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friend, that I suppose you will think both
him and yourself quite insulted if I suggest
that his further visits upon you are . . .
unadvisable."

It was Agnes's turn to laugh. *' I should
make a very poor champion for Mr. Speed,"
she said, "and I don't think that he stands



A HOPELESS CASE. 245

in much need of my defense. For myself,
I am very far from feeling insulted ; but
no doubt Mr. Speed would have the right
to feel so if I told him that you wished me
to forbid him your house."

" Oh, of course," said Mrs. Leroy, the
smile dying from her lips, and her slim,
supple figure straightening itself. " I never
authorize impertinences, and it is not the
best taste in you, my dear, to imply that I
would."

Agnes shook her head in satirical puzzle-
ment. " Pardon me," she answered, " if I
am obtuse enough to have misunderstood
that, cousin Augusta."

Mrs. Leroy had turned pale. " Oh, your
dullness of perception is your own affair,"
she said, with heightened voice. " Upon my
word, I did not imagine that you were de-
votedly attached to Mr. Speed."

" I respect him very much," replied Agnes,
tranquilly. " His intellect and character com-
mand my respect."



246 A HOPELESS CASE.

" It is a pity that one cannot say the
same for his manners."

"/ can," returned Agnes, quickly.

"You are easy to please," declared Mrs.
Leroy, with crisp irony. " We must have
very different definitions of the word * gen-
tleman.' You don't use the same dictionary
that I use ; that is evident."

" No," said Agnes, dryly, " I do not. Yours
is a pocket-dictionary, cousin Augusta, with
a gilt clasp, and not much heavier than your
fan or gloves. Mine is altogether a larger
volume ; it goes into derivations."

Mrs. Leroy grew paler yet. She felt very
angry, but she was, as we know, what is
called a discreet woman ; she knew when
she had found too strong an adversary. Be-
sides, she had of late grown to like Agnes,
though she did not understand her. It was
a narrow nature trying to comprehend a spa-
cious one, yet the narrow nature had occa-
sional vague perceptions of its neighbor's



A HOPELESS CASE. 247

finer breadths. In a certain sense, too, she
had grown proud of Agnes. The girl had
some peculiarities that baffled and perplexed
her, but altogether she had made Mrs. Le-
roy's present course of duteous protection a
very agreeable pastime.

And so it happened that the next words
which this lady spoke were mild enough to
be called conciliatory. " Come, Agnes," she
said, " there is no necessity for us to quarrel
over Mr. Speed. If you like him, I don't.
If you want him to come here, I don't. I
can't see how you can Like him and yet care
for such men as Oscar Schuyler, or Livvy
Maxwell, or even Mr. Gascoigne. Still, I
have said my last word on the subject. Do
precisely as you please."

Agnes sat quite still for a moment, with
lowered eyes. Then she rose, came slowly
near to Mrs. Leroy, and stood beside her.
"Cousin Augusta," she said, "we have both
of us spoken almost the last that need be



248 A HOPELESS CASE.

spoken either on this or on any subject. It is
best that I should tell you the truth at once.
I have made up my mind to join the Cliff es
on Thursday."

" Join the Cliffes, Agnes 1 You mean .?"...

"I mean to live always with them — not to
leave them asfain."

Mrs. Leroy rose like one in a stupor. She
put her hand upon her forehead ; she scanned
Agnes's face with incredulous eyes. "You
£an't possibly mean this ! " she murmured.

" It was in the letter that I gave you to-
night," said Agnes, resolutely. " It is settled.
I could not help it. I cannot live away from
them. I am going home."

These quiet sentences were like so many
convulsive explosions to Mrs. Leroy's aston-
ished mind. If she had put a purse of gold
pieces in the hands of some beggar, and had
them politely returned, she could not have
been more racked with consternation. She had
never dreamed of this contingency. That Ag-



A HOPELESS CASE. 249

nes should feel the strangeness of her altered
life was possible enough ; that she should
sometimes find its novelty uncongenial was
also supposable. But that she should calmly
renounce its superabundant advantages, after
once having experienced them, was beyond
conception. To Mrs. Leroy, in that immen-
sity of self-satisfaction with which she had for
years surveyed her social surroundings, it
seemed that fate had enviably Hfted her above
a vast aspiring throng. With an absurd mis-
calculation, she overestimated the number of
those who jealously viewed her prosperity.
During her girlhood she had been courted ;
during the brilliant sovereignty of her married
days she had constantly known what it was to
have her countenance and favor sought with
zeal by those who believed it precious. She
had always been a great lady in her way, but
she made the mistake that, because a few lim-
ited hundreds flocked about her with admiring
homage, an unseen majority of thousands



250 A HOPELESS CASE.

longed to show her equal allegiance. The
multiformity of human ambition was a fact
that did not enter her consciousness. She had
a pleasant, half-formed conviction that nearly
everybody desired a place in her visiting-book.

