“You’ve won, Van.”
“But you must be frozen to death,” said Miss Arnett, looking up at him with gratitude in her eyes.
“Yes, yes,” said Van Bibber, beginning to shiver. “I’ve had a terrible long walk, and I had to carry him all the way. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go change my things.”
He reappeared again in a suspiciously short time for one who had to change outright, and the men admired his endurance and paid up the bet.
“Where did you find him, Van?” one of them asked.
“Oh, yes,” they all chorused. “Where was he?”
“That,” said Mr. Van Bibber, “is a thing known to only two beings, Duncan and myself. Duncan can’t tell, and I won’t. If I did, you’d say I was trying to make myself out clever, and I never boast about the things I do.”
Miss Eleanore Cuyler had dined alone with her mother that night, and she was now sitting in the drawing-room, near the open fire, with her gloves and fan on the divan beside her, for she was going out later to a dance.
She was reading a somewhat weighty German review, and the contrast which the smartness of her gown presented to the seriousness of her occupation made her smile slightly as she paused for a moment to cut the leaves.
And when the bell sounded in the hall she put the book away from her altogether, and wondered who it might be.
It might be young Wainwright, with the proof-sheets of the new story he had promised to let her see, or flowers for the dance from Bruce-Brice, of the English Legation at Washington, who for the time being was practising diplomatic moves in New York, or some of her working-girls with a new perplexity for her to unravel, or only one of the men from the stable to tell her how her hunter was getting on after his fall. It might be any of these and more. The possibilities were diverse and all of interest, and she acknowledged this to herself, with a little sigh of content that it was so. For she found her pleasure in doing many things, and in the fact that there were so many. She rejoiced daily that she was free, and her own mistress in everything; free to do these many things denied to other young women, and that she had the health and position and cleverness to carry them on and through to success. She did them all, and equally well and gracefully, whether it was the rejection of a too ambitious devotee who dared to want to have her all to himself, or the planning of a woman’s luncheon, or the pushing of a bill to provide kindergartens in the public schools. But it was rather a relief when the man opened the curtains and said, “Mr. Wainwright,” and Wainwright walked quickly towards her, tugging at his glove.
“You are very good to see me so late,” he said, speaking as he entered, “but I had to see you to-night, and I wasn’t asked to that dance. I’m going away,” he went on, taking his place by the fire, with his arm resting on the mantel. He had a trick of standing there when he had something of interest to say, and he was tall and well-looking enough to appear best in that position, and she was used to it. He was the most frequent of her visitors.