Chapter 30 IN WHICH CASSANDRA GOES TO QUEENSDERRY AND TAKES A DRIVE IN _ONY CARRIAGE
Glad to be borne away from the city and out through fresh green fields an_ast pretty church-spired villages, alone in the compartment, Cassandr_omforted herself with her baby, playing with him until he dropped to sleep, when she made a bed for him on the car seat with rugs, and, taking out he_urse, began to count her remaining resources. Her bill at the hotel ha_ppalled her. So much to pay to stay only a night! What would David say? Bu_e had told her to use the money as she liked, and now she was here, there wa_othing else to do.
Laboriously she computed the amount in English money, and, reckoned thus, he_ollars and cents seemed to shrink and vanish. Still, more than half remaine_f what she had brought with her, and she viewed the matter calmly.
The shadows fell long over the smooth greensward as she arrived in the villag_f Queensderry and was driven to a small inn, the only house of entertainmen_n the place. She was given a pleasant room overlooking fields and orchard_nd bright gardens, and the sight rested her eyes, and still further calme_er troubled heart. She would rest to-night, and to-morrow all would be well.
Never had food tasted better to her than the supper served in her prett_oom,—toast in a silver rack, and fresh butter, such as David loved, and curd_nd whey, and gingerbread, and a small jar of marmalade. She ate, seated i_he window, looking out over the sweet English landscape in the war_wilight—the breeze stirring the white curtains—her little son in her la_urgling and smiling up at her—and her heart with David, wherever he might be.
Slowly the dusk veiled all, and one star glimmered above the slender churc_pire. A pretty maid brought candles and a book in which she was asked t_rite her name. She was the landlady's daughter and looked wholesome an_right. Cassandra glanced in her face as she set the candles down, and took u_he pen mechanically.
"Mother says will you sign here, please?"
"Yes." Cassandra turned the leaves slowly and read other names an_ddresses—many of them. She wrote "Cassandra Merlin—" and paused; then, makin_ long dash, added simply, "America," and, handing back the book and pen, turned again to the window.
"Thank you. Is that all?" said the maid, lingering.
"Yes," said Cassandra again; then she laid her baby on the bed and bega_aking his night clothing from her bag.
"How pretty he is! Shan't I help you unpack, ma'm?"
Cassandra paused, looking dreamily before her as if scarcely comprehending, then she said: "Not to-night, thank you. Perhaps to-morrow." The maid deftl_iled the supper dishes and, taking them and the book with her, departed wit_ pleasant "Good night, ma'm."
In spite of her calmness, Cassandra lay wakeful and patient, and when at las_he did sleep, it seemed to her she stood with her husband on her father'_ath, looking out under overarching boughs, upon blue distances of heaped-u_ountain tops, and David's flute notes, silvery sweet, were raining down upo_er. She awoke to discover day was breaking, and a pealing of bells from som_istant church tower was announcing the fact.
She gathered her babe to her throbbing heart and thought, to-day she was to g_ut and meet her husband's people. How should she go? How should she conduc_erself? Should she go at once, or wait until the afternoon? Why had she no_ritten her name fully in the travellers' book? What mysterious foreboding ha_aught her fingers and stayed them at her maiden name? Was she afraid? Whe_he arose, she found herself trembling from head to foot, and called for he_reakfast, before bathing and dressing her little son.
The same pretty maid brought it, and came again, while Cassandra bathed an_ursed her baby, to set the room to rights.
"Shan't I unpack your box for you now, ma'm?" And, without waiting for _eply, she took out Cassandra's clothing, pausing now and then to admire an_et the lovely boy. Her simple friendliness pleased Cassandra, who was minde_o ask some of the questions which were burdening her.
"When do people make visits here, in the morning or afternoon?"
"That depends, ma'm."
"How do you mean? I'm a stranger in England, you know."
"Yes, ma'm. If they make polite visits, they go about tea time, ma'm. But i_t's parish visits, or on business, or on people they know very well, they ma_o in the morning, ma'm."
"And when is tea time here?"
"Why, ma'm, everybody has their tea in the afternoon along four o_hereabouts, and sees their friends."
"Can I get a carriage here, do you know?"
"I can get a pony carriage, ma'm. We hires it when we need it, only we mus_peak for it early, or it may be taken."
"Oh! Then will you please speak for it soon? I would like to have it."
"Yes, ma'm. Will you drive yourself, ma'm, or shall I ask for a boy?"
"Oh! I don't know. I can drive—but—"
"They are gentle ponies, ma'm. Any one can drive them."
"Yes, but I don't know the way."
"Yes, ma'm. Where would you like to go, ma'm?"
"To Daneshead Castle."
The bright-cheeked maid opened her round eyes wider and looked at Cassandr_ith new interest. "But, ma'm,—that is quite far, though the ponies are smart, too."
"How far is it?"
"It's quite a bit away from here, ma'm; you'd have to start at two o_hereabouts. I could take you myself if mother would let me, and tell you al_he interesting places, but"—the girl looked at her shrewdly, a quickl_ithdrawn glance—"that depends on how well acquainted you are there, ma'm.
Maybe you'd like better to have a man drive, and just let me go along to min_he baby for you."
"Yes, I would," said Cassandra, gladly.
"Thank you. I'll run for the ponies now, ma'm."
Cassandra heard her boots clatter rapidly down the wooden stairs at the bac_f the house, and presently saw her dashing across the inn yard, bareheade_nd with her bare arms rolled in her apron.
The girl's manner of receiving the statement that she wished to drive to th_astle was not lost on Cassandra's sensitive spirit. She sat a moment, thoughtful and sad, then rose and set herself to prepare carefully for th_isit. In the afternoon! Then she might wear the silk gown and lovely hat.
Once more she tried to arrange her hair as she saw other young women wea_heirs, and again swept its heavy masses back loosely from her brow and coile_t low as her custom was.
The landlady's daughter chattered happily as they drove. She held the baby o_er knee, and he played with the blue beads she wore about her neck, whil_assandra sat with hands dropped passively in her lap, her body leaning _ittle forward, straight and poised as if to move more rapidly along, her re_ips parted as if listening and waiting, and her eyes courteously turnin_oward the places and objects pointed out to her, yet neither seeing no_earing, except vaguely.
Presently becoming aware that the chatter was about the family at Daneshea_astle, her interest suddenly awoke. About the old lord—how vast hi_ossessions—how ancient the family—how neglected the castle had been eve_ince Lady Thryng's death,—everything allowed to run down, even though the_ere so vastly rich—how different everything was now the parsimonious old lor_as dead and the new lord had come in, and there were once more ladies in th_amily—what a time since there had been a Lady Thryng at Daneshead—how muc_ady Laura was like her cousin Lyon—how reckless she would be if her mothe_id not hold her with a firm hand—and so the chatter ran on.
The girl enjoyed the distinction of knowing all about the great family an_nlightening this stranger from America, whose silent attention and occasiona_onosyllabic replies were sufficient to inspire her friendly efforts t_ntertain. Moreover, her curiosity concerning Cassandra and her errand, wher_he was evidently neither expected nor known, was piqued and lively, and sh_hrew out many tentative remarks to probe if possible the stranger lady'_houghts.
"Have you ever seen Lord Thryng—the new lord, I mean, ma'm?"
"Yes," said Cassandra, simply, a chill striking to her heart to hear hi_entioned thus.
"He's been out here directing the repairs himself, and getting the place read_or his mother and Lady Laura; but I never saw him. They say he's perfectl_tunning. Quite the lord. Is he so very handsome, do you think?"
"Yes." Cassandra looked away from the girl's searching eyes.
"They say he never has married, and that is fortunate too; for he has lived s_ong in America, and never expecting to come into the title, he might hav_arried somebody his own set over here never could have received, and tha_ould have been bad, wouldn't it?"
Cassandra turned and looked gravely at the girl. She wished to stop her, bu_ould not think how to do it. She could not bear to hear her husband talke_ver in this way.
"They are tremendous swells. Lady Thryng looks high for him, and well she may, for mother says he's worthy of a princess, he's that rich and high bred, too, for all that he was only a doctor over in America. Mother says it's ver_ortunate he never married some common sort over there. They say Lady Thryn_ants him to marry Lady Geraldine Temple's daughter. She is a great beauty, and has a pretty fortune in her own right, too. They'll be rich enough t_ntertain the king! And they may do it, too, some day."
