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Book III

CHAPTER I

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Ascendi HONORA did not go back to Quicksands. Neither, in this modern chronicle, shall we.

The sphere we have left, which we know is sordid, sometimes shines in the retrospect. And there came a time, after the excitement of furnishing the new house was over, when our heroine, as it were, swung for a time in space: not for a very long time; that month, perhaps, between autumn and winter.

We need not be worried about her, though we may pause for a moment or two to sympathize with her in her loneliness -or rather in the moods it produced. She even felt, in those days, slightly akin to the Lady of the Victoria (perfectly respectable), whom all of us fortunate enough occasionally to go to New York have seen driving on Fifth Avenue with an expression of wistful haughtiness, and who changes her costumes four times a day.

Sympathy! We have seen Honora surrounded by friendswhat has become of them? Her husband is president of a trust company, and she has one of the most desirable houses in New York. What more could be wished for? To jump at conclusions in this way is by no means to understand a heroine with an Ideal. She had these things, and strange as it may seem-suffered.

Her şunny drawing-room, with its gathered silk curtains, was especially beautiful; whatever the Leffingwells or Allisons may have lacked, it was not taste. Honora sat in it and wondered: wondered, as she looked back over the road she had threaded somewhat blindly towards the Ideal, whether she might not somewhere have taken the wrong turn. The farther she travelled, the more she seemed to penetrate into a land of unrealities. The exquisite objects by which she was surrounded, and which she had collected with such care, had

, no substance: she would not have been greatly surprised, at any moment, to see them vanish like a scene in a theatre, leaving an empty, windy stage behind them. They did not belong to her, nor she to them.

Past generations of another blood, no doubt, had been justified in looking upon the hazy landscapes in the great tapestries as their own: and children's children had knelt, in times gone by, beside the carved stone mantel. The big, gilded chairs with the silken seats might appropriately have graced the table of the Hôtel de Rambouillet. Would not the warriors and the wits, the patient ladies of high degree and of many children, and even the précieuses ridicules themselves, turn over in their graves if they could so much as imagine the contents of the single street in modern New York where Honora lived?

One morning, as she sat in that room, possessed by these whimsical though painful fancies, she picked up a newspaper and glanced through it, absently, until her eye fell by chance upon a name on the editorial page. Something like an electric shock ran through her, and the letters of the name seemed to quiver and become red. Slowly they spelled Peter Erwin.

“The argument of Mr. Peter Erwin, of St. Louis, before the Supreme Court of the United States in the now celebrated Snowden case is universally acknowledged by lawyers to have been masterly, and reminiscent of the great names of the profession in the past. Mr. Erwin is not dra. matic. He appears to carry all before him by the sheer force of intellect, and by a kind of Lincolnian ability to expose a fallacy. He is still a young man, self-made, and studied law under Judge Brice of St. Louis, once Presi. dent of the National Bar Association, whose partner he is" Honora cut out the editorial and thrust it in her

and

gown,

threw the newspaper in the fire. She stood for a time after

a it had burned, watching the twisted remnants fade from flame colour to rose, and finally blacken. Then she went slowly up the stairs and put on her hat and coat and veil. Although a cloudless day, it was windy in the park, and cold, the ruffled waters an intense blue. She walked fast.

She lunched with Mrs. Holt, who had but just come to town; and the light, like a speeding guest, was departing from the city when she reached her own door.

“There is a gentleman in the drawing-room, madam,” said the butler. “He said he was an old friend, and a stranger in New York, and asked if he might wait.”

She stood still with presentiment.
“What is his name?” she asked.
“Mr. Erwin," said the man.

Still she hesitated. In the strange state in which she found herself that day, the supernatural itself had seemed credible. And yet—she was not prepared.

“I beg your pardon, madam,” the butler was saying, “perhaps I shouldn't-?"

“Yes, yes, you should,” she interrupted him, and pushed past him up the stairs. At the drawing-room door she paused -he was unaware of her presence. And he had not changed! She wondered why she had expected him to change. Even the glow of his newly acquired fame was not discernible behind his well-remembered head. He seemed no olderand no younger. And he was standing with his hands behind his back gazing in simple, silent appreciation at the big tapestry nearest the windows.

"Peter," she said, in a low voice.

He turned quickly, and then she saw the glow. But it was the old glow, not the new--the light in which her early years had been spent.

“What a coincidence!” she exclaimed, as he took her hand.

“Coincidence?

“It was only this morning that I was reading in the newspaper all sorts of nice things about you. It made me feel

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like going out and telling everybody you were an old friend of mine." Still holding his fingers, she pushed him away from her at arm's length, and looked at him. “What does it feel like to be famous, and have editorials about one's self in the New York newspapers?

He laughed, and released his hands somewhat abruptly. “It seems as strange to me, Honora, as it does to you. "How unkind of you, Peter!” she exclaimed.

She felt his eyes upon her, and their searching, yet kindly and humorous rays seemed to illuminate chambers within her which she would have kept in darkness: which she herself did not wish to examine.

“I'm so glad to see you,” she said a little breathlessly, flinging her muff and boa on a chair. “Sit there, where I can look at you, and tell me why you didn't let me know you were coming to New York.”

He glanced a little comically at the gilt and silk armchair which she designated, and then at her; and she smiled and coloured, divining the humour in his unspoken phrase.

“For a great man,” she declared, "you are absurd.”

He sat down. In spite of his black clothes and the loung. ing attitude he habitually assumed, with his knees crossed, he did not appear incongruous in a seat that would have harmonized with the flowing robes of the renowned French Cardinal himself. Honora wondered why. He impressed her to-day as force-tremendous force in repose, and yet he was the same Peter. Why was it? Had the clipping that even then lay in her bosom effected this magic change? He had intimated as much, but she denied it fiercely.

She rang for tea.

“You haven't told me why you came to New York,” she said.

“I was telegraphed for, from Washington, by a Mr. Wing," he explained.

“A Mr. Wing," she repeated. “You don't mean by any chance James Wing?"

"The Mr. Wing," said Peter.

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I

“The reason I asked,” explained Honora, flushing, “was because Howard is—associated with him. Mr. Wing is largely interested in the Orange Trust Company."

“Yes, I know,” said Peter. His elbows were resting on the arms of his chair, and he looked at the tips of his fingers, which met. Honora thought it strange that he did not congratulate her, but he appeared to be reflecting.

“What did Mr. Wing want?" she inquired in her momen. tary confusion, and added hastily, “I beg your pardon, Peter. I suppose I ought not to ask that."

"He was kind enough to wish me to live in New York, he answered, still staring at the tips of his fingers.

“Oh, how nice!” she cried—and wondered at the same time whether, on second thought, she would think it so.

suppose he wants you to be the counsel for one of his trusts. When—when do you come?”

"I'm not coming."
"Not coming! Why? Isn't it a great compliment?”

He ignored the latter part of her remark; and it seemed to her, when she recalled the conversation afterwards, that she had heard a certain note of sadness under the lightness of his reply.

“To attempt to explain to a New Yorker why any one might prefer to live in any other place would be a difficult task.'

"You are incomprehensible, Peter," she declared. And yet she felt a relief that surprised her, and a desire to get away from the subject. “Dear old St. Louis! Somehow, in spite of your greatness, it seems to fit you.”

“It's growing,” said Peter—and they laughed together. “Why didn't you come to lunch?” she said.

"Lunch! I didn't know that any one ever went to lunch in New York-in this part of it, at least—with less than three weeks' notice. And by the way, if I am interfering with any engagement"

“My book is not so full as all that. Of course you'll come and stay with us, Peter.”

He shook his head regretfully.

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