush memories of a forgotten
past. How long it seemed since she had lived in St. Louis!
Yes, he was the same Peter, but her absence from him had served to
sharpen her sense of certain characteristics. He was lounging in his
chair with his long legs crossed, with one hand in his pocket, and
talking to these men as though he had known them always. There was a
quality about him which had never struck her before, and which eluded
exact definition. It had never occurred to her, until now, when she saw
him out of the element with which she had always associated him, that
Peter Erwin had a personality. That personality was a mixture of
simplicity and self-respect and—common sense. And, as Honora listened
to his cheerful voice, she perceived that he had the gift of expressing
himself clearly and forcibly and withal modestly; nor did it escape her
that the other two men were listening with a certain deference. In her
sensitive state she tried to evade the contrast thus suddenly presented
to her between Peter and the man she had promised, that very morning,
Howard Spence was seated on the table, smoking a cigarette. Never,
it seemed, had he more distinctly typified to her Prosperity. An
attribute which she had admired in him, of strife without the
appearance of strife, lost something of its value. To look at Peter was
to wonder whether there could be such a thing as a well-groomed
combatant; and until to-day she had never thought of Peter as a
combatant. The sight of his lean face summoned, all undesired, the
vague vision of an ideal, and perhaps it was this that caused her voice
to falter a little as she came forward and called his name. He rose
"What a surprise, Peter!" she said, as she took his hand. "How do
you happen to be in the East?"
"An errand boy," he replied. "Somebody had to come, so they chose
me. Incidentally," he added, smiling down at her, "it is a part of my
"We thought you were lost," said Howard Spence, significantly.
"Oh, no," she answered lightly, evading his look. "I was on the
bench at the edge of the wood." She turned again to Peter. "How good of
you to come up and see me!"
"I couldn't have resisted that," he declared, "if it were only for
"I've been trying to persuade him to stay a while with us," Joshua
put in with unusual graciousness. "My mother will be disappointed not
to see you."
"There is nothing I should like better, Mr. Holt," said Peter,
simply, gazing off across the lawn. "Unfortunately I have to leave for
the West to-night."
"Before you go," said Honora, "you must see this wonderful place.
Come, we'll begin with the garden."
She had a desire now to take him away by himself, something she had
wished, an hour ago, to avoid. "Wouldn't you like a runabout?"
suggested Joshua, hospitably.
Honora thanked him.
"I'm sure Mr. Erwin would rather walk," she replied. "Come, Peter,
you must tell me all the news of home."
Spence accepted his dismissal with a fairly good grace, and gave no
evidence of jealousy. He put his hand on Peter's shoulder.
"If you're ever in New York, Erwin," said he, "look me up—Dallam
and Spence. We're members of the Exchange, so you won't have any
trouble in finding us. I'd like to talk to you sometime about the
Peter thanked him.
For a little while, as they went down the driveway side by side, he
was meditatively silent. She wondered what he thought of Howard Spence,
until suddenly she remembered that her secret was still her own, that
Peter had as yet no particular reason to single out Mr. Spence for
especial consideration. She could not, however, resist saying,—
"New Yorkers are like that."
Like what?" he asked.
"Like—Mr. Spence. A little—self-assertive, sure of themselves."
She strove to keep out of her voice any suspicion of the agitation
which was the result of the events of an extraordinary day, not yet
ended. She knew that it would have been wiser not to have mentioned
Howard; but Peter's silence, somehow, had impelled her to speak. "He
has made quite an unusual success for so young a man."
Peter looked at her and shook his head.
"New York—success! What is to become of poor old St. Louis?" he
"Oh, I'm going back next week," Honora cried. "I wish I were going
"And leave all this," he said incredulously, "for trolley rides and
Forest Park and—and me?"
He stopped in the garden path and looked upon the picture she made
standing in the sunlight against the blazing borders, her wide hat
casting a shadow on her face. And the smile which she had known so well
since childhood, indulgent, quizzical, with a touch of sadness, was in
his eyes. She was conscious of a slight resentment. Was there, in fact,
no change in her as the result of the events of those momentous ten
months since she had seen him? And rather than a tolerance in which
there was neither antagonism nor envy, she would have preferred from
Peter an open disapproval of luxury, of the standards which he implied
were hers. She felt that she had stepped into another world, but he
refused to be dazzled by it. He insisted upon treating her as the same
"How did you leave Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary?" she asked.
They were counting the days, he said, until she should return, but
they did not wish to curtail her visit. They did not expect her next
week, he knew.
Honora coloured again.
