Produced by David Widger
A MODERN CHRONICLE
By Winston Churchill
CONTENTS OF THE ENTIRE SET:
I. WHAT'S IN HEREDITY?
II. PERDITA RECALLED
III. CONCERNING PROVIDENCE
IV. OF TEMPERAMENT
V. IN WHICH PROVIDENCE BEEPS FAITH
VI. HONORA HAS A GLIMPSE OF THE WORLD
VII. THE OLYMPIAN ORDER
VIII. A CHAPTER OF CONQUESTS
IX. IN WHICH THE VICOMTE CONTINUES HIS STUDIES
X. IN WHICH HONORA WIDENS HER HORIZON
XI. WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
XII. WHICH CONTAINS A SURPRISE FOR MRS. HOLT
I. SO LONG AS YE BOTH SHALL LIVE
II. "STAFFORD PARK"
III. THE GREAT UNATTACHED
IV. THE NEW DOCTRINE
VI. GAD AND MENI
VII. OF CERTAIN DELICATE MATTERS
VIII. OF MENTAL PROCESSES-FEMININE AND INSOLUBLE
IX. INTRODUCING A REVOLUTIONIZING VEHICLE
X. ON THE ART OF LION TAMING
XI. CONTAINING SOME REVELATIONS
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II. THE PATH OF PHILANTHROPY
IV. THE VIKING
V. THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
VI. CLIO, OR THALIA?
VII "LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS"
VIII. IN WHICH THE LAW BETRAYS A HEART
IX. WYLIE STREET
X. THE PRICE OF FREEDOM
XI. IN WHICH IT IS ALL DONE OVER AGAIN
XII. THE ENTRANCE INTO EDEN
XIII. OF THE WORLD BEYOND THE GATES.
XIV. CONTAINING PHILOSOPHY FROM MR. GRAINGER
XV. THE PILLARS OF SOCIETY
XVI. IN WHICH A MIRROR IS HELD UP
XVII. THE RENEWAL OF AN ANCIENT HOSPITALITY
XVIII. IN WHICH MR. ERWIN SEES PARIS
A MODERN CHRONICLE
WHAT'S IN HEREDITY
Honora Leffingwell is the original name of our heroine. She was born in
the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century, at Nice, in France, and she
spent the early years of her life in St. Louis, a somewhat conservative
old city on the banks of the Mississippi River. Her father was Randolph
Leffingwell, and he died in the early flower of his manhood, while
filling with a grace that many remember the post of United States Consul
at Nice. As a linguist he was a phenomenon, and his photograph in the
tortoise-shell frame proves indubitably, to anyone acquainted with the
fashions of 1870, that he was a master of that subtlest of all arts,
dress. He had gentle blood in his veins, which came from Virginia through
Kentucky in a coach and six, and he was the equal in appearance and
manners of any duke who lingered beside classic seas.
Honora has often pictured to herself a gay villa set high above the
curving shore, the amethyst depths shading into emerald, laced with
milk-white foam, the vivid colours of the town, the gay costumes; the
excursions, the dinner-parties presided over by the immaculate young
consul in three languages, and the guests chosen from the haute noblesse
of Europe. Such was the vision in her youthful mind, added to by degrees
as she grew into young-ladyhood and surreptitiously became familiar with
the writings of Ouida and the Duchess, and other literature of an
educating cosmopolitan nature.
Honora's biography should undoubtedly contain a sketch of Mrs. Randolph
Leffingwell. Beauty and dash and a knowledge of how to seat a table seem
to have been the lady's chief characteristics; the only daughter of a
carefully dressed and carefully, preserved widower, likewise a
linguist, - whose super-refined tastes and the limited straits to which
he, the remaining scion of an old Southern family, had been reduced by a
gentlemanly contempt for money, led him 'to choose Paris rather than New
York as a place of residence. One of the occasional and carefully planned
trips to the Riviera proved fatal to the beautiful but reckless Myrtle
Allison. She, who might have chosen counts or dukes from the Tagus to the
Danube, or even crossed the Channel; took the dashing but impecunious
American consul, with a faith in his future that was sublime. Without
going over too carefully the upward path which led to the post of their
country's representative at the court of St. James, neither had the
slightest doubt that Randolph Leffingwell would tread it.