Cassandra sat still and cold. She could not stop the girl now. "Lady Laura'_oming out is to be next week, so his lordship must be home soon. They say i_ill be a very grand affair! And I am to see it all, for mother says she wil_ave a maid, and I may go out there to serve, and I shall see all th_ecorations and the fine dresses. That will be fine, won't it, baby?"
She untied the blue beads and dangled them before the baby's eyes, and h_aught at them and gurgled in baby glee. Cassandra sat silent, rigid, an_old, unheeding the child or the girl, only vaguely hearing the chatter.
"And that will be grand, won't it, baby? But he is a love, this boy! There i_aneshead Castle now, ma'm. You see it through the trees, but the grounds ar_o large we have to drive a good bit before we are there."
The driver turned the ponies' heads, and they scampered through a high ston_ateway and along a smooth road which wound through a dense wood, with gree_pen spaces interspersed, where deer were browsing. All was very beautiful an_uiet and sweet, but Cassandra, sitting with wide-open eyes, gravel_eautiful, did not see it.
To the girl everything was delightful. She had not the slightest doubt tha_he American lady was very rich. That she travelled so simply and alone wa_othing. They all did queer things—the Americans. She was obtusely unconsciou_hat she had been speaking slightingly of them to one of themselves, and sh_alked on after the romantic manner of girls the world over, giving the gossi_f the inn parlors as she listened to it evening after evening, where th_ffairs of the nobility were freely discussed and enlarged and commented upo_ith eager interest.
What was spoken in her ladyship's chamber and Lady Laura's boudoir—their half- formed plans and aspirations—carelessly dropped words and unfinishe_entences—quickly travelled to the housekeeper's parlor—to the servant'_able—to the haunts of grooms and stable boys—to the farmer's daughters—and t_he public rooms of the Queensderry Inn.
Thus it was Cassandra heard tales of the brother and sister and mother of he_avid, and of him also. How it was said that once he was engaged to a ric_radesman's daughter but had broken it off and gone to America against th_ishes of all his family, and had become a common practitioner there to th_isgust of all his relatives; and again Cassandra felt that she had left _weet and lovely world behind her to step into "Vanity Fair."
She tried to hold fast her faith in goodness and high purpose. She wa_ure—sure—David had been moved by noble motives; why should she not trust hi_ow? Did this girl know him better than she—his wife? Yet, in spite of he_aliant spirit, two facts fell like leaden weights upon her heart. David ha_ot told his people that he had a wife, and they would be offended that he had
"tied himself to a common sort over there." This David whom she loved was s_igh above her in the eyes of all his relatives and perhaps even in his own.
What—ah, what could she do! Might she still hold him in her heart? She coul_ot walk in upon them now and betray him—never—never.
Her lips grew pale, and her head swam, but she sat still, leaning a littl_orward in the moving phaeton, her hands tightly clasped in her lap and he_abe unheeded at her side, until the red returned to her lips and again burne_n a clearly defined spot against the pallor of her cheek. She did not kno_hat a strange, unearthly beauty was hers. A carriage met them filled with ga_eople. She did not notice them, but they gazed at her and turned to loo_gain as they passed.
"I say, you know!" said one of the men, as they whirled by.
"There, that was Lady Geraldine Temple in that carriage, and the young man wh_tared so hard is her son. They've been paying a visit, or maybe they'v_rought Lady Clara to stay a bit. They say both families are keen for th_atch—and why shouldn't they be? Oh, they'll entertain the king here some day, and then there'll be high times at Daneshead!"
An automobile flashed by them, and then another. "There must be a party her_o-day, or likely it's visitors dropping in, now it's getting toward tea time.
It's all right, ma'm," she added, as Cassandra stirred uneasily. "It must b_nly visitors, or I would have heard of it. They're keeping open house now, though they don't go anywhere themselves yet. You see it's a year since th_eaths, so they could mourn them all at once, and not spin it along. They ha_o wait a year before Lady Laura's coming out—rightly. Let the ponies wal_ow, driver. I beg pardon, ma'm." The girl had so taken possession o_assandra, the baby, and the whole expedition, that she gave the orde_nthinkingly.
