скачать книгу бесплатно
"You look as if you might do very well thereyourself on that topic," suggested Alice.
"But I don't have to get into an ambone topreach. I do well anywhere, as long as I have anaudience," continued Dolly as she swept the modestnave with a confident glance.
They walked back toward the door: "Here's aperfect light on the chancel window," said Dollypausing. "Superb coloring, I think."
Alice, held by the soft rich flame of the glass, halted a moment, and saw in a niche removedfrom casual sight the bronze figure of a knightstanding above a pavement tomb. "Is this amemorial?"
"Poor Bertha," continued Dolly; "ordered mostof these windows herself."
"But this bronze, Mrs. De Castro, what is it?"
"A memorial of a son of Bertha's, dear."
The shield of the belted figure bore the Morganarms. An inscription set in the tomb at his feettook Alice's attention, and Dolly without joiningher waited upon her interest.
"And in whose memory do you say this is?"persisted Alice.
"In memory of one of Bertha's sons, dear."
"Is he buried here?"
"No, he lies in Kimberly Acre, the familyburial-ground on The Towers estate-where weshall all with our troubles one day lie. This poorboy committed suicide."
"It is too sad a story to tell."
"And I am morbidly sensitive about suicide."
"These Morgans then were relatives of theMrs. Morgan I met last night?"
"Relatives, yes. But in this instance, thatsignifies nothing. These, as I told you, were Fritzie'speople and are very different."
They re?ntered the car and drove rapidly downthe ridge. In the distance, to the south and east, the red gables of a cluster of buildings showed faraway among green, wooded hills.
"That is a school, is it?" asked Alice.
"No, it is a Catholic institution. It is a school,in a way, too, but not of the kind youmean-something of a charitable and training school.The Catholic church of the village stands justbeyond there. There are a number of Catholicsover toward the seashore-delightful people. Wehave none in our set."
The ridge road led them far into the countryand they drove rapidly along ribboned highwaysuntil a great hill confronted them and they beganto wind around its base toward the lake and home.Half-way up they left the main road, turned intoan open gateway, and passing a lodge entered theheavy woods of The Towers villa.
"The Towers is really our only show-place,"explained Dolly, "though Robert, I think, neglectsit. Of course, it is a place that stands hardtreatment. But think of the opportunities on thesebeautiful slopes for landscape gardening."
"It is very large."
"About two thousand acres. Robert, I fancy, cares for the trees more than anything else."
"And he lives here alone?"
"With Uncle John Kimberly. Uncle John isall alone in the world, and a paralytic."
"Yes.It is unfortunate in some ways; inothers not so much so. Don't be shocked. Oursis so big a family we have many kinds. UncleJohn! mercy! he led his poor Lydia a life. Andshe was a saint if ever a wife was one. I hopeshe has gone to her reward. She never sawthrough all the weary years, never knew,outwardly, anything of his wickedness."
Dolly looked ahead. "There is the house.See, up through the trees? We shall get a fineview in a minute. I don't know why it has to be, but each generation of our family has had a brainyKimberly and a wicked Kimberly. The legendis, that when they meet in one, the Kimberlyswill end."
To afford Alice the effect of the mainapproach to The Towers itself, Dolly ordereda roundabout drive which gave her guest an ideaof the beauties of the villa grounds.
They passed glades of unusual size, borderedby natural forests. They drove among pleasingsuccessions of hills, followed up valleys withoccasional brooks, and emerged at length on wide, open stretches of a plateau commanding the lake.
A further drive along the bluffs that rose highabove the water showed the bolder features of anAmerican landscape unspoiled by overtreatment.The car finally brought them to the lower end ofa long, formal avenue of elms that made a settingfor the ample house of gray stone, placed on anelevation that commanded the whole of SecondLake and the southern country for many miles.
Its advantage of position was obvious and thecastellated effect, from which its name derived, implied a strength of uncompromising pridecommonly associated with the Kimberlys themselves.
At Dolly's suggestion they walked aroundthrough the south garden which lay toward thelake. At the garden entrance stood a sun-dial andAlice paused to read the inscription:
"It is a duplicate of a dial that Robert fanciedin the garden of the Kimberly villa on LagoMaggiore," Dolly explained. "Come this way, I wantyou to see the lake and the terrace."
From the terrace they looked back again at thehouse. Well-placed windows and ampleverandas afforded views in every direction of thesurrounding country. Retracing their way to themain entrance, they ascended a broad flight ofstone steps and entered the house itself.
Following Dolly into the hall, Alice saw achamber almost severe in spaciousness and stillsomewhat untamed in its oak ruggedness. But glimpsesinto the apartments opening off it were delightfullysatisfying.
