Atelier 4, Rue du Coq D’OR,
Helen Cumberly started to her feet with a stifled exclamation and turned to the maid; her face, to which the color slowly had been returning, suddenly blanched anew.
“Denise Ryland!” she muttered, still holding the card in her hand, “why—that’s Mrs. Leroux’s friend, with whom she had been staying in Paris! Whatever can it mean?”
“Shall I show her in here, please?” asked the maid.
“Yes, in here,” replied Helen, absently; and, scarcely aware that she had given instructions to that effect, she presently found herself confronted by the lady of the boat-train!
“Miss Cumberly?” said the new arrival in a pleasant American voice.
“Yes—I am Helen Cumberly. Oh! I am so glad to know you at last! I have often pictured you; for Mira—Mrs. Leroux—is always talking about you, and about the glorious times you have together! I have sometimes longed to join you in beautiful Paris. How good of you to come back with her!”
Miss Ryland unrolled the Scotch muffler from her throat, swinging her head from side to side in a sort of spuriously truculent manner, quite peculiarly her own. Her keen hazel eyes were fixed upon the face of the girl before her. Instinctively and immediately she liked Helen Cumberly; and Helen felt that this strong-looking, vaguely masculine woman, was an old, intimate friend, although she had never before set eyes upon her.
“H’m!” said Miss Ryland. “I have come from Paris”—she punctuated many of her sentences with wags of the head as if carefully weighing her words—“especially” (pause) “to see you” (pause and wag of head) “I am glad... to find that... you are the thoroughly sensible... kind of girl that I... had imagined, from the accounts which... I have had of you."...
She seated herself in an armchair.
“Had of me from Mira?” asked Helen.
“Yes... from Mrs. Leroux.”
“How delightful it must be for you to have her with you so often! Marriage, as a rule, puts an end to that particular sort of good-time, doesn’t it?”
“It does... very properly... too. No man... no man in his ... right senses... would permit... his wife... to gad about in Paris with another... girl” (she presumably referred to herself) “whom he had only met... casually... and did not like"...
“What! do you mean that Mr. Leroux doesn’t like you? I can’t believe that!”
“Then the sooner... you believe it... the better.”
“It can only be that he does not know you, properly?”
“He has no wish... to know me... properly; and I have no desire... to cultivate... the... friendship of such... a silly being.”
Helen Cumberly was conscious that a flush was rising from her face to her brow, and tingling in the very roots of her hair. She was indignant with herself and turned, aside, bending over her table in order to conceal this ill-timed embarrassment from her visitor.