"Yes, let them walk," said Cassandra, and drew a long breath. She heard ga_aughter, and caught sight through the trees of light dresses and wide, plume_ats. Some one sat on the terrace at a table whereon was shining silver.
"There, I said so! That's Lady Clara pouring tea. I say, but she's a beauty!
Isn't she? No, no. Go to the front, driver. American ladies don't call at th_ide."
"There's a hautomobile there, ma'm."
"Then wait a moment. Don't be a stupid."
Thus, aided by the innkeeper's clever daughter, Cassandra at last made he_ntrance properly and was guided to the presence of David's mother, who ha_ot joined her guests, having but just closed an interview with Mr. Stretton.
As she saw Cassandra standing in the drawing-room waiting her, Lady Thryn_ame graciously forward. The lovely August weather had tempted every one ou_f doors, and the great room was left empty save for these two, David's mothe_nd his wife.
The beauty of other-worldliness which had infused Cassandra's whole being a_he fought her silent battle during the long drive, still enveloped her. I_he could have followed her impulses, she would have held out both hands an_ried: "Take me and love me. I am David's wife." But she would not—she mus_ot. Her heritage of faith in goodness—both of God and man—kept her hear_pen, and gave her power to think and act rightly in this her hour of terribl_rial; even as a little child, being behind the veil which separates the sou_rom God, may, in its innocent prattle, utter words of superhuman wisdom.
"I am sorry if I have interrupted you when you have company," she said slowly.
"I am a stranger—an American."
"Ah, you Americans are a happy lot and may go where you please. Take this sea_y the window; it is very warm. My son has been in America, but he tells us s_ittle, we are none the wiser for that, about your part of the world."
"I knew him in America. That is why I called."
"Yes?" The mother bent forward and regarded her curiously, attentively.
"He lived very near us. He did a great deal of good—among the poor." She pu_er hand to her slender white throat, then dropped it again in her lap. Then, looking in Lady Thryng's eyes, she said: "I have seen your picture. I shoul_ave known you from that, but you are more beautiful."
"Oh! That can hardly be, my dear! It was taken many years ago, you know."
"Yes, he said so—his lordship—only there we called him Doctah Thryng."
A shadow flitted over the mother's face. "He was a practitioner ove_here—never in England."
"That is a pity; it is such noble work. But perhaps he has other things to d_ere."
"He has—even more noble work than the practice of medicine."
"What does he do here?" asked Cassandra, in a low voice.
"He must take part in the affairs of government. Very ordinary men may stud_nd practise medicine, but unless men who are wise, and are nobly born an_red, make it their business to care for the affairs of their country, th_ation would soon be wrecked. That is what saves England and makes her great."
"I see." Cassandra sat silent then, and Lady Thryng waited expectantly for he_rrand to be declared, curious about this beautiful young creature who ha_tepped into her home unannounced from out of the unknown, yet graciousl_indly and unhurried. "I think I know. With us men are too careless. The_hink it isn't necessary, I suppose." Again she paused with parted lips, as i_he would speak on, but could not.
"With you, men are too busy making money, I am told. It is necessary to have _eisure class like ours."
"Oh!" Cassandra caught her breath and smiled. She was thinking of the silve_ot her mother had enjoined her to take with her, and why. "But we do think _reat deal of family; even the simplest of us care for that, although we hav_o leisure class—only the loafers. I'm afraid you think it very strange _hould come to you in this way, but I—thought I would like to see Docta_hryng again, and when I heard he was not in England, I thought I would com_o you and bring the messages from those who loved him when he was with us.
But I mustn't stop now and take your time. I'll write them instead, only tha_ouldn't be like seeing him. He stayed a whole year at our place."
"And you came from Canada?"
"Oh, no. A long way from there. My home is in North Carolina."
"Oh, indeed! How very interesting! That must have been when he was so ill."
Then, noticing Cassandra's extreme pallor, she begged her most kindly to com_ut on the terrace and have tea; but she would not. She felt her fortitud_iving way, and knew she must hasten. "But you must, you know. The heat an_our long ride have made you faint."
"I—I'm afraid so. It—won't—last."
"Wait, then. You must take a little wine; you need it." Roused to sympathy, Lady Thryng left her a moment and returned immediately with a glass of wine, which she held to her lips with her own hand. "There, you will soon be better.
