“You!” he said.
“Yes,” a woman’s voice replied in a nervous undertone. “I came to see you, to see if you were in. I—I wanted to see you.” The words were stilted with nervous repetitions.
“Of course, of course; come in; let me introduce you to my sister. Oh—you must—come in—please; we’ve been dining together and came on here—for coffee—”
He threw the door wide open, and Sally walked apprehensively into the room.
Superficially, training is everything. The heaven-born genius comes once in a century of decades to remind us, as it were, that there is such a thing as creation; but beyond the heaven-born genius, training, on a day of superficialities, must win.
This moment, when Sally stood but a few paces within Traill’s room, and looked—half-appealing, half-guardedly—at Mrs. Durlacher, the perfect woman of society—perfectly robed, perfectly mannered, perfectly painted, was a moment as superficial as one, so charged with possibilities, could be. And through that moment, over it, almost as if it were an occurrence of her daily life, Mrs. Durlacher rode as a swallow rides on an upland wind—pinions stretched straightly out—the consummate absence of effort; all the training of numberless years and numberless birds of the air in its wings.
“Dolly—this is Miss Bishop—my sister, Mrs. Durlacher.” Traill stamped through the ceremony, like a man through a ploughed field.
In the minute fraction of time that followed—so short that no one in reason could call it a pause—Mrs. Durlacher had moulded a swift impression of Sally. Two facts—guide-ropes across a swinging bridge—she held to for support in her sudden calculation. Firstly, Sally’s appearance—the quiet, inexpensive display of a gentle taste. The blouse, showing through the little short-waisted coat—home-made—that, seen at a glance. The hat, with its quite artistic and unobtrusive colours—self-trimmed—the frame-work a year behind the fashion. The gloves, no holes in them, but well-worn. The skirt—not badly cut, but obviously a cheap material. The person, herself—more than probably a milliner’s assistant. Secondly, the fact that she was in her brother’s rooms. She knew Jack’s dealings with women—did not even close her eyes to them—admitted them to be human and natural so long as he refrained from tying himself up with any one of them and thereby irretrievably separating himself from her and her set. With these two facts, then, she made her ultimate deduction of Sally’s identity—a milliner’s assistant, with a pardonable freedom of thought in the matter of propriety—and on that deduction, she acted accordingly. Ah, but it was acting that was finished and superb!
Her manner was gracious—she was compelled to accept her brother at his word, that he would let no one in who could offend her sense of propriety—yet it was graciousness which you saw through a polished glass, but could not touch. When Sally half-ventured forward with hand tentatively lifting, she bowed first—made it plain to Sally that in such a manner introductions were taken—then generously offered her hand, palpably to ease Sally’s confusion.