“I shan’t need all that, Hugh,” Maude said, when I handed her a letter of credit. “I—I intend to live quite simply, and my chief expenses will be the children’s education. I am going to give them the best, of course.”
“Of course,” I replied. “But I want you to live over there as you have been accustomed to live here. It’s not exactly generosity on my part,—I have enough, and more than enough.”
She took the letter.
“Another thing—I’d rather you didn’t go to New York with us, Hugh. I know you are busy—”
“Of course I’m going,” I started to protest.
“No,” she went on, firmly. “I’d rather you didn’t. The hotel people will put me on the steamer very comfortably,—and there are other reasons why I do not wish it.” I did not insist.... On the afternoon of her departure, when I came uptown, I found her pinning some roses on her jacket.
“Perry and Lucia sent them,” she informed me. She maintained the friendly, impersonal manner to the very end; but my soul, as we drove to the train, was full of un-probed wounds. I had had roses put in her compartments in the car; Tom and Susan Peters were there with more roses, and little presents for the children. Their cheerfulness seemed forced, and I wondered whether they suspected that Maude’s absence would be prolonged.
“Write us often, and tell us all about it, dear,” said Susan, as she sat beside Maude and held her hand; Tom had Biddy on his knee. Maude was pale, but smiling and composed.
“I hope to get a little villa in France, near the sea,” she said. “I’ll send you a photograph of it, Susan.”
“And Chickabiddy, when she comes back, will be rattling off French like a native,” exclaimed Tom, giving her a hug.
“I hate French,” said Biddy, and she looked at him solemnly. “I wish you were coming along, Uncle Tom.”
Bells resounded through the great station. The porter warned us off. I kissed the children one by one, scarcely realizing what I was doing. I kissed Maude. She received my embrace passively.
“Good-bye, Hugh,” she said.
I alighted, and stood on the platform as the train pulled out. The children crowded to the windows, but Maude did not appear.... I found myself walking with Tom and Susan past hurrying travellers and porters to the Decatur Street entrance, where my automobile stood waiting.
“I’ll take you home, Susan,” I said.
“We’re ever so much obliged, Hugh,” she answered, “but the street-cars go almost to ferry’s door. We’re dining there.”
Her eyes were filled with tears, and she seemed taller, more ungainly than ever—older. A sudden impression of her greatness of heart was borne home to me, and I grasped the value of such rugged friendship as hers—as Tom’s.
“We shouldn’t know how to behave in an automobile,” he said, as though to soften her refusal. And I stood watching their receding figures as they walked out into the street and hailed the huge electric car that came to a stop beyond them. Above its windows was painted “The Ashuela Traction Company,” a label reminiscent of my professional activities. Then I heard the chauffeur ask:—“Where do you wish to go, sir?”