The Street Called Straight by Basil King
Having watched through the window her father pass down the avenue on his way to town, Miss Guion reseated herself mechanically in her place at the breakfast-table in order to think. Not that her thought could be active or coherent as yet; but a certain absorption of the facts was possible by the simple process of sitting still and letting them sink in. As the minutes went by, it became with her a matter of sensation rather than of mental effort--of odd, dream-like sensation, in which all the protecting walls and clearly defined boundary-lines of life and conduct appeared to be melting away, leaving an immeasurable outlook on vacancy. To pass abruptly from the command of means, dignity, and consideration out into a state in which she could claim nothing at all was not unlike what she had often supposed it might be to go from the pomp and circumstance of earth as a disembodied spirit into space. The analogy was rendered the more exact by her sense, stunned and yet conscious, of the survival of her own personality amid what seemed a universal wreckage. This persistence of the ego in conditions so vast and vague and empty as to be almost no conditions at all was the one point on which she could concentrate her faculties.
It was, too, the one point on which she could form an articulated thought. She was Olivia Guion still! In this slipping of the world from beneath her feet she got a certain assurance from the affirmation of her identity. She was still that character, compounded of many elements, which recognized as its most active energies insistence of will and tenacity of pride. She could still call these resources to her aid to render her indestructible. Sitting slightly crouched, her hands clasped between her knees, her face drawn and momentarily older, her lips set, her eyes tracing absently the arabesques chased on the coffee-urn, she was inwardly urging her spirit to the buoyancy that cannot sink, to the vitality that rides on chaos. She was not actively or consciously doing this; in the strictest sense she was not doing it at all; it was doing itself, obscurely and spontaneously, by the operation of subliminal forces of which she knew almost nothing, and to which her personality bore no more than the relation of a mountain range to unrecordable volcanic fusions deep down in the earth.
When, after long withdrawal within herself, she changed her position, sighed, and glanced about her, she had a curious feeling of having traveled far, of looking back on the old familiar things from a long way off. The richly wrought silver, the cheerful Minton, the splendidly toned mahogany, the Goya etchings on the walls, things of no great value, but long ago acquired, treasured, loved, had suddenly become useless and irrelevant. She had not lost Tory Hill so much as passed beyond it--out into a condition where nothing that preceded it could count, and in which, so far as she was concerned, existence would have to be a new creation, called afresh out of that which was without form and void.
She experienced the same sensation, if it was a sensation, when, a half-hour later, she found herself roaming dreamily rather than restlessly about the house. She was not anticipating her farewell of it; it had only ceased to be a background, to have a meaning; it was like the scenery, painted and set, after the play is done. She herself had been removed elsewhere, projected into a sphere where the signs and seasons were so different from anything she had ever known as to afford no indications--where day did not necessarily induce light, nor night darkness, nor past experience knowledge. In the confounding of the perceptive powers and the reeling of the judgment which the new circumstances produced, she clung to her capacity to survive and dominate like a staggered man to a stanchion.
In the mean time she was not positively suffering from either shock or sorrow. From her personal point of view the loss of money was not of itself an overpowering calamity. It might entail the disruption of lifelong habits, but she was young enough not to be afraid of that. In spite of a way of living that might be said to have given her the best of everything, she had always known that her father's income was a small one for his position in the world. As a family they had been in the habit of associating on both sides of the Atlantic, with people whose revenues were twice and thrice and ten times their own. The obligation to keep the pace set by their equals had been recognized as a domestic hardship ever since she could remember, though it was a mitigating circumstance that in one way or another the money had always been found. Guion, Maxwell & Guion was a well which, while often threatening to run dry, had never failed to respond to a sufficiently energetic pumping. She had known the thought, however--fugitive, speculatory, not dwelt upon as a real possibility--that a day might come when it would do so no more.
It was a thought that went as quickly as it came, its only importance being that it never caused her a shudder. If it sometimes brought matter for reflection, it was in showing her to herself in a light in which, she was tolerably sure, she never appeared to anybody else--as the true child of the line of frugal forebears, of sea-scouring men and cheese-paring women, who, during nearly two hundred years of thrift, had put penny to penny to save the Guion competence. Standing in the cheerful "Colonial" hall which their stinting of themselves had made it possible to build, and which was still furnished chiefly with the objects--a settle, a pair of cupboards, a Copley portrait, a few chairs, some old decorative pottery--they had lived with, it afforded one more steadying element for her bewilderment to grasp at, to feel herself their daughter.
