Elizabeth paused for breath at the top of the third flight of stairs. She leaned against the iron balustrade.
“You poor dear!” she exclaimed. “How many times a day did you have to do this?”
“I didn’t go out very often,” he reminded her, “and it wasn’t every day that the lift was out of order. It’s only one more flight.”
She looked up the stairs, sighed, and raised her smart, grey, tailor-made skirt a little higher over her shoes.
“Well,” she announced heroically, “lead on. If they would sometimes dust these steps—but, after all, it doesn’t matter to you now, does it? Fancy that poor girl, though.”
He smiled a little grimly.
“A few flights of stairs aren’t the worst things she has had to face, I’m afraid,” he said.
“I am rather terrified of her,” Elizabeth confided, supporting herself by her companion’s shoulder. “I think I know that ultra-independent type. Kick me if I put my foot in it. Is this the door?”
Philip nodded and knocked softly. There was a sharp “Come in!”
“Put the key down, please,” the figure at the typewriter said, as they entered.
The words had scarcely left Martha’s lips before she turned around, conscious of some other influence in the room. Philip stepped forward.
“Miss Grimes,” he said, “I have brought Miss Dalstan in to see you. She wants—”
He paused. Something in the stony expression of the girl who had risen to her feet and stood now facing them, her ashen paleness unrelieved by any note of colour, her hands hanging in front of her patched and shabby frock, seemed to check the words upon his lips. Her voice was low but not soft. It seemed to create at once an atmosphere of anger and resentment.
“What do you want?” she demanded.
“I hope you don’t mind—I am so anxious that you should do some work for me,” Elizabeth explained. “When Mr. Ware first brought me in his play, I noticed how nicely it was typewritten. You must have been glad to find it turn out such a success.”
“I take no interest in my work when once it is typed,” Martha Grimes declared, “and I am very sorry but I do not like to receive visitors. I am very busy. Mr. Ware knows quite well that I like to be left alone.”
Elizabeth smiled at her delightfully.
“But it isn’t always good for us, is it,” she reminded her, “to live exactly as we would like, or to have our own way in all things?”
There was a moment’s rather queer silence. Martha Grimes seemed to be intent upon studying the appearance of her visitor, the very beautiful woman familiar to nearly every one in New York, perhaps at that moment America’s most popular actress. Her eyes seemed to dwell upon the little strands of fair hair that escaped from beneath her smart but simple hat, to take in the slightly deprecating lift of the eyebrows, the very attractive, half appealing smile, the smart grey tailor-made gown with the bunch of violets in her waistband. Elizabeth was as quietly dressed as it was possible for her to be, but her appearance nevertheless brought a note of some other world into the shabby little apartment.