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“By George, Honora, you're a continual surprise to me. I had no idea a woman would take an interest in these things, or grasp them the way you
do." Lordly commendations these, and she would receive them with a flush of gratitude.
Nor was it ever too hot, or she too busy with household cares, for her to follow him to the scene of his operations, whatever these might be: she would gladly stand for an hour listening to a consultation with the veterinary about an ailing cow. Her fear was lest some matter of like importance should escape her. She had private conversations with Mr. Manning, that she might surprise her husband by an unsuspecting knowledge. Such were her ruses.
The housekeeper who had come up from New York was the subject of a conjugal conversation.
"I am going to send her away, Hugh,” Honora announced. “I don't believe your mother had one."
The housekeeper's departure was the beginning of Honora's real intimacy with Starling. Complicity, perhaps, would be a better word for the commencement of this relationship. First of all, there was an inspection of the family treasures: the table-linen, the silver, and the china-Sèvres, Royal Worcester, and Minton, and the priceless dinner-set of Lowestoft which had belonged to Alexander Chiltern, reserved for great occasions only: occasions that Starling knew by heart; their dates, and the guests the Lowestoft had honoured. His air was ceremonial as he laid, reverently, the sample pieces on the table before her, but it seemed to Honora that he spoke as one who recalls departed glories, who held a conviction that the Lowestoft would never be used again.
Although by unalterable custom he submitted, at breakfast, the menus of the day to Hugh, the old butler came afterwards to Honora's boudoir during her struggle with the account books. Sometimes she would look up and surprise his eyes
fixed upon her, and one day she found at her elbow a long list made out in a painstaking hand.
“What's this, Starling?" she asked.
“If you please, madam,” he answered, "they're the current prices in the markets-here."
She thanked him. Nor was his exquisite delicacy in laying stress upon the locality lost upon her. That he realized the magnitude for her-of the task to which she had set her. self; that he sympathized deeply with the spirit which had undertaken it, she was as sure as though he had said so. He helped her thus in a dozen unobtrusive ways, never once recognizing her ignorance; but he made her feel the more that that ignorance was a shameful thing not to be spoken of. Speculations upon him were irresistible. She was continu. ally forgetting the nature of his situation, and he grew gradually to typify in her mind the Grenoble of the past
. She knew his principles as well as though he had spoken them—which he never did. For him, the world had become awry; he abhorred divorce, and that this modern abomination had touched the house of Chiltern was a calamity that had shaken the very foundations of his soul. In spite of this, he had remained. Why? Perhaps from habit, perhaps from love of the family and Hugh,-
perhaps to see! And having stayed, fascination had laid hold of him,—of that she was sure,--and his affections had incomprehensibly become involved. He was as one assisting at a high tragedy not un. worthy of him, the outcome of which he never for an instant doubted. And he gave Honora the impression that he alone, inscrutable, could have pulled aside the curtain and revealed the end.
Of the World Beyond the Gates
HONORA paused in her toilet, and contemplated for a moment the white skirt that her maid presented.
“I think I'll wear the blue pongee today, Mathilde," she said. :: The decision for the blue pongee was the culmination of a struggle begun with the opening of her eyes that morning. It was Sunday, and the time was at hand when she must face the world. Might it not be delayed a little while-a week longer? For the remembrance of the staring eyes which had greeted her on her arrival at the station at Grenoble troubled her. It seemed to her a cruel thing that the house of God should hold such terrors for her: to-day she had a longing for it that she had never felt in her life before.
Chiltern was walking in the garden, waiting for her to breakfast with him, and her pose must have had in it an element of the self-conscious when she appeared, smilingly, at the door.
“Why, you're all dressed up,” he said. “It's Sunday, Hugh."
“So it is,” he agreed, with what may have been a studied lightness-she could not tell. "I'm going to church,” she said bravely.
"I can't say much for old Stopford,” declared her husband. “His sermons used to arouse all the original sin in me, when I had to listen to them.”
She poured out his coffee.
“I suppose one has to take one's clergyman as one does the weather," she said. “We go to church for something else besides the sermon- don't we?”
“I suppose so, if we go at all,” he replied. “Old Stopford imposes a pretty heavy penalty.”
“Too heavy for you?” she asked, and smiled at him as she handed him the cup.
“Too heavy for me,” he said, returning her smile. "To tell you the truth, Honora, I had an overdose of church in my youth, here and at school, and I've been trying to even up ever since.”
“You'd like me to go, wouldn't you, Hugh?” she ventured, after a silence.
"Indeed I should," he answered, and again she wondered to what extent his cordiality was studied, or whether it were studied at all. “I'm very fond of that church, in spite of the fact that that I may be said to dissemble my fondness.”
. She laughed with him, and he became serious. “I still contribute the family's share toward its support. My father was very proud of it, but it is really my mother's church. It was due to her that it was built."
Thus was the comedy played-and Honora by no means sure that it was a comedy. Even her alert instinct had not been able to detect the acting, and the intervening hours were spent in speculating whether her fears had not been overdone. Nevertheless, under the eyes of Starling, at twenty minutes to eleven she stepped into the victoria with an outward courage, and drove down the shady avenue towards the gates. Sweet-toned bells were ringing as she reached the residence portion of the town, and subdued pedestrians in groups and couples made their way along the sidewalks. They stared at her; and she in turn, with heightened colour, stared at her coachman's back. After all, this first Sunday would be the most difficult.
The carriage turned into a street arched by old elms, and flanked by the houses of the most prosperous towns-people. Some of these were of the old-fashioned, classic type, and others new examples of a national architecture seeking to find itself-white and yellow colonial, rough-cast modifications of the Shakespearian period, and nondescript mixtures of cobblestones and shingles. Each was surrounded by trim lawns and shrubbery. The church itself was set back from
the street. It was of bluish stone, and half covered with Virginia creeper.
At this point, had the opportunity for a secret retreat presented itself, Honora would have embraced it, for until now she had not realized the full extent of the ordeal. Had her arrival been heralded by sounding trumpets, the sensa. tion it caused could not have been greater. In her Eden, the world had been forgotten; the hum of gossip beyond the gates had not reached her. But now, as the horses approached the curb, their restive feet clattering on the hard pave ment, in the darkened interior of the church she saw faces turned, and entering worshippers pausing in the door. way. Something of what the event meant for Grenoble dawned upon her: something not all; but all that she could bear.
If it be true that there is no courage equal to that which a great love begets in a woman, Honora's at that moment was sublime. Her cheeks tingled, and her knees weakened under her as she ran the gantlet to the church door, where she was met by a gentleman on whose face she read astonishment unalloyed: amazement, perhaps, is not too strong a word for the sensation it conveyed to her, and it occurred to her afterwards that there was an element in it of outrage. It was a countenance peculiarly adapted to such an expression-yellow, smooth-shaven, heavy-jowled, with one drooping eye; and she needed not to be told that she had encountered, at the outset, the very pillar of pillars. The frock coat, the heavy
watch chain, the square-toed boots, all combined to make a Presence.
An instinctive sense of drama amongst the onlookers seemed to create a hush, as though these had been the unwilling witnesses to an approaching collision and were awaiting the crash. The gentleman stood planted in the inner doorway, his drooping eye fixed on hers.
“I am Mrs. Chiltern,” she faltered.
He hesitated the fraction of an instant, but he somehow managed to make it plain that the information was super