« AnkstesnisTęsti »
Oh, I see," said the bishop. "This is how you got your information."
Miss Cushing looked at him doubtfully. "I ought not to have told you this," she said, "because all complaints are treated as confidential. You will say nothing about it, will you?"
"Assuredly not," said the bishop.
At this moment there appeared a young man on a polo pony, riding toward them. The bishop waved his hand to him, and the young man waved his hat in reply. As the trap came up to him he turned and rode beside it.
"Miss Cushing," said the bishop, "may I present Mr. Braybrook?"
Miss Cushing bowed stiffly, and Mr. Braybrook took off his hat again. "Miss Cushing has come down-" began the bishop.
"We are very glad to see her," interrupted Mr. Braybrook. "I think," he continued, speaking to Miss Cushing, "that you were a great friend of my mother's." Miss Cushing bowed again.
"I saw you as you came over the hill," Braybrook said to the bishop; "we 've been having some gymkhanas on the lawn. I am afraid," he added apologetically," that they are about over."
"That is too bad," said the bishop; "it would have been interesting to see them." "Perhaps," said Braybrook, " we can get up an extra race or two, but it is pretty nearly time for lunch. Are you interested in sports?" he asked Miss Cushing. As he spoke they turned into a gateway and rolled up a long private drive.
'Don't think of having anything on my account," said Miss Cushing, “because I could not stop; I really must be going on." "Why?" said Braybrook, with a shade. of disappointment in his tone. "I hoped you had come down with Bishop Cunningham to stop the day with us."
"That's very kind of you," said Miss Cushing, uncomfortably, "but I could n't think of it." She resolved to blurt out the truth. "You see," she began, “I 've—"
"Oh, I see," said Braybrook; “you are lunching with some one else. Where can I send you?"
"This is embarrassing," said Miss Cushing. "There was no cab at the station, and Bishop Cunningham insisted—”
"Of course," said Braybrook. I really wish you would stop with us; but if you
are engaged for lunch, of course the trap will take you over."
Miss Cushing looked helplessly at the bishop.
"You would better stay to lunch," said the bishop.
"You really must," said Braybrook, “if you have no other engagement."
"No, I could n't think of that," said Miss Cushing; "but if you could tell me how to get to the nearest hotel in the village I should be very grateful."
Braybrook looked perplexed, and made no reply.
"If it is any trouble-" said Miss Cushing, quickly.
'It would be no trouble," said Braybrook, "but there is n't any hotel. I might send you over to the club," he added, "but I don't think that ladies lunch at the club alone. I'll ask Mrs. Braybrook.”
The conversation was interrupted by their arrival at the house. The bishop waved to Mrs. Braybrook, who was on the veranda to meet them. "We have arrived, my dear," he said, and patted her hand affectionately. 'Let me present you to Miss Cushing. She is my very dear friend."
Mrs. Braybrook smiled. "It is very nice of you to come with the bishop," she said to Miss Cushing, "and it was very nice of him to come, too. This is a great event for us." She smiled again.
A pang of shame pierced Miss Cushing. "What shall I do?" she asked herself. Before an answer came the bishop handed her out upon the veranda.
"You are very good," she said abjectly to Mrs. Braybrook. She looked at the bishop, but his gaze was directed across the lawn, where there was a tent and a group of men in breeches and leggings.
"If you will excuse me a moment," said Braybrook, “I 'll see if we can get up another race." He left the veranda.
"And if you will excuse me," said Mrs. Braybrook, "I shall see if we are not soon going to have lunch; you must be famished." As she spoke she disappeared into the house.
But Miss Cushing knew that it was not to find out when lunch was to be served, but to order an extra place made at the lunch-table. She turned to the bishop.
“I can't—I can't stop and lunch in this house," she gasped.
"Very well," said the bishop. "What are you going to do?"
Exactly!" exclaimed Miss Cushing. 'What am I going to do? Can't you suggest something? If I had not got into that carriage" She stopped. She was too high-minded to intimate that it was his fault.
The bishop regarded her and deliberated. "Henrietta," he began firmly, "in past years you have had the experience of a woman of the world, and you know that you have no moral right to make a scene or to injure the feelings of others. It is not for me to say what you should do, but I would suggest that you accept the situation until you can escape from it with decency."
