During this outburst Marie Gourdon’s face grew at first crimson, then very white, and for a moment she did not answer; then she rose from her chair, and, looking straight at The McAllister, said in a very quiet tone, without the faintest touch of anger in it:
“Noel McAllister, you are strangely mistaken in me. Do you think I am exactly the same person I was ten years ago? Do you think I am the same little country girl whose heart you won so easily and threw aside when better prospects offered?”
“Marie, it was you who bade me go.”
“Yes, I bade you go. What else could I do? I saw you wished to be free. I saw that my feelings, yes—if you will have the truth—my love for you weighed as nothing in the scale against your newly-found fortune. I saw you waver, hesitate. I did not hesitate. And now I am rich, I am famous, you come to me. You offer me that worthless thing,—your love. When I was poor, struggling alone, friendless, did you even write to me? Did you by word or look recognize me? No! The farce is played out. I wonder at your coming to see me after all.”
“Marie, listen; a word——”
“No, not one word, Noel McAllister. I have said all I shall ever say to you. Dunmorton, the Glen, all your possessions are very fine things, but there are others I value infinitely more. Dear me! is that half-past six striking? I believe I hear the carriage at the door. I must beg of you to excuse me. You know my duties are pressing, and managers wait for no one. Good-evening, Mr. McAllister.”
“Because thou hast believed the
wheels of life
Stand never idle, but go always round;
Hast labored, but with purpose; hast become
Laborious, persevering, serious, firm—
For this thy track across the fretful foam
Of vehement actions without scope or term,
Call’d history, keeps a splendor, due to wit,
Which saw one clue to life and followed it.”
The day so long anxiously looked for of the great reception at the Royal Academy came at last. Fortunately the weather was beautiful, and the sun shone on the London streets with an unusual brightness even for that time of year.
Long rows of carriages lined the streets approaching the entrance to the Academy. The great staircase leading into the main hall was carpeted with crimson baize, for Royal visitors were expected, and on each stair were placed luxuriant pots of hothouse plants which perfumed the heated air with an almost over-powering fragrance.
As the lucky possessors of invitation cards passed in, a footman resplendent in crimson and gold livery handed each a catalogue of the pictures.