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Title: Modern Chronicle, a — Volume 06
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 06" ***

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A MODERN CHRONICLE

By Winston Churchill


Volume 6.



CHAPTER VI

CLIO, OR THALIA?

According to the ordinary and inaccurate method of measuring time, a
fortnight may have gone by since the event last narrated, and Honora had
tasted at last the joys of authorship. Her name was not to appear, to be
sure, on the cover of the Life and Letters of General Angus Chiltern; nor
indeed, so far, had she written so much as a chapter or a page of a work
intended to inspire young and old with the virtues of citizenship. At
present the biography was in the crucial constructive stage. Should the
letters be put in one volume, and the life in another? or should the
letters be inserted in the text of the life? or could not there be a
third and judicious mixture of both of these methods? Honora's counsel on
this and other problems was, it seems, invaluable. Her own table was
fairly littered with biographies more or less famous which had been
fetched from the library, and the method of each considered.

Even as Mr. Garrick would never have been taken for an actor in his coach
and four, so our heroine did not in the least resemble George Eliot, for
instance, as she sat before her mirror at high noon with Monsieur Cadron
and her maid Mathilde in worshipful attendance. Some of the ladies,
indeed, who have left us those chatty memoirs of the days before the
guillotine, she might have been likened to. Monsieur Cadron was an
artist, and his branch of art was hair-dressing. It was by his own wish
he was here to-day, since he had conceived a new coiffure especially
adapted, he declared, to the type of Madame Spence. Behold him declaring
ecstatically that seldom in his experience had he had such hairs to work
with.

"Avec une telle chevelure, l'on peut tout faire, madame. Etre simple,
c'est le comble de l'art. Ca vous donne," he added, with clasped hands
and a step backward, "ca vous donne tout a fait l'air d'une dame de
Nattier."

Madame took the hand-glass, and did not deny that she was eblouissante.
If madame, suggested Monsieur Cadron, had but a little dress a la Marie
Antoinette? Madame had, cried madame's maid, running to fetch one with
little pink flowers and green leaves on an ecru ground. Could any
coiffure or any gown be more appropriate for an entertainment at which
Clio was to preside?

It is obviously impossible that a masterpiece should be executed under
the rules laid down by convention. It would never be finished. Mr.
Chiltern was coming to lunch, and it was not the first time. On her
appearance in the doorway he halted abruptly in his pacing of the
drawing-room, and stared at her.

"I'm sorry I kept you waiting," she said.

"It was worth it," he said. And they entered the dining room. A subdued,
golden-green light came in through the tall glass doors that opened out
on the little garden which had been Mrs. Forsythe's pride. The scent of
roses was in the air, and a mass of them filled a silver bowl in the
middle of the table. On the dark walls were Mrs. Forsythe's precious
prints, and above the mantel a portrait of a thin, aristocratic gentleman
who resembled the poet Tennyson. In the noonday shadows of a recess was a
dark mahogany sideboard loaded with softly gleaming silver--Honora's.
Chiltern sat down facing her. He looked at Honora over the roses,--and
she looked at him. A sense of unreality that was, paradoxically, stronger
than reality itself came over her, a sense of fitness, of harmony. And
for the moment an imagination, ever straining at its leash, was allowed
to soar. It was Chiltern who broke the silence.

"What a wonderful bowl!" he said.

"It has been in my father's family a great many years. He was very fond
of it," she answered, and with a sudden, impulsive movement she reached
over and set the bowl aside.

"That's better," he declared, "much as I admire the bowl, and the roses."

She coloured faintly, and smiled. The feast of reason that we are
impatiently awaiting is deferred. It were best to attempt to record the
intangible things; the golden-green light, the perfumes, and the faint
musical laughter which we can hear if we listen. Thalia's laughter,
surely, not Clio's. Thalia, enamoured with such a theme, has taken the
stage herself--and as Vesta, goddess of hearths. It was Vesta whom they
felt to be presiding. They lingered, therefore, over the coffee, and
Chiltern lighted a cigar. He did not smoke cigarettes.

"I've lived long enough," he said, "to know that I have never lived at
all. There is only one thing in life worth having."

"What is it?" asked Honora.

"This," he answered, with a gesture; "when it is permanent."

She smiled.

"And how is one to know whether it would be--permanent?"

"Through experience and failure," he answered quickly, "we learn to
distinguish the reality when it comes. It is unmistakable."

"Suppose it comes too late?" she said, forgetting the ancient verse
inscribed in her youthful diary: "Those who walk on ice will slide
against their wills."

"To admit that is to be a coward," he declared.

"Such a philosophy may be fitting for a man," she replied, "but for a
woman--"

"We are no longer in the dark ages," he interrupted. "Every one, man or
woman, has the right to happiness. There is no reason why we should
suffer all our lives for a mistake."

"A mistake!" she echoed.

"Certainly," he said. "It is all a matter of luck, or fate, or whatever
you choose to call it. Do you suppose, if I could have found fifteen
years ago the woman to have made me happy, I should have spent so much
time in seeking distraction?"

"Perhaps you could not have been capable of appreciating her--fifteen
years ago," suggested Honora. And, lest he might misconstrue her remark,
she avoided his eyes.

"Perhaps," he admitted. "But suppose I have found her now, when I know
the value of things."

"Suppose you should find her now--within a reasonable time. What would
you do?"

"Marry her," he exclaimed promptly. "Marry her and take her to Grenoble,
and live the life my father lived before me."

She did not reply, but rose, and he followed her to the shaded corner of
the porch where they usually sat. The bundle of yellow-stained envelopes
he had brought were lying on the table, and Honora picked them up
mechanically.

"I have been thinking," she said as she removed the elastics, "that it is
a mistake to begin a biography by the enumeration of one's ancestors.
Readers become frightfully bored before they get through the first
chapter."

"I'm beginning to believe," he laughed, "that you will have to write this
one alone. All the ideas I have got so far have been yours. Why shouldn't
you write it, and I arrange the material, and talk about it! That appears
to be all I'm good for."

If she allowed her mind to dwell on the vista he thus presented, she did
not betray herself.

"Another thing," she said, "it should be written like fiction."

"Like fiction?"

"Fact should be written like fiction, and fiction like fact. It's
difficult to express what I mean. But this life of your father deserves
to be widely known, and it should be entertainingly done, like Lockhart,
or Parton's works--"

An envelope fell to the floor, spilling its contents. Among them were
several photographs.

"Oh," she exclaimed, "how beautiful! What place is this?"

"I hadn't gone over these letters," he answered. "I only got them
yesterday from Cecil Grainger. These are some pictures of Grenoble which
must leave been taken shortly before my father died."

She gazed in silence at the old house half hidden by great maples and
beeches, their weighted branches sweeping the ground. The building was of
wood, painted white, and through an archway of verdure one saw the
generous doorway with its circular steps, with its fan-light above, and
its windows at the side. Other quaint windows, some of them of triple
width, suggested an interior of mystery and interest.

"My great-great-grandfather, Alexander Chiltern, built it," he said, "on
land granted to him before the Revolution. Of course the house has been
added to since then, but the simplicity of the original has always been
kept. My father put on the conservatory, for instance," and Chiltern
pointed to a portion at the end of one of the long low wings. "He got the
idea from the orangery of a Georgian house in England, and an English
architect designed it."

Honora took up the other photographs. One of them, over which she
lingered, was of a charming, old-fashioned garden spattered with
sunlight, and shut out from the world by a high brick wall. Behind the
wall, again, were the dense masses of the trees, and at the end of a path
between nodding foxgloves and Canterbury bells, in a curved recess, a
stone seat.

She turned her face. His was at her shoulder.

"How could you ever have left it?" she asked reproachfully.

She voiced his own regrets, which the crowding memories had awakened.

"I don't know," he answered, not without emotion. "I have often asked
myself that question." He crossed over to the railing of the porch, swung
about, and looked at her. Her eyes were still on the picture. "I can
imagine you in that garden," he said.

Did the garden cast the spell by which she saw herself on the seat? or
was it Chiltern's voice? She would indeed love and cherish it. And was it
true that she belonged there, securely infolded within those peaceful
walls? How marvellously well was Thalia playing her comedy! Which was the
real, and which the false? What of true value, what of peace and security
was contained in her present existence? She had missed the meaning of
things, and suddenly it was held up before her, in a garden.

A later hour found them in Honora's runabout wandering northward along
quiet country roads on the eastern side of the island. Chiltern, who was
driving, seemed to take no thought of their direction, until at last,
with an exclamation, he stopped the horse; and Honora beheld an abandoned
mansion of a bygone age sheltered by ancient trees, with wide lands
beside it sloping to the water.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Beaulieu," he replied. "It was built in the seventeenth century, I
believe, and must have been a fascinating place in colonial days." He
drove in between the fences and tied the horse, and came around by the
side of the runabout. "Won't you get out and look at it?"

She hesitated, and their eyes met as he held out his hand, but she
avoided it and leaped quickly to the ground neither spoke as they walked
around the deserted house and gazed at the quaint facade, broken by a
crumbling, shaded balcony let in above the entrance door. No sound broke
the stillness of the summer's day--a pregnant stillness. The air was
heavy with perfumes, and the leaves formed a tracery against the
marvellous blue of the sky. Mystery brooded in the place. Here, in this
remote paradise now in ruins, people had dwelt and loved. Thought ended
there; and feeling, which is unformed thought, began. Again she glanced
at him, and again their eyes met, and hers faltered. They turned, as with
one consent, down the path toward the distant water. Paradise overgrown!
Could it be reconstructed, redeemed?

In former days the ground they trod had been a pleasance the width of the
house, bordered, doubtless, by the forest. Trees grew out of the flower
beds now, and underbrush choked the paths. The box itself, that once
primly lined the alleys, was gnarled and shapeless. Labyrinth had
replaced order, nature had reaped her vengeance. At length, in the
deepening shade, they came, at what had been the edge of the old terrace,
to the daintiest of summer-houses, crumbling too, the shutters off their
hinges, the floor-boards loose. Past and gone were the idyls of which it
had been the stage.

They turned to the left, through tangled box that wound hither and
thither, until they stopped at a stone wall bordering a tree-arched lane.
At the bottom of the lane was a glimpse of blue water.

Honora sat down on the wall with her back to a great trunk. Chiltern,
with a hand on the stones, leaped over lightly, and stood for some
moments in the lane, his feet a little apart and firmly planted, his
hands behind his back.

What had Thalia been about to allow the message of that morning to creep
into her comedy? a message announcing the coming of an intruder not in
the play, in the person of a husband bearing gifts. What right had he, in
the eternal essence of things, to return? He was out of all time and
place. Such had been her feeling when she had first read the hastily
written letter, but even when she had burned it it had risen again from
the ashes. Anything but that! In trying not to think of it, she had
picked up the newspaper, learned of a railroad accident,--and shuddered.
Anything but his return! Her marriage was a sin,--there could be no
sacrament in it. She would flee first, and abandon all rather than submit
to it.

Chiltern's step aroused her now. He came back to the wall where she was
sitting, and faced her.

"You are sad," he said.

She shook her head at him, slowly, and tried to smile.

"What has happened?" he demanded rudely. "I can't bear to see you sad."

