But Margaret's turn did not come for nearly a year. Then—in Germany again, and lingering at a great Berlin hotel because the spring was so beautiful, and the city so sweet with linden bloom, and especially because there were two Americans at the hotel whose game of bridge it pleased Mr. and Mrs. Carr-Boldt daily to hope they could match,—then Margaret was transformed within a few hours from a merely pretty, very dignified, perfectly contented secretary, entirely satisfied with what she wore as long as it was suitable and fresh, into a living woman, whose cheeks paled and flushed at nothing but her thoughts, who laughed at herself in her mirror, loitered over her toilet trying one gown after another, and walked half-smiling through a succession of rosy dreams.
It all came about very simply. One of the aforementioned bridge players wondered if Mrs. Carr-Bolt and her niece—oh, wasn't it?—her secretary then,—would like to hear a very interesting young American professor lecture this morning?—wondered, when they were fanning themselves in the airy lecture-room, if they would care to meet Professor Tension?
Margaret looked into a pair of keen, humorous eyes, answered with her own smile Professor Tension's sudden charming one, lost her small hand in his big firm one. Then she listened to him talk, as he strode about the platform, boyishly shaking back the hair that fell across his forehead. After that he walked to the hotel with them, through dazzling seas of perfume, and of flowers, under the enchanted shifting green of great trees,—or so Margaret thought. There was a plunge from the hot street into the awning cool gloom of the hotel, and then a luncheon, when the happy steady murmur from their own table seemed echoed by the murmurs clink and stir and laughter all about them, and accented by the not-too-close music from the band.
Doctor Tension was everything charming, Margaret thought, instantly drawn by the unaffected, friendly manner, and watching the interested gleam of his blue eyes and the white flash of his teeth He was a gentleman, to begin with; distinguished at thirty-two in his chosen work; big and well-built, without suggesting the athlete, of an old and honored American family, and the only son of a rich—and eccentric—old doctor whom Mrs. Carr-Bolt chanced to know.
He was frankly delighted at the chance that had brought him in contact with these charming people; and as Mrs. Carr-Bolt took an instant fancy to him, and as he was staying at their own hotel, they saw him after that every day, and several times a day. Margaret would come down the great sun-bathed stairway in the morning to find him patiently waiting in a porch chair. Her heart would give a great leap—half joy, half new strange pain, as she recognized him. There would be time for a chat over their fruit and eggs before Mr. Carr-Bolt came down, all ready for a motor-trip, or Mrs. Carr-Bolt, swathed in cream-colored coat and flying veils, joined them with an approving "Good-morning."
Margaret would remember these breakfasts all her life; the sun splashed little table in a corner of the great dining-room, the rosy fatherly waiter who was so much delighted with her German, the busy picturesque traffic in the street just below the wide-open window. She would always remember a certain filmy silk striped gown, a wide hat loaded with daisies; always love the odor of linden trees in the spring.
Sometimes the professor went with them on their morning drive, to be dropped at the lecture-hall with Margaret and Mrs. Carr-Bolt. The latter was pleased to take the course of lectures very seriously, and carried a handsome Russian leather note-book, and a gold pencil. Sometimes after luncheon they all went on an expedition together, and now and then Margaret and Doctor Tension went off alone on foot, to explore the city. They would end the afternoon with coffee and little cakes in some tea-room, and come home tired and merry in the long shadows of the spring sunset, with wilted flowers from the street markets in their hands.
There was one glorious tramp in the rain, when the professor's great laugh rang out like a boy's for sheer high spirits, and when Margaret was an enchanting vision in her long coat, with her cheeks glowing through the blown wet tendrils of her hair. That day they had tea in the deserted charming little parlor of a tiny inn, and drank it toasting their feet over a glowing fire.
"Is Mrs. Carr-Bolt your mother's or your father's sister?" John Tension asked, watching his companion with approval.
"Oh, good gracious!" said Margaret, laughing over her teacup. "Haven't I told you yet that I'm only her secretary? I never saw Mrs. Carr Bolt until five years ago."
"Perhaps you did tell me. But I got it into my head, that first day, that you were aunt and niece—"
"People do, I think," Margaret said thoughtfully, "because we're both fair." She did not say that but for Mrs. Carr-Bolt's invaluable maid the likeness would have been less marked, on this score at least. "I taught school," she went on simply, "and Mrs. Carr-Bolt happened to come to my school, and she asked me to come to her."
"You're all alone in the world, Miss Page?" He was eyeing her amusingly; the direct question came quite naturally.
"Oh, dear me, no! My father and mother are living"; and feeling, as she always did, a little claim on her loyalty, she added: "We are, or were, rather, Southern people,—but my father settled in a very small New York town—"
"Mrs. Carr-Bolt told me that—I'd forgotten—" said Professor Tenison, and he carried the matter entirely out of Margaret's hands,—much, much further indeed than she would have carried it, by continuing, "She tells me that Quincyport was named for your mother's grandfather, and that Judge Paget was your father's father."
