He had a thrilling memory of her as Persis Pomeroy’s guest, years ago, an awkward, delightful seventeen-year-old, with her hair in two thick braids, looped up at the neck, and tied with a flaring black bow. He remembered watching her, hearing for the first time the delicious voice with its English accent: “Well, I should say it was indeed!”
“Well, I should say it was indeed!” Across more than ten years he recalled the careless, crisp little answer to some comment from Persis, his first precious memory of Rachael. The girls, he remembered, were supposedly too young for a certain dance that was imminent, they were opposing their youthful petulance—baffled roses and sunshine—to Mrs. Pomeroy’s big, placid negatives. Gregory could still see the matron’s comfortably shaking head, see Persis attacking again and again like a frantic butterfly, and see “the little English girl,” perched on the porch rail, looking from mother to daughter smilingly, with her blue, serious eyes.
Why had he never thought of her again until Clarence Breckenridge brought her back with him, a bride, six years later? Or, rather, having thought of her, as he undoubtedly had, why had he not found the time to cross the water and go to see her? Nothing might have come of it, true. But she might have yielded to him as readily as to Clarence Breckenridge!
“I love her!” he said to himself, and it seemed wonderful, sad, and sweet, joyous and terrible to admit it. “I love her. But she doesn’t love me or anyone, poor Rachael! She’s forgotten me already!”
As a matter of fact, Rachael thought about him very often during the course of the next two or three days, and after he had left her that night she could think of nothing else. To the admiration of men she was cheerfully accustomed; perhaps it would be safe to say that not in the course of the past ten years had she ever found herself alone in a man’s company without evoking a more or less definite declaration of his admiration for her. But to-night’s affair was a little distinctive for several reasons. Warren Gregory was a most exceptional man, for one thing; he was reputedly a coldblooded man, for another; and for a third, he had been extraordinarily in earnest. There had been no hesitation, he had committed himself wholeheartedly. She was conscious of a pleasurable thrill. However gracious, however gallant Warren was, there had been no social pretence in his attitude to-night.
And for a few moments she let her imagination play pleasantly with the situation. It was at least a new thought, and life had run in a groove for a long, long time. Granted the preliminaries safely managed, it would be a great triumph for the woman whom Clarence Breckenridge had ignored to come back into this group as Warren Gregory’s wife.
Rachael got into bed, flinging two or three books down beside her pillow and lighting the shaded lamp that stood at the bedside. She found herself unable to read.