"I am going away," she said. The decision had suddenly come to her. Why
had she not seen before that it was inevitable?

He seized her wrist as it lay on the wall, and she winced from the sudden
pain of his grip.

"Honora, I love you," he said, "I must have you--I will have you. I will
make you happy. I promise it on my soul. I can't, I won't live without
you."

She did not listen to his words--she could not have repeated them
afterwards. The very tone of his voice was changed by passion; creation
spoke through him, and she heard and thrilled and swayed and soared,
forgetting heaven and earth and hell as he seized her in his arms and
covered her face with kisses. Thus Eric the Red might have wooed. And by
what grace she spoke the word that delivered her she never knew. As
suddenly as he had seized her he released her, and she stood before him
with flaming cheeks and painful breath.

"I love you," he said, "I love you. I have searched the world for you and
found you, and by all the laws of God you are mine."

And love was written in her eyes. He had but to read it there, though her
lips might deny it. This was the man of all men she would have chosen,
and she was his by right of conquest. Yet she held up her hand with a
gesture of entreaty.

"No, Hugh--it cannot be," she said.

"Cannot!" he cried. "I will take you. You love me."

"I am married."

"Married! Do you mean that you would let that man stand between you and
happiness?"

"What do you mean?" she asked, in a frightened voice.

"Just what I say," he cried, with incredible vehemence. "Leave him
--divorce him. You cannot live with him. He isn't worthy to touch your
hand."

The idea planted itself with the force of a barbed arrow from a
strong-bow. Struggle as she might, she could not henceforth extract it.

"Oh!" she cried.

He took her arm, gently, and forced her to sit down on the wall. Such was
the completeness of his mastery that she did not resist. He sat down
beside her.

"Listen, Honora," he said, and tried to speak calmly, though his voice
was still vibrant; "let us look the situation m the face. As I told you
once, the days of useless martyrdom are past. The world is more
enlightened today, and recognizes an individual right to happiness."

"To happiness," she repeated after him, like a child. He forgot his words
as he looked into her eyes: they were lighted as with all the candles of
heaven in his honour.

"Listen," he said hoarsely, and his fingers tightened on her arm.

The current running through her from him made her his instrument. Did he
say the sky was black, she would have exclaimed at the discovery.

"Yes--I am listening."

"Honora!"

"Hugh," she answered, and blinded him. He was possessed by the tragic
fear that she was acting a dream; presently she would awake--and shatter
the universe. His dominance was too complete.

"I love you--I respect you. You are making it very hard for me. Please
try to understand what I am saying," he cried almost fiercely. "This
thing, this miracle, has happened in spite of us. Henceforth you belong
to me--do you hear?"

Once more the candles flared up.

"We cannot drift. We must decide now upon some definite action. Our lives
are our own, to make as we choose. You said you were going away. And you
meant--alone?"

The eyes were wide, now, with fright.

"Oh, I must--I must," she said. "Don't--don't talk about it." And she put
forth a hand over his.

"I will talk about it," he declared, trembling. "I have thought it all
out," and this time it was her fingers that tightened. "You are going
away. And presently--when you are free--I will come to you."

For a moment the current stopped.

"No, no!" she cried, almost in terror. The first fatalist must have been
a woman, and the vision of rent prison bars drove her mad. "No, we could
never be happy."

"We can--we will be happy," he said, with a conviction that was unshaken.
"Do you hear me? I will not debase what I have to say by resorting to
comparisons. But--others I know have been happy are happy, though their
happiness cannot be spoken of with ours. Listen. You will go away--for a
little while--and afterwards we shall be together for all time. Nothing
shall separate us: We never have known life, either of us, until now. I,
missing you, have run after the false gods. And you--I say it with
truth-needed me. We will go to live at Grenoble, as my father and mother
lived. We will take up their duties there. And if it seems possible, I
will go into public life. When I return, I shall find you--waiting for
me--in the garden."

So real had the mirage become, that Honora did not answer. The desert and
its journey fell away. Could such a thing, after all, be possible? Did
fate deal twice to those whom she had made novices? The mirage, indeed,
suddenly became reality--a mirage only because she had proclaimed it
such. She had beheld in it, as he spoke, a Grenoble which was paradise
regained. And why should paradise regained be a paradox? Why paradise
regained? Paradise gained. She had never known it, until he had flung
wide the gates. She had sought for it, and never found it until now, and
her senses doubted it. It was a paradise of love, to be sure; but one,
too, of duty. Duty made it real. Work was there, and fulfilment of the
purpose of life itself. And if his days hitherto had been useless, hers
had in truth been barren.

It was only of late, after a life-long groping, that she had discovered
their barrenness. The right to happiness! Could she begin anew, and found
it upon a rock? And was he the rock?

The question startled her, and she drew away from him first her hand, and
then she turned her body, staring at him with widened eyes. He did not
resist the movement; nor could he, being male, divine what was passing
within her, though he watched her anxiously. She had no thought of the
first days,--but afterwards. For at such times it is the woman who scans
the veil of the future. How long would that beacon burn which flamed now
in such prodigal waste? Would not the very springs of it dry up? She
looked at him, and she saw the Viking. But the Viking had fled from the
world, and they--they would be going into it. Could love prevail against
its dangers and pitfalls and--duties? Love was the word that rang out, as
one calling through the garden, and her thoughts ran molten. Let love
overflow--she gloried in the waste! And let the lean years come,--she
defied them to-day.

"Oh, Hugh!" she faltered.

"My dearest!" he cried, and would have seized her in his arms again but
for a look of supplication. That he had in him this innate and
unsuspected chivalry filled her with an exquisite sweetness.

"You will--protect me?" she asked.

"With my life and with my honour," he answered. "Honora, there will be no
happiness like ours."

"I wish I knew," she sighed: and then, her look returning from the veil,
rested on him with a tenderness that was inexpressible. "I--I don't care,
Hugh. I trust you."

The sun was setting. Slowly they went back together through the paths of
the tangled garden, which had doubtless seen many dramas, and the courses
changed of many lives: overgrown and outworn now, yet love was loth to
leave it. Honora paused on the lawn before the house, and looked back at
him over her shoulder.

"How happy we could have been here, in those days," she sighed.

"We will be happier there," he said.

Honora loved. Many times in her life had she believed herself to have had
this sensation, and yet had known nothing of these aches and ecstasies!
Her mortal body, unattended, went out to dinner that evening. Never, it
is said, was her success more pronounced. The charm of Randolph
Leffingwell, which had fascinated the nobility of three kingdoms, had
descended on her, and hostesses had discovered that she possessed the
magic touch necessary to make a dinner complete. Her quality, as we know,
was not wit: it was something as old as the world, as new as modern
psychology. It was, in short, the power to stimulate. She infused a sense
of well-being; and ordinary people, in her presence, surprised themselves
by saying clever things.

Lord Ayllington, a lean, hard-riding gentleman, who was supposed to be on
the verge of contracting an alliance with the eldest of the Grenfell
girls, regretted that Mrs. Spence was neither unmarried nor an heiress.

"You know," he said to Cecil Grainger, who happened to be gracing his
wife's dinner-party, "she's the sort of woman for whom a man might
consent to live in Venice."

"And she's the sort of woman," replied, "a man couldn't get to go to
Venice."

Lord Ayllington's sigh was a proof of an intimate knowledge of the world.

"I suppose not," he said. "It's always so. And there are few American
women who would throw everything overboard for a grand passion."

"You ought to see her on the beach," Mr. Grainger suggested.

"I intend to," said Ayllington. "By the way, not a few of your American
women get divorced, and keep their cake and eat it, too. It's a bit
difficult, here at Newport, for a stranger, you know."

"I'm willing to bet," declared Mr. Grainger, "that it doesn't pay. When
you're divorced and married again you've got to keep up appearances--the
first time you don't. Some of these people are working pretty hard."

Whereupon, for the Englishman's enlightenment, he recounted a little
gossip.

This, of course, was in the smoking room. In the drawing-room, Mrs.
Grainger's cousin did not escape, and the biography was the subject of
laughter.

"You see something of him, I hear," remarked Mrs. Playfair, a lady the
deficiency of whose neck was supplied by jewels, and whose conversation
sounded like liquid coming out of an inverted bottle. "Is he really
serious about the biography?"

"You'll have to ask Mr. Grainger," replied Honora.

"Hugh ought to marry," Mrs. Grenfell observed.

"Why did he come back?" inquired another who had just returned from a
prolonged residence abroad. "Was there a woman in the case?"

"Put it in the plural, and you'll be nearer right," laughed Mrs.
Grenfell, and added to Honora, "You'd best take care, my dear, he's
dangerous."

Honora seemed to be looking down on them from a great height, and to
Reginald Farwell alone is due the discovery of this altitude; his
reputation for astuteness, after that evening, was secure. He had sat
next her, and had merely put two and two together--an operation that is
probably at the root of most prophecies. More than once that summer Mr.
Farwell had taken sketches down Honora's lane, for she was on what was
known as his list of advisers: a sheepfold of ewes, some one had called
it, and he was always piqued when one of them went astray. In addition to
this, intuition told him that he had taken the name of a deity in
vain--and that deity was Chiltern. These reflections resulted in another
after-dinner conversation to which we are not supposed to listen.

He found Jerry Shorter in a receptive mood, and drew him into Cecil
Grainger's study, where this latter gentleman, when awake, carried on his
lifework of keeping a record of prize winners.

"I believe there is something between Mrs. Spence and Hugh Chiltern,
after all, Jerry," he said.

"By jinks, you don't say so!" exclaimed Mr. Shorter, who had a profound
respect for his friend's diagnoses in these matters. "She was dazzling
to-night, and her eyes were like stars. I passed her in the hall just
now, and I might as well have been in Halifax."

"She fairly withered me when I made a little fun of Chiltern," declared
Farwell.

"I tell you what it is, Reggie," remarked Mr. Shorter, with more
frankness than tact, "you could talk architecture with 'em from now to
Christmas, and nothing'd happen, but it would take an iceberg to write a
book with Hugh and see him alone six days out of seven. Chiltern knocks
women into a cocked hat. I've seen 'em stark raving crazy. Why, there was
that Mrs. Slicer six or seven years ago--you remember--that Cecil
Grainger had such a deuce of a time with. And there was Mrs. Dutton--I
was a committee to see her, when the old General was alive,--to say
nothing about a good many women you and I know."

Mr. Farwell nodded.

"I'm confoundedly sorry if it's so," Mr. Shorter continued, with
sincerity. "She has a brilliant future ahead of her. She's got good blood
in her, she's stunning to look at, and she's made her own way in spite of
that Billycock of a husband who talks like the original Rothschild. By
the bye, Wing is using him for a good thing. He's sent him out West to
pull that street railway chestnut out of the fire. I'm not particularly
squeamish, Reggie, though I try to play the game straight myself--the way
my father played it. But by the lord Harry, I can't see the difference
between Dick Turpin and Wing and Trixy Brent. It's hold and deliver with
those fellows. But if the police get anybody, their get Spence."

"The police never get anybody," said Farwell, pessimistically; for the
change of topic bored him.

"No, I suppose they don't," answered Mr. Shorter, cheerfully finishing
his chartreuse, and fixing his eye on one of the coloured lithographs of
lean horses on Cecil Grainger's wall. "I'd talk to Hugh, if I wasn't as
much afraid of him as of Jim Jeffries. I don't want to see him ruin her
career."

