My face was white, my hands cold, as I listened to Jim, but I controlled myself, and said, quietly:
“Thank you, Jim, very much for telling me, but I do not think it amounts to anything.”
“The dearest friend I ever had”
Dinner with Dicky in a public dining room is almost always a delight to me. He has the rare art of knowing how to order a perfect dinner, and when he is in a good humor he is most entertaining. He knows by sight or by personal acquaintance almost every celebrity of the city, and his comments on them have an uncommon fascination for me because of the monotony of my life before I met Dicky.
But the very expression of my mother-in-law’s back as I followed her through the glittering grill room of the Sydenham told me that our chances for having a pleasant evening were slender indeed.
“Well, mother, what do you want to eat?” Dicky began genially, when an obsequious waiter had seated us and put the menu cards before us.
“Please do not consider me in the least,” my mother-in-law said with her most Christian-martyr-like expression. “Whatever you and Margaret wish will do very well for me.”
Dicky turned from his mother with a little impatient shrug.
“What about you, Madge?” he asked.
“Chicken a la Maryland in a chafing dish and a combination salad with that anchovy and sherry dressing you make so deliciously,” I replied promptly. “The rest of the dinner I’ll leave to you.”
My mother-in-law glared at me.
“It strikes me there isn’t much left to leave to him after an order of that kind,” she said, tartly.
“You haven’t eaten many of Dicky’s dinners then,” I said audaciously, with a little moue at him. “He orders the most perfect dinners of any one I know.”
“Of course, with your wide experience, you ought to be a critical judge of his ability,” my mother-in-law snapped back.
Her tone was even more insulting than her words. It tipped with cruel venom her allusion to the quiet, almost cloistered life of my girlhood.
I drew a long breath as I saw my mother-in-law adjust her lorgnette and proceed to gaze through it with critical hauteur at the other diners. I hoped that her curiosity and interest in the things going on around her would make her forget her imaginary grievances, but my hope was destined to be short lived.
It was while we were discussing our oysters, the very first offered of the season, that she spoke to me, suddenly, abruptly:
“Margaret, do you know that man at the second table back of us? He hasn’t taken his eyes from you for the last ten minutes.”
My heart almost stopped beating, for my intuition told me at once the identity of the gazer. It must be the man whose uncanny, mournful look had so distressed me when I was waiting for Lillian Underwood in the little reception room at the Sydenham the preceding Monday, the man who had followed us to the little tea room, who had even taken the same train to Marvin with me.