“Come along quick before he comes back,” whispered Day. He seized the astonished girls each by an arm and hustled them up the street, and Allbright, after a second’s hesitation, followed them just as the irate man emerged from the door.
Arthur Carroll, when he had started on his drive with his wife and sister that afternoon, was in one of those strenuous moods which seem to make one’s whole being tick with the clock-work of destiny and cause everything else, all the environment, and the minor happenings of life, to appear utterly idle. Even when he talked, and apparently with earnestness, it was always with that realization of depths, which made his own voice ring empty and strange in his ears. He heard his wife and sister chatter with the sense of aloofness of the inhabitant of another planet; he thought even of the financial difficulties which harassed him, and had caused this very mood, with that same sense of aloofness. When Anna wondered where Charlotte had gone to walk, and Mrs. Carroll remarked on the possibility of their overtaking her, his mind made an actual effort to grasp that simple idea. He was running so deep, and with such awful swiftness, in his own groove of personal tragedy, that the daughter whom he loved, and had seen only a few moments ago, seemed almost left out of sight of his memory. However, all the while the usual trivialities of his life and the lives of those who belonged to him went on with the same regularity and reality as tragedy, and with as certain a trend to a catastrophe of joy or misery.
On that day when Charlotte had her fright from the tramp, she remained at the Anderson’s to supper. Eddy had also remained. When Charlotte had waked from her nap, he followed Anderson into the sitting-room, where was Charlotte in Mrs. Anderson’s voluminous, white frilly wrapper, a slight young figure scalloped about by soft, white draperies, like a white flower, seated comfortably in the largest, easiest chair in the room. Mrs. Anderson was standing over her with another glass of wine, and a china plate containing two great squares of sponge-cake.
“Do eat this and drink the wine, dear,” she urged. “It is nearly an hour before supper now.”
“Then I really must go home, if it is so late,” Charlotte cried. She made a weak effort to rise. She was still curiously faint when she essayed to move.
“You are going to stay here and have supper, and after supper my son shall take you home. If you are not able to walk, we shall have a carriage.”
“I think I must go home, thank you,” Charlotte repeated, in a sort of bewildered and grateful dismay.
“If you think your mother will feel anxious, I will send and inform her where you are,” said Mrs. Anderson, “but you must stay, my dear.” There was about her a soft, but incontrovertible authority. It was all gentleness, like the overlap of feathers, but it was compelling. It was while Mrs. Anderson was insisting and the girl protesting that Anderson, with Eddy at his heels, had entered the room.