From Irene’s face the colour had flown.
“I am going for a drive that day with Uncle Swithin,” she answered.
“Uncle Swithin! What does he matter? You can throw him over!”
“I am not in the habit of throwing people over!”
There was a sound of footsteps and June saw Soames standing just behind her.
“Well! if you are all ready,” said Irene, looking from one to the other with a strange smile, “dinner is too!”
Dinner began in silence; the women facing one another, and the men.
In silence the soup was finished—excellent, if a little thick; and fish was brought. In silence it was handed.
Bosinney ventured: “It’s the first spring day.”
Irene echoed softly: “Yes—the first spring day.”
“Spring!” said June: “there isn’t a breath of air!” No one replied.
The fish was taken away, a fine fresh sole from Dover. And Bilson brought champagne, a bottle swathed around the neck with white....
Soames said: “You’ll find it dry.”
Cutlets were handed, each pink-frilled about the legs. They were refused by June, and silence fell.
Soames said: “You’d better take a cutlet, June; there’s nothing coming.”
But June again refused, so they were borne away.
And then Irene asked:
“Phil, have you heard my blackbird?”
Bosinney answered: “Rather—he’s got a hunting-song. As I came round I heard him in the Square.”
“He’s such a darling!”
“Salad, sir?” Spring chicken was removed.
But Soames was speaking: “The asparagus is very poor. Bosinney, glass of sherry with your sweet? June, you’re drinking nothing!”
June said: “You know I never do. Wine’s such horrid stuff!”
An apple charlotte came upon a silver dish, and smilingly
“The azaleas are so wonderful this year!”
To this Bosinney murmured: “Wonderful! The scent’s extraordinary!”
June said: “How can you like the scent? Sugar, please, Bilson.”
Sugar was handed her, and Soames remarked: “This charlottes good!”
The charlotte was removed. Long silence followed. Irene, beckoning, said: “Take out the azalea, Bilson. Miss June can’t bear the scent.”
“No; let it stay,” said June.
Olives from France, with Russian caviare, were placed on little plates. And Soames remarked: “Why can’t we have the Spanish?” But no one answered.
The olives were removed. Lifting her tumbler June demanded: “Give me some water, please.” Water was given her. A silver tray was brought, with German plums. There was a lengthy pause. In perfect harmony all were eating them.
Bosinney counted up the stones: “This year—next year—some time.”
Irene finished softly: “Never! There was such a glorious sunset. The sky’s all ruby still—so beautiful!”