CHAPTER I WHAT'S IN HEREDITY
Honora Leffingwell is the original name of our heroine. She was born in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century, at Nice, in France, and she spent the early years of her life in St. Louis, a somewhat conservative old city on the banks of the Mississippi River. Her father was Randolph Leffingwell, and he died in the early flower of his manhood, while filling with a grace that many remember the post of United States Consul at Nice. As a linguist he was a phenomenon, and his photograph in the tortoise-shell frame proves indubitably, to anyone acquainted with the fashions of 1870, that he was a master of that subtlest of all arts, dress. He had gentle blood in his veins, which came from Virginia through Kentucky in a coach and six, and he was the equal in appearance and manners of any duke who lingered beside classic seas.
Honora has often pictured to herself a gay villa set high above the curving shore, the amethyst depths shading into emerald, laced with milk-white foam, the vivid colours of the town, the gay costumes; the excursions, the dinner-parties presided over by the immaculate young consul in three languages, and the guests chosen from the haute noblesse of Europe. Such was the vision in her youthful mind, added to by degrees as she grew into young-ladyhood and surreptitiously became familiar with the writings of Ouida and the Duchess, and other literature of an educating cosmopolitan nature.
Honora's biography should undoubtedly contain a sketch of Mrs. Randolph Leffingwell. Beauty and dash and a knowledge of how to seat a table seem to have been the lady's chief characteristics; the only daughter of a carefully dressed and carefully, preserved widower, likewise a linguist,—whose super-refined tastes and the limited straits to which he, the remaining scion of an old Southern family, had been reduced by a gentlemanly contempt for money, led him 'to choose Paris rather than New York as a place of residence. One of the occasional and carefully planned trips to the Riviera proved fatal to the beautiful but reckless Myrtle Allison. She, who might have chosen counts or dukes from the Tagus to the Danube, or even crossed the Channel; took the dashing but impecunious American consul, with a faith in his future that was sublime. Without going over too carefully the upward path which led to the post of their country's representative at the court of St. James, neither had the slightest doubt that Randolph Leffingwell would tread it.
It is needless to dwell upon the chagrin of Honora's maternal grandfather, Howard Allison Esquire, over this turn of affairs, this unexpected bouleversement, as he spoke of it in private to his friends in his Parisian club. For many years he had watched the personal attractions of his daughter grow, and a brougham and certain other delights not to be mentioned had gradually become, in his mind, synonymous with old age. The brougham would have on its panels the Allison crest, and his distinguished (and titled) son-in-law would drop in occasionally at the little apartment on the Boulevard Haussmann....