The Douglas Novels
By AMANDA M. DOUGLAS Cloth New uniform binding Per volume $1.00
BETHIA WRAY'S NEW NAME THE HEIR OF BRADLEY HOUSE OSBORNE OF ARROCHAR CLAUDIA FROM HAND TO MOUTH HOME NOOK HOPE MILLS IN TRUST WHOM KATHIE MARRIED THE FORTUNES OF THE FARADAYS LOST IN A GREAT CITY NELLY KINNARD'S KINGDOM OUT OF THE WRECK STEPHEN DANE SYDNIE ADRIANCE IN WILD ROSE TIME IN THE KING'S COUNTRY A WOMAN'S INHERITANCE FLOYD GRANDON'S HONOR THE OLD WOMAN WHO LIVED IN A SHOE FOES OF HER HOUSEHOLD A MODERN ADAM AND EVE IN A GARDEN SEVEN DAUGHTERS
LEE AND SHEPARD Publishers BOSTON
* * * * *
FLOYD GRANDON'S HONOR
AMANDA M. DOUGLAS
Author of "In Trust," "The Old Woman who lived in a Shoe," Etc.
Boston Lee and Shepard Publishers 1899
Copyright, 1883, By Lee and Shepard. All rights reserved.
DR. AND MRS. THEO. R. LUFF.
Through silent spaces hands may be outstretched, Remembrance blossom in dim atmospheres; Friends are not less the friends though far apart; They count the loss and gain of vanished years.
FLOYD GRANDON'S HONOR.
"There is a courtesy of the heart. Is it akin to love?"—GOETHE..
It is the perfection of summer, early June, before the roses have shaken off their sweetness, and Grandon Park is lovely enough to compare with places whose beauty is an accretion of centuries rather than the work of decades. Yet these grand old trees and this bluff, with a strata of rock manifest here and there, are much older than the pretty settlement lying at its base. The quaint house of rough, gray stone, with a tower and a high balcony hung out at irregular intervals, the windows and angles and the curious pointed roof, stamp it as something different from the Swiss villas and cottage ornees at its feet.
Not very near, though; there is a spacious lawn and a wide drive, a grove of trees that can shut out intrusive neighbors to the south, as well as another dense thicket northward. There is the road at a distance on one side, and the broad, beautiful river on the other. Down below, a mile, perhaps, a rocky point juts out into the river, up above another, so this forms a kind of indentation, an exclusive sort of bay for the dwellers therein, and the whole rather aristocratic settlement is put down on the railway map as Grandon Park.
But it is at the stone house on its very brow where the master, Floyd Grandon, is expected home to-day after years of wandering and many changes. In the library his mother and sisters are gathered. It is a favorite place with Gertrude, who spends her days on the sofa reading. Marcia much affects her own "study," up under the eaves, but to-day she is clothed and in her right mind, free from dabs of paint or fingers grimed with charcoal and crayons. Laura is always Laura, a stylish young girl, busy with the strip of an extremely elegant carriage robe, and Mrs. Grandon, a handsome woman past fifty, has a bit of embroidery in her hands. She seems never exactly idle, but now she holds her work and listens, then drops into musing.
"I wonder what can be the matter?" she exclaims presently. "It is full half an hour behind time," looking at her watch.
"Are you in a hurry?" asks a languid voice from the luxurious Turkish lounge.
"Gertrude! How heartless you are! When we have not seen Floyd for seven years!" in a tone of reproach.
"If he were only coming alone——"
"And if we did know whether he is married or not!"
This young, impatient voice is Laura's. Not that it will make any great difference to her.
"We cannot dispossess Floyd," says Marcia, in a queer, caustic tone. "And a new mistress——"
Marcia has a great gift for making people uncomfortable.
"You seem so certain that he has married her," the mother comments in a kind of incredulous impatience.
"Well, he was in love with her before. And now their travelling together, his bringing her here, look wonderfully like it."
"Well, what then? She is rich, handsome, an elegant society woman, and just your age, Gertrude."
That rather stings the pale, listless woman on the lounge, who knows her mother's ambition has been sorely crossed by these single daughters.
"Not quite, mother mine. Even six months is something. She will not be able to twit me with seniority."
"But she may with the fact that she has been twice married," says Marcia.
"I am glad I shall be out of the way of all complications," announces Laura, in a joyous tone. "But for mourning and the miserable lack of money I should have been married sooner."
"Laura! At least you owe some respect to your father's memory!" the mother retorts sharply.
"Nevertheless, I am glad not to be dependent upon Floyd. And, mamma, you surely ought to rejoice at the prospect of having one daughter well married," with a little exultant ring in her voice. She is only eighteen, and has captured both wealth and position, and is longing so ardently to try her new world. These Grandon girls are not particularly amiable with one another. Indeed, life seems to have gone wrong with all of them, and they feel that Floyd alone is to be envied, thanks to great Aunt Marcia.
"There!" the mother exclaims suddenly, then rising, hurries out on the balcony. A carriage has turned into the drive, it sweeps around the gravelled walk with a crunching sound, and the beautiful bays are drawn up at the very edge of the wide stone steps with a masterly hand.
"Here we are!" cries a young man of one or two and twenty. "There was a slight accident to the down train and a detention. And I absolutely did not know Floyd!"
A tall, finely formed man of thirty or so springs out with an elastic step and clasps Mrs. Grandon in his arms. "My dear, dear mother!" is all that is said for a moment, and their lips meet with a tenderness that comforts the mother's heart.
Then he looks a little uncertainly at the two behind her.
"This is Laura, the child when you went away. It is almost nine years since you have seen her. And Marcia."
"How odd to be introduced to your own brother!" laughs Laura. "But, Floyd, you look like a Turkish pasha or an Arabian emir." And she eyes him with undisguised admiration.
Gertrude now crawls slowly out in a long white cashmere robe, with a pale blue fleecy wrap about her shoulders. She looks tall and ghostly, and her brother's heart fills with pity, as he seems more closely drawn to her than to the others.
Then there is a curious little halt, and with one accord they glance toward the carriage. Floyd flushes under all his wealth of bronze.
"Oh," he says, suddenly, "I have brought you an old friend. I could not bear to leave her in a great city among strangers, and promised her a welcome with you. Indeed, I do not believe she has any 'nearer of kin,' after all."
They all take a step forward, still in wonder. Floyd hands her out,—a very elegant woman, who is one handsome and harmonious line, from the French hat down to the faultless kid boot.
"I told Mr. Grandon it would be awkward and out of order," she says in a slow, melodious voice that has a peculiar lingering cadence. "But he is most imperious," and her smile dazzles them. "And you must pardon me for allowing myself to be persuaded. It was so tempting to come among friends."
Clearly she is not his wife now, whatever she may be in the future. Mrs. Grandon draws a breath of relief, and there is a pleasant confusion of welcome.
"Yes, I told her such scruples were foolish," says Floyd, in a straightforward way that is almost abrupt. Then turning to the carriage, adds, "And here is my little English daughter, Cecil!"
"O Floyd! what a lovely child! Does she really belong to you?" And Laura glances from one to the other, then dashes forward and clasps Cecil, who shrinks away and clings to her father.
"She is rather shy," he says, half proudly, half in apology; but Laura, who does not care a fig for children in general, kisses Cecil in spite of resistance. "Mother, I have added to your dignity by bringing home a granddaughter." Then, with a tender inflection, "This is grandmamma, Cecil."
Cecil allows herself to be kissed this time without resistance but she clings tightly to her father.
"What magnificent eyes! true twilight tint, and such hair! Floyd, how odd to think of you as——"
"You are warm and tired," Mrs. Grandon is saying. "Your rooms are ready up-stairs."
"Don't send away the carriage, Eugene," cries Laura, "I want it a little while." Then she follows the small throng up the broad steps and into the spacious hall, while the visitor is keeping up a delicate little conversation with her hostess. Gertrude looks old and faded beside this regal woman. Perhaps she feels it, for she goes back to her couch and her novel.
"Oh," exclaims Eugene, springing up the steps two at a time, "here is Madame Lepelletier's satchel! You left it in the carriage," handing it to her.
They are all relieved to actually hear her name. Laura leads her to the state chamber, which has been put in elegant order for a possible bride. Then her trunk is sent up, and Laura flits about as only a woman can, uttering gracious little sentences, until, finally excusing herself, she runs down to the carriage and is whirled away upon her errand.
Mrs. Grandon has followed her son to his room. He is master of the house and yet he has never been possessor. Almost ten years ago it was being finished and furnished for the splendid woman in the opposite room, and by a strange travesty of fate he has brought her here to-day. But he has no time for retrospection. He hardly hears what his mother is saying as he stands his little girl on a chair by the window and glances out.
"Yes," he returns, rather absently. "It will be all right. How wonderfully lovely this spot is, mother! I had no real conception of it. What would Aunt Marcia say to see it now? It is worthy of being handed down to the third and fourth generation."
"What a pity your child is not a boy, Floyd; you would have nothing more to ask," his mother says, fervently wishing it had been so.
"I would not have Cecil changed," he responds, with almost jealous quickness. "Where is Jane?" and the young girl lingering in the hall presents herself. "We shall just shake off a little of the dust of travel and come down, for I am all curiosity to inspect the place."
"Will this room do for your little girl and her nurse?" asks Mrs. Grandon. "We hardly knew what arrangements to make——"
"Yes, it is all very nice. Our luggage will be up presently; there was too much for us," and he smiles. "What are your household arrangements?"
"Dinner is at six generally. I delayed it awhile to-night, and now I must go and look after it."
"Thank you for all the trouble." He clasps both of his mother's hands in his and kisses her again. He has dreaded his return somewhat, and now he is delighted to be here.