" If you commit this folly," she now said to
Agnes, with husky, trembling tones, " you will
regret it through the rest of your life."

Agnes scarcely knew what answer to make.
The change in her cousin startled her ex-
tremely. Mrs. Leroy had grown livid to the
very lips. She appeared overwhelmed, thun-
derstruck.

" If I should regret it," Agnes presently re-
plied, "the fault will be all my own. And I
hope that you will believe me sensible of your
kindness, cousin Augusta — and grateful for
it as well."

" Grateful ! " almost gasped Mrs. Leroy. " I
have never known more rank ingratitude.
And you think that you can afford to throw
away opportunities after this insane fashion .-*



A HOPELESS CASE. 2$ I

When I have introduced you among the best
people — given you the chance to lancer your-
self by a distinguished marriage, you suddenly
tell me that you prefer being nobody and liv-
ing among nobodies. Oh, it is preposter-
ous ! "

" My aunt and uncle are very far from no-
bodies," said Agnes. She felt indestructibly
placid ; her cousin's wrath seemed born of a
pitiable arrogance, and she now watched it
with a certain species of compassion. " It is
much better," she went on, "for me to tell you
that I am not happy here — partly because
I long for my dear relatives' company, and
partly because of other reasons."

"May I ask what other reasons .^ " said Mrs.
Leroy, throwing back her head in haughty in-
dignation.

Agnes mused for a moment. " Yes," she
then said, " since I grant that you have the
vight to ask me. Well, cousin Augusta, I am
not fitted for the life that now surrounds me."



252 A HOPELESS CASE.

" I thought you were not, at first," harshly
interrupted Mrs. Leroy, " but of late you have
grown much better suited to it."

'' Thanks," said Agnes, with a smile ; " I
have not observed the improvement myself ;
it seems to me that I am very much the same
sort of person as when I first came to Lafay-
ette Place. . . . However, you somewhat mis-
understand my meaning. It is not a question
of how I please your friends, since you force
me to speak plainly, but of how they please
me."

" Indeed ! "

"Candidly, yes." Agnes now seated her-
self close to Mrs. Leroy. " Cousin Augusta,"
she proceeded, "I did not expect to find either
you or your friends just what I have found
them. If this makes you angry, pray listen
to me a little further before you accuse me
of an impertinence. I am too sincerely anx-
ious that you shall know my exact feelings,
for any thought of impertinence to enter my



A HOPELESS CASE. 253

mind. I desire that the motives of my de-
parture may be known to you in full. And
though you may afterward greatly condemn
the course I am taking, you must at least al-
low that I have been guilty of no false deal-
ings."

Mrs. Leroy's face was concealing a sarcas-
tic sneer, though rather ill. " You should not
be surprised," she said, with haughty curt-
ness, "if I expressed indifference as to pre-
cisely how my friends have failed in gaining
your approval."

** Oh, I am very well aAvare," returned Ag-
nes, *' that you must look upon me as grossly
presumptuous. But I cannot help that ; I
want you to understand just why I am going.
It 's half because you and those about you be-
long to another world from mine. Yours is a
world that laughs and enjoys itself a great
deal, that reads little, thinks little, and is very
careless of to-morrow. It is an exceedingly
dainty world, with no .sympathies for what lies



254 '^ HOPELESS CASE.

beyond its limits, no interests that do not con-
cern its present amusements. It sets large
store by its exclusive selectness ; it is elegant,
patrician, high-bred. I like much of it from
an outward point of view, but there is much
that from an inward point of view wearies and
disheartens me. I want less repression, more
genuineness, warmer impulse, wider intellect-
ual reach. I cannot find it here ; I can find
nothing here that feeds what early education
has taught me to believe my better longings.
All this may seem vague to you, but perhaps
if I spoke further I should fail to make it
clearer. ... I hope you will understand me,
but even if you do not, I hope that we shall
still part friends."

Mrs. Leroy turned away as Agnes ended.
She walked to the door, and paused there for
a moment. Her face was still full of supercil-
ious anger.

" You will live to repent all this high-flown
sentiment," she murmured, under her breath.



A HOPELESS CASE. 255

" When that repentance comes, you will prop-
erly value what you have lost." Immediately
afterward she glided from the room.

Agnes sank into a chair. A subtle smile
had touched her lips. " Oh, my cousin," she
thought, " if you could only see yourself for an
instant as I see you now ! "





XIII.




