But the meeting of eyes was over as soon as it began. With so prompt a courtesy did the Dabney House physician swing open the door that it was as if he had been opening it all along, as if she hadn’t caught him looking at her....
“How do you do, Miss Heth?... Such a dreadful day!—you were brave to venture out.”
“How d’you do?” said Carlisle, in the voice of “manner,” a rising voice, modulated, distant and superior. And over her shoulder, she addressed the little Jew girls, with an air of more than perfect ease:
“Well, then, good-bye! Be sure to catch her the new one to-morrow....”
She had seen that the strange young man was smiling. And by that she knew that he remembered their last meeting, and wanted to trade upon her queer weakness at that time, pretending that he and she were pleasant acquaintances together. Presently she should inform him better as to that. But why, oh, why, that small flinching at the sight of him, the very man she had fared into the downpour to explode, not pausing even to mourn her lover’s going?...
“I’m a search-party of one,” said Dr. Vivian, throwing wider the door, “for Mr. Pond. I wondered if he could have got lost, somewhere down here—he’s never turned up yet.”
“The director of the Settlement, you know, when it opens for business in the fall. He happened to be in Washington, and was good enough to run down to-day to make us a little address.”
Carlisle found herself, beyond the door, in a quaint high-ceiled court, enfolded with peristyles in two long rows, and paved with discolored tiles loose under the foot. At the farther end of the court there ran away a broad corridor into the dusk, and here also, full fifty feet distant, rose the grand stairway with ornate sweeping balustrade ending in a tall carved newel-post. Obsolete and ruined and queer the whole placed looked, indeed....
“Luckily,” added Dr. Vivian, “I’m in good time to serve as a guide.”
But Miss Heth was already walking past him with an expensive rustle, moving straight toward the stairway. For this, needless to say, was not the moment to speak that pointed word or two which should unmask the man; there would be an unavoidable vulgarity about it here, in this solitude. And even if she should get no further opportunity upstairs—well, after all, the situation spoke for itself; nay, thundered. Had not Hugo—come to think of it—struck the note of the subtler victory, he who had given magnificently and said nothing? Noblesse oblige, as the Gauls say....
“Oh, no, that’s not necessary,” she replied, walking on. “There are the stairs....”
The young man fell in behind her.
“The old house is really quite bewildering, upstairs. It happened that my office was the only place available. Perhaps you will let me show you—”
“Oh, I don’t think I need trouble you, thank you.”