The knock was repeated in a brief, that-ends-it fashion. Mrs. Wordling with a sudden streak of clumsiness half overturned a chair, as she sped to the door. Bedient did not at once penetrate the entire manoeuver, but his nerve and will tightened with a premonition of unpleasantness.
Beth Truba was admitted. Quite as he would have had her do, the artist merely turned from one to the other a quick glance, and ignored the matter; yet that glance had stamped him with her conception of his commonness.
“I could just as well have sent the poster over,” Beth said, “but, as I ’phoned, it is well to see, if it suits exactly, before putting it out of mind——”
“Lovely of you, dear. I’m so glad Mr. Bedient is here to see it!” Mrs. Wordling’s brown eyes swam with happiness.
Beth was in brown. Her profile was turned to Bedient, as she unrolled the large, heavy paper.... The work was remarkable in its effect of having been done in a sweep. The subtle and characteristic appeal of the actress (so truly her own, that she would have been the last to notice it) had been caught in truth and cleverly, the restlessness of her empty arms and eager breast. The face was finer, and the curves of the figure slightly lengthened; the whole in Beth’s sweeping way, rather masterful.
“Splendid!” Mrs. Wordling exclaimed, and to Bedient added: “It’s for the road. Isn’t it a winner?”
“Yes, I do like it,” Bedient said.
Beth was glad that he didn’t enlarge.
“I must be on my way, then,” she said. “I’m going into the country to-morrow for the week-end.... We’re getting the old house fixed up for the winter. Mother writes that the repairs are on in full blast, and that I’m needed. Last Saturday when I got there the plumbers had just come. Very carefully they took out all the plumbing and laid it on the front lawn; then put it back.... Good-by.”
“Good-by, and thank you, Beth.”
“I am glad that it pleases you, Mrs. Wordling.” Her tone was pleasantly poised.
Bedient missed nothing now. He did not blame Mrs. Wordling for using him. He saw that she was out of her element with the others; therefore not at her best trying to be one with them. In her little strategies, she was quite true to herself. He could not be irritated, though he was very sorry. Of course, there could be no explanation. His own innocence was but a humorous aspect of the case. The trying part was that look in Beth Truba’s eyes, which told him how bored she was by this sort of commonness.
Then there was to-morrow and Sunday with her away. In her brown dress and hat, glorious and away.
Bedient went away, too.
ABOUT SHADOWY SISTERS
Beth Truba hadn’t the gift of talking about the things that hurt her. She had met all her conflicts in solitudes of her own finding; and there they had been consummated, like certain processes of nature, far from the gaze of man. She had found the world deranged from every girlish ideal. Full grown young men could be so beautiful to her artist’s eyes, that years were required to realize that these splendid exteriors held more often than not, little more than strutting half-truths and athletic vanities.