“I don’t understand!” stammered Alicia, twisting her hands. “Why, you cared for him—I thought you cared.”
“Of course I care for him! But not like that! Good heavens, Alicia, however did you get such a notion? My dear, if I loved you less, or him more, I should never, never be able to forgive either of you. As it is, we’ll forget it.”
At that Alicia began to cry.
“Oh, what have I done?” she whimpered. “Sophy, you don’t know—what I’ve done!”
“You haven’t done anything that can’t be undone,” said I, comfortably. “You and I, my dear, fell into a Hynds House maze. Now we’re out of it!” And thinking she would be better by herself, I kissed her good night.
Out of Hynds House maze, indeed! I had only to step back into my own room to have it again enmesh me. For on the prie-dieu that had once held Freeman Hynds’s Bible and now held mine, was the lost diary.
FIRES OF YESTERDAY
I wasn’t frightened, of course. There isn’t anything terrifying in finding a little old leather-covered book on a prie-dieu by one’s bedside. But it was some minutes before I could induce myself to take up that yellowed old diary and examine it.
It begins the year of Freeman’s return from college, “a Finish’d Young Gentleman.” He has refused to go abroad, considering that “our Young Gentlemen have enough Fripperies & Fopperies at Home without bringing worse Ones from Abroad.” Brother Richard has been abroad more than once, and Freeman does not “find him Improv’d save in Outer Elegancies.”
The only person that “much Travelling hath not Spoil’d,” he finds, is Mistress Emily Hope of Hope Plantation. “Shee was a Sweet Child,” he remembers; and now that the dew of their youth is upon them both, he finds her “of a Graceful and Delicate Shape, with the Most Beautiful Countenance in the World, a Sweet & Modest Demeanour, a Sprightly Wit, an Accomplish’d Mind, & a Heart Fix’d upon Virtue.”
The estates are near each other, the families intimate friends. Emily seems to like the boy. At any rate, she doesn’t repel him. And then returns Richard—the gay, the handsome, the irresistible Richard—who adds to the stalwart comeliness of a colonial gentleman the style, the grace, the cultivated manners of the Old World.
Almost fiercely Freeman notes the effect he produces, and how “Women do catch an Admiration for him as’t were a Pox.”
Then he begins to set down, grimly, “The Sums my Father hath paid for My Brother’s Debts.” A little later, he adds: “You Might Pour the Atlantic Ocean full of Gold through his Pocketts & Overnight would He empty Them.” Richard, also, “Makes Choice of rake-hell Companions,” to his father’s growing unease and indignation, his mother’s distress. But “Good God! how is all Forgiven the Beautiful, the Gift’d!”
“Jezebel herself, that carries her Head so High, wears her Heart upon her Sleeve, een like a simple Milkmaid! ’Tis a Rare Spectacle. Sure there’s a Fatality about this Man!”