"I made up my mind that I would kiss you, my dear, the first chance I had. God bless you, my child! You have given your testimony as a woman should, in these days of scoffing at the truth."
"Testimony?" said Phyllis, quite puzzled. Had not her father felt a thrill of gratitude on reflecting that she had none of the qualities of the prig about her? "Testimony?"
"You have testified to the truth, Miss Ayrton, and you shall have your reward. You have shown that the truth is more to you than--than love-- the love of man--all that women hold sweet in life. You are right Miss Ayrton; and all true women must love and respect you."
Phyllis turned a very brilliant color, and kept her eyes fixed on the parquet pattern of the floor.
The dear old lady said a good deal more to her, all in praise of her act of having given Mr. Holland his /conge/ on account of his having written that shockingly unorthodox book.
By the end of the week Phyllis Ayrton was looked on as quite as much a heroine for having given Mr. Holland his /conge/, as Mr. Holland was a hero for having braved the bishop in writing the book. She wore her laurels meekly, though she had been rather embarrassed when a ray of intelligence appeared among the dark sayings of the dear old lady. She could not help wondering how all the world had become possessed of the knowledge that she had said good-by to her lover. She considered if it were possible that Mr. Holland had spread abroad the account of her ill-treatment of him--he would naturally allude to it as ill- treatment. The quick judgment of Ella Linton had enabled her to perceive how valuable to Mr. Holland was the incident of his rejection by Phyllis. As a beginning of his persecution, its importance could scarcely be overestimated. But it did not take Phyllis long to reassure herself on this matter. It was, of course, Ella who had given the incident publicity. She had done so for two reasons: first, in order that her little afternoon At Home might have additional luster attached to it by the presence of a young woman who had, in these days of a marriage market overstocked with young women (and old women, for that matter), thrown over an eligible man for conscience' sake; and secondly, in order that her At Home might have additional luster attached to it from the presence of the man who allowed himself to be thrown over by a delightful girl rather than refrain from publishing what he believed to be the truth.
Mrs. Linton achieved both the objects which, as a good hostess, she had in view. Mr. Holland put in an appearance in one of Mrs. Linton's big drawing rooms, and so did Phyllis Ayrton.
Everyone admitted that only a woman of the social capacity--some people called it genius--of Mrs. Linton could accomplish such a feat as the bringing into the same room two persons who had given unmistakable evidence of possessing a conscience apiece--the woman who had sacrificed the man for conscience' sake, and the man who had sacrificed the woman under the same influence. It was a social triumph, beyond doubt.