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Title: Modern Chronicle, a — Volume 02
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Modern Chronicle, a — Volume 02" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



A MODERN CHRONICLE

By Winston Churchill


BOOK I.


Volume 2.



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 mediaeval 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 leaded
lattice.

"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?" she asked. Susan laughed.

"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-cochere 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
Honora.

"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 heavyset, 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 striking
looking.

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 be
comfortable."

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 mumbling grace.

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," slid 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 in 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
answered.

"How should she?" demanded Mrs. Holt. "Gwendolen, you're not going up
already?"

"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 with you."

Honora laughed.

"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 breakfast."

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-cochere, 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 up."

"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 seated.

"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
declared.

"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
have him."

"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
chateau 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 fortune-hunters."

I've had an opportunity to observe the ones who come over here, mother."

"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 days."

"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
homeward.

"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 it."

"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
prettily.

"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 Christmas holidays.

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 more
eloquent.

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 peu fane' 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 changes."

"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, "Aren't we?"

"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 man
seriously?"

"I haven't known him long enough to take him seriously," said Honora.

"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 at
Sutcliffe."

"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 cigarette.

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 Pence, 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 these 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 Metaux, 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 impartially.

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 newspaper.

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 Theophile 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 Mrs.
Joshua.

"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 country."

"And what," inquired Mrs. Holt, "have you been teaching Mademoiselle?"

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 thing!"

"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 dear."

After the good lady bad 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 bobbies. 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 the
invitation.

"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 etes 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 times?"

"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 lady bountiful. "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 you."

"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 rich."

"But I thought all New Yorkers were that way," exclaimed Honora, and
added hastily, "except a few, like your family, Susan."

Susan laughed.

"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 barn
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 them."

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 typewritten 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," Honora
declared.

"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 laugh.

"My dear, it can't be that you have captivated Joshua!" she exclaimed, in
a tone that implied the carrying of a stronghold hitherto thought
impregnable.

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. Joshua.

"Oh, dear, no," exclaimed Honora. "I don't see bow 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
designate Silverdale.

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 modestly.

"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 I 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 and
bonds."

"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 at
lunch."

Honora laughed.

"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 chateaux 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 silence.

"Surely, Howard," she said, "you're not going to church in those
clothes."

"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 arrive."

"There is no such thing as a Sunday newspaper in my house," said Mrs.
Holt.

"No Sunday newspapers!" he exclaimed. And his eyes, as they encountered
Honora's,--who sought to avoid them,--expressed a genuine dismay.

"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 Vicomte.

"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
church-going, 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 menage 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 fete 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
conquests.

"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 stockbroker, 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 Mr.
Spence."

"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 Bergeres, 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," Honora
replied.

"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!"

"Touch!" 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 Prevost, 'Cette femme ne sera pas aimee 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 children.

"Madame," said the Vicomte to Gwendolen, "your Silverdale is enchanting.
We have been to that little summer-house which commands the valley."

"And are you still learning things about our country, Vicomte?" she
asked, with a glance at Honora.



CHAPTER X

IN WHICH HONORA WIDENS HER HORIZON

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 he 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
hostess.

"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 heart."

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 to suspect?

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
hitherto lacked.

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 satisfaction.

"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
money-making machinery."

"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 pencil.

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.
Silence'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. Silence. "I have to go
back to town on Monday."

If Honora felt any regret at this announcement, she did not express it.

"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 young
men."

"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
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.

She started.

"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 fork 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 marry me?"

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 her
mouth.

"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 to lunch--much too
rapidly in the heat of the day, they were late.

"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 ghostlike."

"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 corning 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. Bolt," 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 she
remained.

"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
chateau in France which his ancestors had owned since the days of Louis
XII; a grey pile that stood upon a thickly wooded height,--a chateau 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 a place.

"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 hotel in Paris: But the chateau, 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 Elysees 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 yourself."

"Amusing myself!" he exclaimed bitterly. "And you--were you amusing
yourself?"

"I--I tried to avoid you," she replied, in a low voice.

"I am engaged."

"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 it
announced."

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 be loved 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, to marry.

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 precipitately.

"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
education."

"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 an
hour."

"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 West."

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.

She coloured.

"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
inquired.

"Oh, I'm going back next week," Honora cried. "I wish I were going with
you."

"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 Honora.

"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 hat 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."

Peter laughed.

"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 of home."

"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."

"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 not.

"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."

"You 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 the valley?"

Honora pointed out the road, faintly perceptible through the trees
beneath them.

"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 skylight.

"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 nightmare.

"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,"
hazarded Honora.

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 it."

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 entertaining them."

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 see!"

"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 ear-rings.

"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 bosom heaved-once.

"Engaged to be married!" she gasped.

"Yes," replied our heroine, humbly, "I was going to tell you--to-morrow."

"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 Mr.
Spence."

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 for
dinner.

"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?"

"Yes."

"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 will
say!"

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.





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