"Why should an affair with him ruin it?" asked Farwell, unexpectedly.
"There was Constance Witherspoon. I understand that went pretty far."

"My dear boy," said Mr. Shorter, "it's the women. Bessie Grainger here,
for instance--she'd go right up in the air. And the women had--well, a
childhood-interest in Constance. Self-preservation is the first law--of
women."

"They say Hugh has changed--that he wants to settle down," said Farwell.

"If you'd ever gone to church, Reggie," said Mr. Shorter, "you'd know
something about the limitations of the leopard."



CHAPTER VII

"LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS"

That night was Honora's soul played upon by the unknown musician of the
sleepless hours. Now a mad, ecstatic chorus dinned in her ears and set
her blood coursing; and again despair seized her with a dirge. Periods of
semiconsciousness only came to her, and from one of these she was
suddenly startled into wakefulness by her own words. "I have the right to
make of my life what I can." But when she beheld the road of terrors that
stretched between her and the shining places, it seemed as though she
would never have the courage to fare forth along its way. To look back
was to survey a prospect even more dreadful.

The incidents of her life ranged by in procession. Not in natural
sequence, but a group here and a group there. And it was given her, for
the first time, to see many things clearly. But now she loved. God alone
knew what she felt for this man, and when she thought of him the very
perils of her path were dwarfed. On returning home that night she had
given her maid her cloak, and had stood for a long time immobile,--gazing
at her image in the pierglass.

"Madame est belle comme l'Imperatrice d'Autriche!" said the maid at
length.

"Am I really beautiful, Mathilde?"

Mathilde raised her eyes and hands to heaven in a gesture that admitted
no doubt. Mathilde, moreover, could read a certain kind of history if the
print were large enough.

Honora looked in the glass again. Yes, she was beautiful. He had found
her so, he had told her so. And here was the testimony of her own eyes.
The bloom on the nectarines that came every morning from Mr. Chamberlin's
greenhouse could not compare with the colour of her cheeks; her hair was
like the dusk; her eyes like the blue pools among the rocks, and touched
now by the sun; her neck and arms of the whiteness of sea-foam. It was
meet that she should be thus for him and for the love he brought her.

She turned suddenly to the maid.

"Do you love me, Mathilde?" she asked.

Mathilde was not surprised. She was, on the contrary, profoundly touched.

"How can madame ask?" she cried impulsively, and seized Honora's hand.
How was it possible to be near madame, and not love her?

"And would you go--anywhere with me?"

The scene came back to her in the night watches. For the little maid had
wept and vowed eternal fidelity.

It was not--until the first faint herald of the morning that Honora could
bring herself to pronounce the fateful thing that stood between her and
happiness, that threatened to mar the perfection of a heaven-born love
--Divorce! And thus, having named it resolutely several times, the demon
of salvation began gradually to assume a kindly aspect that at times
became almost benign. In fact, this one was not a demon at all, but a
liberator: the demon, she perceived, stalked behind him, and his name was
Notoriety. It was he who would flay her for coquetting with the
liberator.

What if she were flayed? Once married to Chiltern, once embarked upon
that life of usefulness, once firmly established on ground of her own
tilling, and she was immune. And this led her to a consideration of those
she knew who had been flayed. They were not few, and a surfeit of
publicity is a sufficient reason for not enumerating them here. And
during this process of exorcism Notoriety became a bogey, too: he had
been powerless to hurt them. It must be true what Chiltern had said that
the world was changing. The tragic and the ridiculous here joining hands,
she remembered that Reggie Farwell had told her that he had recently made
a trip to western New York to inspect a house he had built for a
"remarried" couple who were not wholly unknown. The dove-cote, he had
called it. The man, in his former marriage, had been renowned all up and
down tidewater as a rake and a brute, and now it was an exception when he
did not have at least one baby on his knee. And he knew, according to Mr.
Farwell, more about infant diet than the whole staff of a maternity
hospital.

At length, as she stared into the darkness, dissolution came upon it. The
sills of her windows outlined themselves, and a blurred foliage was
sketched into the frame. With a problem but half solved the day had
surprised her. She marvelled to see that it grew apace, and presently
arose to look out upon a stillness like that of eternity: in the grey
light the very leaves seemed to be holding their breath in expectancy of
the thing that was to come. Presently the drooping roses raised their
heads, from pearl to silver grew the light, and comparison ended. The
reds were aflame, the greens resplendent, the lawn sewn with the diamonds
of the dew.

A little travelling table was beside the window, and Honora took her pen
and wrote.

   "My dearest, above all created things I love you. Morning has come,
   and it seems to me that I have travelled far since last I saw you.
   I have come to a new place, which is neither hell nor heaven, and in
   the mystery of it you--you alone are real. It is to your strength
   that I cling, and I know that you will not fail me.

   "Since I saw you, Hugh, I have been through the Valley of the
   Shadow. I have thought of many things. One truth alone is clear--
   that I love you transcendently.. You have touched and awakened me
   into life. I walk in a world unknown.

   "There is the glory of martyrdom in this message I send you now.
   You must not come to me again until I send for you. I cannot, I
   will not trust myself or you. I will keep this love which has come
   to me undefiled. It has brought with it to me a new spirit, a
   spirit with a scorn for things base and mean. Though it were my
   last chance in life, I would not see you if you came. If I thought
   you would not understand what I feel, I could not love you as I do.

   "I will write to you again, when I see my way more clearly. I told
   you in the garden before you spoke that I was going away. Do not
   seek to know my plans. For the sake of the years to come, obey me.

                    "HONORA."

She reread the letter, and sealed it. A new and different exaltation had
come to her--begotten, perhaps, in the act of writing. A new courage
filled her, and now she contemplated the ordeal with a tranquillity that
surprised her. The disorder and chaos of the night were passed, and she
welcomed the coming day, and those that were to follow it. As though the
fates were inclined to humour her impatience, there was a telegram on her
breakfast tray, dated at New York, and informing her that her husband
would be in Newport about the middle of the afternoon. His western trip
was finished a day earlier than he expected. Honora rang her bell.

"Mathilde, I am going away."

"Oui, madame."

"And I should like you to go with me."

"Oui, madame."

"It is only fair that you should understand, Mathilde. I am going away
alone. I am not--coming back."

The maid's eyes filled with sudden tears.

"Oh, madame," she cried, in a burst of loyalty, "if madame will permit me
to stay with her!"

Honora was troubled, but her strange calmness did not forsake her. The
morning was spent in packing, which was a simple matter. She took only
such things as she needed, and left her dinner-gowns hanging in the
closets. A few precious books of her own she chose, but the jewellery her
husband had given her was put in boxes and laid upon the dressing-table.
In one of these boxes was her wedding ring. When luncheon was over, an
astonished and perturbed butler packed the Leffingwell silver and sent it
off to storage.

There had been but one interruption in Honora's labours. A note had
arrived--from him--a note and a box. He would obey her! She had known he
would understand, and respect her the more. What would their love have
been, without that respect? She shuddered to think. And he sent her this
ring, as a token of that love, as undying as the fire in its stones.
Would she wear it, that in her absence she might think of him? Honora
kissed it and slipped it on her finger, where it sparkled. The letter was
beneath her gown, though she knew it by heart. Chiltern had gone at last:
he could not, he said, remain in Newport and not see her.

At midday she made but the pretence of a meal. It was not until
afterwards, in wandering through the lower rooms of this house, become so
dear to her, that agitation seized her, and a desire to weep. What was
she leaving so precipitately? and whither going? The world indeed was
wide, and these rooms had been her home. The day had grown blue-grey, and
in the dining room the gentle face seemed to look down upon her
compassionately from the portrait. The scent of the roses overpowered
her. As she listened, no sound brake the quiet of the place.

Would Howard never come? The train was in--had been in ten minutes. Hark,
the sound of wheels! Her heart beating wildly, she ran to the windows of
the drawing-room and peered through the lilacs. Yes, there he was,
ascending the steps.

"Mrs. Spence is out, I suppose," she heard him say to the butler, who
followed with his bag.

"No, sir, she's is the drawing-room."

The sight of him, with his air of satisfaction and importance, proved an
unexpected tonic to her strength. It was as though he had brought into
the room, marshalled behind him, all the horrors of her marriage, and she
marvelled and shuddered anew at the thought of the years of that
sufferance.

"Well, I'm back," he said, "and we've made a great killing, as I wrote
you. They were easier than I expected."

He came forward for the usual perfunctory kiss, but she recoiled, and it
was then that his eye seemed to grasp the significance of her travelling
suit and veil, and he glanced at her face.

"What's up? Where are you going?" he demanded. "Has anything happened?"

"Everything," she said, and it was then, suddenly, that she felt the
store of her resolution begin to ebb, and she trembled. "Howard, I am
going away."

He stopped short, and thrust his hands into the pockets of his checked
trousers.

"Going away," he repeated. "Where?"

"I don't know," said Honora; "I'm going away."

As though to cap the climax of tragedy, he smiled as he produced his
cigarette case. And she was swept, as it were, by a scarlet flame that
deprived her for the moment of speech.

"Well," he said complacently, "there's no accounting for women. A case of
nerves--eh, Honora? Been hitting the pace a little too hard, I guess." He
lighted a match, blissfully unaware of the quality of her look. "All of
us have to get toned up once in a while. I need it myself. I've had to
drink a case of Scotch whiskey out West to get this deal through. Now
what's the name of that new boat with everything on her from a cafe to a
Stock Exchange? A German name."

"I don't know," said Honora. She had answered automatically.

To the imminent peril of one of the frailest of Mrs. Forsythe's chairs,
he sat down on it, placed his hands on his knees, flung back his head,
and blew the smoke towards the ceiling. Still she stared at him, as in a
state of semi-hypnosis.

"Instead of going off to one of those thousand-dollar-a-minute doctors,
let me prescribe for you," he said. "I've handled some nervous men in my
time, and I guess nervous women aren't much different. You've had these
little attacks before, and they blow over--don't they? Wing owes me a
vacation. If I do say it myself, there are not five men in New York who
would have pulled off this deal for him. Now the proposition I was going
to make to you is this: that we get cosey in a cabin de luxe on that
German boat, hire an automobile on the other side, and do up Europe. It's
a sort of a handicap never to have been over there."

"Oh, you're making it very hard for me, Howard," she cried. "I might have
known that you couldn't understand, that you never could understand--why
I am going away. I've lived with you all this time, and you do not know
me any better than you know--the scrub-woman. I'm going away from
you--forever."

In spite of herself, she ended with an uncontrollable sob.

"Forever!" he repeated, but he continued to smoke and to look at her
without any evidences of emotion, very much as though he had received an
ultimatum in a business transaction. And then there crept into his
expression something of a complacent pity that braced her to continue.
"Why?" he asked.

"Because--because I don't love you. Because you don't love me. You don't
know what love is--you never will."

"But we're married," he said. "We get along all right."

