“Oh, I’m not sure. That was the subject of Aunt Alberta’s talk this afternoon—my still dancing. She says she put on caps at thirty-five.” Mrs. Farron ran her eyebrows whimsically together and looked up at her daughter’s visitor.
Mathilde was immensely grateful to her mother for taking so much trouble to be charming; only now she rather spoiled it by interrupting Wayne in the midst of a sentence, as if she had never been as much interested as she had seemed. Pringle had appeared in answer to her ring, and she asked him sharply:
“Is Mr. Farron in?”
“Mr. Farron’s in his room, Madam.”
At this she appeared to give her attention wholly back to Wayne, but Mathilde knew that she was really busy composing an escape. She seemed to settle back, to encourage her visitor to talk indefinitely; but when the moment came for her to answer, she rose to her feet in the midst of her sentence, and, still talking, wandered to the door and disappeared.
As the door shut firmly behind her Wayne said, as if there had been no interruption:
“It was love you were speaking of, you know.”
“But don’t you think my mother is marvelous?” she asked, not content to take up even the absorbing topic until this other matter had received due attention.
“I should say so! But one isn’t, of course, overwhelmed to find that your mother is beautiful.”
“And she’s so good!” Mathilde went on. “She’s always thinking of things to do for me and my grandfather and Mr. Farron and all these old, old relations. She went away just now only because she knows that as soon as Mr. Farron comes in he asks for her. She’s perfect to every one.”
He came and sat down beside her again.
“It’s going to be much easier for her daughter,” he said: “you have to be perfect only to one person. Now, what was it you were going to say about love?”
Again they looked at each other; again Miss Severance had the sensation of drowning, of being submerged in some strange elixir.
She was rescued by Pringle’s opening the door and announcing:
Wayne stood up.
“I suppose I must go,” he said.
“No, no,” she returned a little wildly, and added, as if this were the reason why she opposed his departure. “This is my grandfather. You must see him.”
Wayne sat down again, in the chair on the other side of the tea-table.
Mathilde had been wrong in telling Wayne that her mother had gone upstairs in obedience to an impulse of kindness. She had gone to quiet a small, gnawing anxiety that had been with her all the day, a haunting, elusive, persistent impression that something was wrong between her and her husband.