With eyes apparently on Mrs. Swink, I missed no movement of her daughter, and when presently I saw her put her elbow on the window-sill and wipe her lips with her handkerchief, and then make movement as if to brush something away, I got up, made effort to say good-by unhurriedly to her mother, and went over to the girl. As I held out my hand I glanced out of the window. Exactly opposite, and looking up at it, was Tom Cressy, his handkerchief to his lips.
I took the hand she held toward me in both of mine and something in her eyes, something both mutinous and pleading, filled me with sympathy I should not have felt, perhaps. She was only nineteen, and her mother was obviously trying to make her marry Harrie when she probably loved Tom. It was all so weak and so wicked, so sordid and stupid, that I felt like Kitty when with Alice Herbert. I needed disinfecting. I would have to get away before I said things I shouldn’t.
“Your mother says the masseuse comes this afternoon. Can’t you take a drive with me while she is here?” I turned to Mrs. Swink. “You will not mind if she leaves you for a little while? It is too lovely to stay indoors.”
“No, indeed, I won’t mind. I’ll be glad to have her go if she’ll do it. Lately she won’t do anything but sit at that window.” Mrs. Swink, who had gotten out of her chair with difficulty, turned to her daughter, blinking her little, near-sighted eyes at her as if she were beyond all human understanding; and the fretfulness of her tone she made no effort to control. “She’s that restless and hard to please and hard to interest in anything that she nearly wears me out. Girls didn’t do like that when I was young. If I’d had a hundredth part of what she’s got—”
“What’s the use of having things you don’t want?” Miss Swink’s shoulders made resentful movement; then she turned to me, for a moment hesitated.
“Thank you very much for asking me, but I can’t go this afternoon. I need exercise. If I don’t walk a great deal I—”
“I’d much rather walk. I love to walk.” I must know why she was meeting Tom without her mother’s knowledge. “I’ll send the car home and we’ll walk together. It isn’t often I have an afternoon without something that must be done in it. I’ll wait here while you get your hat and coat.”
Into the girl’s face came flush that spread slowly to the temples, and uncertainly she looked at me. Steadily my eyes held hers and after half a moment she turned and went out of the room. Coming back, she followed me into the hall and to the elevator, but, eyes on the gloves she was fastening, she said nothing until we reached the street. On the corner opposite us Tom Cressy was standing in the doorway of a cigar-shop, and as he saw the car dismissed, saw us cross the street and come toward him, into his honest, if not handsome, face came puzzled incredulity. Not until in front of him did I give evidence of seeing him; then I stopped.