It is needless to dwell upon the chagrin of Honora's maternal
grandfather, Howard Allison Esquire, over this turn of affairs, this
unexpected bouleversement, as he spoke of it in private to his friends in
his Parisian club. For many years he had watched the personal attractions
of his daughter grow, and a brougham and certain other delights not to be
mentioned had gradually become, in his mind, synonymous with old age. The
brougham would have on its panels the Allison crest, and his
distinguished (and titled) son-in-law would drop in occasionally at the
little apartment on the Boulevard Haussmann. Alas, for visions, for
legitimate hopes shattered forever! On the day that Randolph Leffingwell
led Miss Allison down the aisle of the English church the vision of the
brougham and the other delights faded. Howard Allison went back to his
Three years later, while on an excursion with Sir Nicholas Baker and a
merry party on the Italian aide, the horses behind which Mr. and Mrs.
Leffingwell were driving with their host ran away, and in the flight
managed to precipitate the vehicle, and themselves, down the side of one
of the numerous deep valleys of the streams seeking the Mediterranean.
Thus, by a singular caprice of destiny Honors was deprived of both her
parents at a period which - some chose to believe - was the height of their
combined glories. Randolph Leffingwell lived long enough to be taken back
to Nice, and to consign his infant daughter and sundry other unsolved
problems to his brother Tom.
Brother Tom - or Uncle Tom, as we must call him with Honora - cheerfully
accepted the charge. For his legacies in life had been chiefly blessings
in disguise. He was paying teller of the Prairie Bank, and the
thermometer registered something above 90 deg. Fahrenheit on the July
morning when he stood behind his wicket reading a letter from Howard
Allison, Esquire, relative to his niece. Mr. Leffingwell was at this
period of his life forty-eight, but the habit he had acquired of assuming
responsibilities and burdens seemed to have had the effect of making his
age indefinite. He was six feet tall, broad-shouldered, his mustache and
hair already turning; his eyebrows were a trifle bushy, and his eyes
reminded men of one eternal and highly prized quality - honesty. They were
blue grey. Ordinarily they shed a light which sent people away from his
window the happier without knowing why; but they had been known, on rare
occasions, to flash on dishonesty and fraud like the lightnings of the
Lord. Mr. Isham, the president of the bank, coined a phrase about him. He
said that Thomas Leffingwell was constitutionally honest.
Although he had not risen above the position of paying teller, Thomas
Leffingwell had a unique place in the city of his birth; and the esteem
in which he was held by capitalists and clerks proves that character
counts for something. On his father's failure and death he had entered
the Prairie Bank, at eighteen, and never left it. If he had owned it, he
could not have been treated by the customers with more respect. The city,
save for a few notable exceptions, like Mr. Isham, called him Mr.
Leffingwell, but behind his back often spoke of him as Tom.
On the particular hot morning in question, as he stood in his seersucker
coat reading the unquestionably pompous letter of Mr. Allison announcing
that his niece was on the high seas, he returned the greetings of his
friends with his usual kindness and cheer. In an adjoining compartment a
long-legged boy of fourteen was busily stamping letters.
"Peter," said Mr. Leffingwell, "go ask Mr. Isham if I may see him."
It is advisable to remember the boy's name. It was Peter Erwin, and he
was a favourite in the bank, where he had been introduced by Mr.
Leffingwell himself. He was an orphan and lived with his grandmother, an
impoverished old lady with good blood in her veins who boarded in
Graham's Row, on Olive Street. Suffice it to add, at this time, that he
worshipped Mr. Leffingwell, and that he was back in a twinkling with the
information that Mr. Isham was awaiting him.
The president was seated at his desk. In spite of the thermometer he gave
no appearance of discomfort in his frock-coat. He had scant, sandy-grey
whiskers, a tightly closed and smooth-shaven upper lip, a nose with-a
decided ridge, and rather small but penetrating eyes in which the blue
pigment had been used sparingly. His habitual mode of speech was both
brief and sharp, but people remarked that he modified it a little for Tom
"Come in, Tom," he said. "Anything the matter?"
"Mr. Isham, I want a week off, to go to New York."
The request, from Tom Leffingwell, took Mr. Isham's breath. One of the
bank president's characteristics was an extreme interest in the private
affairs of those who came within his zone of influence and especially
when these affairs evinced any irregularity.
"Randolph again?" he asked quickly.
Tom walked to the window, and stood looking out into the street. His
voice shook as he answered:
"Ten days ago I learned that my brother was dead, Mr. Isham."
The president glanced at the broad back of his teller. Mr. Isham's voice
was firm, his face certainly betrayed no feeling, but a flitting gleam of
satisfaction might have been seen in his eye.
