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the time," she said with the evident feeling that some explanation was due. "I did not know poor Mrs. Randolph Leffingwell very very intimately, or Mr. Leffingwell. It was such a sudden-such a terrible affair. But Mr. Holt and I were only too glad to do what we could." "We feel very grateful to you," said Aunt Mary, quietly.
Mrs. Holt looked at her with a still more distinct approval, being tolerably sure that Mrs. Thomas Leffingwell understood. She had cleared her skirts of any possible implication of intimacy with the late Mrs. Randolph, and done so with a master touch.
In the meantime Honora had passed to Uncle Tom. After securing the little trunk, and settling certain matters with Mr. Holt, they said good-by to her late kind protectors, and started off for the nearest street-cars, Honora pulling Uncle Tom's mustache. More than one pedestrian paused to look back at the tall man carrying the beautiful child, bedecked like a young princess, and more than one passenger in the street cars smiled at them both.
SAINT LOUIS, or that part of it which is called by dealers in real estate the choice residence section, grew westward. And Uncle Tom might be said to have been in the vanguard of the movement. In the days before Honora was born he had built his little house on what had been a farm on the Olive Street Road, at the crest of the second ridge from the river. Up this ridge, with clanking traces, toiled the horse-cars that carried Uncle Tom downtown to the bank and Aunt Mary to market.
Fleeing westward, likewise, from the smoke, friends of Uncle Tom's and Aunt Mary's gradually surrounded them building, as a rule, the high Victorian mansions in favour at that period, which were placed in the centre of commodious yards. For the friends of Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary were for the most part rich, and belonged, as did they, to the older families of the city. Mr. Dwyer's house, with its picture gallery, was across the street.
In the midst of such imposing company the little dwelling which became the home of our heroine sat well back in a plot that might almost be called a garden. In summer its white wooden front was nearly hidden by the quivering leaves of two tall pear trees. On the other side of the brick walk, and near the iron fence, was an elm and a flower bed that was Uncle Tom's pride and the admiration of the neighbourhood. Honora has but to shut her eyes to see it aflame with tulips at Eastertide. The eastern wall of the house was a mass of Virginia creeper, and beneath that another flower bed, and still another in the back-yard behind the lattice fence covered with cucumber vine. There were, besides, two maples and two apricot trees,
relics of the farm, and of blessed memory. Such apricots! Visions of hot summer evenings come back, with Uncle Tom, in his seersucker coat, with his green watering-pot, bending over the beds, and Aunt Mary seated upright in her chair, looking up from her knitting with a loving eye.
Behind the lattice, on these summer evenings, stands the militant figure of that old retainer, Bridget the cook, her stout arms akimbo, ready to engage in vigorous banter should Honora deign to approach.
"Whisht, 'Nora darlint, it's a young lady ye'll be soon, and the beaux a-comin' 'round!" she would cry, and throw back her head and laugh until the tears were in her eyes.
And the princess, a slim figure in an immaculate linen frock with red ribbons which Aunt Mary had copied from Longstreth's London catalogue, would reply with dignity: "Bridget, I wish you would try to remember that my name is Honora.
Another spasm of laughter from Bridget.
"Listen to that now!" she would cry to another ancient retainer, Mary Ann, the housemaid, whose kitchen chair was tilted up against the side of the woodshed. "It'll be 'Miss Honora' next, and George Hanbury here to-day with his eye through a knothole in the fence, out of his head for a sight of ye."
George Hanbury was Honora's cousin, and she did not deem his admiration a subject fit for discussion with Bridget.
"Sure," declared Mary Ann, "it's the air of a princess the child has."
That she should be thought a princess did not appear at all remarkable to Honora at twelve years of age. Perdita may have had such dreams. She had been born, she knew, in some wondrous land by the shores of the summer seas, not at all like St. Louis, and friends and relatives had not hesitated to remark in her hearing that she resembled her father,—that handsome father who surely must have been a prince, whose before-mentional photograph in the tortoise-shell frame was on the bureau in her little room. So far as Randolph Leffingwell was con
cerned, photography had not been invented for nothing.
Aunt Mary was a Puritan of Southern ancestry, and her father had been a Presbyterian minister. Uncle Tom was a member of the vestry of a church still under Puritan influences. As a consequence for Honora, there were Sunday afternoons-periods when the imaginative faculty, in which she was by no means lacking, was given full play. She would sit by the hour in the swing Uncle Tom had hung for her under the maple near the lattice, while castles rose on distant heights against blue skies. There was her real home, in a balconied chamber that overlooked mile upon mile of rustling forest in the valley; and when the wind blew, the sound of it was like the sea. Honora did not remember the sea, but its music was often in her ears.
She would be aroused from these dreams of greatness by the appearance of old Catherine, her nurse, on the side porch, reminding her that it was time to wash for supper. No princess could have had a more humble tiring-woman than Catherine.
Honora cannot be unduly blamed. When she reached the "little house under the hill" (as Catherine called the chamber beneath the eaves), she beheld reflected in the mirror an image like a tall, white flower that might indeed have belonged to a princess. Her hair, the colour of burnt sienna, fell evenly to her shoulders; her features even then had regularity and hauteur; her legs, in their black silk stockings, were straight; and the simple white lawn frock made the best of a slender figure. Those frocks of Honora's were a continual source of wonder
and sometimes of envy-to Aunt Mary's friends; who returned from the seaside in the autumn, after a week among the fashions in Boston or New York, to find Honora in the latest models, and better dressed than their own children. Aunt Mary made no secret of the methods by which these seeming miracles were performed, and showed Cousin Eleanor Hanbury the fashion plates in the English periodicals. Cousin Eleanor sighed.
"Mary, you are wonderful," she would say. "Honora's clothes are better-looking than those I buy in the East, at such fabulous prices, from Cavendish."
Indeed, no woman was ever farther removed from personal vanity than Aunt Mary. She looked like a little Quakeress. Her silvered hair was parted in the middle and had, in spite of palpable efforts towards tightness and repression, a perceptible ripple in it. Grey was her only concession to colour, and her gowns and bonnets were of a primness which belonged to the past. Repression, or perhaps compression, was her note, for the energy confined within her little body was a thing to have astounded scientists. And Honora grew to womanhood and reflection before she had guessed or considered that her aunt was possessed of intense emotions which had no outlet. Her features were regular, her shy eye had the clearness of a forest pool. She believed in predestination, which is to say that she was a fatalist; and while she steadfastly continued to regard this world as a place of sorrow and trials, she concerned herself very little about her participation in a future life. Old Dr. Ewing, the rector of St. Anne's, while conceding that no better or more charitable woman existed, found it so exceedingly difficult to talk to her on the subject of religion that he had never tried it but once.
Such was Aunt Mary. The true student of human nature should not find it surprising that she spoiled Honora and strove at what secret expense, care, and self-denial to Uncle Tom and herself, none will ever know -to adorn the child that she might appear creditably among companions whose parents were more fortunate in