They peeped into the dining-room as they passed.It was an old-day room, heavily beamed in gloomyoak, with a massive round table and high chairs.The room filled the whole southern exposure ofits wing and at one end Alice saw a fireplace abovewhich hung a great Dutch mirror framed in heavyseventeenth-century style. Dolly pointed to it: "It is our sole heirloom, and Robert won't changeit from the fireplace. The Kimberly mirror, wecall it-from Holland with our first Kimberly.The oak in this room is good."
Taken as a whole, however, Dolly franklyconsidered The Towers too evidently suggestiveof the old-fashioned. This she satisfactorilyaccounted for by the fact that the house lacked themagic of a woman's presence.
Alice, walking with her, slowly and critically, found nowhere any discordant notes. The carpetsoffered the delicate restraints of Eastern fancy, andthe wall pictures, seen in passing, invited moreleisurely inspection.
There was here something in marble, somethingthere Oriental, but nowhere were effects confused, and they had been subdued until consciousness oftheir art was not aroused.
Alice, sensitive to indefinable impressions, hadnever seen anything comparable to what she nowsaw, and an interior so restful should have put herat ease.
Yet the first pleasing breath in this atmospherebrought with it something, she could not have toldwhat, of uneasiness, and it was of this that shewas vaguely conscious, as Dolly questioned theservant that met them.
"Is Mr. De Castro here yet?" she asked.
"Yes, Mrs. De Castro. He is with Mr. Kimberly.I think they are in the garden."
"Tell them we are here. We will go up andspeak to Uncle John."
They were at the foot of the stairs: "Sha'n't Iwait for you?" suggested Alice.
"By no means. Come with me. He is reallythe head of the family, you know," Dolly addedin an undertone, "and mustn't be slighted."
Alice, amused at the importance placed uponthe situation, smiled at Dolly's earnestness. Asshe ascended the stairs with her hostess, a littlewave of self-consciousness swept over her.
On the second floor was a long gallery openingat the farther end upon a western belvedere, lighted just then by the sun. The effect of theroom, confusing at first in its arrangement, was,in fact, that of a wide and irregular reception hallfor the apartments opening on the second floor.At the moment the two women reached the archway,a man walked in at the farther end from the terrace.
"There is Robert, now!" Dolly exclaimed. Hewas opening the door of a room near at handwhen he saw his sister with Alice, and cameforward to meet them. As he did so, a doormid-way down the hall opened and a man clad in ablack habit crossed between Kimberly and Alice.
"That is Francis, who takes care of UncleJohn," said Dolly. Francis, walked toward thebalcony without seeing the visitors, but his earcaught the tones of Dolly's voice and she waveda hand at him as he turned his head. He pausedto bow and continued his way through a balcony door.
As Kimberly came forward his face was sonearly without a smile that Alice for a momentwas chilled.
"I brought Mrs. MacBirney in to see Uncle Johna moment, Robert. How are you?" Dolly asked.
"Thank you, very well. And it is a pleasureto see Mrs. MacBirney, Dolly."
He looked into Alice's eyes as he spoke. Shethanked him, simply. Dolly made a remark butAlice did not catch it. In some confusion ofthought she was absurdly conscious that Kimberlywas looking at her and that his eyes were gray, that he wore a suit of gray and that she now, exchanging compliments with him, was clad inlavender. The three talked together for somemoments. Yet something formal remained inKimberly's manner and Alice was already theleast bit on the defensive.
She was, at any rate, glad to feel that her motoringrig would bear inspection, for it seemed as ifhis eyes, without offensively appearing to do so, took in the slightest detail of her appearance.His words were of a piece with his manner. Theywere agreeable, but either what he said lackedenthusiasm or preoccupation clouded his efforts tobe cordial.
"They told us," said Dolly, at length, "youwere in the garden."
"Arthur is down there somewhere," returnedKimberly. "We will go this way for Uncle John,"he added. "Francis is giving him an airing."
They walked out to the belvedere. Facing thesunset, Alice saw in an invalid chair an old manwith a wrinkled white face. Dolly, hasteningforward, greeted him in elevated tones. Kimberlyturned to Alice with a suggestion of humor as theywaited a little way from Dolly's hand. "My sister, curiously enough," said he, "always forgets thatUncle John is not deaf. And he doesn't like it a bit."
"Many people instinctively speak louder toinvalids," said Alice. Uncle John's eyes turnedslowly toward Alice as he heard her voice. Dolly, evidently, was referring to her, and beckoned herto come nearer. Alice saw the old man looking ather with the slow care of the paralytic-of onewho has learned to distrust his physical faculties.Alice disliked his eyes. He tried to rise, but Dollyfrowned on his attempt: it looked like a failure, anyway, and he greeted Alice from his chair.
"You are getting altogether too spry, UncleJohn," cried Dolly.
