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Produced by David Widger





A MODERN CHRONICLE

By Winston Churchill


BOOK III


Volume 5.



CHAPTER I

ASCENDI

Honora did not go back to Quicksands. Neither, in this modern chronicle,
shall we.

The sphere we have left, which we know is sordid, sometimes shines in the
retrospect. And there came a time, after the excitement of furnishing the
new house was over, when our heroine, as it were, swung for a time in
space: not for a very long time; that month, perhaps, between autumn and
winter.

We need not be worried about her, though we may pause for a moment or two
to sympathize with her in her loneliness - or rather in the moods it
produced. She even felt, in those days, slightly akin to the Lady of the
Victoria (perfectly respectable), whom all of us fortunate enough
occasionally to go to New York have seen driving on Fifth Avenue with an
expression of wistful haughtiness, and who changes her costumes four
times a day.

Sympathy! We have seen Honora surrounded by friends - what has become of
them? Her husband is president of a trust company, and she has one of the
most desirable houses in New York. What more could be wished for? To jump
at conclusions in this way is by no means to understand a heroine with an
Ideal. She had these things, and - strange as it may seem - suffered.

Her sunny drawing-room, with its gathered silk curtains, was especially
beautiful; whatever the Leffingwells or Allisons may have lacked, it was
not taste. Honora sat in it and wondered: wondered, as she looked back
over the road she had threaded somewhat blindly towards the Ideal,
whether she might not somewhere have taken the wrong turn. The farther
she travelled, the more she seemed to penetrate into a land of
unrealities. The exquisite objects by which she was surrounded, and which
she had collected with such care, had no substance: she would not have
been greatly surprised, at any moment, to see them vanish like a scene in
a theatre, leaning an empty, windy stage behind them. They did not belong
to her, nor she to them.

Past generations of another blood, no doubt, had been justified in
looking upon the hazy landscapes in the great tapestries as their own:
and children's children had knelt, in times gone by, beside the carved
stone mantel. The big, gilded chairs with the silken seats might
appropriately have graced the table of the Hotel de Rambouillet. Would
not the warriors and the wits, the patient ladies of high degree and of
many children, and even the 'precieuses ridicules' themselves, turn over
in their graves if they could so much as imagine the contents of the
single street in modern New York where Honora lived?

One morning, as she sat in that room, possessed by these whimsical though
painful fancies, she picked up a newspaper and glanced through it,
absently, until her eye fell by chance upon a name on the editorial page.
Something like an electric shock ran through her, and the letters of the
name seemed to quiver and become red. Slowly they spelled - Peter Erwin.

"The argument of Mr. Peter Erwin, of St. Louis, before the Supreme Court
of the United States in the now celebrated Snowden case is universally
acknowledged by lawyers to have been masterly, and reminiscent of the
great names of the profession in the past. Mr. Erwin is not dramatic. He
appears to carry all before him by the sheer force of intellect, and by a
kind of Lincolnian ability to expose a fallacy: He is still a young man,
self-made, and studied law under Judge Brice of St. Louis, once President
of the National Bar Association, whose partner he is"....

Honora cut out the editorial and thrust it in her gown, and threw the
newspaper is the fire. She stood for a time after it had burned, watching
the twisted remnants fade from flame colour to rose, and finally blacken.
Then she went slowly up the stairs and put on her hat and coat and veil.
Although a cloudless day, it was windy in the park, and cold, the ruffled
waters an intense blue. She walked fast.

She lunched with Mrs. Holt, who had but just come to town; and the light,
like a speeding guest, was departing from the city when she reached her
own door.

"There is a gentleman in the drawing-room, madam," said the butler. "He
said he was an old friend, and a stranger in New York, and asked if he
might wait."

She stood still with presentiment.

"What is his name?" she asked.

"Mr. Erwin," said the man.

Still she hesitated. In the strange state in which she found herself that
day, the supernatural itself had seemed credible. And yet - she was not
prepared.

"I beg pardon, madam," the butler was saying, "perhaps I shouldn't - ?"

"Yes, yes, you should," she interrupted him, and pushed past him up the
stairs. At the drawing-room door she paused - he was unaware of her
presence. And he had not changed! She wondered why she had expected him
to change. Even the glow of his newly acquired fame was not discernible
behind his well-remembered head. He seemed no older - and no younger. And
he was standing with his hands behind his back gazing in simple, silent
appreciation at the big tapestry nearest the windows.