"Do you think," demanded Miss Cushing, "that it is right for me to lunch with people whom I propose to prosecute in the courts?"
"What else is there to do?" replied the bishop.
At that moment Mrs. Braybrook appeared from the house. She spoke to Miss Cushing. "You must come with me," she said; "I want you to see the baby."
"The baby?" repeated Miss Cushing. ("Is there a baby?" she said to herself.) "Why, yes," said Mrs. Braybrook, rather at a loss.
"Of course," said Miss Cushing, "I want to see it"; and she followed Mrs. Braybrook in.
Braybrook came back as they disappeared. "I suppose," he said to the bishop, in an undertone," that Miss Cushing did n't
expect that we would be having people to lunch, and feels embarrassed. It was awfully nice of her to come down."
"I don't think she did expect to find a party," the bishop replied.
You see," said Braybrook, "I feel that it is a good deal for Miss Cushing to come down here just to be present at the baby's christening."
"You are quite right," said the bishop; "but there is somebody coming to announce lunch."
As they took their places in the diningroom the bishop observed that Miss Cushing wore a softer expression and that there was a mild light in her gray eyes. He smiled.
"I am very sorry," said Braybrook, - Miss Cushing was sitting upon his right,—" that we could n't get up a race for you. But, you see, the men were hungry and were cross as beasts. Besides, they had sent their horses to be cooled out. But perhaps," he continued, "later, after the show, we can get up something."
After the show?" repeated Miss Cushing, inquiringly.
"I ought to have said after the ceremony," said Braybrook, apologizing. “I'm awfully careless."
"Oh, the ceremony!" exclaimed Miss Cushing. "Oh, I understand." ("The ceremony," she repeated to herself. "What ceremony? What kind of party have I come upon?")
"By the way, did you see it?" asked Braybrook. He nodded his head upward. Miss Cushing looked at him inquiringly. "The baby," he said.
"Oh, yes," said Miss Cushing; "he is charming."
"Whom do you think he looks like?" Braybrook demanded.
"You," replied Miss Cushing; "he is very like you."
Braybrook grinned. "I think so, too," he said; "but they say I'm conceited to think so."
Miss Cushing smiled. "He seems fond of the child," she said to herself. "It is hard to believe that he pursues little drags to death." This reflection recalled her mission, and made her miserable again until Willie Colfax, who sat upon her other hand, engaged her in conversation.
"Do you ride much?' inquired Mr. Colfax, blandly.
Braybrook, who overheard, shot him an annoyed glance. He knew that his brotherin-law was preparing to sell a horse.
"Each afternoon that is fine," said Miss Cushing, "I go to the park in my victoria." "I know," observed Mr. Colfax, "but
When lunch was over she had an opportunity to speak to the bishop.
"They have been talking about some ceremony that is to take place," she said. "Do you know what it is?"
The bishop looked surprised. "Have n't you heard?" he said. "They are going to baptize the child."
"And is that what you came down for?" Miss Cushing demanded.
"Yes," replied the bishop.
"But why did n't you tell me?" said Miss Cushing.
"You did n't ask me," the bishop answered.
Miss Cushing looked about her anxiously, and drew a long breath. "I must slip away," she said. "Even if I have lunched with these people, I cannot intrude into the circle invited to be present on a solemn occasion of this kind. Besides, I must find Mrs. Hennessey.
do you ride much? Have you any saddlehorses?"
Miss Cushing looked at him suspiciously, but his expression was sweet and innocent.
"I used to ride when I was a girl," she said, "but that was a long time ago."
Mr. Colfax regarded her incredulously. "You ought to keep it up," he said. "I believe in enjoying things while we can. Still," he continued, one can get a great deal of pleasure out of a good harnesshorse, too. I have rather a good one."
"Really," said Miss Cushing. "I should like to see it. I am fond of horses."
"I'll show him to you," said Mr. Colfax, politely. Here Braybrook interrupted him, and the subject was changed.
Miss Cushing enjoyed the lunch-party in spite of her qualms of conscience. It was different from any that she could remember. At times it was rather noisy, but she thought it entertaining. Mr. Colfax's suggestion that she take a place at Oakdale was, of course, out of the question, but it was pleasant to have people express kind wishes. She liked Mr. Colfax.
