Mrs. Cissy Beale and her daughter Cecily sat together in the latter’s bedroom—a bewitching apartment, in which pale-gray paper and pale-gray draperies formed an effective background for the rosewood furniture and the French mirrors and tapestried screens.
Between the two women was a bassinet and a baby.
“You act,” said Cecily, “as if you were sorry about—the baby.”
Her mother, who lay stretched at ease on a pillowed couch, shook her head.
“I’m not sorry about the baby—she’s a darling—but you needn’t think I’m going to be called ‘grandmother,’ Cecily. A grandmother is a person who settles down. I don’t expect to settle down. My life has been hard. I struggled and strove through all those awful years after your father—left me. I educated you and Bob. And now you’ve both married well, and I’ve a bit of money ahead from my little book. For the first time in my life I can have leisure and pretty clothes; for the first time in my life I feel young; and then, absolutely without warning, you come back from Europe with your beautiful Surprise, and expect me to live up to it—”
“Oh, no!” Cecily protested.
“Yes, you do,” insisted little Mrs. Beale. She sat up and gazed at her daughter accusingly. With the lace of her boudoir cap framing her small, fair face, she looked really young—as young almost as the demure Cecily, who, in less coquettish garb, was taking her new motherhood very seriously.
“Yes, you do,” Mrs. Beale repeated. “I know just what you expect of me. You expect me to put on black velvet and old lace and diamonds. I shan’t dare to show you my new afternoon frock—it’s red, Cecily, geranium red; I shan’t dare to wear even the tiniest slit in my skirts; I shan’t dare to wear a Bulgarian sash or a Russian blouse, or a low neck—without expecting to hear some one say, disapprovingly, ’And she’s a grandmother!’” She paused, and Cecily broke in tumultuously:
“I should think you’d be proud of—the baby.”
“No, I’m not proud.” Mrs. Beale thrust her toes into a pair of silver-embroidered Turkish slippers and stood up. “I’m not proud just at this moment, Cecily. You see—there’s Valentine Landry.”
“Now please don’t say it that way, Cecily. He’s half in love with me, and I’m beginning to like him, awfully. I’ve never had a bit of romance in my life. I married your father when I was too young to know my own mind, and he was much older than I. Then came the years of struggle after he went away.... I was a good wife and a good mother. I worshiped you and Bob, and I gave my youth for you. I never thought of any other man while your father lived, even though he did not belong to me. And now he is dead. You’ll never know—I hope you may never know—what drudgery means as I have known it. I’ve written my poor little screeds when I was half-dead with fatigue; I’ve been out in cold and rain to get news; I’ve interviewed all sorts of people when I’ve hated them and hated the work. And if now I want to have my little fling, why not? Everybody effervesces some time. This is my moment—and you can’t expect me to spoil it by playing the devoted grandmother.”