“A tendency—to think and wonder and ask questions, you know. She says people who have it are very trying. But how can you help a thing you’re born with?” She leaned forward, pushed the plates aside, and folded her arms on the table. “I always wondered about things, but I didn’t entirely wake up until I was over twenty. I don’t blame people for having things like this”—she waved her hands inclusively—“that is, if they like this kind of thing.” She looked up at him. “We’re just like children. All of us love to splurge every now and then. Don’t we?”
“It looks that way. Splurge has a variety of forms.” Laine leaned forward, hands clasped loosely between his knees. “But the tendency—is it catching?”
She laughed. “In the country it is. I live in the country, but it didn’t develop in me until I had several winters in the city. I used to love things like this. I didn’t know much about a good many other things, and it was when I found out that I began to look at people and wonder if they knew, and cared, and what they were doing with it—their life I mean, their chance, their time, their money. One winter it got so bad Lettice sent me home. Lettice lives in Washington; she’s my second sister. My oldest sister is a widow, and is still in London, where her husband died two years ago. I kept looking for glad faces and real, sure-enough happiness; and so many people looked bored and bothered and tired that I couldn’t understand—and Lettice made me go home. Her husband is in Congress, and she said I wanted to know too much.”
“Have you yet found what you were looking for?” Laine leaned back in his chair and shaded his eyes with his hand.
“Yes.” She laughed lightly and got up. “You can find anything, I guess, if you look for it right. And in such unexpected places you find things!” She stopped and listened. “I believe people are going home. Please take me to Hope. I can’t imagine what made us stay in here so long!”
DOROTHEA ASKS QUESTIONS
At the library window Dorothea drew the curtains aside and looked up and down the street. Presently she blew softly upon the pane and with her finger made on it four large letters, then rubbed them out and went back to the mantel, before whose mirror, on tiptoe, she surveyed the bow on her hair and straightened it with care.
“I don’t see why they don’t come,” she said, aggrievedly, smoothing down her skirt. “It’s time, and I’m going to ring for tea, anyhow. Mother said I could pour it, and I’ll play lady all by myself if nobody comes to play it with. I believe”—she turned her head—“I believe they’re coming now.”
Again she went to the window, then rang for tea. “Quick, Timkins; please hurry and bring it in before they come,” she said. “They’ll be frozen.” And as Timkins disappeared she put a fresh log on the fire, drew the table closer to it, and seated herself at it.