“You’re a darling,” he said as he obeyed. “But what I can’t understand—”
“It’s not your turn. You may talk after I finish if I leave anything for you to say. See, I go on: You are going to marry—”
“The most beautiful woman in the world.”
“That reminds me. What is she like? I’ve not heard her described for ages.”
“Because there was no one in New York who could do justice to her.”
“You are the knightliest of knights. Go on. Describe her.”
“Well, she is neither very tall nor very small. But the grace of her, the young, surpassing grace of her, makes you know as soon as your eyes have rested on her that her height, whatever it chances to be, is the perfect height for a woman. And then there is the noble heart of her. What other daughter would have buried herself, as she has done, in a little mountain village—”
Miss Knowles looked quickly about the luxurious room, then out upon the busy avenue, then back at him, suspecting raillery. But he was staring straight through her; straight into the land of visions. His eyes never wavered when she moved slowly out of their range and sat, huddled and white-faced, in the corner of a big chair.
“And all,” Jimmie went on, “so bravely, so cheerily, that it makes one’s throat ache to see. And one’s heart hot to see. Then there is the beauty of her. Her hair is dark, her eyes are dark, but her skin is the fairest in the world.”
Miss Knowles pushed back a loose lace cuff and studied the arm it had hidden. La reine est morte, she whispered, morte, morte, morte.
“But what puzzles me,”, said the genial Jimmie, “is your knowing about it all. I never wrote you a word of it, and as for Sylvia—by the way, did you know that her name, like yours, is Sylvia?”
“Yes,” said Miss Knowles, “I had even guessed that her name would be Sylvia.”
“You’re a wonderful woman,” Jimmie protested. “The most wonderful woman in the world.”
“Except, of course, Sylvia Drewitt.”
“Ah, yes,” said Miss Knowles. “Yes, of course.”
“And all the rest and residue of my estate,” read the lawyer, his voice growing more impressive as he reached this most impressive clause, “I give and bequeath to my beloved granddaughter and godchild Cecelia Anne Hawtry for her own use and benefit forever.”
The black-clothed relations whose faces had been turned toward the front of the long drawing-room now swung round toward the back where a fair-haired little girl, her hands spread guardian-wise round the new black hat on her knees, lay asleep in her father’s arms. For old Mrs. Hawtry’s “beloved granddaughter Cecelia Anne” was not yet too big to find solace in sleep when she was tired and uninterested, being indeed but nine years old and exceedingly small of stature and babyish of habit. So she slept on and missed hearing all the provisions which were meant to protect her in the enjoyment of her estate but which were equally calculated to drive her guardian distracted.