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Chapter 25 A FINE HEROINE, TOO

  • Friday morning.
  • Miss Annesley possessed more than the ordinary amount of force and power o_ill. Though the knowledge of it was not patent to her, she was a philosopher.
  • She always submitted gracefully to the inevitable. She was religious, too,
  • feeling assured that God would provide. She did not go about the house,
  • moaning and weeping; she simply studied all sides of the calamity, and looke_round to see what could be saved. There were moments when she was eve_heerful. There were no new lines in her face; her eyes were bright and eager.
  • All persons of genuine talent look the world confidently in the face; the_now exactly what they can accomplish. As Karloff had advised her, she did no_rouble herself about the future. Her violin would support her and her father,
  • perhaps in comfortable circumstances. The knowledge of this gave her a silen_appiness, that kind which leaves upon the face a serene and beautiful calm.
  • At this moment she stood on the veranda, her hand shading her eyes. She wa_tudying the sky. The afternoon would be clear; the last ride should be _emorable one. The last ride! Tears blurred her eyes and there was _mothering sensation in her throat. The last ride! After to-day Jane woul_ave a new, strange mistress. If only she might go to this possible mistres_nd tell her how much she loved the animal, to obtain from her the promis_hat she would be kind to it always. How mysteriously the human heart spread_ts tendrils around the objects of its love! What is there in the loving of _og or a horse that, losing one or the other, an emptiness is created? Perhap_t is because the heart goes out wholly without distrust to the faithful, t_he undeceiving, to the dumb but loving beast, which, for all its strength, i_o helpless.
  • She dropped her hand and spoke to James, who was waiting near by for he_rders.
  • "James, you will have Pierre fill a saddle-hamper; two plates, two knives an_orks, and so forth. We shall ride in the north country this afternoon. I_ill be your last ride. To-morrow the horses will be sold." How bravely sh_aid it!
  • "Yes, Miss Annesley." Whom were they going to meet in the north country? "A_hat hour shall I bring the horses around?"
  • "At three."
  • She entered the house and directed her steps to the study. She found he_ather arranging the morning's mail. She drew up a chair beside him, and ra_hrough her own letters. An invitation to lunch with Mrs. Secretary-of-State;
  • she tossed it into the waste-basket. A dinner-dance at the Country Club, _all at the Brazilian legation, a tea at the German embassy, a box party a_ome coming play, an informal dinner at the executive mansion; one by one the_luttered into the basket. A bill for winter furs, a bill from the dressmaker,
  • one from the milliner, one from the glover, and one from the florist; thes_he laid aside, reckoning their sum-total, and frowning. How could she hav_een so extravagant? She chanced to look at her father. He was staring rathe_tupidly at a slip of paper which he held in his trembling fingers.
  • "What is it?" she asked, vaguely troubled.
  • "I do not understand," he said, extending the paper for her inspection.
  • Neither did she at first.
  • "Karloff has not done this," went on her father, "for it shows that he has ha_t discounted at the bank. It is canceled; it is paid. I did not have twent_housand in the bank; I did not have even a quarter of that amount to m_redit. There has been some mistake. Our real estate agent expects to realiz_n the home not earlier than Monday morning. In case it was not sold then, h_as to take up the note personally. This is not his work, or I should hav_een notified." Then, with a burst of grief: "Betty, my poor Betty! How ca_ou forgive me? How can I forgive myself?"
  • "Father, I am brave. Let us forget. It will be better so."
  • She kissed his hand and drew it lovingly across her cheek. Then she rose an_oved toward the light. She studied the note carefully. There was nothing o_t save Karloff's writing and her father's and the red imprint of the bank'_ancelation. Out of the window and beyond she saw James leading the horses t_he watering trough. Her face suddenly grew crimson with shame, and a_uddenly as it came the color faded. She folded the note and absently tucke_t into the bosom of her dress. Then, as if struck by some strange thought,
  • her figure grew tense and rigid against the blue background of the sky. Th_low which stole over her features this time had no shame in it, and her eye_hone like the waters of sunlit seas. It must never be; no it must never be.
  • "We shall make inquiries at the bank," she said. "And do not be downcast,
  • father, the worst is over. What mistakes you have made are forgotten Th_uture looks bright to me."
  • "Through innocent young eyes the future is ever bright; but as we age we fin_ost of the sunshine on either side, and we stand in the shadow between. Brav_eart, I glory in your courage. God will provide for you; He will not let m_hadow fall on you. Yours shall be the joy of living, mine shall be the pain.
  • God bless you! I wonder how I shall ever meet your mother's accusing eyes?"
  • "Father, you _must_ not dwell upon this any longer; for my sake you must not.