"I feel—that I ought to go to them," she said.
He glanced at her as though her determination to leave Silverdale
so soon surprised him.
"They will be very happy to see you, Honora," he said. "They have
been very lonesome."
She softened. Some unaccountable impulse prompted her to ask:—
"And you? Have you missed me—a little?"
He did not answer, and she saw that he was profoundly affected. She
laid a hand upon his arm.
"Oh, Peter, I didn't mean that," she cried. "I know you have. And I
have missed you—terribly. It seems so strange seeing you here," she
went on hurriedly. "There are so many things I want to show you. Tell
me how it happened that you came on to New York."
"Somebody in the firm had to come," he said.
"In the firm!" she repeated. She did not grasp the full meaning of
this change in his status, but she remembered that Uncle Tom had
predicted it one day, and that it was an honour. "I never knew any one
so secretive about their own affairs! Why didn't you write me you had
been admitted to the firm? So you are a partner of Judge Brice."
"Brice, Graves, and Erwin," said Peter; "it sounds very grand,
doesn't it? I can't get used to it myself."
"And what made you call yourself an errand boy?" she exclaimed
reproachfully. "When I go back to the house I intend to tell Joshua
Holt and—and Mr. Spence that you are a great lawyer."
"You'd better wait a few years before you say that," said he.
He took an interest in everything he saw, in Mr. Holt's flowers, in
Joshua's cow barn, which they traversed, and declared, if he were ever
rich enough, he would live in the country. They walked around the pond,
- fringed now with yellow water-lilies on their floating green pads,—
through the woods, and when the shadows were lengthening came out at
the little summer-house over the valley of Silver Brook—the scene of
that first memorable encounter with the Vicomte. At the sight of it the
episode, and much else of recent happening, rushed back into Honora's
mind, and she realized with suddenness that she had, in his
companionship, unconsciously been led far afield and in pleasant
places. Comparisons seemed inevitable.
She watched him with an unwonted tugging at her heart as he stood
for a long time by the edge of the railing, gazing over the tree-tops
of the valley towards the distant hazy hills. Nor did she understand
what it was in him that now, on this day of days when she had
definitely cast the die of life, when she had chosen her path, aroused
this strange emotion. Why had she never felt it before? She had thought
his face homely—now it seemed to shine with a transfiguring light.
She recalled, with a pang, that she had criticised his clothes: to-day
they seemed the expression of the man himself. Incredible is the range
of human emotion! She felt a longing to throw herself into his arms,
and to weep there.
He turned at length from the view. "How wonderful!" he said.
"I didn't know you cared for nature so much, Peter."
He looked at her strangely and put out his hand and drew her,
unresisting, to the bench beside him.
"Are you in trouble, Honora?" he asked.
"Oh, no," she cried, "oh, no, I am—very happy."
"You may have thought it odd that I should have come here without
knowing Mrs. Holt," he said gravely, "particularly when you were going
home so soon. I do not know myself why I came. I am a matter-of-fact
person, but I acted on an impulse."
"An impulse!" she faltered, avoiding the troubled, searching look
in his eyes.
"Yes," he said, "an impulse. I can call it by no other name. I
should have taken a train that leaves New York at noon; but I had a
feeling this morning, which seemed almost like a presentiment, that I
might be of some use to you."
"This morning?" She felt herself trembling, and she scarcely
recognized Peter with such words on his lips. "I am happy—indeed I
am. Only—I am overwrought—seeing you again—and you made me think
"It was no doubt very foolish of me," he declared. "And if my
coming has upset you -"
"Oh, no," she cried. "Please don't think so. It has given me a
sense of—of security. That you were ready to help me if—if I needed
"You should always have known that," he replied. He rose and stood
gazing off down the valley once more, and she watched him with her
heart beating, with a sense of an impending crisis which she seemed
powerless to stave off. And presently he turned to her. "Honora, I have
loved you for many years," he said. "You were too young for me to speak
of it. I did not intend to speak of it when I came here to-day. For
many years I have hoped that some day you might be my wife. My one fear
has been that I might lose you. Perhaps—perhaps it has been a dream.
But I am willing to wait, should you wish to see more of the world. You
are young yet, and I am offering myself for all time. There is no other
woman for me, and never can be."
He paused and smiled down at her. But she did not speak. She could
"I know," he went on, "that you are ambitious. And with your gifts
I do not blame you. I cannot offer you great wealth, but I say with
confidence that I can offer you something better, something surer. I
can take care of you and protect you, and I will devote my life to your
happiness. Will you marry me?"
