She wrote on for a little while before saying, with her pencil steadily busy, “Why?”
“Why? Don’t you? After all this fuss?”
“Oh, certainly,” she drawled. “She is so much admired—by Northerners.”
“I do hope John is able to take care of himself,” I purposely repeated.
“Take care of yourself!” she laughed angrily over her ledger.
“Me? Why? I understand you less and less!”
“Why, I want to help him!” I protested. “I don’t want him to marry her. Oh, by the way do you happen to know what it is that she is coming here to see for herself?”
In a moment her ledger was left, and she was looking at me straight. Coming? When?
“Soon. In an automobile. To see something for herself.”
She pondered for quite a long moment; then her eyes returned, searchingly, to me. “You didn’t make that up?”
I laughed, and explained. “Some of them, at any rate,” I finished, “know what she’s coming for. They were rather queer about it, I thought.”
She pondered again. I noticed that she had deeply flushed, and that the flush was leaving her. Then she fixed her eyes on me once more. “They wouldn’t tell you?”
“I think that they came inadvertently near it, once or twice, and remembered just in time that I didn’t know about it.”
“But since you do know pretty much about it!” she laughed.
I shook my head. “There’s something else, something that’s turned up; the sort of thing that upsets calculations. And I merely hoped that you’d know.”
On those last words of mine she gave me quite an extraordinary look, and then, as if satisfied with what she saw in my face.—
“They don’t talk to me.”
It was an assurance, it was true, it had the ring of truth, that evident genuineness which a piece of real confidence always possesses; she meant me to know that we were in the same boat of ignorance to-day. And yet, as I rose from my lunch and came forward to settle for it, I was aware of some sense of defeat, of having been held off just as the ladies on High Walk had held me off.
“Well,” I sighed, “I pin my faith to the aunt who says he’ll never marry her.”
Miss La Heu had no more to say upon the subject. “Haven’t you forgotten something?” she inquired gayly; and, as I turned to see what I had left behind—“I mean, you had no Lady Baltimore to-day.”
“I clean forgot it!”
“No loss. It is very stale; and to-morrow I shall have a fresh supply ready.”
As I departed through the door I was conscious of her eyes following me, and that she had spoken of Lady Baltimore precisely because she was thinking of something else.