Down-stairs Gertrude and Marcia have had a small skirmish of words.
"So he isn't married," the former had said, triumphantly.
"But engaged, no doubt. He wouldn't bring her here if there was not something in it."
"I would never forgive her for throwing me over," declares Gertrude.
"But it is something to have been a countess, and she is wonderfully handsome, not a bit fagged out by a sea voyage. Why, she doesn't look much older than Laura. Women of that kind always carry all before them, and men forgive everything to them."
"Floyd doesn't look like a marrying man."
"Much you know about it!" says Marcia, contemptuously. Then hearing her mother's steps, she rejoins her in the long dining-room, where the meal is being prepared in a style that befits the handsome mansion. The table is elegant with plate, cut glass, and china. Mrs. Grandon is lighter of heart now that she knows she is not to be deposed immediately. If the child only were a boy there would be no need of Floyd marrying, and it vexes her.
Laura returns in high good-humor, having done her errand quite to her satisfaction. The bell rings and they gather slowly. Madame Lepelletier is more enchanting still in some soft black fabric, with dull gold in relief. Floyd has washed and brushed and freshened, but still wears his travelling suit for a very good reason. Cecil is in white, with pale blue ribbons, which give her a sort of seraphic look. Yet she is tired with all the jaunting about, and after a while Laura ceases to torment her with questions, as the conversation becomes more general.
While the dessert is being brought in, Cecil touches her father's arm gently.
"I am so sleepy," in the lowest of low tones. Indeed, she can hardly keep her lovely eyes open.
"Will you call Miss Cecil's maid?" he says to the waiter, and, kissing her, gives her into Jane's arms.
"How beautifully that child behaves!" says Gertrude, with sudden animation. "I am not fond of children, but I am quite sure I shall like her."
"I hope you will," her brother answers, with a smile.
"Mr. Grandon deserves much credit," rejoins Madame Lepelletier. "Fathers are so apt to indulge, and Cecil is extremely bewitching. Could you really say 'no' to her?" And the lady smiles over to him.
"If it was for her good. But Cecil's aunt must have the credit of her training." Then he goes back to a former subject, and they sit over their dessert until dusk, when they adjourn to the drawing-room opposite, where the lamps are lighted. Gertrude, as usual, takes a couch. Floyd and his mother pair off, and somehow Laura finds herself growing extremely confidential with their elegant guest, who soon helps her to confess that she is on the eve of marriage.
"Of course we had to wait for Floyd to come home," she goes on. "The property has to be settled, and mamma insists that now Floyd is head of the family and all that. But I was engaged before papa died, and we were to have been married in the spring," at which she sighs. "And I do so want to get to Newport before the season is over. But Floyd is something to papa's will—executor, isn't it?—and we cannot have any money until he takes it in hand."
"How long he has been away!" says Madame Lepelletier, with a soft half-sigh. She would like to believe that she had something to do with it, but the English wife stands rather in the way.
"Yes; he was coming home as soon as his little girl was born, but then his wife died and he joined an exploring expedition, and has been rambling about the world ever since, with no bother of anything. How nice it must be to have plenty of money!" And Laura's sigh is in good earnest.
"You are right there," adds Eugene, who is smoking out on the balcony. "Floyd, old chap, is to be envied. I wish I had been Aunt Marcia's pet, or even half favorite. Business is my utter detestation, I admit. I must persuade Floyd to change about."
"And that makes me think of the wonderful changes here. Why, Grandon Park is a perfect marvel of beauty, and I left it an almost wilderness. I should never have known the place. But the location is really magnificent. Ten years have improved it beyond all belief. I suppose there is some very nice society?"
"In the summer, yes, and yet every one is anxious to get away," returns Laura, with a short laugh.
Marcia joins the circle and the harmony seems broken. Madame Lepelletier wonders why they so jar upon each other. She has been trained to society's suavity, and they seem quite like young barbarians.
Floyd and his mother talk a little at the lower end of the room, then she proposes they shall take the library.
"Or better still," says he, "get a shawl and let us have a turn outside. The moon is just coming up."
She obeys with alacrity. They cross the sloping lawn almost down to the river's edge. Floyd lights a cigar, after learning that it will not be disagreeable. He glances up and down the river, flecked here and there with a drowsy sail or broken with the plash of oars. Over on the opposite shore the rugged rocks rise frowningly, then break in depressions, through which clumps of cedars shine black and shadowy. Why, he has not seen much in Europe that can excel this! His heart swells with a sense of possession. For the first time in his life his very soul thrills with a far-reaching, divine sense of home.
"I am so glad to have you at last, Floyd," his mother says again, remembering her own perplexities. "Nothing could be done about the business until you came. Floyd," suddenly, "I hope you will not feel hurt at—at what your father thought best to do. Aunt Marcia provided for you."
"Yes, nobly, generously. If you mean that my father divided the rest among you all, he only did what was right, just."
There is no uncertain ring in the tone, and she is greatly relieved.
"Poor father! I had counted on being a stay to him in his declining years, as I should have returned in any event in another year or two. I should like to have seen him once more."
"He left many messages for you, and there is a packet of instructions that I suppose explains his wishes. You see he did not really think of dying; we all considered him improving until that fatal hemorrhage. The business is left to Eugene. Then there are legacies and incomes,"—with a rather hopeless sigh.
"Don't feel troubled about it, mother dear. I suppose Eugene likes the business?" in a cheery tone.
"No, I am afraid not very well. He is young, you know, and has had no real responsibility. O Floyd, I hope you will be patient with him!"
"To be sure I will." Patience seems a very easy virtue just now. "There is the partner?"
"Yes, Mr. Wilmarth. And a Mr. St. Vincent has an interest, and there is a good deal about machinery that I do not understand——"
"Never mind. Let us talk about the girls. Gertrude looks but poorly. She has never rallied over her unfortunate love."
"I think she always expected to hear something, and would make no effort. She is not really ill. It is only allowing one's self to collapse. She ought to have done better, for she was really beautiful. I thought her prettier than Irene Stanwood in those old days, but no one would fancy her the older now."
Mrs. Grandon feels her way very cautiously. She is not at all sure what her son's relations with this handsome guest are, or may be, and she desires to keep on the safe side.
"Isn't she marvellous?" He stops suddenly in his slow pacing. "When I stumbled over her in Paris she seemed to me like some of the strange old stories of woman blessed with unfading youth. And yet I do not believe she had a really satisfying life with her count and his family. It must have been something else, some rare, secret philosophy. Yet she seemed so sort of friendless in one way, and was coming to America for the settlement of the business, so I thought we might as well have her here for a little while. I wonder if it will annoy you?" he asks quickly.
"Oh, no!" she answers in a careless tone. "You are the only one who would be annoyed."
"My epidermis has thickened since those days," he returns, with a laugh. "What an unlucky lot we were! Gertrude, Marcia, and I, all crossed in our first loves! I hope Laura's fate will be better."
"Laura's prospects are very bright," says the mother, in a kind of exultant tone. "She is engaged to a young man every way unexceptionable, and was to have been married in the spring. She is very anxious now—you see no one can have any money until——"
"I can soon straighten such a bother. When would she like——"
"Mr. Delancy is very impatient now. It would be mortifying to confess that only a matter of wedding clothes stands between, when everything else is desirable."
"Consider that settled then."
"O Floyd! Laura will be so delighted!" There is relief in her tone, as well. A great anxiety has been dispelled.
The bell in the village up above peals off ten, and the still air brings it down with a touch of soft mystery.
"We ought to go back to the house," confesses the mother. "And I dare say you are tired, Floyd?"
"I have had a rather fatiguing day," he admits, though he feels as if he could fling himself down on the fragrant grass and stay there all night. It would not be the first time he has slept under a canopy of stars.
They retrace their steps, and Mrs. Grandon apologizes to her guest, who is sweetness itself, quite different from the Irene Stanwood of the past. There is a stir, and everybody admits that it is time to retire.
Floyd intercepts Laura in the hall, and wonders he has not remarked the flash of the diamond earlier, as she raises her plump hand.
"Mother has been telling me," he says, with a wise, curious smile. "Let me congratulate you. To-morrow we will talk it over and arrange everything. I will be your banker for the present. Only—are you quite sure I shall like the young man?" And he holds her in a tender clasp.
"You cannot help it! O Floyd, how good you are, and how very, very happy it makes me! I began to feel afraid that I had come under the family ban."
"Dismiss all fears." He thinks her a very pretty young girl as she stands there, and he is pleased that his return is bringing forth good fruit so soon.
There is a pleasant confusion of good nights and good wishes, the great hall doors are shut, and they all troop up the wide walnut staircase quite as if an evening party had broken up. Floyd Grandon, though not a demonstrative man, lingers to give his mother a parting kiss, and is glad that he has returned to comfort her.
When a woman has ceased to be quite the same to us, it matters not how different she becomes.—W. S. LANDOR.
The house is still. Every one is shut in with his or her thoughts. Floyd Grandon goes to the bed of his little girl, where Jane sits watching in an uncertain state, since everything is so new and strange.
How lovely the child is! The rosy lips are parted, showing the pearly teeth, the face is a little flushed with warmth, one pale, pink-tinted ear is like a bit of sculpture, the dimpled shoulder, the one dainty bare foot outside the spread, seem parts of a cherub. He presses it softly; he kisses the sweet lips that smile. Is it really the sense of ownership that makes her so dear?
He has never experienced this jealous, overwhelming tenderness for anything human. He loves his mother with all a son's respect, and has a peculiar sympathy for her. If his father were alive he knows they would be good comrades to stand by each other, to have a certain positive faith and honor in each other's integrity. His brother and sisters—well, he has never known them intimately, even as one gets to know friends, but he will take them upon trust. Then there are two women,—the mother of his child, and that affluent, elegant being across the hall. Does his heart warm to her? And yet she might have been mistress here and the mother of his children. The "might have been" in his thought would comfort his mother greatly, who is wondering, as she moves restlessly on her pillow, if it may not yet be.
