“Built it in Savannah,” Charley was saying to Bohm, “or Norfolk. This is a good place to bury people in, but not money. Now the phosphate proposition—”
Again I dragged my attention by force away from that quiet, relentless monologue, and listened as well as I could to Mrs. Weguelin. There had come to be among us all, I think—Beverly, Kitty, Gazza, and myself—a joint impulse to shield her, to cluster about her, to follow her steps from each little lecture that she finished to the new point where the next lecture began; and we did it, performed our pilgrimage to the end; but there was less and less nature in our performance. I knew (and it was like a dream which I could not stop) that we pressed a little too close, that our questions were a little too eager, that we overprinted our faces with attention; knowing this did not help, nothing helped, and we went on to the end, seeing ourselves doing it; and it must have been that Mrs. Weguelin saw us likewise. But she was truly admirable in giving no sign, she came out well ahead; the lectures were not hurried, one had no sense of points being skipped to accommodate our unworthiness, it required a previous familiarity with the church to know (as I did) that there was, indeed, more and more skipping; yet the little lady played her part so evenly and with never a falter of voice nor a change in the gentle courtesy of her manner, that I do not think—save for that moment at the window-sill—I could have been sure what she thought, or how much she noticed. Her face was always so pale, it may well have been all imagination with me that she seemed, when we emerged at last into the light of the street, paler than usual; but I am almost certain that her hand was trembling as she stood receiving the thanks of the party. These thanks were cut a little short by the arrival of one of the automobiles, and, at the same time, the appearance of Hortense strolling toward us with John Mayrant.
Charley had resumed to Bohm, “A tax of twenty-five cents on the ton is nothing with deposits of this richness,” when his voice ceased; and looking at him to see the cause, I perceived that his eye was on John, and that his polished finger-nail was running meditatively along his thin mustache.
Hortense took the matter—whatever the matter was—in hand.
“You haven’t much time,” she said to Charles, who consulted his watch.
“Who’s coming to see me off?” he inquired.
“Where’s he going?” I asked Beverly.
“She’s sending him North,” Beverly answered, and then he spoke with his very best simple manner to Mrs. Weguelin St. Michael. “May I not walk home with you after all your kindness?”
She was going to say no, for she had had enough of this party; but she looked at Beverly, and his face and his true solicitude won her; she said, “Thank you, if you will.” And the two departed together down the shabby street, the little veiled lady in black, and Beverly with his excellent London clothes and his still more excellent look of respectful, sheltering attention.