Part I
Chapter XIII
 

When she awoke next morning she arose and dressed herself at once: in bed the will loses its control over thought, and she wished to think as little as possible. But her mind reverted to the day before, in spite of her will, and she laughed suddenly and went to her desk and wrote on a slip of paper,--

"Every woman writes with one eye on the page and one eye on some man, except the Countess Hahn-Hahn, who has only one eye."--HEINE.

"Some day when I know him better I will give him this," she thought, and put the slip into a drawer by itself.

The load of care had lifted itself and gone. She had done the right thing, the momentous question was settled for the present, and Betty Madison had merely to shake her shoulders and enjoy life again. She threw open the window and let in the sun. There had been a rain-storm in the night and then a severe frost. The ice glistened on the naked trees, encasing and jewelling them. A park near by looked as if the crystal age of the world had come. The bronze equestrian statue within that little wood of radiant trees alone defied the ice-storm, as if the dignity of the death it represented rebuked the lavish hand of Nature.

Betty felt happy and elated, and blew a kiss to the beauty about her. She always had had a large fund of the purely animal joy in being alive, but to-day she was fully conscious that the tremulous quality of her gladness was due to the knowledge that she should see Senator North within five more days and the light of approval in his eyes. Exactly what her feeling for him was she made no attempt to define. She did not care. It was enough that the prospect of seeing him made her happier than she ever had felt before. That might go on indefinitely and she would ask for nothing more. Her recent contact with the serious-practical side of life--as distinct from the serious- intellectual which she had cultivated more than once--had terrified her; she wanted the pleasant, thrilling, unformulated part. For the first time one of her ideals had come forth from the mists of fancy and filled her vision as a man; and he was become the strongest influence in her life. As yet he was unaware of this honour, and she doubtless occupied a very small corner of his thought; but he was interested at last, and he was coming to see her. And then he would come again and again, and she would always feel this same glad quiver in her soul. She felt no regret that she could not marry him; the question of marriage but brushed her mind and was dismissed in haste. That was a serious subject, glum indeed, and dark. She was glad that circumstance limited her imagination to the happy present. She felt sixteen, and as if the world were but as old. Love and the intellect have little in common. They can jog along side by side and not exchange a comment.

"Come down and take a walk," cried a staccato voice. Sally Carter was standing on the sidewalk, her head thrown back. Betty nodded, put on her things and ran downstairs. Miss Carter was wrapped in an old cape, and her turban was on one side, but she looked rosier than usual.

"I've been half-way out to Chevy Chase," she said, "and I was just thinking of paying poor old General Lathom a visit. He does look so well in bronze, poor old dear, and all that ice round him will make him seem like an ogre in fairy-land. He wasn't a bit of an ogre, he was downright afraid of me."

"I suppose a man really feels as great a fool as he looks when he is proposing to a woman he is not sure of. I wonder why they ever do. After I gave up coquetting, came to the conclusion that it wasn't honest, they proposed just the same."

"Some women unconsciously establish a habit of being proposed to. I've had very few proposals, and I know several really beautiful women who have had practically none. As I said, it's a habit, and you can't account for it."

"I went yesterday to Virginia to call on a relative who has just lost her last adopted parent," said Betty, abruptly, "and she looked so forlorn that I asked her to visit us for a while. I hope you'll like her."

"Ah? She must be some relation of mine, too. You and I are third cousins."

"Don't ask me to straighten it out. The ramifications of Southern kinships are beyond me. She is a beauty--very dark and tragic."

"That is kind of you--to run the risk of Senator Burleigh going off at a tangent," said Miss Carter, sharply. "By the way, you cannot deny that you have given him encouragement; you have neither eyes nor ears for any one else when he is round."

"He is usually the most interesting person 'round;' and I have a concentrative mind. But I never intend to marry, and Senator Burleigh has never even looked as if he wanted to propose. By the way, Molly has actually asked him to come to the Adirondacks for a few days. Can't you and your father come for a month or two? Jack has promised to stay with us the whole summer, and we'll be quite a family party."

"Yes, I will," said Miss Carter, promptly. "I haven't been in the Adirondacks for six years and I should love it."

"Harriet Walker--that's our new cousin--will be with us too, most likely. She looks delicate, and I shall try to persuade her that she needs the pines."

"Ah! Look out for the Senator--in the dark pine forests on the mountain."

"I don't know why you should be so concerned for me. I usually have kept an admirer as long as I wanted him."

"Oh, no offence, dear. The dark and tragic lady merely filled my eye at the moment. By the way, Mrs. North thinks of going to the Lake Hotel this summer. Isn't that close by your place?"

"It is just across the lake. There is your old General. He does look like an ogre, and he's got a patch of green mould on his nose. You ought to take better care of him."

"He looks so much better than he did in life that I have no fault to find. The doctor has told Mrs. North that the pine forests may do her all the good in the world, prolong her life, and Mr. North has written to see if he can get an entire wing for her. I hope he can go too, but he always seems to have so much to do at home in summer. I do like him. He's the only man I know who, I feel positive, never could make a fool of himself."

"I am half starved. Come home and have your breakfast with me."

"I should like to. Senator North--"

"There is Mr. Burleigh on horseback--with Mr. Montgomery. He will look well in bronze--but they only put Generals on horseback, don't they? There--he sees me. I am going to ask them to come in to breakfast."

"I believe you like him better than you think, my dear. Your eyes shine like two suns, and I never saw you look so happy."

"The morning is so beautiful and I am so glad that I am alive. I know exactly how much I like Mr. Burleigh."