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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."