Dr. Ballard had gone, and his hostesses
were awaiting the summons to dinner. Mrs. Evringham
regarded her daughter critically as the girl sat at
the piano, idly running her fingers over the keys.
The listlessness expressed in the
fresh face and rounded figure brought a look of disapproval
into the mother’s eyes.
“You must practice that nocturne,”
she said. “You played it badly just now,
and there is no excuse for it, Eloise.”
“If you will let me give lessons
I will,” responded the girl promptly, without
turning her graceful, drooping head.
The unexpected reply was startling.
“What are you talking about?” asked Mrs.
“Oh, I’m so tired of it all,” replied
the girl wearily.
A frown contracted her mother’s
forehead. “Tired of what? Turn around
here!” She rose and put her hands on the pretty
shoulders and turned her child until the clear gray
eyes met hers. “Now then, tired of what?”
Eloise smiled slightly, and sighed.
“Of playing nocturnes to Dr. Ballard.”
“And he is quite as tired of
hearing you, I dare say,” was the retort.
“It seems to me you always stumble when you play
to the doctor, and he adores Chopin.”
Eloise continued to meet her mother’s
annoyed gaze, her hands fallen in her lap, all the
lines of her nut-brown hair, her exquisite face, and
pliable, graceful figure so many silent arguments,
as they always were, against any one’s harboring
annoyance toward her.
“You say he does, mother, and
you have assured him of it so often that the poor
man doesn’t dare to say otherwise; but really,
if you’d let him have the latest Weber and Field
hit, I think he would be so grateful.”
“Learn it then!” returned Mrs. Evringham.
Eloise laughed lazily. “Intrepid
little mother!” Then she added, in a different
tone, “Don’t you think there is any danger
of our being too obliging? I’m not the
only girl in town whose mother wishes her to oblige
Dr. Ballard. May we not overreach ourselves?”
“Eloise!” Mrs. Evringham’s
half-affectionate, half-remonstrating grasp fell from
her child’s shoulders. “That remark
is in very bad taste.”
The girl shook her head slowly.
“I never can understand why it is any satisfaction
to you to pretend. You find comfort in pretending
that Mr. Evringham likes to have us here, likes us
to use his carriages, to receive his friends, and
all the rest of it. We’ve been here seven
weeks and three days, and that little game of pretending
is satisfying you still. You are like the ostrich
with its head in the sand.”
Mrs. Evringham drew her lithe figure
up. “Well, Eloise, I hope there are limits
to this. To call your own mother an-an
“Don’t speak so loud,”
returned the girl, rising and patting her mother’s
hand. “Grandfather has returned from his
ride. I just heard him come in. It is too
near dinner time for a scene. There is no need
of our pretending to each other, is there? You
have always put me off and put me off, but surely
you mean to bring this to an end pretty soon?”
“You could bring it to an end
at once if you would!” returned Mrs. Evringham,
her voice lowered. “Dr. Ballard has nothing
to wait for. I know all about his circumstances.
There never was such a providence as father’s
having a friend like him ready to our hand-so
suitable, so attractive, so rich!”
“Yes,” responded the girl
low and equably, “it is just five weeks and
two days that you have been throwing me at that man’s
“I have done nothing of the kind, Eloise Evringham.”
“Yes you have,” returned
the girl without excitement, “and grandfather
sneering at us all the time under his mustache.
He knows that there are other girls and other mothers
interested in Dr. Ballard more desirable than we are.
Oh! how easy it is to be more desirable than we are!”
“There isn’t one girl
in five hundred so pretty as you,” returned Mrs.
“I wish my prettiness could
persuade you into my way of thinking.”
“What do you mean?” The
glance of the older woman was keen and suspicious.
“We would take a cheap little
apartment to-morrow,” said the girl wistfully.
Mrs. Evringham gave an ejaculation
of impatience. “And do all our own work
and live like pigs!” she returned petulantly.
Eloise shrugged her shoulders.
“I may flatter myself, but I fancy I should
keep it rather clean.”