Floyd Grandon's story comprehends all the rest, so I will give that.
Some sixty years before this, two sturdy Englishmen and their sister had come to the New World, with a good deal of energy and some money. The freak that led them up the river to this place was their love of beautiful scenery. Land was cheap, and at first they tried farming, but presently they started a carpet factory, their old business, and being ingenious men, they made some improvements. Ralph Stanwood, another Englishman, joined them. They placed their business two miles farther up, where there were facilities for docks and the privileges they desired.
William Grandon married, but only one of his children reached maturity. James and his sister Marcia lived in an old farm-house, single, prudent, turning everything into money, and putting it into land. When James died he left his business to his brother and his share of the farm to Marcia. When William died the business went to his son James, except the small share belonging to Stanwood.
James married a stylish young woman who never quite suited Aunt Marcia. They lived in the new village in a pretentious house, and came out now and then to the farm. There were five children, and the second girl was named after the great-aunt, who dowered her with a hundred dollars, to be put in the bank, and a handsome christening robe, then took no further special notice of her.
But she liked Floyd, the eldest son, and he was never weary of roaming about the old place and listening through the long evenings to matters she had known of in England, and places she had seen.
"Aunt Marcia," he said one day, "just up on that ridge would be a splendid place to build a castle. All the stone could be quarried out around here. I wish you'd let me build it when I am a man."
She laughed a little, and took a good survey of the place.
Some days after she questioned her nephew about his plans.
"Bring Eugene up to the business," she said, briefly. "Four will be enough for your purse. I will look after Floyd."
Miss Grandon might be queer and unsocial, but she was no niggard. All the friends of her own day were gone, and she had no gift for making new ones, but her grand-nephew grew into her heart.
His mother watched this with a curious jealousy.
"If she had only taken one of the girls! Marcia ought to belong there."
"Nonsense!" replied her husband. "It would be a dull home for a girl. Let her have Floyd. The lad is fond of her, and she loves him. I never knew her to love one of her own sex."
Floyd was sent to college, but the idea of the castle grew in Aunt Marcia's brain. Towns and villages were spreading up the river, and one day she was offered what seemed a fabulous sum for her old home of rocky woodlands. She was still shrewd, if she had come to fourscore, and offered them half, on her own terms, holding off with the most provoking indifference until they came to an agreement. Then she announced her intention of building a home for Floyd, who was to be her heir.
"The property ought to be yours, James," Mrs. Grandon said, with some bitterness. "Why should she set Floyd above all the rest?"
"My dear,—as if it really made any difference!"
But the mother did look on with a rather jealous eye. Floyd came home, and they discussed plans, viewed every foot of soil, selected the finest spot, had the different kinds of rock examined, and finally discovered the right place for a quarry. There was so much preliminary work that they did not really commence until the ensuing spring, and the foundation only had been laid when Floyd's vacation came around again. Meanwhile, houses below them seemed to spring up as if by magic. The mystery and fame of the "castle" helped. No one knew quite what it was going to be, and the strange old lady intensified the whole.
There was no special haste about it, though Floyd was so interested that he had half a mind to throw up his last year at college, but Aunt Marcia would not agree, and he graduated with honors. Meanwhile the house progressed, and if it did not quite reach the majesty of a castle, it was a very fine, substantial building. Floyd threw himself into the project now with all his energy. They would be quite detached from their neighbors by the little grove Aunt Marcia had left standing. There were walks and drives to build, lawns to lay out, new gardens to plan, but before it was all completed Aunt Marcia, who had been a little ailing for several weeks, dropped suddenly out of life, fondly loved and deeply regretted by her grand-nephew.
Her will showed that she had planned not to have her name perish with her. The house and several acres of ground were to constitute the Grandon estate proper. This was to be used by Floyd during his life and then to descend to his eldest son living. If he left no sons, and Eugene should have a male descendant, he was to be the heir. If neither had sons, it was to go in the female line, provided such heir took the name of Grandon. The rest of the property was left unconditionally to Floyd, with the exception of one thousand dollars apiece to the children.
Floyd was at this period two-and-twenty, a rather grave and reserved young man, with no special predilection for society. And yet, to the great surprise of his mother, Irene Stanwood captured him and rather cruelly flaunted her victory in the faces of all the Grandons. Yet there really could be no objection. She was a handsome, well-educated girl, with some fortune of her own and a considerable to come from her mother.
Mrs. Stanwood and her daughter went abroad, where Floyd was to meet them presently, when whatever they needed for foreign adornment of their house would be selected. They heard of Miss Stanwood being a great success at Paris, her beauty and breeding gaining her much favor. And then, barely six months later, an elegant Parisian count presented a temptation too great to be resisted. Miss Stanwood threw over Floyd Grandon and became Madame la Comtesse.
Essentially honest and true himself, this was a great shock to Floyd Grandon, but he learned afterward that principle and trust had been more severely wounded than love. His regard had been a young man's preference rather than any actual need of loving. Indeed, he was rather shocked to think how soon he did get over the real pain, and how fast his views of life changed.
Meanwhile Gertrude lived out a brief romance. A fascinating lover of good family and standing, a little gay and extravagant, perhaps, but the kind to win a girl's whole soul, and Gertrude gave him every thought. While the wedding day was being considered, a misdeed of such magnitude came to light that the young man was despatched to China with all possible haste to avoid a worse alternative, and Gertrude was left heart-broken. Then Marcia, young and giddy, half compromised herself with an utterly unworthy admirer, and Mrs. Grandon's cup of bitterness was full to overflowing.
Floyd leased his quarry on advantageous terms, and offered to take his mother and two sisters abroad. This certainly was some compensation. Marcia soon forgot her griefs, and even Gertrude was roused to interest. At some German baths the ladies met Madame la Comtesse, and were indebted to her for an act of friendliness. At Paris they met her again, and here Floyd had occasion to ask himself with a little caustic satire if he had really loved her? She had grown handsomer, she was proud of her rank and station and the homage laid at her feet.
The Grandons returned home and took possession of Floyd's house. He went on to Egypt, the Holy Land, and India. He was beginning to take the true measure of his manhood, his needs and aims, to meet and mingle with people who could stir what was best in him, and rouse him to the serious purposes of life, when another incident occurred that might have made sad havoc with his plans.
While at an English army station he met a very charming widow, with a young step-daughter, who was shortly to return to England. Cecil Trafford admired him with a girl's unreason, and at last committed such an imprudence that the astute step-mother, seeing her opportunity, proposed the only reparation possible,—marriage. Cecil was a bright, pretty, wilful girl, and he liked her, yet he had a strong feeling of being outgeneralled.
That she loved him he could not doubt, and they were married, as he intended to return to England. But her fondness was that of a child, and sometimes grew very wearisome. She was petulant, but not ill-tempered; the thing she cried for to-day she forgot to-morrow.
She had one sister much older than herself, married to a clergyman and settled in Devonshire. Floyd sought them out, and found them a most charming household. Mr. Garth was a strongly intellectual man, and his house was a centre for the most entertaining discussions. Mrs. Garth had a decided gift for music, and was a well-balanced, cultivated woman. They lingered month after month, gravitating between London and the Garths', until Cecil's child was born. A few weeks later Cecil's imprudence cost her life. Floyd Grandon came down from London to find the eager, restless little thing still and calm as any sculptured marble. He was so glad then that he had been indulgent to her whims and caprices.
He was quite at liberty now to join an expedition to Africa that he had heroically resisted before. Mrs. Garth kept the child. Announcing his new plans to his mother, he set off, and for the next four years devoted himself to the joys and hardships of a student traveller.
He was deep in researches of the mysterious lore of Egypt when a letter that had gone sadly astray reached him, announcing his father's death and the necessity of his return home. Leaving a friend to complete one or two unfinished points, he reluctantly tore himself away, and yet with a pang that after all it was too late to be of any real service to his father, that he could never comfort his declining years as he had Aunt Marcia's.
He had some business in Paris, and crossing the channel he met Madame Lepelletier. She was a widow and childless. The title and estate had gone to a younger son, though she had a fair provision. She had received the announcement of Mr. Grandon's death and the notice of settlement, and was on her way to America. A superbly handsome woman now, but Grandon had seen many another among charming society women. He was not in any sense a lady's man. His little taste of matrimony had left a bitter flavor in his mouth.
She admitted to herself that he was very distinguished looking. The slender fairness of youth was all outgrown. Compact, firm, supple, with about the right proportion of flesh, bronzed, with hair and beard darker than of yore, and that decisive aspect a man comes to have who learns by experience to rely upon his own judgment.
"I am on my way thither," he announced, in a crisp, business-like manner. "It is high time I returned home, though a man with no ties could spend his life amid the curiosities of the ancient civilizations. But my mother needs me, and I have a little girl in England."
"Ah?" with a faint lifting of the brows that indicated curiosity.
"I was married in India, but my wife died in England, where our child was born," he said briefly, not much given to mysteries. "An aunt has been keeping her. She must be about five," he adds more slowly.
Madame Lepelletier wondered a little about the marriage. Had the grief at his wife's death plunged him into African wilds?
They spent two or three days in London, and she decided to wait for the next steamer and go over with him, as he frankly admitted that he knew nothing about children, except as he had seen them run wild. So he despatched a letter home, recounting the chance meeting and announcing their return, little dreaming of the suspicions it might create.
