James Anderton had come from the city in the best of tempers. The day had been a good one. He had received his wife’s telegram announcing that Halcyone would accompany her on her return, and awaited her arrival with a certain amount of uneasy curiosity and interest. Would the girl be still so terribly like Elaine and the rest of the La Sarthe—especially Timothy, that scapegrace, handsome Timothy, her father, on whose memory and his own bargain with Timothy’s widow he never cared much to dwell?
Yes, she was, d——d like—after a while he decided; with just the same set of head and careless grace, and that hateful stamp of breeding that had so lamentably escaped his own children, half La Sarthe, too. It was just Timothy of the gray eyes come back again—not Elaine so much now, not at all, in fact, except in the line of the throat.
His solid, coarse voice was a little husky, and those who knew him well would have been aware that James Anderton was greatly moved as he bid his stepdaughter welcome.
And when she had gone off to her room, accompanied by the boisterous Mabel and Ethel, he said to his wife:
“Lu, you must get the girl some decent clothes. She looks confoundedly a lady, but that rubbish isn’t fair to her. Rig her out as good as the rest—no expense spared. See to it to-morrow, my dear.”
And Mrs. Anderton promised. She adored shopping, and this would be a labor of love. So she went off to dress for dinner, full of visions of bright pinks and blues and laces and ribbons that would have made Halcyone shrink if she had known.
Mabel was magnificently patronizing and talked a jargon of fashionable slang which Halcyone hardly understood. Some transient gleam of her beloved mother kept suggesting itself to her when Mabel smiled. The memory was not distinct enough for her to know what it was, but it hurt her. The big, bouncing, overdeveloped girl had so little of the personality which she had treasured all these years as of her mother—treasured even more than remembered.
Ethel had no faintest look of La Sarthe, and was a nice, jolly, ordinary young person—dear to her father’s heart.
At last they left Halcyone alone with Priscilla, and presently the two threw themselves into each other’s arms—for the old nurse was crying bitterly now, rocking herself to and fro.
“Ah! how it all comes back to me, my lamb,” she sobbed. “He’s just the same, only older. Hard and kind and generous and never understanding a thing that mattered to your poor, beautiful mother. Oh! she was glad to go at the end, but for leaving you. Dear lady!—all borne to pay your father’s debts, which Mr. Anderton had took up. I can’t never forgive him quite—I can’t never.”
And Halcyone, overcome with her long strain of emotion, cried, too, for a few minutes before she could resume her stern self-control.
But at dinner she was calm again, and pale only for the shadows under her wide eyes.