There was no dismay in her greeting of him, and only she knew of that sudden quickening of the heart that invariably followed his appearance.
“You didn’t tell me about your Christmas party, Jeff,” she said. “Granny and I are going to give you a big spread. I hope you will invite me to the feast.”
Jeff’s dark face flushed a little as he made reply. “I’m afraid you wouldn’t enjoy it much.”
“But you haven’t introduced me to any of your friends yet,” she protested. “I should like to meet them.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” said Jeff.
She looked up at him for a moment. “Don’t you think that’s rather a mistake?” she said.
“Why?” said Jeff.
With something of an effort she explained. “To take it for granted that I shall look down on them. I don’t want to look down on them, Jeff.”
“It isn’t that,” said Jeff curtly. “But they’re not your sort. They don’t talk your language. I’m not sure that I want you to meet them.”
“But you can’t keep me away from everyone, can you?” she said gently.
He did not answer her, and she returned to her pastry-making in silence.
But evidently her words had made some impression, for that evening when she rose from the supper table to bid him a formal good-night, he very abruptly reverted to the subject.
“If you really think you can stand the racket on Christmas Eve, I hope you will join the party. There will be only four or five besides myself. I have never invited the womenkind.”
“Perhaps by next Christmas I shall have got to know them a little,” said Doris, “and then we can invite them too. Thank you for asking me, Jeff. I’ll come.”
But yet she viewed the prospect with considerable misgiving, and would have thankfully foregone the ordeal, if she had not felt constrained to face it.
The preparations went forward under Granny Grimshaw’s guidance without a hitch, but they were kept busy up to the last moment, and on the day before Christmas Eve Doris scribbled a hasty note to Hugh Chesyl, excusing herself from attending the meet.
It was the only thing to be done, for she could not let him expect her in vain, but she regretted it later when at the breakfast-table the following day her husband silently handed to her Hugh’s reply.
Hugh had written to convey his good wishes for Christmas, and this she explained to Jeff; but he received her explanation in utter silence, and she forthwith abandoned the subject. A smouldering resentment began to burn within her. What right had he to treat Hugh’s friendship with her as a thing to be ashamed of? She longed to ask him, but would not risk an open rupture. She knew that if she gave her indignation rein she would not be able to control it.
So the matter passed, and she slipped Hugh’s note into her bosom with a sense of outraged pride that went with her throughout the day. It was still present with her like an evil spirit when she went to her room to dress.