Half-tone plate engraved by F. H. Wellington "THE BISHOP LOOKED SURPRISED"
Yes, I must slip away," she continued. "Directly I get home I shall write and explain, and I do wish that you would write, too."
"I shall write anything you wish," replied the bishop. "However, I don't see how you are going to 'slip away.'"
Miss Cushing looked furtively about, as if considering an exit by one of the windows, when Mrs. Braybrook approached and spoke to her.
"Do you mind driving to the church with my brother, Mr. Colfax ?" she asked. "If you have the least objection, don't hesitate to say so," she continued, "because
I don't mind telling him that you can't go. But he asked, as a great favor, to be allowed to take you."
Miss Cushing looked at the bishop. His face was expressionless. She gave a nervous little laugh. “Of course I have n't the least objection," she said. "I am much flattered."
"That's so good of you," said Mrs. Braybrook, with her delightful smile. "It will please Willie, and it will be perfectly safe, because he has Planet." She turned and left them.
Miss Cushing stood facing the bishop. Her bosom heaved, but she said nothing. At first it seemed as if the bishop were about to speak; then his mouth shut tightly. At this juncture Mr. Colfax appeared. "My cart is here," he said to Miss Cushing, and bowed.
Without a word Miss Cushing followed. From the veranda she climbed over an enormous wheel, and found herself driving to the church in a primrose-yellow dog-cart behind Planet, who, with extra heavy shoes, was performing showily. She fell to thinking about the situation.
"He 's not bad-looking, is he?" began Mr. Colfax.
"I beg your pardon?" said Miss Cushing, aroused from her thoughts.
Mr. Colfax repeated the question. "He has reference to the baby, I presume," thought Miss Cushing. "He's a sweet dear," she replied.
"He is," said Mr. Colfax; " and though that splint on his off fore leg is a bit conspicuous, he 's never gone sore with it. A good blister would take it off."
Miss Cushing looked at him in horror. Then she appreciated that there had been a misunderstanding, and held her peace. As they pulled up in the village street before the church, Mr. Colfax was still discussing Planet, his breeding, conformation, and manners; but it was all lost upon Miss Cushing. During the last ten minutes she had been formulating an artifice which promised to save her from committing the quasi-sacrilege that was imminent. The afternoon was warm, and she planned to linger in the vestibule until all had gone into the church, under the pretext of a headache, which the close air indoors would aggravate. The church inside, as a matter of fact, was damp and pleasantly cool, not having been opened for several days; but
well-bred people do not insist too much upon facts.
Miss Cushing's artifice promised success. The entire party passed in together, and no one urged her to enter. Only Mr. Colfax remained outside, raptly watching Planet's action as the groom drove him up and down the village street. But Miss Cushing knew that Mr. Colfax was to be the godfather, and she felt that he, too, would come in a reasonable time before the ceremony was to begin.
To avoid being seen from the street, she withdrew into a corner of the vestibule close to the leather swinging-doors which opened into one of the side aisles. Here she stood, ready to assume an attitude of entering, when, to her alarm, she heard voices of people approaching from the inside. The owners of the voices stopped, apparently close to the doors, and began a conference.
"What did the man say?" she heard a woman's voice demand. She recognized the speaker as Mrs. Braybrook.
"He said that her leader ran away and smashed things up," a man's voice answered. The man's voice was Braybrook's.
"Well, could n't she have come in another trap?" Mrs. Braybrook demanded.
"The man said that they went into a ditch and put her shoulder out," replied Braybrook.
"What a pity!" said Mrs. Braybrook. "Poor Kitty will be laid up again for the hunting."
'That must be the Kitty," said Miss Cushing to herself, "who was going to be godmother." A feeling of relief came over her. "They'll postpone it," she thought.
"Yes," said Braybrook, on the other side of the doors; "it will very likely lay her up. I wonder if she hurt her horses. Her leader was that mare she was going to sell Mr. Heminway for Anita."
"Well," said Mrs. Braybrook, "I'm sorry for Kitty, but what are we going to do?"
"You might ask Jane to take her place," suggested Braybrook.
"If I do that," Mrs. Braybrook replied, "Emily and Josephine will both think it strange that I did n't ask them."
But you can't ask them all," said Braybrook. 'Have n't they any sense?"
Mrs. Braybrook ignored his question. "I wish I knew what to do," she said helplessly. "There was, of course, a special