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them seem to announce their engagements before they get their decree. One of them, - her name was Mabel, -as far as I could make out, her husband found out that she meant to divorce him by noticing that she wore a new engagement-ring."
"Well, you see Leila did everything 'regularly,' as the French say," Ide rejoined.
"Yes; but are these people in society? The people my neighbors talk about?"
Ide shrugged his shoulders. "It would take an arbitration commission a good many sittings to define the boundaries of society nowadays. But at any rate they 're in New York; and I assure you you 're not; you 're farther and farther from it."
"But I 've been back there several times to see Leila." She hesitated and looked away from him. Then she brought out slowly: "And I 've never noticed-the least change-in-in my own case-"
"Oh," he sounded deprecatingly, and she trembled with the fear of having gone too far. But the hour was past when she could be held by such scruples. She must know where she was and where Leila was. Mrs. Boulger still cuts me," she brought out with an embarrassed laugh.
"Are you sure? You 've probably cut her; if not now, at least in the past. And in a cut, if you 're not first, you 're nowhere. That 's what keeps up so many quarrels."
The word roused Mrs. Lidcote to a renewed sense of realities. But the Purshes," she said "the Purshes are so strong! There are so many of them, and they all back each other up, just as my husband's family did. I know what it means to have a clan against one. They 're stronger than any number of separate friends. The Purshes will never forgive Leila for leaving Horace. Why, his mother opposed his marrying her because of-of my situation. She tried to get Leila to promise that she would n't see me when they went to Europe on their honeymoon. And now she 'll say it was my example."
Her companion, vaguely stroking his beard, mused a moment upon this; then he asked with seeming irrelevance, "What did Leila say when you wrote that you were coming?"
"She said it was n't the least necessary, but I'd better come, because it was the only way to convince me that it was n't."
"Well, then, that proves she's not afraid of the Purshes."
She breathed a long sigh of remembrance. "Oh, just at first, you knowone never is."
He laid his hand on hers with a rapid gesture of intelligence and pity. "You'll see, you'll see," he merely promised her.
A shadow lengthened down the deck before them, and a steward stood there, proffering a wireless despatch.
"Oh, now I shall know!" she exclaimed.
She tore the message open, and then let it fall on her knees, dropping her clasped hands on it in silence.
Ide's inquiry roused her: "It 's all right?"
"Oh, quite right. Perfectly. She can't come; but she 's sending Susy Suffern. She says that Susy will explain." After another silence she added, with a sudden gush of bitterness, "As if I needed any explanation!"
She felt Ide's hesitating glance upon her. "She's in the country?"
"Yes. 'Prevented last moment. Longing for you, expecting you. Love from both.' Don't you see, the poor darling, that she could n't face it?"
'No, I don't." He waited. "Do you mean to go to her immediately?"
"It will be too late to catch a train this evening; but I shall take the first to-morrow morning." She considered a moment. "Perhaps it 's better. I need a talk with Susy first. She 's to meet me at the dock, and I'll take her straight back to the hotel with me."
As she developed this plan, she had the sense that Ide was still thoughtfully, even gravely, considering her. When she ceased, he remained silent a moment; then he said almost ceremoniously: "If your talk with Miss Suffern does n't last too late, would it be indiscreet of me to ask to see you when it's over? I shall be dining at the club, and I'll call you up at about ten, if I may. I'm off to Chicago on business to-morrow morning, and it would be a satisfaction to know, before I start, that your cousin 's been able to reassure you, as I know she will."
He spoke with a sudden, shy deliberateness that, even to Mrs. Lidcote's troubled perceptions, sounded a long-silenced note of feeling. Perhaps the breaking down of
the barrier of reticence between them had released unsuspected emotions in both. The tone of his appeal moved her curiously and loosened the tight strain of her fears.
"Oh, yes, come-do come," she mur. mured, rising. The huge threat of New York was imminent now, dwarfing, under long reaches of embattled masonry, the great deck she stood on and all the little specks of life it carried. One of them, drifting nearer, took the shape of her maid, flanked by luggage-laden stewards, and signing to her that it was time to go below. As they descended to the main deck, the throng swept her against Mrs. Lorin Boulger's shoulder, and she heard the ambassadress call to an interlocutor, over the vexed sea of hats: "So sorry! I should have been delighted, but I 've promised to spend Sunday with some friends at Lenox."
SUSY SUFFERN's explanation did not end till after ten o'clock, and she had just gone when Franklin Ide, who, complying with an old New York tradition, had caused himself to be preceded by a long, white box of roses, was ushered into Mrs. Lidcote's sitting-room.
