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not shown them to twenty others since ? Meanwhile, the month of Mr. Dryfte's probation slips by; he has been gone two weeks.
Early one morning Moritz received a telegram which obliged him to hurry off to Baltimore immediately; he left on the early train, and was gone when the family assembled at the breakfast-table. Immediately after breakfast, Mrs. Langdon sat down and wrote to him, asking him to attend to some business of hers, which would necessitate an answer if he were gone several days. Because he had the intention of returning, so he gave Mary to understand in the few lines he left for her.
They all missed him. He had “un talent pour vivre,” and he made the house gay and bright. He played chess and talked politics and science with the Bishop; he helped Mary with her plans for what he called the amelioration of the human species; he read German and sang duetts with Eva; he rode with Nannie and Mrs. Langdon ; he did a little of all these things with Reine Marguerite, who had fitted with singular readiness into all the Churchill doings. She was the one who should have missed him the most, whereas perhaps she missed him the least. But she did take occasion to be very sorry for Mrs. Langdon, who would sit turning over the leaves of a novel for an hour at a time, or would stare listlessly at the rings on her fingers, for want of a better occupation, whilst the others chattered and laughed around her. Reine Marguerite's theory about her was that she was in love with Moritz von Walden, and that they were going to be married finally — but that he had only so much love to give her as he could spare from money-making and pleasure-seeking. Upon the whole she pitied Mrs. Langdon.
A day or two's absence convinced Von Walden, for his he had lost his heart to use a trite phrase to convey a very real fact. He was overwhelmingly busy whilst in town, but he still found time to think of Reine Marguerite. He had found, or at least he had seen the one good thing which would make his life complete. A discontent with, a disgust for all other things took possession of him which had hitherto engrossed him. If Reine Marguerite would marry him, he resolved that he would work harder than ever, make the most of himself, make her proud of him. If not, he would throw up his hand — what did he care for the dusty tread-mill of business and ambition in which he was engaged ? He would go to Europe, idle, kill time. Such was his present mood ; a mood unworthy of a hero of a story, I have no doubt.
He made up his mind that he would run up again to Bishopthorpe for one day at least, even if he were obliged to return the following day. In fact, he could ill spare even that one day; he was caught in the machinery of brokerage and contracts and wire-pulling — other men's affairs as well as his own and he could not tear himself away without a sacrifice; but one day he could and would seize upon. He wrote to Reine Marguerite that he was coming; he quieted his conscience as regarded Mrs. Langdon by telling himself that he could answer her very much better in person. He spent a great deal of thought upon the composition of this letter, although it was brief enough and simple enough. The woman he was writing to was so
“imperial, plain, and true" herself, that one adopted towards her a simple diction unconsciously. But he told her that he had a story to tell her: would she listen to it? He asked her to give him an hour or two for himself out of the one day he could be at Bishopthorpe. Would she walk with him after breakfast on Thursday, the day he would be there? He was naturally anxious to make sure of an interview, as otherwise there were a dozen different engagements which she might make. He wrote on Tuesday ; the letter would reach her on Wednesday evening.
About this time the Churchills were taken with an astronomical fever. Mr. Hope was the Kepler of the party, and as fond of delivering amateur lectures on the subject as are most of his sex on all kindred themes. There was a succession of marvellous auroras just now besides, which afforded an excellent excuse for after-dark excursions to the church midway between Ritewell and Bishopthorpe, the tower of which was an admirable post of observation. On that very Wednesday evening Mr. Hope had come to say that it would be well worth their while to take the walk, so they started off in the clear, frosty, starlight night.
It was a walk of half-a-mile by the road, but only about a stone's throw across the fields. They were a gay party of perhaps twelve, divided in knots of twos and threes. There was more laughing and merry-making than spirit of scientific research. In fact, when they reached St. Stephen's, it was found that only three or four of the number cared to climb the tower; the rest would wait below.
The door of the belfry opened on the cemetery. Within was a little vestibule, then a narrow winding stairway ; up these to an open place on top, surrounded by a railing. Here his audience disposed themselves on wooden benches, and Mr. Hope proceeded to lecture. Meanwhile the Vandals below called up to them disrespectful inquiries regarding the “Roaring, Bawling Alice,” which the astronomers received in dignified silence. The Vandals included Nannie, Mr. Robert Acres of the neighborhood, two Miss Merrymans who had arrived at the House Beautiful the night before, and three or four young men who had walked over from Ritewell for the evening. This festive party adjourned to the highway presently, and sat on stones by the wayside, and composed nonsense-verses, and made very merry, making the welkin ring with their laughter.