Floyd Grandon found a lovely fairy awaiting him in the old Devonshire rectory. Tall for her age, exquisitely trained, possessing something better than her mother's infantile prettiness. Eyes of so dark a gray that in some lights they were black, and hair of a soft ripe-wheat tint, fine and abundant. But the soul and spirit in her face drew him toward her more than the personal loveliness. She was extremely shy at first, though she had been taught to expect papa, but the strangeness wore off presently.
They were very loth to give her up, and Mrs. Garth exacted a promise that in her girlhood she might have her again. But when they were fairly started on their journey Cecil was for a while inconsolable. Grandon was puzzled. She seemed such a strange, sudden gift that he knew not what to do. At Liverpool they met Madame Lepelletier, but all her tenderness was of no avail. Cecil did not cry now, but utterly refused to be comforted by this stranger.
It was to her father that she turned at last. That night she crept into his arms of her own accord, and sobbed softly on his shoulder.
"Can I never have Auntie Dora again?" she asked, pitifully.
"My little darling, in a long, long while. But there will be new aunties and a grandmamma."
"I don't want any one but just you." And she kissed him with a trembling eagerness that touched his heart. Suddenly a new and exquisite emotion thrilled him. This little morsel of humanity was all his. She had nothing in the world nearer, and there was no other soul to which he could lay entire claim.
After that she was a curious study to him. Gentle, yet in some respects firm to obstinacy, with a dainty exclusiveness that was extremely flattering, and that somehow he came to like, to enjoy with a certain pride.
As for Madame Lepelletier, she was rather amused at first to have her advances persistently repelled, her tempting bonbons refused, and though she was not extravagantly fond of children, she resolved to conquer this one's diffidence or prejudice, she could not quite decide which.
One day, nearly at the close of their journey, she teased Cecil by her persistence until the child answered with some anger.
"Cecil!" exclaimed Mr. Grandon, quickly.
The pretty child hung her head.
"Go and kiss Madame Lepelletier and say you are sorry. Do you know that was very rude?" said her father.
"I don't want to be kissed. I told her so," persisted the child, resolutely.
"It is such a trifle," interposed madame, with a charming smile. "And I am not sure but we ought to train little girls to be chary of their kisses. There! I will not see her teased." And the lady, rising, walked slowly away.
"Cecil!" the tone was quietly grave now.
The large eyes filled with tears, but she made no motion to relent.
"Very well," he said. "I shall not kiss my little girl until she has acted like a lady."
Cecil turned to Jane with a swelling heart. But an hour or two afterward the cunning little thing climbed her father's knee, patted his cheek with her soft fingers, parted the brown mustache, and pressed her sweet red lips to his with arch temptation.
He drew back a trifle. "Do you remember what papa said, Cecil? Will you go and kiss madame?"
The lip quivered. There was a long, swelling breath, and the lashes drooped over the slightly flushed cheeks.
"Papa doesn't love me!" she uttered, like a plaint. "He wouldn't want to give away my kisses if he did."
He took the little face in his hands, and said with a traitorous tenderness, "My little darling, I do hate to lose any of your kisses. You see you are punishing me, too, by your refusal. I think you ought to do what is right and what papa bids you."
"But I can't love to kiss her." And there was a great struggle in the little soul.
"But you can be sorry that you were rude."
The entreaty in the eyes almost melted him, but he said no more. She slipped down very reluctantly, and went across to where madame was playing chess.
"I am sorry I was rude," she said slowly. "I will kiss you now."
"You are a darling!" But for all that Madame Lepelletier longed to shake her.
Her father received her with open arms and rapturous caresses. She gave a little sob.
"You won't ask me again!" she cried. "I don't want anybody but just you, now that Auntie Dora is away."
"And I want you to love me best of all. Heaven knows, my darling, how dear you are!"
He spoke the truth. In this brief while he had grown to love her devotedly.
Madame Lepelletier was very sweet, but she did not consider it wise to rouse the child's opposition, since no one else could beguile favors from her.
Before they reached New York she had allowed herself to be persuaded to go at once to Grandon Park, and Floyd telegraphed, a little ambiguously, used as he was to brief announcements. Madame Lepelletier had made a half-resolve, piqued by his friendly indifference, that he should own her charm. She would establish a footing in the family.
And now, in the quiet of the guest-chamber, where everything is more luxurious than she has imagined, she resolves that she will win Floyd Grandon back. She will make the mother and sisters adore her. She has not been schooled in a French world for nothing, and yet it was not a very satisfactory world. She will have more real happiness here; and she sighs softly as she composes herself to sleep.
Floyd Grandon kisses his darling for the last time, then shutting his door, sits down by the window and lights a cigar. He does not want to sleep. Never in his life has he felt so like a prince. He has this lovely house, and his child to watch and train, and, mayhap, some little fame to win. He makes no moan for the dead young mother in her grave, for he understands her too truly to desire her back, with all her weakness and frivolity. He cannot invest her with attributes that she never possessed, but he can remember her in the child, who shall be true and noble and high of soul. They two, always.
Laura has fallen asleep over visions of bridal satin and lace that are sure now to come true, but Gertrude tosses restlessly and sighs for her lost youth. Twenty-nine seems fearfully old to-night, for the next will be thirty. She does not care for marriage now; but she has an impending dread of something,—it may be a contrast with that beautiful, blooming woman.
"For I know she will try to get Floyd," she says, with a bitter sigh.
This fear haunts the mother's pillow as well. Many aims and hopes of her life have failed. She loves her younger son with a tender fervor, but she does not desire to have the elder wrested out of her hands, and become a guest in the home where she has reigned mistress.
Truly they are not all beds of roses.
"Let the world roll blindly on, Give me shadow, give me sun, And a perfumed day as this is."
It is hardly dawn as yet, and the song of countless robins wakes Floyd Grandon. How they fling their notes back at one another, with a merry audacity that makes him smile! Then a strange voice, a burst of higher melody, a warble nearer, farther, fainter, a "sweet jargoning" among them all, that lifts his soul in unconscious praise. At first there is a glimmer of mystery, then he remembers,—it is his boyhood's home. There were just such songs in Aunt Marcia's time, when he slept up under the eaves of the steeply peaked roof.
The dawn flutters out, faint opal and gray, then rose and yellow, blue and a sort of silvery haze. It does not burst into sudden glory, but dallies in translucent seas, changing, fading, growing brighter, and lo, the world is burnished with a faint, tender gold. The air is sweet with dewy grasses, the spice of pines, rose, and honeysuckle, and the scent of clover-blooms, that hint of midsummer. There is the river, with its picturesque shores, and purple blue peaks opposite; down below, almost hidden by the grove, the cluster of homes, in every variety of beauty, that are considered the par excellence of Grandon Park. Mrs. Grandon would fain destroy the grove, since she loves to be seen of her neighbors; but Floyd always forbade it, and his father would not consent, so it still stands, to his delight.
"If this is the home feeling, so eloquently discoursed upon, it has not been overrated," he says softly to himself. "Home," with a lingering inflection.
"Papa! papa!" The fleet bare feet reach him almost as soon as the ringing voice. "I was afraid you were not here. Is this truly home?"
"Truly home, my darling."
He lifts her in his arms, still in her dainty nightdress, and kisses the scarlet lips, that laugh now for very gladness.
"Can I stay with you always?"
"Why, yes," in half surprise. "You are the nearest and dearest thing in all the world." Yes, he is quite sure now that he would rather part with everything than this baby girl he has known only such a little while.
Then he stands her on the floor. "Run to Jane and get dressed, and we will go out on the lawn and see the birds and flowers."
While she is engaged, he gives a brush to his flowing beard and slightly waving hair that is of a rather light brown, and puts on a summer coat. A fine-looking man, certainly, with a rather long, oval face, clearly defined brows, and sharply cut nose and mouth; with a somewhat imperious expression that gives it character. The eyes are a deep, soft brown, with curious lights rippling through them like the tints of an agate. Generally they are tranquil to coldness, so far as mere emotion is concerned, but many things kindle them into interest, and occasionally to indignation. Health and a peculiar energy are in every limb, the energy that sets itself to conquer and is never lost in mere strife or bustle.
"You will wait for me?" entreatingly.
He comes to the door with a smile. Jane is brushing the fair, shining hair that is like a sea of ripples, and Cecil stretches out her hand with pretty eagerness, as if she shall lose him, after all.
"Suppose I tie it so, and curl it after breakfast," proposes Jane. "Miss Cecil is so impatient."
"Yes, that will do." It is beautiful, any way, he thinks. Then she dances around on one foot until her dress is put on, when she gives a glad bound.
"But your pinafore! American children do wear them," says Jane, in a rather uncertain tone.
"I am a little English girl," is the firm rejoinder.
"Then of course you must," responds papa.
"And your hat! The sun is shining."
Cecil gives a glad spring then, and almost drags her father down the wide stairs. A young colored lad is brushing off the porch, but the two go down on the path that is speckless and as hard as a floor. The lawn slopes slowly toward the river, broken by a few clumps of shrubbery, a summer-house covered with vines, and another resembling a pagoda, with a great copper beech beside it. There are some winding paths, and it all ends with a stone wall, as the shore is very irregular. There is a boat-house, and a strip of gravelly beach, now that the tide is out.
Grandon turns and looks toward the house. Yes, it is handsome, grand. Youth and age together did not make any blunder of it. There is the tower, that was to be his study and library and place of resort generally. What crude dreams he had in those days! Science and poesy, art and history, were all a sad jumble in his brain, and now he has found his life-work. He hopes that he may make the world a little wiser, raise some few souls up to the heights he has found so delightful.
Cecil dances about like a fairy. She is at home amid green fields once more, for the ocean was to her a dreary desert, and the many strange faces made her uncomfortable. She is oddly exclusive and delicate, even chary about herself, but alone with her father she is all childish abandon.
There is a stir about the house presently, and Grandon begins to retrace his steps.