"Of course, Tom, you may go," he answered.
Thus came to pass an event in the lives of Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary, that
journey to New York (their first) of two nights and two days to fetch
Honora. We need not dwell upon all that befell them. The first view of
the Hudson, the first whiff of the salt air on this unwonted holiday, the
sights of this crowded city of wealth, - all were tempered by the thought
of the child coming into their lives. They were standing on the pier when
the windows were crimson in the early light, and at nine o'clock on that
summer's morning the Albania was docked, and the passengers came crowding
down the gang-plank. Prosperous tourists, most of them, with servants and
stewards carrying bags of English design and checked steamer rugs; and at
last a ruddy-faced bonne with streamers and a bundle of ribbons and
laces - Honora - Honora, aged eighteen months, gazing at a subjugated
"What a beautiful child! exclaimed a woman on the pier."
Was it instinct or premonition that led them to accost the bonne?
"Oui, Leffingwell!" she cried, gazing at them in some perplexity. Three
children of various sizes clung to her skirts, and a younger nurse
carried a golden-haired little girl of Honora's age. A lady and gentleman
followed. The lady was beginning to look matronly, and no second glance
was required to perceive that she was a person of opinion and character.
Mr. Holt was smaller than his wife, neat in dress and unobtrusive in
appearance. In the rich Mrs. Holt, the friend of the Randolph
Leffingwells, Aunt Mary was prepared to find a more vapidly fashionable
personage, and had schooled herself forthwith.
"You are Mrs. Thomas Leffingwell?" she asked. "Well, I am relieved." The
lady's eyes, travelling rapidly over Aunt Mary's sober bonnet and brooch
and gown, made it appear that these features in Honora's future guardian
gave her the relief in question. "Honora, this is your aunt."
Honora smiled from amidst the laces, and Aunt Mary, only too ready to
capitulate, surrendered. She held out her arms. Tears welled up in the
Frenchwoman's eyes as she abandoned her charge.
"Pauvre mignonne!" she cried.
But Mrs. Holt rebuked the nurse sharply, in French, - a language with
which neither Aunt Mary nor Uncle Tom was familiar. Fortunately, perhaps.
Mrs. Holt's remark was to the effect that Honora was going to a sensible
"Hortense loves her better than my own children," said that lady.
Honora seemed quite content in the arms of Aunt Mary, who was gazing so
earnestly into the child's face that she did not at first hear Mrs.
Holt's invitation to take breakfast with them on Madison Avenue, and then
she declined politely. While grossing on the steamer, Mrs. Holt had
decided quite clearly in her mind just what she was going to say to the
child's future guardian, but there was something in Aunt Mary's voice and
manner which made these remarks seem unnecessary - although Mrs. Holt was
secretly disappointed not to deliver them.
"It was fortunate that we happened to, be in Nice at the time," she said
with the evident feeling that some explanation was due. "I did not know
poor Mrs. Randolph Leffingwell very - very intimately, or Mr. Leffingwell.
It was such a sudden - such a terrible affair. But Mr. Holt and I were
only too glad to do what we could."
"We feel very grateful to you," said Aunt Mary, quietly.
Mrs. Holt looked at her with a still more distinct approval, being
tolerably sure that Mrs. Thomas Leffingwell understood. She had cleared
her skirts of any possible implication of intimacy with the late Mrs.
Randolph, and done so with a master touch.
In the meantime Honora had passed to Uncle Tom. After securing the little
trunk, and settling certain matters with Mr. Holt, they said good-by to
her late kind protectors, and started off for the nearest street-cars,
Honora pulling Uncle Tom's mustache. More than one pedestrian paused to
look back at the tall man carrying the beautiful child, bedecked like a
young princess, and more than one passenger in the street cars smiled at
Saint Louis, or that part of it which is called by dealers in real estate
the choice residence section, grew westward. And Uncle Tom might be said
to have been in the vanguard of the movement. In the days before Honora
was born he had built his little house on what had been a farm on the
Olive Street Road, at the crest of the second ridge from the river. Up
this ridge, with clanking traces, toiled the horse-cars that carried
Uncle Tom downtown to the bank and Aunt Mary to market.
Fleeing westward, likewise, from the smoke, friends of Uncle Tom's and
Aunt Mary's gradually surrounded them - building, as a rule, the high
Victorian mansions in favour at that period, which were placed in the
centre of commodious yards. For the friends of Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary
were for the most part rich, and belonged, as did they, to the older
families of the city. Mr. Dwyer's house, with its picture gallery, was
across the street.
