And indoors, also, I made most agreeable use of my time, in spite of one disappointment when, on the day following my visit to the ladies, I returned full of expectancy to lunch at the Woman’s exchange, the girl behind the counter was not there. I found in her stead, it is true, a most polite lady, who provided me with chocolate and sandwiches that were just as good as their predecessors; but she was of advanced years, and little inclined to light conversation. Beyond telling me that Miss Eliza La Heu was indisposed, but not gravely so, and that she was not likely to be long away from her post of duty, this lady furnished me with scant information.
Now I desired a great deal of information. To learn of an imminent wedding where the bridegroom attends to the cake, and is suspected of diminished eagerness for the bride, who is a steel wasp—that is not enough to learn of such nuptials. Therefore I fear—I mean, I know—that it was not wholly for the sake of telling Mrs. Gregory St. Michael about Aunt Carola that I repaired again to Le Maire Street and rang Mrs. St. Michael’s door-bell.
She was at home, to be sure, but with her sat another visitor, the tall, severe lady who had embroidered and had not liked the freedom with which her sister had spoken to me about the wedding. There was not a bit of freedom to-day; the severe lady took care of that.
When, after some utterly unprofitable conversation, I managed to say in a casual voice, which I thought very well tuned for the purpose, “What part of Georgia did you say that General Rieppe came from?” the severe lady responded:—
“I do not think that I mentioned him at all.”
“Georgia?” said Mrs. Gregory St. Michael. “I never heard that they came from Georgia.”
And this revived my hopes. But the severe lady at once remarked to her:—
“I have received a most agreeable letter from my sister in Paris.”
This stopped Mrs. Gregory St. Michael, and dashed my hopes to earth.
The severe lady continued to me:—
“My sister writes of witnessing a performance of the Lohengrin. Can you tell me if it is a composition of merit?”
I assured her that it was a composition of the highest merit.
“It is many years since I have heard an opera,” she pursued. “In my day the works of the Italians were much applauded. But I doubt if Mozart will be surpassed. I hope you admire the Nozze?”