" By-the-bye," Mr. Hope was saying on the tower, "I stopped at the post-office and brought you over your mail.”
Oh, was there a letter for me?” asks Mrs. Langdon eagerly. “I can't be sure, but I think not.” He was standing next to Mrs. Langdon, and he took out a bundle of letters and papers and laid them on her lap. “ I will hold a match,” he said, striking one, while you
look them over.” “Miss Margaret Fleming'— one for you,” she read, in the flickering light.“ Baltimore newspaper for Bishop Churchill. New York paper - Bishop Churchill. Miss Churchill — for you, Mary. Bishop Churchill — Bishop Churchill. That is all. Nothing for me.”
But it was not all. There was another letter directed to Miss Margaret Fleming. It was directed in Moritz von Walden's hand
writing, which Mrs. Langdon had recognised instantly. So he was writing to Marga Fleming instead of to herself, as he was bound to do? A jealous hate flained up in her heart. She did not stop to argue, to consider; she slipped the letter into her pocket — the girl should never see it!
Mary started up after a while and declared that they must go home. Mr. Hope struck another match, by means of which brilliant illumination they groped their way down again; then home, across the fields, under the palpitating rose-tinted heavens. Half-way home, Mrs. Langdon putting her hand in her pocket, missed the letter she had put there. Where was it? Where had she dropped it? Was it fated after all to fall into Marga's hands ? She bethought herself. She remembered that she had pulled out her handkerchief just before leaving the belfry; no doubt she had pulled the letter out at the same time.
She hesitated. The others were all a little in advance, and they were all engrossed with each other; she would not be missed, especially in the mysterious clare-obscure which made them all look ghostly and shadowy. In another moment she had retraced her steps and was turning the knob of the door of the tower. She ran up stairs swiftly, and looked around eagerly for the letter. As she stood there, footsteps approached. The sexton of the church it was, who had been into Ritewell on an errand, and was now returning to his home beyond Bishopthorpe. Mr. Hope had given instructions to lock the door as he went by; he stopped to do so now. Mrs. Langdon stumbled down stairs hurriedly, suspecting the state of the case, and found the door securely locked. She shook it violently; she could still hear for her part old Post's retreating footsteps; but he heard not, so heeded not. Unfortunately for her in her present predicament, his deafness had passed into a proverb.
Reine Marguerite hurried into the house to read her letter. From Edith. It called for a sudden alteration of her plans. Edith wrote that her husband had been ordered to sea, to join the East India squadron ; she had made up her mind to go with him. They would sail from New York to San Francisco in a week's time. Meanwhile, would Reine Marguerite come to her at Norfolk and help Aunt Mary to get her off, besides seeing the last of her for several years at least ? Reine Marguerite choked back the tears at thought of the separation, and made up her mind instantly that she would start early the next morning. She proceeded to look up her hostesses and tell them so. The consequence was that they all sat up half the night leave-taking and making plans for meeting again. Mary and Eva insisted on packing Reine Marguerite's trunk, to which she submitted all the more readily as she was extraordinarily sleepy and tired. In fact, as her friends went in and out of her room, collecting her scattered belongings, she actually dosed off to sleep, in a great arm-chair into which she had dropped.
She slept and she dreamed one of those vivid dreams that come to one oftenest in slumber snatched at odd times — perhaps because then the latest waking impressions are unusually vivid.
She dreamed that she was in the bell-tower of St. Stephen's Church, and that there was a letter addressed to her lying on the wooden bench where she had been sitting during the evening. It was bright moonlight, and she could read the address plainly. As she put out her hand to take it, she awoke. The moonlight was in fact streaming in upon her through the window near her the late moon having risen — but she was in her own room in the House Beautiful.
Then it was that Reine Marguerite was to the last degree silly. She insisted to Eva and Mary, to whom she told her dream, that there was something in it. “I am sure of it,” she said ; “and I would give the world to go to that bell-tower. Girls, I must go. I am not in the least afraid. Give me a taper to light in going up the stairs, and let me go. You can watch me every step of the way.'
As a matter of course, Eva and Mary scoffed at first, and tried to laugh her out of the superstitious fancy. But she would not be laughed out of it, and in the end the Churchills went with her in the still, white moonshine, over the dew-wet fields, to the quiet church with its sentinel tower. Mary bethought herself that there was a key of the belfry hanging in the Library, kept there for the Bishop's use, together with the key of the church itself, and she carried this with her.
