It was some days later on in the world’s history that Holloway was calling on Bertha Rosscott.
They were sitting in that comfortable library previously referred to and were sweetly unaware that any untoward series of incidents had ever led to an invasion of their privacy.
Holloway lay well back in a sleepy-hollow chair and looked indolently, lazily handsome; his hostess was up on—well up on the divan, and he had the full benefit of her admirable bottines and their dainty heels and buckles.
“Honestly,” he said, looking her over with a gaze that was at once roving and well content, “honestly, I think that every time I see you, you appear more attractive than the time before.”
“It’s very nice of you to say so,” she replied. “And, of course, I believe you, for every time that I get a new gown I think that very same thing myself. Still, I do regard it as strange if I look nicely to-day, for I’ve been crying like a baby all the morning.”
“You crying! And why?”
She raised her eyes to his.
“Such bad news!” she said simply.
“From where? Of whom?”
“From mamma, about Bob.”
“Have his wounds proved serious?” Holloway looked slightly distressed as was proper.
“It isn’t that. It’s papa. Papa has forbidden him the house. He’s very, very angry.”
Holloway looked relieved.
“Your father won’t stay angry long, and you know it,” he said. “Just think how often he has lost his temper over the boys and how often he’s found it again.”
“It isn’t just Bob,” said Mrs. Rosscott. “I’ve someone else on my mind, too.”
With that she threw her head up and looked very straightly at her caller whose visage shaded ever so slightly in spite of himself.
“Have his wounds proved serious?” he asked, smiling, but unable to altogether do away with a species of parenthetical inflection in his voice.
“It wasn’t over his wounds that I cried.”
“Did you really cry at all for him?”
“I cried more for him than I did for Bob,” she admitted boldly.
“He is a fortunate boy! But why the tears in his case?”
“I felt so badly to be disappointed in him.”
“Did you expect to work a miracle there, my dear? Did you think to reform such an inveterate young reprobate with a glance?”
“I’m not sure that I ever asked myself either of those questions,” she replied, slowly; “but he promised me something, and I expected him to keep his word.”
“Men don’t keep such promises, Bertha,” the visitor said. “You shouldn’t have expected it.”
“I don’t know why not.”
“Because a man who drinks will drink again.”