The Tappans appeared with their guests, old Tappan grimmer, rustier, gaunter than usual; his son and heir, Peter—he of the rambling and casual legs—more genial, more futile, more acquiescent than ever. The Crays, Beckmans, Ellises, and Grandcourts arrived; Catharine Grandcourt shared Mrs. Severn’s room; Scott Seagrave went to quarters at the West Gate, and Duane was driven forth and a cot-bed set up for him in his studio at Hurryon Lodge.
The lawns and terraces of Roya-Neh were swarming with eager, laughing young people; white skirts fluttered everywhere in the sun; tennis-courts and lake echoed with the gay tumult, motors tooted, smart horses and showy traps were constantly drawing up or driving off; an army of men from West Gate Village were busy stringing lanterns all over the grounds, pitching pavilions in the glade beyond Hurryon Gate, and decorating everything with ribbons, until Duane suggested to Scott that they tie silk bows on the wild squirrels, as everything ought to be as Louis XVI as possible. He himself did actually so adorn several respectable Shanghai hens which he caught at their oviparous duties, and the spectacle left Kathleen weak with laughter.
As for Duane, he suddenly seemed to have grown years younger. All that was careless, inconsequential, irresponsible, seemed to have disappeared in a single night, leaving a fresh, boyish enthusiasm quite free from surface cynicism—quite innocent of the easy, amused mockery which had characterised him. The subtle element of self-consciousness had disappeared, too. If it had remained unnoticed, even undetected before, now its absence was noticeable, for there was no longer any attitude about him, no policy to sustain, nothing of that humourous, bantering sophistication which ignores conventionality. For it is always a conscious effort to ignore it, an attitude to disregard what custom has sanctioned.
Kathleen had never realised what a really sweet and charming fellow he was until that morning, when he took her aside and told her of his engagement.
“Do you know,” he said, “it is as though life had stopped for me many years ago when Geraldine and I were playmates; it’s exactly as though all the interval of years in between counted less than a dream, and now, at last, I am awake and taking up real life again.... You see, Kathleen, as a matter of fact, I’m incomplete by myself. I’m only half of a suit of clothes; Geraldine always wore the rest of me.”
“However,” said Kathleen mischievously, “you’ve been very tireless in trying on, they say. It’s astonishing you never found a good fit——”
“That was all part of the dream interval,” he interrupted, a little out of countenance, “everything was absurdly unreal. Are you going to be nice to me, Kathleen?”
“Of course I am, you blessed boy!” she said, taking him in her vigorous young arms and kissing him squarely and thoroughly. Then she held him at arms’ length and looked him very gravely in the eyes: