“But, Horace, to sell this house over my head—what will p-people say?”
“I don’t care two whoops what people say,” Mr. Gower replied unfeelingly.
“This is simp-ply outrageous! How is Betty going to m-meet p-people?”
“You mean,” her husband retorted, “how are you going to contrive the proper background against which Betty shall display her charms to the different varieties of saphead which you hit upon as being eligible to marry her? Don’t worry. With the carefully conserved means at your disposal you will still be able to maintain yourself in the station in which it has pleased God to place you. You will be able to see that Betty has the proper advantages.”
This straw broke the camel’s back, if it is proper so to speak of a middle-aged, delicate-featured lady, delightfully gowned and coiffed and manicured. Mrs. Gower’s grief waxed crescendo. Whereupon her husband, with no manifest change of expression beyond an unpleasant narrowing of his eyes, heaved his short, flesh-burdened body out of the chair and left the room.
Betty had sat silent through this conversation, a look of profound distaste slowly gathering on her fresh young face. She gazed after her father. When the door closed upon him Betty’s gray eyes came to rest on her mother’s bowed head and shaking shoulders. There was nothing in Betty Gower’s expression which remotely suggested sympathy. She said nothing. She leaned her elbows on the table and rested her pretty chin in her cupped palms.
Mrs. Gower presently became aware of this detached, observing, almost critical attitude.
“Your f-father is p-positively b-brutal,” she found voice to declare.
“There are various sorts of brutality,” Betty observed enigmatically. “I don’t think daddy has a corner on the visible supply. Are you going to let him have that money?”
“No. Never,” Mrs. Gower snapped.
“You may lose a great deal more than the house by that,” Betty murmured.
But if Mrs. Gower heard the words they conveyed no meaning to her agitated mind. She was rapidly approaching that incomprehensible state in which a woman laughs and cries in the same breath, and Betty got up with a faintly contemptuous curl to her red lips. She went out into the hall and pressed a button. A maid materialized.
“Go into the dining room and attend to mamma, if you please, Mary,” Betty said.
Then she skipped nimbly upstairs, two steps at a time, and went into a room on the second floor, a room furnished something after the fashion of a library in which her father sat in a big leather chair chewing on an unlighted cigar.
Betty perched on the arm of his chair and ran her fingers through a patch on top of his head where the hair was growing a bit thin.
“Daddy,” she asked, “did you mean that about going smash?”
“Possibility,” he grunted.
“Are you really going to sell this house and live at Cradle Bay?”