A suitable habit was quickly provided, and she set forth each pleasantday with that little group of older girls who enjoyed this privilege,accompanied always by her own groom, who was a well-trained servant andeffaced himself as nearly as possible. The California girls rode, andthat Miss Dyboy of Baltimore, but the little Mexican, though she hadridden all her life, had no horse, and as long as affairs continuedunsettled in Morelos was not likely to have one. When Adelle discoveredthis fact, she did not play the part of the unselfish heroine, I amsorry to say, and allow Diane to use her horse even on those days whenshe did not care to ride (as of course she would do in a well-conductedstory). Instead she merely wrote a little letter to Mr. Crane at theWashington Trust Company, telling him rather peremptorily to send heranother horse. Somewhat to her surprise the second horse arrived in dueseason, and now she lent the beast to her little friend, carefullyrefraining from giving up her title to him. For a second time she feltthe sweet sense of unlimited power in response to desire. She wrote herletter as Aladdin rubbed his magic lamp, and straightway her desirebecame fact! It was modern magic. This time it happened that her desirewas a generous one and brought her the approval as well as the envy ofthe small social world at the Hall. But that was purely accidental: thenext time she should try her lamp, as likely as not the cause might bepurely selfish. As a matter of fact she soon discovered that, bydistributing her favors and lending her extra horse to a number ofschoolmates, she could enlarge her circle of influence andconsideration. So the little Mexican by no means had all the rides.
Probably this doctrine would shock not only the managers of HerndonHall, but also the officers of the trust company, who felt that theywere giving their ward the best preparation for \"a full life,\" such asthe possession of a large property entitles mortals to expect. Andthough it may seem that the Washington Trust Company had been somewhatperfunctory in its care of its young ward, merely accepting the routineideas of the day in regard to her education and preparation for life,they did nothing more nor worse in this than the majority of well-to-doparents who may be supposed to have every incentive of love and familypride in dealing with their young. The trust company in fact was merelyan impersonal and legal means of fulfilling the ideals of the averagemember of our society. Indeed, the trust company, in the person of itspresident and also of Mr. Ashly Crane, were just now giving some oftheir valuable time to consideration of the personal fate of their ward.She had been the subject of at least one conference between theseofficers. She was now on her way towards eighteen, and that was the age,as President West well knew, when properly conditioned young womenusually left school, unless they were \"queer\" enough to seek college,and entered \"society\" for the unavowed but perfectly understood objectof getting husbands for themselves. The trust company was puzzled as tohow best to provide this necessary function for its ward. They felt thatthere existed no suitable machinery for taking this next step. Theycould order her clothes, or rather hire some one to buy them for her,order her a suitable \"education\" and pay for it, but they could not\"introduce her to society\" nor provide her with a good husband. And thatwas the situation which now confronted them.
There were many similar items added to the account during the nextfortnight. It seemed that Mr. Ashly Crane had nothing better to do withhis European vacation than to give Miss Clark and her companions a goodtime, or, as he intimated to Miss Comstock, \"to get into closer touchwith the company's ward.\" Naturally he was a godsend to the Comstockgirls, for he could take them to places where without a man they couldnot go. There was a mild orgy of motoring, dining, and theater. PussyComstock, experienced campaigner that she was, made no objection to thisjunketing. A fixed principle with her was to let any man spend his moneyas freely as he was inclined to. Yet she skillfully so contrived thatthe young banker had few opportunities of solitary communion with hisward. At first Mr. Crane did not understand why the Glynn girl or one ofthe Paul sisters was always in the way, and then he comprehended theartful maneuver of the woman and resented it. One afternoon, when he hadtaken the party up the river, he announced bluntly after tea that he andAdelle were going out in a punt together. Leaving Miss Comstock and thethree other girls to amuse themselves as they could, he stoutly pulledforth from the landing and around a bend in the river. Thereafter hisefforts relaxed, and he had Adelle to himself for two long hours. AndAdelle, reclining on the gaudy cushions under an enormous pink sunshade,was not unenticing. Her air of indolent taciturnity was almostprovoking. Mr. Ashly Crane quite persuaded himself that he was really inlove with the young heiress.
