And she ran out of the room, scooping up her fallen furs with a gesture of flying grace as she sped.
When she came down, at twenty minutes after seven, her father stood in the hall, at the foot of the stairs, waiting to be her escort through the dark. He looked up and watched her as she descended, and his gaze was fond and proud—and profoundly disturbed. But she smiled and nodded gaily, and, when she reached the floor, put a hand on his shoulder.
“At least no one could suspect me to-night,” she said. “I look rich, don’t I, papa?”
She did. She had a look that worshipful girl friends bravely called “regal.” A head taller than her father, she was as straight and jauntily poised as a boy athlete; and her brown hair and her brown eyes were like her mother’s, but for the rest she went back to some stronger and livelier ancestor than either of her parents.
“Don’t I look too rich to be suspected?” she insisted.
“You look everything beautiful, Mary,” he said, huskily.
“And my dress?” She threw open her dark velvet cloak, showing a splendor of white and silver. “Anything better at Nice next winter, do you think?” She laughed, shrouding her glittering figure in the cloak again. “Two years old, and no one would dream it! I did it over.”
“You can do anything, Mary.”
There was a curious humility in his tone, and something more—a significance not veiled and yet abysmally apologetic. It was as if he suggested something to her and begged her forgiveness in the same breath.
And upon that, for the moment, she became as serious as he. She lifted her hand from his shoulder and then set it back more firmly, so that he should feel the reassurance of its pressure.
“Don’t worry,” she said, in a low voice and gravely. “I know exactly what you want me to do.”
It was a brave and lustrous banquet; and a noisy one, too, because there was an orchestra among some plants at one end of the long dining-room, and after a preliminary stiffness the guests were impelled to converse—necessarily at the tops of their voices. The whole company of fifty sat at a great oblong table, improvised for the occasion by carpenters; but, not betraying itself as an improvisation, it seemed a permanent continent of damask and lace, with shores of crystal and silver