But what his audible voice was saying was very simple, and a little embarrassed:
“I’ve felt that I’ve just come to know you to-day, Mr. Heth ... to understand things better. I suppose it’s too much to hope that you can forget what’s past, all at once. But I’d be mortified to feel.... Ah, sir!—I’ve felt honored by your House to-day....”
That was all; the mists lifted. He saw no difficulties, and so there were none. Papa’s face was thawing back, through several surprised looks, to its natural kindliness; he had taken the offered hand, in the middle of the little speech; and then, within a minute, he was saying, quite amiably, that well, well, we’d say no more about it ... s’posed the thing to do was to let bygones be bygones....
And papa’s daughter, Cally, turned away quickly from that spectacle, winking furiously, and wondering when she had got to be such a baby....
* * * * *
[Illustration: PAPA—I WANT TO INTRODUCE A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE—DR. VIVIAN]
Strange things had been happening of late, it seemed; strange memories gathering for backward thought hereafter; novel pictures ranging in the immaterial storehouse that opens down the years. But in all Cally’s invisible collection, then or thenceforward, there was never a scene that she saw so vividly as this: herself standing silent by the newel-post in the wide hall; her father, distinct and genial in the light through the open door, observing to Mr. V.V. that hard words buttered no parsnips, as the fellow said; and V.V., half-smiling at her over papa’s broad shoulder, and saying to her with his eyes that of course this was the way it was meant to be, all along.
Her Last Day, in this History; how she wakes with a Wonder in her Heart, has her Banquet laid at the Board of the Cooneys, dreams back over the Long Strange Year; finally how she learns Something that not Everybody Knows: what it is like at the End of the World.
A morning in October, and she had waked to fare forth and capture, by hook or by crook, the most eligible parti who was ever likely to swim into her ken. Another morning in October, and all her waking horizon seemed filled by the knowledge that, at half-past four in the afternoon, she would meet and talk of cheroot factories with a man so little eligible that he trusted the crows to bring his raiment. In the wide world was there another person whose life’s pendulum, in a twelvemonth, had swung so wildly far?
Eight o’clock now, by the little clock on the mantel: eight hours and a half to Mr. Pond’s meeting for workers at the old Dabney House. One needn’t be an astronomer to calculate that. And Cally Heth lay wide-eyed in her great bed, and thought how strange, how wonderful is life....