One had been following us closely. “Permit me—this next is ours, Miss Grant,” he said, hastening eagerly forward to her, and I saw it was Quinet.
I marked the deference which every one, old and young, paid to her, and at the house afterwards I looked on while a boisterous knot were teaching her euchre.
“Change your ace,” whispered Annie Lockhart, that pretty gambler.
“But,” she replied aloud in her frank, innocent manner, “Wouldn’t that be wrong?”
The words came to me with the force of an oracle.
“Let me bow my head,” I thought, “My patron! My angel!” and as I looked upon her, passionate reverence overpowered me.
“What am I that I dare to love you and raise my eyes towards your pure light? I am not worthy to love you!”
“And you are so beautiful!”
As my meditations were pouring along in this absorbed way, a friend of ours, Grace Carter, a girl of the light, subtly graceful English type and a gay confidence of leadership, came across the room.
“O Mr. Haviland,” she cried, “I’ve been watching your dolorous expression till I determined to learn how you do it!”
I half smiled at her, helplessly.
“It is thoroughly fifth-act. The young man looks that way when he marches around in the limelight moonlight contemplating the approach of the catastrophe. But what have you to do with catastrophes? Off the stage men only have that desperate look when they are in love. I trust you are safe, Mr. Haviland.”
She looked so arch that I could not help a laugh, though the effect jarred on my mood.
“You will find me dull, I am afraid,” I answered.
“That’s of no consequence. Self-education is my mission. Believe me, I thirst for this knack of lugubriousness.”
I would have resented the trifling at that moment from almost any person but Grace. She divined my discomfort, veered her questioning to College affairs, and detailed to me some amusing information on dances and engagements, to which I listened with what attention I could. But my eyes persisted in resting oftener and oftener on Alexandra, and some bread baked by her and Annie,—a triumph of amateur housekeeping—being passed by the latter in pieces among the cake, I imagined that it tasted like the sacrament, and utterly lost track of what the merry girl was saying. She left me to flood out her spirits on a friend who was rising to go; whereupon I recollected myself.
Behold Quinet, poor fellow, Quinet is too earnest for Society. Some supercilious young creature has cut him to the quick for commencing a historical remark. Smarting under his rebuke he withdraws a step or two. A kind voice accosts him; it is Alexandra. “Come here and speak to me, Mr. Quinet. You always talk what is worth while.” “To talk of what is worth while makes enemies,” he answered bitterly: “I am thinking of giving it up.” “You should not do that,” she said. “If I were a man I would think of nothing but the highest things.”