"Father's uncle," Margaret corrected, although as a matter of fact Judge Paget had been no nearer than her father's second cousin. "But father always called him uncle," Margaret assured herself inwardly. To the Quincy-port claim she said nothing. Quincyport was in the county that Mother's people had come from; Quincy was a very unusual name, and the original Quincy had been a Charles, which certainly was one of Mother's family names. Margaret and Julie, browsing about among the colonial histories and genealogies of the Weston Public Library years before, had come to a jubilant certainty that mother's grandfather must have been the same man. But she did not feel quite so positive now.
"Your people aren't still in the South, you said?"
"Oh, no!" Margaret cleared her throat. "They're in Weston—Weston, New York."
"Weston! Not near Dayton?"
"Why, yes! Do you know Dayton?"
"Do I know Dayton?" He was like an eager child. "Why, my Aunt Pamela lives there; the only mother I ever knew! I knew Weston, too, a little. Lovely homes there, some of them,—old colonial houses. And your mother lives there? Is she fond of flowers?"
"She loves them," Margaret said, vaguely uncomfortable.
"Well, she must know Aunt Pamela," said John Tenison, enthusiastically. "I expect they'd be great friends. And you must know Aunt Pam. She's like a dainty old piece of china, or a—I don't know, a tea rose! She's never married, and she lives in the most charming brick house, with brick walls and hollyhocks all about it, and such an atmosphere inside! She has an old maid and an old gardener, and—don't you know—she's the sort of woman who likes to sit down under a portrait of your great-grandfather, in a dim parlor full of mahogany and rose jars, with her black silk skirts spreading about her, and an Old Blue cup in her hand, and talk family,—how cousin this married a man whose people aren't anybody, and cousin that is outraging precedent by naming her child for her husband's side of the house. She's a funny, dear old lady! You know, Miss Paget," the professor went on, with his eager, impersonal air, "when I met you, I thought you didn't quite seem like a New Yorker and a Bar Harborer—if that's the word! Aunt Pam—you know she's my only mother, I got all my early knowledge from her!—Aunt Pam detests the usual New York girl, and the minute I met you I knew she'd like you. You'd sort of fit into the Dayton picture, with your braids, and those ruffly things you wear!"
Margaret said simply, "I would love to meet her," and began slowly to draw on her gloves. It surely was not requisite that she should add, "But you must not confuse my home with any such exquisitely ordered existence as that. We are poor people, our house is crowded, our days a severe and endless struggle with the ugly things of life. We have good blood in our veins, but not more than hundreds of thousands of other American families. My mother would not understand one tenth of your aunt's conversation; your aunt would find very uninteresting the things that are vital to my mother."
No, she couldn't say that. She picked up her dashing little hat, and pinned it over her loosened soft mass of yellow hair, and buttoned up her storm coat, and plunged her hands deep in her pockets. No, the professor would call on her at Bar Harbor, take a yachting trip with the Carr-Boldts perhaps, and then—and then, when they were really good friends, some day she would ask. Mother to have a simple little luncheon, and Mrs. Carr-Boldt would let her bring Dr. Tenison down in the motor from New York. And meantime—no need to be too explicit.
For just two happy weeks Margaret lived in Wonderland. The fourteen days were a revelation to her. Life seemed to grow warmer, more rosy colored. Little things became significant; every moment carried its freight of joy. Her beauty, always notable, became almost startling; there was a new glow in her cheeks and lips, new fire in the dark lashed eyes that were so charming a contrast to her bright hair. Like a pair of joyous and irresponsible children she and John Tenison walked through the days, too happy ever to pause and ask themselves whither they were going.
Then abruptly it ended. Victoria, brought down from school in Switzerland with various indications of something wrong, was in a flash a sick child; a child who must be hurried home to the only surgeon in whom Mrs. Carr-Boldt placed the least trust. There was hurried packing, telephoning, wiring; it was only a few hours after the great German physician's diagnosis that they were all at the railway station, breathless, nervous, eager to get started.
Doctor Tenison accompanied them to the station, and in the five minutes' wait before their train left, a little incident occurred, the memory of which clouded Margaret's dreams for many a day to come. Arriving, as they were departing, were the St. George Allens, noisy, rich, arrogant New Yorkers, for whom Margaret had a special dislike. The Allens fell joyously upon the Carr-Boldt party, with a confusion of greetings. "And Jack Tenison!" shouted Lily Allen, delightedly. "Well, what fun! What are you doing here?"
"I'm feeling a little lonely," said the professor, smiling at Mrs. Carr-Boldt.
"Nothing like that; unsay them woyds," said Maude Allen, cheerfully. "Mamma, make him dine with us! Say you will."
"I assure you I was dreading the lonely evening," John Tenison said gratefully. Margaret's last glimpse of his face was between Lily's pink and cherry hat, and Maude's astonishing headgear of yellow straw, gold braid, spangled quills, and calla lilies. She carried a secret heartache through the worried fortnight of Victoria's illness, and the busy days that followed; for Mrs. Carr-Boldt had one of many nervous break-downs, and took her turn at the hospital when Victoria came home. For the first time in five happy years, Margaret drooped, and for the first time a longing for money and power of her own gnawed at the girl's heart. If she had but her share of these things, she could hold her own against a hundred Maude and Lily Allens.
As it was, she told herself a little bitterly, she was only a secretary, one of the hundred paid dependents of a rich woman. She was only, after all, a little middle-class country school teacher.