"Don't go," entreats Cecil.
"My dear, we must have breakfast. Grandmamma and the aunties will be waiting."
"Are they going to live there always!" with an indication of the fair head.
"Yes, some of them."
"And are we going to live there for ever and ever?"
He laughs gayly.
"I hope we will live there to a good old age."
"And madame—must she stay there, too?"
"Madame will stay for a little while. And Cecil must be kind and pleasant——"
"I can't like her!" interrupts the child, petulantly.
He studies her with some curiosity. Why should the gracious, beautiful woman be distasteful to her?
"I don't really suppose she will care much," he replies, in a rather teasing spirit.
"But if she doesn't, why should she want me to kiss her?"
"I do not believe she will ask you again. You must not be rude to any one. And you must kiss grandmamma or the aunties if they ask you."
Cecil sets her lips firmly, but makes no reply. Grandon wonders suddenly what charm Aunt Dora possessed, and how people, fathers and mothers, govern children! It is a rather perplexing problem if they turn naughty.
They walk back to the great porch, where Mrs. Grandon comes out and wishes her son a really fond good morning. Cecil submits quietly to a caress with most unchildlike gravity. Marcia comes flying along; she is always flying or rustling about, with streamers somewhere, and a very young-girlish air that looks like affectation at twenty-seven, but she will do the same at forty-seven. She is barely medium height, fair, with light hair, which by persistent application she makes almost golden. It is thin and short, and floats about her head in artistic confusion. Her eyes are a rather pale blue-gray, and near-sighted, her features small, her voice has still the untrained, childish sound of extreme youth. She is effusive and full of enthusiasms, rather unbalanced, Floyd decides in a day or two.
"Good morning!" exclaims the bright voice of Eugene. "Upon my word, you make quite an imposing paterfamilias, and Cecil, I dare say, has found the weak place and tyrannizes over you. Come to me, little lady," pinching her lovely pink cheek.
But Cecil almost hides behind her father, and is proof against the blandishments of the handsome young man. He is not quite so tall as Floyd, but grace, from the splendidly shaped head to the foot worthy of a woman's second glance. A clear, rich complexion, very dark hair and eyes, and a mustache that looks as if it was pencilled in jet. Laura has these darker tints as well. Certainly Mrs. Grandon has no cause to be dissatisfied with her two youngest on the score of good looks.
Floyd lifts Cecil in his arms and admits that she does not make friends easily. Then with a change in his tone, "How finely the place has been kept up! Shall I thank you or mother for it, Eugene? Aunt Marcia's old farm has arrived at great state and dignity. I have seen few places abroad that I like better, though much, of course, on a far grander scale."
"Aunt Marcia 'builded better than she knew.' Grandon Park is the seat of fashion and taste; isn't that right, Marcia? And Floyd, old fellow, you are to be envied. I wish I had been eldest born."
Floyd smiles, yet something in the tone jars a trifle. Then the breakfast-bell rings and they move through the hall just as Madame Lepelletier sweeps down the stairs like a princess in cream cashmere and lace. Her radiance is not impaired by daylight. Marcia seems to shrivel up beside her, and Gertrude looks extremely faded, washed out.
They are all bright and gay. Madame Lepelletier is one of the women who seldom tolerates dulness or that embarrassing awkwardness that occasionally settles even in well-bred circles. She is charming and vivacious, she has resolved that they shall all like her, and though she is not a particularly generous person, she has discerned how she may be of use to them and win herself gratitude and friendship. She is too politic ever to make an enemy, and she keeps her friends so well in hand that their possible defection shall not injure her, but rather themselves. Young, handsome, fascinating, and with abundant means for herself, she has been in no hurry to change her state in life. But Grandon Park and its owner look as tempting this morning as they did in her twilight revery last evening.
"What will you do, Floyd?" asks Eugene, presently. "Come up to the factory, or——"
"Oh," returns Laura, with a kind of merry audacity, blushing a little, "we shall keep him home this morning."
"Well, I must be off. Business, you see. But I shall hold myself free for this afternoon if any of you ladies will honor me," bowing to Madame Lepelletier, who acknowledges it with a ravishing smile that makes every pulse thrill.
Floyd and his mother have the first confidence. There are the sad particulars of the death, now more than six months old. The will has been read, but there is a sealed packet of instruction for Floyd, still in the lawyer's hands. The business seems to be in a rather involved state, what with partners and a patent that Mr. Grandon felt sure would make all their fortunes. The main point relating to Laura is this: While the mother has a yearly income from the business, the girls are to be paid five thousand dollars down, and five thousand more at the expiration of three years. Laura needs hers for present emergencies. But just now there are notes coming due and no money.
"I can easily arrange that," says Floyd, "by advancing Laura's money. How odd this should be the first marriage in the family, and Laura the youngest!"
"You forget your own," remarks his mother, in surprise.
"Why, so I did." And a flush is visible under the bronze. "It is so like a dream to me, over in one short year."
"And you were very much in love, doubtless? It must have been terrible!"
"It was a most unexpected death," ignoring the first remark. "She was so young, a mere child."
Not even to his mother can he express his manhood's views of the whole occurrence. But he knows that he did not love her deeply, and the consciousness will always give him a little shock. At the same time he settles that he is not the kind of man to be swept off his feet by the passion of love.
Then they call Laura in and Floyd explains the ease with which the matter can be settled. "I shall pay you and take your claim against the estate. What kind of a wedding are you to have? You see I must be posted in these matters, so that I shall do myself honor and credit as the head of the family."
"Of course it will have to be rather quiet, as we are still in mourning, and so many of Arthur's family are out of town. He will be up to lunch to-day: I asked him to meet you. But he thought—early in July," and she colors a little, smiling, too. "We are to go to Newport, that is, you know, we really could plan nothing until you came. And, oh, Floyd, it will be so delightful to have Madame Lepelletier! We have been talking it over, and she will help me do my shopping. She is just as good as she is lovely. But if you only could have ordered me some things in Paris!"
"Why, I never bought any such thing in my life," says Floyd, laughingly. "But I have some trinkets among my luggage that you may like, gems and cameos, and some curious bracelets. I did remember that I had some sisters at home."
"Oh, you are really charming! You cannot imagine how doleful we have been. Eugene could not do anything about the money, and he has been in a worry with Mr. Wilmarth and cross if any one said a word."
Floyd laughs at this. The idea of Eugene being cross is amusing.
Laura flits out of the room much elated. She and Arthur can settle everything to-day, and the shopping will be so delightful, for Madame Lepelletier is quite as good as a Frenchwoman.
Mrs. Grandon sighs, and Floyd looks at her questioningly.
"You are so good, Floyd. It is such a relief to have you. I only hope the business will not weary you out, and that—there will be no real trouble."
He kisses Cecil's little hand that is wandering through his beard, and presses her closer as she sits quietly on his knee. "I shall think nothing a trouble," he says. "It is father's trust to me. Come, you must be gay and happy, and not cloud Laura's wedding with forebodings. Let us take a tour through the house now. I am quite curious to know if I have remembered it rightly."
"I wonder if you can find your way. I must look after the luncheon."
"Oh, yes," he replies. "I think there is no labyrinth."
On one side of the hall there is the long drawing-room, and a smaller apartment that might be a conservatory it is so full of windows, or a library, but it is a sort of sitting-room at present. Then the tower, that has a large entrance, and might be the facade, if one pleased. An oaken stairway winds a little to the room above, which is empty but for a few chairs and a bamboo settee. Up again to another lovely room, and then it is crowned by an observatory. From here the prospect is magnificent. The towns above, that dot the river's edge, and the long stretch below, are like a panorama. How wonderfully changed! How busy and thriving this new world is! He thinks of the leagues and leagues he has traversed where a mill or a factory would be an unknown problem, and the listless stupor of content is over all. Yet buried in the sand or under ruins is the history of ages as prosperous, as intellectual, and as wise. How strange a thing the world of life really is!
Cecil breaks into his thoughts with her tender chatter. She is not an obtrusive child, and, though bright, has grave moods and strange spells of thought. She is delighted to be so high up and able to look down over everything.
They return at length, and he carries her down-stairs. On the second floor there is a connecting passage to the main house, and two beautiful rooms that he planned for himself because they were retired. Feminine belongings are scattered about,—satchels and fans and queer bottles of perfumery. He guesses rightly that Laura is domiciled here, and in the adjoining chamber Gertrude lies on the bed with a novel.
"Come in," she says, raising herself on one elbow. "I am up here a good deal, because I like quiet and my health is so wretched. Everybody else is busy about something, and I bore them, so I keep out of their way."
"You do look poorly," he answers, sympathetically. She is not only pale, but sallow, and there are hollows in her cheeks. Her hands, which were once very pretty, are thin as birds' claws. There is a fretful little crease in her forehead, and her eyes have a look of utter weariness.
"Yes, I am never strong. I cannot bear excitement. Marcia's life would exhaust me in a month, and Laura's fuss would drive me crazy. Have they said anything about her marriage?"
"It is all settled, or will be when her lover comes to-day. Do you like him, Gertrude?"
"He is well enough, I suppose, and rich. You couldn't imagine Laura marrying a poor man."
Floyd Grandon is not at all sure that he understands the hidden or manifest purposes of love, but he has a secret clinging to the orthodox belief that it is a necessary ingredient in marriages.
"You are cynical," he says, with a pleasant laugh. "You do not have enough fresh air."
"But I see Laura." Then, after a pause, "Do not imagine I have the slightest objection. There will be only two of us left, and it does seem as if Marcia might pick up some one. Floyd——"
"Well," as she makes a long pause.
"Do you know anything about the business? Eugene is so—so unsatisfactory. Where is Laura going to get her money?"