There was, indeed, in the very type of her beauty a hint of a carefully calculated, unwasteful adaptation of means to ends quite in the spirit of their sparing ways. It was a beauty achieved by nature apparently with the surest, and yet with the slightest, expenditure of energy--a beauty of poise, of line, of delicacy, of reserve--with nothing of the superfluous, and little even of color, beyond a gleam of chrysoprase in fine, gray eyes and a coppery, metallic luster in hair that otherwise would have passed as chestnut brown. It was a beauty that came as much from repose in inaction as from grace in movement, but of which a noticeable trait was that it required no more to produce it in the way of effort than in that of artifice. Through the transparent whiteness of the skin the blue of each clearly articulated vein and the rose of each hurrying flush counted for its utmost in the general economy of values.
It was in keeping with this restraint that in all her ways, her manners, her dress, her speech, her pride, there should be a meticulous simplicity. It was not the simplicity of the hedge-row any more than of the hothouse; it was rather that of some classic flower, lavender or crown-imperial, growing from an ancient stock in some dignified, long-tended garden. It was thus a simplicity closely allied to sturdiness--the inner sturdiness not inconsistent with an outward semblance of fragility--the tenacity of strength by which the lavender scents the summer and the crown-imperial adorns the spring, after the severest snows.
It was doubtless, this vitality, drawn from deep down in her native soil, that braced her now, to simply holding fast intuitively and almost blindly till the first force of the shock should have so spent itself that the normal working of the faculties might begin again. It was the something of which she had just spoken to her father--the something that might be pride but that was not wholly pride, which had never been taxed nor called on. She could not have defined it in a more positive degree; but even now, when all was confusion and disintegration, she was conscious of its being there, an untouched treasure of resources.
In what it supplied her with, however, there was no answer to the question that had been silently making itself urgent from the first word of her father's revelations: What was to happen with regard to her wedding? It took the practical form of dealing with the mere outward paraphernalia--the service, the bridesmaids, the guests, the feast. Would it be reasonable, would it be decent, to carry out rich and elaborate plans in a ruined house? Further than that she dared not inquire, though she knew very well there was still a greater question to be met. When, during the course of the morning, Drusilla Fane came to see her, Olivia broached it timidly, though the conversation brought her little in the way of help.
Knowing all she knew through the gossip of servants, Drusilla felt the necessity of being on her guard. She accepted Olivia's information that her father had met with losses as so much news, and gave utterance to sentiments of sympathy and encouragement. Beyond that she could not go. She was obliged to cast her condolences in the form of bald generalities, since she could make but a limited use of the name of Rupert Ashley as a source of comfort. More clearly than any one in their little group she could see what marriage with Olivia in her new conditions--the horrible, tragic conditions that would arise if Peter could do nothing--would mean for him. She weighed her words, therefore, with an exactness such as she had not displayed since her early days among the Sussex Rangers, measuring the little more and the little less as in an apothecary's balances.
"You see," Olivia said, trying to sound her friend's ideas, "from one point of view I scarcely know him."
"You know him well enough to be in love with him." Drusilla felt that that committed her to nothing.
"That doesn't imply much--not necessarily, that is. You can be in love with people and scarcely know them at all. And it often happens that if you knew them better you wouldn't be in love with them."
"And you know him well enough to be sure that he'll want to do everything right."
"Oh yes; I'm quite sure of that. I'm only uncertain that--everything right--would satisfy me."
Drusilla reflected. "I see what you mean. And, of course, you want to do--everything right--yourself."
Olivia glanced up obliquely under her lashes.
"I see what you mean, too."
"You mustn't see too much." Drusilla spoke hastily. She waited in some anxiety to see just what significance Olivia had taken from her words; but when the latter spoke it was to pass on to another point.
"You see, he didn't want to marry an American, in the first place."
"Well, no one forced him into that. That's one thing he did with his eyes open, at any rate."
"His doing it was a sort of--concession."
Drusilla looked at her with big, indignant eyes.
"Concession to what, for pity's sake?"
"Concession to his own heart, I suppose." Olivia smiled, faintly. "You see, all other things being equal, he would have preferred to marry one of his own countrywomen."
"It's six of one and half a dozen of the other. If he'd married one of his own countrywomen, the other things wouldn't have been equal. So there you are."
"But the other things aren't equal now. Don't you see? They're changed."