"Peter," she said, in a low voice.

He turned quickly, and then she saw the glow. But it was the old glow,
not the new - the light in which her early years had been spent.

"What a coincidence!" she exclaimed, as he took her hand.

"Coincidence?"

"It was only this morning that I was reading in the newspaper all sorts
of nice things about you. It made me feel like going out and telling
everybody you were an old friend of mine." Still holding his fingers, she
pushed him away from her at arm's length, and looked at him. "What does
it feel like to be famous, and have editorials about one's self in the
New York newspapers?"

He laughed, and released his hands somewhat abruptly.

"It seems as strange to me, Honora, as it does to you."

"How unkind of you, Peter!" she exclaimed.

She felt his eyes upon her, and their searching, yet kindly and humorous
rays seemed to illuminate chambers within her which she would have kept
in darkness: which she herself did not wish to examine.

"I'm so glad to see you," she said a little breathlessly, flinging her
muff and boa on a chair. "Sit there, where I can look at you, and tell me
why you didn't let me know you were coming to New York."

He glanced a little comically at the gilt and silk arm-chair which she
designated, and then at her; and she smiled and coloured, divining the
humour in his unspoken phrase.

"For a great man," she declared, "you are absurd."

He sat down. In spite of his black clothes and the lounging attitude he
habitually assumed, with his knees crossed - he did not appear incongruous
in a seat that would have harmonized with the flowing robes of the
renowned French Cardinal himself. Honora wondered why. He impressed her
to-day as force - tremendous force in repose, and yet he was the same
Peter. Why was it? Had the clipping that even then lay in her bosom
effected this magic change? He had intimated as much, but she denied it
fiercely.

She rang for tea.

"You haven't told me why you came to New York," she said.

"I was telegraphed for, from Washington, by a Mr. Wing," he explained.

"A Mr. Wing," she repeated. "You don't mean by any chance James Wing?"

"The Mr. Wing," said Peter.

"The reason I asked," explained Honora, flushing, was because Howard is
- associated with him. Mr. Wing is largely interested in the Orange Trust
Company."

"Yes, I know," said Peter. His elbows were resting on the arms of his
chair, and he looked at the tips of his fingers, which met. Honora
thought it strange that he did not congratulate her, but he appeared to
be reflecting.

"What did Mr. Wing want?" she inquired in her momentary confusion, and
added hastily, "I beg your pardon, Peter. I suppose I ought not to ask
that."

"He was kind enough to wish me to live in New York he answered, still
staring at the tips of his fingers.

"Oh, how nice!" she cried - and wondered at the same time whether, on
second thoughts, she would think it so. "I suppose he wants you to be the
counsel for one of his trusts. When - when do you come?"

"I'm not coming."

"Not coming! Why? Isn't it a great compliment?"

He ignored the latter part of her remark; and it seemed to her, when she
recalled the conversation afterwards, that she had heard a certain note
of sadness under the lightness of his reply.

"To attempt to explain to a New Yorker why any one might prefer to live
in any other place would be a difficult task."

"You are incomprehensible, Peter," she declared. And yet she felt a
relief that surprised her, and a desire to get away from the subject.
"Dear old St. Louis! Somehow, in spite of your greatness, it seems to fit
you."

"It's growing," said Peter - and they laughed together.

"Why didn't you come to lunch?" she said.

"Lunch! I didn't know that any one ever went to lunch in New York - in
this part of it, at least - with less than three weeks' notice. And by the
way, if I am interfering with any engagement - "

"My book is not so full as all that. Of course you'll come and stay with
us, Peter."

He shook his head regretfully.

"My train leaves at six, from Forty-Second Street," he replied.

"Oh, you are niggardly," she cried. "To think how little I see of you,
Peter. And sometimes I long for you. It's strange, but I still miss you
terribly - after five years. It seems longer than that," she added, as she
poured the boiling water into the tea-pot. But she did not look at him.

He got up and walked as far as a water-colour on the wall.

"You have some beautiful things here, Honora," he said. "I am glad I have
had a glimpse of you surrounded by them to carry back to your aunt and
uncle."

She glanced about the room as he spoke, and then at him. He seemed the
only reality in it, but she did not say so.