“You wouldn’t mind your
hands then.” Mrs. Evringham regarded the
hands worthy to be imitated by a sculptor’s
art, and the girl raised them and inspected the rose-tints
of their tips. “I’ve read something
about rubber gloves,” she returned vaguely.
“You’d better read something
else then. How do you suppose you would get on
without a carriage?” asked her mother with exasperation.
“You have never had so much as a taste of privation
in any form. Your suggestion is the acme of foolishness.”
“I think I could do something
if you would let me,” rejoined the girl as calmly
as before. “I think I could teach music
pretty well, and keep house charmingly. If I
had any false pride when we came out here, the past
six weeks have purified me of it. Will you let
me try, mother? I’m asking it very seriously.”
“Certainly not!” hotly.
“There are armies of music teachers now, and
you would not have a chance.”
“I think I could dress hair
well,” remarked Eloise, glancing at the reflection
in a mirror of her own graceful coiffure.
“I dare say!” responded
Mrs. Evringham with sarcastic heat, “or I’m
sure you could get a position as a waitress.
The servant problem is growing worse every year.”
“I’d like to be your waitress,
mother.” For the first time the girl lost
her perfect poise, and the color fluctuated in her
cheek. She clasped her hands. “It
would be heaven compared with the feeling, the sickening,
appalling suspicion, that we are becoming akin to the
adventuresses we read of, the pretty, luxurious women
who live by their wits.”
“Silence!” commanded Mrs.
Evringham, her eyes flashing and her effective black-clothed
figure drawn up.
Eloise sighed again. “I
didn’t expect to accomplish anything by this
talk,” she said, relapsing into listlessness.
“What did you expect then?
Merely to be disagreeable? I hope you may be
as successful in worthier undertakings. Now listen.
Some of the plans you have suggested at various times
might be sensible if you were a plain girl. Your
beauty is as tangible an asset as money would be; but
beauty requires money. You must have it.
Your poor father might have left it to you, but he
didn’t; so you will marry it-not unsuitably,”
meeting an ominous look in her child’s eyes,
“not without love or under any circumstances
to make a martyr of you, but according to common sense;
and as a certain young man is evidently more and more
certain of himself every time he comes”-she
“You think there is no need
for him to grow more certain of me?” asked Eloise.
“You might have saved us the
disagreeables of this interview. And one thing
more,” impressively, “you evidently are
not taking into consideration, perhaps you never knew,
that it was your grandfather’s confidence in
a certain course which induced your poor father to
take that last fatal flyer. Your grandfather
feels-I’m sure he feels-that
much reparation is due us. The present conditions
are easier for him than a separate suitable home would
be, therefore”-Mrs. Evringham waved
her hand. “It is strange,” she added,
“that so young a girl should not repose more
trust in her mother’s judgment. And now
that we are on the subject, I wish you would make
more effort with your grandfather. Don’t
be so silent at table and leave all the talking to
me. A man of his age likes to have merry young
people about. Chat, create a cheerful atmosphere.
He likes to look at you, of course, but you have been
so quiet and lackadaisical of late, it is enough to
hurt his feelings as host.”
“He has never shown any symptoms
of anxiety,” remarked Eloise.
“Well, he is a very self-contained man.”
“He is indeed, poor grandfather;
I don’t know how you will manage, mother, when
you have to play the game of ‘pretend’
all alone. He is growing tired of it, I can see.
His courtesy is wearing very thin. I’m
sorry to make it harder for you by taking away what
must have been a large prop and support, but I heard
papa say to himself more than once in those last sad
days, ‘If I had only taken my father’s
“Eloise,” very earnestly,
“you misunderstood, you certainly misunderstood.”
The girl shook her head wearily.
“No, alas! I neither misunderstand nor
forget, when it would be most convenient to do so.”
Mrs. Evringham’s fair brow contracted
as she regarded her daughter with exasperation.
“And you are only nineteen! One would think
it was you instead of me to whom the next birthday
would bring that detested forty.”
The girl looked at her mother, whose
youthful face and figure betrayed the source of her
own heritage of physical charm.