His eyes turned slowly from Alice's face toDolly's and he looked at his talkative niecequizzically: "Am I?" Then, with the mildlysuspicious smile on his face, his eyes returned to Alice.Kimberly watched his uncle.
"They say you want to ride horseback,"continued Dolly, jocularly. He looked at her again: "Do they?" Then he looked back at Alice.
Kimberly, his hands half-way in the pockets ofhis sack-coat, turned in protest: "I think youtwo go through this every time you come over,Dolly." Dolly waved her hand with a laugh.Uncle John this time did not even take the troubleto look around. He continued to smile at Aliceeven while he returned to Robert hisnon-committal: "Do we?"
Alice felt desirous of edging away from UncleJohn's kind of Kimberly eyes. "You ought toget better here very fast, Mr. Kimberly," she saidto him briskly. "This lovely prospect!" sheexclaimed, looking about her. "And in everydirection."
"It is pretty toward the lake," Robertvolunteered, knowing that Uncle John would merelylook at Alice without response.
He led the way as he spoke toward the mirroredsheet of water and, as Alice came to his side, pointed out the features of the landscape. Dollysat a moment with Uncle John and joinedKimberly and Alice as they walked on.
They encountered the attendant, BrotherFrancis, who had retreated as far as he could from thevisitors. Dolly, greeting him warmly, turned toAlice. "Mrs. MacBirney, this is Brother Franciswho takes care-and such excellent care! – of UncleJohn."
Brother Francis's features were spare. Hisslender nose emphasized the strength of his face.But if his expression at the moment was sober, and his dark eyes looked as if his thoughts mightbe away, they were kindly. His eyes, too, fellalmost at the instant Dolly spoke and he onlybowed his greeting to Alice. But with Francisa bow was everything. Whether he welcomed, tolerated, or disapproved, his bow clearly andsufficiently signified.
His greeting of Alice expressed deference andsincerity. But there was even more in it-somethingof the sensible attitude of a gentleman who,in meeting a lady in passing, and being himselfan attendant, desires to be so considered and seekswith his greeting to dismiss himself from thesituation. To this end, however, Francis's effortswere unsuccessful.
"He is the most modest man in the world,"murmured Dolly, in concluding a eulogium, delivered to Alice almost in the poor Brother's face.
"Then why not spare his feelings?" suggestedKimberly.
"Because I don't believe in hiding a light undera bushel," returned Dolly, vigorously. "Thereis so little modesty left nowadays-"
"That you want to be rid of what there is,"suggested Kimberly.
"That when I find it I think it a duty torecognize it," Dolly persisted.
Brother Francis maintained his composure aswell as he could. Indeed, self-consciousnessseemed quite lacking in him. "Surely," hesmiled, bowing again, "Madame De Castro has agood heart. That," he added to Alice, italicizinghis words with an expressive forefinger, "is thereal secret. But I see danger even if one shouldpossess a gift so precious as modesty," hecontinued, raising his finger this time in mildadmonition; "when you-how do you say in English-'trotout' the modesty and set it up to lookat" – Francis's large eyes grew luminous inpantomime-"the first thing you know, pff! Where is it?You search." Brother Francis beat the skirt of hisblack gown with his hands, and shook it as if todislodge the missing virtue. Then holding hisempty palms upward and outward, and addingthe dismay of his shoulders to the fanciedsituation, he asked: "Where is it? It is gone!"
"Which means we shouldn't tempt BrotherFrancis's modesty," interposed Alice.
Francis looked at Alice inquiringly. "You area Catholic?" he said, "your husband not."
Alice laughed: "How did you know?"
Francis waved his hand toward his informant: "Mr. Kimberly."
The answer surprised Alice. She looked atKimberly.
There was an instant of embarrassment. "Francisfeels our pagan atmosphere so keenly," Kimberlysaid slowly, "that I gave him the news aboutyou as a bracer-just to let him know we had afriend at court even if we were shut out ourselves."
"He told me," continued Francis, with humor,"that a Catholic lady was coming this afternoon, and to put on my new habit."
"Which, of course, you did not do," interposedKimberly, regaining the situation.
Brother Francis looked deprecatingly at hisshiny serge.
Dolly and Alice laughed. "Mr. Kimberlydidn't understand that you kept on your old oneout of humility," said Alice. "But how did youknow anything about my religion?" she asked, turning to Kimberly.
Francis took this chance to slip away to his charge.
"Arthur De Castro is the culprit," answeredKimberly. "He told me some time ago."
"You have a good memory."
"For some things. Won't you pour tea forMrs. MacBirney, Dolly? Let us go downstairs, anyway."
He walked with Alice into the house, talking asthey went.
Dolly bent over Uncle John's chair. "Isn'tshe nice?" she whispered, nodding toward Aliceas Alice disappeared with Kimberly. "Youknow Madame De Castro went to school in Pariswith her mother, who was a De Gallon, and herfather-Alice's grandfather-was the last man inLouisville to wear a queue."