"Oh, can't you see that that makes it all the worse!" she cried. "I can
stand it no longer. I can't live with you--I won't live with you. I'm of
no use to you--you're sufficient unto yourself. It was all a frightful
mistake. I brought nothing into your life, and I take nothing out of it.
We are strangers--we have always been so. I am not even your housekeeper.
Your whole interest in life is in your business, and you come home to
read the newspapers and to sleep! Home! The very word is a mockery. If
you had to choose between me and your business you wouldn't hesitate an
instant. And I--I have been starved. It isn't your fault, perhaps, that
you don't understand that a woman needs something more than dinner-gowns
and jewels and--and trips abroad. Her only possible compensation for
living with a man is love. Love--and you haven't the faintest conception
of it. It isn't your fault, perhaps. It's my fault for marrying you. I
didn't know any better."

She paused with her breast heaving. He rose and walked over to the
fireplace and flicked his ashes into it before he spoke. His calmness
maddened her.

"Why didn't you say something about this before?" he asked.

"Because I didn't know it--I didn't realize it--until now."

"When you married me," he went on, "you had an idea that you were going
to live in a house on Fifth Avenue with a ballroom, didn't you?"

"Yes," said Honora. "I do not say I am not to blame. I was a fool. My
standards were false. In spite of the fact that my aunt and uncle are the
most unworldly people that ever lived--perhaps because of it--I knew
nothing of the values of life. I have but one thing to say in my defence.
I thought I loved you, and that you could give me--what every woman
needs."

"You were never satisfied from the first," he retorted. "You wanted money
and position--a mania with American women. I've made a success that few
men of my age can duplicate. And even now you are not satisfied when I
come back to tell you that I have money enough to snap my fingers at half
these people you know."

"How," asked Honora, "how did you make it?"

"What do you mean?" he asked.

She turned away from him with a gesture of weariness.

"No, you wouldn't understand that, either, Howard."

It was not until then that he showed feeling.

"Somebody has been talking to you about this deal. I'm not surprised. A
lot of these people are angry because we didn't let them in. What have
they been saying?" he demanded.

Her eyes flashed.

"Nobody has spoken to me on the subject," she said. "I only know what I
have read, and what you have told me. In the first place, you deceived
the stockholders of these railways into believing their property was
worthless, and in the second place, you intend to sell it to the public
for much more than it is worth."

At first he stared at her in surprise. Then he laughed.

"By George, you'd make something of a financier yourself, Honora," he
exclaimed. And seeing that she did not answer, continued: "Well, you've
got it about right, only it's easier said than done. It takes brains.
That's what business is--a survival of the fittest. If you don't do the
other man, he'll do you." He opened the cigarette case once more. "And
now," he said, "let me give you a little piece of advice. It's a good
motto for a woman not to meddle with what doesn't concern her. It isn't
her business to make the money, but to spend it; and she can usually do
that to the queen's taste."

"A high ideal?" she exclaimed.

"You ought to have some notion of where that ideal came from," he
retorted. "You were all for getting rich, in order to compete with these
people. Now you've got what you want--"

"And I am going to throw it away. That is like a woman, isn't it?"

He glanced at her, and then at his watch.

"See here, Honora, I ought to go over to Mr. Wing's. I wired him I'd be
there at four-thirty."

"Don't let me keep you," she replied.

"By gad, you are pale!" he said. "What's got into the women these days?
They never used to have these confounded nerves. Well, if you are bent on
it, I suppose there's no use trying to stop you. Go off somewhere and
take a rest, and when you come back you'll see things differently."

She held out her hand.

"Good-by, Howard," she said. "I wanted you to know that I didn't--bear
you any ill-will--that I blame myself as much as you. More, if anything.
I hope you will be happy--I know you will. But I must ask you to believe
me when I say that I shan't come back. I--I am leaving all the valuable
things you gave me. You will find them on my dressing-table. And I wanted
to tell you that my uncle sent me a little legacy from my father-an
unexpected one--that makes me independent."

He did not take her hand, but was staring at her now, incredulously.

"You mean you are actually going?" he exclaimed.

"Yes."

"But--what shall I say to Mr. Wing? What will he think?"

Despite the ache in her heart, she smiled.

"Does it make any difference what Mr. Wing thinks?" she asked gently.
"Need he know? Isn't this a matter which concerns us alone? I shall go
off, and after a certain time people will understand that I am not coming
back."

"But--have you considered that it may interfere with my prospects?" he
asked.

"Why should it? You are invaluable to Mr. Wing. He can't afford to
dispense with your services just because you will be divorced. That would
be ridiculous. Some of his own associates are divorced."

"Divorced!" he cried, and she saw that he had grown pasty white. "On what
grounds? Have you been--"

He did not finish.

"No," she said, "you need fear no scandal. There will be nothing in any
way harmful to your--prospects."

"What can I do?" he said, though more to himself than to her. Her quick
ear detected in his voice a note of relief. And yet, he struck in her,
standing helplessly smoking in the middle of the floor, chords of pity.

"You can do nothing, Howard," she said. "If you lived with me from now to
the millennium you couldn't make me love you, nor could you love me--the
way I must be loved. Try to realize it. The wrench is what you dread.
After it is over you will be much more contented, much happier, than you
have been with me. Believe me."

His next remark astonished her.

"What's the use of being so damned precipitate?" he demanded.

"Precipitate!"

"Because I can stand it no longer. I should go mad," she answered.

He took a turn up and down the room, stopped suddenly, and stared at her
with eyes that had grown smaller. Suspicion is slow to seize the
complacent. Was it possible that he had been supplanted?

Honora, with an instinct of what was coming, held up her head. Had he
been angry, had he been a man, how much humiliation he would have spared
her!

"So you're in love!" he said. "I might have known that something was at
the bottom of this."

She took account of and quivered at the many meanings behind his speech
--meanings which he was too cowardly to voice in words.

"Yes," she answered, "I am in love--in love as I never hoped to be--as I
did not think it possible to be. My love is such that I would go through
hell fire for the sake of it. I do not expect you to believe me when I
tell you that such is not the reason why I am leaving you. If you had
loved me with the least spark of passion, if I thought I were in the
least bit needful to you as a woman and as a soul, as a helper and a
confidante, instead of a mere puppet to advertise your prosperity, this
would not--could not--have happened. I love a man who would give up the
world for me to-morrow. I have but one life to live, and I am going to
find happiness if I can."

She paused, afire with an eloquence that had come unsought. But her
husband only stared at her. She was transformed beyond his recognition.
Surely he had not married this woman! And, if the truth be told, down in
his secret soul whispered a small, congratulatory voice. Although he did
not yet fully realize it, he was glad he had not.

Honora, with an involuntary movement, pressed her handkerchief to her
eyes.

"Good-by, Howard," she said. "I--I did not expect you to understand. If I
had stayed, I should have made you miserably unhappy."

He took her hand in a dazed manner, as though he knew not in the least
what he was doing. He muttered something and found speech impossible. He
gulped once, uncomfortably. The English language had ceased to be a
medium. Great is the force of habit! In the emergency he reached for his
cigarette case.

Honora had given orders that the carriage was to wait at the door. The
servants might suspect, but that was all. Her maid had been discreet. She
drew down her veil as she descended the steps, and told the coachman to
drive to the station.

It was raining. Leaning forward from under the hood as the horses
started, she took her last look at the lilacs.



CHAPTER VIII

IN WHICH THE LAW BETRAYS A HEART

It was still raining when she got into a carriage at Boston and drove
under the elevated tracks, through the narrow, slippery business streets,
to the hotel. From the windows of her room, as the night fell, she looked
out across the dripping foliage of the Common. Below her, and robbed from
that sacred ground, were the little granite buildings that housed the
entrances to the subway, and for a long time she stood watching the
people crowding into these. Most of them had homes to go to! In the
gathering gloom the arc-lights shone, casting yellow streaks on the
glistening pavement; wagons and carriages plunged into the maelstrom at
the corner; pedestrians dodged and slipped; lightnings flashed from
overhead wires, and clanging trolley cars pushed their greater bulk
through the mass. And presently the higher toned and more ominous bell of
an ambulance sounded on its way to the scene of an accident.

It was Mathilde who ordered her dinner and pressed her to eat. But she
had no heart for food. In her bright sitting-room, with the shades
tightly drawn, an inexpressible loneliness assailed her. A large
engraving of a picture of a sentimental school hung on the wall: she
could not bear to look at it, and yet her eyes, from time to time, were
fatally drawn thither. It was of a young girl taking leave of her lover,
in early Christian times, before entering the arena. It haunted Honora,
and wrought upon her imagination to such a pitch that she went into her
bedroom to write.

For a long time nothing more was written of the letter than "Dear Uncle
Tom and Aunt Mary": what to say to them?

   "I do not know what you will think of me. I do not know, to-night,
   what to think of myself. I have left Howard. It is not because he
   was cruel to me, or untrue. He does not love me, nor I him. I
   cannot expect you, who have known the happiness of marriage, to
   realize the tortures of it without love. My pain in telling you
   this now is all the greater because I realize your belief as to the
   sacredness of the tie--and it is not your fault that you did not
   instil that belief into me. I have had to live and to think and to
   suffer for myself. I do not attempt to account for my action, and I
   hesitate to lay the blame upon the modern conditions and atmosphere
   in which I lived; for I feel that, above all things, I must be
   honest with myself.

   "My marriage with Howard was a frightful mistake, and I have grown
   slowly to realize it, until life with him became insupportable.
   Since he does not love me, since his one interest is his business,
   my departure makes no great difference to him.

   "Dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Tom, I realize that I owe you much
  --everything that I am. I do not expect you to understand or to
   condone what I have done. I only beg that you will continue to
  --love your niece,

                         "HONORA."

She tried to review this letter. Incoherent though it were and
incomplete, in her present state of mind she was able to add but a few
words as a postscript. "I will write you my plans in a day or two, when I
see my way more clearly. I would fly to you--but I cannot. I am going to
get a divorce."

She sat for a time picturing the scene in the sitting-room when they
should read it, and a longing which was almost irresistible seized her to
go back to that shelter. One force alone held her in misery where she
was,--her love for Chiltern; it drew her on to suffer the horrors of
exile and publicity. When she suffered most, his image rose before her,
and she kissed the ring on her hand. Where was he now, on this rainy
night? On the seas?

At the thought she heard again the fog-horns and the sirens.

Her sleep was fitful. Many times she went over again her talk with
Howard, and she surprised herself by wondering what he had thought and
felt since her departure. And ever and anon she was startled out of
chimerical dreams by the clamour of bells-the trolley cars on their
ceaseless round passing below. At last came the slumber of exhaustion.

It was nine o'clock when she awoke and faced the distasteful task she had
set herself for the day. In her predicament she descended to the office,
where the face of one of the clerks attracted her, and she waited until
he was unoccupied.

"I should like you to tell me--the name of some reputable lawyer," she
said.

"Certainly, Mrs. Spence," he replied, and Honora was startled at the
sound of her name. She might have realized that he would know her. "I
suppose a young lawyer would do--if the matter is not very important."

"Oh, no!" she cried, blushing to her temples. "A young lawyer would do
very well."

The clerk reflected. He glanced at Honora again; and later in the day she
divined what had been going on in his mind.

"Well," he said, "there are a great many. I happen to think of Mr.
Wentworth, because he was in the hotel this morning. He is in the Tremont
Building."

