He put the letter back in the envelope, and the envelope in his pocket. “She knows,” he repeated. What under heaven had Dorothea been telling her? He must see Dorothea and have it stopped. Did she think him a feeble and infirm person who leaned on a stick, or a crabbed and cross one who had no manners? He would have to call, if only to thank her for her note. No. He would do that in writing. Next week, perhaps, he might drop in and see Dorothea. But Hope and Channing should take the girl about, show her the city. Certainly Hope could not be so idiotic as to let clothes matter. In his sister’s world clothes were the insignia of its order, and of late Hope had shown signs that needed nipping. He must see Hope. Next week would be time enough, but Hope and Dorothea must both be seen.
AN AFTERNOON CALL
“How do you do? Oh, how do you do, too, Miss Keith?” Miss Robin French held out a hand first to Mrs. Channing Warrick and then to her guest and shook their hands with vigor.
“Did you ever know such weather at this season of the year? Even heat and cold are no longer like they used to be. Everything is intensified. Indeed I will have some tea! No lemon, and one lump. One. That’s a sick-looking fire, Hope. Good gracious! I just did catch that vase of flowers! Such a stupid fancy, putting flowers everywhere for people to knock over. Well, Miss Keith, have you gotten your breath since you reached New York? Something of a town, isn’t it?”
A gulp of hot tea, taken standing by Miss French, gave pause for a moment, and Claudia Keith instinctively drew her feet up under her chair behind the tea-table. To duck her head, as one would dodge an on-coming deluge, was an impulse, but only with her feet could effort be made for self-preservation, and as she refilled the cup held out to her by the breezy visitor she blessed the table which served as a breastwork of defense. With a hasty movement she put in the one lump and handed the cup back. “I breathe here very well,” she said, and smiled into the scrutinizing eyes. “New York is very wonderful.”
“And very disagreeable eight months out of the twelve.” Miss French put her cup on the table, threw her fur coat on the chair behind her, sat down, and, taking the cup again, drank its entire contents. “Pretty good tea, Hope; at most places it’s undrinkable.” Again she handed the cup to Claudia. “One more and that’s all. I’m cutting out tea a bit—only twelve cups a day now.”
“Twelve!” The exclamation was beyond recall. Claudia’s hand stopped in its pouring. “Twelve!”
“That’s what I said. Have taken thirty many times, but the doctor thought I was getting nerves and called me down. Nerves!” Miss French’s nose went up. “Nerves and nonsense are twin sisters, and I’ve no opinion of either. How did you like the opera last night?”