In the midst of such imposing company the little dwelling which became
the home of our heroine sat well back in a plot that might almost be
called a garden. In summer its white wooden front was nearly hidden by
the quivering leaves of two tall pear trees. On the other side of the
brick walk, and near the iron fence, was an elm and a flower bed that was
Uncle Tom's pride and the admiration of the neighbourhood. Honora has but
to shut her eyes to see it aflame with tulips at Eastertide. The eastern
wall of the house was a mass of Virginia creeper, and beneath that
another flower bed, and still another in the back-yard behind the lattice
fence covered with cucumber vine. There were, besides, two maples and two
apricot trees, relics of the farm, and of blessed memory. Such apricots!
Visions of hot summer evenings come back, with Uncle Tom, in his
seersucker coat, with his green watering-pot, bending over the beds, and
Aunt Mary seated upright in her chair, looking up from her knitting with
a loving eye.
Behind the lattice, on these summer evenings, stands the militant figure
of that old retainer, Bridget the cook, her stout arms akimbo, ready to
engage in vigorous banter should Honora deign to approach.
"Whisht, 'Nora darlint, it's a young lady yell be soon, and the beaux
a-comin' 'round!" she would cry, and throw back her head and laugh until
the tears were in her eyes.
And the princess, a slim figure in an immaculate linen frock with red
ribbons which Aunt Mary had copied from Longstreth's London catalogue,
would reply with dignity:
"Bridget, I wish you would try to remember that my name is Honora."
Another spasm of laughter from Bridget.
"Listen to that now!" she would cry to another ancient retainer, Mary
Ann, the housemaid, whose kitchen chair was tilted up against the side of
the woodshed. "It'll be Miss Honora next, and George Hanbury here to-day
with his eye through a knothole in the fence, out of his head for a sight
George Hanbury was Honora's cousin, and she did not deem his admiration a
subject fit for discussion with Bridget.
"Sure," declared Mary Ann, "it's the air of a princess the child has."
That she should be thought a princess did not appear at all remarkable to
Honora at twelve years of age. Perdita may have had such dreams. She had
been born, she knew, in some wondrous land by the shores of the summer
seas, not at all like St. Louis, and friends and relatives had not
hesitated to remark in her hearing that she resembled - her father, - that
handsome father who surely must have been a prince, whose before-mentioned
photograph in the tortoise-shell frame was on the bureau in her little
room. So far as Randolph Leffingwell was concerned, photography had not
been invented for nothing. Other records of him remained which Honora had
likewise seen: one end of a rose-covered villa - which Honora thought was
a wing of his palace; a coach and four he was driving, and which had
chanced to belong to an Englishman, although the photograph gave no
evidence of this ownership. Neither Aunt Mary nor Uncle Tom had ever
sought - for reasons perhaps obvious - to correct the child's impression of
an extraordinary paternity.
Aunt Mary was a Puritan of Southern ancestry, and her father had been a
Presbyterian minister, Uncle Tom was a member of the vestry of a church
still under Puritan influences. As a consequence for Honora, there were
Sunday afternoons - periods when the imaginative faculty, in which she was
by no means lacking, was given full play. She would sit by the hour in
the swing Uncle Tom had hung for her under the maple near the lattice,
while castles rose on distant heights against blue skies. There was her
real home, in a balconied chamber that overlooked mile upon mile of
rustling forest in the valley; and when the wind blew, the sound of it
was like the sea. Honora did not remember the sea, but its music was
often in her ears.
She would be aroused from these dreams of greatness by the appearance of
old Catherine, her nurse, on the side porch, reminding her that it was
time to wash for supper. No princess could have had a more humble
tiring-woman than Catherine.
Honora cannot be unduly blamed. When she reached the "little house under
the hill" (as Catherine called the chamber beneath the eaves), she beheld
reflected in the mirror an image like a tall, white flower that might
indeed have belonged to a princess. Her hair, the colour of burnt sienna,
fell evenly to her shoulders; her features even then had regularity and
hauteur; her legs, in their black silk stockings, were straight; and the
simple white lawn frock made the best of a slender figure. Those frocks
of Honora's were a continual source of wonder and sometimes of envy - to
Aunt Mary's friends; who returned from the seaside in the autumn, after a
week among the fashions in Boston or New York, to find Honora in the
latest models, and better dressed than their own children. Aunt Mary made
no secret of the methods by which these seeming miracles were performed,
and showed Cousin Eleanor Hanbury the fashion plates in the English
periodicals. Cousin Eleanor sighed.
"Mary, you are wonderful," she would say. "Honora's clothes are
better-looking than those I buy in the East, at such fabulous prices,
Indeed, no woman was ever farther removed from personal vanity than Aunt
Mary. She looked like a little Quakeress. Her silvered hair was parted in
the middle and had, in spite of palpable efforts towards tightness and
repression, a perceptible ripple in it. Grey was her only concession to
colour, and her gowns and bonnets were of a primness which belonged to
the past. Repression, or perhaps compression, was her note, for the
energy confined within her little body was a thing to have astounded
scientists: And Honora grew to womanhood and reflection before she had.
guessed or considered that her aunt was possessed of intense emotions
which had no outlet. Her features were regular, her shy eye had the
clearness of a forest pool. She believed in predestination, which is to
say that she was a fatalist; and while she steadfastly continued to
regard this world as a place of sorrow and trials, she concerned herself
very little about her participation in a future life. Old Dr. Ewing, the
rector of St. Anne's, while conceding that no better or more charitable
woman existed, found it so exceedingly difficult to talk to her, on the
subject of religion that he had never tried it but once.
Such was Aunt Mary. The true student of human nature should not find it
surprising that she spoiled Honora and strove - at what secret expense,
care, and self-denial to Uncle Tom and herself, none will ever know - to
adorn the child that she might appear creditably among companions whose
parents were more fortunate in this world's goods; that she denied
herself to educate Honora as these other children were educated. Nor is
it astonishing that she should not have understood the highly complex
organism of the young lady we have chosen for our heroine, who was
shaken, at the age of thirteen, by unfulfilled longings.
Very early in life Honora learned to dread the summer, when one by one
the families of her friends departed until the city itself seemed a
remote and distant place from what it had been in the spring and winter.
The great houses were closed and blinded, and in the evening the servants
who had been left behind chattered on the front steps. Honora could not
bear the sound of the trains that drifted across the night, and the sight
of the trunks piled in the Hanburys' hall, in Wayland Square, always
filled her with a sickening longing. Would the day ever come when she,
too, would depart for the bright places of the earth? Sometimes, when she
looked in the mirror, she was filled with a fierce belief in a destiny to
sit in the high seats, to receive homage and dispense bounties, to
discourse with great intellects, to know London and Paris and the marts
and centres of the world as her father had. To escape - only to escape
from the prison walls of a humdrum existence, and to soar!
Let us, if we can, reconstruct an August day when all (or nearly all) of
Honora's small friends were gone eastward to the mountains or the
seaside. In "the little house under the hill," the surface of which was a
hot slate roof, Honora would awake about seven o'clock to find old
Catherine bending over her in a dun-coloured calico dress, with the light
fiercely beating against the closed shutters that braved it so
unflinchingly throughout the day.
"The birds are before ye, Miss Honora, honey, and your uncle waterin' his
roses this half-hour."
Uncle Tom was indeed an early riser. As Honora dressed (Catherine
assisting as at a ceremony), she could see him, in his seersucker coat,
bending tenderly over his beds; he lived enveloped in a peace which has
since struck wonder to Honora's soul. She lingered in her dressing, even
in those days, falling into reveries from which Catherine gently and
deferentially aroused her; and Uncle Tom would be carving the beefsteak
and Aunt Mary pouring the coffee when she finally arrived in the dining
room to nibble at one of Bridget's unforgettable rolls or hot biscuits.
Uncle Tom had his joke, and at quarter-past eight precisely he would kiss
Aunt Mary and walk to the corner to wait for the ambling horse-car that
was to take him to the bank. Sometimes Honora went to the corner with
him, and he waved her good-by from the platform as he felt in his pocket
for the nickel that was to pay his fare.
When Honora returned, Aunt Mary had donned her apron, and was
industriously aiding Mary Ann to wash the dishes and maintain the
customary high polish on her husband's share of the Leffingwell silver
which, standing on the side table, shot hither and thither rays of green
light that filtered through the shutters into the darkened room. The
child partook of Aunt Mary's pride in that silver, made for a Kentucky
great-grandfather Leffingwell by a famous Philadelphia silversmith
three-quarters of a century before. Honora sighed.
"What's the matter, Honora?" asked Aunt Mary, without pausing in her