“Do let Mrs. Mundy bring you some hot oysters.” I leaned over and spoke to Bettie Flynn, upon whom Mrs. Mundy and I were keeping watch lest she show signs of her old trouble. “And can’t I give you a cup of coffee?” I held out my hand for her empty cup.
Bettie shook her head regarding the coffee, but handed her plate to Mrs. Mundy. “You certainly can give me some more oysters. I’ve been an Inmate for nine years and Inmates don’t often have a chance at oysters. At the City Home your chief nourishment is thankfulness. You’re expected to get fat on thankfulness. I ain’t thankful, which is what keeps me thin, maybe.” She turned to me. “My dress looks real nice, don’t it? Seeing we’re such different shapes, it’s strange how good your clothes fit me. I hope the rats won’t eat this dress. I’m going to keep it to be buried in. Good gracious! I didn’t know you was going to have ice-cream and cake. I wouldn’t have et all them oysters if I’d known.”
When supper was over Dick Banister, who is Gracie Hurd’s beau, asked me, with awkward bowing, for the first dance, and, beginning with him, I danced with every man in the room who made pretense of knowing how, except Selwyn. He did not ask me. Bravely, however, he did his part. He overlooked no one, and David Guard, watching, blinked his eyes a bit and smiled. Selwyn would make a magnificent martyr. A situation forced upon him is always met head up.
Mr. Crimm, who, like his wife, did not dance, though for different reasons, at a quarter to twelve took out his watch and, looking at it, got up with a start. “Come on, old lady, we’ve got to go.” Taking his wife by the arm, he held out his hand to me. “It’s been great, Miss Heath. I never had such a good time in my life. Good night, friends.” He bowed beamingly, then made a special bow in Selwyn’s direction.
“I’m glad to know you, sir. I used to know your father. I’ve heard many a case tried in his court. A juster man never lived. Good night, sir. Good night, Miss Heath.”
When all good-bys were over and all were gone Selwyn, standing with his back to the fire, looked at me, but for a moment said nothing. As completely as if he had stepped from one body into another he seemed a different person from the man who had been most charming to my guests a few minutes before when he had told them good night as if he were, indeed, their host. Looking at him, I saw his face was haggard and worn and that he was nervously anxious and uneasy.
“It is late. I know I shouldn’t stay.” His voice was as troubled as his eyes. “I’m sorry to keep Mrs. Mundy up, but I must talk to you tonight. Again I must ask you what to do.”
“It’s pretty beastly in me to put this on you.” Selwyn, who had taken his seat in a chair opposite mine, first leaned back, then forward, and, hands clasped between his knees, looked down upon the floor. “I’ve kept away from you lest I trouble you with what I have no right—”