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?"
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."