That night Charlotte was the last to go to her room—that is, the last except her father. He was still smoking in the little room on the left of the hall. They had been playing whist in there; then they had had some sherry and crackers and olives. Major Arms had sent out a case of sherry before the wedding, and it was not all gone. Now Carroll was smoking a last cigar before retiring, and the others except Charlotte had gone. She lingered after she had kissed her father good-night.
“Papa,” said she, tentatively. She looked very slim and young in her little white muslin frock, with her pretty hair braided in her neck.
“Well, sweetheart, what is it?” asked Carroll, with a tender look of admiration.
Charlotte hesitated. Then she spoke with such desire not to offend that her voice rang harsh. “Papa,” said she, “do you think—”
“Think what, honey?”
“Do you think you can pay the dress-maker’s bill?”
“Pretty soon, dear,” said Carroll, his face changing.
“I am afraid not to-morrow, Charlotte.”
“She worked very hard over those dresses, and she bought the things, and it is quite a while. I think she ought to be paid, papa.”
“Pretty soon, dear,” said Carroll again.
Charlotte turned without another word and went out of the room. Her silence and her retreat were full of innocent condemnation. Carroll smoked, his face set and tense. Then there was a flutter and Charlotte was back. She did not speak this time, but she ran to her father, threw her slight arms around his neck, and kissed him, and it was the kiss of love which follows the judgment of love. Then she was gone again.
Carroll removed his cigar and sat staring straight ahead for a moment. Then he gave the cigar a fling into a brass bowl and put his head on his arms on the table.
Charlotte, before her sister was married, had been in the habit of taking long walks with her. Now she went alone.
The elder women of the family never walked when they could avoid doing so. Mrs. Carroll was, in consequence, putting on a soft roundness of flesh like a baby, and was daily becoming a creature of more curves and dimples. Anna did not gain flesh, but she moved more languidly, and her languor of movement was at curious odds with the subdued eagerness of her eyes. In these days Anna Carroll was not well; her nerves were giving way. She slept little and ate little.
“You are losing your appetite, Anna, dear,” Mrs. Carroll said once at the dinner-table.
“A fortunate thing, perhaps,” retorted Anna, with her little, veiled sting of manner, and at that Carroll rose abruptly and left the table.
“What is the matter, Arthur?” his wife called after him. “I don’t see what ails Arthur lately,” she said, with a soft tone of complaint, when the door had closed behind him and he had made no response.