Arenta’s feelings were in kind and measure shared by several other people; Doctor Moran held them in a far bitterer mood; but he, also,— environed by circumstances he could neither alter nor command,—was compelled to satisfy his disapproval with promises of a future change. For the wedding of Arenta Van Ariens had assumed a great social importance. Arenta herself had talked about the affair until all classes were on the tiptoe of expectation. The wealthy Dutch families, the exclusive American set, the home and foreign diplomatic circles, were alike looking forward to the splendid ceremony, and to the great breakfast at Peter Van Ariens’ house, and to the ball which Madame Jacobus was to give in the evening. None of the younger people had ever been in madame’s fantastic ballroom, and they were eager for this entry into her wonderful house. For their mothers—seeing things through the mists of Time—had, innocently enough, exaggerated the marvels of the Chinese lanterns, the feather flowers and gorgeously plumed birds, the cases of tropical butterflies and beetles, and the fascination of the pagan deities, until they were ready to listen to any tale about Madame Jacobus and to swallow it like cream.
So Doctor Moran, being physician and family friend to most of the invited guests, had to listen to such reminiscences and anticipations wherever he went. He knew that he could not talk against the great public current, and that in the excited state of social feeling it would be a kind of treason even to hint disapproval of Arenta, or of any of her friends or doings. But he suffered. He was questioned by some, he was enlightened by others; his opinion was asked about dresses and ceremonies, he was constantly congratulated on his daughter’s prominence as bridesmaid, and he was sent for professionally, that he might be talked to socially. Yet if he ventured to hint dissatisfaction, or to express himself by a scornful “Pooh! Pooh!” he was answered by looks of such astonishment, of such quick-springing womanly suspicions, that he could not doubt the kind of conversation which followed his exit:
“Do you think Doctor Moran very clever?”
“Most people think so.”
“He is so unsympathetic. Doctor Moore knows everything Madame Jacobus is going to have, and to do. I think doctors ought to be chatty. It is so good for their patients to be cheered up a little.”
Doctor Moran divined perfectly this taste for gossip and medicinal sympathy combined, and to administer it was, to him, more nauseous than his own bitterest drugs. So in these days he was not a cheerful man to live with, and Cornelia’s beauty and radiant happiness affected him very much as Hyde’s pronounced satisfaction affected Arenta. One morning, as he was returning home after a round of disagreeable visits, he saw Cornelia and Hyde coming up Broadway together. They were sauntering side by side in all the lazy happiness of perfect love; and as he looked at them the sorrow of an immense disillusion filled him to the lips. He had believed himself, as yet, to be the first and the dearest in his child’s love; but in that moment his eyes were opened, and he felt as if he had been suddenly thrust out from it and the door closed upon him.