They were really very worth-while ancestors, not as solid and substantial perhaps as those whose portraits hung in the Meredith house on Main Street in Nantucket, but none the less aristocratic, with a bit of dare-devil about the men, and a hint of frivolity about the women—with a pink coat here and a black patch there, with the sheen of satin and the sparkle of jewels—a Cavalier crowd, with the greatest ancestor of all in his curly wig and his sweeping plumes.
They stared at Becky as she went down-stairs, a little white figure in her thin blue dressing-gown, her bronze hair twisted into a curly topknot, her feet in small blue slippers.
The telephone was on a small table under the portrait of the greatest grandfather. He had a high nose, and a fine clear complexion, and he looked really very much alive as he gazed down at Becky.
She found the King’s Crest number. It was a dreadful thing that she was about to do. Yet she was going to do it.
She reached for the receiver. Then suddenly her hand was stayed, for it seemed to her that into the silence her greatest grandfather shouted accusingly:
"Where is your pride?"
She found herself trying to explain. “But, Grandfather——”
The clamour of other voices assailed her:
"Where is your pride?"
They were flinging the question at her from all sides, those gentlemen in ruffles, those ladies in shining gowns.
Becky stood before them like a prisoner at the bar—a slight child, yet with the look about her of those lovely ladies, and with eyes as clear as those of the old Governor who had accused her.
“But I love him——”
It was no defense and she knew it. Not one of those lovely ladies would have tried to call a lover back, not one of them but would have died rather than show her hurt. Not one of those slender and sparkling gentlemen but would have found swords or pistols the only settlement for Dalton’s withdrawal at such a moment.
And she was one of them—one of that prideful group. There came to her a sense of strength in that association. What had been done could be done again. Other women had hidden broken hearts. Other women had held their heads high in the face of disappointment and defeat. There were traditions of the steadfastness of those smiling men and women. Some day, perhaps, she would have her portrait painted, and she would be—smiling.
She had no fear now of their glances, as she passed them on the stairs, as she met them in the upper hall. What she had to bear she must bear in silence, and bear it like a Bannister.
Dalton felt that Fate had played a shabby trick. He had planned a graceful exit and the curtain had stuck; he had wanted to run away, and he could not. Flora was very ill, and it was, of course, out of the question to desert Oscar.