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   Chapter 5 MORE ADVENTURER

Mr. Crewe's Career -- Volume 3 By Winston Churchill Characters: 30695

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


Victoria had not, of course, confided in Beatrice Chillingham what had occurred in the garden, although that lady had exhibited the liveliest interest, and had had her suspicions. After Mr. Crewe's departure Mr. Rangely, the tall young Englishman, had renewed his attentions assiduously, although during the interval in the garden he had found Miss Chillingham a person of discernment.

"She's not going to marry that chap, is she, Miss Chillingham?" he had asked.

"No," said Beatrice; "you have my word for it, she isn't."

As she was leaving, Mrs. Pomfret had taken Victoria's hand and drawn her aside, and looked into her face with a meaning smile.

"My dear!" she exclaimed, "he particularly asked that you be invited."

"Who?" said Victoria.

"Humphrey. He stipulated that you should be here."

"Then I'm very much obliged to him," said Victoria, "for I've enjoyed myself immensely. I like your Englishman so much."

"Do you?" said Mrs. Pomfret, searching Victoria's face, while her own brightened. "He's heir to one of the really good titles, and he has an income of his own. I couldn't put him up here, in this tiny box, because I have Mrs. Fronde. We are going to take him to the convention-and if you'd care to go, Victoria-?"

Victoria laughed.

"It isn't as serious as that," she said. "And I'm afraid I can't go to the convention-I have some things to do in the neighbourhood."

Mrs. Pomfret looked wise.

"He's a most attractive man, with the best prospects. It would be a splendid match for you, Victoria."

"Mrs. Pomfret," replied Victoria, wavering between amusement and a desire to be serious, "I haven't the slightest intention of making what you call a 'match.'" And there was in her words a ring of truth not to be mistaken.

Mrs. Pomfret kissed her.

"One never can tell what may happen," she said. "Think of him, Victoria. And your dear mother-perhaps you will know some day what the responsibility is of seeing a daughter well placed in life."

Victoria coloured, and withdrew her hand.

"I fear that time is a long way off, Mrs. Pomfret," she replied.

"I think so much of Victoria," Mrs. Pomfret declared a moment later to her guest; "she's like my own daughter. But at times she's so hopelessly unconventional. Why, I believe Rangely's actually going home with her."

"He asked her to drop him at the Inn," said Mrs. Fronde. "He's head over heels in love already."

"It would be such a relief to dear Rose," sighed Mrs. Pomfret.

"I like the girl," replied Mrs. Fronde, dryly. "She has individuality, and knows her own mind. Whoever she marries will have something to him."

"I devoutly hope so!" said Mrs. Pomfret.

It was quite true that Mr. Arthur Rangely had asked Victoria to drop him at the Inn. But when they reached it he made another request.

"Do you mind if I go a bit farther, Miss Flint?" he suggested. "I'd rather like the walk back."

Victoria laughed.

"Do come," she said.

He admired the country, but he looked at Victoria, and asked a hundred exceedingly frank questions about Leith, about Mrs. Pomfret, whom he had met at his uncle's seat in Devonshire, and about Mr. Crewe and the railroads in politics. Many of these Victoria parried, and she came rapidly to the conclusion that Mr. Arthur Rangely was a more astute person than-to a casual observer he would seem.

He showed no inclination to fix the limits of his walk, and made no

protest as she drove under the stone archway at the entrance of Fairview.

Victoria was amused and interested, and she decided that she liked Mr.

Rangely.

"Will you come up for tea?" she asked. "I'll send you home."

He accepted with alacrity. They had reached the first turn when their attention was caught by the sight of a buggy ahead of them, and facing towards them. The horse, with the reins hanging loosely over the shafts, had strayed to the side of the driveway and was contentedly eating the shrubbery that lined it. Inside the vehicle, hunched up in the corner of the seat, was a man who presented an appearance of helplessness which struck them both with a sobering effect.

"Is the fellow drunk?" said Mr. Rangely.

Victoria's answer was a little cry which startled him, and drew his look to her. She had touched her horse with the whip, and her eyes had widened in real alarm.

"It's Hilary Vane!" she exclaimed. "I-I wonder what can have happened!"

She handed the reins to Mr. Rangely, and sprang out and flew to Hilary's side.

"Mr. Vane!" she cried. "What's the matter? Are you ill?"