He came forward with his shy, halfhumorous smile and, taking her hand, looked at her for a moment without speaking.
"It's all right," he then pronounced affirmatively.
Mrs. Lidcote returned his smile. "It 's extraordinary. Everything 's changed. Even Susy has changed; and you know the extent to which Susy stood for old New York. There's no old New York left, it seems. She talked in the most amazing way. She snaps her fingers at the Purshes. She told me-me, that every woman had a right to happiness, that selfexpression was the highest duty. She accused me of misunderstanding Leila; she said my point of view was conventional! She was bursting with pride at having been in the secret, and wearing a brooch that Wilbour Barkley 'd given her!"
Franklin Ide had seated himself in the arm-chair of green art-velvet that she had pushed forward for him under the electric chandelier. He threw back his head and laughed. "What did I tell you?" he exclaimed.
"Yes; but I can't believe that Susy 's not mistaken. Poor dear, she has the habit of lost causes; and she may feel that, having stuck to me, she can do no less than stick to Leila."
"But she did n't-did she?-openly defy the world for you? She did n't snap her fingers at your husband's family?"
Mrs. Lidcote shook her head, still smiling. "No. It was enough to defy my family. She did that, almost. It was doubtful at one time if they would tolerate her seeing me, and she almost had to disinfect herself after each visit. I believe that at first my sister-in-law would n't let the girls come down when Susy dined with her."
"Well, is n't your cousin's present attitude the best possible proof that times have changed?"
"Yes, yes; I know." She leaned forward from her sofa-corner, fixing her eyes on his thin, kindly face, which gleamed on her indistinctly through a sudden blur. "If it 's true, it 's-it 's dazzling. says Leila 's perfectly happy. It's as if an angel had gone about in all the cemeteries lifting gravestones, and the buried people walked again, and the living did n't shrink from them."
"That's about it," he assented.
She drew a deep breath, and sat looking away from him down the long perspective of lamp-fringed streets over which her windows hung.
"I can understand how happy you must be," he began at length.
She turned to him impetuously. "Yes, yes; I'm happy. But I'm lonely, too— lonelier than ever. I did n't take up much room in the world before; but nowwhere is there a corner for me? Oh, since I've begun to confess myself, why should n't I go on? Telling you this lifts a gravestone from me! You see, before this, Leila needed me. She was unhappy, and I knew it, and though we hardly ever talked of it, I felt that, in a way, the thought that I'd been through the same thing, and down to the dregs of it, helped her. And her needing me helped me. And when the news of her marriage came, my first thought was that now she 'd need me more than ever, that she 'd have no one but me to turn to. Yes, under all my distress there was a fierce joy in that. It was so new and wonderful to feel again
that there was one person who would n't be able to get on without me! And now what you and Susy tell me seems to have taken my child from me; and just at first that 's all that I can feel."
"Of course it's all you feel." He looked at her musingly. "Why did n't Leila come to meet you?" he then inquired.
"Oh, that was really my fault. You see, I'd cabled that I was not sure of being able to get off on the Utopia, and apparently my second cable was delayed, and when she received it, she 'd already asked some people over Sunday-one or two of her old friends, Susy says. I'm so glad they should have wanted to go to her at once; but naturally I 'd rather have been alone with her."
"You still mean to go, then?"
"Oh, I must. Susy wanted to drag me off to Ridgefield with her over Sunday, and Leila sent me word that of course I might go if I wanted to, and that I was not to think of her; but I know how disappointed she would be. Susy said she was afraid I might be upset at her having people to stay, and that, in that case, she would n't urge me to come. But if they don't mind, why should I? And of course, if they 're willing to go to Leila, it must
"Of course. I'm glad you recognize that," Franklin Ide exclaimed abruptly. He stood up and went over to her, taking her hand with one of his quick unexpected gestures. "There's something I want to say to you," he began
THE next morning, in the train, through all the other contending thoughts in Mrs. Lidcote's mind there ran the warm undercurrent of what Franklin Ide had wanted to say to her.