"You're not changed." Drusilla felt these words to be dangerous. It was a relief to her that Olivia should contradict them promptly.
"Oh yes, I am. I'm changed--in value. With papa's troubles there's a depreciation in everything we are."
Drusilla repeated these words to her father and mother at table when she went home to luncheon. "If she feels like that now," she commented, "what will she say when she knows all?--if she ever has to know it."
"But she hasn't changed," Mrs. Temple argued.
"It doesn't make any difference in her."
Drusilla shook her head. "Yes, it does, mother dear. You don't know anything about it."
"I know enough about it," Mrs. Temple declared, with some asperity, "to see that she will be the same Olivia Guion after her father has gone to prison as she was in the days of her happiness. If there's any change, it will be to make her a better and nobler character. She's just the type to be--to be perfected through suffering."
"Y-y-es," Drusilla admitted, her head inclined to one side. "That might be quite true in one way; but it wouldn't help Rupert Ashley to keep his place in the Sussex Rangers."
"Do you mean to say they'd make him give it up?"
"They wouldn't make him, mother dear. He'd only have to."
"Well, I never did! If that's the British army--"
"The British army is a very complicated institution. It fills a lot of different functions, and it's a lot of different things. It's one thing from the point of view of the regiment, and another from that of the War Office. It's one thing on the official side, and another on the military, and another on the social. You can't decide anything about it in an abstract, offhand way. Rupert Ashley might be a capital officer, and every one might say he'd done the honorable thing in standing by Olivia; and yet he'd find it impossible to go on as colonel of the Rangers when his father-in-law was in penal servitude. There it is in a nutshell. You can't argue about it, because that's the way it is."
Rodney Temple said nothing; but he probably had these words in his mind when he, too, early in the afternoon, made his way to Tory Hill. Olivia spoke to him of her father's losses, though her allusions to Colonel Ashley were necessarily more veiled than they had been with Mrs. Fane.
"The future may be quite different from what I expected. I can't tell yet for sure. I must see how things--work out."
"That's a very good way, my dear," the old man commended. "It's a large part of knowledge to know how to leave well enough alone. Nine times out of ten life works out better by itself than we can make it."
"I know I've got to feel my way," she said, meaning to agree with him.
"I don't see why."
She raised her eyebrows in some surprise. "You don't see--?"
"No, I don't. Why should you feel your way? You're not blind."
"I feel my way because I don't see it."
"Oh yes, you do--all you need to see."
"But I don't see any. I assure you it's all confusion."
"Not a bit, my dear. It's as plain as a pikestaff--for the next step."
"I don't know what you mean by the next step."
"I suppose the next step would be--well, let us say what you've got to do to-day. That's about as much ground as any one can cover with a stride. You see that, don't you? You've got to eat your dinner, and go to bed. That's all you've got to settle for the moment."
Her lips relaxed in a pale smile. "I'm afraid I must look a little farther ahead than that."
"What for? What good will it do? You won't see anything straight. It's no use trying to see daylight two hours before dawn. People are foolish enough sometimes to make the attempt, but they only strain their eyesight. For every step you've got to take there'll be something to show you the line to follow."
"What?" She asked the question chiefly for the sake of humoring him. She was not susceptible to this kind of comfort, nor did she feel the need of it.
"W-well," the old man answered, slowly, "it isn't easy to tell you in any language you'd understand."
"I can understand plain English, if that would do."
"You can make it do, but it doesn't do very well. It's really one of those things that require what the primitive Christians called an unknown tongue. Since we haven't got that as a means of communication--" He broke off, stroking his long beard with a big handsome hand, but presently began again.
"Some people call it a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Some people have described it by other figures of speech. The description isn't of importance--it's the Thing."
She waited a minute, before saying in a tone that had some awe in it, as well as some impatience: "Oh, but I've never seen anything like that. I never expect to."
"That's a pity; because it's there."
"Just where one would look for it--if one looked at all. When it moves," he went on, his hand suiting the action to the word, on a level with his eyes, "when it moves, you follow it, and when it rests, you wait. It's possible--I don't know--I merely throw out the suggestion--no one can really know but yourself, because no one but yourself can see it--but it's possible that at this moment--for you--it's standing still."
"I don't know what I gain either by its moving or its standing still, so long as I don't see it."
"No, neither do I," he assented, promptly.
"Well, then?" she questioned.
"Shall I tell you a little story?" He smiled at her behind his stringy, sandy beard, while his kind old eyes blinked wistfully.