She had never seen him look so. To her he had always been as one on whom pity would be wasted, as one who long ago had established his credit with the universe to his own satisfaction. But now, suddenly, intense pity welled up within her, and even in that moment she wondered if it could be because he was Austen's father. His hands were at his sides, his head was fallen forward a little, and his face was white. But his eyes frightened her most; instead of the old, semi-defiant expression which she remembered from childhood, they had in them a dumb suffering that went to her heart. He looked at her, tried to straighten up, and fell back again.

"N-nothing's the matter," he said, "nothing. A little spell. I'll be all right in a moment."

Victoria did not lose an instant, but climbed into the buggy at his side and gathered up the reins, and drew the fallen lap-robe over his knees.

"I'm going to take you back to Fairview," she said. "And we'll telephone for a doctor."

But she had underrated the amount of will left in him. He did not move, though indeed if he had seized the reins from her hands, he could have given her no greater effect of surprise. Life came back into the eyes at the summons, and dominance into the voice, although he breathed heavily.

"No, you're not," he said; "no, you're not. I'm going to Ripton-do you understand? I'll be all right in a minute, and I'll take the lines."

Victoria, when she got over her astonishment at this, reflected quickly. She glanced at him, and the light of his expression was already fading. There was some reason why he did not wish to go back to Fairview, and common sense told her that agitation was not good for him; besides, they would have to telephone to Ripton for a physician, and it was quicker to drive there. Quicker to drive in her own runabout, did she dare to try to move him into it. She made up her mind.

"Please follow on behind with that trap," she called out to Rangely; "I'm going to Ripton."

He nodded understandingly, admiringly, and Victoria started Hilary's horse out of the bushes towards the entrance way. From time to time she let her eyes rest upon him anxiously.

"Are you comfortable?" she asked.

"Yes," he said, "yes. I'm all right. I'll be able to drive in a minute."

But the minutes passed, and he made no attempt to take the reins. Victoria had drawn the whalebone whip from its socket, and was urging on the horse as fast as humanity would permit; and the while she was aware that Hilary's look was fixed upon her-in fact, never left her. Once or twice, in spite of her anxiety to get him home, Victoria blushed faintly, as she wondered what he was thinking about.

And all the while she asked herself what it was that had brought him to this condition. Victoria knew sufficient of life and had visited hospitals enough to understand that mental causes were generally responsible for such breakdowns-Hilary had had a shock. She remembered how in her childhood he had been the object of her particular animosity; how she used to put out her tongue at him, and imitate his manner, and how he had never made the slightest attempt to conciliate her; most people of this sort are sensitive to the instincts of children; but Hilary had not been. She remembered-how long ago it seemed now!-the day she had given him, in deviltry, the clipping about Austen shooting Mr. Blodgett.

The Hilary Vane who sat beside her to-day was not the same man. It was unaccountable, but he was not. Nor could this changed estimate of him be attributed to her regard for Austen, for she recalled a day only a few months since-in June-when he had come up to Fairview and she was standing on the lawn, and she had looked at him without recognition; she had not, then, been able to bring herself to bow to him; to her childhood distaste had been added the deeper resentment of Austen's wrongs. Her early instincts about Hilary had been vindicated, for he had treated his son abominably and driven Austen from his mother's home. To misunderstand and maltreat Austen Vane, of all people Austen, whose consideration for his father had been what it had! Could it be that Hilary felt remorse? Could it be that he loved Austen in some peculiar manner all his own?

Victoria knew now-so strangely-that the man beside her was capable of love, and she had never felt that way about Hilary Vane. And her mind was confused, and her heart was troubled and wrung. Insight flashed upon her of the terrible loneliness of a life surrounded by outstretched, loving arms to which one could not fly; scenes from a famous classic she had read with a favourite teacher at school came to her, and she knew that she was the witness of a retribution, of a suffering beyond conception of a soul prepared for suffering,-not physical suffering, but of that torture which is the meaning of hell.

However, there was physical suffering. It came and went, and at such moments she saw the traces of it in the tightening of his lips, and longed with womanly intuition to alleviate it. She had not spoken -although she could have cried aloud; she knew not what to say. And then suddenly she reached out and touched his hand. Nor could she have accounted for the action.

"Are you in much pain?" she asked.

She felt him tremble.

"No," he said; "it's only a spell-I've had 'em before. I-I can drive in a few minutes."

"And do you think," she asked, "that I would allow you to go the rest of the way alone?"

"I guess I ought to thank you for comin' with me," he said.

