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The Silver Butterfly   By: (1870-1935)

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Copyright 1908 The Bobbs Merrill Company October



Hayden was back in New York again after several years spent in the uttermost parts of the earth. He had been building railroads in South America, Africa, and China, and had maintained so many lodges in this or that wilderness that he really feared he might be curiously awkward in adapting himself to the conventional requirements of civilization. In his long roundabout journey home he had stopped for a few weeks in both London and Paris; but to his mental discomfort, they had but served to accentuate his loneliness and whet his longings for the dear, unforgotten life of his native city, that intimate, easy existence, wherein relatives, not too near, congenial friends and familiar haunts played so important a part.

On the journey from London he had felt like a boy going home for the most delightful holidays after a long period in school, and to calm and render more normal his elation, he told himself frequently as he drew nearer his native shores that he was letting himself in for a terrible disappointment; that all this happy anticipation, this belief, an intuition almost, that some delightful surprise awaited him, was the result of many lonely musings under the cold remote stars in virgin forests and wide deserts, a fleeting mirage born of homesickness.

But all these cautions and warnings and efforts to stifle this irrepressible and joyous expectation were quite unavailing and, as he decided after he had been home a week, equally unnecessary, for the unaccustomed, piquant sense of anticipation remained with him and gave a flavor to his days which in themselves were not lacking in flavor; for merely to look, to loiter, to play at an exquisite and to him exotic leisure was infinitely agreeable. The more delightful, indeed, because it was merely temporary. Hayden had come to New York with a definite purpose in view and his recreations were purely incidental.

His cousin, Kitty Hampton, was expressing her envy of him one winter morning as they were strolling down the Avenue together. Now it should be explained that Mrs. Warren Hampton, even if she was small to insignificance and blond to towness, thus increasing her resemblance to a naughty little boy, was nevertheless a very important person socially.

"I wish I could get up some of your nice, fresh enthusiasm, Robert," she said discontentedly. "Everything seems awfully stupid to me."

"That's because you've no imagination, Kitty. Fancy this seeming stupid!" He drew in the cold air of the sparkling morning with a long breath of satisfaction. "If your eyes had been traveling over the glare of deserts or plunging into the gloom of tangled forests for several years, you would think people and all this glitter and life and motion a very delightful change. Why, everywhere I look I see wonders. I expect anything to happen. Really, it would not surprise me in the least to turn a corner and meet a fairy princess any minute."

Kitty fell in with what she supposed was his mood. "We will turn the very next corner and see," she said. "But how will you know her even if we should meet her."

"I shall know her, never fear," he affirmed triumphantly, "whether she wear a shabby little gown, or gauzes and diamonds. I shall look into her eyes and know her at once."

He was laughing and yet there was something in his voice, a sort of ring of hope or conviction, that caused Kitty to lift her pretty sulky little face and look at him with a new interest. And Hayden was not at all bad to look at. He was well set up, with a brown, square face, brown hair, gray eyes full of expression and good humor and an unusually delightful smile, a smile that had won friends for him, of every race and in every clime, and had more than once been effective in extricating him from some difficulty into which his impulsive and non calculating nature had plunged him... Continue reading book >>

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