“I could have bitten my tongue out for making that wretched slip about the coffee cups; but I was off my guard for once. And like all artistic people Marshall is a little absent-minded—absorbed to the point of not seeing exactly what he is doing.—Poor young man, I sometimes tremble for his future. Such a highly strung, sensitive nature amounts almost to a curse. If he got into wrong hands what mightn’t the end be?—Catastrophe, for he is capable of fatal desperation. And I must own men—with the exception of my husband who is simply an angel to him—do not always understand and are not quite kind to him. He needs a wise loving woman to develop the best in him—there is so very much which is good—and to guide him.”
“Well,” Damaris said, and that without suspicion of irony, “dearest Henrietta, hasn’t he you?”
Mrs. Frayling took up the ivory hand-glass, and sitting sideways on the dressing-stool, turned her graceful head hither and thither, to obtain the fuller view of her back hair.
“Me? But you forget, I have other claims to satisfy. I can’t look after him for ever. I must find him a wife I suppose; though I really shall be rather loath to give him up. His gratitude and loneliness touch me so much,” she said, looking up and smiling, with a little twist in her mouth, as of playful and unwilling resignation, captivating to see.
By which cajoleries and expression of praiseworthy sentiment, Henrietta raised herself notably in Damaris’ estimation—as she fully intended to do. Our maiden kissed her with silent favour; and, mysteries of the toilette completed, more closely united than ever before—that is, since the date of the elder’s second advent—the two ladies, presenting the prettiest picture imaginable, went downstairs again, gaily, hand in hand.
Tall and slim, in the black and white of his evening clothes, Colonel Carteret leaned his shoulder against an iron pillar of the verandah of the Hotel de la Plage, and smoked, looking meditatively down into the moonlit garden. Through the range of brightly lighted open windows behind him came the sound of a piano and stringed instruments, a subdued babble of voices, the whisper of women’s skirts, and the sliding rush of valsing feet.
To-night marked the culmination and apex of Henrietta Frayling’s social effort. It was mid-March, mid-Lent—which last fact she made an excuse—after taking ecclesiastical opinion on the subject, namely, that of Herbert Binning, the Anglican chaplain—for issuing invitations to a Cinderella dance. Damaris Verity, it appeared, had never really, properly and ceremoniously “come out”—a neglect which Henrietta protested should be repaired. Positively, but very charmingly, she told Sir Charles it must. She only wished the affair could be on a larger, more worthy scale. This was, after