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A Hazard of New Fortunes — Complete by Howells

Horn's eyes wandered from Beaton


Beaton

easily found his way to her around the grouped skirts and among the detached figures, and received a pressure of welcome from the hand which she momentarily relaxed from the tea-pot. She sat behind a table put crosswise of a remote corner, and offered tea to people whom a niece of hers received provisionally or sped finally in the outer room. They did not usually take tea, and when they did they did not usually drink it; but Beaton was, feverishly glad of his cup; he took rum and lemon in it, and stood talking at Mrs. Horn's side till the next arrival should displace him: he talked in his French manner.

"I have been hoping to see you," she said. "I wanted to ask you about the Leightons. Did they really come?"

"I believe so. They are in town--yes. I haven't seen them."

"Then you don't know how they're getting on--that pretty creature, with her cleverness, and poor Mrs. Leighton? I was afraid they were venturing on a rash experiment. Do you know where they are?"

"In West Eleventh Street somewhere. Miss Leighton is in Mr. Wetmore's class."

"I must look them up. Do you know their number?"

"Not at the moment. I can find out."

"Do," said Mrs. Horn. "What courage they must have, to plunge into New York as they've done! I really didn't think they

would. I wonder if they've succeeded in getting anybody into their house yet?"

"I don't know," said Beaton.

"I discouraged their coming all I could," she sighed, "and I suppose you did, too. But it's quite useless trying to make people in a place like St. Barnaby understand how it is in town."

"Yes," said Beaton. He stirred his tea, while inwardly he tried to believe that he had really discouraged the Leightons from coming to New York. Perhaps the vexation of his failure made him call Mrs. Horn in his heart a fraud.

"Yes," she went on, "it is very, very hard. And when they won't understand, and rush on their doom, you feel that they are going to hold you respons--"

Mrs. Horn's eyes wandered from Beaton; her voice faltered in the faded interest of her remark, and then rose with renewed vigor in greeting a lady who came up and stretched her glove across the tea-cups.

Beaton got himself away and out of the house with a much briefer adieu to the niece than he had meant to make. The patronizing compassion of Mrs. Horn for the Leightons filled him with indignation toward her, toward himself. There was no reason why he should not have ignored them as he had done; but there was a feeling. It was his nature to be careless, and he had been spoiled into recklessness; he neglected everybody, and only remembered them when it suited his whim or his convenience; but he fiercely resented the inattentions of others toward himself. He had no scruple about breaking an engagement or failing to keep an appointment; he made promises without thinking of their fulfilment, and not because he was a faithless person, but because he was imaginative, and expected at the time to do what he said, but was fickle, and so did not. As most of his shortcomings were of a society sort, no great harm was done to anybody else. He had contracted somewhat the circle of his acquaintance by what some people called his rudeness, but most people treated it as his oddity, and were patient with it. One lady said she valued his coming when he said he would come because it had the charm of the unexpected. "Only it shows that it isn't always the unexpected that happens," she explained.


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