At this moment Mathilde entered the room in her hat and furs, and distracted the conversation from Burke. Adelaide, who was fond of enunciating the belief that you could tell when people were in love by the frequency with which they wore their best clothes, noticed now how wonderfully lovely Mathilde was looking; but she noticed it quite unsuspiciously, for she was thinking, “My child is really a beauty.”
“You remember Mrs. Baxter, my dear.”
Mathilde did not remember her in the least, though she smiled sufficiently. To her Mrs. Baxter seemed just one of many dressy old ladies who drifted across the horizon only too often. If any one had told her that her grandfather had ever been supposed to be in danger of succumbing to charms such as these, she would have thought the notion an ugly example of grown-up pessimism.
Mrs. Baxter held her hand and patted it.
“Where does she get that lovely golden hair?” she asked. “Not from you, does she?”
“She gets it from her father,” answered Adelaide, and her expression added, “you dreadful old goose.”
In the pause Mathilde made her escape unquestioned. She knew even before a last pathetic glance that her mother was unutterably wearied with her visitor. In other circumstances she would have stayed to effect a rescue, but at present she was engaged in a deed of some recklessness on her own account. She was going to meet Pete Wayne secretly at the Metropolitan Museum.
In all her life Mathilde had never felt so conspicuous as she did going up the long flight of stairs at the Fifth Avenue entrance of the museum. It seemed to her that people, those walking past in the sunshine on the sidewalk, and the strangers in town seeing the sights from the top of the green busses, were saying to one another as they looked at her, “There goes a New York girl to meet her lover in one of the more ancient of the Egyptian rooms.”
She started as she heard the voice of the guard, though he was saying nothing but “Check your umbrella” to a man behind her. She sped across the marble floor of the great tapestry hall as a little, furry wild animal darts across an open space in the woods. She was thinking that she could not bear it if Pete were not there. How could she wait many minutes under the eyes of the guards, who must know better than any one else that no flesh-and-blood girl took any real interest in Egyptian antiquities? The round, unambitious dial at the entrance, like an enlarged kitchen-clock, had pointed to the exact hour set for the meeting. She ought not to expect that Pete, getting away from the office in business hours, could be as punctual as an eager, idle creature like herself.
She had made up her mind so clearly that when she entered the night-blue room there would be nothing but tombs and mummies that when she saw Pete standing with his overcoat over his arm, in the blue-serge clothes she particularly liked, she felt as much surprised as if their meeting were accidental.