Victoria looked at him and smiled. And it was an illuminating smile for her as well as for Hilary. Suddenly, by that strange power of sympathy which the unselfish possess, she understood the man, understood Austen's patience with him and affection for him. Suddenly she had pierced the hard layers of the outer shell, and had heard the imprisoned spirit crying with a small persistent voice,-a spirit stifled for many years and starved-and yet it lived and struggled still.

Yes, and that spirit itself must have felt her own reaching out to it -who can, say? And how it must have striven again for utterance-

"It was good of you to come," he said.

"It was only common humanity," she answered, touching the horse.

"Common humanity," he repeated. "You'd have done it for anybody along the road, would you?"

At this remark, so characteristic of Hilary, Victoria, hesitated. She understood it now. And yet she hesitated to give him an answer that was hypocritical.

"I have known you all my life, Mr. Vane, and you are a very old friend of my father's."

"Old," he repeated, "yes, that's it. I'm ready for the scrap-heap -better have let me lie, Victoria."

Victoria started. A new surmise had occurred to her upon which she did not like to dwell.

"You have worked too hard, Mr. Vane-you need a rest. And I have been telling father that, too. You both need a rest."

He shook his head.

"I'll never get it," he said. "Stopping work won't give it to me."

She pondered on these words as she guided the horse over a crossing. And all that Austen had said to her, all that she had been thinking of for a year past, helped her to grasp their meaning. But she wondered still more at the communion which, all at once, had been established between Hilary Vane and herself, and why he was saying these things to her. It was all so unreal and inexplicable.

"I can imagine that people who have worked hard all their lives must feel that way," she answered, though her voice was not as steady as she could have wished. "You-you have so much to live for."

Her colour rose. She was thinking of Austen-and she knew that Hilary Vane knew that she was thinking of Austen. Moreover, she had suddenly grasped the fact that the gentle but persistently strong influence of the son's character had brought about the change in the father. Hilary Vane's lips closed again, as in pain, and she divined the reason.

Victoria knew the house in Hanover Street, with its classic porch, with its certain air of distinction and stability, and long before she had known it as the Austen residence she remembered wondering who lived in it. The house had individuality, and (looked at from the front) almost perfect proportions; consciously-it bespoke the gentility of its builders. Now she drew up before it and called to Mr. Rangely, who was abreast, to tie his horse and ring the bell. Hilary was already feeling with his foot for the step of the buggy.

"I'm all right," he insisted; "I can manage now," but Victoria seized his arm with a firm, detaining hand.

"Please wait,-Mr. Vane," she pleaded.

But the feeling of shame at his helplessness was strong.

"It's over now. I-I can walk. I'm much obliged to you, Victoria-much obliged."

Fortunately Hilary's horse showed no inclination to go any farther-even to the stable. And Victoria held on to his arm. He ceased to protest, and Mr. Rangely quickly tied the other horse and came to Victoria's aid. Supported by the young Englishman, Hilary climbed the stone steps and reached the porch, declaring all the while that he needed no assistance, and could walk alone. Victoria rang the bell, and after an interval the door was opened by Euphrasia Cotton.

Euphrasia stood upright with her hand on the knob, and her eyes flashed over the group and rested fixedly on the daughter of Mr. Flint.

"Mr. Vane was not very well," Victoria explained, "and we came home with him."

"I'm all right," said Hilary, once more, and to prove it he stepped-not very steadily-across the threshold into the hall, and sat down on a chair which had had its place at the foot of the stairs from time immemorial. Euphrasia stood still.

"I think," said Victoria, "that Mr. Vane had better see a doctor. Have you a telephone?"

"No, we haven't," said Euphrasia.

Victoria turned to Mr. Rangely, who had been a deeply interested spectator to this scene.

"A little way down the street, on the other side, Dr. Tredway lives. You will see his sign."

"And if he isn't in, go to the hospital. It's only a few doors farther on."

"I'll wait," said Victoria, simply, when he had gone; "my father will wish to know about Mr. Vane."

"Hold on," said Hilary, "I haven't any use for a doctor-I won't see one.

I know what the trouble is, and I'm all right."

Victoria became aware-for the first time that Hilary Vane's housekeeper had not moved; that Euphrasia Cotton was still staring at her in a most disconcerting manner, and was paying no attention whatever to Hilary.

"Come in and set down," she said; and seeing Victoria glance at Hilary's horse, she added, "Oh, he'll stand there till doomsday."