She turned the key in the lock, and the three girls entered the dark vestibule. Reine Marguerite lighted the little wax-taper in her hand and led the way.
As we know, there was another occupant of the tower; she crouched at the top of the flight of stairs, heard the suppressed voices below, the tread of approaching feet. By this time her nerves were completely unstrung. She rose to her feet, dreading she hardly knew what. Before she had had time to recognise either of the party, she uttered a piercing scream and fell prone and senseless. Bewildered and horrified, Reine Marguerite and the Churchills gathered around her, and rubbed her hands and applied to her nostrils a smelling-bottle which Eva fortunately carried. “How did she come here?” Mary said again and again. have been so occupied and engrossed all the evening, Marga, with you, that we never missed her.”
Finally she recovered sufficiently to make her explanations. She had missed her handkerchief on the way home and had come back to look for it; and then some one — Post perhaps - had come by and locked her in ; after which explanation she hurried them home. The letter she had come back in reality to look for was chased out of her mind by the terror, and the letter Reine Marguerite had dreamed of was also forgotten for the time, although the next morning at the breakfast-table Eva Churchill dilated at length upon Marga’s curious dream and its consequences, after Marga herself had bidden them an early adieu after a hasty cup of coffee. Mrs. Langdon said little, but she was not unnaturally thrilled. Did dreams often trench upon realities ? she wondered. She made an expedition to the tower in daylight, but the search was unavailing for the missing letter.
Moritz came soon after breakfast. Judge of his disappointment to find Reine Marguerite gone -- his disappointment and his indignation. However, he contrived to inquire with composure,
Miss Fleming leave a message for me, Eva ?” as he struck a light for his cigar, leaning in the French window of the dining-room.
“A message for you! No. Why should she?"
“C'est toujours l'imprévu," he said carelessly, strolling off. But bitterness was in his heart.
When he returned to Baltimore the next day, Mrs. Langdon carried out her original plan and accompanied him. She went to the home which she shared with her mother-in-law, and where she awaited with feverish anxiety the next turn of the wheel of fate. She made sure that Reine Marguerite had not found the letter Von Walden had written to her that midnight on the tower; neither had she been able to find it herself, after a thorough search by daylight. But she shrewdly suspected its contents, and she built very strong hopes upon Von Walden's pique at receiving no answer to it. All of which came to nothing. Von Walden politely ignored her existence. He refused her invitations to tea, to dinner, to theatre-parties. He pleaded a great deal to do, in fact he was busier than ever; his fine plan of cutting loose from everything and idling in Europe had faded. Perhaps he was too indignant with the lady of his love to be sentimental; and hard work, he found, was a good way to drown dull care.
One fine morning a telegram came to Mrs. Langdon from Mr. Dryfte, announcing his election, which he followed speedily by his arrival in person. The month had expired; Mrs. Langdon weighed the matter of her marriage, finally, and accepted him. They were married in December, and she went to live in Washington during the session of Congress. She did not regret her choice. Mr. Dryfte was generous, indulgent and devoted; they had a well-appointed establishment. Mrs. Dryfte received complimentary notices in the newspapers.
In the course of the winter she went on to New York to select a set of diamonds which her husband presented to her ; she met Reine Marguerite on Broadway on this occasion, and greeted her with empressement. She has a good feeling for Reine Marguerite. She has not succeeded in marrying Von Walden herself, but then neither has this girl married him ; this is almost a bond between them.
The Flemings have pitched their wandering tent in New York for a while — Sister Agnes, Reine Marguerite and her aunt. Sister Agnes does the work of a lay-sister, enthusiastically, untiringly. Reine Marguerite often wishes that she too had a vocation for good works. Meanwhile she leads a life as difficult, if not as blessed; a life of daily patience and selflessness. Gradually, too, she learns to forget; or at least the sting is being outgrown of her memories.
She is sitting by the window in the parlor of the suite of rooms they occupy, sketching in a head in charcoals. Mrs. Serene, a palefaced widow, for whom Sister Agnes has an affinity, is sitting at a little distance, talking to her aunt and sister. Reine Marguerite herself has a fit of silence. The conversation turns upon Europe, Italy, France; the names of old friends, common friends, are mentioned ; finally Dr. Jerome's. “I used to know him very well,” Mrs. Serene said. “I remember being greatly shocked to hear of his death. He died a month after my daughter died - my only