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PAGE 3

Autres Temps…
by [?]

Now, however, as the problem of New York loomed nearer, she began to regret that she had not spoken, had not at least questioned him about the hints she had gathered on the way. He did not know the two ladies next to her, he did not even, as it chanced, know Mrs. Lorin Boulger; but he knew New York, and New York was the sphinx whose riddle she must read or perish.

Almost as the thought passed through her mind his stooping shoulders and grizzled head detached themselves against the blaze of light in the west, and he sauntered down the empty deck and dropped into the chair at her side.

“You’re expecting the Barkleys to meet you, I suppose?” he asked.

It was the first time she had heard any one pronounce her daughter’s new name, and it occurred to her that her friend, who was shy and inarticulate, had been trying to say it all the way over and had at last shot it out at her only because he felt it must be now or never.

“I don’t know. I cabled, of course. But I believe she’s at–they’re at–his place somewhere.”

“Oh, Barkley’s; yes, near Lenox, isn’t it? But she’s sure to come to town to meet you.”

He said it so easily and naturally that her own constraint was relieved, and suddenly, before she knew what she meant to do, she had burst out: “She may dislike the idea of seeing people.”

Ide, whose absent short-sighted gaze had been fixed on the slowly gliding water, turned in his seat to stare at his companion.

“Who? Leila?” he said with an incredulous laugh.

Mrs. Lidcote flushed to her faded hair and grew pale again. “It took me a long time–to get used to it,” she said.

His look grew gently commiserating. “I think you’ll find–” he paused for a word–“that things are different now–altogether easier.”

“That’s what I’ve been wondering–ever since we started.” She was determined now to speak. She moved nearer, so that their arms touched, and she could drop her voice to a murmur. “You see, it all came on me in a flash. My going off to India and Siam on that long trip kept me away from letters for weeks at a time; and she didn’t want to tell me beforehand–oh, I understand that, poor child! You know how good she’s always been to me; how she’s tried to spare me. And she knew, of course, what a state of horror I’d be in. She knew I’d rush off to her at once and try to stop it. So she never gave me a hint of anything, and she even managed to muzzle Susy Suffern–you know Susy is the one of the family who keeps me informed about things at home. I don’t yet see how she prevented Susy’s telling me; but she did. And her first letter, the one I got up at Bangkok, simply said the thing was over–the divorce, I mean–and that the very next day she’d–well, I suppose there was no use waiting; and he seems to have behaved as well as possible, to have wanted to marry her as much as–“

“Who? Barkley?” he helped her out. “I should say so! Why what do you suppose–” He interrupted himself. “He’ll be devoted to her, I assure you.”

“Oh, of course; I’m sure he will. He’s written me–really beautifully. But it’s a terrible strain on a man’s devotion. I’m not sure that Leila realizes–“

Ide sounded again his little reassuring laugh. “I’m not sure that you realize. They’re all right.”

It was the very phrase that the young lady in the next seat had applied to the unknown “Leila,” and its recurrence on Ide’s lips flushed Mrs. Lidcote with fresh courage.

“I wish I knew just what you mean. The two young women next to me–the ones with the wonderful hats–have been talking in the same way.”

“What? About Leila?”

“About a Leila; I fancied it might be mine. And about society in general. All their friends seem to be divorced; some of them seem to announce their engagements before they get their decree. One of them–her name was Mabel–as far as I could make out, her husband found out that she meant to divorce him by noticing that she wore a new engagement-ring.”