?CHUYLER went home, that same af-
ternoon, in a very disturbed condi-
tion^ Agnes's gently earnest voice,
broken by sweet throbs of feeling, haunted
him through subsequent hours ; her womanly
face, too, with its virginal, unworldly gaze,
lived like a picture in his memory. At times
he strove to shake off the influence ; at times
he courted its delicate yet cogent spell. Din-
ing alone at his club, that evening, he avoid-
ed all associates from then till midnight, and
passed the interval in unaccustomed solitude.
That night he slept very ill, and on the follow-
ing morning he called upon I\Ieta Schuyler.

She was not at home. He spent the rest
of the day quite aimlessly, as usual. That



A HOPELESS CASE. 257

evening he went to a great state-dinner at a
certain Mrs. Abernethy Smith's. The dinner
was to be succeeded by a ball, whose possible
splendors had been diligently discussed among
polite circles through the previous fortnight.

Mrs. Abernethy Smith was the wife of a
wealthy Wall Street broker, who had shot into
recent celebrity by his bold financial enter-
prises. He belonged to that class of successr
ful ''operators" who direct the resources of
sudden millions towards attaining social emi-
nence. He was a slender little man, with
nervous dark eyes, meagre conversation, and
a feverish abruptness of movement. He had
come into the " street " a few years ago from
an obscure Eastern town, and had rapidly
made himself felt as an unusual power amid
the combative ferments of speculation. He
spent his money with princely largess, and he
had a handsome, bustling wife who- assisted
him in doing so. For one year Mr. and Mrs
Abernethy Smith struggled to make aristoc-
17



258 A HOPELESS CASE.

racy recognize them. At the end of the year
their victory had been complete ; their irresis-
tible dinners had conquered. Not long ago
one of Oscar Schuyler's friends had said to
him : " So Abernethy Smith has made society
swallow him, after all."

" Yes," drawled Schuyler, cruelly, '^ and
why not ? Think of the wines he gives them
to wash him dowm with."

Schuyler appeared a little late, this even-
ing, in the Smiths' drawing-room. A large
company had already assembled there. The
apartments w^ere one dazzling opulence of
ornamentation. The walls were hidden with
paintings of immense value ; a Meissonier,
worth its weight in gold a number of times
over, was wedged inconspicuously between a
famous Gerome and an unrivaled Daubigny.
Costly cabinets, Oriental rugs, incomparable
china, were crowded together in what seemed
at first one sumptuous confusion, but after-
wards revealed dexterous tact of arrangement.



A HOPELESS CASE. 259

Beyond, through half-drawn draperies, you
saw the lustrous waxed floor of a princely
ball-room, with prismatic chandeliers glitter-
ins: amons: environments of rose-color and
silver.

" You are to take in Miss Meta Schuyler,"
said Mrs. Abernethy Smith to her recently-
arrived guest, who barely concealed a start
when he heard this decree.

"Thanks," he said, with a mechanical bow
and smile. "Will you please tell me where
I am to find her .? " he added, looking around.

" She is talking with Mr. Gascoigne," re-
plied his hostess, " near one of the front
windows." And then Mrs. Abernethy Smith
turned away to receive her last dinner-guest,
a certain powerful queen of one fashionable
clique, who had rather alarmed her by not
appearing sooner. Mrs. Smith's dress was
pale-green velvet, and so stiffly crusted over
with masses of green embroidery that its
heavy grandeurs retarded her motions.



26o A HOPELESS CASE.

Mr. Gascoigne, who stood at the edge of
the sofa where Meta Schuyler was seated,
watched this emerald lady from afar. " How
magnificently Mrs. Smith is got up ! " he
whispered to Meta, leaning down. " She
can hardly walk, though. She looks like a
wounded katydid."

" Say butterfly," murmured Meta. " The
Smiths have left their chrysalis state, you
know."

Schuyler came up, at this point, and shook
hands with Meta and Mr. Gascoigne. Shortly
afterward everybody went into the dining-
room. Here gleamed a long table, literally
banked with flowers, one superb bower of
bloom rising from its midst. As the guests
took their seats, charming music began to
sound from the near hall. " It is like fairy-
land," said Meta to Schuyler, who was seated
at her side; "is it not.?"

"I hope fairy land was a nicer place,"
said Schuyler.



A HOPELESS CASE. 26 1

"Oh, you are in one of your bored moods."

" Yo7C think I am always that."

" Well, yes, you have been bored for a
good many years."

"I was not bored when you first met me."

"That is a long time ago."

" I remember it very well," said Schuyler,
sipping a glass of golden wine. " Do you
remember it .'' "

'' Perfectly," answered Meta. " I had lately
come from abroad, with Aunt Lydia. It was
my birthday; I was just sixteen; there was
a small party given in my honor. I recol-
lect how furious you made me, by coming
up to where I sat flirting with some boyish
intimate, claiming cousinship, and asking me
whether I had on my first long dress. It
was true that I had, and this was what made
me so angry."

"And you have been angry ever since,
more or less."

Meta started. "What do you mean.?" she
said, creasing her brows.



262 A HOPELESS CASE.

" Oh, I mean that you have never quite
taken me into your good graces. Of course
there have been interregnums in your dis-
pleasure, but on the whole they have been
brief ones."

Meta answered in a low voice, looking
down. " We have had some serious talks,"
she said. The babble of fellow-con vivialists
rose all about them, sounding above the vo-
luptuous music, through the heavy-odored
air.

" Yes," said Schuyler, in swift, peculiar
tones, "and neither of us has been much
the better for them ; have we } "

The color stole into Meta s face. She was
still looking down. " No," she said, " I sup-
pose not."

A silence followed. " I should like to have
one more serious talk," Schuyler at length
declared. "But perhaps this isn't just the
place for it. ... I don't know, however. . .
What do you say } "



A HOPELESS CASE, 263

Meta lifted her eyes and looked at him
quite fixedly. " Are you in earnest ? " she
asked.

" Thoroughly."

"On what subject is our serious talk to
be .? "

"That remains untold. I must first find
out whether your frame of mind is properly
receptive."

"To your advice?" asked Meta, with a lit-
tle rebelHous curl of the lip.

" No, to my treaty of peace. I should like
to propose one ... a very permanent one,
this time — not the sort of patched-up armi-
stice that you and I have repeatedly tried for.
And I am not so sure, either, that the time
and place are very unfavorable. I don't think
the empty folly of the life that you and I are
both leading was ever better shown than just
now. Where could we find a hoUower bur-
lesque on hospitality than we find at this mo-
ment .-* where a more florid advertisement of



264 A HOPELESS CASE.

ambitious pretension ? But I shan't preach,
though the text is tempting. I have no right
to do so." Schuyler lowered his voice, here,
and leaned his head close toward Meta's.
'' You know that — perhaps you know it bet-
ter than I " . . .

The dinner was a marvel of luxury. Its
numberless courses lasted till a late hour, and
then the ball began, on a scale of equal splen-
dor. Mrs. Leroy and Agnes entered the rooms
at about eleven o'clock. Livingston Maxwell
saw the latter from a distance and at once
glided up to her.

" You are late," he said. *' You are getting
into bad habits."

" I did not expect to come at all," answered
Agnes. " But I changed my mind, afterw^ard,
as you see. I had a purpose in coming."

"Can I ask what it was } "

" There were a few people to whom I
wished to say good-by."

" Good-by ! " repeated Maxwell, opening his



A HOPELESS CASE. 265

genial eyes very wide. " Where on earth are
you going ? "

Ao^nes told him, in a few direct words. He
looked amazed and shocked when she had
finished. " I can't believe it ! " he faltered.
" Ah, I see ; we have disappointed you ; I
remember your own words to me the first day
that we met."

" Everybody has not disappointed me," said
Agnes, pointedly, as their eyes met in one
steady look.

" Ah," said Maxwell, " you don't know how
disappointed / am ! "

" But it will not last very long ; you take
matters so easily."

*' That is unkind. You mean that there is
no depth about me."

" Far from it ! " contradicted Agnes ear-
nestly ; " I mean that you are the sworn en-
emy of everything unpleasant. Remember,
you once explained your individuality to me. I
shall never forget how the photograph pleased



266 A HOPELESS CASE.

me ; it was a real sun-picture. If all the peo-
ple whom I have met had been as happy a
discovery to me as you were, I would . . .
Well," broke off Agnes, laughing, " never
mind what I would have done."

" Tell me," said T^Iaxwell, in an odd voice.
'' I want very much to know."

*' Well, then, I will tell you. I would have
gone to see my relations in the West, but
afterwards I would have returned."

'' Then I am not strong enough, by myself,"
said Maxwell, meaningly, "to induce your
return .? "

Agnes laughed again. " One swallow does
not make a summer."

"It might try," said Maxwell. "Give it a
chance."

There was a trouble and a tremor in his
tones which perhaps the music and the com-
mingled voices caused Agnes to miss, and
which in reality bore sharp contrast with the
lightness of the words themselves.