She thanked him hurriedly, and was driven to the Tremont Building,
through the soggy street that faced the still dripping trees of the
Common. Mounting in the elevator, she read on the glass door amongst the
names of the four members of the firm that of Alden Wentworth, and
suddenly found herself face to face with the young man, in his private
office. He was well groomed and deeply tanned, and he rose to meet her
with a smile that revealed a line of perfect white teeth.

"How do you do, Mrs. Spence?" he said. "I did not think, when I met you
at Mrs. Grenfell's, that I should see you so soon in Boston. Won't you
sit down?"

Honora sat down. There seemed nothing else to do. She remembered him
perfectly now, and she realized that the nimble-witted clerk had meant to
send her to a gentleman.

"I thought," she faltered, "I thought I was coming to a--a stranger. They
gave me your address at the hotel--when I asked for a lawyer."

"Perhaps," suggested Mr. Wentworth, delicately, "perhaps you would prefer
to go to some one else. I can give you any number of addresses, if you
like."

She looked up at him gratefully. He seemed very human and understanding,
--very honourable. He belonged to her generation, after all, and she
feared an older man.

"If you will be kind enough to listen to me, I think I will stay here. It
is only a matter of--of knowledge of the law." She looked at him again,
and the pathos of her smile went straight to his heart. For Mr. Wentworth
possessed that organ, although he did not wear it on his sleeve.

He crossed the room, closed the door, and sat down beside her.

"Anything I can do," he said.

She glanced at him once more, helplessly.

"I do not know how to tell you," she began. "It all seems so dreadful."
She paused, but he had the lawyer's gift of silence--of sympathetic
silence. "I want to get a divorce from my husband."

If Mr. Wentworth was surprised, he concealed it admirably. His attitude
of sympathy did not change, but he managed to ask her, in a business-like
tone which she welcomed:--"On what grounds?"

"I was going to ask you that question," said Honora.

This time Mr. Wentworth was surprised--genuinely so, and he showed it.

"But, my dear Mrs. Spence," he protested, "you must remember that--that I
know nothing of the case."

"What are the grounds one can get divorced on?" she asked.

He coloured a little under his tan.

"They are different in different states," he replied. "I think--perhaps
--the best way would be to read you the Massachusetts statutes."

"No--wait a moment," she said. "It's very simple, after all, what I have
to tell you. I don't love my husband, and he doesn't love me, and it has
become torture to live together. I have left him with his knowledge and
consent, and he understands that I will get a divorce."

Mr. Wentworth appeared to be pondering--perhaps not wholly on the legal
aspects of the case thus naively presented. Whatever may have been his
private comments, they were hidden. He pronounced tentatively, and a
little absently, the word "desertion."

"If the case could possibly be construed as desertion on your husband's
part, you could probably get a divorce in three years in Massachusetts."

"Three years!" cried Honora, appalled. "I could never wait three years!"

She did not remark the young lawyer's smile, which revealed a greater
knowledge of the world than one would have suspected. He said nothing,
however.

"Three years!" she repeated. "Why, it can't be, Mr. Wentworth. There are
the Waterfords--she was Mrs. Boutwell, you remember. And--and Mrs.
Rindge--it was scarcely a year before--"

He had the grace to nod gravely, and to pretend not to notice the
confusion in which she halted. Lawyers, even young ones with white teeth
and clear eyes, are apt to be a little cynical. He had doubtless seen
from the beginning that there was a man in the background. It was not his
business to comment or to preach.

"Some of the western states grant divorces on--on much easier terms," he
said politely. "If you care to wait, I will go into our library and look
up the laws of those states."

"I wish you would," answered Honora. "I don't think I could bear to spend
three years in such--in such an anomalous condition. And at any rate I
should much rather go West, out of sight, and have it all as quickly over
with as possible."

He bowed, and departed on his quest. And Honora waited, at moments
growing hot at the recollection of her conversation with him. Why--she
asked herself should the law make it so difficult, and subject her to
such humiliation in a course which she felt to be right and natural and
noble? Finally, her thoughts becoming too painful, she got up and looked
out of the window. And far below her, through the mist, she beheld the
burying-ground of Boston's illustrious dead which her cabman had pointed
out to her as he passed. She did not hear the door open as Mr. Wentworth
returned, and she started at the sound of his voice.

"I take it for granted that you are really serious in this matter, Mrs.
Spence," he said.

"Oh!" she exclaimed.

"And that you have thoroughly reflected," he continued imperturbably.
Evidently, in spite of the cold impartiality of the law, a New England
conscience had assailed him in the library. "I cannot take er--the
responsibility of advising you as to a course of action. You have asked
me the laws of certain western states as to divorce I will read them."

An office boy followed him, deposited several volumes on the taule, and
Mr. Wentworth read from them in a voice magnificently judicial.

"There's not much choice, is there?" she faltered, when he had finished.

He smiled.

"As places of residence--" he began, in an attempt to relieve the pathos.

"Oh, I didn't mean that," she cried. "Exile is--is exile." She flushed.
After a few moments of hesitation she named at random a state the laws of
which required a six months' residence. She contemplated him. "I hardly
dare to ask you to give me the name of some reputable lawyer out there."

He had looked for an instant into her eyes. Men of the law are not
invulnerable, particularly at Mr. Wentworth's age, and New England
consciences to the contrary notwithstanding. In spite of himself, her
eyes had made him a partisan: an accomplice, he told himself afterwards.

"Really, Mrs. Spence," he began, and caught another appealing look. He
remembered the husband now, and a lecture on finance in the Grenfell
smoking room which Howard Spence had delivered, and which had grated on
Boston sensibility. "It is only right to tell you that our firm does
not--does not--take divorce cases--as a rule. Not that we are taking this
one," he added hurriedly. "But as a friend--"

"Oh, thank you!" said Honora.

"Merely as a friend who would be glad to do you a service," he continued,
"I will, during the day, try to get you the name of--of as reputable a
lawyer as possible in that place."

And Mr. Wentworth paused, as red as though he had asked her to marry him.

"How good of you!" she cried. "I shall be at the Touraine until this
evening."

He escorted her through the corridor, bowed her into the elevator, and
her spirits had risen perceptibly as she got into her cab and returned to
the hotel. There, she studied railroad folders. One confidant was enough,
and she dared not even ask the head porter the way to a locality
where--it was well known--divorces were sold across a counter. And as she
worked over the intricacies of this problem the word her husband had
applied to her action recurred to her--precipitate. No doubt Mr.
Wentworth, too, had thought her precipitate. Nearly every important act
of her life had been precipitate. But she was conscious in this instance
of no regret. Delay, she felt, would have killed her. Let her exile begin
at once.

She had scarcely finished luncheon when Mr. Wentworth was announced. For
reasons best known to himself he had come in person; and he handed her,
written on a card, the name of the Honourable David Beckwith.

"I'll have to confess I don't know much about him, Mrs. Spence," he said,
"except that he has been in Congress, and is one of the prominent lawyers
of that state."

The gift of enlisting sympathy and assistance was peculiarly Honora's.
And if some one had predicted that morning to Mr. Wentworth that before
nightfall he would not only have put a lady in distress on the highroad
to obtaining a western divorce (which he had hitherto looked upon as
disgraceful), but that likewise he would miss his train for Pride's
Crossing, buy the lady's tickets, and see her off at the South Station
for Chicago, he would have regarded the prophet as a lunatic. But that is
precisely what Mr. Wentworth did. And when, as her train pulled out,
Honora bade him goodby, she felt the tug at her heartstrings which comes
at parting with an old friend.

"And anything I can do for you here in the East, while--while you are out
there, be sure to let me know," he said.

She promised and waved at him from the platform as he stood motionless,
staring after her. Romance had spent a whole day in Boston! And with Mr.
Alden Wentworth, of all people!

Fortunately for the sanity of the human race, the tension of grief is
variable. Honora, closed in her stateroom, eased herself that night by
writing a long, if somewhat undecipherable, letter to Chiltern; and was
able, the next day, to read the greater portion of a novel. It was only
when she arrived in Chicago, after nightfall, that loneliness again
assailed her. She was within nine hours--so the timetable said--of St.
Louis! Of all her trials, the homesickness which she experienced as she
drove through the deserted streets of the metropolis of the Middle West
was perhaps the worst. A great city on Sunday night! What traveller has
not felt the depressing effect of it? And, so far as the incoming
traveller is concerned, Chicago does not put her best foot forward. The
way from the station to the Auditorium Hotel was hacked and bruised--so
it seemed--by the cruel battle of trade. And she stared, in a kind of
fascination that increased the ache in her heart; at the ugliness and
cruelty of the twentieth century.

To have imagination is unquestionably to possess a great capacity for
suffering, and Honora was paying the penalty for hers. It ran riot now.
The huge buildings towered like formless monsters against the blackness
of the sky under the sickly blue of the electric lights, across the
dirty, foot-scarred pavements, strange black human figures seemed to
wander aimlessly: an elevated train thundered overhead. And presently she
found herself the tenant of two rooms in that vast refuge of the
homeless, the modern hotel, where she sat until the small hours looking
down upon the myriad lights of the shore front, and out beyond them on
the black waters of an inland sea.

          .......................

From Newport to Salomon City, in a state not far from the Pacific tier,
is something of a transition in less than a week, though in modern life
we should be surprised at nothing. Limited trains are wonderful enough;
but what shall be said of the modern mind, that travels faster than
light? and much too fast for the pages of a chronicle. Martha Washington
and the good ladies of her acquaintance knew nothing about the upper
waters of the Missouri, and the words "for better, for worse, for richer,
for poorer" were not merely literature to them.

'Nous avons change tout cela', although there are yet certain crudities
to be eliminated. In these enlightened times, if in one week a lady is
not entirely at home with husband number one, in the next week she may
have travelled in comparative comfort some two-thirds across a continent,
and be on the highroad to husband number two. Why travel? Why have to put
up with all this useless expense and worry and waste of time? Why not
have one's divorce sent, C.O.D., to one's door, or establish a new branch
of the Post-office Department? American enterprise has surely lagged in
this.

Seated in a plush-covered rocking-chair that rocked on a track of its
own, and thus saved the yellow-and-red hotel carpet, the Honourable Dave
Beckwith patiently explained the vexatious process demanded by his
particular sovereign state before she should consent to cut the Gordian
knot of marriage. And his state--the Honourable Dave remarked--was in the
very forefront of enlightenment in this respect: practically all that she
demanded was that ladies in Mrs. Spence's predicament should become, pro
tempore, her citizens. Married misery did not exist in the Honourable
Dave's state, amongst her own bona fide citizens. And, by a wise
provision in the Constitution of our glorious American Union, no one
state could tie the nuptial knot so tight that another state could not
cut it at a blow.

Six months' residence, and a whole year before the divorce could be
granted! Honora looked at the plush rocking-chair, the yellow-and-red
carpet, the inevitable ice-water on the marble-topped table, and the
picture of a lady the shape of a liqueur bottle playing tennis in the
late eighties, and sighed. For one who is sensitive to surroundings, that
room was a torture chamber.

"But Mr. Beckwith," she exclaimed, "I never could spend a year here!
Isn't there a--house I could get that is a--a little--a little better
furnished? And then there is a certain publicity about staying at a
hotel."