He had wanted, she knew, to say it once before, when, nearly eight years earlier, the hazard of meeting at the end of a rainy autumn in a small, deserted Swiss hotel had thrown them for a fortnight into unwonted propinquity. They had walked and talked together, borrowed each other's books and newspapers, spent the long, chill evenings over the fire in the dim lamplight of her little pitch-pine sitting-room; and she had been wonderfully comforted by his presence, and hard, frozen places in her had melted, and she
had known that she would be desperately sorry when he went. And then, just at the end, in his odd, indirect way, he had let her see that it rested with her to have him stay if she chose. She could still relive the sleepless night she had given to that discovery. It was preposterous, of course, to think of repaying his devotion by accepting such a sacrifice; but how find reasons to convince him? She could not bear to let him think her less touched, less inclined to him than she was: the generosity of his love deserved that she should repay it with the truth. Yet how let him see what she felt, and yet refuse what he offered? How confess to him what had been on her lips when he made the offer: "I've seen what it did to one man; and there must never, never be another?" The tacit ignoring of her past had been the element in which their friendship lived, and she could not suddenly, to him of all men, begin to talk of herself like a guilty woman in a play. Somehow, in the end, she had managed it, had averted a direct explanation, had made him understand that her life was over, that she existed only for her daughter, and that a more definite word from him would have been almost a breach of delicacy. She was so used to behaving as if her life were over! And, at any rate, he had taken her hint, and she had been able to spare her sensitiveness and his. The next year, when he came to Florence to see her, they met again in the old friendly way; and that till now had continued to be the tenor of their intimacy.
And now, suddenly and unexpectedly, he had brought up the question again, directly this time, and in such a form that she could not evade it: putting the renewal of his plea, after so long an interval, on the ground that, on her own showing, her chief argument against it no longer existed.
"You tell me Leila 's happy. If she 's happy, she does n't need you-need you, that is, in the same way as before. You wanted then, I know, to be always in reach, always free and available if she should suddenly call you to her or take refuge with you. I understood that-I respected it. I did n't urge my case because I saw it was useless. You could n't, I understood well enough, have felt free to take such happiness as life with me
might have given you while she was unhappy, and, as you imagined, with no hope of release. Even then I did n't feel as you did about it; I understood better the trend of things here. But ten years ago the change had n't really come; and I had no way of convincing you that it was coming. Still, I always fancied that Leila might not think her case was closed, and so I chose to think that ours was n't either. Let me go on thinking so, at any rate, till you 've seen her, and confirmed with your own eyes what Susy Suffern tells you."
of course what she says is law. Oh, they quite hope they 'll get it. You see Horace's uncle is in the Cabinet,-one of the assistant secretaries, and I believe he has a good deal of pull-"
"Horace's uncle? You mean Wilbour's, I suppose," Mrs. Lidcote interjected, with a gasp of which a fraction was given to Miss Suffern's flippant use of the language. "Wilbour's? No, I don't. I mean Horace's. Oh, there's no bad feeling between them, I assure you. Since Horace's engagement was announced--you did n't know Horace was engaged? Why, he 's marrying one of Bishop Thorbury's girls: the red-haired one who wrote the novel that every one 's talking about, 'This Flesh of Mine.' They 're to be married in the cathedral. Of course Horace can, because it was Leila who-but, as I say, there's not the least feeling, and Horace wrote himself to his uncle about Wilbour."
ALL through what Susy Suffern told and retold her during their four-hours' flight to the hills this plea of Ide's kept coming back to Mrs. Lidcote. She did not yet know what she felt as to its ultimate bearing on her own fate, but it was something on which her confused thoughts could stay themselves amid the welter of new impressions, and she was inexpressibly glad that he had said what he had, and said it at that particular moment. It helped her to hold fast to her identity in the rush of strange names and new categories that her cousin's talk poured out on her.
With the progress of the journey Miss Suffern's communications grew more and more amazing. She was like a cicerone preparing the mind of an inexperienced traveler for the marvels about to burst on it.
