“Dispute!” cried Edna, indignantly. “What are you thinking of? Do you suppose I would insist or dispute in such a matter? I thought you knew me better than that.”
Ralph sighed. “If you could understand how dreadfully hard it is to know you,” he said, “you wouldn’t be so severe on a poor fellow if he happened to make a mistake now and then.”
When Mrs. Cliff found that Edna had determined upon her course, she ceased her opposition, and tried, good woman as she was, to take as satisfactory a view of the matter as she could find reason for.
“It would be a little rough,” she said, “if your friends were to meet you as Mrs. Horn, and you would be obliged to answer questions. I have had experience in that sort of thing. And looking at it in that light, I don’t know but what you are right, Edna, in defending yourself against questions until you are justified in answering them. To have to admit that you are not Mrs. Horn after you had said you were, would be dreadful, of course. But the other would be all plain sailing. You would go and be married properly, and that would be the end of it. And even if you were obliged to assert your claims as his widow, there would be no objection to saying that there had been reasons for not announcing the marriage. But there is another thing. How are you going to explain your prosperous condition to your friends? When I was in Plainton, I thought of you as so much better off than myself in this respect, for over here there would be no one to pry into your affairs. I did not know you had friends in Paris.”
“All that need not trouble me in the least,” said Edna. “When I went to school with Edith Southall, who is now Mrs. Sylvester, my father was in a very good business, and we lived handsomely. It was not until I was nearly grown up that he failed and died, and then Ralph and I went to Cincinnati, and my life of hard work began. So you see there is no reason why my friends in Paris should ask any questions, or I should make explanations.”
“I wish it were that way in Plainton,” said Mrs. Cliff, with a sigh. “I would go back there the moment another ship started from France.”
So it was Miss Edna Markham of New York who took apartments at the Hotel Boileau, and it was she who called upon the wife of the American secretary of legation.
For several weeks after their arrival, the members of the little party had but one common object,—to see and enjoy the wonders and beauties of Paris,—and in their sight-seeing they nearly always went together, sometimes taking Cheditafa and Mok with them. But as time went on, their different dispositions began to assert themselves, and in their daily pursuits they gradually drifted apart.
Mrs. Cliff was not a cultivated woman, but she had a good, common-sense appreciation of art in its various forms. She would tramp with untiring step through the galleries of the Louvre, but when she had seen a gallery, she did not care to visit it again. She went to the theatre and the opera because she wanted to see how they acted and sang in France, but she did not wish to go often to a place where she could not understand a word that was spoken.