Anna rose, twined an arm in her sister’s and with her paced the chamber. “How perfectly terrible!” she murmured, their steps ceasing and her eyes remote in meditation. “Poor Flora! Oh, the poor old lady! And oh, oh, poor Flora!—But, Con! The line will be changed! He—you know what the boys call him!”
“Yes, but there’s the trouble. He’s no one lady’s man. Like Steve, he’s so absolutely fair—”
“Connie, I tell you it’s a strange line he won’t change for Flora Valcour!”
“Now, Nan Callender! The line will go where it ought to go. By the by, Charlie says neither Flora nor her grandmother knows the house is in danger. Of course, if it is harmed, the harm will be paid for.”
“Oh, paid for!”
“Why, Nan, I’m as sorry for them as you. But I don’t forget to be sorry for Hilary Kincaid too.”
“Connie”—walk resumed, speaker’s eyes on the floor—“if you’d only see that to me he’s merely very interesting—entertaining—nothing more whatever—I’d like to say just a word about him.”
“Say on, precious.”
“Well—did you ever see a man so fond of men?”
“Oh, of course he is, or men wouldn’t be so fond of him.”
“I think he’s fonder of men than of women!”
Constance smiled: “Do you?”
“And I think,” persisted Anna, “the reason some women find him so agreeable is that our collective society is all he asks of us, or ever will ask.”
“Nan Callender, look me in the eye! You can’t! My little sister, you’ve got a lot more sense than I have, and you know it, but I can tell you one thing. When Steve and I—”
“Oh, Connie, dear—nothing—go on.”
“I won’t! Except to say some lovers take love easy and some—can’t. I must go back to Charlie. I know, Nan, it’s those who love hardest that take love hardest, and I suppose it’s born in Hilary Kincaid, and it’s born in you, to fight it as you’d fight fire. But, oh, in these strange times, don’t do it! Don’t do it. You’re going to have trouble a-plenty without.”
The pair, moving to the door with hands on each other’s shoulders, exchanged a melting gaze. “Trouble a-plenty,” softly asked Anna, “why do you—?”
“Oh, why, why, why!” cried the other, with a sudden gleam of tears. “I wish you and Miranda had never learned that word.”
FLORA TELLS THE TRUTH!
You ask how the Valcour ladies, living outwardly so like the most of us who are neither scamps nor saints, could live by moral standards so different from those we have always thought essential to serenity of brow, sweetness of bloom or blitheness of companionship, and yet could live so prettily—remain so winsome and unscarred.
Well, neither of them had ever morally fallen enough even to fret the brow. It is the fall that disfigures. They had lived up to inherited principles (such as they were), and one of the minor of these was, to adapt their contours to whatever they impinged upon.