“She’ll be down presently, I think,” her mother said. “She called out to me that she’d only be a minute, when I passed her door. Does your hat mean you’re going back to the shop this afternoon?”
Portia nodded, pulled back her chair abruptly and sat down. “Oh, don’t ring for Inga,” she said. “What’s here’s all right, and she takes forever.”
“I thought that on Saturday ...” her mother began.
“Oh, I know,” said Portia, “but Anne Loomis telephoned she’s going to bring Dora Wild around to pick out which of my three kidney sofas she wants for a wedding present. That girl I’ve got isn’t much good, and besides, I think there’s a chance that Dora may give me her house to do. Her man’s stupidly rich, they say, and richly stupid, so the job ought to be worth eating a cold egg for.”
You’d have known them for mother and daughter anywhere, and you’d have had trouble finding any point of resemblance in either of them to the Amazonian young thing who had so nearly thrown a street-car conductor into the street the night before. Their foreheads were both narrow and rather high, their noses small and slightly aquiline, and both of them had slender fastidious hands.
The mother’s hair was very soft and white, and the care with which it was arranged indicated a certain harmless vanity in it. There was something a little conscious, too, about her dress—an effect difficult to describe without exaggeration. It was not bizarre nor “artistic,” but you would have understood at once that its departures from the prevailing mode were made on principle. If you took it in connection with a certain resolute amiability about her smile, you would be entirely prepared to hear her tell Portia that she was reading a paper on Modern Tendencies before the Pierian Club this afternoon.
A very real person, nevertheless, you couldn’t doubt that. The marks of passionately held beliefs and eagerly given sacrifices were etched with undeniable authenticity in her face.
Once you got beyond a catalogue of features, Portia presented rather a striking contrast to this. Her hair was done—you could hardly say arranged—with a severity that was fairly hostile. Her clothes were bruskly cut and bruskly worn, their very smartness seeming an impatient concession to necessity. Her smile, if not ill-natured—it wasn’t that—was distinctly ironic. A very competent, good-looking young woman, you’d have said, if you’d seen her with her shoulder-blades flattened down and her chest up. Seeing her to-day, drooping a little over the cold lunch, you’d have left out the adjective young.
“So Rose didn’t come down this morning at all,” Portia observed, when she had done her duty by the egg. “You took her breakfast up to her, I suppose.”
Mrs. Stanton flushed a little. “She didn’t want me to; but I thought she’d better keep quiet.”
“Nothing particular the matter with her, is there?” asked Portia.