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MARGARET LEE encountered in her late middle age the rather singular strait of being
entirely alone in the world. She was unmarried, and as far as relatives were concerned,
she had none except those connected with her by ties not of blood, but by marriage.
Margaret had not married when her flesh had been comparative; later, when it had
become superlative, she had no opportunities to marry. Life would have been hard
enough for Margaret under any circumstances, but it was especially hard, living, as she
did, with her father's stepdaughter and that daughter's husband.
Margaret's stepmother had been a child in spite of her two marriages, and a very silly,
although pretty child. The daughter, Camille, was like her, although not so pretty, and the
man whom Camille had married was what Margaret had been taught to regard as
"common." His business pursuits were irregular and partook of mystery. He always
smoked cigarettes and chewed gum. He wore loud shirts and a diamond scarf-pin which
had upon him the appearance of stolen goods. The gem had belonged to Margaret's own
mother, but when Camille expressed a desire to present it to Jack Desmond, Margaret had
yielded with no outward hesitation, but afterward she wept miserably over its loss when
alone in her room. The spirit had gone out of Margaret, the little which she had
possessed. She had always been a gentle, sensitive creature, and was almost helpless
before the wishes of others.
After all, it had been a long time since Margaret had been able to force the ring even
upon her little finger, but she had derived a small pleasure from the reflection that she
owned it in its faded velvet box, hidden under laces in her top bureau drawer. She did not
like to see it blazing forth from the tie of this very ordinary young man who had married
Camille. Margaret had a gentle, high-bred contempt for Jack Desmond, but at the same
time a vague fear of him. Jack had a measure of unscrupulous business shrewdness,
which spared nothing and nobody, and that in spite of the fact that he had not succeeded.
Margaret owned the old Lee place, which had been magnificent, but of late years the
expenditures had been reduced and it had deteriorated. The conservatories had been
closed. There was only one horse in the stable. Jack had bought him. He was a wornout
trotter with legs carefully bandaged. Jack drove him at reckless speed, not considering
those slender, braceleted legs. Jack had a racing-gig, and when in it, with striped coat, cap
on one side, cigarette in mouth, lines held taut, skimming along the roads in clouds of
dust, he thought himself the man and true sportsman which he was not. Some of the old
Lee silver had paid for that waning trotter.
Camille adored Jack, and cared for no associations, no society, for which he was not
suited. Before the trotter was bought she told Margaret that the kind of dinners which she
was able to give in Fairhill were awfully slow. "If we could afford to have some men out
from the city, some nice fellers that Jack knows, it would be worth while," said she, "but
we have grown so hard up we can't do a thing to make it worth their while. Those men