How well those furs became Elizabeth! It was a chill frosty evening, and Elizabeth’s slight form was wrapped in the sables which had been one of poor Merton’s earliest gifts to her. The mother’s eye dwelt with an habitual pride on the daughter’s grace of movement and carriage. “She is always so distinguished,” she thought, and then checked herself by the remembrance that she was applying to Elizabeth an adjective that Elizabeth particularly disliked. Nevertheless, Mrs. Gaddesden knew very well what she herself meant by it. She meant something—some quality in Elizabeth, which was always provoking in her mother’s mind despairing comparisons between what she might make of her life and what she was actually making, or threatening to make of it.
Alas, for that Canadian journey—that disastrous Canadian journey! Mrs. Gaddesden’s thoughts, as she watched the two strollers outside, were carried back to the moment in early August when Arthur Delaine had reappeared in her drawing-room, three weeks before Elizabeth’s return, and she had gathered from his cautious and stammering revelations what kind of man it was who seemed to have established this strange hold on her daughter. Delaine, she thought, had spoken most generously of Elizabeth and his own disappointment, and most kindly of this Mr. Anderson.
“I know nothing against him personally—nothing! No doubt a very estimable young fellow, with just the kind of ability that will help him in Canada. Lady Merton, I imagine, will have told you of the sad events in which we found him involved?”
Mrs. Gaddesden had replied that certainly Elizabeth had told her the whole story, so far as it concerned Mr. Anderson. She pointed to the letters beside her.
“But you cannot suppose,” had been her further indignant remark, “that Elizabeth would ever dream of marrying him!”
“That, my dear old friend, is for her mother to find out,” Delaine had replied, not without a touch of venom. “I can certainly assure you that Lady Merton is deeply interested in this young man, and he in her.”
“Elizabeth—exiling herself in Canada—burying herself on the prairies—when she might have everything here—the best of everything—at her feet. It is inconceivable!”
Delaine had agreed that it was inconceivable, and they had mourned together over the grotesque possibilities of life. “But you will save her,” he had said at last. “You will save her! You will point out to her all she would be giving up—the absurdity, the really criminal waste of it!”
On which he had gloomily taken his departure for an archaeological congress at Berlin, and an autumn in Italy; and a few weeks later she had recovered her darling Elizabeth, paler and thinner than before—and quite, quite incomprehensible!