For, looking upon Hyde Manor as the future home of himself and his wife— and that wife, happily, Cornelia—he found it very easy to take an almost eager interest in all that concerned its welfare and beauty. “How good! How unselfish he is!” thought his mother. “Never before has he been so ready to listen and so willing to please me.” But, really, the work soon became delightful to him. The passion for land and for its improvement—the ruling passion of an Englishman—was not absent in George; it was only latent, and the idea of home, of his own personal home, developed it with amazing rapidity. He was soon able to make excellent suggestions to his mother; for her ideas, beautiful enough in the cultivation of flat surfaces, did not embody the grander possibilities of the higher lands near the river. But George saw every advantage, and with great ability directed his little gang of labourers among the rocks and woody crags of the yet unplanted wilderness.
In spite of their anxiety about the General, in spite of George’s longing to see Cornelia, these early summer days, with their glory of sunshine and shade and their miracles of growth, were very happy days; though madame reached her happiness by putting the future quite out of her thoughts, and George reached his by anticipating the future as the fruition of the present. Never since his early boyhood had madame and her son been so near and so dear to each other; for her brother-in-law’s probable death and her husband’s dangerous journeying released her from social engagements, and permitted her to spend her time in the employments and the companionship she loved best of all.
George, while accepting for himself the same partial seclusion, had more freedom. He rode into town three or four times every week; got the news of the clubs and the streets; loitered about Maiden Lane and the shopping district; and when disappointed and vexed at events went to his Grandmother Van Heemskirk for sympathy. For, as yet, he hesitated about naming Cornelia to his mother. He was sure she was aware of his passion, and her reticence on the subject made him fear she was going to advocate the fulfilment of his father’s promise. And he had such a singular delicacy about the girl he loved that he could not endure the thought of bandying her name about in an angry discussion. Added to this fine sense was an adoring love for his mother. She was in anxiety enough, and would be, until she heard of her husband’s safety; why, then, should he add his anxiety to hers?
Yet he was not happy about Cornelia. Since that unfortunate morning at Richmond Hill they had never met. If she saw him go up or down Maiden Lane, she made no sign. Several times Arenta’s face at her parlour window had given him a passing hope; but Arenta’s own love affairs were just then at a very interesting point; and, besides, she regarded the young Lieutenant’s admiration for her friend as only one of his many transient enthusiasms.