Uncle John seemed not greatly moved at thisinformation, but did look reminiscent. "Whatwas her father's name?"
"Alice's father was named Marshall. He andher mother both are dead. She has no nearrelatives."
"I remember Marshall-he was a refiner."
"Precisely; he met with reverses a few years ago."
Uncle John looked after Alice with his feeble, questioning grin. "Fine looking," he muttered, still looking after her much as the toothless giantlooked after Christian as he passed his cave. "Finelooking."
Dolly was annoyed: "Oh, you're always thinkingabout fine looks! She is nice."
Uncle John smiled undismayed. "Is she?"
Alice had been married five years-it seemeda long time. The first five years of marriedlife are likely to be long enough to chart prettyaccurately the currents of the future, howeverinsufficient to predict just where those currents willcarry one.
Much disillusioning comes in the first fiveyears; when they have passed we know less ofourselves and more of our consort. Undoubtedlythe complement of this is true, and our consortknows more of us; but this thought, not alwaysreassuring, comes only when we reflect concerningourselves, which fortunately, perhaps, is notoften. Married people, if we may judge fromwhat they say, tend to reflect more concerningtheir mates.
Alice, it is certain, knew less of herself. Muchof the confidence of five years earlier she hadparted with, some of it cruelly. Yet comingat twenty-five into the Kimberly circle, and withthe probability of remaining in it, of its being toher a new picture of life, Alice gradually renewedher youth. Some current flowing from this joyof living seemed to revive in her the illusions ofgirlhood. All that she now questioned waswhether it really was for her.
Her husband enjoyed her promise of success intheir new surroundings without realizing in theleast how clearly those about them discriminatedbetween his wife and himself. She brought onequality that was priceless among those withwhom she now mingled-freshness.
Among such people her wares of mentalaptness, intelligence, amiability, not to discuss acharm of person that gave her a place amongwomen, were rated higher than they could havebeen elsewhere. She breathed in her newatmosphere with a renewed confidence, for nothingis more gratifying than to be judged by what webelieve to be the best in us; and nothing morereassuring after being neglected by stupid peoplethan to find ourselves approved by the best.
Walter MacBirney, her husband, representinghimself and his Western associates, and nowlooked on by them as a man who had forcedrecognition from the Kimberly interests, made on hisside, too, a favorable impression among the menwith whom his affairs brought him for the firsttime in contact.
If there was an exception to such an impressionit was with Robert Kimberly, but even with himMacBirney maintained easily the reputationaccorded to Western men for general capacity anda certain driving ability for putting things through.
He was described as self-made; and examinedwith the quiet curiosity of those less fortunateEastern men who were unwilling or unable toascribe their authorship to themselves, he madea satisfactory showing.
In the Kimberly coterie of men, which consistedin truth more of the staff associates in theKimberly activities than of the Kimberlysthemselves, the appearance of MacBirney on the sceneat Second Lake was a matter of interest to everyone of the fledgling magnates, who, under thelarger wing of the Kimberlys, directed thecommercial end of their interests.
McCrea, known as Robert Kimberly'sright-hand man; Cready Hamilton, one of theKimberly bankers, and brother of Doctor Hamilton,Robert's closest friend; Nelson, the Kimberlycounsel-all took a hand in going over MacBirney,so to say, and grading him up. They foundfor one thing that he could talk without sayinganything; which in conducting negotiations wasan excellent trait. And if not always a successfulstory-teller, he was a shrewd listener. In everythinghis native energy gave him a show of interestwhich, even when factitious, told in his favor.
Soon after the call on Uncle John, Dollyarranged a dinner for the MacBirneys, at whichCharles Kimberly and his wife and RobertKimberly were to be the guests. It followed a secondevening spent at the Nelsons', whence RobertKimberly had come home with the De Castrosand MacBirneys. Alice had sung for them. Afteraccepting for the De Castro dinner, Robert at thelast moment sent excuses. Dolly masked herfeelings. Imogene and Charles complained a little, but Arthur De Castro was so good a host that healone would have made a dinner go.
MacBirney, after he and Alice had gone to theirrooms for the night, spoke of Robert's absence."I don't quite understand that man," he mused."What do you make of him, Alice?"
Alice was braiding her hair. She turned fromher table. "I've met him very little, youknow-when we called at his house, and twice at theNelsons'. And I saw very little of him last night.He was with that drinking set most of the evening."
MacBirney started. "Don't say 'that drinkingset.'"
"Really, that describes them, Walter. I don'tsee that they excel in anything else. I hatedrinking women."
"When you're in Rome, do as the Romans do,"suggested MacBirney, curtly.
скачать книгу бесплатно