‘Hello, Elise!’ said the beauty casually, as the door opened and Elise Durwent entered, dressed in the uniform of an ambulance-driver.
’You’ll find the room standing on its head, but chuck those things anywhere.’
‘Going out again?’ asked the new-comer, stepping over several feminine garments that had been thrown on the floor.
’Just a dance up the street—in Jimmy Goodall’s studio. Listen, old thing; do put on some water. I’m croaking for a cup of tea.’
Without any comment, Elise went into the adjoining room, used as a kitchen, while the voluptuary dabbed clouds of powder over her neck and shoulders. With a tired listlessness, Elise returned and sank into a chair, from the back of which an underskirt was hanging disconsolately.
‘You didn’t do the breakfast-dishes, Marian.’
’Didn’t I? Oh, well, they’re not very dirty. Had a rotten day at the garage?’
‘It was rather long.’
’You’re a chump for doing it. Working for your country’s all very well, but wait until after the war and see if the girl who’s spoiled her hands has a chance with the men. Why don’t you wangle leave like I do? You can pull old Huggin’s leg any day in the week—and he likes it. All you have to do is to lean on his shoulder and say you won’t give up—you simply won’t. Aren’t men a scream?’
‘I suppose so,’ said Elise after a pause. ’Who is your cavalier to-night?’
‘Absolutely. You know him, don’t you, Elise?’
’Yes. He was visiting at our place in the country when war broke out. When is he going back to France?’
‘He’s been dancing pretty constant attendance, hasn’t he?’
’Ra-ther. He says if I don’t write him every day after he buzzes back, he’ll stick his head over the parapet and spoil a Hun bullet.’
‘Those things come easily to Horace.’
‘Oh, do they? I notice he doesn’t go to you to say them.’
‘No,’ said Elise with a smile, ‘that is so. Think of the thrills I miss.’
’Now don’t get sarcastic. If Horry wants to make a fuss over me, that’s his business.’
‘What about your husband at the front?’
‘My husband and I understand each other perfectly,’ said the girl, glancing critically at the picture of two parted, carmined lips in the mirror. ’He wouldn’t want me to be lonely. He knows I have my boy friends, and he’s not such a fool as to be jealous. You want to wake up, Elise—things have changed. A woman who sticks at home and meets her darling hubby at night with half-a-dozen squalling kids and a pair of carpet slippers—no thanks! The war has shown that women are going to have just as much liberty as the men. We’ve taken it; and I tell you the men like us all the better for it.’
‘You think that because every man you meet kisses you.’