Her eyes were sparkling with tears,—tears, he remembered
afterwards, that were like blue diamonds.
"Oh, Peter," she cried, "I wish I could! I have always—wished
that I could. I can't."
She shook her head.
"I—I have told no one yet—not even Aunt Mary. I am going to
marry Mr. Spence."
For a long time he was silent, and she did not dare to look at the
suffering in his face.
"Honora," he said at last, "my most earnest wish in life will be
for your happiness. And whatever may come to you I hope that you will
remember that I am your friend, to be counted on. And that I shall not
change. Will you remember that?"
"Yes," she whispered. She looked at him now, and through the veil
of her tears she seemed to see his soul shining in his eyes. The tones
of a distant church bell were borne to them on the valley breeze.
Peter glanced at his watch.
"I am afraid," he said, "that I haven't time to go back to the
house—my train goes at seven. Can I get down to the village through
Honora pointed out the road, faintly perceptible through the trees
"And you will apologize for my-departure to Mrs. Holt?"
She nodded. He took her hand, pressed it, and was gone. And
presently, in a little clearing far below, he turned and waved his hat
at her bravely.
CHAPTER XII. WHICH CONTAINS A
SURPRISE FOR MRS. HOLT
HOW long she sat gazing with unseeing eyes down the valley Honora did
not know. Distant mutterings of thunder aroused her; the evening sky
had darkened, and angry-looking clouds of purple were gathering over
the hills. She rose and hurried homeward. She had thought to enter by
the billiard-room door, and so gain her own chamber without
encountering the household; but she had reckoned without her hostess.
Beyond the billiard room, in the little entry filled with potted
plants, she came face to face with that lady, who was inciting a
footman to further efforts in his attempt to close a recalcitrant
skylight. Honora proved of more interest, and Mrs. Holt abandoned the
"Why, my dear," she said, "where have you been all afternoon?"
"I—I have been walking with Mr. Erwin, Mrs. Holt. I have been
showing him Silverdale."
"And where is he? It seems to me I invited him to stay all night,
and Joshua tells me he extended the invitation."
"We were in the little summer-house, and suddenly he discovered
that it was late and he had to catch the seven o'clock train," faltered
Honora, somewhat disconnectedly. "Otherwise he would have come to you
himself and told you—how much he regretted not staying. He has to go
to St. Louis to-night."
"Well," said Mrs. Holt, "this is an afternoon of surprises. The
Vicomte has gone off, too, without even waiting to say good-by." "The
Vicomte!" exclaimed Honora.
"Didn't you see him, either, before he left?" inquired Mrs. Holt;
"I thought perhaps you might be able to give me some further
explanation of it."
"I?" exclaimed Honora. She felt ready to sink through the floor,
and Mrs. Holt's delft-blue eyes haunted her afterwards like a
"Didn't you see him, my dear? Didn't he tell you anything?"
"He—he didn't say he was going away."
"Did he seem disturbed about anything?" Mrs. Holt insisted.
"Now I think of it, he did seem a little disturbed."
"To save my life," said Mrs. Holt, "I can't understand it. He left
a note for me saying that he had received a telegram, and that he had
to go at once. I was at a meeting of my charity board. It seems a very
strange proceeding for such an agreeable and polite man as the Vicomte,
although he had his drawbacks, as all Continentals have. And at times I
thought he was grave and moody,—didn't you?"
"Oh, yes, he was moody," Honora agreed eagerly.
"You noticed it, too," said Mrs. Holt. "But he was a charming man,
and so interested in America and in the work we are doing. But I can't
understand about the telegram. I had Carroll inquire of every servant
in the house, and there is no knowledge of a telegram having come up
from the village this afternoon."
"Perhaps the Vicomte might have met the messenger in the grounds,"
At this point their attention was distracted by a noise that bore a
striking resemblance to a suppressed laugh. The footman on the
step-ladder began to rattle the skylight vigorously.
"What on earth is the matter with you, Woods?" said Mrs. Holt.
"It must have been some dust off the skylight, Madam, that got into
my throat," he stammered, the colour of a geranium. "Nonsense," said
Mrs. Holt, "there is no dust on the skylight."
"It may be I swallowed the wrong way, looking up like, as I was,
Madam," he ventured, rubbing the frame and looking at his finger to
prove his former theory.
