“They are all charming,” Molly Winchell said. “Why don’t you marry one of them, Murray?”
“Marriage,” said Murray, “would spoil it.”
Murray turned on her his fine dark eyes. “They are such darlings—the three of them.”
“You Turk!” Molly surveyed him over the top of her sapphire feather fan. “So that’s it, is it? You want them all.”
Murray thought vaguely it was something like that. For ten years he had had Amy and Ethel—Amy at twenty, fire and flame, Ethel at fifteen, with bronze locks and lovely color. In those years Anne had promised little in the way of beauty or charm. She had read voraciously, curled up in chairs or on rugs, and had waked now and then to his presence and a hot argument.
“Why don’t you like Dickens, Murray?”
“Oh, his people, Anne—clowns.”
“Boors; beggars.” He made a gesture of distaste.
“They’re darlings—Mark Tapley and Ruth Pinch. Murray, if I had a beefsteak I’d make a beefsteak pie.”
There was more of pathos in this than Murray imagined. There had been no beef on the Merryman table for many moons.
“Murray, did you ever eat tripe?”
“My dear child—–”
“It sounds dee-licious when Toby Veck has it on a cold morning. And there’s the cricket on the hearth and the teakettle singing. I’d love to hear a kettle sing like that, Murray; wouldn’t you?”
But Murray wouldn’t. He had the same kind of mind as Amy and Ethel. He did not like robust and hearty things or robust and hearty people. He wore a corset to keep his hips small, and stood up at teas and receptions with an almost military carriage. Of course he had to sit down at dinners, but he sat very straight. He, too, had family portraits and family silver, and he lived scrupulously up to them. His fortunes, unlike the Merrymans’, had not declined. He had money enough and to spare. He could have made Amy or Ethel very comfortable if he had married either of them. But he had not wanted to marry. There had been a time when he had liked to think of Amy as presiding over his table. She would have fitted in perfectly with the old portraits and old silver and the family diamonds. Then Ethel had come along. She had not fitted in with the diamonds and portraits and silver, but she had stirred his pulses.
“Anywhere else but in Georgetown,” old Molly Winchell was saying, “those girls would have been snapped up long ago. It’s a poor matrimonial market.”
Murray was complacently aware that he was geographically the only eligible man on the Merryman horizon. Unless Amy and Ethel could marry with distinction they would not marry at all. It was not lack of attraction which kept them single, but lack of suitors in their own set.
And now here was Anne, with Ethel’s loveliness and Amy’s look of race. There was also that look of angelic detachment from the things of earth.