Instead of rebuking the impertinent young man, Ethelyn turned very red, and stammered out something about its being of no consequence; and so Harry Clifford held the secret which she had kept so carefully from Richard, and that party in Camden was made the stepping-stone to much of the wretchedness that afterward came to our heroine.
GOING TO WASHINGTON
Richard’s trunk was ready for Washington. His twelve shirts, which Eunice had ironed so nicely, were packed away with his collars and new yarn socks, and his wedding suit, which he was carrying as a mere matter of form, for he knew he should not need it during his three months’ absence. He should not go into society, he thought, or even attend levees, with his heart as sore and heavy as it was on this, his last day at home. Ethelyn was not going with him. She knew it now, and never did the face of a six-months wife look harder or stonier than hers as she stayed all day in her room, paying no heed whatever to Richard, and leaving entirely to Eunice and her mother-in-law those little things which most wives would have been delighted to do for their husbands’ comfort. Ethelyn was very unhappy, very angry, and very bitterly disappointed. The fact that she was not going to Washington had fallen upon her like a thunderbolt, paralyzing her, as it were, so that after the first great shock was over she seemed like some benumbed creature bereft of care, or feeling, or interest in anything.
She had remained in Camden the most of the day following Mrs. Judge Miller’s party, and had done a little shopping with Marcia Fenton and Ella Backus, to whom she spoke of her winter in Washington as a matter of course, saying what she had to say in Richard’s presence, and never dreaming that he was only waiting for a fitting opportunity to demolish her castles entirely. Perhaps if Ethelyn had talked Washington openly to her husband when she was first married, and before his mother had gained his ear, her chances for a winter at the capital would have been far greater than they were now. But she had only taken it for granted that she was going, and supposed that Richard understood it just as she did. She had asked him several times where he intended to board and why he did not secure rooms at Willard’s, but Richard’s non-committal replies had given her no cue to her impending fate. On the night of her return from Camden, as she stood by her dressing bureau, folding away her point-lace handkerchief, she had casually remarked, “I shall not use that again till I use it in Washington. Will it be very gay there this winter?”
Richard was leaning his elbow upon the mantel, looking thoughtfully into the fire, and for a moment he did not answer. He hated to demolish Ethie’s castles, but it could not be helped. Once it had seemed very possible that she would go with him to Washington, but that was before his mother had talked to him upon the subject. Since then the fiat had gone forth, and thinking this the time to declare it, Richard said at last, “Put down your finery, Ethelyn, and come stand by me while I say something to you.”