Sara turned this over in her mind for several moments. Then her thoughts returned to the step. She simply couldn’t help making suggestions to Avrillia. She seemed, for all her little haughty politenesses, so helpless.
“You might put something over it—” she began.
“I have suggested that,” said Avrillia, “but he would not consent to it. He says it would be circumnavigating Nature. Of course, when it’s necessary to offer it to guests—”
But just at that moment Pirlaps himself came out of the house, wearing a fresh, immaculate pair of trousers. His little pointed beard was gone; but Sara thought she could see it already coming back. Yassuh came along behind him, carrying the step.
“You see, marriage is very civilizing, Sara,” he said, in his gay, kind way. “I wouldn’t do this for anybody but Avrillia. How’s the poetry, Avrillia?”
“Doing nicely, thank you,” said Avrillia, pleasantly. “How’s the painting?”
“Flourishing,” said Pirlaps, cheerfully. “How are the children?”
“I haven’t seen them this week,” said Avrillia. “I vanished them last Roseday.”
Pirlaps’ face fell a little—perhaps an inch, altogether. But Sara cried out, clapping her hands again with impunity (try doing it that way, sometime—it’s great fun),
“Oh, are there children?”
“Yes,” said Avrillia.
“Oh, about seventy,” said Avrillia, a little languidly.
“May—may I see them?” asked Sara.
“I hope so,” said Avrillia. “Perhaps you’ll come some day when they’re not vanished.”
Sara, somehow, felt herself to have been politely dismissed; and she soon found herself walking beside Pirlaps down the little marble stairs. She slipped her hand into his as she would into her own father’s, and, looking up into his face, said, enthusiastically, “Oh, isn’t she lovely?”
Pirlaps seemed very much pleased, and looked down upon her more kindly than ever. “You like Avrillia?” he said. “That’s good. It isn’t everybody that appreciates Avrillia.”
He stopped before a lilac-colored fog-bush and put his step down before his easel. Sara did not dare remonstrate, but she cast an agonized look first at the step and then at his lovely white trousers.
“Is—is that what is meant by step-relations?” was all she could say.
“Why, yes,” said Pirlaps, sitting firmly down on the chocolate. “Are you interested in relations?” he asked eagerly, after he had adjusted his easel. “Because, if you are, we’ll go to see mine, some day. I have a lot.”
Sara was determined, when she shut the ivory doors behind her the next morning, to do two things, no matter what happened; first, she would put her dimples in the dimple-holder immediately; and, second, she would go right on to find Pirlaps, and not be beguiled into lingering around the pool by the fascinating talk of the Plynck and her Echo. For, ever since she left him, she had been thinking of the offer Pirlaps had made to take her to see his relations; and she had been growing more and more curious and interested.