Esther HTML version
Strong kept his word about amusing the two girls. They were not allowed the time to
make themselves unhappy, restless or discontented. This Sunday afternoon he set out
with a pair of the fastest horses to be got in the neighborhood, and if these did not go
several times over the cliff, it was, as Strong had said, rather their own good sense than
their driver's which held them back. Catherine, who sat by Strong's side, made the
matter worse by taking the reins, and a more reckless little Amazon never defied men.
Even Strong himself at one moment, when wreck seemed certain, asked her to kindly
see to the publication of a posthumous memoir, and Esther declared that although she
did not fear death, she disliked Catherine's way of killing her. Catherine paid no
attention to such ribaldry, and drove on like Phaeton. Wharton was carried away by the
girl's dash and coolness. He wanted to paint her as the charioteer of the cataract. They
drove by the whirlpool, and so far and fast that, when Esther found herself that night
tossing and feverish in her bed, she could only dream that she was still skurrying over a
snow-bound country, aching with jolts and jerks, but unable ever to stop. The next day
she was glad to stay quietly in the house and amuse herself with sketching, while the
rest of the party crossed the river to get Mr. Murray's sleeping-berth by the night train to
New York, and to waste their time and money on the small attractions of the village. Mr.
Murray was forced to return to his office. Wharton, who had no right to be here at all, for
a score of pressing engagements were calling for instant attention in New York,
telegraphed simply that his work would detain him several days longer at Niagara, and
he even talked of returning with the others by way of Quebec.
While the rest of the party were attending to their own affairs at the railway station and
the telegraph office, Wharton and Catherine strolled down to the little park over the
American Fall and looked at the scene from there. Catherine in her furs was prettier
than ever; her fresh color was brightened by the red handkerchief she had tied round
her neck, and her eyes were more mutinous than usual. As she leaned over the
parapet, and looked into the bubbling torrent which leaped into space at her feet,
Wharton would have liked to carry her off like the torrent and give her no chance to
resist. Yet, reckless as he was, he had still common sense enough to understand that,
until he was fairly rid of one wife, he could not expect another to throw herself into his
arms, and he awkwardly flitted about her, like a moth about a lantern, unable even to
singe his wings in the flame.
"Then it is decided?" he asked. "You are really going abroad?"
"I am really going to take Esther to Europe for at least two years. We want excitement.
America is too tame."
"May I come over and see you there?"