The girl’s personal tastes were expensive; she could linger in ecstasy all the morning over piles of wonderful furs without envy, without even thinking of them for herself; but when Kathleen mentioned the reason of their shopping, Geraldine always indicated sables as her choice, any single piece of which would have required half her yearly allowance to pay for.
And she was for ever wishing to present things to Kathleen; silks that were chosen, model gowns that they examined together, laces, velvets, jewels, always her first thought seemed to be that Kathleen should have what they both enjoyed looking at so ardently; and many a laughing contest they had as to whether her first quarterly allowance should be spent upon herself or her friends.
On the surface it would appear that unselfishness was the key to her character. That was impossible; she had lived too long alone. Yet Geraldine was clearly not acquisitive; though, when she did buy, her careless extravagance worried Kathleen. Spendthrift—in that she cared nothing for the money value of anything—her bright, piquant, eager face was a welcome sight to the thrifty metropolitan shopkeeper at Christmas-tide. A delicate madness for giving obsessed her; she bought a pair of guns for Scott, laces and silks for Kathleen, and for the servants everything she could think of. Nobody was forgotten, not even Mr. Tappan, who awoke Christmas morning to gaze grimly upon an antique jewelled fob all dangling with pencils and seals. In the first flush of independence it gave her more pleasure to give than to acquire.
Also, for the first time in her life, she superintended the distribution of her own charities, flying in the motor with Kathleen from church to mission, eager, curious, pitiful, appalled, by turns. Sentiment overwhelmed her; it was a new kind of pleasure.
* * * * *
One night she arose shivering from her warm bed, and with ink and paper sat figuring till nearly dawn how best to distribute what fortune she might one day possess, and live an exalted life on ten dollars a week.
Kathleen found her there asleep, head buried in the scattered papers, limbs icy to the knees; and there ensued an interim of bronchitis which threatened at one time to postpone her debut.
But the medical profession of Manhattan came to the rescue in battalions, and Geraldine was soon afoot, once more drifting ecstatically among the splendours of the shops, thrilling with the nearness of the day that should set her free among unnumbered hosts of unknown friends.
Who would these unknown people turn out to be? What hearts were at that very moment destined to respond in friendship to her own?
Often lying awake, nibbling her scented lump of sugar, the darkness reddening, at intervals, as embers of her bedroom fire dropped glowing to the hearth, she pictured to herself this vast, brilliant throng awaiting to welcome her as one of them. And her imagination catching fire, through closed lids she seemed to see heavenly vistas of youthful faces—a thousand arms outstretched in welcome; and she, advancing, eyes dim with happiness, giving herself to this world of youth and friendship—crossing the threshold—leaving for ever behind her the past with its loneliness and isolation.