"You'll see them soon," was what she said. And considered the miracle of
him staying there where Providence had placed him, and bringing the world
to him. Whereas she, who had gone forth to seek it - "The day after
to-morrow will be Sunday," he reminded her.

Nothing had changed there. She closed her eyes and saw the little dining
room in all the dignity of Sunday dinner, the big silver soup tureen
catching the sun, the flowered china with the gilt edges, and even a
glimpse of lace paper when the closet door opened; Aunt Mary and Uncle
Tom, with Peter between them. And these, strangely, were the only
tangible things and immutable.

"You'll give them - a good account of me?" she said. "I know that you do
not care for New York," she added with a smile. "But it is possible to be
happy here."

"I am glad you are happy, Honora, and that you have got what you wanted
in life. Although I may be unreasonable and provincial and - and Western,"
he confessed with a twinkle - for he had the characteristic national trait
of shading off his most serious remarks - "I have never gone so far as to
declare that happiness was a question of locality."

She laughed.

"Nor fame." Her mind returned to the loadstar.

"Oh, fame!" he exclaimed, with a touch of impatience, and he used the
word that had possessed her all day. "There is no reality in that. Men
are not loved for it."

She set down her cup quickly. He was looking at the water-colour.

"Have you been to the Metropolitan Museum lately?" he asked.

"The Metropolitan Museum?" she repeated in bewilderment.

"That would be one of the temptations of New York for me," he said. "I
was there for half an hour this afternoon before I presented myself at
your door as a suspicious character. There is a picture there, by Coffin,
called 'The Rain,' I believe. I am very fond of it. And looking at it on
such a winter's day as this brings back the summer. The squall coming,
and the sound of it in the trees, and the very smell of the wet
meadow-grass in the wind. Do you know it?"

"No," replied Honora, and she was suddenly filled with shame at the
thought that she had never been in the Museum. "I didn't know you were so
fond of pictures."

"I am beginning to be a rival of Mr. Dwyer," he declared. "I've bought
four - although I haven't built my gallery. When you come to St. Louis
I'll show them to you - and let us hope it will be soon."

For some time after she had heard the street door close behind him Honora
remained where she was, staring into the fire, and then she crossed the
room to a reading lamp, and turned it up.

Some one spoke in the doorway.

"Mr. Grainger, madam."

Before she could rouse herself and recover from her astonishment, the
gentleman himself appeared, blinking as though the vision of her were too
bright to be steadily gazed at. If the city had been searched, it is
doubtful whether a more striking contrast to the man who had just left
could have been found than Cecil Grainger in the braided, grey cutaway
that clung to the semblance of a waist he still possessed. In him Hyde
Park and Fifth Avenue, so to speak, shook hands across the sea: put him
in either, and he would have appeared indigenous.

"Hope you'll forgive my comin' 'round on such slight acquaintance, Mrs.
Spence," said he. "Couldn't resist the opportunity to pay my respects.
Shorter told me where you were."

"That was very good of Mr. Shorter," said Honora, whose surprise had
given place to a very natural resentment, since she had not the honour of
knowing Mrs. Grainger.

"Oh," said Mr. Grainger, "Shorter's a good sort. Said he'd been here
himself to see how you were fixed, and hadn't found you in. Uncommonly
well fixed, I should say," he added, glancing around the room with
undisguised approval. "Why the deuce did she furnish it, since she's gone
to Paris to live with Rindge?"

"I suppose you mean Mrs. Rindge," said Honora. "She didn't furnish it."

Mr. Grainger winked at her rapidly, like a man suddenly brought face to
face with a mystery.

"Oh!" he replied, as though he had solved it. The solution came a few
moments later. "It's ripping!" he said. "Farwell couldn't have done it
any better."

Honora laughed, and momentarily forgot her resentment.

"Will you have tea?" she asked. "Oh, don't sit down there!"

"Why not?" he asked, jumping. It was the chair that had held Peter, and
Mr. Grainger examined the seat as though he suspected a bent pin.

"Because," said Honora, "because it isn't comfortable. Pull up that other
one."