Victoria, thinking that the situation would be less awkward,

accepted the invitation, and Euphrasia shut the door. The hall, owing to the fact that the shutters of the windows by the stairs were always closed, was in semidarkness. Victoria longed to let in the light, to take this strange, dried-up housekeeper and shake her into some semblance of natural feeling. And this was Austen's home! It was to this house, made gloomy by these people, that he had returned every night! Infinitely depressed, she felt that she must take some action, or cry aloud.

"Mr. Vane," she said, laying a hand upon his shoulder, "I think you ought, at least, to lie down for a little while. Isn't there a sofa in -in the parlour?" she asked Euphrasia.

"You can't get him to do anything," Euphrasia replied, with decision; "he'll die some day for want of a little common sense. I shouldn't wonder if he was took on soon."

"Oh!" cried Victoria. She could think of no words to answer this remark.

"It wouldn't surprise me," Euphrasia continued. "He fell down the stairs here not long ago, and went right on about his business. He's never paid any attention to anybody, and I guess it's a mite late to expect him to begin now. Won't you set down?"

There was another chair against the low wainscoting, and Victoria drew it over beside Hilary and sat down in it. He did not seem to notice the action, and Euphrasia continued to stand. Standing seemed to be the natural posture of this remarkable woman, Victoria thought-a posture of vigilance, of defiance. A clock of one of the Austen grandfathers stood obscurely at the back of the hall, and the measured swing of its pendulum was all that broke the silence. This was Austen's home. It seemed impossible for her to realize that he could be the product of this environment-until a portrait on the opposite wall, above the stairs, came out of the gloom and caught her eye like the glow of light. At first, becoming aware of it with a start, she thought it a likeness of Austen himself. Then she saw that the hair was longer, and more wavy than his, and fell down a little over the velvet collar of a coat with a wide lapel and brass buttons, and that the original of this portrait had worn a stock. The face had not quite the strength of Austen's, she thought, but a wondrous sweetness and intellect shone from it, like an expression she had seen on his face. The chin rested on the hand, an intellectual hand,-and the portrait brought to her mind that of a young English statesman she had seen in the National Gallery in London.

"That's Channing Austen,-he was minister to Spain."

Victoria started. It was Euphrasia who was speaking, and unmistakable pride was in her voice.

Fortunately for Victoria, who would not in the least have known what to reply, steps were heard on the porch, and Euphrasia opened the door. Mr. Rangely had returned.

"Here's the doctor, Miss Flint," he said, "and I'll wait for you outside."

Victoria rose as young Dr. Tredway came forward. They were old friends, and the doctor, it may be recalled, had been chiefly responsible for the preservation of the life of Mr. Zebulun Meader.

"I have sent for you, Doctor," she said, "against instructions and on my own responsibility. Mr. Vane is ill, although he refuses to admit it."

Dr. Tredway had a respect for Victoria and her opinions, and he knew

Hilary. He opened the door a little wider, and looked critically at Mr.

Vane.

"It's nothing but a spell," Hilary insisted. "I've had 'em before. I suppose it's natural that they should scare the women-folks some."

"What kind of a spell was it, Mr. Vane?" asked the doctor.

"It isn't worth talking about," said Hilary. "You might as well pick up that case of yours and go home again. I'm going down to the square in a little while."

"You see," Euphrasia put in, "he's made up his mind to kill himself."

"Perhaps," said the doctor, smiling a little, "Mr. Vane wouldn't object to Miss Flint telling me what happened."

Victoria glanced at the doctor and hesitated. Her sympathy for Hilary, her new understanding of him, urged her on-and yet never in her life had she been made to feel so distinctly an intruder. Here was the doctor, with his case; here was this extraordinary housekeeper, apparently ready to let Hilary walk to the square, if he wished, and to shut the door on their backs; and here was Hilary himself, who threatened at any moment to make his word good and depart from their midst. Only the fact that she was convinced that Hilary was in real danger made her relate, in a few brief words, what had occurred, and when she had finished Mr. Vane made no comment whatever.

Dr. Tredway turned to Hilary.

"I am going to take a mean advantage of you, Mr. Vane," he said, "and sit here awhile and talk to you. Would you object to waiting a little while, Miss Flint? I have something to say to you," he added significantly, "and this meeting will save me a trip to Fairview."

"Certainly I'll wait," she said.

"You can come along with me," said Euphrasia, "if you've a notion to."

