She found Violet Williamson in Frederica’s box at the Symphony concert one Friday afternoon, and took them both home to tea with her afterward. And when the talk fairly got going, she tossed her problem about Bertie Willis and his hareem into the vortex to see what would come of it.
It was always easy to talk with Frederica and Violet, there was so much real affection under the amusement they freely expressed over her youth and inexperience and simplicity. They always laughed at her, but they came over and hugged her afterward.
“I’m turned out of the hareem,” she said, apropos of the mention of him, “in disgrace.”
Violet wanted to know whatever in the world she had done to him. “Because, he’s been positively—what do you call it?—dithyrambic about you for the last three months.”
“I laughed,” Rose acknowledged; “in the wrong place of course.”
The two older women exchanged glances.
“Do you suppose it’s ever been done to him before,” asked Frederica, “in the last fifteen years, anyway?” And Violet solemnly shook her head.
“But why?” demanded Rose. “That’s what I want to know. How can any one help thinking he’s ridiculous. Of course if you were alone on a desert island with him like the Bab Ballad, I suppose you’d make the best of him. But with any one else that was—real, you know, around ...”
Only a very high vacuum—this was the idea Rose seemed to be getting at—might be expected, faute de mieux, to tolerate Bertie. So if you found him tolerated seriously in a woman’s life, you couldn’t resist the presumption that there was a vacuum there.
“Don’t ask me about him,” said Frederica. “He never would have anything to do with me; said I was a classic type and they always bored him stiff. But Violet, here ...”
“Oh, yes,” said Violet, “I lasted one season, and then he dropped me. He beat me to it by about a minute. All the same—oh, I can understand it well enough. You see, what he builds on is that a woman’s husband is always the least interesting man in the world. Oh, I don’t mean we don’t love them, or that we want to change them—permanently, you know. Take Frederica and me. We wouldn’t exchange for anything. Yet, we used to have long arguments. I’ve said that Martin was more—interesting, witty, you know, and all that, than John. And Frederica says John is more interesting than Martin. Oh, just to talk to, I mean. Not about anything in particular, but when you haven’t anything else to do.”