The Honourable Dave might have been justly called the friend of ladies in
a temporary condition of loneliness. His mission in life was not merely
that of a liberator, but his natural goodness led him to perform a
hundred acts of kindness to make as comfortable as possible the purgatory
of the unfortunates under his charge. He was a man of a remarkable
appearance, and not to be lightly forgotten. His hair, above all,
fascinated Honora, and she found her eyes continually returning to it. So
incredibly short it was, and so incredibly stiff, that it reminded her of
the needle points on the cylinder of an old-fashioned music-box; and she
wondered, if it were properly inserted, what would be the resultant
melody.

The Honourable Dave's head was like a cannon-ball painted white. Across
the top of it (a blemish that would undoubtedly have spoiled the tune)
was a long scar,--a relic of one of the gentleman's many personal
difficulties. He who made the sear, Honora reflected, must have been a
strong man. The Honourable Dave, indeed, had fought his way upward
through life to the Congress of the United States; and many were the
harrowing tales of frontier life he told Honora in the long winter
evenings when the blizzards came down the river valley. They would fill a
book; unfortunately, not this book. The growing responsibilities of
taking care of the lonely ladies that came in increasing numbers to
Salomon City from the effeter portions of the continent had at length
compelled him to give up his congressional career. The Honourable Dave
was unmarried; and, he told Honora, not likely to become so. He was thus
at once human and invulnerable, a high priest dedicated to freedom.

It is needless to say that the plush rocking-chair and the picture of the
liqueur-bottle lady did not jar on his sensibilities. Like an eminent
physician who has never himself experienced neurosis, the Honourable Dave
firmly believed that he understood the trouble from which his client was
suffering. He had seen many cases of it in ladies from the Atlantic
coast: the first had surprised him, no doubt. Salomon City, though it
contained the great Boon, was not esthetic. Being a keen student of human
nature, he rightly supposed that she would not care to join the colony,
but he thought it his duty to mention that there was a colony.

Honora repeated the word.

"Out there," he said, waving his cigar to the westward, "some of the
ladies have ranches." Some of the gentlemen, too, he added, for it
appeared that exiles were not confined to one sex. "It's social--a little
too social, I guess," declared Mr. Beckwith, "for you." A delicate
compliment of differentiation that Honora accepted gravely. "They've got
a casino, and they burn a good deal of electricity first and last. They
don't bother Salomon City much. Once in a while, in the winter, they come
in a bunch to the theatre. Soon as I looked at you I knew you wouldn't
want to go there."

Her exclamation was sufficiently eloquent.

"I've got just the thing for you," he said. "It looks a little as if I
was reaching out into the sanitarium business. Are you acquainted by any
chance with Mrs. Boutwell, who married a fellow named Waterford?" he
asked, taking momentarily out of his mouth the cigar he was smoking by
permission.

Honora confessed, with no great enthusiasm, that she knew the present
Mrs. Waterford. Not the least of her tribulations had been to listen to a
partial recapitulation, by the Honourable Dave, of the ladies he had
assisted to a transfer of husbands. What, indeed, had these ladies to do
with her? She felt that the very mention of them tended to soil the pure
garments of her martyrdom.

"What I was going to say was this," the Honourable Dave continued. "Mrs.
Boutwell--that is to say Mrs. Waterford--couldn't stand this hotel any
more than you, and she felt like you do about the colony, so she rented a
little house up on Wylie Street and furnished it from the East. I took
the furniture off her hands: it's still in the house, by the way, which
hasn't been rented. For I figured it out that another lady would be
coming along with the same notions. Now you can look at the house any
time you like."

Although she had to overcome the distaste of its antecedents, the house,
or rather the furniture, was too much of a find in Salomon City to be
resisted. It had but six rooms, and was of wood, and painted grey, like
its twin beside it. But Mrs. Waterford had removed the stained-glass
window-lights in the front door, deftly hidden the highly ornamental
steam radiators, and made other eliminations and improvements, including
the white bookshelves that still contained the lady's winter reading
fifty or more yellow-and-green-backed French novels and plays. Honora's
first care, after taking possession, was to order her maid to remove
these from her sight: but it is to be feared that they found their way,
directly, to Mathilde's room. Honora would have liked to fumigate the
house; and yet, at the same time, she thanked her stars for it. Mr.
Beekwith obligingly found her a cook, and on Thursday evening she sat
down to supper in her tiny dining room. She had found a temporary haven,
at last.

Suddenly she remembered that it was an anniversary. One week ago that
day, in the old garden at Beaulieu, had occurred the momentous event that
had changed the current of her life!



CHAPTER IX

WYLIE STREET

There was a little spindle-supported porch before Honora's front door,
and had she chosen she might have followed the example of her neighbours
and sat there in the evenings. She preferred to watch the life about her
from the window-seat in the little parlour. The word exile suggests,
perhaps, to those who have never tried it, empty wastes, isolation,
loneliness. She had been prepared for these things, and Wylie Street was
a shock to her: in sending her there at this crisis in her life fate had
perpetrated nothing less than a huge practical joke. Next door, for
instance, in the twin house to hers, flaunted in the face of liberal
divorce laws, was a young couple with five children. Honora counted them,
from the eldest ones that ran over her little grass plot on their way to
and from the public school, to the youngest that spent much of his time
gazing skyward from a perambulator on the sidewalk. Six days of the week,
about six o'clock in the evening, there was a celebration in the family.
Father came home from work! He was a smooth-faced young man whom a
fortnight in the woods might have helped wonderfully--a clerk in the big
department store.

He radiated happiness. When opposite Honora's front door he would open
his arms--the signal for a race across her lawn. Sometimes it was the
little girl, with pigtails the colour of pulled molasses candy, who won
the prize of the first kiss: again it was her brother, a year her junior;
and when he was raised it was seen that the seat of his trousers was
obviously double. But each of the five received a reward, and the baby
was invariably lifted out of the perambulator. And finally there was a
conjugal kiss on the spindled porch.

The wife was a roly-poly little body. In the mornings, at the side
windows, Honora heard her singing as she worked, and sometimes the sun
struck with a blinding flash the pan she was in the act of shining. And
one day she looked up and nodded and smiled. Strange indeed was the
effect upon our heroine of that greeting! It amazed Honora herself. A
strange current ran through her and left her hot, and even as she smiled
and nodded back, unbidden tears rose scalding to her eyes. What was it?
Why was it?

She went downstairs to the little bookcase, filled now with volumes that
were not trash. For Hugh's sake, she would try to improve herself this
winter by reading serious things. But between her eyes and the book was
the little woman's smile. A month before, at Newport, how little she
would have valued it.

One morning, as Honora was starting out for her lonely walk--that usually
led her to the bare clay banks of the great river--she ran across her
neighbour on the sidewalk. The little woman was settling the baby for his
airing, and she gave Honora the same dazzling smile.

"Good morning, Mrs. Spence," she said.

"Good morning," replied Honora, and in her strange confusion she leaned
over the carriage. "Oh, what a beautiful baby!"

"Isn't he!" cried the little woman. "Of all of 'em, I think he's the
prize. His father says so. I guess," she added, "I guess it was because I
didn't know so much about 'em when they first began to come. You take my
word for it, the best way is to leave 'em alone. Don't dandle 'em. It's
hard to keep your hands off 'em, but it's right."

"I'm sure of it," said Honora, who was very red.

They made a strange contrast as they stood on that new street, with its
new vitrified brick paving and white stone curbs, and new little trees
set out in front of new little houses: Mrs. Mayo (for such, Honora's cook
had informed her, was her name) in a housekeeper's apron and a
shirtwaist, and Honora, almost a head taller, in a walking costume of
dark grey that would have done justice to Fifth Avenue. The admiration in
the little woman's eyes was undisguised.

"You're getting a bill, I hear," she said, after a moment.

"A bill?" repeated Honora.

"A bill of divorce," explained Mrs. Mayo.

Honora was conscious of conflicting emotions: astonishment, resentment,
and--most curiously--of relief that the little woman knew it.

"Yes," she answered.

But Mrs. Mayo did not appear to notice or resent her brevity.

"I took a fancy to you the minute I saw you," she said. "I can't say as
much for the other Easterner that was here last year. But I made up my
mind that it must be a mighty mean man who would treat you badly."

Honora stood as though rooted to the pavement. She found a reply
impossible.

"When I think of my luck," her neighbour continued, "I'm almost ashamed.
We were married on fifteen dollars a week. Of course there have been
trials, we must always expect that; and we've had to work hard, but--it
hasn't hurt us." She paused and looked up at Honora, and added
contritely: "There! I shouldn't have said anything. It's mean of me to
talk of my happiness. I'll drop in some afternoon--if you'll let me
--when I get through my work," said the little woman.

"I wish you would," replied Honora.

She had much to think of on her walk that morning, and new resolutions to
make. Here was happiness growing and thriving, so far as she could see,
without any of that rarer nourishment she had once thought so necessary.
And she had come two thousand miles to behold it.

She walked many miles, as a part of the regimen and discipline to which
she had set herself. Her haunting horror in this place, as she thought of
the colony of which Mr. Beckwith had spoken and of Mrs. Boutwell's row of
French novels, was degeneration. She was resolved to return to Chiltern a
better and a wiser and a truer woman, unstained by the ordeal. At the
outskirts of the town she halted by the river's bank, breathing deeply of
the pure air of the vast plains that surrounded her.

She was seated that afternoon at her desk in the sitting-room upstairs
when she heard the tinkle of the door-bell, and remembered her
neighbour's promise to call. With something of a pang she pushed back her
chair. Since the episode of the morning, the friendship of the little
woman had grown to have a definite value; for it was no small thing, in
Honora's situation, to feel the presence of a warm heart next door. All
day she had been thinking of Mrs. Mayo and her strange happiness, and
longing to talk with her again, and dreading it. And while she was
bracing herself for the trial Mathilde entered with a card.

"Tell Mrs. Mayo I shall be down in a minute," she said.

It was not a lady, Mathilde replied, but a monsieur.

Honora took the card. For a long time she sat staring at it, while
Mathilde waited. It read:

             Mr. Peter Erwin.

"Madame will see monsieur?"

A great sculptor once said to the statesman who was to be his model:
"Wear your old coat. There is as much of a man in the back of his old
coat, I think, as there is in his face." As Honora halted on the
threshold, Peter was standing looking out of the five-foot plate-glass
window, and his back was to her.

She was suddenly stricken. Not since she had been a child, not even in
the weeks just passed, had she felt that pain. And as a child, self-pity
seized her--as a lost child, when darkness is setting in, and the will
fails and distance appalls. Scalding tears welled into her eyes as she
seized the frame of the door, but it must have been her breathing that he
heard. He turned and crossed the room to her as she had known he would,
and she clung to him as she had so often done in days gone by when, hurt
and bruised, he had rescued and soothed her. For the moment, the delusion
that his power was still limitless prevailed, and her faith whole again,
so many times had he mended a world all awry.

He led her to the window-seat and gently disengaged her hands from his
shoulders and took one of them and held it between his own. He did not
speak, for his was a rare intuition; and gradually her hand ceased to
tremble, and the uncontrollable sobs that shook her became less frequent.

"Why did you come? Why did you come?" she cried.

"To see you, Honora."

"But you might have--warned me."

"Yes," he said, "it's true, I might."