Victoria was of two minds whether to accept this invitation. She had an intense desire to get outside, but this was counter-balanced by a sudden curiosity to see more of this strange woman who loved but one person in the world. Tom Gaylord had told Victoria that. She followed Euphrasia to the back of the hall.

"There's the parlour," said Euphrasia; "it's never be'n used since Mrs.

Vane died,-but there it is."

"Oh," said Victoria, with a glance into the shadowy depths of the room, "please don't open it for me. Can't we go," she added, with an inspiration, "can't we go into-the kitchen?" She knew it was Euphrasia's place.

"Well," said Euphrasia, "I shouldn't have thought you'd care much about kitchens." And she led the way onward; through the little passage, to the room where she had spent most of her days. It was flooded with level, yellow rays of light that seemed to be searching the corners in vain for dust. Victoria paused in the doorway.

"I'm afraid you do me an injustice," she said. "I like some kitchens."

"You don't look as if you knew much about 'em," was Euphrasia's answer. With Victoria once again in the light, Euphrasia scrutinized her with appalling frankness, taking in every detail of her costume and at length raising her eyes to the girl's face. Victoria coloured. On her visits about the country-side she had met women of Euphrasia's type before, and had long ago ceased to be dismayed by their manner. But her instinct detected in Euphrasia a hostility for which she could not account.

In that simple but exquisite gown which so subtly suited her, the creation of which had aroused the artist in a celebrated Parisian dressmaker, Victoria was, indeed, a strange visitant in that kitchen. She took a seat by the window, and an involuntary exclamation of pleasure escaped her as her eyes fell upon the little, old-fashioned flower garden beneath it. The act and the exclamation for the moment disarmed Euphrasia.

"They were Sarah Austen's-Mrs. Vane's," she explained, "just as she planted them the year she died. I've always kept 'em just so."

"Mrs. Vane must have loved flowers," said Victoria.

"Loved 'em! They were everything to her-and the wild flowers, too. She used to wander off and spend whole days in the country, and come back after sunset with her arms full."

"It was nature she loved," said Victoria, in a low voice.

"That was it-nature," said Euphrasia. "She loved all nature. There wasn't a living, creeping thing that wasn't her friend. I've seen birds eat out of her hand in that window where you're settin', and she'd say to me, 'Phrasie, keep still! They'd love you, too, if they only knew you, but they're afraid you'll scrub 'em if you get hold of them, the way you used to scrub me.'"

Victoria smiled-but it was a smile that had tears in it. Euphrasia Cotton was standing in the shaft of sunlight at the other window, staring at the little garden.

"Yes, she used to say funny things like that, to make you laugh when you were all ready to cry. There wasn't many folks understood her. She knew every path and hilltop within miles of here, and every brook and spring, and she used to talk about that mountain just as if it was alive."

Victoria caught her breath.

"Yes," continued Euphrasia, "the mountain was alive for her. 'He's angry to-day, Phrasie. That's because, you lost your temper and scolded Hilary.' It's a queer thing, but there have been hundreds of times since when he needed scoldin' bad, and I've looked at the mountain and held my tongue. It was just as if I saw her with that half-whimsical, half-reproachful expression in her eyes, holding up her finger at me. And there were other mornings when she'd say, 'The mountain's lonesome today, he wants me.' And I vow, I'd look at the mountain and it would seem lonesome. That sounds like nonsense, don't it?" Euphrasia demanded, with a sudden sharpness.

"No," said Victoria, "it seems very real to me."

The simplicity, the very ring of truth, and above all the absolute lack of self-consciousness in the girl's answer sustained the spell.

"She'd go when the mountain called her, it didn't make any difference whether it was raining-rain never appeared to do her any hurt. Nothin' natural ever did her any hurt. When she was a little child flittin' about like a wild creature, and she'd come in drenched to the skin, it was all I could do to catch her and change her clothes. She'd laugh at me. 'We're meant to be wet once in a while, Phrasie,' she'd say; 'that's what the rain's for, to wet us. It washes some of the wickedness out of us.' It was the unnatural things that hurt her-the unkind words and makin' her act against her nature. 'Phrasie,' she said once, 'I can't pray in the meeting-house with my eyes shut-I can't, I can't. I seem to know what they're all wishing for when they pray,-for more riches, and more comfort, and more security, and more importance. And God is such a long way off. I can't feel Him, and the pew hurts my back.' She used to read me some, out of a book of poetry, and one verse I got by heart-I guess her prayers were like that."

