The effect of the note upon the man was not altogether pleasant. He felt a certain guiltiness at his own indifference. This clever woman of the social world he knew was not to be trifled with by one unarmored or irresolute. He had hoped she would forget him, that his own indifference would breed the same feeling upon her part, and now he knew he was mistaken, as men have been mistaken before. There was an interview to be faced, and one promising interesting features. He started on the mission with a grimace.
JUST A PANG.
Mrs. Gorse was at home, the servant said, and Harlson found her awaiting him in a room which was worth a visit, so luxurious were its appointments and so delicate its colorings and its perfumes. A woman of admirable taste was Mrs. Gorse, and one who knew how to produce dramatic effect. But dramatic effects as between her and Grant Harlson were things of the past. People sometimes know each other so well that the introduction of anything but reality is absurd. Mrs. Gorse attempted nothing as Harlson entered. She was not posed. She was standing, and met him at the door smilingly.
“How do you do, Grant?”
“I’m well,” he said, “and how are you? Certainly you are looking well.”
“I am not ill. I think I am not plumper nor more thin than usual. I imagine my weight is normal.”
“And how much is that?”
The woman flushed a little.
“It is hardly worth the telling, since you do not remember. There was a time, you know, when you had some whim about it, and when I had to report to you. You professed to be solicitous about my health or personal appearance, or whatever it was that led you to the demand. And you have forgotten.”
He was uneasy. “That is true, Ada. I did have that fad, didn’t I? Well, I forget the figures, but I see that you are still yourself, and as you should be.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Take the big chair. It’s the one you like best. You see I don’t forget certain trifles” (this with a slight trembling inflection). “And tell me about yourself. I haven’t seen you for three months and over. Haven’t you been out of town. Couldn’t you have written me a note.”
“I’ve not been out of town. I might have written you a note, but I didn’t suppose it mattered.”
“Yet there is a legend to the effect that men and women sometimes get to be such friends, and have such relations, that a sudden unexplained absence of three months matters a great deal.”
“That is so. But—what is the use, Ada? It doesn’t matter with us, does it? Are we not each capable of taking care of ourselves? Were we ever of the conventionally sentimental?”
She sighed. “I suppose not. But it grew that way a little, didn’t it, Grant? Has it all been nothing to you?”