She drew her hand away, and gazed steadfastly at his face.

"Why aren't you angry?" she said. "You don't believe in what I have
done--you don't sympathize with it--you don't understand it."

"I have come here to try," he said.

She shook her head.

"You can't--you can't--you never could."

"Perhaps," he answered, "it may not be so difficult as you think."

Grown calmer, she considered this. What did he mean by it? to imply a
knowledge of herself?

"It will be useless," she said inconsequently.

"No," he said, "it will not be useless."

She considered this also, and took the broader meaning that such acts are
not wasted.

"What do you intend to try to do?" she asked.

He smiled a little.

"To listen to as much as you care to tell me, Honora."

She looked at him again, and an errant thought slipped in between her
larger anxieties. Wherever he went, how extraordinarily he seemed to
harmonize with his surroundings. At Silverdale, and in the drawing-room
of the New York house, and in the little parlour in this far western
town. What was it? His permanence? Was it his power? She felt that, but
it was a strange kind of power--not like other men's. She felt, as she
sat there beside him, that his was a power more difficult to combat. That
to defeat it was at once to make it stronger, and to grow weaker. She
summoned her pride, she summoned her wrongs: she summoned the ego which
had winged its triumphant flight far above his kindly, disapproving eye.
He had the ability to make her taste defeat in the very hour of victory.
And she knew that, when she fell, he would be there in his strength to
lift her up.

"Did--did they tell you to come?" she asked.

"There was no question of that, Honora. I was away when--when they
learned you were here. As soon as I returned, I came."

"Tell me how they feel," she said, in a low voice.

"They think only of you. And the thought that you are unhappy overshadows
all others. They believe that it is to them you should have come, if you
were in trouble instead of coming here."

"How could I?" she cried. "How can you ask? That is what makes it so
hard, that I cannot be with them now. But I should only have made them
still more unhappy, if I had gone. They would not have understood--they
cannot understand who have every reason to believe in marriage, why those
to whom it has been a mockery and a torture should be driven to divorce."

"Why divorce?" he said.

"Do you mean--do you mean that you wish me to give you the reasons why I
felt justified in leaving my husband?"

"Not unless you care to," he replied. "I have no right to demand them. I
only ask you to remember, Honora, that you have not explained these
reasons very clearly in your letters to your aunt and uncle. They do not
understand them. Your uncle was unable, on many accounts, to come here;
and he thought that--that as an old friend, you might be willing to talk
to me."

"I can't live with--with my husband," she cried. "I don't love him, and
he doesn't love me. He doesn't know what love is."

Peter Erwin glanced at her, but she was too absorbed then to see the
thing in his eyes. He made no comment.

"We haven't the same tastes, nor--nor the same way of looking at things
--the same views about making money--for instance. We became absolute
strangers. What more is there to say?" she added, a little defiantly.

"Your husband committed no--flagrant offence against you?" he inquired.

"That would have made him human, at least," she cried. "It would have
proved that he could feel--something. No, all he cares for in the world
is to make money, and he doesn't care how he makes it. No woman with an
atom of soul can live with a man like that."

If Peter Erwin deemed this statement a trifle revolutionary, he did not
say so.

"So you just--left him," he said.

"Yes," said Honora. "He didn't care. He was rather relieved than
otherwise. If I had lived with him till I died, I couldn't have made him
happy."

"You tried, and failed," said Peter.

She flushed.

"I couldn't have made him happier," she declared, correcting herself. "He
has no conception of what real happiness is. He thinks he is happy,-he
doesn't need me. He'll be much more--contented without me. I have nothing
against him. I was to blame for marrying him, I know. But I have only one
life to live, and I can't throw it away, Peter, I can't. And I can't
believe that a woman and a man were intended to live together without
love. It is too horrible. Surely that isn't your idea of marriage!"

"My idea of marriage isn't worth very much, I'm afraid," he said. "If I
talked about it, I should have to confine myself to theories and--and
dreams."

"The moment I saw your card, Peter, I knew why you had come here," she
said, trying to steady her voice. "It was to induce me to go back to my
husband. You don't know how it hurts me to give you pain. I love you--I
love you as I love Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary. You are a part of me. But oh,
you can't understand! I knew you could not. You have never made any
mistakes--you have never lived. It is useless. I won't go back to him. If
you stayed here for weeks you could not make me change my mind."

He was silent.

"You think that I could have prevented--this, if I had been less
selfish," she said.

"Where you are concerned, Honora, I have but one desire," he answered,
"and that is to see you happy--in the best sense of the term. If I could
induce you to go back and give your husband another trial, I should
return with a lighter heart. You ask me whether I think you have been
selfish. I answer frankly that I think you have. I don't pretend to say
your husband has not been selfish also. Neither of you have ever tried,
apparently, to make your marriage a success. It can't be done without an
honest effort. You have abandoned the most serious and sacred enterprise
in the world as lightly as though it had been a piece of embroidery. All
that I can gather from your remarks is that you have left your husband
because you have grown tired of him."

"Yes," said Honora, "and you can never realize how tired, unless you knew
him as I did. When love dies, it turns into hate."

He rose, and walked to the other end of the room, and turned.

"Could you be induced," he said, "for the sake of your aunt and uncle, if
not for your own, to consider a legal separation?"

For an instant she stared at him hopelessly, and then she buried her face
in her hands.

"No," she cried. "No, I couldn't. You don't know what you ask."

He went to her, and laid his hand lightly on her shoulder.

"I think I do," he said.

There was a moment's tense silence, and then she got to her feet and
looked at him proudly.

"Yes," she cried, "it is true. And I am not ashamed of it. I have
discovered what love is, and what life is, and I am going to take them
while I can."

She saw the blood slowly leave his face, and his hands tighten. It was
not until then that she guessed at the depth of his wound, and knew that
it was unhealed. For him had been reserved this supreme irony, that he
should come here to plead for her husband and learn from her own lips
that she loved another man. She was suddenly filled with awe, though he
turned away from her that she might not see his face: And she sought in
vain for words. She touched his hand, fearfully, and now it was he who
trembled.

"Peter," she exclaimed, "why do you bother with me? I--I am what I am. I
can't help it. I was made so. I cannot tell you that I am sorry for what
I have done--for what I am going to do. I will not lie to you--and you
forced me to speak. I know that you don't understand, and that I caused
you pain, and that I shall cause--them pain. It may be selfishness--I
don't know. God alone knows. Whatever it is, it is stronger than I. It is
what I am. Though I were to be thrown into eternal fire I would not
renounce it."

She looked at him again, and her breath caught. While she had been
speaking, he had changed. There was a fire in his eyes she had never seen
before, in all the years she had known him.

"Honora," he said quietly, "the man who has done this is a scoundrel."

She stared at him, doubting her senses, her pupils wide with terror.

"How dare you, Peter! How dare you!" she cried.

"I dare to speak the truth," he said, and crossed the room to where his
hat was lying and picked it up. She watched him as in a trance. Then he
came back to her.

"Some day, perhaps, you will forgive me for saying that, Honora. I hope
that day will come, although I shall never regret having said it. I have
caused you pain. Sometimes, it seems, pain is unavoidable. I hope you
will remember that, with the exception of your aunt and uncle, you have
no better friend than I. Nothing can alter that friendship, wherever you
go, whatever you do. Goodby."

He caught her hand, held it for a moment in his own, and the door had
closed before she realized that he had gone. For a few moments she stood
motionless where he had left her, and then she went slowly up the stairs
to her own room . . . .



CHAPTER X

THE PRICE OF FREEDOM

Had he, Hugh Chiltern, been anathematized from all the high pulpits of
the world, Honora's belief in him could not have been shaken. Ivanhoe and
the Knights of the Round Table to the contrary, there is no chivalry so
exalted as that of a woman who loves, no courage higher, no endurance
greater. Her knowledge is complete; and hers the supreme faith that is
unmoved by calumny and unbelief. She alone knows. The old Chiltern did
not belong to her: hers was the new man sprung undefiled from the sacred
fire of their love; and in that fire she, too, had been born again.
Peter--even Peter had no power to share such a faith, though what he had
said of Chiltern had wounded her--wounded her because Peter, of all
others, should misjudge and condemn him. Sometimes she drew consolation
from the thought that Peter had never seen him. But she knew he could not
understand him, or her, or what they had passed through: that kind of
understanding comes alone through experience.

In the long days that followed she thought much about Peter, and failed
to comprehend her feelings towards him. She told herself that she ought
to hate him for what he had so cruelly said, and at times indeed her
resentment was akin to hatred: again, his face rose before her as she had
seen it when he had left her, and she was swept by an incomprehensible
wave of tenderness and reverence. And yet--paradox of paradoxes
--Chiltern possessed her!

On the days when his letters came it was as his emissary that the sun
shone to give her light in darkness, and she went about the house with a
song on her lips. They were filled, these letters, with an elixir of
which she drank thirstily to behold visions, and the weariness of her
exile fell away. The elixir of High Purpose. Never was love on such a
plane! He lifting her,--no marvel in this; and she--by a magic power of
levitation at which she never ceased to wonder--sustaining him. By her
aid he would make something of himself which would be worthy of her. At
last he had the incentive to enable him to take his place in the world.
He pictured their future life at Grenoble until her heart was strained
with yearning for it to begin. Here would be duty,--let him who would
gainsay it, duty and love combined with a wondrous happiness. He at a
man's labour, she at a woman's; labour not for themselves alone, but for
others. A paradise such as never was heard of--a God-fearing paradise,
and the reward of courage.

He told her he could not go to Grenoble now and begin the life without
her. Until that blessed time he would remain a wanderer, avoiding the
haunts of men. First he had cruised in the 'Folly, and then camped and
shot in Canada; and again, as winter drew on apace, had chartered another
yacht, a larger one, and sailed away for the West Indies, whence the
letters came, stamped in strange ports, and sometimes as many as five
together. He, too, was in exile until his regeneration should begin.

Well he might be at such a time. One bright day in early winter Honora,
returning from her walk across the bleak plains in the hope of letters,
found newspapers and periodicals instead, addressed in an unknown hand.
It matters not whose hand: Honora never sought to know. She had long
regarded as inevitable this acutest phase of her martyrdom, and the long
nights of tears when entire paragraphs of the loathed stuff she had
burned ran ceaselessly in her mind. Would she had burned it before
reading it! An insensate curiosity had seized her, and she had read and
read again until it was beyond the reach of fire.

Save for its effect upon Honora, it is immaterial to this chronicle. It
was merely the heaviest of her heavy payments for liberty. But what, she
asked herself shamefully, would be its effect upon Chiltern? Her face
burned that she should doubt his loyalty and love; and yet--the question
returned. There had been a sketch of Howard, dwelling upon the prominence
into which he had sprung through his connection with Mr. Wing. There had
been a sketch of her; and how she had taken what the writer was pleased
to call Society by storm: it had been intimated, with a cruelty known
only to writers of such paragraphs, that ambition to marry a Chiltern had
been her motive! There had been a sketch of Chiltern's career, in
carefully veiled but thoroughly comprehensible language, which might have
made a Bluebeard shudder. This, of course, she bore best of all; or, let
it be said rather, that it cost her the least suffering. Was it not she
who had changed and redeemed him?

