“You hear?” appealed Lady Verner to them, as if Jan’s avowal were a passing proof of her assertion—that he and society were antagonistic to each other, “I wonder you took the thought to attire yourself passably,” she added, her face retaining its strong vexation. “Had anybody asked me, I should have given it as my opinion, that you had not things fit to appear in.”
“I had got these,” returned Jan, looking down at his clothes. “Won’t they do? It’s my funeral suit.”
The unconscious, matter-of-fact style of Jan’s avowal was beyond everything. Lady Verner was struck dumb, Sir Edmund smiled, and Mary Elmsley laughed outright.
“Oh, Jan!” said she, “you’ll be a child all your days. What do you mean by your ’funeral suit’?”
“Anybody might know that,” was Jan’s answer to Lady Mary. “It’s the suit I keep for funerals. A doctor is always being asked to attend them; and if he does not go he offends the people.”
“You might have kept the information to yourself,” rebuked Lady Verner.
“It doesn’t matter, does it?” asked Jan. “Aren’t they good enough to come in?”
He turned his head round, to get a glance at the said suit behind. Sir Edmund laid his hand affectionately on his shoulder. Young as Jan had been before Edmund Hautley went out, they had lived close friends.
“The clothes are all right, Jan. And if you had come without a coat at all, you would have been equally welcome to me.”
“I should not have gone to this sort of thing anywhere else, you know; it is not in my line, as my mother says. I came to see you.”
“And I would rather see you, Jan, than anybody else in the room—with one exception,” was the reply of Sir Edmund. “I am sorry not to see Lionel.”
“He couldn’t come,” answered Jan. “His wife turned crusty, and said she’d come if he did—something of that—and so he stayed at home. She is very ill, and she wants to ignore it, and go out all the same. It is not fit she should.”
“Pray do you mean to dance, Jan?” inquired Lady Verner, the question being put ironically.
“I?” returned Jan. “Who’d dance with me?”
“I’ll dance with you, Jan,” said Lady Mary.
Jan shook his head. “I might get my feet entangled in the petticoats.”
“Not you, Jan,” said Sir Edmund, laughing. “I should risk that, if a lady asked me.”
“She’d not care to dance with me,” returned Jan, looking at Mary Elmsley. “She only says it out of good-nature.”
“No, Jan, I don’t think I do,” frankly avowed Lady Mary. “I should like to dance with you.”
“I’d stand up with you, if I stood up with anybody,” replied Jan. “But where’s the good of it? I don’t know the figures, and should only put you out, as well as everybody else.”
So, what with his ignorance of the figures, and his dreaded awkwardness amidst the trains, Jan was allowed to rest in peace. Mary Elmsley told him that if he would come over sometimes to their house in an evening, she and her young sisters would practise the figures with him, so that he might learn them. It was Jan’s turn to laugh now. The notion of his practising dancing, or having evenings to waste on it, amused him considerably.