“I can’t keep the secret any longer,” she exclaimed, turning to her two companions. “I’m engaged to be married to Mr. Lyons.”
Lyons was chosen to Congress by a liberal margin. The Congressional delegation from his State was almost evenly divided between the two parties as the result of the election, and the majorities in every case were small. Consequently the more complete victory of Lyons was a feather in his cap, and materially enhanced his political standing.
The sudden death of Mr. Parsons within a week of the election saved Selma’s conscience from the strain of arranging a harmonious and equitable separation from him. She had felt that the enlargement of her sphere of life and the opportunity to serve her country which this marriage offered were paramount to any other considerations, but she was duly conscious that Mr. Parsons would miss her sorely, and she was considering the feasibility of substituting Miss Bailey as his companion in her place, when fate supplied a different solution. Selma had pledged her friends to secrecy, so that Mr. Parsons need know nothing until the plans for his happiness had been perfected, and he died in ignorance of the interesting matrimonial alliance which had been fostered under his roof. By the terms of his will Selma was bequeathed the twenty thousand dollars he had promised her. She and Mr. Lyons, with a third person, to be selected by them, were appointed trustees of the Free Hospital with which he had endowed Benham, and Mr. Lyons was nominated as the sole executor under the will.
Selma’s conception that her third betrothal was coincident with spiritual development, and that she had fought her way through hampering circumstances to a higher plane of experience, had taken firm hold of her imagination. She presently confessed to Lyons that she had not hitherto appreciated the full meaning of the dogma that marriage was a sacrament. She evinced a disposition to show herself with him at church gatherings, and to cultivate the acquaintance of his pastor. She felt that she had finally secured the opportunity to live the sober, simple life appropriate to those who believed in maintaining American principles, and in eschewing luxurious and effete foreign innovations; the sort of life she had always meant to live, and from which she had been debarred. She had now not only opportunity, but a responsibility. As the bride of a Congressman, it behooved her both to pursue virtue for its own sake and for the sake of example. It was incumbent on her to preserve and promote democratic conditions in signal opposition to so-called fashionable society, and at the same time to assert her own proper dignity and the dignity of her constituents by a suitable outward show.
This last subtlety of reflection convinced Selma that they ought to occupy the house on the River Drive. Lyons himself expressed some doubts as to the advisability of this. He admitted that he could afford the expense, and that it was just such a residence as he desired, but he suggested that their motives might not be understood, and he questioned whether it were wise, with the State so close, to give his political enemies the chance to make unjust accusations.