Here is a fan. It really is very warm. Indeed, you must have tea before yo_o."
She took her passive hand and led her out on the terrace unresisting, an_gain Cassandra was minded to throw her arms about the lovely woman's neck, who was so sweet and kind, and sob on her bosom and tell her all—but David ha_is own reasons, and she would not.
"Do you stay long in England?"
"I am going to-morrow. Oh!" she exclaimed, as they stepped out, and she sa_he number of elaborately dressed guests moving about and gayly chatting an_aughing. "I can't go out there. I am a strangah." It was a low melanchol_ail as she said it, and long afterward Lady Thryng remembered that moanin_ry, "I am a strangah."
"No, no. You are an American and a very beautiful one. Come, they will be gla_o meet you. Give me your name again."
"Thank you—but I must—must go back." Suddenly, with a cry, "My baby, he i_ine," she swept forward with long, swinging steps toward a group who wer_ending over a rosy-cheeked girl, who was seated on the steps of the terrac_ith a child in her arms. She was comforting him and cuddling and petting him, and those around her were exclaiming as young girls will: "Isn't he _ear!"—"Oh, let me hold him a moment!"—"There, he is going to cry again. N_onder, poor little chap!"—"Oh, look at his curls—so cunning—give him to me."
Seeing his mother, he put up his arms to her and smiled, while two tear_olled down his round baby cheeks.
"I found him in the pony carriage with Hetty Giles, and he was crying so—an_uch a darling! I just took him away—the love!" cried Laura. "Why, we saw yo_esterday at the Victoria. I could not pass him by, you remember?"
The baby, one beaming smile, nestled his face bashfully in his mother's nec_nd patted her cheek, glancing sidewise at his admirers through brimmin_ears, while Cassandra, her eyes large and pathetic, turned now on Laura, no_n her mother, stood silent, quivering like one of her own mountain creature_rought to bay. But she was strengthened as she felt her baby again in he_rms, and as she stood thus looking about her, every one became silent, an_he was constrained to speak. She did not know that something in her manne_nd appearance had commanded silence—something tragic—despairing. It was bu_or an instant, then she turned to Lady Laura.
"Thank you for comforting him. I ought not to have left him. I nevah di_efore, with strangahs." She tried to bid Lady Thryng good-by, but Laura agai_esought her to stop and have tea.
"Please do. I fairly adore Americans. I want to talk to you; I mean, to hea_ou talk."
Cassandra had mastered herself at last, and replied quietly: "I don't guess _an stay, thank you. You have been so kind." Then she said to Lady Thryng,
"Good-by," and moved away. Laura walked by her side to the carriage.
"I hope you'll come again sometime, and let me know you."
"You are right kind to say that. I shall nevah forget." Then, leaning dow_rom the carriage seat, and looking steadily in Laura's warm, dark eyes, sh_dded: "No, I shall nevah forget. May I kiss you?"
"You sweet thing!" said the girl, impulsively, and, reaching up, they kissed.
Cassandra said in her heart, "For David," and was driven away.
Laura found her mother standing where they had left her. She had been deepl_tirred by the sight of Cassandra with the child in her arms. Not tha_eautiful mothers and lovely children were rare in England; but that, excep_or the children of the poor, no little one like this had been in her own hom_r so near her in all the years of her widowhood. It was the sight of tha_trong mother love, overpowering and sweeping all before it, recognizing n_esser call—the secret and holy power that lies in the Christ-mother, for al_eriods and all peoples—she herself had felt it—and the cry that had burs_rom Cassandra's lips, "My baby—he is mine." Tears stood in Lady Thryng'_yes, and yet it was such a simple little thing. Mothers and babies? Why, the_ere everywhere.
"She moved like a tragic queen," said Lady Clara. "What was the matter?"
"Nothing, only her baby had been crying; but wasn't he a love?" said Lad_aura.
"I say! He was a perfect dear!" said one and another.
"I don't care much for babies," said Lady Clara. "They ought to be trained t_tay with their nurses and not cry after their mammas like that. Fancy havin_o take such a child around with one everywhere, even in making a formal call, you know! Isn't it absurd? American women spoil their children dreadfully, _ave heard."