Mrs. Bell picked up the Revue after she had gone, and read three lines of a paper on the climate and the soil of Poland. Then she laid it down again at the same angle with the corner of the table which it had described before.
“Rousseau!” she said aloud to herself. “C’est un peu fort mais—” and paused, probably for maturer reflection upon the end of her sentence.
“Leslie.” said Mrs. Bell, making the unnecessary feminine twist to get a view of her back hair from the mirror with a hand-glass, “aren’t you delighted? Try to be candid with yourself now, and own that she’s tremendously improved.”
It would not have occurred to anybody but Mrs. Bell to ask Mr. Leslie Bell to be candid with himself. Candor was written in large letters all over Mr. Leslie Bell’s plain, broad countenance. So was a certain obstinacy, not of will, but of adherence to prescribed principles, which might very well have been the result of living for twenty years with Mrs. Leslie Bell. Otherwise he was a thick-set man with an intelligent bald head, a fresh-colored complexion, and a well-trimmed gray beard. Mr. Leslie Bell looked at life with logic, or thought he did, and took it with ease, in a plain way. He was known to be a good man of business, with a leaning toward generosity, and much independence of opinion. It was not a custom among election candidates to ask Leslie Bell for his vote. It was pretty well understood that nothing would influence it except his “views,” and that none of the ordinary considerations in use with refractory electors would influence his views. He was a man of large, undemonstrative affections, and it was a matter of private regret with him that there should have been only one child, and that a daughter, to bestow them upon. His simplicity of nature was utterly beyond the understanding of his wife, who had been building one elaborate theory after another about him ever since they had been married, conducting herself in mysterious accordance, but had arrived accurately only at the fact that he preferred two lumps of sugar in his tea.
Mr. Bell did not allow his attention to be taken from the intricacies of his toilet by his wife’s question until she repeated it.
“Aren’t you charmed with Elfrida, Leslie? Hasn’t Philadelphia improved her beyond your wildest dreams?”
Mr. Bell reflected. “You know I don’t think Elfrida has ever been as pretty as she was when she was five years old, Maggie.”
“Do say Margaret,” interposed Mrs. Bell plaintively. She had been suffering from this for twenty years.
“It’s of no use, my dear; I never remember unless there’s company present. I was going to say Elfrida had certainly grown. She’s got to her full size now, I should think, and she dwarfs you, moth—Margaret.”
Mrs. Bell looked at him with tragic eyes. “Do you see no more in her than that?” she exclaimed.