A HOPELESS CASE. 267

" I am sure you don't want me to forget
you," Agnes now said, " and I assure you that
there is no danger of it. You are one of my
admirations," she went on, with a frank sim-
plicity that somehow made her hearer inwardly
recoil. '* I shall have many a chat about you
with my aunt, and uncle, and cousin. But I
shall always tell them that they can never
properly appreciate what a rare, delightful
person you are, without having met and known
you. And then I shall tell them how good
you were to me ; they will like you for that,
poor dears ! Honestly, you have been a friend
of friends. You have saved me from at least
ten stupid evenings. Upon my word, I some-
times think you have come very near making
a belle of me."

Just then two other gentlemen joined Ag-
nes. A moment afterward Livingston Max-
well left her side with considerable sudden-
ness. She caught a glimpse of his face as
he turned away ; it did not look sunny then,



268 A HOPELESS CASE.

though Agnes failed to observe that it was
gloomy. In reality a distress overspread it
which her final glance was too transient to
remark. But succeeding circumstances made
her recall that some sort of change had been
evident, and wonder if anything in the amica-
ble ardor of her last speech could possibly
have given offense to this paragon of kind-
heartedness.

Perhaps twenty minutes later Schuyler
came up to Agnes's side. There was some-
how a change in him ; she noticed it before
he had spoken three words ; but she could
not decide what it was.

" Your cousin has been telling me of your
new resolve," he said.

"Are you surprised 1 " asked Agnes.

" No. I w^as prepared for it. But some-
body else is very surprised."

"Oh," said Agnes, gathering her brows a
little impatiently, " you mean Mrs. Leroy .'* "

" No ; I mean Meta Schuyler. She is not



A HOPELESS CASE. 269

in the German to-night. She wishes to see
you. I know where she is waiting. Will you
let me take you to her } "

" Certainly."

Agnes looked searchingly at Schuyler while
she accepted his arm. His face remained
wholly impassive. They found Meta half
hidden in the alcove of a window at the fur-
ther end of the drawing-room. She rose as
Agnes appeared ; she clasped Agnes's hand in
her own, and held it firmly while she spoke.

" You are really going ? "

^' Yes."

" Oh, I am so very sorry ! "

The two women stood gazing into each
other's eyes. Meta's had a rich, starry glim-
mer, and her cheeks burned like roses.

" You will make my going much happier,"
murmured Agnes, " if you have good news to
tell me."

" Good news ? "

Meta repeated the words with a bright,



2'JO A HOPELESS CASE.

abrupt smile. The tapestries of the alcove
almost entirely shaded them from the general
gaze. Schuyler had stationed himself at some
little distance apart.

"You know what I mean," said Agnes,
answering the smile.

Still holding her hand, Meta leaned close to
the ear of Agnes and whispered several sen-
tences. Then Agnes kissed her with a sweet,
impetuous fervor; and as she withdrew her
lips Meta saw that tears glittered in her eyes.

"At last I" exclaimed Agnes, joyfully, but
in a broken voice.

" It is all owing to you ! " said Meta. " You
brought it about. He confessed that to me."

Agnes turned away. ]\Ieta never forgot the
lovely look her face wore at this moment " I
must congratulate him," Agnes said, leaving
the alcove. . . .

Not long afterward Mrs. Leroy and her
cousin met. " I am ready to go now," said
the latter, "whenever you are."



A HOPELESS CASE. 2/1

" You have made all your farewells ? " asked
Mrs. Leroy, in a calm voice, and with an in-
scrutable expression.

"All that it is of any consequence to make,"
replied Agnes. *' Oh, by the way," she added,
an instant later, " there is still Mr. Maxwell ;
I have not yet said good-by to him."

" He is not leading to-night," said Mrs. Le-
roy, looking toward the brilliant coterie of
dancers in the near ball-room. " But I dare
say he can be found."

Livingston Maxwell was not to be found,
however. Agnes was obliged to leave with-
out again seeing him.





XIV.



^^S/o^ I T was the evening of the next day.
Agnes had departed that afternoon
for the \^'est. Mrs. Leroy was alone
in her sitting-room. A novel lay on her lap,
but she was not reading it ; she was thinking.
It was almost time for Rivington to return
from the club. A fire sparkled with ruddy
vivacity on the silver - grated hearth. The
evening was somewhat chilly, and Mrs. Leroy
had drawn rather near the fireplace, so that
its light sent out little red glints, now and
then, from the complex jet trimmings tliat
adorned her costume.

Presently Rivington strolled into the room
and seated himself at his sister's side. He



A HOPELESS CASE. 2/3

had on his invariable evening-dress, and looked
as majestically handsome as usual.

" Well, Rivington," said Mrs. Leroy, with a
peculiar smile, " she is gone, is n't she "i I can


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