In the cabin we made a gay party. Una, I am sure, in spite of her cheerful pretense with Phil Laidlaw, had a woman’s intuition of Marcia’s antagonism. Jerry joined and chatted in Una’s group for a moment, but I could see that he had lost something of his buoyancy. I watched Marcia keenly. Though absorbed apparently in the pouring of the tea, a self-appointed prerogative which she had assumed with something of an air—(meant, I am sure, for Una)—her narrowly veiled eyes lost no detail of any happening in Una’s group, and her ears, I am sure, no detail of its conversation. Subtle glances, stolen or portentous, shot between them, and Jerry, poor lad, wandered from one to the other like some great ship becalmed in a tropic sea aware of an impending tempest, yet powerless to prevent its approach.
Una Habberton, I would like to say, had recovered her composure amazingly. Phil Laidlaw was an old acquaintance whom she very much liked and in a while they were chatting gayly, exchanging reminiscences with such a rare degree of concord and amusement that it seemed to matter little to either of them who else was in the room. But Una, I think, in spite of this abstraction, missed nothing of Marcia’s slightest glances. She said nothing more of going. It seemed almost as though, war having tacitly been declared, she was on her mettle for the test whatever it was to be. I had not misjudged her. She knew Marcia Van Wyck, and what she did not know she suspected, and by the light of that knowledge (and that suspicion) had a little of contempt for her.
I sat in my corner sipping tea. Being merely a man, middle-aged and something of a misogynist into the bargain, I was aware that as an active, useful force in this situation, I was a negligible quality. But it is interesting to record my impressions of the engagement. It began actively, I believe, when Marcia called Jerry from Una’s group and appeared to appropriate him. Jerry looked ill at ease and from the glances he cast in the direction of Channing Lloyd, and the sullen way in which he spoke to Marcia, I think that all was not well with this ill-sorted pair.
I think that Channing Lloyd had for some time been a bone of contention between them and it required little imagination on my part to decide that his presence here today at Marcia’s request had broken some agreement between them. Mere surmise, of course, but interesting. Marcia was stubborn and showed her defiance of Jerry’s wishes by retaliation at Una’s expense. But by this time other people who had come in from the fishing had joined Una’s group by the window where the intruder seemed to be oblivious of Marcia and quite in her element. Indeed for the moment Marcia was out of it and her conversation with Jerry having apparently reached an impasse, she rose, leaving the tea-table to Christopher’s ministrations and advanced valiantly to the attack.