Rachael sighed wearily in the depth of her soul. She knew that kindly admonitory tone, that complacent misconception of her meaning. She said to herself that in a moment he would begin to ask himself questions, and answer them himself.
“We are not perfect ourselves,” said the clergyman benevolently, “yet we expect perfection in others. Before we will even change our own lives we like to look around and see what other people are doing. Perfectly natural? Of course it’s perfectly natural, but at the same time it’s one of the things we must fight. I shall have to tell you a little story of our Rose, as I sometimes tell some of my boys at the College of Divinity,” continued the good man. Rose, an exemplary unmarried woman of thirty, was the bishop’s daughter. “Rose,” resumed her father, “wanted to study the violin when she was about twelve, and her peculiar old pater decided that first she must learn to cook. Her mother quite agreed with me, and the young lady was accordingly taken out to the kitchen and introduced to some pots and pans. I also got her some book, I’ve forgotten its name—her mother would remember; ’Complete Manual of Cookery’—something of that sort. A day or two later I asked her mother how the cooking went. ‘Oh,’ she said, ’Rose has been reading that book, and she knows more than all the rest of us!’”
Rachael laughed generously. They had reached the house again now, and Florence, glancing eagerly toward them, was charmed to see both smiling. She felt that the bishop must have influenced Rachael, and indeed the clergyman himself was sure that her mood was softer, and found opportunity before he departed to say to his hostess in a low tone that he fancied that they would hear no more of the whole miserable business.
“Oh, Bishop, how wonderful of you!” said Florence thankfully.
Two weeks later the news of the Breckenridge divorce burst like a bomb in the social sky. Immediately pictures of the lovely wife, of Clarence, of the town house and the country house began to flood the evening papers, and even the morning journals found room for a column or two of the affair on inside pages. Clarence was tracked to his mountain retreat, and as much as possible was made of his refusal to be interviewed. Mrs. Breckenridge was nowhere to be found.
The cold wind of publicity could not indeed reach her in the quiet lanes and along the sandy shore of Quaker Bridge. Rachael, known to everyone but her kind old landlady as “Mrs. Prescott,” could even glance interestedly at the papers now and then. Her identity, in three long and peaceful months, was not even so much as suspected. She did not mind the plain country table, the inconvenient old farmhouse; she loved her new solitude. Unquestioned, she dreamed through the idle days, reading, thinking, sleeping like a child. She spent long hours on the seashore watching the lazy, punctual flow and tumble of the waves that were never hurried, never delayed; her eyes followed the flashing wings of the gulls, the even, steady upward beat of strong pinions, the downward drifting through blue air that was of all motion the most perfect.