“It isn’t,” said Miss Kimpsey, with internal discouragement, “as if I knew her well.”
Miss Kimpsey did not know Mrs. Bell at all well. Mrs. Bell was president of the Browning Club, and Miss Kimpsey was a member, they met, too, in the social jumble of fancy fairs in aid of the new church organ; they had a bowing acquaintance—that is, Mrs. Bell, had. Miss Kimpsey’s part of it was responsive, and she always gave a thought to her boots and her gloves when she met Mrs. Bell. It was not that the Spartan social circle which Mrs. Bell adorned had any vulgar prejudice against the fact that Miss Kimpsey earned her own living—more than one of its ornaments had done the same thing—and Miss Kimpsey’s relations were all “in grain” and obviously respectable. It was simply that none, of the Kimpseys, prosperous or poor, had ever been in society in Sparta, for reasons which Sparta itself would probably be unable to define; and this one was not likely to be thrust among the elect because she taught school and enjoyed life upon a scale of ethics.
Mrs. Bell’s drawing-room was a slight distraction to Miss Kimpsey’s nervous thoughts. The little school-teacher had never been in it before, and it impressed her. “It’s just what you would expect her parlor to be,” she said to herself, looking furtively round. She could not help her sense of impropriety; she had always been taught that it was very bad manners to observe anything hi another person’s house, but she could not help looking either. She longed to get up and read the names of the books behind the glass doors of the tall bookcase at the other end of the room, for the sake of the little quiver of respectful admiration she knew they would give her; but she did not dare to do that. Her eyes went from the bookcase to the photogravure of Dore’s “Entry into Jerusalem,” under which three Japanese dolls were arranged with charming effect. “The Reading Magdalen” caught them next, a colored photograph, and then a Magdalen of more obscure origin in much blackened oils and a very deep frame; then still another Magdalen, more modern, in monochrome. In fact, the room was full of Magdalens, and on an easel in the corner stood a Mater Dolorosa, lifting up her streaming eyes. Granting the capacity to take them seriously, they might have depressed some people, but they elevated Miss Kimpsey.
She was equally elevated by the imitation willow pattern plates over the door, and the painted yellow daffodils on the panels, and the orange-colored Revue des Deux Mondes on the corner of the table, and the absence of all bows or draperies from the furniture. Miss Kimpsey’s own parlor was excrescent with bows and draperies. “She is above them,” thought Miss Kimpsey, with a little pang. The room was so dark that she could not see how old the Revue was; she did not know either that it was always there, that unexceptionable Parisian periodical, with Dante in the original and red leather, Academy