And when, for a moment, they all went out on the balcony to breathe in the warm, soft night, she whispered to Henry Fordyce:
“I have been thinking—I will, at all events, begin to take steps to be free.”
But to his rapturous, “My darling!” she replied, with lowered lids:
“It will take some time—and you may not like waiting—And when I am free—I do not know—only—I am tired, and I want someone to help me to forget and begin again. Good-night.”
Then, after she got to her room, she opened the window wide, and looked out upon the quiet firs. But nothing stilled the unrest in her heart.
Heronac was basking in the sun of an August morning, like some huge sea monster which had clambered upon the wet rocks.
The sea was intensely blue without a ripple upon it, and only the smallest white line marked where its waters caressed the shore.
Nature slumbered in the heat and was silent, and Sabine Howard, the chatelaine of this quaint chateau, stood looking out of the deep windows in her great sitting-room. It was a wonderful room. She had collected dark panelling and tapestry to hide the grim stone walls, and had managed to buy a splendidly carved and painted roof, while her sense of color had run riot in beautiful silks for curtains. It was a remarkable achievement for one so young, and who had begun so ignorantly. Her mother’s family had been decently enough bred, and her maternal grandfather had been a fair artist, and that remarkable American adaptability which she had inherited from her father had helped her in many ways. Her sitting-room at Heronac was, of course, not perfect; and to the trained eye of Henry Fordyce would present many anomalies; but no one could deny that it was a charming apartment, or that it was a glowing frame of rich tints for her youthful freshness.
She had really studied in these years of her residence there, and each month put something worth having into the storehouse of her intelligent mind. She was as immeasurably removed from the Sabine Delburg of convent days as light from darkness, and her companion had often been Monsieur le Cure, an enchanting Jesuit priest, who had the care of the souls of Heronac village. A great cynic, a pure Christian and a man of parts—a distant connection of the original family—Gaston d’Heronac had known the world in his day; and after much sorrow had found a hermitage in his own village—a consolation in the company of this half-French, half-American heiress, who had incorporated herself with the soil. He was now seventy years of age and always a gentleman, with few of the tiresome habits of the old.
What joy he had found in opening the mind of his young Dame d’Heronac!
It was frankly admitted that there were to be no discussions upon religion.
“I am a pagan, cher pere,” Sabine had said, almost immediately, “leave me!—and let me enjoy your sweet church and your fisherfolks’ faith. I will come there every Sunday and say my prayers—mes prieres a moi—and then we can discuss philosophy afterwards or—what you will.”