A few days later the Gaddesdens were in town, settled in a house in Portman Square. Philip was increasingly ill, and moreover shrouded in a bitterness of spirit which wrung his mother’s heart. She suspected a new cause for it in the fancy that he had lately taken for Alice Lucas, the girl in the white chiffon, who had piped to Mariette in vain. Not that he ever now wanted to see her. He had passed into a phase indeed of refusing all society—except that of George Anderson. A floor of the Portman Square house was given up to him. Various treatments were being tried, and as soon as he was strong enough his mother was to take him to the South. Meanwhile his only pleasure seemed to lie in Anderson’s visits, which however could not be frequent, for the business of the Conference was heavy, and after the daily sittings were over, the interviews and correspondence connected with them took much time.
On these occasions, whether early in the morning before the business of the day began, or in the hour before dinner—sometimes even late at night—Anderson after his chat with the invalid would descend from Philip’s room to the drawing-room below, only allowing himself a few minutes, and glancing always with a quickening of the pulse through the shadows of the large room, to see whether it held two persons or one. Mrs. Gaddesden was invariably there; a small, faded woman in trailing lace dresses, who would sit waiting for him, her embroidery on her knee, and when he appeared would hurry across the floor to meet him, dropping silks, scissors, handkerchief on the way. This dropping of all her incidental possessions—a performance repeated night after night, and followed always by her soft fluttering apologies—soon came to be symbolic, in Anderson’s eyes. She moved on the impulse of the moment, without thinking what she might scatter by the way. Yet the impulse was always a loving impulse—and the regrets were sincere.
As to the relation to Anderson, Philip was here the pivot of the situation exactly as he had been in Canada. Just as his physical weakness, and the demands he founded upon it had bound the Canadian to their chariot wheels in the Rockies, so now—mutatis mutandis—in London. Mrs. Gaddesden before a week was over had become pitifully dependent upon him, simply because Philip was pleased to desire his society, and showed a flicker of cheerfulness whenever he appeared. She was torn indeed between her memory of Elizabeth’s sobbing, and her hunger to give Philip the moon out of the sky, should he happen to want it. Sons must come first, daughters second; such has been the philosophy of mothers from the beginning. She feared—desperately feared—that Elizabeth had given her heart away. And as she agreed with Philip that it would not be a seemly or tolerable marriage for Elizabeth, she would, in the natural course of things, both for Elizabeth’s