She had made it a six-couple dinner in order to insure that the talk should be by twos rather than general, and she had spent a good half-hour over the place-cards, getting them to suit her.
Hermione had to be on Martin’s right hand, of course. She was just back in the city after an absence of years, and everybody was rushing her. She put Violet Williamson, whom Martin was always flirting with in a harmless way, on his left, and Rod to the right of Hermione. At Rodney’s right, she put a girl he had known for years and cared nothing whatever about, and then Howard West—who probably wasn’t interested in her either, but would be polite because he was to everybody. Frederica herself sat between Carl Leaventritt of the university—a great acquisition, since whatever you might think of him as an empirical psychologist, there was no doubt of his being an accomplished diner-out—and Violet’s husband, as he vociferously proclaimed himself, John Williamson, an untired business man who, had their seasons coincided, could have enjoyed a ball game in the afternoon and stayed awake at the opera in the evening. Doctor Randolph’s pretty wife she slid in between Leaventritt and Howard West, and, in happy ignorance of what the result was going to be, she put Randolph himself between Violet and Alice West. He was a young, up-to-the-minute mind and nerve doctor.
It was an admirable plan all right, the key-note of it being, as you no doubt will have observed, the easy unforced isolation of Rodney and the rich widow. Before that dinner was over, they ought to be old friends.
And, for a little while, all went well. Rodney came down almost within the seven minutes she had allowed him, looking much less dreadful than she had expected, in her husband’s other dress suit, and not forgetful, it appeared, of the line of behavior she had enjoined on him; namely, that he was to be nice to Hermione Woodruff.
From her end of the table, she saw them apparently safely launched in conversation over the hors-d’oeuvre, took a look at them during the soup to see that all was still well, then let herself be beguiled into a conversation with John Williamson, whom she liked as well as Martin did Violet. She never thought of the objects of her matrimonial design again until her ear was caught by a huge seven-cornered word in her brother’s voice. He couldn’t be saying it to Hermione; no, he was leaning forward, shouting at Doctor Randolph, who apparently knew what he meant and was getting visibly ready to reply in kind.
According to Violet Williamson’s account, given confidentially in the drawing-room afterward, it was really Hermione’s fault. “She just wouldn’t let Rodney alone—would keep talking about crime and Lombroso and psychiatric laboratories—I’ll bet she’d got hold of a paper of his somewhere and read it. Anyway, at last she said, ’I believe Doctor Randolph would agree with me.’ He was talking to me then, but maybe that isn’t