When the inspectors finally came upon deposits of Adelle's jewelry whichshe had skillfully concealed in the toes of her shoes, they declared thegame off and sent all the trunks forthwith to the stores. Their case wasso serious that it must be dealt with specially. The pair finally leftthe dock, much chagrined, feeling as nearly like common criminals asthey were ever likely to feel; indeed, somewhat frightened and much lessvoluble in protest, whatever their opinion of their fatherland mightstill be. It was evidently a serious affair they had got themselves infor by their perfectly natural desire to save a few dollars at theexpense of the Government.
With women such as Adelle the tragedy is less apparent than with men,because woman's life for uncounted ages has consisted in great part ofplaying games with herself at the dictates of men, and large wealthassists her in making these games socially interesting and agreeable.Adelle, to be sure, had no social ambition of the conventional sort. Shewas more content than Archie with merely being married and having plentyof money to spend in any way she chose. In this respect she was nearerthe primitive than Archie, who often reminded her of the fact somewhatcruelly. Yet, as we shall see, when the time came she awoke to the fullrealization of the situation, which Archie never understood at all.
The next time Adelle made the ascent of the hill behind Highcourt shetook her little boy with her, and after wandering about the eucalyptuswood with him in search of flowers sent him back to the house with hisnurse and kept on over the hill to the shack where Clark lived. Sheexamined the tar-paper structure more carefully, noticing that the masonhad set out some vegetables beside the door and that a little vine wasclimbing up the paper façade of the temporary home. She knew that themason was still at his work below, and so she ventured to peek into theshack. Everything within the one small room was clean and orderly. Therewas a rough bunk in one corner, which was made into a neat bed, andbeneath this were arranged in pairs the man's extra shoes, one pairbleached by lime and another newer pair of modern cut for dress use. Inone corner was a small camper's stove with a piece of drain-pipe forchimney; a board table, one or two boxes, and some automobile oil cansmade up the furniture of the room. There was also a little lime-spottedcanvas trunk that probably contained the mason's better clothes and hisextra tools. On the table was a lamp and a few soiled magazines, withwhich Clark probably whiled away free hours when not disposed to descendto the town for active amusement.
If Archie realized Tom Clark's return to Highcourt, he was wise enoughto make nothing of it. He was in a poor way nervously at this time,playing bad polo and drinking altogether too much. He stayed away fromthe city, which was a nuisance to Adelle, but he spent most of his timeat the country club. Adelle meanwhile was wrestling with herself; withwhat people have the habit of calling the \"conscience,\" but what hadbetter be called the \"consciousness,\" endeavoring to realize more fullythe position in which she found herself. The idea within, like mostideas hotly nursed in a troubled brain, was growing all the time, untilit filled all her waking moments and most of her dreams. She had to willdeliberately not to take the little path up the hill to the mason'sshack. Once she yielded, and when she arrived breathless, her heartthumping, she found the door safely padlocked. The mason had gone to thetown for supplies. She sneaked back to Highcourt by a roundabout coursethrough the eucalyptus wood, to avoid meeting her cousin on the path.Thus day by day she lived in an agony of preoccupation, so that evenArchie began to notice how thin and pale she was, and attributed herdistress to all sorts of reasons except the right one, of which he knewnothing. Her friends said that she was \"trying to do too much,\" neededdistraction, and recommended a trip somewhere, though what she did,except to dine and lunch out a few times each week or trail about theunfinished estate and play with her child, would be hard to say. Adelle,in truth, was thinking, thinking harder than ever before in her life.Her new secret was the most stimulating influence, next to her child,that she had known in all her life. Her brain once started led her intoall sorts of mad by-paths, ramifications of perception that she and thereader, too, might not suspect lay within her powers. She asked herselfwhat the mason, with his ideas about the injustice of property, would dowith her money She began even to question the meaning of life! Itsqueer treatment of her, in jerking her up to a high plane of privilegeand then throwing her down in this unexpected manner, appeared for thefirst time inexplicable. 59ce067264