“Isn’t that rather a heavy load?” he suggested. “I’d be delighted to help you move the things, don’t you know.”
“It is quite kind of you, and what the men would call ‘game,’ I believe, under the circumstances,” she answered, “but really it will not be necessary. We have hired Mr. Tutt and the driver to do the heavier part of the work, and the rest of it will be really a pleasant diversion.”
“No doubt,” agreed Ralph, with an appreciative grin. “By the way, you don’t happen to know Maud and Dorothy Partridge, of Baltimore, do you? Stunning pretty girls, both of them, and no end of swells.”
“I know so very few people in Baltimore,” she murmured, and tripped on down to the barn.
Ralph went out on the porch and smoked. There was nothing else that he could do.
It was growing dusk when the elder Ellsworths returned, almost hidden by great masses of autumn boughs.
“You should have been with us, Ralph,” enthusiastically said his mother. “I never saw such gorgeous tints in all my life. We have brought nearly the entire woods with us.”
“It was a good idea,” said Ralph. “A stunning good idea. They may come in handy to sleep on.”
Mrs. Ellsworth turned cold.
“What do you mean?” she gasped.
“Ralph,” sternly demanded his father, “you don’t mean to tell us that you let the Van Kamps jockey us out of those rooms after all?”
“Indeed, no,” he airily responded. “Just come right on up and see.”
He led the way into the suite and struck a match. One solitary candle had been left upon the mantel shelf. Ralph thought that this had been overlooked, but his mother afterwards set him right about that. Mrs. Van Kamp had cleverly left it so that the Ellsworths could see how dreadfully bare the place was. One candle in three rooms is drearier than darkness anyhow.
Mrs. Ellsworth took in all the desolation, the dismal expanse of the now enormous apartments, the shabby walls, the hideous bright spots where pictures had hung, the splintered flooring, the great, gaunt windows—and she gave in. She had met with snub after snub, and cut after cut, in her social climb, she had had the cook quit in the middle of an important dinner, she had had every disconcerting thing possible happen to her, but this—this was the last bale of straw. She sat down on a suitcase, in the middle of the biggest room, and cried!
Ralph, having waited for this, now told about the food transaction, and she hastily pushed the last-coming tear back into her eye.
“Good!” she cried. “They will be up here soon. They will be compelled to compromise, and they must not find me with red eyes.”
She cast a hasty glance around the room, then, in a sudden panic, seized the candle and explored the other two. She went wildly out into the hall, back into the little room over the kitchen, downstairs, everywhere, and returned in consternation.