“Nervous, Rachael?” asked Miss Vanderwall of the vision that looked out from Rachael’s mirror.
“Not a bit!” the wife-to-be answered, feeling as she said it that her hands, busy with long gloves, were shaking, and her knees almost unready to support her.
“It must be wonderful to marry a man like Greg,” said the bridesmaid thoughtfully. “He simply is everything and has everything—”
“Ah, Elinor, it’s wonderful to marry the man you love!” Rachael turned from the mirror, her blue eyes misted with tears under the brim of her wedding hat.
“You!” Elinor smiled. “That I should live to see it! You—in love!”
“And unashamed, and proud of it!” Rachael said with a tremulous laugh. “Are you all ready? Shall we go down?” She turned at the door and put one arm about her friend. “Kiss me, Elinor, and wish me joy,” said she.
“I don’t have to!” asserted Miss Vanderwall, with a hearty kiss nevertheless, “for it will be your own fault entirely if there’s ever the littlest, teeniest cloud in the sky!”
END OF BOOK I
Yet, even then, as Rachael Gregory admitted to herself months later, there had been a cloud in the sky—a cloud so tiny and so vague that for many days she had been able to banish it in the flooding sunshine all about her whenever it crossed her vision.
But it was there, and after a while other tiny clouds came to bear it company, and to make a formidable shadow that all her philosophy could not drive away. Philosophy is not the bride’s natural right; the honeymoon is a time of unreason; a crumpled rose-leaf in those first uncertain weeks may loom larger than all the far more serious storms of the years to come.
Rachael, loving at last, was overwhelmed, intoxicated, carried beyond all sanity by the passion that possessed her.
When Warren Gregory came to find her at Quaker Bridge on that unforgettable morning after the storm, a chance allusion to Mrs. Valentine, the charming unknown lady with the gray hair, had distracted Rachael’s thoughts from the point at issue. But later on, during the long drive, she had remembered it again.
“But Greg, dear, did you tell me that you and Doctor Valentine drove down yesterday in all that frightful storm?”
“No, no, of course not, my child; we came down late the night before—why, yesterday we couldn’t get as far as the gate! Mrs. Valentine’s brother was there, and we played thirty-two rubbers of bridge! Sweet situation, you two miles away, and me held up after three months of waiting!”
She said to herself, with a little pain at her heart, that she didn’t understand it. It was all right, of course, whatever Greg did was all right, but she did not understand it. To be so near, to have that hideous war of wind and water raging over the world, and not to come somehow—to swim or row or ride to her, to bring her delicious companionship and reassurance out of the storm! Why, had she known that Greg was so near no elements that ever raged could have held her—