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"I'm going to New York on the noon train,” he said.
“There's no reason why you shouldn't if you wish to," she replied, picking up her frame. “Anything I can get you?” he asked.
I “No, thank you."
“You've been in such a deuced queer mood the last few days I can't make you out, Honora.
“You ought to have learned something about women by this time," she said.
“It seems to me,” he announced, “that we need a little livening up."
were six letters from him, written from a club, representing the seven days of his absence. He made no secret of the fact that his visit to the metropolis was in the nature of a relaxation and a change of scene, but the letters themselves contained surprisingly little information as to how he was employing his holiday. He had encountered many old friends, supposedly all of the male sex: among them—most welcome of surprises to him!—Mr. George Pembroke, a boon companion at Harvard. And this mention of boon companionship brought up to Honora a sufficiently vivid idea of Mr. Pembroke's characteristics. The extent of her knowledge of this gentleman consisted in the facts that he was a bachelor, a member of a prominent Philadelphia family, and that time hung heavy on his hands.
One morning she received a telegram to the effect that her husband would be home that night, bringing three people with him. He sent his love, but neglected to state the names and sexes of the prospective guests. And she was still in a quandary as to what arrangements to make when Starling appeared in answer to her ring.
"You will send the omnibus to the five o'clock train," she said. "There will be three extra places at dinner, and tea when Mr. Chiltern arrives.”
Although she strove to speak indifferently, she was sure from the way the old man looked at her that her voice had not been quite steady. Of late her curious feeling about him had increased in intensity; and many times, during this week she had spent alone, she had thought that his eyes had followed her with sympathy. She did not resent this. Her world having now contracted to that wide house, there was a com
fort in knowing that there was one in it to whom she could turn in need. For she felt that she could turn to Starling; he alone, apparently, had measured the full depth of her trouble; nay, had silently predicted it from the beginning. And to-day, as he stood before her, she had an almost irresistible impulse to speak. Just a word—a human word would have been such a help to her! And how ridiculous the social law that kept the old man standing there, impassive, respectful, when this existed between them! Her tragedy was his tragedy; not in the same proportion, perhaps; nevertheless, he had the air of one who would die of it.
And she? Would she die? What would become of her? When she thought of the long days and months and years that stretched ahead of her, she felt that her soul would not be able to survive the process of steady degradation to which it was sure to be subjected. For she was a prisoner: the uttermost parts of the earth offered no refuge. To-day, she knew, was to see the formal inauguration of that process. She had known torture, but it had been swift, obliterating, excruciating. And hereafter it was to be slow, one turn at a time of the screws, squeezing by infinitesimal degrees the life out of her soul. And in the end-most fearful thought of all-in the end, painless. Painless! She buried her head in her arms on the little desk, shaken by sobs.
How she fought that day to compose herself, fought and prayed! Prayed wildly to a God whose help, nevertheless, she felt she had forfeited, who was visiting her with just anger. At half-past four she heard the carriage on the far driveway, going to the station, and she went down and walked across the lawn to the pond, and around it; anything to keep moving. She hurried back to the house just in time to reach the hall as the omnibus backed up. And the first person
she saw descend, after Hugh, was Mrs. Kame.
"Here we are, Honora," she cried. “I hope you're glad to see us, and that you'll forgive our coming so informally. You must blame Hugh. We've brought Adèle.”
The second lady was, indeed, none other than Mrs. Eustace Rindge, formerly Mrs. Dicky Farnham. And she is worth
even at this belated stage in our chronicle-an attempted sketch, or at least an attempted impression. She was fair, and slim as a schoolgirl; not very tall, not exactly petite; at first sight she might have been taken for a particularly immature débutante, and her dress was youthful and rather mannish. Her years, at this period of her career, were in truth but two and twenty, yet she had contrived, in the comparatively brief time since she had reached the supposed age of discretion, to marry two men and build two houses, and incidentally to see a considerable portion of what is known as the world. The suspicion that she was not as innocent as a dove came to one, on closer inspection, as a shock: her eyes were tired, though not from loss of sleep; and her manner-how shall it be described to those whose happy lot in life has never been to have made the acquaintance of Mrs. Rindge's humbler sisters who have acquired-more coarsely, it is true—the same camaraderie? She was one of those for whom, seemingly, sex does not exist. Her air of good-fellowship with men was eloquent of a precise knowl. edge of what she might expect from them, and she was prepared to do her own policing,—not from any deep moral convictions. She belonged, logically, to that world which is disposed to take the law into its own hands, and she was the possessor
of five millions of dollars. “I came along,” she said to Honora, as she gave her handbag to a footman. “I hope you don't mind. Abby and I were shopping and we ran into Hugh and Georgie yesterday at Sherry's, and we've been together ever since. Not quite that—but almost. Hugh begged us to come up, and there didn't seem to be any reason why we shouldn't, so we telephoned down to Banbury for our trunks and maids, and we've played bridge all the way. By the way, Georgie, where's my pocket-book?”
" Mr. Pembroke handed it over, and was introduced by Hugh. He looked at Honora, and his glance somehow betokened that he was in the habit of looking only once. He had apparently made up his mind about her before he saw her. But he looked again, evidently finding her at variance
with a preconceived idea, and this time she flushed a little under his stare, and she got the impression that Mr. Pembroke was a man from whom few secrets of a certain kind were hid. She felt that he had seized, at a second glance, a situation that she had succeeded in hiding from the women. He was surprised, but cynically so. He was the sort of person who had probably possessed at Harvard the knowledge of the world of a Tammany politician; he had long ago written his book--such as it was--and closed it: or, rather, he had worked out his system at a precocious age, and it had lasted him ever since. He had decided that undergraduate life, freed from undergraduate restrictions, was a good thing. And he did not, even in these days, object to breaking something valuable occasionally.
His physical attributes are more difficult to describe, so closely were they allied to those which, for want of a better word, must be called mental. He was neither tall nor short, he was well fed, but hard, his shoulders too broad, his head a little large. If he should have happened to bump against one, the result would have been a bruise--not for him. His eyes were blue, his light hair short, and there was a slight baldness beginning; his face was red-tanned. There was not the slightest doubt that he could be effectively rude, and often was; but it was evident, for some reason, that he meant to be gracious (for Mr. Pembroke) to Honora. Perhaps this was the result of the second glance. One of his name had not lacked, indeed, for instructions in gentility. It must not be thought that she was in a condition to care much about what Mr. Pembroke thought or did, and yet she felt instinctively that he had changed his greeting between the first and second glance.
“I hope you'll forgive my coming in this way," he said. “I'm an old friend of Hugh's.”
“I'm very glad to have Hugh's friends,” she answered. He looked at her again.
“Is tea ready?” inquired Mrs. Kame. "I'm famished.” And, as they walked through the house to the garden, where the table was set beside the stone seat: "I don't see how