He put her into a chair, and they gathered around her—a solicitous group. Porter knelt beside her. “Mary, Mary,” he kept saying, and she smiled weakly, as his voice broke on “Contrary Mary.”
Gordon had saved the table from destruction. But the flame had caught the lilies, crisping them, and leaving them black. Constance was shaken by the shock, and Aunt Frances kept asking wildly, “How did it happen?”
“I spilled the alcohol when I filled it,” Mary said. “It was a silly thing to do—if I had had on one of my thinner gowns——” She shuddered and stopped.
“I shall send you an electric outfit to-morrow,” Porter announced. “Don’t fool with that thing again, Mary.”
Roger stood behind her chair, with his arms folded on the top and said nothing. There was really nothing for him to say, but there were many things to think. He had saved that dear face from flame or flaw, the dear eyes had been hidden against his shoulder—his fingers smarted where he had clutched at her burning frills.
Porter Bigelow might take possession of her now, he might give her electric outfits, he might call her by her first name, but it had not been Porter who had saved her from the flames; it had not been Porter who had held her in his arms.
In Which the Whole World is at Sixes and Sevens, and in Which Life is Looked Upon as a Great Adventure.
It had been decided that, for a time at least, Gordon and Constance should stay with Mary. In the spring they would again go back to London. Grace Clendenning and Aunt Frances were already installed for the winter at their hotel.
The young couple would occupy the Sanctum and the adjoining room, and Mary was to take on an extra maid to help Susan Jenks.
In all her planning, Mary had a sense of the pervasiveness of Gordon Richardson. With masculine confidence in his ability, he took upon himself not only his wife’s problems, but Mary’s. Mary was forced to admit, even while she rebelled, that his judgments were usually wise. Yet, she asked herself, what right had an outsider to dictate in matters which pertained to herself and Barry? And what right had he to offer her board for Constance? Constance, who was her very own?
But when she had indignantly voiced her objection to Gordon, he had laughed. “You are like all women, Mary,” he had said, “and of course I appreciate your point of view and your hospitality. But if you think that I am going to let my wife stay here and add to your troubles and expense without giving adequate compensation, you are vastly mistaken. If you won’t let us pay, we won’t stay, and that’s all there is to it.”
Here was masculine firmness against which Mary might rage impotently. After all, Constance was Gordon’s wife, and he could carry her off.
“Of course,” she said, yielding stiffly, “you must do as you think best.”