"I shall attend to that. Gertrude, what has been said about affairs that makes you all so desponding?"
Floyd Grandon asks a question as if he expected an answer. Gertrude gives a little twist to her long, slender figure, and pushes one shoulder forward.
"Well, there has been no money, and Eugene cannot get any. And all you hear about is notes to pay."
The house certainly does not look as if there was any lack. The table is bountiful, and he has seen four servants, he is quite sure.
"My not being here has delayed the settlement, no doubt," he answers, cheerfully. "It will all come right."
"You quite put courage into one. I suppose you always feel well and strong; you have grown handsome, Floyd, and there is nothing to make you desponding."
"Yes, I am always well. Do you stay in-doors all the time and read? You must have a change, something to stir your nerves and brain, and infuse a new spirit in you."
"I am too weak for exercise. Even carriage-riding tires me dreadfully. And my nerves cannot bear the least thing. I dread this wedding and all the tumult, only it will be excellent to have it finished up and off one's mind." Then she sighs and turns to her book again.
"We are on a tour of discovery," says Floyd, rather gayly, as he moves forward. "The house seems quite new to me, and extremely interesting."
She makes no effort to detain him. They turn into the hall, and a voice from above calls Floyd.
"Oh, are you up here, Marcia?" beginning to ascend.
"Yes. Here is my eyrie, my den, my study, or whatever name fits it best. I have a fancy for being high up. Nothing disturbs me. I have never been able, though, to decide which I really liked best, this or the tower. Only here I have three connecting rooms. Cecil, you little darling, come and kiss me! Floyd, I must paint that heavenly child! I have been doing a little at portraits. I want to take some lessons as soon as the ships come in. I hope you have brought fair weather, and—is it a high tide that floats the barque in successfully?"
She utters all this in a breath, and makes a dash at Cecil, who buries her face in her father's coat-sleeve.
"Cecil's kisses do not seem to be very plentiful," he remarks. "But how quaint and pretty you are up here!"
The sleeping chamber is done up in white, gold, and blue, and in very tolerable order. This middle room is characteristic. The floor is of hard wood and oiled, and rugs of every description are scattered about. Easels with and without pictures, studies, paintings in oil and water-colors, bric-a-brac of every shape and kind, from pretty to ugly, a cabinet, some book-shelves, a wide, tempting lounge in faded raw silk, with immense, loose cushions, two tables full of litter, and several lounging chairs. Evidently Marcia is not of the severe order.
The third room really beggars description. An easel stands before the window, with a pretentious canvas on which a winding river has made its appearance, but the dry land has not yet emerged from chaos.
"You paint"—he begins, when she interrupts,—
"And now that you have come, Floyd, you can give me some advice. I was such a young idiot when I ran over Europe, but you have done it leisurely. Did you devote much time to French art? I can't decide which to make a specialty. The French are certainly better teachers, but why, then, do so many go to Rome? It is my dream." And she clasps her hands in a melodramatic manner.
"What have you been doing?" he asks, as she pauses for breath.
"I took up those things first," nodding to some flower pieces. "But every school-girl paints them."
"These are exceedingly well done," he says, examining them closely.
"There is nothing distinctive about them. Who remembers a rose or a bunch of field flowers? Half a dozen women have honorable mention and one cannot be told from the other. But a landscape or a story or a striking portrait,—you really must let me try Cecil," glancing at her with rapture. "Oh, there is an article here in the Art Journal on which you must give me an opinion." And flying up, she begins a confusing search. "It is so good to find a kindred soul——"
A light tap at the door breaks up the call. It is Jane, who with a true English courtesy says,—
"If you please, Mr. Grandon, Miss Laura sent me to say that Mr. Delancy has come."
Floyd has been so amused with Marcia that he goes rather reluctantly, and finds his sister's betrothed in the drawing-room, quite at home with Madame Lepelletier, though possibly a little dazzled. Arthur Delancy is a blond young man of five or six and twenty, well looking, well dressed, and up in all the usages of "the best society." He greets Mr. Grandon with just the right shade of deference as the elder and a sort of guardian to his finance. He pays his respects to Miss Cecil with an air that completely satisfies the little lady, it has the distance about it so congenial to her.
"Floyd," Laura says, with a laugh, "that child is intensely English. She has the 'insular pride' we hear so much about."
"And English hair and complexion," continues Mr. Delancy; while madame adds her graceful little meed.
A very pleasant general conversation ensues, followed by an elegant luncheon, to which Eugene adds a measure of gayety. Afterward the two gentlemen discuss business, and with several references to Laura the bridal day is appointed six weeks hence. The marriage they decide will be in church, and a wedding breakfast at home, quiet, with only a few friends and relatives, and after a week in Canada they will go to Newport.
"But how can I ever get ready?" cries Laura in dismay to madame. "Why, I haven't anything! I shall actually wear you out with questions and decisions. Oh, do you realize that you are a perfect godsend?" and she kisses her enthusiastically.
"Yes," says Madame Lepelletier, so softly and sweetly that it is like a breath of musical accord. "I will settle myself in the city and you must come to me——"
"In the city!" interrupts Laura, with both dismay and incredulity in her tone. "My dearest dear, you will not be allowed to leave Grandon Park, except with myself for keeper, to return as soon as may be."
"But I cannot trespass on your hospitality."
"Mamma, Floyd, will you come and invite Madame Lepelletier to make a two months' visit? I want her for six full weeks, and then she must have a little rest."
They overrule all her delicate scruples, though Mrs. Grandon does it rather against her will. Is it bringing temptation to Floyd's hand, that perhaps might not reach out otherwise!
That is settled. Floyd's boxes and trunks make their appearance, Eugene orders the horses, and the four go to drive on this magnificent afternoon.
"I think," Floyd says to his mother when the sound of wheels has subsided, "this luggage may as well go to the tower room. I wish——" Will he not seem ungracious to declare his preferences so soon?
"What?" she asks, a little nervously.
"It would make too much fuss at this crisis to change rooms with the girls, I suppose?"
"Let Laura take the larger front room? She did have it until we heard you were coming. Oh, she wouldn't mind. But you——"
"I should be out of the way there by myself," he pleads. "All my traps would be handy, and if I wanted to sit up at night I should disturb no one."
"It shall be just as you like. Yes, it would be more convenient for you. Why, we could go at it this very afternoon."
"Give Gertrude a book and she would sit in the debris of Mount Vesuvius," says her mother.
Mary, the housemaid, is called upon, and cook generously offers her services. Gertrude comes down-stairs grumbling a little. The two rooms are speedily dismantled of feminine belongings, but the quaint old mahogany bedroom suite is taken over because Floyd prefers it to the light ash with its fancy adornments. James, the coachman, and Briggs, the young lad, carry up the luggage. There is a little sweeping and dusting, and Floyd settles his rooms as he has often settled a tent or a cabin or a cottage. He has grown to be as handy as a woman.
He feels more at home over here, not so much like a guest. His room is not so large, but he has all the tower and the wide prospect on both sides. He can read and smoke and sit up at his pleasure without disturbing a soul. The "girls" and the wedding finery will all be together.
"Laura will be delighted," declares Mrs. Grandon again. In her secret heart she feels this arrangement will take Floyd a little out of madame's reach. Beside the tower there is a back stairway leading to a side entrance, quite convenient to Eugene's room. It is admirable altogether.
Floyd begins to unpack with hearty energy. Only the most necessary articles, the rest will keep till a day of leisure. To-morrow he must look into the business, and he hopes he will not find matters very troublesome. He has a good deal of his own work to do, and he sighs a little, wishing the wedding were well over.
Laura leaves her lover at the station, and is not a whit disconcerted by the change in affairs.
She and Madame Lepelletier are going to the city to-morrow to spend several days in shopping, and this evening they must devote to a discussion of apparel. They scarcely miss Floyd, who goes to bed at last with the utmost satisfaction.
My heart no truer, but my words and ways more true to it.—ROBERT BROWNING.
"Say good by to papa." And Floyd Grandon stoops to kiss his little daughter. "Jane will take you out to walk, and Aunt Gertrude will show you the pictures again if you ask her."
The evening before she had evinced a decided liking for Gertrude.
"Where are you going?" There was a quick apprehensiveness in her tone as she caught his hand.
"On some business," with a smile.
"Take me, too. I don't want to stay here alone," she cries, imperiously.
There is a soft rustle in the hall. Madame has come down in advance of Laura. The carriage stands waiting to take them to the station.
Floyd bites his lips in annoyance. Since they left Devonshire, Cecil has scarcely been an hour out of his sight save when asleep. He cannot take her now,—the thought is absurd.
"No, my dear. It would not amuse a little girl, and I shall be too busy. Do not be naughty," he entreats.
"I want to go with you. I will not stay here!"
"I will run away," she says, daringly. "I will not look at pictures nor walk with Jane."
"Then you will be naughty, and papa cannot love you," bending his face down to hers. "I shall not be glad to come back to a little girl who will not please or obey me."
"Take me, then!" There is a great, dry sob in her throat.
If only Madame Lepelletier were away! His experience with children is so very limited, that he is almost weak enough to yield to this sweet tyranny.
"Kiss me." Eugene has driven around with his horse and the buggy.
Cecil drops her hands by her side, and her large, deep eyes float in tears, but her brilliant lips are set. Just once they open.
"You are naughty to me," she says, with childish audacity.
"Very well." He takes a slow step as if to give her time for repentance. He could bestow an undignified shake upon the proud little mite, but he refrains.
"Jane, come and look after Miss Cecil," he exclaims, authoritatively. Then he gives her a quick kiss, but she stands with swelling chest and eyes glittering in tears, watching him out of sight.
Aunt Laura rustles down.
"Mutiny in the camp," says madame, with a little laugh; and though Cecil does not understand, she knows she is meant.
