Afterward few impressions remained; she remembered the roses’ perfume, and a very fat woman with a confusing similarity of contour fore and aft who blocked the lines and rattled on like a machine-gun saying dreadfully frank things about herself, her family, and everybody she mentioned.
Naida Mallett, whom she had not seen in many years, she had known immediately, and now remembered. And Naida had taken her white-gloved hand shyly, whispering constrained formalities, then had disappeared into the unreality of it all.
Duane, her old playmate, may have been there, but she could not remember having seen him. There were so many, many youths of the New York sort, all dressed alike, all resembling one another—many, many people flowing past her where she stood submerged in the silken ebb eddying around her.
* * * * *
These were the few hazy impressions remaining—she was recalling them now while dressing for her first dinner dance. Later, when her maid released her with a grunt of Gallic disapproval, she, distraite, glanced at her gown in the mirror, still striving to recall something definite of the day before.
“Was Duane there?” she asked Kathleen, who had just entered.
“No, dear.... Why did you happen to think of Duane Mallett?”
“Naida came.... Duane was such a splendid little boy.... I had hoped——”
Mrs. Severn said coolly:
“Duane isn’t a very splendid man. I might as well tell you now as later.”
“What in the world do you mean, Kathleen?”
“I mean that people say he was rather horrid abroad. Some women don’t mind that sort of thing, but I do.”
“He went about Europe with unpleasant people. He had too much money—and that is ruinous for a boy. I hate to disillusion you, but for several years people have been gossipping about Duane Mallett’s exploits abroad; and they are not savoury.”
“What were they? I am old enough to know.”
“I don’t propose to tell you. He was notoriously wild. There were scandals. Hush! here comes Scott.”
“For Heaven’s sake, pinch some colour into your cheeks!” exclaimed her brother; “we’re not going to a wake!”
And Kathleen said anxiously: “Your gown is perfection, dear; are you a trifle tired? You do look pale.”
“Tired?” repeated Geraldine—“not in the least, dearest.... If I seem not to be excited, I really am, internally; but perhaps I haven’t learned how to show it.... Don’t I look well? I was so preoccupied with my gown in the mirror that I forgot to examine my face.”
Mrs. Severn kissed her. “You and your gown are charming. Come, we are late, and that isn’t permitted to debutantes.”
* * * * *
It was Mrs. Magnelius Grandcourt who was giving the first dinner and dance for Geraldine Seagrave. In the cloak-room she encountered some very animated women of the younger married set, who spoke to her amiably, particularly a Mrs. Dysart, who said she knew Duane Mallett, and who was so friendly that a bit of colour warmed Geraldine’s pallid cheeks and still remained there when, a few minutes later, she saluted her heavily jewelled hostess and recognised in her the fat fore-and-aft lady of the day before.