"You are very stupid not to be able to close it," she declared; "in
a few minutes the place will be flooded. Tell Carroll to come and do
Honora suffered herself to be led limply through the library and up
the stairs into Mrs. Holt's own boudoir, where a maid was closing the
windows against the first great drops of the storm, which the wind was
pelting against them. She drew the shades deftly, lighted the gas, and
retired. Honora sank down in one of the upholstered light blue satin
chairs and gazed at the shining brass of the coal grate set in the
marble mantel, above which hung an engraving of Sir Joshua Reynolds'
cherubs. She had an instinct that the climax of the drama was at hand.
Mrs. Holt sat down in the chair opposite.
"My dear," she began, "I told you the other day what an unexpected
and welcome comfort and help you have been to me. You evidently
inherit" (Mrs. Holt coughed slightly) "the art of entertaining and
pleasing, and I need not warn you, my dear, against the dangers of such
a gift. Your aunt has evidently brought you up with strictness and
religious care. You have been very fortunate."
"Indeed I have, Mrs. Holt," echoed Honora, in bewilderment.
"And Susan," continued Mrs. Holt, "useful and willing as she is,
does not possess your gift of taking people off my hands and
Honora could think of no reply to this. Her eyes—to which no one
could be indifferent—were riveted on the face of her hostess, and how
was the good lady to guess that her brain was reeling?
"I was about to say, my dear, that I expect to have a great deal of
- well, of rather difficult company this summer. Next week, for
instance, some prominent women in the Working Girls' Relief Society are
coming, and on July the twenty-third I give a garden party for the
delegates to the Charity Conference in New York. The Japanese Minister
has promised to pay me a visit, and Sir Rupert Grant, who built those
remarkable tuberculosis homes in England, you know, is arriving in
August with his family. Then there are some foreign artists."
"Oh, Mrs. Holt," exclaimed Honora; "how many interesting people you
"Exactly, my dear. And I thought that, in addition to the fact that
I have grown very fond of you, you would be very useful to me here, and
that a summer with me might not be without its advantages. As your aunt
will have you until you are married, which, I may say, without denying
your attractions, is likely to be for some time, I intend to write to
her to-night—with your consent—and ask her to allow you to remain
with me all summer."
Honora sat transfixed, staring painfully at the big pendant
"It is so kind of you, Mrs. Holt -" she faltered.
"I can realize, my dear, that you would wish to get back to your
aunt. The feeling does you infinite credit. But, on the other hand,
besides the advantages which would accrue to you, it might, to put the
matter delicately, be of a little benefit to your relations, who will
have to think of your future."
"Indeed, it is good of you, but I must go back, Mrs. Holt."
"Of course," said Mrs. Holt, with a touch of dignity—for ere now
people had left Silverdale before she wished them to—"of course, if
you do not care to stay, that is quite another thing."
"Oh, Mrs. Holt, don't say that!" cried Honora, her face burning; "I
cannot thank you enough for the pleasure you have given me. If—if
things were different, I would stay with you gladly, although I should
miss my family. But now,—now I feel that I must be with them. I—I
am engaged to be married." Honora still remembers the blank expression
which appeared on the countenance of her hostess when she spoke these
words. Mrs. Holt's cheeks twitched, her ear-rings quivered, and her
"Engaged to be married!" she gasped.
"Yes," replied our heroine, humbly, "I was going to tell you—
"I suppose," said Mrs. Holt, after a silence, "it is to the young
man who was here this afternoon, and whom I did not see. It accounts
for his precipitate departure. But I must say, Honora, since frankness
is one of my faults, that I feel it my duty to write to your aunt and
disclaim all responsibility."
"It is not to Mr. Erwin," said Honora, meekly; "it is—it is to
Mrs. Holt seemed to find difficulty in speaking. Her former
symptoms, which Honora had come to recognize as indicative of
agitation, returned with alarming intensity. And when at length her
voice made itself heard, it was scarcely recognizable.
"You are engaged—to—Howard Spence?"
"Oh, Mrs. Holt," exclaimed Honora, "it was as great a surprise to
me—believe me—as it is to you."
But even the knowledge that they shared a common amazement did not
appear, at once, to assuage Mrs. Holt's emotions.
"Do you love him?" she demanded abruptly.
Whereupon Honora burst into tears.
"Oh, Mrs. Holt," she sobbed, "how can you ask?"
From this time on the course of events was not precisely logical.
Mrs. Holt, setting in abeyance any ideas she may have had about the
affair, took Honora in her arms, and against that ample bosom was
sobbed out the pent-up excitement and emotion of an extraordinary day.
