The Man and the Moment HTML version

A FTER this, for several days Mrs. Howard made it rather difficult for Lord Fordyce to
speak to her alone, although he saw her every day, and at every meal, and each hour grew
more enamored. She, for her part, was certainly growing to like him. He soothed her; his
intelligence was highly trained, and he was courteous and gentle and sympathetic—but
for some reason which she could not explain, she had no wish to precipitate matters. Her
mind was quite without any definite desire or determination, but, being a woman, she was
perfectly aware that Henry was falling in love with her. A number of other men had done
so before, and had then at once begun to be uninteresting in her eyes. It was as if she
were numb to the attraction of men—but this one had qualities which appealed to her.
Her own countrymen were never cultivated enough in literature, and were too absorbed in
stocks and shares to be able to take flights of sentiment and imagination with her. Lord
Fordyce understood in a second—and they could discuss any subject with a refined
subtlety which enchanted her.
Henry had not spent his life maneuvring love affairs with women, and was not very
clever at manipulating circumstance. He fretted and fumed at not getting his desired tête-
à-tête, but with all the will was too hedged in by conventionality and a sense of politeness
to force matters, as his friend, Michael Arranstoun, would have done with high-handed
unconcern. Thus, his cure at Carlsbad was drawing to a close before he again spent an
afternoon quite alone with Sabine Howard. They had gone to the Aberg to tea, and the
Princess had expressed herself too tired to walk back, and had got into the waiting
carriage, making Cranley Beaton accompany her. She was not in a perfectly amiable
temper. Lord Fordyce attracted her strongly, and it was plain to be seen he had only eyes
for Sabine—who cared for him not at all. The Princess found Cranley Beaton absolutely
tiresome—no better than the New York Herald, she thought pettishly, or the Continental
Daily Mail—to be with! The waters were getting on her nerves, too; she would be glad to
leave and go to Sorrento with that Cupid among infants, Girolamo. Sabine had better
divorce her horror of a husband, and marry the man and have done with it!
Now the walk from the Aberg down through the woods is a peculiarly delightful one and,
even in the season at Carlsbad, not over-crowded by people. Henry Fordyce felt duly
elated at the prospect, and Mrs. Howard had an air of pensive mischief in her violet eyes.
Lord Fordyce, who had been accustomed for years to making speeches for his party, and
was known as a ready orator, found himself rather silent, and even a little nervous, for the
first hundred yards or so. She looked so bewitching, he thought, in her fresh white linen,
showing up the round peachiness of her young cheeks, and those curling, childish, brown
lashes making their shadow. He was overcome with a desire to kiss her. She was so
supremely healthy and delectable. He felt he had been altogether a fool in his estimate of
the serious necessities of life hitherto. Woman was now one of them—and this woman
supremely so. Why, if she could be freed from bonds, should she not become his wife?
But he felt it might be wiser not to be too precipitate about suggesting the thing to her.