But Vincent Cricklander was a gentleman, and, what is more, an American gentleman, which means of a chivalry towards women unknown in other countries.
“I do not want any of your money, Cis,” he said. “I will be quite glad to go, if it will make you happier. We’ll phone T.V. Ryan this afternoon and let him think out a scheme so that it can be done without a scandal of any sort. My mother has old-fashioned ideas, and I would hate to pain the poor dear lady.”
It took nearly two years, but the divorce was completed at last, and Cecilia Cricklander found herself perfectly free and with all the keen scent of the hunter for the chase dilating her fine nostrils as she stood upon the deck of the great ocean liner bound for Liverpool.
She was a very beautiful woman and refined in every point, with exquisite feet and hands, pure, brilliant, fair coloring and a superb figure, and even a fairly sweet voice. Her education had been a good deal neglected because she was too spoilt by a doting father to profit by the instruction he provided for her. She felt this keenly directly she began to go out into the world, and immediately commenced to remedy the defect. For her, from the very beginning, life appeared in the light of a game. Fate was an adversary from whom she meant to win all the stakes, and it behooved a clever woman not to overlook a single card that might be of use to her in her play. She was quite aware of her own limitations, and her own forces and advantages. She knew she was beautiful and charming; she knew she was kind and generous and extremely “cute,” as her old father said. She knew that literature and art did not interest her one atom in themselves, that most music bored her, and that she had a rather imperfect memory; but during her brief visits to England, when she was making up her mind that this country would be the field for her next exertions, she had decided that to be beautiful and charming was not just enough; there were numbers of other Americans who were both, and they were all one as successful and sought after as the other. She must be something beyond this—a real Queen. To beauty and wealth and charm she must add culture as well. She must be able to talk to the prime minister upon his pet foibles, she must be able to quote erudite passages from all the cleverest books of the day to the brilliant politicians and diplomats and men of polished brain who made up the society over which she wished to rule. And how was this to be done? She thought it all out, and during her two years of living quietly to obtain her divorce without a breath of scandal, she had hit upon and put into practice an admirable plan.
She searched for and found a poor, very plain and highly cultivated English gentlewoman, one who had been governess in a foreign Royal family and was now trying to support an aged mother by giving private lessons. Arabella Clinker was this treasure’s name—Miss Arabella Clinker, aged forty-two, and as ugly as it is possible for a thoroughly nice woman to be.