"You won't know Leila. She's had her pearls reset. Sargent 's to paint her. Oh, and I was to tell you that she hopes you won't mind being the least bit squeezed over Sunday. The house was built by Wilbour's father, you know, and it's rather old-fashioned-only ten spare bedrooms. Of course that 's small for what they mean to do, and she 'll show you the new plans they 've had made. Their idea is to keep the present house as a wing. She told me to explain-she 's so dreadfully sorry not to be able to give you a sitting-room just at first. They 're think ing of Egypt for next winter, unless, of course, Wilbour gets his appointment. Oh, did n't she write you about that? Why, he wants Rome, you know-the second secretaryship. Or, rather, he wanted England; but Leila insisted that if they went abroad, she must be near you. And
Mrs. Lidcote's thoughts fled back to what she had said to Ide the day before on the deck of the Utopia. "I did n't take up much room before, but now where is there a corner for me?" Where indeed in this crowded, topsyturvy world, with its headlong changes and helter-skelter readjustments, its new tolerances and indifferences and accommodations, was there room for a character fashioned by slower, sterner processes and a life broken under their inexorable pressure? And then, in a flash, she viewed the chaos from a new angle, and order seemed to move upon the void. If the old processes were changed, her case was changed with them; she, too, was a part of the general readjustment, a tiny fragment of the new pattern worked out in bolder, freer harmonies. Since her daughter had no penalty to pay, was not she herself, by the same stroke, released from the long toll that life had taken of her? The rich arrears of youth and joy were gone irrevocably; but was there not enough left to accumulate new stores of happiness? That, of course, was what Franklin Ide had felt and had meant her to feel. He had seen at once what the change in her daughter's situation would make in her view of her own. It was almost-wondrously enough!-as if Leila's folly had been the means of vindicating hers.
EVERYTHING else for the moment faded for Mrs. Lidcote in the glow of her daughter's embrace. It was unnatural, it was almost terrifying, to find herself suddenly standing on a strange threshold, under an unknown roof, in a big hall full of pictures, flowers, firelight, and hurrying servants, and in this spacious, unfamiliar confusion to discover Leila, bareheaded, laughing, authoritative, with a strange young man jovially echoing her welcome and transmitting her orders; but once Mrs. Lidcote had her child on her breast, and her child's, "It 's all right, you old darling!" in her ears, every other feeling was lost in the deep sense of well-being that only Leila's hug could give.
The sense was still with her, warming her veins and pleasantly fluttering her heart, as she went up to her room after luncheon. A little constrained by the presence of visitors, and not altogether sorry to defer for a few hours the "long talk" with her daughter for which she somehow felt herself tremulously unready, she had withdrawn, on the plea of fatigue, to the bright, luxurious bedroom into which Leila had again and again apologized for having been obliged to "squeeze" her. The room was bigger and finer than any in her small apartment in Florence; but it was not the standard of affluence implied in her daughter's tone about it that chiefly struck her, nor yet the finish and complexity of its appointments. It was
the look it shared with the rest of the house, and with the trim perspective of the gardens beneath its windows, of being part of an "establishment"-of something solid, avowed, founded on sacraments and precedents and principles. There was nothing about the place, or about Leila and Wilbour, that suggested either passion or peril: their relation seemed as comfortable as their furniture and as respectable as their balance at the bank.
This was, in the whole confusing experience, the thing that confused Mrs. Lidcote most, that gave her at once the deepest feeling of security for Leila and the strongest sense of apprehension for herself. Yes, there was something oppressive in the completeness and compactness of Leila's well-being. Ide had been right her daughter did not need her. Leila, with her first embrace, had unconsciously attested the fact in the same phrase
as Ide himself, as the two young women with the hats. "It 's all right, you old darling!" she had said; and her mother sat alone, trying to fit herself into the new scheme of things which such a certainty. betokened.
Her first distinct feeling was one of irrational resentment. If such a change was to come, why had it not come sooner? Here was she, a woman not yet old, who had paid with the best years of her life for the theft of the happiness that her daughter's contemporaries took as their due. There was no sense, no sequence, in it. She had had what she wanted, but she had had to pay too much for it. She had had to pay the last bitterest price of learning that love has a price: that it is worth so much and no more. She had known the anguish of watching the man she loved discover this first, and of reading the discovery in his eyes. It was a part of her history that she had not trusted herself to think of for a long time past: she always took a big turn about that haunted corner of her conscience. But now, at the sight of the young man down-stairs, so openly and jovially Leila's, she was overwhelmed at the senseless waste of her own adventure, and wrung with the irony of perceiving that the success or failure of the deepest human experiences may hang on a matter of chronology.
Then gradually the thought of Ide returned to her. "I chose to think that our case was n't closed," he had said. She had been deeply touched by that. To every one else her case had been closed so long! Finis was scrawled all over her. here was one man who had believed and waited, and what if what he believed in and waited for were coming true? If Leila's "all right" should really foreshadow hers?
As yet, of course, it was impossible to tell. She had fancied, indeed, when she entered the drawing-room before luncheon, that a too-sudden hush had fallen on the assembled group of Leila's friends, on the slender, vociferous young women and the lounging, golf-stockinged young men. They had all received her politely, with the kind of petrified politeness that may be either a tribute to age or a protest at laxity; but to them, of course, she must be an old woman because she was Leila's mother, and in a society so dominated by