“So you put on your war-paint!”
“It must be the pollen from the hydrangeas!” She flicked her handkerchief from her belt and passed it to him. “Show that you know how to be useful!”
He performed the task with deliberate care.
“Heavens! You even have some on your ear and some on your hair; but I’ll leave it on your hair; it’s rather becoming. There you are!” he concluded.
“Off my hair, too!”
“Very well. I always obey orders.”
“I oughtn’t to have asked you to do it at all!” she exclaimed with a sudden change of manner as they started up to the house. “But a habit of friendship, a habit of liking to believe in one’s friends, was uppermost. I forgot. I oughtn’t even to have shaken hands with you!”
“Marta! What now, Marta?” he asked.
He had known her in reproach, in anger, in laughing mockery, in militant seriousness, but never before like this. The pain and indignation in her eyes came not from the sheer hurt of a wound but from the hurt of its source. It was as if he had learned by the signal of its loss that he had a deeper hold on her than he had realized.
“Yes, I have a bone to pick with you,” she said, recovering a grim sort of fellowship. “A big bone! If you’re half a friend you’ll give me the very marrow of it.”
“I am ready!” he answered more pathetically than philosophically.
“There’s not time now; after luncheon, when mother is taking her nap,” she concluded as they came to the last step and saw Mrs. Galland on the veranda.
A luncheon at the Gallands’
Seated at the head of the table at luncheon, Mrs. Galland, with her round cheeks, her rather becoming double chin, and her nicely dressed hair, almost snow-white now, suggested a girlhood in the Bulwer Lytton and Octave Feuillet age, when darkened rooms were favored for the complexion and it was the fashion for gentlewomen to faint on occasion. She lived in the past; the present interested her only when it aroused some memory. To-day all her memories were of the war of forty years ago.
“I remember how Mrs. Karly collapsed when they brought word of the death of her son, and never recovered her mind. And I remember Eunice Steiner when they brought Charles home looking so white—and it was the very day set for their wedding! And I remember all the wounded gathered at the foot of the terrace and being carried in here, while the guns were roaring out on the plain—and now it’s all coming again!”
“Why, mother, you’re very blue to-day!” said Marta.
“We have had these crises before. We—” Lanstron began, rallying her.
“Oh, yes, you have reason and argument,” she parried gently. “I have only my feelings. But it’s in the air—yes, war is in the air, as it was that other time. And I remember that young private, only a boy, who lay crumpled up on the steps where he fell. I bandaged him myself and helped to make his position easier. Yes, I almost lifted him in my arms” She was looking at the flowers on the table but not seeing them. She was seeing the face of the young private forty years ago.