“No,” answered Mrs. Pendomer, to her unspoken thought; “no woman could be seriously jealous of me. Yes, I dare say, I am passee and vain and frivolous and—harmless. But,” she added, meditatively, “you hate me, just the same.”
“My dear Mrs. Pendomer——” Patricia began, with cool courtesy; then hesitated. “Yes,” she conceded; “I dare say, it is unreasonable—but I do hate you like the very old Nick.”
“Why, then,” spoke Mrs. Pendomer, with cheerfulness, “everything is as it should be.” She rose and smiled. “I am sorry to say I must be leaving Matocton to-day; the Ullwethers are very pressing, and I really don’t know how to get out of paying them a visit——”
“So sorry to lose you,” cooed Patricia; “but, of course, you know best. I believe some very good people are visiting the Ullwethers nowadays?” She extended the letters, blandly. “May I restore your property?” she queried, with utmost gentleness.
“Thanks!” Clarice Pendomer took them, and kissed her hostess, not without tenderness, on the brow. “My dear, be kind to Rudolph. He—he is rather an attractive man, you know,—and other women are kind to him. We of Lichfield have always said that he and Jack Charteris were the most dangerous men that even Lichfield has ever produced——”
“Why, do people really find Mr. Charteris particularly attractive?” Patricia demanded, so quickly and so innocently that Mrs. Pendomer could not deny herself the glance of a charlatan who applauds his fellow’s legerdemain.
And Patricia colored.
“Oh, well—! You know how Lichfield gossips,” said Mrs. Pendomer.
Colonel Musgrave had smoked a preposterous number of unsatisfying cigarettes on the big front porch of Matocton whilst Mrs. Pendomer was absent on her mission; and on her return, flushed and triumphant, he rose in eloquent silence.
“I’ve done it, Rudolph,” said Mrs. Pendomer.
“Done what?” he queried, blankly.
“Restored what my incomprehensible lawyers call the status quo; achieved peace with honor; carried off the spoils of war; and—in short—arranged everything,” answered Mrs. Pendomer, and sank into a rustic chair, which creaked admonishingly. “And all,” she added, bringing a fan into play, “without a single falsehood. I am not to blame if Patricia has jumped at the conclusion that these letters were written to me.”
“My word!” said Rudolph Musgrave, “your methods of restoring domestic peace to a distracted household are, to say the least, original!” He seated himself, and lighted another cigarette.
“Oh, well, Patricia is not deaf, you know, and she has lived in Lichfield quite a while.” Mrs. Pendomer said abruptly, “I have half a mind to tell you some of the things I know about Aline Van Orden.”
“Please don’t,” said Colonel Musgrave, “for I would inevitably beard you on my own porch and smite you to the door-mat. And I am hardly young enough for such adventures.”