"Do you-remember the verse?" asked Victoria.

Euphrasia went to a little shelf in the corner of the kitchen and produced a book, which, she opened and handed to Victoria.

"There's the verse!" she said; "read it aloud. I guess you're better at that than I am."

And Victoria read:-

"Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest

Like a cloud of fire;

The blue deep thou wingest,

And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest."

Victoria let fall the volume on her lap.

"There's another verse in that book she liked," said Euphrasia, "but it always was sad to me."

Victoria took the book, and read again:-

"Weary wind, who wanderest

Like the world's rejected guest,

Hast thou still some secret nest

On the tree or billow?"

Euphrasia laid the volume tenderly on the shelf, and turned and faced

Victoria.

"She was unhappy like that before she died," she exclaimed, and added, with a fling of her head towards the front of the house, "he killed her."

"Oh, no!" cried Victoria, involuntarily rising to her feet. "Oh, no! I'm sure he didn't mean to. He didn't understand her!"

"He killed her," Euphrasia repeated. "Why didn't he understand her? She was just as simple as a child, and just as trusting, and just as loving. He made her unhappy, and now he's driven her son out of her house, and made him unhappy. He's all of her I have left, and I won't see him unhappy."

Victoria summoned her courage.

"Don't you think," she asked bravely, "that Mr. Austen Vane ought to be told that his father is-in this condition?"

"No," said Euphrasia, determinedly. "Hilary will have to send for him.

This time it'll be Austen's victory."

"But hasn't he had-a victory?" Victoria persisted earnestly. "Isn't this-victory enough?"

"What do you mean?" Euphrasia cried sharply.

"I mean," she answered, in a low voice, "I mean that Mr. Vane's son is responsible for his condition to-day. Oh-not consciously so. But the cause of this trouble is mental-can't you see it? The cause of this trouble is remorse. Can't you see that it has eaten into his soul? Do you wish a greater victory than this, or a sadder one? Hilary Vane will not ask for his son-because he cannot. He has no more power to send that message than a man shipwrecked on an island. He can only give signals of distress-that some may heed. Would She have waited for such a victory as you demand? And does Austen Vane desire it? Don't you think that he would come to his father if he knew? And have you any right to keep the news from him? Have you any right to decide what their vengeance shall be?"

Euphrasia had stood mute as she listened to these words which she had so little expected, but her eyes flashed and her breath came quickly. Never had she been so spoken to! Never had any living soul come between her and her cherished object the breaking of the heart of Hilary Vane! Nor, indeed, had that object ever been so plainly set forth as Victoria had set it forth. And this woman who dared to do this had herself brought unhappiness to Austen. Euphrasia had almost forgotten that, such had been the strange harmony of their communion.

"Have you the right to tell Austen?" she demanded.

"Have I?" Victoria repeated. And then, as the full meaning of the question came to her; the colour flooded into her face, and she would have fled, if she could, bud Euphrasia's words came in a torrent.

"You've made him unhappy, as well as Hilary. He loves you-but he wouldn't speak of it to you. Oh, no, he didn't tell me who it was, but I never rested till I found out. He never would have told me about it at all, or anybody else, but that I guessed it. I saw he was unhappy, and I calculated it wasn't Hilary alone made him so. One night he came in here, and I knew all at once-somehow-there was a woman to blame, and I asked him, and he couldn't lie to me. He said it wasn't anybody's fault but his own-he wouldn't say any more than that, except that he hadn't spoken to her. I always expected the time was coming when there would be-a woman. And I never thought the woman lived that he'd love who wouldn't love him. I can't see how any woman could help lovin' him.

"And then I found out it was that railroad. It came between Sarah Austen and her happiness, and now it's come between Austen and his. Perhaps you don't love him!" cried Euphrasia. "Perhaps you're too rich and high and mighty. Perhaps you're a-going to marry that fine young man who came with you in the buggy. Since I heard who you was, I haven't had a happy hour. Let me tell you there's no better blood in the land than the Austen blood. I won't mention the Vanes. If you've led him on, if you've deceived him, I hope you may be unhappy as Sarah Austen was-"

"Don't!" pleaded Victoria; "don't! Please don't!" and she seized Euphrasia by the arms, as though seeking by physical force to stop the intolerable flow of words. "Oh, you don't know me; you can't understand me if you say that. How can you be so cruel?"

In another moment she had gone, leaving Euphrasia standing in the middle of the floor, staring after her through the doorway.

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