  • When everything is paid there will be a little left, enough till I and m_iolin find something to do. After all, the world's applause must be a fin_hing. I can even now see the criticisms in the great newspapers. 'A forme_oung society woman, well-known in the fashionable circles of Washington, mad_er _debut_ as a concert player last night. She is a stunning young person.'
  • `A young queen of the diplomatic circles, here and abroad, appeared in publi_s a violinist last night. She is a member of the most exclusive sets, an_ociety was out to do her homage.' `One of Washington's brilliant youn_orsewomen,' and so forth. Away down at the bottom of the column, somewhere,
  • they will add that I play the violin rather well for an amateur." In all he_rial, this was the one bitter expression, and she was sorry for it the momen_t escaped her. Happily her father was not listening. He was wholly absorbe_n the mystery of the canceled note.
  • She had mounted Jane and was gathering up the reins, while James strapped o_he saddle-hamper. This done, he climbed into the saddle and signified b_ouching his cap that all was ready. So they rode forth in the sweet freshnes_f that November afternoon. A steady wind was blowing, the compact whit_louds sailed swiftly across the brilliant heavens, the leaves whispered an_luttered, hither and thither, wherever the wind listed; it was the day o_ays. It was the last ride, and fate owed them the compensation of a beautifu_fternoon.
  • The last ride! Warburton's mouth drooped. Never again to ride with her! Ho_he thought tightened his heart! What a tug it was going to be to give her up!
  • But so it must be. He could never face her gratitude. He must disappear, lik_he good fairies in the story- books. If he left now, and she found out wha_e had done, she would always think kindly of him, even tenderly. At twilight,
  • when she took out her violin and played soft measures, perhaps a thought o_wo would be given to him. After what had happened—this contemptibl_asquerading and the crisis through which her father had just passed —it woul_e impossible for her to love him. She would always regard him with suspicion,
  • as a witness of her innocent shame.
  • He recalled the two wooden plates in the hamper. Whom was she going to meet?
  • Ah, well, what mattered it? After to-day the abyss of eternity would yaw_etween them. How he loved her! How he adored the exquisite profile, the warm-
  • tinted skin, the shining hair!… And he had lost her! Ah, that last ride!
  • The girl was holding her head high because her heart was full. No more to rid_n a bright morning, with the wind rushing past her, bringing the odor of th_rasses, of the flowers, of the earth to tingle her nostrils; no more t_ollow the hounds on a winter's day, with the pack baying beyond the hedges,
  • the gay, red-coated riders sweeping down the field; no more to wander throug_he halls of her mother's birthplace and her own! Like a breath on a mirror,
  • all was gone. Why? What had _she_ done to be flung down ruthlessly? She, wh_ad been brought up in idleness and luxury, must turn her hands to a living!
  • Without being worldly, she knew the world. Once she appeared upon the stage,
  • she would lose caste among her kind. True, they would tolerate her, but n_onger would her voice be heard or her word have weight.
  • Soon she would be tossed about on the whirlpool and swallowed up. Then woul_ome the haggling with managers, long and tiresome journeys, gloomy hotels an_ndifferent fare, curious people who desired to see the one-time fashionabl_elle; her portraits would be lithographed and hung in shop-windows, i_uestionable resorts, and the privacy so loved by gentlewomen gone; an_erhaps there would be insults. And she was only on the threshold of th_wenties, the radiant, blooming twenties!
  • During the long ride (for they covered something like seven miles) not a wor_as spoken. The girl was biding her time; the man had nothing to voice. The_ere going through the woods, when they came upon a clearing through which _arrow brook loitered or sallied down the incline. She reined in and raise_er crop. He was puzzled. So far as he could see, he and the girl were alone.
  • The third person, for whom, he reasoned, he had brought the second plate, wa_owhere in sight.
  • A flat boulder lay at the side of the stream, and she nodded toward it.
  • Warburton emptied the hamper and spread the cloth on the stone. Then he lai_ut the salad, the sandwiches, the olives, the almonds, and two silve_elescope-cups. All this time not a single word from either; Warburton, busie_ith his task, did not lift his eyes to her.
  • The girl had laid her face against Jane's nose, and two lonely tears traile_lowly down her velvety cheeks. Presently he was compelled to look at her an_peak.
  • "Everything is ready, Miss." He spoke huskily. The sight of her tears gave hi_n indescribable agony.
  • She dropped the bridle-reins, brushed her eyes, and the sunshine of a smil_roke through the troubled clouds.
  • "Mr. Warburton," she said gently, "let us not play any more. I am too sad. Le_s hang up the masks, for the comedy is done."