Una promptly made room for her on the window sill, a wise bit of generalship which forced the enemy at once into polite subterfuge.
“It’s so nice to see you, Una dear. How did you manage to escape from all your tiresome work at the Mission?”
“I could do it very nicely this week-end,” said Una cheerfully. “Why haven’t you been to any of the committee meetings?”
“It has been so warm. And of course while you are in charge we all know that everything must be going right.”
“It’s kind of you to say so. You know, wonderful things have been happening at the Mission. We’re building a day nursery on the next block to help the working women. Jerry has been awfully kind. Of course you knew about it.”
“Yes, of course,” said Marcia, not turning a hair.
She lied. I knew that Jerry had kept the matter secret even from Marcia. I figured that the revelation must have been something of a shock to one of her intriguing nature, but she covered her grievance skillfully.
“Jerry is very generous,” she said sweetly. “Do tell me about it.”
Here Jerry blundered in rather sheepishly. “Oh, I say, Una, that’s a secret, you know.”
“Oh, is it?” said Una innocently. “I can’t see why. Marcia knows. Everybody ought to. It was such a splendid thing to do.”
“Jerry is so modest,” said Marcia.
“The plans are simply adorable,” Una went on quickly. “You know, Jerry, we simply had to have that open-air school on the roof. You know, you didn’t object—”
“N—no—of course,” said Jerry, shifting his feet.
“And the ward for nursing babies—we did put those windows in the west wall. You know we were a little uncertain about that.”
“So we were,” echoed Jerry dismally.
This was merely the preliminary skirmish with Una’s outposts holding their positions close to the enemy’s lines. But Marcia was not to be daunted. She opened fire immediately.
“It’s simply dear of you, Una, to take so much interest in the work. I’m sure Jerry must have frightful difficulties in managing to spend his income. But to have his oldest friend to help him must relieve him of a tremendous burden of responsibility.”
The outposts withdrew to the main line of skirmirshers and there opened fire again, from cover.
“It isn’t so much a matter of friendship as of real interest in the needs of the community, you know. Anyone else would do quite as well as I; for instance, you, Marcia.”
“But you see,” Marcia countered coolly, “I haven’t known Jerry nearly so long as you have.”
“I don’t think so. Have I, Jerry?”
Jerry evaded the issue with some skill.
“Friendships aren’t reckoned in terms of time,” he put in with a short laugh. “If they were I’d be the most solitary person under the sun.”