“I long ago gave up the hope
of ever again being as young as you are,” she
returned sadly. “Oh!” with a rare
and piteous burst of feeling, “if dear papa
could have stayed with us, and we could have had a
Mrs. Evringham threw her arms about
the young creature, welcoming the softened mood.
“You know I took you right to my own people,
Eloise,” she said gently. “We stayed
as long as I thought was right; they couldn’t
afford to keep us.” A sound at the door
caused her to turn. The erect form of her father-in-law
had just entered the room.
“Ah, good evening, father,”
she said in tones whose sadness was not altogether
feigned, even though she secretly rejoiced that Eloise
should for once show such opportune emotion.
“Pardon this little girl. She was just
feeling overwhelmed with a pang of homesickness for
“Indeed!” returned Mr.
Evringham. “Will you walk out? Mrs.
Forbes tells me that dinner is served.”
Eloise, hastily drawing her handkerchief
across her eyes, passed the unbending figure, her
cheeks stinging. His hard voice was in her ears.
That she was not his son’s child
hurt her now as often before in the past two months,
but that he should have discovered her weeping at a
moment when he might have been expected to enter was
a keen hurt to her pride, and her heart swelled with
a suspicion of his unspoken thoughts. She had
never been effusive, she had never posed. He had
no right to suspect her.
With her small head carried high and
her cheeks glowing, she passed him, following her
mother, who floated on before with much satisfaction.
These opportune tears shed by her nonconforming child
should make their stay good for another two months
“You must have had a beautiful
ride, father,” said Mrs. Evringham as they seated
themselves at table. She spoke in the tone, at
once assured and ingratiating, which she always adopted
toward him. “I noticed you took an earlier
start than usual.”
The speaker had never had the insight
to discover that her father-in-law was ungrateful
for proofs that any of his long-fixed, solitary habits
were now observed by feminine eyes.
“I did take a rather longer
ride than usual,” he returned. “Mrs.
Forbes, I wish you would speak to the cook about the
soup. It has been served cool for the last two
Mrs. Forbes flushed as she stood near
his chair in her trim black gown and white apron.
“Yes, sir,” she replied,
the flush and quiet words giving little indication
of the tumult aroused within her by her employer’s
criticism. To fail to please Mr. Evringham at
his meals was the deepest mortification life held
“I’m sure it tastes very
good,” said Mrs. Evringham amiably, “although
I like a little more salt than your cook uses.”
“You can reach it I hope,”
remarked the host, casting a glance at the dainty
solitaire salt and pepper beside his daughter’s
“But don’t you like it cooked in?”
she asked sweetly.
“Not when I want to get it out,” he answered
“How can mother, how can mother!” thought
“There is decided spring in
the air to-day,” said Mrs. Evringham. “I
remember of old how charmingly spring comes in the
“You have a good memory,” returned Mr.
“Why do you say that?”
asked the pretty widow, lifting large, innocent eyes.
“It is some years since you
accompanied Lawrence in his calls upon me, I believe.”
“Poor father!” thought
Mrs. Evringham, “how unpleasantly blunt he has
grown, living here alone!”
“I scarcely realize it,”
she returned suavely. “My recollection of
the park is always so clear. It is surprising,
isn’t it, how relatives can live as near together
as we in New York and you out here and see one another
so seldom! Life in New York,” sighing, “was
such a rush for us. Here amid the rustle of the
trees it seems to be scarcely the same world.
Lawrence often said his only lucid intervals were during
the rides he took with Eloise in Central Park.
Do you always ride alone, father?”
“Always,” was the prompt
rejoinder, while Eloise cast a glance full of appeal
at her mother.
The latter continued archly, “If
you could see Eloise on a horse you would not blame
me for trying to screw up my courage, as I have been
doing for days past, to ask you if she might take a
canter on Essex Maid in the morning, sometimes, while
you are away. Fanshaw assured me that she would
be perfectly safe.”
Mr. Evringham’s cold eyes stared,
and then the enormity of the proposition appeared
to move him humorously.