"If you like. I shall be happy to hear it." She was not enthusiastic. She was too deeply engrossed with pressing, practical questions to find his mysticism greatly to the point.
He took a turn around the drawing-room before beginning, stopping to caress the glaze of one of the K'ang-hsi vases on the mantelpiece, while he arranged his thoughts.
"There was once a little people," he began, turning round to where she sat in the corner of a sofa, her hands clasped in her lap--"there was once a little people--a mere handful, who afterward became a race--who saw the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, and followed it. That is to say, some of them certainly saw it, enough of them to lead the others on. For a generation or two they were little more than a band of nomads; but at last they came to a land where they fought and conquered and settled down."
"Yes? I seem to have heard of them. Please go on."
"It was a little land, rather curiously situated between the Orient and the West, between the desert and the sea. It had great advantages both for seclusion within itself and communication with the world outside. If a divine power had wanted to nourish a tender shoot, till it grew strong enough to ripen seed that would blow readily into every corner of the globe, it probably couldn't have done better than to have planted it just there."
She nodded, to show that she followed him.
"But this little land had also the dangers attendant on its advantages. To the north of it there developed a great power; to the south of it another. Each turned greedy eyes on the little buffer state. And the little buffer state began to be very wise and politic and energetic. It said, 'If we don't begin to take active measures, the Assyrian, or the Egyptian, whoever gets here first, will eat us up. But if we buy off the one, he will protect us against the other.'"
"That seems reasonable."
"Yes; quite reasonable: too reasonable. They forgot that a power that could lead them by fire and cloud could protect them even against conscript troops and modern methods of fighting. They forgot that if so much trouble had been taken to put them where they were, it was not that--assuming that they behaved themselves--it was not that they might be easily rooted out. Instead of having confidence within they looked for an ally from without, and chose Egypt. Very clever; very diplomatic. There was only one criticism to be made on the course taken--that it was all wrong. There was a man on the spot to tell them so--one of those fellows whom we should call pessimists if we hadn't been taught to speak of them as prophets. 'You are carrying your riches,' he cried to them, 'on the shoulders of young asses, and your treasures on the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit you. For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose. Your strength is--to sit still!'" As he stood looking down at her his kindly eyes blinked for a minute longer, before he added, "Do you see the point?"
She smiled and nodded. "Yes. It isn't very obscure. Otherwise expressed it might be, When in doubt, do nothing."
"Exactly; do nothing--till the pillar of cloud begins to move."
Out of the old man's parable she extracted just one hint that she considered useful. In the letter which she proceeded to write Rupert Ashley as soon as she was alone, a letter that would meet him on his arrival in New York, she gave a statement of such facts as had come to her knowledge, but abstained from comments of her own, and from suggestions. She had intended to make both. She had thought it at first her duty to take the initiative in pointing out the gulf of difficulties that had suddenly opened up between her lover and herself. It occurred to her now that she might possibly discern the leading of the pillar of cloud from self-betrayal on his part. She would note carefully his acts, his words, the expressions of his face. She had little doubt of being able to read in them some indication of her duty. This in itself was a relief. It was like being able to learn a language instead of having to invent one. Nevertheless, as she finished her letter she was impelled to add:
"We have asked some three hundred people to the church for the 28th. Many of them will not be in town, as the season is still so early; but I think it wisest to withdraw all invitations without consulting you further. This will leave us free to do as we think best after you arrive. We can then talk over everything from the beginning."
With the hint thus conveyed she felt her letter to be discreetly worded. By the time she had slipped down the driveway to the box at the gate and posted it with her own hands her father had returned.
She had ordered tea in the little oval sitting-room they used when quite alone, and told the maid to say she was not receiving if anybody called. She knew her father would be tired, but she hoped that if they were undisturbed he would talk to her of his affairs. There was so much in them that was mysterious to her. Notwithstanding her partial recovery from the shock of the morning, she still felt herself transported to a world in which the needs were new to her, and the chain of cause and effect had a bewildering inconsequence. For this reason it seemed to her quite in the order of things--the curiously inverted order now established, in which one thing was as likely as another--that her father should stretch himself in a comfortable arm-chair and say nothing at all till after he had finished his second cup of tea. Even then he might not have spoken if her own patience had held out.
"So you didn't go away, after all," she felt it safe to observe.
"No, I didn't."
"Sha'n't you have to go?"
There was an instant's hesitation.
"Perhaps not. In fact--I may almost definitely say--not. I should like another cup of tea."