Again mystified, he did as he was told. She remembered his reputation for
going to sleep, and wondered whether she had been wise in her second
choice. But it soon became apparent that Mr. Grainger, as he gazed at her
from among the cushions, had no intention of dozing, His eyelids reminded
her of the shutters of a camera, and she had the feeling of sitting for
thousands of instantaneous photographs for his benefit. She was by turns
annoyed, amused, and distrait: Peter was leaving his hotel; now he was
taking the train. Was he thinking of her? He had said he was glad she was
happy! She caught herself up with a start after one of these silences to
realize that Mr. Grainger was making unwonted and indeed pathetic
exertions to entertain her, and it needed no feminine eye to perceive
that he was thoroughly uncomfortable. She had, unconsciously and in
thinking of Peter, rather overdone the note of rebuke of his visit. And
Honora was, above all else, an artist. His air was distinctly apologetic
as he rose, perhaps a little mortified, like that of a man who has got
into the wrong house.

"I very much fear I've intruded, Mrs. Spence," he stammered, and he was
winking now with bewildering rapidity. "We - we had such a pleasant drive
together that day to Westchester - I was tempted - "

"We did have a good time," she agreed. "And it has been a pleasure to see
you again."

Thus, in the kindness of her heart, she assisted him to cover his
retreat, for it was a strange and somewhat awful experience to see Mr.
Cecil Grainger discountenanced. He glanced again, as he went out, at the
chair in which he had been forbidden to sit.

She went to the piano, played over a few bars of Thais, and dropped her
hands listlessly. Cross currents of the strange events of the day flowed
through her mind: Peter's arrival and its odd heralding, and the
discomfort of Mr. Grainger.

Howard came in. He did not see her under the shaded lamp, and she sat
watching him with a curious feeling of detachment as he unfolded his
newspaper and sank, with a sigh of content, into the cushioned chair
which Mr. Grainger had vacated. Was it fancy that her husband's physical
attributes had changed since he had attained his new position of dignity?
She could have sworn that he had visibly swollen on the evening when he
had announced to her his promotion, and he seemed to have remained
swollen. Not bloated, of course: he was fatter, and - if possible pinker.
But there was a growing suggestion in him of humming-and-hawing
greatness. If there - were leisure in this too-leisurely chronicle for
what might be called aftermath, the dinner that Honora had given to some
of her Quicksands friends might be described. Suffice it to recall, with
Honora, that Lily Dallam, with a sure instinct, had put the finger of her
wit on this new attribute of Howard's.

"You'll kill me, Howard!" she had cried. "He even looks at the soup as
though he were examining a security!"

Needless to say, it did not cure him, although it sealed Lily Dallam's
fate - and incidentally that of Quicksands. Honora's thoughts as she sat
now at the piano watching him, flew back unexpectedly to the summer at
Silverdale when she had met him, and she tried to imagine, the genial and
boyish representative of finance that he was then. In the midst of this
effort he looked up and discovered her.

"What are you doing over there, Honora?" he asked.

"Thinking," she answered.

"That's a great way to treat a man when he comes home after a day's
work."

"I beg your pardon, Howard," she said with unusual meekness. "Who do you
think was here this afternoon?"

"Erwin? I've just come from Mr. Wing's house - he has gout to-day and
didn't go down town. He offered Erwin a hundred thousand a year to come
to New York as corporation counsel. And if you'll believe me - he refused
it."

"I'll believe you," she said.

"Did he say anything about it to you?"

"He simply mentioned that Mr. Wing asked him to come to New York. He
didn't say why."

"Well," Howard remarked, "he's one too many for me. He can't be making
over thirty thousand where he is."




CHAPTER II

THE PATH OF PHILANTHROPY

Mrs. Cecil Grainger may safely have been called a Personality, and one of
the proofs of this was that she haunted people who had never seen her.
Honora might have looked at her, it is true, on the memorable night of
the dinner with Mrs. Holt and Trixton Brent; but - for sufficiently
obvious reasons - refrained. It would be an exaggeration to say that Mrs.
Grainger became an obsession with our heroine; yet it cannot be denied
that, since Honora's arrival at Quicksands, this lady had, in increasing
degrees, been the subject of her speculations. The threads of Mrs.
Grainger's influence were so ramified, indeed, as to be found in Mrs.
Dallam, who declared she was the rudest woman in New York and yet had
copied her brougham; in Mr. Cuthbert and Trixton Brent; in Mrs. Kame; in
Mrs. Holt, who proclaimed her a tower of strength in charities; and
lastly in Mr. Grainger himself, who, although he did not spend much time
in his wife's company, had for her an admiration that amounted to awe.