"Floyd will have his hands full with that child," comments Laura. "She is not so angelic as she looks."
Floyd has stepped into the buggy. Sultan snuffs with his thin nostrils, and paces with proud grace.
"There's a beauty for you, Floyd," Eugene says, triumphantly. "You cannot find his match anywhere about here."
Floyd is very fond of handsome horses, and Sultan stirs a sudden enthusiasm. Eugene expatiates eloquently upon his merits, which are evident. The shady road, the fragrant air, the glimpses of the broad river glittering in the morning sun, and the purple cliff opposite, are indeed a dream of beauty. He more than half wishes there was no business to distract one's mind.
"How it has all changed!" he says, presently. "I was amazed yesterday, looking from the tower, to see how Westbrook had enlarged her borders and indulged in high chimneys. There must be considerable business in the town. There is quite a length of dock and shipping, and streets in every direction."
"Yes. Floyd, will you go to Connery's first or to the factory? The will is in the safe, the letter of instruction at the lawyer's."
"Why not stop and get that? I want to see both, you know."
"And Connery's room is a stuffy little den. Well, we will stop for it, and if you want to consult him afterward, you can."
Mr. Connery has gone to the city on important business. The clerk hunts up the packet, and they go on.
The old factory has altered as well. A new part has been built, with a pretentious business office, and an ante-room that is quite luxuriously appointed, with Russia-leather chairs, lounge, a pretty cabinet, pictures, and several lovely statuettes.
"Now if you want to go through all these things, Floyd, you can do it at your leisure. We can't talk business until we know what basis it is to be on, and the will is a sort of dead letter without further instructions. I have a little errand to do which will take an hour or so, and——"
"Yes," is the quick affirmative. He is holding his dead father's letter in his hand and wishing to be alone with it.
"Here is the will," taking it from the safe. "There are cigars, so make yourself comfortable, and if you should prove the arbiter of my fate, deal gently." And the young man gives a gay little laugh.
Floyd seats himself by the window, but fond as he is of smoking, the cigars do not tempt him. His eyes rest upon these words until they all seem to run together:—"For my eldest son, Floyd Grandon. To be read by him before any settlement of the business." How different these irregular letters from his father's usual firm business hand! Ah, how soon afterward the trembling fingers were cold in death! He presses it to his lips with an unconscious, reverent tenderness.
The love between them had not been of the romantic kind, but he recalls his father's pride and pleasure in his young manhood, his interest in the house and the marriage arrangement. The later letters of his father have touched him, too, with a sort of secret weariness, as if his absorbing interest in business had begun to decline. He had planned some release and journeys for him, but the last journey of all had been taken, and he was at rest.
Slowly he broke the double seal and took the missive out of its enclosure, and began the perusal.
To my dear Son Floyd,—When you read this the hand that penned it will be mouldering in the dust, its labor ended but not finished.
The pathos blurred his eyes, and he turned them to the window. The sun shone, the busy feet tramped to and fro, there was the ceaseless hum of the machinery, but the brain that had planned, the heart that had hoped, was away from it all, silent and cold, and the mantle had fallen on one who had no part or lot in the matter.
The letter had been written at intervals, and gave a clear statement of the business. Mr. Wilmarth had one quarter-share, Mr. St. Vincent had another quarter-share, and a certain amount of royalty on a patent that Mr. Grandon felt would secure a fortune to them all if rightly managed. For this, he asked Floyd's supervision. Eugene was too young to feel the importance of strict, vigorous attention. There was no ready money, the factory was mortgaged, and the only maintenance of the family must come from the business.
A chill sped over Floyd. Commercial pursuits had always wearied and disgusted him. Now, when he understood the bent and delight of his own soul, to lay his work aside and take up this—ah, he could not, he said.
Then he went over the will. To his mother, the furniture and silver, and, in lieu of dower, the sum of two thousand dollars yearly. To his sisters, the sum of five thousand apiece, to be paid as soon as the business would allow, and at the expiration of a term of years five thousand more. The half-share of the business to belong to Eugene solely after the legacies were paid. The library and two valuable pictures were bequeathed to Floyd, and in the tender explanation, he knew it was from no lack of affection that he had been left out of other matters.
The heavy bell clangs out the hour of noon. No one comes to disturb him. It seems like being in the presence of the dead, in a kind of breathless, waiting mystery. The duty is thrust upon him, if it can be done. His father seems confident, but how will liabilities and assets balance? Then he remembers the luxury at home, Eugene's fast horse, and his air of easy indifference. Certainly there must be something.
After a while the quiet oppresses him. He saunters around the room, that wears the aspect of indolent ease rather than business. Then he emerges into a wide hallway, and strolls over opposite. Here is a well-packed storehouse, then a small place in semi-obscurity, into which he peers wonderingly, when a figure rises that startles him out of his self-possession for a moment.
A man whose age would be hard to tell, though his thick, short hair is iron gray and his beard many shades whiter. Short of stature, with very high shoulders, that suggest physical deformity, squarely built and stout, a square, rugged face, with light, steely eyes and overhanging brows. It is a repellent face and form, and Floyd Grandon says slowly,—
"Pardon my intrusion. I—" rather embarrassed at the steady gaze—"I am Mr. Floyd Grandon."
"Ah!" There is something akin to a sneer in the exclamation. "Doubtless your brother has spoken of me,—Jasper Wilmarth."
This, then, is his father's partner. He is utterly amazed, bewildered.
"I heard of your return," he continues. There is something peculiar, as if the man weighed every word. "We have been looking for you," rather dryly.
"I hope my delay has not proved injurious to the business," says Grandon, recovering his usual dignity. "I find that I am executor of the estate with my mother, and I suppose some steps are necessary. I shall qualify immediately. In what condition is the business?"
"Bad enough," is the reply. "Trade is dull, and I am sorry to say that our new machinery, put in at a great expense, does not work satisfactorily."
Floyd is startled at the frankness, as well as the admission.
"Where is the other partner, Mr. St. Vincent?"
"Out of town somewhere," indifferently.
"He holds the patent——"
"That we were wild enough to undertake; yes."
"My father seemed to have great hopes of it."
The high shoulders are shrugged higher. There is something bitter and contemptuous in the man's face, a look that indicates fighting, though what can there be to fight about?
The great bell rings out again. Nooning is over, and there are hurrying steps up the wide alleyway.
"I wonder," Floyd begins, "if you know where my brother went. He said something about Rockwood,—and was to be back shortly."
"If he has gone to Rockwood, I doubt if you see him before mid-afternoon." The sneer is plainly evident here, and Grandon feels some antagonistic blood rise.
"I suppose," he continues, in his usual courteous tone, "that it will be best to have a business meeting as soon as possible. I will consult Mr. Connery; an inventory was taken, I suppose."
"Yes. It is in his hands."
Wilmarth is certainly hard to get on with. To natural brusqueness is added an evident disinclination to discuss the business. Floyd is much too proud to seem curious, though here he has a right to know all, but he feels that he will not be able to make much headway alone.
"I think I will return," he says. "If my brother comes in, tell him, if you please, that I have gone home. We have not discussed any business yet, but will begin to-morrow. Good day."
He goes back, folds up the papers, and places them carefully in his breast-pocket, takes his hat and walks slowly out, wondering if his father really trusted this man. He inspires Floyd with a deep, inveterate dislike, a curious suspicion before he knows there is anything to suspect. He wishes—ah, at that moment he feels inclined to pay the legacies and his mother's pension, and wash his hands of the other distasteful charge. Then some words of his father's come back: "Remember that Eugene is young and thoughtless, and be patient."
It is very warm as he steps into the street, and he remembers a sort of river road that used to be shady, where he has rambled many a time. Everything is changed, the hills levelled, the valleys filled up, but he presently finds a strip of woodland near the shore edge, and a path much overgrown with blackberry-vines. He picks his way along, now and then meeting with a remembered aspect, when he comes across a sort of Swiss chalet on the sloping hillside. Two peaks of roof, odd, long, narrow windows, with diamond-shape panes of glass, a vine-covered porch, an old woman in black, with white kerchief and high-crowned cap suggestive of Normandy; and through an open window a man sitting at a table, with instruments or machinery before him, engrossed with some experiments. A peculiar, delicate face, with a high, narrow forehead, thin white hair worn rather long and now tumbled, a drooping nose, a snowy white, pointed beard, and thin, long fingers, as colorless as Gertrude's.
Somewhere he has seen a picture of an alchemist not unlike this. He can even discern the intent eagerness of the face as the fingers delicately manipulate something. So interested is he that he forgets his recent perplexity, and, seating himself on a rocky ledge, watches. The air is tensely clear, the river blue as the sky in the intervals of shade. Here and there a dappled rift of cloud floating slowly, a picture of virginal beauty, tinctured with the essence of a hundred summers. The air is drowsily sweet, and he lapses into forgetfulness,—a traveller's trick.
When he opens his eyes the student is still there; the old woman has had her nap and is knitting. A large-eyed greyhound sits at her side. Floyd has half a mind to break in upon the scholar's sanctity, but remembering that he is now a part and parcel of civilization, refrains and resumes his journey; and now it is of Cecil he thinks. The perplexities of the morning have quite excluded baby naughtiness. Will she be glad to see him,—first in her half-shy, wholly seductive manner, then with her ardent, entire love? He is pleased to find her not easily won from him.
The house is very quiet. Bruno, the great dog, comes forward and studies him with sagacious, penetrating eyes. He pats him and says kindly,—
"Your mother knew and loved me, good Bruno."
Gertrude is on the library sofa. "Oh," she cries with a start, "where is Eugene?"
"I have not seen him since morning. Gertrude, is there anything special at Rockwood?"