"That makes three, papa. Won't it keep you awake?"
"Nothing will keep me awake to-night."
The tone caused her to look at him more closely as she took the cup he handed back to her. She noticed that his eyes glittered and that in either cheek, above the line of the beard, there was a hectic spot. She adjusted the spirit-lamp, and, lifting the cover of the kettle, looked inside.
"Has anything happened?" she asked, doing her best to give the question a casual intonation.
"A great deal has happened." He allowed that statement to sink in before continuing. "I think"--he paused long--"I think I'm going to get the money."
She held herself well in hand, though at the words the old familiar landmarks of her former world seemed to rise again, rosily, mistily, like the walls of Troy to the sound of Apollo's lute. She looked into the kettle again to see if the water was yet boiling, taking longer than necessary to peer into the quiet depth.
"I'm so glad." She spoke as if he had told her he had shaken hands with an old friend. "I thought you would."
"Ah, but you never thought of anything like this."
"I knew it would be something pretty good. With your name, there wasn't the slightest doubt of it."
Had he been a wise man he would have let it go at that. He was not, however, a wise man. The shallow, brimming reservoir of his nature was of the kind that spills over at a splash.
"The most extraordinary thing has happened," he went on. "A man came to my office to-day and offered to lend me--no, not to lend--practically to give me--enough money to pull me through."
She held a lump of sugar poised above his cup with the sugar-tongs. Her astonishment was so great that she kept it there. The walls of the city which just now had seemed to be rising magically faded away again, leaving the same unbounded vacancy into which she had been looking out all day.
"What do you mean by--practically to give you?"
"The man said lend. But my name is good for even more than you supposed, since he knows, and I know, that I can offer him no security."
"How can he tell, then, that you'll ever pay it back?"
"He can't tell. That's just it."
"And can you tell?" She let the lump of sugar fall with a circle of tiny eddies into the cup of tea.
"I can tell--up to a point." His tone indicated some abatement of enthusiasm.
"Up to what point?"
"Up to the point that I'll pay it back--if I can. That's all he asks. As a matter of fact, he doesn't seem to care."
She handed him his cup. "Isn't that a very queer way to lend money?"
"Of course it's queer. That's why I'm telling you. That's what makes it so remarkable--such a--tribute--to me, I dare say that sounds fatuous, but--"
"It doesn't sound fatuous so much as--"
"So much as what?"
The distress gathering in her eyes prepared him for her next words before she uttered them.
"Papa, I shouldn't think you'd take it."
He stared at her dully. Her perspicacity disconcerted him. He had expected to bolster up the ruins of his honor by her delighted acquiescence. He had not known till now how much he had been counting on the justification of her relief. It was a proof, however, of the degree to which his own initiative had failed him that he cowered before her judgment, with little or no protest.
"I haven't said I'd take it--positively."
"Naturally. Of course you haven't."
He dabbled the spoon uneasily in his tea, looking downcast. "I don't quite see that," he objected, trying to rally his pluck, "why it should be--naturally."
"Oh, don't you? To me it's self-evident. We may have lost money, but we're still not--recipients of alms."
"This wasn't alms. It was four hundred and fifty thousand dollars."
She was plainly awe-struck. "That's a great deal; but I supposed it would be something large. And yet the magnitude of the sum only makes it the more impossible to accept."
"Y-es; of course--if you look at it in that way." He put back his cup on the table untasted.
"Surely it's the only way to look at it? Aren't you going to drink your tea?"
"No, I think not. I've had enough. I've--I've had enough--of everything."
He sank back wearily into the depths of his arm-chair. The glitter had passed from his eyes; he looked ill. He had clearly not enough courage to make a stand for what he wanted. She could see how cruelly he was disappointed. After all, he might have accepted the money and told her nothing about it! He had taken her into his confidence because of that need of expansion that had often led him to "give away" what a more crafty man would have kept to himself. She was profiting by his indiscretion to make what was already so hard for him still harder. Sipping her tea slowly, she turned the subject over and over in her mind, seeking some ground on which to agree with him.
