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The Street Called Straight

139 pages
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Ajouté le : 08 décembre 2010
Lecture(s) : 7
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Street Called Straight, by Basil King This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: The Street Called Straight Author: Basil King Release Date: December 20, 2004 [EBook #14394] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE STREET CALLED STRAIGHT *** Produced by Rick Niles, Karina Aleksandrova and the PG Online Distributed Proofreading Team THE STREET CALLED STRAIGHT A NOVEL BY BASIL KING AUTHOR OF THE INNER SHRINE, THE WILD OLIVE, ETC. ILLUSTRATED BY ORSON LOWELL NEW YORK GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS Published by Arrangement with Harper & Brothers 1911, 1912. PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PUBLISHED MAY 1912 , "By the Street Called Straight we come to the House called Beautiful " —New England Saying THE STREET CALLED STRAIGHT I s a matter of fact, Davenant was under no illusions concerning the quality of the welcome his hostess was according him, though he found a certain pleasure in being once more in her company. It was not a keen pleasure, but neither was it an embarrassing one; it was exactly what he supposed it would be in case they ever met again—a blending on his part of curiosity, admiration, and reminiscent suffering out of which time and experience had taken the sting. He retained the memory of a minute of intense astonishment once upon a time, followed by some weeks, some months perhaps, of angry humiliation; but the years between twenty-four and thirty-three are long and varied, generating in healthy natures plenty of saving common sense. Work, travel, and a widened knowledge of men and manners had so ripened Davenant's mind that he was able to see his proposal now as Miss Guion must have seen it then, as something so incongruous and absurd as not only to need no consideration, but to call for no reply. Nevertheless, it was the refusal on her part of a reply, of the mere laconic No which was all that, in his heart of hearts, he had ever expected, that rankled in him longest; but even that mortification had passed, as far as he knew, into the limbo of extinct regrets. For her present superb air of having no recollection of his blunder he had nothing but commendation. It was as becoming to the spirited grace of its wearer as a royal mantle to a queen. Carrying it as she did, with an easy, preoccupied affability that enabled her to look round him and over him and through him, to greet him and converse with him, without seeming positively to take in the fact of his existence, he was permitted to suppose the incident of their previous acquaintance, once so vital to himself, to have been forgotten. If this were so, it would be nothing very strange, since a woman of twenty-seven, who has had much social experience, may be permitted to lose sight of the more negligible of the conquests she has made as a girl of eighteen. She had asked him to dinner, and placed him honorably at her right; but words could not have made it plainer than it was that he was but an accident to the occasion. He was there, in short, because he was staying with Mr. and Mrs. Temple. After a two years' absence from New England he had arrived in Waverton that day, "Oh, bother! bring him along," had been the formula in which Miss Guion had conveyed his invitation, the dinner being but an informal, neighborly affair. Two or three wedding gifts having arrived from various quarters of the world, it was natural that Miss Guion should want to show them confidentially to her dear friend and distant relative, Drusilla Fane. Mrs. Fane had every right to this privileged inspection, since she had not only timed her yearly visit to her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Temple, so that it should synchronize with the wedding, but had introduced Olivia to Colonel Ashley, in the first place. Indeed, there had been a rumor at Southsea, right up to the time of Miss Guion's visit to the pretty little house on the Marine Parade, that the colonel's calls and attentions there had been not unconnected with Mrs. Fane herself; but rumor in British naval and military stations is notoriously overactive, especially in matters of the heart. Certain it is, however, that when the fashionable London papers announced that a marriage had been arranged, and would shortly take place, between Lieutenant-Colonel Rupert Ashley, of the Sussex Rangers, and of Heneage Place, Belvoir, Leicestershire, and Olivia Margaret, only child of Henry Guion, Esquire, of Tory Hill, Waverton, near Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., no one offered warmer congratulations than the lady in whose house the interesting pair had met. There were people who ascribed this attitude to the fact that, being constitutionally "game," she refused to betray her disappointment. She had been "awfully game," they said, when poor Gerald Fane, also of the Sussex Rangers, was cut off with enteric at Peshawur. But the general opinion was to the effect that, not wanting Rupert Ashley (for some obscure, feminine reason) for herself, she had magnanimously bestowed him elsewhere. Around teatables, and at church parade, it was said "Americans do that," with some comment on the methods of the transfer. On every ground, then, Drusilla was entitled to this first look at the presents, some of which had come from Ashley's brother officers, who were consequently brother officers of the late Captain Fane; so that when she telephoned saying she was afraid that they, her parents and herself, couldn't come to dinner that evening, because a former ward of her father's—Olivia must remember Peter Davenant!—was arriving to stay with them for a week or two, Miss Guion had answered, "Oh, bother! bring him along," and the matter was arranged. It was doubtful, however, that she knew him in advance to be the Peter Davenant who nine years earlier had had the presumption to fall in love with her; it was still more doubtful, after she had actually shaken hands with him and called him by name, whether she paid him the tribute of any kind of recollection. The fact that she had seated him at her right, in the place that would naturally be accorded to Rodney Temple, the scholarly director of the Department of Ceramics in the Harvard Gallery of Fine Arts, made it look as if she considered Davenant a