"There, there, my dear," said Mrs. Holt, stroking the dark hair, "I
should not have asked you that—forgive me." And the worthy lady,
quivering with sympathy now, remembered the time of her own engagement
to Joshua. And the fact that the circumstances of that event differed
somewhat from those of the present—in regularity, at least, increased
rather than detracted from Mrs. Holt's sudden access of tenderness. The
perplexing questions as to the probable result of such a marriage were
swept away by a flood of feeling. "There, there, my dear, I did not
mean to be harsh. What you told me was such a shock—such a surprise,
and marriage is such a grave and sacred thing."
"I know it," sobbed Honora.
"And you are very young."
"Yes, Mrs. Holt."
"And it happened in my house."
"No," said Honora, "it happened—near the golf course."
Mrs. Holt smiled, and wiped her eyes.
"I mean, my dear, that I shall always feel responsible for bringing
you together—for your future happiness. That is a great deal. I could
have wished that you both had taken longer to reflect, but I hope with
all my heart that you will be happy."
Honora lifted up a tear-stained face.
"He said it was because I was going away that—that he spoke," she
said. "Oh, Mrs. Holt, I knew that you would be kind about it."
"Of course I am kind about it, my dear," said Mrs. Holt. "As I told
you, I have grown to have an affection for you. I feel a little as
though you belonged to me. And after this—this event, I expect to see
a great deal of you. Howard Spence's mother was a very dear friend of
mine. I was one of the first who knew her when she came to New York,
from Troy, a widow, to educate her son. She was a very fine and a very
courageous woman." Mrs. Holt paused a moment. "She hoped that Howard
would be a lawyer."
"A lawyer!" Honora repeated.
"I lost sight of him for several years," continued Mrs. Holt, "but
before I invited him here I made some inquiries about him from friends
of mine in the financial world. I find that he is successful for so
young a man, and well thought of. I have no doubt he will make a good
husband, my dear, although I could wish he were not on the Stock
Exchange. And I hope you will make him happy."
Whereupon the good lady kissed Honora, and dismissed her to dress
"I shall write to your aunt at once," she said.
Requited love, unsettled condition that it is supposed to bring,
did not interfere with Howard Spence's appetite at dinner. His spirits,
as usual, were of the best, and from time to time Honora was aware of
his glance. Then she lowered her eyes. She sat as in a dream; and, try
as she might, her thoughts would not range themselves. She seemed to
see him but dimly, to hear what he said faintly; and it conveyed
nothing to her mind.
This man was to be her husband! Over and over she repeated it to
herself. His name was Howard Spence, and he was on the highroad to
riches and success, and she was to live in New York. Ten days before he
had not existed for her. She could not bring herself to believe that he
existed now. Did she love him? How could she love him, when she did not
realize him? One thing she knew, that she had loved him that morning.
The fetters of her past life were broken, and this she would not
realize. She had opened the door of the cage—for what? These were the
fragments of thoughts that drifted through her mind like tattered
clouds across an empty sky after a storm. Peter Erwin appeared to her
more than once, and he was strangely real. But he belonged to the past.
Course succeeded course, and she talked subconsciously to Mr. Holt and
Joshua—such is the result of feminine training.
After dinner she stood on the porch. The rain had ceased, a cool
damp breeze shook the drops from the leaves, and the stars were
shining. Presently, at the sound of a step behind her, she started. He
was standing at her shoulder. "Honora!" he said.
She did not move.
"Honora, I haven't seen you—alone—since morning. It seems like
a thousand years. Honora?"
Did you mean it?
"Did I mean what?"
"When you said you'd marry me." His voice trembled a little. "I've
been thinking of nothing but you all day. You're not—sorry? You
haven't changed your mind?"
She shook her head.
"At dinner when you wouldn't look at me, and this afternoon -"
"No, I'm not sorry," she said, cutting him short. "I'm not sorry."
He put his arm about her with an air that was almost apologetic.
And, seeing that she did not resist, he drew her to him and kissed her.
Suddenly, unaccountably to her, she clung to him.
"You love me!" he exclaimed.
"Yes," she whispered, "but I am tired. I—I am going upstairs,
Howard. I am tired."
He kissed her again.
"I can't believe it!" he said. "I'll make you a queen. And we'll be
married in the autumn, Honora." He nodded boyishly towards the open
windows of the library. "Shall I tell them?" he asked. "I feel like
shouting it. I can't hold on much longer. I wonder what the old lady
Honora disengaged herself from his arms and fled to the screen
door. As she opened it, she turned and smiled back at him.
"Mrs. Holt knows already," she said.
And catching her skirt, she flew quickly up the stairs.