She remembered her stepfather’s face—it grew heavy and sullen and he walked to the window, where his brother followed him—and she remembered their words and had pondered over them often since.
“It’s the damned breeding in the brat that fairly gets me raw, Ted,” Mr. Anderton had said. “Why the devil couldn’t Elaine have given it to my children, too. I can’t stand it—a home must be found for her elsewhere.”
And soon after that, Halcyone had come with her own Priscilla to La Sarthe Chase to her great-aunts Ginevra and Roberta, in their tumble-down mansion which her father had not lived to inherit. Under family arrangements, it was the two old ladies’ property for their lives.
And now the problem of what James Anderton—or rather the second Mrs. James Anderton—would do was the question of the moment. Would there be a fresh governess or would they all be left in peace without one? Mrs. James Anderton, Miss Roberta had said once, was a person who “did her duty,” as people often did “in her class”—“a most worthy woman, if not quite a lady”—and she had striven to do her best by James Anderton’s children—even his stepchild Halcyone.
Miss La Sarthe promised to write that night before she went to bed—but Halcyone knew it was a long process with her and that an answer could not be expected for at least a week. Therefore there was no good agitating herself too soon about the result. It was one of her principles never to worry over unnecessary things. Life was full of blessed certainties to enjoy without spoiling them by speculating over possible unpleasantnesses.
The old gentleman—Cheiron—and old William and the timid curate who came to dine on Saturday nights once a month were about the only male creatures Halcyone had ever spoken to within her recollection—their rector was a confirmed invalid and lived abroad—but Priscilla had a supreme contempt for them as a sex.
“One and all set on themselves, my lamb,” she said; “even your own beautiful father had to be bowed down to and worshiped. We put up with it in him, of course; but I never did see one that didn’t think of himself first. It is their selfishness that causes all the sorrow of the world to women. We needn’t have lost your angel mother but for Mr. Anderton’s selfishness—a kind, hard, rough man—but as selfish as a gentleman.”
It seemed a more excusable defect to Priscilla in the upper class, but had no redeeming touch in the status of Mr. Anderton.
Halcyone, however, had a logical mind and reasoned with her nurse:
“If they are all selfish, Priscilla, it must be either women’s fault for letting them be, or God intended them to be so. A thing can’t be all unless the big force makes it.”