She did this the more conscientiously, since she had often reproached herself with a fixity of principle that might with some show of reason be called too inflexible. Between right and wrong other people, especially the people of her "world," were able to see an infinitude of shadings she had never been able to distinguish. She half accepted the criticism often made of her in Paris and London that her Puritan inheritance had given an inartistic rigidity to her moral prospect. It inclined her to see the paths of life as ruled and numbered like the checker-board plan of an American city, instead of twisting and winding, quaintly and picturesquely, with round-about evasions and astonishing short-cuts, amusing to explore, whether for the finding or the losing of the way, as in any of the capitals long trodden by the feet of men. Between the straight, broad avenues of conduct, well lighted and well defined, there lay apparently whole regions of byways, in which those who could not easily do right could wander vaguely, without precisely doing wrong, following a line that might be termed permissible. Into this tortuous maze her spirit now tried to penetrate, as occasionally, to visit some historic monument, she had plunged into the slums of a medieval town.
It was an exercise that brought her nothing but a feeling of bewilderment. Having no sense of locality for this kind of labyrinth, she could only turn round and round confusedly. All she could do, when from the drooping of her father's lids she feared he was falling off to sleep, leaving the question unsettled, was to say, helplessly:
"I suppose you'll be sorry now for having told me."
He lifted his long lashes, that were like a girl's, and looked at her. The minutes that had passed had altered his expression. There was again a sparkle of resolve, perhaps of relief, in his glance. Without changing his position, he spoke drowsily, and yet reassuringly, like a man with a large and easy grasp of the situation. She was not sure whether it was a renewal of confidence on his part or a bit of acting.
"No, dear, no. I wanted to get your point of view. It's always interesting to me. I see your objections--of course. I may say that I even shared some of them--till--"
She allowed him a minute in which to resume, but, as he kept silence, she ventured to ask:
"Does that mean that you don't share them now?"
"I see what there is to be said--all round. It isn't to be expected, dear, that you, as a woman, not used to business--"
"Oh, but I didn't understand that this was business. That's just the point. To borrow money might be business--to borrow it on security, you know, or whatever else is the usual way--but not to take it as a present."
He jerked himself up into a forward posture. When he replied to her, it was with didactic, explanatory irritation.
"When I said that, I was legitimately using language that might be called exaggerated. Hyperbole is, I believe, the term grammarians use for it. I didn't expect you, dear, to take me up so literally. It isn't like you. You generally have more imagination. As a matter of fact, Davenant's offer was that of a loan--"
"Oh! So it was--that man?"
"Yes; it was he. He expressly spoke of it as a loan. I myself interpreted it as a gift simply to emphasize its extraordinary generosity. I thought you'd appreciate that. Do you see?"
"Perfectly, papa; and it's the extraordinary generosity that seems to me just what makes it impossible. Why should Mr. Davenant be generous to us? What does he expect to gain?"
"I had that out with him. He said he didn't expect to gain anything."
"And you believed him?"
"Partly; though I suppose he has something up his sleeve. It wasn't my policy to question him too closely about that. It's not altogether my first concern. I need the money."
"But you don't need the money--in that way, papa?"
"I need it in any way. If Davenant will let me have it--especially on such terms--I've no choice but to take it."
"Oh, don't, papa. I'm sure it isn't right. I--I don't like him."
"Pff! What's that got to do with it? This is business."
"No, papa. It's not business. It's a great deal more--or a great deal less--I don't know which."
"You don't know anything about it at all, dear. You may take that from me. This is a man's affair. You really must leave it to me to deal with it." Once more he fell back into the depth of his arm-chair and closed his eyes. "If you don't mind, I think I should like a little nap. What have you got so especially against Davenant, anyhow?"
"I've nothing against him--except that I've never liked him."
"What do you know about him? When did you ever see him?"
"I haven't seen him for years--not since Drusilla used to bring him to dances, when we were young girls. She didn't like it particularly, but she had to do it because he was her father's ward and had gone to live with them. He was uncouth--aggressive. Wasn't he a foundling, or a street Arab, or something like that? He certainly seemed so. He wasn't a bit--civilized. And once he--he said something--he almost insulted me. You wouldn't take his money now, papa?"
There was no answer. He breathed gently. She spoke more forcibly.
"Papa, you wouldn't let a stranger pay your debts?"
He continued to breathe gently, his eyes closed, the long black lashes curling on his cheek.
"Papa, darling," she cried, "I'll help you. I'll take everything on myself. I'll find a way--somehow. Only, don't do this."
He stirred, and murmured sleepily.
"You attend to your wedding, dear. That'll be quite enough for you to look after."
"But I can't have a wedding if Mr. Davenant has to pay for it. Don't you see? I can't be married at all."
When he made no response to this shot, she understood finally that he meant to let the subject drop.