"Why no,—the Casino, and the track, you know. They speed horses, and sometimes have races, I believe. Have you had lunch?"
"Just a biscuit and a glass of wine will do," he says. "Don't disturb yourself. Where is Cecil?"
"Jane has had her all day. She wouldn't even be friendly with me. Marcia and mother have gone out for calls, I believe."
Just as he enters the dining-room he turns his head. "Gertrude, do you know an odd little cottage on the side of what used to be Savin Rock?"
"A sort of chapel-looking place, with pointed roof?"
"Yes. Who lives there?"
"Why, Mr. St. Vincent."
"The partner, do you mean?"
"Did you ever see him? What kind of looking person is he?"
"Yes. He was here several times. He had the patent, you know. O Floyd, do you understand anything about the business? Papa thought he should make a great deal of money. Did you see Mr. Wilmarth? Isn't he queer and——" She ends with a shiver.
"I feel just that way about him myself. But what is St. Vincent like?"
"Tall and thin and deadly pale. A kind of French Canadian, I believe. You see he was so enthusiastic and so sure, and so was papa, but something went wrong. Oh, I do hope we will not lose our money! To be ill and wretched and homeless, for no doubt you will marry again, and——"
Floyd laughs heartily. "You shall not be homeless," he says, "and I will even promise to keep you in books. There, don't distress yourself." How often he has to administer comfort!
His lunch is the matter of a few moments, then he hurries up-stairs. The tower door is open, and there is no one to be seen. He keeps on and on until he catches a flutter of a white dress. Cecil is running around the observatory, and his heart beats as he glances at the dazzling little sprite, with her sparkling eyes and her hair a golden mist about her face. He could watch forever, but it is a daring pastime.
"Cecil," he calls softly.
"O papa!" She stops and flushes a deeper pink, then suddenly remembers in the midst of her delight, and there is a tacit reproach in her eyes.
"Have you a kiss for papa?"
She considers gravely, then with a quick bound she is in his arms.
"What are you doing up here, alone?"
"I ran away, a little. I am close up to the birdies, papa, see!"
A flock of swallows were wheeling and circling around. She claps her hands in glee. "Couldn't you open the windows?"
"Not now. The sun is too warm. And, my darling, I wish you would not come up here without Jane. You might fall."
"Miss Cecil, are you up there?" calls Jane.
Grandon takes her down in his arms. "Jane," he says in a low tone, "never let Miss Cecil out of your sight."
"Papa," she begins again, "grandmamma went out in such a pretty carriage. Can't we go, too?"
"Why, yes, I think so. Stay here until I see whether I can find a horse."
He goes out to the stables. The coachman and the gardener are enjoying their afternoon pipes. Everything out here seems on the same lavish scale. There must be money somewhere, Floyd thinks, or debt, and of that he has a horror.
The carriage horses are in, and Mr. Eugene's pretty saddle mare, Beauty. Then Marcia has a pony, and Sultan counts up five. He orders the carriage without any comment, and actually persuades Gertrude to accompany them, or takes her against her will.
The sun is slipping westward now. They leave the beaten ways and go out among farm-houses and orchards, broad fields of grain and waving grasses, making a mass of subtile harmonies. A feeling of rare content fills Floyd Grandon's soul again. There will be so much to enjoy that he need not grudge the few months spent in this wearisome business.
Dinner is ready when they return. Marcia is in unusually high spirits, but Eugene seems tired and out of humor. He apologizes to Floyd for his defection, something quite unexpected detained him.
"Eugene," he says afterward, "let us have a little talk. I want to know how matters stand. I saw Mr. Wilmarth and he feels doubtful, I should say. What is there about the machinery? The new arrangement does not work? Is there any special indebtedness?"
"Wilmarth is looking after that. Trade has somehow fallen off, but it is out of season. What are you to do?" he asks, cautiously.
"First, begin to pay the legacies,—fifteen thousand to the girls."
"Well, you can't. There are two notes falling due, and the whole thing will have to be squeezed,—if it can be raised. Floyd, you are a lucky chap, with a fortune ready made to your hand. I wish I stood in your shoes. I hate business!"
He says this with a kind of vicious fling.
The handsome, ease-loving face deepens into a frown. It is eager for enjoyment and indifferent to consequences, at once fascinating and careless.
"Would you really like to keep the business, Eugene?" asks the elder.
"I wouldn't keep it a day if Wilmarth could take the whole thing. But there are so many complications and so much money to pay out. I really do not see what is to be left for me," discontentedly.
"If the other two make anything, your half-share ought to be worth something."
"But you see it never can pay the—the family."
"It does not seem to me that father would have made just such a will if he had not believed it equitable or possible. I shall ask Connery to call a meeting to-morrow or as soon as possible. When does this note fall due?"
"I really do not know. I told you Wilmarth looked out for those things," he says impatiently.
"Have you any clear idea about the new patent? Is it really worth working? What are Mr. Wilmarth's views on the subject?"
"St. Vincent has to change something or other. He is very sanguine, and wants Wilmarth to wait a little. I don't believe he has perfect faith in it."
"I want you to read father's letter," Floyd says gravely.
"Not to-night, old fellow. To tell the truth, my head aches and I feel stupid. We'll look into things to-morrow. Only, Floyd, don't bring up a fellow with too sharp a turn."
Floyd sighs. He will not have much help in his task, he can plainly foresee. There remains Mr. St. Vincent.
"Eugene," and there is a touch of deep feeling in his tone, "I want us to work together harmoniously. Remember that I have nothing to gain in all this. Whatever I do must be for your benefit and that of the family. I have my own plans and aims, but you will always find me brotherly."
"Oh, well, don't pull such a solemn face about it. I dare say it will come out right. St. Vincent will get everything fixed up presently. Every business gets in a tight place now and then. Let us wind up our conclave with a friendly cigar."
Floyd is still holding Cecil in his arms, now asleep, but he will not relinquish his precious burden. Marcia has some guests on the porch; he hears their chatter and laughter. Is he, too; growing captious and uncomfortable?
Still, when we purpose to enjoy ourselves, To try our valor fortune sends a foe, To try our equanimity a friend.
Floyd Grandon resolves upon two steps the next morning, and puts them into execution immediately. The first is a visit to Mr. Connery. The lawyer is a rather elderly, pleasant-looking man, with a mouth and eyes that impress you at once as being quite capable of a certain reserve, trust, secrecy. The ordinary courtesies of the day pass between the two, and Mr. Grandon can well believe Mr. Connery when he says emphatically that he is glad of Mr. Grandon's return.
Floyd proceeds at once to business, and asks his questions in a straightforward manner.
"When I drew up your father's will, Mr. Grandon," replies the lawyer, "according to his showing it seemed a very fair one. To take out actual money would have destroyed the business at once, and that was what he counted on for Eugene. Perhaps it was not the wisest plan——"
"I am afraid Eugene cares very little for the business. Still, he is nothing of a student——" and Floyd pauses.
"Simply a young man of pleasure, who has always had plenty of money and an indulgent father. We may as well look at the facts, and you must pardon my plain speaking. He keeps two fast horses, and is at Rockwood a good deal. There is a race-course and a kind of gentlemen's club-house. It is an excellent place to spend money, if one has it to throw away," Mr. Connery adds dryly.
Floyd flushes and a little chill speeds along his nerves. "Did you know exactly what the claims against the estate were at the time of my father's death?" he asks, getting away from the subject.
"The factory your father owns alone. There is a mortgage of three thousand dollars on it. One half-share of the business, stock, machinery, etc., was his, and this is subject to a note of seven thousand dollars, incurred when the new machinery was put in. Why, it must be about due," and Mr. Connery goes to his safe. "The expectation was that the business could pay this and then begin with the legacies. But—I am afraid all has not been clear sailing."
"How long has this Wilmarth been with my father?" Floyd asks abruptly.
"Four or five years. You see your father hoped very much from some new process of manufacture. I wish he could have lived. Wilmarth is not a prepossessing man, yet I have never heard him spoken of in any but the highest terms. He is a bachelor, lives plainly, and has no vices, though he may have a desire to amass a fortune. I think, indeed, he rather urged your father to this new undertaking. St. Vincent I really know nothing about. He is an inventor and an enthusiast. Your place, Mr. Grandon, will be a hard one to fill, and you can count on me for any assistance."
"Thank you," returns Floyd, warmly. "I shall see St. Vincent and arrange for a meeting. I neither understand business nor like it, and have some matters of my own demanding my attention, but I must see this placed on a proper basis. I shall be glad to come to you."
Floyd feels as if he had gained one friend. Then he pursues his way to the little nest among the cliffs. The greyhound comes to greet him first, snuffs him critically, then puts his nose in Grandon's hand. By this time the housekeeper has come out, who is a veritable Norman woman.
A great disappointment awaits Floyd. Mr. St. Vincent started an hour ago for Canada, to bring his daughter home, who has been educated in a convent. "But ma'm'selle is a Protestant, like her father," says the old lady, with a sigh.
Then Floyd Grandon betakes himself to the factory. Eugene is out. He has no fancy for discussing matters with Wilmarth at present, so he returns home and busies himself in fitting up a study in one of the tower rooms. Rummaging through the attic he finds an old secretary of Aunt Marcia's, and unearths other treasures that quite stir his sister's envy.
"For those old things are all coming back," she says in a tone of poignant regret, whether at this fact or at the realization of the loss of them he is not quite certain.
The house is quiet and delightful. Marcia amuses him with her artistic flights and wild fancies. Floyd thinks if she would confine herself to the work she could do really well she would be a success, but her ambition is so tinctured with every new view that she never quite settles, but flutters continually.
That evening Floyd resolves to bring Eugene to a sense of what lies actually before him. He evades at first, fidgets, and grows unmistakably cross.