s0i cau mb
"Yes. One's apt to get into a groove staying at home so much. There's nothing like rubbing brains with foreigners. It stretches you out, clears you of all your narrow insular prejudices, brings you in touch"â€”Durant quivered; he knew it was comingâ€”"in touch with fresh ideas. I don't know how you feel about it, but six months of it was enough to convince me that there's no place like England, and no people like English people, and no house like my own. As for Frida, a very little goes a long way with Frida; she'll be sick of it in six weeks, but she'll settle down all the better for the change." "You think so?" "I do. She may be a little unsettled at first. Her poor mother was just the sameâ€”restless, restless. But she settled down." The Colonel made no further allusion to his daughter's absence. He was presently disturbed about another [Pg 310] matter, bustling about the room, wondering, questioning, and exclaiming, "I have lost my little meteorological chronicle? Has anybody seen my little meteorological chronicle? Now, where did I have it last? I wonder if I could have left it with my other papers in Frida's room?" But Frida's room, the room where she did all her father's writing, and her own reading and dreaming when she had time to read and dream, Frida's room was locked, and nobody could find the key. The Colonel, more than ever convinced that his meteorological chronicle was concealed in Frida's room, ordered the door to be burst open. Durant lent a shoulder to the work and entered somewhat precipitately, followed by the Colonel. The meteorological chronicle, the labor of years, was found where its author had left it, on his writing-table, together with his other papers, business letters, household accounts, Primrose League programs, all carefully sorted, dated, and docketed. Many of the letters had been answered; they lay, addressed in Frida's handwriting, ready for the post. She had left her work in such perfect order that a new secretary could have been fitted into her place without a hitch. The fact was eloquent of finality and the winding up of affairs; but certain other details were more eloquent still. Order on the writing-table; in the rest of the room confusion and disarray, rifled bookcases and dismantled walls. Fresh squares of wall-paper outlined in cobwebs marked the places where the great maps had hung. The soul of the room was gone from it with the portrait of the late Mrs. Tancred; the watercolor drawings, sad work of her restless fingers, were no longer there. The furniture had been pushed aside to make room for the deed of desecration; the floor was [Pg 311] littered with newspapers and straw; an empty packing-case lay on its side, abandoned, in a corner. The Colonel opened round eyes of astonishment, but his mustache was still. He rang the bell and summoned the servants. Under severe cross-examination, Chaplin, the footman, gave evidence that three packing-cases had left Coton Manor for the station early in the morning before the bursting of the storm. Frida, too, had discerned the face of the sky, andâ€”admirable strategist!â€”had secured her transports. The Colonel dismissed his witnesses, and appealed helplessly to Durant; indeed, the comprehension in the young man's face gave him an appearance of guilty complicity. "What does it mean, Durant? what does it mean?" Durant smiled, not without compassion. When a young woman arranges her accounts, and makes off with three packing-cases, containing her library and her mother's portrait, the meaning obviously is that she is not coming back again in a hurry. He suggested that perhaps Miss Tancred proposed to make a lengthier stay on the Continent than had been surmised. "The whole thing," said the Colonel, "is incomprehensible to me." For the rest of the evening he remained visibly subdued by the presence of the incomprehensible; after coffee he pulled himself together and prepared to face it. "There will be no whist this evening," he announced. "You will excuse me, Durant; I have an immensity of work on hand. Chaplin, put some whiskey and water in the study, and light the little lamp on my literary machine." Tuesday morning's post brought explanation. Two letters lay on the breakfast table, both from a fresh [Pg 312] hotel, the H?tel MÃ©tropole, both addressed in Frida Tancred's handwriting, one to the Colonel and the other to Durant. Durant's ran thus: "Dear Mr. Durant:â€”You will explain everything to my father, won't you? I have done my best, but he will never see it; it is the sort of thing he never could seeâ€”my reasons for going away and staying away. They are hard to understand, but, as far as I have made them out myself, it seems that I went away for his sake; but I believe, in fact I know, that I shall stay away for my own. You will understand it; we thrashed it all out that Saturday afternoonâ€”you remember?â€”and you understood then. And so I trust you. "Always sincerely yours, "Frida Tancred. "P.S.â€”Write and tell me how he takes it. I can see itâ€”so clearly!â€”from his point of view. I hope he will not be unhappy. "P.P.S.â€”We sail to-morrow." He was still knitting his brows over the opening sentences when the Colonel flicked his own letter across the table. "Read this, Durant, and tell me what you think of it." Durant read: "My Dear Father:â€”You will see from Georgie's telegram that we shall be leaving England to-morrow. I did not tell you this before because it would have meant so much explanation, and if we once began explaining things I don't think I should ever have [Pg 313] gone at all. And I had to go. Believe me, I was convinced that in going I was doing the best thing for you. I thought you had been making sacrifices for my sake, and that you would be happier without me, though you would not say so. Whether I could have brought myself to leave you without the help of this conviction, and whether I have the conviction strongly still, I cannot say; it is hard to be perfectly honest, even with myself. But now that I have gone I simply can't come back again. Not yet. Perhaps never, till I have done the things I want to do. "Of course you will be angryâ€”it is so unexpected. But only thinkâ€”you would not be angry, would you, if I married? You would have considered that perfectly legitimate. Yet it would have meant my leaving you for good. And what marriage and settling down in it is to other women, seeing the world and wandering about in it is to meâ€”it's the thing I care for most. We do not talk about these things, so this is the first you have heard of it. Thinkâ€”if I had been very much in love with anyone I would have said nothing about it till I was all but engaged to him. It's the same thing. And it will make less difference to you than my marriage would have made." Here Frida's pen had come to a stop; with a sudden flight from the abstract to the concrete, she had begun a fresh argument on a fresh page. "I only mean to use a third of my income. The other two thousand will still go to keeping up the property. I have left everything so that my work could be taken up by anybody to-morrow."