“I have had such bad news to-day,” I say, suddenly, looking my vis-a-vis full and directly in the face.
So far she certainly shows no signs of emotion. Her fan is still waving with slow steadiness. I see the diamonds on her hands (whence did they owe their rise, I wonder?) glint in the fire-light.
“Roger is not coming back!”
“Not at all?” with a slight raising of the eyebrows.
“Not before Christmas, certainly.”
“Really! how disappointing! I am very sorry!”
There is not a particle of sorrow in face or tone: only the counterfeit grief of an utterly indifferent acquaintance. My heart feels a little lightened.
“And have you no better luck, either?” I say, more cheerfully. “Is there no talk of your—of Mr. Huntley coming back?”
Her eyelids droop: her breast heaves in a placid sigh.
“Not the slightest, I am afraid.”
What to say next? I have had enough of asking after her child. I will not fall into that error again. Ask who all the men in the rococo frames are?—which of them, or whether any, is Mr. Huntley? On consideration, I decide not to do this either; and, after one or two more stunted attempts at talk, I take my leave. I ask Algy to accompany me just down the drive, and with a most grudging and sulky air of unwillingness he complies. Alas! he always used to like to be with us girls. The ponies are fresh, and we have almost reached the gate before I speak, with a difficult hesitation.
“Algy,” say I, “did you happen to notice that—that bracelet?”
He does not answer. He is looking the other way, and turns only the back of his head toward me.
“It was from Hunt and Roskell,” I say.
“It must have—must have—come to a good deal,” I go on, timidly.
He has turned his face to me now. I cannot complain, but indeed, as it now is, I prefer the back of his head, so white and headstrong does he look.
“I wish to God,” he says, in a voice of low anger, “that you would be so obliging as to mind your own business, and allow me to mind mine!”
“But it is mine!” I cry, passionately; “what right has she to be sitting all day with young men on stools at her feet?—she, a married woman, with her husband—”