What tortured her most was the intimation that Chiltern's family
connections were bringing pressure to bear upon him to save him from this
supremest of all his follies. And when she thought of this the strange
eyes and baffling expression of Mrs. Grainger rose before her. Was it
true? And if true, would Chiltern resist, even as she, Honora, had
resisted, loyally? Might this love for her not be another of his mad
caprices?

How Honora hated herself for the thought that thus insistently returned
at this period of snows and blasts! It was January. Had he seen the
newspapers? He had not, for he was cruising: he had, for of course they
had been sent him. And he must have received, from his relatives,
protesting letters. A fortnight passed, and her mail contained nothing
from him! Perhaps something had happened to his yacht! Visions of
shipwreck cause her to scan the newspapers for storms at sea,--but the
shipwreck that haunted her most was that of her happiness. How easy it is
to doubt in exile, with happiness so far away! One morning, when the wind
dashed the snow against her windows, she found it impossible to rise.

If the big doctor suspected the cause of her illness, Mathilde knew it.
The maid tended her day and night, and sought, with the tact of her
nation, to console and reassure her. The little woman next door came and
sat by her bedside. Cruel and infinitely happy little woman, filled with
compassion, who brought delicacies in the making of which she had spent
precious hours, and which Honora could not eat! The Lord, when he had
made Mrs. Mayo, had mercifully withheld the gift of imagination. One
topic filled her, she lived to one end: her Alpha and Omega were husband
and children, and she talked continually of their goodness and badness,
of their illnesses, of their health, of their likes and dislikes, of
their accomplishments and defects, until one day a surprising thing
happened. Surprising for Mrs. Mayo.

"Oh, don't!" cried Honora, suddenly. "Oh, don't! I can't bear it."

"What is it?" cried Mrs. Mayo, frightened out of her wits. "A turn? Shall
I telephone for the doctor?"

"No," relied Honora, "but--but I can't talk any more--to-day."

She apologized on the morrow, as she held Mrs. Mayo's hand. "It--it was
your happiness," she said; "I was unstrung. I couldn't listen to it.
Forgive me."

The little woman burst into tears, and kissed her as she sat in bed.

"Forgive you, deary!" she cried. "I never thought."

"It has been so easy for you," Honora faltered.

"Yes, it has. I ought to thank God, and I do--every night."

She looked long and earnestly, through her tears, at the young lady from
the far away East as she lay against the lace pillows, her paleness
enhanced by the pink gown, her dark hair in two great braids on her
shoulders.

"And to think how pretty you are!" she exclaimed.

It was thus she expressed her opinion of mankind in general, outside of
her own family circle. Once she had passionately desired beauty, the high
school and the story of Helen of Troy notwithstanding. Now she began to
look at it askance, as a fatal gift; and to pity, rather than envy, its
possessors.

As a by-industry, Mrs. Mayo raised geraniums and carnations in her front
cellar, near the furnace, and once in a while Peggy, with the
pulled-molasses hair, or chubby Abraham Lincoln, would come puffing up
Honora's stairs under the weight of a flower-pot and deposit it
triumphantly on the table at Honora's bedside. Abraham Lincoln did not
object to being kissed: he had, at least, grown to accept the process as
one of the unaccountable mysteries of life. But something happened to him
one afternoon, on the occasion of his giving proof of an intellect which
may eventually bring him, in the footsteps of his great namesake, to the
White House. Entering Honora's front door, he saw on the hall table a
number of letters which the cook (not gifted with his brains) had left
there. He seized them in one fat hand, while with the other he hugged the
flower-pot to his breast, mounted the steps, and arrived, breathless but
radiant, on the threshold of the beautiful lady's room, and there
calamity overtook him in the shape of one of the thousand articles which
are left on the floor purposely to trip up little boys.

Great was the disaster. Letters, geranium, pieces of flower-pot, a
quantity of black earth, and a howling Abraham Lincoln bestrewed the
floor. And similar episodes, in his brief experience with this world, had
not brought rewards. It was from sheer amazement that his tears ceased to
flow--amazement and lack of breath--for the beautiful lady sprang up and
seized him in her arms, and called Mathilde, who eventually brought a
white and gold box. And while Abraham sat consuming its contents in
ecstasy he suddenly realized that the beautiful lady had forgotten him.
She had picked up the letters, every one, and stood reading them with
parted lips and staring eyes.

It was Mathilde who saved him from a violent illness, closing the box and
leading him downstairs, and whispered something incomprehensible in his
ear as she pointed him homeward.

"Le vrai medecin--c'est toi, mon mignon."

There was a reason why Chiltern's letters had not arrived, and great were
Honora's self-reproach and penitence. With a party of Englishmen he had
gone up into the interior of a Central American country to visit some
famous ruins. He sent her photographs of them, and of the Englishmen, and
of himself. Yes, he had seen the newspapers. If she had not seen them,
she was not to read them if they came to her. And if she had, she was to
remember that their love was too sacred to be soiled, and too perfect to
be troubled. As for himself, as she knew, he was a changed man, who
thought of his former life with loathing. She had made him clean, and
filled him with a new strength.

The winter passed. The last snow melted on the little grass plot, which
changed by patches from brown to emerald green; and the children ran over
it again, and tracked it in the soft places, but Honora only smiled.
Warm, still days were interspersed between the windy ones, when the sky
was turquoise blue, when the very river banks were steeped in new
colours, when the distant, shadowy mountains became real. Liberty ran
riot within her. If he thought with loathing on his former life, so did
she. Only a year ago she had been penned up in a New York street in that
prison-house of her own making, hemmed in by surroundings which she had
now learned to detest from her soul.

A few more penalties remained to be paid, and the heaviest of these was
her letter to her aunt and uncle. Even as they had accepted other things
in life, so had they accepted the hardest of all to bear--Honora's
divorce. A memorable letter her Uncle Tom had written her after Peter's
return to tell them that remonstrances were useless! She was their
daughter in all but name, and they would not forsake her. When she should
have obtained her divorce, she should go back to them. Their house, which
had been her home, should always remain so. Honora wept and pondered long
over that letter. Should she write and tell them the truth, as she had
told Peter? It was not because she was ashamed of the truth that she had
kept it from them throughout the winter: it was because she wished to
spare them as long as possible. Cruellest circumstance of all, that a
love so divine as hers should not be understood by them, and should cause
them infinite pain!

The weeks and months slipped by. Their letters, after that first one,
were such as she had always received from them: accounts of the weather,
and of the doings of her friends at home. But now the time was at hand
when she must prepare them for her marriage with Chiltern; for they would
expect her in St. Louis, and she could not go there. And if she wrote
them, they might try to stop the marriage, or at least to delay it for
some years.

Was it possible that a lingering doubt remained in her mind that to
postpone her happiness would perhaps be to lose it? In her exile she had
learned enough to know that a divorced woman is like a rudderless ship at
sea, at the mercy of wind and wave and current. She could not go back to
her life in St. Louis: her situation there would be unbearable: her
friends would not be the same friends. No, she had crossed her Rubicon
and destroyed the bridge deep within her she felt that delay would be
fatal, both to her and Chiltern. Long enough had the banner of their love
been trailed in the dust.

Summer came again, with its anniversaries and its dragging, interminable
weeks: demoralizing summer, when Mrs. Mayo quite frankly appeared at her
side window in a dressing sacque, and Honora longed to do the same. But
time never stands absolutely still, and the day arrived when Mr. Beckwith
called in a carriage. Honora, with an audibly beating heart, got into it,
and they drove down town, past the department store where Mr. Mayo spent
his days, and new blocks of banks and business houses that flanked the
wide street, where the roaring and clanging of the ubiquitous trolley
cars resounded.

Honora could not define her sensations--excitement and shame and fear and
hope and joy were so commingled. The colours of the red and yellow brick
had never been so brilliant in the sunshine. They stopped before the new
court-house and climbed the granite steps. In her sensitive state, Honora
thought that some of the people paused to look after them, and that some
were smiling. One woman, she thought, looked compassionate. Within, they
crossed the marble pavement, the Honourable Dave handed her into an
elevator, and when it stopped she followed him as in a dream to an
oak-panelled door marked with a legend she did not read. Within was an
office, with leather chairs, a large oak desk, a spittoon, and portraits
of grave legal gentlemen on the wall.

"This is Judge Whitman's office," explained the Honourable Dave. "He'll
let you stay here until the case is called."

"Is he the judge--before whom--the case is to be tried?" asked Honora.

"He surely is," answered the Honourable Dave. "Whitman's a good friend of
mine. In fact, I may say, without exaggeration, I had something to do
with his election. Now you mustn't get flustered," he added. "It isn't
anything like as bad as goin' to the dentist. It don't amount to shucks,
as we used to say in Missouri."

With these cheerful words of encouragement he slipped out of a side door
into what was evidently the court room, for Honora heard a droning. After
a long interval he reappeared and beckoned her with a crooked finger. She
arose and followed him into the court room.

All was bustle and confusion there, and her counsel whispered that they
were breaking up for the day. The judge was stretching himself; several
men who must have been lawyers, and with whom Mr. Beckwith was exchanging
amenities behind the railing, were arranging their books and papers; some
of the people were leaving, and others talking in groups about the room.
The Honourable Dave whispered to the judge, a tall, lank, cadaverous
gentleman with iron-grey hair, who nodded. Honora was led forward. The
Honourable Dave, standing very close to the judge and some distance from
her, read in a low voice something that she could not catch--supposedly
the petition. It was all quite as vague to Honora as the trial of the
Jack of Hearts; the buzzing of the groups still continued around the
court room, and nobody appeared in the least interested. This was a
comfort, though it robbed the ceremony of all vestige of reality. It
seemed incredible that the majestic and awful Institution of the ages
could be dissolved with no smoke or fire, with such infinite
indifference, and so much spitting. What was the use of all the pomp and
circumstance and ceremony to tie the knot if it could be cut in the
routine of a day's business?

The solemn fact that she was being put under oath meant nothing to her.
This, too, was slurred and mumbled. She found herself, trembling,
answering questions now from her counsel, now from the judge; and it is
to be doubted to this day whether either heard her answers. Most
convenient and considerate questions they were. When and where she was
married, how long she had lived with her husband, what happened when they
ceased to live together, and had he failed ever since to contribute to
her support? Mercifully, Mr. Beckwith was in the habit of coaching his
words beforehand. A reputable citizen of Salomon City was produced to
prove her residence, and somebody cried out something, not loudly, in
which she heard the name of Spence mentioned twice. The judge said, "Take
your decree," and picked up a roll of papers and walked away. Her knees
became weak, she looked around her dizzily, and beheld the triumphant
professional smile of the Honourable Dave Beckwith.

"It didn't hurt much, did it?" he asked. "Allow me to congratulate you."

"Is it--is it all over?" she said, quite dazed.

"Just like that," he said. "You're free."

"Free!" The word rang in her ears as she drove back to the little house
that had been her home. The Honourable Dave lifted his felt hat as he
handed her out of the carriage, and said he would call again in the
evening to see if he could do anything further for her. Mathilde, who had
been watching from the window, opened the door, and led her mistress into
the parlour.

"It's--it's all over, Mathilde," she said.

"Mon dieu, madame," said Mathilde, "c'est simple comme bonjour!"





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