“Why,” she said, “of course! I’d like it too. Come along.”
FREDERICA’S PLAN AND WHAT HAPPENED TO IT
At twenty minutes after seven that evening, Frederica Whitney was about as nearly dressed as she usually was ten minutes before the hour at which she had invited guests to dinner—not quite near enough dressed to prevent a feeling that she had to hurry.
Ordinarily, though, she didn’t mind. She’d been an acknowledged beauty for ten years and the fact had ceased to be exciting. She took it rather easily for granted, and knowing what she could do if she chose, didn’t distress herself over being lighted up, on occasions, to something a good deal less than her full candle-power. To Frederica at thirty—or thereabout—the job of being a radiantly delightful object of regard lacked the sporting interest of uncertainty; was almost too simple a matter to bother about.
But to-night the tenseness of her movements and the faint trace of a wire edge in the tone in which she addressed the maid, revealed the fact that she wished she’d started half an hour earlier. Even her husband discovered it. He brought in a cigarette, left the door open behind him and stood smiling down at her with the peculiarly complacent look that characterizes a married man of forty when he finds himself dressed beyond cavil in the complete evening harness of civilization, ten minutes before his wife.
She shot a glance of rueful inquiry at him—“Now what have you come fussing around for?” would be perhaps a fair interpretation of it—and asked him what time it was, in the evident hope that the boudoir clock on her dressing-table had deceived her. It had, but in the wrong direction.
“Seven twenty-two, thirty-six,” he told her. It was a perfectly harmless passion he had for minute divisions of time, but to-night it irritated her. He might have spared her that thirty-six seconds.
She made no comment except with her eyebrows, but he must have been looking at her, for he wanted to know, good-humoredly, what all the excitement was about.
“You could go down as you are and not a man here to-night would know the difference. And as for the women—well, if they have something on you for once, they’ll be all the better pleased.”
“Don’t try to be knowing and philosophical, and—Havelock Ellish, Martin, dear,” she admonished him, pending a minute operation with an infinitesimal hairpin. “It isn’t your lay a bit. Just concentrate your mind on one thing, and that’s being nice to Hermione Woodruff....”
She broke off for a long stare into her hand-glass; then finished, casually, “... and on seeing that Roddy is.”
He asked, “Why Rodney?” in a tone that matched hers; looked at her, widened his eyes, said “Huh!” to himself and, finally, shook his head. “Nothing to it,” he pronounced.