“Which maid did Fanshaw say
would be safe?” he inquired, while Eloise glowed
“Well, if you think Eloise can’t
ride, try her some time!” exclaimed the widow
gayly. It had been a matter of surprise and afterward
of resentment that Mr. Evringham could remain deaf
to her hints so long, and she had determined to become
frank. “Or else ask Dr. Ballard,”
she went on; “he has very kindly provided Eloise
with a horse several times, but the child likes a
solitary ride, sometimes, as well as you do.”
The steely look returned to the host’s
eyes. “No one rides the Maid but myself,”
he returned coldly.
“I beg you to believe, grandfather,
that I don’t wish to ride her,” said Eloise,
her customary languor of manner gone and her voice
hard. “Mother is more ambitious for me
than I am for myself. I should be very much obliged
if she would allow me to ask favors when I want them.”
Mrs. Forbes’s lips were set
in a tight line as she filled Mrs. Evringham’s
That lady’s heart was beating
a little fast from vexation, and also from the knowledge
that a time of reckoning with her child was coming.
“Oh, very well,” she said
airily. “No wonder you are careful of that
beautiful creature. I caught Eloise with her arms
around the mare’s neck the other day, and I
couldn’t help wishing for a kodak. You feed
her with sugar, don’t you Eloise?”
“I hope not, I’m sure!” exclaimed
Mr. Evringham sternly.
“I’ll not do it again,
grandfather,” said the girl, her very ears burning.
Mrs. Evringham sighed and gave one
Parthian shot. “The poor child does love
horses so,” she murmured softly.
The host scowled and fidgeted in his
chair with a brusque gesture to Mrs. Forbes to remove
“Harry has turned up again,”
he remarked, to change the subject.
“Really?” returned his
daughter-in-law languidly. “For how long
“He thinks it is permanent.”
“He is still in Chicago?”
“Yes, for a day or two. He and his wife
sail for Europe immediately.”
“Indeed!” with a greater
show of interest. Then, curiously, “Are
you sending them, father?”
“Scarcely! They are going on business.”
“Oh,” relapsing into indifference.
“They have a child, I believe.”
“Yes, a girl. I should think perhaps you
might have remembered it.”
“I hardly see why, if Harry
didn’t-a fact he plainly showed by
deserting the poor creature.” The insolence
of the speaker’s tone was scarcely veiled.
Her extreme disapproval of her father-in-law sometimes
welled to the surface of her suave manner.
Mr. Evringham’s thoughts had
fled to Chicago. “Harry proposed leaving
the girl here while they are gone,” he said.
Mrs. Evringham straightened in her chair and her attention
“With you? What assurance! How like
Harry!” she exclaimed.
The words were precisely those which
her host had been saying to himself; but proceeding
from her lips they had a strange effect upon him.
“You find it so?” he asked.
The clearer the proposition became to Mrs. Evringham’s
consciousness the more she resented it. To have
the child in the house not only would menace her ease
and comfort, but meant a possibility that the grandfather
might take an interest in Harry’s daughter which
would disturb Eloise’s chances.
“Of course it does. I call
it simply presumptuous,” she declared with emphasis.
“After all, Harry has some rights,”
rejoined Mr. Evringham slowly.
“His wife is a dressmaker,”
went on the other. “I had it directly from
a Chicago friend. Harry has scarcely been with
the child since she was born. And to saddle a
little stranger like that on you! Now Eloise and
her father were inseparable.”
There was an ominous glitter in Mr.
Evringham’s eyes. “Eloise’s
father!” he returned slowly. “I did
not know that she remembered him.”
The hurt of his tone and words sank
deep into the heart of the girl, but she looked up
“Your son was my father in every
best sense,” she said. “We were inseparable.
You must have known it.”
“You appeared to be separable
when your father made his visits to Bel-Air Park,”
was the rejoinder. “Pardon me if I knew
very little of what took place in his household.
A telegraph blank, please, Mrs. Forbes, and tell Zeke
to be ready to go to the office.”
There was a vital tone in the usually
dry voice. Mrs. Evringham looked apprehensively
at her daughter; but Eloise gave her no answering glance;
her eyes were downcast and her pretense of eating continued,
while her pulses beat.