She heard him wandering over the house and calling in divers tones upon Mr Wilbraham. But she heard no other voice. Meanwhile she examined the kitchen in detail, appreciating some of its devices and failing to comprehend others.
“I expect he’s missed the train,” said Denry, coming back. “Anyhow, he isn’t here. I may as well show you the rest of the house now.”
He led her into the hall, which was radiantly lighted.
“It’s quite warm here,” said Mrs Machin.
“The whole house is heated by steam,” said Denry. “No fireplaces.”
“No! No fireplaces. No grates to polish, ashes to carry down, coals to carry up, mantelpieces to dust, fire-irons to clean, fenders to polish, chimneys to sweep.”
“And suppose he wants a bit of fire all of a sudden in summer?”
“Gas stove in every room for emergencies,” said Denry.
She glanced into a room.
“But,” she cried, “it’s all complete, ready! And as warm as toast.”
“Yes,” said Denry, “he gave orders. I can’t think why on earth he isn’t here.”
At that moment an electric bell rang loud and sharp, and Mrs Machin jumped.
“There he is!” said Denry, moving to the door.
“Bless us! What will he think of us being here like?” Mrs Machin mumbled.
“Pooh!” said Denry, carelessly. And he opened the door.
Three persons stood on the newly-washed marble step—Mr and Mrs Cotterill and their daughter.
“Oh! Come in! Come in! Make yourselves quite at home. That’s what we’re doing,” said Demo in blithe greeting; and added, “I suppose he’s invited you too?”
And it appeared that Mr Cecil Wilbraham had indeed invited them too. He had written from London saying that he would be glad if Mr and Mrs Cotterill would “drop in” on this particular evening. Further, he had mentioned that, as be had already had the pleasure of meeting Miss Cotterill, perhaps she would accompany her parents.
“Well, he isn’t here,” said Denry, shaking hands. “He must have missed his train or something. He can’t possibly be here now till to-morrow. But the house seems to be all ready for him....”
“Yes, my word! And how’s yourself, Mrs Cotterill?” put in Mrs Machin.
“So we may as well look over it in its finished state. I suppose that’s what he asked us up for,” Denry concluded.
Mrs Machin explained quickly and nervously that she had not been comprised in any invitation; that her errand was pure business.
“Come on upstairs,” Denry called out, turning switches and adding radiance to radiance.
“Denry!” his mother protested, “I’m sure I don’t know what Mr and Mrs Cotterill will think of you! You carry on as if you owned everything in the place. I wonder at you!”
“Well,” said Denry, “if anybody in this town is the owner’s agent I am. And Mr Cotterill has built the blessed house. If Wilbraham wanted to keep his old shanty to himself, he shouldn’t send out invitations. It’s simple enough not to send out invitations. Now, Nellie!”