Selma had not expected to make such a lengthy speech, but as she proceeded she was spurred by the desire to teach Mrs. Taylor her proper place, and at the same time to proclaim her own allegiance to the attitude of optimistic forbearance.
“I knew that was the way they felt,” said Lyons, ingratiatingly. “It would be a genuine pleasure to us all to see this unfortunate difference of opinion between earnest people obviated.”
Mrs. Taylor, as Selma was pleased to note, flushed at her concluding offer, and she answered, drily, “I fear that we are too far apart in our ideas to talk of co-operation. If our bill is defeated this year, we shall have to persevere and trust to the gradual enlightenment of public sentiment. Good afternoon.”
Selma left the State-house in an elated frame of mind. She felt that she had taken a righteous and patriotic stand, and it pleased her to think that she was taking an active part in defending the institutions of the country. She chatted eagerly as she walked through the corridors with Mr. Lyons, who, portly and imposing, acted as escort to her and Mrs. Earle, and invited them to luncheon at a hotel restaurant. Excitement had given her more color than usual, to which her mourning acted as a foil, and she looked her best. Lyons was proud of being in the company of such a presentable and spirited appearing woman, and made a point of stopping two or three members of the legislature and introducing them to her. When they reached the restaurant he established them at a table where they could see everybody and be seen, and he ordered scolloped oysters, chicken-salad, ice-cream, coffee, and some bottles of sarsaparilla. Both women were in high spirits, and Selma was agreeably conscious that people were observing them. Before the repast was over a messenger brought a note to Mr. Lyons, which announced that the legislative committee had given the petitioners leave to withdraw their bill, which, in Selma’s eyes, justified the management of the affair, and set the seal of complete success on an already absorbing and delightful occasion.
Her mourning and the slow convalescence of Mr. Parsons deprived Selma of convincing evidence in regard to her social reception in Benham, for those socially prominent were thus barred from inviting her to their houses, and her own activities were correspondingly fettered. Indeed, her circumstances supplied her with an obvious salve for her proper dignity had she been disposed to let suspicion lie fallow. As it was a number of people had left cards and sent invitations notwithstanding they could not be accepted, and she might readily have believed, had she chosen—and as she professed openly to Mr. Parsons—that everyone had been uncommonly civil and appreciative.