Elizabeth Grainger, who was at once modern and tenaciously conservative,
might have been likened to some of the Roman matrons of the aristocracy
in the last years of the Republic. Her family, the Pendletons, had
traditions: so, for that matter, had the Graingers. But Senator
Pendleton, antique homo virtute et fide, had been a Roman of the old
school who would have preferred exile after the battle of Philippi; and
who, could he have foreseen modern New York and modern finance, would
have been more content to die when he did. He had lived in Washington
Square. His daughter inherited his executive ability, many of his
prejudices (as they would now be called), and his habit of regarding
favourable impressions with profound suspicion. She had never known the
necessity of making friends: hers she had inherited, and for some reason
specially decreed, they were better than those of less fortunate people.

Mrs. Grainger was very tall. And Sargent, in his portrait of her, had
caught with admirable art the indefinable, yet partly supercilious and
scornful smile with which she looked down upon the world about her. She
possessed the rare gift of combining conventionality with personal
distinction in her dress. Her hair was almost Titian red in colour, and
her face (on the authority of Mr. Reginald Farwell) was at once modern
and Italian Renaissance. Not the languid, amorous Renaissance, but the
lady of decision who chose, and did not wait to be chosen. Her eyes had
all the colours of the tapaz, and her regard was so baffling as to arouse
intense antagonism in those who were not her friends.

To Honora, groping about for a better and a higher life, the path of
philanthropy had more than once suggested itself. And on the day of
Peter's visit to New York, when she had lunched with Mrs. Holt, she had
signified her willingness (now that she had come to live in town) to join
the Working Girls' Relief Society. Mrs. Holt, needless to say, was
overjoyed: they were to have a meeting at her house in the near future
which Honora must not fail to attend. It was not, however, without a
feeling of trepidation natural to a stranger that she made her way to
that meeting when the afternoon arrived.

No sooner was she seated in Mrs. Holt's drawing-room - filled with
camp-chairs for the occasion - than she found herself listening
breathlessly to a recital of personal experiences by a young woman who
worked in a bindery on the East side. Honora's heart was soft: her
sympathies, as we know, easily aroused. And after the young woman had
told with great simplicity and earnestness of the struggle to support
herself and lead an honest and self-respecting existence, it seemed to
Honora that at last she had opened the book of life at the proper page.

Afterwards there were questions, and a report by Miss Harber, a
middle-aged lady with glasses who was the secretary. Honora looked around
her. The membership of the Society, judging by those present, was surely
of a sufficiently heterogeneous character to satisfy even the catholic
tastes of her hostess. There were elderly ladies, some benevolent and
some formidable, some bedecked and others unadorned; there were
earnest-looking younger women, to whom dress was evidently a secondary
consideration; and there was a sprinkling of others, perfectly gowned,
several of whom were gathered in an opposite corner. Honora's eyes, as
the reading of the report progressed, were drawn by a continual and
resistless attraction to this group; or rather to the face of one of the
women in it, which seemed to stare out at her like the eat in the tree of
an old-fashioned picture puzzle, or the lineaments of George Washington
among a mass of boulders on a cliff. Once one has discovered it, one can
see nothing else. In vain Honora dropped her eyes; some strange
fascination compelled her to raise them again until they met those of the
other woman: Did their glances meet? She could never quite be sure, so
disconcerting were the lights in that regard - lights, seemingly, of
laughter and mockery.

Some instinct informed Honora that the woman was Mrs. Grainger, and
immediately the scene in the Holland House dining-room came back to her.
Never until now had she felt the full horror of its comedy. And then, as
though to fill the cup of humiliation, came the thought of Cecil
Grainger's call. She longed, in an agony with which sensitive natures
will sympathize, for the reading to be over.

The last paragraph of the report contained tributes to Mrs. Joshua Holt
and Mrs. Cecil Grainger for the work each had done during the year, and
amidst enthusiastic hand-clapping the formal part of the meeting came to
an end. The servants were entering with tea as Honora made her way
towards the door, where she was stopped by Susan Holt.

"My dear Honora," cried Mrs. Holt, who had hurried after her daughter,
"you're not going?"

Honora suddenly found herself without an excuse.

"I really ought to, Mrs. Holt. I've had such a good time-and I've been so
interested. I never realized that such things occurred. And I've got one


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