She could not bear even the smothering thought of a divided kingdom. Professionally, socially, the world might claim him; but no one but herself should ever claim even one one-hundredth of that innermost heart of his that had been all her own! The thought pierced her vitally, and she felt in sick discouragement that she could not fight, she could not meet his cruelty with new cruelty. Her very beauty grew dimmed, and the old flashing wit and radiant self-confidence were clouded for a time. When she was alone with her husband she felt constrained and serious, her heart a smouldering furnace of resentment and pain.
“What do you think of this, dearie?” he asked eagerly one afternoon. “We got talking about California at the Princes’ last night, and it seems that Peter and Elinor plan to go; only not before the first week in April. Now, that would suit me as well as next week, if it wouldn’t put you out. Could you manage it? The Pomeroys take their car, and an awfully nice crowd; just you and I—if we’ll go—Peter and Elinor, and perhaps the Oliphants, and a beau for Magsie!”
Rachael had been waiting for Magsie’s name. But there seemed to be nothing to say. She rose to the situation gallantly. She put the boys in the care of their grandmother and the faithful Mary, with Doctor Valentine’s telephone number pasted prominently on the nursery wall. She bought herself charming gowns and hats, she made herself the most delightful travelling companion that ever seven hot and spoiled men and women were fortunate enough to find. When everyone, even Magsie, was bored and cross, upset by close air, by late hours, by unlimited candy and cocktails, Mrs. Gregory would appear from her stateroom, dainty, interested, ready for bridge or gossip, full of enthusiasm for the scenery and for the company in which she found herself. When she and Warren were alone she often tried to fancy herself merely an acquaintance again, with an acquaintance’s anxiety to meet his mood and interest him. She made no claims, she resented nothing, and she schooled herself to praise Magsie, to quote her, and to discuss her.
The result was all that she could have hoped. After the five weeks’ trip Warren was heard to make the astonishing comment that Magsie was a shallow little thing, and Rachael, hungrily kissing her boys’ sweet, bewildered faces, and laughing and crying together as Mary gave her an account of every hour of her absence, felt more than rewarded for the somewhat sordid scheme and the humiliating effort. Little Gerald was in short clothes now, a rose of a baby, and Jimmy at the irresistible age when every stammered word and every changing expression had new charm.