“Why are we all standing outside in the heat?” cried the hostess. “Let us go into the arbor, there is plenty of room to move about there, we have had a dozen together in it many a time.” She passed in under the arch as she spoke, and the others followed her. There in her own way which was not so very witty or wise, and yet was very charming, she held her little court, and the three men who had been in love with her at the beginning of the hour were still more in love at the end of it. And Elizabeth who watched her with an admiration as deep as their’s, if more tranquil, did not wonder that it was so. Katie did not forget her, nor did the gentlemen, or at least two of them, forget to be courteous, but if she had known what became of the spray of clematis which being in the way as she turned her head, she had soon unfastened and let slip to the ground, she would not have wondered, nor would she have cared. If she had seen Archdale’s heel crush it unheedingly as he passed out of the arbor, the beat of her pulses would never have varied.
It was early in December. The months had brought serious changes to all but one of the group that the August morning had found in Mr. Archdale’s garden. Two had disappeared from the scene of their defeat, and to two of them the future seemed opening up vistas of happiness as deep as the present joy. Elizabeth Royal alone was a spectator in the events of the past months, and even in her mind was a questioning that was at least wonderment, if not pain.
Kenelm Waldo was in the West Indies, trying to escape from his pain at Katie Archdale’s refusal, but carrying it everywhere with him, as he did recollections of her; to have lost them would have been to have lost his memory altogether.
Ralph Harwin also had gone. His money was still in the firm of John Archdale & Co., which it had made one of the richest in the Colonies; its withdrawal was now to be expected at any moment, for Harwin did not mean to return, and Archdale, while endeavoring to be ready for this, saw that it would cripple him. Harwin had been right in believing that he should make himself very useful and very acceptable to Katie’s father. For Archdale who was more desious of his daughter’s happiness than of anything else in the world, was disappointed that this did not lie in the direction which, on the whole, would have been for his greatest advantage. Harwin and he could have done better for Katie in the way of fortune than Stephen Archdale with his distaste for business would do. The Archdale connection had always been a dream of his, until lately when this new possibility had superseded his nephew’s interest in his thoughts. There was an address and business keenness about Harwin that, if Stephen possessed at all, was latent in him. The Colonel was wealthy enough to afford the luxury of a son who was only a fine gentleman. Stephen was a good fellow, he was sure, and Katie would be happy with him. And yet—but even these thoughts left him as he leaned back in his chair that day, sitting alone after dinner, and a mist came over his eyes as he thought that in less than a fortnight his home would no longer be his little daughter’s.